Archive for the ‘Macro Photography’ Category

Friday Foto Talk: Macro Photography “in Flow”   5 comments

Morning dew in a Montana mountain meadow creates dazzling jewels in the light of the rising sun.

This series on flow and photography has taken on a life of its own; but don’t worry, it’s almost over!  If you haven’t been following along, flow is that state of intense focus where we lose track of time.  Check out Part I and Part II for tips on how to apply it to photography in general.  The rest of this series has applied flow to various genres (landscape, travel, etc.).  This week it’s macro and close-up photography.

Macro is probably the easiest kind of photography in which to experience flow.  There is something about focusing on the small that helps to capture and hold our attention, often for hours.  Macro can also require a lot of trial and error, at least for me it can!  If you don’t become frustrated too easily this can bring about intense engagement with the process.

Pasqueflower is a unique part of the alpine bloom every summer on Mt. Rainier, Washington.

Pasqueflower is a unique part of the alpine bloom every summer on Mt. Rainier, Washington.

Awhile back I did a series on macro photography, so check those posts out for a much more comprehensive tutorial.  The tips below are specific to achieving a state of flow during your macro shoots:

  • Look and Think Small.  It’s hard while on a walk to concentrate exclusively on finding macro subjects.  It would take hours to cover a mile!  But you will find macro opportunities if when you’re hiking along you look out for the odd bit of color, a contrasting shape or texture, or a little movement in the corner of your eye.  Both thinking about and looking for small subjects brings you into the present, and that facilitates flow, even before you take a single shot.
This brown basilisk in a Guatemalan forest almost escaped my attention.

This brown basilisk in a Guatemalan forest almost escaped my attention.

  • Work it.  When you do find something interesting, stick with it for awhile.  That is, work the subject.  Change settings and camera position to vary depth of field.  Vary angle and distance to get different backgrounds and compositions.  And don’t stop there.  Once you’re in “macro mode”, it’s easier to find other subjects, or as with flowers, other examples of the same subject.  Stay on your hands and knees, keep the macro lens on, and don’t worry about time.  Enjoy the flow.
After a few shots of this frog's whole body, I moved in closer and closer until I got a shot that empasized his watchful eye.

After a few shots of this frog’s whole body, I moved in closer and closer until I got a shot that empasized his watchful eye.

  • See the (small-scale) Light.  As photographers we are constant observers of the light.  But when you’re shooting close-up the patterns we are used to change.  All of a sudden you’re able to take advantage of the fact that your field of view is greatly reduced.  This makes it easier to get effective shots in light that would be difficult when shooting larger scenes.  So be a student of light on a small scale too.  Watch how it plays across confined spaces, and how larger elements like trees can help shade or spotlight your subject.  As with the first point above, this will help keep you in the present and accentuate flow.

 

A water lily in the middle of the Okavango Delta caught the light beautifully as we passed in our mokoro (dugout canoe).

A water lily in the middle of the Okavango Delta caught the light beautifully as we passed in our mokoro (dugout canoe).

  • Be Patient.  To one degree or another, patience is a requirement of all photography.  But when you’re waiting out the wind in a field of flowers or approaching an insect or other small creature inch by inch, you learn the real meaning of patience in photography.  Mastering patience is a key part of making flow a more frequent experience.

This was a recent shot.  I sat patiently waiting for one of the dragonflies buzzing around to land in this natural spotlight.

Macro photography is such a natural when it comes to flow that, even if you don’t normally do macro you’d do well to try it.  That’s because the practices that lead to successful macro photos will help you with the kinds of photography you do enjoy.  And because flow is relatively easy to experience with macro, you can more readily get into it next time you’re out, whatever kind of shooting you do.  Thanks for reading and have a happy weekend!

One of many desert five-spots in Death Valley, part of the so-called super-bloom of last spring.

One of many desert five-spots in Death Valley, part of the so-called super-bloom of last spring.

 

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Friday Foto Talk: Macro Photography and Rails   Leave a comment

Let’s start off with a non-macro image: morning sun on the Colorado Rockies.

As promised, here’s a follow-up to my macro series.   Rails (or sliders) are devices that allow small movements of your camera without having to move the tripod.  The heart of a rail is its gear/screw mechanism, and the quality of the rail is in how finely this part is made.

