McLane Nature Trail – Winter

I took a weekend hike at a local wildlife preserve, McLane Creek Nature Trail.  Not a long hike, but I am always amazed at what I find in this part of Washington State in the dead of winter!

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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.

Columbia River Gorge Part 3: Beacon Rock 2

This is the last post on my Columbia River Gorge hikes earlier this month.  I visited waterfalls on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, then crossed over to the Washington side and hiked up Beacon Rock.  All of these photos were taken from “the rock”.  But first, let me introduce you to a friend I met on the very top of the rock, 840-some feet above the river.

Beacon Rock - Chipmonk

Beacon Rock – Chipmonk

He was hoping I had some snacks to share with him.  But I know that feeding wild animals human junk food is harmful to them, and teaches them to rely on handouts instead of finding their own food in their natural environment. So we just looked at each other for a few seconds.  I must have taken 10 photos of him (I’m assuming it’s a male) but he darted around so fast that only this one turned out without him being a blur or in an odd pose.

Columbia Creek?

Columbia Creek?

As I looked down to the east of Beacon Rock, I saw this creek running parallel to the Columbia River.  I used my EF 70-200mm f/4L to get a little closer.  You can tell it’s winter by all the bare trees closer to the river. Up in the hills there are more evergreen trees.

Beacon Rock - Ledge

Beacon Rock – Ledge

When I visited Beacon Rock with my parents as a teenager, you could see 360 degrees around from the top.  Now the trees have grown up, and there really isn’t a clear view to the west.  When I started down, I noticed a mass of rocks jutting out past the trees.  So I ducked under the railing and made my way out onto them to see if I could get a clear westward shot.  If you notice, there is a tree branch on the right edge of the photo.  I had the slide out to that little patch of grass on the ledge to shoot around it.  One little slip and I’d fall several hundred feet straight down to certain death.

I started questioning my sanity.  “I have a wife and two little kids at home. If I kill myself trying to get a shot, who’s going to provide for them?”  Like I said in the previous post, I am not really scared of heights, but there is something incredibly overwhelming about being exposed on a cliff to all that open space. So I only took a couple photos out there and got my butt back to the trail!  Here they are:

Columbia River - from Beacon Rock

Columbia River – from Beacon Rock

Columbia River - from Beacon Rock

Columbia River – from Beacon Rock

I’ve taken better photos, so I’m not sure these were worth risking my life for, but it was an adventure anyway!  The second photo was tricky to process because shooting directly into the sun made for an extremely broad exposure latitude.  Very dark shadows and very bright sky.  I was able to get some detail from the trees, which were black shadow in the untouched RAW image. And I darkened the sky with a virtual graduated filter in software.

Hope you enjoy the photos.  I am planning another outing soon, but I have to plan around weather and a hectic work schedule.  No shortage of awesome places to visit, though, within a two-hour radius any direction I go.