The North Cascades Highway gets snowed in for the winter, so we decided to take a trip up there before the snow arrived. It was also a good time for fall foliage, so we wanted to see what the mountains had to offer. The colors in the trees as we drove up were very nice but, the higher you get, the more you are into the evergreens and the foliage becomes sparse. However, we had something equally attractive awaiting us.
It was an overcast day as we drove up with any hints of sun from the lower levels gone as we got higher. There were some really cool bands of clouds to see as we drove. At one point we had the valley in sight and the tops of the mountains but a band of cloud in the middle. It was while on a stretch of road with nowhere to stop so no shots of that. However, as we got up to Diablo Lake and then Washington Pass, we got plenty of mountain tops in and out of the clouds.
I experimented with both normal shots and HDR. With the shadow of the valleys and the brightness of the clouds, the dynamic range was pretty wide, and I thought HDR might give me some more processing options. I was glad I made that choice as it really helped to get detail in all parts of the images. That will be our last trip up there this year. The snows will be getting heavy before too long and then it will be a waiting game until the pass is cleared in the spring.
The water running out of the mountains along the North Cascade Highway brings a lot of sediment with it. The result of this is that the rivers and lakes that form along the route of the pass have a distinct green color to them. The Skagit River in Newhalem has a clear green color to it. However, the more dramatic demonstration of this coloration is visible at Diablo Lake. This lake that is formed behind Diablo Dam has a very green appearance. It looks like it must have been created artificially but it is just the result of carrying the minerals down from the mountains above. Of course, a polarizer does a good job of highlighting the color when the reflections are removed.
If I remember – which I frequently don’t – I take my polarizer with me when I am going to photographing scenery. With our trip up into the Cascades, we went to the overlook of Diablo Lake and the sun was reflecting off the surface of the lake waters. I took two shots – one with the polarizer rotated to remove the glare and one with the glare in full effect. I was interested to see which of the shots I preferred when I got home. The color of the lake is very nice but sometimes the reflections are more interesting. I include both here to show just how much of a difference the polarizer makes and for you to decide which is to your taste.
Diablo Lake sits behind one of the dams as you head across the Cascades. Overlooking the lake is a vista point and we stopped there to have our lunch. We certainly weren’t the only ones to think of this. The parking lot was pretty full and there were tons of people enjoying the view. For being up in the mountains, you certainly weren’t a long way away from civilization! On a sunny day, it wasn’t hard to understand why it was so popular.
Across one side of the lake you could see the top of the dam. Meanwhile, you had great views in all directions. The vista point was quite high above the water level and looking down on the water and the islands in the lake, you had a perspective that almost felt like flying. One of the islands had a nice jetty and the water was clear enough to see down to the bottom in the shallows. I guess the water is snow run off from the mountains so it probably doesn’t pick up too much sediment.