This post also aims to give a step by step on setting up a macro shot, whether or not you’re using a rail.  Of course I don’t always follow this exact procedure.  In photography like a lot of things there’s always “more than one way to skin the cat”.  Sorry cat lovers!

 

BUYING A RAIL:  As always with photo accessories, you have to be careful buying cheap.  Check out rails in the shop if at all possible, using your camera and macro lens to see how they work under load.  Or if you can’t do that just go a bit more expensive for something with good reviews online.  I bought a medium-quality one.  It’s fine but would not be okay if I used it a lot; I use it very infrequently.  I spent about $50 on it.

Here are the things to look for in a rail.  If when it is mounted with the camera on top the rail wiggles around, even a small amount, it’s obviously no good for macro.  And if movement along the screw & gear is not slow and steady enough, that rail is probably not worth buying.

A SMALL CAVEAT:  I chose a very simple shot for an example.  In other words, it’s not the most spectacular subject, just a little flower in the weeds.  Also, the close-ups of my camera make it look like I’ve beaten it to hell.  It’s not actually that bad, honest.  The crack you see isn’t the LCD screen itself, it’s the protective cover.  Okay, I admit it, I’m hard on my gear.

By the way, I made sure to pick a good day for this (photo below).  Notice the boring white cloud cover, mid-morning, really perfect for what I call “illustrative” macro.  That means no real shadows or directional light.

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Each rail works a little differently, but what follows is how mine works.  It’s pretty typical.

A typical rail/slider.

A typical rail/slider.

  • There is an Arca-Swiss plate screwed to the bottom of the rail assembly, so the whole rail mounts right on top of the ball-head (see pictures below).  This isn’t the place to discuss tripod heads, but make sure you always get plates that match your head’s clamp.  Arca-Swiss is sorta the standard, and is pretty simple to use.
Rail clamped down on ball-head.

Rail clamped down on ball-head.

 

  • Make sure the rail is set somewhere in the middle of its range (rotate the knob to slide it).  If it’s at one end of its range you won’t have flexibility to adjust it in one direction.  The picture above shows mine a bit too far forward, so I had to slide it to the middle part of its range.

 

  • Once the rail is mounted securely go ahead and screw your camera right down onto the top plate as shown below.  This setup allows the whole rail/camera assembly to rotate around with the ball-head.
Screw the camera down onto the top plate of the rail.

Screw the camera down onto the top plate of the rail.

  • Now you need to get your tripod in about the right position next to your subject.  Decide about how close you want to get to your subject.  Your rail will get you a few inches closer or further, so you don’t need to be perfect here.  But definitely decide how low your point of view will be and adjust the height of your tripod legs.  The rail can’t help you with up and down movements.  Just make sure the tripod is very stable (tip: spread the legs wider when the tripod is lower)
Camera on the rail. But I'm a little too high, so...

Camera on the rail. But I’m a little too high, so…

My tripod allows me to go lower by rotating the center column to horizontal.

My tripod allows me to go lower by rotating the center column to horizontal.

  • Now it’s time to set up the camera.  Go to manual focus and pre-focus so your subject is in approximate focus (see pictures below).  Use either the viewfinder or LiveView for this step, whichever is easiest for you.  Again, don’t worry if it’s not perfect.  If you want to get as close as possible and fill the frame as much as possible, as I’m doing here, pre-set the focus ring to the smallest focal length.  But if you do this, re-check your tripod position and make sure it’s positioned so your lens is no closer to the subject than this smallest focal length (about a foot with my macro lens (see pic below).
Use manual focus.

Use manual focus.

Pre-setting focus at the shortest focal length.

Pre-setting focus at the shortest focal length.

  • Now you can slide the camera closer or further along the screws on the rail, turning the knob as shown.  Your focus is pre-set.  Moving the knob on the rail is the way you are focusing now.  I recommend using LiveView and magnifying as necessary to focus on the exact part of the subject you want in perfect focus.
Rotate the knob slowly while at the same time...

Rotate the knob slowly while at the same time you…

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…watch LiveView for the part of the subject you want to come into perfect focus.

I'm magnified on the yellow center of the flower while playing with the knob on the rail to focus precisely.

Still in LiveView, I magnified on the flower’s yellow center and adjusted the knob on the rail to focus precisely.

  • You can also use the rail at this point to fill the frame more or back off and show a little more surroundings.  In other words, change the composition.  So if while you’re sliding the camera along the rail you get a composition you like but you’re not in focus, go ahead and rotate the camera’s focus ring to get perfect focus.  See the Bonus below for more on focus and depth of field.

