Monthly Archives: July 2014

Glacial Fields

If I was told that I could only photograph Mt. Rainier, I don’t think I’d ever run out of compositions…as long as I remained inspired.  The mountain is so gorgeous and so very different from each side.  The glaciers that have chiseled it for thousands of years are in themselves weathered and full of character, like aged and beautiful faces.

During this excursion we were poking around the Sunrise side of the mountain (north-eastern section of the park) when I became aware of the dappled light on the massive glaciers created by slowly floating clouds.  Look at the furrowed crevasses, how much character they add.  I can just get lost in the details.

There wasn’t much color in this scene, just a little blue here and there, so I made the decision to make it into black and white.  I thought that it would make the image’s complexities simpler, allowing the viewer to focus on the rawness of this ancient landscape.

Glacial fields on Mt. Rainier | Mt. Rainier National Park, WA

Glacial fields on Mt. Rainier | Mt. Rainier National Park, WA


Autumn Splendor

It has been beautiful and warm in the Puget Sound with clear skies despite all the fires raging east of the mountains.  I love summers here.  If we had more days like these it would be an ideal place to stay forever.

As it gets too hot at times I begin to think about other seasons, particularly autumn.  As my favorite season nears, the days become shorter and soon enough we’ll see a cooling trend in the air.  I’m in no hurry, but I’m reflecting on past autumns.

Particularly I’m taken back to the year 2000.  Early that year I abandoned the 35mm film camera system and with much excitement switched to a medium format Pentax 67II and four lenses.  I was full of anticipation and energy to explore with a system much more capable of my vision.  For a few years I had the thought of going to Colorado’s San Juan Mountains during autumn’s glory.  I booked a budget flight for a quick four-day “vacation” to Albuquerque.  From there I would drive to Durango and begin my fairly quick loop drive around the San Juans.

Having never experienced aspen trees in autumn’s splendor, my eyes were feasting on the magnificent trees and mountain landscapes sprinkled with them.  I was simply blown away by God’s perfect artistry and to this day feel very blessed to have witnessed the San Juans even for such a brief time.

Quite a few memories from this trip are still vibrant after all these years, and some have become sepia tinted.  I made many compositions but one of my favorites to this day is the one I’m sharing here.  I was driving down a dirt road toward viewpoints of grand peaks when I noticed this arrangement, particularly the four trunks growing together.  And the mystery of what’s down the hill beyond this scene has kept me wondering to this day.  I wish I took a glimpse.

I wonder if this scene is still splendid or if the many winters have changed its face beyond recognition….

Aspen trees in autumn's splendor | San Juan Mountains, CO

Aspen trees in autumn’s splendor | San Juan Mountains, CO


Mount St. Helens Rising

This was quite a morning.  We arrived around midnight, enjoyed the mountain for a spell under millions of stars of the Milky Way before we crawled in the back of the truck and slept a few hours until the alarm rang around 5 am.  Looking out I was a bit disappointed that the whole landscape was in thick fog, and I thought that there was little chance of any dramatic light happening. Nevertheless, I decided to look for an interesting foreground, just in case. It was warm, very quiet, and the aroma of the tiny lupine was simply deliciously intoxicating.

As soon as I set up, the fog lifted and exposed this magnificent landscape…enough time to make one composition. Just as quickly as it dissolved, the fog returned and once again the landscape was plunged into silence.

Soon after the silence was broken by a spectacular and chilling song of a pack of coyotes that must have been roaming within a couple hundred feet. I felt extremely blessed.  It is one of those memories that I will always cherish.

Mount St. Helens rising from morning fog | Mount St. Helens National Monument, WA

Mount St. Helens rising from morning fog | Mount St. Helens National Monument, WA

After a couple more hours of sleep, a beautiful warm blue sky day greeted us.  We cooked up breakfast with this glorious view of the mountain and later descended a bit south into the forests to roam about Lewis River.  But that’s another story….


Quiet Forest Pond

There are always new discoveries to be made, even if we know a place by heart.  I don’t remember much else from this particular trip to Mt. Rainier National Park except walking a narrow and overgrown path through a forest of subalpine firs to find a beautiful setting.  A quiet landscape of a forest pond surrounded by firs and its shores sprinkled by gorgeous blooming lupine.

Soft sunlight filtered through the trees to add a bit of a sparkle to the scene.  The air was still and filled with aromas of summer forest and flowers, sweetened by the sunshine.

I have returned to this spot many times over the years, like visiting an old friend, but it has never been quite as glorious as this time.  But I have missed the last couple of years…could it have been so breathtaking then?  Perhaps this year God will paint it even more beautiful….

Quiet forest pond graced by lupine and sunshine | Mt. Rainier National Park, WA

Quiet forest pond graced by lupine and sunshine | Mt. Rainier National Park, WA

Glorious Light

It is no secret that western Washington is not lacking in grandeur and it is also no secret that the skies are often gray.  I love light, glorious and dramatic light!  Throughout the years I have been photographing, cloudy skies have been great for many of the scenes I focus on but when a stunning light show takes place in the heavens it is much reason to celebrate.

One particular December, a few days before the new year, we made an excursion to San Juan Island for an extended weekend.  For the first couple days we were blessed with tremendous weather…cold, dramatic skies and fantastic light…sunlight.  And in December seeing the sun is sort of like winning the lottery around here.

Here, a magnificent sunset lights the Strait of Juan de Fuca with distant Olympic Mountains gracing the horizon.

