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Why So Blue, Crater Lake?

Text by Jay Newman
(The text originally appeared in the book Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader: Nature Calls. I’ve posted it here as a sample of my writing. Images by Jay and Sue Newman.)

Here’s the story of an enormous volcano that blew its top, leaving behind one of the most beautiful, otherworldly places on Earth: Crater Lake National Park—home of the planet’s bluest water.

Crater Lake Cliff Layers

The Inside-out Volcano

Rising roughly 12,000 feet above sea level, Mount Mazama wasn’t the highest of the Cascades volcanoes. Its peak fell slightly short of Mount Shasta (to the south in California) and Mount Ranier (to the north in Washington). But in terms of pure mountainous girth, Mazama was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the Pacific Northwest. For more than 400,000 years, the composite volcano grew layer by layer in spits and spurts over top of a giant subterranean magma chamber in what is today southern Oregon. Mild eruptions, lava flows, gassy vents, and glaciation created a rugged landscape marked by frequent change.

The biggest change occurred just 7,700 years ago (a mere blip on the geologic time scale). Mount Mazama erupted in spectacular fashion. Ten cubic miles of ash and lava shot 30 miles into the sky. Pyroclastic flows laid waste to entire forests. One lava flow carved out 40 miles of what later became the Rogue River. Ash covered the ground as far away as Nebraska. The eruption ranks as a VEI 7, or “super-colossal,” on the USGS’s Volcanic Explosivity Index. (The scale only goes up to 8.) Put into perspective, Mazama’s eruption was 42 times stronger than Mount St. Helens’ blowup in 1980. Geologists believe it to be the most violent Cascades eruption of the past million years.

Because Mazama was so wide, after all the lava emptied from the chamber, there was nothing left to hold up the mountain. Result: Several million tons of earth, rock, and ash collapsed into the chamber. When the dust cleared, what had been a mountain was now a mountain-sized hole. The volcanic caldera formed a nearly perfect circle six miles wide and 4,000 feet deep. Over the next few centuries, the volcanic activity slowly subsided while the caldera steadily filled up with snow and rain. And Crater Lake was born.

Crater Lake Cloud Shadows

Cloud Shadows

The eruption occurred recently enough that there were witnesses. The Klamath and Modoc Indians both lived nearby, and the mountain blast shook them to the core. The Klamaths’ name for Mazama was Moy-Yaina (“Big Mountain”). According to their creation myths, living deep inside the mountain was Llao, the spirit chief of the underworld. One day, he emerged and saw a beautiful maiden named Loha wandering in the forest.

Llao fell in love with Loha, but she was the chief’s daughter, and rejected the hideous god. Angry, Llao sent fire and thunder from the mountain over nearby Klamath Lake. The people would have perished if not for Skell, the spirit chief of the sky. He fought on their behalf and defeated Llao. To ensure that he could never return, Skell covered Llao’s lair with earth and then filled the hole with water. The Indians renamed it Tum-sum-ne (“Mountain with the Top Cut Off”). And Crater Lake was born.

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Llao Rock

That story was passed down for thousands of years, and for the most part, the Indians stayed away from the lake (although there are stories of at least one brave explorer who ventured into the fuming caldera before it filled with water). The Indians, believing the lake to be sacred ground, also kept its existence a secret from white settlers. A group of gold prospectors finally discovered the lake by accident in 1853. Struck by its beauty, they spread the word to others. Before long, curious adventurers made the difficult journey through thick forests, across hardened lava fields, and up the steep terrain to see it for themselves.

One such adventurer was William Gladstone Steel, who had been hearing stories of the lake’s splendor ever since he was a teenager in the 1870s. Steel finally made it to the southwestern part of the rim (a spot called Discovery Point) in 1885. He was amazed: “All the ingenuity of nature seems to have been exerted to the fullest capacity to build one grand awe-inspiring temple the likes of which the world has never seen before.”

Rising from 1,000 to 2,000 feet above the shore, the rim of Crater Lake offers incredible views. The first sight that struck Steel (and most visitors) was the crystal-clear blue water. It was bluer than the sky. Across the lake, the vertical cliffs of the rim were also colorful, marked by towering castles of orange lava deposits, bright yellow lichen, white speckles of snow, and forests of evergreen trees. On a calm day the view is extra special: Glassy reflections create abstract patterns on the shore six miles away.

