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Posts tagged “Mount Rainier

Principles of Photographic Improvisation – Say Yes

I’m currently reading The Soul of the Camera, the Photographer’s Place in Picture-Making by David duChemin. This book is full of nuggets of photographic wisdom, and I can highly recommend it to any photographer who wants to improve their game. You will not find much in the way of technical details about how to shoot great images. Instead, duChemin discusses the photographer’s mind and it relationship to picture-making.

There are easily dozens of blog post topics I could cover based on this book, but for now I’ll discuss his four “rules” or “principles” of photographic improvisation; the first of which is to agree or to say “yes” and not “no.” That is, say yes to the scene in front of you even if it was not what you expected or intended. You could say this is to go with the flow (which duChemin also talks about earlier in the book). Say yes to photographing what the world gives you rather than turning your back on the scene and giving up because it isn’t what you wanted. Accept what’s there and make the most of it.

Not much of the moon could be seen behind Rainier earlier this month due to clouds

A couple weeks ago, I went over to Fox Island Bridge to take a photo of Mount Rainier with the full moon rising behind it right before sunset. This situation only happens on two days each year: the day before the full moon in both June and August. Last August I tried for the same shot with only limited success. I was disappointed from that shoot, and that probably set me up to ignore the principle of saying yes. The weather was not ideal, and the view of the moon was not very good. I snapped a few shots, including the shown here, and packed up and went home disappointed. I failed to look for what else nature might be offering up. It was a few days later that I read about duChemin’s first principle.

I should have known better even before reading the book. I had a similar idea earlier this year. Back in February, I wanted to photograph the full moon setting behind the Olympic Mountains at sunrise. On the appointed day, I got up early and drove across town to Brown’s Point in Northeast Tacoma. When I got there, the Olympics, let alone the moon, were obscured by clouds. I climbed back in the car and headed toward home, thinking that perhaps I still might get some decent sunrise shots from the Cliff House parking lot. Sure enough, Mount Rainier was visible and the rising sun painted it and the low hanging clouds, as shown on the featured shot above and the other images below. I didn’t get what I wanted, but I said yes to what was given, which wasn’t bad at all.


Photography in the Land of Covid-19

As you may know, the Seattle area is a hot spot for Covid-19 in the United States, though it is spreading fast elsewhere as well. Two days ago, our State’s Governor announced a moratorium on gatherings of more than 250 people the three counties forming the Seattle metropolitan area. Major League Baseball is postponing the start of the season – it’s just as well, the Mariners had already announced they were moving the home opener (which I attend every year) out of town. I got a call from the theater about a cancelled show Tanya and I have tickets to later this month.

On Tuesday, Tanya and I went up to Seattle to visit our daughter, Janelle, and her partner, Matt. We ate at a restaurant we have been to several times before. It has always been packed, and reservations are usually necessary, even on Tuesday nights. We walked in at 7 pm and besides two people at  the bar, we were the only customers in the place. That’s one of the “nice” things about this virus outbreak, it’s easy to find a table at a restaurant, at least until the restaurant’s close due to lack of business. Another bonus was the lack of traffic on the freeway.

In addition to the moratorium on crowds, the health department recommends keeping a separation of at least 4 to 6 feet from other people. Public life around here is pretty much at a standstill.

What is one to do? How about going out and shooting some photography? Luckily, photography is one activity that is easy to do while keeping that separation from other people. Besides, if you like to shoot the type of photography I do, crowds are a pain and something to avoid. So if Covid-19 has got you down, take your camera out and do some photography!

That’s exactly what I did a few days ago when I headed over to Dune Park.The official name for the park is Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park. I guess we could call it DPPDP, but it is easier to call it Dune Park.

It is the newest park in Tacoma, opening last July. As its official name suggests, the park is located on a small peninsula. The peninsula is not a natural feature, but instead consists of a pile of slag from the old Asarco smelter that formerly existed near the park location. Apparently, they dumped the slag in Puget Sound to create a boat basin for the Tacoma Yacht Club, which also occupies a portion of the peninsula – the park on the outside of the peninsula facing Puget Sound and the yacht club on the inside, facing the boat basin. The park is a remediated portion of the Asarco superfund site. By the way, the park is named after Frank Herbert’s novel Dune; pretty cool in my opinion. Herbert was a Tacoma native. The shoreline trail through the park is named the Frank Herbert Trail.

I’ve made several trips to Dune Park over the past several months to shoot the view of Mount Rainer.The view of Rainier from the park is magnificent, perhaps the best in the City of Tacoma. With a telephoto lens, the Mountain towers over the city and Commencement Bay. But it also looks great with a wider view incorporating the curving shoreline. The view is good for sunset year round and for sunrise portions of the year – at least when the Mountain is out. The blue hour can also provide excellent images.

