One of the main goals of the trip was to photograph the full moon rising over the city. Using the program, The Photographer’s Ephemeris, I planned where I should shoot the moon as it rose. I calculated that the moon would rise close to the Space Needle if photographed from Ursula Judkins Viewpoint in the Magnolia area, just west of the Magnolia bridge. Early in the day I drove by this park to scout out where I should shoot from. I picked a spot by the parking lot that looked like it had the perfect view of the Space Needle.
As I photographed throughout Seattle that day, I worried whether the clouds would obscure the view of the rising moon. The eastern horizon never did look very clear. When the sun got low over the Olympic Mountains west of Puget Sound, I left the downtown waterfront, where I had been working, and headed back toward Magnolia.
I had selected the Parkmont Place viewpoint for a sunset shot. This long, narrow park along the Magnolia bluff top offers a number of viewpoints looking west over Puget Sound toward the Olympic Mountains. As I crossed the Magnolia Bridge heading toward Parkmont Place, I drove by the Ursula Judkins Viewpoint I had scouted earlier. There was one photographer there; he had a tripod set up in the exact spot I had earlier picked out.
The sunset was okay, not great; but I did get some nice shots of the ferry MV Wenatchee as it steamed from Bainbridge to Seattle and the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis as it cruised northward on the Sound. The sun set around 7:45 p.m. A little before 8:00, I drove back to Ursula Judkins for the moonrise at 8:18 p.m. The drive took about 3 minutes and the eastern sky was mostly cloudy. I couldn’t tell if it was clear on the horizon.
When I arrived at the viewpoint, the one other photographer had morphed into about 30 photographers! I was lucky to get the last parking spot in the park. The spot I had earlier picked out was now crowded with about 15 tripods. I set up at the car and then walked over there with my tripod. I had my small tripod with me, and it was not tall enough to get a clear view without other tripods and photographers in the way. I moved, and ended up back near my car, where with my 70-200 zoom lens I could isolate the Space Needle well.
I snapped a few frames of the Space Needle as darkness descended, still unsure if the moon would show through the clouds. Then an orange glow appeared in back of the Cascade Mountains. Soon, the moon was an orange ball shining through thin clouds immediately over the mountains. Minutes later, it rose further and was hidden by clouds. It made one more partial appearance, but then was again obscured. Most of the other photographers were still there when I left, hoping the moon would again show before it got too high in the sky. But I left, with the drive back to Tacoma in mind. I’m happy with the moonrise shot I did capture; I hope you agree.
As I mentioned in my Cherries of the Dawgs post, I had two goals from my recent trip to Seattle: photographing the cherry trees at the University of Washington and shooting a full moon rising shot over the city. Since I was on UW campus in the morning and full moons don’t rise until evening, I had a lot of time on my hands after leaving the campus. I spent most of it at Seattle Center and the Olympic Sculpture Park down on the waterfront.
I’ve shot a few images at Seattle Center before, but not to the extent I’d wanted. I particularly wanted to shoot more abstract shots of the exterior of the Experience Music Project museum, also known as the EMP . This museum is truly unique, designed by Frank O.Gehry, it is formed of multiple, curvaceous sheets of colored metal. It’s overall shape has been described as the same as a “smashed guitar.” Forbes magazine called it one of the 10 ugliest buildings in the world. But others love it as a fitting representation of rock music, in particular Seattle’s own Jimi Hendrix. Regardless, it is something that is uniquely Seattle, and its exterior makes wonderful images (as I’d hope you’ll agree from the samples shown here). Of course, I took some shots of the Space Needle as well. I had hoped to get some shots of the new Chihuly Garden and Glass at the base of the Space Needle, but it doesn’t open for about a month.
From there I headed down to the waterfront to a visit to the Olympic Sculpture Park, which I’d never managed to visit before. It was well worth a walk through, especially for the cost (free!). I also spent some time just walking down the waterfront, something I have done many times before, but there is always some good shots there.
From there, with the sun about to set, I headed over to Magnolia where I planned my sunset and moonrise shots, but more on that in my next post.
