Hey everyone! Well, I’m getting back in the swing of things after being gone for a week to photography and film some KelbyOne.com classes. We started the week at Mt. Rainier for a landscape photography class, and then went in to Seattle to finish up a Photographing Cityscapes class.
First off, I have to say this was one of my most tiring trips. Sunrise at Mt. Rainier was around 5:45. But we had to stay about an hour outside of the park. So by the time we’d drive and set up (remember, we were recoding a class so it wasn’t just me and my tripod), we had to wake up about 3:45 every morning. If we were lucky, we’d get an hour or so nap during the day, and then head back out for sunset which was around 8:30ish. That meant we didn’t stop shooting until after 9pm and with time for packing up and driving back, it was usually 11pm before we got to bed. Okay, I’ll stop whining now 🙂 I will say it was well worth it. We came back with some awesome footage and we’ll have a great class when it’s all ready.
We started simple at Reflection Lakes at sunset. It’s actually a better sunrise spot because of where the sun goes down, but I thought it would be good to see it first in the daylight, before trying to get there when it was dark. It’s easy to get to, and was one of the top photo spots from my research. And it was also the most crowded. But I will say it was one of my favorites. After doing a lot of research and taking a lot of suggestions from others, I couldn’t find another lake that looked as good, with some nice wildflowers, and such a great reflection of Rainier. There’s ones that are less crowded, but you’re sacrificing one of the best places to shoot (aesthetically), for getting away from the other photographers. So it’s more of a personal preference. I’m social. I actually don’t mind shooting near other photographers so it’s okay with me. And luckily, I had time to shoot a few places, but I made sure this one was of ’em.
We even stopped there in late morning (a good 4-5 hours after sunrise), just to do a quick lesson to show that you can still capture some great photos if the conditions are right.
Oh, and the morning we did go there it was totally fogged in. Pretty disappointing considering I was really hoping to shoot this one at sunrise (sun comes up behind us), rather than at sunset (sun goes down in front of you). But that’s how it goes.
Bench Lake came highly recommended from researching online. Everyone said how less crowded it was. Now I know why. While it was less crowded, and it did have a great reflection, the water was so high that there was little foreground to try to get a shot. I had to take my shoes and socks off and walk through knee deep water to get to this spot so I could get a bit of foreground in the photo. I’m not much for photos with dead trees in them, but this was the best I could get 🙂 And the walk back was really nice, as I got to see the mountain through the trees, which I didn’t get to see in the dark on the hike out there.
Paradise and Wildflowers Galore!
There’s a place in Rainier called Paradise. It’s one of the main visitor areas in the park. And rightly so. It’s got a ton of trails (long and short) that lead in to the park. And the wildflowers were blooming in just about every direction you looked. Really pretty, and in the early morning or late evening light you could get some great photos with both the mountain behind them flowers, and in just about every other direction.
Mt. Rainier has a ton of waterfalls! If you stopped at every one you saw along the road, you’d never get anywhere. As I did my research I wanted to try to find a spot that had a waterfall with Mt. Rainier in the background. I figured that I’ve traveled all this distance to be up in the mountains, I might as well try to use it everywhere I can. One of the only places I could find that had a waterfall setting with Rainier behind it was actually really close to the visitor center – Myrtle Falls. It was just over a 1/2 mile walk up the hill. I’ll talk about the falls more in my class, but I realized there’s two views you could get for sunrise. One where you’re actually in the falls, using the rocks and water as a close foreground. And one from a viewing area away from the falls. So I managed to take both within a few minutes of the sun coming up.
Since there’s so little light pollution out there, Rainier is perfect for night photography. With little sleep though, this was a tough one to make it to. We did go out one night to shoot the stars and it was about 3/4 of a moon so there’s some nice illumination all around.
A quick side-story:So, later in the week we were photographing at a popular spot in Seattle (recording part of my Cityscapes class). I ran in to another photographer, Dustin from Wallcandy Images, and we started talking about shooting at night at Mt. Rainier. Well, he proceeds to pull out a shot that was taken during the week, at a spot about 45 minutes away from where we were staying. I wanted to cry right there. It was about as perfect of a Milky Way shot with Mt. Rainier as you can get. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve seen a better one. Needless to say, I killed him right there – then stole his phone, and now can claim the shot (well at least the iPhone version of it) as my own 🙂
Did I Mention Fog?
