Past Snapshots: Pinnacles

My photo drive is full. I’ve hit the limit on multiple recent imports, and had to frantically reshuffle and delete a couple folders to finish getting all of the current days’ photos off my memory card. I therefore have a forced “opportunity” to purge thousands of old photos, which has resulted in some fussing and a lot of fun memories.

I decided to share quick posts of older pictures as I run into sets I particularly like, sometimes with a new pass at editing them. This first batch is from a trip to Pinnacles National Park in summer of 2010, back before it gained its park status! This has been one of my family’s favorite places to revisit throughout the years, and a fantastic place to learn photography through trail and error. I took these particular photos on my dad’s Nikon D200, and I especially loved the contrast of bright color and deep shadows in the caves. Almost ten years later, my photography style has changed somewhat, but I still really enjoyed the vividness of these shots.

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Nepali Mountain Views

To get out of the smog in Nepal’s cities, we took a ride into the foothills of the Himalayas, and a one-day trek through the villages of Dhampus and Astam. The sunrise was stunning, with glowing colors spreading over the mist, and the Annapurna peaks shining. As the day progressed, we wound our way up and down hills on small rocky paths, enjoying both the natural scenery and the small villages.

*Please note–all photographs of people were taken with explicit permission, here and in any other post. In this case, we stopped to have cha (hot tea) and chat with these women. The first one asked me to take her photo, and the second is laughing because she was surprised to hear me speak in (rusty) Hindi.

Sunrise at Sarankot

We spent our first week in Nepal in Pokhara, a medium-sized city centered around the Phewa Lake. Guidebooks of the area always feature crystal-clear reflections of snow-capped mountains surrounding the town, but increasing pollution in recent years has made the mountains a lot harder to see. Even though we were there in one of the clearer times of year, the views from the city ranged from hazy to cloudy, without a peak in sight.

Early one morning, we took a car up a windy road dotted with tourist guesthouses to Sarankot. The lookout there stands at 1600 meters, up above most of the haze. It was incredibly crowded, with people filling the the tower, clustered along the stairs, and spread across the grass at its base. Even packed in tight, we watched in awe as the sky slowly brightened, and a faint line of clouds hovering above the valley coalesced into the range of mountains. The sky brightened and colored until it was crisply blue, and then the fog spread up, we drove back down the hill, and the mountains disappeared once again.

Royal Basin

In between finishing my dissertation and planning for an international move, we squeezed in a weekend trip to Royal Lake in Olympic National Park. I haven’t done a lot of backpacking, so the 7+ miles up with a pack was a big push for me (not to mention the return 7+ miles down, feeling every step!) The whole trip was stunning, and absolutely worth the effort.

The trail started in mossy forest, which sported funky fungi along the path, and followed along the noisy waters of Royal Creek. After some climbing, it opened out to rocky slopes and bits of late fall color (mostly vine maple, ocean spray, and slide alder). A few more miles and switchbacks to Royal Lake, at about 5100 feet. We set up camp here and climbed pack-free another 600 feet to the Royal Basin area, which features the rough peaks of Mount Deception, Mount Clark, and the Needles range rising above rocky mountain meadows. The crowning glories were the blue glacier-formed tarn, and the slim crescent moon hovering just above the ridge.

After a decidedly cold night, the return trip featured the sun creeping in to frosty meadows, calming time on mossy trails, and some final eye-catching mushrooms.

Where the Elwha meets the strait

In August I got to attend a National Park Service event for volunteers who had worked on the Elwha restoration. After hiking around former Lake Mills, we visited the Elwha delta, where the river lets out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, between Washington and Vancouver Island. Before the dam removals, the delta beach was fairly limited. Removing the dams allowed enormous quantities of trapped sediment to move downstream, building up the beach into expanses of space for native coastal plants, birds, and other wildlife. A lagoon area has formed where thousands of seagulls were hanging out as we walked along. And I’ve been told it’s even improved the surfing options!

