I had long planned a night shot of Mt. Rainier from Reflection Lakes under starlight, but the weather had been un-cooperative. This time, too, in late September, weather patterns were quite unstable and unpredictable. Still, since we were already staying at the Paradise Inn, halfway up on Rainier, I decided to wait till sunset and then see if a drive to the lakes was advisable or not.

As sunset approached the sky became darker with heavy clouds, and a steady rain with fog set in. Nothing was visible beyond a few yards, let alone any stars or the volcano itself even though we were lodged on its very slopes. One by one the other guests, huddling around the fireplaces in the grand hall, decided to call it a day, abandoning any hope of seeing anything. I did the same, resigned to the likelihood of yet another visit with no night shots to show for it.

A little past 10:30PM I was starting to doze off in a warm bed, lulled by the fading sound of raindrops at the window. Then something, an inner voice as it were, urged me to get up and take a look out the window one more time. And, up above, I saw stars! The fog still lingered around the Inn but straight above there were clearly stars to be seen and they were getting brighter by the minute. Should I take a chance abandoning a cozy room and bed, getting dressed and driving to the lakes on the empty roads of a dark, cold, soggy and deserted National Park, in the middle of the night?? It took me a couple of minutes to decide that it was worth taking a chance; I don’t get to Rainier as often as I should.

At the lakes, it looked as though nothing was going to happen. Sure, there were stars above, millions and millions of them, but both the mountain and the lakes were socked in deep layers of fog. I decided to wait in the truck a while, anyway, running the engine every few minutes to keep warm. I was planning to wait till 11:30 then if the mountain remained invisible, give up for good.

At around 11:15, looking for something to do, I decided to get out and set up tripod and camera, as though the fog was about to open up. It didn’t seem like anything was changing but “just in case…” Of course it was so dark I couldn’t see to compose an image so I had to go with my best guess…

I had hardly finished setting up when the fog started dissipating and blowing off!! Amazing! “If you build it they will come” was the movie line that popped in my mind… and I started my long exposure shots before my fingers froze solid… then added some light painting…
rainier_at_midnight