Early this month I marked off several days from my calendar to visit one of my favorite destinations, Olympic National Park. The mist shrouded almost dreamlike western side of the park has held my attention and fueled my love for the outdoors since childhood. My goal on this outing was to photograph the coastal rainforest that runs twenty to thirty miles from the shore. This area is extremely lush and roughly extends over the initial 10 miles of the Hoh, Queets and Quinault trail systems.
Our first day we scouted out the Quinault river system. Ranging from the Graves Creek Trail head to the eastern shores of the Lake. Along the Quinault’s South fork we found a slow moving stream wandering through a widely distributed grove of red alder. This is just the type of scene I was hoping for. The understory at this location is a carpet of moss, ankle high grasses, sprawling lichens and a few wildflowers. It’s a peaceful calm setting as you can see from the image above.
Why do open forest scenes make us feel this way? There are lot’s of ideas on this. From a evolutionary biology perspective the scene has plentiful natural resources, a water source and affords a wide field of view. Potential threats such as bear or large cats could easily be spotted (I must admit it’s easier to see this when not in the creek itself per the shot above). Our ancient hunter gatherer forbears likely would have sought locations such as this for foraging which may be one of the reasons our minds find it visually appealing to us today. Regardless of your perspective this the imagery you can create in these scenes is very appealing to the viewer and usually conveys the sense of safety and well being I was referring to.
Further up river we came across another beautiful scene with good visibility (as far as forest scenes go). Widely spaced big leaf maple, Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock and Doug Fir on a rolling plane of sword fern. The Fallen tree’s, some long fallen acting as nurse logs, others more recent additions to the forest floor form short lines across the landscape. These fallen trees and upright snags are vital habitat for an array forest species and are covered with artist conk, moss and other fungi. They also make strong background and foreground features for landscapes. Another good use for this sort of forest feature is a vantage point. Perching your tripod on fallen trees will allow you to have a better perspective of the landscape around you and create images looking down on the forest undergrowth.
We later explored the Queets river valley and the Hoh. Both of which are just amazing places to hike and I highly recommend for photographic outtings. Below is a vertical forest shot I composed while in the Hoh. The image focuses on a large Sitka Spruce which has lost most of it’s needles on it’s lower branches due to low light conditions under the forest canopy. The dark green, bare, moss covered branches emanate from the trunk against a mixed backdrop of green forest tones. The result is a mysterious almost ominous forest image which I really love. Anyway this image was shot just a few miles up the Hoh trail.