[/caption] My first trip to the San Juan Islands in Washington State was an awesome experience. The weather was stellar and the sights were an amazement of incredible views. San Juan Island is one of the largest of the islands and it’s about 55.3 square miles and about 6,950 residents. However, I’m not sure if that’s full time or part time residents. Friday Harbor is the only town on the island and also where the ferry drops visitors off. We caught the ferry at Anacortes and it was about a 45 minute trip. However, make sure to get there early and plan on waiting for a while before boarding the ferry. It’s pretty expensive on the island so I would recommend bringing as much food as possible and make sure you fill up your gas tank in Anacortes. When driving through the island, it looks more like an agricultural area more than an island. It reminded me a lot of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. However, the rocky shores were teaming with viewpoints that included Mt. Baker to the east, the Olympic mountains to the south and Vancouver Island, Canada to the west. There are also two lighthouses on the southern part of the island, several densely forested areas as well as numerous fresh water lakes dotted along the island. There are plenty of historic places to visit and the interior has several rolling hills that offer some of the best road bike riding I’ve ever seen. We saw several deer as well as several sea otters in Mitchell Bay. There are several places that you can view orcas from the island, but unfortunately we didn’t see any. There is a small winery and an alpaca farm. Several cattle, horses and sheep are raised here as well as wheat and grass. There are several old barns and houses to photograph and with the Olympics always close by, you can sometimes get the mountains in most of your pictures when visiting the southern side. There are two harbors and dozens of coves and bays throughout the island. I was amazed with the amount of kayaks on the island. Most visitors coming off the ferry had either a bike or a kayak strapped to their vehicles. Sometimes they had both. I was able to get a lot of photos with kayaks in the picture, which made for some great sunset photos. I was able to kayak where I was staying, which was at Mitchell Bay on the north side of the island. You could see Vancouver Island, Canada and I paddled near several sea lions, kayaked through a kelp garden, saw several jelly fish and watched as some very expensive sail boats and power boats steamed by. There is also a 1 mile hike up Young Hill, which is about an 800 foot elevation gain. It provides a fantastic panoramic view of the Olympics, the many harbors and Vancouver Island. One of my favorite spots to photograph and visit along the shore was at tiny Reuben Tarte County Park, which is on the north east tip of the island. You have an incredible 180 degree view with several islands in the distance. You can see the mountains on Vancouver Island and photograph the ferries heading to Sidney Harbor as well as the many sailboats and power boats in the San Juan Channel. Since I was limited on time I visited San Juan County Park to get my sunset shots. It was only about a 10 minute drive from Mitchell Bay and there were several areas to set up my tripod. To get this photo, I was using my 55-250 telephoto lens and had the focal length at 79mm. I was using my CIR-PL, warming filter and UV filter as well as my tripod and remote release. The sun had just set so I was able to get the orange glow exploding over Vancouver Island and Andrews Bay. You can also see several homes near Victoria, Canada. Since the glare was fairly bright, I wasn’t able to set my camera mode to Shutter. I kept it at Program mode and the F stop was F 4.5. I set the ISO to 100 which caused the shutter to release at 1/15 second. I have several photos where I had set the shutter to 30 seconds but this photo really shows the colors of the sunset. I would highly recommend visiting the San Juan Islands if you want to really experience an epic journey. There are several other islands that the ferries can take you to, but I was very impressed with what this island had to offer.
[/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] Recently I’ve had the opportunity to shoot Portland at night. I’ve been photographing the downtown area for several years but I had never been given the opportunity to take a photo at night looking east and at an elevated position. This spot puts me just over I-5 and just east of the Willamette river. This provides me with one of the best vantage spots in the city. I wanted to set my shutter long enough so I could get the best flash movements of the headlights and tail lights of the traffic moving about the city. The colors of the bridges as well as the many other on ramps and roads really gives this photo a lot of personality. To get this shot I was using my 12-24 wide angle lens. I had the focal length at 24mm in order to get as much in the scene as possible. Since the sun had set over an hour ago, I made sure to remove my warming filter and CIR-PL. I was using the shutter priority and had the shutter set at 30 seconds in order to capture as much of the streamers from the cars as possible. The F stop was at F11 and the ISO was at 400. The Exposure Compensation/White Balance was at -.3.
