September 23, 2006

Shy Rainier Morning

After seeing the potential for morning photos at Rainier yesterday , I decided to try to be there for morning photos today. That meant getting up inhumanly early -- 4:30am -- to make the two hour drive to the park before the sunrise. My ultimate destination was Tipsoo Lake, but until the sun came up enough to brighten the foreground, I was't going to be able to get the photos there that I wanted. For the first morning light, I needed to be closer to get a full frame of mountain and color. There are several places along the Eastside Road just south of the turnoff for the road to Sunrise that have nice views of the eastern face of the mountain, and this is where I figured my best shot would be.

Mount Rainier and Lenticular Cloud, Sunrise After what seemed a very long drive, I finally made it to the park and got my first view of the mountain... and my heart sank. Rainier was shy, the entire peak obscured under a lenticular cloud. The pictures in my head of golden light on the peak of Rainier were impossible. Had I driven all this way so early in the morning for nothing? I decided the make the best of it -- there was no use in wasting all my effort for nothing -- and when the sun finally crested the eastern ridge I was rewarded with a shot I had not expected at all, but that was as good as any I'd imagined.

Mount Rainier and Lenticular Cloud at Reflection Lake For the rest of the morning I bounced between Tipsoo Lake and the Eastside Road, but none of the photos measured up to the first one of the day. The light at Tipsoo Lake just isn't right this time of year. The composition is good, and the scenery is fantastic, but the light is just too flat. The sun is almost directly behind you to get the best shots, and there's no shadows whatsoever, no definition to the foreground. The pictures would be better here either earlier or later in the year, when the sun is at more of an angle to the scene.

Despite the contrasty light, I made the rounds through the park, scouting the photos under morning light so rare for me to see. Photos from Backbone Ridge and the Bench will be better by morning light as I'd expected, and Reflection Lakes seemed just as good if not better in morning than evening as well. I decided to head home at this point, since I'd already had a very long morning. On the long drive home, I decided that staying in the area would not only make morning photos much easier to get, but would save me a lot on travel costs. I just needed to figure out a system that would let me stay not only at campgrounds -- whether formal or informal -- but where I could sleep at trailheads and even roadsides if necessary. I have an idea, but will have to see if it is possible.

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