Crater Lake Moody Afternoon

Wizard Island from Discovery Point

Steel was also taken by Crater Lake’s other prominent feature, a conical island that rises more than 700 feet out of the southwestern portion of the lake. It’s also covered with volcanic rock and forests of pines, fir, and hemlock. Reminding Steel of a sorcerer’s cap, he named it Wizard Island. Over time, Steel named several more of Crater Lake’s features, including Llao Rock and Skell Head. And he was the one who called the ex-mountain Mazama, the name of a mountaineering club he belonged to.

Steel became Crater Lake’s biggest advocate. He brought in tourists, scientists, surveyors, and developers. In 1886 he hired Clarence Dutton of the United States Geological Survey to measure the lake’s depth. “As the visitor reaches the brink of the cliff,” wrote Dutton, “he suddenly sees below him an expanse of ultramarine blue of a richness and intensity which he has probably never seen before, and will not be likely to see again.” Steel and Dutton knew the lake was deep, but it wasn’t until they lowered a piano wire at various points along the surface that they grasped just how deep: nearly 2,000 feet.

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Hikers on the Rim

Steel was instrumental in convincing President Theodore Roosevelt to designate the area as the sixth U.S. national park in 1902. However, if Steel had gotten his way, there would have been a lot of development there: He wanted to build an elevator to take visitors from the top of the rim to the shore, and a bridge to Wizard Island. His colleagues at the National Park Service wanted to keep the area pristine, though, and Steel lasted only three years as Crater Lake’s superintendent before he was ousted.

Today, there is minimal evidence of man’s impact at the park. There’s a lodge and a gift shop on the south rim, and the 33-milelong Rim Drive blends into the landscape as it circles the lake. It offers dozens of amazing viewpoints in the summertime; most of the road is closed during the long winter. Even so, the national park is open year-round, and receives about 500,000 visitors annually.


Crater Lake wears its geologic past on its sleeves. You can actually look at the inside of a sleeping volcano. Here’s some of the science and superlatives of the “Gem of the Cascades.”

• That’s Deep. Modern sonar readings show that Dutton was pretty close to the mark. The lowest part of the lake bed is 1,949 feet beneath the surface. That ranks Crater Lake as the deepest lake in the U.S., and the ninth deepest on earth. If the Empire State Building were lowered into the lake (not counting for water displacement), by the time the ground floor reached the bottom, the top of the spire would be 500 feet below the surface.

Crater Lake National Park Sunset

Crater Lake in Winter

• A Perfect Balance. Most of the world’s lakes are fed by streams and rivers, and drain into streams and rivers. Crater Lake does neither. It is filled solely by precipitation. (Average rainfall per year: 66 inches. Average snowfall: 44 feet.) The lake loses its water through evaporation (and to a lesser extent, by seepage into the porous rock). These processes—precipitation and evaporation—balance each other out so well at Crater Lake that the surface rises and falls only by a few feet every century. (A single drop of water’s “residence time” in the lake is about 150 years.) Plus, because of Crater Lake’s great depth, the surface rarely freezes.

• I Can See Clearly Now. Crater Lake contains what may be the clearest, purest water known to exist. In most lakes that boast clear water, you can see about 16 feet below the surface in broad daylight. But in Crater Lake, it’s possible to see to depths of more than 100 feet. The deepest scientific measurement has been 142 feet, a world record. Several factors contribute to the lake’s clarity: Because no rivers run into it, no silt gets deposited. There’s little pollution because of Crater Lake’s remoteness (the nearest big cities—Portland, San Francisco, and Reno—are each hundreds of miles away). There are also very few organic materials or dissolved minerals in the water, and the human impact around and on the lake is minimal.

• The Blues. How can the water be so clear—and so blue—at the same time? Actually, it’s so blue because it’s so clear…and so deep. Here’s how it works: As sunlight penetrates the lake, it absorbs all the colors of visible light except for blue, which it reflects back. The deeper and clearer the water, the more blue gets reflected.

• New Growth. Wizard Island is one of two new volcanoes that have risen out of Mazama’s caldera (the other is still underwater). At barely 6,000 years old, the island is very young, yet many of the trees that grow on it are very old, some more than 800 years. There’s a trail that winds through forests and large lava rocks to the top of Wizard Island’s cone, which contains its own small caldera.

