Mt St Helens – Harrys Ridge

Earlier this month I did an 8-mile round-trip hike from the Johnston Ridge visitor center to Harrys Ridge near Mt St Helens.  It was a cloudless day and the volcano had blown away all the trees back in 1980. Numbskull that I was, I didn’t use sunblock and got severely sunburned. But I’ll share the rewards that I literally paid for with my own skin (it fell off my face and arms over the next couple weeks).

Harrys Ridge Trail - 17mm, 1/60 @ f/11

Harrys Ridge Trail – 17mm, 1/60 @ f/11

I would not take my kids on this trail.  One slip and you’d be sliding down the steep slope over pumice and lava rock. Good luck stopping your slide. Then there is a short cliff you fall off, followed by another lava rock slide, and a second cliff drop.  That’s how a beautiful landscape can chew you up and spit you out if you’re not paying attention.

Mount Saint Helens - 40mm, 1/60 @ f/9.5

Mount Saint Helens – 40mm, 1/60 @ f/9.5

A polarizing filter is a must for this type of shot.  It cuts the light reflecting off dust and haze in air and makes the photo clearer and more colorful.  This is the view from the Johnston Ridge observation platform.

Mt St Helens & It's Victim - 29mm, 1/60 @ F/9.5

Mt St Helens & It’s Victim – 29mm, 1/60 @ F/9.5

This is the remains of a tree which got blasted flat by the eruption 35 years ago.  Even with the pieces of the mountain lying around in massive piles and entire forests annihilated, it’s hard to comprehend the destructive power of the side of that mountain blowing out!

Mt. Hood in Oregon - 200mm, 1/180 @ 9.5, ISO 200

Mt. Hood in Oregon – 200mm, 1/180 @ f/9.5, ISO 200

Once up on Harrys Ridge, there are breathtaking views from every angle.  This shot is looking over the shoulder of Mt St Helens to Mt Hood across the Columbia River in Oregon State.  I shot it with a 200mm lens and then cropped it quite a bit in post processing.  By the way, Harrys Ridge is named after a man who lived on Spirit Lake and refused to leave his home. He lost his life when the mountain exploded.

Mt Adams over Spirit Lake -  31mm, 1/125 @ f/11, ISO 200

Mt Adams over Spirit Lake – 31mm, 1/125 @ f/11, ISO 200

I like this composition because it has so much depth to it. Stump, lake, hillside, more lake, mountains, snowy peak, sky… it just keeps going.  If you’re wondering, that’s a giant log jam in the lake. It’s been floating there since 1980.

Hope you enjoyed these photos of a fascinating National Monument.  When somebody says “volcano” people usually think of tropical islands, but we have them in the continental U.S. also.

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Close up photos from the archive…

I was looking through some of the photos I’ve taken in the last few months.  I got the EOS 6D last July for landscape photos, and that’s mostly what I’ve done with it.  But I’ve taken a few closeup photos with it also, and I’ve just been amazed all over again with the level of detail it captures.  So guess what?  Time for another blog post!

Rocks on Puget Sound beach - 200mm, 1/250 @ f/8.0, ISO 800

Rocks on Puget Sound beach – 200mm, 1/250 @ f/8.0, ISO 800

This is the easiest type of closeup photography: Shoot with a telephoto lens so you don’t have to bend, kneel, or roll on the ground. The rule of photography in play here is: the closer you get to your subject, the shallower the depth of field becomes.  So when I stood directly over the rocks and shot at 200mm, even stopping down to f/8 did not prevent the rocks just inches away from blurring. I used “Brilliance and Warmth” and “Pro Contrast” in NIK Color Efex Pro 4.

Mushroom in Lawn - 50mm, 1/90 @ f/8.0, ISO 400

Mushroom in Lawn – 50mm, 1/90 @ f/8.0, ISO 400

This was one of those moments when you see something and say to yourself “that would make a good photo!” I was taking out the trash from the back of the house and saw the sun peeking over the fence on this little mushroom in the lawn.  I ran inside and grabbed my camera.  90% of what I use my nifty fifty (EF 50mm f/1.8) for is closeup photos, and that’s what I used here. This photo did require some kneeling, with elbows in the wet grass, in order to get the angle.

You can see from the flares that it has a five-blade aperture, compared to more expensive lenses, like my EF 35mm f/2 IS with it’s 8-blade aperture.  Also, I can’t explain why, but the large flares direct from the sun appear tilted to the right, while the smaller flares from water drops in the grass appear tilted left.  Fascinating! But I’m clueless as to why.

When I say “closeup” photos, I used that term in order to carefully avoid “macro”.  Real macro photos taken with a macro lens or filters mean that the image hits the film or sensor at life size or larger. In none of these photos is that the case. I simply don’t have the right lens for true macro work. So they’re really closeup photos, and I like these kinds of photos because they require some creativity.  You’re cropping out the entire world except a small subject and it’s immediate environment, and the challenge is to compose an interesting photo in spite of everything that’s missing. But we also know that many times simplifying a composition makes it a better one.

Violin - 35mm, 1/45 @ f/8.0, ISO 800

Violin – 35mm, 1/45 @ f/8.0, ISO 800

The EF 35mm f/2 IS was used for this photo, and I was brave enough to allow a shutter speed of 1/45 because it has the advantage of Image Stabilization.  I also did more editing on this photo than the other two.  First I applied a mild Topaz Clean effect. You’ll have to view the photo at 100% to see it on top near the bridge and neck.  Next the photo went into NIK Color Efex Pro 4 for “Pro Contrast”, a Kodachrome 64 film effect, and a “Skylight” filter to warm up the image. All of these tools have adjustable parameters, and I rarely use presets because I think each image is different and benefits the most from unique settings and tweaking.

I didn’t plan this, but for each of these closeup photos I used a different lens. 200mm, 50mm, and 35mm.  This illustrates that you can take closeup photos with any lens. Your angle of perspective and distance to subject will change, but it can be done.

Palouse Region – Whitman County, Washington

My family and I went on an overnight trip to the far side of Washington State last week.  We’ve been talking about visiting the Palouse Region, also known as Whitman County, for about three years.

Palouse Hills - 200mm, 1/350 @ f/8.0

Palouse Hills – 200mm, 1/350 @ f/8.0

After spending so much of my life in western Washington, near the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges with their temperate rain forests, it’s hard to believe this is the same state.

Note that the exposure values of the photo above and below are the same.  I was shooting in aperture priority mode and adjusting the aperture opening so that my shutter speed stayed faster than my focal length.  On a tripod, this would not matter.

Palouse Fields - 100mm, 1/350 @ f/8.0

Palouse Fields – 100mm, 1/350 @ f/8.0

I was in awe of how many miles the green, rolling hills go on and on.  This is early June, but I’ve seen photos online taken in August where all the fields are golden or brown, and still look amazing.  I’ve heard this area called the Italy of the United States, because of the similarity with Tuscany hills.

Palouse Wheat Field - 29mm, 1/45 @ f/11

Palouse Wheat Field – 29mm, 1/45 @ f/11

This reminds me of an old Microsoft Windows desktop I saw.  I was trying to get from one paved road to another and took a dirt farming road.  When I looked over and saw this field I had to stop and take a photo.

Palouse Farm - 39mm, 1/90 @ f/11

Palouse Farm – 39mm, 1/90 @ f/11

I joked to my wife that we were more like kids than our kids, saying “Oooh!” and “Aaah!” at every turn. It was beautiful and worth the 10-plus hours of driving to get there and back.