[/caption] Finding the perfect cloud system to photograph is almost like finding the perfect sunset shot. One of my favorite things to do is to try and photograph the perfect cloud system but unfortunately it’s also one of the most difficult things to do. This may seem strange, since you pretty much have most of the day to locate and photograph the sky, but finding the perfect opportunity can seem very daunting. I’ve always found that if you wait for the sun to duck behind some clouds you can get a great shot but you always need to be aware of your camera settings and the type of clouds you want to photograph. It’s also important to use a tripod and be sure to include a CIR-PL on your lens. You may even want to hook up your remote switch and be sure to also attach your bubble level since you want to ensure that it doesn’t end up crooked. I have been able to get some pretty good shots when the sun is in a different location or even sometimes completely shrouded behind the clouds but I find that having a little blue sky and the sun directly behind the clouds offers the most personality. There are thousands of great photos on the internet involving clouds but most photographers only use them to bring out the contrast in their main subject. However, only using clouds in the entire photograph can really give you the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of a cloudy sky.
[/caption] Mt. Rainier was literally sucking this cloud formation and pretty much spitting it out on the other side. One of the most spectacular things about Mt. Rainier is watching the clouds form and then disperse around the mountain. Most of the clouds that form near the park eventually end up near the summit of the mountain and then evaporate after the mountain finishes eating them. You can spend several hours or days watching some of the most spectacular displays of clouds dancing around the mountain and then almost becoming lunch like a Venus fly trap drawing in flies. If you look closely you can see a long and narrow white streak shooting from the clouds and up into the sky. That’s actually the clouds being sucked in by the mountain. I’m not sure of the meteorological term but as I was photographing I noticed that it started at the base of the mountain, while it lured in the cloud and then the streak grew and split the cloud. There is no denying that Mt. Rainier is the most behemoth mountain in the lower 48 states and demands the most respect due to its enormous size, enormous glaciers and its incredible ability to devour entire cloud systems. I have never been disappointed when visiting the park and I can assure you that you will enjoy one of the most spectacular photography session of your life.
[/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] One of my favorite things to admire the most is a beautiful display of clouds either directly overhead or in the distance. You would think that this is one of the easiest subjects to photograph, especially since there are always ample amounts of clouds throughout the world at any given time. However, I find that they can be very elusive and somewhat camera shy. This mostly is because I am somewhat of a cloud snob. I can only settle for the absolute most fantastic cloud formation whenever I decide to photograph them. This is especially true since the sun and clouds must be in the perfect position. Normally I try to have something in the background but I’ve decided that its sometimes best to just frame an entire photo with nothing but a cloud formation. Spring and early summer seems to be the best times to find some unbelievable cloud formation in the Northwest. Between the Cascade mountains, the Coastal mountains and the Pacific Ocean, you are always amazed with some of the clouds we can get. However, finding the best place and position to photograph them is another story. To get this shot I was using my Canon EOS T1i along with my Tokina 12-24mm wide angle lens. On this day I was driving throughout parts of Washington County trying to find the best place to get a shot worth saving. The sky, sun and clouds were perfect. However, I couldn’t find a good spot to take advantage of this spectacular day. I was finally able to find a spot that I liked and this photo is a testament to that. I try to avoid any sun spots without losing any of the whites and gray’s co-mingling. I also try to ensure that the blueness of the sky is enhanced against the clouds. I also try to ensure that there isn’t one giant cloud formation that dominates the frame. I think it’s better when there are several clouds that seem to be moving in unison but starting to split up. I didn’t have the patience to set up my tripod so I had to be sure to keep my hand steady in order to avoid any camera shake or blur since I was using both my warming and CIR-PL filter. This is also true since I had the ISO at 100 and the white balance at +1.7. I was delighted since I thought that for sure that they would be blurry. I had the camera mode in Program/Normal so the aperture was automatically set at F10 and 1/200 second. The sun was in the west and moving pretty fast since this photo was taken on 4/13/10 and the time was 3:30pm. Those of us that live in the Pacific Northwest know that the sun sets pretty fast in early spring. Fair weather cloud formations can really create a positive emotion so I hope that this offers that same emotion to those who see it. Cheers!
[/caption] One of the best things about the Pacific Northwest Cascades is that you can always find a great place to view the volcanoes that span the Cascade mountain range, as well as the enormous stands of forest. Some of the best things to do when taking in the views is to gaze out across the enormous span of forest and look down and try to find some of the meadows and alpine lakes. The geology is so diverse and complicated that it’s hard to imaging just how violent the Cascades were during their earliest days. It’s also hard to imagine that some of the only alpine glaciers, within the lower 48 states, are found in the Cascade range. 97% of them are found in the North Cascades National Park alone. It’s well worth taking the time to hike some of the trails that they offer and take advantage of it diverse geology and awesome splendors. I took this shot of mt. Jefferson in the distance using my ultra-wide angle lens in order to show just how impressive the forest and the foothills are. The focal length of my 12-24 wide angle lens was at 14mm. I set the ISO at 100 and the F stop was at F-6.4. The exposure time was at 1/100 second and I didn’t use my tripod to take this shot. The clouds helped create some great pictures as well as provide some great personality of the forest. I had to have the F-stop below 7 since the sun was hidden behind the clouds during this photo. I have some shots with more sun but it caused too much glare and also the photo to be somewhat over-exposed. Having clouds in your shots always creates a much need personality of the Cascades. This is especially true if the sun is too bright and the sky is somewhat hazy.
