Tips for shooting in Olympic National Park?

Discussion in 'Travel' started by christal|1, Aug 9, 2010.

  1. We'll be spending 3 days in Olympic National Park. I've read the guide books that recommend what to see in the park. I guess I'm looking for suggestions specific to photography.......where to go? what time to be there? how to deal with light in the rain forest? will there be fog (as I imagine)? do you have any tips for shooting in fog? We leave in less that a week, and I should have started planning the trip sooner. I'm sure I could find a lot of great advice if I had the time to snoop around on questions posted in previous PN forums. But for now any help would be appreciated! Also, if you have any suggestions on how to divide up our 3 days, we'd appreciate it. Right now we're scheduled for 2 nights in Port Angeles, but I wonder if we should just stay there 1 night, and then move to another lodging closer to the west side of the park. Thanks!
  2. SCL


    I hate to say it, but you seem a bit late in planning. The weather is highly variable, so you could encounter almost anything. From Port Angeles, one spot you will want to enjoy would be Hurricane Ridge, from which you can get a wonderful perspective of the surrounding mountains, if there isn't fog (so you might want to wait for it to burn off). There are usually a lot of deer wandering thru the area near the parking lot, and capturing them in the scenery should be rewarding. On the west side, the Hoh rainforest is pretty intriguing - and has a 13 mile trail leading to Mt. Olympus. You will need to ramp up your ISO or use a tripod in the rainforest. If you really appreciate the sea, a quick trip up to La Push (yes, you hike thru about a mile of rainforest at beach #2 on a well kept path, then descend from the cliffs onto an incredible beach with postcard perfect sea stacks, tide pools filled with creatures, and tons of driftwood). If this isn't your cup of tea, there is nearby (near Port Angeles, as I recall) an animal preserve which is a riot, some of the animals have been featured on TV shows and in the wife was on the passenger side of our car looking across the driver's seat at an ostrich approaching the car when she turned back, a bison had his head in her window...time for an underwear change after all the screaming died down ;-). There are wonderful hiking trails near Soleduc and Clear Lake lodge (you need advance reservations thru the forest service to rent the cabins...which were used by Pres. Roosevelt.). Forks has a magnificent steam locomotive on display, one which was used the logging industry. And on and on. You'll find your own best spots to shoot depending on your particular interests, and on the trip home, stop in Dungeness for some of the crabs.
  3. Hi Christal
    Is it going to be you upcoming late August trip? Sounds like that's already set then
    With three days starting in Port Angeles, I think you have three things to accomplish - a classic alpine experience, which means Hurrican Ridge, very close, and a quick couple of trip to the wild coast (the longest in the continental US - read up on your coastal options and see what appeals to you), and a day and a half in the temperate rainforest.

    There are five major western valleys. The Hoh is perhaps the most exemplary of the mossy Sitka Spruce, Western Redcedar, and Bigleaf Maple forest, and also has huge Doug fir farther inland, and is very pleasant and easy walking. The Queets and Quinault are much like the Hoh. The Bogachiel is a bit different ecologically. I would spend a full day in the Hoh and a half day in the Sol Duc, which is North closer to Port Angeles. I'ts quite a bit different and had a broader mixture of tree spcecies, and has absolutely outstanding old-growth forest. Spectacular. Be sure to go to Sol Duc falls.
    If you do get some fog, it may burn of quick. Summers and generally dry and sunny. Get out early and hope for an overcast day. On overcast days the forests are easy to shoot technically (creating a strong composition is another matter). Get on the tripod, stop down as needed, and shoot scenes both unpolarized and polarized (half-polarized would be my recommendation) for good measure when it seems appropriate.
    To me, the Peninsula is about forests, rivers, and mountains. Yes there are elk and cougars and salmon, but in three days what you will be most likely to be able to appreciate and photograph well are the forests, rivers, and mountains. And they are so incredibly special and beautiful I would not lament at all if great photo ops don't arise due to poor light, and just make sure to have a great experience and get a good sampling of this incredible place.

