After sitting idle for a week or two my creative (photographic) soul gets restless, and I need to let it out for a walk in the wilderness. Although these trips are often short (due to other obligations), I can live off of the experience for quite some time to keep myself healthy. Being outside also helps keep everything in perspective. We are but wandering souls in a vast world – it’s important not to forget your place.

One of my projects since moving to Seattle has been to create a diverse portfolio of images that captures the essence of the Olympic Peninsula. Few places on Earth have as much diversity in landscape within such a small place, which includes glaciated mountain peaks, dense mossy rainforests, spectacular summer wildflowers, and an inspiring wilderness coastline (see my Olympic NP gallery). Thus far there has been a notable gap in my portfolio: the winter experience. So, with forecasts for frigid temperatures, and heavy snowfall giving way to a clear and sunny break, I decided it was time to spend the night among the frosty trees on Hurricane Ridge. Due to high avalanche danger, and fragile cornices, I stayed away from the most alpine regions, but nevertheless had a spectacular time among the subalpine trees.

Camping on Hurricane Ridge

My campsite on Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park

With temperatures dropping into the teens shortly after sunset I huddled into my -10° sleeping bag, safe and sound in my winter tent. Winter nights are long, though, and I lay awake listening to whispering winds, letting my mind wander. On short trips I don’t bring any reading material as I want to force myself to experience, and savor, every moment of my time in the wilderness. So all I can do is feel the cold fresh air on my face, watch the thin layer of frost form on the inside of my tent, and listen to the winds. After a few hours pass I hear the pitter-patter of falling snow. Excited, I poke my head out of the tent and am greeted by a face full of falling powder! For the past year I have been actively looking for an opportunity to photograph snow or rain in dusk or darkness with either a flash or headlamp, inspired by the work of a German photographer Sandra Bartocha. It’s 9pm, 18°, and I’m warm and cozy in my sleeping bag. Somehow, I manage to work up the motivation to get outside. I put on my down and primaloft layers, wriggle my feet into my frozen ski boots, and I’m ready to go. I had already picked out a spot just a hundred feet from my camp in case such an opportunity presented itself. The snow could stop any moment, so I quickly set to work trying various lighting arrangements. I count in my head the amount of time I spend on each part of the scene with my LED headlamp’s spotlight beam. 15 seconds on one side, 15 on the other, 5 on the trees, 35 on the background, and it’s done. Within a few tries everything comes together! Satisfied I brush the snow off my camera and crawl back into my tent, which is quickly becoming encased in snow. Creative urges satisfied, I drift off to sleep.

Click image for larger view!

Frozen trees in Olympic National Park

"Flurries" ~ Olympic National Park, WA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, Nikon 14-24mm, tripod, headlamp
Exposure: iso 800, f/11, 76 sec

At 5:15am my watch starts beeping, dangling an inch above my head. It’s tricky making sure that you can actually hear an alarm when you’re all bundled up for a winter’s night. The hanging watch seems to work quite well. I work up the courage to go outside again, bundle up for the cold, slap the snow off the tent, and crawl outside. It’s just starting to get light now, and I’m surrounded by a silent and blue winter wonderland. It really is magical! Soon the sun lights up the distant trees in a brilliant pink glow; I wish I could have been up there, but it would not have been worth the avalanche risk. A little while later the sun hits the trees around my camp. The translucent ice coating the trees glows under the warm light, illuminating the neighboring trees – like you see in a slot canyon. The warm/cold contrast is one of the most beautiful moments winter has to offer. This is why I came up here today, to greet the winter sun.

Click image for larger view!

Frozen trees at sunrise in Olympic National Park

"Winter Candles" ~ Olympic National Park, WA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 24-105mm, handheld
Exposure: iso 200, f/11, 1/60th sec

Satisfied with my snowy experience, and having re-established my place in the world, I head back to the trailhead. A friendly ranger (and coincidentally a fan of my photography), Dave, offers to drive me down to my car (which is parked 3 miles from the ridge top), and pretty soon I’m off on my way back to work.

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11 Comments to “Flurries : Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park”

  1. Jay Goodrich says:

    You have inspired me to try that night snow image Floris, only with a skier in the frame! Absolutely wonderful image!

  2. Thanks Jay! It sure would be cool, and fun, to get something like that with a skier!!

  3. Rosemary Rideout says:

    Floris, what a wonderful way to feed your soul. These images are breathtaking. I’m a big fan, as always.

  4. Paul Conrad says:

    Beautiful images Floris.

    The flurries is by far my favorite snow image of all time. And I even lived in Colorado!

    Thanks for sharing these.

  5. Marek Potoma says:

    Floris, many thanks for sharing this wonderful experience that was eventually blessed by amazing results as well. Congratulations! All well deserved.

  6. Jim says:

    Floris, Love the images and the words that accompany them! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Ariel says:

    Love this Floris! 🙂

  8. Samantha says:

    Gorgeous images, Floris! You capture striking images without falling back on the usual ‘trophy’ shot we seem to see from iconic places. These are refreshing and speak to the magic of the place very well. I also appreciate your level-head…I think there’s too much foolishness masquerading as passion where people will do anything to ‘get the shot’. You prove you can be safe and return with creative and inspiring images!

  9. Thanks folks!!

    Sam – thanks! It’s amazing what you are rewarded with if you just take the time to appreciate where you are, and whatever conditions nature gives you.

  10. Bob says:

    “Flurries” is a new all time fav of yours Floris. Everyone has heard: “deer in the headlights” now we have “snowflakes in the headlights”. Love the scultural beauty of this shot.

  11. Benson says:

    Fantastic stuff as usual Floris. Love this stuff.