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.
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.
[/caption] Beautiful sunset over Vancouver Island taken from the edge of San Juan Island in Washington State. It’s almost time to start packing for a spring trip to the San Juan Islands. Spring offers some pretty unpredictable weather but the scenery is hard to match during Springtime. The Olympic mountains and the Cascades are still ripe with loads of snow throughout the entire region and the flowers are running amok all over the island. You have a great chance of catching killer whales dotting the sea scape and the vegetation is glowing in it’s neon green. The sunsets can also be at their best since the clouds can create an awesome color scheme. You will want to pack every lens that you own and make sure to bring a tripod and don’t forget your rain gear.
[/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] A crazy cloud formation appeared just before sunset in the San Juan Islands, WA. The sun was completely shrouded behind several cloud banks as more and more clouds swept across the scene. The sun was scheduled to set around 8:45pm and I took this photo at 8:20pm. The clouds just above Vancouver Island are a deep orange since the sun was lighting up the only part of the sky that it could. The clouds in the upper part of the sky were moving at a very high speed and almost looks as though I had set the camera mode to shutter priority. However, the camera mode was in Program/Normal and the shutter speed was only at 1/320 second. The aperture was automatically set at 9.1 since I had the ISO set at 100, the white balance at -0.7 and attached my CIR-PL and warming filter. I set the focal length to 55mm in order frame the clouds in the photo without showing too much blue sky. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens but with the lens at 17mm there was too much blue sky in the upper atmosphere and the orange hue was most dramatic where the sun was.
[/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] Again, the San Juan Islands in Washington State offer some of the most amazing sunset opportunities that I have ever witnessed. There always seems to be something different each time I photograph the sunset from the island. I visited the San Juan County park and had the opportunity to take advantage of two nights of spectacular sunsets. I was also pleasantly surprised to find our entire 3 day trip with some of the most awesome weather. This photo was taken at about 8:57pm just as the sun was setting below Vancouver Island in Canada. I set the camera in Normal/Program mode so the aperture was at F-5.6 and the shutter speed at 1/160 second. I attached my CIR-PL and warming filter in order to saturate the landscape and warm the explosion of orange colors above the mountains and in the foreground of the water. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at -1 and made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to avoid any camera shake or blur.