Tatoosh Range, Mount Rainier National Park

Photographing in Paradise Meadows Mount Rainier

Paradise Meadows Wildflowers Mount RainierParadise Meadows Wildflowers Mount Rainier #73268  Purchase

This post is the second of a two part article about planning and photographing in Mount Rainier National Park Paradise Meadows. Read part one here.

A trip to photograph in Mount Rainier National Park or any other national park can be a very rewarding experience. It can also be a disappointing exercise in frustration. Good planning and having enough time available to meet your photography goals will increase your chances of success.

Since I’ve already given some tips on trip planning in my previous post, let’s start talking about locations and how best to photograph them. Mount Rainier is a big park with lots of great areas to photograph in. However, for the purpose of this article I’m going to focus only on the Paradise Meadows area and a few adjacent locations.

Essential Tip #1:  All of the locations in the Paradise Meadows area provide excellent opportunities for both sunrise and sunset . In summer the sun will rise and set a bit further in the north. There will be a slightly more light hitting the glaciers on Mount Rainier at sunrise than there will at sunset. Both times can provide some excellent side-lighting to wildflowers.

Paradise Meadows Skyline Trail Mount Rainier Skyline Trail Mount Rainier #72892 

But First a Lecture

Mount Rainier National Park receives over 2,000,000 visitors every year, and that number will continue to grow every year. The park service has gone to great lengths and expense (your tax dollars!) to make the meadows accessible for everyone, while also trying to keep them from getting trampled into oblivion.

Please take a minute to read the parks Meadow Preservation page.

Many trails are paved and roped off, and all have numerous signs to keep people on the trails. Please be thoughtful and considerate to the plants and future visitors, stay on the trails!

It is absolutely 100% possible to get great images while staying on the trails. But every time I photograph here I see other photographers going off the trail and trampling the flowers just to get that seemingly better photo. If everyone did that then Paradise Meadows would be nothing more than Paradise Dust Pit.

I wish I didn’t need to say this but here it goes. Do not even think of visiting Paradise Meadows unless you plan on strictly photographing only from established trails and keeping off the meadows. If you can’t do that then you should probably stay home!!

Paradise Meadows Wildflowers Mount RainierParadise Meadows Wildflowers #73347  Purchase

Paradise Meadows Trails and Locations

There are numerous trails in the Paradise Meadows area that give access to all the best photo locations. I like to divide the trails in the area between the west and east halves of the Paradise Meadows area. Both sections have excellent photo opportunities, but the west half has a better unobstructed view of Mount Rainier. I also feel that the west half often has better groupings of flowers and opportunities for compositions.

Download the Paradise Meadows Hiking brochure and map here.

Essential Tip #2:  Scouting is an essential technique for better photography. Always scout out the best locations in advance by spending the day hiking as many trails as possible. Make notes of the best spots and how long it will take to reach them in morning and evening golden hours.

Essential Tip #3:  Keep in mind that to reach most of the best flower meadows there is an elevation gain of several hundred feet from the parking area. While the trails aren’t steep or difficult it will take some effort to reach the best spots, especially if you’re racing against time and chasing light.

Essential Tip #4: Photo compositions in the west and east sections of Paradise are sufficiently far enough apart as to exclude photographing in both areas during the same morning or evening golden hour. Stick to one area and come back the next morning or evening for the other.

Tatoosh Range, Paradise Meadows Mount Rainier National ParkTatoosh Range Paradise Wildflower Meadows #73159  Purchase

Skyline Trail: This is the main trail that makes a loop through the entire Paradise area. This scenic trail makes an excellent leisurely all day loop. However, be aware that the higher elevation part of this trail traverses mostly rocky alpine terrain. Nearly all of the best flowers meadows are at middle elevations on the western parts of this trail.

There are many great compositions to be had around 5800′ elevation by using the trail network between Skyline and Deadhorse Creek Trails.

Deadhorse Creek, Moraine,  Nisqually Vista Trails: The main attraction for all of these trails are the views of Mount Rainier, and the yawning chasm of below the Nisqually Glacier. Deadhorse Creek trail connects with the Skyline trail so a loop will offer both glacier views and great wildflower photos.

Golden Gate Trail: This mile long trail begins on the lower Skyline at Myrtle Falls, and ends at the upper Skyline trail on Mazama Ridge. There are some great flower groupings all along this trail, especially near Myrtle Falls. Make sure you check out classic compositions of both Edith Creek from the foot bridge, and Myrtle Falls from the lower overlook.

The downside of the Golden Gate trail is that views of Mount Rainier are partially obscured by Panorama Point Ridge. However this trail is great for including the Tatoosh Range in compositions instead. There are some wonderful flower groupings on the upper section switchbacks for use in such compositions.

Tatoosh Range and Skyline Trail Paradise Meadows Skyline Trail Mount Rainier Tatoosh Range from Mazama Ridge #73153

Mazama Ridge Paradise Meadows 

Mazama Ridge can be accessed by several different trails. It can be reached via the Skyline Trail from Paradise Meadows parking area, or from below at Reflection Lakes. Keep in mind that if you are starting from Reflection Lakes you will have a considerable amount of elevation to gain before reaching the best areas.

Due to the nature of the snowpack melting out many of the best wildflower displays on Mazama Ridge often bloom a bit later than elsewhere in Paradise.

Skyline Trail on Mazama Ridge:  Access is either part of the Skyline Loop or from the end of the Golden Gate Trail. I feel the upper part of Mazama Ridge on the Skyline Trail offers the best photo opportunities. This is mainly due to the more open views of the Tatoosh Range.

Lakes Trail:  While there are some good photo ops on this trail they are mostly the upper half. One of the benefits of this trail is that the views of Mount Rainier are set back a bit.

Paradise Glacier Trail: This trail begins on the upper part of Mazama Ridge. For the most part it travels through fairly barren rocky terrain. But there are some decent flower displays along the first half mile or so. The attraction on this trail is viewing the raw landscape which not too long ago was beneath glaciers.

Some of the best displays of Lewis’s Monkeyflowers are near the junction of the Paradise Glacier and Skyline trails. Here they grow alongside streams thick with bright green mosses. Unfortunately it’s difficult to include a satisfactory view of Mount Rainier or the Tatoosh Range in photos from this spot.