Well, just as I started to complain that we had perfectly clear skies the entire week (hoping for “some” clouds), Mother Nature decided to play a trick on me. The next morning, we arrived at Reflection Lakes to this. Pretty isn’t it? 🙂 And yes, there is a great lake, trees, and huge mountain back there. It was so bad, I didn’t even take a shot, except with my iPhone to show how bad it was.
Anyway, rather than just going for breakfast (which is what I wanted to do), I used the early morning dew and moisture that the fog brought in, and found some close up stuff to shoot with my macro lens. Then we went to breakfast 🙂
I kept it simple with gear. I usually had a 24-70 lens on most of the time. I took a few photos with the 16-35 and a few with the macro lens, but most of what you see here was shot with the 24-70mm, which is definitely my go-to landscape lens. I used my polarizer often. Whether it was for the mountain photos, or even the waterfall and macro stuff, the polarizer really helps reduce the glare on everything. I only used an ND filter for the waterfall shots when it started to get lighter out, but that only came out once I think. And of course a tripod and cable release.
It’s Gonna Be a Great Class
When all is said and done, this is going to be a great class. I was able to cover so many different things. From vast mountain views, to lakes, wildflowers, backlit scenes, front lit scenes, no-lit subjects, waterfalls, and night photography. If there’s not something you can use from this class where you live, then you must either a) live in a jail cell, or b) live in New Jersey (kidding! I’m from NJ so I can say that!) 🙂
Plus, the video crew I took with me from KelbyOne (Adam Rohrmann and Mark Farag) were freakin’ awesome. Seriously, these guys worked their asses off. They stayed with me the entire time and didn’t complain one bit. They constantly worked to let me do my thing shooting and teaching, while trying to make the best possible video for you (and other KelbyOne viewers) to watch.
Would I Do Anything Different?
If I were to go back to Mt. Rainier, I’d probably try to get out and shoot at some different places. See, we spent a lot of time at the close-by lakes and the Paradise area. There’s a reason for that though. I was shooting for a class. Teaching came first. And these places were perfect for the lessons that I wanted to share. It wasn’t a class on getting out in the back country and away from it all, to shoot remote landscapes that only people who can hike and climb several miles away can get to. Those places are great, but as a learning tool we had all we needed right where we were, and nothing more than a 1-mile hike from the car. Not to mention I had two videos guys with me who had to lug around a lot more equipment than I did. So… if I could do it again, I’d probably go with a buddy, and get off the beaten path a little more. Maybe even do a little camping there to be in some more remote places during the good light. But it’s hard to do that your first time there. You’re just getting the feel for everything and the various places to shoot, and what times to shoot, and what compositions work best for each spot. That said, anyone up for a trip to Rainier next summer? 🙂
I’ll keep you posted about the class. They’re generally 8-12 weeks in editing and production so it’ll be a bit before it’s up, but I’ll make sure I mention it. Have a good one!
I was wondering why I was getting redirects from your page to mine, now I know. Thanks for the shout-out!
“Stayed” I meant stayed. Darn voice dictation.
Where was that spot 45 minutes from where you state that the photographer took his galaxy shot?
Hey Matt, This is great! I just got back to seattle from Uni, and I’ve always wanted to do a galaxy shot at rainier, you mentioned that someone you ran into had the perfect shot. Do you happen to know, or have any advise on when/where to try to get a galaxy shot on rainier?
Thank you so much!
Hi Deric – Sorry I don’t. I have seen some nice photos from the Sunrise Parking area. People said it was a small hike to some areas, but I never did it so I can’t speak to where they were. Good luck!
I’m a NJ native heading to Mt. Rainier (along with Olympic NP) at the end of June. Thanks for the article. It will definitely be helpful resource for getting good shots in my limited time there. I have a feeling I won’t want to come back to NJ once I see Washington!
I purchased a subscription to KelbyOne using a holiday special deal and now I am looking for your training from your summer Mt. Rainier trip. I don’t see it. Am I searching for the wrong phrase(s)? Or is it not going to be produced since you left KelbyOne? Hope all is well with your new gig at OnOne Software.
Hey Mike. It’s just not up yet. Hoping it goes live in January though.
