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.