Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Waiting for that "Magic" light

While departing the Mt. Rainier area after completing one assignment and heading to shoot a football game in Tacoma I happened upon a view of the mountain wrapped in lenticular clouds. 

Most of a photographer’s time is spend waiting for that perfect light, or as we call it, the “magic light”, but once in awhile we are afforded a rare opportunity to capture not only the sunset’s golden glow, but, what we call “Alpenglow” a pinkish, rosy color that bathes the mountain in supernatural splendor. Knowing that this event only lasts for a few seconds and having nothing else to do for four hours until the football game started, I set up one camera on a tripod and enjoyed the scenery while taking pictures every few minutes or so.

What added to the pictures is that for the past two days, a lenticular cloud has hovered over the state's tallest peak. Seen maybe a dozen times a year, it still looks cool every time it's showcased.  The clouds are formed when warm, moist air runs into the surface of Mt. Rainier. The mountain forces the air upward, which cools and condenses turning, it into a circular looking hat cloud that sits a top the mountain’s peak. As the air sinks back on the other side, it dries out and the cloud dissipates. That's why it just hangs over the summit area.

Local area residents say that the cap clouds, are a sign that rainy weather is on the way and the clouds are the mountain's version of an umbrella, a prediction for oncoming rainy weather.

Anyways, back to the magic light.  As soon as I saw the clouds rapped around the mountain I knew I would be offered one magic opportunity to capture the mountain in some pretty dramatic colored photographs.  Using two cameras, one set up on a tripod with a 300mm and anther equipped with a 70-200mm zoom, both lenses would emphasize the glowing sunset effects on the mountains topography.

The Alpenglow, as captured illuminating the mountain, only lasted but a few seconds and was the highlight of this dramatic sunset, which was the cause of me being late and just making it to the football before halftime ended. But what the hell, I only needed four pictures for that assignment, and just how many times is a photographer afforded an opportunity to capture the Alpenglow?

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