I’ve lived in the Tacoma area for almost 20 years and have never bothered to investigate the Port of Tacoma with camera in hand. So the other day, I went down there for a couple of hours to see what I could find. As it turns out, I didn’t find much. There is not much public access in the port. I guess that is not too surprising, and I could have figured that out before heading down there by checking out Washington’s public shore access website. There is plenty of public access on the Thea Foss Waterway, by downtown Tacoma. However, that area is much less “port-like,” being full of pleasure boat marinas. The north end of the Thea Foss does have large ships tie up at the grain elevator terminal, so my first stop was at Thea Park, just down the shoreline from the grain elevators.
After a few shots, such as the one featured with this post, I crossed over to the east side of the Thea Foss Waterway and tried to follow the shoreline looking for other views of ships. Most the views are fairly limited – behind fences, acres of containers, etc. There is restricted access on many roads – likely the result of 9/11. The only true public access in the whole port is at the Port of Tacoma office, on the southern end of Sitcum Waterway. Here, there is an observation tower, with a nice view of the working port. However, the port was not working much that day. There was only one ship in the Sitcum Waterway, so my photo opportunities were limited. The two photos below are from that spot.
Leaving there, I drove down the west side of the Blair waterway. There were ships in the Blair, but no way to photograph them. When driving back up the east side of the Blair, I finally found a promising spot – the former parking lot for the closed Emerald Queen Casino. It was a big empty lot, right next to the water. There were views available of several ships, including the old paddle-wheeler at the casino.
I was walking around a bit, camera and tripod in hand, checking out angles. But before I could take a shot, a car came shooting across the old lot directly for me. It pulled up, window rolled down. A security guard within, our conversation went something like this:
Security Guard: “Young man, can I ask you what you are doing?” (Now, I’m 52 and have mostly grey hair, which tells you about the age of this guard.)
Me: ” Just looking around.”
Security Guard: “This is private property and a restricted area. You drove right by a sign saying so when you came in here.”
Me: “I didn’t see any sign.”
Security Guard: “Well it’s there.”
Me: “I guess I’m leaving now then.”
I wanted to ask him if it’s such a secure place, how come there were thousands of spent fireworks all over the pavement. But thinking better of it, I just turned and walked back to my car. As a did, the guard drove around me and back toward the street entrance. There, he stopped. I thought he was just waiting for me to leave. But he got out of his car and started looking around on the side of the road. I got back in my car, and drove toward the entrance. Just before I got there, the guard picked up a sign that was laying face down on the ground and started struggling to make it stand upright. The sign read: “Private Property, Restricted Access, No Trespassing” or something to that effect.
As I was leaving, I stopped and rolled down my window. I asked the guard, “Is that the sign you mentioned?” He got a sheepish grin on his face, and said yes. I smiled, gave him a slight nod, and drove home.
“Workin’ on mysteries without any clues, Workin’ on our night moves” -Bob Seger, Night Moves
Last Tuesday, I spent a few hours working on some night photography down on the Ruston Way waterfront with a small group from the Mountaineers. We got quite a few questions about what we were doing down there with cameras and tripods at night. I guess we should have told them we were working on our night moves. But unlike the Bob Seger song, we were working in winter instead of summer. Winter is a great time for night photography because the night comes early, and you can still get home at a decent hour. Of course, it has disadvantages too, like the weather. Though not extremely cold, only about 40° F (about 4° C), it does get chilly standing around waiting on those long exposures.
I’m really starting to enjoy doing night photography. The camera picks up lots of color and detail that the eye cannot see. I recently read Night Photography, Finding Your Way in the Dark by Lance Keimig, and I have a long way to go before ever approaching his abilities. But I have fun. I highly recommend Keimig’s book to anyone wanting to learn more about night photography, it has lots of good information.
One of the great mysteries of night photography is getting the correct exposure without excessive noise. Digital noise is the bane of many a night photographer. Noise increases with long exposures, high ISOs, and underexposed shots. That’s why, with night photography, you should still use low ISOs and exposure for the right side of the histogram (while not allowing any important highlight to be blown out). Shooting this way, will help minimize noise, but will lead to long (or very long) exposure times, very often over 30 seconds (the longest programmed shutter speed on most cameras). Therefore, to get the correct exposure, you will often be shooting in manual mode with the shutter speed set to bulb. Knowing how long to leave the shutter open is a difficult question. It’s a real pain to wait through a 2-minute exposure only to discover when looking at the results that it should have been a 4- or 8-minute exposure.
