Archive for the ‘Mount Rainier National Park’ Tag

Adventuring Mt. Rainier ~ In the Dark   6 comments

Mt. Rainier and Upper Tipsoo Lake.

There really is no Cascade peak like Mount Rainier.  Mt. Hood is spectacularly beautiful.  Mt. Saint Helens has a dangerous beating heart.  And Glacier Peak is surrounded by the kind of wilderness that reminds of Alaska.  But Rainier is at another scale altogether.  Not only is it broad it’s lofty.  It is flanked by dramatically steep glaciers that drop dramatically down to relatively low-lying forested valleys.

From Seattle, Rainier looks like a normal snow-capped mountain.  But when you approach close to or inside the national park that covers the mountain, it’s a different story.  It’s a massively rugged mountain ringed by high country, like the Tatoosh Range to the south.  Each side of the mountain has its own character, with extensive subalpine meadows a consistent feature.

Last post I related a little bear story from one of these meadow areas:  Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground on Rainier’s southwest side.  I was a young buck then; years later I returned to photograph the wildflower display.  The thing about Indian Henry’s that makes it a little challenging is its distance from trailheads.  Most people backpack in.  But if you hike up Tahoma Creek trail from West Side Road, it’s a mostly straightforward, if long, day-hike.  Don’t take it too lightly though.  At over 12 miles round-trip with more than 2500 feet elevation gain, and with parts of the trail sometimes washed out, it isn’t an easy trek.

Mirror Lakes in the center of Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground, Mt. Rainier National Park.

Night-Hike

On a photo trip to Rainier five years ago I decided that Indian Henry’s would make a great late-day hike.  It’s the sort of hike only a nature photographer would consider.  The kind where you time it to be someplace awesome to shoot at sunset.   And since your camera gear alone is heavy enough, you really don’t want to schlep the extra gear for camping.  So your shoot is followed by a hike back in the dark.

I started at mid-day from where West Side Road is closed off to vehicle traffic.  After a couple miles on the gravel road-bed you take a trail that follows Tahoma Creek upstream.  This is a powerful glacier-fed stream, and the previous spring’s melt had torn out long sections of the trail.  The lower part of the hike thus featured a few nervous stream crossings.  I’ve been swept away before and felt very close to drowning, and so I respect rapidly moving water as much as I do anything in nature.

After a few long stretches of boulder-hopping I left the creek and climbed steeply to the meadows.  From the photos you can see the light was very nice, despite the cloudless skies.  Best of all the wildflowers were in perfect bloom.  It was late August, which may seem to be late in the season for peak flower bloom.  But Rainier’s subalpine meadows are high and snow lingers well into summer.  On that special day the wildflower close-ups and the grand scale shooting were both sublime.

The pasqueflower is a different sort of bloom: Mt. Rainier, Washington.

After the golden light left the mountain, dusk began to approach rapidly.  I packed my gear into the pack and wasted no time starting my descent.  Not long after crossing timberline and entering the forest night began to come on like a train.  I stopped at a waterfall and grabbed one more shot, confident of my headlamp.  But after only 20 minutes or so my headlamp began to flicker.  I had put what I thought were fresh batteries in before I started out, but they must have been well past expiration.  I should have had spares, but had failed to check my pack before starting out.  I silently cursed my impatience to get going.

Just as I began to hear the roar of Tahoma Creek below my lamp finally gave out and darkness gathered around me.  At first the trail was barely discernible and easy enough to follow.  I was confident of being able to reach and follow the creek bed.  But the night was moonless and exceptionally black.  I missed a turn and struggled to regain the trail, falling a good 10 feet or so between two huge rock outcrops.  I wasn’t hurt, but slowed down considerably after that close call.  Then I reached Tahoma Creek and began to follow it downstream.

Narada Falls at night-fall, Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington.

I was lucky.  If there had been more dense forest walking ahead I would have been forced to stop and spend a cold night with no shelter.  Luckily, frequent glacial floods had removed most of the trees along the creek, allowing the stars to shine through.  With eyes now fully dark-adapted, and with the normally unnoticed added light from many suns burning far away, I discovered that if I went slow, I could just barely see features before reaching them.

I lost the trail at the first washout and was forced to stumble down the rubbly stream bed for the duration.   I traveled in a sort of slow-motion crouch, using starlight to show me boulders and other obstacles.  I tripped and fell a bunch of times anyway.  And the stream crossings were even more fun than on the way up.  Thankfully by the time I reached them the stream’s flow was lessened because of slower melting from upstream glaciers brought on by the cool of night.

