[/caption] I finally had the opportunity to visit Seattle and take some photos of the city. Just before my trip I read that Travel+Leisure 2009 had rated the top 100 cities in the world with the most scenic skylines. Seattle was rated #10 in their magazine. I was surprised to see them get such a high ranking. After all, their #10 ranking was for the world, not just for the United States. I figured that I really needed to take some good shots in order to really show the beauty of the Seattle skyline. I did my homework and found several areas throughout the city that were known for the best city views. I went to every scenic viewpoint that I could find and made sure to return for the best sunset shots. I drove to almost every neighborhood in the city so I could really take in the personality within the city limits. West Seattle is where I took this photo on the blog page. I first arrived to this spot in the afternoon and I knew that this would be the best place for sunset and twilight shots. West Seattle is the best place to get an entire panoramic photo that really shows just how massive and beautiful the skyline is. You can also watch all of the boats enter Elliot Bay. I was fortunate to find great vantage points from the north, east, south and west sides of the city. It would take several weeks to really capture all of the photography areas within Seattle. To get this shot, I removed my CIR-PL and my warming filter since the sun had already set and the color of the scene was calm. I set my camera to Program mode. The F stop was at 10 and I had the ISO setting at 200. The White Balance was at 0 since the color was almost perfect. I was using the shutter priority and I had it set at 20 seconds in order to maximize the glow of the lights. Since the bay is so busy it can be hard to use a long exposure without have a moving boat in the photo. This is especially true if you don’t want to show the movement of the boats in the foreground of your shot. I plan on returning again as soon as possible so I can continue to get some great photos of the city.
[/caption] One of the best areas to visit Mt. St. Helen’s is via the Windy Ridge viewpoints and trails. It’s the furthest from any of the other areas but it’s well worth it. Since there are no roads that connect the Johnston Ridge and the Windy Ridge area, you have to make the long drive from either the south or the north. It’s 128 miles, one way, from Portland, which made this the longest one day drive I’ve done so far. However, it’s well worth it. I passed several camping areas, which would make for a great couple of days. There are endless amounts of trails throughout the entire wilderness area. The Windy Ridge highway have close to a dozen viewpoint areas that have trail access. Every parking area was in fantastic shape. The highway was clean and smooth and the viewpoint areas had ample parking and some had picnic benches and bathrooms. I was extremely surprised at how well it’s maintained. It had a National Park feel and look. However, the drive is very long and windy. There are several twisty areas that cause you to slow down a lot. This will add an hour to your drive. I also found a small herd of elk standing on the highway at one point. You really need to be cautious when driving here. There were three hikes that I did on this day. The picture shown was taken along the Independence trail. On this trail I came upon a large herd of elk that were resting under some trees. I watched them scurry up the hillside. It’s also amazing how much pumice lay within the wilderness area and the amount of wildflowers scattered within them. The trail leads to an awesome viewpoint of Mt. St. Helen’s, Spirit lake and a panoramic view of the logs in the lake. You can also see just how immense the destruction of the landscape was. The entire wilderness was stripped of its trees and now lays in Spirit lake. St. Helen’s caused the largest landslide in recorded history and it hit Spirit Lake at some 150 mph with a tree-clogged, toxic mudflow that sent the lake sloshing more than 800 feet up the opposing bank. What had been a pristine, alpine lake ringed by old-growth conifer forests suddenly became a hot, toxic sludge hole. You can also see Mt. Hood in the distance as well as Mt. Adams. Mt. Rainier can be seen at the top of Windy Ridge viewpoint, which is a steep but short hike up the hillside. To get this shot I made sure to attach my UV filter as well as my warming filter and my CIR-PL. It was around one o’clock, so I was having to adjust my white balance quite a bit. I never used my tripod due to the huge field of view and the brightness of the sun. I had the ISO set at 100 and the aperture at F-8. I had the camera set at Auto Exposure, the shutter speed was at 1/600 second and the white balance at -.7. I was using my 12-24 wide-angle lens and had the focal length at 14mm. This wasn’t my best shot of the day but I wanted to show as much of the area as possible. Everywhere around you allowed for a great photo opportunity. The Harmony Falls trail allows you the only trail down to the edge of Spirit lake and it’s worth it. You can feel the warmth of the lake as well as the frigid cold creek bubbling out of the earth. There is a small waterfall which allows for a great place to cool down but the water is frigidly cold. I had collected some pumice stones and waited to see how long it took them to sink in the lake and suddenly a huge trout swam from beneath the logs to investigate. The Windy Ridge trail is the start of the volcano and the glacier hikes as well as several other shorter hikes within the wilderness. If you live in the area and don’t have the time to visit a National Park, I highly recommend this area. It’ had National Park written all over it and offers some of the most unique sights that other Parks can only dream of.
