the blog of Seldom Seen Photography

Seattle

Principles of Photographic Improvisation – Contribute Something and Try Something

In my last post, I mentioned how I am reading The Soul of the Camera, the Photographer’s Place in Picture-Making by David duChemin, and I described his first of four “rules” or “principles” of photographic improvisation – agreeing or to say “yes” and not “no.” Today, I look at the second and third principles – Contribute Something, and Try Something.

To contribute something, you need to make the scene your own. DuChemin explains, ” Photography is not objective… We bring our own thoughts, opinions, points of view, and interest to the scen and to every single decision, from aperture to focal length to shutter speed to composition. We chose what to include and exclude. It’s not so much about what’s there as it’s about what I see and how I see it.”

Say you travel to a famous landmark or scene and want to photograph it. Don’t worry about how others have done so, make the scene you own. Sure, take that one composition that you’ve seen before, the shot the maybe even inspired you to come in the first place, but then explore the subject scene on you own, making your own compositions. Or as DeChemin says, “Own it. Add to it. Make every photograph you create a collaboration with what’s before you.”

This, I think, directly relates to the third principle, try something. DuChemin urges his reads to “take a risk and try something. Don’t just wonder what would happen if you moved the camera over to the right. Move it! Slow the shutter, use a wide lens. Listen to the questions, but don’t let them go without a response. And if the first answer doesn’t work, try again.”

It doesn’t even have to be a famous scene, just maybe one you’ve been to or photographed many times before. Do you take the same shot again and again? Perhaps. But to improvise, you’ve got to make it new again for you. Maybe try black and white, or shoot it with your phone instead of you DSLR, or shoot only high-key images, whatever!  Sometimes to make it your own you need to try something different.

For example, for the past several years, I’ve been offering walking photo tours of downtown Seattle. These tours are great for my clients, as they see Seattle through fresh eyes. But I’ve seen it and shot it all before. It’s a real challenge for me to find something new. So on a couple trips, I pulled out the fish-eye lens. Now, a lot of what I shot didn’t work so well, but some of the images aren’t so bad. In fact, they are kind of fun, and definitely something I made my own by trying something I hadn’t done before, even after shooting the same places dozens of times before – such as Pioneer Square (above and below), the ferry terminal (below), and the waterfall garden (below). That is photographic improvisation.


A Visit to the Amazon Spheres

Last January, a new Seattle landmark opened – the Amazon spheres. Located in downtown Seattle on the Amazon campus, the spheres are three spherical conservatories created to give Amazon employees a bit of nature in which to work and relax. The spheres contain over 40,000 plants from cloud forests throughout the world. The spheres are three to four stories tall and formed by more than 2,600 panes of glass.

Last week, Tanya and I had the opportunity to visit the inside of the spheres as part of Amazon’s Take Your Parents to Work Day – our daughter Janelle works for Amazon. At the time, I only had my smart phone with me and all the images shown here from inside the spheres were captured with my phone. As it turned out, the following day, Tanya and I visited downtown Seattle again. This time I took my regular camera, and while Tanya did some shopping, I visited the spheres for some outside shots.

The spheres are a popular attraction, but if you want to visit the inside, you will need to do a little planning ahead. Visits are restricted to Amazon employees and their guests on Mondays through Fridays. The spheres are only open to the general public on the first and third Saturdays every month from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Further, reservations are required. Reservations can be made up to 30 days in advance at this website. Times available for the next opening on October 6th are already about half full; so if you want to visit, be sure to make your reservation well in advance.

The sphere website states that photography inside the domes is for personal use only and that flash and tripod use is prohibited. However, I asked one of the Amazon security personnel yesterday about tripods, and she said they are okay. I guess it pays to ask.


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?


Shooting Seattle with Airbnb

I’d like to announce I am now offering a photography shooting experience with Airbnb. Airbnb started offering “experiences” as well as home and room rentals last year, and Seattle was one of the first cities they chose to offer experiences in. In early spring, I read in a magazine about Airbnb offering experiences and thought I should apply to host a photography experience in Seattle. I thought about offering a walking photo tour of Seattle – starting a Pike Place Market, covering the waterfront and Pioneer Square, and ending in the International District.

After spending several weeks working on my application to host, I received an invitation to attend a new host seminar in Seattle. I met with the region representative from Airbnb along with about 10 other new hosts. We received instruction and help editing our experience descriptions. They also offered the services of a professional photographer to document my experience and use on my experience webpage (see link above).

