A beautiful shot of Mt. St. Helen’s taken from the Johnson observatory. If you want a great photo opportunity I would suggest that you drive to the observatory parking lot and then make the moderate hike to the observatory. However, if you visit during the summertime you will be able to drive to the top but you won’t find the killer winter views or the solitude of the area. During the summer months, 99.9% of the visitors come during this time. The most spectacular time to visit is during winter or early spring but you will just want to check the weather and road conditions.
Mt. Rainier is one of the West’s most visible and prolific volcanic mountains and if you’re planning a visit during the month of September you can be sure to have the time of your life. The best thing about visiting is having the opportunity to watch some of the most awesome displays of Mt. Rainier devouring clouds that venture too close to it’s summit. The mountain can literally suck in a cloud and completely disperse its energy. As you can see from this photo, the cloud is spinning around the summit like a flushed toilet bowl and it’s just about to be consumed. I first noticed the cloud when it was over 10 miles away but as the morning turned into afternoon the cloud was beginning to get sucked into the mountain. It literally spun the cloud around until it was literally consumed. It was very entertaining and awe inspiring to watch this phenomenon. I would highly recommend a visit during the month of September since school has started and the peak summer season is over. The crowds are almost non existent, which is in itself the most important reason to go in September. You will also almost be guaranteed sunny and warm temperatures with lots of sunshine. You will also have a great opportunity to see black bears foraging for food as well as elk and deer. The late summer foliage is in full display and the wildlife is unbelievable. Also, since the mornings and evenings are much cooler than during summer, most of the wildfires are mostly contained or completely out. This will allow for cleaner air, skies and longer views of the wilderness.
The Washington and Oregon Cascades have received between 1 and 3 feet of snow over the past several days and we are now gearing up for some 70 and 80 degree temperatures in the valley. We can expect warm temperatures and epic blue skies in the Cascade range. Though it would seem like it would be the best time to visit, you would be warned to expect some pretty dangerous conditions since the snow will be very soft and small or large avalanche dangers will be in effect. I would even recommend staying well within the ski boundaries or if you plan to be snow shoeing. I would advise you to stay well away from any of the cliffs surrounding the back country. This time of year is by far one of the best times to head up to the mountains but I always find myself trying to figure if the dangers are worth the risk. I’ve taken a lot of chances but I can’t really see my self trying to out run an avalanche with a pair of snow shoes and lugging 25 pounds of equipment. This particular shot was taken on the south side of Mt. St. Helens and the summit is dotted with snow shoe tracks leading up towards the summit. It’s actually not too difficult to snow shoe but I would recommend that you get there as early as possible, bring lots of snacks, lose the camera weight and have your dinner waiting for you at your car. The drive time from Portland, Oregon is over 2 hours and you will be pretty tired once you get home. I have only brought my tripod with one time when snow shoeing at high elevations and I will never do it again. I like being able to quickly draw my camera and begin panning the area for some great shots. I usually only bring one or two lenses and carry my camera on my front chest for quick draws. Since the snow glare is pretty brutal, I would recommend that you bring a CIR-PL and plan on constantly checking each shot that you take since you will be adjusting your shots almost every time you take a photo. I always utilize my histogram and adjust the white balance whenever needed. I also usually only use my Sigma 17-70mm lens whenever I’m climbing a snow capped mountain since I am more drawn to the panoramic views rather than close ups. This is especially true since I’m already on the mountain and I want to capture the huge landscape that’s either above or below me. I also make sure to layer my clothes and pack survival gear in case I find myself in trouble. I don’t own a avalanche beacon but I rarely take too many chances. However, I will be getting one soon once I’m ready to make the investment. I also snow shoe with my dog so I’m always looking out for his best interest and that pretty much keeps me from going somewhere where he can’t follow me.
We are only a few short days away until the rains in the valley and the snow in the Cascades will subside and the warm weather will return to the Pacific Northwest. This means only one thing and that is that you should head out the the great city of Seattle, Washington and get your photos on! Don’t hold back and what I mean is that you should pack all of your gear and expect to use every piece of equipment that you own. They don’t call Seattle one of the most photogenic cities for nothing! You can literally expect to change out your wide angle and your telephoto zoom lens as you capture the landscape. One would also be advised to study the best locations and best times of the day to visit. This means that you will want to have a car and plan on driving all over the city as you try to capture the best shots as you try to get a handle on the best colors presented by the sun. This photo was taken from one of the many piers and I tried to capture as much of the buildings as I could without having any of the traffic from the road below. I normally just crop out what I don’t like and then just photoshop when needed. The clouds were really cool as they were swirling above and the color of the sky was perfect since there wasn’t too much glare. If you are visiting from out of town I would recommend staying at least two full days since you never know what the weather will be like and you will need at least two full days to feel like you had enough time to visit each of the photos spots once or more.
