Snow and Slow: Forest in my Pocket

This past weekend was the beginning of the first real winter we’ve had this season. I took a couple of hikes to keep my blood circulating and to visit a couple of favorite local haunts. Saturday I zipped up to Pine and Cedar Lakes in the Chuckanuts and on Sunday I ambled along the Whatcom Creek trail to Whatcom Falls Park, returning via the Railroad Trail.

Saturday was the beginning of our current snowfall. There was just a bit of slush at the Pine & Cedar trailhead, but by the time I’d gained the roughly 1500′ to the lakes the snow was 5-6 inches deep, relatively light and fluffy.

Western Redcedar
Western Redcedar wrapped in light snow
This large western redcedar was along the trail not far below where it levels out. I was attracted to the twisted form of the branches and the way they were highlighted by the snow.

I stopped, dropped my daypack, and pulled out my Canon G12 to frame the shot. When I first saw the tree there was white sky behind, so I moved a bit further up the hill to shoot more directly into the tree trunk and keep the sky out of the frame. Since there were a couple of trees close to each other I also wanted to make sure they didn’t compete. I ended up partially hiding one behind the other so only one trunk is obvious. At first glance it looks like one big fat trunk, but in reality there are two.

I’ve processed this in Topaz Adjust to accentuate the details a bit and convert to black and white. Then I brushed a bit of the layer away to reveal just a hint of the original color in the mosses clinging to the branches.

The trail flattens out once you reach the level of the lakes. I headed first to Pine Lake, the further one, and ended up getting a wet foot when my boot broke through thin ice under the snow where I thought there was solid ground between two sections of boardwalk. I gave up on Pine and backtracked to Cedar, which has a drier trail all the way around.

Snow-covered Conifers
Snow-covered Conifers at Cedar Lake

These conifers, a mix of western redcedar, western hemlock, and Douglas-fir, grow right down to the edge of the lake. This view is from a popular campsite beside the lake. This photo was processed in Lightroom to add a little contrast and boost the saturation in the conifers.

Cedar Lake
Red Alder at the edge of Cedar Lake

I continued around Cedar Lake to one of the only other places where you can get to the water. There’s a sandstone cliff and a wooden bench behind my vantage point. On warm sunny days it’s a popular place to stop for a snack. The tree in the foreground is a red alder, easily recognized in the winter by the lingering “cones” and the compressed catkins that will become male flowers around April.

This photo was also processed in Lightroom, with a bit of a contrast and saturation boost.

The ice on the lake looked pretty slushy and I wasn’t about to attempt walking on it. Up until the current storm we haven’t had much cold weather this winter.

On Sunday I headed out the Whatcom Creek trail toward Whatcom Falls Park. I shot a handful of photos with my iPhone that I processed and uploaded immediately to my Facebook mobile uploads gallery. It’s a fun way to share how I see the world.

When I got to the stone bridge overlooking the falls I decided to also photograph it with my G12. I wasn’t carrying a tripod so I needed a way to hold the camera steady for a long exposure to blur the water.

Whatcom Falls 1/80 Second
Whatcom Falls 1/80 Second Exposure

I first photographed the falls with an exposure of 1/80 sec. at f/3.2, ISO 400. This isn’t really fast enough to stop the motion of the falls. It also insn’t slow enough to get that nice silky blur that makes waterfalls look so nice. It’s an exposure that is comfortable to hand hold the camera without shaking.

Whatcom Falls 1/4 second
Whatcom Falls 1/4 second exposure

Then I adjusted my camera, still using aperture-priority automatic exposure, to get a 1/4 second exposure. Now I’m at f/7.1 and ISO 100. The overall exposure is the same, but I’m able to blur the waterfall.

Since I didn’t have a tripod with me, I set my camera on the stone bridge railing and held it lightly in place as I gently pressed the shutter release. I could have used the self-timer to avoid moving the camera while pressing the button. I’ve used the “natural tripod” quite a bit with my pocket camera because one of the joys of photographing with it is traveling light and shooting spontaneously.

Both of these exposures of Whatcom Falls were processed the same in Lightroom to give a little contrast and saturation bump. I also used a vignette at the bottom to further blur the moss in the foreground.

So where’d the title come from? Playing and hiking in the first lowland snow of the season, and photographing the forest with my pocket camera.

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