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Return to Mt. St. Helens

Crater of Mt. St. Helens with shadow AERIAL

I remember the eruption of Mt. St Helens very well. On that day in May of 1980, we could see an enormous dark cloud rising to the south and waited to see if the ash would drop on Seattle.  A few days later, I asked a pilot friend to take me up and over the still-smoking crater. One of the pictures I took that day was my first published image.

Yet although I live only a few hours away, I had not been back to St. Helens until this month.  (I posted a shot of a lava tube on the south side of the mountain last week). Last night, I had a chance to fly over the mountain again – 31 years after that first time.

It was not a perfect flight. I flew around the mountain just before sunset to get the best possible light; but after several days of clear weather, smoke and haze had built up in the mountains, and the light was much more subdued than I would have hoped.  Still, it was spectacular to look down into the steaming crater.

We circled the mountain three or four times, and only at the last minute did I see this – my favorite picture of the shoot. I like the graphic quality of the snow on the crater rim, and the shadow of the peak, which was only visible at this angle. (We couldn’t safely fly any higher, which might have been interesting – but hey, the pilot’s in charge!)

The trade off: to  get this pretty light (and shadow) I had to sacrifice the light on the lava dome inside the crater. I chose the  evening light..

And yes, I did shoot a horizontal version of this same shot. Which do you like better and why?

Nikon D3, 24-70mm lens