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Phantom Ship

• Phantom Ship. Mazama’s demise unearthed some very old rock formations, including Crater Lake’s other island, Phantom Ship. This spire of 400,000-year-old andesite lava was left behind by an ancient eruption. When viewed from the rim, the island looks like an old sailing ship, hence the name. The rocky spires rise 163 feet above the surface; the island itself is about 300 feet long. Clinging to the rocks are an astounding seven species of trees.

• The Old Man of the Lake. More than a century ago, a large hemlock tree fell from somewhere on the rim and landed in the lake. Since then, the 30-foot-long tree has been traveling along the surface, carried by the wind, with only a few feet of its exposed, bleached trunk bobbing above the water. It’s somewhat of a mystery as to why this tree—and no other—has become a floating island. Just another curiosity of Crater Lake.

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Clark’s Nutcracker

• Life Will Find a Way. Crater Lake might seem inhospitable—the rim is more than 7,000 feet above sea level, and most of the year it’s blanketed in snow. But like all volcanic regions, it has a thriving ecosystem. The most abundant life are the mangled, windswept trees. There are also several species of colorful wildflowers that enjoy their “spring” in September due to the area’s high elevation—among them Indian paintbrush, penstemon, lupine, monkey flower, and shooting star. Black bears, elk, mule deer, and bald eagles share the park with foxes, pikas, squirrels, snowshoe hares, several species of songbirds, and big, furry moths. Most surprisingly, there are rare black garter snakes that live on Wizard Island. They’ve adapted to blend in with the dark rocks.

• Into Llao’s Domain. There have been a few scientific expeditions—manned and unmanned—to see what lies at the bottom of Crater Lake. Scientists have learned that the area is still active— steam vents enter the water at great depths. That allows primitive life-forms to exist more than 1,000 feet below the surface, which actually receives faint bits of sunlight on clear days. But perhaps the biggest surprise came at depths of 100 to 460 feet along the lake walls—forests of moss several stories thick.

Fishing at Crater Lake

Fishing from Wizard Island

• Gone Fishin’. Can you fish in Crater Lake? Yes, but there is just one access point to the lake itself at the bottom of a steep, milelong trail from the rim down to Cleetwood Cove. Docked there are the only two boats allowed on the lake. Operated by the National Park Service, they take visitors to and from Wizard Island. The lake itself has no native fish, but William Gladstone Steel introduced some fish and shrimp in late 19th century. A few more stockings occurred over the next few decades, but the practice was stopped in 1941 to preserve the water’s natural purity. However, some kokanee salmon and rainbow trout still live in Crater Lake. Fishing from the rocky shore of Wizard Island offers anglers one of the most exotic places on earth to cast a line. (You can also swim in Crater Lake, but the water is quite cold, rarely topping 60 degrees in the summer.)

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Vidae Falls

• Beyond the Rim. There’s a lot more to the park than just the lake. One attraction is the Pumice Desert. This five-square-mile area lies just north of the rim. Small, light lava rocks—which cooled after Mazama erupted—form a layer several feet thick. Although it looks from a distance to be lifeless, there are 14 species of plants that thrive in this desert. Another incredible geological feature of Crater Lake is known as the Pinnacles—a steep river canyon full of hardened steam vents that stick up like spikes out of the sloping walls. And what would a Pacific Northwest park be without a waterfall? Vidae Falls cascades down the south side of the old mountain. Get there in late summer for the wildflower displays.

Will the volcano erupt again? Most likely. The constant change that shaped the region is stull in flux. What scientists don’t know is how much magma—if any—still remains in the chamber, and just how much pressure is building up. Future activity is likely to happen just east of the lake, where the geologic “hot spot” now lies. What’s more worrisome is the chance of a large earthquake causing landslides and huge waves on the surface. A really cataclysmic seismic event could rupture the rim wall and cause the lake to drain, creating a flood of 4.6 trillion gallons of water. But for now, Mazama remains at rest.


Jay and Sue Newman

Prints of Crater Lake available on our SmugMug page.

Crater Lake National Park’s official site.

More about the Bathroom Readers’ Institute here.


The Obsidian on the Side of the Road

The Obsidian on the Side of the Road

A Travel Story by Jay Newman

Bean, Sue and Jay: the intrepid explorers!

