Favorite Places to Shoot
There are some places that I've been back to more times than I can count. They're like old friends that I know very well. I've been getting to know such places through my camera for years.
Sometimes, it can be fun to explore a new location with your camera. But it can be hard to more than scratch the surface in such surroundings. I find that it all too easy to end up with images that look like picture post cards but are lacking in individuality. They look a lot like everyone else's picture post card shots taken from the same scenic viewpoint. If I can afford to spend enough time exploring the area, I know I can eventually find unique vantage points off the beaten path. But time is a luxury, and the rewards uncertain. Every hour and every day I spend at one location is one less hour or day I can in other spots. And its only possible to guess at what I might find. Sure, it's an educated guess after extensive research up front, but if I've never been there myself, I have to trust what others say.
I enjoy living in the Puget Sound region, situated as it is between multiple national parks and other great destinations. Indeed, this is one of the prime reasons I finally decided to move here in the early 1990's. I wanted to live near great places to shoot. Within a few hours drive, I can be to Mt. Rainier, Olympic or North Cascades National Park. Then there's Mt. Saint Helens Volcanic Monument, the waterfalls of the Columbia Gorge (although it's a shame the gorge suffered such sever fire damage recently), the rolling hills of the Palouse in eastern Washington, and all points in between. I have favorite spots elsewhere, but I really love the Pacific Northwest.
Let's take Mt. Rainier as a case in point. I make it a point to stop at areas such as Nickel Creek along the Stevens Canyon Road, Tipsoo Lake and Naches Peak, numerous pullouts along the road to Sunrise and the various trails that lead out from the end of the road at Sunrise, and the entirety of Paradise Valley, both above Paradise Inn and Visitors Center and below them down to Reflection Lakes. It doesn't matter that I've been there before, and indeed that's my very point. There are countless spots, both named and unnamed, that I visit as often as I can. Yes, they have earned a place on my list of favorite places to shoot in the park.
I generally know what to expect throughout the year, at least the season when the roads to them are free of snow and open to traffic. Some major roads in the park are plowed year-round, but others succumb to Mother Nature each winter, and are plowed out from quite a few feet of snow come next spring. I know which areas tend to thaw first, and when to go looking for alpine meadows to begin to bloom. The Pacific Northwest isn't as known as the Northeast is for fall color, but it can be found in Mt Rainier National Park in certain areas at the right time of year. Looking for Marmots? You can predictably find them as you ascend the Golden Gate trail or head out from Sunrise towards Burroughs Mountain. I rather like Mt Rainier National Park.
For the most part, I don't need a road map of the park. I've been there more than a time or two. I always have maps with me of course in case I need some certain detail. That's just basic outdoor preparedness, if nothing else. But by now, I'd say I'm reasonably familiar with the place.
Now, it might sound strange to hold up Mt. Rainier National Park as being a good place to explore personal creativity. After all, a nice summer day can draw huge crowds to the park, and it can be nearly impossible to park a car at popular pullouts. Visitor Centers are clogged with families down from Seattle for the day with the kids, more interested in buying lunch and souvenirs than in the latest wildflower bloom reports or to check if a particular trail is free of snow yet. I guess I'm not your typical tourist.
The more I visit my favorite places, the better I get to know them. Sometimes I do find new favorites, too, of course. Even though I moved here because of what the area had to offer, the truth is, there are hidden treasures all over, no matter where you've found to call home.
There's no way I could list them of my favorites, nor frankly would either of us want to, in the long run at least. It isn't all that important where my favorite places are; my whole point here really is to encourage you to find your own favorites. Start with information you can find, but then go out and see what you can find. And what treasures you can get to know.