The stunning, rugged landscapes and kaleidoscope of moods in nature that I see and experience on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula always blow me away, and I am perpetually eager to return.

Notorious for its ever-changing weather conditions, the Olympic Peninsula’s rugged topography and lush forest land encompasses a broad area with infinite hidden gems and treasures—everything from the towering peaks of the Cascades to mystifying beaches and temperate rain forests. I keep coming back to catch these awesome locations in their best possible light, as well as to search for new ones. It feels as though planning shooting excursions here requires more of an educated guess than a reliable prediction—so capturing landscape images in the PNW is particularly fulfilling with this omnipresent “luck” component.

It’s best to stay busy, alert and to not rely on “the plan” while keeping reasonable expectations—know that some locations may work, if I’m lucky, and others won’t. They’ll still be there next time, though! I was surprised by some of the places that overwhelmed me with their amazing natural beauty. The places that end up working out for me are not always the ones I expected.

I arrived in Seattle on the red eye and headed straight to the first location: Madison Falls. I set up and started shooting right away. The falls face northwest, so it gets, soft, diffused light during in the late morning—perfect for capturing moving water without harsh, polarized light—not even needing to employ a lens filter. I started capturing some unique perspectives of this tall, trickling waterfall. This angle catches the lush, Washington greenery surrounding Madison Falls. I love this section’s glimmering ponytail…this shot accentuates the textures and colors that draw me to the Pacific Northwest. 

The travel brochures say Sol Duc Falls is the most photographed spot in Olympic National Park and it’s no wonder why—the whole magnificent river suddenly takes a hard left and spills over the side of the gorge in a stunning, dramatic fashion. It’s a truly remarkable sight, especially surrounded by the lush rainforest foliage I would be spending the next few days in. I’ve seen this waterfall photographed in many different lighting conditions, but the way the early morning light kisses this entire scene just warms my soul, especially the way the light follows the river and dances off the edge of the falls. The light, textures and hypnotic action of these falls culminate in the center of this scene like a tapestry woven right before the viewer’s eyes.  

This location was fun to explore and experiment, with several different vantage points to shoot from. For one, I set up on the cliff’s edge, across from the falls themselves. The convergence of these three individual paths that make up the falls is kept out of view, keeping a sense of curiosity along with the power and complexity that emanate this natural wonder. 

Camping on Second Beach after exploring Sol Duc Falls and the surrounding forest was a crash course in temperate coastal elements, to say the least: we arrived and set up camp just as a squall hit second gear! We planned this trip primarily around the rainforest’s typical dry season— the coast in Washington, however, is a year-round roll of the dice. After hunkering down for the night, I awoke to pretty miserable shooting conditions—fog so thick I couldn’t even see the Pacific Ocean fifty yards in front of my tent. An hour or so later, the sun lifted the mist for a few minutes, and I quickly set up at this vantage point just in time for the shot. The combination of sky, land and sea here is magical, and was worth the hike and the wait. This convergence of all natural elements also epitomizes what makes Olympic so magical. 

A visit to the Hoh rainforest, a short drive from Second Beach, is truly a wonder to behold. It is a rare luxury to be able to explore this forest and its astonishingly lush, green beauty on a clear, sunny day. It’s always possible to get a great photo here, no matter the conditions.

I spotted this young tree on the way to the campsite, and returned to catch it after the sun got a little lower in the sky. I love the way the sun’s rays dance through the canopy of this young Maple, surrounded by trees hundreds of years old: old-growth forests on a blue, sunny day are unlike anything else. 

One could wander around this forest for a lifetime, taking pictures, and never have two come out the same. I love what I came away with here, the feeling of enjoying the lushness this forest has to offer, in such easygoing conditions, was just about perfect.

On the way finish our road trip in the Columbia River Gorge and then Portland we hiked Norway Pass in the Mt St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. The destructive power and impressive natural restoration since the 1980 eruption are impossible to ignore. I love how “Natural Ruins” puts the viewer there, with the bright colors of the flowers and plants in juxtaposition and harmony with this grouping of destroyed trees. Juvenile conifers lurk in the background, an up-and-coming generation on the rise. I love this peaceful scene, but this one is different from most because of the cycle-of-life in action here. The trees lurking in the background could have grown from seeds these stumps deposited in the ground as they were dying. It’s sad and it’s beautiful.

Is this any different from photographing a slot canyon, or the erosion of a valley, gorge, or mountain peak? The cycle-of-life defines all natural environments, so enjoying its beauty is nothing new. 

I encountered everything from mist and cold to sunshine, and some things worked while others didn’t—things didn’t go to plan, which was the plan. It’s this dynamic nature that makes it so fun and worthwhile to revisit the Pacific Northwest. I can’t wait to share my next journey! Thanks for reading.