Most of us, unfortunately, lead the majority of our lives under artificial lighting. This has a profound effect on our sleep cycle, which is controlled largely by the levels of the hormone melatonin in our bodies. Living under artificial lighting causes the melatonin cycle and our sleep cycle to lose sync, resulting in groggy mornings and difficulty falling asleep at night. A recent study, published in Current Biology, found that the disruption was easily cured by spending a week in the outdoors, in a tent without any artificial lighting. Living with only the sun for natural lighting causes our melatonin to sync with the natural day, and our sleep cycle. Although it is difficult to live in a tent given most modern schedules, simple things like a morning walk in the sunshine can make a big difference. If you’ve never experienced a week of only natural light, it really is worth pursuing – you might be surprised to find how well rested and full of energy you’ll feel!

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Backcountry Camping, Mt Rainier National Park, Washington

Camp Perfection : Prints Available
A picture of my tent while backcountry camping in Mt Rainier National Park, Washington, with some of the best views you could dream of!

The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod
Exposure: iso 200, f/16, 0.5 sec

The images that illustrate this post are from a trip Aubrey and I made to Mt Rainier, after returning from our adventure in the North Cascades. Although I typically avoid Mt Rainier in the summer because of the crowds, especially the area around Paradise, I knew where we could find some solitude without any sacrifice in the view.

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Mt Rainier, Reflected, Clouds

Tahoma : Prints Available
Delicate clouds form over Mt Rainier, seen reflected in a remote glacial pool.

The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod
Exposure: iso 100, f/16, 1/30th sec

Anyone who has spent a lot of time camping can probably relate to the findings that a few nights in the outdoors can help establish a healthy sleep cycle. However, there are certain times of the month that a night outside might not give you better rest. Have you ever tried to sleep in a tent under full moon? You won’t get a lot of quality sleep (at least, I can’t!). And for some people that sleep deprivation can lead to insanity, or the more appropriate term: lunacy (which is derived from the lunaticus meaning “moonstruck”).

The simplest explanation behind sleep deprivation during a full moon is, of course, the fact that it’s light out all night. Surprisingly, however, a recent study (also in Current Biology) found that even when sleeping in a dark windowless room the lunar cycle has a subtle but measureable effect on quality of sleep. It seems that not only do our bodies have a circadian (daily) rhythm, but also a faint lunar rhythm (which plays an important role in many other species, particularly in the ocean such as corals and grunion).

If you’ve spent enough time outside, or if you purchased my calendar last year (thanks!), you may have noticed a rather intriguing pattern in the solar and lunar cycles throughout the year. The full moon rises just about at sunset, and sets at sunrise – no matter what the season is, or where in the world you are. This simple observation has far reaching consequences. It means that in the winter, while we may have short “sun days”, the “moon days” on a full moon night are very long indeed (the moon is up all night), just about as long as a summer “sun day”. Furthermore, the moon will rise and set north of east-west, just as the sun does in the summer. In the summer, everything is reversed: the full moon “moon day” will be rather short, and the moon will rise and set south of east-west. This is probably just interesting news to most people, but for a photographer like me, it offers some wonderful opportunities. For example, in the summer the south face of Mt Rainier does not get much sunlight at sunrise or sunset. However, on a full moon summer night, the moon rises to the south, shining brightly on the southern face of Mt Rainier. I took advantage of this opportunity, and the clear skies, to make the following photograph.

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Moonrise on Rainier, Alpen Glow, Climb

Moonrise, Rainier : Prints Available
Once a month – and only 1-2 times every summer – the full moon rises in the southeast as the sun sets in the northwest. On this special day in August the conditions were just right to see the moonshine alpen glow on Mt Rainier; it would have been a great night to climb the mountain!

The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod
Exposure: iso 1600, f/5.6, 30 sec sec
Notes: Two exposure panorama, and a third exposure at a different focus point to keep the foreground sharp.

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2 Comments to “A Night in a Tent – Mt Rainier”

  1. Rick Diffley says:

    As always, amazing captures!

    Welcome done and thanks for sharing your work.

  2. It’s not still a month before that I’ve been for 3 weeks on the nature’s cycle sleeping in a tent, under a tarp or sometimes under the stars, and I’m with you when you say “how well rested and full of energy you’ll feel”. In my case I am not really surprised because I often do it but is surprising how much the body advertises inside that it’s touching with its origin for centuries.
    And about the photos, with good hands/eye and the photogenic Rainier, just a touch of light could give us awesome results.