Thursday, June 30, 2011
Hey again everybody. I apologize that the last two mountain-y pictures I’ve posted have both been wintertime shots. That wasn’t really the intention, it’s just kind of the way things worked out. But, I figured this one was appropriate because I just used it (earlier today!) to enter some cheeseball photo contest that Crystal Mountain (the ski resort) is having. Normally I make it a policy not to enter photo contests. Officially, my reasoning is that photos themselves (and the “quality” thereof) is entirely subjective, and thus the judging of photos to choose the “best one” is completely absurd. That there can be no such thing as a “best” photo, and so to pretend that you are judging photos as such is kind of insulting. Unofficially though, the real reason is because I know I wouldn’t win, and then I know that would make me feel bad. I generally prefer to not feel bad, so I save myself the trouble and I don’t enter, convincing myself that the *real* reason I didn’t enter was the one stated above.
So.. why did I enter this one, then? Not really sure, I guess I was just in a photo contest entering mood. And that’s a total lie. The reason I entered this one is because they were showing some of the other photos that had been entered so far, and they all basically sucked. I mean, like, photos-taken-with-cell-phones sucked. So I basically qualified my reasoning from above, by adding the clause “once the photos meet a certain, fairly low quality bar”. As in, “Once the photos meet a certain, fairly low quality bar, there can be no such thing as a ‘best’ photo”. I still don’t think I’ll win, because I figure the chances are pretty low that mine will be the only “real” (ie non cell-phone) photo entered, and it’ll probably be fairly arbitrary which one is picked as the winner (meaning, “somebody else will enter a picture that’s actually really effing cool”), but hey, we’ll see what happens. The rules were somewhat strict, in that it had to be a picture of Mt. Rainier taken from somewhere on Crystal mountain. But, since you can basically only see Rainier from the ridgeline at the top of the resort, most of the photos entered looked… basically the same. This one’s just a little bit different from the standard view (an example of which can be seen here, which was almost the one I submitted), so I’m hoping that counts for something. I had some *really* different shots, zooming way in so you could just see some of the trees you can see in this shot against the glacier in the background, but it wasn’t readily identifiable as Mt. Rainier, so I figured that might be a bit of a stretch. So, I settled on this one, and then moved on with my life. Which is also a lie, because clearly I’ve been talking about this stupid little photo contest for two paragraphs here on my entirely unrelated blog, so obviously it’s been on my mind most of the day, which is absurd. But, there it is.
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Canon 55-250mm IS lens. 1/200s, f/14, ISO 100. Focal length: 65mm.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Hey folks! I’ve got a number of items for discussion today, relating to today’s photo. How exciting! Normally I just have to sit there and try to manufacture something to talk about. But not today! I have actual content for you! Woooo!
So, first of all, what are we looking at? This was taken in Mt. Rainier National Park, and yes, that’s Mt. Rainier (the 14,410 foot tall volcano) peeking out from above that ridgeline in the upper left. This was taken on the day that I hiked the Borroughs Mountain trail, although at this point I believe I was still on the Sourdough Ridge trail, which takes you up to the Burroughs trail proper. You can see the junction in this picture though (well, you can see where the junction is, but the junction itself isn’t significant enough to be recognizable), and you can see the Burroughs trail heading up and to the left, cut out of that hillside there. These trails start at Sunrise point, which is on the east side of the mountain. (Although it feels like the north side, since drive up and around the north side of the mountain to get there, on Highway 410, which is also the road that takes you to Crystal Mountain Ski Resort.) The other, more popular spot that takes you fairly high up on the mountain (6000 feet or so I think) is called Paradise, and it’s on the south side.
So, on to the things that I actually had to talk about. Let’s go ahead and get started on those, in no particular order.
A couple times recently, when talking about my strategies for choosing fall color hikes, I mentioned in passing a hike I went on last year, where I screwed up and aimed too high. I ended up in a spot that had no more color left, and in fact was covered in a light dusting of snow. This was that hike. It was still a great day and I’m still glad I went, but the original goal, finding fall color, was not fulfilled. (Well, I guess you could say that “white” is a color that is sometimes encountered in fall. Or, you could even claim that since white is ALL colors, that all of the fall colors I was looking for were included. But that would be lame and pedantic, and I would cut our conversation short at that point.) A week or two earlier, there may have been some nice bushes and low ground color that was turning color, but clearly it’s done for the year at the time this shot was taken.
Next up, I’m going to point out how painfully obvious it was that this picture was taken with a super wide-angle lens. It’s no secret that wide-angle lenses cause some pretty severe distortion as you move away from the center, particularly in the corners. Depending on how you frame the picture, that often isn’t really an issue. But if you put something that normally has a really recognizable shape in the corner, like, oh I don’t know, a face, or a really famous mountain peak, then it becomes a little bit more obvious. So, yeah, that’s still obviously Mt. Rainier. But, umm, it kind of looks a little bit funny. Hahaha, look at that funny looking mountain.
