Washington

Mt. Baker National Forest Waterfall

Mount Baker National Forest Waterfall

A small waterfall located on the Mount Baker Highway a few miles inside Mount Baker National Forest

On our next to last day of the Washington state trip, we journeyed into the Mount Baker National Forest with hopes of catching an amazing view of Mount Baker. As I documented earlier, the conditions weren’t great and we didn’t capture the glorious images I had imagined. Fortunately, we did find some waterfalls that were surrounded by the lush foliage of early spring.

This waterfall was near the roadside of the Mount Baker Highway. It isn’t tremendously high, perhaps only twelve feet or so. It is beautiful, though. The contrast of the flow of water along with the fir tree and rock face makes for a lovely image.

I may post some other images from our last day, but I think it’s time to move on to images from this summer and fall. I’ll start with those on the next post. Enjoy!

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Mt. Baker Waterfall

Mount Baker Waterfall

This small but beautiful waterfall was flowing immediately adjacent to a forest service road on the approach to Mt. Baker

I had a small bucket list of the places I wanted to visit while in Washington. On that list was a particular view from the Mt. Baker ski area. Unfortunately, the drive to the spot was not near any of the other spots on our shot list. However, given the snowy, icy conditions in the North Cascades our options were relatively limited there, photographically speaking.

So, on the next to last day of our trip we ventured north on back roads toward the Mount Baker Highway. As it turned out, the views from the road were often spectacular as we looked east toward the North Cascades. Occasionally, we would get a peek of Mount Baker through the mountains in the foreground and we got some idea of the size of the mountain we were headed toward. It was obviously a massive geographic feature.

Eventually, we made our way to the Mount Baker ski area where Picture Lake is located. The images I had seen from there were beautiful reflections of Mount Baker with wildflowers or beautiful fall foliage surrounding the lake. As we approached the ski area and climbed higher and higher, it became apparent that snow had only recently been cleared from the road. In fact, the road was not even open out to Artists Point, a spot that gives a spectacular view of Mount Baker. Although we could get to Picture Lake it was still covered in snow and ice. Obviously no reflection shots would be forthcoming. As we poked around we even found snowboarders getting in some of their last runs of the season!

I was bummed but I still had made it to an incredible view of the mountains. As we made our way back down the road, we continued to look for unique images that would capture the spirit of the area. In that process we ventured down some forest service roads looking for other views and scenes. During that process, we came across a series of waterfalls flowing near one of the forest service roads. This fall was only six feet tall or so, but was lovely to photograph. I especially like the moss in the foreground and the vibrant spring foliage that surrounds the waterfall. This shot was a one second exposure that required a four stop neutral density filter to slow down the shutter speed. There are a few more images from the spring trip in the list, but soon we will be moving on to images from this past summer and fall. Enjoy.

Approaching Washington Pass

Approaching Washington Pass

The view from North Cascades Highway approaching Washington Pass from the east

Our intent had been to hike a bit of the Pacific Crest Trail and some other trails in the North Cascades. It quickly became apparent that any hikes at an elevation of more than 3500 feet or so would be nearly impossible. Our first attempt was the trail to Cutthroat Lake. According to our information the trail was only a mile and a half long and clearly marked. For the first mile or so that information seemed accurate. With the slight gain in elevation, though, the trail quickly became snow-covered. At first, the hike was still manageable. But, fairly quickly, we lost the trail and the snow became deeper and deeper. At one point, I realized that I was walking next to a stream or a series of streams. I was likely hiking over water. Quickly, I realized I was hiking over water. My leg punched through the snow layer and my boot plunged into a foot of water or so. I was thigh deep in snow and had one boot in a stream. I managed to extricate myself, but I really didn’t want to go any further without a clear sign of where the trail led. Unfortunately, there were no obvious markers or we were so off course that we were off the trail completely. At this point, we realized that we could end up on one of those television shows detailing the tragedy of two hikers found dead of exposure only a short way from shelter. We chose to cut our hike short and pick our way back the way we had come.