[/caption] Tuesday’s weather was amazing all over the Pacific Northwest. There was only one problem though. I had to choose between snow-shoeing in the Cascades, hiking along the Columbia River Gorge, walking along the Spring Flowers or visiting the Coast. I chose to visit the coast since I knew that the weather was going to be especially amazing. And I wasn’t disappointed. I haven’t seen weather like this, on the coast, in several years. The sun was positioned perfectly and the blue sky and water made for the easiest of photos. You couldn’t have taken a bad picture even if you tried. I settled on this photo due to the amazing colors in the sky as well as the motion of short sand creek winding it’s way towards the Pacific Ocean. The setting sun really gave the ocean and the creek a really dynamic glow. I set me camera on auto/shutter priority in order to get a really good blurred effect. The F stop was at 25 and the focal length was at 32mm. I stacked several filters on my 18-55mm kit lens. I had my usual uv filter but also added my warming filter, CIR-POL and my ND8. Without my ND filter, I wouldn’t have been able to get the blurred effect like this since the sun was so intense. I had to zoom in a bit in order to keep any of the surfers or beach combers from appearing in the shot. The ISO speed was at 100 and the shutter was at 1 second. I was trying to create a very tranquil setting as to make it look as though this could be a rocky deserted island. I normally only come here to hike and take photos along some of the many rocky cliffs or heavily canopied forest but I decided to try my luck at a sunset shot. I wasn’t disappointed at all.
[/caption] I went to Astoria on Saturday and stayed until Sunday. This was one of my most awesome photography weekends EVER. Saturday didn’t have a cloud in the sky. The sky was a deep blue, there was no wind and the temperature was perfect. Sunday was overcast but it made for awesome stormy pictures while photographing near the Astoria-Megler bridge. The best thing is that it never rained and the temperature wasn’t too bad. I can honestly say that from the 1500 photos that I took, I saved over half of them. That’s how good the day went. I would recommend visiting Astoria if you haven’t already. There is plenty to do. I was able to get some of my best panoramic photos from the top of the Astoria Column. This is a 125 foot tower that was built in 1926 and has a 164 spiraling staircase to the top. The city of Portland needs something like this. The column was in great shape and the park was immaculate. You can see Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helen’s looking east. You can really zoom in to the ships, bridge and town if you have a descent telephoto lens. Since Astoria is the oldest settlement west of the Rockies, there are plenty of old houses, buildings, piers, old pilings and other attractions that make for a photographers dream. I never had the time to tour any of the several museums or old military bunkers. I think I counted 12 visitor sites in my book. However, I did make time to photograph the Goonies house and the elementary school where kindergarten cop was filmed. Since Astoria sits right on the Columbia, you can watch several tankers and barges steam under the bridge and see them anchored in the channel. Again, I could have taken over 2500 photos just of the ships along the river. There are also two great lighthouses to visit in Washington…Cape Disappointment and North Head lighthouse. However, I was surely disappointed in the conditions of each of these lighthouses. Maybe I’m just used to the Oregon lighthouses, which are in much better shape. I was short on time, so I wasn’t able to hike many of the trails that intersect both of the lighthouses so I plan on going back when I have more time. In fact, I was so rushed to find a good sunset spot that I eventually settled on an unfinished viewpoint area just north of the North Head lighthouse. To get to the lighthouses it’s a relatively short drive from Astoria. You just take the Astoria-Megler bridge north and then it’s about 15 miles. We spotted a bald eagle on our drive. We also passed Fort Columbia and several spots that would make for great sunset shots. Since I have so many photos that I think people would enjoy, I will be posting some more on my blog asap.
[/caption] No I didn’t take this photo last summer. I took this last Saturday during one of our warm and sunny days along the Coast. What’s most interesting is that there was absolutely no wind for the entire day. There wasn’t even any wind at the summit of Neahkahnie Mountain. The crowds were also fairly spars as well. This made for one of the best days along the coast in a long time. The sun set fairly quickly so I had to really scramble to get some descent shots. I didn’t need to use any of my ND filters, which made it easier for me to change lenses when needed.
Visiting the Oregon Coast during the cold snap that kept the temperatures well below 30 degrees. The wind chill was especially cold during the morning and sunset. During the afternoon it wasn’t that windy and the sun really felt good. However, it didn’t last very long. The clouds and sun were awesome. One of the best reasons for visiting the Coast during the cold season.