Dawn to dusk at Mount Rainier

One of my goals for this summer’s vacation with my brother was to get out and about in the wilderness for photography at dawn and dusk. We hadn’t managed many sunrises or sunsets for several years, in part due to wariness about venturing into prime Alaskan or Yukon grizzly habitat at night, and in part because a good night’s sleep is hard to pass up after a long day’s hiking! With no grizzlies in Mount Rainier National Park, though, we managed to overcome laziness for one spectacular dawn on the mountain, here photographed from the roadside along Highway 410 near the Sunrise entrance. Some high clouds would have made this image better, but just the dawn and the softer light on the river were well worth getting up for.

Sunrise, Mt Rainier

At the other end of the day, this image is a stacked composite of frames taken after dark at Myrtle Falls, a short walk away from Paradise on the south side of Rainier. You need faith with this sort of effort as it rapidly gets too dark to see anything, but the final image is quite close to the one I’d visualized. With this sort of composite you have enormous “artistic” freedom to adjust the balance between the sky, the stars, and the foreground, and I’m still agonizing over which of several version I prefer! The frames were shot at 30s, f/8, ISO 800, so the noise is not too obtrusive and a large print ought to be possible…

Star trails, Mt Rainier

As it turned out, shooting the final frame of the stack was only the start of the evening’s excitement. With that finished, I set up for a shot of my brother walking along (and illuminating) the trail beneath Rainier against an ultra-deep exposure of the moonless sky. We were ready to go, when we spotted the glint of eye shine in the bushes off to the right. A bit of discussion at slightly louder than normal volume ensued, and I donned my own headlamp. The eyes vanished, and then reappeared, quite a bit closer! And closer. At this point it seemed opportune to retreat, talking loudly and with frequent glances over our shoulders…

What spooked us? On reflection, probably a deer, as we’d gotten some cute pictures of some very tame deer at the same spot just before sunset. Once you start thinking bear or mountain lion, though, it’s time to call it a day on the photography in my book!

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