Then it was a long wait. Finally, months after initially starting the process, my experience went live a week ago or so. By this time, of course, my summer had filled up and I don’t have many days I can offer it – right now, I’m only scheduled for three days in August. But I’ll be adding more days soon.

In anticipation of going live, I thought I should actually do a dry run since up to this time my timing of my offered experience was made up of a Google estimation of the time necessary to walk the route and my guess at time needed for photography. So on a recent Saturday, I headed up to Seattle to do a dry run with Tanya as my tour “guest.” It was good we did this, as I learned a few lessons I’ll put into action when I actually do my first tour next week. And we were lucky, we ended up in the International District right as Dragonfest was occurring. I was able to get right up in the action and capture the above shot of the dragon parade.

While I can’t offer Dragonfest every time on my photo experience, I do hope to show my guests some of my favorite shooting locations in the city. If you are traveling to Seattle, consider signing up for my experience, I’d love to show you the city.


Scenic Seattle is Here!

9780764351167It is official, my book, Scenic Seattle, Touring and Photographing the Emerald City, is now available. I received my shipment of the books last Saturday. It was exciting to open that box of books and see my name as an author and my photographs finally in print in my own book. The book is available for sale at major booksellers and here on my blog.

The book covers everything Seattle that a travel photographer would want to shoot – viewpoints, beaches, museums, parks, and much more. It describes all the major attractions in the city, as well has dozens of smaller ones. I give photographic advice on how to best capture this photogenic city and offer over 100 example images.

I am offering readers of my blog the book for $15.99, a 20% discount off the list price. For more information or to order the book, please visit the Scenic Seattle page of my blog. Want more advice than in the book? I also lead individualized Seattle workshops. If interested, please contact me.

 


Scenic Seattle now available for Pre-Sale

The Face of SuzzalloI’ve been too busy to write much lately, but I wanted to tell you that my book Scenic Seattle, Touring and Photographing the Emerald City is now available for pre-sale on Amazon. This is an updated and expanded version of the ebook I published in 2013. My publisher, Schiffer Publishing, sent me the a color layout draft of the book this week for markup. The main purpose of this draft is to make sure the photographs are placed in the correct places and have the correct captions, to make sure the previous edits from the text galleys were done correctly, and to start populating the index with page numbers. Then it’s back the publisher next Monday. They will send one more draft for a last check before being printed, and finally it will be available in June.

If you are interested in buying the book, you can pre-order on Amazon, or you might want to wait until the book is printed, after which I will be offering it for a special price on my blog. Stayed tuned for details!

The photo above is of the Suzzallo Library on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, just one of the many places described in the book. The photo, by the way, didn’t make the cut for the book.

 

 


Last Chance (sort of)

Clouds above SeattleSome of you may know that a couple of years ago I published an ebook about photographing Seattle. The ebook, Scenic Seattle, the Best Spots – Best Shots Guide to Photographing the Emerald City, is available for ordering here on my blog. Well, this week is you last chance to get a copy, because next week I’m pulling it from sales both here and at all online retailers. So get a copy while you can!

Why Joe, you might ask, are you stopping sales of your book? I’m glad you asked. It’s because I recently signed a contract with Schiffer Publishing to do a revised, updated print edition of the book. My manuscript is due at the publisher at the end of this week. And with that, I am contracted to end sales of the ebook so as not to interfere with the marketing of the new book.

If you miss this last chance to get Scenic Seattle, you need only wait until next spring, when the print edition is due to come out. You may want to wait. The new edition will have more places, more information, and more photos. Better yet, get a copy of both!

To whet your appetite for the new edition, here are a few images that will be in the print edition but not the original ebook version. Want to see more? You will have to wait until spring 2016 (or buy the ebook this week!).

Pioneer Square Pergola

Coffee Silo

Wheel and Ferry

 

 


Rainier Vista

Rainier VistaI haven’t had much time to post lately, so I thought I’d throw something quick out there. One of the classic views on the University of Washington campus is of the Rainier Vista. The Rainier Vista consists of a view down between several university buildings, over the Drumheller Fountain (also known as frosh pond in my long ago days as a student), to Mount Rainier. If you are ever on the campus, this is a shot not to miss.

Perhaps the best time to shoot the Rainier Vista is at sunset, particularly if you want to have some of the classic university buildings in your composition as they are usually lit up at night. If you hit it just right, you can get alpenglow on the mountain balancing nice light on the buildings. I’ve never been that lucky.

