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  • Writer's pictureDave Pidgeon

Making iconic Seattle photos your own

The vast majority of us are not paid travel photographers with an abundance of time to make a book's worth of images.

We might have a day or a few. That often means our options for great photo opportunities might be limited in some ways to the iconic spots of the location we find ourselves.

That's how it was for me in Seattle, Wash., during an October trip to the magnificent trip to the Pacific Northwest city.

Downtown Seattle with the Space Needle and Mount Rainier
Downtown Seattle and Mount Rainier seen from Kerry Park, Wash.

Most of my time was spent with a business mastermind group and teaching other photo business owners my portrait lighting method.

However, I did have a day or two to explore the Emerald City, the one-time 19th century supply hub for fortune-seekers heading to the golden dreams of the Yukon.

Today, Seattle's undeniable charm comes from more than just a cup of salmon chowder on the Puget Sound waterfront and a soft falling rain shower.

It's one of those cities who have icons, places that Instagram has overkilled with images - but yet those places remain as attractive as ever.

Maybe it's the Seattle weather.

After all, the day I arrived, instead of curtains of rain, the city welcomed me with clear royal blue skies. Beyond the twinkling downtown lights, in all her snowy 14,000-foot glory, loomed Mount Rainier, glowing in the day's twilight.

To travel to Seattle and be gifted a clear view of Mount Rainier in the background of downtown is a delight not to be missed from Kerry Park, an overlook in the city's Queen Anne neighborhood.

Yes, you'll have to share the view with no less than four or five dozen other cellphone tourists gleefully showing off to their friends and family just how amazing (and easy) it was to take an amazing photo, sentimental locals out for a stroll, and photo enthusiasts with their tripods, neutral density filters, and shutter release cables.

But the gift of downtown with Mount Rainier? Do it. No matter how often it's been done. Do it for yourself. Do it with your unique vision and give no cares to whoever's done it before or who is jumping up and down next to you after taking a pano with their iPhone.

That's the point, really. Whether it's the quintessential Space Needle or the luminous red neon of the Pike Place Market sign, although you could find thousands if not millions of images of those locations on 500px or Instagram, go there anyway.

The space needle rises above orange Autumn foliage.
Seattle's famous Space Needle rises above October foliage.

Why? Because as my business mentor Sandra Coan would say, no one else in a world of 8 billion people can see it exactly as you can see it.

My image of the Space Needle looming over the Autumn foliage? No one I saw replicated how I created that image. Someone the day before or the day after may have, but I don't know. And what's more, I don't care. This one is mine, produced by my eyes, spawned by my imagination before I ever lifted my Canon 5D Mark IV.

Same with this image of the Pike Place Market.

A rusty pickup parked in front of the famous Pike Place Market sign.

I waited in the rain. The scene looked like it always does in just about every photo platform that hosts an image of this iconic sign.

I honestly struggled to find a creative way to capture this over-photographed scene.

Then, someone who works at the market pulled into the wet cobblestone street with a rusting Ford pickup straight out of a 1970s movie and backed into a parking space. I waited for him to walk into the market, then I sped across, put this beautiful hunk-of-junk into the foreground, and captured a scene that (as far as I'm aware) no one else has.

I certainly didn't see any other photographer or tourist in the area do it. And if they did, did they use a 24-70mm at the same settings I did? Maybe. But it doesn't matter.

This one is mine. The moment, the color palette, the composition. I'm proud of it. I'm printing it, framing it, and putting it up in my house. "Yes," I will tell curious friends who visit, "I took that shot."

There's value, maybe a little pride, in it for me.

It's okay to get those photos of places that have been over-photographed thanks to Instagram and other social media platforms. What other choice do we have?

And besides, only you can see how you see. Just you. So go ahead and get that shot for yourself.

More from Seattle below.

Dave Pidgeon is a writer and photographer from Lancaster, Pa. You can reach him at

Black-and-white image of a Pike Place Market employee catching a salmon.
See the GoPro attached to this salmon as employees toss the goods at the Pike Place Fish Market?

Sunset over Puget Sound and a lighthouse in Seattle.
Sunset at the West Point Lighthouse in Discover Park, Seattle, Wash.

Silhouette of a person riding an escalator in a library.
A library patron rides the escalator at the Seattle Public Library.

Silhouette of a kite surfer on Puget Sound at sunset.
A kite surfer elevates over Puget Sound just off the coast of Discover Park in Seattle, Wash.


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