Mount Rainier and Edith CreekEdith Creek Mount Rainier #3522  Purchase

Myrtle Falls Edith Creek Paradise Meadows

These classic locations are only a half mile from the Paradise parking area on the Skyline Trail. Both photograph well in morning or evening light with a preference for sunrise.

Be aware that this is one of those locations that can be crowded not only during the day but during golden hour light. This is a very popular spot for photo workshops and wedding photographers. Please be considerate of other photographers, especially those photographing newlyweds.

Myrtle Falls Mount Rainier National ParkMyrtle Falls Mount Rainier #72865  Purchase

Also use caution at the overlook to Myrtle Falls. It’s a small cliffside viewing area which can be a bit dangerous for you and your gear when surrounded by overzealous visitors. Early in the season dangerous snow bridges and slippery snow pack can prove fatal, exercise extreme caution or avoid the overlook completely at this time!

Mount Rainier sunrise from Reflection LakeReflection Lakes Mount Rainier #73126  Purchase

Reflection Lakes

The roadside view of Mount Rainier from Reflection Lakes is one of the classic photographic vantage points in the park. One can easily argue it’s one of the most classic views in the entire Pacific Northwest!

To get here just take the road turnoff to Stevens Canyon just below Paradise Meadows, or follow Paradise Valley Road east from the Visitor’s center parking lot.

Essential Tip #5: This is a primarily sunrise location. Like many classic national park photo locations it attracts hordes of photographers and workshops. Plan on setting up in the best spot at least an hour before sunrise. Bring a headlamp and a thermos of coffee! And of course please heed the signs and help preserve fragile areas by staying out of closed areas.

Landscape photography doesn’t get much easier than at Reflection Lakes. Parking is right alongside the lake so theoretically you don’t even need to get out of your car! Of course getting the best photos will involve a bit more than that. It will be to your advantage to scout out the best spots the day before so you won’t be guessing in the dark the next morning.

Mount Rainier sunrise from Reflection Lake Paradise MeadowsReflection Lakes Mount Rainier #73103  Purchase

I feel the best spots are on the eastern end of the lake where small groups of wildflowers can be used in the foreground. This is also one location that will provide great photos whether you are there during of after wildflower season. On a cold fall morning there are often thin sheets of ice on the lakes that are very photogenic.

Essential Tip #6:  Don’t make the mistake of setting up your tripod and photographing only one composition. Pick out the best primary spot and wait to photograph it in the best light, then move on to other compositions.

Bench Lake Mount Rainier National ParkBench Lake Mount Rainier #73143  Purchase

Bench Lake

This is a great sunrise location with wonderful views of Mount Rainier that not many photographers visit. The view of Rainier from Bench Lake shows more of the lower part of the mountain than at Reflection Lake. However you are limited to a tiny stretch of sand along the lake for compositions.

Bench Lake is an extra doable location after photographing sunrise at Reflection Lake, if you still have some nice early morning light to work with. Drive about 1.5 miles east of Reflection Lakes to reach the trailhead to Bench and Snow Lakes. The lake is about 1.25 miles along the trail with some minor ups and downs along the way.

Pinnacle Peak Trail Mount Rainier National ParkPinnacle Peak Trail Mount Rainier #72992

Pinnacle Peak

If you have extra time during your trip a hike up to Pinnacle Peak is definitely worth the effort. The trail starts across from Reflection Lakes and is about 1.25 miles in length with about 1400′ of elevation gain. It feels longer than 1.25 miles but the increasingly dramatic views of Mount Rainier keeps your mind off the work.

There are several good spots along the trail for photos which include wildflowers or hikers on the switchbacks. Just west of the saddle at trail’s end there are a few spots to sit and get some pics. If you’re up for it you can continue the steep route to Plummer Peak. For the really adventurous photographer continue hiking east on a rough semi-exposed trail to a saddle above Pinnacle Glacier. The views of Mount Rainier from there are wide open.

Essential Tip #7:  Photography from Pinnacle Peak trail is best in evening light. Bring water and wear a hat, this trail can be very hot in the afternoon during the summer. Make sure to bring a headlamp for the way down if you’re planning on golden hour photography.

Christine Falls Mount Rainier National ParkChristine Falls #73210  Purchase

Christine and Narada Falls

These two waterfalls are an absolute must photograph when you’re in the area. Both are very easy short walks from the road and both offer perfect compositions from the viewing areas. As with most waterfalls they are best photographed on an overcast day, or in early morning or evening when they are in shade.

Essential Tip #8:  Like nearly every location in a national park try to avoid photographing these waterfalls during the crowded busy part of the day. Before 9:00am or after 5:00 pm is best, then you’ll probably have them all to yourself.

Narada Falls Mount Rainier National ParkNarada Falls #72871  Purchase

Camera Equipment Suggestions 

What camera gear should you bring on a Mount Rainier photography trip? In a nutshell, everything you have. Ok, maybe not everything, especially if you’re a gear junkie with dozens of lenses and camera bodies. 

If you’re using a camera with a full frame sensor the most useful focal lengths are 14mm-70mm. So basically ultra-wide to very slight telephoto should cover most compositions. The only time I used my telephoto lens was to zoom in on some glacier details.

Basic Essentials:

  • Tripod
  • Wide to ultra-wide lenses
  • Normal range lens
  • Telephoto lens; for landscapes up to 200mm would be good enough. Paradise Meadows isn’t really know for wildlife photography so long telephotos aren’t necessary.
  • Polarizing filter
  • Graduated Neutral Density Filters;  I still use these in the field in certain circumstances instead of creating the effect in post-processing. Although they are not always the best option.
  • Remote shutter release
  • Bug Spray!

Essential Tip #9:  Brush up on your focus stacking techniques. Since you’ll probably be photographing wide angle compositions with wildflowers in the foreground and Mount Rainier in the background you’ll need to use methods which increase your depth of field.

Essential Tip #10: Mosquitoes, gnats, and other flying insects will be especially bothersome during times around sunrise and sunset. Exactly the same time when you will need to concentrate on your photography. Bring insect repellant or wear netting.

