[/caption] Mt. Rainier is one of the most photographic mountains in the Cascades and September is one of the best times to visit. You are more likely to see a fresh dusting of snow along the lower elevations and the wildlife is teaming with activity. You will also find only a few crowds along the most popular spots and you will be completely surrounded by solitude along the many less traveled trails. The mornings are also much cooler and the air is crisp but you will also be surprised with how warm it can be by the afternoon hours. This photo was taken from the southern highway and the mountain is north of this less popular pull out spot. You can see the huge forest in the foreground as well as the canyon far below. There are several rivers cutting through the trees and you can still hear the water raging below even though you’re a thousand feet above. This photo was taken at 8:12am and the sun was directly behind me but somewhat low in the sky since I was visiting the park on 9/20/11 and the Tatoosh mountains were creating the shadows that you see in the foreground of the photo. It had snowed just the day before so there is a dusting of snow along the lower elevations and the air was crystal clean without a cloud in sight. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 17mm in order to get the most panoramic photo. I was using my CIR-PL and warming filter in order to warm the scene and saturate the sky as much as possible without overexposing the snow-capped mountain. The aperture was at F-4.6 and the shutter speed at 1/83 second since I had the camera in Program/Normal mode as well as set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -2. I could just imagine what kind of photo you could get during the middle of winter just after a huge snow storm and on a crystal clear blue sky day. Unfortunately, the chances of getting up to the mountain are pretty slim and you are even less likely to get the perfect day since the mountain is so unpredictable.
[/caption] Another spectacular view of Mt. Rainier can be found at Bench lake which is only a short 1 mile hike. You have the opportunity to visit Snow lake which is an additional 1 mile hike as well as get the opportunity to see some black bears and hike along the Tatoosh mountain range. The hike may be short but it is a very scenic and spectacular place to travel since you get a chance to see the mountain is all its splendor with little to no crowds. However, I would recommend hiking during the off season and during the weekday. I took this photo at about 1:15pm, the sun was well behind me and there were absolutely no clouds. I was fortunate to avoid any sun glare and the brightness was limited since I was standing just in front of a barrage of trees. The trail also ends just as you get to the lake so your limited with your ability to move around the lake. You are pretty much only able to take photos along the beach due to the heavy vegetation. However, the beach is sandy and you cat set up your tripod at the very edge of the water. I had attached my Sigma 17-70mm lens and made sure to attach my CIR-PL and warming filter. This helped saturate the sky and bring out the warm tones of the trees and mountain. I actually took this photo with the lens at focal length 21mm but many of the photos were taken with the lens at its most panoramic focal length. However, I liked the color and saturation is this particular shot. I had the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -1.3 and since the camera was in Program/Normal mode the aperture was automatically set at F-6.4 and the shutter speed at 1/166 second. I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to avoid any camera shake or blur. There are several creeks and wildflowers that dominate the entire hike.
[/caption] Some of the most spectacular views while visiting Mt. Rainier National Park is actually not of Mt. Rainier at all. In fact, the views of the Tatoosh Range from the lower elevations of Mt. Rainier offer some of the most spectacular views of Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and of course the numerous jagged mountains that make up the Tatoosh Range. If you start hiking from the Paradise Inn parking lot you will begin to get a better view of the Tatoosh Range. They resemble what you might think you would find in Colorado or the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. There are also a few trails that take you into the heart of the range that offer great views of Mt. Rainier and to some amazing alpine lakes. I actually hiked upon a black bear foraging for berries while hiking the bench/snow lake trail which travels right in to the heart of the Tatoosh range. This photo was taken at the Alta Vista viewpoint which is at about 7,000 feet on the south side of Mt. Rainier. It was about 10:25am so the sun glare was pretty bright but this particular photo shows just how wide and massive the Tatoosh range is. You can see Mt. Adams in the background and Mt. St. Helens can barely be seen in the far right of the photo. You can also see Mt. Hood in the far distance but if the glare is really bad you have a hard time noticing it. You would need a fish-eye lens in order to get the entire range in the photo. And even then you probably wouldn’t get all of the mountains in the shot. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and had the focal length at 17mm in order to get the most panoramic shot as possible. I made sure to use my tripod and bubble level since it was somewhat windy. The camera mode was at Program/Normal and since I had the CIR-PL and warming filter attached the aperture was set at F-7.1 and the shutter speed at 1/197 second. I set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -1.3 since the sun glare was bright and I didn’t have any shade to block the sun.
