Olympic Magic

A doe, followed by her fawn, marched straight up a trail I recently was hiking and stopped so close to me, all I had to do was lean slightly and reach out to touch her. Which I didn’t, of course. The night before, I encountered a herd of Roosevelt Elk crossing a road on which I was driving in near pitch-darkness. When I stopped to watch them pass, I was treated for the first time in my life to a symphony of otherwordly bugling.

After a summer of reintroducing myself to Mount Rainier National Park, I returned to Olympic National Park for a couple fall days, and was reminded of how thoroughly different the vibe is out on the peninsula.

Rainier is grand and bold, almost hyper-realistic, and challenging. Olympic is muted and more secluded, a place of mossy, lichen-kissed rainforests, sheltered ocean beaches with their almost-surreal sea stacks, salmon-enriched rivers and eminently accessible waterfalls, plus species of animals that exist only there.

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Hike: Bench & Snow Lakes

Snow Lake, in Mount Rainier National Park.

Snow Lake, in Mount Rainier National Park.

(NOTE: Clicking on an image opens full-sized version in a separate window).

This down-and-back has a lot of what the average hiker might look for — enough up and down for aerobic challenges but not too strenuous for children and the creaky kneed, nice wildflowers and foliage, a couple of good payoff lake destinations, and breath-taking views along the return trek. The latter makes this a lot more like a loop hike, since there is more to explore on the way back to the trailhead.
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Twilight at Second Beach

Twilight at Second Beach.

Twilight at Second Beach.

First Beach, also in Olympic National Park (Wash.), and not Second Beach, is one of the settings in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight book series. People still hop off tour buses up the road, at Three Rivers Resort, to pose for pictures with cutouts of Bella and Edward. I stop there for the milkshakes.

But none of this has much to do with today’s photo. The twilight here is the period after sunset (and just before sunrise) – the bridge between light and dark.

In other words, if you are snapping sunsets, twilight is the time when everyone “got what they came for,” packed up and left you to capture the more original pictures. About an hour before I took this one, I was one of at least a half dozen people literally lined up to get a shot of a sunburst peeking out of the hole in the rock formation that, in this image, leads out to the right of the sea stack.

It’s kind of a cool picture, but thoroughly unoriginal. I assume, that is, that everyone but the kid shooting with her iPhone, got essentially the same thing. Not to mention the hordes who tried for the same shot before, and those who will try in the future.

What everyone else got.

What everyone else got.

Watch enough sunsets and you’ll come to know that the real light show begins after the sun has dipped below the horizon. If you’re lucky, some scattered clouds will make things real interesting. I had a clear night, which wasn’t utterly disappointing since I’d been to Second Beach at least six times since last summer and each time the sun was completely hidden by massive cloud cover. In those situations, you get gray, then dark gray.

I waited long enough to get a sliver of a moon, plus a mix of the red from a still-hot, though long set sun with the blue the sky turns for the hour or so after sunset. If you recall your elementary art, that turns out to be purple. This picture was taken an hour after sunset.

The tide was coming in at that point, which is why I was shooting in the dark at f14 and ISO 100. The resulting 6-second shutter turned the water silky while also recording movement in the slight cloud cover. What looks like sand in the vast majority of the foreground of this picture actually is incoming Pacific Ocean.

What awaits afterward at Second Beach is about a ¾-mile hike, the first quarter or so on steep incline, in pitch-black forest. So you’d better have a headlamp or, at least, a flashlight. Neither will be of much help, however, if you run into any vampires.

Equipment: Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 lens, Really Right Stuff TVC-33 tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead.

Settings: 19mm, f14, 6 seconds at ISO 100.

The Photographic Life is a Beach

Little Hunter's Beach in Acadia National Park

Little Hunter’s Beach in Acadia National Park

As much as I’ve tried to drive home the importance of planning and preparation during the first three installments of this series, there are of course times to make the best of what you get.

If you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll have noticed that, in addition to discussing a different scene in a different part of the country, I’ve been moving through different parts of the day. My last post (Duck on Branch) was midday, a time usually spent at lunch. Today, we’re looking at the dead of afternoon, a time also better spent doing something else.
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Duck on Branch (Be Prepared)

A male Wood Duck at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

A male Wood Duck at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

NISQUALLY, Wash. — During winter, I usually am toting my long lens and often run into hunters.

“Big lens,” many will comment.

“Big gun,” I usually reply.

Though a lot of birders and wildlife photographers bristle, I enjoy my encounters with hunters. After all, we’re both looking for the same thing, and we’re both going to shoot it, albeit me with a camera. We also both usually have gathered intelligence the other can use.
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