Pentax K3

The Last Stands – 9 Saved Places

In the past, I would participate in a year-end tradition among photographers where favorite photographs over the previous year are selected and then featured in a blog post. Rather than do that, I decided to do something different. In 2016, I focused solely on visiting remnant old growth stands in the Umpqua River watershed in Southern Oregon so I have decided to highlight nine old growth forests that I visited which were threatened with logging during the last 20 years but were saved due to the efforts of Umpqua Watersheds, a local conservation group based in Roseburg, Oregon. I felt that highlighting these public lands is important for a number of reasons but, first and foremost, I do believe that they will come under threat of logging once again in the near future.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has already issued a revised resource management plan and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is just beginning the process of updating the Northwest Forest Plan. The timber industry is looking to increase timber volumes from public lands under both plans (the BLM is already being sued by BOTH sides about their just release management plan) and it’s important to remind people about why these places deserved (and continue to deserve) protection. So, in no particular order..

1.East Fork Coquille (Umpqua Watersheds link)

This sale was issued by the BLM in 2003 and proposed clearcutting 600 acres of mature and old growth forests west of Roseburg in the Coastal Mountain Range. The oldest stands within the proposed units were more than 400 years old. The sale was finally stopped in 2006 due to a failure to protect Red Tree Voles (a food source for Spotted Owls).

East Fork Coquille Timber Sale, Unit 105
East Fork Coquille Timber Sale, Unit 108

2. Ragu (Umpqua Watersheds link)

Proposed in 1999, this BLM sale is also west of Roseburg near Camas Valley and sought to extract 5 million board feet of lumber from 177 acres. This sale was given a deferred analysis status in 2005 and then permanently scrapped in 2006.

Ragu Timber Sale, Unit I
Ragu Timber Sale, Unit E

3. Dickerson Heights (Umpqua Watersheds link)

A BLM sale proposed in 2006 located southwest of Winston near Ollala. These forests of Dickerson Rocks are home to the threatened Marbled Murrelet and also contain a diverse variety of trees including Madrone, Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine, Canyon Live Oak, and Incense Cedar.

Dickerson Heights Timber Sale, Unit A

4. Cow Catcher (Umpqua Watersheds link)

This BLM sale located within the town of Riddle’s water supply was initially proposed in 1999 but finally stopped in 2006. The BLM wanted to cut this old growth because “..aging stands that are declining in annual growth would be replaced with young, vigorous stands, which would more efficiently produce a sustainable supply of timber and other forest commodities.” (Cow Catcher Environmental Assessment, pg 21).

Cow Catcher Timber Sale, Unit C

5. Spam (Umpqua Watersheds link)

A Forest Service sale in the Tiller Ranger District, this 1999 sale proposed logging on 312 including at least one unit that had never been logged before. This sale was stopped due to legal challenges related to the Survey and Manage component of the Northwest Forest Plan.

Spam Timber Sale, Unit C
Spam Timber Sale, Unit B

6. Felix (Umpqua Watersheds link)

A 1998 timber sale in the North Umpqua Ranger District of the Umpqua National Forest that proposed logging 330 acres of old growth forest, sometimes right up to the edge of a roadless area. This sale also was stopped due to the Survey and Manage lawsuit.

Felix Timber Sale, Unit 5
Felix Timber Sale, Unit 8

7. Nita (Umpqua Watersheds link)

This Forest Service sale dates back to a type of sale called a Section 318 Sale (more info here). The sale was re-opened thanks to the Rider Act of 1995 and was physically part of a Late Successional Reserve. Thanks to legal challenges, the Court ruled that this sale did not qualify under the Rider Act and was once again spared.

Nita Timber Sale, Unit 1
Nita Timber Sale, Unit 2

8. Can Can (Umpqua Watersheds link)

This BLM sale from 2006 proposed logging 520 acres of mature & old growth forests near Canyonville. It contains a diverse mix of trees and is critical habitat and home range for seven Spotted Owls. This sale was also prevented thanks to the Survey and Manage lawsuit.

