Sol Duc Soul

I spent several days working my way from Port Angeles, Washington south to Pacific City, Oregon with plans to photograph some of the beaches and waterfalls along Route 101.

One of my first stops was Sol Duc falls in Olympic National Park. At this time of year, the hot springs and resort weren’t quite open and there was still plenty of snow on the ground and the trail. As a result, the place was fairly quiet and it was possible to really soak in the old growth Douglas fir, hemlock and cedar. I can’t imagine what this place is like in the summer season, but this early it was very peaceful.

Sol Duc Forest
Ancient moss covered trees along the trail to Sol Duc falls in Olympic National Park.

It’s a bit of a walk into the falls and I was on a tight schedule, but I found myself slowing down. A small stream at the midway point turned out to be much more beautiful than the falls. I took my time and tried a couple of different exposures and experimented with a 10 stop ND filter that I got a couple of months ago. It’s impossible to focus with the filter on so the process of making an image involved composing the picture, choosing a focus point, attaching the ND filter and then playing around with ISO and aperture in an attempt to guestimate the exposure time. I’ll probably throw a post up on my Tumblr blog with some comparison images and more detail on the what I did sometime later this week. The whole thing became a bit of a zen experience.

Sol Duc Stream
A stream flows over moss covered rocks on the Sol Duc falls trail in Olympic National Park.

Sol Duc falls were impressive, but challenging to photograph. The snow added a bit too much white and there was so much mist coming off of the falls that a really long exposure was impossible due to water droplets forming on the lens. I tried a couple of non-ND filter images and by maxing out the aperture to f22, slowed the exposure down a bit. The main viewpoint is from a bridge that crosses the narrow gorge created by the water.

Sol Duc Falls
Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park drop about 14 meters into a narrow gorge.

On my way back to the parking area I kept enjoying the lush old growth forest and the songs of the Pacific wren. The silent trees were a quiet contrast to the roar of the falls and there was no need to rush, plenty of time. Maybe there’s a lesson in that.

Sol Duc Old Snag
One of the features of this old forest was the dead standing snags.

This is the first of several posts on a spring break nature road trip down the coast of Washington and Oregon. I’m working on Rialto Beach next.