Sunday, June 27, 2021

Chasing the Moon

Strawberry Super Moon over Seattle

Maybe it started with the book, Goodnight Moon, which I remember reading as a child but I have always been fascinated by the moon and its phases and location in the night sky. Last year, I became aware of the different Super Moons and their individual characteristics (pink, harvest, strawberry, etc) and made my first attempt at photographing one. 

The pandemic of 2020 had taken hold, Seattle had a "stay-home" order but I was planning to shoot a super moon which, to me, was essential. I did my research about locations, rented a telephoto lens and hopped a ferry, feeling like a city escapee. 

I was the second photographer to arrive at the park on the south end of Bainbridge Island but certainly not the last. As we waited for the main event, the Lady (Mt Rainier) stole the show as the sun was setting and the sky turned pink. When the moon started its rise behind the Seattle skyline, it was surreal: how could it be so big?! There was a lot of "atmosphere" out that night which made the scene a bit hazy, but I was happy with the end product.

Super Pink Moon

It's over a year later and I am still chasing the moon. I suffered some serious sleep deprivation while on a photo workshop with Action Photo Tours to be able to get a glimpse of the lunar eclipse from the high viewpoint on Hurricane Ridge. It was visible for less than 40 seconds.

Lunar Eclipse

My most recent attempt was at a  once-secret Seattle park has now leaked to the masses but I was still able to find a nice spot to set up my tripod and wait. The moonrise was at 9:45 but by the time it cleared the skyline, 20 minutes had passed. There were some children playing in the park and as the moon made its appearance, one could be heard saying, "Holy Crap! The moon is huge!". The amount of light given off by the moon was amazing and could be seen before the actual shape of the moon materialized. Best of all, I am most pleased with the end product - the composition shows the skyline plus the Wheel, the light of the moon is enough to illuminated the mountains in the background and the moon once again steals the show.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Deer Ridge

When I was deciding where to hike on one of our recent lovely June days, I calculated that the mileage to hikes to the rain shadow area of the Olympic Peninsula were less than going to, say, the Teanaway area near Cle Elum on the east side of the Cascades. I left the house super early, caught the ferry with minutes to spare and was on my way. 

I knew I was at the correct turnoff from Hwy 101 when I saw two Subarus ahead of me and I ended up following those two all the way to the trailhead. I greeted the ladies at the trailhead, thanking them for guiding me through the potholes safely. 

The trail was the steepest that I've hiked so far this season and it prompted me to compose a letter of sorts:

Deer Ridge,

Why are you so steep, what's the hurry? You make my heart beat faster and my breath uneven. I'm even starting to perspire. Is it just to prepare me for the heart-stopping views of mountains and flowers. You're making my knees weak... or at least hurt while descending the steep bits, even with poles. Yes, thank you, the sight of blooming Rhodies help to relieve the pain.

A tunnel appeared before me on the trail

It was pretty steep in places but once I was out on the ridge, I was rewarded with views up the Dungeness River. Valley. I ate lunch as I watched the fog roll over the ridge from the west, first hanging in the valleys, then accumulating and eventually obstructing the views.

It may have taken more time to get to this hike than one on the east side of the Cascades, but my timing for this hike was perfect.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Catching Up

It's been a while, and some things have changed while some have stayed the same. I have been spending a lot more time doing photography instead of just taking pictures. By that, I mean that now my photography is mostly intentional - I often plan to be somewhere during good light or when certain creatures are active or the sun or moon is in a certain place. Of course, there is plenty of room for spontaneous captures as well and I try to stay open for them.

One of my last blog entries was written not long after I had purchased a mirrorless DSLR and I was taking a class about photographing stars with a local photographer who was very encouraging toward me and my work. On the same trip, which would take me over the North Cascades and to the Methow Valley, I was about to take the winning photo in the 2019 Washington Trails Association's (WTA) photo contest

WTA Grand Prize 2019

The main prize for the WTA contest was a MindShift backpack which allowed me to not only carry my camera gear safely, but also to quickly access it while hiking. On a whim, I rented a lens from Glazer's Camera in Seattle and went to Mt Rainier National Park for a hike. I remember pulling the camera with a gigantic lens out of the bag as though it were a bazooka; I was thinking I would never own a lens that couldn't fit in my purse and how heavy and ungainly the rented lens felt. The hike leader had the same camera body as I and he was startled when he saw the huge front element (77mm as compared to 40.5mm for the small lens). 

After the trip, I uploaded the files to my computer and was amazed at the sharp detail the lens produced. I could see the crosshairs on the Stellar's Jay feathers and all the shots were so crisp and beautiful. My subconscious mind was already starting to work on how to get that lens into my hands. When the holidays brought a sale on photo gear, I made the most important and also expensive purchase for my camera arsenal to date: the Sony 24-105mm lens.

