Tuesday, July 31, 2012

August Reports

The August news, access, conditions and prospects for Mt. Rainier NP are now on-line at the NP photo guide. To put it in a few words, August is the best month this year to visit and photograph in Mt. Rainier NP. The snow is almost gone at all but the upper elevations, above 6,000 feet and the wildflowers are abloom aplenty.

That's it for now. The first two weeks will be the best time this year, and from there the weather begins the change to fall in the NP but will still be good for the month through the Labor Day holiday weekend and into September. And you expect lots of visitors at the visitors areas and hikers on the easy trails.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Seattle Met Article

The Seattle Met magazine has published a very good overview article on Mt. Rainier NP with an accompanying article on the Whittaker brothers who helped build the REI cooperative and climbing in Mt. Rainier NP.

The article has good overview articles on the NP, some of the animals, local lodging, and photography in the NP among other information. It's a great background article if you're planning a visit this year or looking to plan one in the future. My main gripe is small, but calling it the "Ultimate Guide" is a bit of a stretch.

The article has a shorter article on 5 hints to better photography in the NP. Ok, they're good hints but not what I would say you need to absolultely follow. Why?

Well, the first hint is the obvious advice professional photographers give for the NP, "The Early Bird Gets the Shot ", which means scout the photo location, get up before early, get to the location before or near dawn (about 30 minutes before sunrise), and set up and wait for the shots.

That's very good advice and what is done to capture those breath taking images you see in publications, around sunrise or sunset. What bothers me is that the writer then quotes a photographer who says, "It just becomes a big white mass” when you shoot Mount Rainier midday, says photographer Nathan Hardebeck, who manages a photo gallery Packwood, just off the park’s southeastern corner.

That's not true. Sure the mountain washes out to some degree in the sunlight and the sky turns a bright to pale blue as often does much of the non-snow covered parts of the mountain. But that doesn't take away the many good to great images available even during the hours of the highest sun. It's the time I prefer to photograph for the simple challenge of getting the shot in that light.

Otherwise the photography advice is excellent, some recite on many of the Web pages for my Mt. Rainier NP photo guide After that it's a good article to get your interest to go to the NP and enjoy and photograph it.

Image by Andrew Waits

Friday, July 20, 2012

Comet Falls Trail

Photo courtesy of NPS

The Comet Falls trail is still closed due to damage from an avalanche. You can get more information and see images from the NP at Mt. Rainier NP on their Facebook page about the damage and the work ahead. The Comet Falls traihead is on the highway between Longmire and Paradise, see map.

There is an alternate route to Van Trump Park via the trailhead for two routes, one at Longmire on the Rampart Ridge trail and one at the trailhead east of Longmire, part of the Wonderland trail, both of which meet the Van Trump trail. These trails bypass the Comet Falls trail but requires you return the same route.

This adds considerable distance to Van Trump Park and Mildred Point so include this time in your plans. There is no known time to repair the trail as the snow will have to melt first before the trail maintenance work can begin, but expect it to take well into mid-August at the earliest.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

LF Photography

For the most part, my photography guide to Mt. Rainier NP is for the serious, and even some professional, photographers, but it's useful for all photographers except one which I have not discussed beyond the commonalities between them and other photographers. And that's large format photography.

This is because I've presented information which often suggest the use of a tripod in photographing in the NP. It's handy with macro photography and other types where you want to set up the camera for a while to shoot from a single spot for a variety of reasons, time lapse photography, panoramic shots, shots using telephoto lenses, and times you want the camera to be throughly stable.

Well, large format photography is different in almost all aspects of photography, but the most obvious beyond the camera and film, is using a tripod everywhere all the time. It's the first piece of equipment you set up once you determine what, when and where you want to photograph in the NP.

That said, using a tripod in Mt. Rainier NP is ok with a few small exceptions. They expect you to set the tripod up so it doesn't interfer with visitors/hikes on the popular trails. I've used my LF camera on the trails in the Paradise area and you just set it up so people can pass you on the trail, especially the shorter paved one in the vicinity of the visitor center.

Another is that you are careful with it and your work off the trail, but more so in the open areas and meadows, to avoid damaging the low vegetation and the mid and upper elevations which damages easily and takes a long time to recover. In many of the wildflower meadows you are required to stay on the trails, especially when there is snow of any depth.

