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Washington Trip: Part 3

With a successful first day of shooting behind me and a good night's sleep, I set out to visit a couple waterfalls near the hotel. My plan was to hit Merriman Falls and Bunch Falls during the day, then make my way out to Ruby Beach for sunset.

Lower Cascades of Merriman Falls - Olympic National Forest, WA

Quinault Rain Forest - Olympic National Forest, WA

I'd only seen these two waterfalls indicated on the map. I hadn't seen any previous photos, read any material on them or gotten details like height. With such little research, I had low expectations. I thought I'd see a couple of waterfalls maybe 20 feet tall at the most, do my best to make some good shots and just take what I could get.

Boy, were my expectations wrong. To put it simply: these waterfalls were insane!

It wasn't just the intense volume of water or the height with Merriman at about 45' from top to bottom and Bunch Falls around 60'-70'. It was the form of these falls with the artfully placed deadwood and rocks, the lush moss and ferns, the gorgeous tiered drops at the base... They were "designed" so perfectly. I'd go so far as to say they are 2 of the most beautifully crafted waterfalls I've ever seen (and yes, I've been to Yosemite).

It's one thing to have a big waterfall, but one that is just a flat out work of art is a real treat. I photographed each one of these falls for over an hour, and in between the two falls was a beautiful stretch of forest. This blog post covers my shots from Merriman Falls and the forest. The next and final post will showcase my photos from Bunch Falls and Ruby Beach.

Oh, and the interesting thing about these falls is that neither of them seemed to be a big deal. They were on the side of the road with no information panel, no marker, no viewing platform - nothing. If either one of these waterfalls were in Southern California, they'd have an entire parking lot dedicated to it, a big information panel, a deck to view it from a safe distance, a visitor center and, since it's So Cal, tons of graffiti and trash. But not up in Washington. I didn't see a single piece of litter, nary a tree carved up with some deadbeat's initials (that was really new for me) and really no evidence of any human before me. They must just be better people up there in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe the rain weeds out the dregs of society.

Anywho, here are the results. Take a look at this first picture with yours truly in front of the falls. This gives it a little bit of a sense of scale, but it still isn't completely accurate. I'm about 6'4" with my shoes and hat on, but I'm much closer to the camera than the waterfall in the back. The main drop behind me is around 35'-40'.

Self-portrait in front of Merriman Falls - Olympic National Forest, WA

Oxalis Near Merriman Falls - Olympic National Forest, WA

Lower Cascades of Merriman Falls - Olympic National Forest, WA

Merriman Falls - Olympic National Forest, WA

Lower Cascades of Merriman Falls - Olympic National Forest, WA

Quinault Rain Forest - Olympic National Forest, WA

Quinault Rain Forest - Olympic National Forest, WA

Quinault Rain Forest - Olympic National Forest, WA

^ Click this pano to see it big!

Oxalis Near Merriman Falls - Olympic National Forest, WA

Quinault Rain Forest - Olympic National Forest, WA

As always, thank you for letting me share these photos with you. Stay tuned because there's only 1 post left with my pictures from Washington!

Washington Trip: Part 2

Time for Part 2 of my Washington Trip photos. This post covers the second half of the first shoot day and includes the remaining Hoh Rain Forest photos plus a single shot from Ruby Beach.

Hall of Mosses in the Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

I talked extensively in the previous post about how amazing the scenery is in the Hoh Rain Forest. My urge is to keep trying to describe it, but I'm sure my words will only fall short. I hope my photos can paint a more accurate picture. But it means a lot when I say this place really is one of my favorite places I've ever visited.

Many of the pictures in this post were taken in a special section of the Hoh Rain Forest called the Hall of Mosses. This area consists of huge Bigleaf Maples covered with Cat-Tail Moss and Oregon Selaginella. Everything is utterly dripping with green here. Just stunning. Throughout the entire forest, I felt like I was on Pandora and I'd see some Avatars walk out of the forest at any second, but the Hall of Mosses in particular was otherworldly.

Hall of Mosses in the Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

Hall of Mosses in the Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

The Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

Hall of Mosses in the Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

Hall of Mosses in the Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

Here's a panorama of a particularly amazing section of the Hall of Mosses. I was lucky enough to have this view all to myself for quite awhile. Click the picture for a larger view to really see the detail.

Hall of Mosses in the Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

Another interesting phenomenon that happens in the rain forest is when trees fall and become "nurse logs." It works like this: a tree falls from natural causes, it starts to decay on the forest floor, then other trees start to sprout from this log as they absorb the nutrients from this decaying "nurse log." Eventually, this nurse log deteriorates entirely and all that's left are the trees that grew from it. But with the nurse log gone, these trees seem to grow in a neat row and as though they are raised up on stilts. This row of trees is called a "colonnade."

Deadwood in the Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

^ Deadwood on the forest floor gives new life to other plants.

Trees on a Nurse Log in the Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

^ Trees grow from a nurse log, leeching nutrients from the decaying matter

Colonnade of trees in the Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

^ Once the nurse log decays entirely, what's left is a colonnade of trees

And finally, I just had to get this shot of a pay phone near the visitor center of the Hoh Rain Forest. It's been photographed a million times by a million tourists, but I felt it summed up the rain forest quite well.