I still don’t know how close we were to Cutthroat Lake. I think we were very close, but I also think the lake was completely ice and snow-covered. That was certainly the case with other lakes closer to Washington Pass. There was a small pond near the pass that would have made a perfect reflecting pool for the awesome alpine landscape surrounding us. Unfortunately, it too was still covered with ice. Rainy Lake is almost visible from the highway but the trail for it is a bit further down the road. When we parked at the roadside, the parking lot itself was still covered with three or four feet of snow. The only other cars parked there were from cross-country skiers who were still using the Rainy Lake trail to ski on! Needless to say, we wouldn’t be doing much hiking unless we wanted to purchase some snow shoes. Fortunately, we had been able to do a bit of hiking in Stehekin. Instead, we settled for multiple passes over Washington Pass and a short jaunt up the snow-covered road to the overlook near the top of the pass. The good news was that we were able to view the mountains with a significant amount of snow still on them. It made the already impressive range even more beautiful.

The image accompanying this post is a view of the mountains nearing Washington Pass. We stayed in Mazama on the eastern side of the pass for one night. We stayed on the western side of the pass for another night. This view is from the North Cascades Highway about a mile from the pass. The spire on the right side of the image is Liberty Bell. It is remarkable from any angle but especially from this view. The road curves to the left from this point and then makes a hairpin turn back to the right in front of Liberty Bell. On that section of the road, there was still a forty to sixty foot high wall of snow that had only recently been cleared. The quantity of snowfall and the resulting avalanches up here must be amazing. I need to return in August one year. It seems that the window between the thaw and the first snowfall of each year must be relatively short. In any case, the North Cascades are dramatic and unbelievably scenic. Enjoy.

North Cascades Highway Waterfall

North Cascades Highway Waterfall

A beautiful waterfall located along the North Cascades Highway in Ross Lake National Recreation Area

We took the ferry back down Lake Chelan leaving Chelan. After a thirty minute plane ride up the lake, the ferry ride seemed interminably long. Even though we were on the “express” ferry, it still took over three hours to go back down lake. After that it took two hours to drive down the valley and back up into the valley approaching the pass over the North Cascades. By the time we crossed the pass late that afternoon we had traveled for six hours and were only about ten miles from the part of the Pacific Crest trail that we had been on the day before!

We made several treks over the pass via the North Cascades Highway. This waterfall was on the western side of the pass in the Ross Lake National Recreation Area. Curiously, even though the region is referred to as North Cascades National Park, none of the North Cascades Highway actually runs through the park. The only time we were actually in the park was during our time in Stehekin. Nevertheless, the mountains and scenery were equally magnificent in the entire region.

Agnes Gorge Birch Trees

Birch and Fern

A stand of birch trees and ferns found on the Agnes Gorge Trail in North Cascades National Park

Well, I’m starting to fall quite a bit behind on my posts. I’m still posting images from June and I still have much to blog about from this summer and now fall. I’m doing my best to keep up, but life is really busy right now and the blog is a lower priority than work and family. The bad news is that I’m behind. The good news is that I have quite a stockpile of images to post from the past few months. It’s nearing the dreary season for photography in my neck of the woods. Hopefully I will find some new spots to shoot, but winter is not usually a really productive season for me photographically speaking.

These images are from our trip to Washington State back in June. More specifically, these are from a short hike that we took on the Agnes Gorge Trail in North Cascades National Park. Virtually all of the trails at higher elevations were still snow-covered so we were fortunate to be able to hike here. The hike was out to an overlook of the gorge itself and was full of wildflowers, small streams, and a variety of other plant life.

I think the variety is what struck me as beautiful on the Agnes Gorge trail. We saw a multitude of deciduous and evergreen trees, many different spring wildflowers, and had a couple of unique views of the southern part of the mountains in North Cascades. I’m sure there was abundant animal life as well. We just didn’t have any first hand encounters with bear, deer, or other critters.

This stand of birch trees was the only one I recall seeing on the hike. However, as we wound through it on the way up the gorge I noted how beautiful it was. I’m glad I stopped for a moment to photograph it then. As it turned out the hike was a bit longer than we had anticipated. If I had waited for our return trip, I might have missed the image altogether because we were moving at a fast clip to meet our ride back down the valley. I suppose there is nothing truly noteworthy about the image. I just love the contrast between the stark white bark of the birches with the vibrant green of the ferns and other groundcover. I hope you enjoy the look as well.

