Just Do It

Two things inspire me. I’m inspired by great images. But I’m inspired even more by people who go out and make images: no matter the conditions, no matter the mood, no matter anything. This persistence makes me do the same: go out and photograph.

Originally I wanted to write about going back to my old friend – Second Beach in Olympic National Park. When I went there a week ago I expected winter like conditions: overcast, heavy clouds. Instead it was summer like: sunny and clear sky. I’m not very fond of clear sky. It is a lot of empty blueness – boring.

Then I told myself: just do it. Take a camera and make the best images you can from the material you’re presented.

Freezing Temperatures

Pacific Nortwest of the US rarely experiences freezing temperatures in low elevations making for more exciting winter photography.

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It has been my long time dream to go out to Olympic coast around winter solstice. The sun is at the lowest point of the year making shadows longer whole day. Unfortunately with all the holidays preparation I hardly could get out and photograph during this time of a year.

This year I could finally get out and photograph. I was hoping for heavy clouds, moody skies typical here this time of the year. Instead it was kind of like summer: clear blue sky; the sun shining bright. The only difference was that it was very cold and I needed layers of clothing to keep myself warm.

Such conditions made images including lots of sky quite boring. At the same time the temperature dropped below zero which made it a good time to visit some old favorite places and see them in the new way.

Never Can Take the Same Photo Twice

“No man ever steps in the same river twice” – Heraclitus

There is a set of small lakes near Banff called Vermillion Lakes. They are easier to access and a nice spot for sunrise photography. I visited them several times: on my way to Abraham Lake and on the way back. They are mostly frozen during winter that is if the winter is actually cold but there are a few of hot springs coming into them that never seem to freeze up.

I found myself a nice cozy place there which I kept coming back to photograph over and over. Initially, I wanted to repeat the photo I took the first time, just with a slightly different composition. When I came the second time though I discovered that the weather changed the look completely. After that the change itself was more interesting to me. So, I kept coming to the same place to see how it looks like at sunrise or sunset, how it looks in warmer weather and in colder weather.

Here are a few photos that I like the most out of my study of the same place.

Sunrise after snowfall:

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Twilight before sunrise with warm weather:

Sunset with clear sky when the temperature dropped below 0C again. I’ve waited for this one until gradient of color reaches its peak. (BTW, I love watching Earth’s shadow moving across the sky.)

Taking Advantage of Imperfections

I’m increasingly photographing with more and more challenging lighting. Such as including sun high in the sky into the picture. The creates a lot of glare in the photo. And I’m working thru those issues, finding how to avoid them or incorporate them in my pictures.

There is a couple methods I use to avoid glare in my pictures. First one that I used for a while already is to block out the Sun with a finger, take photos without the Sun and the glare. The next photo is with no fingers in the frame. Both photos should be taken with the same exposure, the same focus point, the same aperture and on tripod. I would take the normal photo as a base and then use the one where I blocked out the Sun to patch any areas with a glare. This methods works really well during sunset or sunrise when the Sun is placed closer to an edge of a frame.

The other method I discovered during my trip a week ago to the Palouse. Turns out that if I open aperture to its widest setting I get almost no glare or at least its impact becomes imperceptible. This method works well even if the Sun is in the middle of the frame. That’s the technique I used for the photo below that I took during the trip.

Again I would use the photo with aperture set to where I want it. In this case I wanted to close down aperture to get sun burst rays. Closing down the aperture produced a lot of glare in the sky, on the Steptoe Butte and in the fields, that would be hard to patch in Photoshop if I did not take another photo with open aperture and used parts of that photo to patch out all the glare.

Then I discovered that polarizer that I had on my lens had imperfection that resulted in light spilling further from the Sun in two directions along one line. (And just in case you did not know any additional glass surface adds more glare to the photo as sun light bounces back and forth between glass surfaces.) My first reaction was to remove the filter. But then I thought of incorporating that effect and make that line horizontal by rotating the filter. Later I also did take photos without the filter but I like the one with imperfection more. It gives some surreal feel to the scene.

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