While rain was falling over much of western Washington yesterday, Tanya, Carson and I took a hike in eastern Washington up Umtanum Canyon. It took two hours to drive there from Tacoma, but it was worth it to stretch our legs in a desert canyon. Here’s some quick shots from the trip.
Yesterday, Tanya and I decided to take Carson on a day trip to Bainbridge Island. Rather than driving up, we drove to Seattle and took the ferry across. Carson was a huge hit on the ferry – they don’t often see dogs that big. During the day, both on the Island and the two ferry crossings, he had his photo numerous times by people we met (having a huge dog is a great way to meet people, though they only remember the dog). I imagine, Carson has his picture on Facebook more than I do.
The day was cloudy and a bit cold, and so was the ferry since we had to stay outside on the “sun” deck (no dogs allowed inside). When we arrived at Bainbridge Island, we took the Waterfront Trail, and after a light rain for 10 minutes or so, the sun came out. We had a pleasant walk, and while Carson received pets from many strangers, I took photographs. We spent several hours on the walk, and eventually made it back to the ferry, just one minute before it left for Seattle. Of course, they stop loading walk-on passengers two minutes before departure. So we had to wait an hour for the next one – such is life on an island. But even so, it was a fun day – no place special to be and no special time to be there.
The ride back to Seattle was uneventful, but then again not so. The sun had set, and with the gray skies, it was not particularly pretty out. I put the camera away and sat with Tanya on the sheltered part of the sun deck. Yet even as the gray dusk darkened and as we sailed closer to the city, without the camera in my hand, it gave me the chance to truly appreciate the Seattle skyline as the city lights came on. Even on this unspectacular evening, it was beautiful. Sometimes it’s better to just put the camera away and enjoy the now. (There’s a Jimmy Buffett song I particularly like, Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On, with lyrics about a watch that doesn’t have numbers, but just says now. And even though the song is about Hurricane Katrina, it just shows that that man really knows something about island time.) We talked to a couple visiting from New Orleans – they took a photo of Carson of course, several actually – and enjoyed the view and our sailing across Puget Sound, safe in knowing we had no schedule to meet and no particular place to go.
Enjoy these photos from Bainbridge Island; there’s nothing to special here, but then again, they were taken on island time.
I haven’t been out shooting lately. I’m planning to go out tomorrow, but with a forecast of rain, I’m not sure how much photography I’ll be doing. While it is rainy here now, that wasn’t the case six years ago, when we had a big snow storm here in the Puget Sound region. I was still living in Gig Harbor then, and risked life and limb to drive down a big icy hill to get to the city waterfront to take get some shots of a rare case of snow on the harbor. These images are from that snowy January day in 2007. If you lived around here at the time, I’m sure it’s a day you remember.
Since coming back from Spain, I’ve been catching up on things, so I haven’t had much time to blog. Last Saturday, I did have a chance to do some photography – a wedding. This wedding reminded me of why I am not fond of doing weddings.
Though asking for a couple weeks, I didn’t learn any details of the ceremony or reception until two days before. The wedding was scheduled to start at 3:00 p.m., and I arrived at the church about 70 minutes beforehand. I was introduced to the pastor, who laid out the rules, number one of which was no flash allowed during the ceremony.
I had been told that I could have the couple for pictures for only 15 minutes – between 2:15 and 2:30. Yet when the couple arrived (right at 2:15), the pastor immediately gathered wedding party and ran through the ceremony. Finally, I was allowed to work with the couple and the wedding party at about 2:35. I rushed, and got about 15 minutes of photos in. Of course, people were filing in this whole time, and the couple spent more time looking at their friends than at the camera.
The ceremony ended up started on time and I started snapping. Of course, the pastor didn’t allow me in the center aisle, or anywhere up front. Plus the crowd was big, further limiting my vantage points. To make matters worse, my auto focus had real problems in the dim light, particularly against the couple’s dark clothes. You guessed it, thanks to a high ISO setting, slow shutter speed, and large aperture, most of the shots are bad. real bad. Yes, as far as I was concerned, the whole thing was a photographer’s nightmare.
Yet I was happy I was there. You see, it was a bit of a historic wedding. See the couple has been together for 54 years, waiting the whole time to get married. It wasn’t until the election last month, when Washington State approved gay marriage, that the couple was able to be married. They weren’t the first gay couple in Tacoma to get married (the first marriage was several days before), but they certainly had been waiting the longest time. The mayor actually performed the ceremony (the pastor assisted), and half the city council and several state politicians attended. And the local newspaper covered the event. I volunteered my services for the event (as did everyone else involved), and everyone attending had a great time.
And though the photos aren’t my best, I think the couple – John and Rudy – will be happy with results. After all, their sight isn’t so good anymore.
I went with a friend and my trusty dog Carson (just over two weeks ago) to Heather Meadows at the end of the Mount Baker Highway (in a earlier post, I gave a Quick Shot from the trip). The fall colors were fantastic, as I hope these images show. Want to go for the colors? You may be too late. The fall color season was short at Heather Meadows this year (though it’s probably short most years). A trail report on the Washington Trails Association websitedidn’t mention fall colors on September 30th, nor did the accompanying photos show much. And as of October 22nd, according to the US Forest Service website, all the Heather Meadows trails are now snow-covered, the lakes have started freezing over, and the road is gated at the ski area’s upper parking lot – a good distance below Artist Point were about half of these photos were taken. Winter has come to Heather Meadows. Fall lasted about 3 weeks.
