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Mount Rainier National Park Travel Photography

Mount Rainier National Park is located in Washington State, and oh, what a great state it is.  We loved this trip; although we hit a lot of rain in June, it was still incredible. Some rainforest areas that the staff fell in love with that changed our whole perspective on rain. The elk just blew us away. We stood with this pack of elk for over an hour with our Canon 100-400mm lenses. We were all waiting for the baby to wake up and stand up. Mama fell asleep while we were standing next to her, telling her to wake up the baby. They let Pam right into the herd.

The mountain rises quickly, with elevations a little over 14,000 feet. There are valleys, waterfalls, and more than 25 glaciers.  There was a volcano that we didn’t see. It was shrouded in clouds. There are enormous amounts of rain and snow in this park. That’s what makes unbelievable rain forests possible.

Christine Falls – One of many waterfalls in Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park Photography

You can’t miss this spot right along the road on the way up the mountain. There is not much parking along the road, but we got lucky. It was a Saturday in June, and there were only two other people besides us.  We photographed this spot for about an hour. It was one of our favorite places on the journey. As you can see, it was very cloudy/foggy and rainy this day.

We had to find the exact place to see the falls without the tree limbs our way.  This first picture was shot at 4 sec. f/22, ISO 100.  f/22 and ISO 100 is standard for your waterfall photography, and you must be on a tripod to do a long exposure. Your shutter speed will vary depending on your filter.  We like the Tiffen 1.2, which we used here. It only gives a slight color cast and is easily correctable.  It was enough on a cloudy/rainy day to easily allow a 4-second exposure.  See Neutral Density Filters and learn about them here if you are not yet familiar with them. Have some lens clothes handy when shooting in the rain, and don’t forget your lens hood and camera raincoat.


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Mount Rainier National Park Photography – One night, we stayed at the top of the Mountain at The Paradise Inn. It was raining and getting dark. If we were to continue or turn around, it would be an hour’s drive down the winding mountain back to the nearest lodging, so we stayed, and we enjoyed it.  The food was fantastic. Everything was good. The service was excellent, the presentation very friendly, and overall, we would rate it an 8 out of 10. The prices were not too insane, being in the middle of nowhere and the only food source. The atmosphere is out of this world! If I died and went to heaven, this rustic cabin atmosphere is where I would end up. It’s like a ski lodge environment with giant fireplaces and but no skiers.

The room was excellent, but there was no TV or internet. Boy, we were lost. We went to the library area in this substantial rustic log-cabin-style country-type place, and we chatted with some fellow non-tv watchers. We survived. Our only complaint was where we were; the walls were paper thin. One of the staff roared, “Isn’t it nice that I can hear every word of your conversation as if I were in your room.” The hint was not taken.  We were in the smaller rooms for $117.00 with no bathroom. I have to wonder if the $ 267.00-night rooms were any better. (2015)

Mount Rainier National Park Photography

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More Food and Hotels Inside the park:

Be careful. You sometimes have too long of a way to go before getting to the food locations. Be sure to bring snacks and water.

The National Park Inn at Longmire includes a restaurant that is usually open year round, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is the only in-park dining facility that is open all year.

Adjacent to the National Park Inn, the Longmire General Store offers a limited selection of groceries and camping supplies, as well as gifts and souvenirs.

The Paradise Inn includes a restaurant and a small cafe. Like the Inn, both the restaurant and the cafe are open only from May to early October. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as Sunday brunch. The cafe offers hot drinks, grab-and-go meals, and other quick food items.

The Paradise Camp Deli, a cafeteria located in the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise, is usually open weekends and holidays in the winter and daily from May through early October.

The Sunrise Day Lodge includes a snack bar. Sunrise Day Lodge is usually open from July through September.

How to Shoot Milky Way and Night Sky Photography

What you will need:

Light pollution map light pollution map

Camera – You will need a camera to control your ISO, shutter speed, and aperture manually.

Lens – A fast wide-angle lens of 1.4 – 2.8 is ideal. If you use a 3.5 or higher (slower lens), you will have to increase the ISO. The higher the ISO the more grain or digital noise or grain that will appear in your photos. Nikon’s 28mm f/1.8G or Canon’s 28mm f/1.8 are good choices if you go lens shopping for your night photography trip.

Tripod – A good sturdy tripod is essential for night photography. If it gets windy, you will need a sturdy one, and we never know what Mother Nature will bring us while we are out there. Keep that in mind when you buy one to go in your suitcase if you are going on a plane. It should be sturdy enough to withstand the wind but small enough to fit in your bag.

Sky Map – Sky Guide is available through the iTunes Store for $1.99. It has a 5 out of 5-star rating on both the current (3.2) version (1200+ ratings) and all previous versions (8600+ ratings).   Android Version? Sky Guide is not currently available as an Android app. The closest thing I can suggest is SkySafari ($2.99).

Flashlight –  Our choice is Coast brand for flashlights. The ideal flashlight will have high lumens, and you will be able to zoom the in and out on the amount of light emitting from the flashlight. I like a small stream of light, not a wide amount of light. That was I can be specific as to what exactly I want to paint with light. Get the HP7, PX45, or the G50. Ideally, go with the  HP7 if you can.

Light Pollution and Moon Phaze Map – The best time to go is during a new moon, and you want to be in the darkest area possible.

Remote Shutter Release – When painting with light and going over a 30-second exposure, you must have a shutter release to use your bulb mode. When exposing your pictures in general, you can use the remote release not to use your hand to press the shutter button and make the camera move even a little bit.

Milky Way Photography

Use a Tripod – You must be on a tripod. A good sturdy tripod is necessary if it is windy. If the tripod moves your picture will blur.

Focus – Use live view. When you use live view, your mirror locks up, and it does not drop, so avoid any movement inside the camera.

To focus in the dark, use your camera’s live view and focus on a bright star. You can also use the infinity setting on your lens but do several test shots to see accuracy. It can be off a little on some lenses.

ISO – Start with ISO 3200.  This is just a common starting point, and you will adjust from here.

Shutter Speed – Remember the earth is rotating. If you leave the shutter open for too long, you will see star trails that will not make for a crisp image. You can do star trails specifically, but that’s not what we are going for here since we are starting with milky way photography. We want crisp non-star trail images when doing this. Here is the formula to avoid star trails. The 500 rule – Divide 500 by the focal length of your lens. So, if you have a 24mm lens on a full-frame camera, you will set your shutter speed to 20 sec. (500/24 = 20.83). If you are using a crop sensor camera, first do the math of the crop sensor to find the focal length. Cannon is 1.6, Nikon is 1.5. Convert to full-frame focal length, then use the formula. Nikon 18mm x 1.5= 27mm – 500/27 = 18.51 seconds.

Aperture – Depth of field isn’t critical on these shots, but letting the light into the camera is, so you should shoot wide open. If the depth of field is essential to you, try not to go too high. (wide open = the lowest aperture your camera will allow, ex. 2.8).

Those are all of the essential starting points for doing your milky way shots.  You will want to find some exciting foregrounds to make your shot dynamic. Doing plain old milky way shots will not win you any awards.

White Balance – Always shoot your night photography raw so you can edit it retain the most detail.  When in live view mode, you can change your white balance settings and see what it will look like. You can shoot in shade or cloud as a standard setting and adjust things later.

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