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Balsamroot at Sunrise at The Nature Conservancy's Tom McCall Preserve, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon, 2022 Showcase Best in Category, Scapes © Greg Vaughn 
Balsamroot at Sunrise at The Nature Conservancy’s Tom McCall Preserve, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon, 2022 Showcase Best in Category, Scapes © Greg Vaughn 

Artist’s statement

Inspired by the images of some of my Pacific Northwest photographer friends, I made several attempts over a period of years to make a photograph in this location when the conditions were just right. On this day, the flowers were in peak bloom, the winds were calm, and the rising sun was not blocked by clouds or excessive haze. Much of my photography is about sharing the wonders and beauty of nature, and I feel like I’ve succeeded in that with this photograph.

How I got the shot

I spent several hours on the day I arrived here, scouting the area, looking for a clump of balsamroot in prime condition that I could photograph at sunrise with the Columbia River below. As you can see in the photo, there were plenty of flowers, but I wanted to find a good composition that could be made from an existing trail or bare spot so as to avoid trampling any wildflowers. Once I found this spot, I marked it on the map in the Gaia app on my iPhone so I could easily find my way back. Well before sunrise the next morning, I followed my track, set up my tripod and camera, and started finessing my composition.

What I used

I made this photograph with my Nikon D750 and a 14mm/2.8 Rokinon lens on a Sirui tripod with an Acratech ballhead. I used an aperture of f/16 and set the focus at the hyperfocal distance for the lens. I set the ISO at 200 and let aperture priority metering set the shutter speed. With the extreme brightness range of the scene, I bracketed a series of five exposures and then combined them with Lightroom’s Merge to HDR process.

About me

I have been a full-time professional photographer for over 40 years. I have had a strong interest in nature since childhood and obtained a bachelors degree in Zoology at the University of Hawaii. Early in my career  I worked in many genres of photography including photojournalism, public relations, advertising, travel editorial, and stock. I’m the author of two award-winning guidebooks, Photographing Oregon and Photographing Washington. A decade ago I began leading photo workshops and found that I love helping people improve their photographic skills and showing them around fantastic locations. I’m honored to be one of the pro instructors for Muench Workshops.

One of my favorite things is to load up my VW Westfalia with camera gear and head out for a road or trail I haven’t been on before, or to return to a favorite or location. I love to travel and explore and sometimes just wander. My cameras have photographed princes and paupers, pirates and kings. They’ve made photos from 14,000’ mountains and under the sea. I’ve experienced and photographed volcanic eruptions, remote islands, arid deserts, dramatic coasts, and impenetrable jungles. I plan to continue to travel and photograph the wonders of our world for as long as I can put one foot in front of the other.

My photographic journey

I’ve been interested in and involved with nature since I was a little kid and began taking photos with my Kodak Brownie StarMite on family vacations. My passion for nature led me to pursue a college curriculum focused on ecology and being out in nature continues to inspire and enthrall me. Two experiences really got me hooked on photography: Like many photographers of my generation, watching my first black & white print come up in the developer tray under the dim red glow of the darkroom was pure magic. Not long after that I was sitting around one evening with several close friends and took a couple of snapshots; it came to me that I’d recorded a moment in time and preserved that moment to enjoy and to share in the future.

NANPA and me

I joined NANPA as a Charter Member when it was formed in 1995 and with the exception of one or two years have been a member ever since. For many years my involvement was very limited, but in 2015 I volunteered to help promote that year’s Summit. Subsequently, I ran NANPA’s Instagram account for about three years. One of my photos was recognized as a top 250 a few years ago.

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