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.
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.
The Cherry Blossom’s have made an early display in the Pacific Northwest and it looks like the recent rains have already closed down the show pretty early. Even though Spring just started, most of the blossom’s had started blooming several weeks ago. You can still find a few trees that bloom later than most but you will have to wait for a few days before the sun reappears in order to try to photograph any of the trees that are still in bloom. I was really surprised to find almost no bees swarming around the trees throughout the Willamette Valley. I only found one bee hive and usually I find myself immersed and surrounded by hundreds of hungry bees swarming along the trees. Maybe it’s because they bloomed well before spring or maybe it’s a sign that the bees are having a harder time that we thought. Most of the spring vegetation is still dormant or just barely starting to show their colors, so I expect that once it starts to dry out again and warm up the bees will be out in force. I would recommend that you get ready for some pretty spectacular spring flowers to make a rather awesome entry by early next week. Even though there are a lot of tulip’s and lily’s making an early arrival, I think that we should have a pretty spectacular display of flowers over the next several weeks.
Just another sunny, warm and gorgeous day in Seattle, Washington during the month of February. This has pretty much been the norm in the Pacific Northwest all winter. The days are getting longer as well as sunnier and warmer. No need for snow in the mountains when you can relax and enjoying some awesome California warmth up north. We actually broke some pretty sweet temperatures all along the Pacific Northwest and it looks like we will be breaking some more this week. We may even break some more next week. Not really sure if this means that the entire west coast and the mountain states are on par to break all kinds of records with record setting sunny and warm days as well as record dry days without any snow fall. March and April can be a dark horse in the Pacific Northwest but I’m not sure about the mountain states. This shot was taken from the Alaskan Highway and on the top of the viewing deck of the cruise line entrance.
The weather in the Pacific Northwest has finally changed. This means that the weather is getting colder, wetter, stormier and very unpredictable. We can finally start to anticipate the changing colors of the leaves and the stormy clouds to appear. This will ultimately bring a lot of water to the waterfalls and snow to the higher elevations. Now is the perfect time to break out your camera and head to the Columbia River Gorge if you would like to take advantage of all the above. The waterfalls are amazing just as the rain arrives and the struggling foliage will come alive with the leaves falling from their high perch. You can also expect to witness some of the most amazing cloud formations as they move through the gorge like a freight train. I would recommend that you bring all of your rain gear as well as your best lens as well as your tripod, bubble level and remote switch. You may also want to choose the best trail since you will find yourself spending hours taking photos along the waterfalls. Sometimes I will just make a long road trip by starting out in Portland and driving to Hood River and stopping along the way. On my return trip, I will either back track or drive across the bridge of the gods, in Washington State and take some photos from the north side of the river. Either way, you can expect to get some pretty epic photos if you go on a day that is perfect for panoramic shots.
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.
Beautiful view of the Olympic Mountains from Hansville, WA. The water in the foreground of the Olympic Mountains is Hood Canal and Driftwood Key. Hansville, WA is a small unincorporated community with no more than 3,000 full time residents but the geography offers some of the best views within the entire United States. You can see the sky scrapers of downtown Seattle, the Olympic mountains and the Cascade mountains. Hansville is only one of the many small towns that are within Kitsap Peninsula and each of them all offer some pretty spectacular views of the Sound and/or of the mountains. One of the best thing about the area is that it’s mostly protected by its small inlets and harbors. This allows the water to be pretty calm and offers several opportunities to swim, fish, kayak or sail. While visiting, I noticed that most of the people in the area were tourists, so you will want yo plan on dealing with a lot of traffic during the summertime and especially during the weekends. However, it’s easy to drive throughout the Peninsula in order to visit the many small towns and harbors dotting the county. There are several hiking trails along either the beaches or within the expansive forests. You will also have the opportunity to see a lot of birds of prey like, osprey, eagle and hawks. There are also a few fresh water lakes and camping spots that offer visitors to really take in the outdoors.
One of the most majestic and massive waterfalls that I’ve seen in a long time. It isn’t nearly as tall as Multnomah Falls but this 3-tiered cascade starts with a hidden 50-foot falls, spreads across a 70-foot fan and finally drops 80 feet into a huge rock punchbowl. However, the last part of the waterfall isn’t within view due to the trees and the sheer drop next to the falls. The waterfall is so wide towards the top that you could park a semi from end to end and still not block the falls. The trail starts at about 15 miles north of Carson, WA at a primitive and quiet parking area. The last few miles are on a gravel/dirt road with some potholes. The best part of this hike isn’t just to the waterfall. If you backtrack about 1/2 mile there is another trail that takes you to the top of the falls. This puts you at 2370′ and right on top of the falls. There are several viewing areas at this elevation and the panoramic views are incredible. The forest is also especially beautiful and quiet. There is also another great little creek that flows down just before the main falls that a bridge crosses. I’m pretty sure that it’s a natural spring since the upper trail never crosses this same creek and it doesn’t seem like it forks from Falls Creek. This photo was taken at about 12.22 in the afternoon. I returned to the falls for a second time in order to avoid most of the glare from earlier in the morning. To get this shot I used my 17-77mm lens. I set the focal length at 55mm. I had my warming filter and CIR-PL attached to the lens. I set the ISO at 100 and the F-stop was at 22. I set the Exposure Program to Shutter Priority and set it at 1.2 seconds. I used my tripod in order to avoid camera shake. There is a good chance that you may run in to a black bear, elk or deer since the forest gets pretty thick once you hike above the falls. You may even spot an eagle, osprey, hawk or turkey vulture soaring high above the forest. Since the hike itself is pretty easy and short, you may want to locate some other hiking trails in the area if you want to spend the whole day hiking.
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 have 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 Sigma 17-70mm lens and had the focal length at 38mm. 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. I wanted to get a good glare from the sky but I was afraid that the moon would come out too blurry so I only set the shutter priority to 10 seconds. The F stop was at F-5.6 and I set the ISO to 100. I have several photos where I had set the shutter to 30 seconds but this photo really shows the colors of the sunset. While I was taking these photos, I noticed several sea lions swimming by and I was hoping to maybe to spot a pod of killer whales but unfortunately that didn’t happen. 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.
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.