Mt. Rainier is located in Washington state and is the main attraction at Mt. Rainier National Park. The park was established in 1899 and includes over 369 square miles of wilderness. The elevation of the mountain is 14,410 feet and is the tallest volcanic mountain in the Cascade mountain chain. It is also the most glaciated mountain in the lower 48 states. Carbon Glacier is the largest glacier by volume in the continental United States and Emmons Glacier is the largest glacier by area. The park also contains over 91,000 acres of old growth forests. Over 1.8 million visitors visit the park every year and the winter months all but reduce the visits to almost zero due to the enormous snow that it receives. Probably 99% of the 1.8 million visitors are just during the summers months. If you do plan on visiting the park I would recommend that you try to get there as early as possible and plan on visiting during the mid week. The crowds are just too big during the weekends in the summertime. However, most of the visitors are gone by 6:00 pm, which means that the highest majority of the visitors are pretty much only making a road trip and rarely even get out of their cars. Most of the tourists end up only walking through the visitor centers and maybe taking a very leisurely stroll on one of the paved trails. There are two lodges and several campsites but it’s only a fraction of the visitors that are only driving through. This actually makes it for a great day trip. I’ve been to the park 3 times over the past few years and I have had the chance to hike throughout the southern part of the park and was pleasantly surprised to rarely see too many people. Again, most of the visitors don’t hike the trails. However, since it’s such a long drive from Portland, I would recommend that you get an early start and plan on getting home very late in the evening. However, if you are camping or staying at one of the lodges or nearby hotels then there isn’t any hurry. If you do end up arriving at the park during the afternoon you will want to plan on sitting in a long line of cars at the parks entrance and plan on driving around looking for a parking spot when you get to the park. If you get there early enough, you won’t have any wait to get in the park or finding a parking spot and since you will want to pick a hike, you will find that most of the crowds will have come and gone before you get back to your car. Last time I was there, I brought my camping stove and I never saw a single car at the parking lot just below the main lodge. In fact, I only counted two or three cars even driving by while I was almost within touching distance from the mountain. Because I drive from Portland and I have only been able to make day trips, I haven’t been able to make it to the north or north east side of the park but I do hope to get there this summer. It’s hard to imagine spending all of your time driving around when the mountain is beckoning you to explore its many adventures that are too many to list.
Fall is now upon us and the foliage is starting to show their brilliant colors and the Pacific Northwest puts on one of the best displays! Lately, the Pacific Northwest has been getting hammered with rain and wind storms but the weather is now starting to turn cooler with parts of fog. This is one of the perfect ingredients to cook up some awesome Fall colors. The only thing missing is some sunny weather with just a dash of warmer temperatures. Luckily, we are predicted to get just that so be prepared for the foliage to put on a heck of a display over the next few weeks. Dust off your lens and make sure to remove your CIR-PL and don’t forget to either turn on your IS or bring your tripod because you can plan on having a pretty spectacular experience. However, if you plan on visiting any of the numerous waterfalls, you will want to bring a tripod but if you are going to be walking along some of the many neighborhoods or state parks, you can get away without a tripod as long as you can keep a steady hand and have a very good understanding of your camera’s settings. I always make sure to remove my CIR-PL, turn on the IS and mount my bubble level on the camera, in order to ensure that the photo is always level.
[/caption] Summer weather in Seattle, Washington offers some of the best sunny and warm weather in the Nation! If you’re looking for the best city to visit during the month of August, you may be surprised that Seattle, Washington offers some of the most amazing weather in the country. You will find the days long, sunny, warm and especially nice and breezy. Plan on bringing some comfortable walking shoes because you will find yourself spending each day walking along some of the best trails around as well as experiencing some of the best city walks in the country. If you plan on bringing a camera I would recommend bringing a wide angle lens as well as a semi telephoto lens. I would also pack your CIR-PL, warming filter and a ND filter. Sunsets are amazing and the city is so huge that you will need a wide angle lens in order to capture the entire city in a panoramic shot.
[/caption] You know that you picked a good day to visit Seattle, Washington when there isn’t a cloud in sight, the temperature is 81 degrees and the moon is directly over the city. I took this photo from the top level of Bell Street pier 66. It is by far the best place to get epic photos of the sky scrapers, adjoining piers, and of Elliot Bay and the Olympic mountains. I could pretty much set up my tripod and spend an entire 24 hours shooting from this pier. You can also get some great shots of Mt. Rainier with the massive cranes in the foreground. However, if you have a descent telephoto, you can zoom in and almost see the mountain climbers heading towards the summit.
[/caption] The Great Wheel is located in Seattle, Washington and is located on pier 57 and reaches a height of 175 feet.
[/caption] The perfect end to a perfect day in Seattle, Washington with the silhouettes of the Olympic mountains standing in the distance of Elliot Bay and a ferry boat. If anyone is wondering what the weather is mostly like during the summer months might want to study this photo since as you can see it’s picture perfect and absolutely not a single flaw on this day. I took this photo while standing along pier 54 and Elliot Bay.