Today is the great American holiday Thanksgiving. Besides giving a day off from work to feast on vast quantities of food and watch football, it is a day for us that celebrate it to give thanks for the many blessings given us over the past year. Today, Tanya and I will have a quiet holiday by ourselves, declining the invitation to travel over the Cascade mountains to visit with my family in Spokane due to a lack of a good car for winter driving (our little SUV is having troubles and the other car needs new tires). This appears to be a good decision, since much snow is forecast for the mountain passes this coming weekend. Besides, without Carson here, who loved the turkey scraps that normally come with Thanksgiving, it seems good to have a quiet time at home.
But life goes on. We brought a small kitten, named Tuck, home a couple of days ago to help keep our older cat, Patch, company. Patch, who is feeling the loss of Carson seemingly as much as Tanya and I, as well as the loss of his sister earlier in the year, has been acting up (as some of our leather dining room chairs can attest to), we presume because of loneliness. We hope getting a kitten was a good idea; we shall see after a few days of slowly introducing the two cats to each other.
Celebrating by ourselves, without turkey-loving company, we have decided against the big, traditional turkey dinner. Tanya, a vegetarian, doesn’t eat turkey (although she has been known to sneak a taste of crisp turkey skin); so it seems a waste to cook a big bird for only the two cats and me. A year ago today, we celebrated Thanksgiving in Madrid with Brooks, having a great meal of paella. So we decided to try paella again for Thanksgiving. We went grocery shopping last night for the requisite fixings. Do you know how hard it is to find fresh clams at 10:00 pm the night before Thanksgiving?
Anyway, I did not intend this post to be a discussion of our Thanksgiving menu, but rather a listing of some of the many things I am thankful for. Here are a few of the things I am thankful for:
- for you, the many readers of my blog – I’m not sure why you care about my words and photos, but I am grateful that someone does. Many thanks!
- for Tanya – she is the love of my life, my best friend, and the most wonderful partner anyone could ever ask for.
- for my son and daughter, Brooks and Janelle, who have grown up to be fine young adults. I’m thankful that they both have good jobs that support them, and that they live close (but not at home with Tanya and I).
- for pets – I’m thankful for the many years good years of companionship that Carson and Sugar gave us, the continuing years of companionship that Patch is giving us, and (hopefully) the future years of companionship that Tuck will give us.
- for my many friends and family members who care for me no matter what stupid things I do or how many “help-me” chores I ask them to assist with.
- for my day job at Robinson Noble – a job I enjoy doing, a job that provides enough to pay the bills as well as support my photography habit (which would have a hard time of supporting itself)
- for my health – I’m thankful that at being over 50 years old I can still do 30-mile backpacking trips (like I did earlier this year)
- for living in a part of the country that still have plenty of wilderness and places to do 30-mile backpacking trips; for being close to deserts, mountains, and coastlines
- for hoodoos and arches and red rocks in general
- for rainforests, giant trees, and hanging moss
- for photography – a passion that gives me so much joy
- for my church, United Church in University Place, a group of people who truly care about everyone no matter their race, sexual orientation, or financial status
- for the word “thanks” being in Thanksgiving, otherwise many Americans would forget what the holiday is really about
- for warm beds and frosty mornings and, in particular, warm beds on frosty mornings
- for decaffeinated coffee for me and caffeinated coffee for everyone else in the Seattle area
- for good bottles of wine, India pale ales, and scotch and rye whiskeys (not necessarily in that order)
- for baseball – one of the best games ever invented, and (reluctantly) for my home team, the Seattle Mariners; for spring training, where every team dreams of the World Series (even the Mariners)
- for working indoor plumbing, particularly after having the big dig in our front yard last summer essential for keeping that plumbing working
- for day trips and weekends away with Tanya
- for snow on weekends, and clear streets on work days
- for the sun rising every morning and the color it brings to the world
- for the stars at night, particularly when we are out of the city and can see them
- for my hometown of Tacoma, a city I swore when I was young that I would never live in; I’m so glad I was wrong
- for travel, in the United States and beyond, in particular our trips to Spain, Greece, Belize, Scotland, New Orleans, and our many trips to the American Southwest
- for a rib-eye steak on the barbecue (and halloumi for Tanya)
- for text messaging – otherwise we’d rarely hear from Brooks and Janelle
- for good music, in particular music by Neko Case, Neil Young, the Shins and the Decemberists
- for zoom lenses, split-neutral density filters, cable releases, and quick-release plates
- for rivers, lakes, and oceans
- for good light, good subjects, and a good sense for composition
- for eagles and hawks, deer and elk, wolves and bears, and wildlife of all kinds
- and for the very many other blessings in my life.
Thank you for letting me share my photography with you. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Last Friday, I took the day off from the day job to do some photography. It was a day Carson would have loved, rainy and cold. With Carson gone, Tanya and I decided to take our cat, Patch, along instead. He wasn’t so sure about the whole thing, and stayed in the car until our last stop (Rainbow Falls State Park), where he did explore a bit.
But this post isn’t about Patch, it’s about photographing in the rain. If you live on the wet side of the mountains in the Pacific Northwest, you best get use to photographing in the rain if you want to shoot in fall and winter. That said, I try to avoid it as much as I can. Last Friday, I was not excited about going out. The weather forecast called for 100% chance of rain, and it was not wrong. Shooting in adverse weather can have its benefits, but often it is just miserable. However, Tanya convinced me that we should go (easy for her to say, I was the one to be out in the rain; she took papers to grade).
As it turned out, I was happy we went. As you can see by the attached photos, I think I came away with some good shots. Here’s a few hints for photographing in the rain (not listed in any particular order).
1. Take good rain gear for your camera – unless you have a waterproof camera, you’ll want some sort of protection to keep your camera dry. Currently, I use a Rainsleeve by Op/Tech. These are inexpensive plastic sleeves with openings on both ends. One has a drawstring to tighten around the camera lens hood. The other end allows you to hand hold the camera or attach it to a tripod. A small hole is also provided for the viewfinder. I find these sleeves work well when on a tripod, and allow you to control most the camera functions through the plastic. I like them less for hand holding the camera because sticking your wet hand up into the sleeve defeats the purpose, plus it is a bit tight. There are many other options also available.
You might also consider making an umbrella holder for you tripod. I have a friend who has a similar setup and really likes it. I, personally, have not tried something like this out yet, but as long as it is not windy, an umbrella seems like it should work well.
2. Take good rain gear for yourself – be sure to keep yourself dry as well. I like to take rain pants as well as a raincoat. When photographing, I often kneel on one knee (all my jeans wear out on the left knee knew sooner than the right). With rain pants, there is no worry about kneeling in water and mud.
3. Use a tripod – while using a tripod is always a good practice, in the rain it is especially needed. The skies are much darker than on typical non-rainy days, leading to longer exposure times. Also, it is easier to keep the camera dry if it is on a tripod.
