[/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] If you like sunsets then I would recommend visiting the San Juan Islands in summertime. You will want to drive to the NW side of the island and I would get there about an hour before sunset since you may be able to spot bald eagles diving for their dinner as well as watch sea lions swim within feet from the shore. I’ve been photographing the sunsets at this very spot for two summers and every time I visit the sunset is always different. You can expect each sunset to be different from the day before and that’s pretty much guaranteed. To get this shot I set the shutter speed at 30 seconds in order to have the water completely flat and increase the contrast since the sun had already set. This caused the sky and water to be engulfed with the orange hue caused by the intense sunset.
[/caption] This is a photo taken from a rock outcropping at American Camp which is about a 10 minute drive from Friday Harbor. This photographic spot drew my attention since the neighborhood and the landscape looked a lot like a setting you might find in Iceland or Greenland. From this vantage spot I had the opportunity to photograph a large pod of Killer Whales cruising past me that were about 100 yards from where I was standing. There were dozens of boats following another pod of whales that were pretty much moving in the same direction. I couldn’t believe that within 5 minutes from arriving at this spot we noticed the pod swimming right towards us. You can also see directly over the Haro Strait and see the most incredible view of the Olympic mountains as well as Vancouver Island. You can also see Mt. Rainier in the far distance as well as some of the other taller Cascade mountains. It was about 2:30pm when I took this photo and I was afraid that the quality would really be hampered since the sun was directly overhead and the glare from the water was relentless. Luckily I brought my tripod and attached my CIR-PL and warming filter to limit the glare and overexposure. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length to 17mm in order to get the most panoramic view in order to showcase the incredible view from the spot I was standing at. Since I had the camera in Program/Normal mode the aperture was at F-5.7 and the shutter speed at 1/128 second. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at 0 in order to limit the glare. I also made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to avoid any blur. I also angled the camera at a slight angle in order to avoid some of the glare which was directly overhead.
[/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] This hike along the Washington side of the Gorge is one of the best trails along the northern part of the gorge. There are two amazing waterfalls and the scenery from the top of the trail are stunning. You can see Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood as though you can almost touch them. The trail to the summit of Hamilton Mountain is a grueling 7.6 round trip hike and gains a total of 2,000 feet of elevation gain. There are several sure drop views along the trail and you are welcomed with some of the most stunning views of the gorge. I wouldn’t recommend this hike if you’re afraid of heights or get dizzy easily. You can sometimes hear the distant sounds of gun fire from the nearby shooting range and the Bonneville Dam can be somewhat of an eye soar. Though I still think that the views are still worthy of this challenging hike. Hardy creek is one of the most scenic creeks and I really enjoy photographing this area. On this hike, I decided to only hike to the bridge that crosses Hardy Falls since I was planning on an additional hike the following day. I had climbed down from the bridge and carefully navigated my down along the creeks edge. The rocks and moss made it challenging and I eventually found out that my hiking shoes still keep my feet dry when I slipped into the creek. I ended up planting both feet in the creek when one of the many rocks rolled as I stepped on it. The morning was mostly overcast and it rained periodically but the sun eventually came out as I settled on this photo to post on my blog. Again, the water was thundering from high above and the moss was just starting to show its neon green that makes it famous around the gorge. I had to set up my tripod on a very narrow rock and plant my feet at the very corner of the creek. I used my 18-55mm kit lens and set the range at 18mm. I set the shutter speed to 1 second and the F stop at 18 since the glare from the creek was pretty high. I set the ISO to 100 and kept the sensor at Program mode. I used my warming filter as well as my ND4 and CIR-PL filter. I have hiked this trail several times and I would recommend it to anyone that wants to get a grand view of the gorge as well as two volcanic mountains.
[/caption] I can’t believe it but it seems like I took this photo many years ago. This winter has got to be one of the warmest winters that I can ever remember in the Pacific Northwest. This shot was taken near Johnston ridge just across from Mt. St. Helens. It took me several hours to hike to this spot from Coldwater Lake but I never had much snow to contend with. My snow-shoes weren’t required. I hope to hike hear again one more time before most of the snow melts. On my next trip, I hope to see more of Mt. Adams since it was mostly shrowded in clouds when I was here last time. I never used a tripod to get this photo since the wind was pretty strong and I was just as comfortable lying on my stomach while I rested my elbow in the snow. The view in the crater is awesome from this spot. I could see all of the volcano as well as the vicinity where Mt. Adams is. I used my warming filter and my CIR-POL filter to separate the blue sky from the snow and exposed rocks. The warming filter also helped bring out some of the personality of the rock. I used my 50-250mm telephoto lens at about 190mm. This is a great place to view the blast zone and all of the destruction that was caused when Mt. St. Helen’s erupted.