Lime Kiln Lighthouse San Juan Island Washington

Lime Kiln Point State Park

Lime Kiln Point State Park

Lime Kiln Lighthouse San Juan Island Washington #64955Lighthouse at Lime Kiln Point#64955  Purchase

Lime Kiln Point State Park is located on the west side of San Juan Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. Facing Haro Strait and Vancouver Island, the park is one of the best spots in the world to view wild killer whales from the land.

The park is not very large, and it isn’t a quick drive destination. In fact, it can take a bit of prior planning to make a trip worthwhile. This is mainly due to the need to take a ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Since the park and ferry terminal are on opposite sides of the island you’ll also need to take your vehicle along for the ride. But don’t think you can just drive up to the terminal and be loaded on the ferry! The San Juan Islands are a very popular destination, especially on summer weekends. So to avoid ruining your outing you’ll need to reserve a spot in advance. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for some travel tips!

Killer Whales San Juan IslandsKiller Whales off San Juan Island

Marine Life

If you’re visiting Lime Kiln Point for viewing marine life you won’t be disappointed. The surrounding waters are home to the Southern Resident Killer Whales. They are a group of about 75 killer whales, or orcas, that live for most of the year in this part of the Salish Sea. Aside from orcas, sea lions, seals, porpoises, and minke whales frequent these waters.  On our visit, there were numerous sea lions playing close to the shore. But don’t expect close-up personal views of orcas, they swim farther offshore. Bring your binoculars or spotting scope for good views, predictably we forgot ours. The photo above is from several years ago on a whale-watching tour.

It should be noted here that the Southern Resident Killer Whales are considered an endangered species. Their population has dropped from 85 to 75 individuals in recent years. This is mainly due to a drastic reduction of their prime food source, coho salmon. Their situation is compounded by numerous other factors, including increased stress due to noise levels from pleasure boats and freighter traffic. To learn more please check out the Center for Whale Research.

Roche Harbor San Juan Island Roche Harbor  #64910  Purchase

Touring San Juan Island

The park was our main destination for photos, but since we arrived early we had all day to explore the entire island for more subject matter. Another lighthouse at Cattle Point at the southern tip of the island was on my shoot list. However, the lighting conditions there we not very good so I’ll need to return in the future to photograph it.

Roche Harbor is a historic seaside resort town on the northwest tip of San Juan Island. Here can be found Hotel De Haro, the state’s oldest continually operating hotel, in business since 1886. Judging by the looks of it Roche Harbor is the go-to destination for the yachting crowd. There is plenty of lodging and dining here, along with a general store well stocked with a variety of wines.

While on San Juan Island you can also check out English Camp and American Camp. These are part of San Juan Island National Historical Park. Not many people know that The United States and Great Britain nearly went to war in 1859 over possession of the island. The only casualty of this near conflict was a pig. Thus the incident went down in history to be known as The Pig War.

Container Ship Strait of Juan De Fuca Salish Sea Container Ship #64926  Purchase

Photographing at Lime Kiln

After our short tour of the Island, we drove back to Lime the park in time for evening light and sunset. The lighthouse is the most obvious subject matter here. However, there are also great views south of the Olympic Mountains. I found them to work well as a backdrop for telephoto shots of freighters, and also on their own. Of course, there is also marine life. You’ll need a good telephoto lens for photographing killer whales.

Lime Kiln Lighthouse San Juan Island Washington Lime Kiln Point State ParkLime Kiln Point Lighthouse #64939  Purchase

The lighthouse photographs are best in the evening and sunset. There are plenty of excellent spots on the rocky shore to set up different compositions. A variety of focal lengths will work here, from wide to short telephotos. The classic south-side view of the lighthouse will be illuminated much better in winter when the sun is further south. However, at that time you’ll need to create a wide panoramic to include the sunset and structure in the same frame. In summer the north side will be in sunlight. Then you can photograph the lighthouse looking south with the Olympic Mountains as a backdrop. Unfortunately from this angle, there are few spots to set up your tripod, so getting a good composition may be difficult.

Lime Kiln Lighthouse San Juan Island Washington Lime Kiln Point State ParkLime Kiln Lighthouse #64906  Purchase

How to get to Lime Kiln Point

As mentioned above, you’ll need to review the ferry schedule carefully and reserve a vehicle spot in advance. You can still drive on without a reservation, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it. On a Friday or Saturday in summer it appears like everyone in the state is going to the islands. You won’t need a reservation if you are just walking on or taking a bicycle. But remember the park is not within walking distance from the ferry terminal at Friday Harbor.

Ferry approaching Orcas Island dockSan Juan Islands Ferry  #64889  Purchase

There are two ferry routes to Friday Harbor, one is a direct nonstop passage from Anacortes. The other makes three stops, at Lopez Island, Orcas Island, and Shaw Island. If you have the time I recommend the latter. It’s a much longer passage but more scenic as the ferry sails past numerous picturesque islands. If possible, try to time your return ferry passage for the evening before sunset. There are excellent photo opportunities then, with the islands and Mount Baker bathed in warm light!

Thanks for reading this post, I hope you enjoyed it. Please consider sharing it with friends family and colleagues!

