New Moon, July 2020

The New Moon is marked on all my calendars, year-round. This is when there is NO moon in the sky. Dark skies are what you need to capture clear images of the Milky Way. The sunlight reflected by the moon washes out the stars… You also need clear skies, and a location away from the lights of civilization.

Last month the new moon was July 20th, the skies were clear and Comet NEOWISE paid us a visit.

These first 4 images are from Baker Lake, at the boat launch. Mt Baker is close by and Mt Shuksan not far off to the north. As the night progressed the comet rose in the sky and then the Aurora Borealis showed up!

Encouraged by these images I went next up the Mt Baker Highway. It took a bit to find a good vantage point, but managed to get the comet as well as several other interesting night sky phenomena!

Next I decided to try the Samish Overlook and try for more NEOWISE images. I was never able to find a good vantage for the comet, but to my surprise the Milky Way was visible from there. The lights from the valley wash out the stars, especially close to the horizon, but it was clearly visible to the naked eye!

Picture Lake, on the Mt Baker Highway is a fantastic spot for Milky Way images, high elevation, dark skies and what a reflection! Notice how clear the stars are, especially close to the horizon at Picture Lake and Mt Rainier compared to the Samish Overlook…

My final destination for July Night Sky was Mt Rainier! The Sunrise area of Mt Rainier Nat Park is famous for its night sky views. The glaciers seem to emanate light of their own at night and the mountain glows…

The August New Moon is on the 18th! I am excited to go find new vistas!

Night Sky Photo Tours are available on a limited basis! Here is a link with more info. 

Prints are for sale at several locations! The Sedro-Woolley Chamber currently has a display of more then 15 large canvas prints, some are in a floating frame!  You can also see and purchase new prints at Peace Health Hospital in Sedro-Woolley, I have a large display of my prints for sale in the lobby.

Prints of all kinds and sizes are also available anytime on my web site.  Find a gallery and look for the perfect image…

IF you find something you love, use the Coupon Code: SUMMER for 50% OFF ANY purchase.

Night Sky Class at Artist Point

I teach Night Sky Photography through the North Cascades Institute, 2 or 3 classes a year.

The most recent class was July 31. We all met at the Glacier Public Information Center. The people from NCI came with a bus.

There were 15 students, we all met there and prepped our camera settings in the parking lot, jumped in the bus, and made our way up the hill to Artist Point.

We were there a bit early, so we practiced a bit, and when it was dark, we spread out and captured images.

I was busy, visiting the students to help with the details.

The sky was partly cloudy, we weren’t sure what we’d get, but as real darkness fell the vista was amazing.

Here are a few pics I managed while enjoying the dark spaces.

I teach photography for adults in Burlington, at Parks and Rec. Classes start in September.

I also do Night Sky Photo Tours, here is the link.

North Cascades Photography – Mount Erie

North Cascades Photography – Mount Erie

Mount Logan, North Cascades National Park

Skagit County extends about 100 miles from the crest of the North Cascades range, west to Anacortes and Cypress Island.

Mt Erie is located in Anacortes. The summit rises more than 1,200 feet above the sea and is visible clear across the valley.

Cascade Loop Mt Erie is on the Cascade Loop Scenic Highway. In fact this years Cascade Loop Magazine sports an image taken from Mount Erie! 

The mountain is a city park, part of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands. A paved road takes you to the top.

The view south encompasses Campbell Lake and the Puget Sound.

Mt Baker at sunrise, from Cypress Island

The park is multi-purpose, there is a network of hiking trails, picnic tables, paved walk ways and many spectacular vistas.

The rocky bald face of the mountain attracts rock climbers from all over. The south facing slopes are accessible year round, more info on climbing here.

I have visited several times for sunrise and sunset.

There is a very short sidewalk to a stone bench. The view south, over Lake Campbell really cant be beat!

Here is a series of sunrise images from several visits.

These are sunset shots, all from the last few months.

Night Sky Photo Tours are scheduled on the New Moon. Find out more here.