Can Can Timber Sale, Unit M

9. Zinc (Umpqua Watersheds link)

This 1999 sale in the Umpqua National Forest’s Tiller Ranger District proposed logging 465 acres including large old growth (notably in Unit H). This sale was also halted due to the Survey and Manage lawsuit.

Zinc Timber Sale, Unit H
Zinc Timber Sale, Unit H

For 2017, I plan on heading back down to the Umpqua and continuing my project of visiting and photographing these old growth stands. I’ve recently processed some data which should help direct me towards the biggest tree stands, even in the large sale units so I’m hopeful that I’ll be even more productive. In the meantime, I welcome you to learn more and perhaps get involved in the fight:

My Interactive Map of Umpqua River Basin Old Growth Timber Sales
Umpqua Watersheds
Umpqua Watersheds 20th Anniversary Documentary
Cascadia Wildlands
Oregon Wild
North Coast State Forest Coalition

Christmas Over The Cascades

Hope everyone is having a happy holidays. On Christmas Day, I was flying over the Oregon Cascades in the mid afternoon and the fresh snow and low sun angle was really showing off the Cascade mountains in Oregon. I didn’t have much time to photograph them but here are three peaks from the central Cascade range in Oregon. Enjoy!

Mount Washington, Christmas Day 2016
Three Fingered Jack and Mowich Lake, Christmas Day 2016
Mount Jefferson, Christmas Day 2016

New Umpqua Image

Four months goes by fast! I spent last week down in the Roseburg area once again to continue exploring the old growth timber sales that weren’t cut. I’ve got a lot of work to do going through everything I photographed but here’s one that I was excited about when I saw it develop. This spot is located in a forgotten spot of the Tiller Ranger District in the Umpqua National Forest. In 1999, this was included as Unit C of the Spam Timber Sale. This 125 acre unit was on what the Forest Service called “Matrix land” but Umpqua Watersheds claimed was ancient forest that had not been logged before. This place was gorgeous and I didn’t spend nearly as much time as I wanted to in it. I will definitely be returning in the spring to walk it more. Anyways, as I focused on the scene in front of me, some of the valley clouds were drifting up towards my location. I just happened to turn around when these Crepuscular rays developed in the trees behind me. I only managed 3 or 4 photos before the effect was already fading away.

Spam Timber Sale Unit C, Tiller Ranger District, Umpqua National Forest

I’m hoping to have a whole new batch of photos posted in the next couple weeks so stay tuned!

Umpqua Preview

Things have been pretty quiet around here but I’ll have new photos to share quite soon. Rather than my customary spring trip to Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge, I drove a little further south to explore the Umpqua River drainage in southwest Oregon. I’ll explain more when I share my photos but here’s a quick preview. This spot is located in the upper North Fork Umpqua River drainage and is a grove of old growth that’s threatened with logging due to a timber sale proposal by the Umpqua National Forest.

Loafer Timber Sale Unit 35, Umpqua National Forest

2015 Retrospective

I almost did not write this post. My 2015 is actually just a “first 6 months of 2015.” Photography is (and remains) a passion but- it is not a “be all, end all.” I ended up taking a sabbatical from photography starting in June to focus on a variety of home repairs/remodeling work that became a high priority for me in my life. The extended break has actually been liberating and refreshing. I also didn’t feel that bad about it because the Pacific Northwest just came off a huge below average winter and right into a drought over the summer. Wildflower season was well over by the time July appeared. I didn’t miss anything.

Anyways, back to this concept/idea of “Best of” or Year in Review blog posts. What’s the point of these things? I won’t go all Guy Tal on you about it but let’s be frank- to a large degree, it’s about a desire for “exposure,” or validation for what we’re doing. Many photographers craft these posts and submit them to be included in Jim Goldstein’s annual “Best of ” compilation. Hell- I’ve done it for a number of years and I’ll admit that initially it was in large part due to the flood of visitation that happens once Jim’s post goes public and is reshared broadly across the internet. The lure of gaining new followers is strong when you’re just beginning to establish yourself. These days, however, I’m not concerned or obsessed with that side of the equation. My photography is what it is. And I’m ok with that.