Outside of those restrictions, there's no limitations for large format photography in the NP, just yourself, and the sometimes obvious curious tourists asking questions.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


I have updated the description Web page for the waterfalls in Mt. Rainier NP with a better sections on photography, cameras and equipment, and the light and scene conditions. I will likely update it again in the near future as it is just a general guide, but wanted to get it out for the current wildflower season.

In additon I made small updates the the wildflower map and list Web pages. I personally like the smaller waterfalls, the one on creeks which are often lost in the forest. They're rarely photographed and often harder to get good shots.

That said, this summer is a good year with the higher snowpack, longer snowmelt and higher flows in the creeks and waterfalls. They're all there. Enjoy.

July Reports

The July news, access, conditions and prospect reports are now on-line at Mt. Rainier NP photo guide along with the new Webcams at Sunrise added to the Webcam Web pages. The news for July is two related things, snow and wildflowers.

The higher than normal snowpack and later than normal snowmelt is coming to an end at all but the upper elevations, above 5-6,000 feet and even then above that for many areas in the NP, which means by late July almost all the trails will be snow-free, but the weather will still be cool in the upper elevations, so be prepared.

This leads to the second, wildflowers. They've already started the season in the low-mid elevations meadows and open areas around the NP, and from mid July to early August the season will begin in the mid-upper elevations. So it's go time for wildflowers.

You can check the NPS' Mt. Rainier Twitter and Facebook accounts for the latest news and information.

Other news? Well, the Steven Canyon Road (highway 706) is undergoing repairs at both ends between the intersection of highway 706 and the Paradise road on the western end and the intersection of the highway and the Ohanopecosh entrance at highway 123. These repairs will cause up to 30-minute delays at each of the two sites.

Elsewhere it's the peak season in the NP through the Labor Day holiday weekend. Go and enjoy.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sunrise Webcams

The NPS has installed two Webcams at Sunrise, which you can see here, the view of Mt. Rainier with Steamboat Prow in the center of the image, along with a map of the Webcams. The Camp Muir Webcam is down, the NPS is no longer showing it on the NPS' Webpage. Let's hope they fix or replace it and get it working later this summer. It's a cool view from Camp Muir.

That's it for now, the July reports are in production and the NPS is reporting the wildflowers are blooming along the Stevens Canyon road. There's still snow at the higher elevations so those meadows will likely be about 2 weeks later than usual. The higher than normal snowpack and later snowmelt is melting slightly faster than the normal curve, so by late July into early August, the higher meadows should be in bloom.

So, it's the time to go and time to bring the cameras.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

July Stuff Late

I apologize for being late with any entries in the last week or so. I've been flat on the floor since Sunday with siactica a pinched nerve between the nerves in the spinal cord to the hips and legs. I had a minor episode last year in the left leg and started two weeks ago as a minor episode in the right leg which left my lower leg from the knee to the toes numb.

Sunday the episode got very worse but recovered later in the day. Monday was the day it became a full blown severe pain in the right leg and total numbness from the knee to the toes. The doctors found the two disc for the siactic nerve had a moderate bulging but thought the pinch nerve was "down the line" since the pain wasn't in my lower back but just in the leg(s).

Since Sunday I've been lying on an air mattress since it's the only position where there is little if any pain. By today the pain has dimished to only the area with the numbness, which is the knee, shin and foot/toes. My knee has no response to the reflex test. Yes, totally numb, and the surrounding muscles hurt from compensating or not working.

So that's why nothing is new in a week. I couldn't sit until I found a way to kneel with two pillows in a chair to sit here now, and the pain is bearable. I can only walk for a few minutes before the leg hurts but then the pain stablizes where I can limp around. I have an appointment next week after this week's visit to the local urgent care clinic.

After that it will be specialist(s) to see what, if anything, can be done to overcome what is initially diagnosed as degenerative disc disease. Last year it took 6 weeks to fade away. This looks longer without some medical intervention. It's worse and more widespread.

But now I can work on my computer again to update the blogs and Website for a few minutes before I have to stretch out for awhile. In the end, it's the story of just one's genetics with your spine and back muscles, how you work and live, and how you take care of them. Because when you get old, it hurts a lot more and takes longer to recover.