the blog of Seldom Seen Photography


Photo Guide to the Bowl and Pitcher

While in Spokane for my Dad’s funeral, I had some free time, so I went out to Riverside State Park to do some photography. It was therapeutic spending some time in nature, walking around in the snow, and shooting the river. Riverside State Park is a large park with several different units. I spent most my time at the Bowl and Pitcher, which is perhaps the most scenic place in the park.

The Bowl and Pitcher are contains large basalt rock formations surrounding a turbulent Spokane River. Supposedly, several of the rock formations look like a bowl and a pitcher. However, I’ve been to the Bowl and Pitcher dozens of times in my life (having grown up in Spokane), and I’m still not sure which ones are the namesake rocks. None of them look like a bowl and pitcher to me. I looked on-line to find how the formations gained their name. The only reference I found was to a geology class project from Spokane Community College which claim there is a small “cave” under the rocks that the river churns through and around that looks like a bowl and that one of¬† the formations further downstream looks like a pitcher. With this explanation, I think I can “see” the pitcher, but I’m still stumped on the bowl.

Regardless, this is a great location to do some photography if you have some free time in Spokane. Perhaps the best view of the formations and river are from an elevated viewpoint on top of one of the formations on the east side of the river. You can access the viewpoint from a small parking area along the right side of the access road to the Bowl and Pitcher area just after you turn off the main road through the park. Alternatively, you can hike up to the viewpoint from the day-use parking area along the river (a Washington State Parks Discover Pass is required for either spot).

Other than this elevated viewpoint, you can get some good compositions by crossing the suspension foot bridge across the river at the day-use area and scrambling around the formations on the west side of the river. The featured photo above was shot on the west side of the river.

About a mile downstream from the Bowl and Pitcher is the Devil’s Toe Nail, a smaller rock formation in the river which is also worth stopping at. You can reach this area by hiking down the hillside on the east side of the river from a small parking area along the main road, or by hiking along a trail which follows the west bank of the river from the suspension bridge.

Photography¬† in winter at the Bowl and Pitcher can be difficult because of the extreme contrast between the snow and the nearly black basaltic rock formations. I didn’t try any HDR here, but it may be worth attempting. The dark rocks will present a similar challenge in the summer when lit with direct sunlight.

The flow in the Spokane River drastically changes throughout the year making radically different shots available in the winter and spring versus the summer and fall. The flow in the river when I was there this month for about 16,500 cubic feet per second (cfs). Peak flows in spring can exceed 40,000 cfs, while typical flows in August and September fall below 1,500 cfs.

This is the Devil’s Toe Nail, about a mile downstream from the Bowl and Pitcher.

Here is part of the view from the viewpoint. Could the rocks here hold the bowl?

View of the suspension bridge from the viewpoint

Another view from the west side of the river. The big formation in the center of the photo is capped by the viewpoint.

One more shot from the west side of the river.

Perhaps one of these is the pitcher?


Quick Shot – Supermoon

If you read my last post, you know I was not optimistic about shooting the supermoon. As it turned out, though not 100%, I felt well enough to go out. And the weather actually did cooperate, sort of anyway. As you can see, I did get a shot of the supermoon over Seattle. While I am pleased with this image, it is not exactly the one I wanted. From my vantage point in Manchester, on the west side of Puget Sound from Seattle, the moon rose right next to the Space Needle. That is the shot I had hoped for. But there were clouds on the horizon and the moon was not visible until about half an hour after moon rise. In fact, I captured this shot 31 minutes after the moon rose. And, I do have to admit, the clouds did present some nice color to the shot.

Anyway, I thought you might like to see what I came up with. After shooting the moon this evening, I’m now thinking of trying for a lunar eclipse shot in the morning. Is it moon madness?

5 Years Ago – Seattle Moon

I haven’t had my camera out all month, and I’m going crazy. Last week had hoped to go out, but the flu interfered with my plans. I haven’t left the house since last Monday. I’m starting to feel better, and with just a few days left in January, perhaps I will be able to venture out yet. There is a supermoon and total lunar eclipse coming up on Wednesday after all (however, the weather report does not hold much promise). The pending supermoon made me think of some shots I took of the moon (though not a supermoon) five years ago. The weather forecast that day in January 2013 was also not so promising, but the day ended up being glorious, and I captured many good images that day including the one here.

If you do try to photograph the supermoon, remember that perhaps the best time to photograph the moon rise is the day before the full moon (in this case, Tuesday, not Wednesday). The day before the full moon, the moon will look just about as big, but it will rise before the sun sets, allowing an image like this one. On Tuesday, here in Tacoma, the moon will rise at 4:28 p.m. and be 99.6% full, while the sun will set at 5:09 p.m. So, provided the clouds part, if you go to West Seattle, you can capture an image like this (but with a bigger moon). If you wait until Wednesday, the moon will rise at 5:43 p.m. and still be 99.6% full (the actual 100% full moon occurs Wednesday morning), but the sun will set at 5:10 p.m.

Your other option is to photograph the moon setting. In that case, it is usually better to photograph the moon the day after the full moon, Thursday in this case when the moon will set 48 minutes after the sun rises and still be over 98% full. As far as the total lunar eclipse goes, the eclipse will be total from 4:51 a.m. to 6:07 a.m. on Wednesday. All the times given here are for Tacoma, and the actual moon rise, set, and eclipse times will likely be different for you. provides an excellent online resource for determining the eclipse timing.

With any luck – like the flu giving up its hold on my body and the ceaseless rain and cloud cover actually ceasing – this Tuesday or Thursday, I might have a chance to capture a supermoon. I’m not holding my breath, but I do wish you good luck in you lunar adventures this week.


With the Animals

Earlier this week I did a portrait shoot for my friend Karen Robbins. Karen is the author of several children’s books and has two new books coming out soon, one on farm animals and one on zoo animals. She wanted head shots for both herself and her illustrator, Rachel, with farm and zoo animals. So she made arrangements for me to shoot at Old McDebbies Farm in Spanaway, Washington. Old McDebbies is closed for the season, but they welcomed us and helped with the photo shoot. I shot with shot Karen with a sheep, a camel, and a horse, and I shot Rachel with a goat and a wallaby. After shooting, we got a tour of the other animals on the farm – including emus, kangaroos, giant tortoises, and miniature deer.

It was a bit of a challenge getting the animals to cooperate with the portrait session and the outside shots were done in the rain, but I like the results.

Merry Christmas from Tacoma

Merry Christmas from Tacoma! One of my presents came early when I found this scene yesterday during some beautiful sunny winter skies. Today, it is overcast again with snow forecast for tonight – so Tanya and I are hoping for a white Christmas in the morning. But if not, we can always get a view of snow by just looking at The Mountain (at least when it isn’t covered by clouds). Thank go out to my photographer buddy, Ernie Misner, for telling me about the location for this shot. Have a tremendous holiday season everyone!