Sol Duc Springs, Olympic National Park, Washington

Location
Sol Duc Valley is located inside Olympic National Park, Washington State. The lush green valley is situated in the northwestern region of the park, 40 minutes west of Port Angeles. Accessible by turning off Highway 101 onto Sol Duc Road, the Sol Duc River is fed by numerous mountain streams that run through this area, which also includes a pristine old-growth forest and subalpine lakes, as well as views of the park's snow-covered peaks. From the parking lot, a one-mile trail winds through an enchanted forest to popular Sol Duc Falls, where visitors can stand on a bridge and gaze down to a waterfall that cascades over rocks before plunging into the river. Along the way, there are many places to stop and be mesmerized by the rushing water as it meanders through the forest tumbling over moss-covered rocks. The Sol Duc Campground is open year-round and is conveniently located right inside the old-growth forest alongside the river. Lodging is also available at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, with charming rustic cabins and access to the hot mineral spring pools.

Weather
Due to the park's amazing variety of scenery, which includes mountains, forest and miles of coastline, it's possible to experience every kind of weather here. Although it can rain at anytime during the year, the park is known for a drier season and a rainy season, which typically begins around November and lasts until early spring. Winter storms are also possible in this area of the park and can result in the temporary closure of Sol Duc Road.

Photo Experience
I still love shooting film, and Fujichrome Velvia is my film of choice because of the image clarity and rich vibrant color it's capable of producing. Exposures of one second or more are great for capturing the peace and tranquility of the forest. For this, a tripod is an absolute necessity. I also use a cable release, eliminating the need to use the camera's shutter and further reducing the risk of camera movement during exposure. Attaching a polarizer to my lens not only minimizes reflections in the water, but can also increase exposure time, making it possible to give the water a dreamy effect as it flows through the forest. With overcast conditions in much of the park's interior, existing soft light makes the old-growth forest ideal to photograph. The lack of harsh sunlight makes it easier to capture an evenly exposed image. For such grand scenery, I use a Pentax medium-format camera and Pentax 45mm ƒ/2.8. With a 35mm-format-equivalent field of view of about 35mm, this lens can incorporate all the elements that draw me to this area in a single composition.

Best Times
With such diverse scenery within its boundaries, the park offers many photo ops year-round. However, my favorite time to visit the Sol Duc Valley is between spring and early summer when conditions are favorable for rushing waterfalls and vibrant forest greens. By late summer, the waterfalls in this area have usually lost momentum and the moss that covers rocks in the river and its tributaries has aged into a dull shade of yellow.

Contact: Olympic National Park, www.nps.gov/olym/index.htm.


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