North Cascades Photography – Hike to Stehekin

North Cascades Photography – Hike to Stehekin

Along Cascade River Road

The hike from the Skagit Valley up and over Cascade Pass and down along the river to the remote village of Stehekin, on the northern shore of Lake Chelan is a magnificent journey. Sort of like crossing the Misty Mountains to get to Rivendell, there is a lot to see!

It is a 23 mile (37 km) hike from the Cascade Pass parking lot to High Bridge, where shuttle service is available to Stehekin. The entire trip falls with in the North Cascades National Park. Depending upon your level of motivation the basic trip can be done in 2 or 3 days.

However I would recommend 3 or 4 days for the trip. There are several detours along the way that are really to incredible to miss.

The journey starts along the Cascade Loop Highway in Marblemount. The North Cascades National Park Wilderness Information Center is located there. To camp anywhere in the park you need a permit. Here is all you need to know to obtain one! I highly recommend the trail guide: “Hiking the North Cascades” by Erik Molvar (Falcon Press). There are accurate and detailed descriptions of the trails and you’ll find a lot of useful info.

Once that’s all done you’ll be heading up the Cascade River Road to its end, at the parking lot for Cascade Pass. The road gets a bit sketchy at the end, and you wont be able to stop gawking at the views!

The trip has one up section, and this is it: 3.7 miles of switch backs to Cascade Pass, an elevation gain of 1,700 feet. The views start near the top, there is one last switchback and then the trail turns east and approaches the pass.

The Pass is a great place for a break, and you’ll see a lot of people there. From this spot, its all down hill to Stehekin!

Dropping from Cascade Pass the trail navigates around the upper basin and soon passes the Pelton Basin campground. It’s not long before the switchbacks start. Whereas the trail up to the pass from the Skagit side is completely in forest, here the trail is exposed to the hot sun.

One nice surprise is the waterfall along Doubtful Creek as it bisects the trail on the east side of Cascade Pass, where there are small pools providing a much needed break and swim.

Many people who make the sojourn from Cascade Pass to Lake Chelan make a straight trip from the Cascade Pass parking area to Stehekin, with no side trips. But there is one of the most awesome valleys in all the North Cascades (Horseshoe Basin) that you should not pass up as you make your journey.

A short distance from Doubtful Creek is the trail to Horseshoe Basin. You can drop your big packs and day hike up to the Basin, or, if you scored a camp site at Basin Creek Camp, you can stay an extra day exploring Horseshoe Basin and the Black Warrior Mine.

The trail follows the stream up from the trail junction into Horseshoe Basin; it follows a course along the stream, across the stream and in the stream, brushy and wet. Shortly the trail emerges into a clearing where boulders dot the basin floor. Climbing up on the largest, the view is transfixing. The green bowl is surrounded with grandeur, full of color and drama.

Horseshoe Basin, North Cascades National Park

The Horseshoe Basin trail is less than 2 easy miles from the trail junction to the head of the valley and the Mine. black warrior mine

The North Cascades are full of old mining claims; piles of colorful tailings and rusted remains of sluices and Pelton wheels littered about. But I had never visited a mine that I could enter and explore. The Black Warrior Mine operated until the mid-1950′s and is a National Historic Place. There is a sign at the entrance giving a brief history of the mine, the names of the prospectors and misled investors who poured their mostly futile efforts into this hole. There are two main cavernous rooms blasted into the mountain side which make the opening of the mine. One of these “rooms” served as a kitchen while the other was used for workbenches and tools. Wooden supports and floor boards are flooded with water. Old tables and remains of habitation litter the floor. The shaft of the mine runs deep; several miles of tunnel remain, open for any brave person to explore.

When you tire of the basin and continue on your way down the Stehekin Valley you’ll pass several camp sites: Cottonwood Camp was once the last stop on the bus route from Stehekin! Traveling is pretty easy, for the most part you are following along the road following the bus route to Stehekin. But the road has been washed away in several places, replaced by a foot trail.

At Park Creek is another camp and the trail (Park Creek Trail) heads up to Park Creek Pass and continues over and down to Colonial Creek camp, on Highway 20.