Meh- now I’m starting to ramble. Anyways, looking back on my year, there’s obviously not a lot to draw from but I am excited that timing and conditions finally came together and allowed me to photograph the Aurora Borealis over the North Cascades (something I’ve tried in vain for years to do) and I also started working on a video project I’ve been thinking about.. So, in no particular order, here are my personal favorites:

1.) Falling Behind – Mount Baker Wilderness

Falling Behind - Mount Baker Wilderness

I shared this photo on 500px when I still had an account but never made it into a blog post. When you can visit this location relatively easily in winter, there’s a problem. Our massive lack of snowfall last winter facilitated access to Boulder Ridge on Mount Baker. This conversion to black & white using Nik’s Silver Efex 2 worked well.

2.) Heybrook Ridge – Skykomish River Valley

Heybrook Ridge - Skykomish River Valley

One spring morning, I was on my way to Leavenworth to photograph the spring wildflowers when I came across these clearing clouds just east of Index, Washington. I was shooting almost into the sun so converting to black & white using Nik’s Silver Efex 2 worked well.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

3.) Winter Green – Mount Rainier National Park

Winter Green - Mount Rainier National Park

Every year during the winter I visit Green Lake in Mount Rainier National Park and I always seem to come away with a photo that I love. This one is along the trail just prior to reaching Ranger Falls.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

4.) Mount Shuksan & Aurora – Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Mount Shuksan & Aurora - Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

A photo I’ve visualized and wanted for several years. Everything came together just a few days after the summer equinox.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

5.) Deep Forest – Clackamas River Wilderness

Deep Forest - Clackamas River Wilderness

A photo from my first visit to a beautiful grove of old growth forest in the upper Clackamas River drainage. I only learned of this place literally two weeks before my trip. I can’t wait to go back.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

6.) Salmon River – Salmon River Valley

Salmon River - Salmon River Valley

Visiting the Salmon River during my spring trip south to Mount Hood and the Gorge has quickly become a tradition an mandatory. This day I spent nearly 4 hours along the river and only hiked a mile, at best. It’s just that good.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

7.) Picture Lake Stars – Heather Meadows

Picture Lake Stars - Heather Meadows

This is a photo I actually never shared. It was from a failed outing so I never got around to a blog post about it. This is a snow and ice free Picture Lake on a New Moon winter’s night. I loved the reflection of all the stars on the water’s surface. I took this using the new Sigma f1.8 18-35mm lens.

8.) Tye Spring Snow – Tye River Valley

Tye Spring Snow - Tye River Valley

This photo was also taken on my way over the Cascades to Leavenworth this spring. The fresh snow up and down the Tye River valley and hint of blue sky was too good to pass up.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

9.) Corydalis Sea – Salmon River Valley

Corydalis Sea - Salmon River Valley

I really love this photo, as well as the challenge to take it, but that isn’t immediately apparent. This sea of Scouler’s Corydalis covers a wide area (each individual plant is about 4-5′ tall and several feet wide). The trail here was slightly above the plants but I had to hand hold my camera’s tripod above me like a color guard member would hold a flag during a procession. A lot of trial and error using the time function on the camera.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

10.) Spring Tidings – Leavenworth, Washington

Spring Tidings - Leavenworth, Washington

Spring wildflowers at a quiet spot I know about. Hopefully it stays this way for many years to come..

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

So there ya have it. 2016 is already here. I don’t know what will happen but I’m really looking forward to getting back to the photography I know and love.

Auroras At Last

Aurora Borealis over Mount Shuksan, North Cascades, Washington State
In some parts of world, a display of the Aurora Borealis is a common occurrence. In the Pacific Northwest, it is not common and requires a fairly substantial solar storm in order to even provide a chance of them appearing. It does happen, however, and I remember my first time ever seeing them one night from my home in Everett. It was a far cry from the photos that you see taken from places in the high latitudes but it was still magical. Photographing them has been my white whale, which is to say that I’ve tried on numerous attempts to photograph them but have typically come up short due to weather or a storm event fizzing out.