But you can also make nice images in the afternoon as well. These were taken in mid-afternoon several weeks ago. A polarizer helps a lot to cut the haze in front of the mountain. Pick a telephoto lens to really draw the mountain into the frame, or a wide-angle lens to de-emphasize the mountain.

While at the university, check out the Graduate Reading Room in the Suzzallo Library as well.

Drumheller Fountain


Great View, Uncomfortable View

Lake Union, Rainier and SeattleI took the accompanying photograph last Sunday in Seattle. It is for a revised, updated version of my Scenic Seattle book that will soon be published in a print edition (scheduled for spring 2016). This is a view of Lake Union, a portion of downtown Seattle, and Mount Rainier from the Aurora Avenue Bridge (officially named the George Washington Memorial Bridge, though I have never heard anyone call it that).

Great view, but … The sidewalk is fairly narrow and separated from the traffic lanes by a short wall. The other side of the sidewalk is separated from the great void below by vertical cabling (the cables are there to prevent people jumping off the bridge to commit suicide. The bridge is nearly 170 feet, or50 meters, above the water). This gives the sidewalk a kind sided cage-like feel – with the roaring traffic in the cage with you. The speed limit on the bridge is 40 miles per hour (64 kph), but in my experience, if you drive 40 mph on it, you will get rammed from behind. I’d guess the average traffic speed is above 50 mph (80 kph). And there are six, narrow lanes of traffic. Not a comfortable place to shoot.

And to make matters worse, whenever you photograph along busy roads, there always seems to be at least one jerk (I’m being kind here; I want to use a word my Mother would not be proud of) who honks their horn while you are studiously looking through the viewfinder. I was on the bridge about 10 to 15 minutes Sunday and was surprised only one person honked. But that honk did nearly scare the pants off me. (So maybe it was a good think the cables were there so I didn’t jump.)

Further, those cables don’t make it easy to take a photograph. Typical DSLR lenses are small enough to stick through the cables, but only when pointed 90 degrees off the axis of the bridge. To take the shot shown above, you need to angle your camera at 30 to 45 degrees off the axis of the bridge. With my camera, that means physically forcing pushing the cables aside with the lens barrel. In some spots, it wasn’t possible. The cables were too tight. But I did find a spot with the gap between cables slightly larger and the cables a bit looser than average. With a bit of strength, I was able to turn the camera and force the cable apart enough to take the shot. With the cables pushing back, I had to use a fast shutter speed – which was probably needed anyway because the whole bridge shakes with the traffic (forget about using a tripod here).

I possibly could have wedged my camera completely through the cables and used the live view function to compose a shot. But with the long drop, I didn’t feel particularly good about that option either. But for shooting with a phone or a small camera, reaching past the cables is viable if you trust yourself to hang on.

Still interested in getting the shot? The access is rather easy. Park on Troll Avenue N between N 35th and 36th Streets near the Troll (the Fremont Troll statue is underneath the Aurora Bridge at the intersection of Troll Avenue and 36th). Take the stairs on the right side of the Troll up to the bridge and walk south until you reach the view you want. Just don’t expect to be too comfortable.


Iconic Photography

Pike Place Market1When traveling, unless you’re a more self-assured photographer than I, there’s a burning desire to capture that iconic shot. You know, the one image of a place that was great the first dozen times it was shot, but now is a cliché after being shot a million+ times. Still, it’s a cliché for a reason – it’s a great shot, and most of us want to have it in our portfolio. Sure it lacks creativity, but it’s such a great shot!

My normal advice is to get that clichéd shot out-of-the-way, then move on to try to capture the subject with a more creative eye: use ultra-wide angle, use telephoto, shoot details, shoot from different viewpoints, shoot in HDR, try different processing methods, etc. Put your own spin on it!. Of course, that is easier said than done when your subject has been shot a million times.

Well this story is a bit of a twist on my standard advice. Last week, Tanya, Nahla and I spent two nights in Seattle, staying a great bed and breakfast at the Pike Place Market (Pensione Nichols, dog friendly and highly recommended). This was not a photo trip, so while I brought my gear, I didn’t take a lot of images. I didn’t mind too much, I’ve shot at the Market several times before, and it was fun just hanging out in Seattle with Tanya and the dog without anything on the agenda. Besides, Nahla was the hit of the Market – strangers asked us probably 100 times if  they could take her picture.