Bridge Creek is another large camp along your route and is where you meet the Pacific Crest Trail. From here its 5 miles to High Bridge. Many years ago the entire road washed away in a flood. So for the next 5 miles you’ll be hiking along the PCT!

IF you have the time and energy, plan another day here and make a day trip up the North Fork of Bridge Creek. Its too long to describe here and will be the subject of an entire post soon!

Walking along the Stehekin River Road is in itself fantastic. The river cuts a deep cleft through the cliffs at High Bridge and the confluence with Bridge Creek creates a wondrous series of cataracts and islands. From High Bridge there is a regular bus that takes you the last 10 miles to Stehekin. Check the Park Service site for the bus schedule.

Your hike must include a visit to the Stehekin Pastry Company. Delicious, fresh treats, ice cream, espresso, friendly staff and a comfortable place to relax…

Everything about Stehekin is awesome. Its remoteness (you can only reach it by hiking, ferry boat or float plane), the people are cool, scads of awesome things to see and do…even the Post Office is a neat place to just visit!

Beside the Pastry Company there is a restaurant, a lodge, and a post office. Thru hikers on the PCT mail resupply items to them selves at Stehekin. Its the last stop on the route to Canada. Late in the summer you will often run into some of the PCT hikers as they finish the last few days of their 2,400 mile trek!

When you’re done restin’ and ready to go home you can either walk back the way you came, or catch the Lady of the Lake to Chelan!

Here are a few more images from the trail…

 

 

 

North Cascades Photography – Skagit Valley Tulips

North Cascades Photography – Skagit Valley Tulips

Skagit Valley Tulips

The start of spring in Skagit Valley heralds the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.

Broad swaths of brightly colored tulips spring up all over the flats.

This is one stop along the Cascade Loop that you don’t want to miss!

Photographing them is wonderful fun. The saturation of colors, the often cloudy skies and lots of mud always make the trip an experience.

The Washington Bulb Company is the leading grower of tulip, daffodil, and iris bulbs in North America. They grow bulbs throughout the valley and have a huge display garden, Roozengaarde. There is a store, a windmill and manicured beds of flowers, and in the back, large fields of tulips.

You can read about the history of tulips in Western Washington and Tulip Festival here.

Always stick to sunrise and sunsets, and avoid the “Tulip Area” at all costs between 10am and 6pm on weekends and your experience will be a pleasant one!

Each year the location of the fields change, and so do the backdrops. Barns are sometimes nearby the fields, as well as buses, trees and other cool stuff.  You can see where the tulips are, and when they bloom through the Bloom Map.

Once you have scouted out where the fields are for the new season you can get a good idea of whats best for each location. Some will be better shot at sunset and others at sunrise.

Parking is always an issue. Sometimes the large fields have a parking area nearby and collect fees for visiting. Sometimes the fields are located near no parking at all. Be prepared to walk a while.

I visit the fields often, they are close by. The skies in Skagit Valley can get crazy late in the afternoon. Often the worst, rainiest days are best: the dark, heavy clouds sometimes give way to magnificent sunsets.

Photo Tours are available, I take tours on weekdays, for sunset and on weekends for sunrise. Here is the link.

Here are a few images from Tulip Festivals Past!

 

North Cascades Photography – Skagit Valley Sunrise

North Cascades Photography – Skagit Valley Sunrise

Photographing sunrise requires a bit of luck. You have to decide where to be for the sunrise, and so you go, in the dark, hoping for nice light…

Once you’re there and the sunrise starts, its usually too late to change locations. Today was one of those exceptions!

There are many wonderful vantage points along the Cascade Loop Scenic Highway from which to photograph the Skagit Valley. One of my favorites is Sauk Mountain. The Skagit River loops in broad curves to the west…

Skagit Valley from Sauk Mountain

But this is only a hike for the summer months, access to the trail usually begins in late May.  Depending upon the years snow fall the wildflowers start blooming in June. Its quite a sight. Here is the link with directions.

For year round access the view from the Samish Overlook is not to be beat. The overlook is located near the Alger exit on I-5. You need a Discover Pass. There are rest rooms at the Overlook and a trailhead leading to Oyster Dome and other places.

