The trip started at Highway 20. My friend dropped the three of us off at the trail head and we ascended up through Devils Garden along the Jackita Ridge Trail. We were on a 12 day trip, heading north, along the Pacific Crest Trail, near the Canadian border, west to Ross Lake and south, back to the highway.
The trail afforded many wonderful views of Jack Mountain.
We arrived atop Devils Dome late in the afternoon and set up camp. Though we were atop the peak snow fields nearby supplied us with water.
The sunset was magnificent, but we watched it from inside our tent mesh because the mosquitoes were ravenous.
Devils Dome affords a 360 degree view of Jack Mountain, to the south, Hozomeen to the north.
The glaciated peaks of North Cascades National Park rose to the west and a broad expanse of the Pasayten lay to the east.
After a wonderful dinner we quickly went to sleep excited about the beauty tomorrow promised.
Something woke me up. I lay for a moment with eyes closed, sensing. There was a stillness, which was odd seeing that I was camped on a mountain top, and the smell of rain in the air. Suddenly opening my eyes I saw that the sky was clouded over. I lay for another moment reluctantly picturing myself getting up and putting the rain fly on the tent when I saw the flicker of lightning in the eastern sky. I sat up looking…there was another flash…and another.
Quickly exiting the tent I stood scanning the sky. There was lightning to the east…then to the south, then again, to the west…the dark tumultuous sky was alive with flashes, the peaks briefly illuminated and then again black shapes…I looked on in wonder…and then it stated raining.
I quickly awoke my two companions and let them know that they needed to get up, get dressed and get out of the tent and give me a hand. At first they were both saying, “why don’t you just put on the rain fly and get back in, go back to sleep…” and I replied that if they stayed in the tent that they would miss the lightning show…that provided sufficient motivation and they were soon out of the tent, looking at the skies. The lightning was getting more intense, more frequent…we could see the glow of a fire to the west, over towards Ross Lake and the National Park boundary.
My plan was simple: get the rain fly on the tent, throw all our stuff in it, don our rain gear and then lie on the grass and watch the show. But my two friends had other ideas. One strongly advised that we immediately depart and head down the mountain to find shelter from the lightning. My other friend insisted on a more simple approach: do nothing and simply enjoy the storm. I started with the rain fly and loading the tent and soon they came to assist me.
Someone came up with the idea of planting our trekking poles in the ground, well away from the tent, to act as lightning rods (!). And so, now somewhat content with our preparations, we all watched.
The rain started to come down now. The wind picked up, strong gusts blowing across the summit. The flashes became more insistent, more frequent. With each flash the ridges between us suddenly appeared out of darkness, and then…gone back to my imagination, leaving lasting imprints of what had just been illuminated. From our vantage point we could see what looked like 6 or so fires burning…
On three sides of us there were regular flashes, every few seconds, another, and then another. The wind and rain continued unabated. In fact they increased along with the regularity of the lightning, each building to a crescendo. The lightning now seemed to take on a reddish hue, then green or blue (was it just my imagination?)
Transfixed by the sheer beauty, we had front row seats for nature’s own fireworks show, the best we had ever seen. Just as I was starting to edge towards getting the hell out of there the tempest began to lessen, the wind shifted. The lightning to the west, which seemed to head towards us, stopped.
And that was it! The storm cell had passed us by. The lightning to the east faded out and in its place we could now see the faint hint of the sun.
The date was 08/08/08. This was the opening night of the Olympics in Beijing, and we mused that the fireworks we had just seen surpassed theirs, hands down. It was also the scheduled date for the startup of the Large Hadron Collider and we considered that the lightning storm was a direct result of the resultant black holes now devouring earth. These points we avidly debated, but all agreed that the peak was rightly named: Devils Dome.
As the excitement died down my friends retired to sleep and I ventured forth to catch some of the morning light.
The Pasayten Wilderness is one of my favorite places in Washington, a land of mountains and rivers, steep valleys and meadows, wildflowers and Zen like peace. This experience was on day 6 of our twelve day trek which started at the Canyon Creek Trail head on the North Cascades Highway.
