Last week, as part of the gradual easing of its stay-at-home order, Washington State opened up the majority of state parks for day-use only. Knowing that I was going into photography withdrawal, Tanya suggested we head out on a photo day. Even though the parks were open, it was suggested people stay local. Well, local is a relative term, and being a Westerner, I don’t mind driving several miles – in this case 200 miles one way. Is that local? It was still in the State of Washington and we didn’t need to stay overnight – that’s local to me.
So last Saturday we packed up a picnic and the camera gear and headed off to Sun Lakes – Dry Falls State Park. Why there? One, it has the raw beauty of the channeled scablands. But perhaps more importantly, I thought there wouldn’t be as many people there as in closer state parks. The weather was sunny and warm, and there was bound to be more than a few people out enjoying the state parks on this first weekend since the pandemic started that they were open. And while there were a fair number of people at the park, the park’s parking lots was not crowded – unlike the several hiking trailheads we passed on the way over the mountains that were overflowing with cars. In fact, the parking for the trail we took in Sun Lakes State Park only had one other car (out of four parking spots – so with us, it was half full; is that crowded?).
Sun Lakes State Park is located in the Grand Coulee. The park itself contains at least four lakes, and there are a number of other lakes further down the coulee. That gave this trip the added bonus of having a place to stop before reaching the park for me to fly my drone (drones are not allowed in Washington State Parks without a permit) while Tanya took Benson, our 8-month old, 102-pound Newfoundland, on his first swim. We picked a spot along Alkali Lake, and while Tanya and Benson frolicked in the water, I checked out Alkali Lake and Lake Lenore from the air.
Then it was on to Sun Lakes. The state park has a developed camping (closed) and day-use area on Park Lake with nice green grass and large shade trees. Instead of stopping there, we took the road to Deep Lake, which is developed with a small picnic area with natural vegetation and a boat launch. There were about 10 cars there and several dozen people swimming or fishing in the lake. So instead of taking the lakeside trail, we decided to take the Caribou Trail with climbs the hillside above the lake (not sure why it is named the Caribou Trail, caribou are definitely not native to this desert terrain).
Though I’ve been to Sun Lakes perhaps a dozen times before, I had never been to Deep Lake or on the Caribou Trail, so this was new territory to me. I knew the trail climbed above up toward the top of the coulee, but I didn’t know if it had a view of Deep Lake from up there. It is a relatively short trail, and the official trail ends when reaching the top of the cliffs. No view from there. So we kept walking on a faint unofficial trail, and then, eventually, set off cross country to find a view. And sure enough, we found a view of Deep Lake far below. We sat on the rocks, pulled out our water bottles, and drank in both water and scenery.
After shooting for 15 or 20 minutes, we headed back down the car. We don’t quite have our car setup organized well with the new dog yet. Trying to fit the dog and all the camera gear in the car along with food and drink (which must be separated from the dog) is a challenge. I decided to pack the camera backpack in a different spot after the hike, to be loaded after the dog got in. Unfortunately, after loading the dog, I forgot about the bag and started to back out onto the road only to run over something. You guessed it, my camera backpack!
Luckily, my camera was not in the pack, and a quick check didn’t show anything broken. We drove back to Deep Lake for our picnic dinner. There were a few less people, and we got a picnic table isolated from others. While eating, I checked out the gear in more detail. All the lens seemed to be working okay. However, there are cracks on a portion of the barrel of the Tamron 150-600 mm zoom. Also, the split neutral-density filter is history. Hopefully the lens can be repaired (currently the Tamron repair shop, which is in New York, is closed due to the pandemic).
After dinner, we drove over to Dry Falls Lake, which, not surprisingly, is located at the base of Dry Falls. It was an hour or so before sunset and the light on the cliffs of Dry Falls was particularly nice. The featured shot above is a 4-shot panorama of Dry Falls and Dry Falls Lake.
If you plan on making the trip out to Sun Lakes – Dry Falls State Park, be forewarned that the road to Dry Falls Lake is extremely rough. We did okay in our SUV, and I do think most regular passenger cars would make it, but some cars without much ground clearance could have difficulties. The road to Deep Lake is paved.
We left before sunset so we could get home before 11 pm. All in all, even with the the misadventure with my camera backpack, it was a good day. As always, I welcome your comments.
Once again I need to write a fond remembrance of one of our pets. Nahla the Newfoundland passed last week. She was a truly wonderful dog and worthy companion who accompanied me on my photo trips. For Nahla, I was her person and she was my dog. Of the several Newfounlands that Tanya and I have had (and the Newfoundlands that Tanya had before we were married), Nahla was the first one not to treat Tanya as their number one. If Tanya asked her to do something, she would often look at me to see if it was okay. I don’t know how I became her favorite, but I was honored. That said, she did love Tanya as well. When I’d go upstairs to go to bed first, Nahla would always wait to come up until Tanya did as well, making sure that Tanya was not alone downstairs.
