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).