[/caption] Nothing more exciting than getting totally drenched while hiking along one of the most scenic trails in the Gorge. Tuesday offered some of the most unexpected weather of my Spring so far. I spent about an hour hunched under a very large basalt rock along Tanner creek and near the base of Wahclella Falls. Even the heavy moss over me had a hard time absorbing the relentless rain. At least I was able to get some really good shots of the creek while I waited out the rain storm. I initially planned on only photographing the creek just yards from my car. Unfortunately, I was lured farther along the trail by the periodic sun that made several unexpected appearances. Too bad I left all of my rain gear in my car and made the mistake of wearing only shorts. However, I was able to get some of my best shots so far this Spring. Sun and rain make for some great photo opportunities. I took this shot at about 6:00pm. I was driving home along I-84 when I noticed that the sun was creating some really awesome sun streaks near the Vista House. I decided to check it out and was very surprised and not at all disappointed. I was able to get several panoramic shots while the clouds and the sun fought for space along the gorge. This shot shows how the sun was piercing the forest as the storm clouds swirled along the Washington side. I set my camera to Auto Exposure and the Exposure time was at 1/83 seconds. The Lens Aperture was at F-6.4 and the ISO was at 200. I was using my 55-250 telephoto lens and had the focal length at 55mm. I attached my warming filter and my CIR-PL in order to take advantage of the clouds and the green vegetation. I always recommend using both of these filters when photographing landscapes. I also used my tripod to get a crisp shot. Can’t wait to go out on another drenching photo trip.
[/caption] I decided to post this picture on my blog in order to show just how great the day was. This has tulips, snow in the mountains and incredible clouds. This isn’t my best or favorite that I took but I really wanted to show off just how incredible the scenery was. I may not have taken the best photos of a tulip farm but I’m sure there aren’t very many photographers that have a combination of the three in their portfolio….Except for the other photographers that were here the same day as me, of course. The entire day was spectacular. On this shot I had set my camera to normal exposure. The F stop was set at 7.1 since the clouds were changing constantly. Sometimes the clouds would obscure the sun but then it would suddenly appear and drown out the color of the tulip filed. The focal length was at 55mm. I used my warming filter and CIR-POL on each of my lenses. I used my 55-250mm telephoto lens throughout most of the day. the ISO was set at 100. I made very little changes while using photoshop. Mostly I just darkened the clouds when needed and occasionally cropped a little, in order to take out some of the people. I was able to use all of my lenses pretty regularly all day while photographing….18-55mm, 55-250mm, 50mm macro/prime lens and my 18-24mm wide angle lens. I would highly recommend a trip to the festival if your in the area. A lot of the tulips weren’t even out yet so I’m sure that the rest of April will be even more spectacular. It’s also a great place to bring the kids and there is plenty of food. I plan on returning as much as possible this Spring.
[/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.
[/caption] What a difference a day makes. I took this shot on Sunday. My previous two posts were taken on Saturday when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. However, Sunday was much different. The clouds had moved in from the Pacific which made for some great backdrops when photographing around the piers. I wasn’t able to get as many shots of the ships steaming under the bridge as I would have liked. I’m sure a lot of this had to do with the fact that it was Sunday. This shot really shows just how massive the Astoria-Megler bridge is. It completely dwarfed all of the ships that traveled under it. Again, I was blessed with great light. I was able to set my Exposure comp./AEB setting to between 0 and 1. I used my warming filter and PL-CIR to ensure that the exposure and composition were perfect. The only time I really had to increase the exposure was when I was directly under the bridge. I never had to use my tripod, which allowed me to cover a lot of ground along the piers and also allowed me to take a lot of photos.
[/caption] I went to Astoria on Saturday and stayed until Sunday. This was one of my most awesome photography weekends EVER. Saturday didn’t have a cloud in the sky. The sky was a deep blue, there was no wind and the temperature was perfect. Sunday was overcast but it made for awesome stormy pictures while photographing near the Astoria-Megler bridge. The best thing is that it never rained and the temperature wasn’t too bad. I can honestly say that from the 1500 photos that I took, I saved over half of them. That’s how good the day went. I would recommend visiting Astoria if you haven’t already. There is plenty to do. I was able to get some of my best panoramic photos from the top of the Astoria Column. This is a 125 foot tower that was built in 1926 and has a 164 spiraling staircase to the top. The city of Portland needs something like this. The column was in great shape and the park was immaculate. You can see Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helen’s looking east. You can really zoom in to the ships, bridge and town if you have a descent telephoto lens. Since Astoria is the oldest settlement west of the Rockies, there are plenty of old houses, buildings, piers, old pilings and other attractions that make for a photographers dream. I never had the time to tour any of the several museums or old military bunkers. I think I counted 12 visitor sites in my book. However, I did make time to photograph the Goonies house and the elementary school where kindergarten cop was filmed. Since Astoria sits right on the Columbia, you can watch several tankers and barges steam under the bridge and see them anchored in the channel. Again, I could have taken over 2500 photos just of the ships along the river. There are also two great lighthouses to visit in Washington…Cape Disappointment and North Head lighthouse. However, I was surely disappointed in the conditions of each of these lighthouses. Maybe I’m just used to the Oregon lighthouses, which are in much better shape. I was short on time, so I wasn’t able to hike many of the trails that intersect both of the lighthouses so I plan on going back when I have more time. In fact, I was so rushed to find a good sunset spot that I eventually settled on an unfinished viewpoint area just north of the North Head lighthouse. To get to the lighthouses it’s a relatively short drive from Astoria. You just take the Astoria-Megler bridge north and then it’s about 15 miles. We spotted a bald eagle on our drive. We also passed Fort Columbia and several spots that would make for great sunset shots. Since I have so many photos that I think people would enjoy, I will be posting some more on my blog asap.