Olympic National Park Vacation Photography

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

As I mentioned in a previous post this year on my vacation plans, I interned at Olympic National Park back in 1981. Over the last two weeks, I finally returned to and wanted to share a trio of photos which highlight what makes this U.S. National Park so beautiful and unique.

Olympic National Park is 95% wilderness which can only be accessed via hiking the interior. However, there are popular access points easily enjoyed via a personal vehicle and using short well groomed trails. The first of these locations I visited was Hurricane Ridge near Port Angeles, Washington. After entering the park, it is a 17 mile drive up with the last 7 miles along the side of mountains. Once you get to the top, there is a large parking area, a two-story visitor center with a counter service restaurant, gift shop, exhibits and Rangers on duty to answer questions and give presentations. As an aside, when I was last there, the “visitor center” was a small, two room building. Very happy with the improvements to better handle the tourists.

The highlight is the view of the Olympic Mountain range from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center Overlook. On this day, my third time there on this trip, I finally got some great clouds in the sky and the clearest view of the mountains.

Olympic Mountain Range from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center in Olympic National Park near Port Angeles, Washington

Olympic Mountain Range from the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center in Olympic National Park near Port Angeles, Washington.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 100, EV -0.3, 28mm Focal Length.

About a two hour drive east from Port Angeles down a river valley, lies the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center with three short hikes of about a mile each. The most stunning is the Hall of Mosses Trail which meanders through a lush temperate rain forest which redefines a person’s definition of the color green. The Hoh Rain Forest receives, on average, about 156 inches of rain each year. Mostly in the first and last part of the year. The summer months of June, July and August average about 3 inches each.

For people coming from the eastern United States, the height and size of the trees which grow on the Olympic Peninsula are a bit shocking, You get an idea in the photo below of people walking among the large moss covered trees.

Hall of Mosses Trail in the Hoh Rain Forest of the Olympic National Park near Forks, Washington

Hall of Mosses Trail in the Hoh Rain Forest of the Olympic National Park near Forks, Washington.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, 1/3s, f/16, ISO 100, EV -1.0, 16mm Focal Length, Tripod.

Olympic National Park contains 73 miles along the Washington Pacific Ocean coast. These beaches are a bit rugged compared to those found in Florida. The most famous of which is Ruby Beach with its large and small sea stacks of rock on an otherwise flat beach. The sea stacks were formed over hundreds of years from the wind and surf. For the days I visited the Olympic Coast, they were cool and foggy. The coastal fog is one of the reasons trees and other vegetation grow so big bringing in moisture for the Sitka Spruce trees to capture and grow up to 200 feet tall.

The low contrast light of the fog gave me a challenge. As the sea stacks appeared and disappeared during my time at Ruby Beach, I used a set of five photos between -2EV and +2EV to bring out the details, colors and beauty of the sea stacks, beach and the fog around them.

Sea stacks loom out of the fog on Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park near Forks, Washington

Sea stacks loom out of the fog on Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park near Forks, Washington.
Nikon D750/16-35VR, f/16, ISO 100, EV 0, 35mm Focal Length, HDR Image.

I hope you did not mind this break from my usual Disney photography article. Visiting Olympic National Park was very satisfying to my spirit. I hope it remains mostly wild and giving people the chance to enjoy its beauty for generations to come.

I will be back to Disney-like photo stuff next week.





Scott's "Photographic Innoventions" blog focuses on intermediate to advanced photography concepts and techniques relevant for Point and Shoot and Digital SLR cameras.

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