 

  • While you’re at it and have LiveView up, you should check exposure before taking the picture.  On my camera I press the “info” button to pull up the histogram (see below).  In this case, with a white flower, I pay attention to the right end.  I want to avoid the peak on the right climbing up the right side, causing over-exposure.  But I don’t want that peak to move too far toward the center.  That would underexpose and make the white petals look gray.  When using LiveView to check exposure, make sure your camera’s LiveView setting is on “Exposure Simulation” (check your owner’s manual).
LiveView with histogram. Also make sure your camera's LiveView setting is on "Exposure Simulation".

LiveView with histogram.  The histogram reads what is inside the white box, and I’m over-exposing the yellow just 1/3 stop.  When I moved the box over to the petals, the histogram’s right peak slid over to the right, but not quite all the way to the right edge (which would have meant over-exposure).

  • Some rails only have one screw/gear setup to move forward and back.  Mine also has a screw and gear at right angles to allow small movements right and left.  This can be handy to get slightly different compositions, with your subject off to one side.  I can remove that part to go lighter (see images below).  With my rail I also get a more stable camera mount (no wiggle) when I get rid of that extra part.
Using the side-to-side adjustment knob to move the flower off-center.

Using the side-to-side adjustment knob to move the flower off-center.

I slid the rail/camera slightly to the left, which put the flower just off to the right.  This still needs a little tweaking in the computer, but this isn’t a bad final image.

Rail with side-to-side part removed, leaving only the forward-back adjustment.

Rail with side-to-side part removed, leaving only the forward-back adjustment.  My hands are starting to look like my mom’s!

 

BONUS: FOCUS & DEPTH OF FIELD

DEPTH OF FIELD & MACRO:  Macro lenses have very little depth of field in front of the focal plane, with much more (but still limited) in back.  In other words, you will normally focus on the closest important part of the subject, not trusting anything closer than that to be in focus.  Then you’ll play with aperture, experimenting to get the right amount of depth of field.

Remember also that the closer you get to your subject, the narrower your depth of field will be, and the reverse is also true.  Get more depth of field by moving back away from your subject.

DEPTH OF FIELD PREVIEW BUTTON:  You can either shoot and review to experiment, or use LiveView in combination with the depth of field (DOF) preview button.  Not all cameras have a DOF preview button.  If yours does, there are times when it comes in very handy.  Pressing the DOF preview button closes down the aperture to the one you select (see pic below).  Otherwise anything you see through the lens, either using the viewfinder or on LiveView, reflects the lens’s widest aperture (shallowest depth of field).

LiveView without the DOF preview button depressed. Even though my aperture is set to f/11 here, the LiveView shows what it would look like at f/2.8, the largest aperture for this lens.

LiveView without the DOF preview button depressed. Even though my aperture is set to f/11 here, the LiveView shows what it would look like at f/2.8, the largest aperture for this lens.

Here I'm pressing my DOF preview button to see what f/11 actually looks like. The petals in rear are in better focus than the LiveView image above shows.

Here I’m pressing the DOF preview button to see what f/11 actually looks like. The petals in rear are in better focus than in the LiveView image above.

APERTURE:  Realize as you close down aperture for more depth of field you are doing two important things to the picture.  First, you are slowing down shutter speed.  So if your subject is moving, for example in a breeze as mine is doing here, you may end up blurring your subject.  Raise ISO to keep your shutter speeds fast enough to freeze that movement and avoid subject blur.

The only way to see how much you need to raise ISO and check for blurring is to shoot and review.  It also pays to watch closely for the subject’s least amount of movement and shoot then.  If your shutter speed is fast enough (about 1/100 sec. or faster for this lens), you can just press the shutter gently.  If speeds are much slower, you need to keep your hands off the camera, using either a remote switch or shutter delay.

At f/11 and ISO 100, shutter speed is 1/25 sec., which will result in a sharp picture if I wait for the breeze to pause and the flower to be mostly still.

At f/11 and ISO 100, shutter speed is 1/25 sec., which will result in a sharp picture if I wait for the breeze to pause and the flower to be mostly still.

But I wanted more depth of field so I went to f/22. I had to raise ISO to keep shutter speed up. If I had more wind I would need to raise ISO even more.