Lime Kiln Lighthouse is on the west side of the island and is famous for whale watching and sunsets. The lighthouse is surrounded by people watching the sunset. Getting the right angle to shoot from was not hard. Inside the lighthouse there is electronic equipment, the red colored LED lights glow, faintly.
Cattle Point Lighthouse
This lighthouse is located on the south side of the island. There is no light that shines at night, just an electronic panel atop the lighthouse building.
Access is easy on all sides of the lighthouse, it sits atop a bluff. I saw a fox there, in the bushes nearby, but no pics!
I drove east over Stevens Pass to Douglas and Lincoln Counties in search of an abandoned building for night sky images.
Several years ago, I went with several other people to visit the Govan Schoolhouse, near Wilbur. I managed to capture a few decent shots.
This visit however was not to capture night images, but rather find new locations to return to when the next New Moon comes along, with clear skies and no wildfire smoke.
I visited towns such as Withrow and Lamoine. The last several weeks have been without rain. The wheat is about 18 inches high, what hasn’t already been harvested. There may not be any more rain out here until the fall.
The endless dry, dusty landscape in punctuated sporadically with random large stones, glacial erratics left over from the last ice age. There are many wondrous things to see out there in the middle of no where.
Smoke from the Cedar Creek fire lay over top like a blanket. It was 101F late on the afternoon. At sunset the sun glowed orange on the horizon.
Here are a few finds from the travels.
My travels took me back to the Govan Schoolhouse where I managed a few images, both inside and out of this magnificent beauty.
Landscape or nature photography is mostly about getting there. Wherever there is. Its about getting there at the right time of day, or night…or year. The actual process of capturing images is not very complicated, once aperture and depth of field is understood you simply maximize whatever equipment you’re shooting with and that’s it.
At that point getting good shots is easy. But capturing “drool on your keyboard’ images takes a little bit of planning sometimes a lot of good fortune.
These images were taken last week in South Eastern Washington State, in a region known as The Palouse. Stretching as far as the eye can see the undulating fields of green are dotted here and there with farms, old barns, windmills, scenic vistas, abandoned buildings and old farm equipment.
The roads, both paved and dirt/gravel, are very well maintained and easy to navigate. Late May and early June finds scores of photographers from all over the country visiting to capture small pieces of the splendor.
These images of rainbows were taken from Steptoe Butte. It’s the highest point around; you can drive to the top get a wonderful 360 of the Palouse.
I waited until late afternoon to head up there, and it was a mixed sky, of clouds and sun. As I got close the rain started, sprinkles at first. Standing atop the Butte the storm passed along to the north, the mix of sun and dark clouds is so wonderful.
The wind picked up, the temp plummeted and rain hit hard, it was a complete downpour for about 5 minutes. I was well dressed and managed to hide under some shrubbery while it passed. The first rainbows appeared almost immediately.
My sensory perceptors now in full overload, I somehow managed to get a wonderful series of shots, and paused to consider my good fortune when I noticed more rainbows were sprouting up!
The clouds left from the fast moving storm were now encircled in a complete rainbow arc.
Nothing like a spring storm.
Here are a few more images from my recent explorations.
Online classes through Burlington Parks and Rec – with Andy Porter
I will be teaching a Basic DSLR Photography Course AND a 5-session Introduction toPhotoshop Class, online, through Burlington Parks and Rec. These classes are all done via ZOOM. I just completed the first set of classes and it was a lot of fun!
The Basic DSLR Photography Class is for beginners. We will cover how to shoot in the manual mode, learn about bracketing and how to get the right shot, and also cover use of a circular polarizer, RAW files, and more. You need to have a DSLR Camera for the class (IF you cannot change lenses on the camera, its NOT a DSLR!) The class is scheduled for two different days (same Class, both days). Tuesday, June 1, from 6 to 7:30pm and again, the same class, on Tuesday, June 29, from 6pm to 7:30pm. You can enroll online through Bellingham Parks and Rec. beginning on April 12th at 8:30 am. The class is $40. Here is a link to the Parks and Rec web site.
Introduction to Photoshop is a 5-session series of classes for anyone interested in learning some basics of Photoshop.