Essential Tip #11:   BE CREATIVE! Use you own eyes and mind. Just because there are 20 other photographers photographing the exact same scene, in the exact same position, with the exact same gear and settings, doesn’t mean that you have to follow suit. Photographing something in a unique and creative way could be as simple as just turning around to see what’s behind you!

Mount Rainier sunrise from Reflection LakeReflection Lake Sunrise Mount Rainier #73082  Purchase

In Conclusion

Combining all the information and tips in this post and Paradise Meadows Mount Rainier Photography Trip Planning, you now should have everything you need to know to have a productive, safe, and enjoyable trip to Paradise Meadows. Now get out there and have fun!

Thanks for reading, feel free to share this post with you friends and colleagues!

Want to learn more, or have a professional photographer guide you in the field? Then take your Creative Photography to the next level with  Private Instruction and Guided Photo Tours.

All photos appearing in Photographing in Paradise Meadows Mount Rainier are available for Commercial Licensing and Fine Art Prints. Click on any image to purchase, or contact me for more info!

Mount Rainier, Paradise Meadows Wildflowers

Paradise Meadows Mount Rainier Photography Trip Planning

Mount Rainier, Paradise Meadows WildflowersParadise Meadows Mount Rainier #3485  Purchase

This post is part one of a two part article about planning and photographing in Mount Rainier National Park Paradise Meadows. Jump to part two here.

One of the most popular locations for photographing wildflowers in the Pacific Northwest is at Paradise Meadows Mount Rainier National Park. There are few mountain locations which have such an abundant display of wildflowers along with easy access to them. But at Mount Rainer there is more than just subalpine meadows bursting with color. The views of the meadows include the hulking mass of a 14,411′ volcano and some of the largest active glaciers in the lower 48 states.

What is even more impressive is that there are numerous meadows of wildflowers around the entire circumference of the mountain. Some of them, like those at Paradise and Sunrise, are just a short walk on paved trails from the parking lot. While other locations like Spray Park are only accessible as longer day hikes or overnight backpacking excursions.

The most extensive and luxurious wildflower displays by far are found at the Paradise Meadows area. It is at this and adjacent locations I’ll be talking about in this post.

Mount Rainier, Paradise Meadows WildflowersParadise Meadows Mount Rainier #3499  Purchase

But First a Lecture

Mount Rainier National Park receives over 2,000,000 visitors every year, and that number will continue to grow every year. The park service has gone to great lengths and expense (your tax dollars!) to make the meadows accessible for everyone, while also trying to keep them from getting trampled into oblivion.

Please take a minute to read the parks Meadow Preservation page.

Many trails are paved and roped off, and all have numerous signs asking  people to stay on the trails. Please be thoughtful and considerate to the plants and future visitors, stay on the trails!

Skyline Trail Mount Rainier National ParkSkyline Trail Mount Rainier #72982

It is absolutely 100% possible to get great images while staying on the trails. But every time I photograph here I see other photographers going off the trail and trampling the flowers just to get that seemingly better photo. If everyone did that then Paradise Meadows would be nothing more than Paradise Dust Pit.

I wish I didn’t need to say this but here it goes. Do not even think of visiting Paradise Meadows unless you plan on strictly photographing only from established trails and keeping off the meadows. If you can’t do that then you should probably stay home!!

Paradise Wildflower Meadows Mount RainierParadise Meadows Mount Rainier #73244  Purchase

Planning A Paradise Meadows Photography Trip

You can spend as little as a day in the park and come away with a few good photos. But if your goal is portfolio quality images you’ll need to schedule in more time. So I would recommend at least three days. That way you can explore all the trails and photo opportunities in the area.

Ideally a better trip length might be 5-7 days. With a week available you’ll be able to scout out all the best locations and be able to photograph them in multiple lighting events. On my last trip to Mount Rainier I photographed every day for a week but had only one morning and one evening of outstanding light. Because of this I stayed in the Paradise area the entire trip to make sure I got the images I wanted.

Essential Tip #1: Always give yourself enough time and be flexible with your itinerary.

Tatoosh Range in winter, Mount Rainier National ParkTatoosh Range in Winter #5019  Purchase

Seasons in Paradise Meadows Mount Rainier

The road to Paradise Meadows and the parking area are open year round. Although summer sees the most visitors, the winter season which stretches from November until May is also very popular. During those months Paradise is a magnet for backcountry skiers, and climbers training for Alaskan or Himalayan expeditions.

For landscape and nature photographers late July to mid-August is the best time to plan a trip. However timing varies every year due to the amount of snowpack.  But generally you can usually be sure of hitting the peak wildflower bloom in the first weeks of August.

Keep in mind that all species of flowers don’t bloom at the same time. Glacier and Avalanche Lilies are the first to bloom as soon as the snow melts away. Shortly after Lupines, Sitka Valerian, Paintbrush, Pink  Mountain Heather and Western Anemone dominate the scene. After the Lupines begin to fade Asters and Arnica take over the show.

Essential Tip #2: Check out the Park Service’s Wildflower Status page to see what is currently in bloom.

One of my favorite wildflowers are Lewis’s Monkeyflower. These brilliant purple flowers grow in dense clusters along streams and marshy areas in the subalpine. You can often see them among mats of vibrant green moss. Note that Lewis’s Monkeyflower is often in full bloom later in the season.

Mount Rainier sunrise from Reflection LakeReflection Lakes Sunrise #73114  Purchase

Guided Workshop Or Solo Trip

At some point you’ll need to decide whether to go with an established workshop/photo tour or do the trip on your own. There are many advantages and disadvantages for either option.

Photo Tour/Workshop Advantages:
-Led by a seasoned professional photographer with intimate knowledge of the park, and the opportunity of learning new techniques from a pro.
-Meals, lodging, and transportation usually included, someone else does the driving for you.
-Being part of a group dynamic can be creatively beneficial.

