October Photo of the Month: Going with the Flow

Photo © Ross Schram von Haupt

Photo and writing by Ross Schram von Haupt

Here we have a shot of Glacier Peak poking up above a sea of rolling clouds basking in a new day's light. I captured this shot on a particularly frustrating morning during the summer of 2016.

It all started down by Tipsoo Lake parking lot where I woke up in a fog bank. I climbed out of the car and could barely see my hand when reaching it out in front my face! Mountain weather is unpredictable and forecasts are typically wrong, so having a Plan B is always a good idea when visiting Mount Rainier National Park.

Knowing I needed to get higher to rise above the clouds, I quickly jumped back in the car and headed up toward the Sunrise Visitor Center. Time was quickly running out, as the plan was to photograph Rainier during sunrise.

The roads from Tipsoo Lake to Sunrise are extremely windy and cover over 1,000 feet of elevation. Progress was slow, but I quickly rose above the fog and could see gorgeous high clouds that were prime for a burning sunrise.

Unfortunately for me, it wasn't long until I could see the clouds starting to light up. As a landscape photographer, there is almost nothing worse than being on your way to a location when the best light starts to appear. I proceeded to watch one of the best alpine sunrises I have seen from the seat of my car, slowly taking turn, after turn — after turn.

When I finally arrived at the Sunrise Visitor Center the last burning colors were starting to fade from the clouds. I threw on my camera bag and started running up a hill to get a vantage point and see what, if anything, was left to shoot.

Of course around 20 feet later, I was quickly reminded that I was at roughly 6,500-feet elevation. Wheezing and gasping, I finally made it to the top of the ridge, where I finally came face to face with the view you see photographed here.

At first, I was extremely disappointed in myself, knowing I had missed something amazing. A burning sunrise above alternating clouds and valley peaks would have been spectacular. It’s pretty rare to have low clouds at just the right height to float in between these ridges and peaks. Frustrated, I tossed my bag to the ground and sat down, looking out and cursing myself for not waking up earlier.

Luckily, in an area as beautiful as this it doesn’t take long to come to your senses and realize how amazing the scene in front of you is — even if it wasn’t what you were picturing. I grabbed my bag and set up my camera and quickly forgot all my frustrations as I captured the scene in front of me.

Later on, I would process the photo you see here, and it has quickly become one of my favorites — and most well-received photos I have taken. Often we can get sucked into the idea of “that one shot” and forget to look around and take advantage of the conditions we are given. 

Ross Schram von Haupt is a fine-art landscape photographer based in Washington who primarily takes photos throughout the Pacific Northwest. You can see more of his work on his website or on Instagram