I never wanted to learn Photoshop. I was drawn into it rather reluctantly. But as a Nature – Landscape – Night Sky Photographer editing and prepping my images for printing is now an integral part of what I do. In this series of 5 classes we will first cover how to enhance your images using Adobe Camera Raw. This allows you to adjust the overall exposure, shadows and highlights, as well as many other options, to make your image look much closer to what your eye saw when you captured the image.
The Camera Raw interface makes it easy to edit any image, portrait, nature or nighttime images and save them in the proper formats for printing and web use.
There will be creative lessons about layers and for some lessons you will need to both capture images, and edit them. There is a lesson on Multiplicity, or cloning, where you blend multiple images of the same person together and another creative assignment, Levitation, learning how to make someone or something float in the air! We will also cover how to capture and edit a Panorama image and make it ready for printing.
Students must have a current subscription to Photoshop, newest version/subscription. AND HAVE SOME familiarity with Photoshop. Please don’t download Photoshop for the first time and expect to be able to follow along! The series of 5 classes can be purchased separately for $50 a class, or as a package for $200 for all 5 classes. You will also need to have a camera or cell phone to capture images with as well as a simple tripod.
Why should you edit your images at all?
The Human Eye sees more than any camera can record. When you capture images of high contrast scenes, like sunrises or sunsets, the camera cannot capture BOTH the brightest AND darkest parts of the scene. So, sunset images you capture with your camera are either too bright in the sky or too dark in the foreground. But this is NOT how it looked to your eye!
You can use Photoshop to make the brightest parts of the image darker, and the darker parts of the image brighter. This is what Ansel Adams did with his black and white negatives, he “edited” them by dodging and burning (darkening and brightening) parts of the image.
In the world of Photoshop, this is easy to do. Of course Photoshop can do more than brighten and darken parts of the image; you can enhance colors, erase unwanted items in the image, and make the image look like the scene you saw with your own eye.
Each class is $50, or you can enroll for all 5 classes for $200.
Capturing images of the arc of the Milky Way is fantastic fun. The images are quite stunning and not very hard to capture, if you can find the right place to photograph them!
Getting a clear shot of the Milky Way requires that you get well away from the lights of any cities or towns. If you are near civilization the light pollution wipes out the lower half of your picture. You need a dark sky. Near my home the best place is up in the North Cascades. It’s a 2 hour drive from my place to Washington Pass. Eastern Washington has many places with wonderfully dark skies.
Good night sky pics have an interesting foreground, in addition to the Milky Way. I’ve used mountains, highways, tents, a big stump and Fire Lookout towers!
I am always looking for new locations and specifically, a barn, house, or any building really, located in a dark spot. For example this image is the Govan School House, located in Wilbur Washington. The building is abandoned. I climbed in there and set up a few lanterns to illuminate the place from the inside.
The building can be currently used or abandoned, we must be able to gain entry and set up lights. An old barn, out in eastern Washington or anywhere its dark, and out on the open would work wonderfully.
IF you know of any such buildings we can photograph, please let me know. Of course any place must be used with permission; trespassing on somebodies property at night with bright lights and cameras is just not smart!
I am happy to exchange photo lessons or prints from the photo shoot with the land owner!
The Columbia River Gorge is not a place you can visit once. There is magic there, a magical feeling and once you experience it, you will want to go back again and again.
The drama of the landscape ebbs and flows with the weather; each day the storms of the Pacific make their way eastward filling the Gorge with clouds and sun.
The deep gash of the river cuts a trough thousands of feet deep through the mountains, its steep cliffs covered in green. As the day progresses the shadows shift and colors change. Each day the show is different.
Driving back and forth, up and down the valley, chasing the light I visit each little town along the highway, each has a unique character, a story to tell… life along the river goes at its own speed. I am amazed by the place and the people I am lucky enough to meet. I already want to go back!
These images are from a 4 day trip over spring break. I spent my time hunting for blooming wildflowers and exploring a few waterfalls.
Each week of spring bring new blooms in the Gorge; here are some wildflowers images from Columbia Hills State Park.
Panther Creek Falls is one of my all-time favorite waterfalls. The images tell all.
Rodney Creek Falls is another wonderful, multi-tiered falls, in Beacon Rock State Park.
Here are more random images from 4 days of rambling about…