I followed the creek longer than necessary, not noticing the road off to my right beyond some dark trees.  When I finally realized my mistake I climbed the bank and crawled through the trees, where my feet touched something strange.  Flat, even ground, the road!  The feeling that washed over me was pure ecstasy.  But easy walking on the road felt very strange.  Have you experienced this?  Where your legs, after endlessly struggling up, over and around, can finally walk normally.  But it suddenly feels like you’re swinging heavy stone blocks?  My head and torso felt like they were floating above my too-heavy lower half.

My van looked even better than West Side Road had, parked there all alone, patiently waiting as if certain of my safe return.  The little clock on the dash said 2:55 a.m.  I can count on one hand the number of times in life that the cliche’ actually came true.  You know the one, where sleep takes you before your head even hits the pillow.  Going hard for so many hours will do that.

Next morning, it’s needless to say, my body was sore all over and bruised in a dozen places.  But it was worth it.  The photos, which turned out nicely with or without the accompanying adventure, seemed even better for having come at a price, and with a memory.

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

Low clouds move up the Nisqually River, but the stars are revealed from a high perch on Rainier as night comes on.

 

Advertisements

Adventuring Mt. Rainier: Hiker’s Heaven   8 comments

This is the same face of Rainier that residents of Seattle see every clear day. Much better up close!

The first time I saw Mount Rainier up close I was completely blown away.  I was 19 and had been in the Pacific NW for less than a year.  The Cascade Mountains seemed like the Himalayas to my East Coast eyes.  And Rainier is the biggest and baddest of the entire range.  When I got that first good look I was impressed the way only a young man with far too much energy can be.

Since that first good look at it, Mt. Rainier and its national park have always been a special place of mine.  I’ve spent quite a lot of time rambling the steep trails, climbing it twice.  I even worked for NPS one summer doing wildlife surveys.  So let’s leave the desert for now and continue this Adventuring series with an adventure in Washington’s oldest (and the nation’s 5th) national park:  Mount Rainier.

By the way, I wrote a number of illustrated posts on Rainier that are more travel-guide/documentary in nature than this one.  Check those out if you’re thinking of a visit for pictures or hiking.

Trailside waterfall, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

Just below Indian Henry’s, the park’s Wonderland Trail crosses a high suspension bridge over Tacoma Creek.

Camping Where the Bears Are

Rainier hosts the most extensive, and I think finest, subalpine flower meadows in the Cascade Range.  When I was in my 20s I backpacked with a friend to one of Rainier’s best:  a place on the southwest side called Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground (see image below).  It’s named for a Tahoma native called So-to-Lick who lived in a cabin there before there was a park.  He straddled the two worlds, guiding the likes of John Muir and assorted climbers up the mountain.  But he never summited himself, holding it sacred like his tribe and thus staying off the glaciated upper reaches.

I tended then, as now, to eschew trail-side camping in popular areas.  So we camped overlooking the meadows, atop a broad peak called Mt. Ararat (had to look that one up it’s been so long).  Toward dusk I took a walk from camp to get a view.  I hadn’t been there long when, from a rocky outcrop facing north, I saw movement on the grassy slope just below.  To my amazement a large bear stepped from behind the nearest trees and slowly foraged across the slope not more than 100 yards away.  It was a cinnamon-colored black bear, and still the largest of that species I’ve ever seen.

As with nearly all my bear encounters over the years, this one mostly ignored me.  But I couldn’t leave well enough alone.  I had a cheap little film camera.  So like a young fool I determined to get closer for a picture.  I waited for him to move a little further away and then climbed down off the rocks.  I slowly stalked after him, keeping the small but dense groups of subalpine firs between us.  I kept moving downslope even though I wasn’t catching glimpses of him anymore.  I thought he’d gone.  Then peering around a shrub, I froze.

This is NOT the bear in the story. This one is much smaller, but also lives on Mt. Rainier.

He was now less than 50 feet away, staring at me hard.  He chuffed once.  There have been other occasions like this in my life, but I believe that was the first.  Despite the differences they all feel the same.  The adrenaline floods in first, immediately followed by the realization of how foolish you’ve been.  You force yourself to breathe, and above all try not to do anything stupid.  Like run.  Those moments stretch time.

