Pacific Northwest Escape Mission 5: Mount Baker and Picture Lake

Sometimes, you don’t have to stray too far to find what you’re looking for. After traveling the coast and sharing our journey with you, our Pacific Northwest Escape has come to an end with a stop in our own backyard, where Mother Nature’s beauty is on full display. 

We’re Michelle Moree and Hollis Porter, a pair of photographers from Seattle, Washington, and the couple behind The Remote Unknown. We can’t wait to show you how we capped off the final leg of our Pacific Northwest Escape.

After traveling through Washington, Oregon, and California, we made our way back north to our home in Washington state. But we weren’t done. We wanted to capture one final breathtaking shot. Just an hour’s drive northeast of Bellingham sits the Mount Baker ski area. It’s the perfect spot to find incredible picturesque lakes, including our last stop on the trip — Picture Lake. Once you see its beauty, it’s pretty clear how it got its name.

How to Get There

We started our drive from Bellingham in the evening and ended up stopping at a few viewpoints along the way, as the cascades were looking absolutely insane. 

There’s a trail by the Picture Lake parking area where you’ll find some short paths that lead to some incredible photo opportunities. On a clear day, you can see Mount Shuksan, which is one of the most photographed peaks on the North American continent.

When to Shoot

We arrived at Picture Lake and waited until the sun started to hit Mount Shuksan, and we witnessed a beautiful alpenglow. If you’re looking for a gorgeous glow and reflection in the lake below, this is definitely prime shooting time.

Shooting Tips

We shot with a Sony a7R IV and a Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. We also used a Canon EOS R5 and a 24-70mm lens.

Luminar AI Editing Tips

We got some really great alpenglow, but because there was so much snow in the shot, we used Luminar AI to change things up. We started with Enhance AI and then played around with the Light sliders. 

The sky was quite gray, so we used Sky AI to swap in a new one, then played around with the Mask Refinement sliders so the snowy peaks didn’t blend in with the sky. Luminar AI immediately reflected the new sky in the water, making the image look truly authentic.

Want to mirror what we did? We’ve gathered all the skies from our trip locations and have made them available for download from the Pacific Northwest Escape project page. They’re free to use and are compatible with Luminar AI as well as other photo-editing software.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out the first four episodes of our trip from the North Cascades, the Oregon coastline, the Natural Bridges, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Tom Reichner's picture

I'm interested in knowing what species of wildlife you saw at Mount Baker. I've been interesting in learning more about the opportunities that Mount Baker holds, as it's only a few hours from where I live. But I'm only interested in photographing Mount Baker's wildlife, not its landscapes.

Austin Rotter's picture

Around the mountain itself? Almost nothing. Seriously, only marmots and pika. There is a bear that hangs out in the swift creek area. Sometimes, and I mostly mean during berry season, bear may be spotted in the lower part of Schreiber's meadow where FR13 ends (Trailhead for Park Butte). Seen deer there and heard about elk, but I have never seen signs of elk personally. Should be noted you can't see baker from this particular part of the meadow unless you leave the trail (which I can't condone).

There are more remote access points where you may see a bit more wildlife, and far fewer crowds of people. Look into grouse ridge, and cougar divide. These are much less traveled, but also more rugged boot pack trails.

But ultimately, Baker is not an area I ever describe as wildlife rich. There are surrounding trails that you will have a higher probability seeing things, but they are long trails if you're hauling wildlife gear, and that's not what you asked for so I'll stop rambling on.

Tom Reichner's picture

Thanks for the insights. I don't mind you rambling on at all! Encouraging that there are Marmots and Pika. Pika are one of my very favorite species to photograph! About the Marmots ... I assume they are Hoary Marmots, and not Yellow-bellied Marmots ... is this correct?

Austin Rotter's picture

To be honest, I don't know the difference. The ones that seem to be all over the railroad grade are massive so I'm guessing hoary? I would've thought they had yellow on them too, but I never really stopped to consider there were different types of marmots. I need a wildlife photographer around to set me straight!

Austin Rotter's picture

Huh. Interesting. I've never given much thought to people who use sky replacements, but I really dislike this. Maybe it's just because I know this place too well and think it's silly to have the sun setting due south.

Christian Durand's picture

I agree with you ,i have been there many times ……