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.
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.
June Lake is located on the south side of Mt. St. Helen’s, Washington and to get there it’s an easy 1.5 mile hike. However, the drive to the trail head is about a half day of driving if you’re coming from Portland, Oregon. You would be advised to bring lots of food and just plan on barbecuing your dinner at the small park located at the trail head. If you’re interested in an amazing hiking trip you will want to continue past June Lake and hike along the razor sharp lava covered trail. There are actually dozens of trails that you can choose from so you will want to bring a trail book or study the hiking maps located along the trail. You can even hike to the swift glacier and hike as far as you can until you get too tired to continue any further. The south side of the mountain looks much different from the north side. There are no signs on the south side of Mt. St. Helen’s that it ever even erupted but you will truly be amazed by the beauty and endless amounts of options available. Most people that choose to summit the mountain, in winter, start from near the June Lake trail head. However, even in summer you can hike towards the summit and pass several places of interest along the way. There are several additional water falls, lava flows, canyons, lava tunnels and beautiful alpine flowers that dot the landscape. Because the lava rocks are so sharp, I would think twice about bringing your dog with you on this trip. A dog’s pads could end up getting cut to shreds almost anywhere along this part of the trail. I would even recommend bringing a small first aid kit with lots of band aids since it’s pretty easy to brush up against the lava rocks and end up with a pretty deep cut. However, there are other hiking trails near by that don’t pass through the lava fields if you want to hike with your best friend. You will just want to study the trail maps before you head out. I’ve visited several times to snow shoe during winter and that can even be a better time to visit. Once you get to a high enough elevation you will have an awesome view of Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood.
[/caption] Several trails along the Columbia River Gorge traverse high above the waterfalls and allow hikers some pretty spectacular views of the Columbia River far below. I took this photo from a vantage point just above Yeon Park. A part of the trail meanders along the basalt rock with a long stretch of iron railing protecting hikers from a 300 foot fall below. The trail might be a little scary for hikers that are afraid of heights or if you’re afraid of narrow paths that were scraped from the rocks and allow no protection from the elements. However, the view is amazing, with Washington State standing behind the Columbia River with an island standing in the middle of the river. The hiking trail actually ends just a few hundred feet from where I took this photo with Upper McCord Creek Falls your ultimate destination and turning back point. I actually took this shot without my tripod or CIR-PL due to the overcast skies. There was absolutely no sun and it was raining most of the time, which made it hard to hike along parts of the trail that were open to the elements. On a clear and sunny day Mt. Adams would be just to the right of this photo with more views of the foothills of the Washington Cascades.
[/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] The calm between storms! This photo was taken on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge with Washington State across the river. It had snowed earlier in the morning in the foothills of the Cascades but the skies finally broke and some blue sky arrived but only long enough to feature some pretty enormous clouds coming in from the north. With fall almost over, you many want to get out to the gorge in order to take advantage of some awesome photos and some even more awesome weather watching! Most of the vegetation has now gone dormant, near the waterfalls but there are millions of leaves that create a pretty nice photo opportunity.
[/caption] Winter has finally arrived in the Pacific Northwest and the early snow fall really pounded the mountains in the Cascades. The snow even reached the western foothills of Washington State and Oregon. I took this shot from the Women’s Forum near the Vista House on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. I had to stand on the concrete part of the viewing platform in order to stand above the trees and I wasn’t able to use a tripod. You just want to make sure that you have a telephoto and keep a steady hand as well as turn on the IS to avoid any camera shake or blur.
[/caption] Wildflowers are in abundance at Mt. Rainier NP and you will find yourself immersed in them no matter where you are within the Park. The snow level is still very high but the wildflowers are literally growing everywhere there is bare soil. I think I lost count at 1 billion and was still counting when I lost count. This photo was taken at Reflection lake with Mt. Rainier in the background and the many arrays of wildflowers in the foreground. I was concerned about the field of view when I was taking photos at the lake, especially since I had the camera mounted on my tripod only a foot from the ground with the wildflowers only about 18 inches from the camera. I made sure to open the lens at its max of 17mm and set the camera mode to program/normal and changed the AF point selection to Automatic Selection hoping that it would ensure that the mountain, trees and wildflowers would be in focus. I had to take a lot of photos but this one turned out pretty good. I did use the sharpening tool in Adobe Photoshop to help with any imperfections. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and attached my CIR-PL and warming filter and set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -2 due to the glare. This photo was taken at about 7:10pm and the sun was in the left at about a 90 degree angle. The aperture was automatically set at F-5 and the shutter speed was at 1/100 second. Now is the time to visit the park since there is more snow at the park than most states have in December and the wildflowers truly are amazing. The snow is also abundant in the Tatoosh mountain range as well as even further south. You may want to bring some ski poles and traction for your shoes if you plan on being adventurous in the snow.
[/caption] Beautiful view from San Juan Island, looking across Haro Straight with the mainland in the background. The small white dot in the upper middle part of this photo is Cattle Point lighthouse. It’s located on the southernmost part of the island and looks due east with Mt. Baker clearly visible. Haro Straight can be seen just above the lighthouse and the mainland of Washington State visible in the distant background. Cattle Point lighthouse is located at San Juan Island Historical Park or better known as American Camp. The lighthouse was built in 1935 and is one of two lighthouses located on the island. There are breathtaking views with Eagle Cove offering you a great chance of watching Orcas swim by. You can see the Olympic mountains as well as Mt. Rainier and of course Mt. Baker. There are miles of beach access available as well as some great hiking trails that allow you to venture in the forest that’s dotted along the area.