However, even though I’ve shot at the Market before, I’ve never gotten the iconic shot – the neon Market sign at dusk. I’m sure you’ve seen it; if not just to a Google image search for “Pike Place Market Sign”. There are actually two signs, one with the clock set amongst the market buildings and the other with a fish with sky as background. And the classic time to shot the signs is at dusk, when the neon glows, but you still have good color in the sky.Pike Place Market

So, I did haul the camera and tripod out one of our two evenings there and captured my version of the clichéd icons. Then I put the camera away. I felt a bit guilty, taking only the icon shot; but I rationalized my choice because as an expert on Seattle travel photography (having literally written the book on the subject), I absolutely needed these images in my portfolio. Self justification? Perhaps, but also somewhat of a guilty pleasure (being original is hard after all!).

I’m sure I’ll be photographing up at Pike Place Market again before too long. After all, it is a top Seattle travel photography site. But now that I have my icon shots out-of-the-way, I will be able to try to get more creative next time. At least that is my hope.

 

 


Tale of Two Seasons

Kubota Scene

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).

Moon Bridge in October

Moon Bridge, taken in late October 2013

Moon Bridge

Moon Bridge in May 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).

Kubota SceneRed, Yellow and GreenLeave and Trunk


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


Seattle, Spokane Web Galleries and a Note on Conservatories

Recently I’ve decided to upgrade my website to include more photo galleries. In that regard, this weekend I added two new galleries featuring the two largest cities in the State of Washington: Seattle and Spokane. I’ve displayed many of the images in the new galleries previously here on the blog, but there’s a few new images thrown in as well. Please take a look and let me know what you think.

To illustrate this post, I’m posting two shots of conservatories, one in each city. The Gaiser Conservatory in Spokane sits above the beautiful Duncan Garden in Manito Park. The Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle is missing the beautiful outside garden, but the building itself is very photogenic. Shooting inside conservatories is a lot of fun, particularly on rainy fall days (which will be coming sooner rather than later). I’ve shot inside both these conservatories, as well as the small conservatory here in Tacoma, and made some great shots. I typically use a tripod and a macro lens when photographing in conservatories. If you plan to photograph at  your local conservatory, and plan on using a tripod, it’s best to go on weekdays when there are fewer visitors. Also, be kind and move your tripod when others need to walk by. In fact, at the Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle, tripods are only allowed on weekdays. When the weather turns bad, consider your local conservatory to keep your creative photographic juices flowing.

Duncan Gardens

Duncan Garden in Spokane’s Manito Park, the Gaiser Conservatory is in the background

Twinkle Lights

The Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle


Scenic Seattle – Ebook Now Available

Scenic Seattle Cover

Scenic Seattle Cover I’d like to announce the launch of my new ebook, Scenic Seattle The Best Spots – Best Shots Guide to Photographing the  Emerald City. The book started a personal project on travel photography in Seattle (as described in this earlier post) early last year. The project is now finished and Scenic Seattle is the result.

Scenic Seattle is a photographic guidebook designed to help photographers and others easily find all the special Seattle views. The book contains descriptions and directions to over 80 places to photograph in the city and provides specific advice on how to capture the best shots. Areas covered include Pike Place Market, Seattle Center, the waterfront, Chinatown, West Seattle, and many more. It has over 60 example images, as well as maps and directions to the image locations. The book is currently available on Amazon and Smashwords. Just today it was accepted into the Smashwords Premium Catalog, which means it will also soon be available at the iBookstore, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Sony. It is also available directly from me (if you order from me, I don’t have to pay the commission, which ranges from about 18 to 60% depending on the retailer; so if you want a copy, please send me an email).

If you are a regular follower of my blog, you’ve already seen most the images from the book as I’ve posted them over the past year. I’ve put a few more in this current post that I don’t think I’ve blogged before. With the book, in addition to the photos, you get directions where to go to take these photos and advice on how to take them. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about how I go about taking my images, or if you have an interest in visiting Seattle, this book is for you. Previews of the book are available at both Amazon and Smashwords.

Seattle

View of Seattle from Seacrest Park

MOHAI

Museum of History and Industry

One Yellow Car

View looking down from the Smith Tower toward Pioneer Square

Smith Cove Park

Fishing boat detail, Smith Cove Park


Ending Soon

Octopus

Octopus in the Seattle Aquarium. One of the featured images in my new Seattle ebook.

My Kickstarter project to help fund my upcoming Seattle ebook is ending soon. As of this writing, there are about 53 hours left to back the project. Backing the project is a great way to reserve a copy of the ebook at a discounted price (or to get some other reward, like an autographed print). So if you have any interest, and haven’t already done so, please go on over to Kickstarter and check out the details.


Help Kickstart my Seattle Photo Ebook

Space Needle from AlkiIf you are a regular reader of my blog, you may know I’ve been working on documenting scenic Seattle photo locations as a personal project. Now, I’ve compiled many of these images into an ebook which describes over 80 places to do photography within the Seattle city limits. The ebook contains maps, directions, photo tips and more. To help with the production costs of the ebook, I’ve started a Kickstarter project. Please visit my Kickstarter page to see what it is all about; and if you feel so inclined, go ahead and back my project. In essence, this is a chance to pre-order the ebook at a discount since backers who pledge $5 or more will receive a copy of the ebook.

Actually, starting the Kickstarter project was an interesting experience in itself. You can’t have a Kickstarter project without a video (well, you can, but they don’t recommend it), so this inspired me to actually learn how to use the video function on my camera. The whole experience shooting a video, particularly of myself (I confess, I had help; Tanya assisted), taught me how much I don’t know about shooting videos and how different it is from shooting stills.It also reminded me how much I’d rather be behind the camera than in front of it (which is actually good to remember, particularly when shooting portraits). It was fun to play with the video on the camera, but I don’t think I’ll become a professional videographer any time soon. After the video was shot, I learned that I also don’t know anything about editing videos. And since I didn’t want to buy video editing software, I tried a couple of freeware programs without much success. Luckily, my friend Jim Hay, who also didn’t know anything about editing video, offered to help out since he had some editing software on his Mac. He certainly got a lesson in editing, and he did a great job. I owe him at least several six packs! Thanks Jim!

Besides the video, there’s a lot of other work and thought putting together a Kickstarter project; much more than I thought when I came up with the idea. For example, what images do I use to illustrate the proposal, how do I describe it, how many reward levels should there be, what should the rewards be, how long should it run, etc. Lots of details and much to think about. It took a month or so to put the whole thing together; and now I get to wait another month to see if I’ll make my goal. Regardless of whether I make the goal, I’ll still be producing the ebook; it just might take a little longer.

Anyway, check out my Kickstarter project and feel free to tell me what you think or of you own experiences with Kickstarter or other crowd funding.


Island Time

Bainbridge Ferry

The ferry arriving at Bainbridge Island

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.

Eagle Harbor Boat Rental

Eagle Harbor Boat Rental – apparently closed on Sundays in February.

Rocking Chain Puller

One of the many rock statues along the Waterfront Trail on Bainbridge Island.

Bainbridge Boat Reflection

I particularly liked the reflection of this small wooden boat in the Bainbridge marina.

Ferry Ferry

Several of the ferries docked on Bainbridge.

Bainbridge Heron

One of the many herons we saw on our walk.

Kayaks and Canoes

Kayaks and canoes


Don’t Trust the Weather Report

Moon over SeattleAs I mentioned in my last post, I drove up to Seattle a week ago Friday on a photo day. I captured some great images; but the trip almost didn’t happen.

First, before the story, a mini-rant – I hate the weather. I, like most photographers who shoot outdoors,  am obsessed with the weather.  The weather is never perfect – it’s either too cloudy, or not enough clouds, or too sunny, or too gray, etc. etc. For my Friday trip, I wasn’t looking for perfect weather. Rather if I was taking a day off from work to go take photos, I didn’t want to waste my time if the weather wasn’t going to be good enough to offer at least a few decent shots. Rant’s over, now on to the story.

On Thursday night, I checked the weather forecast to see what was in store. The forecast for Seattle was cloudy with a 70% chance of rain both in morning and afternoon – yuck! I thought about going to eastern Washington (which often has better weather), and the forecast for Yakima was cloudy with a 30% chance of freezing rain – not much better. I decided to stay home, work on the computer, and if it looked like the clouds might break, to run up to Seattle.

When I got up Friday morning, it was cloudy, but not rainy. As the morning wore on, there were breaks in the clouds, and I could see a bit of blue sky. So at noon, Tanya, Carson and I headed to Seattle. We went to the Great Wheel, Elliot Bay Park, and West Seattle. It was fairly cloudy when we arrived in Seattle, but as the afternoon wore on it got sunny and warm. By late afternoon, there were scattered clouds both to the east and west of the city, the city itself was under blue skies. It was near perfect weather for photography!

