The First Mile

How often do we pass on opportunities to make photos because we are so busy with routine every day motions of our lives? Trip planning and preparation requires a lot of effort and thus does not happen often. But photography is not about trips to exciting destinations, it is about taking a camera in your hands and stepping out of the door.

For a couple evenings now I’ve visited a park that is within a couple miles from my home. There was not much there to see except grass dried out by relentless summer sun and an open view of sunset.

So, I’ve photographed the grass at sunset. And as I got a taste of it I started noticing grass details that would work nicely with the sunset. I ended up with a series of photos I’m very excited about.

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.

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.

Overskinned. Story 3

Black Canyon

(This is the last story in 3 story series on photographing popular destinations. This one is the happy one.)

In my travels around Colorado this fall I visited many different places. It was my first trip to Colorado and my first fall trip to Colorado and thus I spend most of the time exploring. In a few days after my arrival a sudden and unexpected snowstorm ran thru the mountains, taking off most of foliage and dusting them with snow.

On the fourth day I drove south in a search for fall foliage. That’s how I ended up staying overnight in Montrose. I arrive late at night. It was already too dark to see anything around. At a hotel I saw a tourist guide mentioning Black Canyon National Park. I was not even aware of it. I thought that since I was so close to it I might as well visit it. The brochure did not have impressive photos of it. I searched online and did not see anything impressive either. One thing for sure was that there was no fall foliage there. Thus I abandoned that idea.

In the morning I could see my surroundings. Everything was green. No fall foliage in Montrose yet. I decided east and then north to Crested Butte. Just a few miles out of Montrose travelling east I saw a sign turn to Black Canyon National Park with only a few miles to the entrance. I thought it was a sign that I should go.

I did not regret I went there. I did not find fall foliage their or amazing well-recognized photo opportunities but I found something way more important. Solitude being one-on-one with the Nature. I was almost the only visitor there. I was sitting on rocks by an edge of the canyon listening to quite singing of birds, facing warm sun and cool breeze. I would look at the deep walls of the canyon dropping down with edges lit up by the Sun. Or I would close my eyes and let the other sense sharpen and form their own world. It was so relaxing and peaceful. That reminded me what photography was too me, filled my mind and soul with creativity again.

On the Other Side

I went to Olympic National Park again, just 3 weeks after last time. The last time it was all about visiting old friends. This time it was about making new.

I like the saying “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” by Marcel Proust. It has been my guide in photography for long time. But… sometimes we can let our mind rest and let legs do the work.

I did visit a place I had been to many times – Rialto Beach – but this time I walk past Hole in the Wall, further than I’ve ever been before. I was enjoying excitement of exploration, walking the ground I’ve never been to before, soaking in new landscapes.

That’s where I made this photo at twilight. It has some mysterious feel too it, strangely attracting the eye. I’m wondering if its mystery has anything to do with a you-know-which movie.

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Photographing Light

Can light be a subject of a photograph? I’m absolutely sure of it. More than that, light is often the main subject of my photographs.

A week ago I was walking in Seattle Arboretum looking for spring blossom. I made a few photos but nothing was clicking. I was ready to give up and headed back to my car, when I saw this light. Actually several kinds of light in one scene: rim light on tree branches, and sunrays breaking thru the branches forming a waterfall of light.

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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

Dream of Stars

When I was a kid I could spend hours watching night sky, dreaming of traveling to the distant stars and other worlds. But I’ve never dreamed of photographing them.

Isn’t the technology amazing? Just a few years who would dream that any ordinary person could photograph stars and see Milky Way the way human eye cannot see. Aren’t these an amazing times we live in?

P.S. Stars, I still dream of you.

Milky Way
Milky Way

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.