Hurricane Ridge – Olympic National Park

Hurricane Ridge

3-shot HDR from Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park.

The weather over the past few days has been absolutely phenomenal, so I set out on Saturday to Olympic National Park. I had originally planned to drive down to Oregon for the Historic Columbia River Highway, but I realized I hadn’t visited the much closer Hurricane Ridge, yet.

No longer used to catching ferries since many, many years ago on Prince Edward Island, we ended up missing our target sailing, so had to wait about 40 minutes in the lineup for the next one. The trip from Edmonds to Kingston was aboard the MV Walla Walla, which brought back a ton of memories from before the Confederation Bridge was built, connecting PEI to the mainland – we stood out on the bow of the ship the entire time, where it was frightfully chilly at times.

Our first stop was Port Angeles, for a quick lunch, then we set off for the mountains. From sea level, we climbed (or rather, the car climbed) about 5500 feet over a span of 17 miles. It was a mainly clear day, although some moisture trapped in the mountain valleys created a few low-altitude clouds. All along the road, wherever we saw a turn-off, we prepared ourselves for awe-inspiring vistas. Although there was some haze, we could first see down to Port Angeles, then the open water, and eventually, when we got high enough, Vancouver Island. Mount Baker loomed far in the background, wreathed in clouds.

The drive was a ton of fun, with very twisty roads, climbing and wrapping around the mountain ridge, and when we burst out to the top of the ridge, we were greeted with what I think is best described as a miniature version of the Alps. There were 180 degrees of uninterrupted mountains to the south, and 100 yards across the ridge, you could look north to Canada. Breathtaking.

Hurricane Ridge
Hurricane Ridge
Winding Road - Hurricane Ridge
Volkswagen CC at Hurricane Ridge

A Seattle Sunset

Seattle at Sunset

With work really ramping up these past couple weeks, I decided, instead of a long trip, to take the long weekend to catch my breath at home and write some specs. Still, I’ve missed photography enormously, and with few weekends left in the summer, I decided to stop at Jose Rizal Park, on my way home from some chair-shopping at IKEA. The day’s weather vacillated between cloudy and sunny, and hoping that trend continued through sunset, I camped out just above the I-90, waiting for the sun to set.

This is a 3-shot HDR. Exif is for the center exposure. The sunset itself didn’t turn out to be anything spectacular, but I liked how the I-90 to I-5 ramp guided the eye toward the city. I’m going to have to return there in the future. It’s a pretty popular spot as I learned. I met a couple other photographers through the evening, also eager to take in the sunset.

It’s busy time for PMs in the Office org. I’m trying to take advantage of the challenging task assigned to me, but it’s been a steep learning curve. Baptism by fire, if you will. While I might whine about it quietly, I’d much rather be over-engaged than bored with a trivial task.

Paradise at Rainier

Mount Rainier

With the wonderful summer weather here in the Pacific Northwest, I set out to Mount Rainier to hike the Skyline Trail with a Waterloo friend. It was my second time at Mount Rainier, but my first to Paradise, on the southern side of the mountain. Last year during my internship, I went to Sunrise (north of the mountain), but never got any good shots of the mountain, as the sun was behind it nearly the entire way. This time, with the sun at my back, I got better results.

I expected a lot of people, due to the weather, but I didn’t realize it was also a free parks weekend, drawing even more. The parking lots at Paradise and the surrounding area were completely swamped, but we happened upon a van pulling out just as we were trolling the area. Lucky us. Skyline is a very popular trail, noted by many to be the easy-moderate trail to hike at Rainier. As a result, we were sharing the paths (and slippery snow) with quite a few hikers, both casual, like us, and more serious ones, perhaps headed up toward Camp Muir and eventually the summit.

The trail ascends approximately 1700ft from the upper Paradise lot (we started at the lower) to Panorama Point, which is where we turned around. The Lower Skyline trail was completely covered in snow, and the Upper looked like it would take us quite a ways around and it was nearing evening. Total hiking time was close to 3 hours, but I stopped numerous times for photos. The trail takes you pretty close to the mountain proper, and is probably one of the reasons why Camp Muir, a popular mid-camp for summiting, is an extension from the Skyline trail. Nisqually Glacier seemed nearly within touching distance at some points along the trail.

It was an absolutely beautiful day, with Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens visible on the horizon. If you looked hard, you could also see the outline of Mount Hood, far in the distance. Although very hot at the foot of the climb, at 7000ft it was much cooler, with a welcome breeze to help cool us. Snow patches dotted the trail and melting snow made for interesting leaps across impromptu creeks in the path.

A few photos are attached below – more over on my Flickr.

Mount Rainier
Mount Rainier - Tatoosh Range from Panorama Point
Mount Rainier - Quite a bit of snow was still on the trail

The Volkswagen (Passat) CC

Volkswagen Passat CC

As a newcomer to the United States, I quickly discovered how difficult it is to operate without any credit. Apartments want a larger deposit, banks won’t (easily) give you credit cards, and car financing or leases are next to impossible at reasonable rates.

So, I purposely scoped out manufacturers with foreign professionals programs, of which Volkswagen’s was most front and center. With plenty of details available online, I could prepare just about everything in advance. With paperwork in hand, the process was fairly painless. With the lease incentives for the 2010 Passat CC’s, I snagged one for a fairly reasonable price. It’s a Sport, 2.0T DSG (automatic), in Island Gray (coincidentally, my former home and high school respectively!).

The exterior looks nice, the ride is smooth and the interior is great for the price. The 2.0T engine provides a good amount of power, with a nice meaty torque band, due to the turbocharger, but it’s not a tire-scorcher. I can slide in an SD card with my music, pair up my phone to the Bluetooth and I’d be all set for a nice long drive, which likely won’t happen for a week or two, unfortunately. So far, there are two concerns: there’s a bit of a rattle in the dash at a certain engine/road noise frequency, and due to the shape of the vehicle, the rear window provides terrible visibility. I’ll get them to look at the former problem at the initial break-in servicing. I’ve only had it for a week (still have the temporary vehicle license!); there will be more thoughts on the car as I drive it more.

Above is a 3-shot HDR, taken near Issaquah, WA. The light was a bit harsh, with many reflections off the car. The following shots are also 3-shot (+/- 1EV) HDRs, but I didn’t do anything terribly aggressive with them – I simply wanted to flatten the exposure a bit.

Volkswagen Passat CC
Volkswagen Passat CC

Summertime and the Livin’s Easy

Summertime

The weather in Southern Ontario has been hot and wet since late May, although temperatures are back to normal this week. And while “Spring” was here not too long ago, it’s very much getting into a summer atmosphere now. Where the trails were brown and covered with dead plants from the previous year but a month ago, green is the most abundant color now.

The above is a 3-shot HDR. The exif is for the middle shot, with +/- 1EV bracketed on each side. I’m still getting the hang of Photomatix; the Details Enhancer Tone Mapping mode renders a markedly different result from what is shown in the preview, which is a pain. Often, this means several iterations are required before I get the effect I’m looking for.

As for summer, I love it, and as the rock says, the living’s pretty easy. Take care!