First a quick announcement – In a week or so I will be launching a Kickstarter project to fund a print run of 2013 Calendars featuring California and Washington images, as well as Seasonal information. These are not your ordinary calendars, they are custom designed to include Sun, Moon, and Tidal information, in addition to my photography, so start thinking about how many you’ll want to get as gifts for all your nature loving friends! Stay tuned!

A few weeks ago I visited the San Juan islands with a client to see the bioluminescent dinoflagellates, as I blogged about last year (Lumin-Essence). When we arrived at the Anacortes ferry terminal there were hundreds of cars lined up on the pavement – there always are during the summer weekends. It’s a frustrating and stressful experience, but unfortunately there’s no way around it save owning your own boat or seaplane. The irony of course, is that as a result of all this hassle, once you’re on the islands it is impossible not to relax. Immediately. The rest of the world also has to go through the same rigmarole to get to there, so you’re forced to leave all your troubles behind (including the memories of waiting in line for the ferry).

Mount Baker and San Juan Islands, Lopez Island, Washington

San Juan Serenity : Prints Available
Mount Baker looms over the peaceful waters of the Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, seen from the early morning ferry docked at Lopez Island.

The Tech: Canon 5D2, 70-200mm, handheld
Exposure: iso 200, f/11, 1/320th
Notes: 2-image panoramic stitch with Photoshop CS5.

The San Juan Islands lie about 100 miles north of Seattle, between Victoria (Vancouver Island) and Bellingham. On a clear day Mount Baker looms in the distance above the calm sea and forested islands. It is a strange mix of the temperate Pacific Northwest climate and the calm island life reminiscent of tropical island archipelagos. Except instead of Palm Trees, there are Pacific Madrones. These are beautiful evergreens with brilliant red bark that naturally peels away to reveal underlying fresh green skin. Unfortunately the trees are declining as a result of fire control policies (fires help reduce the under-story, making more space for fire resistant Madrone’s) and Sudden Oak Death, a disease caused by mold. Still, there are more healthy trees on these islands than I’ve seen anywhere else.

Pacific Madrone, San Juan Islands, Washington

Madrone : Prints Available
A Pacific Madrone tree at sunset on Shaw Island, one of Washington’s San Juan Islands.

The Tech: Canon 5D2, 24-105mm, tripod
Exposure: iso 200, f/18, 1/8th sec
Notes: two exposures at different focus settings blended for depth of field, and double processed raw files for dynamic range control. This was a particularly challenging image because of the ever so slight wind - I really prefer avoiding techniques like this unless there are no other options!

Of course, the primary reason we came here was to see the bioluminescence. To read all about that, please see my post from last summer: Lumin-Essence. In brief, there are tiny little organisms called Noctiluca scintillans, which when disturbed start sparkeling with a faint blueish green glow. They live in abundance throughout the Puget Sound area, and are particularly plentiful in the late summer months. It’s one of the most miraculous things I’ve seen – so I just had to come back again after seeing it last year for the first time! Unfortunately it is exceptionally difficult to get the conditions just right so that the camera actually picks up the glow, so this is a blend of two images, one where the luminescence worked out well from a splash of a handful of rocks, and another for the rest of the scene including the stars and clouds illuminated by the setting moon.

Bioluminescence in the San Juan Islands, Shaw Island, Washington

Scintillating Night : Prints Available
Biolouminscent splash in a quiet bay on Shaw Island, in the San Juan Islands of Washington.

The Tech: Canon 5D2, 24mm f/1.4, tripod
Exposure (bioluminescence): iso 6400, f/1.4, 3.2 sec
Exposure (stars and landscape): iso 1600, f/1.4, 10 sec
Notes: One exposure for the splash blended into a panoramic stitch of the surrounding landscape.

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