Our bumbling tale of barely finding obsidian began in a town called Burns, Oregon, on a chilly Sunday morning in October 2007, the year Sue and I got married. It was the sixth and final day of our long drive home from Boston, Massachusetts, to Ashland, Oregon.  We’d flown back east a week earlier to retrieve Sue’s Toyota Tercel—otherwise known as Bean—and then took the northern route across, averaging nearly 600 miles per day, the previous three through an early winter storm. So at that point, we were both tired and grumpy. Our grand plans to photograph the American West had been thwarted by high winds and sideways snow. With no four-wheel drive, and no real time to explore, we had no choice but to drive past three places we’d both always dreamed of visiting: Devil’s Tower, the Badlands, and Yellowstone. Not fun. We’d hoped to get at least one portfolio-worthy image out of the drive. Oh well.

But we could still salvage the trip with obsidian!

It just so happened that our route home was going to take us west on U.S. Highway 20 through central Oregon, one of the best destinations in the world for rockhounds. If you know where to look, then without too much effort you can find impressive pieces of obsidian, as well as agate thunder eggs, picture jasper, and petrified wood. We, however, did not know where to look. All we had were some vague directions to a collecting site in the Glass Buttes, an eroding clump of old volcanoes that are the source of some incredible varieties of obsidian—including rainbow, snowflake, lace and mahogany. Even the “boring” obsidian that we were after is impressive. Imagine grasping a fist-sized chunk of black glass born out of the belly of a volcano five million years ago.

Most rockhounds polish their treasures or turn them into jewelry. Ours invariably end up in the garden.

But before we could get our hands on some obsidian, we had to find it first. Our collecting site was supposed to be about 75 miles west of Burns, not far from the highway. The plan: Drive up to the site, jump out, snag some rocks, jump back in, and then hightail it the final 225 miles home. If we didn’t stop to photograph or otherwise dilly-dally, we could be out of the car and on to the couch by sunset.

Of course, we got off to a late start. By the time we finally checked out of the hotel and got all our stuff in the car, it was well after ten o’clock. I was particularly antsy. I needed to get on the road. And that is why—on our way out of town—I made the fateful decision to drive right past the gas station.

“Are you sure about this?” asked Sue. “Yes,” I answered. I was pretty sure. The tank was still two-thirds full; I figured there would be gas somewhere along Highway 20. I mean, there wasn’t one of those “No Services For 50 Miles” signs. “There will be gas,” I said. If not, it was 130 miles until Bend, the next sizable city. That little Tercel got pretty good mileage, but not that good. “We’ll be fine.”

I swear, the very second I got up to speed on the highway, that gas needle dropped a quarter of an inch. Sue saw it and looked at me. “We still have half a tank,” I said. I was not turning back. Back was the opposite of home. “We’ll be fine.”

We were entering an area geologists call the High Lava Plains, but most refer to it as the high desert. Another name you’ll hear: the Oregon Outback. It’s that desolate—a plateau nearly a mile above sea level populated with odd rock formations, power lines, rabbit brush, sage and the occasional juniper tree. We did pass a few “gas stations” (old pumps outside of old buildings), but they were either closed on Sundays, or closed forever. That half of a tank quickly fell to one-third, and then to one-quarter, and were we actually going to run out of gas?

Sue was not a happy camper. We’d had nary a squabble the entire trip, but I really screwed up this time, and we both knew it. I broke the cardinal rule of middle-of-nowhere road-tripping: Fill up when you have the chance! All of a sudden, our plan to find obsidian was in serious jeopardy. Not that it was a great plan to begin with.

Did I mention that we were new at this rockhounding thing? We liked to pick up neat rocks during photo outings, but we didn’t even have a gems-and-minerals guide yet (highly recommended if you plan on finding gems and minerals). All we had were some vague directions from a random rockhound whom we’d met on a trail a few weeks earlier. The best specimens, he told us, were to be found at the base of the Glass Buttes. However, those sites were located 10 to 20 miles from Highway 20, and our tiny Toyota would be no match small for the rutty, rocky roads. No worries, he said, there was an easily accessible spot really close to the highway where, each summer, a backhoe digs up a small quarry area and piles the soil into mounds—which rockhounds are then free to search through for pieces of obsidian. (We assumed this service was provided by the Bureau of Land Management, which manages the land.) Problem was, it had been a “few years” and the random rockhound couldn’t remember exactly which of the roads to take, how far the site was from from the highway, or even which side of the highway it was on. But we were confident. There wasn’t a whole lot else out there, so a backhoe and a bunch of dirt mounds shouldn’t be too hard to find. “You can’t miss it!” He actually said that … apparently unaware that it usually means the opposite.

