Nooksack River and Mount Shuksan

Mount Shuksan and the Nooksack River in the North Cascades, Washington State, USA

mount shuksan and nooksack river washington

Mount Shuksan and the Nooksack River (Purchase)

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   One of the downsides of having a lot of backlog in my photo editing is that I tend to forget what I have. I purposefully wait a while in order to process my images, just so that I am somewhat subjective in terms of images that deserve scrutiny and those that don’t. I often have initial expectations that were not met when I review the images too soon, and sometimes that clouds what is really there. At least for me. I do occasionally go back over images that did not leap out at me during a first pass – sometimes I find something I really like. Sometimes this is due to my perception of the image changing and sometimes I have learned some new post processing skills that open the photo to new potential.

   This photo is another example of this phenomenon. I initially passed over it but this weekend viewed it again, and knew how I wanted to process it. I have many photos of Mount Shuksan, but this one is a bit different. This was not taken from Picture Lake, Artist Point or any of my usual places. This is along the North Fork of the Nooksack River (which later flows over Nooksack Falls) at the bottom of the hill near the Shuksan Campground.

Mount Shuksan Reflections

Sunset on Mount Shuksan at Picture Lake in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington State, USA

reflections of mount shuksan in picture lake sunset baker

Sunset at Mount Shuksan and Picture Lake (Purchase)

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   A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of doing some hiking and photography in the Heather Meadows area of the Mount Baker Wilderness with Alan Majchrowicz. We hiked to the top of Herman Saddle along the Chain Lakes Trail which had a fantastic view. Clearly I had been riding my office chair for too long because my lungs didn’t quite handle the hike as well as I had hoped. Most of my familiarity was with the Picture Lake and Artist Point areas so to see a few of the other sights was an eye opener. I know a few hikes I want to do next summer!

   Back at our vehicles we were talking a bit about how the “good” light can come and go rather quickly. I know I’ve seen the light turn to something fantastic as I am in my car driving away from my recent shooting location. I have also seen it disappear as I am trying to reach a viewpoint. I have learned through some recent experiences that staying until the light is definitely gone is always a good idea. You never know what might develop after you leave! So it was not without a touch of irony that this conversation ended quickly as we noticed great light appearing on the mountains. A quick drive and a hurried jog up the boardwalk later and I made these images of Mount Shuksan.

reflection of mount shuksan in the silhouette of picture lake
Mount Shuksan Alpenglow
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   Photography for me is usually a very relaxing endeavor, which is part of my enjoyment of it I think, but sometimes when you know the light will go at any moment this can be accompanied by some adrenaline. Years ago when this would happen I would rush and make a lot of mistakes because of the urgency, which does not happen now. I still feel the excitement though! I have been at this location many times, but I have not seen good light on the mountain while it had this backdrop of a subtle purple/mauve cloud coloration. It was colorful enough to give a nice contrast with the snow and ice of the mountain, unlike a simple grey cloud background (which I have seen many times).

   I am often a bit torn at this location between trying to get foreground detail or just creating a silhouette of the foreground trees. I think this silhouette version was quite successful but I also like the other version. Which do you prefer?

EDIT (November 2013) – Having had 2 years to think about it I now much prefer the first image over the silhouette. I may even prefer a variation on that image ( Mount Shuksan ) over the version posted here.

American Pika (Ochotona princeps taylori)

american pika ochotono princeps taylori on talus slope
American Pika
(Ochotona princeps taylori)
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   This is a photograph I made of an American Pika (Ochotona princeps taylori) yesterday on the Chain Lakes Trail in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. I walked through the talus next to Bagley lake (4350 feet/1325 meters in elevation) and had not even thought about Pika until I heard the short squeaks of their warning calls. I could then see a few individuals scurrying from their rock perches to safety. This particular Pika came back out to sit on the rock, and I was able to slowly move closer to it to get this photograph. I took many, because you never know when wildlife is going to decide “okay, that is close enough!”. I was reminded of lectures on “Flight Initiation Distance” in University.

Pikas are not quite yet on the endangered species list, though they have come up for consideration recently. The talus slopes they inhabit must be at sufficient elevation to remain cool as the Pikas cannot tolerate warmer temperatures. Trouble is the talus operates a bit like an island, and if the environment becomes undesirable, the Pika can’t easily migrate to another. Climate change has been diminishing the available habitat and this may be one species lost early if the climate change continues. How quickly this may occur is some matter of debate.

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

More shots from the Mt. Baker Ski Area.

American Border Peak (2,794 feet (852 meters))

american border peak

Closeups of Mt. Shuksan and Shuksan Arm

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mt shuksan mt shukan

This little Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) at first made me think he was a rare opportunity but quickly proved to be rather tame – and not shy about begging for a handout.

gray jay perisoreus canadensis gray jay perisoreus canadensis

gray jay perisoreus canadensis white avalanche lily erythronium montanum