Baring Mountain


Sunrise over Mount Baring and Jumpoff Ridge
Photos you see aren’t just left to chance. Sure, sometimes there is some semblance of “luck” involved but typically there are the result of research, effort, and persistence. A quick half hour drive from where I live is a nice, lofty perch that’s easily accessible and works for sunsets and sunrises. I’ve tried numerous times to photograph sunrise from here and they’ve all resulted in lackluster results. My last attempt, New Years Day 2014, actually ended with me breaking one of my zoom lenses. So, on a Sunday morning, I tried again.

The forecast for Sunday was partly sunny, with a storm system approaching for the evening. These transitional days increase your chances of at least some interest during a sunrise or sunset. I know this, but that doesn’t make it any easier to get up once the alarm goes off! Eventually I was headed east through the darkness. As I approached the town of Sultan, I could see a dull red glow on the horizon. It looked like this was going to be an intensely colored sunrise. Deep down I wondered it I would make it to my spot in enough time. I still had another 5 minutes of driving to do and that color on the horizon was only getting brighter.
Sunrise builds over Baring Mountain
Sunrise builds over Baring Mountain
Sunrise builds over Baring Mountain
After what seemed an eternity, I turned off onto the Forest Service road for the final hill climb to my spot. Well, as you will see, I did make it and with time to spare. Shooting into the light poses some challenges with exposure. If you want to preserve the brightest parts of the scene, your shadows will suffer and be pretty dark. You certainly can bracket but that comes the challenge of blending multiple exposures together. On this morning, I decided that the intense skies were more important than shadow detail so I intentionally underexposed much of my work. I shoot do RAW, and that allows me the ability to double process my photos (blend two versions of the same exposure together) and regain just a touch of detail in the shadows.

It finally felt good to be on the right side of luck (hence the title of this blog post).
Sunrise builds over Baring Mountain
Baring Mountain detail and sunrise
Sunrise over Baring Mountain and Merchant Peak
Sunrise over Baring Mountain and Merchant Peak
Sunrise over Baring Mountain and Merchant Peak
Sunrise over Baring Mountain and Jumpoff Ridge
Sunrise Cloud Detail
Here is a time lapse of this sunrise…

Mount Baring Sunrise Explosion – 10/19/2014 from Steve Cole on Vimeo.

Jumpoff Sunset

North face of Mount Index's North Peak in winter
Summit of Mount Index's North Peak in winter
I stayed closer to home this weekend and decided to check out the potential for a new spot I found via Google Earth. Gunn Peak, Merchant Peak, and Baring Mountain are the most recognizable peaks in the Skykomish River valley foothills. Due to their prominence, they can capture and reflect the golden light of sunset. The valley in this area is fairly narrow with some level of terracing. During my searches with Google Earth, I spied a small hill in a clearcut that appeared to be easy to access.

It was only a 25 minute drive so I gambled with Saturday’s sunset to check it out. I haven’t spent much time in this area, mostly because of a controversial gate issue associated with a Forest Service Road (FS Rd 62). It’s a public road but one that provides access to the checkerboard of private ownership that exists in some portions of the central Cascades of Washington State. The timber company who owns these in-holdings expressed concerns to the Forest Service in the past about the danger to its employees from (illegal) target shooting. To the dismay of many, the Forest Service allowed the timber company to eliminate public access to one of it’s own roads.

Gunn Peak and the Lewis Creek Basin
Baring Mountain and Klinger Ridge
Anyways, in the last year or so, the interim gate closure was finally eliminated and access has been restored. I have to admit, though, that I’m still a bit leery of the gate and still feel the idea of being “locked in”. I went for it anyways, and was soon parked at the gate to the secondary spur road that I would be walking up to reach my destination. It was an easy 10-15 minute walk and I was soon greeted with a nice, expansive view of the valley below me.

On my far right was the impressive north face of Mount Index’s North Peak. The left side of my panoramic view was highlighted by Jumpoff Ridge and it’s most notable summits- Gunn and Merchant Peak. Finally, the sloping summit of Baring Mountain and Klinger Ridge were visible further up the South Fork Skykomish River valley. It was quite breezy and clouds were shading Jumpoff Ridge when I first arrived. I was on site about an hour before sunset so I had plenty of time to wait for conditions to change.

Panorama view of Jumpoff Ridge. Gunnshy, Gunn Peak, Heybrook Ridge, Merchant Peak (left to right)
Last light at sunset on the summit of Mount Index's North Peak
Luckily, they did change and the sun broke through the clouds as sunset drew closer. This particular sunset was only a six on a 1 to 10 scale but I really only wanted to check the spot out; anything beyond that would have been pure gravy! As summer gets closer and the days get longer, I might be visiting this spot more since it is so close and easy to visit..

Sunset colors over the logged slopes in the Proctor Creek vicinity
Last color of sunset over the logged slopes in the Proctor Creek vicinity

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