    Pics - I have an Olympics gallery on my gallery page.
  4. Christal, you can hope to see some elk in the forest or at the river, which is a an awesome thing to see there. Here a herd is crossing the Queets River, which you yourself have to do to hike the Queets Valley (last time I was there anyway). If you do see elk, don't get close, to the males especially. Not safe.
  5. Stephen,
    You're telling ME that I'm waiting too late?! :) Yeah, believe me, I know. I usually plan WAY ahead, but life got in the way this time. :) Some of your suggestions I knew about....others the more info I have the better. Thanks! Is the descent down to Second Beach do-able for a person like me.....recent ankle injury who can handle easy and medium grade hikes? It sounds really cool there. And we'll be arriving in Port Townsend late afternoon, so a stop in Dungeness for crab sounds perfect. I looked up 'Olympic Game Farm', and it got good reviews on Trip Advisor, the site I use for all of my travel info. Yes, I's always fun to find your own special spots, but I always like to go armed with a bunch of ideas. Then once we're there, we kind of go with the flow and don't stick too closely to an can miss a lot that way.
  6. Brett,
    Okay.....curiosity finally got the better of me. After looking at your Olympics gallery, I decided that you HAD to be a professional, so I went to your bio on PN. Your work is what I aspire to (I'm pretty at new at this photography stuff), and I'm flattered that you would take the time to help me out. Just viewing your work will be an education for me. Thank you so much. And if you wouldn't mind answering just one more do you HALF polarize? I have Singh-Ray graduated filters and I also have a circular polarizer and a regular polarizer. But I have no idea how I would HALf polarize a shot.
    Your info was really gives us some sense of how long to spend at various places. Of course, you easily could spend much longer there! I realize that! I look at this as an opportunity to get an overview. My husband took early retirement, and in another 2 years we plan to take off in an RV and travel the country. Can't wait....that way we will have the luxury of spending all the time we want wherever we want. It's frustrating trying to plan a trip like this, knowing that there is so much we won't be able to see. That's why picking your brain (and others) will help us cut to the chase a little and narrow down our options. Thanks again!
    Cook elk shot. My husband is the one who really enjoys shooting wildlife (and using the long lens). I'm the one more likely to be down on my knees shooting fungi on a log. :) But we both actually enjoy everything.
  7. The polarizer turns and goes from almost no effect to full effect as you turn it, so in the middle is some polarization, but not full. I don't do much polarization except in the tropics. If the forest is so sunny that you need it, it's probably not great light to be shooting in the forest, interiors anyway. It can be very useful though. All of those Olympic shots are really old, on slide film, with crappy lenses and no filters.

    So jealous of the notion of RV travel around the country taking pictures. As far as photography and nature, I would beeline it for the Northwest and probably never leave. Canadian Rockies (the pinnacle perhaps), Glacier in Montana, the Mid-Coast of BC (wow), Olympics, Cascades, Redwoods, it's all so fantastic. Heaven on Earth.
  8. Christal,
    While I haven't done any photography in Olympic, the one thing no one has mentioned is that Port Angeles is at least several hours from some of the major coastal attractions and rain forests in the park. While I'm sure the driving can be scenic, spending two hours going back and forth from your lodging could be a drag. I'd consider breaking up your stay a bit more so that you don't backtrack. You'll get to spend more of your time out of the car. Just my two cents.
  9. Dave.....this is precisely what I was afraid of. The thing is, I've tried all of the Park lodging on the west side of the park, and it's all full (of course, because it's so late). So I'll try to find something in Forks, although the choices sound like they go from 'bad to worse'. :) You're right......I'd rather be hiking on a scenic trail than stuck driving back and forth in the car. Thanks for your input!
  10. Brett .... thanks for the technical advice about the polarizer. And yes.....Heaven on Earth indeed!
  11. It is never too late because the less others tell you the more likely you might actually do something original! I certainly research new places, however, I honestly go exactly oppositie where others seem to want to go. I look for topography that looks interesting and might yield something different. Google earth is wonderful for that as are some of the PC gps programs.
    Shooting is shooting and the conditions in the NW, where I lived for 20 years, are as varied as anywhere. Fog on the coast in the summer is not uncommon, but rain this time of year is not as likely. Light is light though, so you adjust and make the best of it however it is where you are at the time. Depending on where you end up driving, you may be disappointed at the clear cuts, which just wont grow back in this part of the country--something learned the hard way, unfortunately. Just go and find something new and have an adventure not chasing photographs but making them.
  12. SCL