By the time we arrived at Glass Buttes (which weren’t nearly as pretty as their name suggests), the needle had fallen to one-eighth and the time was approaching noon. And there was no sign of our quarry. We did pass a few gravel roads, but most were gated, and we had neither the fuel nor the clearance to take the roads that weren’t. We decided that unless we could see the collecting site from the highway, we weren’t stopping. Our one and only priority at this point was to not run out of gas. And the next dot on the map was a town called Brothers, 25 long miles away. So, in what had become the official theme of our west coast non-adventures, we once again drove past something important. Yay.

All that Sue had wanted for that day was to find some obsidian. She didn’t even need to say it. The sentence was echoing through my brain. And then the low-gas light came on to shine even more guilt upon me. I didn’t even care about stupid rocks anymore. Nor did I care that the thin layer of photogenic clouds was diffusing ethereal light over the picturesque desert landscape that was just begging us to photograph it. The cameras stayed put. Home was still forever away, we were in serious danger of getting stranded, and we hadn’t even had breakfast yet.

As we put the buttes in our rear-view mirror, that damn gas light only got brighter and brighter. So I laid off the gas pedal as much as I could and hoped against hope we’d make it to Brothers, but it just didn’t seem possible. I asked Sue how far her car could travel when the low gas light is on. “I don’t know,” she said. “I’ve never tested it before.”

Twenty silent minutes later, running on fumes and dumb luck, Sue and I somehow made it to Brothers, or what there was of it. Population: 35. None of whom appeared to be there that day. There were a few abandoned buildings, a café and a shack with an ancient gas pump out front. I optimistically parked next to the pump and we got out of the car. Still no sign of people. The whole scene was quite eerie. I walked up to the door of the shack and knocked. No answer. “Let’s go see if that café’s open,” I said. So we drove Bean over, half-expecting the restaurant’s door to be locked, but it actually opened. Yay.

The only photo I took in Brothers was of this old building across the street from where we ate.

There was no one inside. I was a tad bit worried that we’d stepped into a David Lynch movie. The place was all wood-paneling and Western kitsch—saw-blade murals and a barbed-wire wreath adorned with cobwebs and shotgun shells. And on the floor was a crate with some rough pieces of dusty obsidian for sale. “Look, honey,” I said, only half-joking, “let’s just buy a few of these guys and say we found them.” Sue didn’t answer. That box of rocks just reminded her how close we’d gotten. Changing the subject, I asked kind of loud, “Is anyone even in here?” Just then a nice lady walked out of the back and said hello. She wasn’t scary at all. We asked her about the gas station and she told us someone should be by to open it soon. So we sat down for breakfast.

Neither of us had much to say while we waited for our food, which was taking forever. I think I even put my head down on the table for five minutes. And there was still no sign of life at the gas station. Finally, sometime after one o’clock, the nice lady emerged from the kitchen with two plates of eggs, bacon, potatoes, and toast. And as we started digging in, we immediately noticed something odd about our food. All of it was…perfect.

There’s no better word to describe this breakfast: perfect. I mean, it looked like your typical café fare—but it tasted like each individual ingredient had been killed, milled, or picked fresh after we ordered it (probably because it was). And then prepared to perfection. Here we were in a middle-of-nowhere town with a population that wouldn’t fill a city bus, and we’re eating the best-tasting breakfast we’d had together. Maybe ever.

Only it wasn’t the best breakfast ever. It would have been had I not royally screwed up and driven right past that gas station and then right past our obsidian. So we just sat there and grumpily ate our delicious meal. Then a nice fellow walked into the café and told us the gas pump was on. Yay. So we cleared our plates of every last morsel, thanked the nice lady, and then finally gassed up our thirsty Bean. It was a hollow victory, though. At that point, I just wanted to cut our losses and keep driving west toward home.

But I am a good husband, so I didn’t even put it up for discussion. I started the car, steered left, and drove east—back the way we came. Sue immediately lit up. “Really?!” “What’s an extra 50 miles? So we won’t get home until late.” “Yay!”

