Follow Your Heart

When I go on a photographic trip the hardest decision is always picking a destination.

Last week I had a knee surgery (which went quite well and I’m recovering quickly). The weekend before that I was going on a photo trip. I knew it would be a while I’d go again, so the choice was really hard.

The way I often make such decision is first decide whether I want to explore a new place or visit again a place I’ve been too. Once that is over I decide within that group which place to go based on time of the year, weather, etc.

The way I decided this time was simply by following my heart. So, I went to the Palouse. After so many years and so many visits I still love this place.

It’s rolling hills have calming, meditative influence on me. Despite its growing popularity I still have my places where I can be alone. And I keep discovering dirt roads I’ve never visited before.

When I arrived there I realized it was the right choice for me. Calm and peace filled my heart. First day I did not even get the camera out. I was just looking at the hills following their lines in their slow rhythm of a heartbeat.

Snow in the Palouse: White Out

The next morning I woke up early to photograph sunrise. I had a place and scene in mind. Except as always the Nature has its own plans. Everything was still covered in thick fog. it make everything feel more enclosed putting white wall around. Everything was white, fresh and clean: snow on the ground and fog in the air.

There was no hint of sunrise. The fog was too deep for that. So I started to photograph snow in the Palouse in fog. As I was going thru the day my image became more and more abstract and the theme has become clearer: white out.

The whole area looked frozen and deserted. My car was the only one on the roads making a new track in fresh snow.

White out – the land is white and the sky is white. There is only thin line where land meets the sky. And nothing disturbs the quiet stillness of it all.

Where land meets the sky

Where land meets the sky

Where land meets the sky

Pastel Colors of Fall

Finally, the colors of fall foliage is behind us. It is my favorite time of year. For photographers October is like August for farmers – time to collect the harvest. The reason I’m saying “finally” is because I felt burnt out pushing myself too much trying to capture it a s much as possible. For some time I tried to keep up with post-processing but then gave up – I was not getting enough sleep that way. And that was combined with two more art shows that I needed to get ready for.

Now, when fall foliage is almost gone in Pacific Northwest and my last art show of this year is behind me, I can catch up on post-processing, blogging, planning.

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For a few months I’ve been fascinated with pastel colors. I like their subdued soft feel. So, this fall I’ve done several images with intent of having pastel colors.

An important thing about photographing color is to be clear that the subject of a photo is color, not individual branches, leaves or trees. To me it means getting rid of all those details in an image.

One technique to do that is to take photos with long exposure handheld and intentionally move camera in some direction. It seems to work the best when moving camera along visually strong lines such as tree trunks or branches.

On Fire
On Fire

Fall Butterflies
Fall Butterflies

Fall Forest
Fall Forest

Over the Wing

As I wrote a while back Photography Starts on a Plane. My photographic journey to Shelter Cove starts on an airplane too. This time our seats were over an airplane wing, which limited a view out of our cabin window to pretty much the wing only. That did not stop me from photographing. I just focused on lines and graphics of the airplane wing and specular lights created by the Sun.

Flying thru a cloud:

Texture

Day 3, Morning

The most interesting thing for me in dunes is their texture. I just walk the dunes and collect different textures like a biologist collecting specimens. And sometimes texture leads somewhere like in this case lines of the texture lead into valley. White peaks of Sierra Nevada range are visible in the distance (barely visible on a small picture). It is amazing how such extremely hot and cold places are located so close to each other.

Texture

Salty Lines

Day 2, After Dawn

Photographing Badwater is all about finding lines that are interesting a leading somewhere. Like in this photo I found a line that can be anchored in the bottom corners and goes into the image pointing toward a cloud in the sky. And there is a nice loop at the end of it that matches the cloud.

Badwater
Badwater

Badwater

Day 2, Sunrise

Badwater

My first sunrise on this trip was at Badwater. That’s a large flat with lots of salt deposits from drying out water. The salt is brought by streams running down the mountains surrounding the valley in those rare cases there is a rain in Death Valley.

I wanted to capture psychedelic twilight and early dawn colors that I saw long time ago here but now with better techniques. This time colors were too weak, so I had to put gold-n-blue polarizer to give them a punch. I use this filter very rarely because it saturates and shifts colors too much for my taste. The only exception when I use would be photographing sunrise or sunset when rich orange colors would be expected and I don’t get those colors without this filter.

I liked how sky came out with gold-n-blue polarizer but I did not like the color cast on salt flats. Thus in post-processing I removed the color cast and put back the color of salt flats without gold-n-blue polarizer.

My first attempt to remove cast was to do color balance. Unfortunately, I could not color balance uniformly across the whole field. That’s because gold-n-blue polarizer produces different color casts depending on an angle to light source (Sun in this case). Given that this is more than 180 degree panorama the color casts produced by the filter in the middle and on the sides was significantly different. As I color balanced middle of the photo, I’d have unpleasant green color cast on the sides. As I color balanced sides I’d get magenta cast in the middle.

After that struggle I decided that the only way to fix color cast on the salt flats was to get rid of color information completely and bring back color from a photo without polarizer. The first step was putting a black and white layer on top of salt flats to remove color completely. Then I put photo filter with color picked from photo taken without the gold-n-blue polarizer. The last step was blending that with original color of this photograph to add variation and make smooth transitions between colors.