Photo Tour/Workshop Disadvantages:
-Limited freedom to photograph where and when you want.
-Inability to postpone trip or change schedule due to weather considerations.
-Daily schedules can be very rigid, there may not be any flexibility to stay longer in one location.
-Travel times and distances from lodging to locations can be great, making for very long days.
-Cost can be prohibitive

Solo Photo Tour Advantages:
-Unlimited freedom, photograph where you want when you want.
-Ability to postpone trip or change schedule due to weather considerations.
-Ability to lodge or camp where you choose, cutting down on travel time to locations.
-Huge cost savings.

Solo Photo Tour Disadvantages:
-Extra research needed to find best locations.
-Finding lodging on the fly on a daily basis can be difficult.
-Lack of assistance and input from leader or group members.
-No one to share ideas or experiences with.

During my entire career as a professional photographer I’ve traveled mostly solo. I love the freedom and flexibility associated with this mode of travel. And I know for a fact that I’ve been able to get better photos because of it. But of course this is just my preference and it certainly won’t work for everyone. It’s up to you to decide.

Paradise Road Mount Rainier National ParkRoad to Paradise Mount Rainier #72878  

Trip Logistics Paradise Meadows Mount Rainier

Location, location, location. It’s all about location, and Mount Rainier National park is no different. Generally you’ll have time to photograph only one location during morning or evening golden hour. By the time you can reach the next spot the light will most likely have faded until the evening or next morning. And remember this isn’t a race or contest, slow down and appreciate where you are!

Keep in mind that it is about a 18 mile drive from the Nisqually entrance to Paradise Meadows. Since it is a slow winding mountain road allow about an hour for the drive. The closer you stay to your subject matter the better chance you have at being in right place at the right time. And you will be more relaxed and focused  when you get there.

Essential Tip #3:  Set your alarm and get used to rising very early. Absolutely nothing is worse than planning on being at a certain spot before sunrise than being late because of hitting the snooze alarm one last time, and then having a long drive ahead. Stopped for speeding, or worse, hitting a moose in the dark during your haste? Ughh!

Sunset over Paradise Mount Rainier National ParkParadise Sunset Mount Rainier #73203  Purchase

Lodging and Services

No matter where you stay, be it in a national park, a forest service campground, or in a motel or resort, be prepared to make reservations well in advance of your trip, if possible. Even in the shoulder seasons vacancies in lodging and campgrounds can be difficult to find. Popular campgrounds will fill by early morning. Research and plan ahead. It’s no fun driving around in the dark after a long day trying to find a place to sleep.

Essential Tip #4: Plan and reserve accommodations far in advance.

Lodging: There are several options for lodging when photographing in the Paradise Meadows area. If you can afford it the most convenient option would be to stay at the historic Paradise Inn. Situated right at Paradise all the best locations are literally right outside your door! For this option you’ll need to book well in advance. There is also the National Park Inn located lower down the mountain in Longmire.

Between the town of Ashford and the Nisqually entrance there are several options for cabins and motels. For camping the best and closest option is Cougar Rock, about a half hour drive from Paradise Meadows. Reservations are recommended but you can usually get a site if you arrive before 9:00am.  

Services: Gas and groceries are basically limited to Ashford which has one gas station and a couple small convenience type stores, and a small laundromat. In the park Longmire has a small general store with limited supplies. So it is best to plan in advance and arrive with all the food you need for your stay.

Cell Signal:  While in the park cell service is limited to the Paradise area, where there is a pretty strong signal. Otherwise you’ll have to travel all the way back down to Ashford.

Paradise wildflower meadows Mount Rainier National ParkPink Heather Mount Rainier #72905  Purchase

Fees Passes

The entrance fee to Mount Rainier National Park as of this date is $30 for a private vehicle and passengers and is good for seven days. An annual pass exclusive to Mount Rainier National Park is $55.

Consider purchasing an America The Beautiful annual pass if you photograph in many national parks and federal recreations areas throughout the year. This pass costs $80 and is good for National Parks, BLM lands, National Forests and more.

Thanks for reading, please feel free to share this post with you friends and colleagues!

Next up, part two of this article, Photographing in Paradise Meadows Mount Rainier.

Want to learn more, or have a professional photographer guide you in the field? Then take your Creative Photography to the next level with  Private Instruction and Guided Photo Tours.

All photos appearing in Photographing Paradise Meadows Mount Rainier are available for Commercial Licensing and Fine Art Prints. Click on any image to purchase, or contact me for more info!

Paradise Meadows Mount Rainier Photography Trip Planning

Mount Shuksan from Baker Lake North Cascades

North Cascades Photography Workshop

North Cascades Photography Workshop

Mount Shuksan from Baker Lake North CascadesMount Shuksan and Baker Lake #53550  Purchase

Join me for a two day workshop on creative visualization in the North Cascades.  Hosted by the North Cascades Institute, the Pacific Northwest’s premier organization for environmental learning. This will be a hybrid workshop, with the first part being a full day in the field. The second part will be an online Zoom session where we will discuss techniques of photo editing and processing.

The field segment will be a full day photographing in the beautiful Old Growth forests along Baker Lake in the North Cascades. The lake sits below the towering summits of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan. Along the way we will pass numerous streams flowing through a cool and fragrant forest of giant firs and cedars. Along with an understory lush with ferns and wildflowers there will be plenty of subject matter to work with.

Hidden Creek. Baker Lake Trail, North Cascades WashingtonHidden Creek North Cascades #65030  Purchase

During our time in the field we will discuss and learn composition techniques. We will also explore focus stacking, exposure stacking, macro photography, and more. Above all we will learn to develop and express personal visions of the surrounding environment. The online Zoom session we will discuss and learn various editing and processing techniques to help convey creative your experience.

Although this workshop touches on some basic technical aspects of photography the focus will be on creativity and visualization. Participants should possess a working knowledge of their cameras. Participants should also have a basic understanding of image editing apps.

Due to pandemic restrictions the field portion will be limited to eight participants.

