So You Travels: PNW Road Trip Part 2 of 3 - Olympic National Park - Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent, Hoh River Rafting, Hoh Rainforest, Kalaloch

Part 1 of this post describes the first 3 days of our adventures in Seattle, Mt Rainier, Fort Casey, and Whale Watching. Click here.

Day 4 - Olympic Peninsula - Berry Picking and Hurricane Ridge at Olympic National Park

Waffle Ice Cream Sandwiches for Breakfast

One of the things we enjoy about staying in Airbnb’s is being able to make our own breakfast and lunch. It saves time and money when we travel, leaving more of both to do and see more when we’re out for the day! It could also mean waffle ice cream sandwiches for breakfast when you’re moving from one place to the next this morning, and you might as well use up that ice cream before you go! The kids were pretty excited about it!

Bainbridge Island Ferry

Getting to the Olympic peninsula started the fun, as we got to take our car on the ferry again! We hadn’t checked the schedule before we left, and just missed the 11:30 ferry. We left our car and walked to the nearest souvenir shop in search of a marmot. They really were cute. We didn’t find any, and by the time we got back to the car, it was time to load the ferry.

Graysmarsh Berry Farm

Our first stop was Graysmarsh Berry Farm. We had read that berries and lavender are in bloom in the region this time of year, and since this farm had both, we headed there first. They closed at 4, so by the time we got there we only had about 45 minutes, but that was just the right amount of time to explore the rows and rows of berries. We got to pick raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries! Coming from Florida, we are experienced with strawberry picking, but had never even seen how the other berries we get from the grocery store grow, so that was a lot of fun. And amazingly delicious!

We didn’t have time to try picking lavender, but they did let me walk out into the field before we left to smell the lavender and snap a few pics. Seriously, I could lay down in the field and chill there all day! Think they’d let me get a sleeping bag and sleepover? That’d be the best, most relaxing sleep ever!

Shoutout to my friend Sheryl from Why Not Adventures for finding this place! She travels a lot and takes the most amazing trips, and created a trip planning business to share this joy and talent with others. I love trip planning too, but for the past few years, I’ve consulted with Sheryl on my trips to help me not over plan, make sure there’s nothing I missed, think and talk it out when I need to review my itinerary, and find places like this!

Olympic National Park - Hurricane Ridge
I really didn’t know what to expect here, just that it was something we should see, and I was completely blown away. There were some steep, but other than that pretty tame loop hikes near the Visitor’s Center, and longer hikes had we had more time and daylight. We really enjoyed the wildflowers and wildlife (we saw a buck!) and amazing views. I also got one of my favorite family selfies of the trip (us at the top of the mountain looking at each other, the second image below the sign). I can connect my camera to my phone and use it as remote, which is pretty cool.

While watching the sunset, we spoke to some other visitors who were staying to watch the meteor shower, so we did the same. In making this decision, we had no idea the sunset would be so long! We loved the technicolor skies, but man, it was about an hour of that and got cold out before the stars came out! I didn’t have my tripod with me so couldn’t effectively capture my own night sky photo, so I picked one off Google that looked similar, just so you get an idea of what the night sky looked like. I saw one or two, maybe 3 shooting stars out of the corner of my eye, but none directly. I did see a bunch of moving stars, which I’m told were satellites, so that was cool!

Day 5 - Crescent Beach in Joyce, WA and Lake Crescent Bike Ride in Olympic National Park

Crescent Beach - Crescent Bay - Saltwater Creek Recreation Area

I had originally earmarked this morning to check out the Sol Duc Hot Springs, but we’d been travelling pretty heavily, and wanted a more relaxed morning. We checked in with our Airbnb host, who suggested checking out Crescent Beach. We looked up Crescent Beach on the map, and it wasn’t nearby. We took a closer look and found Crescent Beach Road across the street from where we were staying, and used the map to take that road until we hit water, assuming we’d figure it out. I love adventures like that! Not knowing where you’re going and exploring along the way!