Someday after Whiskey Bend road is rebuilt I’d like to do a hike into the park following the Elwha upstream. How cool would it be to see the Elwha from source to sea!

Elwha Reservoir 2018

Nowhere have I been so overwhelmed by the transformative, vibrant power of nature as on the Elwha river. The transformation that occurs every season since the removal of the two dams on this is mind-blowing (also road- bridge- and campground-blowing, with the river restored to unfettered flood patterns).

In this place, too, shines the strength of restoration management, as the plants brought in to supplement the natural regeneration of this area take hold and promote others to grow. The riverbank lupine shown below has improved soil quality for a variety of species that follow it–much as other nitrogen-fixing species have done on Mount St Helens. Planted woody shrubs and conifers also claim space, even the ones that die in turn enriching the soil. It’s also fantastic to see the effects of microclimates–such as the small hollows near decades-old logs where seedlings are sheltered from the wind and sun–and straight, thin rows of cottonwoods where three years ago the water pooled for just long enough for the seeds to germinate and put down their roots.

I stand in awe here.

Reservoir Time

One of my favorite things about living in Washington is getting to watch the progression of the Elwha reservoirs as the vegetation and wildlife re-establish more each year. Pictured above is the former Lake Mills in the summers of 2013 (top left), 2015 (bottom left) and 2018 (on the right).

The dams on the Elwha were removed between 2011 and 2013, and I spent the summers of 2013 and 2015 studying the plant communities that colonized the drained reservoirs. Although recent floods have closed the road to public vehicles, you can still bike or hike in to see Lake Mills. I’ve actually been there three time this summer–once hiking in from the Madison Falls parking lot, once on a Park Service organized volunteers’ event, and once hiking down 5000 feet from Hurricane Ridge. I also made additional trips out to Aldwell reservoir and the Elwha delta, both of which are more easily accessible. I’ll post more pictures from those trips as soon as I stop hiking long enough to go through all of them!

Subalpine Wanderings

Five years ago, I took a hike off of Obstruction Point Road, in Olympic National Park. It was one of my top ten favorite hikes, with spectacular wildflowers interspersed with gnarled fir trees and snowy-splashed peaks. Last month I returned, hiking the Badger Valley loop with some wonderful naturalists. The 8.5 mile trail includes 2500 feet of elevation change (first down and then back up again!) through plant communities ranging from meadows to forest to alpine. I also got to see many of my favorite flowers: columbines, lupines, penstemons, larkspur, tiger lilies, and the bizarre elephant-head flower. Also orchids, two grouse, and corn lilies (one of the most “violently poisonous” flowers in Washington, according to my field guide), and Mount Olympus.

 

Sunset and Stars at Deer Park

The day before my birthday was unusually clear, with views across the Strait of Vancouver Island and to the east of Baker Mountain. It was also a night with no moon, and so I greeted my partner in crime at the door with great excitement–clear sky! bright stars! milky way!–and a packed picnic dinner. We drove up to Deer Park, a campground and lookout point in Olympic National Park, WA, and meandered the trail up to the top.

The view was indeed spectacular, and though we were joined with other photographers and hikers for the panoramic sunset, they all cleared out with the end of the light, and we had the starry night all to ourselves. Well, and one late-night buck who wandered in front of my camera, and paused long enough for my night picture set up (40mm equivalent lens, and a 4 second exposure) to catch his visit.

This was also my first time playing with combining multiple images together in different ways, using a couple of different softwares. There are panoramas, which are multiple horizontally adjacent shots stitched together (using Lightroom 6’s included merging). I tried one HDR picture where three shots were taken at dark, medium, and bright exposures, and then combined to get more out of the range of lights and shadows (in Affinity photo). And a couple of the Milky Way photos are also composites, with multiple 20-second exposures taken one after the other, and aligned to keep the stars bright, reduce background noise, and remove streaks from airplanes and satellites (using the Starry Landscape Stacker). I’m pretty happy with the early results, although I know there’s a lot more to learn about how much digital software can do–and how to make it look good.