All photos on this post are available as fine art prints and for commercial licensing.

Wildcat Cove Samish Bay Sunset Larrabee State Park

Bellingham Bay Samish Bay

Bellingham Bay Samish Bay

Taylor Dock Boardwalk Boulevard Park Bellingham WashingtonTaylor Dock Boardwalk, Bellingham WA  #64663  #Purchase

2018 is turning out to be a year of new beginnings. Along with the launching of my new website comes this first blog post of the year, featuring several new images. These new photos are even more special in that are the first made using an entirely new camera system.

Last week during a brief window of decent weather I took a short break from working on the new website. This break enabled me to finally get out in the field to test out my new Nikon D850 camera system and a couple new filters. I find reading and writing reviews of photo gear a huge bore. So, if you’re interested in my opinions of the D850 you can contact me. I’ll be happy to share my first impressions.

The first photo above is from Boulevard Park, along Bellingham Bay. Aside from the new camera and lens, this was my first photo using a Lee Big Stopper filter. For those not familiar, the Big Stopper is a neutral density filter that dramatically increases the length of exposure. This extended shutter speed results in any movement becoming blurred. In the case above, the sky and water took on a silky texture. Photographing after sunset during the “Blue Hour” adds to the mood with cooler saturated tones.

Larrabee State Park

Wildcat Cove Sunset, Samish Bay Larrabee State Park, WashingtonWildcat Cove Sunset, Larrabee State Park  #64680  Purchase

The next day I decided to head down to one of my favorite local winter destinations, Larrabee State Park. Usually I stop by Clayton Beach on the south end of the park. However, since I’ve made numerous photos from that great location I decided to check out Wildcat Cove beach. I haven’t been there for many years and I forgot how scenic it can be.

Wildcat Cove Samish Bay Sunset Larrabee State ParkWildcat Cove Sunset, Larrabee State Park  #64695  Purchase

The tide was going out, exposing some interesting and extremely slippery rocks. The winter light was also warm and pleasant with some nice wispy high clouds. Since it was mid-week there weren’t many people. So it was nice to leisurely set up my gear and make a few photos as the sun went down.

I wanted to get in more practice with the Lee Filters so I made couple more tries. Exposures of even a few minutes long seem to take forever when  it’s getting dark and cold!

Wildcat Cove Samish Bay Sunset Larrabee State ParkWildcat Cove Sunset, Larrabee State Park  #64696 

Want to Learn More?

Would you like to learn more about photography? I offer full day, half day, and multi-day photo tours and instruction. Check out my Private Instruction/Tours page for more info, or contact me directly. I would love to help you take your photography to the next level and shoot like a pro!



Ferry crossing Admiralty Inlet, Washington

Fort Casey State Park

Ferry crossing Admiralty Inlet, WashingtonFort Casey State Park  #62178b  Purchase

Back in late April I made a brief visit to Fort Casey State Park located on Whidbey Island. Years ago, when we lived on South Whidbey I would make regular trips to this scenic and historic park. Later we would bring relatives there when visiting from back east. But although I’ve always wanted to spend some time photographing the park it never seemed to fit into the schedule. That is until this April, when I planned an Olympic Park coast trip. Coming down from Bellingham I stopped for the day at Fort Casey before taking the Keystone Port Townsend Ferry, adjacent to the park, the next morning.

Fort Casey State Park is an attractive destination for several reasons. First, it sites on the west side of Whidbey Island with a commanding view of the Olympic Mountains, the Strait of Juan De Fuca, and Admiralty Inlet. One could spend a day sitting on the bluff just watching ships sail by. With the right timing you can even witness an aircraft carrier from the Home Port in Everett sail by. With exceptional luck and a good set of binoculars it’s possible to even see a Trident submarine.

10 inch gun, Fort Casey State ParkFort Casey State Park Battery Worth 10″ Disappearing Gun  #62165   Purchase

Fort Casey State Park, part of the Triangle of Fire

Aside from the views and ships the next biggest attraction of the park is the fort itself. Fort Casey if one of the three coastal forts forming the “Triangle of Fire”. Built around 1890 the forts guarded against invaders attempting to make their way into Puget Sound. At the time the forts were armed with a variety of artillery including state of the art 10 inch guns mounted on disappearing carriages. However, these guns became obsolete in less than twenty years. Most were sold for scrap or placed in forts in the Philippines, but two were eventually brought back years later as historic display pieces.

Fort Casey State Park, WashingtonFort Casey State Park Batteries and Bunkers  #62170   Purchase

Fort Casey State Park, battery bunkers.Fort Casey State Park Bunkers  #62105   Purchase

A visit to Fort Casey wouldn’t be complete without checking out the guns and the concrete bunkers of the batteries. These bunkers are a hands down favorite for families and their children. On a busy summer weekend kids will be running in and out of the bunkers, having a blast playing hide and seek.  If all of the above isn’t enough, there is also Admiralty Head Lighthouse to explore. Plus long stretches of driftwood strewn cobblestone beaches, camping and picnic areas.