Pay Phone in the Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

After my visit to the rain forest, I decided to race down to Ruby Beach to try and catch the sunset. Unfortunately, I left a bit too late and so I was very rushed at the beach and only came back with 1 decent shot. Click it to view a larger version.

Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, WA

Coming up next: tons and tons of waterfall shots!

 

Washington Trip: Part 1

Well it's been one hell of a week! You may notice that it's been a little while since my last post. That's because I've been out of town to two separate locations since May 22nd. The first trip was to Olympic National Park in Washington state - which is what these next few blog posts are all about - and the second was to Joshua Tree National Park. Both trips were a blasty and I'm really excited to share my results from the Washington trip.

But before I get into the results from the trip, let me just quickly thank everyone for the overwhelming response to the launch of my new online courses and course packages! I poured my blood, sweat and tears into these courses, so it's great to see them received so well. I've already heard great feedback from some of the early sign-ups.

But on to the trip...

Moss-Covered Branches and Sword Ferns in the Hoh Rain Forest

For those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you may know that I recently went on a 4-day solo trip to the Olympic Peninsula to get some new photos. I had 2 days of travel and 2 full days of shooting planned out with the Hoh Rain Forest and various waterfalls as my main targets.

I've been dying to visit Olympic National Park for years. Maybe it's the Irish and English blood in me, but I feel at home in a rainy climate. I love the beautiful weather here in So Cal and I love spending time in the desert, but the lush, rainy, wet ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest really speaks to me. And having never visited a rain forest before, I was anxious to try my hand at photographing one. This park has been at the top of my "To-Shoot" list for awhile now.

All in all, I snapped the shutter about 700 times on this trip, so I'm breaking up my results into several blog posts. This first post is just the first half of Day 2 (the first day of shooting).

I started the day with a nice, leisurely hike through the Quinault Rain Forest right across the road from my hotel. Although this section of rain forest isn't quite as dramatic as the later-visited Hoh Rain Forest, the scenery blew me away. I walked through this forest of 200-foot Sitka Spruce trees, ferns, wildflowers and endless mosses almost unable to believe my eyes. The amount of life that surrounded me was awe-inspiring. It seems there isn't one thing that doesn't have another plant growing out of it. Ferns grow out of trees, mosses grow on branches, trees grow out of other trees. And it's as though there's no open patch of dirt. Every square inch of ground is covered with a plant. It's really astounding.

The trail was so picturesque that it felt a little like I was walking the queue to a rainforest-themed ride at Disneyland. The forest is practically a parody of itself. It was fantastic.

The light wasn't ideal during this hike and I was anxious to get to the Hoh Rain Forest, so I only got a few shots of these yellow Creeping Buttercup flowers and a picture of some cascades in the creek.

Creek Cascades in the Quinault Rainforest - Olympic National Forest, WA

Creeping Buttercup wildflowers in the Quinault Rain Forest

Creeping Buttercup wildflowers in the Quinault Rain Forest

Creeping Buttercup wildflowers and Lady Fern in the Quinault Rain Forest

After a quick bite, it was off to the Hoh Rain Forest.

Before we get to the pictures from the Hoh Rain Forest, I have to tell you that walking through the Hoh Rain Forest was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It's difficult to put into words, but the best I can sum it up is: "Oh my God." My internal dialogue was repeating that with every head turn.

As I walked amongst the giant spruce and hemlock trees all draped with moss, I could actually feel how old this place was. I'd never experienced that sensation before. It was like suddenly I was this small, insignificant blip on the radar screen of time. I hate to get all abstract on you here, but that's the best way I can describe it. These giants around me were older and wiser than I could ever be. I'll come and go and they'll still be standing. And if they're not standing, they will have fallen, decayed and come back as new plant life to carry on the cycle. This forest was here long before any of us were and if the entire human race were to go extinct tomorrow, the forest would carry on (probably thrive, actually).

The Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

It's rare that my photos don't do the location justice, but this time, I don't think they could. The photos can only record the visuals. Without the depth, the stillness of the air, the mental sensations, the sounds and everything else us humans can perceive in a location like this, these photos couldn't capture it in its true form. But, I did the best I could, so enjoy 🙂

The Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

Oxalis in The Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

^ This beautiful clover-looking plant is called Oxalis and it covers much of the forest floor.

Cat-Tail Moss on a branch in The Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

The Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

The Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA
^ This composition of a tree stump and some deadwood is intentionally cluttered to illustrate the dense, cluttered look of the scenery in this forest.

Sword Ferns in The Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

^ These prehistoric-looking sword ferns were everywhere.

Tree Trunks in The Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

The Hoh Rain Forest - Olympic National Park, WA

^ Oxalis and moss grow from old deadwood on the forest floor.

These pictures only account for about half of my final shots from the Hoh Rain Forest. I'll be posting Part 2 of my Washington trip sometime tomorrow. That will include the rest of my shots from the Hoh Rain Forest - including pictures from my favorite section, the Hall of Mosses - plus a single coastal shot I was able to snag that night.

Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned!