Northeast of Seattle, Washington, stands Mount Baker, a spectacular 10,781-foot andesitic stratovolcano. It’s located within the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. There you’ll find glacier-covered peaks, spectacular mountain meadows and old-growth forests. After Mount Rainier, Mount Baker is the most heavily glaciated of the Cascade Range volcanoes; the volume of snow and ice on Mount Baker, 0.43 cubic miles is greater than that of all the other Cascades volcanoes (except Rainier) combined. It’s one of the snowiest places in the world; in 1999, Mount Baker Ski Area, located 8.7 miles to the northeast, set the world record for recorded snowfall in a single season—1,140 inches.
Mount Baker Ski Area is often featured in ski and snowboard films and still photography due to its picturesque setting, plentiful snowfall and the availability of easily accessed advanced terrain. Although Mount Baker can be seen from Artist Point at the ski area, the most frequently photographed vista is of Mount Shuksan, the most photographed mountain in Washington. My goal was to capture a unique view of Mount Baker following a heavy snowfall, but not from the ski area nor along the I-5 corridor with a telephoto lens.
While looking at topographic maps of the surrounding area, I found few close locations with a clear line-of-sight to the mountain. I chose a spot on the Southeast at Boulder Creek near Baker Lake. A reconnaissance trip in fair weather showed this to be a spectacular view. I used PhotoPills, a photography app, to plan the shot. Not only can it predict the position of the sun and moon at any time anywhere on Earth, but actually allows you to specify the exact celestial alignments for the perfect composition you have in mind and then tell you exactly when to turn up for that perfect picture. I was hoping to include the moon because of the approaching date of a supermoon. However, at this time of the year in the Pacific Northwest the path of the moon is too low relative to the mountains to be visible for moonset at dawn. Instead, I chose to focus on days with overcast skies following a heavy snowfall. Another useful app, Windytv, an animated weather map that features wind forecasts, as well as tides, waves and clouds, helped me choose a day with those conditions. Overcast skies are like a giant umbrella diffuser—soft light and shadows. Heavy, fresh snow clings to the trees and creates hummocks on the rocks.
When I arrived at my chosen venue for sunrise I found ground fog and clouds pulsing in the wind. Ten-thousand-plus-foot mountains create their own weather. Gradually, the conditions improved enough to make a set of two photographs that I could stitch together to create the complete image as I envisioned.
To see more of Robert Faucher’s photography, visit www.faucherphotography.com.
Equipment & Settings: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EF 28-70mm ƒ/2.8L USM @ 55mm, Gitzo tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-55; RAW capture, f/16 @ 1/15 sec, ISO 100, Auto exposure, Evaluative metering, Auto WB.