Seattle, Washington

VISITED: SEPTEMBER 2015

Besides being the birthplace for Starbucks coffee and grunge rock music, Seattle offers many beautiful gems within the city. Despite taking this trip during early September, while it was still summer, I encountered multiple storms with heavy rain -- as you may expect with Seattle. Even in heavy rain or cloud cover, the essence of Seattle can still be photographed with ingenuity and resolve. I compiled a list of my personal favorites, rain or shine, with a short description of each.

Kerry Park - Located on Highland Drive, this small park sits on a hillside north of the city and is the ideal vantage point of Seattle. This is the most popular location to frame the Space Needle as the focal point with Elliot Bay and downtown Seattle as the backdrop.

Pike's Market Place - The ideal location to capture Seattle's bustling market place, complete with the 'flying fish toss.' I recommend going early in order to better capture the stalls that are full of radiant flowers are fully stocked with the variety of brilliantly colored fruits and vegetables.

Space Needle - The observation deck is the best place for panoramic views of Seattle, but the downside is that the Space Needle will not be in your photograph; however, on a clear day, you will have Mt. Rainier standing tall in the background. Besides the observation deck, if you want to capture unique perspectives of Space Needle, then there are ample opportunities at ground level walking around the base and looking up.

Alki Beach Park - Found across Elliot Bay, Alki Beach Park is along the waterfront (Alki Avenue) and provides a panoramic of all of Seattle. Find the vantage point that you like best and compose it with any one of the many available foreground elements (rocks, pier, etc.).

Hamilton Viewpoint Park - Located a short drive up the hillside behind Alki Beach Park (California Way), Hamilton Viewpoint Park has the advantaged of photographing the skyline from an elevated position.

Fremont Troll - Found on N. 36th Street underneath the Aurora Bridge, this unique sculpture is of a troll clutching a real VW bug. The troll is made of steel rebar, concrete, and wire, but looks as if it was made of sand or carved from rock. The Fremont Troll is an interactive statue and it is not unusual to see children climbing around on top of it or seeing it painted to represent the season/time of year.

Recommendations of locations for photographing sunrise and sunset:

SUNRISE - Hamilton Viewpoint Park - This provides a great view, and full panoramic of the city, looking eastward. The only true decision is contemplating what focal length to shoot at and the foreground element that intrigues you most.

SUNSET - Kerry Park - Although this spot can be used for either sunrise or sunset; I had the most success at sunset. Arrive early, since this is the most popular location to watch the sunset and parking is limited along this narrow street.

Seattle is also conveniently located within a considerable drive (if you are up for it) to two national parks: Olympic National Park and North Cascades National Park.

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK (4hr 20min drive from Seattle):

Hoh Rain Forest - A section of the Olympic National Park, the Hoh Rain Forest offers many phenomenal hikes, but the most family friendly is its Hall of Mosses Hike. Complete with ferns, luscious green trees, and running river, the Hall of Mosses is a peaceful retreat for any visitor

Kalaloch and Ruby Beach - Located on the southwest corner of the Olympic Peninsula, these beaches are ideal for any photographer. These beaches are pristine in beauty and the marine wildlife is abundant along the coast.

Sol Duc Falls - The Sol Duc Falls is in the northwestern part of Olympic National Park. The Sol Duc River is highly populated with salmon and is surrounded by moss covered rocks. The trail to the falls is an easy loop that starts from the Sol Duc Hot Spring Resort and culminates at the bridge overlooking the falls.

Rialto Beach - Rialto Beach is littered with dry drift wood, round rocks, and views of offshore islands. Standing at the beach and closing your eyes, you will hear the pounding waves as they crash against the shore. Take your time to walk along the coast and take in the geography of the beach, as well as the different perspectives to capture unique landscape shots.

NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK (2hr 50min drive from Seattle):

Picture Lake Path - Although this is just outside the parks boundary, Mount Shuksan is technically part of the North Cascades National Park since it lies on its northwestern border. That being said, the Picture Lake Path is an easy trail that provides visitors with an awe-inspiring view of Mount Shuksan and its reflection in the lake.

Washington Pass Overlook - Off of the Washington Pass Highway, this overlook gives a vista of the Liberty Bell Mountain and spectacular views of the landscape below. The larch trees in autumn are gold in color and are a spectacular sight to see. This overlook is easy to access from the parking lot and makes for a fantastic setting during sunrise or sunset.

Cascade Pass - A moderate 7.2-mile roundtrip hike to Cascade Pass that is rich in wildlife and scenery. Throughout the hike, you will be treated to breathtaking views of glaciers, valleys, and tree covered peaks.

Blue Lake Trail - Blue Lake sits approximately 2-miles up from the trailhead and is surrounded by trees, meadows, and wildflowers. Although Blue Lake is the payoff, the trail leading up to the lake offers a multitude of photographic elements: granite peaks, makeshift log bridge, an abandoned and dilapidated cabin.

Ladder Creek Falls & Gardens - Ladder Creek Falls, tucked behind the town of Newhalem, is a lovely woodland retreat that is covered in wild flora. The falls and surrounding gardens are illuminated at night by a 15-minute light show with music, which plays from dusk until midnight year-round.

As I normally end all of my posts, we now come to the foodie recommendations. These were my top three:

*Red Mill Burgers - Delicious burgers and fries or onion rings. The Verde Burger was mouthwateringly delectable.

*Beth's Cafe - A popular breakfast restaurant that is known for its long waits, especially on weekends. If you're patient, and don't mind the wait, the payoff is beyond worth it. The omelets are filling and tasty to the last bite.

*Beecher's Handmade Cheese - Found across the street from Pike's Market Place, Beecher's Handmade Cheese gives visitors the opportunity to watch the cheese curd process. Grab a bowl of their world famous mac and cheese and sit back and enjoy the people watching along the market place.

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