Category Archives: Grand Vistas

2015 in Review: The Great Pacific Ocean

I’ll close my 2015 in review with the following two images from the Olympic coast.  It was early November, winter was in the air with plenty of lowland rain and snow in the mountains.  We had Heather’s sister visiting from Ohio and we wanted to expose her to some of the beauty of Washington despite unfavorable weather.

We hoped to make it up to Hurricane Ridge but due to heavy snow the park closed all access…with dangerous drop-offs, a good idea in my book.  We stuck to lowland forests, which revealed massive cedars and stately bigleaf maples covered with gorgeous mosses.  But the highlight was definitely seeing the Pacific Ocean…first time for Beth.  We chose the scenic Rialto Beach within Olympic National Park.

Beach stones, Rialto Beach | Washington

Beach stones, Rialto Beach | Washington

The beach has no sand, just pebbles of all sizes and colors.  I was attracted to the two larger stones standing watch over the smaller ones.

It was great to see Beth’s excitement, which in turn also added to our excitement.  For us it was also the first visit to this area in over four years and we couldn’t believe that.  The area is so gorgeous, the beach with its stones and pebbles and massive logs, shadows of enormous trees ripped out by storms from Canada’s and Alaska’s coastal forests to the north…and most likely as far as Russia.  Also grand seastacks.  It was healing to listen to the pounding waves and to watch the light.  There was a grand tree log dancing in the waves but it would have to wait for a storm to come ashore….

Despite a at times very gloomy day, the clouds parted in late afternoon and treated us to a grand sunset.  It was a great journey indeed.

Rialto Beach sunset, Olympic National Park | Washington

Rialto Beach sunset, Olympic National Park | Washington

 

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2015 in Review: Mt. Rainier Dreams

Slowly but surely I keep revisiting places of 2015.  Mt. Rainier National Park is a special destination for me and has been since I moved to Washington State over 20 years ago.  A place that always provides much inspiration.  This time around I was heading out to meet up with my good friend Ross (have a look at his work here) visiting from Florida.  Over the years we’ve enjoyed many great photographic excursions, and this was no different.

Due to extreme heat, at least for our area, and lack of adequate precipitation the previous winter and spring, flowers came and went early.  Despite this, the landscape remains glorious.  To get “warmed up” we spent some time in Paradise Valley, enjoying the glowing firs and meadow.  I particularly enjoyed working this scene with the mountain ash berries in the foreground.

Paradise Valley Meadow, Mt. Rainier NP | Washington

Paradise Valley Meadow, Mt. Rainier NP | Washington

One can find various gems throughout the park, some hidden in plain sight, others truly off the beaten path.  Following a good start at Paradise Valley, we spent quite a bit of time photographing Paradise River rapids before seriously focusing on Ruby Falls.  With its many strands of falling water, various rock surfaces and dappled light, this can be a magnificent place to enjoy for a while.

Ruby Falls, Mt. Rainier NP | Washington

Ruby Falls, Mt. Rainier NP | Washington

Feeling quite pleased with the day’s work, we decided to take a quick spin up to Reflection Lakes.  No matter how many times one views the Mountain from here, the landscape is simply glorious.  We had the place to ourselves, and that is a big bonus at this spot.  And we were even treated to stunning sunset light.

Mt. Rainier Sunset | Washington

Mt. Rainier Sunset | Washington

Returning to camp, we stirred up some grub, good drink, and good conversation.  It was a grand time with a great friend in a magnificent location.

 

2015 in Review: Winter Trees

What is it about trees that so many find fascinating, beautiful, powerful, humbling, breathtaking and magical? Throughout human history they have been used for everything, from fuel to hunting tools to subjects of paintings, poetry and of course photography. We seek shelter under them during storms, search out a perfect spot for a picnic, or a place to rest one’s tired back and daydream while listening to the wind whisper its song among the crowns. I love trees, always have. I climbed them as a kid, crashed into one while sledding with my younger brother, was left breathless upon witnessing the enormity of giant sequoias, to hardly being able to comprehend the age of bristlecone pines, many of which were thousands of years old when Jesus walked this earth. In trees I see God’s perfection.