Just past the Crescent Beach RV park, there was a small parking lot, where the signs read ‘Salt Creek Recreation Area’. We parked there, and explored the beach. We lucked out in that it was low tide, and the kids had a blast skipping rocks (they did that pretty much everywhere we went that had water and rocks), and the highlight of this beach was a see-saw that someone had made out of driftwood! For the rest of the trip, it was ‘see-saw beach’ and little man kept asking to return! I looked at a map after we left, and Crescent Bay is what appears on the map. I even looked it up on Google Earth, and you can see the parking lot and little tree island. So cool!

Lake Crescent - Olympic National Park

We like to make our travel active. In several of the places we’ve visited, we’ve done bike rides, or water sports like SUP or kayaking. My research led me to Adventures Through Kayaking, who rented us mountain bikes for the day to explore Lake Crescent with our guide, Jake (who photo credit for the images I’m in below goes to). We biked along the Spruce Railroad Trail. It was a solid trail, but much rockier and hillier than this Florida girl is used to! I also experienced a metaphor for life on the ride through the ups and downs of the mountain path: the uphill climb is tough, but the downhill coast is glorious. And the feeling that you earned it and worked for it makes it that much more satisfying.

After our ride, we had dinner in town in Port Angeles. The kids were begging to go back to the ‘see-saw beach’, and it was nearly dark by the time we made it there after dinner. We told them the see-saw was most likely inaccessible due to the tide coming in, and we were right. It was amazing to see nature at work, and how those many yards of open shoreline from that morning were now covered by the sea! Also, they got to throw a few more rocks, so, mission accomplished, ha ha ha!

Day 6 - Hoh River Rafting, Hoh Rainforest, Kalaloch in Olympic National Park

Chill morning at ‘home’ and Lake Crescent on the way out of town

This morning, we were planning to get up early and see the tide pools on the beaches of Olympic National Park. But I had left my sweatshirt in town the night before at a store that didn’t open until 11:00 am, so I stayed home with the boys to pack and supervise some summer reading and play while he went to get the sweatshirt. It was a pretty cool space with several interesting natural wooden touches, and some deer that visited the backyard in the mornings.

On the way out of town, we passed the opposite shore of Lake Crescent than the one we’d explored the day before, so we pulled off for one more look at the beauty, and of course, more rock throwing. The boys have mastered skipping rocks, especially big brother. Mom, less so, so I participated in the rock throwing contest for distance. I did not win.

Hoh River Rafting

Having enjoyed white water rafting in Tennessee two summers ago and kayaking in Arizona last summer, I researched if there was any rafting on the rivers that flow through the Olympic Peninsula. I was rewarded with the discovery of Hoh River Rafters. It was so peaceful, and unlike any other river rafting tour I’ve ever done. In the Smoky Mountains, there are many whitewater rafting companies to choose from, and each takes out at least a half a dozen boats at a time, and the busy energy can be felt.

This experience with Pat was a complete contrast. Our boat and the other who joined us were the only two out there. The river was wide and calm. The water flowed gently off the rocks into the river. There were a couple of slight rapids, but this Class II experience was such a contrast to the Class III and IV rapids of summers before. Asking about all of the fallen trees and driftwood we saw, we learned how the river normally towers at heights above where we were floating and roars through the area at incredible speeds as the seasons change. I kept commenting on my disbelief at the lack of crowds. The experience was so lovely, I was so surprised it wasn’t more widely experienced. It felt like magic.

Not wanting to risk the combination of my real camera and water, all I have from this experience are cel phone photos, but I am grateful for these memories. Sometimes the best camera is the one you have with you.

Hoh Rainforest - Olympic National Park

We were just up the road from the rainforest when we finished our rafting trip, so we headed down to explore the loop hike behind the visitor center through these ancient trees. It was so beautiful and so amazing. The signage throughout the hike was really well done, and told the story of the forest. The massive size of the trees and changing microclimates on this short hike was awe-inspiring. My little one especially came alive in the forest with curiosity and exploration.

Kalaloch Lodge - Olympic National Park

From the rainforest, we headed to Kalaloch Lodge for dinner and the sunset. We pulled over to see Ruby Beach along the way. We didn’t have the time to hike down before the restaurant closed, but at least got to see the stacks (rock formations in the water). Since we were headed to Portland the next morning, after dinner we kept driving to Olympia, where we spent the night as a nice halfway point. What a beautiful way to end little man’s birthday!

