Wet weather failed to dampen a well-planned visit to Olympic National Park

In Equipment & Technique, Landscapes, ND Filters, Portraits, Scenes & Scenarios by Marco Crupi

The next day, I met up with Dustin, a photographer buddy of mine from the Sacramento area. We jumped on the Bainbridge Ferry and headed to the Port Angeles and Olympic National Park area.

Driving from the ferry to Second Beach in a heavy downpour, I wasn’t at all confident that I could capture any images. From the parking lot, we hiked about a mile through mud, rain and flimsy wooden bridges to reach Second Beach. What a sight! As soon as we got there, the skies started to open, displaying beautiful reds, oranges and purples. Walking along the beach, we saw a collection of starfish within tide pools. My tripod was completely retracted and within a tide pool to capture this shot. My camera settings were f/22 at ISO 150. I achieved an 8 second exposure by setting my Singh-Ray Vari-ND to a lighter density because the light was already fading. It was a magical experience and a great way to start our trip. We decided to call it a night.

The following day we headed to the Seven Lakes Basin Loop and planned on taking the short trail. The rain was very heavy so that rain gear was essential for us and our beloved camera equipment. On this trail, my first surprise was the beauty of this falls I titled “Surprise Falls.” With my camera on the tripod, I used the Vari-ND to reduce the light intake and achieve the beautiful water movement with a 4 second exposure.

As we hiked on ahead, we finally heard the very loud sound of the rushing water of Sol Duc Falls. I wasn’t too impressed with the view of these falls from the bridge, but we discovered a much richer view from the bottom side of the falls. For this shot, I placed my Vari-ND filter on a 35-300mm lens set at 95mm to produce an exposure of f/22 at ISO 100 with a 0.8 second exposure.

Further along the trail in the Lovers Lane Deer Lake vicinity, we came face to face with another lovely waterfall. To reach this shot, we hiked through thick brush in order to find a clean perspective. I set up the camera on my tripod, mounted my 35-300mm lens set at 130mm. The exposure for this picture called for the following settings: f/20 at ISO 100 with a shutter speed of 3.2 seconds.

The next day, we headed to Ruby Beach where I wanted to capture the Wizard’s Hat. The weather was roaring, waves were coming onto the beach very forcefully. I climbed up a pretty tall rock to capture this shot while trying to balance myself and get a sharp picture. As the waves crashed, my feet were nicely soaked. With some patience, I finally achieved the shot I was looking for. Keep in mind, it was raining so hard I had to constantly wipe my lens after each shot. For this shot, there was a break in the light and some filtered sun. With my camera on the tripod, the exposure settings were f/20 at ISO 100, with a .25 second exposure. Because of the light change, I darkened the Vari-ND by two stops. I can’t believe the result I achieved. The contrast, saturation and colors were perfect. The longer exposure achieved by using the Vari-ND produced amazing details as well!

Rialto Beach was the next stop. The weather was difficult — torrential rain, windy and cold. Walking to the shoreline was dangerous due to the massive tree logs that carpeted the area. Your only option was to balance yourself along the logs. Lo and behold, I reached the shoreline and achieved this peaceful shot of the rough ocean. With the Vari-ND on the 35-300mm lens — which was set at 250mm — and my camera firmly mounted on the tripod, I was able to reduce the light intake in order to achieve this motion effect of the water and clouds. My camera settings were f/20 at ISO 100, with a 4-second exposure.

The following day began with a visit to the Hoh Rain Forest of the Olympic National Park. The day’s weather as should be expected was not cooperating too well. No matter how hard we tried, our lens would be splattered with rain drops. The day was a partial wash out.

The next day, Rialto Beach was on our radar again. From the parking lot, you can head to the famous Split Rock and Hole in the Wall. It was a bit of a hike, about 2 miles each way. Because of the high tide, we had to tackle the terrain by balancing our way over the logs. It truly felt like an obstacle course. When we reached Split Rock, we waited for the sunset which was quickly approaching. The colors were magical. My camera settings were f/11 at ISO 100, with a .5 second exposure.

Along our final stop in the southern edge of Olympic National Park, we captured shots of Lake Quinault Valley. From the road, we saw a quaint bridge. We hiked down about 5 feet and came across rushing water. I stood in the water and captured a wide angle of these water shots. With the Vari-ND, I was able to achieve the slow motion feel of the water. This shot was captured with the following settings: f/16 at ISO 100, with a 16 second exposure.

For the second shot of this valley, we pulled off the road to capture this massive waterfall. This was a difficult shot because my lens needed to be wiped dry constantly. Settings used were: f/16 at ISO 100, with a 5 second exposure.

If you decide to visit this area in the winter months, my small piece of advice is to not go at it alone. It pays off to be in the company of others, particularly because of the dangerous terrain. With phone service ranging from limited to no service at all, it is important you research the trail maps. Or, you can always take a nice handy snap shot of the trail map with your smartphone before you head off. These are good pixels to fall back on if you get lost. Happy trails everyone.

Marco’s passion for landscape photography has led to awards with Photography Master’s Cup, Photographer’s Forum and Nature’s Best Photography. Pictures from his portfolio have appeared in National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel Magazine, National Geographic’s “Your National Parks” and Outdoor Photographer.