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Spots of Light in an Old-Growth Forest

Carbon River, Mt. Rainier National Park

The Carbon River Road at the northwest entrance to Mount Rainier National Park is one of my favorite places to photograph old-growth forests.  Because the five-mile road to a campground is washed out at one location (current as of 11/2011), the road is closed to vehicles at the park's entrance.  Hikers can stroll along the roadway without concern for vehicles rushing to get from point A to point B.  

Some people consider old-growth forests to be a "mess."  Yes, it can be a tangle of old trees, young trees, shrubs, and groundcover, but to me it is a beautiful mess.  The challenge is to find a composition that is aesthetically pleasing, and that's not always easy.  However, it is that challenge that enables me to view the forest and all of its components more intently, and that's a big reason why I love photography.

I usually prefer to photograph forest interiors on overcast days because then the light is so much more evenly distributed.  When the sun comes out, the sunlit portions can be glaring in comparison to the shaded portions, and that often makes photography difficult.  I usually put my camera away and call it a day when sunshine starts streaming through the canopy.

This time I decided to work harder to find intresting compositions that were affected but not overwhelmed by emerging sunlight.  I had to consider not only the arrangement of the vegetation but also the distribution of light.  By making careful selections, sunlight became a positive attribute in the photographs.
Photo © copyright by Stephen Penland.

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