Last night when Brian and went to the kitchen for an evening snack we looked out the window to the garden and were surprised to see moonlight casting shadows. It was crisp and cold (mid 30s F), which is when we tend to get clear skies in the winter. I set up my tripod, mounted my camera, grabbed my puffy coat and a warm hat, and headed outside. The view above is from our patio, very much like what we saw from the kitchen window.
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
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.
Early this spring I got a message from Judy Davis about photographing her extended family. She’d purchased a certificate at the Lighthouse Mission auction and wondered whether I’d be available on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day to create their portrait. We settled on Mother’s Day afternoon when their whole family would be together at their place outside Snohomish.
As I do for all my family portrait customers, I discussed clothing choices, whether we needed to schedule around nap times, and locations for the session. I stopped by their home outside Snohomish for a site visit on my way to another event east of the mountains. Judy’s husband, Bruce, was home that day and showed me around. We picked a place in their backyard with trees in the background that would have the sun behind everyone when we set up the portrait. We talked about having the grass mowed a few days ahead, as well as where we’d place their horse-drawn carriages. Did I mention that this portrait would include 19 people ages 3 to 93, a dog, and four Clydesdale horses?
With a plan in place, I arrived at the appointed time on Mother’s Day afternoon. It was a little chaotic with so many people in the house, but everyone was either dressed for their portrait or finishing getting ready. I set up my light, put my camera on my tripod, and made a few test shots with a volunteer family member. Then we herded everyone out of the house.
With large multi-generation families I like to group each individual family together so I asked all the kids to stand with their parents. That way I could see who went with whom. I began setting up the shot by seating the great-grandparents in the middle. Then I arranged each family around them, with some on the carriages and some on the ground, looking for nice comfortable individual family groupings that also had a good visual rhythm as a whole. I photographed a version without the horses first, just in case they didn’t cooperate.
Then Judy and her designated horse handlers brought the Clydesdales up from the barn and we arranged them behind the people, with one person holding the reins of each horse. I now had 24 pair of eyes to get looking at the camera at the same time! The horses needed to have their ears forward, showing attention, too.
I never count to three and have people say “cheese” because that produces fake smiles (and doesn’t work for horses anyway). I’m lively and animated behind the camera. Since I use a tripod and no one is moving, I can look people in the eye as I talk, make silly noises, and throw my magic hat in the air. For the horses, I have an app on my phone that plays horse sounds and almost always gets their ears up. Kids of all ages seem to get a smile with the horse sounds, too.
Once I finished with the large group, I set about photographing individual families and other groups on Judy’s shot list. As I worked, Bruce came over and pointed out that rain was on the way. Fast. We sent everyone back in the house, I stashed my camera and light under dry cover, and we developed Plan B. I suggested the barn and walked down to take a look. Judy was skeptical since it wasn’t spotlessly clean, but I convinced her that portraits there would look great. I carried my gear down and set up, then started bringing groups down for their portraits. When she saw the finished portraits she was pleasantly surprised how good her barn looked.
With everyone photographed, I packed up my gear. Then they invited me in for a snack and a beverage before I headed home. I don’t expect that from my clients, but am always grateful when it happens.
A few weeks later Judy came to the studio for her viewing and purchasing appointment. She ended up placing a nice order, including a 20” x 40” Signature Canvas portrait that will go on the wall in the room where Bruce and Judy spend most of their time. It will be a constant reminder of the love shared among all the members of their extended family. I’m honored to have been trusted with the Davis family memories.
I’m sure you’ve seen the bumper sticker, “I Brake For Flowers.” Well, I don’t just brake for them — when conditions are right I’ll drive thousands of miles for wildflowers. That’s just what I did in mid-March when I confirmed that the predicted “superbloom” at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in southern California was actually happening.
A little back story: most of the wildflowers in the desert are annuals. Their seeds remain dormant until conditions are just right. When there’s enough rain at the right time during the winter and temperatures warm up not too fast then the desert can burst into spectacular masses of flowers. Most years only a few flowers bloom, but in 2017 conditions were just right for a massive bloom, which lasts for only a couple of weeks at peak. I couldn’t stay home. Continue reading
Before you press your shutter release, take a good look at what’s in your frame. Pause a moment and take care of any little details you see that might detract from your photo.
In this pair of photos of the daylilies growing by our back door, in the first frame you see all the spent blossoms. That might be OK if the story you’re trying to tell is that daylily blossoms don’t last long and they linger on the stems until they dry up and fall off. But if what you’re after is a nice photo of daylilies blooming, then I think the photo looks a lot better with the spent blossoms removed.
It’s always easier to clean up details like this before capturing the image. Imagine how much time it would have taken in an image editing program like Photoshop to remove the spent blossoms and replace them with plausible background material.
I apply the same principle when photographing people. Let’s get that cat hair off your jacket before I trip the shutter.
It’s not exactly time travel, but you can freeze or expand time in your photos by choosing the right shutter speed. Grab your camera and take it out of its fully automatic mode and choose Shutter Priority instead. Now you can select the shutter speed that will treat moving subjects the way you want, rather than however your camera might randomly do it.
Moving water and sports action are two common subjects that benefit greatly from choosing the right shutter speed. Continue reading
Sometimes you’ve just gotta put your face, and your camera, right down on the ground. Yep, down on your hands and knees, elbows in the dirt, maybe up close and personal with your subject.
If you’re like most of us, you make the majority of your photos from your standing eye level. You’re walking around and see something interesting so you put your camera to your eye and snap away. Nothing wrong with that, except that it gets boring when you’re always seeing the world from the same vantage point. Continue reading
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
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