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.

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.

Close by

Do I really need to travel far to make photos? Just last weekend I’ve discovered a hike which is only half an hour of driving from my house and yet it has some beautiful waterfalls, creeks and alpine lakes. Well, I have not got to the lakes yet. The two times I went to that hike I got caught up too much with the waterfalls. There are four(!) waterfalls in just the first two miles of the hike.

I still see several image to be made even with closer waterfalls and with the furthest I’ve got to so far I’ve just scratched the surface so to speak. Now I plan to make it all the way just to see everything that it has to offer.

I’m still in awe if the beauty of the place I live in.

Beauty is in Details

I’m still experimenting with this technique of multiple exposures over long period of time combined in one image and I like  results better and better. I think I’m onto something. Look at this image. Pretty trivial and  obvious composition. The first thing to note is that clouds look like they are painted.

Then I looked closely at different elements in the image and liked this technique even more. Here is a fragment of a field on the right:

And here is the tree enlarged:

Both elements look like painted. The road is the only element that remains looking as a photograph. This combination of photographic look and painting look creates quite an interesting effect. I’m eager to start printing this to see how it looks in full detail print.

Happy Halloween

I took this photo in the Palouse back in August this year but was holding it back to use it to wish everyone a happy Halloween. Enjoy this image of an abandoned house on one very stormy summer night. It looks very much like a haunted house.

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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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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.