Photographer Captures Beauty of Winter in Pacific Northwest

Christmas decorations on old truck with snow. Near Troy, Oregon

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing award winning nature and landscape photographer Dennis Frates. The Pacific Northwest, is home to some of the most beautiful winter scenery on earth. Dennis graciously offered to share with us some of his beautiful winter photos of our region.

Q: Tell us about your path, how did you get started in photography?

A: As a young teen, I poured over photograph after photograph in National Geographic, Sierra Club, Audubon, and others almost forgetting to breathe. I thought this kind of photography was unattainable for the average photographer.

At age 14, after saving for a long time, I purchased my first camera for $100.00 with money I earned from a paper route. With youthful exuberance, I took pictures of anything and everything in my small world. I was so disappointed with these early photographs. If I couldn’t dazzle people with my pictures like National Geographic could, then it wasn’t worth the effort, I thought. I gave up, put my camera in the closet and literally went fishing.

Later, over thirty years ago, I felt compelled to revisit my love of photography. I remember it so clearly. I was fly fishing in Montana, and in between catching 20” brown trout on the Madison River, the thought came to me, almost as if by divine communication, “When I get home from this fishing trip, I’m going to start shooting pictures professionally.” I know this sounds like the old, “it came to me in a vision at stream side” story, but I’m not making this up.

Q:  What inspires you about Northwest photography?

A: The Pacific Northwest offers me unique imagery not found in other parts of the US. The rain makes everything green in the forests and along streams here. The coastline is open to the public providing a wide variety of places to photograph there. Eastern Oregon and Washington offer unique opportunities to photograph an assortment of high desert landscapes, and western Washington has some of the most scenic mountain vistas found anywhere.

I live in a very scenic part of the Pacific Northwest. Within a short drive, I can set up my tripod just about anywhere in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area or at the photogenic Oregon Coast, or I can photograph Mt. Hood or Mt. Rainier from a vast variety of locations. I feel very fortunate to be so close to these world-class destinations.

Q: Are there sources of inspiration that guide your photography?

A: My passion is nature. I love to explore natural areas. Nature provides all the inspiration I need to photograph, and am mostly attracted to the beauty of nature. I’ve always yearned to bring emotion to my life, and to that of others. Photography allows me to do this.

Q: What is your favorite Northwest image? Could you explain the background story behind it?

A: Wow. This is a hard question. Since I have over 13,000 images in my library from over 30 years, I have many favorite images. But, I always love images that are truly unique and offer a different look at a commonly photographed scene. An example of this is this shot I made of Crater LakeI have photographed Crater Lake many times in all seasons over the last 30 years, but this day was the most special.  On a fourday photo trip with a fellow photographer, we spent every morning and evening at the lake’s rim waiting for something special to happen with the sky/lighting as we have done on so many occasions. We saw a scant few clouds forming this particular morning, but were pleasantly surprised when the entire sky was soon covered in these beautiful “popcorn” clouds.  An added bonus was the absolute calmest conditions I have ever seen at the lake, which by the way, didn’t help with the mosquitoes! They were eating us alive, but we tried not to notice as we shot from a variety of locations for almost an hour before the clouds totally disappeared.

Q: How do you plan a shoot?

A: For places I have not been to before I start with scouring the internet about the area, or I may purchase a photo guide. If I know someone who has been there before I will give them a call or email. I then check the weather conditions for the time I will be there. If it is for an extended trip, I really don’t pay all that much attention to the weather, because I know that sometime during my visit I’m bound to get favorable weather conditions.

I also look at images from the area, not so I can copy what another photographer has done, but so I can get an idea of how to plan my time there. Sometimes I just visit an area and just drive/hike around until something grabs me. Some of my best shots were unplanned.

Q:  You have traveled across the country as part of your work. What’s the most beautiful place you’ve been?

A: Now this is really impossible to answer. I have been to a variety of places to photograph around the world and each has it’s own beauty. It’s really about the lighting and weather conditions of a place that make it extra special to me. I can be in a less than stunning location but if the lighting and weather conditions are unique it can be extremely beautiful to me. When great conditions happen along with a stunning location – well then that’s something very special.

Q: How do you get inspired? Is there a photographer that influenced your art?

A: I look online at various photographs, and I have always been inspired by photographers like David Muench and Art Wolfe. But mostly I travel a lot and get lots of inspiration from seeing new locations, which then inspires me to create a photograph that is different from my other work. I’m most inspired by photographing something I have never seen before or have never seen another photograph like the one I create.

Q: Do you have any tips for aspiring photographers?

A: If you are interested in becoming a professional landscape photographer my advice would be don’t give up your day job. It took me many years before I could become profitable, and I really worked hard at it. Just have fun! Photograph because you love it and if it is right perhaps someday you will be able to make a living at it. I don’t think one needs to become a professional to really enjoy photography. If it is your passion just go out and do it!

Q: Where can we find your work?

A: My images can be found in many places. Just do a search with my name, Dennis Frates, and you will find the types of places I sell to. You can also visit my website at:

Dennis Frates’ love of the outdoors began at a very early age, and led to a passion for photographing landscapes and nature, which he has done for over 30 years.  In college, he earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in physical geography and ecology and had the opportunity to study the physical landscapes and flora he was photographing.  He has photographed extensively in the western US and abroad, finding unique fine art compositions in some of the worlds most stunning locations. Although he sells images to many markets, including National Geographic, Sierra Club, and National Audubon, the bulk of his enthusiasm is spent producing prints for the fine art market. His prints have been shown and sold in many national galleries. They have been accepted for several national juried exhibitions and have won numerous awards, including the prestigious Westmorland Art Nationals “Photograph of the Year”, and the Keh International Garden Photographer of the Year for two consecutive years. He sells hundreds of photographs/prints each year, for a large variety of products including posters, fine art prints, books, magazines, and has published six books and 26 sole photographer landscape/nature calendars.

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