Here’s one tip I found very useful from Keimig’s book. Set the camera to a very high ISO and take a test shot first. This can be used to check both composition (it’s sometimes hard to compose through the viewfinder in the dark) and exposure. To make the exposure math easy, Keimig presents a chart in his book and on his Nightskye website. Basically, for cameras with a native ISO of 100 (Canon cameras for example), set the ISO to 6,400 and take one or more test shots to find the correct exposure. The number of seconds in the correct exposure at ISO 6,400, is the number of minutes for the correct exposure at ISO 100. For cameras with a native ISO of 200 (like most Nikons), the test shot ISO should be set to 12,800 and the normal shot ISO at 200. (If your camera doesn’t have such high settings, his chart shows how to compensate). For example, I use a Canon camera. So for the featured photo above, I took a test shot at ISO 6,400 and found the correct exposure was 4 seconds. I switched the camera to ISO 100 and re-shot with an exposure of 4 minutes (in both cases, of course, using the same aperture, f/8 in this case). Much easier than guessing on the correct exposure.
Thanks to Lance Keimig, I’ve solved one the mysteries of my night moves!
This blog finishes up re-publishing articles I wrote for the Travel Photographers Network. Where do travel photographers go when in Seattle? To find out, read this articl eabout the August 2007 meeting of the Travel Photographers Network.
Not sure what to expect, I rolled out of bed at 5:30 to try and get to Seattle before 7:00. Sure I had met these people on-line at TPN, and we comment on each other’s images in the forums, but I’m apprehensive. Meeting someone in person is totally different than on line. Tom Guffey suggested meeting for breakfast at Lowell’s restaurant in the Pike Place Market, so after finding a rare parking spot on the street, I walked into Lowell’s at 7:00 on the nose and didn’t see a soul with a camera. Lowell’s is a fairly small place, but it does cover three floors (a description that doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, but trust me on this one), and going to the top floor I finally spy someone with a camera. We kind of looked at each other and ventured, “Are you with the travel photographers?”
It was Dan Parker, up from Colorado. Then looking down the stairs there were more cameras. A few quick introductions later and I had met Tim Goodspeed, from Portland, Oregon, and the master of the show himself, Jim White. We and grabbed a big, round table on the top floor with a view of Elliot Bay. Soon, Tom Guffey showed up and, finally, Sheril Foust. A small turnout perhaps, but a group overflowing with photographic talent (not to mention, as I was to find out later, a lot of BS as well).
The “convention” actually started the night before (Friday), when several of the attendees met for liquid refreshments in the Marriott lounge. Saturday’s session started with eggs, bacon, hash browns, orange juice, and coffee (one must have coffee in Seattle, where there are usually more than four coffee shops within any city block). Over breakfast, Jim asked people’s opinions concerning the TPN site: what we liked or disliked, what improvements could be made, or how the site could be changed for the better, ideas for attracting and keeping a larger membership. Every convention must have some “housekeeping” work to do, and I guess this was it for this one.
Then talk turned to what to photograph. Tom played local host, at least for Saturday. He distributed Seattle maps, indexed with 30 great photographic locations. A second sheet gave a description of each location along with the type of photos that might be taken there. A thumbnail photograph taken from the location also accompanied each description. We talked about where to go, but the first choice was easy. We were sitting in one of the premier travel photography locations in the city: Pike Place Market, or number 6 on the Guffey List.
We ventured back downstairs, and the marketplace that had been relatively empty at 7:00 a.m. was now bustling. Cameras were pulled out and image making begun. Pike Place Market is more than a farmer’s market in the heart of the city; it’s a mélange of everything Seattle. It has fish, fruit, flowers and forest; wine, water, beer and coffee; there are men in business suits, men in fishing overalls, and homeless men; tourists and locals; shoppers and protesters; and above all, a lot of photographic subjects. As it turned out, the 100th anniversary of the market was the week we were there, so the market was extra crowded and extra crazy. We fanned out and shot like crazy.
Somehow, we all found each other again, near a street performer playing an erhu (a two-stringed Chinese violin; I can’t report that he was making much money), taking pictures of a man with a parrot. Jim started asking about pub’s (turns out Jim White is almost always asking about pubs), so we ventured over to an Irish pub (Kells) located in the Post Alley portion of the market. There, we drank liquid refreshments while Jim regaled us with stories of Israeli Mossad agents and old Swiss women (believe me, you had to be there to understand). After more discussions about where what and when to shoot, we headed off to the Center for Wooden Boats & the Maritime Heritage Museum, also known as number 11 on the Guffey List.