4. Use a lens with a long lens hood - when using the Rainsleeve, the lens hood is outside the plastic. It is the hood that protects the lens from falling rain drops. This works best if the lens hood is long and the glass sits back inside it. This is why I tend to avoid using a wide-angle lens in the rain if at all possible. Lens hoods for wide-angle lenses provide almost no protection from rain. All the shots shown here were taken with a 24-70mm lens. When extended to the 24mm setting, the lens is close to the open end of the lens hood, so I had to take more care when using that setting.
5. When not shooting, keep your lens pointed down – don’t invite rain onto your lens, try to keep the camera pointed downward.
6. Use a cable release - anything you can do to keep a wet hand from touching the camera will help keep it dry. I use a cable release which hangs down out of the Rainsleeve. Alternatively, I could trip the shutter button through the Rainsleeve, but with long exposures, it is good practice to use a cable release anyway.
7. Have a lintless cloth handy – just in case you need to wipe stray water off your lens. Take a look at the lens occasionally to look for water drops (which are sometimes hard to see through the viewfinder).
8. Avoid the sky in your compositions - at least if the sky is uniformly gray (as it is often is around here when it rains). For most of the subjects I photograph, the sky (even if not uniformly gray) is very much lighter than the subject, creating huge contrast problems. Expose correctly for your subject, and the sky becomes a overexposed white blanket. Expose for the sky, the subject is a dark mess. HDR is a possible solution, but if there is no contrast within the sky itself, that doesn’t help much. It’s best to just keep the amount of sky in the frame minimized.
9. Pick subjects that can be photographed without much sky - it is easier to keep the sky out of your compositions if the subject can be photographed without the sky being prominent. If you’ve never been to where you are going, and don’t have an idea whether the sky will be prominent or not, many subjects can be researched on Flickr to give you an idea. (For example, look at this Flickr search for the Cedar Creek Grist Mill, my main destination last Friday.)
10. Use a polarizer - using a polarizer can make a big difference in your images. When everything is wet, everything has reflections. With that big gray sky above, there are a lot of annoying reflections in any composition. Of course, using a polarizer cuts down on the light entering the camera, making the use of tripod (#3 above) even more important.
11. Watch out for wind – wind complicates matters considerably. With a stiff wind, rain no longer fall vertically. Wind demands even more care to keep things dry.
12. Use a memory card with enough storage - start your photo shoot with a fresh memory card and one with enough storage for the entire shoot. You don’t want to open up the camera to change cards and get water inside.
13. Consider your lens choice carefully and change lenses out of the weather - you don’t want to change lenses in the rain; there is too much chance of getting water inside the camera. Before you leave you car, put on the lens that will give the most shots. Consider using an all-purpose, travel zoom, like an 18-200 mm or similar (of course, such lenses typically have less light gathering power than other lens with less zoom range, making tripod use even more important). If you do have to change lenses, do so in shelter or with much care if still outside. (BTW, I do not own travel zoom. I try to restrict my compositions to those requiring a single lens. In last Friday’s case, I only used my 24-70 mm lens).
That’s it for now. Do have any other hints for photographing in the rain?
This is an extremely hard and bittersweet post to write. It has been a rough year for animals in the Becker household. As many of you know, earlier this year one of our cats, Sugar, passed away. Now death has struck again. This time, our beloved dog Carson suddenly passed away. Though 10 years old, Carson was generally in good health and had no life-threatening illness that Tanya or I knew about. Early last Sunday morning, he was sleeping when he suddenly yelped. Tanya and I both thought he was having a bad dream and yelled his name (which usually wakes him), but calling him had no effect. The yelps were obviously from pain, and we both ran to his side as they continued. Less than half a minute later, he was dead. We have been in shock since then, and it is only now several days later, that I can write about without tears coming to my eyes.
Carson should be familiar to regular readers of my blog. He accompanied me on many photo excursions and was featured in many of the images I’ve posted. I believe he loved these excursions even more than I did. When out on photo excursions, or out to take a hike, Carson would start whimpering with anticipation whenever we turned off a paved road to a dirt or gravel road. For Carson, gravel roads meant we were almost there.
He loved riding in the car, even if all he got to do was look out the window. Even on trips where he had to stay in the car, he’d rather wait in the car for hours than be left at home. I can still see him hanging his head over the backseat of our SUV, just happy to be along. Or, if in our small car, I can still see that big black head suddenly appear between Tanya and I, gazing contently out the front windshield. He’d get excited when Tanya or I would get out “to-go” coffee cups or when I’d bring my camera bag and tripod into the house because he knew travel was at hand.
We brought Carson home 10 years ago this month. At the time, Tanya needed a companion, and Carson was the perfect dog for it. He took his job of keeping Tanya company very seriously. Tanya was the head of the pack (and I a distant second), and he needed to know where she was all the time. Once, when we lived in Gig Harbor, Tanya went out a second story window to clear some debris off the roof. Carson tried to jump through the window after her, and if we hadn’t shut the window in time, he would have sailed though the window and down to the driveway. In that house, ever after, he didn’t trust that Tanya would stay in the house if she was upstairs, and kept a close eye on her when she did go upstairs. Another time, in the same house, Carson jumped through (and destroyed in the process), not one, but two window screens looking for Tanya.
Carson slept in the bedroom with us (no keeping him out with Tanya in the room). Almost every night he would go over to his blanket, stand on it, and with his front paws work for 3 or 4 minutes on trying to get it fluffed up just right. Of course, since he was standing on it, he could never get it in the right position. Eventually, he’d give up and lay down on it anyway (usually with a content look on his face, ready for bed with his people). Inevitably though, he’d get up after just five minutes, too hot to be on the blanket. He’d spend the night, moving from one place to the next, looking for a cool spot to sleep. Between his moving around at night, his heavy breathing and snores, and habit of chewing bones at night, it is way to quiet in our bedroom now.
For a Newfoundland – dogs breed for water rescue – he was a strange dog when it came to water. Though he could swim very well, Carson didn’t like to go in deeper than he could touch bottom. And while most Newfoundlands are hard to keep out of water, Carson was often content to stay on the beach, or only go in for a drink. Ask him to fetch a stick on land, and he would look at you funny. Ask him to fetch a stick thrown in the water however, he’d go right after it.
Carson had the most expressive eyes, and he spoke with them much more than his voice. He rarely barked, so little in fact that many of our friends were startled when he did bark because they had never heard him do so before. But how he could communicate with those eyes. And if the eyes didn’t work right away, he’d start backing up while staring at you. I’ve never seen a dog that could back up as well as Carson. Without looking, he could back up around furniture and corners.
Carson was also the friendliest dog I’ve ever seen. He loved everyone, people and other dogs alike. One time, we were walking in the neighborhood when two small French bulldogs escaped from a house and ran directly at Carson. They both were jumping at his neck, trying to bite him through his thick fur. He couldn’t figure out why they didn’t want to play. He wanted to play with every dog he came across. But funny dog that he was, he’d usually get tired of playing after about a minute and lay down. Yet, the next dog he saw, he’d want to play again. He was also very much a beta dog around other dogs. He had no idea how much bigger he was than they were, even the smallest dogs could boss him around.