Of course the big boy just ended up doing that funny double-take I’ve seen a number of times since then.  Where the animal shifts its attention back to what it was doing, but abruptly turns back and seems to reconsider, and sometimes repeats.  Then finally turns away, apparently deciding you’re not worth it.  And the tension of the moment drops like a stone.  I watched him drift away down the mountain-slope through the tall grass, realizing I had forgotten that picture I wanted.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend!

Just before dusk, Mount Rainier soars above the flowery meadows of Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground.

 

The Cascades III: Mount Rainier, Part 2   18 comments

Good morning Mount Rainier!  Reflection Lakes.

Good morning Mount Rainier! Reflection Lakes.

What’s in a Name?

Geographic place names are a frequent bone of contention.  In North America, we have a push-pull between those who want to retain the names for mountains, rivers and the like that were given by the first white explorers, and those who want to use the native American names.  It is really a slap in the face to native tribes that we don’t use the names of places they often regard as sacred.  But there is a strong inertia at work as well.  The U.S. Board of Geographic Names (BGN) is quite the staid, traditional organization.  The issue can get people’s blood boiling in a hurry.  And that’s not even counting all the racially-offensive place names, the Squaw Buttes of the world.

The Nisqually River Valley at Mount Rainier is filled with low clouds at dusk.

The Nisqually River Valley at Mount Rainier is filled with low clouds at dusk.

Mount Rainier in the past definitely illustrated this tension.  As mentioned in Part 1 the mountain was named for a rear admiral, a friend of Captain Vancouver (who led the first forays of white explorers up the Columbia River).  The name is typical of Cascade mountains. Many were named after the friends and backers of some of the first expeditions to explore the Pacific Northwest, others for presidents.  The Puyallup, a local native tribe, called the mountain Talol, or Tahoma (Tacoma).  This probably means “source of waters”, but also could be a general term for all snow-capped peaks.  Herein lies the problem with native American names, one reason for the BGNs reluctance to change names.  Often it is not at all clear what the meaning of a Native American name is.  Also, different tribes often use different names for the same place.

A young buck at Mount Rainier National Park.

A young buck at Mount Rainier National Park.

During the late 1800s, the city of Tacoma lobbied hard to get the nearby mountain’s name changed to Tacoma.  Seattle, then a rival, wanted to leave the name as it was.  The debate reached fever pitch in the latter years of the 19th century when the mountain was being considered for National Park status.  Tacoma’s civic leaders figured (correctly) that a name change would bring tourism, money and prestige to their small city.  Even President William McKinley, who signed the park into existence, weighed in.  Perhaps predictably, he favored keeping the name Rainier.  A president’s opinion matters, so the park was named Mount Rainier and the mountain’s name stayed the same.

A small waterfall plunges down a narrow verdant ravine at Mount Rainier.

A small waterfall plunges down a narrow verdant ravine at Mount Rainier.

Flying Saucers of Mount Rainier

In the summer of 1947, a private pilot named Kenneth Arnold was flying near Mount Rainier.  He had detoured during a business trip to look for the site of a recent crash of a military transport plane (there was a $5000 reward).  Suddenly he sighted flashing lights, then discovered they were coming from several strange flying objects near the mountain.  He saw some disk- or crescent-shaped objects that were flying en echelon, darting around mountains and into valleys at high speed.

He watched them for quite some time, flying in parallel but losing ground to them fast. He calculated their speed by timing their passage between Mounts Rainier and Adams and came up with 1700 mph (2700 km/h).  This was more than three times faster than any known aircraft.  Arnold told his story to the folks at the hangar in Yakima where he landed to refuel. The word spread quickly.  When he was interviewed by journalists, and later by the Army, he came across as a very careful observer who was not exaggerating.

I too happened to have a sighting!

I too happened to have a sighting!

Arnold did not compare the flying objects’ shapes to saucers.  He actually said they looked more like half-discs, or a pie plate cut in half, convex in the rear and longer than they were wide.  He told people they flew like a saucer or disk skipping over water.  But the term flying saucer was used in newspapers and the name stuck.  This was the first documented sighting of a UFO in the modern era.  There were many sightings over the next few weeks in the same region, many from very reliable observers.

Did Arnold see craft visiting from an advanced space-faring civilization?  He didn’t think so, at least at first.  He thought they were a new top secret aircraft being developed by the military. But he soon came to doubt that.  For one thing, the speed of the turns as they dipped and weaved would not have allowed a human to survive inside.  Although he noted the possibility of their being remote-controlled, he also had estimated their size as larger than a DC4 (a very large craft to be remote-controlled).  Later investigation by the Army turned up several other witnesses (a fire lookout, a prospector) that saw similar objects in the same area at the same time.