My trip to the park Monday evening was my third trip trying to capture a decent sunset. The alpenglow on the mountain has been good two of the three times I’ve gone, but I’ve yet to get some good sunset clouds. Monday there was a little cloud cap on the top of the mountain, but it was so small it is almost not visible in the images. Still better than nothing and no need to get within 6 feet of anyone else! The featured shot above is from Monday, as is the wider-angle shot below. The final shot is from December, in the blue hour after sunset.

The park is less than 2 miles from my house, so I’ll keep trying for the great sunset. In the meantime, enjoy these shots, wash your hands frequently, and stay healthy!

 


Rainier Moon

It has been a while since I posted. I wish I could tell you that it is because I’ve been so busy going out doing photography, but that is not the case. House projects seem to be taking up my whole summer. But I did get out last Tuesday night with some friends to photograph the full moon rising over Mount Rainier. After seeing on the Photographer’s Ephemeris that the full moon would rise behind Rainier as seen from the Fox Island Bridge, I’d planned this shot for a month. As the day progressed, I occasionally checked the weather, and it looked good. That is, until close to sunset, when high clouds started coming in. And unfortunately, just as the sun was setting and the moon rising, there were high clouds immediately above the mountain.  The moon was obscured almost as soon as it rose.

The photo above is about as good as it got, and this image took some Photoshop work to bring out the top of the moon. Not bad, but not what I had imagined I would get. No matter how long you plan, Mother Nature’s plans sometimes trumps yours.


Last Light

December has been a busy month for me with personal obligations and the holidays. I haven’t been able to do much photography, and if I want to do a blog post this month, today is it. So, I’ll leave 2018 with a shot I took early in the year which I’ve titled “Last Light Tacoma“. I posted a similar shot earlier this year, but this one I’ve worked on quite a bit, and it earns a spot of one of my favorites of the year.

Unfortunately, the place I shot this image is no longer accessible. I took this shot from the outside stairwell on the southeast corner of the Tacoma Convention Center. The stairwell was removed last spring during the still on-going construction of a building next door to the convention center, and it is unclear whether it will be replaced. This illustrates one of my personal rules for photography (which I admit I don’t always follow and often regret it), that is: when you see a shot, take it, because you don’t know if you will ever be able to return and get the shot again.

Photographically, 2018 was a good year for me, and I hope 2019 will be even better. Personally, other than my Dad dying, it was pretty good as well. I hope 2019 brings you happiness, love, and good light. If you find yourself in the Seattle/Tacoma area in 2019, be sure to stop and say hi.


Photographing Mt Rainier from Puget Sound

As part of the launch of my Puget Sound guide with SNAPP Guides, I wrote a blog post for SNAPP Guides describing five great spots to photograph Mount Rainier from the Puget Sound.  Be sure to check it out here, and leave a comment letting me know your favorite spots to shoot The Mountain.


Explore Tacoma!

Some of you may know I host an AirBnb experience in Seattle. With the success of that tour, I decided to do one for Tacoma as well and show guests my hometown (and also save me from driving to Seattle so often). My Explore Tacoma experience was just approved by AirBnb and went live online yesterday.

For this new experience, I’ll lead individuals or groups up to 4 on a personal photo tour and workshop in Tacoma. Unlike my Seattle tour, which is in the morning, this tour will be in the afternoon and evening, designed to catch sunset on Mount Rainier or the Olympic Mountains. I’ll lead my guests to the Museum of Glass, shooting both the iconic outside of the museum and glass blowing inside in the Hot Room. We’ll also explore the downtown Tacoma waterfront and either the Ruston Way waterfront or Port Defiance Park. I’ll show guests some of my favorite shot locations in Tacoma and provide photographic advice and instruction. The photos accompanying this blog are some of the places where the tour will likely go.

So if you are going to be in the area, and want to do a little photography in Tacoma, consider signing up. I’d love to show you around.

Part of the glass ceiling on the Bridge of Glass leading to the Glass Museum.

Fountain in the plaza of the Glass Museum with Hot Room cone in background

Murray Morgan Bridge, also known as the 11th Street Bridge, in downtown Tacoma. Mount Rainier in the distance.

View of Mount Rainier, the Cable Bridge, and the Glass Museum

Point Defiance Ferry sailing on Puget Sound

Japanese Garden in Point Defiance Park

Dahlia Garden of Point Defiance Park

Chinese Reconciliation Park on a foggy day.


