Treats from the Olympic Peninsula

The marina in Port Townsend, Wash., at sunset.

The marina in Port Townsend, Wash., at sunset.

I keep kicking myself because I waited until about nine months ago to care about exploring my own backyard (again). As I have, I keep realizing that I’ve been to all these places before — with my Mom and Dad or the Boy Scouts — and looked at things differently. Nowadays, I see things in terms of scenes. This lead photo is an example: I “saw” it after my wife Florangela and I disembarked a cruise to Protection Island. She patiently waited as I set up, then shot some long exposures (10-stop, neutral density) to coax out some glassiness and reflection in the water. This one came in at 20 seconds at f22.

(NOTE: Clicking on an image will open a larger version in a separate browser window).

Florangela also came in handy as the Director of Photography, as well as the model, in the following shot, taken at Marymere Falls in Olympic National Park.

Nature Girl -- near Marymere Falls in Olympic National Park.

Nature Girl — near Marymere Falls in Olympic National Park.

While on the subject of Olympic National Park, I shot the following from the top overlook at Marymere Falls. I was reclining on a bench to rest my knee and, remembering hearing a tourist say, over and over, “I can’t believe how tall these trees are,” I pointed my camera skyward and shot. This actually is five shots stitched together because I don’t really know how to account for the large tonal disparity with a single shot (maybe it’s not possible).

A view of the cedars in the old-growth forest near Marymere Falls.

A view of the cedars in the old-growth forest near Marymere Falls.

What we truly came for was the “Puffin Cruise” to Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge, where several breeds of pelagic (sea-bound) birds venture to nest in the summer. Those breeds, of course, include the Tufted Puffin. The only way to view the various birds is by boat. Also, as the photo here says, and the iconic sentry reminds, you cannot get as close as you want. You might think 200 yards sounds close — and it might be if you were trying to photograph, say, a rhinoceros and not a rhinoceros auklet, which is the size of a pigeon.

A warning from/on Protection Island.

A warning from/on Protection Island.

Adding to the degree of difficulty is the fact that you are at sea … in a boat bobbing up and down, and to and fro. And to get close enough, I was using a 500mm lens with 1.4 teleconverter on a Nikon D3s body. The D3s is plenty fast, but heavier than the D800, which I’ve come to prefer for its more diminutive dimensions and grander resolution (36 MP). Add to all that the movement, plus vibration of a big engine, and the use of anything except your own two hands is nearly impossible. Whew!This easily was the most challenging shoot I’ve ever attempted — and you also are talking about someone (me) really still learning to navigate the big gear.

I did get decent shots of all the main culprits — except for the Harbor Seals, which were too far away in the water and blended too well into the scenes when beached (we thought they were big rocks at first), requiring a more stable platform from which to shoot.

Tufted Puffin off Protection Island.

Tufted Puffin off Protection Island.

Rhinoceros Auklet -- can you guess where they get their name?

Rhinoceros Auklet — can you guess where they get their name?

Piegon Guillemot on takeoff.

Pigeon Guillemot on takeoff.

Here’s another view of the Pigeon Gillemots. If you’ve noticed that the photo looks cleaner, and the water more blue, that’s because I shot this from the dock on which the Port Townsend Marine Science Center rests.

Pigeon Guillemot siblings, Fort Warden State Park.

Pigeon Guillemot siblings, Fort Warden State Park.

And one more from the boat. We took this cruise with Puget Sound Express. It’s a family run business, and the cruises are associated with the Marine Science Center. Those two things mean that the people were great, the boat was very, very comfortable, and there was a naturalist on board to explain not only the wildlife, but the geology as well. We thought this was one of the coolest things we’ve ever done.

Cormorants gather on a platform in the Straight of Juan de Fuca.

Cormorants gather on a platform in the Straight of Juan de Fuca.

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