One of the shots I wanted was the moonrise over the city. This was the day before the full moon, and using the Photographers Emphemeris I knew the moon would rise about an hour before sunset directly over the city as viewed from West Seattle. This situation only happens a couple of times each year and those are always in winter. We drove to West Seattle, getting there about 1.5 hours before sunset. However, the few clouds that were left east of Seattle looked like they would block the rising moon.

I was able to get some nice, colorful late afternoon shots of the city skyline. Time for the moonrise came and went, and we couldn’t see the moon. Then Tanya helped me shoot a short video for my Kickstarter project (concerning my Seattle ebook I’ve talked about previously). We took a couple takes, when Tanya said “wow, look at that moon!” (my back was toward the city view). I turned around, and wow was right. I quickly grabbed the camera, switch to still photo mode, put on the 70-200 lens and shot away. I think you’ll agree, the results (featured above) were good.

So what I had thought was going to be a bad weather day for photography, turned out being perfect. Goes to show, you can never trust those weather reports.

Downtown Seattle

Downtown Seattle prior to sunset, looking like the moon would not be visible.

Ferry and Needle

Ferry passing the Space Needle at sunset.

Seattle Evening

After sunset, the city and the moon.

 

 


6D Impressions

Seattle Great Wheel

Sample image from the Canon 6D of the Seattle Great Wheel.

I’ve had my new Canon 6D for about a month now. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much chance to use it. I did do a portrait shoot a few days after receiving the camera, was able get out for half a day last Friday, and also carried it along on a day with friends on Saturday when we went to the Woodland Park Zoo. I’m not going go give a full review of the camera, there are many other blogs and websites that have already done that. In some of the reviews I’ve read, the 6D is getting bad marks for not having as many features as similarly priced cameras (the Nikon D600 in particular).

However, I am not the least bit sorry I upgraded to this camera (particularly when switching to Nikon is not a realistic option considering my investment in Canon lenses). Now, remembering that my opinion is biased by coming from a Canon 50D, I am really loving the quality of the photos coming out of the 6D. With the full-size sensor and the same processor as the 5DIII, the image quality is fantastic.

The two biggest issues I had with my old camera were noise and focusing. Considering noise, the 6D is exceeding my expectations. The noise level at ISO 3200 is quite low, producing high quality images. With my 50D, ISO 3200 produced images that I would never want to use them for any high-resolution purpose. I’ve read that the noise for the 6D is still low at ISO 6400, but I haven’t used a setting that high.

Focus is one of the issues the 6D gets downgraded on in online reviews. This is largely because the camera only has 11 focus points (instead of 39 in the D600, and 61 in the 5DIII). However, to me, thefocus ability of the 6D is a huge step over the 50D. With my 50D, I always had a lot of problems with the autofocus, particularly when used for portrait work. With the 6D, the focus is dead on every time. There may not be a lot of focus points, but those it does have work great. Further, the camera also focuses in very low light. Since I take a lot of night-time shots, I love this feature.

I also really like the built-in GPS. With images taken with my 50D,  I’ve tried to locate my images manually in the Lightroom Map module. No more; now the camera does it for me. Very sweet! The GPS feature does continue to use the battery when the camera is turned off, draining the battery faster. So I’m training myself to turn the GPS on and off. Seems, to me, like a small inconvenience for such a great feature.

The camera also has built in WiFi, and with an app from Canon, you can control the camera from your smartphone. Believe it or not, I don’t have a smartphone, so I haven’t tried this feature yet. However, I will likely be getting one soon and am looking forward to using it with the camera.

Another feature I haven’t heard much about in the reviews I’ve read, is the camera’s size. It is the smallest full-sized sensor camera available. It is considerably smaller than the 5DIII, and weighs about half a pound less. Considering how much my photo backpack weighs, I like this size and weight.

Overall, I’m very happy with the camera. I like its small size and lighter weight,  and the quality of the images are outstanding. If you are a Canon user and want to step up to a full-sized sensor, you should check out this camera. Sure it has some features missing that I’d like – such as more focus points and a second card slot, but considering the price difference between it and the 5DIII (the 6D is about $1500 less), especially when the 5DIII doesn’t have some of the features I want (such as GPS), I’m glad I got this camera.