Merry Christmas from Tacoma

Merry Christmas from Tacoma! One of my presents came early when I found this scene yesterday during some beautiful sunny winter skies. Today, it is overcast again with snow forecast for tonight – so Tanya and I are hoping for a white Christmas in the morning. But if not, we can always get a view of snow by just looking at The Mountain (at least when it isn’t covered by clouds). Thank go out to my photographer buddy, Ernie Misner, for telling me about the location for this shot. Have a tremendous holiday season everyone!

 


Third Time’s a Charm

As I mentioned in my last post, Tanya and I recently spent several days camping east of Chinook Pass, during which I drove up to the pass for sunrise each morning. Chinook Pass is a great sunrise location, as it sits almost directly east of Mount Rainier and the view of the mountain is fantastic there with two alpine lakes – Tipsoo and Upper Tipsoo. Because of how the two lakes are situated, it is easy to get a reflection of Mount Rainier in upper Tipsoo Lake right from the shoreline, so it is the preferred lake for most photographers who know about it (Upper Tipsoo is not visible from the road, so unless you have prior knowledge or a map, you may not know it is there).

This is a great sunrise location because the rising sun imparts a beautiful alpenglow  on the mountain when it is visible. That’s the tricky part, when it is visible. I tried three consecutive mornings for the shot. The first morning was cloudy; the second morning was foggy at the pass (but clear elsewhere). It wasn’t until the third morning (the day we packed up camp), I was able to capture the sunrise in all its glory.

Another feature of Mount Rainier favored by photographers is that the mountain often forms lenticular clouds. Such clouds can dramatically add to a sunrise (or sunset) shot, particularly if there are no other clouds around to break up a totally blue sky. Such was the case that third morning. In fact, there were two separate lenitcular clouds over Rainier that morning, delighting myself and the, perhaps, 10 or 12 other photographers there.

As you can attest by the photo above and below, I think it was worth getting up a 5 am to drive to the pass by sunrise at 5:30 am to capture this scene.

Sunset shots at Chinook Pass are a more iffy proposition. Because the mountain is west of the pass, you are not guaranteed a good showing of alpenglow. Instead, much depends on the clouds and how they light up. I did try for one sunset shot at Chinook Pass on the trip; the result is below. This shot was taken from above Tipsoo Lake, right next to the highway. Though the sunset was lackluster, luckily there was a lenticular cloud present that gave a bit of color. I captured this image the evening before the sunrise shots above.


Thanks to a Broken Snowplow

Rainier AlpenglowI can’t count the number of times I’ve been through Longmire in Mount Rainier National Park; dozens at least, maybe a hundred times over my life. Usually I drive right past on the way to Paradise, but even so, I have stopped many times over the years. The main reason I usually don’t stop at Longmire is that I’ve always considered the view of Rainier to be, frankly, not so good. I’m sure it was great then they built the lodge, but it’s my supposition that over the years, the trees have grown up around Longmire meadow, blocking much of the view of the mountain. Additionally, if you shoot from the lodge, the road runs through the foreground.

Last week I discovered I was wrong. Longmire has a great view of Rainier! Perhaps this is old news to everyone out there whose ever been to Mount Rainier National Park, but it was news to me. Last week my photographer buddy, Mark Cole, and I went to the park to go snowshoeing and take a few pictures. We stopped at Longmire, not because that was our destination (we had planned on going to Paradise), but because the road to Paradise was closed due to the snowplow needing a replacement part. I was resigned to the fact that our photography would be limited to snowy forest scenes, perhaps a few shots of the Nisqually River, and maybe a view of Rainier from the Rampart Ridge trail if we decided to snowshoe it.

We stopped in to talk to the ranger, largely to see if the road to Paradise would open later that day, but we also asked about where to snowshoe at Longmire. We mentioned the main purpose of our outing was photography. He told us about Rampart Ridge, but said the best view of Rainier was at the Community Building right in Longmire. Both Mark and I had never heard of the Community Building nor the road to it. The ranger told us of a road which travels through the employee living area, crosses the Nisqually River on a suspension bridge, and runs down the south bank of the river to the Community Building (and a short distance beyond).  We drove to the Community Building and couldn’t believe our eyes, the view of the mountain was awesome. Some of Longmire’s buildings are visible on the north bank of the river, but by wandering along the river, and through careful composition, the buildings can be eliminated from a photo. The bridge is also in the view, but it is pretty scenic, so I kept it in my compositions. I’m not sure what the view looks like here without snow, but with snow, it is great.

