Why Mount Rainier Makes The Perfect Place To Photograph In Autumn

Images from Mount Rainier in the Pacific Northwest Of Washington State

A unusual lenticular cloud and fall color from Mazama Ridge on Mount Rainier

Fall colors and Mt Rainier from Bench Lake

Fall colors and Mt Rainier from Bench Lake

Autumn is my favorite time for photographing in the Pacific Northwest. There are many places to capture fall colors, but nothing quite compares to photographing Mount Rainier in autumn. The Pacific Northwest and Mount Rainier make the perfect combination of elements needed for stunning images of fall photography. Not only is Mt Rainier known for its larger than life size, but also it picturesque lakes, waterfalls, meadows, and tundra.

Stunning display of fall colors and late afternoon light from Mazama Ridge

Stunning display of fall colors and late afternoon light from Mazama Ridge

Although it varies year to year, I find the best time for fall colors is the last week of September to Mid-October. The color usually lasts until the first week of November when the snow first starts. Check fall reports on the Internet and the Mt Rainier website for more up to date information. There are two main areas to visit when going to Mt Rainier,  the Paradise and the Sunrise sides. Both have excellent fall color and a host of different aspects to photograph.

Fall displays of color in Paradise Meadows beneath Mount Rainier

Fall displays of color in Paradise Meadows beneath Mount Rainier

In my experience, the fall colors start a few weeks earlier on the Sunrise side. The best places to photograph on the Sunrise side are Yakima Peak, Emmons Glacier (Silver Forest Trail), and the Tipsoo Lake area.

Take time to explore around Tipsoo Lake, especially the Naches Peak trail and both the Upper and Lower Tipsoo surrounding lakes. Early morning around Tipsoo Lake usually has a host of colors and mist that make for excellent atmospheric images. When photographing in late September the stunning sunrises make for great fall conditions.

Images from the Southern Oregon Coast

From Above Tipsoo Lake On The Sunrise Side

First change of colors from Lower Tipsoo Lake on Mt Rainier

First change of colors from Lower Tipsoo Lake on Mt Rainier

In terms of the foliage, red huckleberry and larch is what you can expect to find on Mt Rainer. The other types of foliage you see are cottonwoods, willows, elderberry, aspen, tamarack (western larch) and evergreen trees. Although there are several types of foliage to shoot in autumn on Mt Rainier, my personal favorite is the Red Huckleberry. Visually, the red is very impactful and always sticks out above other fall foliage. When photographing try to incorporate the red huckleberry with areas of water like lakes and ponds. The reflection of the red foliage mirrored looks stunning.

The road up to Mt Rainier and the Tatoosh Range

The road up to Mt Rainier and the Tatoosh Range

The first sign of fall color is the red huckleberry, followed by larches in the later stages of autumn.When it comes to photographing on the Paradise side of Mount Rainier I like to start off by looking for fall colors at the Paradise Inn. The area around the Inn has a great view of the mountain. The best displays of fall color right can be found right at the visitors center.

Fall color and the mountain enveloped in cloud formations from just above the Paradise Visitor Center

Fall color and the mountain enveloped in cloud formations from just above the Paradise Visitor Center

Heading up the pathway to Myrtle Falls, the fall colors and view of the mountain only get better. Try to incorporate waterfalls from the Paradise Side.

Myrtle Falls and sunset explosion of red

Myrtle Falls and sunset explosion of red

A Trail Of Color and Myrtle Falls Beneath Mt Rainier

A Trail Of Color and Myrtle Falls Beneath Mt Rainier

Although the hike can be somewhat strenuous, the hike is worth it. If you keep along the path they converge into the Paradise Valley where the mountain is in full view. If you turn 180 degrees away from the mountain you get grand views of the Tatoosh range. The Tatoosh Range looks best at sunset.

Overlooking the Tatoosh range from Paradise Meadows on Mt Rainier

Overlooking the Tatoosh range from Paradise Meadows on Mt Rainier

The perfect spot to see the Tatoosh Range At Sunset in fall colors

The perfect spot to see the Tatoosh Range At Sunset in fall colors

When the weather looks active and the clouds are moving in, the Paradise Meadows also makes a great sunset spot.  Sometimes the clouds block views of Mt Rainier. However, the colors on the Tatoosh Range look excellent. In essence, the Paradise Meadows is your safest bet if you are looking to capture some fall colors on the mountain.

If you continue up the hill past Myrtle Falls, you will eventually reach the Mazama Ridge. It’s my favorite area to see the mountain and fall color. With wide-open meadows of vibrant color, and full views of the mountain it makes for an excellent combination.

Images from Mount Rainier in the Pacific Northwest Of Washington State

Images of Mt Rainier from Mazama Ridge and A Lenticular Cloud Buildup

The total hike in and out from the Mazama Ridge is about 4 miles. There are several areas to stop along the way to photograph fall colors. If you like to shoot reflection images of the mountain, you can’t do better than both the Reflection and Bench Lake areas.

Images from Mount Rainier in the Pacific Northwest Of Washington State

Images from Mount Rainier and Bench Lake

Early morning atmospheric mist at the beginning of autumn along the Reflection Lakes Trail

Early morning atmospheric mist at the beginning of autumn along the Reflection Lakes Trail

I always make an annual stop at these lakes early in the morning to capture both atmospheric mist and fall colors.The hikes around the lake also present many possibilities to shoot more intimate shots of autumn.If you are looking to capture images of fall color and forest scenes, then head into the Grove Of Patriarchs. Many short hikes in this forest provide stunning forest views of the tall trees and fall colors.

Intimate image of autumn within the Grove of Patriarchs loop

Intimate image of autumn within the Grove of Patriarchs loop

To get really creative, try photographing really low to the ground and aim straight up with the camera. Look to combine both  fall colors and evergreen trees together. With so many places to photograph on Mt Rainier, you always have many options available.

If you are lucky enough to live close to the mountain, September is a great time to watch the mountain for unusual weather activity. The elevation of Mt Rainier is so high it creates its own weather system. Therefore, your chances of seeing unusual weather patterns like lenticular cloud buildup is quite possible.

The formation of a lenticular cloud around Mt Rainier from the Paradise Visitor Center

The formation of a lenticular cloud around Mt Rainier from the Paradise Visitor Center

In layman terms, lenticular clouds are those clouds that look like UFO’s in the sky. They are caused by encounters with obstructions in the sky like very high mountain peaks. Known also as “wave clouds” they make for very interesting patterns and when combined with fall colors make for ideal conditions. In autumn, I check the webcams quite often looking for a buildup of these clouds as it takes often several hours to develop. The Paradise Valley makes for one of the best spots to see this unique weather pattern. Another place that I will often see these weather patterns is along the Silver Forest Trail, which is about .5 of a mile from the parking lot at the Sunrise Visitor Center.

Late afternoon light and a lenticular cloud combine for a stunning moment along the Silver Forest Trail on the Sunrise side of Mt Rainier

Combine all of the elements of unusual weather, stunning sunrises, and atmospheric conditions and Mt Rainier makes for the perfect autumn spot to photograph.

~ by kevinmcneal on October 11, 2015.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: