Monday, December 28, 2009

Snoqualmie Falls in Winter

Snoqualmie Falls is one of Washington state's biggest tourist attractions, attracting over 1.5 million visitors per year. It's close proximity to Seattle makes it an ideal destination of convenience. And it is a worthy destination indeed.

The Snoqualmie River drops 270 feet over the famous falls in thunderous fashion. It is truly a spectacle to behold no matter the time of season you visit.

Some seasons do offer more than others however. Spring presents high water volumes as the snow begins to melt in the high country. The summer sun lights up the falls and northwest facing cirque, creating unforgettable evenings at sunset. November rains and warm temperatures often result in flooding along the Snoqualmie River, making the falls not only thunderous and wet while observing from the deck, but sometimes difficult to get to due to road closures. December brings freezing temperatures and scenery more typically associated with Alaska or some other cold climate. The rewards can be breathtaking!

A couple of weeks ago I packed the truck up in darkness and headed over Tiger Mountain to the falls in hope of finding a winter wonderland. I was not disappointed! The spray from the falls coupled with low valley fog created a serene setting in the bowl of the falls. It was an incredible sight!

I began my morning at the observation deck, which I believe to be the best vantage for the falls. The birds eye view is second to none in my opinion.

Though others had the same idea in mind, the viewers were few early on. I spent a considerable amount of time playing with compositions. When I felt I had exhausted most all opportunities, I changed lenses for a different feel and started all over again. The wider angle lenses showed the massive waterfall in all its surroundings, while the zoom lens allowed me to isolate on certain unique features of the area that I felt told a story.

Finally it was time to move down to the viewpoint below the falls. A quick drive had me at the lower parking area and walking swiftly towards the falls. The path is interesting as it takes you past a PSE generator building on a chain link fenced boardwalk.

The view from the lower platform is quite interesting, but not on par with the observation deck above. Photographers will and do grow frustrated with it as branches interfere with prospective compositions.

So, despite the signs saying to stay on the boardwalk, visitors have created a well-worn path down the steep rock to the river's bank below, and unobstructed views to the main event.
The ice presented a lot of interesting compositions from here. I had a lot of fun isolating different elements and playing with compositions. The possibilities were endless with the various ice formations teasing me at every turn.

The area was also quite slick. Very slick in fact! Another photographer I ran into was wearing Yaktrax. As a mountain climber in ownership of several pairs of crampons, I must admit to always hoisting my nose in the air at these "wannabe" devices. Not anymore. I requested and received a pair for Christmas!

I strongly recommend visiting the falls in all seasons. And since I have yet to view them in summer, I will heed my own advice! November during flood stage is truly an incredible time to see them. Make sure you check for local road access before heading out, or your visit may be one of frustration. As you can see, winter offers a totally different perspective of the falls and surrounding area; one in which ice is the focus.

I hope you enjoy my sampling from the area, and that it motivates you to visit them for yourself. You may view more of my images from this location here if interested.

Be safe and enjoy!

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