We ended up spending an hour of more there, snowshoeing along the river, taking photos of the mountain from several different locations. By the time we finished, we didn’t have enough daylight left to do the Rampart Ridge loop, so we wandered up the Wonderland Trail toward Cougar Rock looking for more shots of the river. But as sun set approached, we again crossed the bridge at Longmire and took shots of the alpenglow on Rainier with the river and bridge in the foreground.

Thanks to a broken snowplow, I discovered the Longmire does have a great view. Who knew?

This is the view of Mount Rainier from near the Community Building from along the river. The aplenglow photo at the top of the post is from nearer to the bridge where less of the mountain can be seen.

This is the view of Mount Rainier from near the Community Building from along the Nisqually River. The aplenglow photo at the top of the post is from nearer to the bridge where less of the mountain can be seen.


A Fine Spring Evening

Point RustonNot only have I not posted in awhile, I haven’t had time to get the camera out either and it was starting to make me antsy. So yesterday evening, I grabbed the camera and drove down the hill to take a few shots of Mount Rainier and the sunset from Ruston Way here in Tacoma. These shots were taken from a spot about a mile from my house. I still want to get out for a full day with camera in hand, but for a short while, the hour I spent last night scratched my photography itch. Do you have a special, go-to spot when you just have to get out there an click a shutter button for awhile?

Mount Rainier just at sunset

Mount Rainier just at sunset

Looking northwesterly toward the Olympic Mountains

Looking northwesterly toward the Olympic Mountains

Mount Rainier about 20 minutes after the sun set (in the blue hour)

Mount Rainier about 20 minutes after the sun set (in the blue hour)


Quick Shots: Mount Rainier National Park

Emerging RainierWinter is rapidly ending here in western Washington. Spring flowers are already blooming in my yard. But it isn’t quite over yet. Here’s a few shots from a snowshoeing outing I made earlier this month in Mount Rainier National Park.

Sun lighting part of the slopes near Paradise

Sun lighting part of the slopes near Paradise

Part of the Tatoosh Range, south of Paradise

Part of the Tatoosh Range, south of Paradise

View of the Nisqually River from the bridge over the river in the park

View of the Nisqually River from the bridge over the river in the park

Down by the Nisqually River

Down by the Nisqually River

Blue winter sky above the Nisqually River

Blue winter sky above the Nisqually River

Grove of trees in the Nisqually Valley

Grove of trees on the floor of the Nisqually Valley


Thankful Sunrise

Sunny Side UpLast Thursday was Thanksgiving in the United States. I’m thankful to live in such a place that can give sunrises like the one I found on Thanksgiving morning. Normally, you need clouds in the sky for good sunrise or sunset shots, but in this case, I thought I might have something even without the clouds because I knew the sunrise was going to be close to Mount Rainier. Using the Photographer’s Ephemeris, I saw the sun would rise along the flank of the mountain as viewed from the Fox Island bridge, about 14 miles from my home.

The morning was crisp and cold, just about freezing, which made for a few low-level clouds and a scattered mist on the water. As the sun was rising, the moon was setting in the west, near the Olympic Mountains. It couldn’t have been a more beautiful morning. The official sunrise was at about 7:40 a.m., but because it rose in line with the mountain, it didn’t crest the mountain until almost 8:00 a.m. And crest it did, over the very top of the mountain. Being out there on the bridge, photographing the sun and the moon in a beautiful setting, I was very thankful on Thanksgiving morning.

As the sun was rising, the moon was setting near the Olympic Mountains. This was taken just as the sun hit the mountains.

As the sun was rising, the moon was setting near the Olympic Mountains. This was taken just as the sun hit the mountains.

View of Hale Passage and Mount Rainier about 15 minutes before the official sunrise (and about 35 minutes before the sun crested the mountain).

View of Hale Passage and Mount Rainier about 15 minutes before the official sunrise (and about 35 minutes before the sun crested the mountain).

Morning mist over the water following sunrise.

Morning mist over the water following sunrise.


Rainier Vista

Rainier VistaI haven’t had much time to post lately, so I thought I’d throw something quick out there. One of the classic views on the University of Washington campus is of the Rainier Vista. The Rainier Vista consists of a view down between several university buildings, over the Drumheller Fountain (also known as frosh pond in my long ago days as a student), to Mount Rainier. If you are ever on the campus, this is a shot not to miss.

Perhaps the best time to shoot the Rainier Vista is at sunset, particularly if you want to have some of the classic university buildings in your composition as they are usually lit up at night. If you hit it just right, you can get alpenglow on the mountain balancing nice light on the buildings. I’ve never been that lucky.