Though on the Mount Baker Highway, the real star of the Heather Meadows area is Mount Shuksan. The view of Mt. Shuksan from Picture Lake (the featured image above) is one of the most photographed scenes in Washington State. Unfortunately, when we were there, there was a breeze, ruining the reflection in Picture Lake, but it still made a great scene.
Besides Picture Lake, we drove up to the end of the highway at Artist Point and did the short hike along Artist Ridge. Again, Shuksan is the star here – though the view of Mount Baker is good too. We were there in the afternoon (and later, at sunset), and the light was much better on Shuksan than Baker. I venture that Baker looks better in morning light (but with a 5+ hour drive from Tacoma, I wasn’t about to get there early).
Unlike the northeastern United States, the Northwest is not know for its autumn colors. This is not surprising, considering the primary tree cover in the Pacific Northwest is composed of firs, pines, and other evergreens. But, there are some spots where fall color can be found. The Heather Meadows area is one – you just have to be quick to see it.
The image above is another from my trip to the beach last month. It is my favorite of the whole trip, and I recently made a print of it. I thought I’d tell you how this particular image went from just an idea to a final print. However, if you want to skip all the details, and just see what the original RAW image looked like, you can just compare the final processed version above with the unprocessed RAW image below.
Prevision: It was near sunset and the tide was low. I had wanted a sunset shot with tide pools in the foreground, but that idea was out because of the fog bank I described in my earlier post . Instead I thought about an image with tide pools and the incoming waves mist-like on the shore. Because it was so gray out, for color I needed starfish (which are naturally purple and orange on this part of the coast) and green sea anemones. I wanted the starfish and selected tide pool to be the focus, with the rest of the image dark and misty (from the waves).
Camera Work: I found a several promising tide pools, some of which I showed in the earlier post. I spent a lot of time at this one, I thought the composition looked good, with the tide pool opening to the right rear and the big cluster of starfish. To blur the incoming waves into a mist, I knew I needed a long exposure, which forced me into using a small aperture. The final image was taken at ISO 100 and f/22 for 8 seconds. Obviously I used a tripod. I needed to be close to the tide pool, requiring a wide-angle lens to capture the entire scene. I put on my 10-22mm zoom and set it to 22mm. Finally, I wanted the center of interest to be the starfish on the far side of the pool. This was actually close to the darkest part of the scene. To help I used a flash to light up the far side of the tide pool. The original RAW capture, with just Lightroom defaults, is shown below.
Lightroom Processing: As you can see, even with the fill flash, the rock with the starfish was very dark. I knew it would take some dodging and burning work to bring it out to my original vision for the image. However, first things first. I always do global adjustments (those affecting the whole image) first before targeted ones. Usually my first step is to level the horizon and use LR’s lens correction feature. I typically use a bubble level on my hot shoe to help keep the horizon level when I shoot, but with the flash, that wasn’t possible. With the wide-angle zoom, there is a lot of distortion and chromatic aberration, both easily fixed in LR.
Next I adjusted the white balance. I slid LR’s blue-yellow slider to the right (yellow) to add warmth to the image.
The image needed a bit more contrast, so I then set the white and black points by using the Whites and Blacks sliders. In this case, I moved the sliders to broaden the histogram and add just a little clipping of both blacks and whites.
I knew I wanted to essentially invert the luminosity of the image, making most of the image darker and lightening up the back wall (which is dark in the original capture). To most effectively do this, I darkened the whole image by significantly moving the Exposure slider to the left (about 3/4 a stop), then recovered that much in the dark areas with the Shadows slider, moving it to the right.
This was generally it for global adjustments, at least initially. Now it was time to work on problem areas to bring out my vision. First, the sky and water was still too light. So I added a Graduated Filter in LR. I used a relatively soft edge, and set the center of the gradient about 1/4 the way down from the top, reducing the exposure by another 1/3 stop. Then to add a bit more contrast to the background rocks and water, I adjusted the Contrast slider on the filter to the right.
Next I knew I needed a lot of painting with the Adjustment Brush. First I needed to lighten up the main area of interest – the tide pool and nearby rocks. The following shows where I added the brush and the effect. I added about 1/2 stop with the Exposure slider and even more with the Highlights slider to bring out the highlights.
It was still to dark in my primary subject area, so I painted a second time in the area shown below. This time I added another 1/2 stop in exposure, with lighted up the shadows more, added some “crispness” with the Clarity slider, and bumped up the color with the Saturation slider. (Normally, I do not use the Saturation sliders much in LR. I more typically use the Vibrance slider as a global adjustment. Here, to really emphasis the back wall of the tide pool, I didn’t use the Vibrance slider at all, and only used the Saturation slider with targeted adjustments).
Now it was time to work on the water in the tide pool. I wanted the highlights in the water to show better, and for there to be more contrast between the light and dark portions of the water. So I added a little exposure and bumped up the Highlights and Contrast sliders. I also upped the saturation slightly.
That helped with the water, but I wanted the white areas of the water in the tide pool to be more pronounced, so I painted those areas with another adjustment brush to lighten them up.
I wanted to add a bit more color and lightness to the starfish and anemones (on the rock and in the water) in the foreground. So I added another adjustment brush, upping the exposure slightly and adding some saturation.
At this point, I liked the luminosity of the areas I had used the adjustment brushes on, but thought the rest of the image was too bright for my original vision. So I decreased the exposure slider by another 1/2 stop to darken the whole image.
