Photographs lie. You may think that a photograph accurately represents an instant of reality frozen in time, but that’s not quite true.
While a photo may come much closer to portraying reality than a drawing or painting, as creative individuals we’re always using the tools at our disposal to stretch the truth. At the most basic, we choose what to include and what to leave out of the frame by where we position the camera and which lens we use. Camera position also affects how we perceive the relationship of objects within the frame. For example, by simply moving to one side I can eliminate a tree trunk or post seemingly growing out of Aunt Martha’s head. Continue reading →
With the arrival of spring later this month come all sorts of early-blooming wildflowers. Candyflower is tasty as well as pretty. It’s also known as Siberian springbeauty and its scientific name is Claytonia sibirica. You’ll find it growing throughout the Pacific Northwest, except for the driest counties east of the Cascades. Look for it in damp deciduous woods or at the edge of conifer forests. It likes a little shade, but not too much.
Candyflower is closely related to miner’s lettuce, Claytonia perfoliata, which can also be found throughout most of the northwest. Both of these species are delicious spring greens. I like them raw, straight from the plant, and they’re a tasty addition to an early spring salad. Miner’s lettuce got its name because it was one of the few fresh spring greens in miner’s diets during the gold rush era. Continue reading →
Are you one of those photographers that dump all your photos into one “My Photos” folder on your computer without any organizing structure? If so, make getting your photos organized so you can find them one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2016.
Students in my photo workshops often ask me how I’m able to find all of the photos in my library. I’m a believer in having multiple levels of organization, from the physical way images are stored to detailed captions and keywords. This month I’ll address the bottom layer — physical organization — for digital files. There’s more than one way to address the problem, so figure out what’s going to work best for you in actual practice. The best system in the world is useless if you don’t use it. Continue reading →
In mid-summer you’d be forgiven for walking right past a wavyweaf silktassel (Garrya elliptica), thinking it’s just another large broadleaf evergreen shrub. In the middle of winter, when practically nothing else is blooming, you’d have trouble missing this west coast native with its long tassels of flowers waving gently in the breeze. Continue reading →
Now that December is here we can no longer pretend it’s autumn. Winter has arrived, even though the calendar says the official start isn’t until December 21. The mountains are buried under snow, days are short, the sun stays low in the sky, it’s cold, and the color palette in our lowlands has turned to muted shades of brown, gray, and dull green. Time to put your camera away, or turn to strictly indoor scenes? Not at all. Here are seven tips to help you create winning winter landscapes. Continue reading →
When you think “Christmas tree” you’re probably conjuring up a conifer. They’re those trees with (generally) evergreen needle-like leaves that bear their seeds in woody cones. Those cones are where the name conifer comes from.
Here in the Pacific Northwest conifers are the backdrop for most of our landscape, whether in the wild or the garden. In fact, if you throw a rock anywhere on the west side of the Cascades and hit a tree you’ve probably found a Douglas-fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii. It’s our most common conifer and is native from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. There are three varieties, but we’ll not bother with that detail today. Continue reading →
As I sit at my office computer I can look out the door to the large and majestic Pacific willow (Salix lasiandra var. lasiandra) in our backyard. It’s one of 38 species of willows found in Washington state and one of the easier ones to identify (willows in general are notoriously difficult to key out).
Our Pacific willow is one of the last trees on our property to lose its leaves in autumn. Today it’s still covered, although there are lots of fallen leaves on the ground, too. Continue reading →
Patterns are everywhere in the world around us. Our eyes and our brains are optimized for seeing and recognizing patterns, but turning them into photographs takes a little thought. We can find interesting visual patterns both in the natural world and in the built environment.
Patterns can be abstract or geometric, repetitive or unique. They may be revealed through color, texture, line, or brightness. We can find patterns at any scale from the microscopic to the vastness of interstellar space. With the right tools you can photograph them all. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →