5D Mark III, CamRanger, Canon, Columbia Sportswear, Crying Lady Rock, F-Stop Gear, February, First Beach, Forks WA, Gitzo, GT3541LS, Hoh Rainforest, LaPush WA, LEE 0.9 Soft GND, LEE 100mmx100mm CPL, LEE CPL, LEE Filters, Moss, Natural Arch, Night Sky Photography, Olympic National Park, Olympic Peninsula, Pacific Ocean, Rainforest, Rialto Beach, Second Beach, Sunset, TetherTools, Third Beach, TripodClamps, Twilight, US-101, USKestrel, USKestrel Photography, Vasque, Vasque Footwear, Zeiss
Many months of planning and departure day finally arrived. My departure for the Pacific Northwest was on leading edge of a pretty large winter storm. Many folks I talked with suggested I was nuts to be heading out of town, but I would not miss the opportunities available. No moon, weather forecast for the area I was headed looking good, why not go? I arrived at Denver International Airport with 2 hours and 15 minutes before scheduled departure. As luck would have it, 40 minutes before departure, the status changed on the gate information screen. One more change occurred before we finally did get airborne. Arriving at SEA two hours later than planned was not fun. I managed to get my checked bag and my rental car in fairly short order for the short drive to Tacoma for the first night. I arose at a reasonable time and allowed myself time to leisurely get going, have some breakfast and start the drive to Forks, WA. Along the way, I enjoyed the drive through the western side of the Puget Sound. The sun peeked in & out of clouds pretty consistently. At one point, I saw signs for Fort Worden State Park and decided I had plenty of time to get to Forks and the beach area, so I turned to take a little detour. During World War II, Fort Worden and the State Park that is there now, was used as a gun battery by the U.S. Army to protect the Puget Sound. As I walked around, I enjoyed the fresh air though I could sense the humidity rising. Having my fill of the area, I got back in my rental car and started driving towards Forks by way of Port Angeles. Stopped at a drive-through for some food while in Port Angeles and quickly got back on the road. Lake Crescent was looking pretty amazing, but the myriad of moss-covered trees and rocks were garnering more of my attention when I suddenly saw a small stream / waterfall and just had to stop. The area certainly has earned its’ reputation for having a lot of moisture. I checked into my motel, grabbed my gear and headed out. Time to go explore Rialto Beach and prepare for Sunset, though I prayed hard that the cloud-cover would disappear. The drive from Forks down to Rialto Beach took about 20 minutes. Once there, I started to gear up and felt a few rain drops, so I took my F-Stop Loka UL backpack off and donned my Gore-Tex rain gear, just to be sure I stayed dry. As I walked up the beach, the tide was still on its’ way out so I had to pay attention to incoming waves to be sure I didn’t get caught off-guard. The first thing I noticed as I moved along the beach was the driftwood. The logs were just huge. One log had some amazing burls that I could only imagine what could be made from them if they were able to be harvested (not something that is possible). As sunset time approached, Mother Nature was not very inclined to cooperate. However, with the clouds, driftwood on the beach and waves the opportunity for an interesting shot without sunset came about. Knowing the surroundings and reading the conditions is an important part of nature photography. I spent a few minutes watching the cloud movement (or lack thereof) and decided that spectacular sunset conditions would not happen that day, so I opted to trek back to my vehicle and drive up and around to First Beach, to see what potential existed there. Making my way down to the beach, there were some even larger bits of driftwood. Still not much to crank my chimes, so I did something that I normally avoid…I put myself in front of the camera. A couple of minutes later, while I was trying to capture the motion of the waves, a stray dog started running around near me. He seemed to enjoy running around in the shallow surf. Eventually he ran off and I finished what I was doing, so that I could head back to Forks, for dinner. After dinner, I returned to my motel room and began the process of importing my images from the day. Post-processing would happen either sometime during the day on Saturday or maybe Sunday while flying home. I wanted to get a solid night of sleep and be prepared to get up for sunrise down at Second Beach. When I got up at 4am, the clouds were still present and it was still raining on & off. I looked at the weather radar on my smartphone and decided to go back to bed and head to Second Beach mid-morning during low tide. Low Tide would provide better opportunities to explore Second Beach, if the weather cooperated, which it did! The