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.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon is a must stop for anyone traveling through the Southern Oregon Cascades. In fact, if you live in Oregon and you haven’t visited and explored the park, you are not even considered an outdoor person. It would be like living in Washington State and never visiting Mt. Rainier National Park. If you enjoy the outdoors and you haven’t visited Crater Lake then you might as well just tape yourself to your couch and call it a day. There are endless opportunities at the park. The Southern Oregon Cascades offer some of the most spectacular views in the entire lower 48 states. The hardest part is to agree on your favorite photo from the park. You will literally end up taking well over 1500 photos and then spend the next several days deciding on when to stop going through them. Historically, most visitors to the national parks only spend a few hours at the park and very rarely even venture 300 feet from their car. However, if you expect to really enjoy and have the opportunity to really take advantage of the splendor’s of the park, you will need to put on your hiking shoes or snow shoe gear and spend one or two days exploring the park. The snow can linger all year at the park and if you plan on visiting during the early parts of summer or late spring I would pack your snow shoes. This shot was taken on 5/30/12 and the snow was pretty deep. Usually the east part of the road stays closed until July and the snow drifts can linger well into July. I made sure to head out with my snow shoes since you couldn’t get close to the rim without trudging through several feet of soft snow. You can also amuse yourself by watching the fair weather visitors spend only about an hour at the park as well as doing nothing more than venture a few feet from the parking lot and only taking a few pictures. This is also a benefit to the nature lovers since you can almost feel completely alone in the park even though the main parking lot can be completely full. Late Spring and early Summer can be sun drenched and the glare from the snow and lake can cause a very intense sunburn so I would recommend bringing a lot of sun screen and applying it throughout the day since you will also be working up a good sweat. If you are wanting to venture near the rim, I would be very careful since some of the snow cornices can be very unstable due to the intense sun and warming temperatures. I rarely get too close but I have always been able to get some spectacular shots where ever I go. You literally can’t take a bad shot unless the sun is too intense or you are using the wrong settings on your camera. To get this shot I was using my Canon T1i and attached my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 28mm. Most of my shots are taken as a panoramic so I normally leave the rest of my lenses in the car. The aperture was at F-5.6 and I set the ISO at 100 due to the extreme glare. I also attached my CIR-PL and warming filter. Normally I would use my tripod but since the sun was out and the thought of lugging it around, I decided to leave it in the car. You will end up taking so many photos and covering so much ground, you will find that your tripod will spend most of its time in your backpack. You just want to be sure to keep a steady hand and try to ensure that it’s level. I always make sure to review every shot, by using the histogram, in order to ensure that it’s level. If not, I just delete and take another shot.
[/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] 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] 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.