Birch Trees and Fern

A stand of birch trees and ferns found on the Agnes Gorge Trail in North Cascades National Park

Stehekin

Cabin in Paradise

A beautiful log cabin with an incredible view of Lake Chelan and the Cascades

As tough as it was to leave the Palouse, the anticipation of going to a new shooting location tempered my attitude considerably. To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect as we drove toward Lake Chelan and the North Cascades. Obviously, the area would be mountainous, but to this point my view of the area was still a map-based two-dimensional one. I knew all the locations we wanted to visit but had little idea of how the terrain would look.

If I knew something about the topography of the North Cascades, I knew nothing about what the landscape would look like between the Palouse and there. As it turned out, the landscape was unremarkable but still attractive. In other words, it was pretty to drive through, but I’m glad that we didn’t allocate a full day of shooting in central Washington. Ironically, I think I could live in Spokane given its easy access to the Palouse, southern Canada, western Montana, and the Pacific Northwest coast.

Once ironic moment did occur on our drive. Given the vastness of Washington state, there were quite a few moments where we were out of cell service. Near Moses Lake I had full coverage and decided to call home to check in on Pamela. As we were talking UPS made a delivery to our house. Unbeknown to me, the D800 that I had put on order had shipped and arrived while we were talking on the phone! Now, other people are obsessed with different purchases. It may be clothing, fishing gear, golf equipment, antiques, or some other category. For me, opening a box with a new camera, lens, or accessory is like Christmas morning. I had waited on the D800 for months and it was just killing me not to be able to open that box and start shooting with it! I especially wanted it to capture what I was experiencing with even more resolution and flexibility. As you can tell, though, the D700 did a fantastic job during the entire trip.

Chelan Float Plane

The de Havilland Beaver that took us from Chelan to Stehekin

We arrived in Chelan by mid-day and headed over to the docks where the ferry and float planes departed. Our plan was to fly up to Stehekin on the float plane and return on the ferry. Have I mentioned that I get motion sick from time to time? Well, I do. So, the thought of boarding a float plane was less than appealing. Fortunately, the flight would be short and it was a clear day. On a positive note, flying a thousand feet above the lake seeing the incredible scenery was very appealing.

So, we boarded the plane and took off. It really was an incredible experience to feel the powerful engines propelling us across the water, feeling the floats skim across the ripples and waves, and finally fell the calm as the plane pulled free of the lake and became airborne. I adjusted the air-conditioning – a circular vent in the window that directed air toward me – and got my camera ready to shoot.

Lake Chelan is a very interesting geologic feature. It is the third deepest natural lake in the country with a depth of nearly 1,500 feet. The lake is 55 miles long and doesn’t appear to be more than two or three miles wide at any point. It’s a long, narrow lake that is usually surrounded by mountains on both sides.

The landing proved to be no more testy than the take-off to my great relief. Our destination was Stehekin, a remote village that can only be accessed by boat, plane, or on foot. It is so remote that there are only 60 to 100 year around residents. Yet, the community has its own hydroelectric plant, water treatment facility, and school. The population swells in the summer when the few inns and one hotel receive guests for a few days. Day visitors also arrive by float plane or ferry to visit Rainbow Falls. But crowded means something completely different to the year-round residents than it does to you and me. Crowded means that you might run into someone else on a trail. Whereas in the off-season, all you will run into is a deer or a bear.

Stehekin is the most remote community I know of in the lower 48 states. The closest community that I could see on a map was Mazama. It is 25 miles or so away as the crow flies. The trouble is that those 25 miles are all on foot and several thousand feet of elevation gain away through a snowpack! To get to Mazama via ferry and auto is about a five hour trip. Chelan is the closest town with a full grocery store, hardware supply, and hospital. It’s 55 miles away and virtually inaccessible in winter. Needless to say, the year-round residents of Stehekin are hardy souls who treasure their independence.