But you can also make nice images in the afternoon as well. These were taken in mid-afternoon several weeks ago. A polarizer helps a lot to cut the haze in front of the mountain. Pick a telephoto lens to really draw the mountain into the frame, or a wide-angle lens to de-emphasize the mountain.

While at the university, check out the Graduate Reading Room in the Suzzallo Library as well.

Drumheller Fountain


Great View, Uncomfortable View

Lake Union, Rainier and SeattleI took the accompanying photograph last Sunday in Seattle. It is for a revised, updated version of my Scenic Seattle book that will soon be published in a print edition (scheduled for spring 2016). This is a view of Lake Union, a portion of downtown Seattle, and Mount Rainier from the Aurora Avenue Bridge (officially named the George Washington Memorial Bridge, though I have never heard anyone call it that).

Great view, but … The sidewalk is fairly narrow and separated from the traffic lanes by a short wall. The other side of the sidewalk is separated from the great void below by vertical cabling (the cables are there to prevent people jumping off the bridge to commit suicide. The bridge is nearly 170 feet, or50 meters, above the water). This gives the sidewalk a kind sided cage-like feel – with the roaring traffic in the cage with you. The speed limit on the bridge is 40 miles per hour (64 kph), but in my experience, if you drive 40 mph on it, you will get rammed from behind. I’d guess the average traffic speed is above 50 mph (80 kph). And there are six, narrow lanes of traffic. Not a comfortable place to shoot.

And to make matters worse, whenever you photograph along busy roads, there always seems to be at least one jerk (I’m being kind here; I want to use a word my Mother would not be proud of) who honks their horn while you are studiously looking through the viewfinder. I was on the bridge about 10 to 15 minutes Sunday and was surprised only one person honked. But that honk did nearly scare the pants off me. (So maybe it was a good think the cables were there so I didn’t jump.)

Further, those cables don’t make it easy to take a photograph. Typical DSLR lenses are small enough to stick through the cables, but only when pointed 90 degrees off the axis of the bridge. To take the shot shown above, you need to angle your camera at 30 to 45 degrees off the axis of the bridge. With my camera, that means physically forcing pushing the cables aside with the lens barrel. In some spots, it wasn’t possible. The cables were too tight. But I did find a spot with the gap between cables slightly larger and the cables a bit looser than average. With a bit of strength, I was able to turn the camera and force the cable apart enough to take the shot. With the cables pushing back, I had to use a fast shutter speed – which was probably needed anyway because the whole bridge shakes with the traffic (forget about using a tripod here).

I possibly could have wedged my camera completely through the cables and used the live view function to compose a shot. But with the long drop, I didn’t feel particularly good about that option either. But for shooting with a phone or a small camera, reaching past the cables is viable if you trust yourself to hang on.

Still interested in getting the shot? The access is rather easy. Park on Troll Avenue N between N 35th and 36th Streets near the Troll (the Fremont Troll statue is underneath the Aurora Bridge at the intersection of Troll Avenue and 36th). Take the stairs on the right side of the Troll up to the bridge and walk south until you reach the view you want. Just don’t expect to be too comfortable.


Spring in January

Rainier and PilingsMy last post talked about how little snow in the Pacific Northwest mountains this winter. It hasn’t improved this week, as the weather has been spring-like all week-long. I can only blame myself as I jinxed the weather by buying a season snow-park pass and not a one-day pass (snow-park passes are used to park in selected plowed winter destinations in the mountains in Washington and Oregon).

Last Sunday, the high temperature was over 60 degrees F – very unusual for January in western Washington. The day was so nice, I had to run down to the Ruston Way waterfront to capture a few shots of Mount Rainier and Puget Sound. Just a few quick shots of the end of a Tacoma spring day in January.

Rainier

Sky over Tacoma


Moon Madness

Gig Harbor MoonI must be obsessed with the moon lately writing two posts in a row about the moon. Yesterday I joined others from the Tacoma Mountaineers photo group in shooting the full moon from Gig Harbor. Actually, yesterday was the day before the full moon, or what some call the Photographers Moon, since it looks full and rises before the sun sets. As viewed from Gig Harbor yesterday, the moon rose north of Mount Rainier, and by sunset was near the mountain. Unfortunately, the clouds did not cooperate, and the late afternoon sunshine was blocked by high clouds in the west. The beautiful sunset light on the harbor and mountain did not materialize. The golden hour turned pale.

The featured image above was taken shortly before sunset. Not a bad image overall, but a pale imitation of what it could have been. Imagine what it would have looked like if clouds in the west had not been blocking the sun. Imagine Rainier lit with a warm glow and the clouds burning with pink. Yesterday, it was not to be.

