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Fountain of Life (Opal Creek, Willamette National Forest, central Oregon Cascades)


Fountain of Life -- Photo  Chris Carvalho/Lensjoy.com



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"The tendency nowadays to wander in wildernesses is delightful to see. Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life." 
John Muir, Our National Parks, published in 1901

I returned to Opal Creek in Oregon's central Cascades mountains the spring of 2005, staying in a cabin at Jawbone Flats with a group of friends.  We went out for a hike to see the area's rich beauty.  Along the way, I found this marvelous scene.  I remember it from past trips, but on those I wasn't able to attempt a picture.  There is a brief time when the green pool on the left is filled by a trickle from the creek.  Earlier than that, the area is swamped by the torrential flow on the right.  A while later the trickle filling the pool stops, causing it to dry up.  

I wanted to stop the water's motion instead of letting it become a featureless white blur so a fast shutter speed was needed.  Unfortunately that would cause two problems:  I would lose some depth of field in the foreground, and also likely lose some detail in the shadows.  I decided to take two exposures and combine them together digitally so that the shadows could be exposed separately.  I ended up using a third exposure to correct for a small area where the focus was softer.  It was quite a challenge to combine the three images together to produce this final one.  The result captures what I saw at the time:  a violent creek juxtaposed next to a quiet pool, appearing to burst from mossy rocks and forest.  When trying to stop the motion of the creek, I was fortunate to get it at the instant when a huge wave was splashing up toward the camera.  

This particular year there was a very dry winter but spring brought enough rainy days to fill the creek and keep the rainforest plants lush and green.  The day this picture was taken it was mostly sunny with a few clouds.  The next one, it rained all day long and offered a chance to see the area dripping wet, as it is most of the year.  

The Opal Creek watershed encompasses 35,000 acres of pristine temperate rainforest with approximately 200 plant species.  Together with the neighboring Bull of the Woods wilderness, it is the largest remaining expanse of low-elevation old growth forest in Oregon.  Near the area where this photo was taken we found blossoms of Erythronium oregonum, or white fawn lily, a beautiful plant that grows in Willamette Valley lowlands.  The oldest trees found in the area are around 1,500 years old.  

There is a startling range of detail in this image.  Lichens and the nearly microscopic bristly leaves of mosses (in the full detail view) are visible in the foreground along with miniature reflecting pools in the rock.  In the distance lie the deep green cedar, fir, and hemlock trees that make up the rainforest.  See Opal Creek Cascades for another photo from this wilderness.  


Info:  Chromira digital print of Provia 100F 4x5 chrome, Fuji Crystal Archive CD paper

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