Mt. Shasta & Yreka, CA, and La Push, Washington, Mar. 2 & 9, 2013

March 11th, 2013 | Posted by Steve in Ocean | Washington

I left Southern California the morning of the 1st & began the long drive to Tacoma, WA.  The trip up I-5 is just over 1100 miles.  That night I made it as far as Shasta City before deciding to stop.  Nothing on that first travel day motivated me to shoot photos.

The next morning the sky was overcast & remained that way as I drove through Oregon & Washington.  I stopped for a photo of Mt. Shasta & later for the Yreka, CA train station.  These are better than snapshots, but not much.

1 9404 Mt Shasta B&W

2 9413 Yreka Western #21

3 9419 Yreka train station

The locomotive is Yreka Western #21.

After Yreka I drove on to Tacoma.  The camera rested all the way.  The 300+ miles through Oregon are scenic, but uneventful.  I’ve driven this before.  The safest way is to set the car on cruise control at the posted limit.  Many Oregon plates will pass you by, but not too quickly.

The worst part about the drive on I-5 through Oregon is how often the speed limit changes.  The change seems to come with little or no warning.  It varies from 50 to 65 throughout the state.  Sometimes it changes in abrupt 10 mile drops or gains, but usually changes 5 mph at a time.  It wouldn’t surprise me if there are 40 or 50 changes over the length of the state.

Another interesting thing about Oregon is it is illegal to pump your own gas.  Every gas station has attendants waiting in the rain and cold to pump gas for you.  Its reminiscent of the 1950’s except they don’t check your oil or clean your windshield.

I asked one attendant about this practice.  He said the only other state that did this was New Jersey.  He also said Oregon had a $5000 fine for drivers who pumped their own gas.  I don’t know how accurate the fine is, but it definitely served as an incentive to let the fellow do his job.

When you drive north out of Oregon on I-5 the first 10 or 20 miles of Washington are suburbs of Portland, OR.  After the suburbs the speed limit goes back to 65 and tends to stay there so travel becomes a little quicker and more regular.

Once in Tacoma it seems every other streetlight is photo enforced with a hair trigger.  It is hard to convince me this has a positive effect on driving safety.  I also suspect the city, having invested gobs of treasure in high speed cameras and maintenance, is now addicted to their revenue flow.

After a week’s work I was definitely looking forward to Saturday, all the more so because the weather reports kept saying sunny and clear.  I planned to go to La Push on the Pacific Coast of the Olympic Peninsula to catch the sunset.  I invited one of my friends and readers of this post, Terry, to come along.

Saturday I arrived at Terry’s hotel just before noon and pretty soon we were on our way.  From the Tacoma/Lakewood area La Push is about 180 miles via Highway 101 driving north then east on the peninsula.  I estimated we would be there by 4 pm to find a good place to shoot.

Once we got going north on Highway 101 it became obvious our speed was going to be a whole lot slower.  Hwy. 101 follows the Hood Canal, a natural waterway separating the Olympic Peninsula from the Kitsap Peninsula.  The 2 lane road often slowed for small towns and hamlets.  The scenery, of course, was excellent, but there seemed to be no place to pull over to shoot photos.  That is just as well, it would have lengthened our time on the road.

We eventually arrived in Port Angeles on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  It was about 3 pm and we were still 70 miles from our goal.  We stopped for a late lunch and were back on the road by 3:45.  The last 70 miles took 90 minutes.  We arrived at First Beach in La Push at about 5:15.  Sunset was about an hour later.

The weather reports for days said things would be clear and that was the big attraction for me.  I had seen photos of the area and knew it was very enticing.  If you catch the weather just right you’ll get great color.  The beach is long so you can also position yourself to see the sun set next to or behind one of the islands just off the shore.

Just off the beach are spires, rocks and islands carved by eons of crashing waves.  Some of these rise quite majestically from the water.  Along the north end of the beach the manmade breakwater shepherds the Quillayute River into the ocean.  The breakwater is made of large boulders covered by even larger tree trunks and pieces of driftwood.