Finally, a lighter mood (although I’ll admit now that I wasn’t too thrilled to be going THE WRONG WAY). But I kept quiet. There were other concerns, namely: Now where was this obsidian? Neither of the two nice folks we’d met in Brothers knew anything about a “quarry just for rockhounds.” They told us we had to drive up to the buttes to get the good rocks. That, we knew.

As we arrived back in the area, we were hoping that traveling in the opposite direction would reveal our mounds. No such luck. At one point, I tried turning up one of the rocky roads, but Bean complained, so I slowly backed down and returned to the highway. Not quite ready to give up, we headed farther east. Still nothing. “Let’s just get out somewhere and look,” I finally said. Sue agreed, so I arbitrarily stopped at the next road, which was gated, and parked on the shoulder. We got out and started looking around. There weren’t many rocks to speak of. However, the light was starting to get really good. I was tempted to pull out all the camera gear, but today was just not about shooting. It was about finding obsidian, or not finding obsidian, and then going home.

Then I saw a sparkle on the ground. It was a pebble-sized piece of obsidian! “Ooh, look!” Then Sue found one, too. Then another. We were actually pretty excited, as this was our very first time rockhounding—so even a few pebbles of volcanic glass were special. We scoured the desert floor for another few minutes and picked up a handful of little pieces each. “Now can we go home?” I asked. Sue, who is more tenacious than I, wasn’t ready. “Let’s just walk up the road a bit and see if there are any bigger pieces up the hill.” Sigh. “Okay.” So we walked around the gate (which wasn’t even locked), and trudged up the hill. The obsidian pieces weren’t getting any bigger. Sue kept looking. I kicked dirt and watched the little dust clouds blow away in the wind. Finally, I just said it: “Sue, it’s already afternoon, and we’re not even a hundred miles from where we started out this morning. We have to go.” Sigh. “Okay.”

Then we both turned around…and there it was. Our quarry. Down the hill, on the opposite side of the highway, about 100 feet beyond the shoulder. There was the backhoe parked next to several mounds of soil. Even from that far away we could see the little sparkles in the desert sun. “Thar be obsidian!”

The two of us hoofed it down that hill with a renewed spirit. Did we actually accidentally park right across the road from the very place we were looking for? There was a ridge that had made the mounds impossible to see from the highway. So if Sue and I hadn’t walked up that road as far as we did, we’d have gotten back in the car and driven away without even knowing we’d hit pay dirt. Thank you, Sue’s tenacity! A short drive across the road and over a bit of rough terrain and we pulled up to the quarry.

Now, if you’re a serious obsidian collector looking for the fancy snowflake or rainbow varieties, these piles wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But for Sue and I, who both grew up back east where the rocks are just rocks, this was monumental. Chunk after chunk of real volcanic glass! For free! (There was a weight limit which we couldn’t even come close to meeting.) We were especially stoked to find some nice pieces of mahogany obsidian (my favorite).

At this point in the story, I would normally add a photo here of the two of us on top of a pile of dirt triumphantly holding our black-rock bounty above our heads, but the cameras remained dormant in the back seat. So here’s a photo of our haul in a bucket at home.

And these are the “boring” ones. We still have yet to get back our there to find the really fancy stuff.

Sue and I scoured those mounds for at least a half hour, no longer caring about how far away from home we were. We were giddy and filthy and the proud owners of way more awesome rocks than we could stuff into our already stuffed car. We managed to pack in a few dozen pieces, placing them one by one into every nook and cranny. An inch or so lower to the ground, Bean triumphantly headed west again.

I don’t even know what time we got home that night. It doesn’t matter. That’s why you make those decisions—to walk up the hill a bit farther, or turn back around to find what you may have missed. Those are the kinds of experiences you remember forever, not what time you got home so you’d be well rested for work and blah blah blah. Boring! Yes, the Newmans not only became true rockhounds that chilly Sunday afternoon in central Oregon, but I personally learned some very important lessons—all of which boil down to “listen to Sue.”

And the icing on the cake: After we found our obsidian and started driving home, I got my portfolio shot! This prize-winning image of the Three Sisters and Highway 20 was taken at about three in the afternoon, just down the road from the very best breakfast that Sue and I ever had together.


Resources: Do you want to find some great rocks in Oregon? Don’t go in blind like we did. Pick yourself up a copy of Gem Trails Of Oregon. (But make sure you get the most recent printing for the most up-to-date maps.)