I’ve been thinking of this shot for several years, and last night just didn’t cut it for me. In looking ahead, the Photographers Moon next month (on June 11) and in July (also on the 11th) will rise closer to the mountain than yesterday. I think I will go back and try again. Anyone want to join me in my moon madness?

Moon RisingGig Harbor Moon2


How to Stop the Wind

Tatoosh Range and Wildflowers

Tatoosh Range and WildflowersWind is often the bane of nature photographers. We are often photographing in fairly low light conditions at sunrise or sunset, and often want a wide depth of field, so end up using small f-stops. Most of us know that using high ISOs leads to objectionable digital noise. These conditions all combine to require a slow shutter speed. So what do you do if there is a breeze moving your foreground around. Not a problem with rocks as a foreground, but what about wildflowers?

The above photo of the Tatoosh Range was taken at Paradise on the Golden Gate trail last month shortly before sunset. To get both the flowers and the mountains in acceptable focus, I took one shot with the aperture at set f/16 and the ISO at 100. This resulted in a shutter speed  of 4 seconds (I also used a split neutral density filter). There was a breeze and  it was impossible to get a frame without some movement in the flowers.

I then shot another image with the aperture at f/11 and the ISO set to 1250. This allowed the shutter speed to be 1/8 seconds. This was enough to stop most of the flower movement; but as you might imagine, the noise was unacceptable.

To get the above image, I processed both photos in Lightroom and imported them into Photoshop. I used the low ISO image as the background layer, then added the high ISO image in a new layer and added a layer mask filled with black (making none of the high ISO image visible). Then, using a soft brush, I painted white on the mask wherever the flowers were soft due to movement from the breeze. The end result is the image above. Below are close two closeups that show the before and after effects of painting the high ISO image onto the low ISO one.

This technique to stop the wind doesn’t always work, but when it does, it can save a shot.

Low ISO

Closeup of the flowers in the low ISO image taken with a shutter speed of 4 seconds. Note the movement captured for some of the flowers.

Blended image

Closeup on the final combined image, where flower movement was covered up by painting out the movement with a image taken with a high ISO and a shutter speed of 1/8 seconds.

 


Why They Call It Paradise

Rainier from Deadhorse Creek TrailEarlier this week, Tanya,, Carson and I went camping for three days at La Wis Wis near White Pass. I took the opportunity to drive up to Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park for one sunset and one sunrise. Though it looked like they were slightly past their prime, the wildflowers were incredible at Paradise. If you want to see them this year, you best get up there fast.

For my sunset shots, I hiked from the visitor center eastward on the Skyline Trail then partly up the Golden Gate Trail. The flowers were great on the Golden Gate Trail, but the view of Rainier is partially obstructed by a ridge. Luckily for me, the view of the Tatoosh Range to the south put on a good alpenglow show.

The next morning, after arriving at Paradise at 5:45 a.m. (no trouble finding parking at that time!), I headed north on the Skyline Trail to Glacier Vista, then back to the visitor center via the Deadhorse Creek and Waterfall Trails. Again, great flowers, but also more unobstructed views of Rainier (the featured photo above is of Rainier from the Deadhorse Creek Trail). Unfortunately, there wasn’t much color in the sunrise. However, low-lying clouds below Paradise made for some good shots.

Anyway, I just wanted to post a few photos from the trip to show you why they call it Paradise!

Tatoosh Range

Tatoosh Range from the Golden Gate Trail

Golden Gate Flowers

Mount Rainier from the Golden Gate Trail

Sunset and Crescent Moon

A crescent moon mixing it up with the sunset

Clouds Below Paradise

Clouds covering the lowlands below Paradise in the morning

Rainier from Glacier Vista

View of Rainier at sunrise from Glacier Vista

Tatoosh Range

Morning clouds below the Tatoosh Range

Carson Enjoying Camping

Bonus Photo: Carson enjoying camping at La Wis Wis (taken with my cell phone)


Perspective on Reality

Tacoma Pilings

Tacoma PilingsI recently read a blog post by Tim Grey on photographic perspective. In it, Tim Grey asks his readers:

Is it ever ‘wrong’ to present an image as ‘real’ if we’ve used a bit of perspective to create a scene that isn’t exactly representative of reality? Creating tricks of perspective can be done very easily by changing your position relative to the subject or changing lenses on the camera. Is that wrong?

In response, I commented:

“I don’t believe it is wrong to present something as ‘real’ just because of the perspective. Perspective has been an important part of photography as long there has been cameras. Am I suppose to label every image taken with a telephoto lens as ‘this image may not represent reality as you experience it if you visit this location?’

I love taking telephoto shots of Mount Rainier, such as the one shown here [my original response included a link to the the image shown below]. When showing images like this, many people comment on how it can’t be “real”, the mountain is not that close. But this is what the camera sees. It’s the same as the human eye sees at the same location, it’s just that the human eye also takes in a much broader view, so the isolate perspective is not realized. If you use binoculars from the same vantage point, you would get essentially the same view. Is the view from binoculars not ‘real’?”

I thought I’d explore this a bit further in this post. The image above and the image below, both of which show Mount Rainier, but with differing perspectives, where both taken from the spot just 4 minutes apart. The one above (which is actually a HDR image with 3 exposures) was captured with a setting of 24 mm (38 mm equivalent) on my 24-70 mm lens, and thus represents slight wide-angle view. The one below was taken with a setting of 175 mm (280 mm equivalent) on my 70 to 200 mm lens, and represents a telephoto view.

It’s images like the one below that get comments about not being real (I’ve been asked more than once if I’ve photoshopped the mountain in). It is easily shown that the image below is real, with no Photoshop trickery (at least if you believe the upper photo is “real”). If I crop the upper photo to the same field of view as the second photo (as shown in the third photo), the compressional distortion is the same, and the photos look very similar (except of course for the quality on the extremely cropped version). FYI – the pier in front of the buildings on the photo below is Les Davis Pier, featured in my last post on night photography.

I love to play with perspective distortion in my images, using various focal lengths  and camera to subject distances to expand (with wide-angle shots) or compress (with telephoto shots). There is a good explanation of the phenomena on Wikipedia.

Since Tim Grey inspired this post, I might as well put in a plug for him. Tim teaches about digital photography and imaging. He provides an excellent, free daily email service that provides answers to digital photography questions – often involving processing with Photoshop or Lightroom. I’ve gotten is daily email for years, and can highly recommend it.

Tahoma over Tacoma

Telephoto compression - taken from the same spot as the photo above, but with a telephoto lens instead of a wide angle one.

Crop of Tacoma Pilings

Extreme crop of the featured image showing telephoto compression by cropping field of view rather than using a telephoto lens. The image quality is poor due to the extreme cropping.


Rainier

Rainier and TreeParadise, in Mount Rainier National Park, is the highest point you can drive in Washington State Cascades in winter. It would be the highest point drivable in the state, except for Sherman Pass (between Republic and Kettle Falls) in northeastern Washington which is about 200 feet higher. Paradise is an amazing place in winter. The National Park Service claims Paradise is the snowiest place on Earth where snowfall is regularly measured. The maximum annual snowfall observed there was in the winter of 1971-72, when 93.5 feet (28.5 meters) of snow fell. When I was there in mid-December, it was not quite that snowy, I think there was about 58 inches (1.5 meters) at the time. However, since Christmas, some storms have blown through and the accumulation as of the start of 2012 was 77 inches (2 meters). (You can check on the current snowpack at the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center.)

With all that snow, it is amazing the road is kept open, particularly in today’s climate of budget cutting (please don’t tell the Park Service how much money they could save by closing the road in winter!). The road to Paradise is open most days (there’s a gate at Longmire, which opens each morning after the road is cleared and closes currently at 5:00 p.m. uphill and 6 p.m. downhill).  During storms, the road remains closed during the day. All vehicles are required to carry tire chains.

Mount Rainier is a great place to travel to in the winter. There are plenty of sights to see from the road. Strap on some snowshoes or skis and there’s even more. On our day trip up there in mid-December, I took snowshoes; Tanya took skis. It helps to have some way to wander off the road and parking lots a bit. For most the shots here (and the one in my previous post), I wandered off the road. It is possible to get some good shots without venturing out into the snow, but without snowshoes or skis, you might have trouble getting around the snowbanks along the roads left from the snowplows.  This is hard sometimes even with snowshoes or skis. Another problem is just finding a place to pull over. Many of the pullouts there in the summer are not plowed. However, there is a lot of parking at Longmire, Narada Falls, and Paradise (though the parking at Paradise, in particular, can fill up on weekends).

