In Focus — a bimonthly newsletter

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

Solstice Greetings

Turner home in winter

Our C Street home with a dusting of snow on December 20, 2013

We awoke to a dusting of snow on the day before the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. I had to wait a few hours for the sky to brighten enough to rush out and photograph our “old” garden for the last time in the snow and then to photograph our “new” garden for the first time.

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Plant of the Month: Deer Fern

0314703 Deer Ferns in moss garden w/ Salal on decaying stumps bkgnd [Blechnum spicant; Gaultheria shallon]. Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Is., WA. © Mark Turner

Deer Ferns in the moss garden at Bloedel Reserve

Even in the depth of winter there are dollops of green on the Northwest forest floor. Deer fern (Blechnum spicant) is one of those hardy evergreens. It’s smaller and less common than the ubiquitous sword fern (Polystichum munitum), which to my mind makes it more interesting and desirable for our garden. The photo above shows Deer Ferns in the moss garden at Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island. Continue reading

Digital Tip: Photographing Christmas Lights

Holiday lights on outdoor Christmas tree

Holiday lights on outdoor Christmas tree

This holiday season you can’t avoid coming across wonderful light displays that add a festive touch to our long nights. Whether it’s the lights on your own home, a favorite neighborhood you like to visit, or one of the great public garden holiday light displays, you can make great photographs of the lights. Just don’t expect to get top results with your phone camera (although it doesn’t cost you anything to experiment). Continue reading

Plant of the Month: California Fuchsia

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California Fuchsia

California Fuchsia blossoms & foliage

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

Digital Photo Tip: Window Light Portrait

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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

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

Transient Memories

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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 Byron Turner on board ship en route to Europe, summer 1939.

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

Plant of the Month: Goatsbeard

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Goatsbeard, growing wild at Squires Lake

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