Flowing by the breakwater the river is calm.  Swimming there we saw a few seals and lots of otters.  I have no shots of them because my long lens was in the car a few hundred feet away.  The animals didn’t spend too much time on the surface in any event, and I have never represented myself as a wildlife photographer.  You’ll just have to believe me that they were there.

The town of La Push is home to the Quileute Indian Tribe.  It is well known for its surfing, whale watching, and scenery.  The harbor has a small Coast Guard facility, some pleasure craft, and some fishing and charter boats.  The town and surrounding reservation is home to about 400 people.  It has gained some notoriety recently for being featured in the Twilight book series.  That is covered later.

By the time we arrived clouds had already covered the sun.  The colors of the dusk were already muted and didn’t seem like they were going change any.  And it was cold.  We dressed up, and walked out onto the breakwater to find a place to shoot some photos.

After climbing over tree trunks and doing lots of rock hopping I found a place large enough and flat enough to set up my tripod.  We were a little beyond the beach, well above the waterline, and on top of the breakwater.  But it was still a bit precarious, I could never quite get the bubble level on the tripod to rest in the center of the circle.  This wasn’t so bad as individual shots are leveled easy enough, but the panorama shows a definite tilt.

4 9434 La Push Harbor pano

The 7 shots to make the panorama are all f/18, 1/50th of a second exposure, ISO 640 & 60mm focal length on the lens.  I made the shots in a horizontal format.  The next time I’ll try them vertical for more height.  The far right of the photo is pretty close to due east.  The far left is close to west.  The photo covers an easy 160 degree view, probably more.

This was the first time I got to use my new tripod in the field.  I had bought it in December, but since then I’ve been nowhere I could carry it.  It is a big tripod, but light.  Because I was driving I was able to take it with me.  When the camera is on the ball head and the legs fully extended the viewfinder is a little higher than I can see while standing on tip-toe.

For panoramic shots I also have a bracket, which allows the center of the lens to rotate above the center of the ball head.  Normally the center of the camera (not the lens) rotates above the ball head.  The 5 or 6 inch difference in turning point can make a world of difference in some panorama situations.

I had practiced with the tripod and bracket at home, but this was also my first time using the bracket in field conditions.  As time goes by I hope to get better with the process.

Here are the best of the few photos I got.  I show some of them in color and monochrome for comparison.  Except for the last two at the end of the post all are on a tripod, and all are ISO 640.  The camera view will differ depending on direction and attitude, but otherwise they all are shot from the same place on top of the breakwater.

5 9450 First Beach La Push looking South

6 9450 B&W

These are f/16, 1/50th of a second, & 32mm focal length.

7 9458 La Push

This one is 73mm focal length.

The 3 photos above look south west.  There is nothing beyond those rocks except maybe Hawaii.  It would be a long swim.

8 9467 La Push looking NW

9 9467 B&W

These look west or west & slightly north.  The island at the left is large enough to have its own name, James Island.  These are f/20, 1/25th second, 58mm focal length.

10 9476 B&W

This last one looks roughly due north across the river and breakwater.  It is f/20, 1/8th second, 55mm focal length.

The light was fading fast so we packed up our gear and began our long drive back.


OK, now the Twilight thing.  The books (and movies I guess) take place in Forks, which is just a few miles away.  We drove in from the north without entering Forks as our right turn onto Highway 110 came first.  Driving to the beach the junction of Highway 110 & La Push Road is about 3 miles from the ocean.  The first thing you see is this sign below in front of a convenience store.

We shot it on the way back.  By this time the sun was down and it was twilight!  I had to use ISO 6400 and f/4 on the vampire photo to get enough light so the autofocus would work for a hand held snapshot.

12 9484 LaPush Rd & Hwy110 to LaPush

11 9479 LaPush Rd & Hwy110 to Forks

As we headed home we drove south on 101 through Forks (no photo).  The town is very small with about 3500 people.  We didn’t stop until Aberdeen over 100 miles to the south.  The scenery along the way must have been great, but it was dark the whole distance.  I finally made it back to my room after 10 pm.

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