34 years ago Mount St. Helens blew its top and forever changed the landscape of Washington State. I remember the day very well even though I was pretty young at the time. I was living in Renton, Washington, about 100 miles away from the mountain, and remember seeing a dusting of gray ash covering all the leaves and cars. Watching the news that day, it became apparent that the mountain’s eruption was far greater than I could have imagined. Communities that were near the mountain were coping with multiple feet of ash. Those nearby the Toutle River were frantically trying to save themselves from the giant mud flow that surged towards them. These volcanic mud flows, known as lahars, contained trees, boulders and super-heated ash that conspired to decimate everything in its way.
These days, the destruction of Mount St. Helen’s eruption is still evident, but nature’s resiliency is on display in a grand way. Everywhere you look are signs of vibrant life with elk, trees, flowers, and birds on display throughout the monument. I love photographing anywhere in the monument and go back just about every year to see what’s new. Last summer I spent a day hiking and exploring with my camera and created a time-lapse of clouds flowing over the austere landscape (below). I photographed the scene with my Nikon D800, using the intervalometer from the menu system. I set up the timing to take an image every 5 seconds. Using Adobe Premiere Pro CC, I put together the images in a sequence and played them back at 30 frames per second.
If you are looking for a great place to spend a day of photography, you can’t go wrong with Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. Bring along a pair of hiking boots to explore the trails around Johnston Ridge Observatory. For photo gear, I recommend bringing a super-wide angle lens for the grand landscapes as well as a medium telephoto lens to capture details of the crater. If possible, try to go on a partly cloudy day and shoot a time lapse of clouds flowing around the mountain like the video above.