But I wanted more depth of field so I went to f/22. I had to raise ISO to keep shutter speed up. If I had more wind (or less patience) I’d need to raise ISO even more.

The second thing you’re doing when adjusting aperture for more depth of field is of course bringing the background into better focus.  Use the DOF preview button or shoot/review to get just the right balance between focus in your subject and the amount of detail in the background.

I slid the rail/camera slightly to the left, which put the flower just off to the right.  This needs a little tweaking on color and contrast, but it's not a bad final image.

I slid the rail/camera slightly to the left, which put the flower just off to the right. This needs a little tweaking on color and contrast, but it’s not a bad final image.

Phew!  That’s enough for now.  If all this sounds too complicated to bother with, please don’t despair.  It’s actually much simpler than it appears.  Try re-reading this.  But really, you just have to play around with the rail and see how it works.  It also helps to get some practice shooting macro before adding a rail into the mix.  As mentioned in the last post, rails come into their own mostly when you are shooting very close with high magnifications.  I’d recommend skipping them when you’re doing “less-close” close-up photography.

Blooming lupine is decorated in dewdrops at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

Blooming lupine is decorated in dewdrops at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

Friday Foto Talk: Macro & Close-up Photography, Part II   9 comments

Alpine gentian growing at over 12,000 feet elevation in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Alpine gentian growing at over 12,000 feet in elevation, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

(Since I wasn’t going to be on a computer tomorrow – Friday – I meant to schedule this post ahead one day.  But I mistakenly hit Publish!  Haha~so it’s a day early, what’s the harm!)

It’s time for Part II of this little series on macro and close-up photography.  So let’s get right to it.  Following are tips for successful macro and close-up photography:

  • Composition is still king.  Just as with all photography, paying attention to everything in the frame – how it’s arranged and what can be excluded to help simplify things – is the pathway to success.
  • Look for interesting stuff.  I know, duh!  With macro, keeping an eye out for small bits of color, or really anything that stands out, will help you to zoom in (crouching or on your hands and knees) to find fascinating details that weren’t noticeable from afar.  Keep an eye out for small movements in your vision’s periphery; it could lead to cool little critters.
  • Patience is even more important than usual.  With flowers, waiting for the breeze to pause can have even the shy among us cursing like sailors.  Get the picture set up and use LiveView with focus set, then wait for the perfect moment to trip the shutter.  Try using burst mode; one of the images in the burst sequence will usually be in focus.
This pretty lily blooms in very dry, desolate desert areas of southern New Mexico during late summer monsoons.

This pretty lily blooms in very dry, desolate desert areas of southern New Mexico during late summer monsoons.  The wind was trying to keep me from getting the shot.

  • Depth of field will be a challenge.  Macro lenses have an innately narrow depth of field.  And don’t expect close-up filters or extension tubes to do much better in that regard.  Specific techniques for dealing with this are coming in the next post.  The caterpillar below, who was moving surprisingly quickly, I shot hand-held, with fairly shallow depth of field and fast shutter speed.  The fungus below that was stock still on a dark background, so I was able to shoot from the tripod with small aperture (for good depth of field), not worrying about having to blur the background.
Shallow depth of field meant that I couldn't get all of this caterpillar in focus, so I focused on his head.

Shallow depth of field meant that I couldn’t get all of this caterpillar in focus, so I focused on his head.

A strange fungus I found growing on a pine tree in El Malpais, New Mexico.

A strange fungus grows on a charred pine tree in the high country along the Arizona-New Mexico border.

  • A tripod is usually necessary.  With subjects that don’t move, or with flowers & other things that move back and forth (in the breeze), a tripod is really a no-brainer.  In low light a tripod is even more critical.  But even when light is bright and shutter speed is faster, a tripod results in more keepers.  On the other hand, with fast-moving critters, a tripod may be more of a hindrance.  Last point on tripods: never avoid a macro opportunity just because you don’t have a tripod with you.  It’s still worth it, though your skills and patience will certainly be tested.

Western fence lizard, El Malpais, New Mexico. Hand-held and autofocus allowed me to catch him before he scampered off.

  • Focus is a pretty big deal.  You’ll find yourself using manual focus (with or without LiveView) much more often than usual.  It allows much more precise adjustment, especially when using LiveView.  With critters and other subjects that move, autofocus may be best.  Next time we’ll go more into how camera position directly affects both your selective focus and depth of field.

