The PNW Chronicles: Mountains (Part II)

In Gallery Collection, General, PNW, Show and Tell, Tips and tricks, Travel by jfischer1 Comment

PNW Series: Mountains (Part I)

Mt. Hood (continued), and Jefferson too

While Mt. Hood was the highlight of the trip as far as mountains were concerned, if you only shoot the peak from far below, such as at Trillium Lake, you are missing a hundred more interesting and unique opportunities.  From Government Camp at the base of the south flank, it’s only a short drive up to Timberline Lodge.  If it’s winter time, bring your skis, otherwise, your hiking boots.

Situated at almost 6000 ft elevation, not much other than rock and glaciers are above you, however the sweeping views in very direction make up for that in a hurry.  Several other nearby peaks can be seen from the side of Mt. Hood, including Mt. Jefferson.  Closer by, endless ridges of the lower hills stack themselves neatly, begging for a late evening shot when the sun is low on the horizon.  On a clear night, try using the faint glow from the parking lot to cast light on the trees while taking photos of the Milky Way above.

Count the ridges
When the light is just right, late in the evening up at Timberline Lodge, look towards the south for this view.  If you see ski lifts headed down the mountain, you’re in the right spot.  Contrast and white balance adjustments to get the deep foreground and the cool blue hue.

Jefferson From Hood
Mt. Jefferson can be seen if it’s clear enough while standing near the parking lot at Timberline Lodge.  I did have to use a heavy hand in Lightroom and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 to get the peak to pop off the background as much as it seen here.

Stars Above
Light painting giant trees can be difficult using a handheld flashlight, even one that casts a very wide beam.  Instead, just let the indirect light from the parking lots at Timberline Lodge do the work for you.  From the parking lot, on the far south end there is a set of trails that lead up a small hill and out to the end of a ridge, the lodge will be on your right, the lot directly behind you – and the Milky Way will reach up before you from the south.

So what does Mt. Hood look like from Timberline Lodge?  What compositions are there to be had?  Not many really, at least not from within a short walk from the lodge.  I spent all of my golden hours some three thousand feet lower in elevation at the lake, because while I was scouting for shots around the lodge earlier in the day I hadn’t found anything too compelling that made me want to come back before dark for the astrophotography work. You can get some shots of the barren upper reaches with some detail using a standard to short telephoto, but going wide-angle usually results in loss of scale from in photos I came home with.

Hood from Timberline
From near the parking lots at Timberline Lodge – 65mm focal length on full frame Canon 6D.  No horizontal crop, just some taken off the top to reduce the amount of boring blue skies.  Didn’t mind that so much in the evening when I wanted to shoot the stars though.

Hood 2
About the best I could do for a wide-angle shot.  Note how the small hill left of frame ends up being just as tall as the peak in the distance.  Only saving grace for this photo that kept it from the trashcan was the winding road/trail.

Mt. Rainier

I actually had two opportunities to photograph Mt. Rainier in 2014.  The first time in June during a short family vacation where I was able to get a couple nice views from Vashon Island in the Puget Sound.  Photography time wasn’t as flexible as it was during my August trip, so here comes more “not in the golden hours” photography.

Rainier from Vashon
Late afternoon, not quite Golden Hour, but not bad light either.  What was troublesome was some haze hanging around the SeaTac area which was directly between where I stood and the mountain.  Also the choppy late afternoon Puget sound wasn’t all that interesting of a foreground.  So on went the 10-stop ND filter and down went the shutter speed.

Remember back in part 1 when I said I got lucky with the weather when shooting Mt. Hood.  Well, I paid for it the last day of my trip.  Rainier lived up to its reputation – and was nowhere to be seen from the ground.  No worries though, as the next morning I climbed on board my Alaska Airlines flight back home and the pilots where kind enough to swing us right by the majestic peak on our way out-of-town.  Side note – Alaska Airlines was a pleasure to travel on.  Highly recommended if traveling to the Pacific Northwest.

Rainier from a Boeing

Parting gift – Mt. Rainier surrounded by clouds when viewed from the ground, but that just adds to the beauty and the sense of scale when shot out the side window of an airliner.  This is why I still carry my Canon point and shoot camera, easier and more discrete to use shortly after take off than a DSLR.

Final thoughts

You’ll notice that I vary my choices in processing quite a bit even between shots of the same general subject.  Photography is all about experimentation, and the creative process.  Now with digital, the ‘film’ is free and the processing options are nearly endless.  Personally, I call my own look “enhanced reality” – rarely do I try to make it look exactly as I remember seeing it with my own eyes, but instead how it looks after my mind’s creative energy is put to the photograph.  I eagerly urge you, photographer or not, to venture out and find these views for your self.  The eye is the greatest camera of all, and the journey far more rewarding that the photographs.