An Even Wider View

Recently I posted about the challenges of landscape photography and the thought and planning it takes in A Wider View. Today I thought I would share something a bit more touristy – no thought of the light being right, no aperture settings, no shutter speeds – just me and my iPhone.

I love to play with the panorama feature. I can shoot panos with my good camera, but it requires stitching them together in another program, so there’s no instant gratification. With the iPhone you just get a good footing and rotate. Sometimes the bumps show up and the exposure settings are based on that first frame, but it can give you a sense of the vastness of a place. Go ahead and click on the images so you get a better sense of the panorama.

20130527-125037.jpgThis is the first panorama I took, it’s in the observation car as we traveled along the Columbia River towards the Portland station. There is a bump in the middle – trains experience bumps, but it does give you a sense of what that car is like in the morning.

20130527-125055.jpgThis is Klaloch, in my earlier post I shot the two sides of the beach as separate images – the panorama really compresses the scene when you are up high like this. The scene was much more open than this, but it does give a good sense of the height. A stunning place.

20130527-125114.jpgWe took a ferry from Port Townsend to Coupeville to cut a few hours off our trip to Northern Cascades and Mount Rainier. I shot this on the deck. The process is pretty cool, it’s basically a floating parking lot. The air on the sound was wonderful as it blew across the decks, like the ocean without the waves.

20130527-125131.jpgDeception Pass, this was another spot that was elevated – again, it compresses the space. It does give a sense of all that’s going on at this spot, rocks, cliffs, bridge, island, water – you really can’t get this all in one traditional shot.

20130527-125718.jpgMount Rainier above the Nisqualy River. This spot was amazing for more than the mountain and the river – the sound was wonderful too. So I took the opportunity to record a bit of it, using my iPhone again, so that I could experience it any time I like.

20130527-125301.jpgAhhhhh, Crater Lake. I shot this right next to the lodge. I had to climb up on a short rock fence to get a view over the snow bank. No photos capture the full beauty of this spot, but I’ve looked at this one over and over reliving the details.

20130527-125504.jpgOne last look at Crater Lake, I shot this at the vantage point above Wizard Island – it was as far as the rim drive had been plowed. This has the distortion created by the pivot, bit it does shot the lake surface like glass, the clouds in both the sky and the lake, the snow, the pines – pretty much everything but the cold air.

Sometimes it’s good to put the kit down and just be a tourist.

A Wider View

Photography has many facets, and like most photographers I have my strengths and my weaknesses. I love shooting still life, I could spend all day behind a macro lens, shooting just about any animal challenges and excites me. There’s one type of photography that totally intimidates me. Landscapes.

I know a good landscape when I see one. I admire it when a photographer can capture the whole horizon and direct my eye to just that right spot. I can stand in the woods and be in awe of the sheer volume of trees, but when I try to capture that it’s just a mass of vertical lines. I will hike for miles to see a waterfall, but my photos have never quite capture the serenity my eyes see.

I just got back from a cross-country adventure with my sister. We call it “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”. This year we even added a boat to the mix. We each flew to Chicago, took a train to Portland, and rented a car and managed to get to five National Parks in the Pacific Northwest – all in 10 days. Somewhere along the way we even took a ferry. The places we saw were amazing.

Last year we took a similar trip into the central plains and saw so much wildlife, that I almost forgot about taking photos of the places. This year we saw very little large wildlife, I had upgraded my long zoom in preparation for this trip – and I used it to capture some birds here and there, but mostly this trip was about the places, beautiful places – I was going to be forced to shoot landscapes.

What follows are some of my better attempts. This is my photographic journey across the Pacific Northwest.

20130523-212053.jpgThe surf at Cape Disappointment. This is the spot where Lewis and Clark finally reached the Pacific Ocean. They had such depressing names for places – Dismal Nitch, Point Disappointment, and the Cape. They missed a supply ship by a couple of days, a ship had waited for months for them. After an upstream journey of a couple of years, the name seems to fit.

20130523-202058.jpgLongmire Ranger Station, Mount Rainier National Park. Several of the shots at Longmire were taken after sunset, this one was taken about an hour after sunset with a long exposure. I braced the camera on a fence post. Shoulda packed a tripod.

20130523-201145.jpgA huge Douglas Fir at the Fort Klatsop National Monument in Lewis and Clark National Park. This was one of the first mossy trees I saw and it was stunning. I decided that rather than shoot a mass of woods, that I would focus on one tree. For me this seemed more familiar, getting close is my thing.

20130523-201750.jpgFort Klamath, Oregon – the last outpost in the high desert. I lived about 30 miles south of here for about 10 years and I miss these wide open spaces and rugged mountains. In truth, I found it challenging to shoot and capture the feel of the place, it’s flat there was no way to get close without losing the feeling of space.

20130523-201204.jpgAn unnamed waterfall just below Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park. In May the snow melt races downhill to fill the Nasqualy River. I had been wanting to try a long exposure on moving water and this trip gave me lots of opportunities. I have never used a neutral density filter, but I have been reading on their use in shooting moving water, I think this is something I want to work on. A side note, I participated in an art sale last weekend and this was one of my most popular prints. I almost didn’t show it because I see a hundred things wrong with it.

20130523-201643.jpgA small creek at Longmire, Mount Rainier National Park. I shot this right after sunset in the woods, and without a tripod I had to brace the camera on my knee for a long exposure. It took several tries to get the grass in focus – I found that in leu of a tripod, holding your breath helps.

20130523-201236.jpgHiking trail at the Hoh Ranger Station, Olympic National Park. We got to this station hoping it would be open, but it was still shuttered for the winter season. The green here was just so stunning. I shot lots of close things, but this was the one place that gave me the sense of entering the rainforest.

