New Year, New Challenges

I celebrated this New Year in Stockholm, Sweden. This was mostly a social and sightseeing trip but I still took my trusted camera because… just because that’s the way I am.

What was different this time though is that I did not take my tripod. I tried to challenge myself to capture fleeting moments, to be more mobile and to create a story with several photos.

This is very different from the way I am used to take photos. Many of my photos have long exposure, taken from a tripod and I spend a lot of time in the same spot, trying various angles, adjusting framing, micro-adjusting positioning of the camera to take the best image possible.

What I had not realized just how little light Stockholm gets in winter even during midday. I had to crank up exposure to 400-800 ISO just to get 1/40 sec exposure with fully open aperture during day. Nights were out of the question. So, I missed my tripod.

Finally on the last day of my stay in Stockholm something happened that made things a little bit brighter: snow. Rather then going into the city I went into kind of park and kind of forest. Turns out it does not matter where I go, I enjoy hiking in the nature. Nothing better for me. And hiking in the snow was a special treat.

There is a special kind of silence reserved only for quiet snowfalls. There is absolutely no sounds. Everything is still like a picture. And only snowflakes dancing in the air.

P.S. In retrospective it was a good decision not to take tripod on that trip. Even though I could not know way back that it would be a good decision. On the way back my luggage was lost and the airline has no idea where it is. But I have my tripod with me safely at home.

Only Mountains Can Be Better Than Mountains

When someone mentions Hawaii what do you think about? Sandy beaches? Blue ocean? Palm trees?

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I go to Hawaii every year for the past I don’t know how many years. Over time I noticed a pattern: I’m more and more drawn to inland of an island. To the mountains, cold rough peaks, tropical forests.

Most memorable time of my last trip to Kauai was a hike thru a tropical forest in Waimea canyon. It was windy, cold, with a drizzle. And it was mesmerizing. I have not brought any images from the hike but I brought my best emotions from it.

Now that I’m reviewing images from the whole trip I noticed that I have not a single image of palm tree or a sandy beach. I have images of ocean but it is not blue and pleasant. It is rough and grey fighting with a rocky shore.

Next time I go to Kauai, I’ll likely spend even more time hiking inland.

Waiting for the Light

April 18

Summer is here. Well, not official summer, not astronomical summer, but a northwest summer. I like how summer starts all of the sudden in pacific northwest. One day it is cold, rainy and gloomy and the next day it’s sunny and warm. And it does not get back to the way it was all winter. The trails get crowded with happy faces. Finding isolation becomes harder. No complaining here.

Today is such a day. I woke up and realized that. Birds are singing to the rising sun. Trees have put their green summer clothes. They are not quite the dark green of mid summer but a fresh bright green shimmering in the morning breeze.

As it became my recent habit I went to another hike I have not been to. Just to walk the woods. The parking lot at the trail head was packed. Well, that’s summer. I found a spot, got my backpack ready and hit the trail.

This time I had spent some time researching trails around. I was looking for trails that would cross creeks. It is a good time to walk those trails. Snowcaps are melting filling creeks with water. Many of them will dry up by the middle of summer.

The trail was going to Mason Lake and Bandera Mountain. The trail indeed crossed several creeks. One of them was really full of water and had an impressive waterfall. I’ve composed the frame and it was turning out to be even better than I thought. Except one thing: there was a bright light spot from the sun breaking thru the trees in one corner of the frame. It just did not work. I decided to try it again on the way down.

On the way down I stopped by the waterfall again and the light completely changed. The waterfall was in full light. Which did not work either. Oh, well, maybe some other day.

April 26

One week later. It looks like winter has come back. It is cold, overcast, and gloomy. It might be a good time to visit the same waterfall I visited a week earlier. Overcast might be just the right weather for it. The scene might be more evenly lit with less contrast between light water and dark rocks.

Here it is. The overcast might have worked better then sunny. I still wonder how it looks like in twilight. Maybe some other day.

And here is a little bonus. A small creek I crossed on the way to the waterfall.

Soft Light

There is no such thing as bad light.

When I just started photographing the only good light I knew was a sunset or sunrise. Then I added daylight with sunlight breaking thru the clouds which was creating an interplay of shadow and light on the ground. But for longest time I thought grey overcast day is bad light that is not suitable for photographing anything.

Well, I was wrong. I just did not develop my eye enough to see what a beautiful soft light an overcast day can give. That’s the best light for photographing deep in the forest where direct sunlight falling down thru a thick canopy of leaves and branches create extreme contrast.

Overcast day on the other hand creates nice soft light that is smoothly descending thru every opening and canvasing the ground with soft highlights.

What a perfect opportunity to photograph this flower that is blooming deep in Pacific Northwest forests whole spring and summer. I love its perfect triangle of three petals and three leaves.