 

Western Wake-robin (Trillium ovatum)Trillium #53779  Purchase

Suggested Photography Equipment

  • DSLR  preferred but any camera will be acceptable
  • Wide angle to short telephoto lens
  • Polarizing filter
  • Tripod
  • Remote shutter release

Sunrise over Mount Baker (elevation 10,778 feet (3,285 m) and Baker Lake, North Cascades WashingtonMount Baker from Baker Lake  #53562  Purchase

North Cascades Photography Workshop

Eagle Cap and Mirror Lake Eagle Cap Wilderness Orergon

Eagle Cap Wilderness Wallowa Mountains

Eagle Cap Wilderness Wallowa Mountains

Eagle Cap and Mirror Lake Eagle Cap Wilderness OregonEagle Cap reflected in Mirror Lake  #68776  Purchase

As part of the Summer 2020 Photography Tour my first destination was the Eagle Cap Wilderness in northeast Oregon. Over the years I’ve repeatedly passed over this rugged wilderness while on my way to other destinations further east. Every time I would drive by on Interstate 80 I’d glance at them and promise to visit them next time. This went on for over twenty years! However, on this trip the stars aligned and I finally worked it into the schedule.

The Eagle Cap Wilderness sprawls out over most of the Wallowa Mountains. At over 360,000 acres it is the largest wilderness area in Oregon. That’s quite a lot of territory for such a small mountain range. A couple of other things also sets the Eagle Cap apart from other Oregon wilderness areas. First is it’s geology. Nearly every other mountain wilderness is Oregon is made up of various forms of volcanic rock. In contrast the Wallowas contains mostly granitic rock. Secondly, the Wallowas are a higher range. Many of the peaks are  1000′ – 2000′ higher than those in the Cascade Range to the west. And of course due to its eastern location the climate is drier, although the peaks still receive copious amounts of winter snow.

Eagle Cap, Eagle Cap Wilderness OregonEagle Cap #68862  Purchase

Backpacking In The Eagle Cap Wilderness

Since this was my first trip, and I wasn’t sure how long it would be before a return visit, I wanted to photograph in the most scenic locations. After poring over maps, online trip reports, and searching for photos of specific areas I settled on two destinations.

For nearly everyone the central Lakes Basin is the prime spot for day hikes and  overnight trips. This area is where the highest peaks and most of the alpine lakes are situated. Consequently it is also the area that receives the most visitors. I chose two areas for this trip, and due to practicalities divided them into separate trips. The first would be an extended stay at Mirror Lake and several adjacent lakes, by way of taking the East Lostine River Trail. The second trip was to be a shorter one to Ice Lake via the West Fork Wallowa River Trail. Both trips would ensure excellent photo opportunities. The one uncertainty was the fact that despite it being nearly mid-July there still appeared to be a good deal of snow pack left in the alpine.

Since this was my first trip, and I wasn’t sure how long it would be before a return visit, I wanted to photograph in the most scenic locations. After poring over maps, online trip reports, and searching for photos of specific areas I settled on two destinations.

For nearly everyone the central Lakes Basin is the prime spot for day hikes and  overnight trips. This area is where the highest peaks and most of the alpine lakes are situated. Consequently it is also the area that receives the most visitors. I chose two areas for this trip, and due to practicalities divided them into separate trips. The first would be an extended stay at Mirror Lake and several adjacent lakes, by way of taking the East Lostine River Trail. The second trip was to be a shorter one to Ice Lake via the West Fork Wallowa River Trail. Both trips would ensure excellent photo opportunities. The one uncertainty was the fact that despite it being nearly mid-July there still appeared to be a good deal of snow pack left in the alpine.

Lostine River Trail, Eagle Cap Wilderness, Wallowa Mountains OregonEast Lostine River Trail  #68765  Purchase

Hiking In To Mirror Lake

This trip was also to be my introduction into the realities of traveling during the COVID 10 Pandemic. Driving up the long, bumpy, and dusty Lostine River Road, where I was to spend the first night car camping,  I found nearly every campsite was occupied. At the time I thought it was due to being the weekend. Later on I would find out that the where or when didn’t matter, crowds were everywhere. After finding a decent spot I sorted through and prepared all my gear for an early start in the morning.

The next day I hit the trail bright and early and brimming with excitement about the views and pictures awaiting me. The first half of the East Lostine River Trail is fairly uneventful and typical of a forest approach hike. The second half, however, is very pleasant and scenic. This is due to the fact it enters a very long nearly flat sub-alpine valley with wide open views for over a mile. During this section the trail skirts along open meadows, ponds, and the lazily flowing Lostine River. At the head of the valley looms 9572′ Eagle Cap Peak. This is where I first worried about the timing and feasibility of my two trips.

Eagle Cap Wilderness OregonEagle Cap Wilderness Cairn  #68822  Purchase

There were still numerous spots of avalanche snow left melting on the trail, and Eagle Cap, and the pass to Mirror Lake was nearly covered in snow. This left me thinking about the chances successful photography, and of being able to visit all the lakes on my itinerary. The last mile or so to the pass was mostly over deep snow, although it was firm and post-holing was at a minimum. It was a pleasant surprise to find more open ground at the pass. Conditions at Mirror Lake was my main concern though.

Backcountry camp Eagle Cap Wilderness OregonMirror Lake Camp Eagle Cap Wilderness  #68804  Purchase

Mirror Lake Camping And Photography

On approaching Mirror Lake at 7595′ I saw that its surfaces till had about 75% ice on. Most of the open water was along the shoreline, which was good news for me. Also, the majority of designated campsites were still under snow. However one especially attractive site near the lake was completely snow free.

There probably wasn’t a better spot in miles. The view across the lake to Eagle Cap was outstanding, and if the light cooperated I was sure to come away with some great photos. As usual I spent the rest of the afternoon scouting the area in advance for photo compositions. And while I found a few good ones the one near my camp was clearly the best, at least until all the snow melted.

Eagle Cap and Mirror Lake Eagle Cap Wilderness OregonAlpenglow over Eagle Cap  #68793  Purchase

Up until that time my plan was to move on the next day over another pass to Glacier Lake. But it was obvious the way would be entirely over snow, and since Glacier Lake was even higher up it was certain to be nearly frozen over. Because of this I reluctantly made the decision not to go, and spend more time in the immediate area instead.

During the course of the afternoon the sky had clouded over,  and I thought I would be out of luck for a photo session with good evening light. But towards sunset it became apparent that the clouds were starting to clear in the west. Soon sun rays began to stream through and illuminate the lake area and Eagle Cap.