She had the Newfie temperament: laid back, devoted, sweet, patient and stoic to a fault. She spent many a work day laying under desk, quiet as a mouse, until she’d start snoring, occasionally startling any visitors sitting in my office that didn’t realize she was there. But unlike many Newfoundlands, she knew she was big and used it to her advantage. And big she was. She weighed a little over 150 pounds, quite big for a female (the AKC says female Newfies are generally 100 to 120 pounds). Instead of walking around furniture, she would move it out of her way. Which lead us to one of the nicknames we gave her: Brutessa.
We had other nicknames for her as well, such as Panda Butt (after we heard maids at a hotel one time describe Nahla that way) and Turnip Thief (a recent nickname she earned by stealing and eating turnips left on the dining room table while ignoring a parsnip that was on the floor [and if you are asking why a parsnip was on the floor, it was a small one being used by the cats as a toy – they loved flipping it in the air and watching the funny way it rolled).
We got Nahla when she was 4 years old, and she died at 9 1/2. That is way to short a time for 150 pounds of loving. She was a very special dog, and I truly miss her.
Every October, Tacoma artists open their studios to the public in the Tacoma Studio Tour. This free event is held annually as part of #TacomaArtsMonth, where the city celebrates the arts and local artists. This year, the studio tour includes 80 artists at 47 locations. I am one of several photographers participating. I’d like to personally invite any of my blog readers in the local area to come on by, see my studio, meet Tanya and Nahla in person, and talk about the art of photography.
The studio tour this Saturday and Sunday, October 13 and 14, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. I am stop number 43 on the tour – but luckily you don’t have to visit in numerical order! You can learn more about the tour using the link above or by going to the Tacoma Arts blog or at the Studio Tour Page of TacomaArtsMonth.com.
As part of the tour, many artists are offering hands-on activities. I am no exception. As I’ve done in the past several years for the studio tour, I will have the scanner set up so my guests can try their own hand at scanography and take home a print of their masterpiece. This is a fun activity, which I previously blogged about. In addition, I”ll have about 40 prints on display, including some new ones from my recent work in the Palouse.
Hope to see you this weekend!
I’m proud to announce my photo guide to the Puget Sound region is now available on SNAPP Guides! The guide covers 58 spots for great photography in the Puget Sound region from Bellingham to Olympia (exclusive of Seattle, which is covered in a separate guide) including 125 sample photographs. For each spot, I give advice on when to go and how to shoot the best images.
The guide is available for both Apple and Android devices. To download the guide, first go the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store and install the free SNAPP Guide app. Once installed, you can download several free sample guides to see how it works. To download my Puget Sound guide, select Shop from the main SNAPP Guide menu and either scroll down or search for Puget Sound.
SNAPP Guides currently offers guides to 67 places around the world and more are being added (like the Palouse guide I am working on that should be available sometime next year). Each guide provides detailed information on photographic locations including what to shoot, when to go (both season and time of day), directions to get there (including GPS coordinates), a map of the location, a physical rating for the site, and what type of lenses and equipment you might use. The guides also interface directly with The Photographers Ephemeris to quickly give sunrise and sunset times at each location.
My Puget Sound guide costs $7.99. Other guides offered by SNAPP Guides vary from about $4 to $15. Below are several screen shots of the guide.
Nothing is probably more iconic of Puget Sound than a Washington State ferry. And nothing is probably more iconic of Washington State than Mount Rainier. So how would you rate a shot with a ferryboat and Mount Rainier – iconic squared?
There are only a couple of spots not on private property to photograph ferries with Mount Rainier in the background. By far the best spot I’ve found is on NE South Beach Drive on Bainbridge Island, where the Seattle-Bremerton ferry sails in front of the mountain about a 15 times a day (of course, depending on the season, many of those crossings may be in darkness).
The ferries (one sailing each way) will normally pass by this spot at about the same time – roughly a half hour after they leave their respective ports. Check the current ferry schedule for sailing times and be sure to get here a few minutes early. One ferry will be closer to shore, and one further out. A telephoto zoom lens works best here with the setting based on how close the ferry is. For a close ferry, 100 to 200 mm may work well. If it is further off shore, 200 to 300 mm may work better. Ferries move faster than they appear to; be sure to use a shutter speed of at least 1/125th of a second to keep the boat from blurring. If you are shooting near sunrise or sunset, you may need to boost your ISO setting. Consequently, the light will be best in the late afternoon to sunset all year-long or at sunrise to early morning from March through early October.
South Beach Drive is a narrow road with no parking available, at least where it is next to the water. If you come via Toe Jam Hill Road (you have to love that name), there are one or two parking spots on the hill 50 to 100 yards above South Beach Drive (the approach on Toe Jam Hill Road is a steep downhill decline). Alternatively, there are a few parking spots on South Beach Drive west of the viewpoints along the water. Either way, you will need to walk at least a short distance to capture the shot.
I took the above shot a couple weeks ago for inclusion in my latest project – a photography guide to Puget Sound for Snapp Guides. The guide should be ready in a few months, and I’ll post more about it soon.