Night Sky at Rainier:  Did a delegation come from a planet orbiting one of these stars?

Night Sky at Rainier: Did a delegation come from a planet orbiting one of these stars?

This event affected Arnold’s life significantly.  He loathed the publicity it brought.  He was both labeled a loony and contacted by many people who believed in visitors from space. He could not understand, with the amount of concern and interest among the public, why the military would not have come clean if the objects were theirs.  Ultimately he seriously entertained the possibility of them being extraterrestrial in origin.

This sighting was followed by hundreds of reports from around the world, 850 or so from that same year.  Not long after the Arnold sighting, 9 UFOs in Idaho were spotted by a crew on a United Airlines jet, and this received much more media coverage than did Arnold’s.  It was during that same summer of 1947 that the public learned of the Roswell incident, the most famous UFO incident in history.

The Milky Way is easily visible from high up on the slopes of Mount Rainier in Washington.

The Milky Way is easily visible from high up on the slopes of Mount Rainier in Washington.

Was Ken Arnold first to see the vanguard of an exploratory mission of some advanced extraterrestrial intelligence?  Did he glimpse advanced military technology? Or did his sighting simply open the floodgates of the public’s imagination, a public primed for this?  It was early in the Cold War and the technology revolution (especially in aerospace) was just then going into hyperdrive.  The sound barrier had not been broken yet, and the speed of these objects were a big part of what captured the public’s attention.  It’s interesting to think about.  But one thing is clear: if those saucers were actually extraterrestrial, then Spielberg had it wrong in Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind.  It was not Devil’s Tower that the aliens picked to visit first but Mount Rainier!

Mount Rainier in alpenglow.

Mount Rainier in alpenglow.

Friday Foto Talk: A Few Lessons from the Field   14 comments

Dawn over the Olympic Mountains in Washington

Dawn over the Olympic Mountains in Washington

I’ve been running around the Olympic Peninsula in Washington over the past week chasing the light.  I’ve tried to hit places where I have never been during previous visits.  It is a very large and diverse place, covered in large part by Olympic National Park.  I will do a travel post on it very soon.  Before that I spent a few days at Mt Rainier.  I want to highlight a few lessons I’ve (re) learned that might be valuable for photographers doing trips to areas with natural wonders like this.

Reflection Lakes at Mount Rainier National Park is shrouded in morning mists.

Reflection Lakes at Mount Rainier National Park is shrouded in morning mists.

LESSONS LEARNED

      • While a planned route is good as a starting point, allowing you to maximize time and save fuel, you will likely be forced to abandon the plan if you expect to make the most of good weather conditions (i.e., good light).  Do not try to be strict about your plan.  You either chase the light, adjusting meal times, losing sleep, etc. or you miss the light.  It’s that simple.
      • Dealing with traveling companions can be tricky.  If you’re traveling with family (or really anybody who does not live and breathe photography), you will need to find a balance.  Everyone needs to have a good time and you need to get your shots.  Realize that in order to get every shot you want, you will need to travel alone.  I was solo on  this trip.  Well not truly solo, but  my dog doesn’t have a say in things and so doesn’t count.  But I was free to explore, double back, stay up late, sleep in shifts, etc.  I’m very sure that had I been traveling with someone who is more of a casual photographer, this would have been our very last trip together.
Before dawn at Mt Rainier National Park, the moon rises over Reflection Lake.

Before dawn at Mt Rainier National Park, the moon rises over Reflection Lake.

      • But even if you’re traveling solo (or with another die-hard photog.), you need to tend to that “other” person inside you.  I keep having to re-learn this for some reason.  I tend to become obsessive about the photos at times, but then remember I need to see and appreciate things too.  The pace is often different for these two approaches.  But sometimes I have the most fun when I really slow down.  This, coincidentally, is usually good for photography.

 Sometimes switching out of photographer to traveler mode reaps rewards.  On the northern Olympic Peninsula the clouds had moved in.  The light was beautiful when they came, but it promised to be gray for at least a day or two.  I thought of heading down to the rainforest for moody pictures but it was a long drive from where I was.  Instead I headed up to the NW corner of the Peninsula, Cape Flattery.  This is the northwestern-most point of the U.S. (excluding Alaska of course) and I had never been there.  My reasoning was simple and not photo-related.  Fog and mist at sunset rarely do good things for a seascape at sunset.  But I wanted to see the place.