[/caption]It looks like summer is officially here. Nothing but clear blue skies and thundering rivers with cascading waterfalls dotting the Washington’s Lewis canyon. I’ve been wanting to hike the Lewis river trail for a while so I decided that mid May would be a good time to see the river swelled to it’s maximum. Each of the waterfalls cascading through the river were so high that it was flooding it’s banks and swallowing the lush neon green moss that usually protrudes out of the waterfalls. The water was moving so fast that I was forced to use a much faster shutter speed. The drive from Portland to the Lewis River is fairly long (100 miles one way) but it’s still a perfect day trip. Highway 503/90 are well maintained with only about 1 mile of gravel road to get to the park. I take this same highway whenever I’m going to the south flanks of Mt. St. Helen’s. Many sections of the trail were hit pretty hard by landslides during the rainy season which made parts of the trail fairly tricky. The forest service had a sign posting near the lower falls stating that the trail was closed at one of the many bridges that cross along several brooks and creeks. I decided to drive to the upper falls and work my way down to as far as the middle falls before driving back to the lower falls. The Lewis river was swelled to it’s fullest capacity. The waterfalls were thundering so fast that many of the smaller falls were overshadowed by water leaping over them and plunging to the other side. I was forced to set my shutter to as fast as 1/4 second due to the quickness of the falls. I witnessed several hawks cruising just above the river, probably hunting for trout. There were several catch and release trout signs posted so I’m assuming the fishing must be pretty good. To get this shot I had hiked just below the upper falls which has a really nice pool area with hundreds of drift wood resting on shore. I decided to get a shot with the blue sky in the background. I set the shutter speed at 1/4 second and the ISO at 100. Because the sun was so bright and it was so late in the day I ended up having to stack my filters in order to keep out the glare. I stacked my warming filter, ND8 and my CIR-PL and used my tripod. The F stop was at 10 and I intentionally under exposed the shot so I could bring out the blueness of the sky and the greens of the vegetation. I used my 18-55mm lens and set the focal length to 28mm. I highly recommend this hike. There are several waterfalls as well as small brooks and creeks that you cross over on small footbridges and there are several areas where the water is cascading down moss covered rocks. There is also an awesome trail called Big Creek trail just 10 miles west of the park. It’s a 2.5 mile trail that takes you to two huge waterfalls (Big Creek Falls at 125 feet and Hemlock Creek Falls 250 feet) and right to the edge of the Lewis Canyon with panoramic views of the area. Hemlock Creeks Falls are on the other side of the canyon so you will want a descent telephoto lens to get a closer shot. The other side is probably 2 miles or so.
[/caption] While driving along the Columbia River, I noticed a sign that ready Eagle Sanctuary. I decided to check it out. There is a small area just off the road where you can view Eagles near the river. There is a small viewing platform and some information about the eagles and when and where to see them. After about 30 minutes of standing in the rain, I noticed that the clouds were starting to make some pretty awesome formations over the Columbia River, looking towards Washington. It was amazing how quickly they were changing shapes and moving east. There was a really fast moving cold front moving from the Pacific ocean towards the valley. I did however manage to take a quick photo of a younger bald eagle from about 50 yards away but it never landed so I wasn’t able to get a good shot. I also did see 4 adult bald eagles but they were too far to get a photo. I was far more amazed to get some shots of these awesome clouds. I used my 18-55 canon lens and set the ISO setting to 200. I did keep my cir-pol lens on but I did increase the AE setting to 2 since it was raining a bit and was thoroughly overcast.
[/caption] This was another great day in the Cascades. I was able to get some really great shots of Mt. St. Helens, viewed from the south as well as Mt. Adams. This was another great sunny and scary warm day in early February. The morning started out pretty cold but by the afternoon, the snow was as soft as ice cream. I first set out to snow-shoe towards the Pine Martin trail but I decided to turn around after a 4 mile, uneventful hike. The snow was too hard and sparse to warrant me to wear my snow-shoes, so I just hiked along the trail before turning back. I decided to drive back to a large clear cut area to get some photos of the volcano before re-grouping. I finally decided to hike up Climbers Bivouac as far as I could before having to call it a day. I didn’t start until around 2:00 so I knew I wouldn’t be able to go as far as I would like to. I had just met a couple that had just returned from the summit. They stated that the snow was easy to hike through and could get above the treeline within an hour. They mentioned that they barely used their snow-shoes so I figured I would give it a shot. I had been near the winter climbing route of Climbers Bivouac before but that was during the summer. I have never hiked so fast in my life. My hiking shoes got soaked from all of the wet snow and I wished that I had worn my gators. The view turned out to be spectacular and the weather was even better. My time was limited but it was worth it. The day may have started out as a bust but the end of the day proved to be perfect.
[/caption] I finally made a trip to Mt. St. Helens while the sun was out. When I left Portland, the entire Valley was covered in heavy fog, which made me nervous about the conditions of the Cascades. However, once I drove past the first view point, the sun started showing itself. Mt. Adams and the rest of the Cascade foothills kept the storm clouds at bay. However, Mt. St. Helens was engulfed by the sun. This gave me the opportunity to hike from Coldwater lake to the Johnston Ridge Observatory view point. I hiked along the Hummocks loop and then connected to the Johnston Ridge loop . I brought my snow-shoes thinking that there would be plenty of snow but the trail was almost entirely bare. I only had to scale about 1/4 of a mile through the snow. Most of the Johnston Ridge was void of snow. However, the view from across the blast zone was awesome. It felt more like early spring than winter. The snow level was high but at least it made my hiking trip easier. Mt. Adams rarely made itself visible. I was able to capture several sunset shots and the moon also made an entrance. I’ll be going back as soon as the snow re-appears.