the blog of Seldom Seen Photography

Archive for October, 2013

Seattle Workshops and Photo Excursions

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.

Irene at Union Station

During her workshop in Seattle, Irene wanted to visit Union Station. Here she is lining up a composition.

Suzzllo Grand Staircase

The Grand Staircase inside Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington

Seattle Great Wheel

Seattle’s Great Wheel and reflections in Elliot Bay

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How do You Photograph Ugly, how do You Photograph Time?

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:

  1. ugly
  2. 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)
  3. soft
  4. person/people (try to make it someone you don’t know)
  5. shadow
  6. light
  7. layers
  8. contrast (many options here, contrast between objects, contrast between light and dark, etc.)
  9. curve
  10. lines
  11. life
  12. action
  13. negative space
  14. color
  15. symmetry
  16. autumn (if in the southern hemisphere, substitute spring)
  17. old
  18. macro/closeup
  19. photographer’s choice (photograph anything you want)
  20. self-portrait

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).

Ugly

Ugly – I found this old bottle nipple stuffed with something green and shot it with a macro lens. It would have worked for the macro category as well.

Autumn

Autumn – colorful leaves fallen onto an evergreen bush. I borrowed a fellow photographer’s black coat, which I laid on the ground, to make the black background.

Negative Space

Negative Space – it’s been foggy recently in the Puget Sound region, making it easy to find an image with lots of negative space

Old

Old – these old foundations from a historic mill on the Tacoma waterfront made an interesting subject and had good light as well.

Photographers Choice

Photographers Choice – the pagoda in Chinese Reconciliation Park looked great with the fog and the fall colors

People

People – this couple (and son) asked me to take their photo with their phone, I took one with my camera as well.

Time

Time – for me, this 4-minute exposure of some old pilings is an image of time, both for the calming effect the long exposure has on the water, but also the mystery of what the pilings were part of in the past


A Hidden Autumn Jewel

Color in Black CanyonWashington, 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.

Black Canyon Wall

Looking up one of the valley walls near the mouth of the canyon.

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.

Tanya and Carson

Tanya and Carson enjoying a break along the trail below the aspen grove.

Black Canyon Aspens 1

Near the lower end of the aspen grove in Black Canyon.

Tall and Short Aspens

Some of the taller aspens in the grove.

Cabin in the Aspens

An old cabin is hidden in the aspen grove.

Black Canyon Aspens 2

The aspen grove near the cabin looking down canyon.

Black Canyon Aspens 3

More of the grove near the cabin.

White and Yellow

Much of the undergrowth is colorful as well.


What’s in your Wallet, oh I mean Camera Bag?

Calm Harbor

Image of Gig Harbor taken last week while carrying my standard equipment kit (sans tripod)

“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
  • pen
  • 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?