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You've got to get up early in the morning to make Tacoma look this good

Early riser Michael Weldon Johnson captures the morning light so the rest of us can sleep in. #k5evening

TACOMA, Wash. — At an hour when night is still casting its shadows and most of Tacoma slumbers, we meet photographer Mike Weldon Johnson at Fireman's Park. Johnson, father of three rambunctious kids, swears he's not an early riser. It's just that he feels compelled to get up and see his hometown in its best light.

"I feel like if I don't get up early, then I'm wasting my day," Johnson said.

The photos that he posts on his Instagram page may make you feel the same way. Sleeping in means missing out on the colorful light shows that happen around sunrise.

"I had a picture from Anderson Island that I took last year," Johnson said. "There's a huge shadow cast from Mount Rainier on the clouds and that was probably one of my favorite shots."

The 110-year-old Murray Morgan Bridge is a favorite subject, both as a framing device for Mount Rainier and on its own. During a rare hour-long lightning storm, Johnson drove downtown to shoot some long exposures.

"It was raining and I didn't care," Johnson said." I just stood in the middle of the road and got some good pictures."

Credit: KING TV
Mike Johnson is up early to shoot some photographs in downtown Tacoma.

On this morning, as buses cruise up South Ninth past the theater district and seagulls fly overhead, heavy clouds have hidden the mountain away. Johnson decides to walk downtown.

"Downtown is real cool," Johnson said. "It's busier down here because people are commuting to work, but it's still kind of like calm.

"Not a lot of people out. That's the one benefit about the morning. Because if I come down here at Friday night there's always drunk people from the bars. 'What are you doing?' 'Take a picture of me!' Yeah OK sure. So there's less of that in the morning."

Fireman's Park is a popular spot for photographers.

"I like the spot for sunrise," Johnson said. "Because the mountain lines up right inside the Murray Morgan bridge."

Sometimes everything lines up just right. Sometimes the mountain decides to sleep in. This is one of those times.

"It's never a wasted hour," Johnson said. "Again, I have three kids. This is a quiet hour I get to myself."

So as the sky brightens from one shade of grey to the next, Johnson stores his camera away and drives home. On the way, he'll pick up some doughnuts for the kids. Disappointed? Maybe just a little.

"I believe it was Kobe who said you miss every shot you don't take," Johnson said.

And Johnson has photographic proof that he's scored plenty of game-winners in his time.

"You just got to get out there," he said. "It's always worth it."

KING 5's Evening celebrates the Northwest. Contact us: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email.

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