2011 In Retrospect

2011: The year that Sue and I bought a house! It’s a great feeling, but one of the drawbacks of setting up our new home and office, and having full-time day jobs, is that we did very little photographing. And the money we were going to use to finally buy the beefy lenses and new camera bodies that we so desperately need…well, let’s just say we really love our new washer and dryer! But we did get out there a few times.

And just this morning I got an email from my good friend Annie about photographer Jim Godlstein’s 2011 Blog Project. It’s a great idea: He invites photogs from all over to post their best shots of the previous year on their blog, and then he posts links to all of them on his. What a nice thing to do. And because 2012 is the year we are going to start seriously marketing our work, the timing is great. We’d love for you all to like our new Facebook Fan Page!

So here, in somewhat chronological order, is a bit of the beauty and weirdness that Sue and I saw through our lenses last year…

Lake of the Woods, Oregon - Jay NewmanHoar Frost on Dogwood - Sue NewmanTrees and Snow, Lithia Park - Jay NewmanAshland Creek Dusting - Sue NewmanMt. Shasta with Cloud Skirt, California - Jay NewmanLiving Memorial Sculpture Gardens, California - Sue NewmanView from Roxyann Mountain in Medford, Oregon - Sue NewmanBachelor Button - Sue NewmanCheckered Beetle on Liatris - Jay NewmanLadybug High on Pollen - Sue NewmanGilli High on Catnip - Sue NewmanRoy, the Leg-disabled Alligator Lizard - Jay NewmanAshland Ice Cream Social 1 - Jay NewmanAshland Ice Cream Social 2 - Sue NewmanUpper McCloud Falls, California - Jay NewmanMt. Shasta's Two Friends - Jay NewmanLake Shastina Sunset - Sue NewmanLast Light on Lake Shastina, California - Jay NewmanGoing Green at the Ashland Halloween Parade - Sue NewmanAshland Halloween on the Plaza- Jay NewmanMt. Hood and Lenticular Clouds, Oregon - Jay NewmanTubb Springs, Oregon - Jay NewmanGreensprings Autumn, near Ashland, Oregon - Jay NewmanCows in the Mist 1 - Jay NewmanMisty Traintracks in Our New Neighborhood - Jay NewmanOak and Farm on the Ashland Outskirts - Sue NewmanSheridan Graveyard in Ashland - Jay NewmanHarrier and Hoar Frost in Ashland - Jay NewmanCows in the Mist 2 - Sue Newman


It’s All Hallows Eve! Let these graves serve as a reminder that the dead are never far away…

Graves Gathering, Hingham Cemetery, MA - Sue NewmanAutumn Glow, Jacksonville Cemetery, OR - Jay NewmanRest, Emigrant Lake Graveyard, Ashland, OR - Sue NewmanWinter, Emigrant Lake Graveyard, Ashland, OR - Jay NewmanCrying Angel, Hingham Cemetery, MA - Sue NewmanAbove the Atlantic and below Fort Revere, Hull Cemetery, MA - Jay NewmanHingham Cemetery Zoom, MA - Sue NewmanConfrontation, Hingham Cemetery, MA - Jay NewmanLichen Face, Norwell, MA - Sue NewmanPassing, Scenic Hills Graveyard, Ashland, OR - Jay NewmanWaiting at the Gate, Jacksonville Cemetery, OR - Sue NewmanEqual, Gold Hill Cemetery, OR - Jay NewmanCohasset Cemetery Cross, MA - Sue NewmanAutumn in Ashland Cemetery, OR - Jay NewmanIron and Tree, Scituate, MA - Sue NewmanSheridan Graveyard Overlook, Ashland, OR - Jay NewmanOn a Pedestal, Hingham Cemetery, MA - Sue NewmanCentral Cemetery overlooking Little Harbor, Cohasset, MA - Jay NewmanAfteglow, First Parish Cemetery, Norwell, MA - Sue Newman

Graveyards and cemeteries we’ve wandered through in Oregon and Massachusetts.

All Moved In

Wow, has it really been six months since we last posted? That’s also how long it’s been since Sue and I have gone out shooting. Wah. But it’s all been worth it, because we went and bought ourselves a house! Our lives are finally getting back to normal (it’s been laborious to say the least), and our super duper new photography office is nearly set up, so let the artwork commence!

