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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!

 

Joshua Tree Wildflowers

I went out with one of my advanced students for a private one-on-one lesson in Joshua Tree National Park last week. With the recent rains and subsequent warm weather, I was pretty optimistic that the wildflowers would be bloomin'.

Well...They were.

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

We saw all sorts of flowers on the drive in, but we decided to stop and shoot at a location in the south end of the park where Desert Dandelions blanketed the ground near a beautiful overlook of the Pinto Basin and Pinto Mountains to the North. The stunning colors and views combined with the mild weather and good company of my student made the trip a real pleasure. Had we thought to bring bug repellant, the day would have been perfect! Click the panoramas for larger versions.

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

Desert Dandelions in Joshua Tree National Park

And here's a helpful link for you all where you can check the status of the wildflower bloom throughout the Southwest: http://www.desertusa.com/wildflo/wildupdates.html

Sedona and the Grand Canyon

It's been a hell of a month - holidays, drama, life changes. To be honest, I can't wait for 2010 to be over. But that's neither here nor there. I'm simply trying to justify the ridiculous 3-week delay on getting these pictures up from my trip to Sedona, AZ last month. At least there's a lot of them...

It was a rare family vacation jam-packed with hiking, sight-seeing, mountain biking, photography, shopping, hanging out and a whole lot of driving. Good quality time with the brothers, parents and sister-in-law - my favorite people in the world. I had a lot of fun and I even got to see the Grand Canyon for the first time!

One of my brothers and I went to Oak Creek on our first day to enjoy the scenery and get some pictures. There was some great fall color to work with, fantastic reflections and the temperature was mild. I could have stayed down there all day. Here are the pics from that first day:

The second day was with my two brothers and sister-in-law for a full day of sight-seeing and hiking. We checked out Slide Rock in the morning where it was just us 4 out there for quite awhile until a Japanese tour bus unloaded. No pictures from Slide Rock because the light was ugly, but we did some exploring and even found a tarantula, which, I must say, was both disturbing and fascinating.

For sunset, we headed out to Red Rock Crossing for stunning views of Cathedral Rock. I originally intended to get pictures of Cathedral Rock at sunset with Oak Creek in the foreground - real picturesque stuff. I ran into a problem with that plan when I couldn't find a single composition that fit the order. The water level was too high, making it impossible to get the angle I needed without crossing the creek to the other side, which wasn't going to happen.

Sometimes you just have to play the hand you're dealt. Luckily I've made enough mistakes in my years of shooting to know that making a plan B should be step 1 when you arrive. So I moved to a meadow I'd scouted earlier and had deemed my "in case things don't work out" spot. I'm actually glad things didn't work out with shooting the creek because I really enjoyed shooting in this meadow and I think I got some great, unique shots of Cathedral Rock - even some panoramas.

Here are the results (click the panos for larger versions):

The following day's agenda would consist of a sunrise shoot in Sedona and the Grand Canyon at sunset. The Grand Canyon is about a 2 and a half hour drive from Sedona - one way. I don't know what the hell I was thinking. I guess that's why only my sister-in-law was game for the sunrise. But in the end, it worked out great anyway. The sunrise was stunning, the Grand Canyon was worth every minute of driving and we'd still have a couple more days of vacation to catch up on sleep.

For the sunrise, we went to a high spot overlooking Cathedral Rock and Courthouse Butte in the distance. There weren't too many clouds and, thus, not much color in the sky, but the sun illuminated the air in a beautiful golden glow. The layers were amazing. The following 3 shots are practically the same (subject-matter at least), but I was just diggin' the vibe and color too much to not share each composition. Click the pano for a larger version.

Once that color faded away, I turned my attention to a beautiful Utah Juniper and played with the shapes of the branches and trunk.

Then it was off to the Grand Canyon. Thank God it wasn't peak season for the Grand Canyon, because it still got a little *ahem* cozy where I'd set up for my shots once sunset rolled around. For the most part, though, the whole place felt pretty empty (uh...no pun intended).

To put it succinctly, I was blown away by the Grand Canyon. Its size is hard to grasp even when it's right in front of you. My eyes were seeing it, but it somehow felt like I was just looking at a painting, like nothing could actually be that vast. Absolutely amazing. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

Loved the way the light hit the very tip of this tree

And last but not least, my favorite panorama from the trip - one compiled from 5 separate vertically-framed compositions. You'll wanna click this one for the bigger view...

Thank you so much for stopping by, everyone. It brings me so much joy to share these with you and know other people are lookin' at 'em.