Here are directions to the Samish Overlook:

Directions: Samish Overlook    Lake Samish Rd     Bow, WA 98232
From I-5 exit 240, Alger. Go northwest on Samish Lake Road for .5 miles. Turn left on Barrel Springs Road for .7 of a mile. Turn right on B-1000 Road signed Blanchard Forest Block. Go 1.5 miles to intersection with the B2000, signed for Samish Overlook. Turn left and drive 2.1 slow miles to the Samish Overlook and the trailhead.

Skagit Valley

This morning I got an early start and headed to the Samish Overlook, but the road was closed. At Barrell Springs Road there was a barricade…so no luck.

Sunrise over Samish River, March 17, 2019

It looked like it might actually turn out to be a nice sunrise, so I headed to my 3rd go-to place for sunrise, The Samish River.   Here is the image from this morning. I swear the clouds were trying to spell out something for me. I will work on decoding the message later.

Here is a pano from the same spot.

Sunrise Panorama over Samish River, March 17, 2019

If you can read the message (maybe its in Italian!) please send me a translation!

Photo Tours!

  • Tulip Photo Tours will start soon, these are 3 hour sunrise or sunset tours through the tulip fields.
  • Summer brings North Cascades Photo Tours, day hikes and overnight hikes to awesome places in the North Cascades.

These next images of the Samish River were taken from a bridge along the Bayview-Edison Road.

Here are some images from past visits, from the bridge facing the mouth of the river.

If you go to visit the Samish River be sure to stop by the Bread Farm, in Edison, and bring lots of cash.

 

North Cascades Photography – Johnson/Debay Swan Reserve

North Cascades Photography – Johnson/Debay Swan Reserve

Skagit Valley is the winter home for Trumpeter and Tundra Swans.  The Johnson’/Debay Swan Reserve, located along Francis Road in Clearlake, is a wonderful place to visit them.

The Johnson/DeBay Swan Reserve (JDSR), near Mt. Vernon, Washington, is America’s only swan reserve. Owned by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the Reserve was dedicated in 2001 for the public to view wintering Trumpeter and Tundra Swans.

There is a parking area and a bench. In the summer its quite green!

The winter months are not as colorful, but the migrating waterfowl bring the place alive!

Its a welcome and wonderful sight!

There are all sorts of birds there, you never know what you’ll see!

Next week in North Cascades Photography: The La Conner Daffodil Festival

North Cascades Photography – Winter on the Cascade Loop

North Cascades Photography – Winter on the Cascade Loop

The severity of winter in Western Washington is all about elevation. The lowlands usually get very little snow, not counting this year of course! And the mountains get slammed. Several of the mountain passes in Washington close in winter due to snow avalanche conditions. The North Cascades Highway, SR 20, is one of them.

North Cascades Highway, Diablo Overlook

Crossing the North Cascade range at Washington Pass (5,477 ft el.) the North Cascades Highway closes each fall, usually mid November, and reopens each spring mid to late May.

On the west side the highway is gated for the winter at Colonial Creek Campground (milepost 131). Depending upon the severity of the snow it is usually gated about a mile further east, just past the parking area for the Diablo Lake Overlook.

As I drive up the valley quick peaks of the mountains pop into view. This is from a spot near Cascadian Farms.

Skagit River

The main visitors center for the North Cascades National Park is in Newhalem. Just behind the visitors center is a short trail to a great view of the Picket Range, a particularly rugged section of the Park.

Diablo Dam and Pyramid Peak make a perfect spot for sunset images!

The road is gated just beyond Colonial Creek Camp Ground. There is plenty of parking and easy access for snowmobiles and anyone wanting to hike along the snow covered (and closed) highway.

Its a winter wonderland out there, but I can’t wait for warm temps and wildflowers!

Lake Ann from the Maple Pass Trail

North Cascades Photography – Skagit Valley Snow Geese

North Cascades Photography – Skagit Valley Snow Geese

Winter tends to be a bit wet and gray. But then the Snow Geese arrive! If you’re out and about on the Cascade Loop in the winter months, be sure to come for a visit!

