Mt. Rainier is one of the West’s most visible and prolific volcanic mountains and if you’re planning a visit during the month of September you can be sure to have the time of your life. The best thing about visiting is having the opportunity to watch some of the most awesome displays of Mt. Rainier devouring clouds that venture too close to it’s summit. The mountain can literally suck in a cloud and completely disperse its energy. As you can see from this photo, the cloud is spinning around the summit like a flushed toilet bowl and it’s just about to be consumed. I first noticed the cloud when it was over 10 miles away but as the morning turned into afternoon the cloud was beginning to get sucked into the mountain. It literally spun the cloud around until it was literally consumed. It was very entertaining and awe inspiring to watch this phenomenon. I would highly recommend a visit during the month of September since school has started and the peak summer season is over. The crowds are almost non existent, which is in itself the most important reason to go in September. You will also almost be guaranteed sunny and warm temperatures with lots of sunshine. You will also have a great opportunity to see black bears foraging for food as well as elk and deer. The late summer foliage is in full display and the wildlife is unbelievable. Also, since the mornings and evenings are much cooler than during summer, most of the wildfires are mostly contained or completely out. This will allow for cleaner air, skies and longer views of the wilderness.
Mt. Rainier is located in Washington state and is the main attraction at Mt. Rainier National Park. The park was established in 1899 and includes over 369 square miles of wilderness. The elevation of the mountain is 14,410 feet and is the tallest volcanic mountain in the Cascade mountain chain. It is also the most glaciated mountain in the lower 48 states. Carbon Glacier is the largest glacier by volume in the continental United States and Emmons Glacier is the largest glacier by area. The park also contains over 91,000 acres of old growth forests. Over 1.8 million visitors visit the park every year and the winter months all but reduce the visits to almost zero due to the enormous snow that it receives. Probably 99% of the 1.8 million visitors are just during the summers months. If you do plan on visiting the park I would recommend that you try to get there as early as possible and plan on visiting during the mid week. The crowds are just too big during the weekends in the summertime. However, most of the visitors are gone by 6:00 pm, which means that the highest majority of the visitors are pretty much only making a road trip and rarely even get out of their cars. Most of the tourists end up only walking through the visitor centers and maybe taking a very leisurely stroll on one of the paved trails. There are two lodges and several campsites but it’s only a fraction of the visitors that are only driving through. This actually makes it for a great day trip. I’ve been to the park 3 times over the past few years and I have had the chance to hike throughout the southern part of the park and was pleasantly surprised to rarely see too many people. Again, most of the visitors don’t hike the trails. However, since it’s such a long drive from Portland, I would recommend that you get an early start and plan on getting home very late in the evening. However, if you are camping or staying at one of the lodges or nearby hotels then there isn’t any hurry. If you do end up arriving at the park during the afternoon you will want to plan on sitting in a long line of cars at the parks entrance and plan on driving around looking for a parking spot when you get to the park. If you get there early enough, you won’t have any wait to get in the park or finding a parking spot and since you will want to pick a hike, you will find that most of the crowds will have come and gone before you get back to your car. Last time I was there, I brought my camping stove and I never saw a single car at the parking lot just below the main lodge. In fact, I only counted two or three cars even driving by while I was almost within touching distance from the mountain. Because I drive from Portland and I have only been able to make day trips, I haven’t been able to make it to the north or north east side of the park but I do hope to get there this summer. It’s hard to imagine spending all of your time driving around when the mountain is beckoning you to explore its many adventures that are too many to list.
[/caption] A picture perfect view of Seattle, Washington with all of the necessary subjects that make Seattle one of the most photogenic cities in the world….Mt. Rainier, Elliot Bay, Space Needle, towering sky scrapers and the industrial cranes that keep Seattle one of the top industrialized cities on the planet. This photo was obviously taken from Kerry Park and I made sure to set up during the later part of the afternoon in order to take advantage of the flawless blue skies. I made sure to use my tripod and bubble level and attach my CIR-PL and warming filter on my 17-77mm lens. I set the camera at normal and had the aperture set at F-5.7 and the shutter speed at 1/100 second. I set the ISO at 100 and increased the white balance to +0.3 in order to avoid too much glare from the sun but also wanted to be sure and avoid any under exposed photos due to the filters and setting that I was using.
[/caption] The views from Mt. Rainier National Park are pretty awesome but having a view like this with the moon high above makes it even more spectacular. The photo was taken from just above Paradise Ridge and only a few hundred feet from were the bare trail meets snow. The Tatoosh Range is in the foreground with the rest of the Washington Cascades far in the background. You also have great views of Mt. St. Helen’s and Mt. Adams as well. To get this shot I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 50mm in order to eliminate too much of the trees from appearing in the photo. The aperture is at F7.1 and the shutter speed at 1/200 second. I set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at +0.3 since the sun was directly in front of me but at least high above. I took this shot on 7/26/12 at about 5:00 pm and the wildflowers were awesome.