Since 2014, the earth has entered an increased cycle of solar activity. For aurora lovers, this has meant more opportunities for viewing and in locations that they normally do not occur. A solar storm two weeks ago brought the Pacific Northwest its latest chance at auroras and the siren song was too enticing to ignore. I was excited because I was sure that this would be *THE* time to photograph. Our region was stuck in a weather rut of clear, sunny weather and the storm was predicted to be significant enough to be seen well south into Oregon.

As the afternoon progressed, storm type clouds were popping up across the mountains and especially in the vicinity of Mount Baker where I was planning to go that evening. A huge thunderhead cloud was firmly parked over Mount Baker and it did not look like it was going to go anywhere. At one point, I resigned myself to the likelihood that this night would be another bust. I kept checking an app on my iPhone named RainAware which provided a looped animation of 1km visible satellite imagery in hopes of seeing anything encouraging. Around 6pm, the clouds parked over Mount Baker appeared to be breaking down. I hated to gamble on a 2+ hour drive only to end in disappointment but I decided to roll the dice. Again…
Late Afternoon cloud cover parked squarely on top of Mount Baker
Aurora Borealis over Mount Shuksan, North Cascades, Washington State
Aurora Borealis over Mount Shuksan, North Cascades, Washington State
Once I headed north on I-5 from Everett, I could see a cloud-free Mount Baker. Very encouraging! Two plus hours later, I arrived at my destination for the night- a spot high above Baker Lake with a clear view directly north towards Mount Shuksan. Although sunset had already come and gone, there still was a bit of ambient light due to my high elevation and wide open skies. I broke out my GoPro Hero 4 to set it up for a night time lapse during my outing and then broke out my camera and my Sigma 18-35 f1.8 lens, which has become my “go to” lens for any night photography.

I had to wait about 40 minutes for nautical twilight and much darker conditions. In the mean time, I would shoot a photo every now and then to check if any auroras would show up. About five minutes before nautical twilight, faint green pillars began showing up on my test photos. The darker the skies got, the brighter the auroras became in my photos. I was so excited. After so many failed outings and missed opportunities, it was finally coming together!

Despite confirmation in my photos, the auroras really weren’t visible to my naked eye. This was a small disappointment but I really couldn’t complain. I kept photographing for over an hour until midnight local time. I had a long drive home and while I really didn’t want to leave, I had to and needed to leave before I was too tired to safely drive home. The vertical pillars and mixed green/purple hues were most active during the first half hour I noticed them but the auroras never quit for the entire time I was photographing them. Needless to say, it was a very happy drive home. Now that I have photographed the, I’m looking forward to their next appearance even more.
Aurora Borealis over Mount Shuksan, North Cascades, Washington State
Aurora Borealis over Mount Shuksan, North Cascades, Washington State
Aurora Borealis over Mount Shuksan, North Cascades, Washington State
Time lapse from the evening with my GoPro Hero 4:

Carbon River Old Growth

I recently made the laughable decision to hike the Carbon River old growth forest in Mount Rainier National Park on a rainy day. This is a very special place for me and despite the difficulties of visiting it, I always seem to find something new to see. Here’s a small set of photos from that wet day:
Carbon River valley old growth, Mount Rainier National Park
Carbon River valley old growth, Green Lake Trail, Mount Rainier National Park
Green Lake during rain showers, Mount Rainier National Park
Weathered stump, Green Lake Trail, Mount Rainier National Park
Old growth and young trees, Green Lake Trail, Mount Rainier National Park

Early Winter at Deception Creek

Deception Creek in Winter, Alpine Lakes Wilderness
` (storms full of warm, tropical moisture originating near the Hawaiian Islands) which promptly melt away any snowpack that starts to build. Winter is about 3 weeks behind schedule but is FINALLY establishing itself. I had some trouble deciding where to go for my first winter outing but eventually decided on Deception Creek up the Highway 2 corridor. I’ve visited twice before (including during winter) but my winter visit was cut short of my goal due to time constraints.

