Every year I seek to capture a few snowy scenes for possible calendar use. At Robinson Noble, where I have my day job, we produce a calendar every year for clients, and I supply all the images. There seems to be some unwritten law that requires the December and January images to have snow in them (sorry that my northern hemisphere bias is showing here!). The problem is that I’m not that much of a winter person, so I don’t get out much in the cold season. Plus, the easiest place for me to get snow images is Mount Rainier National Park, which is only 70 miles from my home. However, the calendar needs variety, so the January and December images can’t be taken in Mount Rainier National Park every year. Now add in that this winter has been very warm in the Pacific Northwest and there is not much snow.
So with all this in mind, I took last Monday off work to go and find some snow. Tanya, Nahla and I drove east into the mountains. At Snoqualmie Pass, it was very dark with mixed rain and snow falling. We kept driving. Coming down from the pass, the weather improved, as it usually does, with sun and mixed clouds. While this area is typically snow-covered in January, it was not this year. We kept driving. We left the interstate and headed toward Blewett Pass and we finally found snow and sun together. We stopped at the top of Blewett Pass and got out the snowshoes. While snowy, the snow wasn’t deep, perhaps about a foot at the parking lot.
We hiked off the northern end of the lot, west along a forest service road. Most of the time we were in the forest, but the views did open up at a few spots. It was an easy snowshoe hike and a nice day to be out. I captured a few shots that might be worthy of being on the calendar next year (let me know if you agree). Mission accomplished.
I’ve been super busy lately getting ready for my first solo show. I need to drop off 26 pieces a week from today and just finished the printing yesterday. Now to finish matting and framing… I’ll post more on this show later.
Even though busy, I wanted to post a quick shot from a trip I made last Friday with Tanya and our new Newfoundland, Nahla (more on Nahla later as well) to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. Western Washington has been experiencing a temperature inversion lately, which causes lots of fog in the lowlands, but sunny and warm skies at elevation. This trip was a perfect example. Hurricane Ridge is about 17 miles by road from the City of Port Angeles and perhaps only 10 miles straight-line distance. Port Angeles is at sea level; Hurricane Ridge is at 5,242 feet above sea level. We drove into Port Angeles at noon. It was foggy and the temperature was about 38º F (3º C). A half hour later, we arrived at Hurricane Ridge, the sky was mostly sunny and the temperature was 60º F (16º C).
There isn’t much snow at Hurricane Ridge this year. Last Friday, there was about 28 inches of snow on the ground – a year ago it was around 90 inches in mid-January. However, the snow that was there was enough to go out snowshoeing and enjoy the view. And with the warm weather, it was great being out with only a light coat.
After our short snowshoe, we hung out for sunset, where I captured the above photo. All in all, a great trip. If you decide to go, be aware that the road to Hurricane Ridge is only open Friday-Sunday (and holiday Mondays) during winter (December through the end of March). It normally opens at 9 a.m. and closes around sunset (they chase everyone out of the parking lot each night). Before you go, be sure to check road conditions at http://www.nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/hurricane-ridge-current-conditions.htm as the road is only open if conditions permit.
I haven’t been out shooting lately. I’m planning to go out tomorrow, but with a forecast of rain, I’m not sure how much photography I’ll be doing. While it is rainy here now, that wasn’t the case six years ago, when we had a big snow storm here in the Puget Sound region. I was still living in Gig Harbor then, and risked life and limb to drive down a big icy hill to get to the city waterfront to take get some shots of a rare case of snow on the harbor. These images are from that snowy January day in 2007. If you lived around here at the time, I’m sure it’s a day you remember.
I admit feeling a little embarrassed, being snowbound at home by only 8 inches (20 centimeters) of snow when I’m an eastern Washington native who learned to drive on snow and ice. Earlier this week, western Washington experienced a winter storm that brought havoc to the Puget Sound region. On Wednesday, snow fell; Thursday brought freezing rain, coating everything with ice. I stayed home and telecommuted to my day job. Can you blame me for not wanting to put tire chains on the car when work was as close as my studio computer? (Does this mean I’m getting lazy or wise in my old age?)
