Autumn Colors in Mount Rainier, Washington


A long-time fan of plastic cameras, Argentinean writer and photographer Lorraine Healy is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera. In this article, Healy shares her thoughts about photographing an almost overpowering landscape, Mount Rainier in Washington State.

Mount Rainier’s Myrtle Falls, a rather icy (but short!) walk from the Visitor’s Center in Paradise, WA. Holga N, Fuji 400.

The Pacific Northwest does not have the amount of autumn foliage color that other areas in the US have, like New England or the Appalachian region. A preponderance of evergreen trees (which give the state of Washington its nickname, the “evergreen state”) means that Western Washington stays mostly green through the fall and winter. But close to the Cascade Mountains there is a mixture of birch, vine maple, larch, elderberry, aspen, and deciduous shrubs and plants: those are the places where local photographers go to find autumnal color. I have a particular fondness for white birches and the place to find them, close to where I live, is on the Stevens Pass area on US Hwy2. That has been my go-to place to photograph, but this year I could tell the peak color in Tumwater Canyon had passed by the time I returned from Argentina in late October.

Two images of the Tumwater Canyon area on Hwy 2. Fuji 800 on a Diana + (left) and Fuji 400 on a Holga N.

So, I decided that I had lived in Washington State long enough without having actually gone to see its iconic Mount Rainier, which is familiarly referred to as “the Mountain” in this area and even graces the license plates on our cars. Given that Mount Rainier is almost on the southern edge of the state, I knew I would have a better chance of catching eye-popping yellows and reds in the Paradise area of the massive dormant volcano we know as Mount Rainier. I grabbed a respectable amount of cameras (five or six), including two pinholes, plenty of film, and left on an early morning ferry from my island on the long way to Paradise.

On paper, the approximately 150 miles should not take that long to drive. But the first half of the trip takes you through heavy traffic areas, and the second half is a winding road through heavy woods and great elevations. If you plan on driving from the Seattle area, give yourself plenty of time. It took me well over four hours to cover the 150 miles either way. One of the places to stop and stretch your legs (and find some lovely photo opportunities) is the tiny hamlet of Elbe.

The picture-perfect Elbe Church (the “Little White Church”), right across the railroad tracks. Fuji 645zi and Kodak Ektar 100 (left), Pentax 90WR with the same film (right). The morning fog lit up the scene when I stopped on my way into the Rainier National Park; the light was quite flat when I stopped again in the afternoon.

Situated on the edge of Mount Rainier National Park, Elbe has the sweetest Lutheran church and the Mount Rainier Railroad & Museum, which offers train rides into the surrounding forest and the meandering Nisqually River. From mid-November to the end of the year, the train becomes “the Polar Express,” after the film of the same name. After shooting around Elbe, you are back into your car for the last hour to the Paradise Visitors Center on the mountain.

Two more views of Elbe: the Little White Church and a lot of yellow around the rail yard, with the Nisqually River in the far distance. Fuji 645zi (left), Pentax 90WR (right).

As I got closer to the entrance of the national park, I noticed some old motels and wood cabins, some of which were still in operation—though mostly closed for the season. I made a mental note to stop on my way down, as by now I was way too excited to get to the top of Mt Rainier—well, not the top, but as close to the top as I was going to get. On the way up, I pulled over wherever I saw a scene calling for a shot; there was a LOT of stopping. It is a good mountain road, but occasionally I really had to think about whether it was worth stopping where there was no shoulder or a real safe place to park.

On the road to the Paradise Visitors Center, this gorgeous scene called my name going up and down. My shot does not do it justice, but I had to give it a try. Fuji 645zi, Ektar 100.

I made it to the parking lot of the Visitors Center around noon, having left behind the fog and low cloud of most of my way there to find a crystal-clear mountain dominating the horizon line. A majestic landscape such as this one often leaves me paralyzed, without knowing how to photograph such grandiosity. Fortunately, my friend Shoe had entrusted me with her brand-new Reality So Subtle 6x17 pinhole camera, and I had my smaller RSS6x6 at hand as well. The Reality So Subtle 6x17 has dual pinholes; so one can choose the bottom pinhole to expose more of the sky, or the top pinhole to give the foreground more presence. A medium format panoramic camera is a good tool to have to overcome the paralysis that huge, powerful landscapes can induce.

Reality So Subtle 6x17, Velvia 50, first shot with a bottom pinhole (more sky), second shot with a top pinhole (more foreground). I loaded the camera in an incorrect way, which meant I did not get the full panoramic effect, but at least the center of both images was okay.

I decided to do a lot of bracketing with both RSS cameras since I am still really trying to get the hang of pinholing. So I did not end with a lot of pinhole shots, but happy with the results. And then, of course, there were the Holga shots!

Mount Rainier from the Visitors Center (left) and the path to Myrtle Falls, about a half mile away. Holga N, Fuji 400.

Well, the ones with the Fuji 645 were not too bad, either… I had gone looking for fall color, I found it in spades!

Velvia 100 and the Fuji 645zi made for a really good match.

I started the way back knowing I would have some long hours of heavy traffic through rush-hour Tacoma and Seattle, but I still stopped at the old cabins to get a couple of images. By then I was tired and loaded the wrong film into the Holga: a roll of 800 Kodak Portra when I thought I was putting in a roll of Ektar 100. The shots came out overexposed, but I’m glad I stopped and took those photographs. One never knows when places like these can disappear.

Holga N, Portra 800 film.

Lorraine Healy (@lorrainehealy) is an Argentinean writer and photographer living in the Pacific Northwest. A long-time fan of plastic cameras and she is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera, available as an eBook from

written by Lorraine Healy on 2017-12-14 #places #travel #landscape #pinhole #120 #35mm #color #holga-n #mediumformat #us #washington-state #pentax-90wr #fuji-645zi #reality-so-subtle6x17 #realitysosubtle6x6 #mount-rainier


  1. icequeenubia
    icequeenubia ·

    Beautiful article as always, @Lorrainehealy!

  2. polaroidlove
    polaroidlove ·

    Wonderful photos, those last two came out great!

  3. guja
    guja ·

    An interesting article and great autumn colors!

  4. lomodesbro
    lomodesbro ·

    I am running out of superlatives, majestic with a big M

  5. fisheyemary
    fisheyemary ·

    Beautiful as always, both the article and the shots!!

  6. lorrainehealy
    lorrainehealy ·

    @fisheyemary @polaroidlove @guja @lomodesbro thank you all so much!

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