After too many months not attempting to make serious photographs, I finally got out specifically to photograph or make art. For the past few months nearly all of my photography has been centered on documenting adventures, with the vast majority of images shot with my iPhone. First with my iPhone 12ProMax, and more recently the 14ProMx. I have to say, recent smartphones are very capable of producing some outstanding images.

4AM came early. It’s about 2 hours to Paradise at Mt Rainier from Olympia, Washington. On the road by 4:30 got me there around 6:30 – which was honestly a ½ hour late. It was already twilight so I had to be quick – restroom, stuff gear in backpack, camera, etc.. By the time I was set, it was already feeling like daylight, but the sun wasn’t up yet. I photographed the stairs leading out of the parking lot. A classic shot. Then began walking up the skyline trail toward the paradise glacier trail. It’s a tough choice – which direction. There are a few options straight out of the lot. It’s all beautiful. I usually go up Alta Vista, but this time I chose the trail I’d not hiked before. It was a great choice.

Mount Rainier looms large beyond the stairs leading out of the Paradise parking lot.

Its not ideal to photograph as you walk and move along. It’s better to find the scene and composition and wait for the light, and/or work the scene. But I didn’t have that luxury on this day. Today, I was chasing light, as the saying goes.

I made quite a few photographs of the fall colors and mountain. The sun was rising and casting golden light on the mountain. This is a very short-lived window of opportunity. Once the sun strikes the mountain, there are just a few minutes before the contrast between the shadows and highlights that images require bracketing (taking images exposed for both highlights and shadows and then blending them with imaging software such as Lightroom, Photoshop and others), or using a neutral density filter to stop down (reduce the light) in the sky.

Along the skyline trail. My favorite shot of the day. The path remains paved fir a short distance

Soon I came to Myrtle Falls. The access to below the falls was closed which is fine because you can’t see the mountain at the bottom. Above the falls was an amazing scene. The image below is a single shot, with exposure emphasized on the highlights. I brought up the shadows. It wasn’t long after this shot that things got more challenging. And once light starts striking the foreground, the harsh shadows become near impossible to work with.

Above Myrtle Falls, golden light bathes Mount Rainier
Further up Skyline toward Paradise Glacier Trail. Here, the light on the mountain is strong and the golden hour is ending/ended
Some of the amazing colors. I loved the contrast of reds, greens, blue, and yellow.

Once the light was too strong for shooting anything with sky or illuminated, it made for a great opportunity to shoot flowing water while still in the shadows.

A small waterfall along the Paradise River.
Further up the river there was a really neat pool

After shooting the river, I hiked up and joined the Paradise Glacier Trail. From here I would hike the end of the maintained trail, and then a little further up. The end of the glacier is easily a mile past where I stopped, ate an early lunch and turned back. Upon the return I chose to take the Golden Gate trail. It lies between Alta Vista and Skyline.

Fire in the Goat Rocks wilderness. I shot this with my 100-500mm lens zoomed to nearly 500mm. This fire has been burning for well over a month.
Taken on my return, but I hiked in the valley far left. The Paradise Glacier is center/left. The two skiers headed to ski the glacier. Okay! Good luck with that!
Zoomed in on LIttle Tahoma

The photo below is where the Paradise Glacier used to be near decades ago. It is a warning sign that it’s dangerous to enter the ice caves. This spot is about ½ mile past the maintained trail, and beyond this point is far less trodden.

Where the Paradise Glacier once ended.
Glacier melt from high up the mountain, creates a riparian zone as it spans across the valley bottoms. A very interesting feature.
Looking south toward Paradise, the meadow below Paraside and then the Tatoosh

I got lucky on this day. The smokey conditions from forest fires and offshore winds has made western Washington quite smokey off and on since September. On Wednesday this week, the Pacific Northwest had the least healthy air quality in the world. In this case, “we’re number 1” is not something to be proud of. Today, Thursday, we’ve begun to receive moisture and heavier rains and even snow up higher is due this weekend. Hoping the air gets cleared, the numerous fires snuffed out, and new opportunities for making photographs. I think got some content for calendars and cards on this trip. I’m also thinking it’s time to refresh my photo site – and maybe my second site,

And here is a link to some top hikes in Mount Rainier.

As with all my work, prints and greeting cards are available to purchase.

Do you have a favorite image? What do you most prefer to photograph?