Tuesday, October 10, 2017
However, there is another volcano in our state that also sports nice displays, which many probably wouldn't think of - Mount St. Helens. While destruction and devastation largely symbolize this area in many people's minds , they might be surprised at the beauty that can be found on its lower flanks and nearby ridges all these years after that mighty eruption. With the trees naturally cleared by nature's forces, flower seedlings have taken to many of the open, sunny slopes and turned them into beautiful meadows in season. The difference here is that they are often set against a stark, gray landscape of pumice and ash.
The predominant flowers here are lupine, Indian paintbrush and violet penstemon. There are many other varieties as well.
My favorite St. Helens destinations for wildflowers are Johnston Ridge and Windy Ridge - both on the north side of the mountain. Johnston Ridge is approached from the west (I-5), and Windy Ridge from the northeast (Highway 12).
Johnston Ridge is a drive to destination with a large parking area at the visitor center at the very end of SR 504. Flowers abound all around the visitor center and recently constructed amphitheater. There is much easy wandering here, and your pace will likely be slow! For more flowers, walk the Boundary Trail in either direction to fully enjoy the scenery. This area offers the most spectacular wildflower display St. Helens has to offer, in my opinion.
Windy Ridge is approached from Randle on FR 25, then following the Windy Ridge Road (FR 99) to its end at the parking lot. While the views from Windy Ridge are jaw-dropping in themselves, a bit of exploring can lead you to even better destinations.
One of the most famous views of St. Helens is from Norway Pass along the Boundary Trail (yes, this is the same trail as the Johnston Ridge one), overlooking Spirit Lake. You've seen it in books, magazines and calendars. Flowers add to the scene here, and can be pretty profuse in places along the trail. For a colorful side trip, be sure and check out the Indian Ridge Trail.
The best lupine display I have ever witnessed also resides in this area. From the south end of the Windy Ridge parking lot, walk the abandoned road 1.7 miles to the Truman-Abraham saddle. Stop. Look down to a sea of purple in season! Now take the right fork and follow the Truman Trail down the slope to see this amazing meadow up close and personal! While the Plains of Abraham won't offer any flowers, I highly recommend it as a side trip. To do so, return to the saddle and follow the Abraham Trail (left fork) to a world of barren world of pumice and scattered boulders.
The image above was taken from Johnston Ridge and recently appeared with an article in a German newspaper on this very subject. To view more images of this area and around St. Helens, feel free to visit my South Cascades Gallery.
See you on the trail!
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
|Stars over Mount Shuksan.|
This was my first time trying out my new Rokinon 14mm lens, which I acquired specifically for star photography. Previously I had relied on my Canon 17-40mm, which provided very disappointing quality in low light. The difference was night and day! (pun intended!). I'm super impressed with the Rokinon lense (also sold under other brand names such as Samyang, Pro-Optic, and Bower) and highly recommend it to anyone interested in night-sky photography.
Earlier in the day I had hiked up Table Mountain and received a message welcoming me to Internet Canada - "International rates may apply". I quickly turned my phone to airplane mode, blocking data usage as a safety precaution.
|Northern Lights over Mount Shuksan|
I've only photographed the Northern Lights once before - in Jasper National Park in Canada. The circumstances were much the same. I got up in the middle of the night to photograph the milky way and noticed some rather bright clouds off in the distance. I composed a shot to include them and the results came back green on my display!
The same sort of clouds were present this night, but they were so bright I figured it was simply light pollution from the Bellingham area (yes, my direction was a little off as I thought I was looking west, not north). The stars were more numerous now, so I composed an image of Mount Shuksan once again and noticed a red plume of light in the results. The red in the sky was not viewable to the naked eye. Interesting!
|Aurora Borealis over Mount Shuksan.|
So what is the Aurora Borealis? The bright dancing lights of the aurora are actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth's atmosphere. The most common auroral color is a pale yellowish-green. Rarer is the red aurora, which I was fortunate to capture for the very first time (again, I couldn't actually see it).
|Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).|
Admittedly, I am relatively new to night-sky photography and still have a lot to learn. But I am finding it fascinating and rewarding!
As always, thanks for looking!