[/caption] I finally had the opportunity to visit Seattle and take some photos of the city. Just before my trip I read that Travel+Leisure 2009 had rated the top 100 cities in the world with the most scenic skylines. Seattle was rated #10 in their magazine. I was surprised to see them get such a high ranking. After all, their #10 ranking was for the world, not just for the United States. I figured that I really needed to take some good shots in order to really show the beauty of the Seattle skyline. I did my homework and found several areas throughout the city that were known for the best city views. I went to every scenic viewpoint that I could find and made sure to return for the best sunset shots. I drove to almost every neighborhood in the city so I could really take in the personality within the city limits. West Seattle is where I took this photo on the blog page. I first arrived to this spot in the afternoon and I knew that this would be the best place for sunset and twilight shots. West Seattle is the best place to get an entire panoramic photo that really shows just how massive and beautiful the skyline is. You can also watch all of the boats enter Elliot Bay. I was fortunate to find great vantage points from the north, east, south and west sides of the city. It would take several weeks to really capture all of the photography areas within Seattle. To get this shot, I removed my CIR-PL and my warming filter since the sun had already set and the color of the scene was calm. I set my camera to Program mode. The F stop was at 10 and I had the ISO setting at 200. The White Balance was at 0 since the color was almost perfect. I was using the shutter priority and I had it set at 20 seconds in order to maximize the glow of the lights. Since the bay is so busy it can be hard to use a long exposure without have a moving boat in the photo. This is especially true if you don’t want to show the movement of the boats in the foreground of your shot. I plan on returning again as soon as possible so I can continue to get some great photos of the city.
[/caption] One of my more grueling hikes that I’ve done so far this summer. In fact, this was one of my most difficult and longest hikes I’ve ever done. I’ve done this hike before but I stopped near Lamerson Butte which is at 6500′ and there wasn’t any snow covering the trail. This time I hiked to about 8500′ and had to use my poles since the last 3500′ were covered in snow with only some bare spots along the trail. Even the main trail disappeared at about 5500′. This made it more difficult when I was coming down since I had to find the trail through the spotty snow trails made from myself and some other hikers. The last 1500′ feet was especially tiresome since I had to go off the trail and blaze up the snow banks. However, I always enjoy hiking in the snow during the month of July. Especially when its 80 degrees at the start of the trail. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun was pretty relentless. I could see several pockets of water growing from the many snow banks around the mountain. At least the snow was solid enough to make my hike much easier. The hike is pretty much straight up and then straight down, when returning to the bottom of the trail. I probably hiked between 12.5 and 13 miles total and ended with about 3500′ elevation gain. To make this hike, its best to start near the Mt. Hood nordic center parking area. The trail starts just before you get to the nordic center and there is a parking area right at the head of the trail. It’s best to follow the Elk Meadow trail and then veer left at a trail junction towards the Gnarl Ridge trail. You can actually hike all the way to Cloud Cap and Cooper Spur but that would make for a really long day hike. You hike across several creeks, which makes for some really good stations to cool down. There is plenty of shade for most of the hike and you have some spectacular views of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier to the north as well as Mt. Jefferson and parts of the Three Sisters to the south. I was standing just up from Lamberson Butte when I took this shot. You can see where Newton Creek is born in this photo. You can also witness many of the boulders rumbling down Gnarl Ridge and then crashing down to the bottom. Usually it starts with an echoing sound and then you just have to look for the dust high in the distance. The best part is watching the boulders cascade at high speeds and then crashing to a halt. There are several wildflowers at the high elevations. Once you get above the tree line, the vegetation takes on a whole knew personality. Lichen grows on the rocks and all kinds of crazy but colorful plants and flowers grow in the volcanic soil. To get this shot I had to be especially wary of the glare since there were no clouds and the sun was high in the sky which caused a lot of sun glare. I was using my 12-24mm wide-angle lens in order to capture as much of the panoramic scene as possible. The focal length was at 15mm and the F stop was at 8. I set the ISO at 100 and the exposure compensation/white balance was at -1. the shutter speed was at 1/125 second. I had my CIR-PL, warming filter and UV filter attached. Since the field of view was so vast and there were no shadows, I knew that I wouldn’t be needing my tripod. Which is a good thing since I didn’t bring it with me. This hike is a must if you really want to test your stamina and leg strength. It’s a very grueling hike but you could go even further if you have the ability. Sometimes having to carry all of my camera equipment along with my supplies makes these types of hikes especially difficult. However, I will do it again next summer for sure.
