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Large Format images of the Pacific Northwest
by Kerry L. Thalmann

NOTE: this exhibit appeared in February 1999. Click here to visit the current showcase.

All other exhibits: Click here to access

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Note: For those not familiar with the 4x5 format, I have included the approximate 35mm equivalent focal length below each image. 
The Needles at Twilight (53k)


The Needles at Twilight

This image has always been a personal favorite of mine.  In addition to the unique combination of sunset colors and the little sliver of a crescent moon peaking through the storm clouds, this image has a special sentimental value to me as a photographer.   I consider it my first "good" landscape photograph.  It was made a couple months after I moved to Oregon and acquired my first large format camera. 

This image also taught me a valuable lesson - the best sunset colors often come out about 15 - 20 minutes after the sun actually sets.  So, don't be in a hurry to pack up your gear and leave.  Stick around a while to see what happens!

4x5 Format - 210mm lens
(35mm equivalent focal length ~59mm)

Sunset from Short Creek Beach (64k)


Sunset from Short Creek Beach

Another lesson I have learned about photographing sunsets is that sunny days often mean boring sunsets.  I have found that the best sunsets often occur on the edges of storm fronts.  A mixture of rain and sun during the day usually leads to a more spectacular sunset than a bright sunny, cloudless day.

This particular sunset was photographed in the month of December.  Although it often rains for days or even weeks on end during the winter months at the Oregon Coast, if you are fortunate to be there when the storm clouds begin to break, Mother Nature can put on one fantastic light show.

4x5 Format - 150mm lens
(35mm equivalent focal length ~42mm)

Sandstone Face (57k)


Sandstone Face

Random acts of nature have a way of creating some very interesting and unique shapes and patterns.  This sandstone "face" was created when an ancient boulder was buried in sand.  The sand solidified into sandstone and, as time passed, the natural elements eroded away the encapsulating sandstone to once again reveal the boulder.

This particular "face" rests high on the cliffs of Shore Acres State Park where it seems to perpetually stare off to an unobstructed view of the mighty Pacific Ocean.

4x5 Format - 210mm lens
(35mm equivalent focal length ~59mm)

Devil's Club and Wild Geranium (82k)


Devil's Club and Wild Geranium

Two things attracted me to this scene: the juxtaposition of size between the huge leaves of the devil's club and the tiny wild geranium blossoms, and the color contrast between the complimentary colors of green and magenta.

This is a "found" image I happened upon beside the trail on my way to photograph one of the many spectacular waterfalls of the Columbia Gorge.  You never know what you may miss if you are so focused on your destination that you forget to enjoy the journey along the way.

4x5 Format - 110mm lens
(35mm equivalent focal length ~31mm)

Wahclella Falls (103k)


Wahclella Falls

The Columbia Gorge is world renowned for it's high concentration of  waterfalls.   Many of the most famous can be viewed from the Historic Scenic Highway.   Although not as well known as their more accessible counterparts, there are many more waterfalls that can only be reached on foot using the extensive network of area trails.

Wahclella Falls (also known as Tanner Creek Falls), is certainly not one of the highest falls in the area, but it's tranquil setting, combined with a very easy hike, make it a personal favorite.  The hike in is only about a mile with very little elevation gain.  It is a hike I often use to introduce my "flatlander" relatives from the Midwest to the joys of hiking in the Northwest.

4x5 Format - 135mm lens
(35mm equivalent focal length ~38mm)

Mount Hood at Twilight (64k)


Mount Hood at Twilight

At 11,239 feet, Mount Hood is Oregon's highest mountain.  It is not just the elevation that makes Hood such an impressive peak, it is the relief (the difference in elevation between a mountain and its surroundings).  On a clear day, Mount Hood dominates the skyline to the east of nearby Portland (elevation 77 feet).  With the peaks between Portland and Mt. Hood topping out between 4500 and 5200 feet, Mount Hood truly stands head and shoulders above it's neighbors.

A major highway and several ski areas populate the south and southeast sides of the mountain.  These areas are the most easily accessed, and therefore, the most crowded.  I prefer the peace and relative solitude of the Mt. Hood Wilderness on the north and northwest sides of the mountain.  Although it requires a little longer driving time (often on unpaved roads) to reach the trailheads in this area, it is worth the effort.  I often dayhike and backpack in this area.  This image was made on such an outing after a September snowfall dusted the peak with a beautiful coat of fresh white powder.

4x5 Format - 360mm lens
(35mm equivalent focal length ~101mm)

The Monkey Face at Smith Rock (75k)


The Monkey Face at Smith Rock

To me, this scene perfectly illustrates the diversity of Northwest scenery.  Although located in Central Oregon, Smith Rock State Park looks more like the redrock country of Southern Utah than the mental image most people conjure up when thinking of Oregon.

