There are times when you feel impatient, wanting to do something, and yet, you can’t, since there are factors that block you from doing that. Like going out and getting a midnight coffee, and then not getting one due to health concerns, or going out and getting wet in the rain, but not doing it so as to not fall ill. Or maybe the good old days of going out and playing sports, only to stay back and prepare for that meaningless exam. For quite some time, I have been wanting to go and spend the night at mount rainier and catch the milky way over the giant. Problem? Can’t do that over a weekday, and weekends had some or the other plans. The trip kept seeing so many delays. I came close to going once, but Seattle weather showed its true colors and the trip had to be cancelled.
This Saturday night was another of my “planned” attempts to go to rainier. I was at a friend’s wedding till about 11 PM , which in its own was another interesting event. Not much of a dancer you see, so a few moves and I have had it. So I decided to head to rainier, as I had found that the weather at Mount Rainier was going to be “94% clear” between 1-3 PM in the night. Truth be told, I was highly doubtful about it, since it had been cloudy all day, but 94%?? …yeah, I will take that…. good enough for me.
So we started driving to Rainier and I do not remember seeing a single car ahead of me, neither crossing me. There were cars coming back from the opposite direction. Just as I was about to enter the Mount Rainier national park, I had to apply a sudden break, had this big deer cross the road right ahead of me. It took us 1:45 minutes to reach the sunrise point from wedding in Seattle. I got down and looked outside, it was AMAZING! Not only I could see numerous stars in the sky, I could identify the full milky way in the sky. Definitely less contrasting than the one I saw at crater lake, but it was still surreal.
So I took a couple of shots from the sunrise point, while the milky way was to the left of mount rainier. They all came out pretty nice. Then I decided to take a couple of shots with me in the frame along with the headlamp. I got this one attached.
I had taken one shot without the headlamp, which had me and Taryn , but it was a little difficult to identify the foreground without the flashlight.
After a few more shots , I decided to drive closer, near the sunrise visitor center parking lot, since I remember there were better views closer to the mountain. Also driving up north will buy us enough time so that the milky way is right on top of mount rainier. At this time, I decided to shoot in vertical frame to cover as much of the milky way as possible. I parked my car, set up my tripod in front of the parking lot and got this to start off (this happens to be my best shot from the night too)
After enough shots with the mountain, it was time to try out my newly purchased headlamps again. So out it came, and set the camera on timer and ran and stood still for 30 seconds. Yes, that’s what you do to get these shots. If you observe carefully, you can probably still observe me shaking a little, possibly because of a little flicker while standing still. (however grammatically incorrect that may sound). Unfortunately, I had to shoot in high ISO, since I wanted to get as much details from the galaxy. I few trials , and I had my masterpiece.
It was now time to drive up the mountain somewhere on the trail. “Bears are active in this area” signboard didn’t help much. I was lucky though as I found a few fellow photographers on the trail and they told me its all clear. After hiking for about 15 minutes, I decided to set my camp at a dark location where I could see rainier and milky way (which by this time, had passed rainier).
On my way back, I noticed that one of the trees had been lit up pretty nicely from the lights coming from the guest lodge a little distance away, so I took another shot (my second fav after the one with rainier).
A quick check on the clock, and its already 3:40 AM. Last 2.5 hours have gone really fast. I am still not sleepy, but with sunrise 2 hours away, and another 2 hour drive back home, it was time to sleep in my car. So I took out the blankets and off to sleep we went. Not very helpful with the cold weather. It was almost freezing, and I had to switch on my car 5 times in 2 hours. At 5:30, I had seen enough, so I got out and realized all the stars were gone, and we were left with the pre-sunrise blue colored sky. I walked in the cold up to a little pathway (now easily seen as compared to night) and took a shot with the blooming wildflowers.
After this, I packed my camera and just waited for the sun to rise. But when I did, it was something else. I thought milky way was the best sight I would leave with, but the golden aura that rainier developed when those early morning rays fell on it, was truly amazing. I took my last shot of the day. I call this the “Golden Sunrise”.
By this time, 6:45 AM, things were getting pretty warmed up, and it was time for us to head back home. So I looked at the giant one last time, and turned back to my car, only to return again, hopefully in another “planned trips”