Just another amazing photo of the San Juan Islands, Washington. Actually, the body of land in the distance is Vancouver Island, Canada with Victoria on the far left but as you can imagine, I took this photo while standing along the banks of San Juan Island. Spring and Summer is the best time to visit and if you’re lucky, you can expect to have the opportunity to get some fantastic sunset shots. Summer will almost guarantee amazing weather with warm days and beautiful sunset views like the one I posted. One of the best things about the islands is that it can be very calm and almost ghostly out along the straight. You would think that there would be hundreds of boats cruising along the glassy water but I found that it’s almost void of all boats. This can really allow a photographer the ability to get some epic shots by setting your shutter priority to 30 seconds and without having to worry about any distractions. I was able to set the shutter speed at 30 seconds for this shot and I was amazed at the colors emulating from above and below Vancouver Island. I was very lucky to have a very clean camera sensor since I ended up taking hundreds of shots while setting my shutter priority between 15-30 seconds each time. Again, I highly recommend that you plan a trip to the islands between Spring and Summer and plan on bringing all of your lenses and filters since you will end up using every one of them.
[/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.