Backcountry camp Eagle Cap Wilderness OregonMoccasin Lake Camp  #68814  Purchase

Moccasin Lake And Out

Since Glacier Lake was now out of the picture I went scouting higher up on the open slopes behind the camp and on the way to the other lakes in the basin. There was still too much snow to make the other lakes worthwhile so I went down to nearby Moccasin Lake. Even though it was only a few hundred feet lower there was considerably less snow. But unfortunately I found only one established campsite. It was on a rock shelf above the lake with a great view, but it was also sorely overused. This must be the only site in the area since there was enough bare dusty ground for several parties.

I wasn’t as fortunate here with the light and compositions so I took advantage of clear skies to do some night sky Milky Way photography. The next day my decision was to move back down the trail to the open meadows along the Lostine River. On my way in I saw some great photo opportunities in this area so I made this my final destination on this hike. After finding a hidden out of the way campsite I was able to make several more evening photos.

Milky Way over Eagle Cap Wilderness OregonMilky Way Over Eagle Cap  #68819   Purchase

The next day I headed out with mixed feelings. On the one hand I was able to spend some time in one of the best locations in the Wallowas, and make some wonderful images to boot. On the other hand the lingering snow pack prevented me from photographing at some other great areas.

Afterwards I drove into Joseph Oregon to have a good meal. I also had to decide if it would be worth doing the second trip Ice Lake. After agonizing over the decision it was apparent that it was still too early in the season to make it worthwhile for the photographs I had in mind.

So the next morning I began the drive to the second major destination of the summer photo tour, the Cecil D. Andus-White Clouds Wilderness of Idaho. Check back to read a post on that incredible area!

Eagle Cap, Eagle Cap Wilderness OregonEagle Cap Reflection  #68866 Purchase

If You Go:

Round trip to Mirror Lake from Lostine River Two Pan Trailhead:  14 miles
Elevation Gain:  about 2200′
Difficulty:  Moderate
Red Tape:  Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass required
Map: Green Trails Wallowa Mountains Eagle Cap Wilderness Map

The Two Pan Lostine River Trailhead is located about 18 miles south of Lostine Oregon, on Forest Road #8210. The last 10 miles are unpaved and can be rough in several places. Along Forest Road #8210 there are numerous small campgrounds and a few opportunities for primitive dispersed camping.

Note that Mirror Lake is only one of many backcountry destinations from this trailhead. Mirror Lake can be the only destination or be part of extended backpacking trips into the Wallowas. Check out the map in the link above for all the exciting possibilities.

The town of Joseph Oregon at the head of the very scenic Wallowa Valley makes a great base for trips into the Wallowas. It’s also a great jumping off town for adventures in the Hells Canyon Recreation Area. It has everything you’ll need, from good food and lodging to brew pubs, a distillery, and outdoor recreation stores. There are also numerous local artists displaying their work in Joseph’s galleries. Make sure to check out the Josephy Center For Arts & Culture while you’re there.

Eagle Cap reflected in Mirror LakeEagle Cap Mirror Lake  #68801  Purchase

Leave No Trace

And now for a short lecture. As I’ve been saying in previous posts, don’t even think about visiting this or any other wilderness area unless you are prepared to follow the guidelines of Leave No Trace (LNT). The Eagle Cap and all other wilderness areas throughout the world are under incredible pressure from growing amounts of visitors. Please do your part to tread lightly and help preserve these precious areas for future generations!

To learn more about the principles  and practicing LNT please take a few minutes to visit the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. Your children and grandchildren will thank you!

Seven Leave No Trace Principles

  • Plan ahead and prepare.                                       
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.                 
  • Dispose of waste properly.                                                                         
  • Leave what you find.                                            
  • Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).
  • Respect wildlife.  
  • Be considerate of other visitors.

Photo Gear Used On This Trip

Nikon D850
Nikkor Lens:
14-24mm 2.8G ED
24-70mm 2.8E ED
70-200mm 2.8E FL ED
Gitzo 1532 Tripod
Really Right Stuff B-55 Ball Head
Assorted Lee Graduated Neutral Density Filters
B+H Polarizing Filter
Vello FWM-N2 Remote Shutter Release

If you enjoyed reading Eagle Cap Wilderness Wallowa Mountains please share it with your friends and family.

All photos appearing in Eagle Cap Wilderness Wallowa Mountains are available for Commercial Licensing and Fine Art Prints. Click on any image to purchase, or contact me for more info!

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Oregon Coast Photography Trip

Oregon Dunes National Recreation AreaOregon Dunes National Recreation Area #44164  Purchase

This week we will be leaving for a ten day photo shoot on the Oregon Coast. Our usual plan is to photograph coastal locations in April or early May but this year we had to postpone it for obvious reasons. However after several months of enduring Stay At Home orders filled with endless home improvement projects we can’t wait to hit he road again and get back to work!

At this writing only about half of Oregon State parks along the coast are open for camping. So we’re a bit limited on our options. Fortunately a few choice locations are open, enabling us to photograph some areas we haven’t visited in a number of years.  We will be starting at Shore Acres State Park with its whimsical sandstone cliff formations, and Bandon Beach‘s iconic sea-stacks. Then we’ll move north to the Oregon Dunes, and finally on to the Cannon Beach area.

Shore Acres State Park OregonShore Acres State Park Oregon #48703  Purchase

If you’re also visiting any of these areas at the same time let me know, I’d love to meet up and chat!

While this long awaited trip to the Oregon Coast is exciting in its own right, it’s only just the beginning. Several days after returning home I’ll be leaving on an extended photo tour of the Rocky Mountains. In some ways it will be a continuation of last year’s epic trip to the Idaho Sawtooths and Wyomings Wind River Range.

Bandon Beach OregonBandon Beach Oregon #48491  Purchase

This trip will be backpacking oriented and destinations are still in the planning stage.  However they most likely will include the White Cloud Wilderness of Idaho, Wind River Range, and Bob Marshall Wilderness of Montana. If time and conditions allow a few backcountry spots in Glacier National Park may be included. After returning from the Oregon Coast I’ll post a formal announcement for this trip.