I accomplished a lot without the distractions of the office. However, being home brings its own distractions, not the least of them being the snow and ice in the yard. So I couldn’t help but slip out in the yard to do a bit of photography, especially after the freezing rain ended. Outside, the coating of ice seemed to make everything old new again in our yard. I was amazed how bit of snow and freezing rain changed everything and made my creative imagination flow. I wish I had more time to do photography, but by the time I got enough work done to justify picking up the camera, it was already late in the afternoon and the light was fading.
The experience did remind me once again how a change, sometimes a small change, can provide inspiration. Sometimes, the change need not be more than a change of attitude. If you’re having trouble getting the creative juices to flow, or have a case of photographer’s block, grab your camera and make the old new again. If you’re lucky, you might have an ice storm available to help.
PS – a big thanks to Tanya for braving the cold to hold a piece of black mat board for backgrounds on some of these shots!
Sometimes it seems like the new year has addled my brain. I wanted to put out a new blog post, but my brain fog wouldn’t let me think of a topic. So what does a photographer do when they have nothing new to show, pull something out of the archives of course. Thus, this post, complete with photos from January 2007.
Five years ago I lived in Gig Harbor. Gig Harbor, like much of western Washington, doesn’t get much snow. In the typical winter, we might get snow two or three times a winter. In January 2007, we had a rather large snow storm hit the harbor. It was cold enough to freeze some of the water in the harbor. I drove down to the harbor before going to work that day and took these shots.
Back then was rather different from conditions today here in 2012. Today it feels almost like spring here; some trees in the neighborhood are starting to bloom, as are Tanya’s geraniums on the front porch. Of course, it still is winter, and it could get cold again any day. We might even have snow, like that day in January five years ago.
Paradise, in Mount Rainier National Park, is the highest point you can drive in Washington State Cascades in winter. It would be the highest point drivable in the state, except for Sherman Pass (between Republic and Kettle Falls) in northeastern Washington which is about 200 feet higher. Paradise is an amazing place in winter. The National Park Service claims Paradise is the snowiest place on Earth where snowfall is regularly measured. The maximum annual snowfall observed there was in the winter of 1971-72, when 93.5 feet (28.5 meters) of snow fell. When I was there in mid-December, it was not quite that snowy, I think there was about 58 inches (1.5 meters) at the time. However, since Christmas, some storms have blown through and the accumulation as of the start of 2012 was 77 inches (2 meters). (You can check on the current snowpack at the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center.)
With all that snow, it is amazing the road is kept open, particularly in today’s climate of budget cutting (please don’t tell the Park Service how much money they could save by closing the road in winter!). The road to Paradise is open most days (there’s a gate at Longmire, which opens each morning after the road is cleared and closes currently at 5:00 p.m. uphill and 6 p.m. downhill). During storms, the road remains closed during the day. All vehicles are required to carry tire chains.
Mount Rainier is a great place to travel to in the winter. There are plenty of sights to see from the road. Strap on some snowshoes or skis and there’s even more. On our day trip up there in mid-December, I took snowshoes; Tanya took skis. It helps to have some way to wander off the road and parking lots a bit. For most the shots here (and the one in my previous post), I wandered off the road. It is possible to get some good shots without venturing out into the snow, but without snowshoes or skis, you might have trouble getting around the snowbanks along the roads left from the snowplows. This is hard sometimes even with snowshoes or skis. Another problem is just finding a place to pull over. Many of the pullouts there in the summer are not plowed. However, there is a lot of parking at Longmire, Narada Falls, and Paradise (though the parking at Paradise, in particular, can fill up on weekends).
Remember if you do go up in the mountains this winter for photography, at Rainier or anywhere else, here are some reminders:
- Check the conditions before you go and dress appropriately
- Don’t wander out in the snow if you aren’t prepared
- And if you do wander out there, be aware of potential avalanche danger
- Remember that camera batteries don’t like the cold. Take extra batteries and keep them warm.
- Don’t trust your camera meter, or all that snow will be gray instead of white. Open up your exposure by one to two stops, or use your camera’s auto-bracketing feature (if it has one).
- Try adding a bit of color to all that snow in your compositions (blue skies, green trees, colorful clothes of your companions, sunrise/sunset colors, etc.)
- Remember to have fun!