We stayed at the Silver Bay Inn, the last lodging directly on the north end of the lake. It was cool to trek back and forth the mile and a half to Stehekin proper on the bikes they provided. About halfway there sits this beautiful cabin. To my eye, it is the prettiest place in Stehekin and has the best view. Apparently, the owner had the cabin fully constructed in Chelan, then deconstructed and shipped to this location, and then reconstructed in place. All I know is that I would love to spend a week or two in the cabin one summer. What a view!

There’s more to come from Stehekin. Enjoy!

Stehekin Log Cabin

A beautiful log cabin located on Lake Chelan in the charming village of Stehekin

The Last Images from Steptoe Butte

Red Barn on the Palouse

The red barn of a local farm on the Palouse as viewed from Steptoe Butte

Well, there isn’t a lot left to say about the images from Steptoe Butte that I haven’t already said. It’s a beautiful place that will yield a constantly evolving number of images due to the variations of light and seasons. If you get a chance to visit there, you really should go.

These images were from our last morning atop the butte. The first one is striking to me because of the dash of red on the sea of green hills. The other images are more of the abstract nature similar to the other images I have been posting. Of course, the light is the thing that makes the images special. All of the images I’ve posted from Steptoe Butte were taken within an hour and a half of sunrise or sunset. The flat light of midday just doesn’t create the types of images that I prefer. When the sun is close to the horizon the long shadows that are created accentuate the sensuous curves of the rolling hills. The soft light of the sun being filtered through the atmosphere creates the soft light that makes the scene truly special.

Next time we will be off toward the North Cascades with a few stops in between. The look will be completely different but hopefully just as beautiful. Enjoy.

Shades of Green

Light and shadows create an array of green shades on the hills of the Palouse

Early Morning LIght on the Palouse

The Palouse as viewed from Steptoe Butte about an hour after sunrise

Early Morning Light from Steptoe Butte

 

Palouse Hills and Shadows 1

An early morning view of the Palouse from Steptoe Butte

Okay, I said I would move on from the Palouse after the last post. I lied. Okay, I didn’t really lie. I just didn’t think far enough ahead and realize how many images that I have that I love from that last morning on Steptoe Butte. Let’s just say that I’ve changed my mind. So, if you’re tired of images of rolling hills with beautiful soft light streaming across them, check back in with us in a few days.

I really do feel like a grandfather that can’t wait to show you pictures of his grandkids. I’ll stand here all day long and talk about my precious grandchildren. In this case, it’s images from atop Steptoe Butte. We were up there for no more than two hours, yet I have dozens of images that are unique and beautiful – at least in my mind. I promise I’ll try to stop tomorrow and move on to our adventures in the North Cascades. In the meantime, here’s a few more images from the Palouse. Enjoy.

Tracks in the Palouse

Tractors form interesting patterns as the they work the land of the Palouse

Shadows and Green Hills

The beautiful cultivated fields of the Palouse in early spring as viewed from Steptoe Butte in the early morning light

Multi-colored hills of the Palouse

Vegetation is just beginning to cover the hills of the Palouse in early spring in this view from Steptoe Butte

Fields of Green

The rolling verdant hills of the Palouse as viewed from Steptoe Butte

 

The Show Is Over – Let’s Go!

Sunset over the Palouse

A brilliant sunset as viewed from Steptoe Butte looking west over Washington State’s Palouse region

I’ve alluded to the other photographers present on Steptoe Butte the afternoon that we were there shooting. For the most part those photographers were kindred spirits and enjoying the experience just as much as we were. There was one group, however, that was just a bit different. Unfortunately, that was the group that we interacted with the most.

Apparently, this group was being guided by someone purporting to have more experience. The idea usually is to hire someone who can instruct on photography technique and take the group to spots where great conditions are likely to occur. Now, I’m not knocking photo safaris or whatever you choose to call them. I’ve actually participated in one. I might try one again in the future. They are great for some photographers, but I’m just too independent and want to go where I want to go when I want to go there. And, there is a tendency for the group to slow to the pace of the least accomplished individual. So, I’ve chosen to be independent and travel with no more than one or two other friends who have similar agendas.