A small waterfall in Quinalt Rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington.

A small waterfall in Quinalt Rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington.

As it happened I got great shots of the cape’s forest in thick fog.  On the way along the rugged northern coast, bordering the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the fog created beautiful patterns.  The pictures I got are not of a place that most photographers think of when they visit Olympic, but they are beautiful and evocative of the lonely atmosphere of this relatively remote area.  Another bonus was getting to meet friendly locals in one of the few small towns and visiting the Makah American Indian Reservation.

For example I doubled back and revisited a high alpine trail-head where I slept and then woke pre-dawn, hiking to a peak for sunrise.  It was bothering me that on both occasions I did not attain the perfect viewpoint for a panorama of Puget Sound and the Cascades.  So I thought of returning yet a third time, which would have involved driving back two hours late at night.  But I stopped myself, thinking it was a bit too obsessive.  A good night’s sleep along a river-bank was my reward.

Cones protect the seeds of a subalpine fir from harsh conditions on a high ridge-line at Olympic National Park.

Cones protect the seeds of a subalpine fir from harsh conditions on a high ridge-line at Olympic National Park.

      • In getting up for sunrise, plan on rising at least a half-hour earlier than you think necessary.  I have trouble getting up early.  Once I’m up it’s fine of course, but this has always been a struggle for me.  I’m a night person, so staying up late is much easier.  For dawn photography, it’s best to arrive in the area where you’ll be shooting well before the sun rises.  Use a flashlight/headlamp if you’re hiking somewhere, but try to turn it off as soon as there is enough light to see.  This will allow your eyes to get used to the low light and you will see good pre-dawn compositions much more easily.

When there are a variety of clouds in the sky and light is good, those clouds will begin lighting up at least a half hour before the sun rises.  This is often the best time to photograph in any direction.  A brightly glowing cloud bank will cast beautiful light on the landscape.  You’ll need your tripod of course.

A nice place to sleep before tackling the climb of Mount Rainier in Washington's Cascades.

A nice place to sleep before tackling the climb of Mount Rainier in Washington’s Cascades.

Two examples during my trip highlight the different experience to be had depending on exactly how you set that alarm.  The first was at the high point mentioned above.  I underestimated the time it took to hike to the top of Elk Mountain (on Hurricane Ridge), so woke about 20 minutes too late.  I knew it right as I started the 2-mile hike; color was already in the sky.  Conditions were perfect, making me feel more rushed.  The leading edge of a front was moving in from the west, not covering the mountains yet but promising truly wonderful light.  The only good part?  Hard-pumping uphill hiking will wake you up just fine when you have no time for coffee.

I had to abort and climb the ridge just short of the summit in order to catch the beautiful pre-sunrise light.  It was a good viewpoint, but not the best for the east and southeast view (which affected the panorama shot).  But perhaps the biggest negative was the fact I was I rushed setting up, knowing that I had missed the earliest good light.

The mouth of the Quillayute River in Washington is marked by large sea stacks.

The mouth of the Quillayute River in Washington is marked by large sea stacks.

The other example, at Mount Rainier National Park, illustrates the correct way to do a morning shoot.  I slept a fitful few hours near Reflection Lakes, waking before my alarm.  The stars were great so I decided to do some night shots before sunrise.  The fog moved in before sunrise.  Since I was already shooting, this didn’t disappoint me.  Instead I found some nice foggy shots of the lake.  I heard other photographers arrive up on the road but most didn’t stay long, I suppose because of the fog.

When it finally lifted there were some beautiful moments as the mountain came out.  I heard them returning, car doors slamming.  Meanwhile I was already in position by the lake, shooting away.  This is the way to do it, letting the conditions develop before your eyes rather than trying to catch them.  It allows you to experience nice moments while you’re shooting.  At Reflection Lakes, it allowed me to get into a flow, rather than the abrupt, clunky transition from driving to shooting experienced by the other photographers that morning.

Narada Falls plunges into the misty canyon of the Paradise River at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

Narada Falls plunges into the misty canyon of the Paradise River at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

      • I know this post is getting long but there is one last lesson I learned, and it was a hard one.  At Rainier, I hiked up to a subalpine meadow area on a trail that is washed out in part.  You need to hike for a couple miles along a swift glacial river across huge boulders, skirting many obstacles.  But otherwise it is a reasonable, 7-mile round-trip hike.  Since I was going for sunset light, I brought a headlamp, whose batteries I thought were fresh.  They weren’t.  Stupidly I neglected to pack spare batteries.