Seattle's Union Station

The interior of Union Station in Seattle. The Canon 6D didn’t have much problem with the extreme range of contrast in this image. While I did shoot some HDR here as well, this single exposure (shot RAW and processed in Lightroom) is certainly acceptable. Images settings: 17- 40mm lens set at 29mm, f/8, 1/13 sec, ISO 200, +1 exposure bias

Gorilla Silverback Pete

Pete, the silverback male of troop 1 at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. He didn’t look particularly happy to have me taking his picture! I would of had a hard time with this image in my old camera, but the Canon 6D worked great. The focus is right on in this low light situation and the noise at ISO 3200 is not bad at all. Image settings: 70-200mm lens at 165mm, f/2.8, 1/60 second, ISO 3200, no exposure bias, small crop

Seattle Lions

Two of the lions in Woodland Park Zoo. Again the Canon 6D worked great in relatively low light, focusing spotlessly on the male lion. Image settings: 70-200mm lens at 200mm, f/3.2, 1/640 second, ISO 1600, no exposure bias, minor crop


A Winter’s Day in Seattle

Seattle Fireboat Winter officially started here in the northern hemisphere a week ago yesterday. Winter in western Washington is typically pretty grey and wet. But now and then, winter serves up a great day. December 21st, the first day of winter, was one such day in Seattle, and I was lucky enough to be there photographing along with Tanya and Carson.

We spent several hours in West Seattle, visiting Lincoln Park and making two visits to the Belvedere Viewpoint (better light the second time around). Lincoln Park is the largest park in West Seattle and has great views of the Olympic Mountains and the ferry to Vashon Island. It also has wonderful madrona trees, with their peeling red bark, which I love to photograph. The Belevedere Viewpoint has an excellent view of downtown Seattle, which is across Elliot Bay from West Seattle. However, it is a bit far, so if you ever go shooting there, be sure to take a telephoto lens so you can zoom in on the buildings and ferries. Luckily for us, one of the fireboats was practicing spraying water int he bay and the snow covered Cascade Mountains were shining in the background.

From there, we drove up to north Seattle and went to Carkeek Park. I had hoped to find some salmon running in the creek in the park, but the run was apparently over. I understand it is best from mid-November to mid-December. I was just too late. Instead, I photographed on the beach and was rewarded with a great sunset.

From there, we headed to the East Portal Viewpoint on the west shore of Lake Washington (in the eastern part of the city). I hoped to get there with some light left in the sky, but traffic held us up. Still, it was fun to photograph the car headlight and tail light trails on the floating bridge (Interstate 90) over the lake and the lights from the city of Bellevue reflecting in the lake.

What a great start to winter in Seattle! Of course, the weather didn’t last, and the next day was grey and rainy, as was the next, and the next, and the…

Seattle Fireboat

The Vashon Island ferry sailing off Lincoln Park in West Seattle.

Madronas

Madrona trees in Lincoln Park, West Seattle.

Seattle Waterfront

A ferry sails from the Seattle waterfront as seen from the Belvedere Viewpoint.

Olympic Mountains

View of the Olympic Mountains from the beach at Carkeek Park, Seattle.

Carkeek Sunset

Sunset over Puget Sound from the beach at Carkeek Park.

Bellevue Lights

City of Bellevue reflecting in Lake Washington. You can just see the snowy Cascade Mountains in the background.

I90 and Lake Washington

The view from the East Portal Viewpoint in Seattle.


Historic Ships

Bow of the Arthur FossBy 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.

Lavengro

The historic schooner, the Lavengro

Boat details

Rigging on the Lavengro

Lavengro and MOHAI

Looking from the Lavengro back toward the armory (now the Museum of History and Industry)

Rusty chain

Rusty chain laying on the wharf

Duwamish

The stern of the fireboat Duwamish

Virginia V

I was amazed how tall and skinny the Virginia V is.


Even More from Seattle (and a nod to Jennifer Wimsatt)

Fremont Troll

The Fremont Troll, copyright Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter, and Ross Whitehead

Seward Park Forest

Seward Park Forest

Those of you who follow my blog on a regular basis know I’ve been working on a personal project documenting Seattle. Last week, Tanya, Carson and I took another day trip up to Seattle to work on the project. At this point in the project, I’m filling in “holes” in shot list; so the sites we visited were scattered across the city.Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t that great (a common theme for western Washington). It was overcast, but at least it wasn’t raining. Consequently, most my images (as you can see my the examples included here) avoided showing the sky, which would have turned out totally white/blown-out.

