One Step Back

I’m back from Norway. Well, I’ve been back to Seattle for two months, enjoying my old friends: Olympic National Park, Rainier National Park, Enchantment Lakes and trails around Seattle.

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One of the icon places in Rainier National Park is Reflection Lakes. In fact by far this is the place to photograph at sunrise. And pray the water is still as a mirror. I had not visited it for a while as it is over-photographed in my opinion. I had preferred exploring new places in this vast park.

On a whim of nostalgia since I have not been in the park for four months I went there to enjoy the classic view. It was the first  freezing night of the season. Frost was covering grass, logs, and few remaining leaves. Fog was rising over the lakes and slowly moving over the still water.

There were a few more photographers besides me there. All of them trying to get as close as possible to the water going for pure perfect reflection photograph. I on the other hand step back a bit and have edge of the lake nicely framing the mountain reflection. Here is my almost classic image of the mountain:

But then I thought that what was really interesting and unique about that morning was the first frost. So, I walked away from the lake to the point where I had seen two logs pointing in the direction of the mountain. To me these images are more interesting. The first one was taken before sunrise during twilight and the second one was taken right after sunrise.

Power of B&W

I cannot believe I have not published a post to my blog in so long. It is enough to slip one week without posting and then another week and then not writing becomes a norm rather than exception. Time to break out of that habit. Expect lots of image in rather random chronological order over the next couple months.

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It is one of a rare hot summer weeks in Seattle. The temperature is constantly over 30 during day and nights are warm and humid. On the days like today I want to throw all food out of the fridge and close myself in it. It is a nice thought that I doubt I’ll ever make come true. I’m not that desperate. But that certainly makes a memory of the last winter refreshing. And that’s the memory I want to share with you today.

I love color to the point when I just photograph some color without even any subject. But sometimes the color is a distraction, a nuance that does not add anything or maybe even takes away something. In those case black-and-white image might still be more powerful. I find black-and-white especially working well in winter. One of the main reason is likely that there is not much color in winter in the pacific northwest mountains. The only color is the tone of the sun light breaking thru the clouds and that one is typically weird.

Like in this case the Sun broke thru the clouds just for a moment putting a spotlight on a bunch of trees in a valley. The color was strange but black-and-white tonality of the scene was beautiful.

I’ll Take It!

Couple weeks ago I went to Rainier again. You know I’m falling in love with it. (See my post New Eyes.) While there I met a couple of photographers. We got talking a little bit, all three excited about nice sunset.

On the way back we were passing a view of Paradise Lodge with a nice backdrop of after sunset sky with nice hues of orange, red and blue. Their reaction was “It is not worth taking.” Mine was “I’ll take anything that excites me.” I think it turned out pretty nice.

Paradise Lodge
Paradise Lodge

No Photos Is Ok

[Good] photographer is the one that does not show bad pictures.
Jay Maisel

There are days when I take photos that excite me, photos I love. And then there are other days when I get none. That’s ok. It is continuous learning experience, continuous self-development. The important thing is not to lie to myself and pretend that mediocre photos are good ones. Just because I put up a lot of effort in taking them does not make them good.

On my last trip to Rainier two weeks ago I had those two days. On the first day I was treated to a nice sunset with great color in the clouds and a pink tint on everything on the ground from the light reflected from the clouds. (That’s when I took the photo below.)

On the second day nothing worked out. The photos turned boring and did play any tune in my heart. And you know what? I’m not going to show any photos from the second day. I’m still going to look at them; see if there is anything that can be photographed differently; what and why did not work. I’m learning from bad photos and you’re enjoying good ones.

Sunset at Mt Rainier
Sunset at Mt Rainier

Dream of Stars

When I was a kid I could spend hours watching night sky, dreaming of traveling to the distant stars and other worlds. But I’ve never dreamed of photographing them.

Isn’t the technology amazing? Just a few years who would dream that any ordinary person could photograph stars and see Milky Way the way human eye cannot see. Aren’t these an amazing times we live in?

P.S. Stars, I still dream of you.

Milky Way
Milky Way

New eyes

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Marcel Proust

Have I been to Mount Rainier National Park many times? Sure, I have. It is the closest national park to my home. Have I got a lot of photos from Mount Rainier National Park that I’m proud of? Nope. After all the trips I still did not have emotional connection with that place. The photos, while technically ok, were lacking emotions, strong graphics, or something interesting happening to me. As a result I thought Mount Rainier landscape was just not for me and have not visited it for a long time. Until recently.

Recently a group of three local photographers – Andrey Cherepakhin, John Song and Protik Hossain – lured me to go to Rainier again. They had specific places in mind which I have not visited before. I went along. And I’m glad I did.

Was the trick in having new eyes or was it in visiting places off a beaten path? I don’t know. One of those or both did the trick. Finally, I got photos that are beyond high quality snapshots and capture some emotional scenes of Mount Rainier.

PS At first I stopped typing here and just added photos below. Then I thought it would be worthwhile sharing what I liked about each of them.

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Summer Light and Pattern in a Chaos. I like summer feel of this photo. It was taken “into the sun”, bringing out a lot of green in the grass and lighting up the flowers. I like the contrast between light in the meadow and darkness in the trees. I like V-shape of two slopes. I like how seemingly random while flowers see to be in inverted V shape that draws you into the picture, gives it depth and perspective.

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Light and Shapes. Obviously the reflection is nice in absolutely still water. But what I really like in this photo is the light of the sun right before sunset caught in a sheet of ice floating in the water. The other thing that I like is that the shape of the highlighted piece of ice repeats the shape of Rainier in background.

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Light, Cloud and Frame. The cloud sitting on the top of Rainier, lit up by sunrise is an obvious thing that I like about this photo. The other two are how the mountain is framed by the tree on the left and the tree on the right and how flowers lead to the mountain.

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Shape and Curve. Rock formation on the right and the mountain make up one large curve.

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Leading line. The trail is strongly visible in the right bottom corner of the image continues later closer the center of the image, leading to Tatoosh Range in the distance.

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Layers. There are many layers in this photo on different levels. First, foreground – rock and flowers, middle ground – rocks, stream and snow, mountain and sky in background. Second, half in shadow, half in light. Third, interleaving layers of light snow and dark rocks.

And of cause the cloud lit up from inside is great!

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Mood. Reflection and Clouds. I like reflection of the mountain among the rocks. The cloud around the mountain grew in size to fill up the sky while still keeping the circles around the mountain.

And I like the tough mood of the high elevation landscape. The unrest in the sky. The anticipation of cold fall ahead. A reminder that the summer was almost over.

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Mood. This photo reminds me the kind of photos I see from Iceland. Dramatic heavy skies and flat light. Tough climate creates tough landscape be it Iceland or this small oasis at Mt Rainier.

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Emotions and Light. I like this photo for the same dramatic skies combined with a tenderness of flowers and a island of light breaking thru the clouds.

Being Late

I have a pattern of being later. I always get too involved in photographing wherever I’m and end up being late for photographing sunset wherever I want to photograph sunset. Or I wake up just a little bit late and late to photographing sunrise.

Sometimes it plays out well though. Like in this case I was driving to photograph sunrise at mountain Rainier and I was late, I was too late.

On the way there I was passing a lake as usual. The morning was very cold and steam was rising from the lake. The sky had just a touch of pastel pink from a distant sunrise. I decided that this scene was worth stopping and photographing. Even though I was in a hurry. And that’s how I met the sunrise.