Part 3/3 concludes this amazing travel experience with visits to the Columbia River Gorge and Portland. Click here!

Hollywood Beach Lifestyle Family Photographer | Twirling Dresses

You guuuuyyyyyyssssss, this session was EVERYTHING!!! This family visits South Florida every Thanksgiving from Chicago, and for the past 3 years, I’ve gotten to take their fall family photos. Our most recent session was at Hollywood beach on Thanksgiving morning, so it was pretty quiet. It was also just the right amount of overcast so no one was super squinty, and the skies were blue. But even if we had full sun, we were going for it anyway, shadows and all!

Mom dressed the girls in these AMAZING dresses which were just made for twirling! (Hanna Anderson). There was beach play on the sand and in the water, and on the broadwalk, and a snack, and the playground, and we finished our session with a run through the fountain.

And this session was magic. The magic happens when you relax in front of the camera. When you stop looking at me and start enjoying each other. And sure, I’ll give you direction to do that awesomely enjoyable thing you just did from a different angle or in a different direction, b/c that’s what lifestyle photography is, but really. Let go and allow the moments to overtake you, because they’ll overtake me too, and then you’ll have a gallery that looks like this!

Dania Beach Lifestyle Family Photography | Extended Family Photo Session

I love our local photography community, and how we are there for each other when scheduling conflicts don’t allow us to be there for our clients. That was the case this summer when one of my photography besties needed me to capture this extended family.

I had just purchased the Fujifilm X100F, and LOVED it, so I decided to shoot this entire session with that camera. It’s fun to shoot with, and I was in the mood to have some fun!

I get asked about extended family photos a lot, and while they can be challenging, they can also be fun. As a portrait and event photographer, gathering and posing an extended family for a family formal is an easy no-brainer. And as a lifestyle family photographer, I love that I can get even a large group of people to relax and enjoy each other in front of the camera. Because the way you look at each other is always more magical than the way you look at me!

So when you get the extended family together, reach out! Because I’d love to be there to capture those memories for you.

So You Travels: PNW Road Trip Part 1 of 3 - Seattle, Mt Rainier National Park, Fort Casey State Park, and Whale Watching from Anacortes

Getting There

I always start my travel photography with the actual journey. It makes for better storytelling and gives some context to the fact that my Floridian family all of a sudden shows up dressed in sweatshirts in August in front of mountains and waterfalls. The clouds from the plane were amazing as we chased the sunset from East to West.

Day 1 - A day in Seattle

Chihuly Garden and Glass

Our first stop was Chihuly Garden and Glass. We are lucky that Chihuly’s work has been displayed twice at our local Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, and a lot of the work here was similar, with the shapes and scale. Reeds and bulbs and spheres and towers and sculptures. I absolutely love bright colors and fun shapes, and his work has both! I especially enjoyed the videos at the end which show him and his team in action creating their glass art. The scale of the glass work is just incredible. I appreciated that the staff photos here and at the Space Needle are included with admission.

Space Needle

The line was long on a warm day, and when we got to the front, our photo was taken in front of a green screen. The views from the top are nice, but what really makes this a special place to visit is the rotating glass floor. It makes one full rotation every 45 minutes, and I’d always wondered if that would be fast enough to sense it’s movement. Yup, you can totally tell, but not so much that you get dizzy or anything. And you can see the gears through the floor, which is pretty cool for an Engineer who is interested in how things work! And I took one of my favorite photos of the trip from up there - a double exposure of the boys’ silhouette, overlayed with the city below.

Pike’s Place Market and Gum Wall

Our next stop was Pike’s Place Market. I booked an Air BnB Experience photo tour with Cameron Thomsen Photography, who is responsible for these images. I always take the photos, and thus rarely appear in them, and knowing these are must-have Seattle photos, I treated myself so I could be in front of the camera instead of behind it. He did share a cool fact about how the Seattle gum wall started, which is that it is outside of a theater, who told its’ patrons they couldn’t chew gum. So they started sticking it to the wall outside! Ben started to feel ill during our experience, but he powered through, and Cameron was able to shift from portrait to documentary mode.