Many of the most photogenic sites in Seattle are along the Elliot Bay waterfront. However, Seattle sits between two bodies of water: Elliot Bay and Puget Sound on the west and Lake Washington on the east. I needed some coverage for Lake Washington, so our first stop was Seward Park. Seward Park covers the 300-acre (a21 hectares) Bailey Peninsula, which sticks out into the lake from the western shore like a sore thumb. As well as two miles (3.2 kilometers) of shoreline, the park has the largest remaining patch of old growth forest in the City. We took a short hike through the forest down to the lakeshore, where I took photos and Carson took a swim (both under the watchful eye of an immature bald eagle).

From there, we traveled to Gasworks Park. Gasworks is on the northern shore of Lake Union, north of the downtown area. It is on the grounds of a former manufactured gas plant, and much of the old machinery has been left in the park – some of which is painted with bright colors. The park also has a great view of the downtown area, but with the cloudy sky, I focused most my shots on the machinery to avoid the sky.

Our tour continued to one of the City’s quirkiest icons – the Fremont Troll. The troll, an 18-foot (5.5 meter) tall sculpture located underneath the northern end of the Aurora Street Bridge, looks like he has popped out the ground and grabbed a Volkswagen Beetle just as he was frozen into stone. By the way, the artists who created the Fremont Troll sculpture, and hold a copyright on it,  are Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter, and Ross Whitehead. I asked permission to use a copy of their work here, and they gave permission, but wish to state that they discourage commercial use without permission.

Following our stop at the Troll, we headed over to Discovery Park, but first made a quick stop at the Fishermen’s Terminal. I did take a few shots there, but since the docks were largely empty with most the fishing fleet out making a living, we didn’t stay long.

Discovery Park is the largest park in Seattle and is dedicated to providing Seattle residents with an open space of quiet tranquility (according to the Seattle Park’s website). Therefore, though large, most of the park is only accessible by foot or bicycle. The one road through the park to the beach is open by permit only. We opted to not go to the beach, but instead wandered through the historic district – former home to the US Army’s Fort Lawton. The fort was largely built in the early 1900’s. Most of the buildings are gone, but a few remain in a large open field in the center of the park. We also visited the military cemetery, located away from the historic district, near the park’s east entrance.

That pretty much covered our Seattle trip. Hope you enjoy the images. Before closing though, I’d like to give a nod to Jennifer Wimsatt and her blog A Bipolar Journey Through the Rabbit Hole. Last month, Jennifer kindly nominated me for the Sunshine blogger award. Though as a rule I don’t perpetuate awards of this type, I truly appreciate her nomination and her very kind words about my photography. Jennifer’s blog is about her own special journey through life with bipolar mood disorder. She hasn’t blogged much recently, and I do hope to see her posting more in the future.

Lake Washington Shore at Seward Park

Lake Washington shoreline at Seward Park

Gasworks Park Colorful Machinery

Colorful machinery in Gasworks Park

More Gasworks Machinery

More Gasworks machinery

Boat at Fishermen's Terminal

Scene from Seattle’s Fishermen’s Terminal

Quartermasters Stables at Fort Lawton

Quartermasters Stables at Fort Lawton in Discovery Park

Fort Lawton Cemetery

Fort Lawton Military Cemetery, Discovery Park

 


Beware Naked Men

Moon Bridge

Moon BridgeMonday, 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.

Kubota 1

Scene from the Kubota Gardens

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.

Kubota Bell

Japanese bell in Kubota Garden.

Arboretum Azaleas

Azaleas along Azalea Way in the Washington Park Arboretum.

Magnolia Blooms

Magnolia blooms in Washington Park Arboretum.

More Azaleas

More azaleas along Azalea Way, Washington Park Arboretum.


Fly Away

In the Great GalleryI’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.

Blackbird

The Lockheed Blackbird M-21, capable of a cruise speed of Mach 3 at an altitude of 85,000 feet (25,500 meters), topped with a D21B drone. This is another HDR image.

Jenny

The Curtiss JN-4D Jenny circa 1917. HDR once again.

Yak-9U

The Yakovlev Yak-9U, a Russian WW II fighter. Yes, this is HDR too.

Air Force One Cockpit

The pilot’s seat from Air Force One. (Not HDR.)

Wyckoff Bridge

There’s more than just planes at the museum. Here’s the Wyckoff Memorial Bridge, which connects two parts of the museum.