Pacific Northwest Photo Tour

A few weeks ago I was able to enjoy a spring break from my Masters studies.  Plans had been made to head to Seattle and photograph the PNW with some knowledgeable photo friends in the area.  I ended up driving 1500 miles over the course of the week and saw many great sights.  My trip started off with an overnight stay in Wenatchee.  I revisited Frenchman Coulee on the way but clouds and rain limited my photographic desires.  My primary objective was to hike to the sand dunes that Don Hall and I spotted there over a month ago.  The dunes sit against the basalt walls of the coulee.  There was decent evidence of foot traffic and lots of shrubs in the sand.  I managed to find one decent composition despite the flat light.  Furthermore, I was drawn to the hazy ridges along the Columbia once I got back to my car.

Columbia River Ridges

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Frenchman Coulee Dunes

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That afternoon in Wenatchee I scouted out a nice vantage point to capture the Enchantments the following morning.  Even though I awoke early the next morning, clouds stultified my sunrise attempt.  Most of the day was spent on the road heading to Arlington to meet up with a friend for a little hike and overnight stay at his house.  The hike along the Boulder River exceeded my expectations when we arrived at the waterfall.  Unfortunately the rain began falling even harder which curtailed my photos but I still managed a few that I was pleased with.  Justin, my friend, also assisted by holding his hat above my lens to mitigate droplets showing up in the frame.

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Boulder River Falls

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The following day was when the real trip began.  I was staying with Ray Still that night, but had to fill the day with some photo ops.  Justin convinced me to spend the day on Whidby Island.  He grew up here and provided great local knowledge of where to go for hikes and photos.  I also lucked out, I believe, by enjoying a sunny day while Seattle was getting rained upon once again.  The highlight of Whidby Island was Deception Pass State Park.  I spent most of the time along the western part of the beach shooting Deception Island.

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Noon on Whidby Island

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Deception Island

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Rock Detail at Deception Pass

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After spending the night at Ray’s house, we set out the following morning to Sequim to meet up with Tim O’Neill.  Our final destination was Forks and the coast.  Hard rain fell incessantly on the drive down.  We knew a sunset wouldn’t happen but hoped the rain would subside long enough for us to shoot that evening.  We first drove to Ruby Beach.  The wind picked up while we were surveying the scene.  It was decided to drive on to Kalaloch; there the conditions were no better.  Finally we headed back to Ruby.  The rain stopped and the horizon even teased us with a chance of a sunrise.  Unfortunately it was only a tease, but at least the rain was gone while we were on the beach shooting.  Ruby was a fantastic site.  The main stack rose abruptly out of the sea and was capped with evergreens adding to the surreality of the scene.  Numerous smaller stacks dotted the coastline.  Driftwood was abundant along the shore but the tide was low enough to give us plenty of space to shoot.  I had an equally enjoyable time find scenes among the driftwood as I did shooting the stacks and sea.

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Driftwood at Ruby Beach

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Ruby Beach

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La Push and Rialto were our destinations the following morn.  From the coast at La Push, equally impressive stacks loomed next to the shore.  James Island, Little James Island, Gunsight Rock and the La Push Needles were all within our sight.  The waves were crashing violently nearby with only a chaotic mix of driftwood between us and them.  Light, intermittent rain came but the clouds began to break up.  Sunrise didn’t happen, only a subtle brightening as time went on.  After exhausting our photo ops at La Push we drove over to Rialto.  Here the sea was even more impressive, crashing against large tree-sized driftwood and sucking them back into sea as if they were weightless.  I spent time scrambling about the wet driftwood, keeping one eye on the waves and another on the sea stacks.  I took countless pictures attempting to capture nice wave actions within the frame.  It was a great morning and a superb introduction to the Washington coast.

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La Push Needles

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James Island and Little James Island from Rialto

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Pacific Waves

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Rialto Rainbow

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From Rialto Tim and Ray went back to Sequim while I continued my photo trip by heading south.  They provided good instructions regarding the Quinault area and I was looking forward to finally shooting in the rain forests.  I had already seen many captivating scenes in the forests with moss hanging from limbs, clinging to trunks and fern growing capriciously throughout the forest.  Now, instead of seeing these scenes from a moving vehicle I was going to be strolling through the forest with innumerable opportunities before me.  Ironically when I arrived the sun was shining through the forest.  This was far from ideal.  Fortunately clouds gathered and rain began to fall halfway through my hike.  It was at this time that the photographs exponentially increased.  The main hike was on the north shore of Lake Quinault, next to the ranger’s station.  After taking my time there, I headed to the south side.  More hiking was necessary to see some waterfalls but I sated my appetite with a short trek along Willaby Gorge just off the road.

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Kestern Homestead

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Quinault Rain

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Quinault Stream

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Quinault Rainforest

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Willaby Gorge

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The final day in the PNW was to be spent at Rainier.  The previous night I had attempted to clean my sensor but only exacerbated the situation.  I took it to the Camera Clinic in the morning to get cleaned and it seemed spotless.  However, as I found out towards the end of the day, the sensor was even worse than before.  Nonetheless, I still have a few shots to share from that day.  Don Hall was my tour guide for this part of the trip.  The whole of Rainier was covered by clouds in the morning.  As we entered the park and drove up the winding road to Paradise, the cloud cover increased and snow began to fall.  Despite this, we stopped along the road and I shot Christine Falls for a few minutes.  We continued on making one or two more photo stops and finally reached Paradise.  The parking lot of the visitors center/lodge was quite large but more impressive was the 15′ snow wall encompassing the area.  We spent some time shooting an interesting cornice (for lack of a better term) in parking lot.  The whole time within the park, Rainier was not to be seen.  Once leaving, Don pulled off to a very nice stream.  Moss covered rocks lined the stream and cascades were abundant.  After spending some time shooting the creek and finding the impromptu trail choked with brush, we began the trip back to Auburn.  However, the clouds began to break up and I could finally behold the majesty of Rainier.  Unfortunately my words seem to be an exaggeration compared with what I captured.  Still, it was a great end to the day and photo tour throughout the PNW.  A trip back during the summer, when snow is less likely to be encountered and roads accessible is definitely in order.

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Rainier forest stream

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Christine Falls

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Afternoon Light on Rainier

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One thought on “Pacific Northwest Photo Tour

  1. Aaron,
    I can almost smell the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful!! These are really enjoyable photos. I love the area around Sequim. Thanks for sharing.
    Vicki

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