Last Saturday morning Brian and I decided to explore the new trail system on the Lookout Mountain Forest Preserve overlooking Lake Whatcom near Sudden Valley. I’d never hiked there, and Brian hadn’t been there for a long time.
The trail system is newly expanded, thanks to the work of Washington Trails Association. The property is a Whatcom County Park, made possible in part by the efforts of the Whatcom Land Trust. It’s part of what’s known to some as the “reconveyance,” which put large tracts of forest into county ownership to provide both recreation and protection for the Lake Whatcom Watershed. We were there to recreate. Continue reading →
I’ve long felt that what I choose to do on New Year’s Day will set the tone for the year to come.
This year Brian and I checked the weather forecast the decided it would be a great day for a snowshoe hike up to Artist Point. I’ve been going up there every winter since 1990-1991 and I never get tired of it. As Brian reminded me yesterday while we were hiking, it’s different every time. Continue reading →
We’re in that glorious transition time, the period between summer’s greens and winter’s soft palette of browns and grays. As the days grow shorter and fog blankets the ground on many mornings, a lot of us like to get out and celebrate the turning of the leaves. Fall color is all around us now in varying degrees. Where do you like to go to enjoy the show?
While New England and Appalachia can rightly claim the best fall color on the continent, we Pacific Northwesterners can enjoy brilliant autumn hues without making the long journey across the continent. Continue reading →
This past weekend, July 20-22, 2018, I hiked up to Sheep Lake and Sourdough Gap with a bunch of friends on the Washington Native Plant Society annual backpack. It’s a short hike to the lake, just an easy 1.8 miles from the trailhead at Chinook Pass. Go for the flowers, not solitude, as it’s a popular place. My impression was that the flowers were a bit pre-peak, but still lots of things in full bloom. We checked plants off a list of some 170 species, although we didn’t find all of them.
This video slideshow features some of my favorite images from the trip. These were photographed with my Canon 5D Mark III, a Canon 100mm macro lens, a 16-35mm wide-angle lens, and a 24-105mm lens. It’s a short hike, so I carried a lot of gear.
I love sharing happy moments with my clients when they see their finished portraits for the first time. A few days ago I met with Karen to help her choose the appropriate frame for this portrait I made of her family in their back yard earlier this year. It has a lot of meaning to her, incorporating her kids, grandkids, and the 1947 Buick that had been her late husband’s pride and joy and will be passed down to her son. She was nearly overcome with joy when she saw the finished portrait with all the retouching and finishing work complete. I’ll deliver it to her home and put it on the wall for her when framing is done.
There’s nothing like planting a mass of the same plant to create a big impact in the garden. This is part of a “river” of broad-leaved penstemon (Penstemon ovatus) with Douglas’s Iris (Iris douglasiana), which we planted last year in our new mostly-native garden near the front of the studio. Continue reading →
I’m recovering from hip surgery I had in mid-March and my surgeon says walking is a great way to rebuild my strength and flexibility. Since I’m not yet physically up to steep hills and our mountains are still buried under deep snow, I’m finding places to walk that are gentle. That means they’re also friendly to families with kids.
Two of my favorite easy walks near Bellingham are along the north shore of Lake Whatcom and the forest of Stimpson Family Nature Preserve near Sudden Valley. They’re both great outdoor portrait locations, too. Continue reading →
If it’s February, it must be time for the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival (NWFGS) in Seattle. This year is the show’s 30th anniversary and the theme for the display gardens is “It’s a Garden Party.” The video slideshow runs about 13 minutes. Relax and enjoy.
I’ve been attending the NWFGS for nearly 20 years. It’s always a treat to see what the garden designers come up with. There’s color, fragrance, cool plants, water, texture, and structures — all coming together to pleasure your senses. Continue reading →
Photography styles change over time. Currently we’re in a period of chasing ever-higher resolution and greater sharpness in photography. Many photographers capture large numbers of images during a portrait session since there’s no incremental cost (other than time and energy) with digital imaging.
But there’s another way, one that harkens back to the turn of the twentieth century. I’m starting to experiment with a slower process, with an old-fashioned lens, and fewer clicks of the shutter. The result is a more meditative and contemplative portrait with a softer look. I’m processing these images to black and white or sepia tones, in keeping with the technology of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Continue reading →
I love the convenience of my iPhone camera for spontaneous photos wherever I may be. If you’re among the 77% of Americans with a smartphone you probably make a lot of pictures with yours, too. Smartphone cameras have gotten significantly better over time, but they’re still not ideal for night-time photography. But you’ve got a camera in your pocket and you’ll shoot at night, especially the holiday lights on display this month.
Here are a few tips to help you make better photos of your favorite light display.
Your camera’s auto exposure system may not be able to figure out how to properly expose bright lights in a dark environment. You might get lights that are washed out or lacking much color or detail. The solution? Under-expose. With the iPhone’s Camera app, touch the screen to focus and notice the little yellow sun that appears. Now take your finger and drag up (to make the picture brighter) or drag down (to make the picture darker). What you see is what you get, so adjust until you have a nice balance of the lights and the environment. You’re usually going to want to darken the photo to hold detail in the lights.
My favorite time to photograph holiday lights is at dusk, 20-30 minutes after sunset. At the winter solstice in Bellingham, sunset is 4:15 pm so shoot at 4:35 to 4:45 to hold a little deep blue color in the sky.
Hold it Steady
Longer exposures are the norm when shooting at night, so you need to take extra steps to hold your camera steady. I like to find something solid to brace my camera on before I gently touch the shutter button. I’ve used walls, door frames, light posts, tree trunks, fences, the top of a trash can, a traffic control bollard, or the ground at various times for night photos with my phone camera. You can usually find something to brace your camera on.
Embrace Movement and Blur
Although I generally like my photos crisp and sharp, sometimes it’s fun to play around with moving my camera during the exposure. On my iPhone I use an app called Slow Shutter Cam ($1.99 in the App Store) for long exposures. Experiment with different shutter speeds and rates of movement. For the holiday lights on the Fairhaven Village Green I settled on a 2-second exposure to record just enough movement for an interesting effect. I like to start moving the camera and then press the shutter button for a smoother effect. Try both panning (sideways movement) or rotating your camera for different effects.
While there are lots of apps that let you add filters and effects at the moment you take a photo, I’m a firm believer in capturing the best possible exposure and then adding any enhancements later. I edit almost every smartphone photo I make before sharing it with anyone. My favorite editor is Snapseed, available free for both iPhone and Android. There are other apps with some of the same features, but I keep coming back to Snapseed. It’s powerful, flexible, and pretty easy to use. If you want to learn how to use it (and are afraid to play on your own) sign up for my iPhone photo class at Whatcom Community College (next offered February 27, March 6 & 13). You’ll be able to crop, adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, highlight and shadow detail. You can even adjust different parts of the picture selectively and edit out bits that don’t belong.
Print Your Favorites
Although it’s tempting to just keep your photos on your phone or share them on social media, prints are still a great way to enjoy and preserve your photos. You can print to your home printer or get prints made at Quicksilver here in Bellingham or at Costco. Both Quicksilver and Costco have apps that let you upload directly from your phone, order prints, and then pick them up a day or so later.
I made all the photos accompanying this story with my iPhone in the course of about half an hour walking around Fairhaven. I had fun playing and experimenting with my camera and then edited them when I was back home and curled up on my comfy sofa with a favorite beverage at hand. The point is to engage your playful spirit and have fun. Delete the experiments that don’t work, polish the good ones in your favorite editor, and then share as you see fit.