    Christal - the trail to the beach is doable - last time I was there, my wife (who at that time had difficulty walking without a cane), my daughter (who had had knee surgery) and my grandson all made it. The only difficult part was for my wife on the return trip, as there are several hundred stairs winding back up the cliffs, and the day we went it was off and on raining making them a little slippery. IMHO it is definitely worth it and much more fun than buying a postcard of the sea stacks. Seriously though, if you do make this trip - pay attention to the tides! People occasionally get there during low tide, become so fascinated by what they see, and scurry out further from the main beach onto the base of the nearest stacks. The tide starts back in and before they know it they are faced with the choice of getting slightly wet, but safely back onto the sandy beach, or panicking but actually wading thru what can be rough tides to save their lives. If I sound old fashioned...I've watched it happen, just pay attention! Mostly - have a great time. It's captivating, so you'll be back!
  13. I don't know John, I like the trailblazing ethic, and if you've just moved somewhere and have months or years to experiment it's one thing, but it's a big region, and input from people who have spent years there exploring the natural environment and taking photographs is pretty valuable when the poster only has a few days and wants to take photos, and is asking for advice.
    There's a great old paperbook book called "Don't waste your time in the Canadian Rockies" (recommends the sweet spots over the less interesting), that is a bible of sorts for that region. Point being there's an overwhelming choice of what to do for the uninitiated.
    Christal the Dew Drop Inn in Forks is nice.
  14. Brett, that is the way I always approach anywhere I go, so I have found it works for me and I don't think I have a lot of typical landscape work. I have always found that going down that unmarked dirt road or just following my own senses has got me where there was something special to be had. It is just another way of doing it is all, people should try it.
  15. To John.....I think one of the greatest joys is to 'discover' your own shots........we did that in the Palouse area last year. We just sniffed our way along, going on back roads, and we found some amazing (I thought) least shots that can evoke the wonderful spirit of that place. But when you spend a lot of money to fly across country, stay 3 weeks in hotels, pay for car rental, etc., you darn well better have some idea of where you're going and what there is to see. Otherwise there can be a lot of down time wasted. But we still try to remain spontaneous and get our head out of the guide books. That's why we look forward to RVing in the the near future. It will allow us a flexibility that we often don't have now. But I think you have the right idea.....certainly.....not to follow the masses. Of course even the common classic shots of famous landmarks will look slightly different depending on who is behind the lens, and to me that's the beauty of photography. Thanks for your comment!
  16. To Stephen.......thanks for the advice. I've read some horror stories, so we're particularly vigilant about watching the tides. And we're ALREADY coming back (3rd summer now). This area is truly amazing. We're from Indiana, and although we can't imagine leaving here entirely, we can definitely imagine spending several months of the year out there!
  17. Brett......for the Southwest we've used the Laurent Martres books......they're invaluable, not so much for WHAT they recommended shooting, but they give the best time of day for shooting and lighting info that a person unfamiliar with the area would find helpful. And then I also take the Robert Hitchman newsletter "Photograph America". It's also a very helpful publication that kind of helps you cut to the chase of a place. But still, we use them just as a starting point. We enjoy the process of finding our own places, and I don't want my shots to be cookie cutter shots of what everyone else is doing. Thanks for realizing that some of us need a little guidance. You're obviously passionate about what you do, and it must bring you joy to help others....especially a fledgling like myself. Thanks for the motel suggestion. I'll check it out tomorrow. I also think there may be a couple of decent B&B's in Forks.
  18. These are not in the park, but if you feel the need for a change of pace or looking for some indoor activities because of really bad weather, there are several attractions on the west side that you might want to consider:
    1. Forks: Timber museum. Also, when we were there, one of the local sawmills offered tours which were quite interesting and provided some unique photo ops of people at work.
    2. La Push: Whale watching (if in season), coast scenery
    3. Neah Bay: Makah people, Ozette archeology site, museum
    Have a great time, and, if at all possible, try to spend more than 3 days there. You'll hate yourself if you don't. It's an absolutely amazing part of the country.
    Tom M
  19. The Hoh Rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula is one of the most photogenic areas I have visited. It is just so totally different from anywhere else I have been.
    By the way, take rain gear and rain protection for your camera gear. Visiting a location called a "rain forest" and having to cut apart a plastic garbage bag to make a rain jacket and to hold your camera under that garbage bag to protect it simply seems like pretty poor prior planning. However, I saw many tourists reduced to doing just that.
    And, BTW, believe it or not, a CPL filter (and a tripod or monopod) can really help because the CPL will reduce the reflections off the wet foliage and provide more saturated colors. The tripod/monopod will help because the light levels in the Hoh can be pretty low and the CPL will cost you a couple of stops.
  20. If you are arriving this coming weekend you will be in luck the skys will be clear and we will be in the 80-90s.
    The reason you want clear skies is that the Perseids meteor shower is this weekend the peak is the 12th & 13th. One of the best places to view this is at Hurricane Ridge which is only a short drive from Port Angeles. This year we also had a late winter so the wildflowers are just peaking up on the ridge. [​IMG][​IMG]
    If you do decide to head to the west side you will find that you will need a tripod to shoot in the rain forest and to get the silky look from the waterfalls.
    If you head down to the ocean Rialto Beach is a short drive from the Hoh Rainforest and Forks. There you will find sea stacks and the parking lot is right on the beach. If you want to hike you and just hike down the beach as far as you want.

