How The Shot Was Taken: Timber Island

by | May 31, 2016 | Impressive Places, Stories & Expeditions | 1 comment

I heard that the Jonsrud View Point was a good place to photograph Mt. Hood without having to travel very far outside of Portland. And I suppose it would be a good overlook if there weren’t any clouds to obstruct the view. But since it happened to be quite cloudy on the only two opportunities I had to stop in at this overlook during a quick camping trip in the Columbia River Gorge last month, I figured it was a good opportunity to change strategies. Instead of shooting for the big landscape, I challenged myself to work the scene to capture what would probably have been missed in my disappointment.

If what you’re expecting doesn’t exist, go look for the unexpected.

So, below I’ve written out the story of how I worked the scene to find the unexpected.

7217_JAS_Jonsrud Overlook-Oregon-USA W

Timber Island
Jonsrud View Point, Sandy, Oregon


I arrived at Jonsrud View Point well before sunrise. It was freezing cold for an April morning! I was hoping the clouds would break up a little when it got light, but they never did. This was the scene I had before me to work with:

7213_JAS_Jonsrud Overlook-Oregon-USA

At first, I thought the light green pasture off in the distance might make for a good anchor in a picture, so I zoomed in a bit and composed a shot that looked like this:

7214_JAS_Jonsrud Overlook-Oregon-USA

I wasn’t feeling it. So next I turned my attention to the mist’s interaction with the trees a little closer to me. I’ve always liked looking at pictures of trees floating in mist so I figured this was probably the time to try to come up with my own version. First attempt:

7215_JAS_Jonsrud Overlook-Oregon-USA

The island of trees had caught my eye so I zoomed in as far as I could to see what I could do with it. Perhaps some cropping in post could make it work, but again, it just didn’t seem right. In working a scene, I always try out different framing possibilities, so here was another idea:

7216_JAS_Jonsrud Overlook-Oregon-USA

Better. The mist was moving through the valley slowly and unpredictably, so it was neat to see the island standing out more. I liked that. But I didn’t really like the composition. Too much going on at the bottom of the image. So I re-composed the shot again to put the tree-island back on the right to be balanced by the mass of white mist on the left. This is the original shot:

7217_JAS_Jonsrud Overlook-Oregon-USA

I liked the composition a lot. It just felt right to me. But I didn’t stop there because I was continuing my search for the unexpected. Who knows if there might be an even better composition than what I had just taken! I had all the time in the world to work the scene, so why stop? Here’s another shot from soon after:

7219_JAS_Jonsrud Overlook-Oregon-USA

And another shot:

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But in my opinion, only one of them turned out.

With each shot, I was trying to capture something that caught my eye in the scene as the mist moved through the valley. I wasn’t shooting haphazardly. I wasn’t taking millions of shots hoping one would stand out among the rest. I only took 29 pictures in the two hours I spent at that overlook. With each composition I was doing my very best to put everything I knew about composition into practice. I was trying to make every shot a “wow” shot. But they didn’t all turn out as “wow” shots. No, only that one really stood out to me as capturing the feeling I was looking for. Sometimes a composition I think I’m going to like will work, and sometimes it just won’t. And is this a discouragement? No, it’s just a signal to help me yield my expectations and look for the unexpected again. Sounds a lot like the Christian life, doesn’t it?

“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” –Isaiah 43:19

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