I’ve described the hike before but long story short- during the winter, the trailhead is not accessible during winter because snow removal operations build a snowbank along Highway 2 where the trailhead turnoff is. The quarter-mile walk along the highway is the worst (and potentially dangerous) part of any winter outing. Thanks to El Nino, no highway walk was required because I could turn off the Highway and park off of the highway. There wasn’t much of a snowpack down along the highway but it did thicken up a bit as we hiked up and approached the summer trailhead. It would have been nice to have visited when the ice along the creek was more substantial but there still were remnants in many spots.

Unlike my previous winter visit, I did make it to a small waterfall and pooled section of the creek. I spent quite a bit of time working some more intimate compositions based on the boulders along the margin of the creek which still had icy perimeters. I didn’t get an early start on this day so it was now late in the afternoon and time to head home. On the way back out, I did stop at one spot which had some icy pendants hanging down off of a log at creek level. It’s always nice to visit this spot because it doesn’t get many winter visitors and yet it’s so close to the busy highway. Even with that proximity, the busy sounds of the highway quickly fade away. Most would never know about it…
Deception Creek in Winter, Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Ice Capped Boulder in Deception Creek, Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Deception Creek in Winter, Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Deception Creek in Winter, Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Ice Pendants above Deception Creek, Alpine Lakes Wilderness
Baring Mountain and low clouds above the South Fork Skykomish River valley east of Index, Washington
Baring Mountain and low clouds above the South Fork Skykomish River valley east of Index, Washington

Goodbye 2014

2014 is nearly in the books and I, for one, say good riddance. It was a year largely full of other commitments and little photography. I photographed sunrise on New Years Day and promptly broke the zoom ring on one of my lenses. Five months later, I dunked all of my gear in a river. Thankfully, most of the gear survived after a week of drying in a bag of rice but I did end up replacing one zoom lens with a new (used) copy and repairing my New Years Day lens a second time. My photography largely consisted of a week long trip to South Florida’s Gulf Coast during July 4th and a few day trips on either side of that. Despite the challenges of the past year, I have selected ten photos to highlight my year:

1.) The Storm – Sanibel Island, Florida
The Storm - Sanibel Island, Florida
Storm clouds are probably somewhat fitting given my year. Taken during my week long stay on Sanibel Island, Florida, these storm clouds developed during sunrise towards the end of my trip. Gotta love the short walk from the rented guesthouse to the beach!

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

2.) The Hills Are Alive – Leavenworth, Washington State
The Hills Are Alive - Leavenworth, Washington State
One of my regular outings during spring is a trip over the mountains to the Leavenworth area to photograph the balsamroot flower displays. This year, I timed the trip perfectly to explore a new location. An entire hillside of blooming flowers all to myself!

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

3.) Worth the Wait – Glacier Peak Wilderness
Worth the Wait - Glacier Peak Wilderness

My most recent outing which holds some special significance to me. This photo marks my return to Green Mountain in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. This location has largely been inaccessible for the last decade due to flood damage to the primary access road. Green Mountain was one of the first locations that I was taken to by friends once I moved up to Washington State. Once the road was finally repaired, I had to visit this place once again. Just visiting once again would have been enough but the sunset on this day turned out to be pretty spectacular.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

4.) Sanibel Storm – Sanibel Island, Florida
Sanibel Storm - Sanibel Island, Florida

During my visit to Florida, I got to experience several nights of “heat lightning.” The heat and humidity of the daylight hours turns into lightning offshore during the overnight hours. It was quite mesmerizing standing on the beach watching the constant lightning strikes. Thankfully, I was never in any danger while outside photographing it. I’ve only tried photographing lightning once before so I got plenty of practice!

