Olympic National Park 2021 Trip Report

By Melissa Scott on Aug 17, 2021

I think it is a common theme, but I will repeat it—it was great to be back out in the field and enjoying nature through the lens with a group of eager photographers! Now that many of us are feeling more confident of traveling in groups, we are ramping up our domestic trips and excited to be out capturing stunning images of our own country. I had been looking forward to this trip now for too long.
Our photographic journey began with a short ferry ride across the Salish Sea (Puget Sound) where we then headed north and west to the oceanside town of Port Angeles, Washington. We settled into our lodging for the next several days and gathered for introductions, a brief orientation then a scrumptious meal to prepare for the week ahead. Our trip fell over the summer solstice so our sunrises would be early and sunsets late, but everyone was game to get out and take advantage of the good light.
Our first morning found us traveling beyond the shores of Lake Crescent on our way to the Sol Duc Valley of Olympic National Park. It was wonderful to arrive early before any crowds to enjoy the solitude of Sol Duc Falls before too many visitors interrupted our reverie. I was a bit surprised, but we had the place to ourselves for the first 2 hours and even then, only a few hikers came and went over the next hour or so. The light was perfect and the melting snow from the mountains made for an explosion of mist into the air above the falls. We braved some damp conditions to capture the beauty of the falls as it roared through the gorge, then we moved across the bridge to shoot from above. As we were composing our images from this angle, the sun suddenly reached the perfect position in relation to the mist to create a stunning rainbow. We were all mesmerized and spent the next half hour shooting non-stop, hoping to capture the incredible image unfolding before us.
Returning to the hotel for a rest, we were ready to head up in elevation for an evening on Hurricane Ridge. The weather cooperated and we were able to enjoy a picnic dinner from one of the most scenic picnic areas you could possibly imagine. We couldn’t decide whether to eat or shoot but eventually we got both in. The snowcapped mountains of the Olympic Mountain range provided a stunning evening show for our photography. A line of trees in the foreground made for some lovely compositions as the alpine glow painted the peaks beyond. Not only did we focus on the big picture landscape, but the alpine wildflowers were also putting on a show. When time allowed, some of us changed our lenses and played around with glacier and avalanche lilies strewn across the subalpine meadows.
On our second full day we headed toward Lake Crescent Lodge and ventured out to Marymere Falls. The beauty of the forest surrounded us, and the falls provided a wonderful subject to practice slow speed flowing water photos. The use of filters and slow shutter speeds allowed us to create some soft water images and we explored the idea of capturing not only the entire falls but zooming in to isolate individual sections of the scene.
While we were still focused on the snow-capped mountains of the Olympic Range behind us, our attention this evening was to the west. The scene before us looked out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca and to Vancouver Island, beyond. A low fog rolled in over the water closest to the southern shore while the distant mountains began to turn beautiful shades of pink, purple and orange as the sun made its way below the western horizon. We had plenty to focus on as the light changed and the hues of the sunset played out across the landscape.
After a few days of very early mornings and very late evenings, a few in the group decided to take a later morning on our third day while a few intrepid souls decided to venture out again to explore the coast. We found ourselves investigating a low tide along the strait where the rocky intertidal zone provided some interesting subjects. It was not long, however, before the rising tide chased us back to higher ground. After breakfast, we packed up and headed west toward the Pacific coast and the western rainforest of Olympic National Park. Along the way, we stopped to have a look at Madison Falls, again having the opportunity to capture the flow of water as it cascaded across the rock face. Many said afterwards that this was their favorite falls of the three we visited during our journey. A few were interested in finding the beautiful Columbia tiger lily, so off we wandered in its search. It was not long before we found this beautiful native wildflower to photograph.
We moved onto our accommodations for the next two nights at a small lodge near Rialto Beach, got settled in, then spent the evening out photographing the coastal marine landscapes. A heavy fog left us to focus on closer scenes and moody seascapes in a wonderful blue light scenario. We called it an evening somewhat early to prepare for another early morning venturing into the Hoh Rainforest and the moss-covered treescapes found there.
The fog settled in overnight so the next morning we rose to a wonderfully misty morning—the perfect time to photograph the rainforest. Upon arriving, we had a quick bite to eat and headed out to see what scenes we might find. This place does not disappoint, and we easily spent the entire morning wrapped in a world of green photographing moss-covered trees and the fern covered forest floor below them. After a nice picnic lunch, we headed back to the lodge for a rest. The evening found us to the south where we had a lovely meal at Kalaloch Lodge before hitting Ruby Beach for sunset. Boy, did this place produce some color for us tonight! There was just so much going on with the rock covered beaches and sea stacks providing stunning silhouettes. We were so fortunate to have such a scene to capture as the sculpted clouds lit up with the colors of the setting sun. We had a long but very satisfying day.
On out final morning we said goodbye to the coast and headed back to Port Angeles. For something completely different, we made our way to a few of the lavender fields in Sequim, Washington. It was fun to spend some time capturing the blooming fields of purple along with a variety of other flowers. Before we knew it, the time had come to call it a wrap. We gathered one final time for a delicious meal and a toast to time well spent. I am sure the days ahead will find us all downloading and editing and reliving our photographic journey through Olympic National Park. I’m looking forward to leading this trip again in 2022!