Although similar in appearance to the sandstone formations of Southern Utah, the formations at Smith Rock are made of rhyolite.  It is volcanic in origin, and much harder than sandstone.  This also makes it very popular with rock climbers.   In fact, Smith Rock is one of the world's premier rock climbing areas  with routes to challenge climbers of all skill levels.  Many of the routes and formations have colorful names.  The formation on the left is called the monkey face, which it does indeed resemble.

4x5 Format - 135mm lens
(35mm equivalent focal length ~38mm)

The Painted Hills (70k)


The Painted Hills

Located about 70 miles east of Smith Rock State Park is the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument.  One of three units of the monument, the Painted Hills offer the photographer a rainbow of colors and many sumptuous shapes to work with.  The colors are especially intense after a rain and during the late evening hours when the sun is low on the horizon.

4x5 Format - 135mm lens
(35mm equivalent focal length ~38mm)

Desert Wildflowers (121k)


Desert Wildflowers

Another scene not typically associated with the Pacific Northwest.  Steens Mountain is a 30 mile long fault-block mountain that rises to 9,670 feet in southeast Oregon.   It marks the northwest boundary of the Great Basin Desert that also includes most of Nevada and parts Utah, California and Idaho.

When viewed from the west, Steens Mountain rises gently to its summit.  To the east, it is quite a different story.  From the summit, the drop-off is nearly vertical 5,600 feet to the Alvord Desert below.  The view from the summit reminds me of Dante's View in Death Valley National Park.  A dirt road, part of a National Scenic Byway, climbs up the gentle west slope to within a quarter mile of the summit.  In this high, dry environment, the wildflower season is short.  The blooming flowers proceed up the slope following the melting snow. This photograph was made in early July after a winter of exceptionally heavy snowfall. 

4x5 Format - 210mm lens
(35mm equivalent focal length ~59mm)

Mount Jefferson from Grizzly Peak (63k)


Mount Jefferson from Grizzly Peak

Mount Jefferson, at 10,495 feet, is Oregon's second highest peak.  The peak straddles the boundary between the Warm Springs Indian Reservation and the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness Area.  Unlike Mt. Hood, there is no commercial development on Mt. Jefferson.  It is truly a wild volcano.

The Mt. Jefferson Wilderness is a favorite with hikers and backpackers.  Jefferson Park, with large, flower filled meadows, and unobstructed views of the mountain, is the most popular destination and can get quite crowded (by backcountry standards) on warm, summer weekends.   Still, the Wilderness Area is large with lots of other more secluded places to visit.  This picture was taken over the 4th of July weekend a few years ago.   Even on this popular holiday weekend, I had the summit of Grizzly Peak, and this view, to myself.

4x5 Format - 300mm lens
(35mm equivalent focal length ~84mm)

Crater Lake Shoreline (74k)


Crater Lake Shoreline

For a state with so many natural wonders, Oregon has, sadly, but one National Park.   But what a unique Park it is.  Crater Lake, formed in the collapsed caldera of an ancient volcano, is the deepest lake in the United States (1932 feet).  That depth, combined with incredibly clear water give Crater Lake its deep blue color.

The shades of blue vary with the depth of the water, transitioning rapidly from turquoise near the shore to a dark inky blue for the deeper waters.  I used a long lens on my 4x5 to isolate this section of shoreline and the many shades of blue. 

4x5 Format - 360mm lens
(35mm equivalent focal length ~101mm)

The Blue Glacier - Mount Olympus (72k)


The Blue Glacier - Mt. Olympus

This shot of glacial ice was taken at the terminus of the Blue Glacier on Mt. Olympus.   The amazing thing about this location is that I walked from a low elevation rain forest to the face of a glacier in a matter of hours.

In addition to glacier-clad peaks and rain forests, Olympic National Park also contains many miles of rugged wilderness beach and a great variety of wildlife.  This makes it one of our most diverse National Parks.

4x5 Format - 300mm lens
(35mm equivalent focal length ~84mm)

Larch Trees and Inspiration Lake (108k)


Larch Trees and Inspiration Lake

The Pacific Northwest is not known for tremendous displays of fall color.  The forests of the Northwest consist primarily of evergreen conifers.  There is one conifer, however, that is not an evergreen - the larch.  Every fall, the needles of the larch turn a golden yellow before dropping to the ground in anticipation of the coming winter.  Every spring, fresh green needles sprout.

The larch grows in small pockets amidst the granite peaks and clear mountain lakes near the 7000' level of the Cascade Mountains in Central Washington.   This is a harsh mountain environment that remains under snow much of the year.   Although photographed in October, the snow in this image remains from the previous winter, and the first snowfall for the upcoming winter is only a couple days away.  In this photograph, I have attempted to combine these harsh surroundings with the larch at its peak of fall color. 

4x5 Format - 135mm lens
(35mm equivalent focal length ~38mm)

Winter at Mount St. Helens (74k)


Winter at Mount St. Helens

When Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, the mountain and its surrounding landscape were dramatically altered.  In that one violent instant, over 1300 feet were blown off the top of the mountain and 230 square miles of trees were leveled.  Although natural recovery has begun with small fir trees, grasses and wildflowers sprouting from the ashes, it is still a landscape of impressive devastation.

