When going to a National Park as large and diverse as Mount Rainier, you have to do your research before arriving. There is no way of properly exploring the entire park in only a couple of days, and with parks like this one, it could take months! It is the tallest mountains in the Pacific Northwest at 14,417ft with roads only really letting you get halfway up the mountain.
Given that we were visiting in August, it was the end of the wildflower season there. I made the decision that hiking around the Paradise area would be our best bet. Teague, a good friend of mine, was joining on this excursion!
When we arrived there were a few clouds popping up around the peak, but other than that, the skies were fairly clear. There is no shortage of hiking trails around the Paradise area. We chose to hike up towards Glacier Vista and see how we were doing at that point. Sunset was about 2.5 hours away when we started the hike from the overnight parking lot, leaving plenty of time to stop along the way for photos.
The hike up Alta Vista (while being an extremely steep part of the ascent) offered some incredible views of the valley leading down to the Paradise Inn. Continuing up it was a simple hike as we gradually rose above the tree line. I was growing more and more concerned since the only flowers remaining were looking very weathered. It was turning out to be a gorgeous hike even without the photo I had in mind. Being surrounded with views like these I couldn’t complain! Seeing Mt. Adams in the distance catching the last rays of direct light over the Tatoosh Mountain Range was stunning!
It took us about an hour and a half to get to Glacier Point, and it was looking more promising with a handful of decent looking flowers left. None were in a great spot to shoot with the mountain in the background without distractions in frame. We decided it was worth exploring more if only to see more of the park. Getting closer and closer to Panorama Point the elevation was really becoming evident. The terrain was extremely rocky and large patches of snow still remained!
A fork in the road offered us an option to explore the road less traveled. A steep path up to the top of the ridge leads to Camp Muir which climbers use as their base camp for ascending the mountain. We took it mostly because we saw a neat little stream nearby that looked too perfect.
This path actually ended up leading up a short distance more, and at the edge of the cliff sat a very large patch of wildflowers still looking very good. There was still about a half hour left before sunset so we decided to have a quick snack before capturing the scene around us and heading back down in the dark. I was able to capture two compositions before calling it a day.
The image I was after was with the lupine in the foreground with the immense scale of Mount Rainier in the background during sunset. A couple layers of ridges and glaciers lead the eye from the foreground through the scene, up the mountain, as the last rays of sunlight skim the peak. I captured exposures of ¼ of a second each at ISO 200 and f/13. The shallow aperture was still not enough for sharp focus from front to back though so I was forced to focus stack 6 images together in Photoshop as I was only maybe 6 inches from the closest flower in frame. I have finally gotten the hang of focus stacking and have thought about creating a separate post in the near future with some tips and tricks I have used to find consistent success in challenging environments like wind, layered objects, and being extremely close to your subject.