Nisqually Glacier, Mount Rainier National Park

Nisqually Glacier, Mount Rainier National Park

I spent quite a long time sitting in one spot at Mount Rainier a few weeks back, just waiting for a view like this to unfold. I made a day trip to the Paradise region of the park, on a day that was mostly foggy and cloudy. After making this photograph, I continued upwards along the trail just enjoying the the hike itself, while hoping for views to open up. As I got higher the cloud really surrounded me, and the trail turned from gravel to snow. It was approaching a full-on white-out when the clouds parted enough ahead of me that Mount Rainier emerged and I very quickly set up my camera to take in what I could. I just happened to be in an ideal spot when it happened, with views up the remarkable Nisqually Glacier all the way to the mountain's summit.

Nature photography is a challenging art form in that so much depends on chance from the perspective of the photographer. Not only did I not know when or if the clouds would break, I didn't know where they might break either. Frankly, I didn't even know where to look for the 14410 foot summit until the clouds parted. I did the best I could to focus the camera and frame a scene and then hope that the clouds would part there. Fortunately, I had some success, but it was a bit frantic in the moments the clouds gave way trying to capture a portion of the scene that worked. In all, I spent about 40 minutes in one spot, and the clouds opened up 3 times, for less than a minute each time. I worked as fast as I could.

The exposure and processing was a bit of a challenge in this photograph. The scene has cloud and fog, snow, and snow in full sun. One intuitively expects each of those elements to appear "white", when the brightness of each actually varied significantly. I used a red 25A filter to lower the value of the blue sky and the exposed rocks, and create a better separation from all of the "white" tones in the scene. My hope is that all of those white tones still appear relatively light, but sufficiently differentiated in their own right. Spending time critically evaluating how a scene like this should appear makes me appreciate challenges working in monochrome. In this case aggressive filtration was key to making an image appear intuitive and unmanipulated.

Tachihara 4x5 | Caltar 210mm f/6.1 | f/22 | 1/60s | Ilford FP4+ | Tripod | HC110(h)

See more related images in my Mount Rainier National Park Gallery.

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