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Quick Shots: Frozen Annapolis

Naval HouseI’ve been spending the week in Baltimore while Tanya attends a conference. While winter has been very mild back in western Washington, it is very cold here. This morning, the low temperature was 2 degrees. This has not stopped me from getting out to do some photography. Here are a few quick shots from Annapolis, Maryland. Thanks to friend and fellow travel photographer Walter Rowe for suggesting Annapolis. It is a great place for travel photography, and I will have to get back some day when it is not so frozen. These shots were taken several days ago, when the temperature was only in the 20s. I’ll post some more shots from the trip after I get home. Meanwhile, enjoy these shots from frozen Annapolis.

US Naval Academy Chapel

Cadet

Winter at the Academy

Frozen Harbor

Ice

Statehouse


Nightscapes Lecture

Grand Canyon stars from NankoweapI wish I could say the images accompanying this post are mine, but they are not. They are the work of Royce Bair. Royce is a photographer from Utah who specializes in shooting night-time landscapes that incorporate the Milky Way. He calls these images Nightscapes. He is currently touring the United States give lectures on how to capture such images. I was lucky enough to convince him to come to Tacoma and give his talk to the Tacoma Mountaineers. This will be a great event and a good opportunity to learn how to capture these wonderful shots. As you know if you are a regular reader of my blog, I’ve tried to get shots like these, with limited success. Hopefully, Royce will be able to teach me a thing or two.

The talk will be held Friday, February 13th from 7 to 9 pm at the Tacoma Mountaineers building at 2302 N 30th Street, Tacoma, Washington. It is free to attend and no reservation is needed (though it is first come-first served on seats). If you do decide to come by, be sure to introduce yourself to me as a reader of my blog.

Royce says that many of his shots are captured in a single exposure and have little post-processing. He will be giving a step-by-step recipe for capturing this images. His accompanying slide show will offer a lot of technical, how-to information including planning when and where to shoot the Milky Way, finding dark skies, calculating star alignments, choosing the right equipment, how to calculate the correct exposures, light painting, noise-reduction techniques, and exposure blending.

Royce is a semi-retired magazine photographer who has been capturing nightscapes for three decades. His photographs have appeared in National Geographic, Smithsonian, Reader’s Digest and American Photo, among others. His lecture tour is in advance of his upcoming ebook “Milky Way Nightscapes, A Guide to Photographing the Starry Night Sky.” Can’t make the lecture? You can order an advance copy of his ebook this month at a discounted price by sending him an email. Details are at the ebook link.

Hope to see you Friday!

Stars over Yellowstone Falls

Stars over Ward Charcoal Ovens

Stars, Milky Way, Jackson Lake, Grand Teton NP

Delicate Arch and Milky Way


Creating a Tilt-shift Look

Paris

Port of SeattleMy intention this morning was to get a lot of work done. Instead, I sat down at the computer and played with Photoshop. I long have wanted to learn how to create the tilt-shift look in Photoshop. You know the look, that of a miniature toy town or city. So instead of working, I asked Mr. Google how to do it, and he directed to a tutorial by Denise Lu. It is quite easy.

1. Pick a photo. It seems to work best with a wide view, taken from a high angle so you are looking downward on the scene. Two of the images here were taken from the Smith Tower in Seattle and the third from the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

2. Open the photo in Photoshop and create a duplicate layer so you are not working on the background layer.

3. Enter the Quick Mask Mode (the shortcut is the Q key) and select the Gradient tool. With the gradient tool, select the reflected gradient (the 4th mode over on the gradient tool bar).

4. Draw a gradient starting in the area you want to be in focus and extending to the area out of focus. You can hold the Shift key down to make sure your gradient is straight. A mask (default color red) will appear on the screen showing the area to be in focus. You will likely have to play around with it to get a mask exactly where you want it.

5. Exit the Quick Mask Mode (hit the Q key again) and from the filter pull-down menu select the Lens Blur filter.

6. Pick a radius of somewhere between 20 and 40, at least those are the values I used. The Lens Blur filter screen will let you preview the results.

7. Consider adding saturation with a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and extra contrast with a Levels or Curves adjustment layer to make the result look for toy-like.

And that’s it! The hardest part is getting the gradient in the proper place. If you have a building sticking out of the in-focus area, such as in my image of Paris here, you can use other selection tools to de-select that portion of the building after leaving the Quick Mask Mode but before applying the Lens Blur filter.

Have fun!

Paris

Seattle


Spring in January

Rainier and Pilings

Rainier and PilingsMy last post talked about how little snow in the Pacific Northwest mountains this winter. It hasn’t improved this week, as the weather has been spring-like all week-long. I can only blame myself as I jinxed the weather by buying a season snow-park pass and not a one-day pass (snow-park passes are used to park in selected plowed winter destinations in the mountains in Washington and Oregon).

Last Sunday, the high temperature was over 60 degrees F – very unusual for January in western Washington. The day was so nice, I had to run down to the Ruston Way waterfront to capture a few shots of Mount Rainier and Puget Sound. Just a few quick shots of the end of a Tacoma spring day in January.

Rainier

Sky over Tacoma


Snow Seeker

Scene near Blewett

Scene near BlewettEvery year I seek to capture a few snowy scenes for possible calendar use. At Robinson Noble, where I have my day job, we produce a calendar every year for clients, and I supply all the images. There seems to be some unwritten law that requires the December and January images to have snow in them (sorry that my northern hemisphere bias is showing here!). The problem is that I’m not that much of a winter person, so I don’t get out much in the cold season. Plus, the easiest place for me to get snow images is Mount Rainier National Park, which is only 70 miles from my home. However, the calendar needs variety, so the January and December images can’t be taken in Mount Rainier National Park every year. Now add in that this winter has been very warm in the Pacific Northwest and there is not much snow.

So with all this in mind, I took last Monday off work to go and find some snow. Tanya, Nahla and I drove east into the mountains. At Snoqualmie Pass, it was very dark with mixed rain and snow falling. We kept driving. Coming down from the pass, the weather improved, as it usually does, with sun and mixed clouds. While this area is typically snow-covered in January, it was not this year. We kept driving. We left the interstate and headed toward Blewett Pass and we finally found snow and sun together. We stopped at the top of Blewett Pass and got out the snowshoes. While snowy, the snow wasn’t deep, perhaps about a foot at the parking lot.

We hiked off the northern end of the lot, west along a forest service road. Most of the time we were in the forest, but the views did open up at a few spots. It was an easy snowshoe hike and a nice day to be out. I captured a few shots that might be worthy of being on the calendar next year (let me know if you agree). Mission accomplished.

Snowy Forest Road

Snowy Mountains

Above Blewett

Winter in the Cascades


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