20130523-201312.jpgThe birth of a river – this is where the Nasqualy River begins. Snow and glaciers melt at high altitudes – this small trickle will become a raging torrent as it descends. Mount Rainier National Park.

20130523-201336.jpgBirds on the beach below Cape Disappointment, Lewis and Clark National Park. I once gave my mom grief about shooting white caps on an overcast day on a white sandy beach in Oregon – I was similarly drawn to the scene, despite its lack of contrast.

20130523-201419.jpgDeception Pass, although the name sounds like it, this place was not named by Lewis and Clark. I have read the plaque on the bridge, a Wikipedia article, and a brochure, and I still don’t understand why it’s named that. Oh well, I loved the green water and the eddy at the shoreline.

20130523-201506.jpgMount Hood, in Oregon. This peak is snow covered all year round. Over the course of our trip we passed it three times and its not easy to find a good angle to shoot it from. This was one of very few pull outs on the southern side of the mountain. I took some shots on the train and from other vantage points, but found then uninteresting, the sense of scale just wasn’t there.

20130523-201947.jpgSkunk cabbage in the creek, Longmire, Mount Rainier National Park. I shot this after sunset, but opened the aperture and didn’t increase the shutter speed very much. This was my first attempt at shooting in the dark and that open aperture meant less bracing, but also less focus.

20130523-201616.jpgThe Pacific Ocean at Kalaloch, Olympic National Park. This shot is all about scale – those driftwood logs are just huge. I shot this spot and walked away. When I noticed the hikers below I shot it again. It had no sense of scale without the hikers.

20130523-201715.jpgThe Nisqualy River, below Mount Rainier. The sound of this place was amazing, the view was pretty special too. A park ranger gave us directions to this spot when he saw our camera bags. I have recorded video of the spot, mostly to relive the sound of the river.

20130523-201736.jpgWizard Island – just off the west shore of Crater Lake. Full disclosure, Crater Lake is my absolute favorite place on the surface of this big blue marble. I hadn’t been there in 20 years and the first sight of it made me tear up. The beauty is overwhelming, and I know I am ill-equipped to capture it in a way that adequately conveys it. This shot has not been edited at all, the water is that blue, the sky is that stunning. I could have sat in that spot for weeks.

20130523-201804.jpgMount Rainier Guide Service. The snow was still 14 feet deep on the slopes here. There were people in shorts snowshoeing with the rangers. Paradise, Mount Rainier.

20130523-201540.jpgChristine Falls, Mount Rainier National Park. These falls are glacier fed and this is just the top two tiers. It’s named for a disabled 8-year-old girl who managed to climb to the 10,000 foot point on the mountain in 1889 – I love that. She may not have conquered the mountain, but she conquered something bigger by tackling the beast. I wish the sun had not been so direct, I would loved to have shot this earlier or later in the day. I braced myself against the bridge wall and took a long exposure on this one, the lights are too bright, but I like the effect of the long exposure on the water.

20130523-202010.jpgKalaloch, Olympic National Park on the Pacific coast.

20130523-201256.jpgThe Hoh River in Olympic National Park. A river filled by snow melt – we actually got into this river and it was unbelievably cold. The river channels here were so much wider than those in the Ozarks – and there were lots of huge logs along the banks. It looked like massive earth moving machines had been down there, but this was all created by moving water.

20130523-201830.jpgThe eastern edge of Crater Lake – its surface like glass. Bliss.

20130523-223218.jpgQuinault National Forest in Washington. We turned down this road because we saw a National Fishery sign. The top of the photo is not sky, it’s actually clouds that are lower than the treetops.

My natural inclination is to square up – but on this trip I looked for diagonal lines, hoping these would draw the eye into the image. Sometimes I think it works, and sometimes I’m not so sure. I know that a tripod could have improved many shots, but I haven’t invested in a good travel-weight one yet. The sky in the west is so much bluer more consistently than it is here, so there weren’t a lot of white washed out skies. The wide open spaces allowed me to focus a bit more on parts of the scene than I could have here in the hills and hollows.

All in all, I think this trip pushed me to try new things, to make myself solve some problems. I don’t think landscapes are my thing, but I did my best and think I did OK. I will always prefer getting close to my subject, it’s more intuitive – very right-brained. Landscapes take more thought.

I can’t imagine having seen all this beauty and not having tried my best it capture it.

Quoth the Raven “Apricots Forevermore!”

I’m on the road – traveling across country with my sister Karen. While we are waiting it catch a ferry I thought I would make a quick post.

All along the highways in Washington state we have been seeing lots and lots of ravens and crows. They are everywhere. Typically back home they keep their distance, so when we made a stop to check out the view at Crescent Lake in Olympic National Park we were delighted to see one stick around. We tossed him a dried apricot and he decided to stick around for more…

20130509-113950.jpg
He seemed to own this grassy patch on the lake shore…

20130509-114026.jpg
We noticed that he liked to perch on the parking logs at the edge of the grass – here he gives us his “I’m pitiful” look…

20130509-114100.jpg
Next he throws us a pose…

20130509-114137.jpg
We placed the apricot on the log at a spot near us and backed off to watch…

20130509-114212.jpg
He waddled across the top of the log, occasionally taking a couple of hops…

20130509-114250.jpg
As he gets to the end of the first log, he winds up for a big hop…

20130509-114319.jpg
And he starts the stomping waddle to his treat…

20130509-114357.jpg
At last, it’s within reach…

20130509-114435.jpg
And it’s gone…

20130509-114504.jpg
He catches the next flight to the tree across the road to see if there are more apricots to come.