In Focus — a bimonthly newsletter

Plant of the Month: Red Elderberry

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Red Elderberry fruit

Red Elderberry fruit

I watched our native red elderberries go through their spring progression back in March and April. They’re one of the first shrubs to start unfurling their leaves, beginning in mid-March. Now that summer is here, they’re covered in bright red fruit. There are some big patches of elderberries beside I-5 where they’re easy to spot (and identify) even at 70 mph. Of course, they’re easier to learn at a more leisurely pace in your backyard or along a quiet trail.

Here in the Pacific Northwest we have two species of elderberry. More common on the west side of the Cascades is the red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa). It is native to much of North America, according to USDA Plants Database. The other is blue elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea), which grows throughout western North America. Both species of elderberry have similar cultivation requirements, as does another species found in eastern North America. Continue reading

Digital Photo Tip: Think Triangles

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Triangular composition in group of Lombardy Poplars
Strong triangular composition in group of Lombardy Poplars.

There’s a lot of power in the humble triangle. Just as it brings strength to all kinds of mechanical structures, the triangle makes your photographs stronger, too.


Triangular composition in group of Lombardy Poplars

It doesn’t matter whether you’re photographing your family, a sweeping landscape, something abstract, flowers, or anything else. Look for ways to incorporate one or more triangles into your composition. Continue reading

Trees & Shrubs of the Pacific Northwest Released

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Trees & Shrubs of the Pacific Northwest

Trees & Shrubs of the Pacific Northwest

It’s been a long journey but my latest book, Trees & Shrubs of the Pacific Northwest, should be in your favorite bookstore this week. You can also order autographed copies directly from me. Ellen Kuhlmann wrote the text and I photographed all but a few of the 568 species of mostly native trees and shrubs in the book.

I began thinking about the tree book back in 2009 and began photographing a few species that year and in 2010. Ellen and I signed a contract with the publisher, Timber Press, in 2010 and then we began working on it in earnest. I spent all of the 2011 and 2012 growing seasons traveling throughout the northwest to find and photograph the plants. We delivered the manuscript and photos to Timber in 2013. It always amazes me how much time is required to edit, design, and print a book like this. Ellen and I received our first author’s sample copies about a month ago and we’re pleased with the final result. Continue reading

Plant of the Month: Pacific Ninebark

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Pacific Ninebark blossoms & foliage

Pacific Ninebark blossoms & foliage

I’ve become a fan of our native ninebark, Physocarpus capitatus. It’s a big, glorious shrub. As the common name implies, the shredding bark provides year-around interest whether it really has nine layers or not. In June it is covered with ball-like clusters of small white flowers, held just above the dark green foliage. Birds eat the mature seeds in late summer and in autumn the leaves turn golden. Continue reading

Digital Photo Tip: Choose an Exposure Mode

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Canon G12 exposure mode and ISO dials

Exposure mode and ISO dials on the Canon G12 compact camera

Most digital cameras, except for the very simplest, offer several exposure modes. How do you choose which one to use? It depends on what’s most important in the photo you’re making. This month I’ll explain the difference between the primary modes: Program Automatic, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, and Manual. Your camera may also have a variety of Scene modes. Continue reading

Plant of the Month: Thimbleberry

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Thimbleberry blossoms & foliage

Thimbleberry blossoms & foliage

The thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus) are getting ready to burst into bloom throughout the Whatcom County lowlands in the next week or so. The first flowers opened on the plants in our garden last weekend. This robust shrub will soon be covered with large white blossoms, highlighting roadsides and woodland edges.
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Plant of the Month: Western White Trillium

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Western Trillium blossom

Western Trillium blossom

I’ve been a big fan of trilliums since I was a kid in West Virginia. Out there you’ll find several species blooming in the woods. Here in northwest Washington we only have one native species, although there are others a bit further south or east in the Pacific Northwest. Our species, Trillium ovatum, is common, widespread, and showy.

Western white trillium, also known as wakerobin, is blooming in our woods right now. Recognize it by three showy white petals held just above three large triangular leaves. Did you pick up on the threes, which give the genus its name? Continue reading

Digital Tip: Polarizing Filter

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No polarizer

No polarizer

With the advent of digital photography we have so much post-processing control in applications like Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, or Photoshop Elements that many of the filters we once used are no longer needed. But there are two exceptions, filters that I still carry and use in my outdoor photography. This month I’ll remind you why a polarizing filter is still important.

Most people, when they think of a polarizing filter, associate it with darkening a blue sky. That’s certainly one of the most common uses of this filter. You can compare the effect of the polarizer in this photograph of our home made on a sunny afternoon with the sun roughly 90° to the left of my camera. Without the polarizer the grass is lighter green, the sky is a pale blue, and the brightness values of the yellow paint, the grass, and the sky are similar. Continue reading

Our Studio is Moving

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Turner Photographics studio exterior

Turner Photographics studio exterior

I’m moving my studio to our home on the outskirts of Bellingham this summer. Last fall we purchased five acres at 4682 Wynn Road, just off the Slater Road I-5 exit, and moved into the house in January. My office is upstairs in the new studio building and we start renovation of the first floor into a spacious new studio this month. The new front entrance will be to the left of the big garage door you can see in the photo above.

The studio building was built in 1928 as a feed store. It was originally located on the corner of Rural Avenue and Highway 99 and was moved to its current location in the early 1960s when Interstate 5 was constructed. Continue reading