[/caption] Beautiful view from San Juan Island, looking across Haro Straight with the mainland in the background. The small white dot in the upper middle part of this photo is Cattle Point lighthouse. It’s located on the southernmost part of the island and looks due east with Mt. Baker clearly visible. Haro Straight can be seen just above the lighthouse and the mainland of Washington State visible in the distant background. Cattle Point lighthouse is located at San Juan Island Historical Park or better known as American Camp. The lighthouse was built in 1935 and is one of two lighthouses located on the island. There are breathtaking views with Eagle Cove offering you a great chance of watching Orcas swim by. You can see the Olympic mountains as well as Mt. Rainier and of course Mt. Baker. There are miles of beach access available as well as some great hiking trails that allow you to venture in the forest that’s dotted along the area.
[/caption] The Lewis River offers several views of some of the most amazing and scenic waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest. There are at least 5 waterfalls along the easy 7 mile round trip hiking trail, which is located along the Lewis River. There are also two other waterfalls that are worth a short trip from the main road. However, plan on getting up really early and getting home really late if you plan on making it a day trip. The drive is about 100 miles, one way, from Portland and even further from Seattle. The Lewis River Campground is just yards from the river and it’s worth staying in order to have more time to enjoy the outdoors. You can hear the water from your campsite and its also pretty peaceful and clean. I didn’t camp there but I noticed that there were hardly any campers and even less tourists since it’s so far out and only a few people know about this jewel. The entire trail follows along the river and there are several viewpoints available to view the waterfalls. However, some of the falls are hard to view due to the vegetation and the steepness of the canyon. There are a couple of beaches that allow you to stand in front of the falls and photograph them as well as go for a swim. I visited the Lewis River on 5/12/10 and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I was using my Canon 18-55mm kit lens and I made sure to attach my ND8 and warming filter. The sunny skies made it challenging to leave the shutter open so I was only able to leave the shutter priority open for 2 seconds. That was enough to get the flow of the water and stop the movement just enough to create that wispy look. I was standing along one of the more popular viewing areas since the water was too high to hike along the river bank. I set the focal length at 24mm and adjusted the ISO to 100 and the white balance at -2 in order to reduce the exposure. My only place to hide from the direct sunlight was behind some trees. The waterfall was completely exposed to the sun. Due to my filter choices and settings, the aperture was at F-25. Plan on seeing some wildlife since you are likely to see some small herds of elk grazing in the meadows as well as seeing osprey and even bald eagle along the river as well as the lakes along your drive.
[/caption] There is a great viewpoint to witness Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and parts of Mt. Rainier. The viewpoint is just northwest of Mt. St. Helens and about 2 miles from near the Volcanic Monument area. However, during winter I would plan on running in to some snowy and possible icy conditions since the snow pack can get pretty high and the road conditions can be pretty dicey. If you go early enough during winter you may luck out but the snow pack in the mountains won’t be as good. I was fortunate to get this shot of the moon high above the mountains but unfortunately, the snow in the Cascades was late getting to the region. The area offers some great hiking and snow-shoeing all along the Volcanic Monument area. You are also guaranteed to see some herds of elk as well as bald eagle. You will have the opportunity to look right into the mouth of Mt. St. Helens and even the entire blast zone.
[/caption] One of the best places to get a panoramic view of the Olympic mountains is while you’re visiting the San Juan Islands, WA. It seems like you’re a long distance from the mainland of Washington state but you have the opportunity to get an unbelievable panoramic view of the entire area. You are also able to see Mt. Rainier and Mt. Baker in the east and south. The Olympic mountains are about 30 miles from the island but at least you have the ability to see the entire length of the mountain chain as well as view the water. This photo was taken near Eagle Cove, which is near the southern tip of San Juan island. I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to avoid any camera shake. I had my 55-250mm telephoto but decided to use my 17-70mm and set the focal length at 70mm so I would be able to get a better quality photo. If you do visit the islands, plan on bringing your entire arsenal of lenses since there are so many photographic opportunities available.
[/caption] Mt. Rainier is one of the most photographic mountains in the Cascades and September is one of the best times to visit. You are more likely to see a fresh dusting of snow along the lower elevations and the wildlife is teaming with activity. You will also find only a few crowds along the most popular spots and you will be completely surrounded by solitude along the many less traveled trails. The mornings are also much cooler and the air is crisp but you will also be surprised with how warm it can be by the afternoon hours. This photo was taken from the southern highway and the mountain is north of this less popular pull out spot. You can see the huge forest in the foreground as well as the canyon far below. There are several rivers cutting through the trees and you can still hear the water raging below even though you’re a thousand feet above. This photo was taken at 8:12am and the sun was directly behind me but somewhat low in the sky since I was visiting the park on 9/20/11 and the Tatoosh mountains were creating the shadows that you see in the foreground of the photo. It had snowed just the day before so there is a dusting of snow along the lower elevations and the air was crystal clean without a cloud in sight. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 17mm in order to get the most panoramic photo. I was using my CIR-PL and warming filter in order to warm the scene and saturate the sky as much as possible without overexposing the snow-capped mountain. The aperture was at F-4.6 and the shutter speed at 1/83 second since I had the camera in Program/Normal mode as well as set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -2. I could just imagine what kind of photo you could get during the middle of winter just after a huge snow storm and on a crystal clear blue sky day. Unfortunately, the chances of getting up to the mountain are pretty slim and you are even less likely to get the perfect day since the mountain is so unpredictable.