The problem with this group was that they weren’t very well organized or supervised. The good news was that they had chosen a great location at an optimum time. Of course, we didn’t know any of this when we stepped up to the edge of Steptoe Butte to shoot the late afternoon light. But, as we stood on the edge of the group it became apparent that many of these people had very little knowledge of what they were doing. Our presumption was that the organizer would take care of their photographic needs.

The problem was that the organizer never really stepped up. Then, a few of the participants noticed us. When we would move to a different vantage point, one or two of them would follow. Then, the whole group would migrate after the first few. At first it was humorous. After the second or third move, it became irritating. All the while, the group participants were talking about warming up, getting out of the wind, how long would it take them to get to a restaurant, and lots of other non-photography oriented subjects. In the meantime, the incredible conditions around us kept getting better and better.

As the late afternoon light created longer and longer shadows on the landscape below us, we began to focus on the impending sunset. As beautiful as the shadows on the rolling hills of the Palouse had been, we were anticipating an awesome sunset. Clouds continued to roll in from the west and it became a contest between the cloud banks and the setting sun over which would win out at the end of the day. For a while, it appeared that the thickening clouds would totally obscure the sun as it sunk toward the horizon. Then, it appeared that the sun would win out and we would have a spectacular sunset turning those threatening clouds into a vast canvas of color overhead.

About thirty minutes before sunset – and just as it appeared that the sun was ultimately going to prevail – the director of the group shouted to his flock something like this, “The show is over! Let’s pack up and head out.” Tom and I both turned our heads slightly to each other as if to say, “Did we just hear him say that?” We didn’t actually say anything. We just smiled and silently shook our heads slightly at the lunacy of his edict. It was obvious at this point that an incredible sunset was about to unfold. We just stood in silence as the workshop participants loaded up into their vehicles and hastily drove off.

After they drove around the bend, we actually laughed out loud! The good news was that we now had the vantage point to ourselves. And, just as we had suspected, the sunset began to unfold. I’ve only shared a couple of images, but the incredible conditions lasted for at least forty-five minutes. As is the case with most sunsets, some of the most incredible images are to be had well after the sun has dipped below the horizon.

The image above was created by blending three images taken to properly expose for the highlights and shadows in the scene. I used an aperture of f22 in order to create the starburst you see. Using a very small aperture when the sun or other light source is partially obscured by a solid image, in this case the horizon. The image below was taken a few minutes after sunset. The afterglow of the sunset was still present in the sky, but the ambient light was sufficient to illuminate the farm and hills in the foreground.

I hope you enjoy the images. And, despite what our friendly photo workshop organizer thought, you really should exercise some patience until the show really is over. Enjoy.

Late Afternoon Light on the Palouse

Late Afternoon Light on the Palouse

Late afternoon light slants across the fertile hills of the Palouse

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent a beautiful sunrise and sunset atop Steptoe Butte. The light was incredible and I spent most of my time just lining up shots and clicking the shutter. As clouds moved past the sun and the sun moved closer to the horizon, the landscape just kept changing. Sections of the landscape that had previously been in shadow came into the light and other areas receded into shadow. The net effect was an ever-changing landscape that just kept getting prettier and prettier. I don’t know that I said more than a few dozen words in that hour as I just soaked it all in.

It seemed that every time we moved to another shooting location there was another group of photographers set up and shooting. Some were just as in awe of the sight as we were. Others were… well, not as in awe. I’ll tell you more about that in the next post. For now, enjoy a few more images from the hour before sunset that magical day. Enjoy.

A Dash of Red

A feeding shed adds a dash of color to the landscape of the Palouse as viewed from Steptoe Butte

The Green Grass of the Palouse

Rolling, cultivated hills like these are a landmark of the Palouse

The Green Hills of the Palouse

The green, gently rolling hills of the Palouse outlined with the tracks of the giant tractors used to cultivate the region

Whitman County Growers 2

A small farm in Whitman County, Washington as viewed in late afternoon light from Steptoe Butte