Mount Saint Helens, WA

Mount Saint Helens, WA

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Blast Zone

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Reflection of Mount Rainier at Spray Park

Reflection of Mount Rainier at Spray Park

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Spray Park

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Blue Ridge Parkway, NC

Blue Ridge Parkway, NC

My other hobby is driving, and it’s roads like these that get my blood pumping. Never mind that I had to drive this road in a Dodge Caliber…

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Great Smoky Mountain Road

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Blue Mountain

White Sands National Monument, NM

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Blue Mountain

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Mine

Rattlesnake Ledge

I went hiking recently on the Rattlesnake Mountain trail, which is located next to Rattlesnake Lake and leads up to Rattlesnake Ledge.  As expected, the hike was wet, but I came prepared this time with my weather resistant K-7 and kit-lens.  I was stuck using the kit lens the entire time because the trail was basically in a rain-forest and I was getting soaked.  So soaked, in fact, that my cell phone didn’t make it out alive.  It was 3+ years old, so maybe something else killed it, but it seems like too big a coincidence.

Washington provided me with one of its fine overcast days, which meant fog as I climbed higher up the mountain.  Until I got to the ledge, my view consisted of 3 things: fog, trees, darkness.  I tried hard to overcome the urge to convert all my photos to black and white, which is usually how photographers deal with the constant overcast here.  The Pentax 18-55 kit lens played its part well.  Purple fringing and flare were both well-controlled despite the worst-case conditions for those problems.  Image quality aside, however, I can’t emphasize enough how nice it was to have the piece of mind that comes with using a weather-sealed camera and lens.

This wasn’t my first time hiking in fog or NW rainforest, but it was darker than I remember.  Being stuck with my slow kit-lens without a tripod (mine broke about a month ago) meant that the ISO was in the 800-3200 range for the entire hike.  The only major complaint about the K-7, common to almost every review of it was the “poor” low-light performance.  I assumed correctly that the low-light performance was probably fine and the differences between this camera and its contemporaries would be minimal.  It turns out anything up to ISO1600 looks great and ISO3200 works just fine.  ISO6400 is available on the K-7 as an extended-ISO option, but the results look bad at any size.  Still, usable ISO3200 is a big step up from my A200 which struggled with anything above ISO800.  Here’s an example of an IS3200 shot from the hike:

18-55mm kit lenses aren’t known for their bokeh, but that didn’t stop me from trying.  Details like the one in this picture emphasize just how different hiking in the northwest is compared to hiking in the southwest.

Seriously, everything was dripping.  Everything.

I’m not usually a huge fan of too much digital photo manipulation, but I experimented a little with duo-tone for the following picture.  I think it captures the feeling of the area pretty well, but feel free to disagree or suggest improvements.  It reminds me of the opening scene from Book of Eli…without the cat-killing.

Rattlesnake Ledge itself offered up a spectacular view.  Unfortunately it was cloudy and the view completely disappeared within minutes of my arrival, but I plan to return soon and take another stab at it.  Here are the shots I ended up with:

The ledge was small and crowded with quite a few other hikers.  I took the next photo to show how little view there was once the rest of the clouds rolled in.  Also, I like dogs.

I planned on hiking to a farther point another 2 miles out, but I think I may have taken a wrong turn somewhere.  I read some information about the hike when I got home that warned about most of the signs being misleading or wrong, but that information was too late.  I hiked for quite a while and it was good exercise and it was pretty, but nothing compared to the Rattlesnake Ledge view.  As the elevation increased, the scenery changed a little:

Still dark and foggy, but the trees looked different.  It even snowed on me for a few minutes.  I saw the sun for a little bit as it shined through the trees and I got this final shot.  It’s pretty cliche, but I have a weakness for sun-rays and you don’t have to look at it if you don’t want to.

Overall, it was a fun hike and I’m looking forward to returning to Rattlesnake Ledge when the weather is clearer.

P.S. – Despite the name, I didn’t see a single rattlesnake.  Actually I didn’t see any wildlife whatsoever.  Weird.

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