After that trip to Rainier with my future lens (yes, I realize people talk about their spouses this way), I was notified by the Photographic Center Northwest  that my entry in their Chase the Light event had been selected to be shown in a gallery. It was even more affirmation that I was doing the photography I was meant to do and it further bolstered my confidence.

PCNW Gallery Pick

A short time later, I decided to make yet another investment in my photography and I booked a photo tour of the Washington Olympics with Action Photo Tours. When 2020 got rolling, things changed and access to parts of the coast was revoked so the trip was changed to the Palouse, a farming area known for lush, rolling hills in Eastern WA and Western Idaho. 

I wasn't sure what to expect from this type of trip but we started off with a lecture about landscape photography and prepared to go out for a sunset shoot. In my mind, that would mean we drive somewhere for sunset, set up and shoot, then return to the hotel. In reality, we would drive all over the backroads before sunset and hop out for a shot of an old house or barn, then back in and drive to the sunset spot, then shoot more spots, break for dinner, then get back out to shoot the Milky Way. And then get up the next morning in time for sunrise which meant leaving the hotel at 4:00 AM (early, even for a nurse). And it was a 4-day trip!

Rolling farmland of the Palouse region

The trip would have been enough for me just to be with other photographers, but we were with other photogs who had intimate knowledge of the area (and they never consulted a map that I could see) and knew how the light would fall on the land at different times of the day as well as the position of the Milky Way. That would have all been enough, too, but they also drove us to each spot safely (except for the deer, so sad), knew where to park, provided us with tips on focal lengths and composition, helped clean our lenses and sensors, then still had enough warmth and humor as human beings to accompany us to dinner and laugh with us and share experiences.

And that brings me to the present, as I've recently completed my second workshop with Action Photo, this time on the Olympic Peninsula. I am often asked about my goals in photography and, of course, learning is always part of the equation, but my main purpose is to share the beauty I experience as an adventurer and to make people happy when they view my photos.

My main portfolio is on Fine Art America's site, Pixels. And feel free to follow me on Instagram.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Sunrise Wildflowers (at any time of day)

My friend and I volunteer as Meadow Rovers at Mt Rainier so we hike a lot of trails, talk to a lot of people and take a lot of photos. The trails in the Sunrise area are bursting with wildflowers, the likes of which I don't think I have witnessed previously. Even the road is lined thickly with Lupine!

We found one area that still had lingering snow but should be gone in another week or two. It's on the Wonderland Trail from the Shadow Lake camp going toward Frozen Lake and there is one easy-to-cross snow patch, then one that's a bit more steep. Poles and decent shoes should suffice.

One of the goals as Rovers is to keep people on the trail and off of the meadows. Even one boot will erase (I don't like saying "kill", especially when kids are around) many flowers. I looked at Gaia and it shows trails that are not on the Green Trails map or the yellow handout map the Park gives out. They are not secret trails - they are just NOT trails. Please stay on established trails when in the "front country" area of Sunrise to help preserve the flowers and not freak out the animals.

And, please note, there is currently construction on Hwy 410 and in the park that will cause delays. Check the WSDOT site for current location.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Pandemic Pedal #1

The conditions were finally right for taking my Litespeed down off its perch in my apartment. But first, the bike computer warned me that the battery was "very low" so I scrounged one from another source and replaced it, causing all values to reset to zero. Admittedly, I hadn't put many miles (no, let me qualify that to say I put scant miles) in so far this year so it was "Just like Starting Over". That became the theme song for the ride, playing repeatedly in my head even though I don't remember all the words.

On the road, it started out like my commute - down Roosevelt (though I took the car lane because I could), up Interlaken and across the hill on 19th Ave. I call this my Ridge Route because I stay high as long as possible before dropping down to the lake. I passed by one of my favorite little coffee shops, QED (yes, it IS proven - all you math geeks), and joined the lake road at Mt Baker.

All of humanity was out walking, many with dogs, people biking and many cars were a big part of the traffic. In fact, I had to wait quite a while to turn left to Lake WA Blvd while the southbound traffic made like a parade going by. Parking lots at the city parks are all closed, so not sure where they were headed... At some point, Foreigner's "Feels Like the First Time" took over as the song of the ride.

I managed to score a slice of road without much traffic and made it through the Arboretum unscathed. There's a new trail that just opened which connects from the exit of the Arb to Montlake Way, but I wasn't quick enough to pick up on it and continued on to the now-old detour route. On the road through the UW campus, I spied the bloomin' cherry trees, like a brilliant white light shining.