The Center for Wooden Boats is on the southern shore of Lake Union, at the northern end of downtown Seattle; a brief car ride from the market. The center has more than 100 restored, historic wooden boats and is adjacent to the Maritime Heritage Museum. The weekend of the TPN convention, it was hosting an event featuring steam-powered boats. We wandered the docks, photographing boats, steam engines, and reflections.
Tired and hungry, the crew decided to head back down to the waterfront to recharge batteries (in the hotel) and stomachs at a seafood restaurant. We chose Anthony’s Pier 66 across the street from the recharging batteries (at the Marriott). This was also a choice location because next to the restaurant is a pier-top view of the waterfront, also known as number 3 on the GuffeyList.
After crashing a wedding reception that had reserved said pier-top view (well actually, we only crashed the party set up, but they did lock the gate after us), we headed over to the Marriott lounge for some liquid refreshment while waiting for the golden hours near sunset.
The golden hours didn’t appear, clouds did. But one doesn’t have the chance to photograph Seattle everyday (or at least for four of the six of us); so clouds or not, we drove around the bay to West Seattle and found a great spot along Alki Beach with a view of downtown, also known as number 1 on the Guffey List. Daylight faded, and we captured the evening blues and downtown lights. Day one was over, and with it the skies were threatening rain. Tom Guffey begged off on day two; and I drove home not if I would return the next day or not. The company was great, but I can shoot Seattle in the rain anytime.
Sunday morning didn’t bring rain, but there wasn’t much sun either. I stayed home and dug a ditch (somewhat telling as to the conditions that I would stay home to dig a ditch rather than go shooting). But as I dug, the clouds parted, and it started to look like a halfway decent day. I traded the shovel for my camera and headed back.
Meanwhile, after a disappointing sunrise, Tim Goodspeed headed home to Portland. Dan was staying up on Whidbey Island and, like me, was slow in getting back to the city. So Jim and Sheril walked down the waterfront to see the Seattle Aquarium, also known as number 4 on the Guffey List. Around noon, both Dan and I appeared at the Marriott and now, with the group down to four, we again ventured out. We walked down the waterfront, which was crowded with tourists and seagulls, over to the Pioneer Square district, also known as number 7 on the Guffey List.
Pioneer Square, at the southern end of downtown, is Seattle’s oldest neighborhood. It is a National Historic District and contains a portion of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park (the other portion is in Skagway, Alaska). We indeed found historic buildings, squares, statues, and totems. We even found a waterfall (in the Waterfall Garden, a small park that marks the birthplace of the United Parcel Service). Jim led us down a dark back alley to see some of the underside of the city. This spot was not on the Guffey List, so we labeled it number 31.
We continued our walking tour, soon encountering dragons on the street lights: a sign we were entering the International District, also known as number 8 on the Guffey List. This district houses many Asian restaurants and shops. However, it seemed the favorite subject in the International District was a huge flock of pigeons, easily numbering over one thousand. Also not on the Guffey List, we labeled this spot number 32.
Back through Pioneer Square, taking time to photograph Pioneer Square Park and Pergola (which dates from 1905), we walked back to the waterfront, stopping again at number 3 for more shots from the top of Pier 66 (sans wedding reception). Then back over to the Marriott for liquid refreshment and relaxation.
Hunger called, so with our final photographic destination in mind, we piled in my car and headed to the base of Queen Anne Hill. There, we found another more liquid refreshments in yet another Irish pub and enjoyed a meal of buffalo wings (which Jim reports are not commonly found in England) and salad (okay, it was only celery sticks that came with the wings). The evening promised better light than the day before, and as the sunset approached, we drove up to Kerry Park, also known as number 10 on the Guffey List.
Kerry Park is halfway up Queen Anne Hill, just north of downtown Seattle. It has a fantastic view of the city, Elliott Bay, and Mount Rainier. The mountain was not visible that evening, but the sunset wasn’t bad, and as the lights of the city came on, we clicked away.
With that, and of course some more liquid refreshment at the Marriott lounge after the Kerry Park shoot, the TPN convention was over. I started the weekend apprehensive about meeting people I only knew from on-line. I ended with more good memories than pictures (that’s saying something considering number of compact flash cards I filled!).