There aren’t a lot of perennials or small shrubs that continue to pump out brilliant red-orange blossoms well into autumn. This month’s featured plant, California fuchsia or hummingbird trumpet, is growing in our full sun, rarely watered, shallow soil, streetside garden where we can enjoy it every time we come home and park in front of the house.
Formerly known as Zauschneria californica, it’s sometimes still available under that name in the nursery trade as well as under the currently accepted name, Epilobium canum. It’s a tough plant that’s native to California and adjacent southern Oregon. There are several varieties of the species. If you want all the details, check it out on CalFlora. Continue reading →
One of the things that sets professional photographers apart from snapshooters is that we’re always looking for the light, seeing how it plays across our subject. Modern cameras are very good at getting an acceptable exposure in almost any light, but we’ve all seen thousands of photos taken in very bad light. You can do better. Here’s one approach.
Window Light Portrait: Betty McClendon
Natalie and I were visiting her mother, Betty, not too long ago. She lives just a mile from us so we’re there often. Her home has a wonderful sun room, with windows all along the south wall and a couple of skylights so the room is bathed in light. Betty spends a lot of time sitting by the window where she can watch the birds in her garden or reach a book on the shelves beside her chair. Continue reading →
People have been taking snapshots of friends, family, and the places they visit since George Eastman first popularized photography with the first Kodak camera in 1888. In the 125 years since then a nearly uncountable number of photographs have been made. The pace of picture taking has only increased since the invention of digital photography and digital cameras becoming affordable to nearly everyone.
People upload 300 million photos every day to Facebook alone, according to a July 2012 story in USA Today. Sites like Facebook, Flickr, and Pinterest have become today’s photo albums. But will they be around in 75 years? Will our children and grandchildren be able to look back at these glimpses into our lives?
Snapshot of my dad, Byron Turner, on board ship en route to Europe, summer 1939.
My parents were both avid scrapbookers when they were in their twenties, the same age as our two boys are today. They both had cameras and they took pictures of their adventures. Continue reading →
This month’s plant, goatsbeard, is now blooming along roadsides and in gardens around the Salish Sea. As summer arrives, it will be blooming higher into the foothills. I’ve noticed lots of it blooming along rural roads in the past week while I’ve been out bicycling here in Whatcom County. Continue reading →
I love gray skies. They’re a giant soft source, wrapping the world in flattering light that is nearly perfect for photography. Given that it’s still spring in western Washington, we’ve had a lot of gray skies and rain lately. The forecast has been rain, alternating with showers, a bit of drizzle, some mist, and an occasional sun break. It’s a perfect time to head outdoors with a camera.
Woodland garden under overcast sky
On one of the last days of May I paid a visit to the native plant demonstration garden on Memorial Highway a few miles west of Mount Vernon. The weather was overcast with intermittent light rain. In other words, ideal for photographing specimen plants and flowers.
What is the value of a professional portrait? Is it just the paper on which it’s printed? Or is it the memories enshrined on that paper or canvas that you enjoy each time you look at it? I would hazard a guess that memories win out every time.
Otto de Gruyter family portrait in Turner home
The first thing you’ll see when you enter our home is a framed portrait of my great grandparents, Otto de Gruyter and Rhoda Jane Hill, with their three children, my granddaddy Olen and his two sisters, Eunice and Iona. The portrait was made around 1909. It’s a formal pose, perhaps a little stiff, which was characteristic of the period when film was slow and portrait subjects had to hold still for several seconds.
I remember this portrait sitting on an easel in Aunt Eunice and Iona’s home when we visited, the same house where they grew up. When they died in the 1970s my mother inherited the portrait. She had a copy negative made and gave copies to her six brothers and sisters and to their children. When she died in 2001 the portrait passed down to me. It took a while, but we eventually made room for it in our home.
This family portrait is much more than a mere piece of paper. The photographer’s name is long lost. What’s important is the connection made across five generations, from my great grandparents to my children. The portrait is one of the few physical objects that makes that connection, and that makes it real, more than bits of linen tucked away in a chest for safe keeping. Seeing this portrait triggers memories of stories I heard as a young man of my great-grandfather immigrating from Germany to central West Virginia with his brother, of his time as an itinerant clock and watch repairman going from house to house, and of establishing a storefront jewelry store that was operated by three generations.
Yes, this mere piece of paper, hanging on our wall in an old and somewhat battered frame, is a treasury of memories.
When you’re ready to have your family photographed, think of the memories you’ll be placing in your own frame, the stories you’ll tell your grandchildren, and the stories their children will pass down to their children when the time comes. You don’t want to wait too long to have that important portrait made.
And if you think you just want a digital file, remember how fast technology changes and how temporary and fragile digital files are. Will your grandchildren be able to enjoy that DVD?
Give me a call at 360-671-6851 to discuss the legacy you’ll leave in your heirloom family portrait. Do it now, and plan for a summer session.
Pacific Dogwood is a showy northwest native tree that blooms from late April to late May. It’s just one of the dogwoods native to North America. The grove of dogwoods above was photographed last May along California Route 32 near Forest Ranch.
One of my memories of spring in West Virginia, where I grew up, is hillsides dotted with dogwood trees in bloom. Their showy white bracts, which look like giant petals, appear about the time the leaves are starting to unfold. The eastern species, Cornus florida, is commonly planted in home landscapes across North America. Continue reading →
The strongest photographs lead the viewer to concentrate their attention on the subject and minimize anything that might be distracting. One thing that’s easy to miss is the relationship of the horizon line to your subject, particularly when photographing people. You don’t want the horizon to slice through someone’s head. Continue reading →
This is a birth announcement of sorts. My close friends know I’ve been working with a small team for the last several months to create a new smartphone field guide to Washington state wildflowers. Washington Wildflowers went on sale April 8. It’s been a long journey, but we think it’s worth the wait. Keep reading for links to where to purchase it.
University of Washington Herbarium at the Burke Museum, the authors of Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest, and High Country Apps have partnered to produce the new Washington Wildflowers plant identification app for iOS and Android devices. The app provides images, species descriptions, range maps, bloom period, and technical descriptions for more than 850 common wildflowers, shrubs, and vines that occur in Washington and adjacent areas of British Columbia, Idaho, and Oregon. The majority of species included are native, but introduced species common to the region are covered as well in order to expand the usefulness of this resource. Most of the 850 species are illustrated with three photographs, usually a blossom detail, the entire plant, and often a habitat view. I made almost all of the photographs, the exceptions being a few plants I have yet to find. Continue reading →
One of my readers asked me recently, “How do I control depth of field and get a fuzzy background in my photos?” It’s a technique I use a lot to help create contrast between subject and background. This month I’m sharing the secrets to this professional tool.
First, a definition of the term. Depth of field describes the area in front of (closer to the camera) and behind the subject that appears acceptably sharp when the lens is focused on the subject. We often describe it as “shallow” when only the plane of focus is sharp, and “deep” when more elements in the photo in front of and behind the subject are sharp.