Updated: Mar 13
It's no secret that the Pacific North-West harbors some of the most beautiful landscapes and views in the United States. For those lucky enough to live here, the sights are just a short walk to their back deck. What about further than that though? What lies beyond the tree line or on the summit of those mountains? The answer is more than just beauty. There is an adventurous spirit that consumes you when you venture off into the wilderness of the #Cascade mountain range. You come alive in a whole new way as you breathe in your surroundings and realize that this is NOT a dream.
I spent the majority of my three months in the Tacoma area of Washington. There were endless trails, mountains, views and adventures to be had in a very close proximity to where I was staying, however with an hour to kill in the car I was up in the North Bend, Issaquah area where the true magic comes to life in nature. Here is where the iconic beauty of the Pugent Sound resides and towers over Seattle/Tacoma with it's gorgeous landscapes. One of the most visited parks for me was Mount Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest.
From waterfalls standing as tall as downtown buildings and mountain peaks that take your breath away, this was an absolute go to for any photographer.
The image to the left was captured at Teneriffe Falls. The hike up was gorgeous, but stepping out onto the ice to see this was absolutely breathtaking. I used a Mactrem tripod with a Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 at 24mm and a high f-stop to allow for a longer shutter time creating a motion blur effect in the water flowing through the ice. Anytime I go to capture anything outdoors I will make sure that I have my tripod. It is definitely a must have in almost any photography situation, indoors and out.
Although Washington is covered in National Parks and Forests, there are also plenty of state and local parks that share the same beauty as their counterparts. Tiger Mountain State Park, just west of Snoqualmie was a place that I became very attached to. The hikes were extremely peaceful and surrounded you in forest so thick you couldn't help forget you were anywhere remotely close to civilization. This park claimed a lot of my time and gave me some of my favorite images from my time here. There were always friendly faces along the trails, no matter which one or what park, but Tiger Mountain had some of those amazing secret gems that everyone looks for. A few quiet trails where you get lost in yourself and your surroundings until once in a great while you pass a fellow hiker looking for the same solitude.
It is impossible to talk about photographing nature and landscapes in Washington without mentioning the mecca of PNW outdoors... #MountRainier. Subject of my photography from state and national parks that are actually outside of Mount Rainier NPS, speaks to the sheer size of this mountain. With an elevation of over 14,000 ft and also being an active volcano, Mount Rainier is an amazing sight. Any time of day is a beautiful time to capture this behemoth of a mountain, but the best for me was in the morning when the sun was painting it with a wonderful cool blue/purple light.
This image was taken from Tiger Mountain State Park. My go to set up with #Mactrem tripod, #Canon 5D MkIV and #Sigma 24-70 just as the sun comes up and illuminates Mount Rainier in the distance. I opted for a higher f-stop and longer exposure time to make sure the both foreground and background were illustrated. Although I was considerably outside of Mount Rainier NPS the size of the mountain is recognizable as it towers over other peaks in the Cascade Range.
Going to the actual park, I entered from the North West. As you approach and go into Mount Rainier NPS you are immediately wowed by driving the winding roads up the massive base of Mount Rainier. Surrounded by the other mountains around Rainier, capped with snow and impressive in their own right, these peaks are inspiring to any outdoor enthusiast. However, standing below Mount Rainier and looking up at the size of this massive volcano is a life changing experience as a photographer.
Speaking of! I want to talk about gear that was an absolute must for me. I always carried my Canon 5D MkIV and a Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens. As a photographer that balances nature and portraits the 24-70 is an amazing lens to capture both. The large aperture allows amazing portrait shots in low light situations. Since doing more outdoor photography, I have been doing more outdoor portraits in turn. I have always known that the Sigma was a powerhouse, but to test the ability in an environment as cloudy and dark as the PNW has proven beyond a doubt that it can handle the extreme. When it came to bags, I was always carrying a #Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AWII. Perfect as a daypack, this bag has designated camera gear storage in the bottom of the bag. Above is ample storage for the rest of your trail essentials. I was able to easily strap in my tripod, trekking poles and find space to throw in a 2 liter hydration bladder.
Overall, the best part of getting to spend a few months shooting around the PNW is how incredibly amazing the forests were. Being completely surrounded by towering evergreens with a dense fog that clears off as you gain altitude. Emerging to amazing ledges and views across the landscape of such a beautiful place. I urge every photographer or nature lover to find the time to spend up here. It is beyond worth it for the gorgeous views and experience.
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