Mt Rainier Crossing the Nisqually Glacier

There is a new album on my website as I begin to publish some of my time in the Northwest this summer. The first gallery is of Mt Rainier and Crossing the Nisqually Glacier. We started early in the morning, even for Seattleites and arrived at the Paradise Visitor’s Center about 8:30am. Paradise is named such because of the many fields of flowers visible in the July / August months and the colorful beauty that abounds. Getting to the parking lot early is the best way to have a place to park. When we finished our trek about 1:00pm, the parking lot was full.

The challenge right off the bat was finding the best trail to take to Panorama Point which sits about 7,000 feet halfway up the 14,000 foot peak. There are about four different well marked trails climbing in and around the Nisqually Galcier to get to Panorama Point. The problem we had was that they were all still under five feet of snow at the visitor’s center. Apparently there was heavy snow in May that hadn’t melted yet this year.

After a little time looking at the map and getting our ‘snow’ legs on, we pushed off. It was quickly apparent that we would be hiking up towards the center of the peak and we would eventually find ourselves on the Glacier, but it was also evident that the trail was well below our feet. The drifts of snow were anywhere from six to twelve feet when you looked down at the trunks of the evergreens lining the base of the Paradise area.

Cresting the last of the heavy forest mounds, we found ourselves staring at the glacier and watching the peak get ever closer. Because of the angle going up the side, it didn’t look far in front of us and sure didn’t look so high. After another hour of climbing up and not seeing any change in the top, we knew it was every bit of 14,000+ feet.

I was extremely proud of my nine year old son, Ben, who climbed the 2,000 feet with me and my brother-in-law. He plugged along and was equally as excited as I was to see this massive mound of snow and rock.

There were certainly photographic challenges. One of the first is that the sun is well up on the horizon even at 5am during this time of year. Shooting images quickly at the 8:30am to 9:30am timeframe was critical before the sun was overhead. Metering was tricky, but not impossible. I used an incident reading for just about every shot. I checked every now and then by pointing the meter in my Leica perpendicular to the ground and the sun so that I measured a dark patch of blue in the sky. The meter readings were almost always within a 1/4 f/stop of the incident reading. As you can see, I captured some detail in the glacier snow and the detail in the ice near the top was phenominal.

Lightroom helped considerably for this shoot with the ability to synch the settings. I imported these and started development before 2.0 was released, so I am anxious to play with a few of these using the new brushes and graduated filters. The most common adjustment I made was the white balance and the saturation.

It was also a challenge to be sure that the detail in the clouds above the peak came out with some detail. This was a swirling cloud that rotated the entire day around the top of the peak. Mt. Rainier has it’s own weather patterns and today was cloudy and windy with little visibility. The different shapes the cloud made were very interesting and the best shots I got were in the form of a hat crowning the peak.

It was hard leaving the mountain. Everytime I turned around, it was getting smaller. Later in the week we returned for another look. It was amazing that in five days somewhere between two and three feet of snow melted. In fact, Reflection Lake no longer had any snow on the water. I think part of good photography is luck in the weather conditions, and this was one of those times.


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