Tag Archives: Mountain Loop Highway

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


Stillaguamish River Boulder

I was making various compositions along the river on this day.  A few are keepers.  This was one of the last of the day.  Actually, the composition was the last of the day.  There are variations of course; I was playing around with the shutter speed, and water will never look the same in any two “identicals” so it was fun to see the resulting images on the LCD screen.

What makes this even more interesting for me is the reflection of the color from the sunset clouds floating above on the wet boulder.

This place provides endless inspiration for me….

Stillaguamish River boulder at sunset | Mountain Loop Highway, WA

Stillaguamish River boulder at sunset | Mountain Loop Highway, WA


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)