On this particular day in April I was searching for solitude along the Stillaguamish River and I found it here along the river’s shores. I stood among stately cedars, on a forest floor covered with soft mosses, with the Stilly swiftly flowing below me, and I rested my eyes upon this scene of grandeur and perfection.

Winter trees along the Stillaguamish River | Washington

Winter trees along the Stillaguamish River | Washington

Mt. Rainier in the Rain

Most of the year I had moments during which I told myself it was time to go to Mt. Rainier.  I’d get excited but then something would take that spark away and I wouldn’t go.  Spring went by, the wildflowers of summer, and the brief brilliance of autumn.  Mind you I’m no stranger to the park.  I used to go there 10-15 times per year for a good 15 years.  Then I stopped.  A lot changed for me, around me and in me.

And so for three years I didn’t make a single visit.  At times I missed being there and at times I felt helplessly indifferent.  But that desire to travel came back and I actually grabbed my camera, some extra clothing, got into my vehicle and drove south to the park.  It wasn’t particularly a nice day; heavy overcast with passing rain storms.  It looked worse at my destination.  But I was ready to go.  The closer I was getting the higher my excitement grew.  And yeah, I was excited about my excitement!

Ancient forest in the rain, Mt. Rainier NP | Washington

Ancient forest in the rain, Mt. Rainier NP | Washington

At the entrance gate I knew I messed up for not coming here for so long.  I got the annual pass.  As I entered the park the drizzle was still coming down, but it was really trying to stop…or so I told myself.  I have passed by the above scene a 100 times or more.  I looked but didn’t see.  This time it took my breath away.  It was wet, lush, gorgeous, so much so I had a few tears of absolute joy.  I looked for a while before setting up my camera, simply absorbing the scene, while big drips of rain from the branches above fell on me and all around…just perfect.

As I continued through the park, via Longmire, climbing in elevation, the landscape looked so new yet I had witnessed it on so many occasions over the years that it was recognizable.  I guess it is like aromas that are familiar to us from childhood, forgotten for years, and once inhaled again feel as new as yesterday.

Edge of Stevens Canyon, drenched in mysterious fog, Mt. Rainier | Washington

Edge of Stevens Canyon, drenched in mysterious fog, Mt. Rainier | Washington

With the climbing elevation the rain increased to downpour strength.  I wasn’t going to see the mountain up close today but that’s just fine, I love the forests for all the various trees, the shrubs, the lakes, the valleys.  Heavy rain and fog in Paradise.  I was bummed that the park closed the Paradise Valley Road even though the snow had not come and some remnants of autumn still adorned the landscape.  I was overjoyed to see some remaining color despite the fact I was here nearly a month past the usual peak.

I stopped at Reflection Lake and set up a couple compositions in a sideways downpour.  Maybe not the most romantic thing to be setting up a large camera with one hand and holding an umbrella with the other.  But when you love the craft, such things don’t really matter.

Arriving at the western edge of Stevens Canyon the fog thickened and the rain really did stop.  In the above photo I loved the shrubby vine maples (among my favorite “trees”) with autumn color and the layers of silent conifers.  I filled my lungs with deep and sweet breaths of wet mountain air….

Stevens Canyon with lifting fog, autumn, Mt. Rainier NP | Washington

Stevens Canyon with lifting fog, autumn, Mt. Rainier NP | Washington

The fog began to lift and break up revealing secrets of the gorgeous Stevens Canyon.  I was thrilled to make another composition.  I was able to take in the sight for a few more minutes before the vail of fog returned thicker than ever hiding the glorious landscape…rain began pelting the landscape once again.

The rest of my journey was in the rain.  I was filled with peace, however, knowing I had been blessed by God.  There was much to be thankful for and much to contemplate.