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

5.) Gotcha – J. N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Gotcha - J. N. 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge

I’m not much of a wildlife photographer but love to photograph it given the opportunity. During my trip to Florida, the J. N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge was just five minutes away from where we were staying. I only was able to make two trips to the refuge but enjoyed the time.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

6.) Stranglehold – Big Cypress National Preserve
Stranglehold - Big Cypress National Preserve

For our trip to Florida, We actually flew in and out of Fort Lauderdale and doubled back via car to Sanibel Island. Rather than take the quicker I-75, we opted for US-41 which took us through Big Cypress National Preserve. This Strangler Fig caught my eye during our quick stop at Kirby Storter Roadside Park.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

7.) Aurora Not-at-all-us – Mount Baker
Aurora Not-at-all-us - Mount Baker

At the end of this past summer, a promising aurora alert was issued after a solar flare and, for once, it coincided with clear skies. I staked it out for two nights but alas, the auroras never came. I was left with a few nice nighttime photos of Mount Baker and a couple newly scouted locations.

8.) Origins – Sanibel Island, Florida
Origins - Sanibel Island, Florida

This photo was taken in the pre-dawn minutes the same morning as photo #1. The heat lightning from the previous night was finally dying down but not before a few more strikes during the advancing light of the new day.

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

9.) Supermoon Reflection – Heather Meadows
Supermoon Reflection - Heather Meadows

I swore I would never photograph Mount Shuksan from Picture Lake. The scene is SO tired and has been photographed to death. As it turned out, I stopped by the lake on a whim suggestion by my friend after we had photographed the super moon’s rise at sunset. No one was present and the mist rising off the lake provided the qualities I was seeking to set my photo apart from the thousands (if not millions) of other Picture Lake photos.

10.) Lava Lamp – Baring Mountain
Lava Lamp - Baring Mountain

This photo is just one photo from a series taken during a spectacular sunrise this fall. It was actually the culmination of repeated sunrise attempts at this particular location. The vindication was especially satisfying!

More photos from this trip can be found in my blog post here.

So there are my ten photos. I also continued my tradition throughout the year of shooting time lapses with my GoPro camera. Here’s a recap video I put together from my Florida trip:

Florida Gulf Coast – July 2014 from Steve Cole on Vimeo.


My last photo taken on Green Mountain of Avalanche Lilies - May 2006
After moving to Washington State in 1999, one of the first “new” hikes I was introduced to was the Green Mountain trail in the Glacier Peak Wilderness. After a quick forest portion, the hike opens up to a wonderful steep meadow with huge views towards Glacier Peak. For the hardier, the trail continues through an upper basin and concludes with a 1,000 foot climb up to the summit of Green Mountain and an old fire lookout. The meadows are rich in diversity and density and they have always left me in awe. In 2003 and again in 2006, Western Washington encountered “100-year” flood events which ravaged both the lowlands and the mountains. In the Suiattle River valley, the main access road to the trailhead (Forest Service Road 26) washed out in several locations. These washouts effectively cut off access to the trail for all but the hardiest of people due to the additional 13 miles of road walking required to reach the official trailhead.

Although federal repair funds were secured relatively soon after the damage, the repair process drug out many years due to the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process for the environmental permitting of the proposed repairs followed immediately by an environmental group’s legal challenge against repairing the road. Even when all of this was resolved, it took 2 years to complete all of the necessary repairs. In late October, the repairs were finally complete and access was finally restored. Winter is fast approaching and the window for visiting Green Mountain is closing. The partly sunny forecast for Saturday was more than enough reason to make a trip to Green Mountain a reality.
Green Mountain's southwest ridge and developing sunset
Dome Peak at sunset, Glacier Peak Wilderness
Dome Peak, Sentinel Peak, and the Downey Creek valley at Sunset
I suspected that others would also have the same idea to visit Green Mountain but I didn’t expect THAT many people would be of like minds! Parking at the trailhead was like a rock concert with cars parked everywhere. During our hike up, we counted close to 100 people whom we passed as they made their way back down. Despite the constant passing of hikers, everything special about this place was still there. Rounding a corner of the trail would re-ignite a memory about what was just around the corner. The anticipation of reaching the meadows was high and only magnified as the forest began to give way. After so many years, the forest finally gave way to wide open skies. Far below us, the roar of the Suiattle River were the only sounds.