Cannon Beach from Ecola State Park OregonCannon Beach from Ecola State Park Oregon #5627b  Purchase

All photos appearing in Oregon Coast Photography Trip are available for Commercial Licensing and Fine Art Prints

Want to learn more? Take your Creative Photography to the next level with  Private Instruction and Guided Photo Tours.

 

Mount Shuksan in winter North Cascades

Photographing Heather Meadows Winter Landscapes

Photographing Heather Meadows Winter Landscapes

Mount Shuksan in winter North CascadesMount Shuksan From Austin Pass #64716  Purchase

Heather Meadows Recreation Area is located adjacent to the Mount Baker Wilderness in the North Cascades. Magnificent scenery and numerous hiking trails are the highlights of this special place. In summer visitors can drive to Artist Point on Kulshan Ridge for incredible views of Mount Baker in one direction, and Mount Shuksan in the other. Further down is one of the most iconic mountain scenes in the world, Mount Shuksan reflected in Picture Lake.

In winter Heather Meadows is just as popular a place to visit. The adjacent Mount Baker Ski Area is open, and throngs of backcountry skiers and snowboarders search for untouched powder. January usually provides some breaks in the winter storms, so it’s a good time to make the trip up.

I’ve been visiting Heather Meadows in winter for over twenty years. Mostly for photography but also for the pure exhilaration of the views and crisp cold air. Even though I’ve skied up to Artist Point on Kulshan ridge numerous times I always find something new to photograph. Different lighting conditions and reshaping snow pack will always dress up the scene in a new way. All the photos in this post were made a few weeks ago on a crisp day in late January.

Mount Shuksan in winter North CascadesMount Shuksan and snowdrift Kulshan Ridge #64337  Purchase

Up near the ridge you can find wonderful shapes and patterns in the ever changing snowdrifts. If you are lucky enough to visit just after a heavy storm you’ll also see old growth mountain hemlock trees encased in snow and ice. Also, if you are extraordinarily lucky you may get a glimpse of a steam plume from Mount Baker’s volcanic crater glowing in the evening light!

Swift Creek Valley North Cascades WashingtonSwift Creek Valley from Kulshan Ridge #64728  Purchase

Winter Travel Gear Tips

If you go there are a few things to keep in mind. Snowshoes, backcountry skis, or split-board snowboards are the most efficient means of getting around. Skinny cross country skis, or booting it in for even a short distance from the parking lot is exhausting in the deep snow, you’ll be drenched in sweat within minutes. Artist Point is less than two miles and 900′ elevation gain from the parking lot. However, with all your extra winter travel gear that distance can seem much longer.

Don’t even think of going  during poor weather! Whiteout conditions, heavy wet snow, and increased avalanche danger does not make for an enjoyable outing. It seems every year there a couple of fatalities directly attributed to those types of conditions. The main route up to Artist Point and Kulshan Ridge is usually safe from avalanches. However, under certain conditions a few areas can  be dangerous.

I won’t get into too much detail regarding essentials, but make sure you take the following:

  • Extra warm clothes, it can be windy and much colder on the ridge.
  • Plenty of liquids to stay hydrated
  • High energy snacks
  • Insulated pad to sit on
  • Avalanche beacon, probe, shovel, and knowledge of how to use them.
  • Knowledge of current weather and avalanche forecasts
  • A partner, especially important if you’re new to the area in winter, or venture beyond Artist Point
  • Common Sense!

Nooksack Ridge in winter North Caascades WashingtonNooksack Ridge from Heather Meadows #64748  Purchase

Photo Gear and Tips

Just like photographing wildflowers in spring or colorful fall foliage, winter photography is all about timing. Maybe even more so. I’m always on the lookout for good conditions. Such as after a good storm covers the trees and peaks in a fresh blanket of snow. Of course it must not be too warm or the snow will quickly melt off the trees and leave them black silhouettes against the white snow.

Photographing from Artist Point, Mount Baker is best photographed in the early morning. Mount Shuksan is best photographed in late afternoon to evening. For Shuksan late winter or early spring is preferred, since the angle of the sun won’t be as low. You’ll get more light on the glaciers then.

For lower down in Heather Meadows morning light can be optimal. Some of the best conditions I’ve seen here are when low clouds or fog are just beginning to lift.

Backcountry skiing North Cascades WashingtonBackcountry skier and tracks North Cascades #64732  Purchase

If you are envisioning untouched pristine snow in your photos you’ll have to get there very early, and immediately after a good snowfall. Backcountry skiing and riding has exploded over the years. Therefore, even the most remote and steepest backcountry terrain is tracked out by midmorning. It’s now nearly impossible to make a photo anywhere in the Heather Meadows area without numerous tracks everywhere.

Before digital I often trekked the meadows and up to the ridge with a 4×5 large format camera, and all its the weighty accessories. Several times I even did it with a full overnight winter pack! Digital has simplified and lightened the load somewhat. Here are a few basic items I always bring along.

  • Tripod
  • Polarizing filter
  • Some form of remote release
  • Plenty of microfiber lens cleaning clothes, you will drop things in the snow!
  • Extra batteries

Want to Learn More?

Would you like to learn more about winter photography? I offer full day, half day, and multi-day photo tours and instruction. Check out my Private Instruction/Tours page for more info, or contact me directly. I would love to help you take your photography to the next level and shoot like a pro!

American Border Peak and Mount Larrabee in winterCanadian Border peak and Larrabee Peak #64754  Purchase

Whatcom Falls Bellingham Washington

Whatcom Falls Winter Photography

Whatcom Falls Winter Photography

Whatcom Falls Bellingham Washington Whatcom Falls Winter PhotographyWhatcom Falls Bellingham, Washington #64764  Purchase

This week much of western Washington was hit by a series of snow storms. Snow amount totals vary, but my home in Bellingham topped off with around 12″. What’s more is that it’s staying cold throughout the week, keeping it all from melting. For most areas of the country 12″ of snow isn’t a big deal. But for us living in the coastal lowlands snowfall of any amount is exciting!

Whatcom Falls Bellingham WashingtonWhatcom Falls Bellingham, Washington #64762  Purchase

Whatcom Falls is a Bellingham City park that is only about a mile from my home. The falls are the main attraction but the park also boasts a beautiful old growth forest with towering fir and cedar trees, and numerous hiking trails.