    This was shot about a mile from the main parking lot. But if the tide does come in you might have to do some bushwacking or climbing the cliffs to get back. This park is big so to cover the mountains to the ocean and everything in between three days will be pushing it. I do this all the time but I do not sleep in a room I camp out and drive from one location to the next during the night and be ready to go at first light shoot till the light goes bad get some sleep be ready to go late afternoon shoot till the light is gone and then drive to my next location.
  21. To Tom......all great suggestions! Thanks! And your comment was the final push we needed to indeed extend our stay by a day. It means we're going to have to get up VERY early on the 19th and high-tail it back to north of Portland, but we did a map search, and it's certainly do-able. Thanks so much!
  22. To Richard......Gosh, I've never been in such shooting conditions, so I honestly didn't even think about protecting my camera from the elements. I know they make rain-proof covers for there a particular kind you recommend? I shoot with a Canon 40D. And thanks for the technical advice. We don't go anywhere without a tripod. :)
  23. To Rick......Unfortunately we're not arriving this weekend. Will be there 25, 26, 27 and 28.
    It sounds like you're much more intrepid than we are! :) But that's why you get such great shots! I looked at your website. It's very well done, and you have some remarkable images. I think the Yellowstone shots were my favorite.
    I'm going to get a tide schedule because I live in fear of getting trapped as the tide comes in. You can easily get carried away and lose track of time when you're out exploring on the beaches.
    Glad to hear we may seem some good wildflowers.....I thought they'd all be gone. And Rialto is on 'our list'. We've finalized our lodging, and we'll be staying 1 night in Port Angeles, 2 nights in Forks (at the Dew Drop Inn....thanks to Brett above), and 1 night in Quinault Lodge. So I think we'll get to see a good bit of the park.
    Thanks for these wonderful pictures. I hope I get something half this good!
  24. Christal, be sure to make the ten minute side trip to see the Kalaloch cedar tree, which you will be [passing right by. If you don't know what it is or haven't seen any pictures, don't spoil it by googling it!
    Look for the "big cedar tree" sign along 101 between Ruby Beach and Beach 4. Drive a little over four miles inland. There are clear signs.
    It's more or less the largest redcedar in the world. It's not a tourist gimmick but rather a stark reminder of how incredible the forests close the ocean were before they were pretty much all cut down. Also at a campground in the Quinault is the world's more or less largest Sitka Spruce tree. That one is not as exciting due to the setting, but the cedar is fantastic.
    As far as rain, this is the absolute driest time of the year on the Western Peninsula, and it is unlikely rain will be an issue either for hiking or camera equipment.
  25. Thanks, Brett. Good idea not to Google it. I actually had read about the tree, but I haven't seen pictures of it yet. Hey, I have one more question (for anyone) ...... is there a best time of day to shoot at Hurricane Ridge? I was thinking sunset may be the best time, but I'd really like an opinion about this....probably not during the middle of the day, I guess it's safe to presume. Also....same question for Hoh Rain Forest. I wouldn't think it would matter much there because it's likely so overgrown. I don't imagine a lot of light gets through. But I could also have it all wrong. I can't wait until I have a little more leisure time, which probably won't be until after we return from our trip in September. I want to really study your portfolio.....maybe I'll be able to do that a bit on my trip if we have internet connections along the way. We always travel with a small laptop, both for communications and for down loading pictures each day. Thanks for the suggestion. I'm making a list to take with me. I almost WANT it to be better able to experience the rain forest? But we'll eventually get back there. If you had to pick only ONE month to visit, which would it be?
  26. Hi Christal, the Western Peninsula is perhaps optimal in October or late April. Winter is very wet and Summer is not terribly dynamic. October is wet, rather wet, but not outrageously wet quite yet, and the fall color with the bigleaf Maples and vine maples is spectacular, and there are tons of mushrooms. December is the wettest month of the year. April and May are glorious throughout the Northwest, flowers and beautiful weather, still fairly wet in the westside valleys in the Olympics. Lots of trillium, etc. in the forest.
