Holiday Adventures In Olympic National Park on Hurricane Ridge




                 Welcome back everyone and Happy Holidays I hope. Well here in the Pacific Northwest we got hit this holiday with multiply snowstorms that made for getting around not very easy. Personally I have not seen that much snow as we had in my whole life and was constantly thinking where I could go to capture all this snow. After many sleepless nights I decided I needed to try to make it into the Olympics. Olympic National Park is one of Washington State’s main hotspots with so much to see. The Olympic National Park includes the Olympic Peninsula which is known for is haystack rock beaches such as Ruby Beach, Rialto Beach, Second Beach, and the lesser known Shi Shi Beach. Also in Olympic National Park is the higher elevation of Hurricane Ridge, which serves as the premium place to spot the Olympics. Immersed in all this is the moss-carpeted forests that explode in springtime of the Hoh Rain Forest and Lake Quinault. To get to Olympic National Park you can access it by Highway 101 which makes a full circle around the park from either Tacoma or just past Olympia on exit 104.

Hurricane Sunset



           Just before heading out I tried to come up with a game plan to make it through the blizzard I was going to attempt. I drive a Prius and have studded tires but do not have a 4×4 vehicle. So getting around was not going to be easy at all. So I headed up for the holidays for a round trip that would take me to a host of places, and I was going to have to be flexible where I could go. My first destination was Port Angeles and specifically Hurricane Ridge for the first couple of days. Getting up Hurricane Ridge is not very easy as it is open only on Fridays and the weekends on limited hours.  Time would have to be spend wisely here as I needed to photograph the sunrise and sunset. So I talked the ranger station into allowing me to get up on top of the hill early for a sunrise and follow the snowplows up to the Hurricane Lodge. On my drive up to Hurricane Ridge I felt for the first time I truly was in a winter fairy tale where I was in a complete white out. After making it to the top after an hour or so I looked to the Olympics to see I was above the clouds and looking at some stunning color coming over the horizon. The problem was trying to get out of the car as it was below zero and a wind chill that  put it at least minus 20.







Struggling to keep myself I managed to get my snowshoes on and make my way to an area that was open enough to shoot some interesting foreground and shoot the peaks at the same time. As I started to make my way I began with one face plant, then another, and another, so that I had buried my face in the snow several times before I even set up my tripod. I realized I was in the type of snow that was so deep I needed skis that had skins on them to get around. I was waist deep with snowshoes that were not helping me very much. I got to a spot I was happy with out of breath and realizing I need to go on some kind of serious diet ASAP ! Anyways, I had the mountain to myself other then my wife who refused to get out of the car !!!! I waited and waited for the sun to go over the mountain peaks as I began to turn to a human popsicle frozen with a camera and tripod .



        Finally what seemed like forever and the sun makes an appearance; I am like a kid at its first baseball game with popcorn and a hotdog in hand!  I have wanted to be here since I began photography and to be surrounded by nothing but white. The moment occurs and the warm light stretches across the landscape and I begin to shoot away at f/22 to make sure I capture that sunburst and the rays across the snow. The thing is I now have so much adrenaline I do not feel cold anymore and I cannot get myself to return to the car. So three hours later I got a few shots off and I am not off to continue my exploration of the Olympic National Park.



          I spend all day shooting everything I can find with snow in the picture. I am so taken away with the beauty of all that is around me that I am not able to decide what looks got on camera in winter. In case I did not mention I LOVE SHOOTING IN THE  WINTER !  I eventually make my way to the peninsula and get some great shoots of the coast with rare snow in the image as the sun has now come out for an appearance. Getting around to everywhere I wanted I decide to head back to Hurricane Ridge for a sunset and clouds. Shooting until it was dark I was not disappointed and got some shots from different angles. I now was addicted to this mountain as I begged my wife for one more night in Port Angeles and one more sunrise. She apprehensively agreed to another cold night in the motel and an early start.



        Another early morning and drive in the dark we made our way up for a few hours before the mountain closed early due to another system coming in. I returned home with Starbucks in hand a huge smile with the realization I had finally got to see a white Christmas!











Tip Of The Week:


Winter shooting is not easy and is even harder to get quality images. There are a few things that you can do as a photographer to increase your chances of success.


First, remember to not forget about the basics of composition and to realize that this also pertains to winter photography as well. Make sure that you have an element of interest in the foreground even if it is snow to carry the viewer’s interest through the image. Try to think in terms of depth and to enhance this perspective to create visual layers. How is this achieved?  Include in your scene several points of interest that cause the viewer to lead one interest to the next visually setting up layers throughout the image. See image for example:



Second, try to include when possible warm light that contrasts with the deeper shadows of snow, which tend to be on the cooler side. Setting up your composition to have the contrast of warmer tones of light up against the cooler tones of the shadowed snow set up a visual scene that peaks the viewer’s interest through color.


Remember: One of the best ways to create impact in your image is through color !


Although snow is pleasing to the eye it is even better when combined with warm light from the sun in the magical hours of sunrise and sunset.


Thirdly, try to avoid including in your image any signs of  interference with the snow that give the appearance of dirty snow or flat light on snow. Always try to find fresh snow and include visual aspects of depth to enhance the snow giving the image a feeling of  3-D.




Stayed tuned for next week’s blog when I will be taking you on the second part of my photo adventure during the holidays! Until then thank you for joining me and do not forget to write me if you have questions or comments. Thanks everyone and do not forget to enjoy the journey and not just the destination !







~ by kevinmcneal on January 1, 2009.

3 Responses to “Holiday Adventures In Olympic National Park on Hurricane Ridge”

  1. looks like fun!!

  2. That’s dedication. How did the camera gear like the temps? Thanks for sharing the tips, images and also for taking us with you. Keep it up. Oh yeah, how long did it take to convince your wife to let you back in the car 🙂 ?

  3. Kevin you always have the most beautiful images. I’m so glad that you have started this blog. I’m very much looking forward to all your post and learning from you. Thank you so much for sharing your journeys and tips with us.

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