Monday, September 15, 2008

Hello Olympic....

I just finished processing my Olympic National Park pictures from labor day weekend. We did the crazy night drive from Seattle to Port Angeles the night before, checked into the hotel at like 1:30 AM and got up the next day just after 8 AM. My mom said we were worse than tours :p.

So we got up early to drive up to Hurricane Ridge, it is one of those places that you should visit earlier in the day or else you'll be shooting into the sun and can't get any good shots. Also, from what I've read, it is only worth going when the weather is nice... this is certainly the case. It wasn't the prettiest place in Olympic National Park, nothing really special but if you like some hikes, great snow capped mountain vistas, it's worth a stop here. We did an easy 1.8 mi (single way) hike up Hurricane Hill. We didn't reach the very end, but came pretty close... Here are some photos from Hurricane Ridge:

Here is the view from Hurricane Ridge visitor center. The weather was beautiful (but cold). There were a few clouds floating around, but it was mostly clear as you can see from this image. Shot in RAW and post processed to bring out the blue, really deepen the shadows/green and brighten up the highlights to bring out the snow better.
From Olympic National Park Part 1


Also shot from the visitor center parking lot. Too bad the grass in the foreground is not green filled with flowers, otherwise it seems like something straight out of the movies. This is the type of view you just can't get out here in California... all the mountains just looks bare and desolate... all brown and rocky.
From Olympic National Park Part 1


Simple shot of a leaf... Shot in nice warm morning sun.... I deepened the shadows and brought out the highlights in Picasa (this is why the background looks almost black). I just love how simple it is... inspired by my friend Joe.
From Olympic National Park Part 1


Shot near the top of Hurricane Hill... I really like the layers of mountains in the distance. The little trail leading into the frame is kind of cute too.
From Olympic National Park Part 1


On the way back to the car, there was a nice break in the clouds that revealed beautiful blue sky... The clouds were still nice and white which provided nice contrast against the clean sky. The scattered clouds also created interesting patterns of shadow on the forest below... It was just... amazing. My photos doesn't even come close to doing the scene justice. Note that I shot in RAW to preserve as much of the dynamic range as I can. Also had double stacked filters - Circular Polarizer to increase saturation, deepen the blue sky color and a Graduated ND filter so I don't blow out the clouds and can expose the forest a little better. With double stacking filters on a wide angle lens, you really have to watch out for vignetting on the corners (anything below 15mm or so is basically useless).
From Olympic National Park Part 1

From Olympic National Park Part 1


After the hike at Hurricane Ridge, we rushed over to Hoh rainforest... but we made a few quick stops along Lake Crescent...
From Olympic National Park Part 1

While the weather and everything was just perfect, the lake itself was a little too empty for it to be interesting. But the clouds were just amazing so I think that more than made up for the lake. There was a better spot to stop about half a mile earlier. It was on higher ground so it provided a much better angle to shoot the lake. Oh well, next time if you are driving from Hurricane to Hoh, stop as soon as you can along Lake Crescent, don't wait till you are right beside the lake...

When I got to Hoh rainforest, I was just blown away by it. It is simply amazing, not amazingly beautiful, just... amazing. It was so different from anything I've seen before (then again, I need to get out more), but it definitely deserved a lot of photos :)... very cool place to take a walk through.


This was only about... 5 mins into the hike and my friend JC and I were just mesmerized by it for about 15 mins... The water was so clear that it was almost as if it wasn't there... It was all just so green and peaceful.... I loved it so much... I can't even find the words to describe it.
From Hoh Rainforest and Ruby Beach


The rest of the short walk was just as interesting...
From Hoh Rainforest and Ruby Beach

From Hoh Rainforest and Ruby Beach

From Hoh Rainforest and Ruby Beach


From Hoh Rainforest and Ruby Beach

We closed off the day with sunset at Ruby beach... While it isn't like beaches out here in Southern California, it was special in it's own way. It had all sorts of log debris along the shore which really made for great foreground subjects. It had small islands/sea stacks just off the coast which made for great mid-distance subjects... and it has a forest and a tide pool right along the beach for added possibilities in composition.

While this is a HDR shot (composed of 3 images at different exposure levels), I tried to keep it as "real" as possible and looks pretty close to what it actually looks like. This was practically a dream shot as soon as I saw it... I've been imagining this kind of shot for a long time now for some reason... here is what I had dreamed about getting:
1. A line of (tall) trees along the beach - check
2. Beautiful blue sky - check
3. Some beautiful white clouds rolling in from the sea - almost, this was sunset so the clouds had a nice gold touch to it
4. Pile of logs along the beach - check.
While I think I pictured a white sandy beach, the pebbles works just as well. This is probably my favorite shot from the day.
From Hoh Rainforest and Ruby Beach


Here is the non-HDR version for comparison. I touched it up a bit in Canon's DPP to bring out the blue more, but the pebbles and logs just doesn't pop out at you as much.
From Hoh Rainforest and Ruby Beach


Here is another HDR shot from another beach in Olympic National Park. Doesn't it feel like a painting from somewhere?
From Hoh Rainforest and Ruby Beach


Sorry for all the HDRs... here are a couple more. I am never a huge fan of HDR... just feels too fake. But I guess sometimes it really helps you convey the beauty that you see (or that you remember seeing). This was probably the most HDR intensive shoot I've done, most of them came out great and natural, a few I took more creative liberties with to create different effects. Overall I liked all the results and just had a great time at Ruby beach, highly recommended!
From Hoh Rainforest and Ruby Beach

From Hoh Rainforest and Ruby Beach


I'd like to close with the following photo:
From Hoh Rainforest and Ruby Beach


While this photo doesn't seem like much... it means the world to me. I took this photo shortly after falling off one of the logs that I was trying to climb. I guess my legs were weaker than I thought from the day's hikes/walks and the weight of the camera backpack really just threw me off balance as I fell twice off the log (about 2 ft off the ground). Anyways, I lost my balance, fell backwards and hit a piece of log behind me, being a log... it had a few fist sized (or slightly larger) protrusions. I was extremely fortunate that it hit the side of my lower back, just above my waist, 2 inches higher it probably would have broken one of my ribs, an inch to the left would have caused some injury to my organs, another inch could have broken my spine.  I was extremely fortunate to be able to walk away from that fall. I took this picture, while sitting down on the ground because I simply could not get up for about 5 mins or so due to the pain... I didn't care... I was just happy to be alive and gotten away with a minor sprained ankle and some bruises.  I took this shot as a way to remind myself of my fortune and new found perspective (literally).... Life is way more important than any photo I could have taken... while it wasn't a particularly dangerous spot... I always need to keep that in mind :).  Really have to thank God for letting me walk away with that lesson so easily/cheaply.