Admiralty Head Lighthouse, WashingtonAdmiralty Head Lighthouse  #62218   Purchase

The kid in me loves all of this, but on this trip I also wanted to enjoy making long overdue photos. Fortunately on this visit the weather was beautiful and I had some nice evening light to work with. The park can offer a pleasant afternoon of fun, but I recommend staying a night or two. That way you can enjoy the sunset, and maybe take the Ferry over to Port Townsend the next day. Don’t forget your State Parks Discovery Pass, and to make reservations in advance for camping or for driving on the Ferry. Have fun!

Fort Casey Officers residence, Whidbey Island WashingtonOfficers Residence Fort Casey  #62141  Purchase

10 inch gun, Fort Casey State ParkFort Casey State Park Battery Worth 10″ Disappearing Gun  #62087   Purchase

Forty Casey State Park WashingtonFort Casey State Park Battery Turman  #62083  Purchase

John Day River Oregon

John Day River Oregon

John Day River Oregon

John Day River OregonJohn Day River, Oregon #59904     Purchase

This post will begin a series of recaps from my recent spring photography trip. My first stop was Cottonwood Canyon State Park, along the lower John Day River Oregon. This is Oregon’s newest state park and it was a pleasure to visit. As you can see from the photos the surrounding country is part of the Coloumbia Plateau, with the John Day River cutting canyons through the flood basalt. The nature of this geology helps the river create many scenic winding turns and horseshoe bends.

John Day River OregonJohn Day River, Oregon #59852    Purchase

Visiting this area in early spring offers cool green hillsides sprinkled with a variety of wildflowers. Most notably Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) and Desert Parsley (Lomatium laevigatum). Later in the season the hills will turn a golden brown, and the weather will be much hotter. The park was donated by a local ranching family and contains several remnants of its past, such as a picturesque red barn and some farming implements. A small campground is located right along the river where several nice riverside trails begin. If you’re not into natural history or photography the river is supposedly great for fishing and the spring runoff offers excellent rafting.

Red Barn Cottonwood Canyon State Park OregonRed barn Cottonwood Canyon State Park, Oregon #59841    Purchase

Hiker John Day River, Cottonwood canyon State Park, OregonJohn Day River Cottonwood Canyon State Park, Oregon #59797    Purchase

Photography, of course, was the main reason for my visit. The goal was finding some nice views of the river bends. This proved however to be a bit of a challenge as many of the best bends were inaccessible by road or foot. After scouring Google Maps I did manage to find a backroad close to the canyon rim with a nice view. My research showed the best horseshoe bend view is situated about an hour drive south of the park. The weather forecast didn’t look good enough to make the trip worth it though. That one will have to wait until my next trip to the area.

John Day River OregonDesert Parsley, John Day River, Oregon #59858    Purchase

A couple words of warning if you visit this quiet and special area. All unsurfaced roads can be impassable to vehicles after a rain, they turn into a gluey gumbo. Trust me on this, I once almost got stuck and had to wait a couple of days for the road to dry out before I could safely proceed. Rattlesnakes are common, and in spring ticks can be a problem. Also in late spring and summer the temperature can be very hot, with little shade to provide relief.

If you’d like to see more photos from this area you can search John Day River or Cottonwood Canyon State Park on my website. All photos can be licensed for editorial or commercial use or also be purchased as prints. Thanks for viewing and please pass this post along to your friends!

John Day River OregonJohn Day River, Oregon #59912     Purchase

John Day River Oregon

Samish Bay, Larrabee State Park Washington

Larrabee State Park Samish Bay Washington

Larrabee State Park Samish Bay Washington

Samish Bay, Larrabee State Park WashingtonSamish Bay #56660  Purchase

Like in many previous years, I’ve been making several visits to Larrabee State Park during the lull between winter and spring. Situated along Samish Bay a few miles south of Bellingham this is one of the best locations for photography in the area. Hikers trail runners and mountain bikers will find numerous trails into the Chuckanut Mountains. For the photographer, the shoreline along the bay is the place to be. Facing out to the famous San Juan Islands the shore is lined with sandstone cliffs and boulders eroded into fascinating formations. There is even a small natural arch dipping into the water if you can find it.

Clayton Beach

Possibly the best location for photos is Clayton Beach at the south end of the park. It is accessed by a trail approximately one-half mile long. Once on the beach, there are great rock formations. M favorite is just to the left of the beach. Back at the main park entrance,  a short trail takes you down to a sandstone formation with more great compositions.

Clayton Beach, Larrabee State Park WashingtonSandstone erosion patterns Clayton Beach #47151  Purchase

If you go you will need to purchase a day-use pass, unreasonably priced at $15. Although a yearly pass for all Washington State Parks, the Discover Pass is $30. The best time for photography in this park is late afternoon to sunset. This is when the golden-colored sandstone glows in the light. Low tide is best since you’ll be able to access more formations. However, since this is a popular park it will be next to impossible to get photos without the sand being tracked out. The good news is that in winter most people leave around sunset. During my last three trips, I had the beach all to myself. It’s a different story though in summer when the park is packed with people.

Clayton Beach, Larrabee State Park WashingtonSandstone pinnacle Larrabee State Park #47154r