The last time I was able to photograph Whatcom Falls in the snow was around 2008. So to take advantage of the situation I visited the falls three times. Photographing the falls any time of year is ridiculously easy. There is a stone arch bridge spanning the creek at a perfect viewpoint. All you need is a tripod, a lens in the 24-55mm range and maybe a polarizer.

Whatcom Falls Bellingham Washington Whatcom Falls Winter PhotographyWhatcom Falls Bellingham, Washington #64765  Purchase

Whatcom Falls Bellingham Washington Whatcom Falls Winter PhotographyWhatcom Falls Bellingham, Washington #64761  Purchase

Want to Learn More?

Would you like to learn more about winter photography? I offer full day, half day, and multi-day photo tours and instruction. Check out my Private Instruction/Tours page for more info, or contact me directly. I would love to help you take your photography to the next level and shoot like a pro!

Wildcat Cove Samish Bay Sunset Larrabee State Park

Bellingham Bay Samish Bay

Bellingham Bay Samish Bay

Taylor Dock Boardwalk Boulevard Park Bellingham WashingtonTaylor Dock Boardwalk, Bellingham WA  #64663  #Purchase

2018 is turning out to be a year of new beginnings. Along with the launching of my new website comes this first blog post of the year, featuring several new images. These new photos are even more special in that are the first made using an entirely new camera system.

Last week during a brief window of decent weather I took a short break from working on the new website. This break enabled me to finally get out in the field to test out my new Nikon D850 camera system and a couple new filters. I find reading and writing reviews of photo gear a huge bore. So, if you’re interested in my opinions of the D850 you can contact me. I’ll be happy to share my first impressions.

The first photo above is from Boulevard Park, along Bellingham Bay. Aside from the new camera and lens, this was my first photo using a Lee Big Stopper filter. For those not familiar, the Big Stopper is a neutral density filter that dramatically increases the length of exposure. This extended shutter speed results in any movement becoming blurred. In the case above, the sky and water took on a silky texture. Photographing after sunset during the “Blue Hour” adds to the mood with cooler saturated tones.

Larrabee State Park

Wildcat Cove Sunset, Samish Bay Larrabee State Park, WashingtonWildcat Cove Sunset, Larrabee State Park  #64680  Purchase

The next day I decided to head down to one of my favorite local winter destinations, Larrabee State Park. Usually I stop by Clayton Beach on the south end of the park. However, since I’ve made numerous photos from that great location I decided to check out Wildcat Cove beach. I haven’t been there for many years and I forgot how scenic it can be.

Wildcat Cove Samish Bay Sunset Larrabee State ParkWildcat Cove Sunset, Larrabee State Park  #64695  Purchase

The tide was going out, exposing some interesting and extremely slippery rocks. The winter light was also warm and pleasant with some nice wispy high clouds. Since it was mid-week there weren’t many people. So it was nice to leisurely set up my gear and make a few photos as the sun went down.

I wanted to get in more practice with the Lee Filters so I made couple more tries. Exposures of even a few minutes long seem to take forever when  it’s getting dark and cold!

Wildcat Cove Samish Bay Sunset Larrabee State ParkWildcat Cove Sunset, Larrabee State Park  #64696  Purchase

Want to Learn More?

Would you like to learn more about photography? I offer full day, half day, and multi-day photo tours and instruction. Check out my Private Instruction/Tours page for more info, or contact me directly. I would love to help you take your photography to the next level and shoot like a pro!

 

 

Liberty Bell Mountain North Cascades

New Images Autumn North Cascades

New Images Autumn North Cascades

Liberty Bell Mountain North CascadesLiberty Bell Mountains, North Cascades  #64469  Purchase

My final group of images from 2018 is now online and ready for viewing. As with the past several new releases I have added a selection of highlights to the New Images Gallery. You can see even more by visiting the Washington Gallery or searching by keyword/location.

This past year I have been very fortunate to have been able to visit some exciting new locations in the Midwest and Appalachian Mountains. However, it somehow seems fitting that the year is finishing up with a successful fall trip on my home turf. Washington Pass and Rainy Pass along North Cascades Highway are two of the most scenic sections of the state. This area holds many fond memories for me, so I’ll jump at any chance I can get to photograph there. On this most recent visit in early October I was lucky to have both fresh snowfall and sub-alpine larches at their peak color.

Liberty Bell Mountain North CascadesLiberty Bell Mountain from Washington Pass Overlook  #64568  Purchase

The other location included in this set is even closer to home, Heather Meadows Recreation Area. Just an hour up the road, I’ve been their many dozens of times, for photography, skiing, and hiking. This area of easy access can be very crowded in every season. So on this occasion I hiked the Ptarmigan Ridge trail on a quiet Monday in spectacular fall weather. The next morning I photographed near the ski area just as a few clouds drifted in to herald a change of weather.

Alpine Larches North CascadesSub-alpine Larches North Cascades  #64608  Purchase

Cutthroat Pass Larches, North CascadesBlack Peak and sub-alpine larches, North Cascades  #64521  Purchase

Table Mountain North Cascades WashingtonHeather Meadows Recreation Area #64649  Purchase

Heather Meadows in autumn North CascadesTable Mountain, Heather Meadows Recreation Area  #64642  Purchase

 

Whatcom Peak North Cascades National Park

Whatcom Peak North Cascades National Park

Whatcom Peak North Cascades

Whatcom Peak North Cascades National ParkTapto Lake North Cascades National Park  #61501  Purchase

Here are a few more images from last year’s trip to Whatcom Pass in North Cascades National Park. After going through my files recently I noticed that these images were still in the “sketching” phase of processing. Sometimes looking back at images over time sheds new light on interpreting the feel of subject matters.

To read more about this special place read my earlier post on Whatcom Pass and Tapto Lakes. Now I’m off for several day photographing back at Washington Pass along North Cascades Highway.

Whatcom Peak North Cascades National ParkWhatcom Peak North Cascades National Park  #61502  Purchase

Whatcom Peak North Cascades National ParkTapto Lakes Basin North Cascades National Park  #61515  Purchase