[/caption] Beautiful view of Seattle with Mt. Rainier looming in the distance! The grand view of downtown Seattle from Kerry Park. Not many cities on the planet offer a view like this. One of the most spectacular mountains on the planet teaming up with one of the most photogenic cities on the planet offer views that demand a persons attention! This photo was taken during the month of July and just minutes from sunset. Just make sure to bring all of your lenses and don’t forget your tripod, bubble level and remote switch. You may also want to bring a variety of filters and brush up on your setting so you can ensure that you get the best shots. I always utilize my histogram so I don’t miss out on the best shots and avoid taking bad shots that I don’t realize until it’s too late.
[/caption] Beautiful July afternoon on the south side of Mt. Rainier National Park, WA. This photo was taken just above from the Paradise upper parking lot. You will be amazed at the photographic opportunities that are just feet away from some of the parks busiest parking lots. If you have a descent telephoto lens and if you stand on the other side from the parking lots, you have some great opportunities to photograph the mountains and the ancient forest in the foreground. This particular photo shows a wicked cloud hovering just at the summit and the mountain acted like a vacuum as it sucked in the cloud from miles away. Earlier, the clouds forming around the mountain stretched all the way to the Tatoosh range but eventually the clouds evaporated once they reached the summit of Mt. Rainier. It’s a pretty amazing sight to watch a mountain chew and then swallow an entire cloud formation.
[/caption] Mt. Rainier was literally sucking this cloud formation and pretty much spitting it out on the other side. One of the most spectacular things about Mt. Rainier is watching the clouds form and then disperse around the mountain. Most of the clouds that form near the park eventually end up near the summit of the mountain and then evaporate after the mountain finishes eating them. You can spend several hours or days watching some of the most spectacular displays of clouds dancing around the mountain and then almost becoming lunch like a Venus fly trap drawing in flies. If you look closely you can see a long and narrow white streak shooting from the clouds and up into the sky. That’s actually the clouds being sucked in by the mountain. I’m not sure of the meteorological term but as I was photographing I noticed that it started at the base of the mountain, while it lured in the cloud and then the streak grew and split the cloud. There is no denying that Mt. Rainier is the most behemoth mountain in the lower 48 states and demands the most respect due to its enormous size, enormous glaciers and its incredible ability to devour entire cloud systems. I have never been disappointed when visiting the park and I can assure you that you will enjoy one of the most spectacular photography session of your life.
[/caption] The highway of an Alpine Glacier… Nothing but gridlock and congestion! This photo was taken on Mt. Rainier.
[/caption] Wildflowers are in abundance at Mt. Rainier NP and you will find yourself immersed in them no matter where you are within the Park. The snow level is still very high but the wildflowers are literally growing everywhere there is bare soil. I think I lost count at 1 billion and was still counting when I lost count. This photo was taken at Reflection lake with Mt. Rainier in the background and the many arrays of wildflowers in the foreground. I was concerned about the field of view when I was taking photos at the lake, especially since I had the camera mounted on my tripod only a foot from the ground with the wildflowers only about 18 inches from the camera. I made sure to open the lens at its max of 17mm and set the camera mode to program/normal and changed the AF point selection to Automatic Selection hoping that it would ensure that the mountain, trees and wildflowers would be in focus. I had to take a lot of photos but this one turned out pretty good. I did use the sharpening tool in Adobe Photoshop to help with any imperfections. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and attached my CIR-PL and warming filter and set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -2 due to the glare. This photo was taken at about 7:10pm and the sun was in the left at about a 90 degree angle. The aperture was automatically set at F-5 and the shutter speed was at 1/100 second. Now is the time to visit the park since there is more snow at the park than most states have in December and the wildflowers truly are amazing. The snow is also abundant in the Tatoosh mountain range as well as even further south. You may want to bring some ski poles and traction for your shoes if you plan on being adventurous in the snow.
[/caption] Mt. Rainier has hundreds of creeks that are formed just below the dozens of glaciers carving through the mountainside. Driving along the main roadways offers visitors the opportunity to witness the wonders of geology that Mt. Rainier National Park offers. Since there are so many massive and steep creeks rushing down the mountain you can see just how devastating and dangerous these creeks are. There are also hundreds of waterfalls free falling all along the park since the topography is do diverse and steep. This photo was taken from Hwy 706 which traverses on the south side of the park. I pulled over on the massive bridge that carries travelers over the enormous canyon and glacial eroded area below. You can see all of the boulders on both sides where the glacial runoff has eroded the valley below over the years. I was looking south and the sun was just starting to come over the Tatoosh mountains but unfortunately the canyon below was still completely obscured in the shadows and the horizon was overexposed. I made sure to use my tripod, bubble level and remote switch since I wanted to get some of the movement of the creek without having any blur. The ISO was set at 100 and the white balance at -1. I attached my CIR-PL and warming filter in order to take advantage of the morning light.