_B2A0032

After shooting in the pretty meadows, it wasn’t long hiking down in the gathering dark that my headlamp began to fail.  It went completely out just as I reached the rough part.  I fought my way to the rocky riverbank and began to stumble through the boulders.  There was no moon.  I learned that while it is impossible to walk under the trees in total darkness, it is possible to use the Milky Way as a very dim source of light.  Without it I would have been spending the night with not enough clothing to keep warm.

untitled_007-2

After a brief period of panic, where I fell several times and bashed my knees and elbows, I calmed myself and slowed down.  Slowly I worked my way back.  But there was a section of trail to reach the dirt road (leading back to my vehicle).  I knew it would be impossible to traverse that trail, let alone find it in the dark.  So I kept going, looking for an opening.  Luckily (and I do mean lucky!) I spotted a subtle flat area through the trees.  I clambered over logs to the spot and found the only place where the dirt road approaches the river.  I finally got back to the van (and a very hungry dog) at 2 a.m.

_B2A0773

The sun sets in a clear sky over Lake Quinalt in Olympic National Park, Washington.

So here is the lesson if you are hiking into the wilds: pack the ten essentials in your camera pack.  This includes a small tarp plus a way to make fire (lighter & tissue or wadded newspaper).  It also includes extra batteries for your light!

And here’s one bonus lesson: don’t strap any clothing to the outside of your pack that you would be unhappy to lose.  My hands-down favorite piece of clothing is (or was) a zip-front fleece that is amazingly warm and light, with pockets that are perfect for filters.  During all the ducking under big logs, falling and stumbling it had come loose from my pack.  I went back the next day but could not find it.

I’m sure there are other lessons I learned, but it all really boils down to not sweating the small stuff, keeping things flexible and fun, and striking a balance. Thanks for reading and happy shooting!

Fog fills the valleys beneath Mount Rainier as evening arrives.

Fog fills the valleys beneath Mount Rainier as evening arrives.

Lake Crescent on the northern Olympic Peninsula is a jewel.

Lake Crescent on the northern Olympic Peninsula is a jewel.

Teasing the Viewer – Landscape Photography   4 comments

Mount Rainier peaks out above Mowich Lake as the dusk deepens.

Mount Rainier peaks out above Mowich Lake as the dusk deepens.

 

I rarely post on photo how-to, since I find it a little boring.  Much better to go out in the field and interact one-on-one with people and their cameras.  But this little tip I’ve discovered is as far as I know not discussed by your typical workshop leader.

In fashion and boudoir photography, although this is not my thing, I am certain that most photographers and models know how effective it is to leave something to the imagination.  If you show everything, that might be the last picture the viewer sees.  It is much better to tease, to leave the viewer wanting more.

I have found that this often works well with landscape and nature photography as well.  A tiger nicely screened by beautifully out-of-focus vegetation, an action shot where it is not at all certain if the predator will capture the prey, and similar photos leave the viewer wondering what happens next, or wanting to see more of the animal.

Even in landscapes, leaving a mountain or other spectacular feature partially hidden can work to create a sort of tension in the photograph.  As long as you don’t totally frustrate the viewer, where not enough of your subject is shown, it is perfectly fine to compose your subject so it is partially hidden.

That’s the case with this photograph.  I admit to feeling a bit of frustration at only seeing part of Mount Rainier from Mowich Lake when I arrived last fall to camp.  I planned to hike up to a higher lake (Eunice) where the full glory of Rainier is on display and reflected in a lovely alpine lake.  But I had arrived too late to Mowich, and so had to be content trying to find good compositions with a partly-obscured peak.  The above shot was one of my last, a long exposure during blue hour after the sun had set.

The next afternoon I did hike up to Eunice Lake and got the shots below.  I included two from Eunice Lake; the second, during blue hour, is for easier comparison with the above shot.  Perhaps with some cloud cover in the sky these would be better pictures than the one from Mowich above.  But as it is, I prefer the first shot to the second and third.  And it is partly because the mountain is not in full view that I think it works.  Which do you prefer?

Mount Rainier in Washington rises above Eunice Lake.

Mount Rainier in Washington rises above Eunice Lake.

Whichever shot is your favorite, it is true that you’ll strengthen your collection if in some of your pictures you leave the subject partly hidden, or the story partly untold.  I believe this holds in all types of photography, not just those where the teasing aspect of this technique is more obvious.

Blue hour at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

Blue hour at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

 

%d bloggers like this: