Dahlia Farm

I don’t know that Ive ever seen anything quite as colorful and spectacular as a Dahlia farm in full bloom.

I chanced on the farm while touring the Sky Valley for a fall assignment. Enthralled, I spent more than an hour in sensory overload.

The flowers were so wonderful, along with the sky and clouds that I felt as if I was doing something illegal.

Here are a dozen Dahlias, so to speak.

North Cascades Photography – Washington Pass

Washington Pass

North Cascades Photography – Washington Pass

Washington Pass is one of the most scenic spots along the entire Cascade Loop Scenic Highway.

Washington Pass is the highest point along the North Cascades Highway, at an elevation of 5477 ft./1669 m. Liberty Bell Mountain towers over the thin ribbon of pavement. Heading east, the highway plunges down to Mazama and Winthrop. The upper slopes are filed with Larch, which turn bright orange in October. Its a very scenic place!

There is a trail nearby, the Blue Lake Trail. The trailhead is on the south side of the highway. It leads around the Liberty Bell Group to Blue Lake. Fantastic views of Early Winter Spires and larch in the fall, but that’s for another post! .

There is so much snow each winter and the avalanche shoots so steep here that the highway closes for winter, usually in November, and opens again in April or May.

Today, April 18th, 2019 the North Cascades Highway opened for the season, one of the earliest openings I recall. There is still a bit of snow there, along the road, and the trailheads are still snowed in, they wont be open until May or June, earliest. But the road is open!

The Washington Pass Overlook, is one of those places I most always stop when I drive along the North Cascades Highway.

Washington Pass Overlook

Most overlooks are a one time deal, once you’ve seen it, no need to go back!

Not the case here.

The Washington Pass Overlook is in the Okanagon National Forest, and maintained out of the office in Winthrop. The Overlook is well marked, and the parking area is about 1/4 mile off the highway. There is ample parking, several rest rooms and some lights. There is a 200 yard paved path to the overlook, and lots of railings preventing a plunge.

NOTE: Even though the North Cascades Highway is opened, the Washington Pass Overlook may not open until May or June. The 1/4 mile road from the Highway to the Overlook parking is gated at the highway. You can park at the highway (there are usually many spots near the gate) and you can walk to the Overlook.

Here are a few pics from the Overlook.

The best time to get a shot of Liberty Bell is sunrise. The early light illuminates the sheer rock faces wonderfully… Its a long drive, from Sedro-Woolley to Washington Pass is a 2 hour drive! But worth it!

Washington Pass Overlook is also a fantastic spot for Night Sky Imaging. Its deep in the mountains, as there is low light pollution, the Lookout faces south, and you have Liberty Bell as a foreground, but also the hairpin turn of the North Cascades Highway below…

Here are a few images from my many night time visits! This is one of the locations for the Drive-In Night Sky North Cascades Photo Tours.

Here are a few more images of Liberty Bell from Washington Pass.

North Cascades Photography – Cap Sante Park

North Cascades Photography – Cap Sante Park

Finding a great vista is like finding gold to a photographer. A view point from which to capture sunrises, sunsets, moon or stars is priceless. There are many in the North Cascades: Washington Pass Overlook along Highway 20 and Artist Point, at the end of the Mt Baker Highway are two fantastic spots. Down in Skagit Valley one of my favorites is located in Anacortes, along the Cascade Loop Highway.

Anacortes is located on Fidalgo Island. Rosario Strait and the San Juan Islands are to the West while to the South, Deception Pass separates Fidalgo and Whidbey Islands. To the East, the Swinomish Channel separates Fidalgo Island from the mainland.

Cap Sante Park is a 37 acre forested promontory at the eastern edge of Anacortes. It is primarily a viewpoint overlooking the marina, the City of Anacortes, March Point, Fidalgo Bay and the Cascades. A remnant of an amphitheater is located on the east bank of the park.

There is plenty of parking, no rest rooms, and a few very short trails.

Sunrise here is especially spectacular. The serrated ridge-line of the North Cascades scrapes the horizon and Mount Baker grandly stands guard over the proceedings.

This particular set of images of from a sunrise a few weeks ago…

Nearby is Cap Sante Marina. Make sure to stop by for some more wonderful images of all the boats…

Here are a few more images from recent sunrise visits to Cap Sante.


Winchester Lookout, Star Trails and the Aurora Borealis

Summer is coming! That means Night Sky Photo Tour opportunities along the North Cascades Highway! If you’re interested in learning how to capture images of the Milky Way, here is a recent article “Astrophotography with a DSLR” to help get you started.

North Cascades Photography – Skagit Valley Tulips

North Cascades Photography – Skagit Valley Tulips

Skagit Valley Tulips

The start of spring in Skagit Valley heralds the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.

Broad swaths of brightly colored tulips spring up all over the flats.

This is one stop along the Cascade Loop that you don’t want to miss!

Photographing them is wonderful fun. The saturation of colors, the often cloudy skies and lots of mud always make the trip an experience.

The Washington Bulb Company is the leading grower of tulip, daffodil, and iris bulbs in North America. They grow bulbs throughout the valley and have a huge display garden, Roozengaarde. There is a store, a windmill and manicured beds of flowers, and in the back, large fields of tulips.

You can read about the history of tulips in Western Washington and Tulip Festival here.

Always stick to sunrise and sunsets, and avoid the “Tulip Area” at all costs between 10am and 6pm on weekends and your experience will be a pleasant one!

Each year the location of the fields change, and so do the backdrops. Barns are sometimes nearby the fields, as well as buses, trees and other cool stuff.  You can see where the tulips are, and when they bloom through the Bloom Map.

Once you have scouted out where the fields are for the new season you can get a good idea of whats best for each location. Some will be better shot at sunset and others at sunrise.

Parking is always an issue. Sometimes the large fields have a parking area nearby and collect fees for visiting. Sometimes the fields are located near no parking at all. Be prepared to walk a while.

I visit the fields often, they are close by. The skies in Skagit Valley can get crazy late in the afternoon. Often the worst, rainiest days are best: the dark, heavy clouds sometimes give way to magnificent sunsets.

Photo Tours are available, I take tours on weekdays, for sunset and on weekends for sunrise. Here is the link.

Here are a few images from Tulip Festivals Past!


North Cascades Photography – La Conner Daffodil Festival

North Cascades Photography – La Conner Daffodil Festival

The La Connner Daffodil Festival signals the start of spring in the Skagit Valley.

As the dreary winter drags to a close the fields of the Skagit Flats slowly come alive. This years winter was a bit longer than we’re used to, snow was covering the ground only a few weeks ago.

Several warm, sunny spring days is all it took to start this years bloom. Here is a recent image, “Daffodils Under the Moonlight” from March 22, along the La Conner Whitney Road.

Daffodils Under the Moonlight

The bright colors is all it takes to chase away any lingering winter blues!

Each year the daffodils are in different locations, the Bloom Map shows where the fields are located, and when they are in bloom.

Spring is a wonderful time to hit the highway and drive along the Cascade Loop. Skagit Valley is one of many destinations calling you…

Here are a few images from earlier years…

The La Conner Daffodil Festival starts whenever the daffodils start to bloom, which can be anywhere from late Feb until late March.

There is a Photo Contest as well:

La Conner Daffodil Festival Photo Contest

Photographers get ready for the La Conner Daffodil Festival Photo Contest!  All you have to do to be entered to win is take your photos during the La Conner Daffodil Festival and then post to Facebook or Instagram with hashtag #laconnerdaffodils.  We will then choose the top 10 photos and have the public vote on the winning photograph!  The winner will receive a cash prize and be crowned the La Conner Daffodil Festival Official Photo. The photograph will also be used for publicity for the following La Conner Daffodil Festival!

The best times are sunrise and sunset. Please don’t park your car anywhere you’re not supposed to, and be careful out there!

Here are a few more images from years past.

If you’re interested in a sunrise or sunset Photo Tour of the Tulips or Daffodils, I lead Photo Tours Week nights for sunset and weekends for sunrise. here is the link to sign up! Skagit Tulip Festival Photo Tours

North Cascades Photography – Skagit Valley Sunrise

North Cascades Photography – Skagit Valley Sunrise

Photographing sunrise requires a bit of luck. You have to decide where to be for the sunrise, and so you go, in the dark, hoping for nice light…

Once you’re there and the sunrise starts, its usually too late to change locations. Today was one of those exceptions!

There are many wonderful vantage points along the Cascade Loop Scenic Highway from which to photograph the Skagit Valley. One of my favorites is Sauk Mountain. The Skagit River loops in broad curves to the west…

Skagit Valley from Sauk Mountain

But this is only a hike for the summer months, access to the trail usually begins in late May.  Depending upon the years snow fall the wildflowers start blooming in June. Its quite a sight. Here is the link with directions.

For year round access the view from the Samish Overlook is not to be beat. The overlook is located near the Alger exit on I-5. You need a Discover Pass. There are rest rooms at the Overlook and a trailhead leading to Oyster Dome and other places.

Here are directions to the Samish Overlook:

Directions: Samish Overlook    Lake Samish Rd     Bow, WA 98232
From I-5 exit 240, Alger. Go northwest on Samish Lake Road for .5 miles. Turn left on Barrel Springs Road for .7 of a mile. Turn right on B-1000 Road signed Blanchard Forest Block. Go 1.5 miles to intersection with the B2000, signed for Samish Overlook. Turn left and drive 2.1 slow miles to the Samish Overlook and the trailhead.

Skagit Valley

This morning I got an early start and headed to the Samish Overlook, but the road was closed. At Barrell Springs Road there was a barricade…so no luck.

Sunrise over Samish River, March 17, 2019

It looked like it might actually turn out to be a nice sunrise, so I headed to my 3rd go-to place for sunrise, The Samish River.   Here is the image from this morning. I swear the clouds were trying to spell out something for me. I will work on decoding the message later.

Here is a pano from the same spot.

Sunrise Panorama over Samish River, March 17, 2019

If you can read the message (maybe its in Italian!) please send me a translation!

Photo Tours!

  • Tulip Photo Tours will start soon, these are 3 hour sunrise or sunset tours through the tulip fields.
  • Summer brings North Cascades Photo Tours, day hikes and overnight hikes to awesome places in the North Cascades.

These next images of the Samish River were taken from a bridge along the Bayview-Edison Road.

Here are some images from past visits, from the bridge facing the mouth of the river.

If you go to visit the Samish River be sure to stop by the Bread Farm, in Edison, and bring lots of cash.


North Cascades Photography – Johnson/Debay Swan Reserve

North Cascades Photography – Johnson/Debay Swan Reserve

Skagit Valley is the winter home for Trumpeter and Tundra Swans.  The Johnson’/Debay Swan Reserve, located along Francis Road in Clearlake, is a wonderful place to visit them.

The Johnson/DeBay Swan Reserve (JDSR), near Mt. Vernon, Washington, is America’s only swan reserve. Owned by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the Reserve was dedicated in 2001 for the public to view wintering Trumpeter and Tundra Swans.

There is a parking area and a bench. In the summer its quite green!

The winter months are not as colorful, but the migrating waterfowl bring the place alive!

Its a welcome and wonderful sight!

There are all sorts of birds there, you never know what you’ll see!

Next week in North Cascades Photography: The La Conner Daffodil Festival