That’s enough specifically about this image. For now, anyway. This paragraph is going to be spent talking about my opinions on something slightly more general. That being: where to hike around Mt. Rainier. It’s been becoming more and more apparently to me over the last year or two that the primary direction of the views along a particular trail can really make a difference in the resulting quality of your images. And, unfortunately, none of the trail guidebooks I’ve seen really call this out at all, which then leaves it up to me to try to determine as best I can. You probably all realize that the angle and the quality of the light makes a huge difference in a picture. In general (any rule in photography always needs that disclaimer, “in general”), when you’re looking at something that’s in the same general direction as the sun, you’ll get ugly backlight. When hiking in the summer, that means you won’t get any blue sky, and you’ll probably see a lot of haze between you and the subject. It’s true that those exact factors can be used to great affect, but they can make things like mountains look.. not as nice as you’d like. Conversely, if the sun is behind you, it can look better, or there are a lot of angles in between that are better still. So, why am I talking about this? Well, pretty much anywhere you go other than between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, the sun will have a predominant angle. In the northern hemisphere, while it’s true that “the sun rises in the east and sets in the west”, it spends basically the entire day in the southern sky. Meaning, if you’re going to be looking at things south of you all day, you’re going to be backlit all day. If you’re looking at stuff to the north, it’ll be pretty much directly illuminated all day. If you’re looking at stuff to the east, it’ll look real nice in the afternoon. And stuff to the west will look nice in the morning. Unfortunately, unless you’re staying in the area, it can be tough to get to Sunrise early in the morning. Meaning, every time I go there, I’m hiking in the afternoon. Since Rainier is west of the trails, you get a bunch of backlight and haze. Boooo. So, if you’re planning a hike around Mt. Rainier, and you know you’ll be up there primarily in the early afternoon, might I suggest heading to Paradise instead of Sunrise?
Now here’s where I’m really going to change gears and throw you off. But I’m still going to be talking about the angle of the sun, so it’ll totally seem like I planned it out. So, any skier or snowboarder who takes the sport seriously knows that north-facing slopes are generally preferable. The reason why goes back to what I was talking about in the last paragraph: in the northern hemisphere, the eastern and western slopes get full-on sun for about half the day each, and southern facing slopes get it basically all day long. But the northern facing slopes are nice and sheltered all day. Thus, the snow stays nice and fresh. And this picture illustrates that nicely. Granted, this was snow from just one early-season storm, but since I was facing basically due west when I took this shot, you can see that all of the north-facing slopes are covered in snow, while all of the south-facing slopes have melted clean. Neat, right? Yup, neat.
That’s it! Or, maybe that’s not it, but that’s all of it that I remembered by the time I sat down to write it!
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens. 1/400s, f/10.0, ISO 100. Focal length: 11mm.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Today’s picture was taken on the way up Burroughs Mountain, in Mt. Rainier National Park. The trail leaves from Sunrise, which is on the eastern side of the park. This was just a few weeks ago – I had hoped to find a hike with some good fall color, but as you can tell, I aimed a bit too high. There was plenty of color a couple thousand feet down (I was about about 7 or 8 thousand feet), but up here it was all well past the peak and covered in a dusting of snow. Oh well, it was still really pretty.
There are of course two ways (well, two EASY ways anyway) to get into the high country in the park – Sunrise and Paradise. Sunrise being, as I mentioned, on the east side of the park (near Crystal Mountain), and Paradise on the south. For whatever reason, I’ve spent much more time at Sunrise than at Paradise. They’re both fantastic, but it’s worth mentioning that if what you’re after is awesome views of Rainier itself, and you’re hiking in the afternoon, you may want to head to Paradise. The sun of course sets in the west, so in the afternoon Rainier is backlit, so it’s much harder to see all the detail of the glaciers and such. But that’s not the point here.
That last sentence sort of implies that there *is* a point here. I’m pretty sure that’s not true. But if there was one, it wouldn’t be that.
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Tamron 28-75 mm lens. 1/500s, f/6.3, ISO 100. Focal length: 62mm.
Monday, July 20, 2009.
This was taken last summer, when Julie and I took advantage of a sunny Saturday to go on a drive around the state. This was at the end of June, so I was surprised that there was still that much snow up there. (The original plan was to have a picnic next to the little alpine pond that would otherwise be right at the bottom of the frame.) We had driven east over White Pass (Highway 12) out to Yakima, then back west over Chinook Pass, which takes you through Mt. Rainier National Park. The ideas for 1) a drive and 2) a picnic in the high country came about because of the ridiculously HOT weather. (It topped out at 102 near White Pass – unheard of for western Washington!!). This way, we would be nice and cool in the air conditioned car, and when we DID get out, we’d be so high up that it’d be a lot cooler.
I was just going through these pictures last night (for the photojournal), so I figured I’d go ahead and post one, even though they didn’t turn out quite like I had hoped. But, this one serves as a decent example of how the haze introduced by looking towards the sun can have a nice (instead of detrimental) effect on a picture. If the haze wasn’t there, you wouldn’t be able to see the edges between the dark trees in front, and the ridgeline in the mid-distance. Plus I felt that the increasing haziness did a good job of providing the depth between each of the three main layers. I’ll be honest, I don’t really like how on the right edge of the frame, I cut off the peak on an up-slope. For me, it makes it feel incomplete, like part of the story is missing. As in, if it was cut off on a downslope, it’d be like “Okay, there’s the peak, that’s what I’m looking at”. As it is, it’s like “Okay, there’s one peak, I wonder what’s just to the right there…” A very nitpicky feeling, but that’s the way I am with my pictures. (And when I tell people to “figure out exactly what it is you like and don’t like about the picture so you can keep that in mind next time”, that’s exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about. And, now I’ve got everyone thinking negatively about this picture and focused on its weakest point. Lovely. What a crappy picture.
Notes: Canon EOS Rebel XT, Tamron 28-300 mm lens. 1/800s, f/7.1, ISO 200. Focal length: 100mm.