With people, he was a gentle giant, and gladly submitted to small kids pulling his hair or ears. He loved being petted, and would often wedge his head between your legs so he was in the optimum position for you to pet his whole body. I was always worried he was going to knock someone over by doing that, as he’d press into your legs with most his weight. When out and about, he was very quick to notice when someone wanted to pet him, often before Tanya or I did. And of course, being that big, a lot of people noticed him. He brought smiles to many strangers, happy to see such a friendly dog. When going to the hardware store, we usually took Carson with us as all the local hardware stores allowed dogs on leashes in. It always took twice as long to buy things because so many people wanted to say hello to Carson, and he loved every minute of it. In fact, last Saturday we made two trips to the hardware store with Carson and he was his normal self – soaking up pets and a treat from the store employees.
I could write about Carson all day long. He was an amazing dog, truly part of the family, well-loved by everyone who met him. Tanya and I hugely miss him; and though we will likely get another dog someday, that dog will never be replaced. Carson, please rest in peace.
Enjoy these images of one great dog. You can see more images of Carson from some of our photo adventures together from last month, April 2013, March 2013(1), March 2013(2), October 2012, May 2012, and April 2012.
Recently I wrote a post about how to capture time in your photographs. Not mentioned in that post was to visit locations at different times of year (as well as different years), as I’m sure many of you already do. That is a great way to show the effect of time and seasons in your photography.
I’ve had a personal project in the back of my mind for some time that fits perfectly with the concept of changing times and seasons. I want to photograph the exact same scene from the exact same spot at the exact same time once a month for a year. However, I have yet to find the right spot. If I ever do this project, I’ll be sure to post the results (but don’t hold your breath, if I start it tomorrow, it will be a year before its done!).
One spot that would be great to do that is Kubota Garden in Seattle. In late October, Tanya and I stopped at Kubota Garden for an hour while on the way home from an event in Seattle. I had never been there in autumn, and it was a wonderfully different place than it is in the spring. Just compare this shot of the Moon Bridge taken a week ago last Saturday with a similar image taken from the same spot in May (of 2012).
Here are some additional shots from Kubota Garden taken last month. To see two more photos taken in spring time, see my previous blog from May 2012 (which also includes a few photos from Washington Park Arboretum and also describes an amusing encounter with a naked man).
Irene is from Vancouver, British Columbia and is learning photography a little later in life than most. It’s too bad she didn’t take it up earlier, she has a great eye for composition. Earlier this month I taught Irene during a personal, one-day workshop for in Seattle. I also taught her during a workshop earlier in the year, and on this return visit she wanted to see a few spots she read about in my ebook, Scenic Seattle. Specifically, she wanted to visit Union Station, Pier 65, and the Seattle Great Wheel. Based on the weather conditions during our workshop and her personal interests, I also took her up to the University of Washington. At several of the spots, we worked on long exposures for a separate class on the subject she taking up in Canada. A few photos I took during the day are presented here to illustrate this post.
If you plan on visiting Washington State and would like personalized instruction and/or guidance, I offer personalized workshops for $325 per day in the Puget Sound area and $375 per day elsewhere in the state. I also offer workshop for small groups. Each workshop is tailored directly to your interests.
Still visiting, but not quite up to a workshop? Then consider purchasing my Seattle ebook, which sells for a mere $5.99. I’ve added a page to my blog which shows some sample pages from the book and allows direct ordering through PayPal.
Over the past couple weekends, I’ve led two photo scavenger hunts. Participants in the hunts had 3 hours to photograph a list of 20 topics, such as: color, contrast, bark, soft, old, action, life, and ugly. The area I chose for the hunts was the Old Town portion of the Tacoma waterfront because of the wide range of possible photographic subjects (and, quite frankly, the nearness to my house). I think all the participants would agree, it was a fun time. Because there were two hunts, for two different clubs, and a few people members of both clubs, I made two separate lists with only a couple topics repeated on both lists.
Doing a scavenger hunt is a great way to push your photographic vision, to force yourself to think outside your normal “box.” Want to give it a try? Here’s a list of my favorite topics compiled from the two different lists I used over the past two weekends (minus topics specific to the place). Go someplace you think might have good photographic opportunities, give yourself 3 hours, and try to get a good image of everything on the list. Try for something different from your normal routine shot, be creative and push the envelope!
I’d love to see some of your results or hear your thoughts on whether this is a worthy exercise. Send me some of your results, and I’ll post them in my blog.
Here’s the list:
- time (many people in the hunts I led photographed a watch or clock; try to think a bit more creatively and make a photograph that shows time itself)
- person/people (try to make it someone you don’t know)
- contrast (many options here, contrast between objects, contrast between light and dark, etc.)
- negative space
- autumn (if in the southern hemisphere, substitute spring)
- photographer’s choice (photograph anything you want)
To give a bit of inspiration, here are a few of my shots for the above topics. (Disclaimer: for the actual scavenger hunts, participants are required to take jpegs, so the images submitted have no post-processing. The images below have undergone post-processing with Lightroom 5).
Washington, being the Evergreen State, doesn’t have a lot to show when it comes to fall colors. Roughly speaking, evergreen trees cover more than half the state; sagebrush covers the rest. Further, many of the deciduous trees that do grow in the state don’t have particularly colorful leaves in the fall (such as alders). However, there are some good spots for autumn color if you know where to look. Most are high in the mountains, such as Heather Meadows up by Mount Baker (which I blogged about last year). Unfortunately for color seekers this year, it snowed in the high country a couple of weeks ago. While some spots are still accessible (often with snowshoes), others are probably snowed in until next spring. With sunny weather forecast for this week, we may get a second chance, but I wouldn’t bet on it. To make matters worse, the US government shutdown has closed the national parks, making access to fall color even worse.
With the high country covered in snow, the options are few for good fall color. However, I did find a hidden autumn jewel last Friday – a small desert canyon full of beautiful aspen trees starting to turn yellow. Black Canyon, located in eastern Washington, is about midway between Ellensburg and Naches (west of Yakima). At first glance, this seems like an odd area to find fall color. The hills between Ellensburg and Yakima are mostly treeless. Even in the Yakima River canyon, which runs through the area, there aren’t that many trees. But if you drive some of the back roads through the region, you will find hidden groves of trees in valleys and canyons and along some of the water courses. Even more surprising is that some of these trees are aspens – not exactly the tree I think of when I think of the Evergreen State.