Blanketed with a fresh coat of winter snow, the peaceful appearance of this image belies the violent event that created this landscape just a few short years ago.  This photograph was taken about twenty minutes after sunset, while the magenta and violet glow of twilight was still in the evening sky.

4x5 Format - 90mm lens
(35mm equivalent focal length ~25mm)

Mount Hood - Alpenglow and Lenticular Clouds (69k)


Mount Hood - Alpenglow and Lenticular Clouds

Mt. Hood viewed from Lost Lake is a classic "post card" shot familiar to most Oregonians.  In addition to the nice lenticular clouds, what makes this shot unusual is the time of year.  The road to Lost Lake is not plowed during the winter.   Due to the volume of snow this area receives, the road is only passable about six months of the year (late May - November).  So, most photographs from this location are made during the summer and fall months.

To photograph this seen in winter, I drove up the road until I hit snow, strapped on my cross-country skis, and skied the rest of the way to the lake.  It was worth the effort.  The alpenglow and lenticular clouds were sublime, and I had the whole place to myself.

4x5 Format - 450mm lens
(35mm equivalent focal length ~127mm)

About the Exhibit:

From rugged ocean coastlines to glacier covered volcanic peaks, from lush temperate rain forests to the high desert of sage and juniper, the Pacific Northwest offers an amazing bounty for the nature photographer.  Although there is no substitute for experiencing the beauty of nature first hand, with these images, I have attempted to convey the tremendous beauty and diversity that is the Pacific Northwest.

In addition to the diversity of locations, I have also included images that illustrate the broad color palette available to photographers traveling to the Pacific Northwest.  From the fiery reds and oranges of a Pacific sunset to the lush greens of the rain forests, from the golden yellow of larch needles to the deep blue waters of Crater Lake, subject matter abounds in all colors of the rainbow.

I hope you enjoy this exhibit and that it encourages you to visit the beautiful Pacific Northwest.  Even more than that, I hope it encourages you to help preserve the beauty of nature, wherever you may find it.  Natural beauty is often grand in scale, and in those cases it is apparent to all.  But nature also exists on a smaller, more intimate level obvious only to those willing to slow down and look more closely.  When you visit a special place, please do what you can to insure future visitors are not deprived of that same experience.

About the Photographer:

During my childhood, in a small, rural Indiana farming community, I learned to appreciate nature on a small scale.  I spent my free hours exploring the small streams, ponds and remnants of hardwood forest scattered among the fields and pastures that surrounded my home.  It was also during this time that my family began to travel west during our extended summer vacations.  Seeing the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and the Colorado Rockies for the first time made an impression that would last a lifetime.   On those trips, I first saw nature on a grand scale.  I saw mountains and bears for the first time.  Things I had only read about in books were laid out before my very eyes.

After college, my career lead me to the state of Washington and eventually Oregon.  With so many beautiful places to explore, my love of nature and photography were rekindled.  The 35mm camera I had bought in high school accompanied me whenever I went hiking so that I could bring back photos of the sights I had seen to share with my wife, friends and co-workers.  After moving to Oregon, I replaced the 35mm with a 4x5 Speed Graphic.  After seeing my first 4x5 transparencies, I knew I was hooked on the larger format.  Other formats have their advantages for certain subjects or situations, but for the subjects I prefer and the way I like to work, 4x5 is the natural choice.  The Speed Graphic was eventually replaced with a more versatile camera, and I have been shooting 4x5 ever since.

In my photography, I try to capture both the intimate details of nature, as well as nature at its boldest and grandest.  The term "photography" literally means writing with light.  I seek out the most dramatic lighting possible for some subjects and for others, I prefer softer, more even lighting.  As important to me as capturing the beauty of a subject, is capturing the beauty of a moment.   Some subjects are nearly eternal, changing almost imperceptibly over time.  Other subjects are more fleeting.  Wildflowers come and go quickly.  Patterns in the sand on a remote beach are washed away and replaced with new ones with each incoming tide.  But one thing that changes even more quickly is the moment.  The quality and direction of light change instantaneously over the course of each and every day.  Clouds drift across the sky, sometimes blocking the sun momentarily, sometimes letting the light shine through, sometimes glowing with the colors of a sunrise or sunset.  For me, as a photographer, it is the right combination of subject and moment that makes a successful photograph.  Here are a few examples of which I am especially proud.  Enjoy.

To see some more examples of my work, please visit my web site at:

I welcome your comments on this exhibit.  Please send them to me at:  

Please note:  All images featured in this showcase Copyright ©Kerry L. Thalmann, all rights reserved.   These images are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws and may not be used or reproduced without permission. For licensing information, or to order prints, please contact Kerry L. Thalmann at

Find photos of the Colorado Plateau in Land of the Canyons, the Photo Trip USA landscape photography guide book.

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