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.

Long Hours


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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

Reflection Lakes


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.

(click to see them larger)
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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.

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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.

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Bench Lake


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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

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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.

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Waterfalls


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.

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Night Photography


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.

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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? ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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Gear


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!) ๐Ÿ™‚
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? ๐Ÿ™‚

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!

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