Black Canyon is one grove, hidden in the mostly barren eastern foothills of the Cascade Mountains. It is hidden in several aspects. First, it is not a well known spot. I had never heard of it before about two weeks ago (and I know about a great many places in Washington). Second, from the start of the trail into the canyon, it doesn’t look like much. The mouth of the canyon (actually more of a valley than a canyon), where the trail starts, is rather plan and dry. But as you hike up the valley, the underbrush in the canyon bottom gets thicker and more colorful, until about a half mile from the start, you start seeing aspens. While the aspens are confined to the center of the valley, near a tiny stream, the grove gets thicker and taller as you continue up the valley. At about one mile from the trail head, there is an old wooden cabin nestled in the aspen grove. The trail continues another couple of miles, and the aspens eventually give way to pine trees as the trail climbs to the top of the ridge (reportedly with views of Mount Rainier). More about the hike can be found here.
When Tanya, Carson and I made the hike last week, the color was truly amazing, particularly in stark contrast to dry, sagebrush covered valley walls above. Besides the aspens, much of the underbrush was also various shades of yellow, orange and red. This is the perfect time of year to go.
What is nice about Black Canyon, besides its obvious beauty, it is on accessible public land. A Washington State Discovery Pass is required to park at the trail head (or anywhere along the road to the trail head). The trail head (46°51’1.07″N, 120°42’5.05″W) is at the end of 1.2 miles of very rough unpaved road. We were glad to in 4-wheel drive; I doubt our passenger car could have made it. Other hikers (we saw two other couples) parked at the start of the road, and had an couple miles (roundtrip) to hike. If you go, also be aware that the area is shared by hunters this time of year (though we did not see or hear any).
Black Canyon is definitely a jewel worth visiting. When we were there, the aspens were not yet at their peak, so you may still have time to visit for the color. Do you know any other hidden jewels of autumn color? If so, please feel free to share yours by leaving a comment.
“What’s in your wallet?” So goes the tagline from a Capital One credit card commercial that most of you (at least in the United States) probably know well. With that tagline, Capital One would have you believe that their credit card is better than others and should be the one in you wallet.
For photographers, the comparable question is “what type of camera do you use?” or “what gear do you carry in you camera bag?” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked these questions, I could buy a new camera.
I believe good photography has more to do with the gray matter between your ears than your camera equipment. However, that said, it is true you cannot do photography without equipment. When two photographers meet for the first time, the inevitable question always arises: “What camera do you shoot with?” My question to you is, does it really matter?
I think one reason this question gets asked is that the two photographers in question are trying to find common ground as they create a social relationship. Personally, I don’t take any comment seriously that claims one camera is better than any other, it is just that some cameras are better at creating certain types of images than other cameras. For example, my DSLR beats my Android phone without question at shooting landscapes, but the phone does a better job at spontaneous photos among friends (not that the DSLR wouldn’t do a fine job in that instance, but by the time I dig it out of the bag, put on the correct lens, and get the exposure set correctly, the moment of spontaneity will be gone).
There seems to be a particularly big “conversation” about Nikon vs Canon among many photographers. There are loyalists on both sides, and while often good-natured, sometime the conversations seem more like battles. Personally I shoot with Canon equipment, but this is not because I think Canon equipment is better. The only reason I shoot with Canon equipment is that when I switched from film to digital, Canon had a newer camera model than Nikon. If I made the switch a few months later, I could well be shooting with Nikon equipment today. (My film camera is an Olympus OM4T. So, if at the time of my switching to digital, Olympus had made a digital camera with a full-frame or APS sensor instead of a 4/3s sensor, which uses a different lens mount so with their camera I couldn’t use my existing film lenses, I’d be shooting with Olympus equipment.)
So, even with my mini-rant above about such questions, inquiring minds want to know what’s in my camera bag. Therefore, I present what is in my camera bag (or should I say bags, as I have more than one and carry different items based on the type of outing).
Standard (or default) equipment:
- Canon 6D camera with Canon battery grip and Acratech quick release plate
- Canon EF 17-40mm 1:4 L USM zoom lens
- Canon EF 24-70mm 1:2.8 L zoom lens
- Canon EF 70-200mm 1:2.8 L IS USM zoom lens with Acratech quick release plate
- Canon EF 100mm 1:2.8 USM macro lens
- Canon EF 1.4x II extender
- Lowepro Vertex 100AW camera bag
- set of three Kenko extension tubes
- Vello wireless Shutterboss
- Canon RS-80N3 remote switch
- Canon 550EX Speedlight with Yongnuo compact battery pack SF-18
- Yongnuo off-camera shoe cord OC-E3
- ThinkTank Photo Pixel Pocket Rocket (digital card holder) with 4 to 6 SDHC cards (8, 16, or 32 mb, various brands)
- 2 spare Canon batteries
- lint-free cleaning cloth
- Lenspen lens cleaning pen
- allen wrench (for removing quick release plates)
- hot-shoe double bubble level
- set of 15 colored filters for use on the flash
- 2 B+W 77mm circular polarizing filters (one is dented and very hard to rotate)
- B+W 77mm 110 ND 3.0-10BL 1000x filter (10 stop neutral-density filter)
- B+W 77mm 092 IR 20-40x (infrared filter)
- Tiffen(?) 2-stop, soft-gradient, split neutral-density filter
- six AAA batteries
- Op/Tech Rainsleeve
- user manuals for the 6D, the 550EX and the Shutterboss
- spare contact lens case
- business cards
- Manfrotto 190 carbon fiber 4-section tripod with an Acratech Ultimate Ballhead (I often carry the tripod along, but not always)
Extra equipment (in addition to the standard) for event-shooting
- Canon 50D with Canon battery grip
- a second Canon 550EX speedlight with battery pack
- Demb Flip-it (variable angle flash reflector)
- Demb flash bracket
- Demn flash diffuser
- Lowepro Nova 180AW camera bag
Minimal kit (when I don’t want to carry a lot of stuff)
- Canon 6D camera with (optional) Canon battery grip
- Canon EF 24-70mm 1:2.8 L zoom lens
- (optional) Canon EF 70-200mm 1:2.8 L IS USM zoom lens
- a small Lowepro bag (either the Nova 180 or a yet smaller one that I’m not sure of the model number)
- lint-free cleaning cloth
- Lenspen lens cleaning pen
- a couple spare SDHC cards
Optional equipment that I sometime carry
- Photoflex MultiDisc 5 in 1 42-inch reflector
- Photoflex MultiDisc 5 in 1 22-inch reflector
- Wimberley plamp
- Visual Echos Flash X-tender
- Thinktank Photo belt, harness and modular bag system
- Bogen 3021 tripod with Bogen ballhead
So, what is in your camera bag?
I’ve heard photography described as the art of capturing light, and perhaps I’ve been guilty of describing it that way as well. Photographic tips often talk about looking for dynamic light, chasing the good light, etc. Yet photography is more than light, it is also time. Consider your camera. Leaving ISO aside, there are two ways to control exposure: changing the aperture and changing the shutter speed.
Time is an essential part of photography. Too little time, and your image will be black; too much time, and it will be white. Every photograph captures a slice of time. Sometimes a very small slice, a small fraction of a second; sometimes a long slice of minutes or even hours.
The human eye is better at capturing light than a camera. The human eye can see detail through a very large dynamic range compared to the best DSLRs out there. This is why HDR is popular, why there camera accessories like split-neutral density filters. But, at least in my opinion, the camera is better than the human eye at capturing time. My camera can capture the action of a running gazelle much better than my eye can. Similarly, it is much better at capturing the movement of the stars across the night sky.
Time makes every photograph unique. Each image captures a different piece of time, and each piece of time is different. I use to tell my kids when they were young, that if they wanted to see something no one in the world had ever seen before, pop open a peanut shell. No one in the world ever saw that particular peanut before (and no one would see it again after they ate it). The same is true for photography, want to capture something no one has every photographed before, take a picture, any picture – you’ve just captured a bit of time that will never be captured again. Okay, I hear you. If you take two photographs one second apart, you have two nearly identical photographs (the extreme example, I guess, being two studio-lit shots of a still life taken seconds apart). I didn’t say your capture would be exciting, only different (and perhaps not even on a visible scale). Making that capture of a small slice of time exciting, making the image worthy to look at, is where the art comes in.
The act of capturing time with a camera is not art. Instead making that capture an experience (both for the photographer and the viewer) is the art of photography. Just like composition makes a big difference in photography, selecting the correct small portion of time to record also makes all the difference. Look at the four examples below of the Colorado River taken from Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah, taken minutes apart and all processed the approximately the same way in Lightroom and Photoshop. I took the first two before sunrise, four minutes apart. The third was taken seven minutes later and the fourth seven minutes after that. Depending on your tastes, the second or the third ones are clearly superior than the first or the fourth (my favorite is the second one). A few minutes made all the difference here.
Selecting the correct time to press the shutter button is not limited to the quality of the light at the time, it also is dependent upon the subject. The best people shots come with when the subjects are showing their emotions to the camera, something that is difficult to capture because it is often so fleeting. And this timing aspect is not limited to people. When shooting scenes with flags flapping in the breeze, for example, I will usually take many shots, just to capture one where the flag looks good. Here’s a couple more examples. The first image, taken on Caye Caulker in Belize, is a little girl fishing with her father. I snapped of a dozen shots, but this is clearly the best, with the girl lightly touching her father. As you might imagine, a girl of this age didn’t hold that pose long, but was quickly looking this way and that, and interacting with a brother just out of the frame. The second shot is of the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, I wanted an image with the swans in the pond, and was lucky enough to capture them in a good , with one looking directly at the camera. The birds were only in this position for a quick moment, and all the other shots I took don’t come close to the quality of this one.
The length of time captured in your image also makes a difference and, as I mentioned above, can reveal things not readily apparent to the naked eye. This is true both for short exposures and for long ones. For example, in the following image of snow geese in the Skagit River delta area of Washington State, the very short shutter speed was able to capture some unique looking wing angles and positions. In the second example, of the ferry dock at Steilacoom, Washington, a long shutter speed created beautiful patterns in the water. If you are a regular viewer of my photography, you likely know that I love using long shutter speeds for the effects of it creates – the effect of compressing many seconds of time into a single image.
Sometimes two different sets of time can both be important to an image. In this example, taken from my trip up to Harts Pass several weekends ago, a long exposure was necessary to capture the stars. For images such as this, too short a shutter speed will not show many stars; too long a shutter speed will result in star trails instead of points of light. The shutter speed for this image was 20 seconds. (Generally, for star shots without trails, you will need to shoot at 30 seconds or less). However, in this image, I wanted to add some foreground interest, and I chose to do light painting on the tree. I painted the tree for just a couple of seconds, running the light from the flashlight briefly up and down the tree. More than a few seconds would have made the tree too bright; less, too dark.
Here’s one last example of the importance of time to photography. The image below is of a tree with colorful leaves taken while moving the camera vertically downward. I used a shutter speed of 1/8 second. A longer shutter speeds would have resulted in too much blurring; a shorter shutter speed, too little. The proper shutter speed for this type of shot will vary greatly depending on the subject and the amount of camera movement.
These are just a few examples of the importance of time to photography. I’m sure you can think of more. Photography is nothing without light, but it is also nothing without time.
In my last post, I focused on the forest burned in a 2003 wildfire near Harts Pass. Today I’d like to show more shots from the Harts Pass area, focusing on images taken near sunset. These shots were captured near the Pacific Crest Trail trailhead on the western slope of Slate Peak, about 1.5 miles from Harts Pass. As I mentioned in my last post, this is a spectacular area. It is well worth a stop if visiting north-central Washington.
The featured image (above) was actually the last image I took, taken approximately 40 minutes after sunset. I really like the color the sky takes during the “blue hour” (the twilight period following sunset, or before sunrise, before complete darkness. I discussed photography during this period in my recent post “After Sunset? Don’t be Blue, Keep Shooting.”) As was the case with many sunset, some of the best color comes long after the sun goes down.
Most of these images were shot with a split neutral density filter. All are RAW images processed in Lightroom.
Sitting on a stump, hot cup of coffee in my hand, warm sunshine on my back in the still crisp morning air, looking out on nearby mountain tops and a forest of bare trees, silver from a 2003 wildfire, Tanya and Carson nearby at our campsite, I felt truly at peace. I reflected on how lucky I am to live in place where such a spot is a short drive from home (well, kind of short, about 5 1/2 hours). Later that day we would drive back to the city, encountering miles of stop-and-go traffic on the way, and life would return to “normal.” But for those five minutes on that stump with that cup of coffee, life was very good.
We had spent two nights at the Meadows Campground, near Harts Pass at the uppermost end of the Methow Valley in the Okanogan National Forest. The Harts Pass area is the highest point you can drive in the State of Washington. The pass itself is over 6,200 feet; the road continues to the trailhead for Slate Peak, at about 7,200 feet. We didn’t actually find the time to climb Slate Peak (a short 1/2 mile hike) because Carson is ailing, instead we stopped at the 6,800-foot high trailhead for the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked several miles north along a flat trail that hangs along the mountainside. That was enough for Carson for the weekend, and we spent the rest of our time in the campground, except for two short outings by myself to do some photography.
Driving to Harts Pass is half the adventure. Considered by some to be the most treacherous road in Washington, I didn’t think it was that bad (many Seattle intersections are probably more hazardous), but you do need to pay attention. Most of the road is typical Forest Service gravel, but there is one short section known by locals as Dead Horse Point that running off the road would result in a drop of several thousand feet. Harts Pass is up Forest Road 5400, about 16 miles from Mazama, Washington. There are two campgrounds at the pass area, Harts Pass campground with five sites and the Meadows Campground with 14 sites. While the Harts Pass campground was full when we pulled in Friday evening, we were only the fourth campers at Meadows (which eventually was about half full). Meadows sits on the edge of the 2003 wildfire area (and was completely destroyed by the fire, but was since re-built).
Earlier in our camping trip, especially after having our hiking cut short by our sore dog (he has been on limited activity for about two months due to a neck injury, and us taking him hiking was too much, too fast), I had felt some self-generated pressure to create some good images. But then, on Sunday morning before we were breaking camp to leave, I just enjoyed the morning without much thought of photography. I remembered why we were there, to relax and enjoy the mountains; and even though the trip was planned as a photography trip, photography was really second to enjoying the time away. I didn’t have a paying client on the line, I didn’t have any time constraints.
It’s funny, but the Harts Pass area is known for its fantastic views of the North Cascades. Being near the tree line, you don’t have to travel far to see endless mountain views. And I did take some such shots on the weekend. But, it was after my peaceful realization that I created my favorite images of the trip, several shots in the silver forest not a 1/2 mile from our campsite and some fun shots of Tanya and I playing around on the very stump where I had my peaceful moment. None of these favorite shots have the vast mountain views the area is famous for. That’s often the way it is with photography, let the pressure and expectations go, forget about any grand plans for images and just be with the moment, and let the images find you.
Enjoy these images from the silver forest.
I still haven’t had much chance to get out for some new photo adventures, so here’s one from five years ago this month (or close enough, the actual trip started in September but ended in October). I took these images on a raft trip through Stillwater and Cataract Canyons on the Green and Colorado Rivers in Canyonlands National Park . Tanya and I joined the trip about 1/3 of the way in, at Mineral Bottom; the trip actually started at Green River State Park and traveled through Labyrinth Canyon prior to reaching Mineral Bottom. My brother Rob joined us on the trip (though he came down earlier and made the entire trip). My good friend Rob Tubbs organized trip and served as trip leader.
As is typical with river trips, the trip starts (or ends) with a shuttle. In this case, we started with a shuttle. We drove most our gear and extra beer down to Mineral Bottom, then drove Hite (the take out site) on Lake Powell. From there, we few back in a small plane, dropping into the canyon to land on a weedy dirt runway at Mineral Bottom. Then it was time to load up, and off we went.
The Green River through Labyrinth and Stillwater Canyons (120 miles) is all flat water, making it one of the classic canoe/sea kayak trips in the United States. We were in rafts, not canoes or kayaks. The advantage of floating it on a raft is that, unless you are rowing, you can kick back and enjoy the view without the effort. Plus you can carry a lot of gear, food, and beer. Much scenery was appreciated; much beer was drank.
Unlike the first portion of the float, the final leg of the journey, 45 miles on the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon, has loads of whitewater, most of it coming in a single day. One of our rafts flipped in Cataract (luckily, not the one Tanya and I were on – my brother wasn’t so lucky), providing even more excitement for the BRD (big rapids day).
I highly recommend this trip for anyone thinking of an American Southwest float trip. The trip can easily be customized to your own personal level of expertise, time and cost. You can do the whole thing with an outfitter, or on a private trip. The float through Labyrinth can be done completely on your own, taking out at Mineral Bottom. The float through Stillwater (without continuing through Cataract) requires a pickup by jet boat at the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers (for a ride back up the Colorado to Moab). Several outfitters can provide this service at reasonable prices.
I’m considering going again someday by kayak, taking a little more time to photograph. Concerning this trip five years ago, I was happy with the photos I came away with, though none were out of this world. I think the black and white conversions I made from the trip worked the best. As always, your opinions are welcome.
Recently I’ve decided to upgrade my website to include more photo galleries. In that regard, this weekend I added two new galleries featuring the two largest cities in the State of Washington: Seattle and Spokane. I’ve displayed many of the images in the new galleries previously here on the blog, but there’s a few new images thrown in as well. Please take a look and let me know what you think.
To illustrate this post, I’m posting two shots of conservatories, one in each city. The Gaiser Conservatory in Spokane sits above the beautiful Duncan Garden in Manito Park. The Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle is missing the beautiful outside garden, but the building itself is very photogenic. Shooting inside conservatories is a lot of fun, particularly on rainy fall days (which will be coming sooner rather than later). I’ve shot inside both these conservatories, as well as the small conservatory here in Tacoma, and made some great shots. I typically use a tripod and a macro lens when photographing in conservatories. If you plan to photograph at your local conservatory, and plan on using a tripod, it’s best to go on weekdays when there are fewer visitors. Also, be kind and move your tripod when others need to walk by. In fact, at the Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle, tripods are only allowed on weekdays. When the weather turns bad, consider your local conservatory to keep your creative photographic juices flowing.
If you read my last post, you know I have been frustrated by not having time to go out and shoot. I’m still pretty busy with other stuff, but did find a few hours last Thursday to sneak out with the camera. The evening sky was partially overcast with light clouds, which provided a nice diffuse, low-contrast light. The air as still. A perfect evening for macro flower shots. Luckily, I live less than two miles from one of the nicest dahlia and rose gardens in the Puget Sound region. I grabbed the gear and headed over to Point Defiance Park.
As I was entering the gate to the garden (the garden is surrounded by a 10-foot tall fence to keep the deer out), a gardener was coming out. She told me they had just dead-headed the whole garden and it was in prime condition. I couldn’t have picked a better time. The dahlia blooms did look like they were in their prime, as were most the roses. I set up the tripod, slapped on a 100-mm macro lens and some extension tubes and lost myself in the work. Perfect!
I wasn’t the only photographer there that night, there were three portrait photographers in the garden, two doing senior-high photos and one was shooting two young children (I don’t envy that poor photog). They were making money, and may or may not being enjoying their work. I was not making money, it is highly unlikely I will ever sell any of the images I made that night, instead I was enjoying my craft and saving my sanity.
Occasionally, there was the slightest breath of a breeze, slightly moving the blossoms. I turned up the ISO a couple stops to keep the shutter speed less than a second, and kept on shooting. I ended up shooting for about two hours until the light started fading and the exposure times became increasing long. It was the perfect antidote to my pent-up need to create.
In the past two months, I have barely touched my camera. I shot a wedding in July, a few family shots last weekend, and did took a few quick shots while in Cannon Beach at the beginning of August. That’s it. Now wedding and family photos are fine, but they really don’t wet my creative juices like travel or landscape photography does. The time in Cannon Beach was fun, but it really wasn’t a photography trip. However, if I had known at the time that I wouldn’t have a chance to do any serious work later in the month, I would have taken many more images there. But I didn’t, and now I have huge pent-up desire to do some photography.
There are many reasons and obligations as to why I haven’t been out making images, but that is not really the point. The point is I have this craving, this deep-seated need to have the camera in my hand and spend a day creating. It is as if my soul has a hole in it right now.
And while this desire is very deep and is truly uncomfortable, I am actually glad I have it. Why? Because it confirms for me that I am an artist and not just a documentarian (I hold nothing against those who make documentaries as their artistic outlet, but I think you understand what I’m saying). I’m also glad for this need because while I consider myself a professional, it confirms for me that I’m not just in it for the money (not that there’s a lot of that). I am an artist. I have the need to create and the camera is just my paintbrush, the computer screen and photographic paper are my mediums.
These thoughts come not only because my lack of creative photography recently, but also due to a blog post by Dan Baumbach, a very talented photographer. In his blog, Dan questions whether he is an artist. I think many photographers have had these thoughts. I know I have had such doubts in the past.
Perhaps it is easier for others to see the art in a photographer’s work than the photographer themselves. Looking at Dan’s images, it is easy (at least for me) to see he is an artist. In comment I left to his post, I mentioned how I recently gave a short talk on using Lightroom to a group of photographers and someone asked how I was allowed to change the white balance to make the image look different (than what they thought it should look like in the real world). And the answer is that I’m an artist, I’m not trying to replicate the real world, I’m trying to create my own personal vision of it.
Sometimes my vision looks like how others see a scene. Sometimes it doesn’t. It is always amazing to me how several different photographers can photograph the same scene and come up with totally different photographs. That’s because we photographers are artists.
It is said that art is in the eye of the beholder. Excuse my language, but that is bullshit. Art is in the eye of the artist, the creator. When you put that camera to your eye and decide, consciously or not, what to put in the frame and what to leave out. You are making artistic and creative decisions. The same is true for every tweak you make in Lightroom or Photoshop. (See this earlier post on how we, as photographers, make creative decisions in processing images.) You are an artist. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Okay, enough with the ranting. Presently, I just need get out there and feed my craving to create. Now, where did I put that camera?
David duChemin is a wonderfully talented photographer that I follow. Though he resists being labeled, I’d call him a travel photographer – he truly has a knack for portraying a sense of place through images of people and scenes beyond the typical tourist shots. I’ve enjoyed most of his hard-copy books as well as a few of his ebooks.
Earlier this week, David announced on his blog that his first (at least I believe it’s his first) ebook is now being given away for free. The book, TEN, Ten Ways to Improve Your Craft Without Buying Gear, is a short, educational book on how to improve your photography. While most of its tips were not news to me, his fun writing style and suggested exercises in the book made me think about my images and my approach to photography. Topics covered include creating contrast, creating depth and balance, changing perspective, and looking for “good” light – all topics I like to cover when teaching photography myself.
If you are looking to improve your photography, this short little ebook can certainly help. You can download the ebook at David’s blog.
The cover image of David’s book is used here with permission.
Tanya, Carson and I attended our annual Becker family gathering last weekend. This year it was at Cannon Beach, Oregon. We camped, as did several of my brothers and sisters. Other family members slept in hotel rooms (I have four sisters and two brothers; all but one attended the weekend, as did my Dad, stepmom, and various nieces and nephews). However, most the visiting was in the campground. We arrived Friday evening, and I didn’t even make it to the beach until Saturday night. I considered not even taking the camera out for the whole weekend, instead just enjoying being with the family. However, I couldn’t resist the call of the camera, and I planned a shot for Saturday sunset. Using the Photographers Ephemeris, I planned a shot with the sun setting behind some small islands just off shore. Most images of Cannon Beach show Haystack Rock (don’t believe me, do a Google Image search of Cannon Beach). I wanted to do something a bit different; to show a different part of the beach, and this is the result. It wasn’t the best sunset in the world, but I was happy with the result.
Western Washington has had nice summer weather most of July. Most evenings, there have been few if any clouds, which of course makes for very boring sunset shots. However, when the weather is like this, the hour after sunset brings gorgeous light. Even as it gets too dark for humans to see color well, there are wonderful colors out there to be recorded by your camera.
The period after the sunset (and before the sunrise) is called the blue hour. During the blue hour, sometimes the light is blue, as a result of the blue sky, but other times it is wonderfully warm. This warm light has been referred to as salmon light by the guys over at Photo Cascadia. Whether blue or salmon light, these cloudless evenings can make for good photography. For some reason, I’ve found better luck with the blue hour after sunset rather than before sunrise, but maybe that’s because it’s so hard for me to get out of bed in the morning (especially when the sun rises before 6 a.m., like it is doing now).
I’ve found a online calculator (by JetKo Photo) for determining when the blue hour will occur. However, I’m not sure one is really needed. All you need to know is that after the sun sets, keep the camera out and keep shooting away, even as it gets quite dark. All you need is a tripod and a camera that allows for long exposures. Many DSLRs, in the auto exposure modes, will only allow shutter speeds up to 30 seconds long. When hunting blue hour shots, be prepared to go to manual mode and use the the blub setting on the camera. (Don’t make the same mistake I did recently when first using my newest camera in the blue hour – learn how to set it to blub before setting out).
So after sunset, don’t get blue and put your camera away. Keep that camera out and capture the blue hour.
I’d like to announce the launch of my new ebook, Scenic Seattle The Best Spots – Best Shots Guide to Photographing the Emerald City. The book started a personal project on travel photography in Seattle (as described in this earlier post) early last year. The project is now finished and Scenic Seattle is the result.
Scenic Seattle is a photographic guidebook designed to help photographers and others easily find all the special Seattle views. The book contains descriptions and directions to over 80 places to photograph in the city and provides specific advice on how to capture the best shots. Areas covered include Pike Place Market, Seattle Center, the waterfront, Chinatown, West Seattle, and many more. It has over 60 example images, as well as maps and directions to the image locations. The book is currently available on Amazon and Smashwords. Just today it was accepted into the Smashwords Premium Catalog, which means it will also soon be available at the iBookstore, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Sony. It is also available directly from me (if you order from me, I don’t have to pay the commission, which ranges from about 18 to 60% depending on the retailer; so if you want a copy, please send me an email).
If you are a regular follower of my blog, you’ve already seen most the images from the book as I’ve posted them over the past year. I’ve put a few more in this current post that I don’t think I’ve blogged before. With the book, in addition to the photos, you get directions where to go to take these photos and advice on how to take them. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about how I go about taking my images, or if you have an interest in visiting Seattle, this book is for you. Previews of the book are available at both Amazon and Smashwords.
While Tanya was at her conference, I decided to drive up to St. Augustine for a day at the recommendation of my friend Mike Krautkramer. St. Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the United States, founded in 1565. Both Tanya and I love visiting historical places, so it sounded like a great place to visit, and it was.
When selecting on a route up from Orlando, I decided to stop at Washington Oaks Garden State Park and Fort Matanzas National Monument on the way up. I drove through a huge thunderstorm on the way up, and my visit to Washington Oaks was under the constant threat of rain from the storm passing just to the south. But I stayed largely dry and the storm made for a dark, dramatic sky. The garden was nice, but I imagine it has more blooming earlier in the year. I was most impressed by the large oaks draped with Spanish moss – so foreign and tropical looking compared to our trees up here in the Pacific Northwest. The state park also has a nice Atlantic beach with one of the largest outcrops of coquina rock on the east coast. While the outcroppings are very small compared to most bedrock outcrops on the west coast, the rocks themselves were quite interesting to my geologist half. My photographic half also enjoyed making some images of them. I also took the opportunity to stick my west coast feet in the Atlantic Ocean – though with the threat of lighting, I though swimming was not a good idea.
From Washington Oaks, it was northward several miles to Fort Matanzas. I knew little about it, other than it was a national monument. As it turned out, the fort is on an island, accessible only from a small passenger ferry from the visitor center. I arrived at the park right at 1:30 p.m. and immediately noted that the next ferry to the fort was leaving at 1:30 and the one after that at 2:30. If I missed the boat, I wasn’t sure I had time to wait around for the next one. I parked, and rushed to the visitor center to get a pass for the ferry. I asked if I was too late, and the ranger gave me a 1:30 pass and said to hurry. I rushed out and as I approached the dock, there was a crowd waiting to board. The ranger there was asking if anyone else had a 1:30 pass, and still some distance away, I raised my pass and waved. He separated the crowd to let me through and onto the ferry. I’m not sure why none of the people waiting didn’t have the 1:30 passes, but I was grateful. They did let a few people with later passes on after I boarded, then off we sailed across the Matanzas River to the fort.
The first thing you notice about the “fort” is that it is small. In fact, on the ride over, the ranger said that many people ask where the rest of the fort is. He said it isn’t truly a fort, but just a fortified outpost. The entire fort is only 50 feet on each side and only 30 feet tall. It was built by the Spanish to protect the back way into St. Augustine. Apparently it was an effective defense. The guns were fired once against the English in 1742, and no one challenged the guns again. Eventually the British took over the fort via a treaty, then later it went back to Spain, and eventually to the United States in 1819. By that time, not having been kept up, the fort was in bad shape, and the United States never used it militarily. Today, the fort has been preserved and has become a haven for wildlife as well as historic site. While there, I was lucky to see dolphins, a manatee, and even a large alligator (apparently very rare in the salt water).
After about 45 minutes at the fort, the boat sailed back, and I drove north on Highway A1A to St. Augustine, arriving over the bridge of the lions. After a leisurely late lunch at an Irish pub on the waterfront, I visited Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. Unlike Fort Mantanzas, the Castillo de San Marcos is a true stone fortress. It is the oldest masonry fort in the United States; construction on the fort started in 1672. Its mission was to protect the City of St Augustine, which it did for many years. It was used by the military for 251 continuous years, until it became a national monument in 1924. Like Fort Mantanzas, it was built by the Spanish and also used by the British and the United States. However, not all its history is noble; when used by the US military, it largely served as prison for Native Americans. The site is full of old cannons, views of the water, and staff dressed in colonial-era clothing – all stuff any travel photographer love.
After touring the Castillo, I wandered around the old section of the city, stopping to photograph the lions at the bridge, a tall ship at the docks, the local cathedral, and several other old buildings. I easily could have spent several days in St. Augustine, there was much to see and photograph, but time was short and I had to get back to Orlando to have a late dinner with Tanya. Whenever I get back to Florida, a repeat visit to St. Augustine will certainly be on my list.
Last weekend Tanya presented a seminar at a chaplains’ conference in Orlando, Florida. So we made a quick flight down (well not so quick, it basically takes a full day to fly from Seattle to Orlando). Though we stayed at the Hilton at Disney World, I had no desire to visit any theme parks. Instead, Tanya and I drove out to the Orlando Wetlands Park.
The Orlando Wetlands Park was of particular interest to me because of my day job. The wetlands there are man-made using reclaimed water (that is, water from a waste-water treatment plant). Photographically, it’s a great location as well.
The place is amazing and well worth a visit. First, compared to the artificial environment of Disney World, filled with people and mouse ears, the Orlando Wetlands Park is a natural refuge. In the two hours we were there, we only saw one other person, but we saw plenty of wildlife – in particular birds and alligators, but also deer and a raccoon. Secondly, it is easily accessible, with wide trails on berms above the wetlands, making viewing the wildlife easy. We also lucked out in that the rain and thunderstorms rolling through the area left us alone while there.
If you are ever in the Orlando area and want to get away from the crowds, I recommend Orlando Wetlands Park. It’s free and open daily from dawn to dusk.
Readers of my blog know that Tanya and I have a dog, Carson. But I’m not sure I’ve mentioned we also have two cats. Well only one now because last Sunday we had to put our Sugar down.
Sugar was a very special cat. For one, she was an orange female, which I’m told are fairly rare. Our vet, in fact, said she’d never seen one before. Our other cat, Patch, is Sugar’s brother, and the two were totally different. Patch is very friendly; Sugar very shy. But once she got use to you, she could be very affectionate and loyal.When we first brought the two cats home as kittens, Sugar hid under the furniture for days, while Patch immediately started exploring the house (and begging for food). Patch has a loud, almost aggressive purr; Sugar’s purr was quiet and calming. Sugar was actually my daughter, Janelle’s cat. Janelle, who’s now 22 years old, no longer lives at home, and if she had tried to take Sugar, I doubt Tanya and I would have let her go.
Sugar was a great hunter, and when we lived in the wooded suburbs near Gig Harbor, she’d often bring home live critters of every sort (mice, birds, snakes, frogs, etc.) She loved to have her head scratched and would often hop up on the arm of my chair and rub her head under my hand until I scratched it. She also really liked to use her claws, digging in when she was happy. I don’t know how many sweaters of mine she ruined while I was petting her.
Sugar had been sick for a while, with no clear cause. But even while sick, she was still affectionate and active. Then last week she stopped eating and stopped roaming around the house and yard. The vet thinks it was probably liver cancer. She went downhill fast, but I like to think she had a good 13 years. We had a good 13 years with her.
This blog is my tribute to Sugar – one great cat. I will miss her.
Sorry I don’t have anything new to offer. Between getting the Seattle ebook ready for release (coming very soon!) and house repairs (digging up the basement floor tomorrow to replace the drainage system), I’ve had very little time this month for photography or blogging. So, it’s time to look back at photos from five years ago this month when I was in Scotland. As usual, comments are welcome.
I’ve been very busy lately and haven’t had much chance to take any new photos. However, I did go out with the Mountaineers last night for a quick trip to Titlow Beach here in Tacoma. Titlow is on the Tacoma Narrows, just south of the Tacoma Narrows Bridges. Titlow was the former ferry landing before the first Narrows bridge was built. Today, there is no ferry, but lots of pilings left, some shown here in the featured photo. It’s usually a good place for sunsets. Last night’s sunset was only fair, not great; but it does make a pretty picture.
So, what have I been working on other than photos? I’ve been busy digging up my front yard to replace the side sewer – a necessary job (at least if Tanya and I still want inside plumbing), but not very fun. The other shot here (taken with my cell phone) shows my buddy, Mike, working on the digging up the old sewer line. Unfortunately, we had to dig perhaps half the hole by hand. Oh, and by the way, the yellow line running the length of the trench is the natural gas line to the house. Nice placement, isn’t it? And the project isn’t done. Later this month, we will be digging up the concrete basement floor to replace the drain line connected to the sewer (more non-fun).
But I wanted to post something, so here’s a quick shot from Titlow Beach (and one from the big dig in my yard).