 

  • Work that subject!  Just as with landscapes, portraits and other kinds of image-making, moving around and changing point of view, getting shots from several different distances, and in general trying to exhaust all possibilities is the way to go.  Not only will it increase your chances for more good images, it will also help greatly to tell a story about the subject.

 

  • Related to the above point, try not to obsess about getting as close as possible.  While filling the frame can certainly be effective, it’s just one way of showing your subject.  Just as wildlife photography dominated by close-ups cries out for a few shots showing the animal’s surroundings, macro and close-up photography needs to mix in wider views to show context and help tell the whole story.
Although this butterfly is so beautiful it's tempting to fill the frame, stepping back to show the purple flowers it was alighting on results in an image that communicates more.

Although this butterfly is so beautiful it’s tempting to fill the frame, stepping back to show the purple flowers it was alighting on results in an image that communicates more.

  • Find good light.  Golden hour, with the sun very low, is not just a good time for larger landscapes.  It can also result in dramatic macro and close-up images.  But bright sunlight also presents problems of contrast, and the higher the sun goes the harsher the light.  Next time we’ll look at ways to mitigate these issues.  A high overcast sky, with flat, even light, is good for illuminating all parts of your subject equally.

That’s it for now.  I’m about to cross the border into Mexico for a short visit and a dip in the Sea of Cortez.  Have a super weekend and happy shooting!

And now for a non-macro: sunset over the Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming.

And now for a non-macro: sunset over the Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming.

 

Friday Foto Talk: Macro & Close-up Photography, Part I   13 comments

The morning’s first light hits a blooming balsamroot in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon.

I’ve been doing more macro and close-up photography lately.  It’s something I’ve always loved.  The details of the natural world just fascinate me.  I like small critters.  Some of them are so feisty!  And I love wildflowers!  Yes I know I don’t look the part, but why can’t a big ugly guy like to play in a field of flowers?

I think I also like the challenge of macro.  All that bending and stooping kills my back.  The wind blowing flowers around frustrates the heck out of me.  Butterflies flying off just as I’m about to press the shutter button.  Things like this are what I live for!

Blooming mule's ear is covered with dew in a southern Rocky Mountain meadow.

Blooming mule’s ear is covered with dew in a southern Rocky Mountain meadow.

So I thought I’d do a few posts on it, starting this week.  A caveat:  I’m not trying to be exhaustive or complete.  To explain all the things you need to think about and do while getting close with your camera would take an entire book!

First off, is there a difference between macro and close-up photography?  Though the answer to that is yes, you really don’t have to worry about it.  Essentially, true macro is done very close to your subject and with high magnification.  Generally it uses a dedicated macro lens.   Close-up photography comes in when you move a bit further away, with less magnification.  It can be done with extension tubes, close-up filters, or while using the macro settings on some lenses.

A caterpillar cruises along looking for his lunch.

A caterpillar cruises along looking for his lunch.

Why do macro and close-up photography?

  • It’s fun!  You can spend hours in that “flow” state where you lose track of time.  Afterwards you have that pleasant and incongruous feeling of having worked hard, but you feel strangely refreshed.

 

  • This is a great way to shake things up, to break out of creativity ruts.  Awhile back I did a post on ways to keep your photography fresh.

 

  • Close-up photography teaches observation skills.  When you’re always on the lookout for macro opportunities, you naturally start looking low as well as at eye level, you shift your focus close as well as far, you think small- as well as large-scale.
The spectacularly whorled and lichen crusted wood of a juniper tree in New Mexico.

The spectacularly whorled and lichen crusted wood of a juniper tree in New Mexico.

  •  You don’t need perfect light for this. Yay!  While light is still an issue, as it always is in photography, with macro you can afford to be much less rigid about what light is acceptable, especially when compared to traditional landscape photography.

 

  • You get a deeper and more complete appreciation for nature doing macro & close-up.  I often want to take those fellow photographers aside and show them this other world that they’re walking right over on the way to yet another traditional large landscape.

That’s it for now.  Next week we’ll dive into all the tips and techniques for successful close-up and macro photography.  Have a spectacular weekend!

Mount Hood, Oregon, at sunset.

Mount Hood, Oregon, at sunset.

 

Weekly Foto Talk: Depth of Field I   8 comments

 

California poppies bloom in an impromptu roadside wildflower garden.

