So many people we know identify the fall as their favorite time of year in the northwest. Cool but comfortable temperatures, often sunny days and bright intense colors as the leaves turn. It's a great time of year for taking pictures too.
Why the color change? During the spring and summer, leaves serve as factories producing the food needed for plant growth. Leaf cells contain chlorophyll which absorbs energy from sunlight used in transforming carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates. Chlorophyll contains pigments with a variety of colors including green, orange and yellow. Green is dominant most of the year but as the days shorten and temperatures cool, chlorophyll begins to break down and the other colors come to the fore. Other chemical changes cause the development of red anthocyanin pigments adding to the color palette.
Dry weather and cool (not freezing) temperatures are best. It's a great year so far.
Along the trails up in the mountains, we also are seeing quite a few low growing bushes and plant leaves with some really intense colors.
These trail pictures are on the way up from Eleanor Lake to Grand Park. The leaves on huckleberry bushes are among the brightest red we saw here.
And no surprise for photographers, colors are the most intense during the first couple hours after sunrise and before sunset. The angle of the sun brightens without blowing out the colors.
Almost predictably, we find color wherever a trail goes through an area of a previous rockslide or washout. The trees that grow here are generally deciduous, including the "pioneer tree" Red Alder.
Where to go right now? Most anywhere in Mount Rainier National Park is great right now and along the Chinook Pass highway. The very best I've seen so far - Hwy 23 between Randle and Trout Lake. The Trout Lake side is absolutely amazing. One word of caution, however, about Hwy 23. It's 60+ miles of logging road including about 40 miles "bumpy paved" and the rest gravel. The good news - the road is recently graded. Great views of Mt. Adams too.