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Clear night on Mt. Saint Helens

The sky above Mt. Saint Helens in southern Washington State.

My intention was to drive to Portland to practice street photography on a different set of streets. After awhile, all of my shots from downtown Seattle start to look the same and I needed a change of scenery. I left Seattle with a full head of steam, ready to capture the gritty funkiness of Portland.  But by the time I got there the motivation had passed and I had a hard time even summoning the energy to find a spot to park and get the gear ready. I have been in this situation before, a long drive followed by no real creative fire. There are two choices:  suck it up and force it or try to come up with something else. For me, forcing it never works, it's only been recently that I have realized it. Trying to force a creative groove only ends in frustration. So this time I decided to try to find another focus. 

I noticed on the way down I-5 that the sky was almost completely clear, and that Mt. Saint Helens could be clearly seen. In five years and many road trips, I have only seen Mt. Saint Helen's from I-5 once or twice. So as I sat in a parking spot I paid for but had no intention of using, I made the decision to finally get the star photos that have been so elusive to  me. After all, the girls were in BC and I had no reason to hurry home. The sky was clear and I was only 2 hours away, all the variables lined up. A few minutes later I was headed north, only stopping for gas and an Am/Pm fish sandwich and a 5 Hour Energy. 

There was no snow on HWY 504, the main road to Mt. Saint Helens. It's the middle of February and there is no snow at the higher elevations. The viewpoints along the highway are usually blocked by snowbanks pushed to the side by the plows, but since there was no snow to move, the viewpoints were clear and available. I arrived about 30 minutes before sundown, just enough time to set up and get my bearings. Waiting for full dark is an exercise in patience. The sun went down at 5:17, but it wasn't until 6:45 that the sky was dark enough to take photos. I spend an hour or so shooting, I was the only human for miles. Being alone under all those stars was humbling and quite beautiful.