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PARK PEEK // OLYMPIC

We had the pleasure of visiting several new National Parks over the last several years that I never got around to sharing in the ol’ blogosphere. Shame on me! And one in particular stood out to me as one of the most photogenic and interesting; Olympic National Park in Washington.

Here’s a quick peek at what I found, and why I’ll be planning our return as soon as possible.

Only a few hours from the Seattle area, the first thing you’ll notice when you visit or research Olympic is how large it really is. It has no road that intersects, so in order to see its several distinct ecosystems, you’ll do a decent bit of driving around the entire Olympic Peninsula.

It encompasses nearly a million acres. Within that, you have mountains, rainforests, and dramatic coastlines.

We happened to be there just in time for the Rhododendron bloom, which is pretty spectacular.

One of my favorite things, dirt roads, are abundant around the park. Lots of places “off-the-beaten-path” to explore. And much of the Park runs adjacent to Olympic National Forest, so there are tons of recreation opportunities, including camping.

And every so often, if the conditions are favorable, you’ll get smacked in the face with a view of Mount Rainier, over 100 miles away.

The old-growth forests are spectacular and transport the visitor to another time. One can imagine the terrible and beautiful creatures that must have roamed this lush area.

The flora is the most impressive visual at this park, even though it does contain a surprising amount of animal inhabitants. Surprising only because of the dense populations of people surrounding this vast wilderness. But truly, the plant life reigns supreme here.

And then, there are the Olympics. Majestic and rugged mountains. Not particularly high, the tallest in the range is Mount Olympus, clocking in at just shy of 8,000 feet. However, the eastern slope of the range rises up from sea level at Puget Sound, so the mountains are still quite steep and impressive looking.

On the western slope, the Hoh Rainforest dominates. It is the wettest place in the lower 48, in fact. And because of this, it is the United State’s best glimpse into the temperate rainforest ecosystem.

Unfortunately, I only had a moment during the middle of the last day on the coastline for this trip, so more to come on our next visit. I didn’t get to explore that section as much as I’d like, nor did I come away with any jaw-dropping images, however, it was clear that this section would be just as fruitful and inspiring photographically and from a sight seeing perspective, as the other areas of the park.

The big takeaway for me was that this park demands time. A lot of it, if you really want to get a feel for the incredibly varied looks it will give you. It was my favorite of Washington State, and that’s saying a lot if you’ve ever been to Mount Rainier or North Cascades, both spectacular parks in their own right. Olympic National Park is a truly special place.

— Andrew
 

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film, film making, music, photography, random thought, travel, writing

january fan, july flame

note:  i’m really excited about this post for a few reasons:  first, because i’ve been trying to finish it for a month, so it will be nice to have it done.  second, i am anxious to share mine and elle’s experience because it was so amazing.  and third, because i hope it is the first of many posts that will be full multimedia extravaganzas!  i have incorporated writing, photography, video (both hd and iphone quality), and music to capture a mood and create an enjoyable viewer experience.  i hope it works!


so this year, my Christmas present to elle (and myself for that matter), was a trip to seattle and portland to see laura veirs.  if you haven’t heard of her, do yourself a favor… seriously.

laura was kicking off her july flame tour in her city of residence, portland, oregon.  july flame is her brand new album, and i can say that it is by far, one of the best albums of the last few years.

elle originally turned me on to laura by strategically placing some of her tracks on the various mix cds she made for me over the years.  but i didn’t really start getting into her until recently.  laura quickly latched on to the audio pleasure centers of my brain, and i am now a life-long fan.  you know those artists that you can tell immediately that they have the talent, relevance, and longevity to remain in your collection forever?  well, she is one of those…

for your listening pleasure, laura’s title track from her newest masterwork.  enjoy!

okay, enough gushing about laura… on to our “january fan” adventure!

we landed in seattle late thursday night.  we walked about downtown and found a great little italian joint, il bistro, that served food late.

waking up early friday to a typical seattle winter morning was surprisingly refreshing…

we sampled local beers and seafood at lunch in the market, and talked of quintessential seattle matters, like kurt cobain.  ha ha ha.

we left seattle after lunch and began our thousand mile journey up the columbia river gorge, down the oregon coast, over to portland, and finally back up to the olympic peninsula.