I need to watch your new class before I leave for a-month long photo trip in 2 weeks. Any sneak preview or something (^^;;
you took some really nice shots out there and as usual – a nice read 🙂 I believe I overheard you saying that you shoot with the Tamron 24-70, not the Nikon – did I hear that right? I’m thinking about buying the Tamron one but am (as usual with lenses and the 1000 online reviews) quite unsure about it right now… Would be great if you could share your experience on those! 😉 Thanks!
Already did! https://mattk.com/2013/02/12/thoughtsreview-on-the-tamron-24-70mm-lens/
Awesome pictures, some of the best landscape photo’s I have seen. Good job!
Looking forward to your new Kelby class featuring your Mt. Rainier trip.
You timed tour visit to Mt Rainier perfectly! On 12 Aug I visited Mt Rainier with my 4 yo grandson, not conducive for great photography but a lot of fun. We arrived around1:30 set up our camp site at Cougar Rock. The clouds were gathering over the mountain. By 3:30 PM, it started to rain and continued through the night and into the next morning. Myrtle Falls was flowing briskly but the view of the mountain was completely obscured in fog. Lots of flowers shots with dewdrops but no vistas. The remainder of the week was off and on clouds, rain, fleeting moments of sunshine . Looking forward to your class.
Hey Matt, great post. Loved seeing the various shots, and hearing the various back stories. Rainier is one of those local places that, even though it’s right in my back yard, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been there. I will say, you picked the right week to come…it’s been rather cloudy up here the last week or so!
Next summer, eh? Let’s talk…
Enjoyed the back story and loads of other stuff Kelby One provides while in hospital recovering from a heart attack, it cheered me up seeing such beauty, makes you appreciate what you have, so thanks for the lift, I can’t wait to get back shooting with my lighter Fuji X-T1.
Thanks Robin. I’m so glad I could help and I love hearing messages like this. I hope for a speedy and healthy recovery for you 🙂
Looks like you got many great shots from Ranier. I was there many years ago when I was doing some training at the Frank Russell Companies. From their Boardroom, you can see that mountain. Looking forward to your class, even though you are from NJ. So am I .
Great pics and I cannot wait for the class to come online. I took your LR class in Sacramento, joined KelbyOne and have been hooked ever since. Would gladly join any adventure to Ranier, especially if it involved the backcountry!
#5 is AWESOME! (the one with the tree…) I love it!!
How ironic, I was at Rainier this past Sunday (8/10). Like you, I got up at 3:30 am and started driving to the mountain before 4 am to catch sunrise. I picked Tipsoo Lake for my sunrise pictures. Next time I will try Reflection Lakes. Its amazing all the great photo opportunities that exist on the mountain (when its not foggy). I thoroughly enjoyed seeing your pictures and reading the back story that goes with them. I am looking forward to your video. Like Josh, I have been on the fence about joining KelbyOne and this might just tip the balance. Did you do any HDR? My sunrise pictures required it.
Hi Mike – Thanks! I don’t do any HDR (though I do bracket). I find I’m pretty much able to grab everything I need from the shadows and highlights in one photo. Sometimes I use Photoshop and have to use one of the bracketed photos on top of another to bring in the blown out sky, but that rarely happens.
Beautiful work. The best lesson for any photographer is to adapt to the conditions. In fact the beauty of out of studio photography is that nature always surprises.
Awesome work Matt.
Send me an e-mail when you want to visit Mt. Rainier again. I live in Tacoma and have visited The Mountain many times. Back country permits are easy to get.
Awesome! Will do 🙂
These photos are just spectacular! I love them all, but my favorite is the third one. It’s the reflection and rocks under the water and trees all working together. Excellent! I’ll be in my new house just in time to see your class! Awesome!
Great photo’s Matt. Looking forward to viewing the class.
Have you finished your Long Exposure Class yet? Looking forward to viewing it also.
Hey Jim. It’s been online since January 🙂
Someday I would love to travel there. Your pics are so crisp I can image myself there. Can’t wait for your class to arrive. See you in Vegas
See you there Karen!
Great read, Matt. I can’t wait to see the class. Question, was it the switch to Canon that made you prefer the 24-70 over the 16-35? Does their 16-35 not hold up to the 24-70 optically? I know that when you were shooting with Nikon, you preferred their 16-35 f4.