Soon. We got a few more things to do, and our day jobs are keeping us extra busy. At least I get A.C. and a comfy seat, Sue’s stuck weeding a giant weedy field in the scorching sun all week.  Here’s a pic to help cool her off…

Crater Lake Mishchief.jpg



Ashland has arrived!

We’ve finally added most of our Ashland images to the galleries! Well, some of them. There are thousands more to sort through, but alas, we must put the breaks on building the site for a few months as we prepare to move house to a sunny new spot in our town. Below is an image of Jay’s from Ashland’s 100-acre oasis, Lithia Park. (You won’t find it there, though, it will be included in our Nature Closeups gallery, coming later this year.) So take a little trip through one of the American West’s most picturesque little towns!

Moss and Fern in Lithia Park




Hello 2011! Bring on the frost!

North Mountain Bridge - Sue NewmanFrozen Cattail - Sue NewmanHoar Frost on Dogwood - Sue NewmanBacklit Hoar Frost  - Sue NewmanFrosty Pine - Sue NewmanWinter Teepee - Sue NewmanWinter Teasel - Sue NewmanFrozen Nature Center - Sue NewmanIcy Manzanita - Sue NewmanQueen Annes Hoar Frost - Sue NewmanNorth Mountain Park Nature Center, Ashland, Oregon - Sue Newman
More like frozen fog, really. During the last couple of nights the Rogue Valley has been blanketed with cold, thick fog, and the footprint it leaves on everything it touches is a magical thing to see.  White, spiky frost covers every twig, park bench and blade of grass. Jay and I were fortunate to have it linger long enough into the day so that we could do some lunch break photographing.  These are a few shots taken at the North Mountain Park Nature Center here in Ashland.



2010 Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse

Thought we got clouded out for 2010’s winter solstice lunar eclipse…and we pretty much did. But I did get a couple of shots from the backyard when the clouds opened. I wasn’t able to get anything super sharp, so I played with the zoom. Next eclipse we will have better lenses!

The fleetThe beginning

Home on a Rainy Day

We’re vendors of the day today at the Ashland Artisans Emporium! Someone bought a few matted prints from our booth yesterday. Thanks!

Sue and I were going to shoot today, try to capture some of this weather. But it’s nasty. And cold. And we have sooooo many hundreds of pictures to go through and get up here in galleries. So we are home in the studio, finishing up our Ashland Events galleries (hopefully). Then onto the Lithia Park  pics.

In the mean time, here are a few shots of Ashland’s Ice Cream Social that I worked on this morning…

When will Ice Cream Man get here?Ice Cream Man is on the way!Waiting for ice cream....Yay for ice cream!Is that the famous Zena? Where's the ice cream?Window to ice cream!We just want more ice cream.All hail ice cream!

Ashland Festival of Light

Sue and I ventured to downtown Ashland to shoot the annual holiday Festival of Light celebration. Here’s a brief write-up (to entice any of you magazine editors out there) along with a few of our shots from that glorious November afternoon.

ASHLAND FESTIVAL OF LIGHT — The end of fall greets the coming of winter in the picturesque hamlet of Ashland, Oregon. Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, the townsfolk usher in the holidays with live music on the Plaza and ice skating in Lithia Park. Once the sun goes down, hundreds of revelers gather along Main Street to watch a short parade featuring dancing Christmas Trees and concluding with Santa Claus himself. After reaching the Plaza, he heads up to the balcony of Alex’s restaurant and then counts down from 10. And then, more than a million Christmas lights pop on like popcorn all over downtown! It’s truly is a sight to behold. Very Norman Rockwell.

Grizzly Peak winter, Lithia Park fall - Jay NewmanSkating in Lithia Park - Jay NewmanThe Plaza from Lithia Park - Sue NewmanRocking Out on the Plaza - Jay NewmanChautuaqua Walkway - Sue NewmanLithia Park in Middle-earth - Jay NewmanTaking a break from shootingRing Around The Posie - Jay NewmanBefore the Parade - Sue Newman Santa Claus is coming to town - Jay NewmanAnd the Festival of Light has begun! - Sue NewmanShadows on the Plaza - Jay NewmanMain Street Revelers - Sue Newman Merriment on the Plaza - Sue Newman The Plaza bathed in light - Jay Newman