trek from the parking area down is about .6 mile. As I started down the last 200 yards, I knew that I was in for a treat! The first few spots I shot were intended to get a feel for the light. I decided I needed to move down the beach a ways to get more of what I looking for, like these reflections of Crying Lady Rock: I spent a few hours trekking around on Second Beach, working my way from the trail entrance South along the beach, then up the beach past Crying Lady Rock towards Natural Arch: Approaching mid-day, I was starting to get a little hungry, so I made my way back to the parking area, then back up to Forks for a quick lunch. Next stop was to the Hoh Rainforest. While this area is amazing and indicative of the massive amounts of rain that fall upon the Olympic Peninsula, I did not want to drive to another, lesser-known yet more impressive rainforest as I wanted to be back at Second Beach for sunset. The Hoh rainforest turn off of US-101 is only 13 miles South of Forks, but then you have another 18 miles along Upper Hoh Road to the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center and trailhead. Given the limited time I had available, I opted to just trek around the “Hall of Moss” trail which is about .8 miles in length. There were plenty of gorgeous scenes. As I made my way along the trail, I found a fallen tree that had this unique moss growing on the bark. Seeing an opportunity, I put on my 36mm extension tub and 16-35 f/2.8 II lens, zoomed out to 35mm, I practiced a little macro photography: Getting my fill of macro photography, I disassembled my inexpensive macro setup and put my 24-105 lens back on the camera body and continued along the trail. I came across another unique scene that required me to stop and make a few images. A natural keyhole in a fallen tree with more of that moss growing: Time was flying by and I needed to get back to Forks and down to the parking area at the Second Beach Trailhead, so I could be on the beach and set up in advance of sunset. The drive back was quiet and as I made my way down to Second Beach, I was excited for the potential. The day before, the cloud cover had wiped out any opportunity for sunset or twilight. Again, once on the beach, I made my way down the beach looking for just the right composition (I had a vision in my mind, so it was merely a matter of finding that spot). Sunset was a few minutes away, but the composition I was really looking for was the sun just above the horizon, using a smaller aperture to create a star with Crying Lady Rock and the beach in the foreground. My research ahead of time, to know low tide times enabled me to be able to have a vast amount of the beach available. I considered shooting a little closer to Crying Lady Rock, but the composition did not feel quite right so I backed up about 15 yards and was more satisfied with the view. Sunset was pretty, though nothing overly spectacular. The icing on the cake was only 25 minutes away or so. Twilight. One of my favorite times of day or night. The moon was close to setting as twilight come around, adding to the overall vision I had during my pre-trip research more than I was expecting! Darkness fell over Second Beach quickly once twilight was over. The dinner bell was ringing (or my stomach was telling me so! lol). I had one more trek down to Second Beach in a couple of hours, to try a little night-sky photography, but first food. The two hours or so I spent tinkering around Forks gave me time to revisit my notes and get myself prepared for the night sky. I removed my Canon 24-105 lens and put on a rented Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 lens from Borrowlenses.com. I also put my CamRanger (with TetherTools hotshoe mount) on the camera body and connected up the USB <->mini-USB cable between the CamRanger and camera body and placed my iPad in the TripodClamps mount on the tripod. I could have carried the normal backpack of gear with me, but I had already put about 8 miles on for the day and was getting a bit tired, so I wanted to keep the load light. About 9pm, I got in the vehicle and drove down to the parking area and trekked down to Second Beach. I had chosen Second Beach for the night-sky work because it was darker than Rialto Beach and was a fairly easy trek. If I wanted the sky to be even darker, I could have trekked to Third Beach though that trek is a bit longer than Second Beach. The one thing I had forgotten (but quickly realized, once I started shooting) is that the Milky Way is less visible during Winter months. Ultimately, I still had plenty of fun and enjoyed practicing night-sky photography more, along with getting more used to using the CamRanger apparatus! Over the course of the Spring, Summer and Fall months of 2015, I will be spending more time shooting the night sky, in addition to my normal range of landscape/nature photography.