[/caption] Mt. Bachelor is a perfect lava dome mountain rising 9,060 ft in the Central Oregon Cascades. Its isolation from the the Three Sisters and Broken Top make it somewhat of a mystery to me. You would expect to see this much snow on the mountain in late May or early June. However, I took this photo of its western side in late June. Earlier in the morning I had climbed to the Pine Martin Express from the bottom of the chair lift and was met with more snow that I had anticipated. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of snow so I had to climb with nothing more than shorts and my hiking shoes. It made for a great workout but my legs got pretty sunburned due to the glare of the snow and sunny skies. As I sat at one of the lava fields just below the top of the chairlift, I thought about trying to summit but the snow was getting pretty soft and I wasn’t anywhere prepared for a summit trip. I got this shot while driving west on the Cascades Lakes Highway. There are several creeks that feed in to Sparks lake and I decided to hike along the creek and small meadows in order to get the perfect shot with the glare of the creek reflecting parts of Mt. Bachelor. The creek was so still at this point that I was able to take the shot without hardly any movement of the water. Goose creek is fed by one of South Sister’s glaciers and the water was ice cold. There were several wildflowers along its banks and all along the meadows surrounding Sparks Lake. Too get this shot I didn’t use my tripod since the sun was near its highest point and there were no shadows. I was using my ultra wide-angle lens and had the focal length at its maximum depth at 24mm. I was using my uv filter, warming filter and CIR-PL in order to keep the glare of the sun from washing out the color of the sky as well as the contour of the rocks in the creek. The warming filter helped bring out the rocks and and CIR-PL helped me capture the blueness of the sky without distorting the mountain. I had the white balance at -1 and the ISO at 100. I had the setting at auto so the shutter speed was 1/160 of a second. The F stop was at F8. Since the sun was directly above me I had to make sure and under expose as much as possible without losing the personality of the scene. Without my filters and the low settings, the picture would always come out over exposed. I was amazed with how much snow there was in the Central Cascades, even though it was near the 80 degree mark. Along my journey I met some skiers hiking down from the South Sister. I wasn’t surprised since all of the trails were covered within only yards from the start of each trail mark. I can only hope that this means the Cascades will have plenty of snow well into August.
[/caption] This is one of my favorite spots to cast a view of 5 of the Cascade Volcanoes. You can see Mt. St. Helen’s, Rainier, Adams, Hood and Mt. Jefferson from the crest of this old Fire lookout site. You can also see the tops of Mt. Washington, North and Middle Sister’s. You can see just how spectacular the forest surrounding the Cascades is as well as the intense greenery and solitude that it provides. It’s hard to believe that the forest service was paid to look out from this spot several years ago. The only thing remaining are the concrete steps and a small plaque. During July and August, several summer flowers grow along the crags and cliff’s surrounding the Western Cascades. This trail is only about an hour drive from Portland but you would never think that it’s that close to civilization. Since the forest road is so remote and the trail is somewhat poorly marked, I have never seen anyone on this trail. This is surely a place to have some peace and quiet. I hiked the trail over the weekend in order to take advantage of the beautiful weather in the Pacific Northwest. I was a little nervous about the sun glare so I started the hike in the later part of the morning, which put me on the top of the summit by about 4:00. The trail to the ridge is only about 4 miles round trip but there are several other trails that zigzag through the Cascades and also to some of the nicest meadows and natural spring lakes. I also ran into several feet of snow along the trail, which really slowed me down. I haven’t seen that much snow during the middle of June since 2007. I was forced to scramble through the snow when the trail was impassable as well as rummage through the thickets. I ended up with some descent scrapes but it was well worth it. I took this shot from near the concrete steps in order to get the crags and fir trees in the foreground and give it more personality. I was using my wide angle lens and had the focal length at 15mm. I had the camera mode set at auto exposure and the ISO at 100. Since I was facing away from the sun, I had to keep the white balance at 0 and the F-stop at 8. I was using my tripod to stabilize the camera since there was just a slight breeze. This is one of those hikes that you could do several times a year without ever getting bored.
[/caption] Who’s ready for Spring? I couldn’t help but include one of my rose shots from last year. I took this shot in early June at the Portland Rose Garden. I sprayed the rose with my water bottle to give it more personality. The sun was pretty high so it really allowed me to avoid any shadows from hiding the pedals. I am really amazed that I’m able to get my best shots without using a tripod. I used my Canon 18-55mm kit lens to take all of my flora shots last year. However, it does have IS. I just make sure to remove my PL-CIR or at least crank up my exposure so I don’t have camera shake. I usually only use my warming filter, which is a must. I’ve really experienced great macro capabilities with this inexpensive little lens. I am able to get just inches from the flowers and still get great shots. During the late summer months, I was able to get some great shots of bees pollinating the flowers. You can even see the pollen on their little legs. I plan on purchasing a 50mm macro lens so I can really get some even better shots of flora during this spring and summer.