Then I restored the exposure values to each of the previous adjustment brushes, adding back the 1/2 stop of exposure only in the brushed areas.
Then to further focus the eye to the center of the image, I added a vignette with the Post-Crop Vignette slider.
With that done, some of the rocks on the left still seemed a bit too bright. So with another adjustment brush, I made them slightly darker.
And, the white water at the mouth of the tide pool still looked a bit dark to me, so I added a seventh adjustment brush to brighten up this area a bit.
At this point, I was close to the final, pre-Photoshop image. However, with all the adjustment brush work, the image had lost contrast (mainly by darkening the highlights). I needed to re-establish the white clipping point to gain back the lost contrast. So I adjusted the whites slider upward and also fine-tuned the color temperature (cooling the image slightly).
But with that adjustment, some of the white water at the mouth of the tide pool was too bright, so I deleted part of the seventh adjustment brush.
Now it was time for some touch-up work with the spot removal tool to remove sensor dust spots (I’m bad, I don’t clean my sensor nearly often enough). The dust spots were very visible because of the small aperture used on the image. I was able to fix all of them except one straddling the surf line near the upper center of the image; I knew I’d need the cloning tool from Photoshop to fix that one.
At this point, I was done processing the RAW image in Lightroom. Though it looks close to my vision, I thought I could improve it a bit further in Photoshop (in addition to fixing the final dust spot). Before sending it to Photoshop, I applied some noise reduction.
Photoshop Processing: The first step in Photoshop was to adjust the global contrast again, this time using Curves, giving it a slight “S” adjustment, and giving the image some more pop.
I occasionally use a luminosity masking technique, known as the Triple Play, created by Tony Kuyper to improve the shadows and highlights when in Photoshop. I tried it out, and in this case, the Triple Play lead to a slight improvement in both the shadows and highlights.
I cloned out the final dust spot that I couldn’t fix in Lightroom. And then refined my previous Lightroom brushwork painting on a dodging/burning layer.
The final step was to apply a bit of sharpening and the image was complete. I use an adjustable sharpening action based on the book Real World Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop CS2 by Bruce Fraser. The sharpening applied here is intended to sharpen to remove the slight blur caused by the camera. With that, the image was complete and my vision was realized. Easy right?
After the processing was done, the only thing left to do was make a print (I do additional sharpening prior to printing after resizing the image). I made 10×15-inch print, matted it, and it is now hanging at the gallery in Gig Harbor where one of my photo clubs (Sound Exposure) hangs their work.
You might be asking, “how long did all this processing take?” Though I didn’t time myself, it took much less time to do than to write this blog post. I’d guess the complete processing, from RAW to the final photo below (not including printing) took about 30 to 40 minutes. I don’t spend that much time on every shot; but in this case, I think it was well worth it.
At last the rain hit today, ending perhaps the longest dry spell in western Washington history. Luckily, I spent the last day of the dry weather (yesterday) up at Mount Baker in the Heather Meadows area. The fall colors were fantastic. Tomorrow, in the morning, I’m heading off to eastern Washington for the weekend to go to a football game. I wanted to leave you with a blog post before I go, so here’s a quick shot I took yesterday. This is Mount Baker, as seen from Artist Point. More from my trip up to Heather Meadows later.
By working on my Seattle ebook project, I’ve visited a few sites in Seattle that I’ve never been before. Though I’ve been to Lake Union Park and the Center for Wooden Boats several times in the past, somehow I have always missed the Historic Ships Wharf, that is until last week. If you like maritime history, this is fun little place to visit. It is located in Lake Union Park, at the north end of the Naval armory (soon to be the new home of the Museum of History and Industry).
There are five or six boats berthed at the Historic Ships Wharf. Northwest Seaport owns two of the ships – the tugboat Arthur Foss and the lightship No. 83 “Swiftsure”, both of which are National Historic Landmarks. The Arthur Foss was built in 1889 and has a long history of working from Alaska to Hawaii, including starring in the 1934 movie Tugboat Annie. She was decommissioned in 1970. Lightship No. 83 was built in 1904 and has served on both the east and west coasts. She retired in 1961 and is currently undergoing restoration by the Northwest Seaport.
Other vessels at the wharf include the 1922 steamship Virginia V (also a National Historic Landmark) and the 1910 fireboat Duwamish. The Virginia V is the last remaining steamer of Seattle’s famous Mosquito Fleet. It currently hosts the Farmboat Floating Market (a farmers market, for information go to www.farmboat.org) every Thursday.
The wharf is also home to schooner Lavengro – the last original Biloxi “White Winged Queen” schooner in the world. When photographing the Lavengro, I had the good fortune to meet her captain – Kim Carver. She told me a little history about her ship and suggested that owners of most the boats at the wharf would welcome a photographer on board by just asking. Captain Carver also said that she gives free rides on the Lavengro most Sundays as part of a program sponsored by the Center for Wooden Boats.
There are few places where you can see several historic ships like these all on one pier. If you like old boats, I suggest checking it out.
I previously mentioned that I am working on several personal photo projects. One of those has reached its conclusion. As a member of the Mountaineers, I decided to document the “remodel” of the Tacoma branch’s clubhouse. The remodel involved tearing down the old building, except for a portion of one wall, and then building a whole new structure. Approximately weekly from January through August, I took shots of the clubhouse as it went down and back up again. I’ve made a couple of videos with those shots. The club will be showing them at the Grand Opening of the new facility this coming Thursday. However, I’ve posted them on Vimeo with links here.
