Welcome to September! The weather is getting cooler across middle part of the nation this week and we are transitioning from summer to fall. That also means harvest season. On my recent trip to Washington, I visited a farming region in southeast Washington known as "The Palouse". Centered around towns like Colfax and Pullman, Whitman County is the number one wheat producing county in the United States.
The Palouse is characterized by gentle rolling hills covered with wheat fields. The hills were formed over tens of thousands of years from wind blown dust and silt, called "loess", from dry regions to the southwest. The best vantage point to see these hills is from the summit of Steptoe Butte. They look like giant sand dunes because they were formed in much the same way.
With an ultra zoom lens from atop Steptoe Butte, the patterns of these rolling hills are especially fun to compose in the low light just after sunrise and just before sunset.
The isolated cottonwood trees can also be fun subjects in the vast wheat fields.
The landscape here is much like western Kansas...but with bigger hills! There are a few old barns and abandoned homes as well.
I typically spend some time each summer in one of my favorite states, Colorado. However, for this year, I decided to do something different and instead spend time in the state of Washington. I spent 5 days backpacking with Wildland Trekking across North Cascades National Park, just south of the Canadian border. We backpacked for 35 miles from Ross Lake to over Whatcom Pass and over Hannegan Pass. North Cascades is a lesser visited park. There are no lodges and only one road going through the park. With limited facilities, it is primarily a hiking and backpacking park. Even in peak season, you can still get a decent amount of solitude here with just a little effort. Although I didn't take a lot of pictures, I thought would briefly share some of my favorite pictures while visiting.
One of the highlights on this trip was crossing the Chilliwack River on a "cable car". Here is a video clip:
While in Washington, I also visited Mount Rainer National Park as well as the region known as "The Palouse". I will share some of those pictures in a future blog entry.
On Monday night, I decided to photograph Comet NEOWISE. The comet was first discovered on March 28 and spotted by NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer; that's how the comet earned the name “NEOWISE". It is the 3rd comet that I recall seeing in my lifetime. Growing up, I remember Halley's Comet back in 1986 and Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997. To the naked eye, those comets seemed brighter and more visible than this one. Even after getting away from city lights, Comet NEOWISE was only barely visible to my naked eye. However, it is one of the first comets of the digital photography era and these more faint comets show up much better in today's high ISO digital cameras. This image was a 8 second exposure at ISO 3200.
After doing some research on where to find the comet, I wanted to find a location where I can could easily incorporate the landscape with the comet...not just point my camera at only the sky. This involved determining a relatively dark place away from towns with an wide open view to the northwest. I concluded with Horseshoe Lake northwest of Clarksville in the Ozark National Forest. The foreground of the lake and the Boston Mountains complimented the comet. About 40 miles away (as the crow flies) northwest of here is the city of Fayetteville. With my camera facing northwest, it appears that the city lights from the main cities of Northwest Arkansas illuminated the cirrus clouds beneath the comet.
You can see the comet for a little while longer below the Big Dipper in the northwest sky after sunset. It is best seen with binoculars. However, after July 23, it will get a little dimmer each day as the comet moves away from Earth.
Earlier this month, I returned from Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It was the first out of the region travel I had done since COVID-19. While I did take my camera, it was more of a vacation with my wife than a photography centered trip. Most of these pictures were captured early in the morning while my wife slept in.
Below are 4 pictures taken from the island of Martha's Vineyard.
Next, it was on to another sister island off the coast of Cape Cod...Nantucket.
The landscape of New England is perhaps best known for its numerous lighthouses. These lighthouses at Cape Cod and Nantucket were cloaked in dense fog.
Rhode Island was not on our original itinerary. However, with Coronavirus out-of-state travel restrictions still in place for Maine, we decided to instead spend some time in Rhode Island. We were pleasantly surprised and especially liked the small island of Block Island. Until recently, I never saw any pictures from Block Island. It is a popular destination for people that live in Rhode Island, but it doesn't get much attention to people outside of New England. I found its coastline to be quite scenic and its beauty underrated.
The last week of May featured an unsettled weather pattern in Arkansas. Above is a picture of a shelf cloud coming into Van Buren on the evening of Memorial Day. A shelf cloud is typically associated with a solid line of thunderstorms, also known as a squall line. Although brief tornadoes can occur on a squall line, they are typically rain-wrapped and short lived. The main threat with them is usually the straight line winds that occur with the shelf cloud. The wind will come first with the rain following behind it.
I only spent a little time looking at the shelf cloud near Van Buren before I had to drive back north toward Fayetteville to stay ahead of the line of storms. After getting back to a meadow on the western outskirts of Fayetteville, I was able to get there in time to record a time lapse of the approaching line of storms. Below is a 10 minute long capture at 10 times the speed to make for a minute long video.
On the afternoon of May 27th, I captured another time lapse of a storm coming into the Upper Buffalo Wilderness area. This storm was below severe limits and was not as dramatic a shelf cloud as the one that came into Fayetteville a couple of days earlier. However, it was still interesting to see the rain draw closer to me. Below is a 20 minute long capture at 20 times the speed to make for a minute long video.
May is typically among the wettest months of the year in Arkansas and is one of the best months for waterfalls. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the last couple of weeks. Each of these pictures below are from Newton County.