our first stop was in seaside, oregon, friday night to catch some sleep.

we awoke saturday morning to the kind of weather locals dream of this time of year; 50 degrees and clear skies.

i got coffee, elle got tea, we walked out to the ocean.  it was breathtakingly exciting and serene at the same time.

my heart leaps in my chest when i think of the look on her face that morning.  i think it had been quite a while since elle had seen the ocean… i was so glad to share that with her.

after seaside, we snaked our way down the 101 to ecola state park.  famous views of cannon beach awaited us… a real treat.

a track from another great album of laura’s, slatbreakers, also turns my mind to this fantasy we lived for a few short days…

the light was fantastic as it danced across the surf, illuminating rocks and waves without discrimination.  it’s amazing how nature seems to have such an appreciation for aesthetics.  i guess God too is a connoisseur of beauty…

correction:  the creator and purveyor of beauty.

cat power’s the greatest was our soundtrack as we inched along the ancient forests of the pacific coast.  oh that life could be this sweet always… but then i guess times like these would hold less weight…

we then parked and explored cannon beach for a while by foot.

probably mine and elle’s favorite tune from july flame

oh laura, you’re a freakin’ genius!

elle finally took her shoes off to feel the sand in between her toes and let the cool tide wash over her feet.

we finally made it to portland around dinner time.  it was the famed night for our show, the july flame tour kick-off!  we didn’t know what to expect.

and oh what a pleasant surprise it was… the artistery, the venue, was a home-turned-into-an-artist-studio on the east side of the city.  we walked in to find a young man on a laptop checking names.  he stamped our hands as we bantered a bit, letting him know that we had come from nearly two-thousand miles away.

we cautiously walked down the narrow stairs past post-modern paintings and sketches, and followed the sweet sound of portland folk.

on the stage was justin power, a portland local.  he was fantastic.

we made weird he-man self portraits in the bathroom…

we met justin in between acts and gave him our appreciation… he went to his van and gave us an album with him and the portland cello project.  if you can find a way to get your hands on it, i highly recommend his music as well!

led to sea came on next, a one woman performer, songwriter, violist and multi-instrumentalist, l. alex guy.  she too was fantastic, but elle and i lost our spots in the crowded basement, so i didn’t get pictures of her until later when she played with laura.  watch out for alex as well… she is a very talented songwriter…

then along came laura…

she had been sitting in the back at a table where people could purchase merchandise.  elle and i kept contemplating going over to talk to her, and we easily could have, but we didn’t want to be one of “those people”, gushing about how much we love her music.

“she looks pregnant,” elle said.

“don’t be rude,” i quickly returned.

well, she got up and strapped an acoustic guitar around her bulging belly and cracked a joke about how she was leaving monday to start the european leg of the tour, being 6 months pregnant.

i looked at elle and smiled.  i’ll never doubt your prego radar again, i thought.

laura rocked it in her mostly-quiet way.  the lyrics dripped from her lips and fell like honey into our ears.  us and the fifty or so others that stood silent in the artistery.  it was truly magical.  a time that i know elle and i will never forget, judging by all of the glances we gave to one another as laura played on…

the next morning we woke to a lazy portland sunday.  we saw mount hood for the first time.  a rare site from the city in winter.  a lenticular cloud hovered over.

then the rain started again.  we headed north on the 5 toward the olympic peninsula.

giant trees and ferns guided us through this primeval landscape.

we camped within earshot of the sea outside kalaloch, just off the queets river.  it was raining so hard that we stayed all night in the car.  we played gin for hours, laughing in the dim glow of an ipod.

as we rounded the northern end of the olympic, lake crescent came into clear view.  the light was less than ideal, but the view still made us gasp.

it’s funny, we took this trip on a whim not knowing where the road would take us.  and up until this adventure we found ourselves constantly asking one another, “can i call you mine?”

it’s really fitting that this question is repeated over and over in the chorus to july flame, a song that we never knew until this trip.  because as we drove and listened and saw everything we experienced on that long weekend, we both gained a confidence in each other and ourselves that has given us an answer to our question.

if you enjoyed any of the music on this post, please support a fantastic independent artist…  here is a link to her label, and all her music.  thanks so much!

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2010

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