Obviously to do a series of shots like this, you want to shoot from exactly the same spot with exactly the same setting every time. I found this is easier said than done. When I shot the images, I took two sets of shots from each vantage point. Using my 24-70mm lens, I shot one set at 24 mm and another set at 28 mm. Additionally, I always used aperture-priority mode with the f-stop at f/11 and ISO at 100. I had the camera on my tripod, and I always set the tripod feet in the same spots.
After taking shots for several weeks, I found I was more successful with the zoom set at 24 mm instead of 28 mm. I found that when I set it at 28 mm, it was difficult to set the lens consistently at 28 mm – sometimes it would up being at 27 mm, sometimes at 29 mm. I suggest if you try the same thing, and use a zoom lens, always set the lens at one end or the other of its zoom range for more consistent results.
Another difficulty resulted from my tripod, which has a ball head. With this tripod head, it was difficult to always get the camera pointed exactly the same direction and angle. I used a bubble level on the hot shoe to help and tried to line the edges of the frame at a consistent spot on the neighboring building. Even so, I found considerable variation between shots taken in different weeks. Consequently, I rotated and cropped each image in Lightroom, attempting to get the orientation exactly the same for each image. I was somewhat successful, the building does “wander” a bit back and forth between images, but it isn’t too objectionable in my opinion. Overall I’m happy with the result.
Earlier this summer I visited my old hometown of Spokane, Washington. I previously have only shown one image from that trip in my blog because I was there on assignment with American Bungalow Magazine, and they had first publication rights to the images. The current issue (August-November 2012) of American Bungalow came out late last month with a 8-page article on Spokane featuring 12 of my images. You can go to your local bookstore or library to see those images, but here are several that didn’t make the magazine. Enjoy and let me know what you think.
Earlier this week, Tanya,, Carson and I went camping for three days at La Wis Wis near White Pass. I took the opportunity to drive up to Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park for one sunset and one sunrise. Though it looked like they were slightly past their prime, the wildflowers were incredible at Paradise. If you want to see them this year, you best get up there fast.
For my sunset shots, I hiked from the visitor center eastward on the Skyline Trail then partly up the Golden Gate Trail. The flowers were great on the Golden Gate Trail, but the view of Rainier is partially obstructed by a ridge. Luckily for me, the view of the Tatoosh Range to the south put on a good alpenglow show.
The next morning, after arriving at Paradise at 5:45 a.m. (no trouble finding parking at that time!), I headed north on the Skyline Trail to Glacier Vista, then back to the visitor center via the Deadhorse Creek and Waterfall Trails. Again, great flowers, but also more unobstructed views of Rainier (the featured photo above is of Rainier from the Deadhorse Creek Trail). Unfortunately, there wasn’t much color in the sunrise. However, low-lying clouds below Paradise made for some good shots.
Anyway, I just wanted to post a few photos from the trip to show you why they call it Paradise!
Last week Tanya, Carson and I traveled to the Palouse region of eastern Washington and northern Idaho on a photo trip. I had originally planned on spending three nights in the area, but was only able to spend one due to receiving an assignment from American Bungalow magazine to photograph sites in Spokane (look for my photos in the August edition of the magazine). Luckily, the day I spent in the Palouse area was very productive.
The highlight of the trip, for me at least, was a pair of visits to Steptoe Butte, once at sunset and again during the following sunrise (which, I might mention, comes damn early in mid-June; in fact, the sun rose at 4:53 a.m., the earliest time all year for that location). Upon when driving up Steptoe Butte before sunset, we were lucky enough to run into my good friend and fellow photographer Jack Graham, who was leading a photo workshop in the Palouse. We hung out with Jack’s group and witnessed an excellent sunset. The sunrise (a mere 8 hours later), in contrast, was very plain (no clouds), but the early light did wonders with the rolling hills of the Palouse. It would have been perfect if it wasn’t for the wind, which shook my camera and softened up many of my images. I’ll have to go back next year with a bigger tripod.
Following sunrise, I drove some of the many back roads in the area looking for photo opportunities with the eventual goal of photographing the Freeze Community Church outside of Potlatch, Idaho. I shot a lot of pixels at the church and will show some of them in a follow-up blog post soon.
Eventually, I drove back to Colfax, Washington, where we were staying, and picked up Tanya and Carson (both of whom didn’t want to get up at 4:00 a.m. to go photograph the sunrise, imagine that!). Our afternoon goals were to visit Pullman (home of Washington State University, where Tanya went to school) and see Colton, a small town co-founded by my great-grandfather and great great uncle. The afternoon light didn’t offer many good photos, but we had a good time exploring the country side. Perhaps the most surrealistic moment was when we stopped at St. Gall’s Cemetery in Colton and seeing a headstone with my name on it, which belong to some long-lost relative of mine, as well as a headstone with my parents names – actually belonging to by great-grandparents (considering my Dad is still alive and my Mom is buried in Spokane).
While my highlight was Steptoe, Carson’s highlight of the trip was when we stopped to photograph the street sign for Becker Road (which is north of Colton and surrounded by wheat fields). Carson, being a dog of course, didn’t care about the sign, but did find something dead at the edge of a field which he promptly rolled upon. We remembered a pet grooming shop in Colfax, but when we drove by, it was closed with a sign stated “please call for an appointment.” Not very convenient when you have 140 pounds of stinky dog in your car. We called, but there was no answer, so we kept going on our drive to Spokane, where we were to spend the night at my Dad’s house, Carson (I’m sure) enjoying the smell much more than we did. In Spokane, we stopped at PetCo and found a waterless dog shampoo, which worked wonders and left us with a clean smelling end to our quick trip to the Palouse.
Monday, Tanya, Carson and I returned from a 4-day weekend on the Oregon coast. I’ll post some photos of that trip soon, as I haven’t had a chance to download them all yet. Meanwhile, I wanted to post about another day trip to Seattle last week. Since we are in the prime spring blooming season for azaleas and rhododendrons, I wanted to photograph Kubota Garden and the Washington Park Arboretum.
It was my first visit to Kubota Gardens, though I had heard many good things about it. It is a wonderful little park, about 20 acres (8 hectares) filled with a blend of Japanese and Pacific Northwest gardening styles. Fujitaro Kubota, an early 20-century immigrant from Japan, developed the garden for his personal pleasure and to serve his landscaping business. In 1972 Kubota received the Fifth Class Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Japanese Government for his efforts introducing Japanese gardening to the United States. Kubota died a year later. When the garden was later threatened with development, the garden was declared a Historical Seattle Landmark and the City eventually purchased the property from the Kubotafamily. This place is definitely worth a visit.
I had been to Washington Park Arboretum before, but it has been about 30 years (back in my college days). The arboretum is jointly administered by the University of Washington and the City of Seattle. The arboretum is also home the Seattle Japanese Garden, which because of photography restrictions (no tripods except by becoming a “photographic member” and then only on 8 special days per year), I did not visit on this trip. Regardless, there was plenty to see in the rest of the arboretum. Azalea Way is the main path through the arboretum, and indeed it does have lots of few azaleas and rhodies along it. I spent most the visit along this path taking photos of the blooms.
Near the end of my visit, I was walking back to the car along Azalea Way hoping to get a shot of the path lined with colorful flowers. Even though there were lots of flowers, finding the right spot for this shot wasn’t as easy as I hoped (I wanted a shot with flowers on both side and the path curving – there weren’t too many spots like this). Finally I found a spot I thought might work. I stepped off to the side to take a shot. At this point I noticed a shirtless man sitting on a park bench about 25 to 30 yards (23 – 27 meters) away a short distance off the path. I really didn’t want him in the photo, but figured it added a bit of human interest and he would not be prominently visible in the frame (as I was using a wide-angle lens).
As I put the camera to my eye to line up a composition, the man on the bench stood up. I lowered the camera, not wanting him standing in the shot. He then proceeded to pull on some black shorts; he was not only topless, he was bottomless as well! (I had previously noticed his bare legs, but I had thought he was wearing shorts.) After pulling his shorts on, he quickly jogged straight at me, stopping about 5 feet (1.5 meters) away.
Though he was taller than me and probably outweighed me by 30 or 40 pounds (14-18 kilograms), he puffed himself up threateningly and sternly asked what the hell I was doing. I answered that I had not taken a picture. He said, “I made eye contact with you and you ignored it!” to which I thought “probably because I wasn’t looking at you and didn’t even want you in my photo in the first place.” Again I said I had not taken his photo, and again he ignored my response. He called me an obscene name, and again asked why I was taking his photo, and again I said I did not. He made a few other choice comments, and we sort of stared at each other a while longer. He finally said not to take any more photos. I said I wouldn’t and we both walked off. However, I couldn’t help but think, if he’s sunbathing in the nude next to a popular walking trail in a city of 600,000 people, why does he care if someone takes his picture? I still want the shot, but thought better of it and moved on down the path.
A short distance further, I actually found a better spot for the photo I wanted (with the added bonus of no naked men). Here’s a few photos from the trip, minus any naked men; the featured photo above is of the Moon Bridge in Kubota Gardens.
I’m fascinated by airplanes. It may be because I love to travel, to fly away to someplace special, or it may be because it’s amazing how something so big and heavy can get off the ground. I don’t get to fly away very often, but I can visit the Boeing Museum of Flight by just driving to south Seattle, like Tanya and I went did week.
I hadn’t been in years, and it is bigger than I remember. The museum has five main exhibition areas:
- the Great Gallery, a 6-story exhibition hall which contains 39 full-size aircraft
- the Red Barn, the original Boeing building which features the Boeing story from 1916 to 1958
- the Personal Courage Wing, which present the story of fighter aviation in World War I and II
- the Space Gallery, which will soon house one of NASA’s space shuttle trainers, and
- the Airpark, an outside area with 6 large planes, including the Kennedy/Johnson Air Force One, the very first 747, and a Concorde
It’s a bit of challenge to photograph there. The contrast can be extreme, especially in the Great Gallery with it glass walls. But tripods are allowed, so I made use of HDR to handle the contrast on many shots (such as the featured image above, which shows the world’s sole remaining Boeing 80A-1 in the foreground and a DC3 above it – back in my college days, I rode several times in DC3s in Alaska). It’s a fun spot, well worth visiting. The museum does charge an admission fee, but is free on the first Thursday evening of each month.
On April 15th and 22nd I traveled to Ocean Shores. Ocean Shores is a small beach town along the central Washington coast. It has the closest Pacific Ocean beach to the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area. The purpose of my trip was to drop off, then pick up, several images I had in the Ocean Shores photography show. Though I usually enter this show every year, for the first time this year, the show was juried. I was proud to have four images accepted. My black and white skunk cabbage image (previously featured in this post) won an award of merit.