Tommy – Nope. I actually ditched my 16-35 a long time ago in favor of the 18-35mm – https://mattk.com/2013/07/23/nikon-18-35mm-lens-a-new-landscape-photography-lens/
However, over time I found myself shooting the 24-70 more and more. It’s really been my favorite landscape lens on any camera for a couple of years now. Could just be a personal taste-thing. I just prefer not to shoot as wide and bring in more of the landscape with the 24-70.
Matt, now that is paradise, can’t wait to see your finished class.
How is it you achieve that sun burst in your first photo again?
Here you go: https://mattk.com/2014/06/13/qa-get-starburst-sunstar-effect-photos/
So I was returning from a short hike up Mazama Ridge last Monday evening and passed you right next to Myrtle Falls. I turned to my girlfriend and told her that I’d learned pretty much everything I knew about Photoshop, LR and printing from the guy who just walked past us on the trail. She wondered why I didn’t say hi, and truth be told, in the moment, there just wasn’t a way to say “I’ve watched you everyday for the last year” without sounding utterly creepy. So I’ll retroactively say hi, and say thanks for all of the fantastic advice you’ve imparted to me these last few years. Cheers!
Here’s a link to the Reflection Lakes photo I captured the following morning, which I’ll be working on a print of today…
1) Dude!!! Why didn’t you say hi? Lots of people came up and introduced themselves. It’s not creepy at all. Its fun to meet people from online. I’m stuck behind a desk and a microphone behind a camera so much, that I love getting out and talking to the people that watch our training and stuff. Next time… say hi 🙂
2) I hate you! Great photo. It’s funny, cause on Tuesday morning I met a guy shooting film, that had a really similar shot that he’d gotten the day before. I loved it. As you read, I went to Bench lake Monday. Then I went to Paradise Tuesday. I thought I’d be able to go back to Reflection lake on Wednesday and get a nice shot there, but it was all fogged in. I actually found that exact cluster of flowers and was going to try to make a photo but the fog never lifted.
Great shot though! Thanks 🙂
I spend lots of time and take tons of photos of Reflection Lake and the Paradise area. I can’t wait for you class. I am headed up there this weekend for a Paradise hike….hope to capture some awesome photos!
Wow, your photos are incredibly beautiful! Congratulations on such a successful outing and I look forward to seeing your class on KelbyOne when it’s released. (Too bad I couldn’t have waited to make my Portland trip until after your class so I’d have some idea of what I was doing!!!)
Matt, Some of your best photos ever! Just fantastic.
Thanks so much for sharing, Matt. After a trip like this the last thing you want to do is sit down and write up a summary blog post of it so quickly. At least that’s how I’d be. Living in Central Florida too, I really appreciate the beauty of the PNW and love seeing all of your work out there. It’s inspiring to me and so many others. I’ve wanted to shoot at Ranier as well as Olympic National for years now and the reasons keep growing. I think you hit many of them. You get to shoot lakes,mountains, water falls and my newest interest of night sky work. You get it all in one place. One question I’d love to ask though is how the night light pollution was being so near Seattle if you can remember. Thanks so much! Cheers
Thanks Brett. It’s amazing what a good nights sleep will do for you 🙂
As for Seattle light pollution, it wasn’t a problem. You can see a glow from it if you’re in the right direction, but it’s not bad at all.
These are just awesome, Matt! I am looking forward to the class. Thanks for sharing this behind the scenes look!
Great read, and excellent images, Matt. I’ve greatly enjoyed following your work.
I have been on the fence about joining KelbyOne (plenty of content I would be somewhat interested in), but this might give me the kick I need. I genuinely enjoy the outdoors and landscape photography and, based on the marketing push you’ve got on, feel like this course is tailor made for me and my style of shooting. I also have a secret crush on the Pacific Northwest and cannot get enough imagery from that area so it is a win-win.
I’m so freakin’ stoked to watch the class. I love Mt. Rainier and I was up there the same weekend you were. There’s virtually an unlimited amount of photos to be made up there.
very enjoyable to read! loving the pics, think the macro of the dewy leaf is my fav! thanks for sharing! hope you and the family are well!
Really looking forward to the finished video. I was at Rainier the week before you and enjoyed seeing the change in the flowers you found and what was there during my visit. Great job as always.
Nice photos as always!
Looking forward to the class!