[/caption] Some of the most spectacular views while visiting Mt. Rainier National Park is actually not of Mt. Rainier at all. In fact, the views of the Tatoosh Range from the lower elevations of Mt. Rainier offer some of the most spectacular views of Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and of course the numerous jagged mountains that make up the Tatoosh Range. If you start hiking from the Paradise Inn parking lot you will begin to get a better view of the Tatoosh Range. They resemble what you might think you would find in Colorado or the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. There are also a few trails that take you into the heart of the range that offer great views of Mt. Rainier and to some amazing alpine lakes. I actually hiked upon a black bear foraging for berries while hiking the bench/snow lake trail which travels right in to the heart of the Tatoosh range. This photo was taken at the Alta Vista viewpoint which is at about 7,000 feet on the south side of Mt. Rainier. It was about 10:25am so the sun glare was pretty bright but this particular photo shows just how wide and massive the Tatoosh range is. You can see Mt. Adams in the background and Mt. St. Helens can barely be seen in the far right of the photo. You can also see Mt. Hood in the far distance but if the glare is really bad you have a hard time noticing it. You would need a fish-eye lens in order to get the entire range in the photo. And even then you probably wouldn’t get all of the mountains in the shot. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and had the focal length at 17mm in order to get the most panoramic shot as possible. I made sure to use my tripod and bubble level since it was somewhat windy. The camera mode was at Program/Normal and since I had the CIR-PL and warming filter attached the aperture was set at F-7.1 and the shutter speed at 1/197 second. I set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -1.3 since the sun glare was bright and I didn’t have any shade to block the sun.
[/caption] While visiting Mt. Rainier National Park for the second time in about a month, I was pleasantly surprised to see this mother deer and its fawn hiking near the Paradise parking lot. I was absolutely amazed to be able to get this shot with Mt. Rainier directly behind them. The deer were pretty tame since I was able to get several shots as well as ensure that my settings were good as well as ensure that Mt. Rainier was perfectly aligned in the photo. You can also see some of the wildflowers in the foreground. In fact, this was by far one of my best photography days ever! Not only did I get these shots of the deer with Mt. Rainier in the background but I also saw a black bear while hiking on the Bench/Snow lake trail. I actually saw it twice but the first time it scampered off before I could get a shot. I also photographed a vibrant Marmot as well as a Ptarmigan. I also stumbled upon a family of frogs. I saw my second black bear of the day when a bear cub was running across the road as I was driving. The wildflowers are absolutely amazing. In fact, the smells are so intense that you can almost taste them. The lupine are so fragrant that I found myself kneeling down and thrusting my nose in them in order to inhale the scent. If there was a best time to visit the park, now is the time. The crowds are gone and there is a dusting of snow lingering on the otherwise bare parts of the mountain. This makes for spectacular photo opportunities. This photo was taken from the beginning of the Alta Vista Trail. I was actually standing in the Paradise parking lot when I noticed them foraging in the wildflowers. I even managed to set up my tripod and bubble level since they didn’t seem to mind a few of us hikers gawking at them. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and had my CIR-PL and warming filter attached. I had the ISO at 100 and the white balance at +0.3. The aperture was automatically set at F-5.6 and 1/128 second since the camera mode was in Program/Normal mode. I had the focal length at 46mm in order to frame Mt. Rainier in the background while ensuring a large field of view so the entire photo would be in focus. It was about 8:50am when I took this photo so the lighting was awesome and the sun was directly behind me. If you like mountain peaks, waterfalls, wildlife, wildflowers, creeks, alpine lakes, glaciers, forests, historical buildings or streams then this is the place for you.
[/caption] This photo was taken near the Windy Ridge viewpoint on the north side of the volcano. There is a large parking lot and an easy trail that takes you to a great vantage point. You can see Spirit lake directly below you as well as Mt. Rainier in the distance. You can also see Mt. Adams to the east and Mt. Hood looming in the distance to the south. Mt. St. Helens is so close that you can almost reach out and touch it. This photo was taken at the viewpoint. I took this photo on 7/14/10 at around 6:10pm so the winds had picked up and the sun was pretty intense in the horizon. My CIR-PL and warming filter helped soften the glare from the sun and mountain as well as bring out the shadows along the volcano. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance to -1.3 in order to limit any additional overexposure. I had the camera mode in Program/Normal mode so the aperture was set at F-5.6 and the shutter to 1/250 second. I was using my Sigma 50mm macro/prime lens as I was trying to focus on the top left of the foothills near the base of the mountain. You can see most of the glaciers and late summer snow accumulations looming in the distance as well as some of the moraines dotting the mountain. I highly recommend visiting the north east part of the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Area but be prepared for a long drive with no towns in the immediate area. There are views of 4 volcanoes, an abundant of summer wildflowers, herds of elk, rivers, creeks and waterfalls as well as a short trip to the base of Spirit Lake. You will experience a truly scenic and magical place that is almost impossible to capture in a photo.