Passions — a blog

Mountains for the Hilltop

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A few months ago my friend Tom Kilpatrick, who owns the Hilltop Restaurant on Guide Meridian just south of Axton Road, called me to inquire about a couple of new pieces of mountain art for the restaurant. I prepared a preview gallery and Tom picked a couple of favorite photos. I snapped pictures of the walls in the restaurant so I could show him how his choices would look and to help decide on the right size. We came to agreement on the size and price and I got printed ordered.

Today I took two beautiful canvas prints out to the Hilltop with my tools and got them on the walls.


Hilltop Restaurant, Bellingham, WA. © 2017 Mark Turner


At the back of the restaurant, where you can enjoy it from the moment you walk in the door until you leave, is a photo of Mt. Baker I made at sunset. It’s a panoramic image, shot on film with my Fuji GX617 camera almost 20 years ago. The finished print is 28″ tall and 80″ wide. Continue reading

A Visit to Noisy Creek

Trail through old-growth forest

April hikes in the North Cascades have to be at lower elevations unless you want to break out your snowshoes or skis. On a rainy Sunday it made sense for my friend Brian and me to choose the East Bank Baker Lake Trail and head to Noisy Creek. Neither of us had hiked this section of trail before.

At only 800 feet elevation, spring was in full swing along the trail. We inhaled deeply as we entered the woods, sucking in the sweet scent of moist humus and conifers. Much of the forest is old growth, the usual mix of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and western redcedar, the understory a tangle of mossy logs and thickets of vine maples, salmonberries, and huckleberries. Without a trail it would be tough bushwhacking. Continue reading

Wildflower Road Trip Madness

Brittlebush and More

Brittlebush, Fremont Pincushion, Desert Dandelions, Burrobush, Ocotillo early morning in Coyote Canyon, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California.

I’m sure you’ve seen the bumper sticker, “I Brake For Flowers.” Well, I don’t just brake for them — when conditions are right I’ll drive thousands of miles for wildflowers. That’s just what I did in mid-March when I confirmed that the predicted “superbloom” at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southern California was actually happening.

A little back story: most of the wildflowers in the desert are annuals. Their seeds remain dormant until conditions are just right. When there’s enough rain at the right time during the winter and temperatures warm up not too fast then the desert can burst into spectacular masses of flowers. Most years only a few flowers bloom, but in 2017 conditions were just right for a massive bloom, which lasts for only a couple of weeks at peak. I couldn’t stay home. Continue reading

Look Twice

APLD_Spring2017_cover
As photographers we can easily fall into a rut of always seeing and photographing our world just one way. We find something that works and repeat. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, and done well it can be an important aspect of your style. But if you’re always photographing from eye level with a 50mm lens you’re missing out on alternative ways to tell visual stories.

The spring 2017 issue of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) magazine, The Designer, features examples of my photography that show alternate views of the same garden. The story was written by Katie Elzer-Peters, a garden writer colleague I’ve known for several years. Continue reading

2017 Northwest Flower & Garden Show

Herbed Butter display garden

It may not have felt much like spring on Thursday, February 23 as I drove to Seattle for the 2017 Northwest Flower & Garden Show. There was a bit of fresh snow on the ground as I drove down I-5 for my annual fix of gardening inspiration. I’ve been going to the NWFGS for 20 years, sometimes as a speaker but more often just to enjoy the display gardens.

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Larrabee State Park

Eroded sandstone at Larrabee State Park

One of my favorite places to explore the saltwater shoreline near Bellingham is Larrabee State Park . It’s just a few miles south of town on Chuckanut Drive, aka Washington highway 11. Larrabee is Washington’s oldest state park, established in 1915. Originally just 20 acres, the park now includes 2,683 acres from Bellingham Bay to forested upland ridges.

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A Little Cleanup




Before you press your shutter release, take a good look at what’s in your frame. Pause a moment and take care of any little details you see that might detract from your photo.

In this pair of photos of the daylilies growing by our back door, in the first frame you see all the spent blossoms. That might be OK if the story you’re trying to tell is that daylily blossoms don’t last long and they linger on the stems until they dry up and fall off. But if what you’re after is a nice photo of daylilies blooming, then I think the photo looks a lot better with the spent blossoms removed.

It’s always easier to clean up details like this before capturing the image. Imagine how much time it would have taken in an image editing program like Photoshop to remove the spent blossoms and replace them with plausible background material.

I apply the same principle when photographing people. Let’s get that cat hair off your jacket before I trip the shutter.

Bloody Moon Over the Mountain

Lunar eclipse rising over Mt. Shuksan

Sunday, September 27 was the evening for both a “super moon” and a total lunar eclipse. Super moon simply means the moon appears larger in the sky because it is closer to the earth. I headed up to Artist Point and out the ridge to Huntoon Point to photograph the eclipsed moon rising over Mt. Shuksan. I knew where the moon would be from advance planning using the web app, Photographer’s Ephemeris. Continue reading

Northern Lights and the Night Sky

Northern Lights

I was blessed to witness a brief display of the northern lights last night. I was at Artist Point, the end of the road above the Mt. Baker Ski Area, photographing a high school senior portrait. We finished the session in the twilight and after putting my lighting gear in my truck I returned to the viewpoint for Mt. Baker and began photographing the stars in the night sky. You can get an rv, 4wd, campervan and motorhome rentals.

A little later Derek, who was also photographing the sky, and his mom called to me that the northern lights had appeared over the mountains to the north. I turned to see the eerie green glow I captured in the photo above. The display only lasted about 15 minutes before fading away. Continue reading

First Baby

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Jaina, Chris, & Winslow Gemin. Bellingham, WA.  © 2015 Mark Turner

There’s something very special about a first baby. After months of anticipation, a new life comes into your family. There’s no owner’s manual to tell you what to do, but somehow you figure it all out with the help of family and friends. All is future and hope and innocence.

Not long ago Jaina and Chris brought their new daughter, Winslow, to the studio for a portrait session. With little ones like this there are inevitable pauses to change a diaper or for mom to give a snack. The baby sets the schedule, not the photographer.

Jaina, Chris, & Winslow Gemin. Bellingham, WA.  © 2015 Mark Turner

It’s easy to forget how small new human beings are when they come into the world. They fit on an arm, not much larger than a football. Tiny feet nestle in mom and dad’s hands. Will they someday carry her to the top of a mountain, to corporate stardom, to the White House?

Jaina, Chris, & Winslow Gemin. Bellingham, WA.  © 2015 Mark Turner

One of Winslow’s grandmothers crocheted the dress Jaina and Chris chose for her portrait session. She won’t be able to wear it for many occasions before she outgrows it. I expect her parents will save it and share it with her when she’s old enough to appreciate it. Right now she doesn’t know anything about grandmothers or crocheting or the love that went into that dress.

Jaina, Chris, & Winslow Gemin. Bellingham, WA.  © 2015 Mark Turner

My job during a portrait session like this is to make the studio comfortable, craft the lighting, and then know when to capture the magic that is a mother’s love for her new baby. Dad’s love, too.Check out these photos i did for thebestbabycribs.com.

Jaina, Chris, & Winslow Gemin. Bellingham, WA.  © 2015 Mark Turner

Winslow’s other grandmother gave her the tutu. I posed her on a New Zealand sheepskin that my mother gave us when our boys were very small and used to play with nerf guns.

I don’t photograph a lot of new babies, but there’s something very special and almost reverent about the experience. Like anything involving infants, it requires a certain kind of patience. That’s something I seem to be pretty good at so please check out the photos i took for a baby competition.

Thank you, Jaina and Chris, for sharing Winslow with me.