It’s easy for life to run away with us.  And unfortunately, the things that bring us joy are often the victims.  Soon, this phenomenal ephemeral season will give way to rain, and I’ll have missed out on the year’s best photography.  So difficult as it was, I pressed “pause” on the have-to-dos and made some much needed time for me.

Mount Adams dominating over a local farm at dusk | LotsaSmiles Photography

Life is busy

My life has been really crazy lately.  My spare time has been dominated by preparing for our biggest event of the year, Kumoricon.  On top of landscape and wildlife photography, I harbor a passion for events and candids.  This anime convention is an annual highlight, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  However, when one is passionate for something, it’s easy to find oneself in a position of leadership – which also comes with a significant increase in responsibility (read: work).  I love it, but it certainly keeps me busy.

A river flowing far below, amidst autumn colors | LotsaSmiles Photography

This is also the time of year when a lot of change occurs, so my internal feng shui is completely upended.  The jackets come out, the cooling summer foods fade into tastebud memory, and the soul goes through a mental purge much like the shedding trees all around me.  It’s exhausting to go through so much environmental shift, but it’s also refreshingly cleansing.

As you know by now, I never slow down.  But sometimes that comes at a cost to the things I love most.  I suddenly realized that weeks had elapsed, and I hadn’t taken so much as a single photo of the blooming autumn colors around me.  Now, I’ve never been one who’s had to make time for photography; I carry a camera with me wherever I go, and photographic opportunities simply happen.  But I wasn’t going outside much, and I was chained to my projects indoors.

The view of Mount Adams | LotsaSmiles Photography

So I have been making an effort to slow the whirlwind a bit and to reconnect with the things that make me whole and fill me with purpose.  It was time to give myself a chance to recharge with a refreshing hike and some breathtaking photography.

Hiking the Sleeping Beauty trail

The Sleeping Beauty trailhead marker | LotsaSmiles Photography

Our destination this time around was the Sleeping Beauty hike in Washington – an easy but steep trail that ascends 1400 feet over about a mile and a half.  The reward is a rocky bluff that pokes out above the surrounding forest and grants visitors a 360 view of the surrounding landscape.  Included in the panorama are four mountain peaks – St. Helens, the distant Hood, just the tip of Rainier, and the dominating Adams.

The trail is beautiful and easy to follow, but we were soon huffing a bit.  There are no breaks in the ascent; the path relentlessly climbs.  The most interesting part is the last 15 minutes, where dirt gives way to rock, and quick switchbacks make for some fun photo opportunities.

Our troop winding their way up the switchbacks, with Mount Adams peering around the cliff face | LotsaSmiles Photography

Reaching the craggy summit, we slowly cooled down while we scarfed down our measly sandwiches.  I was more focused on the views, of course.

Photographing Mount Adams

One of our number photographing the cloudy peak of Mount Adams | LotsaSmiles Photography

The clear centerpiece of the view was the massive peak of Mount Adams.  I was glad to have carted up my bazooka lens, as I was able to zoom in rather close to drink up all the wonderful details.  The midday sun didn’t make for great shooting, but I was thrilled to have an unobstructed view, with a puff of clouds for interesting texture.

I sat atop that pinnacle, just thankful for the fresh air and the chance to detach myself from my computer for a few hours.  Nature rejuvenates me, and the sunshine recharges me.

The peak of Mount Adams, brushed by light clouds | LotsaSmiles Photography

I was also excited, because we had driven down orange and yellow lanes to arrive at the trailhead, and our next plans would take us down more such avenues to photograph the fall colors in the evening golden hour.

Sun poking through the lines of tree trunks along the trail | LotsaSmiles Photography

Unsurprisingly, the trek down passed far faster than the slog up.  However, it was difficult to fight gravity; I wanted to run the whole way down.  I shot the sunlight coming through the trees, and I killed some time at the trailhead shooting a golden grove.  Then we hit the road.

Shooting the fall colors

A road winding through autumn colors | LotsaSmiles Photography

We stopped a few times on the road upon which we had entered, photographing trees lining the pavement and pleasing bends ahead.

As we headed east, we crossed a small brook.  I glanced sideways as we passed, and I was so struck by the beauty, I begged Aaron to stop the car.  Fortunately, our fellow caravan agreed, and we all whipped out our tripods.  The lighting and the autumn colors hugging this waterway were superb.  I can’t believe we almost passed it entirely.  I ventured down to the water’s edge, but I found the view from the bridge was honestly superior.

The autumn creek, viewed from the bridge | LotsaSmiles Photography

A beautiful creek running amidst autumn colors | LotsaSmiles Photography

We couldn’t stay long, though, as we had a destination in mind in which we needed to be in place come golden hour (rapidly approaching).  We stopped by a field to the south of Adams with a rustic fence post, and we lingered at another field featuring a gold copse (that just happened to be cradling the crescent moon).

The highlight of the day

A copse of trees in full autumn color in front of Mt. Adams just before sunset | LotsaSmiles Photography

Then we got to the main attraction – the evening’s masterpiece.  My favorite moment of the entire day was when we rounded the corner, and a grassy expanse stretched out to our right.  Mount Adams ruled the scene, but I was naturally drawn in by the stunning trees in the foreground.  The entire grove was awash in peak autumn fire.  It was an immediate “wow” moment, which is why this scene earned a place among my biweekly wow photos.

We didn’t even need to leave the car; we had the windows rolled down for the perfect weather (and let’s face it – we were still tired from the hike).  I couldn’t get enough of this perfect image.  Truly remarkable.

A barn stuffed with hay in front of Mount Adams at dusk | LotsaSmiles Photography

But our day’s guide promised an even better sight just down the road further.  I reluctantly left, and we came to a similar vantage that also boasted a picturesque barn and some grazing cattle.  Unfortunately, the foreground trees weren’t as colorful, so I was a little disappointed.  However, this spot afforded greater variety in the available shots; I think I had already gotten the best possible pictures from the previous location.

A river, blurred in motion, flowing between autumn banks | LotsaSmiles Photography

After that, the light quickly faded, so we turned our sights on home.  But we came across one last view – a bridge over a ravine, the water running swiftly far below.  There was just enough light left during the blue hour to capture a few long-exposures; it was a good cherry to top the scenic day.

Re-centering and recharging

A farm field, overseen by Mount Adams | LotsaSmiles Photography

I was enthralled with the experiences of the day.  From getting my blood flowing on the hike and the warm sunshine on a crisp fall day, to the exhilaration of five-star photography opportunities – not to mention the psychological healing that comes from social interactions – I was recharged in ways I hadn’t even realized I was deficient.

It’s important to take a break every so often to refocus and realign priorities.  The positive reactions I had to this particular weekend reminded me of that.  I’ll be doing some more of that coming soon, but I’ll tell you all about that in another post.

Autumn leaves in the sunshine | LotsaSmiles Photography

For now, take a breather from the craziness of life, and enjoy the beautiful fall weather while you can, wherever you are.


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