I captured this
image - one of my most successful - on my first attempt, but
I certainly wouldn't call it a lucky shot.
getting up hours before sunrise, finding my way to the lake
in the dark, and waiting for more than a half-hour on the
frozen ground for the sun to finally clear the horizon. But
the resulting image was definitely worth it.
located near Chinook Pass at more than 5,200 hundred feet
above sea level, had been on my list of potential shooting
locations for quite some time. A good friend of mine has a
poster of Tipsoo Lake (taken by another photographer)
hanging in his living room. The poster shows Mt. Rainier at
midday with its severely blurred and barely recognizable
reflection framed by wildflowers. It's not that it's a
terrible image - I always thought the location could be used
to produce a much more inspiring photograph. So in late
October, 2002, I set out to make an image of my own that
would do the lake justice.
Since the lake
is located on the east side of the mountain, I knew I was
going to have to be in position at sunrise. At sunset, the
sun would be on the other side of the mountain, turning
Rainier into a silhouette on film and not giving me a
reflection on the lake. It's tough to find the perfect
vantage point in the dark if you've never been to a location
before, so I decided to make a scouting trip to the lake in
the afternoon, a couple days before I captured this image.
What I discovered was that the lake used by the other
photographer was not the lake that I wanted to use. This
late in the season, the water level was relatively low and
any position that would give me a good reflection would have
too many trees blocking my view of the mountain. So, I
started hiking, hoping to find a better view.
I found my
vantage point about a half-mile away at Upper Tipsoo Lake,
which as the name suggests, was at a higher elevation,
allowing me to shoot over the trees that had blocked my view
before. I then needed to figure out how I was going to find
the vantage point in the dark. I wanted to capture the first
light of the day hitting the mountain. I counted more than a
half-dozen trails branching off from the parking area on
Washington 410 and found the best way to find the trail I
wanted to use was to count the number of roadside markers I
passed walking from the parking lot. I memorized that number
- four - and made plans to come back the first time it
appeared the weather conditions would work out for a
I got that
chance the following Saturday morning. When I went to bed
the night before, I noticed that ground fog was developing
in Seattle. That would suggest that skies were clear above
and I set my alarm clock to go off at 2 a.m. to give me time
to drive to the pass. It was really foggy when I awoke, but
had a couple cups of coffee and set out for the three-hour
drive to the pass, hoping that conditions would be ideal
5,000 feet higher.
weren't quite as I had imagined them. I had thought there
would be steam coming off the partially frozen lake, which
would intensify the reflection. Instead, there was a thick
band of clouds overhead that cut the top thousand feet
off Rainier's peak.
I waited at the
lake anyway and snapped a couple of pictures of
the mountain bathed in alpenglow. Before the sun even rises,
molecules in the air catch some of the sunís rays and bend
them around the earth, illuminating higher peaks while the
land down below is waiting for daybreak. Snow, meantime,
reflects more than 90 percent of the light that falls on it.
It's a pretty scene, though not the one I had visualized.
Making matters worse, a couple minutes later, the mountain
faded to gray.
To get the
dramatic sunrise that I had hoped for, however, I was going
to need a hole in the clouds to develop behind me. Problem
is, my view of Eastern Washington was blocked by Naches
Peak, so there was no way for me to know ahead of time if I
was going to get my shot or not. So I waited, even though I
had doubts I was going to anything worthwhile.
Nearly a half
hour later, a few of the clouds above my head began to turn
red. Seconds later, the grass at my feet turned fiery red,
too. In less than 30 seconds, the red skies raced all the
way to the mountain. I took a dozen or so pictures,
including a tighter vertical composition, in the minute I
had before the dramatic light had faded. The resulting image
was even better than what I had imagined I would get on the
drive up to the mountain.
I hiked back to
the car, a now completely gray mountain stood before me. As
I pulled the warm Thermos of coffee out of the trunk,
another photographer drove up and started to grab his gear.
He didn't know what he missed; I didn't have the heart to