One can’t go to Ocean Shores the town without visiting Ocean Shores the beach. Truth be told, it’s not my favorite beach. I prefer vehicle-free beaches bordered by rocky headlands, with crashing waves and critter-filled tidepools. The beach at Ocean Shores is a broad, wide swath of sand backed by small dunes partly covered with sharp grasses. Plus, as far as Washington beaches go, it is fairly crowded with people, cars, mopeds, and horses. But it is a beach, after all, and cannot be passed up!
My first trip there last month, Carson was my companion. Carson and I walked on the beach for an hour or so, as I tried to get some shore birds shots. Getting close enough for a decent shot was tough, even using my 70-200mm zoom with 1.4x teleconverter. There is no place to hide as you approach the birds, and being trailed by a black dog the size of a small bear doesn’t help. Carson eventually got tired of following me around and just sat down. And the birds eventually got use to Carson and I and allowed me to get close enough for a few shots. They even started moving in around Carson, which I though funny since they kept flying off if he got remotely close before.
On the second trip, Tanya accompanied Carson and I. There were less shore birds about, but it was mostly sunny and the sky held some interesting clouds. I took out the camera, but only ended up taking a few images (including the sunny one below). Instead, the three of us just walked by the ocean, enjoying a nice spring day at the beach.
I hope you enjoy these images from the beach.
One of the main goals of the trip was to photograph the full moon rising over the city. Using the program, The Photographer’s Ephemeris, I planned where I should shoot the moon as it rose. I calculated that the moon would rise close to the Space Needle if photographed from Ursula Judkins Viewpoint in the Magnolia area, just west of the Magnolia bridge. Early in the day I drove by this park to scout out where I should shoot from. I picked a spot by the parking lot that looked like it had the perfect view of the Space Needle.
As I photographed throughout Seattle that day, I worried whether the clouds would obscure the view of the rising moon. The eastern horizon never did look very clear. When the sun got low over the Olympic Mountains west of Puget Sound, I left the downtown waterfront, where I had been working, and headed back toward Magnolia.
I had selected the Parkmont Place viewpoint for a sunset shot. This long, narrow park along the Magnolia bluff top offers a number of viewpoints looking west over Puget Sound toward the Olympic Mountains. As I crossed the Magnolia Bridge heading toward Parkmont Place, I drove by the Ursula Judkins Viewpoint I had scouted earlier. There was one photographer there; he had a tripod set up in the exact spot I had earlier picked out.
The sunset was okay, not great; but I did get some nice shots of the ferry MV Wenatchee as it steamed from Bainbridge to Seattle and the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis as it cruised northward on the Sound. The sun set around 7:45 p.m. A little before 8:00, I drove back to Ursula Judkins for the moonrise at 8:18 p.m. The drive took about 3 minutes and the eastern sky was mostly cloudy. I couldn’t tell if it was clear on the horizon.
When I arrived at the viewpoint, the one other photographer had morphed into about 30 photographers! I was lucky to get the last parking spot in the park. The spot I had earlier picked out was now crowded with about 15 tripods. I set up at the car and then walked over there with my tripod. I had my small tripod with me, and it was not tall enough to get a clear view without other tripods and photographers in the way. I moved, and ended up back near my car, where with my 70-200 zoom lens I could isolate the Space Needle well.
I snapped a few frames of the Space Needle as darkness descended, still unsure if the moon would show through the clouds. Then an orange glow appeared in back of the Cascade Mountains. Soon, the moon was an orange ball shining through thin clouds immediately over the mountains. Minutes later, it rose further and was hidden by clouds. It made one more partial appearance, but then was again obscured. Most of the other photographers were still there when I left, hoping the moon would again show before it got too high in the sky. But I left, with the drive back to Tacoma in mind. I’m happy with the moonrise shot I did capture; I hope you agree.
If you follow my blog, you may know I’ve been having a problem taking a good day off to go shoot some photos. Last Friday I went up to Seattle, rain or shine and received mostly shine and no rain! I had two main goals for the trip: the cherry trees at University of Washington and shot of the full moon rising over the city. I ended up with a lot of good images, so I’m breaking the trip up into several posts. Today – shots from the University of Washington.
I am a graduate of UW. I remember the cherry trees from those four springs 30 years ago, but never found the time to photograph them when I was in school. It seemed it was time to do so. With that goal in mind, I headed straight up I5 to the 45th Street exit in Seattle. I parked in the northern lot ($15 to park – boy has the price of parking risen in the past 30 years!) and headed to the quad. The cherry trees were even more glorious than I remembered. It was in between classes when I arrived, so there was a lot of foot traffic. But after about 10 minutes, most the students were inside, and I was able to get a few compositions without a lot of people. The sky was full of low clouds, so I tried to keep the sky out of my compositions.
Eventually I wandered over to Red Square and took some shots of the Suzzallo Library, including the one below showing the Broken Obelisk sculpture (with Suzzallo in the background).
Besides the cherry trees, another shot I’ve wanted to capture for a long time is one of Suzzallo’s reading room. I entered the library and went up the Grand Staircase to the reading room. Upon entering the room, the silence was intimidating. There were a number of students studying, and I feared my shutter noise would echo throughout the entire room. As it turned out, the shutter noise wasn’t too bad, but the zipper on my camera bag was loud (earning me a sharp look from the nearest student). I quickly shot a couple of series of exposures for HDR processing and got out of there before a librarian showed up.
By the time I left the library, the sun had come out. I walked around campus and eventually headed back to the cherry trees on the quad. After more shots (made more difficult by many more people being present, including several other photographers), I went back to the car and retrieved my partner for the day – our Newfoundland, Carson. Carson and I then walked around while I took a few more photos.
The UW mascot is the Husky, and UW teams, students, and alumni are fondly known as the Dawgs. But Carson was certainly the top dog on campus that day! After the cherry trees, I venture there were more photographs taken of Carson than anything else, with at least 4 students asking to take his picture (perhaps understandable, as Carson is an impressive dog, weighing in at 150 pounds).
Hope you like these shots of the University of Washington campus. More from Seattle to come shortly.
Saturday, I went on a church retreat. Normally, Tanya has to talk me into these things, but this retreat included a session for photography! Talk about a progressive church! (We also had drumming and Tai Chi sessions.) The retreat was held at Pilgrim Firs, a UCC-sponsored camp and retreat center on the forested shores of Lake Flora in Kitsap County, Washington.
While spring has apparently sprung in the city (blooming trees and daffodils, etc.), it hasn’t quite hit the forests of Kitsap County. Though the forest is mostly evergreens, it has a kind of half-bare look. A lot of the undergrowth and the trees by the lake were still bare. No green leaf buds to be found! I’m not a fan of the typical western Washington winter forest look, so most of my images were macros of moss, leaves, bark, and such, though I did have some fun with the camp cat – a very impressive one-eyed orange tabby. – who, according to signs in the lodge, likes to get into visitors’ cars if the windows are open. Apparently, this cat rules the place.
Now that spring is here, I’ve tried to take a day off to go do some “real” photography, but have been thwarted by the weather. I might just have to suck it up and go in the rain (like I did for my coastal trip in February). I actually planned to take today off, but the weather report sent me to work instead. Maybe later this week. Meanwhile, I hope you like these images from the land of the one-eyed cat.
I’ve lived in the Tacoma area for almost 20 years and have never bothered to investigate the Port of Tacoma with camera in hand. So the other day, I went down there for a couple of hours to see what I could find. As it turns out, I didn’t find much. There is not much public access in the port. I guess that is not too surprising, and I could have figured that out before heading down there by checking out Washington’s public shore access website. There is plenty of public access on the Thea Foss Waterway, by downtown Tacoma. However, that area is much less “port-like,” being full of pleasure boat marinas. The north end of the Thea Foss does have large ships tie up at the grain elevator terminal, so my first stop was at Thea Park, just down the shoreline from the grain elevators.
After a few shots, such as the one featured with this post, I crossed over to the east side of the Thea Foss Waterway and tried to follow the shoreline looking for other views of ships. Most the views are fairly limited – behind fences, acres of containers, etc. There is restricted access on many roads – likely the result of 9/11. The only true public access in the whole port is at the Port of Tacoma office, on the southern end of Sitcum Waterway. Here, there is an observation tower, with a nice view of the working port. However, the port was not working much that day. There was only one ship in the Sitcum Waterway, so my photo opportunities were limited. The two photos below are from that spot.
Leaving there, I drove down the west side of the Blair waterway. There were ships in the Blair, but no way to photograph them. When driving back up the east side of the Blair, I finally found a promising spot – the former parking lot for the closed Emerald Queen Casino. It was a big empty lot, right next to the water. There were views available of several ships, including the old paddle-wheeler at the casino.
I was walking around a bit, camera and tripod in hand, checking out angles. But before I could take a shot, a car came shooting across the old lot directly for me. It pulled up, window rolled down. A security guard within, our conversation went something like this:
Security Guard: “Young man, can I ask you what you are doing?” (Now, I’m 52 and have mostly grey hair, which tells you about the age of this guard.)
Me: ” Just looking around.”
Security Guard: “This is private property and a restricted area. You drove right by a sign saying so when you came in here.”
Me: “I didn’t see any sign.”
Security Guard: “Well it’s there.”
Me: “I guess I’m leaving now then.”
I wanted to ask him if it’s such a secure place, how come there were thousands of spent fireworks all over the pavement. But thinking better of it, I just turned and walked back to my car. As a did, the guard drove around me and back toward the street entrance. There, he stopped. I thought he was just waiting for me to leave. But he got out of his car and started looking around on the side of the road. I got back in my car, and drove toward the entrance. Just before I got there, the guard picked up a sign that was laying face down on the ground and started struggling to make it stand upright. The sign read: “Private Property, Restricted Access, No Trespassing” or something to that effect.
As I was leaving, I stopped and rolled down my window. I asked the guard, “Is that the sign you mentioned?” He got a sheepish grin on his face, and said yes. I smiled, gave him a slight nod, and drove home.
Bad weather can often make for good photographs, or so I’ve often read. However, sometimes bad weather is just bad. Such was the case last Wednesday. I scheduled the day off from my day job to do some photography. Wednesday morning didn’t look too bad when I got up, but by the time Tanya and I had the dog and cameras packed up in the car it was raining. Remembering that bad weather sometimes makes for good photography, I wasn’t too worried about coming home skunked.
We drove south and west to go the beach at Westport and Grayland. Though the sun started peeking through the clouds early in the drive, by the time we reached Aberdeen, there was a constant mist falling and the sky was a blank, gray sheet. We stopped at the Johns River Wildlife Area to let the dog out. Luckily, the mist had stopped falling, and I was able to take a few photos. After an hour or so, we continued on to Westport. We drove down to the marina, and the mist started up again, now accompanied by wind. I walked a bit on the docks, but took few pictures – it was pretty miserable out.
We then drove over to the beach by the jetty, and the mist let up again. However, the sky was still a blank slate and the wind was strong. We walked on the beach some, and I took a few more photos. Normally in situations like this, where the sky is so lifeless in photos, I try to concentrate more on taking detail shots – like of beach rocks, patterns in the sand, etc. However, the wind was causing me problems, shaking the tripod. And the clouds were so thick, it was dark, requiring long shutter speeds.
Later we drove down to Tokeland and then back up to Grayland for another walk on the beach, this time back in the mist. We ended the day having a picnic dinner, with a bottle of red from the Westport Winery, in the car facing the waves of the Pacific. There was no sunset, just a slow fading of what little light there was.
Overall, it was a great day. How can being on the beach with wife and dog not be? Just not a good day for photography.
I had hoped to offer some new images this week. I took Monday off from my day job to go do some photography. But instead, I ended up cutting a hole in my bathroom ceiling to evict a pregnant squirrel from my attic. The squirrel is gone, the hole remains, and still have no new images to show (and yes, I do feel bad for the squirrel, I hope she found a new home). So once again I reach into the archives.
Five years ago this month, my family took a trip to the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park just south of Tacoma. It was a family outing to show our Chinese exchange student some of the native wildlife of the Pacific Northwest, so I didn’t do a lot of photography, but of course I took the camera along.
I spent a about 15 minutes with a grizzly. Most of the time, it appeared to be asleep, but it did stir for a couple of minutes, which is when I took this series of pictures. I probably would have spent more time there, but the family beckoned.
Northwest Trek is a great place to take some wildlife images. They have a tram ride through a free-roaming area (which the bears are not part of) that can lead to some great images. Occasionally they have special photographer trips on the trams, which occur earlier in the morning and make more stops. Groups of photographers can even arrange for these special tours. I went on one back in my film days with the Pacific Northwest Nature Photographers and would like to go again some day.
When out at Northwest Trek or wherever your photographic adventures might take you, remember it sometimes helps to keep thing simple and look for the bare necessities in your compositions!
Sometimes it seems like the new year has addled my brain. I wanted to put out a new blog post, but my brain fog wouldn’t let me think of a topic. So what does a photographer do when they have nothing new to show, pull something out of the archives of course. Thus, this post, complete with photos from January 2007.
Five years ago I lived in Gig Harbor. Gig Harbor, like much of western Washington, doesn’t get much snow. In the typical winter, we might get snow two or three times a winter. In January 2007, we had a rather large snow storm hit the harbor. It was cold enough to freeze some of the water in the harbor. I drove down to the harbor before going to work that day and took these shots.
Back then was rather different from conditions today here in 2012. Today it feels almost like spring here; some trees in the neighborhood are starting to bloom, as are Tanya’s geraniums on the front porch. Of course, it still is winter, and it could get cold again any day. We might even have snow, like that day in January five years ago.
Paradise, in Mount Rainier National Park, is the highest point you can drive in Washington State Cascades in winter. It would be the highest point drivable in the state, except for Sherman Pass (between Republic and Kettle Falls) in northeastern Washington which is about 200 feet higher. Paradise is an amazing place in winter. The National Park Service claims Paradise is the snowiest place on Earth where snowfall is regularly measured. The maximum annual snowfall observed there was in the winter of 1971-72, when 93.5 feet (28.5 meters) of snow fell. When I was there in mid-December, it was not quite that snowy, I think there was about 58 inches (1.5 meters) at the time. However, since Christmas, some storms have blown through and the accumulation as of the start of 2012 was 77 inches (2 meters). (You can check on the current snowpack at the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center.)
With all that snow, it is amazing the road is kept open, particularly in today’s climate of budget cutting (please don’t tell the Park Service how much money they could save by closing the road in winter!). The road to Paradise is open most days (there’s a gate at Longmire, which opens each morning after the road is cleared and closes currently at 5:00 p.m. uphill and 6 p.m. downhill). During storms, the road remains closed during the day. All vehicles are required to carry tire chains.
Mount Rainier is a great place to travel to in the winter. There are plenty of sights to see from the road. Strap on some snowshoes or skis and there’s even more. On our day trip up there in mid-December, I took snowshoes; Tanya took skis. It helps to have some way to wander off the road and parking lots a bit. For most the shots here (and the one in my previous post), I wandered off the road. It is possible to get some good shots without venturing out into the snow, but without snowshoes or skis, you might have trouble getting around the snowbanks along the roads left from the snowplows. This is hard sometimes even with snowshoes or skis. Another problem is just finding a place to pull over. Many of the pullouts there in the summer are not plowed. However, there is a lot of parking at Longmire, Narada Falls, and Paradise (though the parking at Paradise, in particular, can fill up on weekends).
Remember if you do go up in the mountains this winter for photography, at Rainier or anywhere else, here are some reminders:
- Check the conditions before you go and dress appropriately
- Don’t wander out in the snow if you aren’t prepared
- And if you do wander out there, be aware of potential avalanche danger
- Remember that camera batteries don’t like the cold. Take extra batteries and keep them warm.
- Don’t trust your camera meter, or all that snow will be gray instead of white. Open up your exposure by one to two stops, or use your camera’s auto-bracketing feature (if it has one).
- Try adding a bit of color to all that snow in your compositions (blue skies, green trees, colorful clothes of your companions, sunrise/sunset colors, etc.)
- Remember to have fun!