[/caption] While visiting Mt. Rainier National Park for the second time in about a month, I was pleasantly surprised to see this mother deer and its fawn hiking near the Paradise parking lot. I was absolutely amazed to be able to get this shot with Mt. Rainier directly behind them. The deer were pretty tame since I was able to get several shots as well as ensure that my settings were good as well as ensure that Mt. Rainier was perfectly aligned in the photo. You can also see some of the wildflowers in the foreground. In fact, this was by far one of my best photography days ever! Not only did I get these shots of the deer with Mt. Rainier in the background but I also saw a black bear while hiking on the Bench/Snow lake trail. I actually saw it twice but the first time it scampered off before I could get a shot. I also photographed a vibrant Marmot as well as a Ptarmigan. I also stumbled upon a family of frogs. I saw my second black bear of the day when a bear cub was running across the road as I was driving. The wildflowers are absolutely amazing. In fact, the smells are so intense that you can almost taste them. The lupine are so fragrant that I found myself kneeling down and thrusting my nose in them in order to inhale the scent. If there was a best time to visit the park, now is the time. The crowds are gone and there is a dusting of snow lingering on the otherwise bare parts of the mountain. This makes for spectacular photo opportunities. This photo was taken from the beginning of the Alta Vista Trail. I was actually standing in the Paradise parking lot when I noticed them foraging in the wildflowers. I even managed to set up my tripod and bubble level since they didn’t seem to mind a few of us hikers gawking at them. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and had my CIR-PL and warming filter attached. I had the ISO at 100 and the white balance at +0.3. The aperture was automatically set at F-5.6 and 1/128 second since the camera mode was in Program/Normal mode. I had the focal length at 46mm in order to frame Mt. Rainier in the background while ensuring a large field of view so the entire photo would be in focus. It was about 8:50am when I took this photo so the lighting was awesome and the sun was directly behind me. If you like mountain peaks, waterfalls, wildlife, wildflowers, creeks, alpine lakes, glaciers, forests, historical buildings or streams then this is the place for you.
[/caption] You can see several of Mt. Rainier’s alpine glaciers while driving on the south side of the National Park. You can pretty much take out the National Park map that you will get when you enter the park and map out each of the alpine glaciers that you can see while staring towards the mountain. It’s hard to imagine that there are even more of it’s glaciers on the northern part of Mt. Rainier as well as in the east and west. This photo was taken near an area called “The Bench”. A part of the road takes a very steep and twisty turn where you can choose between several turn outs that allow you to get some spectacular shots of the mountain. I had my Sigma 17-70mm lens attached as well as my CIR-PL and warming filter. Since I also had the camera mode in Program/Normal the aperture was set at F-6.4 and the shutter speed at 1/125 second due to the fact that I also had the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -0.3. I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch to ensure that there wouldn’t be any camera shake since the sun was starting to go behind the higher elevations behind me.
[/caption] I was fortunate to drive along this one-way road that I noticed while driving along the main highway south of the mountain. You will be pretty well focused towards the opposite side of the turn off, so you need to really look for the one-way turn off. There are a couple of areas that you can stop to photograph the mountain with the amazing deep canyon and valley below. As you drive around the one-way road you can stop to photograph the Tatoosh Mountains since they are so close that you can almost touch them. Unfortunately, there is about a 2,000 foot canyon below preventing you from getting any closer. I took this shot just as I turned on the one-way road. I noticed that there were several patches of wild flowers crowding along the steep canyon’s edge and decided that this would be a great opportunity. You can see how the main road cuts straight across the park with several creeks descending towards the valley below. This spot really gives you a great vantage point to view the mountain, especially if you are here when the sun is causing some shadow along the higher portions of the glaciers as well as in the forest below. I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to avoid any camera shake. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and attached my CIR-PL and warming filter. I had the ISO at 100 and the white balance adjusted to -2 and because I had the camera mode in Program/Normal the aperture was at F-5 and the shutter speed at 1/100 second. This photo was taken at about 5:40pm and you can see that the sun was almost at 90 degrees so the color was pretty nice.
[/caption] Mt. Rainier National Park is an amazing place if you want to witness one of the most spectacular wilderness areas in the Pacific Northwest. The snow was still on parts of the trails which means that most of the trails are probably still impassable. The lakes are completely swollen as well as the many streams and rivers. Don’t expect to enjoy the park on a short day trip since there is over a week of exploring available at the park. Unfortunately, I was only able to spend about 4 hours at the park since my wife and I had started the morning by visiting the Mt. St. Helen’s National Monument and then driving north through Randle, WA and then heading towards the Stevens Canyon Entrance which is in the South East corner of the park. By the time we were done we had clocked over 200 miles and didn’t get home until about 11:00pm. However, I would recommend this road trip to anyone that is interested in one of the most scenic areas around. We didn’t even reach the Park entrance until about 2:00pm so I knew that I had to hurry many of my photographs. Luckily we were driving on the south side of the park with Mt. Rainier in the north. This way the sun was behind me and I didn’t have to worry about too much glare. It was also later in the afternoon so the timing worked out well. We ended up driving from the SE Entrance and exiting via the Nisqually Entrance which is in the SW corner. There are so many places to view the mountain while driving on the main park road that you can really hammer out some great photos. I lost count of the amount of streams and creeks that we saw as well as the many waterfalls cascading over the rocks. Reflections Lake and Louise Lake are two great places to stop and take some great photos. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to drive up to Paradise Park, which I’m sure would have added another hour to our trip. I hope to make a camping trip to the Park early next month and hope to photograph the entire NE and South part of the park. The Park is literally overwhelming and I could probably spend an entire month here. It truly is an outdoor enthusiasts dream and well as a photographers candy store. This particular shot was taken at Reflections Lake. When I first arrived at this spot Mt. Rainier wasn’t showing its reflection so I would think that you need to wait until later in the day for the sun to move further west. I took the photo at about 6:10pm and the sun was behind me and to the left since that was true west. The sun was at about a 90 degree angle which made for the perfect photo opportunity. I walked down from the road and set up my tripod at the waters edge. I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch in order to avoid any camera shake. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and attached my CIR-PL and warming filter. I set the ISO to 100 and the white balance at -2 which caused the aperture to be set at F-4.6 and the shutter speed at 1/83 second since the camera made was in Program/Normal.