Now that our autumn rain has arrived, the forest floor in our woodland has sprung back to life. It’s almost like a second spring even though the trees are beginning to shed their leaves. Underfoot, piggyback plant (Tolmiea menziesii) has greened back up and is busy producing little plantlets atop nearly every leaf. Continue reading
In Focus — a bimonthly newsletter
One of the challenges in two-dimensional art, including photography, is creating the illusion of depth on a flat piece of paper or computer screen. Layering the elements in your composition is one way to do it.
Layering is a variation on having a foreground, middle ground, and background in your image. You can place your main subject in any of those positions, although layering is most effective when your subject is in the middle layer. The technique works for many subjects, whether you’re photographing your family, your car, or a favorite landscape. Continue reading
Every year we northwest lowlanders make pilgrimages to the mountains to savor Vaccinium deliciosum, Cascade blueberries (aka blueleaf huckleberry, Cascade bilberry, or Rainier blueberry). This low-growing and widespread blueberry lives up to its Latin name, for the fruit is truly delicious. When you find a patch loaded with fruit you can feast for a long time on sweet tastiness.
In this low-snow, warm-summer year the blueberries have ripened earlier than usual. Last weekend Natalie and I hiked out to Low Pass and High Pass, above Twin Lakes and just south of Mount Larrabee. In many places the trail is cut into a steep slope and we could graze on blueberries at waist level without even having to bend over. It can’t get much better than that! Continue reading
One of the strengths of compact cameras, and even cell phone cameras, is their ability to shoot wide-angle close-ups. These little cameras focus closest at their widest zoom setting. That seems counter-intuitive but it’s the way they work. So take advantage of this by going close to your subject, but leaving some space around it to show a hint of the environment, too. It’s a great technique for wildflowers, garden flowers, and other nature-type subjects, but not so good for people because the exaggerated effect that can make your sweetie’s face look fat and her nose like Pinocchio. Continue reading
One of the most powerful creative tools photographers have at their disposal is choosing which parts of a photo should be sharp and which parts should be soft. This sharp/soft contrast is a very good way to set a subject apart from the background. We call this depth of field because we’re controlling apparent sharpness from close to the lens to the far distance.
In the pair of landscape photos above, one was made at the relatively wide aperture of f/5 (left side of the slider)and the other stopped down to f/16 (right side). Notice the difference in sharpness in the foreground flowers. My focus point was on distant Mount Baker in both versions. These images were made with my lens at 70mm, a short telephoto. Continue reading
I ran across a near-perfect specimen of another one of our mycoheterotrophic plants on a hike up to Excelsior Ridge in mid-June. This one is pinesap, Monotropa hypopitys. It’s fairly common in our dry forests, growing under Douglas-firs or hemlocks. If you’re following along each month, you’ll recall that I introduced you to a rather uncommon mycoheterotroph last month, California broomrape.
Pinesap is in the same family as heather, rhododendron, and huckleberries. But unlike those big and showy plants, pinesap doesn’t have any chlorophyll and can’t make its own food. It depends on a complex relationship with fungi in the soil to connect its roots to those of a host plant from which it derives its nutrients. Continue reading
Every year about this time I get puzzled looks from kids who have just finished their junior year in high school, and their parents, when I remind them that now is the time to get their senior portraits made. Portraits just aren’t on their mind as the carefree (or busy with a job) days of summer approach.
Why get senior portraits made now, rather than toward the end of senior year? For most high school seniors in Whatcom County, it boils down to the yearbook deadline. All local schools require senior portraits to be submitted around early October. Most schools accept and encourage creative senior portraits from independent photographers (Ferndale is an exception). Continue reading
Last week I was photographing Southern Oregon forests under a brilliant clear blue sky. The fresh green foliage sparkled, reflecting the bright sunshine. These are the conditions that call for a polarizing filter. It’s one of the few filters I use with my digital camera, and there’s no good way to simulate its effect in post-processing software like Photoshop or Lightroom. Continue reading
During the blooming season people often send me photos of plants they’ve found and can’t identify. A few days ago I received a photo of a plant I’d never seen before. It’s not in my book, Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest, nor in the Washington Wildflowers smartphone app. But I instantly recognized the genus, Orobanche. There aren’t many species in the Pacific Northwest and they’re rather distinctive. Continue reading
Have you ever come back from a photo excursion, looked at one of your pictures and wondered, “What was I seeing when I snapped that photo?” My mother even saved some of my early “what’s that?” pictures, like the one above. I must have seen something interesting in that early spring messy corner of my dad’s garden but it sure didn’t come across in the picture. I don’t know why she didn’t toss those clunkers, because that’s what she should have done and what I do today. (I was 7 when I took that picture in 1961.)
Sometimes it’s downright hard to find the photograph in a chaotic scene. I’ll feel there’s something interesting in there somewhere, but it’s not always obvious how to convey what I’m seeing or feeling in the frame. Slowing down and really looking for the story is a good first step.
A few days ago I took a walk through our woods with my camera. Spring growth was fresh and green, the early morning light was soft, and I felt engaged with the forest. I wanted to capture how the woods looked and felt to me. Continue reading