Hiking was slow & steady with the constant view of Glacier Peak. At the upper margin of the meadow, the trail passes through a stand of Alaska Yellow Cedar which have a wonderful distinct smell to them. Beyond the cedars, the trail skirts the forest for a short climb up to the small basin below the summit of Green Mountain. Once again, the anticipation of seeing the small tarn basin built as we got closer & closer to the small crest at the edge of the basin. The basin is somewhat sheltered so it still was retaining a thin coating of snow from one of the early fall snows. The three miles to this point have a moderate rate of ascent but the next section of trail that gains 600′ up to the summit ridgeline is the steepest stretch of the entire hike.
Glacier Peak at Sunset from Green Mountain
Sunset Clouds over White Chuck Mountain (L) and Three Fingers (R)
Sunset over the North Central Cascades from Green Mountain, Glacier Peak Wilderness
Our slow & steady pace up to this point was putting us slightly behind schedule. I wanted to be up on the summit ridgeline for sunset so that I had multiple options available to me for whatever would happen during sunset and I definitely wanted the ability to photograph Dome Peak, which is located to the east of Green Mountain. It’s NOT easy to pick up the pace on the steepest stretch of trail with a 30 pound pack but that’s what I had to do. During the course of our hike, the weather went from partly sunny to high overcast to darker clouds from the advancing storm front. Doubts had been starting to develop as to what would happen during sunset but the persistence of a clear portion of the horizon to the southwest continued to give hope.

Finally up on the ridge, I needed to take a small waypath down the ridge for a short distance to gain some more open views. This eastern side of the ridge was still retaining some fall snow and that made a few of the traverse moves more interesting than I would have liked. Moving slowly and purposely, I made my way down the ridge until I reach the point where I could photograph west, south, or east. It was within an hour until sunset so I had to work quickly to set up my GoPro for my sunset time lapse. This was my first outing with a new GoPro accessory the Lee Bug Filter System, which provides a polarizing and 3-stop Neutral Density filter options for use with GoPro Hero 3s (and 3+s). The GoPro cameras do not have the same dynamic range as larger, more traditional cameras. During many of my previous sunset/sunrise time lapses, the scenes are typically unbalanced with a dark foreground and a horizon / sky that borders on being overexposed. The Lee system’s ND Grad filter should help address this issue and enable me to capture a more balanced composition.
Sunset over the North Central Cascades from Green Mountain, Glacier Peak Wilderness
Sunset over the North Central Cascades from Green Mountain, Glacier Peak Wilderness
Sunset Clouds over White Chuck Mountain (L) and Liberty Mountain (R)
I fumbled around and set everything up as quickly as I could. I gambled on a composition that would stretch from Dome Peak on the left side over to Glacier Peak to the right. Now that the time lapse was under way, I could now pull out my camera and begin photographing the developing sunset. The narrow break in the clouds to the west was beginning to show the early stages of color but everywhere else seemed to be stuck in grey and stormy clouds. The color continued to progress and it was becoming clear that my focus would mainly be towards the west. Thankfully, I did keep my head on a swivel and was aware of a brief but glorious few minutes when the full power and color of sunlight spilled across the area (including behind me on Dome Peak and towards the north near Mount Buckindy. Sadly, this development didn’t last and further develop like I hoped. You can see it as a brief flash in my time lapse.

As disappointing as that was, it was become QUITE clear something special was going to happen back towards the west. That slow build of color that I photographed at sunrise near Index a few weeks ago was going to happen here as well.

Green Mountain Sunset Time Lapse – 11/8/2014 from Steve Cole on Vimeo.

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