As global travel has ground to a halt I’ve been spending the last few months revisiting my archive of photos and processing my images using the latest software. It’s really underlined the importance of shooting raw instead of JPG – it allows me to revisit images like this as software advances and my image editing techniques improve.
Anyway – when you get a chance to visit the Emerald City, here are some of my top picks for photography.
This is the picture postcard view of Seattle, with so many of the city’s iconic features in a single frame. On a clear day you can capture Mount Rainier too, but I wasn’t so lucky during this trip.
Even back in 2013 this location was popular with photographers – I’m reliably told it’s now very busy at all hours with photographers and Instagrammers looking for the ultimate Seattle shot, meaning it is not unusual to have to wait your turn to take your place up front.
The Pike Place area has a couple of key photo spots within a few steps of each other.
Pike Place Market is one of the oldest markets in the US, and its iconic signage adorns many souvenir fridge magnets. I enjoyed shooting the neon signage found outside and throughout the market interior. The fishmongers are a constant source of entertainment as they throw iced fish through the air to each other. Street photographers will enjoy capturing the vendors and buskers.
The first Starbucks is found here too. Though it’s now an international corporate juggernaut, its humble roots can be traced back here. Don’t come here for the coffee though – the only thing you’ll get here is an optimistically prices souvenir. (Many other coffee places are available – Seattle is renowned for this.)
Finally, visit the Gum Wall, found in Post Alley, is one of the oddest – and pretty disgusting – tourist attractions you’ll ever see. This dark alley is covered with chewing gum, floor to ceiling, and even features gum in artfully composed shapes. The city of Seattle removes the gum but over time it builds once more. It probably doesn’t help that the nearby shops proudly proclaim “we sell gum” to tourists who want to add their mark.
Seattle Center is a 74 acre space in the city built for the World Fair of 1962. Its most famous attraction is the Space Needle, but beneath there are several other places worth visiting such as Chihuly Garden showcasing the blown glass artworks of Dale Chihuly, and Pacific Science Center, a science museum including a butterly house and planetarium.
My favourite was the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), a spectacular mish-mash of the worlds of music and movies. Where else could you see Eddie Van Halen’s guitar, then 5 minutes later come face-to-face with a scale replica of the Alien? As with most museums, glass panelling, dim lighting and a tripod ban makes photography a challenge.
Seattle Aquarium was opened in 1977 and a fun place to spend some time indoors on a rainy day – of which there are many in Seattle. The lighting is dim so photography is a challenge, but if you are equipped with a fast prime lens and have a stable hand for shooting without a tripod you can yield pleasing results.
Nearby is the Great Wheel at Pier 57. It’s a 175-foot ferris wheel and covered in 500,000 LED lights, meaning it is a great place to capture at night. Back in 2013 I didn’t do my homework so this photo op passed me by – another reason to return one day!
The Space Needle Observation Deck
It’s not the highest viewpoint in the city but it is the best known. We paid an afternoon visit with some disappointing overcast skies which eventually gave way to some stunning sunrays breaking through the clouds over Puget Sound.
Up here you have a 360 degree view of the city, 540 feet up. On a clear day you’ll see Mount Rainier to the south, and as far at Mount Baker to the north.