California poppies bloom in an impromptu roadside wildflower garden.  65 mm., 1/60 sec. @ f/13, ISO 200.

Depth of field is one of the most important elements of photography. For most of your captures, you’ll need to more or less consciously control depth of field. You probably already know that aperture is the way to do that. You may also know that it is not the only tool at your disposal. This post will briefly summarize the art of controlling depth of field, then I’ll discuss some of the factors you should consider when choosing depth of field for your images.

What is depth of field? A good working definition goes like this: The extent to which parts of an image are in focus from front (near the camera) to back (far away) is that image’s depth of field.  As you can see it is rather subjective.

Depth of field is often confused with depth, which I posted on awhile back. Giving your images a sense of depth, though related to depth of field, is quite different. Depth is the degree to which you foster the illusion of three dimensions in your two-dimensional pictures. A photograph with good sense of depth, for example, can have a depth of field that is shallow, deep or somewhere in between.

In the northern Guatemala forest, near the ruins of Tikal, a young brown basilisk posed for me while I worked out a good angle for the background depth of field.  200 mm., 1/60 sec. @ f/8, ISO 320.

In the northern Guatemala forest, near the ruins of Tikal, a young brown basilisk posed for me while I worked out a good angle for the background depth of field. 200 mm., 1/60 sec. @ f/8, ISO 320.

A hoary marmot high up on Mount Rainier, Washington.

A hoary marmot high up on Mount Rainier, Washington. 280 mm., 1/1600 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 200

I wanted this young Himba in a Namibian village to be the star of the picture, but I also wanted the village to be noticed too, so a moderately shallow depth of field was necessary.  68 mm., 1/320 sec. @ f/8, ISO 200.

I wanted this young Himba in a Namibian village to be the star of the picture, but I also wanted the village to be noticed too, so a moderately shallow depth of field was necessary. 68 mm., 1/320 sec. @ f/8, ISO 200.

 

Control depth of field in your images using one or a combination of the following methods:

      • Aperture: Small apertures (big f/numbers) yield greater depth of field, where more of the scene is in clear focus. Large apertures (small f/numbers) give shallow depth of field, where just your subject is in clear focus.
      • Focal Length: The longer the focal length you use, the shallower your depth of field will be. A short focal length (wide angle)will give yield greater depth of field.
      • Relative distance:  To get greater depth of field, increase the distance from you to the closest thing you want in focus. To get shallower depth of field, simply move closer to your subject. That’s the simple way to explain it. Really what you want to do is change the relative distance between you and the subject as compared with the distance between the subject and background. For greater depth of field increase this relative distance. For shallower depth of field decrease the relative distance. See the example images below.
      • The right lens: It may not seem so, but a particular lens’s characteristics can lean the images it produces toward greater or lesser depth of field. This is a minor factor compared with the others, but it’s real. I’m not talking about lenses with large maximum apertures (“fast” with low f/number designations), in order to achieve shallow depth of field. That’s all about factor #1 above.

I’m talking about how some wide-angle lenses allow you to photograph scenes where all is in focus, even if elements are both very close and far away. And how other lenses tend to yield an especially smooth out of focus background, or nicer-looking bokeh (out of focus highlights). Tilt-shift lenses are a somewhat extreme example of lens build influencing focus characteristics. And of course macro lenses have much shallower depths of field than other lenses do (see images below).

A macro shot of the inside of a flower.  Shallow depth of field is virtually guaranteed.    100 mm., 30 sec. @ f/16, ISO 200.

A macro shot of the inside of a flower. Shallow depth of field is virtually guaranteed. 100 mm., 30 sec. @ f/16, ISO 200.

Fairy Bells bloom in the forest with more shade than most flowers prefer.  100 mm., 1/25 sec. @ f/7.1, ISO 400.

Fairy Bells bloom in the forest with more shade than most flowers prefer. 100 mm., 1/25 sec. @ f/7.1, ISO 400.

This will get us going on the discussion.  Please let me know if you have anything to add or any questions.  And if you’re interested in any of my images, whether on here or on my main gallery page, please let me know by contacting me.  I would be happy to honor any request no matter how unusual.  Stay tuned for more on depth of field.  Thanks for reading and have a great week!

My girl, Gold Dancer.  70 mm., 1/1250 sec. @ f/4, ISO 200.