I created one more double exposure with Jaron before we headed out of the area.

Pacific Science Center

Ben needed some rest after Pike’s Place Market, so dad rested with him, and Jaron and I spent the afternoon exploring more of this city. Since we are members of our local science museum and it was a warm day, the Pacific Science Center was an easy air-conditioned choice, as our reciprocal membership got us in for free. We enjoy getting to see other science museums when we travel. The highlight of this one is the fun architecture in this outdoor water area. Jaron also really liked this exhibit which used ping pong balls and a large funnel to demonstrate the forces of planetary orbit.

Olympic Sculpture Park and Jump Bike Ride

I’d seen pictures of this colorful wall at Olympic Sculpture Park, so wanted to check it out. We walked through it, and spent some time relaxing in the soft, thin, short northern grass, which Jaron enjoyed (at home we have really thick grass). And we got such a beautiful selfie!

At the bottom of the hill when we left the park, there were Jump Bikes for rent. Jaron requested a ride, and after brief consideration, I obliged. It’s an activity I enjoy as well, and I was so proud of him for initiating the request! We rode along the water, and then along the railroad tracks, where we happened to see Boeing plane bodies being transported, which was pretty cool.

Ben rested, and since we weren’t sure what was wrong, he was quarantined to the spare air bed. He slept well. After a quick trip to urgent care for ear pain the next morning, and some prescription antibiotics for an ear infection, he was thankfully ready to rock!

Day 2 - Mt Rainier National Park Day Trip from Seattle

Silver Falls in Ohanapeecosh

We started the day at the Ohanapeecosh Visitor Center in Mt Rainier National Park to get information on hiking to Silver Falls, as recommended by 2 Travel Dads, whose info on travel in the Pacific Northwest (PNW for short) was extremely detailed and helpful!. Since our time was cut a bit short by the doctor visit, we took the shorter hike from the northern end, rather than the longer loop trail from the visitor center.


Paradise is the closest spot you can get to the top of the mountain by car without hiking days through the snow, and it’s wildflower season. Actually, they were all over the roadsides for most of our trip, but, with this gorgeous mountain as a backdrop, it was pretty spectacular. Again, wanting to appear in photos, we had Conchita from Conchita Sophia photography along with us to capture our family. I can’t wait to update this post once we get our images back! Here’s one sneak peek from my camera, because I worked so hard on finding the right outfits for the location!

Day 3 -Fort Casey State Park and Whale Watching from Anacortes Day Trip from Seattle

Fort Casey State Park

Another awesome 2 Travel Dads recommendation was Fort Casey State Park on Whidbey Island. It was on our way up to Anacortes for Whale Watching. Getting there was half the fun, as we got to take our car on a ferry! I know it’s probably annoying for the commuters who have to do it on the regular, but we enjoyed the novelty of it! And we still can’t figure out how all those cars spread out in the pre-ferry loading parking lot (which seems a lot bigger than the ferry itself) all manage to fit on board!

Fort Casey State Park was just awesome. It has a really long stretch with 3 floors of World War II bunkers. From the top you can see the ocean, and on the bottom, we used the flashlights on our phones to see and make it less scary. We enjoyed the magic of the beach, and skipping rocks, and I only wish we’d planned more time to further explore the beach and lighthouse!

Whale Watching

Our first big family trip was in 2013 to Boston, where whale watching was on the agenda. It was a long time ago, the boys were young, and those were humpbacks, so I wanted to repeat the experience with the Orcas in the Pacific Northwest. As it turns out, if I had to choose between the two, the humpbacks were a bit more exciting to watch, since they came closer to the boat, and you saw their breath as well as their tails. We still enjoyed our day with the Orcas though, as any time you get to see an animal in the wild, you experience a piece of that wild. We also saw birds, harbor porpoise, seals, and a nice view of Mount Baker. My 35 mm lens didn’t do them justice, but we met a fellow photographer on board who was equipped with longer lenses, Holly Cannon, who was kind enough to share her images with me!

Part 2/3 of the trip continues in Olympic National Park. Click here.