Tag Archives: Washington

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)

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