Earlier this week, I took a hiking trip to the Iron Goat Trail — a journey into nature that taught me more than I usually learn exploring my new home.
The Pacific Northwest is a lush area full of many different types of landscape. You’ve got the beaches, sound, rivers, towering mountains, rainforests, and even the (not so lush) desert. Iron Goat Trail sits 60 miles northeast of Seattle along Stevens Pass Highway, an already breathtaking ride.
After a short walk on the start of the trail, a snowshed appeared — a towering and crumbling cement wall right along the walkway. These snowsheds protected the Great Northern Railway… at least for the most part. According to the trail’s website,
In 1910, snowslides delayed two trains at the town of Wellington. A vast section of snow on Windy Mountain broke loose and crashed down, sweeping both trains off the tracks into Tye Creek below. Rescue efforts were quickly organized, but nearly one hundred lives were lost.
Old tunnels stretch along the trail, showing the engineering against the elements. Wooden barriers were put in place under concrete, to protect trains from the winter precipitation. All of this old architecture and beautiful mossy landscape made for amazing photos, but I had to break one of my main rules to photograph it well…
Using a Flash… For the First Time
I’ve been photographing pretty much non-stop for years. I’ve photographed landscapes, people, long exposures, macro… just about everything. One rule I abide by is never using the flash built in on my Canon Rebel xti. I’ve found that 99 percent of the time, it flattens images and leaves out the real, raw color and shadows that I love. But I found myself changing my ways!
In the heavily wooded areas with looming concrete and trees, photographing the low-lying details while not blowing out the highlights in the trees was incredibly difficult. But something clicked, and I gave in. Why not give it a try? And sure enough, with a little finesse, I was able to shed a little light on the foreground details, while still being able to capture those night natural highlights above. Lesson learned. Thanks, Iron Goat Trail!