A Dream About Water

I’ve wrote about light painting before and I’ll likely write more again as this really fascinates me in photography. For me it is a lot of fun playing with lights, a lot of creativity as I create something that was not there in the first place, and a lot of surprise as most of the time what I get is unexpected.

Here is an image that got me very excited about light painting again. I spent a day photographing fall foliage in Kubota Gardens in Seattle (I’m still working on post-processing those photos). At dusk as it got dark enough for exposures to go up to 30 seconds I started playing with light painting with two waterfalls I found in the gardens.

I found the upper waterfall to be more interesting of the two because it had red leaves caught in the stream and I could get a more dynamic image with foreground and background.

There were two new things I played with this time. First, I brought two different flashlights: one had cool light and the other one had warm light. So, I could do not only light painting but also color painting. The other thing that I played with was focus, shifting focus in the middle of light painting. This created dreamy effect.

For those interested in more technical details here is how I took this image. The camera was on a tripod, aperture wide open (f/4 for the lens that I used), shutter was 30 seconds. It was pretty dark already, my camera was not able to focus just using ambient light. First I would use very powerful warm flashlight. I would point to a rock in the middle of the frame and focused the camera using auto focus. I would turn off auto focus then. Turn off the flashlight, so it does not light up something accidentally, and release shutter. Then quickly with the same powerful warm light I would trace the waterfall and the creek back and forth a few times to ensure that individual spots or streaks of light a now visible. That was taking me about 5 seconds. Then I would turn off flashlight and defocus the lens. The rest of 25 seconds I was using weak cool flashlight to light up sides of the frame while the camera was out of focus. I did this ten times or more, every time getting a different image – I love the element of surprise. This I think is the best out of the series.

A Dream About Water
A Dream About Water

I’ll Take It!

Couple weeks ago I went to Rainier again. You know I’m falling in love with it. (See my post New Eyes.) While there I met a couple of photographers. We got talking a little bit, all three excited about nice sunset.

On the way back we were passing a view of Paradise Lodge with a nice backdrop of after sunset sky with nice hues of orange, red and blue. Their reaction was “It is not worth taking.” Mine was “I’ll take anything that excites me.” I think it turned out pretty nice.

Paradise Lodge
Paradise Lodge

No Photos Is Ok

[Good] photographer is the one that does not show bad pictures.
Jay Maisel

There are days when I take photos that excite me, photos I love. And then there are other days when I get none. That’s ok. It is continuous learning experience, continuous self-development. The important thing is not to lie to myself and pretend that mediocre photos are good ones. Just because I put up a lot of effort in taking them does not make them good.

On my last trip to Rainier two weeks ago I had those two days. On the first day I was treated to a nice sunset with great color in the clouds and a pink tint on everything on the ground from the light reflected from the clouds. (That’s when I took the photo below.)

On the second day nothing worked out. The photos turned boring and did play any tune in my heart. And you know what? I’m not going to show any photos from the second day. I’m still going to look at them; see if there is anything that can be photographed differently; what and why did not work. I’m learning from bad photos and you’re enjoying good ones.

Sunset at Mt Rainier
Sunset at Mt Rainier

New eyes

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Marcel Proust

Have I been to Mount Rainier National Park many times? Sure, I have. It is the closest national park to my home. Have I got a lot of photos from Mount Rainier National Park that I’m proud of? Nope. After all the trips I still did not have emotional connection with that place. The photos, while technically ok, were lacking emotions, strong graphics, or something interesting happening to me. As a result I thought Mount Rainier landscape was just not for me and have not visited it for a long time. Until recently.

Recently a group of three local photographers – Andrey Cherepakhin, John Song and Protik Hossain – lured me to go to Rainier again. They had specific places in mind which I have not visited before. I went along. And I’m glad I did.

Was the trick in having new eyes or was it in visiting places off a beaten path? I don’t know. One of those or both did the trick. Finally, I got photos that are beyond high quality snapshots and capture some emotional scenes of Mount Rainier.

PS At first I stopped typing here and just added photos below. Then I thought it would be worthwhile sharing what I liked about each of them.

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Summer Light and Pattern in a Chaos. I like summer feel of this photo. It was taken “into the sun”, bringing out a lot of green in the grass and lighting up the flowers. I like the contrast between light in the meadow and darkness in the trees. I like V-shape of two slopes. I like how seemingly random while flowers see to be in inverted V shape that draws you into the picture, gives it depth and perspective.

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Light and Shapes. Obviously the reflection is nice in absolutely still water. But what I really like in this photo is the light of the sun right before sunset caught in a sheet of ice floating in the water. The other thing that I like is that the shape of the highlighted piece of ice repeats the shape of Rainier in background.

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Light, Cloud and Frame. The cloud sitting on the top of Rainier, lit up by sunrise is an obvious thing that I like about this photo. The other two are how the mountain is framed by the tree on the left and the tree on the right and how flowers lead to the mountain.

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Shape and Curve. Rock formation on the right and the mountain make up one large curve.

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Leading line. The trail is strongly visible in the right bottom corner of the image continues later closer the center of the image, leading to Tatoosh Range in the distance.

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Layers. There are many layers in this photo on different levels. First, foreground – rock and flowers, middle ground – rocks, stream and snow, mountain and sky in background. Second, half in shadow, half in light. Third, interleaving layers of light snow and dark rocks.

And of cause the cloud lit up from inside is great!

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Mood. Reflection and Clouds. I like reflection of the mountain among the rocks. The cloud around the mountain grew in size to fill up the sky while still keeping the circles around the mountain.

And I like the tough mood of the high elevation landscape. The unrest in the sky. The anticipation of cold fall ahead. A reminder that the summer was almost over.

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Mood. This photo reminds me the kind of photos I see from Iceland. Dramatic heavy skies and flat light. Tough climate creates tough landscape be it Iceland or this small oasis at Mt Rainier.

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Emotions and Light. I like this photo for the same dramatic skies combined with a tenderness of flowers and a island of light breaking thru the clouds.

Path of Light

Photography has been and hopefully remain as much about playing and experimenting. One of such fun things is to introduce an artificial light sources in a landscape. The official term for it is “light painting” but for me it is just playing with flashlights, imagining what a landscape can be, and then getting a surprising result.

Like in this photo that I took at the Second Beach in Olympic National Park just after sunset, when it was dark enough for a long exposure and dark enough for a flash light (actually 3 flashlights) to make a difference.

Path of Light
Path of Light

Good Night, Ladybug

I love the place where I live. There is a hillside not far from my house that surprises every year with a grand display of various wild flowers.

It changes every year. The first year I moved here it was covered with California poppies (well, I’m not in California, I’m in Washington, nevertheless we have occasional California poppies here). The next year it was covered with lupines. The year after that it was red poppies. Then chamomiles. This year it is a mix of various flowers.

I don’t know what’s the secret of this hill but I certainly appreciate the opportunity for close up and macro photography that the nature gives me.

Here is a photo I took at that hill recently just after dusk at twilight. The ladybug settled in chamomile flower for the night and the flower was slowly closing up.

Good Night, Ladybug