When I got home, a friend sent me the following video:

Enjoy the sunshine and laughs!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Learning Night Photography

Lifetime Learner - this is a concept that applies to me. I have attended multiple colleges for varying degrees and areas of study and I continue to take classes that involve the natural world and photography. On March 1, I took a Nighttime Photography class in the North Cascades with well-regarded landscape photographer, Andy Porter.

I had recently purchased a new camera and, while my back was healing after some serious snow shoveling during Snowmageddon, I spent some time watching YouTube videos on what settings to use for shooting the night sky. One thing I learned right away is that you really can find everything you want to know on the internet. I was able to find a YouTube-r who had the same camera model and who very clearly explained how to change the settings, with the rationale behind each change.

stars, mountains, great foreground - all out of focus

When I sat down in the classroom, Andy introduced himself and handed out a page with instructions (just like I had found on the internet) as well as calculations for “The 500 Rule” for nighttime exposure. I was feeling quite confident about having sought out this information previously and I was able to quickly make adjustments to my camera. One of those adjustments is manual focus and it is an inexact science on my particular camera since there is no focus ring on the lens. After changing the focus to manual, I watched on the rear screen as I moved the cursor toward infinity and left it that way for the drive to our location.

After everyone had gathered their tripod, camera and warm clothes, the class of 11 students plus Andy loaded up into two vehicles and drove out to the gated closure of Hwy 20 at Colonial Creek Campground (they moved the closure further west this year due to the excessive snowfall) and we were all unleashed into the night. No, not exactly, as we all walked around the gate and onto the bridge across Thunder Arm, to the south of Diablo Lake and set up our tripods.

I screwed my camera onto the tripod, set it up as straight as I could and aimed upward. The sky was cloudy and it was dark. No, I mean really dark; it was so dark, there was nothing to look at on my screen or in the viewfinder. After waiting the two-second delay, the lens clicked closed after 25 seconds. When I pushed the playback button, I could see a dark outline of mountains and stars in the sky. I couldn’t believe it - could it really be this easy, just set up and press a button? I shouted out into the night, “I’ve got stars!”. I tried it again, changing the angle slightly and this time, I saw mountain peaks and stars with some nice color in the sky. This was addictive: I shot many more times, changing direction, adjusting settings and each time, I liked what I was seeing in the display.

reminds me of "Starry Night"

However, it never occurred to me to check my focus or that the simple act of placing the camera in its bag could jostle the lens to be out of adjustment. After that first shot, I was so excited that I couldn’t bear to stop the whole operation to second-guess myself. Another factor was that it was cold and since the camera was relatively new, I couldn’t rely on a gloved hand to press the correct buttons and spin a wheel around. The photos look great and the composition appears to work with some lights in the foreground, but when they are enlarged, their flaws show through.

Diablo Dam, shot in daytime

This was not the end of my learning for the weekend. I had forgotten to bring shampoo and washed my hair with castile soap as a substitute. I'll never do that again.

Seattle from Kerry Park
The great thing about not having great shots from the weekend class is that I have room for improvement, a goal to strive for. Since the class, I have been out two more times in the dark (not a time of day I'm very comfortable with), shooting landscapes. My next project is to map out places around the city that have good vantage points and are not thronged with people, like Kerry Park was on a recent Monday.

Stay tuned for more nighttime photography!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Snowmageddon 2019

We got snow! It's always exciting when it snows in Seattle since there are always a lot of unknowns: will it be as much as the forecasters predict, will it render the streets undrivable, will the city come to a standstill? This year, the answer was a resounding YES! 

Where I live, up on a ridge, at the elevation of 315', we had a total of 8 inches but on higher hills in other micro-climate zones, there was at least a foot of snow. While it's too late for a white Christmas, snow still brightens up an otherwise dreary, dark February so I did what all the other city dwellers out there did - I went out to experience it.

palm trees in Seattle

one of many X-C skiers at Green Lake

I headed down to Green Lake, the closest park, which is known as a place for activities like walking, running and water sports. Today, the overwhelming majority of people were out enjoying the fresh snow on skis.

At the lakeshore, where many times I have seen Great Blue Herons and Eagles, were mostly ducks. One was kind enough to swim in the frame to greatly improve the photo composition.

thank you, duck

The city is so beautiful with a fresh coat of snow, like having all the dirt and grime of past mistakes washed away and coated with a fresh coat of pearly white paint.

transformed to black and white

I arrived at a grove of Sequoias that I have always admired (and have thought about living beneath, should that situation ever arise). I started to run around them in a spontaneous burst of joy at their presence and, before reaching the last tree, looked down to see that I had been making tracks in a heart shape. I yelled out, "I heart trees!"

I Heart Trees