Hiking to a new career

By Allen Thomas, Columbian outdoors reporter



David Cobb of Mosier in the Columbia Gorge knows a thing about long-distance hiking. He’s done the Pacific Crest trail as well as the Continental Divide and Canadian Divide routes, plus across Iceland.

In the course of all that walking, he found a career as a photographer.

It started with his 1992 hiking of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, Cobb told the annual meeting in Vancouver of the Mount Hood chapter of the Pacific Crest Trail Association.

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David Cobb’s website is www.dmcobbphoto.com. It has galleries of his work. He will be the guest speaker on Feb. 27 at the Columbia Gorge Camera Club in Hood River. Cobb has an exhibit of Japanese gardens images on display though April 29 at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C.

• The Pacific Crest Trail Association does trail maintenance on the 2,650-mile trail from Mexico to Canada. The Mount Hood chapter covers from near Mount Jefferson in Oregon to Midway Meadows north of Mount Adams in Washington. The website for the Mount Hood chapter is www.longtrails.co.... The website for the Pacific Crest Trail Association is www.pcta.org. The group always is looking for volunteers.

“I really learned about color,’’ Cobb said, showing examples of his work. “Everything I wanted to take a photo of was about color.’’

Cobb said he learned about form while walking the Continental Divide Trail in 1996.

“Form is the depth you can give a photograph,’’ he said. “Photos are really two-dimensional objects. How do you lead someone’s eye into a photograph? You give it depth. You give it rhythm. You give it interest. If you can make it look three-dimensional, the better your photograph is.’’

On his 2002 Canadian Rockies’ trip, Cobb started incorporating light in his photos.

“Without light, color, form or expression you do not need to take a photo,’’ he said. “Really, photography is all about that, and I learned it on my hikes.’’

Cobb said, as a long-distance hiker, weight matters. He’s not a gear head.

“As a long-distance hiker I learned that you don’t really need a great camera to take a great photo.’’

For a camera to take on long hikes, Cobb mentioned the Canon G series, specifically a Canon G9.

“You don’t have to have a fancy camera, just wait for the right light,’’ he said. “Especially in the fall you get the backlighting that creates a glow to the leaves that you don’t otherwise get.’’

Here are some nuggets Cobb offered for hikers who want to improve as photographers:

• The Goat Rocks Wilderness at the northern end of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is a good place to photograph.

“One thing about long-distance hiking is I’ve been a lot of places and I know where I want to go back to photograph, and Goat Rocks is one of those places,’’ Cobb said.

• The Columbia River Gorge also offers a lot of opportunity.

“Spring in the Columbia River Gorge always is beautiful because these showers come through, the storms come through, and you’re always catching light somewhere,’’ he said. “I look for those incidents of light to go on, or those long shadows.’’

•The Klickitat River also is high on photographic potential.

“The Klickitat River canyon is absolutely stunning,’’ he said. “It’s beautiful and it has a lot of side canyons going off, a lot of narrow side canyons.’’

• The first light of the morning can turn a mundane location into gorgeous.

“If you are a long-distance hiker you are out in that early-morning light a lot.’’

• Dappled light can be good, too.

“Dappled light is when you have shadow and light together. It brings that form out, it creates that depth.’’

• Cloudy days are the best time to photograph waterfalls.

“Cloudy days, which we have a lot in Oregon and Washington, are a great time to photograph waterfalls,’’ he said. “It’s the perfect time. Sunny days are a terrible time to photograph waterfalls.’’

• Don’t always put the horizon in the middle of a photograph.

“If the sky is more interesting, photograph more of the sky,’’ he said. “If the land is more interesting, put more emphasis on the land.’’

• Putting the horizon in the middle of the photo can put uninteresting blue or gray on half the shot.

“It doesn’t add any interest to your photo whatsoever.’’

• Opposite colors attract, like blues and oranges or reds and greens. Curves with an S-shape or C-shape often make a good landscape photo. He calls them, “Things to take you eye in.’’

• Shoot the moon, literally.

“As the moon rises, I love catching full moons...They add a lot of interest.’’