    Best time of the day for the Hoh would probably be to start early, not long after sunrise. That way if it's clear you will at least get a little soft light early. If it's foggy and going to burn off you'll get the early fog. Hope for an overcast or partly cloudy day in general. Plenty of light gets through along the trail, which is pretty open. The forest is general is very late successional forest, and as such is quite open in much of the understory and midstory.
    If you don't mind roads with precipitous dropoffs you can also drive a couple miles from Hurricane Ridge down to Klahhane Ridge (there are signs), which has awesome views of a couple nearby alpine lakes. I hate scary roads, last time I went I had a friend of mine who grew up in the Austrian Alps do the drive.
  27. "...If you don't mind roads with precipitous dropoffs you can also drive a couple miles from Hurricane Ridge down to Klahhane Ridge..."
    The road up to Deer Park is also nice. It has similar, steep drop-offs. It has vistas similar to Hurricane Ridge but is vastly less popular and one can camp at the top.
  28. seems that spring and fall are the best times to visit most places. :) Oh well! We'll still love ONP, I'm sure. The suggestions for the Hoh are great....thanks! And yes, I'm TERRIFIED of precipitous drop-offs......a later-in-life fear that I've developed.....don't know why exactly......never used to bother me. I don't know how my husband puts up with me. I freaked out in Glacier National Park a couple of years ago. So Klahhane Ridge will probably not be on my Top 10 list. :) Thanks!
  29. To Tom......see my response to Brett. So I probably won't want to do Deer Park either. Although if it's less populated and we don't encounter any other cars, we could drive way away from the drop-off (maybe). We'll have to see. Thanks for the suggestion.
  30. Does anyone know the best time of day to photograph Hurricane Ridge? Or the beaches.....2nd beach and Ruby Beach? Now that I have the logistical part of my trip planned, I can actually start thinking about the photography stuff. :) I'm going to search on to see if there is a recommended book on the subject of photography in ONP. If anyone knows of a good one, I'm all ears. Thanks!
  31. I don't know about books with photo tips, but this is a wonderful book about the Peninsula ecology by Ruth Kirk and Jerry Franklin, who are esteemed Northwest ecologists, and it has lots of color photos. Looks like it's as low as $4 used on Amazon
  32. If I were to order it from Amazon, it probably wouldn't arrive before we leave. What we usually do is get to an area and look for books in local book stores or Park Information centers. But actually, I'm getting enough info from you all (and Trip Advisor), so we're going pretty well armed with information, I'd say. We'll pick up more when we get out there. I always look for a really great park ranger.....some of them are amazingly informative.
  33. Hurricane Ridge is good at first light and lastlight you are on the ridge so it is lit from the east or west. If the clouds do roll in during the night you will have nice light before the clouds burn off. When shooting the wildflowers overcast skies will make the colors pop. I like to be setup before the skies lighten up to get shots like this one
    As for the Ocean beaches sunset is when you get color in the skies but mornings are also nice when the fog is in and you get the nice soft colors. Like I said before shoot in the mornings and late afternoon and sleep midday when the light gets bad.
  34. Christal, I'll weigh in on this nice stream re" the Olympics and say that a great time to Photograph at Hurricane Ridge is right at sunrise as the rays of sun come in angled from the left (as you view the peaks looking south near the entrance of the parking lot). The angles of the trees and their shadow, the slopes and the rays of light truly paint a geometric picture of contrasts. My pics are still on slides but sometime I'll convert them to digital and show them to illustrate the point. Allow about 40 minutes drive from Port Angeles to get set up by dawn and the first rays of light lifting in from the left. I took my photos in early November, the absolutely last day before the clouds moved in for the season but was rewarded with golden brown foothills and dark green evergreens against the pink peaks in the background. Skip Wilson
  35. Crystal,
    Here is some information for you.
    From Rod Barbee:
    The Photographer's Guide to Puget Sound & Northwest Washington
    by Rod Barbee
    From Daniel Ewert
  36. Rick, Skip and Christopher,
    I guess I didn't see your posts because I quit checking as we were preparing to leave on our trip. Believe it or not, I'm already planning our next trip to this area, so I got back on here to review. And I was also curious to see how many of the suggestions we were able to realize......quite a few. All of your posts are extremely helpful. Thanks so much! This is an area we'll no doubt return to quite often because we have family out there, so I can't get enough of this great advice!

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