Dean M. Chriss
Crater Lake and Wizard Island, Springtime, Landscape Photograph

Crater Lake and Wizard Island, Springtime

(Click image to enlarge)

Crater Lake is famous for its deep blue color and water clarity. The five by six mile (8.0 by 9.7 km) lake partly fills a 2,148-foot-deep (655 m) caldera that was formed around 7,700 years ago by the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama. There are no rivers flowing into or out of the lake. Water that evaporates is replaced by rain and snowfall at a rate that exchanges all of the water every 250 years. With a depth of 1,949 feet (594 m) it is the deepest lake in the United States and ranks ninth deepest in the world. Wizard Island, located near the western shore of the lake, is a cinder cone approximately 316 acres (128 ha) in size. Crater lake receives heavy snowfalls that average 505 inches (12.83 m) per year with an average maximum snow depth of 139 inches or 3.53 m. In the winter of 1949/1950 as 885.1 inches (22.48 m) of snow fell. This snow does not usually melt until mid-July and allows for substantial glaciers on adjacent mountains.

I visited Crater Lake several times to capture photographs on film and several times after switching to digital equipment, always in the spring. It can be a problematic place to photograph then because the weather can be awful, snow can hinder or prevent access to some vantage points, and sometimes the roads are closed. Going a little later could avoid most of that, but when the National Park Service starts taking visitors to Wizard Island by boat, the wake reverberates back and forth through the lake for nearly an hour. By then the light has gone bad and it's time for the next boat crossing regardless. There is actually little point in photographing the lake when the NPS tours are running, which is also when the crowds become insane. Colder temperatures, additional snow, and lack of tourists makes for nicer photographs and a more pleasant experience, even if it's more uncomfortable. I have usually spent a week or more per visit to the Crater Lake region but seldom spend all day in the park unless I have a specific reason to. I typically begin and end most days at Crater Lake to get the widest possible range of conditions and the best light. The hours in between are usually spent elsewhere, where springtime is green instead of white. My efforts at Crater lake have resulted in hundreds of digital "keepers", but I never saw this view of the lake looking better than it did in 1994 when I captured it in the image above on Kodachrome film.