Christian Heeb, Bend resident and owner of the Cascade Center of Photography lists his favorite locations for landscape and nature photography in Central Oregon. Top 10 photo spots for nature photographers part 2. look at Part 1 .
1. Painted Hills, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument near Mitchell
This is a 1 hour 40 minute drive from Bend and definitely worth it. The soft hills located in a remote valley are beyond beautiful. Evenings are great here when the soft and low light brings out the colors. From the parking area on the top of the rise walk up along ridge and look east. There are stunning views right there. The hills are closed for walking so you can only shoot from a distance. You may want to use a long lens for some great abstracts. Side lighting seen from the main dirt road works great as well and helps bring out the contours.
2. Fort Rock State Natural Area State Park
A volcanic fortress out in the sagebrush ocean east of La Pine, 1 hour 10 minutes by car from Bend, is great place for night photography. The fort itself is best photographed from a distance with sagebrush foreground. August is good time to go there when the rabbit brush blooms yellow. There is a cool homestead museum with historic buildings nearby that is worth a visit.
3. Scott Lake Willamette National Forest
Scott Lake on the scenic old McKenzie Highway 242 west of the town of Sisters is one of those secret places locals like to keep to themselves. It is Sparks Lake in reverse. You are looking at the Three Sisters mountains from the west. The lake is popular with walk in campers. From the parking at the end of the dirt road walk hundred yards across the meadow to the lake. You get stunning vistas. Best to photograph in the afternoon before the shadows creep in and the lake and trees get dark. Sunrise can be great with side lighting and mist rising over the water.
4. McKenzie Pass
On the way to Scott lake from Sisters you pass the land of Mordor or better known as the lava fields of McKenzie pass. This is a great spot for sunset photography and alpenglow scenes of the Three Sisters. This is a dark place which is good for night photography as well. Make sure to bring a warm jacket. It cools down here quick.
5. Metolius River near Camp Sherman
This major contributory to the Deschutes river is a fly fishing paradise. This pristine river is great for capturing shots of fishermen and pretty nature scenes. In the fall you find great colors here.
6. Paulina Peak, Newberry National Volcanic Monument
This park is located northeast of La Pine, Oregon. In summer you can drive up a dirt road to the top of a volcanic cinder cone with broad vistas to the cascade mountains and across the eastern deserts. Sunrise is best when the peaks in the distance catch the first light.
7. Todd Lake, Deschutes National Forest
Todd Lake not far from Mount Bachelor is loved by everyone and in the spring and early summer beset by swarms of mosquito’s. In summer you find great wildflowers here. Best to avoid mid day when it is packed with people.
8. Toketee Falls, Douglas County
If you brave the 2 hour drive to Crater Lake National Park you may want to consider visiting Toketee Falls a stunning waterfall emerging out of a basalt cliff of stunning beauty. Best photographed on a grey day or when shaded this waterfall is pure magic.
9. Crater Lake National Park
Of course it is a long drive and you may want to make it an overnight trip. Crater Lake is the crown jewel of Oregon. You should not visit on a grey day. The stunning color of the lake needs sunshine to show its true blue. Sunset and sunrise are good but you need the sun high up to get the colors to show. There is a trail running all around the lake and you may want to explore the many view points away from the ones right on the rim drive.
10. Big Lake, Cascade Range
Big Lake is off Highway 20 west of Sisters. Mount Washington rises behind this photogenic lake that photographs especially well in the fall. The road is paved all the way and the many vistas are located right at the campground. You can call this a drive in photo spot.