They tend to flock together as they move from field to field in search of food. According to this article Snow Geese of the Pacific Flyway “most of the Snow geese wintering in the Skagit were born abroad on Russia’s Wrangel Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the northernmost nesting ground for 100 migratory bird species. The island also has the largest population of Pacific walruses and the highest concentration of polar bear dens in the world.”

There is also a simple map of the locations:

Their size and bright color makes them stand out against any background. Getting a decent shot is harder than it looks, trying to catch both the close up features of an individual Snow goose while also conveying the size of the flock as well as the sky and background…

One great place to go see all sorts of birds is Fir Island. “A major component of the Skagit River Delta, the island is an important habitat for wildlife. Migrating from the northern portion of Wrangel Island in Russia, 30,000 to 70,000 snow geese spend the winter on the Skagit River Delta and the Fraser River Delta of British Columbia.[1] Important internationally, this population and one that winters in California, are the only snow geese that migrate between Eurasia and North America and the only remnant still extant in Eurasia.[2][3]

Other migratory waterfowl include tundra swans, trumpeter swans and the bald eagle. Over the course of a year, 180 species of birds have been recorded at Skagit Wildlife Area, 13,000 acres (53 km2) of mostly tidelands and intertidal marsh, the largest section of which is located on the southern margin of the island.[4]

These image are from Padilla Pay in Feb, 2019.

There is a trail along the shoreline, maintained by the county. Check out the Padilla Bay Foundation, their web site is awesome!

Really its just hit or miss and a lot of driving about the valley to find where they are at any particular time. Last night at sunset there was a huge group at Padilla Bay, but then I went back there for sunrise, I did not see one Snow Goose!

IF you are interested in Photography Tours, check out my web site.

Skagit Valley Tulip Tours, Night Sky Photo Tours and North Cascades Photo Tours are all available.

 

North Cascades Photography- Diablo Dam Tour

North Cascades Photography – Diablo Dam Tour

As you drive along the North Cascades Highway section of the Cascade Loop there plenty of wonderful vistas and things to see. There are three dams along the Skagit River, Diablo Dam is one of them, part of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project that supplies Seattle with a large proportion of its power needs.

You can stop at the overlooks and admire them from afar, OR you can take the Diablo Dam Tour and see the operation up close.

Here is a view of Diablo Lake, from the Diablo Overlook.

Diablo Overlook Panorama

The unique, intense turquoise hue of the lake’s water is attributed to the surrounding glaciers that grind rocks into a fine powder that is carried into the lake through creeks. That fine powder, also called glacial flour, stays suspended in the lake, giving the water its brilliant color.

Seattle City Light Diablo Lake Boat Tours

Seattle City Light offers tours of Diablo Dam. The tour includes a look at the Powerhouse, a walking tour of Ladder Falls, lunch and a Boat Ride! I was lucky enough to get invited on one of the tours and managed to capture a few images along the way.

We started off the tour in Newhalem.

The tour of the Powerhouse and Ladder Creek Falls was awesome. There is a night time program at Newhalem, Dam Good Chicken Dinner & Ladder Creek Falls by Night which I am definitely coming back for!

Then we were off for a boat ride!

The pictures speak for themselves, the tour was interesting and a lot of fun. Here is the main page for Seattle City Light – Skagit Tours. Tours start at the end of June and reservations are required, so book your trip today!

Be sure to visit the Diablo Lake Overlook, its a great place for sunsets and also for capturing images of the night sky!

North Cascades Photo Tours

Mt Shuksan, Mt Baker Highway

Access to the back country of the North Cascades starts in July. Each years winter snowfall melts faster or slower and its usually not until mid to late July that you can access the passes and higher elevations of the park.

Washington Pass

Day Photo Tours are available, we can visit places along the North Cascades Highway, like the Washington Pass Overlook and at the end of the Mt Baker Highway, Artist Point

These highways are closed in winter due to snow and open in late-May/June and even some years in July!

Overnight Photo Tours are overnight backpacking trips to special places in the North Cascades like one of the Fire Lookouts, or Sahale Camp.

More info is available here, or feel free to email me with questions. andyporterphotography@gmail.com