One thing that Seattle has REALLY got going on is the abundance of scenic vantage points from which to photograph the city. And what a picturesque and vibrant city it is. I was here recently days before the Seattle Seahawks played a NFL playoff home game and the energy and enthusiasm in this town was palpable. There are numerous free and inexpensive vantage points from which to admire the dramatic views and admire the city.
One of the most picturesque and popular locations to photograph Seattle’s skyline is Kerry Park. A small city park located high on a hill with dramatic views of the skyline, the Space Needle, and on a clear day, Mount Rainier. It’s been suggested to photograph here at sunset, but I found sunrise to provide dramatic clouds lit pink, all of the building lights on display, and the lights from the distant Port of Seattle reflected in the water. Since I arrived before sunrise, and this being winter, I found ample street parking. The only other occupants of the park at that time were a few yoga enthusiasts and folks walking their dogs. The best photo area is to the far right side as you’re facing the skyline, as Seattle’s Great Wheel, a 175’ high Ferris Wheel, can be visible in your frame.
Sky View Observatory
Sky View Observatory is located on the 73rd floor of the Columbia Center, and at nearly 1,000 feet is the tallest public viewing area west of the Mississippi. I would suggest visiting during the daylight hours; even though the night views are dramatic, the interior lighting at night does create a lot of glare on the windows and is nearly impossible to capture a clear photo. If you do shoot from the observatory at night, bring a dark colored scarf or jacket to drape around your lens (or over your head and camera) to shield the glare from your lens’ field of vision. I also found it useful to remove my lens hood and place my lens as close as possible to the window glass, while using my black scarf to eliminate glare. The observatory has amazing views and unlike the more costly (and crowded) Space Needle, you can get the Space Needle in your shot from here!
Russell Investment Center
Russell Investment Center is an office building on 2nd Avenue and University Street has a beautifully landscaped, public and free observation deck on the 17th floor. Since this is an office building, it is only open during normal business hours but offers beautiful aerial views of the waterfront, Pike Place Market, Mariners and Seahawks stadiums, and the downtown skyline. Don’t feel strange entering the lobby and taking the elevator up. In addition to the observation deck, the 17th floor has a popular café.
There are numerous pedestrian bridges over the main streets that can offer some slightly elevated vantage points and a safe location to get dramatic blue hour photographs of long exposure light trails. One in particular that had a nice view of the waterfront, the Great Wheel, the Port and the skyline was the pedestrian bridge from Pier 66 spanning over 1st Avenue. Even on this small bridge itself, there were a number of locations to explore different vantage point without glass, glare or fencing obscuring your shot.
On the last day of the trip, the gray, foggy weather did not cooperate for photographing the skyline from Beacon Hill, which offers a dramatic viewpoint of downtown framed by diverging freeways in the foreground (creating an opportunity for dramatic light trails at night), plus due to aching feet, a drive to nearby Snoqualmie Falls was an excellent idea. Only about 30 minutes or less east of Seattle and a straight, toll-free shot on I-90, the falls are easy to find, and a short walking distance from the free parking lot to the viewing areas. Snoqualmie Falls is a 268 ft waterfall on the Snoqualmie River between the towns of Snoqualmie and Fall City. Most of the river is diverted into power plants, but the power and beauty of this river and the dramatic waterfall can be felt in the misty spray felt from hundreds of yards away. Observation decks off the paved trails offer a safe and sturdy location to capture a beautiful shot of the falls and even set up a tripod.
I think you can agree that Seattle offers a variety of easily accessible scenic vantage points from which to test your photography skills!