Where is your favorite place to take pictures? What is your favorite hike? These are questions I get asked all the time. The Answers? There aren’t any. There are just too many beautiful places to hike and photograph, making these questions impossible to answer. What I do have are favorite times of year to photograph certain areas in the West. These are areas where I find the best light and conditions during a certain time of year for photography, and the most enjoyable hiking. Let me run you through a year and give you an idea of what I am talking about.
Let’s start with winter. I love to snowshoe, or to go snowshoe backpacking in the mountains. There are so many great locations in the Northwest for a good snowshoe or snowshoe backpacking trip. These include Mt Rainier, Mt Baker from Artist Point, Snoqualmie Pass Area, Mt Hood, and Crater Lake, just to name a few.
These places are just loaded with incredible Winter scenery.
And there is nothing like a good snowshoe backpack to immerse you in it all!
When I am tired of snow and want to put my boots on the ground, I love photographing the San Juan Islands in the winter.
But my absolute favorite things to shoot in the winter are beaches. I can't get enough of those beaches!
Beaches look virtually the same in winter and as they do in summer, except for the sun position being much farther south on the horizon. This actually works to my advantage on most of my favorite beaches. Another big advantage is that in the summer the coast can develop an onshore flow weather pattern. This means that the weather can be excellent everywhere else, but clouds shroud the beaches. In winter there is often an offshore flow. This means if it is nice out where I live, then there is a great chance it will be nice on the beach also. Have you ever visited the beach in the summer, and you are shocked that it is clouded or fogged in? That is the onshore flow messing up your plans. And the best reason of all to photograph Beach in the Winter? No people!
I love photographing the Oregon Coast. My favorite beaches on the Oregon Coast include Secret Beach in the Samuel H Boardman Scenic Area, Face Rock Beach in Bandon, Oregon, and of course Cannon Beach, which is the home to my second gallery Images of the West, by Randall J Hodges. Cannon Beach is famous for having Haystack Rock and the Needles as pictured above.
Then there are the Wilderness Beaches of Olympic National Park. These Include Ruby Beach, Second Beach, Rialto Beach, and my very favorite of all, Shi-Shi Beach. What really makes these beaches extra special is most require you hike in to them. And that is perfect for me, as I consider myself a hiking photographer.
In late February into March, the very best place for me to be is Death Valley National Park. By this time, I have had enough of cold temperatures and rain, and it is time to hit the desert and get back in shorts and t-shirt weather and start my tan off for the year.
This is why I teach a class in Death Valley every year. There is nowhere else I would rather be in February.
Then March comes around and flowers start blooming. This starts out the flower season for me and I love to hit the daffodil fields in Skagit Valley, Washington and the cherry blossoms that bloom around the Northwest. It also starts giving me hope that temperatures will start to warm, and spring is on its way!
Got to love those Daffodils!
Then we hit April and it is Tulip Time. There are two amazing areas I love to photograph Tulips in the Northwest. Skagit Valley in Washington is one of the biggest bulb producers in the world. Roozengaarde Gardens are always full of millions of blooms and hundreds of varieties.
The Wooden-Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodland Oregon is another excellent spot.
May comes and I start dreaming of the southwest desert again. In May, the desert temperatures are not too hot yet and the sun is high up in the sky for excellent light. Number one on the list is Bryce Canyon National Park. For a hiker, this is one of the most amazing places to hike in the world. With trails like Queens Garden, Peekaboo Loop, and Fairland Loop, it is no wonder this is an amazing destination for a hiker.
Zion National Park has its own magic for sure, and I have hiked and photographed many trails in the park. I love the Narrows, and the Subway, and hiking to the top of Angels Landing is an experience you will never forget.
There are so many spectacular areas around Escalante, Utah, you could spend a week in this area and not feel satisfied, but hiking to Calf Creek Falls is one of my favorite hikes in all of the desert southwest.
Capital Reef National Park has vast wilderness areas that you can really get to feel lost in, and to me this park has a much different feeling to it than all the others.
Then there is Arches National Park. This is a smaller park but still full of unforgettable scenery. You can’t visit Arches National Park without a visit to Canyonlands National Park. This is where my favorite place to backpack in the southwest desert is hidden. Deep in the wilderness of the Needles District is Chesler Park. I have hiked and backpacked this special area many times, and every time I go back, I am reminded why.
I cannot forget other amazing areas like Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, and of course the Grand Canyon. One visit to the southwest desert and you will be coming back for more.
Late May to early June it is time for creeks, waterfalls, and forest trail. This is when the forest is as green as it is going be all year, and with some overcast weather I can shoot all day long.
I love being immersed in the forest hiking in greenery that my eyes cannot believe. I love the sound of the waterfalls flowing high in spring melt off.
The beginning of June the Palouse Hills become ripe for photographing. The rolling patchwork of greens are mesmerizing to view and to photograph. With a visit to Steptoe Butte, you can take it all in.
The end of June starts what might just be my favorite time of year: Mountain Time. I love nothing more than hiking in the alpine wilderness areas of the west, swimming in high mountain lakes, and hunting for wildflower meadows, while searching for far reaching vistas.
The Cascades blow me away and I cannot get enough of the Cascade Volcanoes. A person could spend a lifetime hiking the Cascades and still not see it all. Mt Rainier, Mt Adams, Mt St Helems, Mt Baker, Glacier Peak, Mt Hood, and Mt Jefferson are all fantastic, and I have hiked and photographed thousands of trail miles around these volcanoes.
Just looking at these images makes me want to hike in the mountains. As I write this blog it is May. So I know if will not be long until I hit the alpine country again.
Before I know it, temperatures start to drop, and it is time to start my Fall photography shooting. I have learned that with good planning, I can stretch my fall shooting out over two full months.
In Late September my fall mountain photography gets started. I shoot up high for as long as I can until Mother Nature starts pushing me out. When the blueberries bushes turning red, I search for them in the North Cascades, Central Cascades with Mt Rainier being a favorite.
Then it moves into Larch Madness where everyone, including myself, is trying to photograph the golden larches. Again, North Cascades and Central Cascades are best for this, but The Canadian Rockies have the biggest Larch Forest I have ever seen!
Then the snows come to the mountains and my fall shooting moves down in elevation. There is nowhere else I would rather be then around the Leavenworth and Lake Wenatchee Area. I teach a class here at this time of year and return many times for my own shooting. For me this is as good as fall color shooting gets anywhere in the West.
Then fall moves lower in elevation and I end my shooting every year in the Columbia River Gorge, where I can hike and photograph all the way into November. There are so many amazing waterfalls and trees and trails to shoot in the gorge that I look forward to finishing fall there every year.
Well, what do you know, we have made it back to winter, time to dust off those snowshoes and hit the mountains again!
Do some hiking and photography in the San Juan Islands and put my feet back on solid ground.
And back to my favorite thing to shoot in the winter, beaches! What a way to finish off the year!
Thank you so much for taking the yearlong photography tour around the West with me. So no, I do not have a favorite place to shoot, but I do have favorite times of year to hike and shoot in certain areas around the West. And I love them all! Happy hiking and happy shooting everyone! Randall J Hodges