Monthly Archives: July 2014

Mt. Diablo Oak Landscapes

Many years ago, while still residing in San Diego, I purchased a photo book on California with photography by one of my favorite landscape artists, Carr Clifton.  It is a beautiful volume overall but there were a few images that captivated my imagination and burned themselves into my memory.  They were oaks at Mt. Diablo State Park.

I often thought about this destination but after moving to Washington I got to exploring and turning over the stones in this state and California needed to wait for another day.  That day eventually came, some 20 years later, and we were simply overjoyed to put Mt. Diablo on our destination map.

Arriving early in the morning on a weekday, the place was mostly deserted.  The oaks and rolling hills were everywhere and I felt humbled and very blessed to be witnessing such glorious beauty.  The spring foliage was catching the sunlight and glowing radiantly; I didn’t have to wait long before the inspiration to make compositions overflowed.

Mt. Diablo oak forest glowing in brilliant backlight | Mt. Diablo State Park, CA

Mt. Diablo oak forest glowing in brilliant backlight | Mt. Diablo State Park, CA

Later in the day we secured a nice campground high in the hills, stirred up a good meal, and headed back out to witness more beauty and solitude.  In the evening we were treated to an amazingly brilliant starry sky and sounds of all the local critters, small and large.  We even woke up in the middle of the night to a raccoon rattling around in camp and later looking for something on top of our truck!

It was simply a tremendous couple days in this park, and we only barely scratched the surface.  The place is more glorious than I imagined, and we hope to return again.  For anyone fascinated by trees, this place is truly breathtaking.

Spring oak landscape in afternoon light | Mt. Diablo State Park, CA

Spring oak landscape in afternoon light | Mt. Diablo State Park, CA

As I was reading this morning, God’s words stirred me and I was prompted to write about trees…

“Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.”

Psalm 92:13 (NKJV)


Blue Waters

Some years ago, I used to often ramble along the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River, a mere 35 miles east of Seattle.  The forest road running along parts of the river is dirt, often packed with brain-jarring potholes, dusty during dry times and slick and muddy during the famous Washington drizzle.  I particularly enjoyed being there during stormy weather, when there were few others to be seen.  And early and late in the year were times I found the place even more charming.

I looked not just for river scenes but for trees with character.  During the winter months when the trees were bare and wet they provided much visual excitement to me.  And when they were covered by lichens and mosses, wow, it was like candy.

After a few years of focusing on other destinations, my wife and I recently decided to go back and have a look at one of our favorite stomping grounds.  It was actually a sunny day, which would normally not find me out looking for landscape images.  But we wanted to get out.  Once we got there we were surprised at the volume of vehicles rolling into this river valley.  The road was super dusty so there was little point to pull over and get out to enjoy the scenery because we’d be eating dirt.  Stan wasn’t too excited either not being able to get out and do some sniffing and exploring of the terrain….

The few years have given enough people time to discover this valley, which is of course great because they can enjoy the beauty but also a disappointment when one is looking for some quiet away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

But we eventually found our little quiet spot along the Taylor River (one of the rivers flowing into the Snoqualmie), through a stand of trees and mossy forest floor.  The rapids drowned out any nearby human sounds and we were just pleased with that.  And Stan was also able to ramble about without complaint!

I watched the light and the rapids as we enjoyed lunch and eventually made a few exposures.  I decided to experiment a bit with various shutter speeds to see which would be most pleasing to my eye.  And with no two photos being the same due to the dynamic nature of the rapids, it was a fun experiment that yielded some exciting results.  I settled on the image enclosed in this post.  The shapes of the rapids captivated me here as well as the play of blue light from the sky and golden/green reflections from trees on the opposite bank being bathed in direct sunlight.  And the shutter speed used provided just the right amount of dramatic movement.

Even if there were no photos to show, it was simply peaceful to relax by the river for a while….

Taylor River, a tributary of the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River | WA

Taylor River, a tributary of the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River | WA

Monkeyflowers & Mountain Stream

We’re experiencing a little heat wave in the Seattle area with temps in the 90s.  That’s not really bad and I’m not complaining but when so much of the year is gloomy and cool it is definitely a bit of a shock to go to these extremes.  With this heat my thoughts are taking me to mountain meadows.  By now the flowers should be nicely blooming and gracing the meadows with their beauty and filling the air with just an amazing and delicious aroma.

It has been several years since I witnessed such a gorgeous display and I’m hoping to get out this season.  I’ve definitely missed it.

This photograph was made in the Paradise area of Mt. Rainier National Park a few summers ago.  The display of pink monkeyflowers was simply stunning!  I made this composition in the early evening along a quiet little creek.  I really like a bit of the blue cast on the rocks coming from the blue sky and the glorious “island” of pink monkeyflowers in the foreground.  A sprinkling of the yellow mountain monkeyflowers made the whole scene even more attractive.

How I wish I could be standing there in this small sea of lovely flowers and be making compositions….

Monkeyflowers & Mountain Stream | Mt. Rainier NP

Monkeyflowers & Mountain Stream | Mt. Rainier NP

Basalt Landscape

We were returning from a great few days in Idaho via the Palouse lands, looking for compositions.  I wasn’t optimistic for much photographic work on the return journey due to temperatures hovering around 100F and the sky being completely clear.  If there were gorgeous cumulous or cirrus clouds gracing the sky it would have been a different story.

As we crossed the Columbia River, with about two hours till sunset, it was time to stretch our legs, feed Stan, and just enjoy some views in the cooler temperatures (94F)!  And I wanted to also wait a bit for the sun to get lower so I could have a look at  an ancient basalt landscape I photographed many years earlier on my Pentax 67 film camera.  With no diffusion of the sun from particulates or thin clouds I figured having direct sunlight would be too harsh.

After enjoying our quiet break we piled back into the car and took off to look for this spot.  Memory and time shrink distances and it turned out the place was a bit farther than we remembered.  But there it was and I was happy to see it again. I didn’t know if I would see anything new to photograph but I was just excited to glimpse the place again.  As soon as we found the location I immediately saw it completely differently than years ago.  The composition formed in my mind and I was very pleased.

In the past I saw the huge columns, an impressive 6-8 feet in diameter, and focused on them.  Today was about a more relaxed landscape, giving a glimpse of the surrounding environment.  It was a blessing indeed to see the place in new light.

As the crickets and birds chirped I mounted the camera on the tripod and put on a wide-angle lens and with joy of a kid got to work.  I made three variations of the scene and this one, the last, moved me the most.  I would like to return here again…there is another idea I have but it will depend on the light.  As we left, the sense of quiet joy was overwhelming….

Basalt Landscape | Central Washington

Basalt Landscape | Central Washington


Over the years we always passed by Rockport State Park on Washington’s Highway 20, in a hurry to other destinations. We were intrigued to explore it, but besides pulling in to use the facilities on occasion, it remained untouched by us.  Until about two years ago when we adopted our awesome dog, Stan.  That prompted us to finally take a day trip specifically focused on this park.

With several trails to choose from, we took the first, which rambled mostly through second growth forest.  Nice, but not spectacular.  Eventually the trail diverged and we decided to check it out…and we found a path filled with glorious soft light.  The trees were beginning to look more stately.  Eventually we discovered giant old growth trees that were just breathtaking…but that will be left for another post.  This forest path made us linger for a while.

Join me in reflections on the landscape.

Quiet Forest Path | Rockport State Park, WA

Quiet Forest Path | Rockport State Park, WA