Remember if you do go up in the mountains this winter for photography, at Rainier or anywhere else, here are some reminders:

  • Check the conditions before you go and dress appropriately
  • Don’t wander out in the snow if you aren’t prepared
  • And if you do wander out there, be aware of potential avalanche danger
  • Remember that camera batteries don’t like the cold. Take extra batteries and keep them warm.
  • Don’t trust your camera meter, or all that snow will be gray instead of white. Open up your exposure by one to two stops, or use your camera’s auto-bracketing feature (if it has one).
  • Try adding a bit of color to all that snow in your compositions (blue skies, green trees, colorful clothes of your companions, sunrise/sunset colors, etc.)
  • Remember to have fun!
    Rainier from Barn Flats

    Rainier from Barn Flats

    Narada Falls

    Narada Falls

    Bottom of Narada

    Bottom of Narada Falls

    Along Tahoma Creek

    Along Tahoma Creek

    Above the Nisqually

    View from above the Nisqually River

    Barn Flats

    Another view from Barn Flats


Happy Holidays!

Rainier SunsetI wish you all the best this holiday season with this natural light show from Mount Rainier National Park last Saturday. If I have time in the next several days, I’ll post some more shots from that trip. Meanwhile, it’s my holiday wish that peace fills your heart, joy fills your days, and life gives you a chance to experience the incredible in the new year.


July Travels

The Only Tree in Scotland
“The Only Tree in Scotland” – July 2008, a scene captured on the Isle of Mull, Scotland

It is finally acting like summer around the Pacific Northwest. The high temperatures in Tacoma so far in July have all been over 70 degrees (though only one day was over 80). This might not see like summer temperatures for a lot of places; but it is for here, especially after the cold wet spring we had.

I’ve always thought that with summer comes traveling. I have always enjoyed traveling in the summer – both on long vacation trips and on short day trips – much more than traveling in the winter. This may stem from my childhood, when every summer my parents packed up the station wagon with us seven kids, attached the tent trailer, and headed off of a family vacation. I don’t have any extended travel plans for this summer, but do hope to make a number of short trips (starting tomorrow with a trip up to Sequim to see if the lavender fields are blooming).

In celebration of July travel, I’m posting a series of photos taken in the month of July from 2004 through 2010.

Running Stars
“Running Stars” – July 2004: a tidepool on Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

Carter Headquarters
“Carter Headquarters” – July 2005, taken in Plains, Georgia

Fishing with Dad
“Fishing with Dad” – July 2006; image from Caye Caulker, Belize

Wall of the West
“Wall of the West” – July 2007; a scene from Fossil, Oregon

Thunder by the Mountain
“Thunder by the Mountain” – July 2009; a travel shot from close to home, Mount Rainier and a thunderhead cloud captured in Tacoma, Washington

Adams Minis
“Adams Minis” – July 2010; miniature tree on the slopes of Mount Adams, Mount Adams Wilderness, Washington

Do as I Say, Not as I Do

Gig Harbor's MountainIf you are serious about photography, you should always carry your camera with you. I’ve often given this advice to less experienced photographers. You never know when you will find fantastic light – and you can’t capture it without a camera. This is one reason, a little more than a year ago, I purchased a small point-and-shoot camera – so I could carry that one around when I don’t have my regular one. (Of course, I couldn’t just buy any small camera, I purchased a point-and-shoot that still allows me to shoot in RAW format and aperture-priority mode.)

About a week ago, Tanya and I traveled up to west Seattle to have brunch with family at a small restaurant on Alki Beach. Rounding the corner from Harbor Avenue to Alki Avenue, we were treated with an iconic Seattle scene – ferries plying Puget Sound in front of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains. The light was beautiful, the mountains were gorgeous with a background of stormy clouds. To make it even better, a strong north wind was blowing, and the Sound was covered with whitecaps. In addition to the ferries, there were several kitesurfers  (or kiteboarders, I’m not sure of the correct term) jumping the waves, getting 20 feet of air.

So with these great subjects and that great light, why is this blog illustrated with a picture of Mount Rainier taken in Gig Harbor? Because I didn’t follow my own advice. My big camera was safely at home. And while I did have the little point-and-shot, the images I had in mind needed my telephoto lens. I wanted to isolate the ferry, with the mountains big in the background (similar to what I did with this shot of Rainier). Same with the kiteboarders. The little camera couldn’t do this. And I was disgusted with myself for not following my own advice.

Why the photo of Rainier? Because this is an example of what you can do if you carry your camera around with you. I captured this image about five or six years ago (when I lived in Gig Harbor, though not near the harbor itself). I was commuting home from work one day, when I noticed the lenticular cloud on top of Rainier. It was near sunset, and I thought something special might be up. So, instead of heading home, I went to downtown Gig Harbor and captured this shot. I’ve probably sold more copies of this image than any other photograph I’ve taken – all because I was carrying my camera with me.

So do as I say, not as I do – carry your camera with you.