 

Lime Kiln Point

The day started out gloomy; that didn’t bother us.  After a late lunch at a fantastic pub in Friday Harbor we headed to the other side of San Juan Island to Lime Kiln Point.  By the time we arrived, via quiet country roads, with a few stops along the way, the heavens began to show a bit of blue sky and then the glorious sun.

I was looking over the wide and somewhat stormy waters toward the distant Olympic Peninsula with its majestic mountains, lost in thought, even if just for a few moments.  I chose to work with black and white and square format for this image, small aperture to add rays to the sun.  I noticed the flare and found it to enhance the scene and my excitement of standing at land’s edge.

Lime Kiln Point sunstar | San Juan Island, Washington

Lime Kiln Point sunstar | San Juan Island, Washington

This image, along with many others, can be purchased as a fine art print at my Etsy shop, here.

Brilliant Autumn Cottonwood

This tree is like an old friend I like to visit each year or every couple years. The conditions were simply perfect, a heavy drizzle, swirling fog and sublime colors.

I first discovered this spot many years ago with a good friend of mine, Chris, while we were out scouting new locations in search of stunning autumn colors.  That was during the days of film when both of us were using Fuji Velvia.  We were quite thrilled when we came upon this sublime spot….

This time I was here with my wife Heather and our dog Stan.  Heather and Stan enjoyed walking around in the drizzle while I worked under an umbrella as the drizzle was turning heavier by the minute.

The air was cold and rich with moist autumn aromas.  The fog moved like a ghost along the face of the vertical wall and the gentle rain fell on the leaves as the creek swiftly flowed out of sight.

Brilliant autumn cottonwood growing along the edge of Nason Creek | Cascade Range, Washington

Brilliant autumn cottonwood growing along the edge of Nason Creek | Cascade Range, Washington

 

The Way Things Were

Sometimes when I look at my photographs I am quite surprised, maybe even shocked, how I used to see the landscape as compared to how I see it now.  When I gave up my medium format Pentax 67 film camera and switched to digital a chapter of my life closed.  It has now been 5 years since I made my last composition using film and I would say I miss the way things were.  Perhaps there will still be grand images that I will capture that will turn out pleasing and memorable to me…but I keep returning to the ones from the medium-format film days. This autumn scene captured along a quiet stretch of Nason Creek in the Cascades is one of those images that melts me and is so achingly beautiful to my eyes that as the years slip away my appreciation for this composition does not wane.  The photograph was also a great seller as a print.

Autumn along Nason Creek | Cascade Range, Washington

Autumn along Nason Creek | Cascade Range, Washington

A framed print of this once adorned our home but was sold…it may be time to have it up again. Perhaps these landscapes are so special because they also bring memories of the years I actively pursued publishing and then (to a greater satisfaction) print sales in regional art shows.  I no longer do these things and don’t travel as frequently as I once did. I often even wonder why I photograph.  Every artist hopes that his work is appreciated, and when it doesn’t seem to be, that hope and excitement of sharing begins to vanish. One late autumn I made a quick excursion to Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum.  It was a rather gloomy day with heavy showers passing through the region.  The place was deserted, it began to rain.  As I found this composition I was moved in my soul and leaving without an attempt to capture it just wasn’t an option.  So I set up my camera, covered it with a bag to shield it from the steady rain and composed.  I think I had tears in my eyes, but if not, I was humbled. The light was quite dim from the heavy overcast and canopy of trees overhead.  I remember my exposures being 10-15 seconds in length…I didn’t know if it would work out but I tried!

Japanese maples in the rain, late autumn | Seattle, Washington

Japanese maples in the rain, late autumn | Seattle, Washington

When the film was developed a couple days later and I got to look at it on the light table, wow, my heart skipped a few beats.  This remains an image that is one of my personal faves. As I often struggle and think of giving it all up, it is these images that bring me back.  Even if it is a temporary ray of light, it is better than nothing at all.  I do hope I will always photograph…perhaps even make compositions that will be added to the favorites.