Strait of Juan de Fuca Sunset | San Juan Island, WA

Strait of Juan de Fuca Sunset | San Juan Island, WA

We stood in amazement watching the light, a bit chilled, but nevertheless in awe.  The next day we were once again graced with beautiful light and that was definitely more than we had hoped for!  My words just can’t describe it well enough.

“Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 11:7 (ESV)

Gorgeous sunset as viewed from Lime Kiln Point | San Juan Island, WA

Gorgeous sunset as viewed from Lime Kiln Point | San Juan Island, WA

The last day returned to wind and downpours and grayness but we were living by grand memories.  Perfect to stay in and relax by the fireplace….


River Solitude

A few days ago was one of those times when I felt quite spent and needed to take a walk in creation.  One of the nearest places that I greatly enjoy is the southern section of the Mountain Loop Highway, along the Stillaguamish River.  Being in a very mellow mood, I didn’t know if I would see anything to photograph but I knew it would be just purely wonderful being there.

People were camping, the ranger station was closed for the day, the road was deserted.  I pulled into the Hemple Creek area and found it all to myself.  Perfect.  It was warm and the forest along the river was filled with aromas of summer.  The sun was breaking through the clouds and illuminating the magnificent trees.  The Stillaguamish was flowing clear and much lower than when I stopped here a few weeks ago.

It was good to be here again, to hear the birds and the water, to inhale the delicious air.  I thanked God for his grace.

I walked and observed and a calmness began to take over.  I began to see.  The boulders, submerged much of the year, were in full form.  My eyes began to focus on the play of river rapids around the boulders.  A particular rock caught my attention; I didn’t remember ever seeing it before even though I’m sure it has been in the same spot a long time.  It was dark and stood out from among the other mostly light boulders.

I put my gear down and jumped from one submerged rock to another to get closer and see if a composition would work.  The river was warm and I was glad to be here.  The boulder was being embraced by the waters and I felt very embraced at that moment as well.

I made three variations of this composition and settled on this one as my favorite.

Black boulder in the Stillaguamish River | Mountain Loop Highway, WA

Black boulder in the Stillaguamish River | Mountain Loop Highway, WA

I took my time and watched the river as it flowed downstream, hugging all the boulders in its path, and disappearing around the bend, on its eventual way to the ocean.

As I kept walking along the river I enjoyed a few ripe thimbleberries and salmonberries.  These are always welcome and delicious, especially the salmonberries.

I really liked this giant boulder field, and just focused and studied it for a while.  It reminds me of life flowing with all its obstacles, eventually reaching the open sea.

Stillaguamish boulder field | Mountain Loop Highway, WA

Stillaguamish boulder field | Mountain Loop Highway, WA

About an hour before sunset I went further down the river, just around that bend I watched earlier, as I had an idea or two to explore there.  I have photographed this scene before, during different moods of the river, and found it once more very intriguing.  The sky was mostly overcast again and casting a soft glow on the scene.  I set up my tripod and camera on a huge boulder, put on a polarizer and made a series of compositions.  I liked the texture of the water in my 4 second exposures but wanted to try something much longer.

I reached into my bag and pulled out a neutral density filter which gave me a 30 second exposure.  Wow, the water took on a very different feel.  Studying the two exposures on the camera LCD screen I was leaning just a bit more toward the shorter exposures because of the texture of the water.  But once I looked at the much larger version on the computer the 30 second exposure was clearly the one that captivated my imagination.  The scene has this quietness to it, a lot like what I was feeling in my heart at this point.

Quiet waters of the Stillaguamish River | Mountain Loop Highway, WA

Quiet waters of the Stillaguamish River | Mountain Loop Highway, WA

After packing up, I enjoyed my dinner sandwich while being calmed by the beauty of this scene.  I thanked God again for his grace this day.  I arrived in an exhausted state but left fully refreshed by grace gifted to me….

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

Psalm 42:11 (ESV)

Mt. Nebo Aspens

If I could live anywhere it would most likely be in a beautiful aspen forest.  There are few trees that take my breath away like aspens, and I love trees.  When they are in their autumn garment I could photograph them forever.

When my wife and I traveled to Utah’s Mt. Timpanogos Wilderness we were simply overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscapes and especially by the gorgeous and radiant aspens surrounding us.  It was like a candy store or an amusement park for a kid.  The conditions were sublime:  crisp, with storms rolling through the region but not to the point where we’d be just socked in, and the trees were in brilliant color.

It was difficult to leave but we were hungry for many more destinations we had planned.  As we were making our way to Mt. Nebo Wilderness a huge thunderstorm was building just to the west but its fingers were already reaching over us.  The sky was growing dark, there was an electric feel in the air, heavy rain was falling behind us, thunder was piercing the silence.

Then I saw it, a grove so beautiful it was like glimpsing a piece of heaven.  The trees so graceful, glowing with color, silent and sweetly fragrant, dark thunder clouds in the distance.  An occasional distant sound of massive thunder was the only sound breaking the silence.  I felt great joy descending on me as I began setting up my tripod and then my Pentax 67 film camera.

We witnessed many breathtaking moments and landscapes during this trip but to me this remains the most fantastic memory, and the fact that my wife Heather was standing next to me makes it infinitely more special.  And to this day, the image I was blessed with is one of my favorites of all time.

Mt. Nebo aspens at peak of autumn with distant thunderstorm | Utah

Mt. Nebo aspens at peak of autumn with distant thunderstorm | Utah