My girl, Gold Dancer. 70 mm., 1/1250 sec. @ f/4, ISO 200.

 

Wordless Wildflower Wednesday: Grass Widow   3 comments

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Wildflower Wednesday: Bring ’em on!   10 comments

Wildflowers and insects are inseparable!

Wildflowers and insects are inseparable.

Pink rhododendron bloom in the forests of Mount Hood in Oregon.

Pink rhododendron bloom in the forests of Mount Hood in Oregon.

Pink monkeyflower and a yellow aster bloom in a meadow fed by a spring in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon.

Pink monkeyflower and yellow aster bloom in a meadow fed by a spring in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon.

One of my favorite flowers of the subalpine zone in the Cascades is blue gentian, here at Mount Rainier, Washington.

One of my favorite flowers of the subalpine zone in the Cascades is blue gentian, here at Mount Rainier, Washington.

My favorite flower of the dry steppe region of the Pacific Northwest is the always solo mariposa lily.

My favorite flower of the dry steppe region of the Pacific Northwest is the always solo and always beautiful mariposa lily.

Let's  not forget tropical flowers.  This one attended by red ants I found in a forest in Thailand.

Let’s not forget tropical flowers. This one I found attended by red ants in a Thailand forest.

Wonderful lupine and balsamroot decorate this hillside in the eastern Columbia Gorge of Oregon.  Note the moon peaking through.

Wonderful lupine and balsamroot decorate this hillside in the eastern Columbia Gorge of Oregon. Note the moon peaking through.

Speaking of the eastern Gorge, this is its most famous flower, the arrowleaf balsamroot.

Speaking of the eastern Gorge, this is its most famous flower, the arrowleaf balsamroot.

Not all flowers are colorful.  This one is the pasqueflower, which blooms then immediately goes to a "wild hair" seed head.

Not all flowers are colorful. This one is the pasqueflower, which immediately goes to a “wild hair” seed head after blooming.

The deep forest of the Pacific Northwest hides wonders like these fairy bells, lit by a shaft of sunlight.

The deep forest of the Pacific Northwest hides wonders like these fairy bells, lit by a shaft of sunlight.

The glorious indian paintbrush is a common wildflower of mountains in the American West.

The glorious indian paintbrush is a common wildflower of mountains in the American West.

Flowers bloom in profusion in the aptly named Paradise meadows of Mount Rainier.

Flowers bloom in profusion in the aptly named Paradise meadows of Mount Rainier.

A summer flower around these parts that is particularly eye-catching, the tiger lily.

A summer flower around these parts that is particularly eye-catching, the tiger lily.

 

A welcome export to Oregon, the California poppy, likes roadsides.

A welcome import to Oregon, the California poppy, likes roadsides.

I hope you like these wildflower images.  Please click on an image to go to the main gallery part of my website, where some of the full-size versions are available for purchase.  If you can’t find one, or have any questions or special requests, please contact me.  They are protected by copyright and not available for free download, sorry.  Thanks for your interest, and happy Wildflower Wednesday!

Spring is Coming   9 comments

A flower that has just burst forth from the spring snow at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

An icy bloom has just burst forth from the spring snow at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

I wanted to give you all in the north some hope for spring.  If these flowers can steel themselves and burst forth from the snow-covered ground to stand tall, confident they won’t have long to wait for the sun’s warmth to kiss their faces and allow them to bloom with color, then so can we.

The Cascades III: Mount Rainier, Part 1   8 comments

Mount Rainier is reflected in a small tarn in the subalpine meadows called Indian Henry's Hunting Ground.

Mount Rainier is reflected in a small tarn in the subalpine meadows called Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground.

It’s no use stalling anymore.  Let’s continue my series on the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest.  Check out Part I, an introduction to the Range’s geography & geology.  So which mountain should be next?  Well, there are many interesting options.  There are the little-known “climber’s” peaks of Mount Jefferson and North Sister, Glacier Peak and Mount Stuart.  There are the popular recreation meccas of Mounts Baker, Bachelor and Hood.  But there is just one mountain I can’t put on hold any longer: the Big Kahuna, the sleeping giant, the Mother of Waters, training ground for Everest, Seattle’s sky-ornament, Tahoma, Mount Rainier.

The images you see here are copyrighted and not available for free download without my permission, sorry about that.  If you want to see purchase information, just click on the images you’re interested in.  If you have any questions, please contact me.  Thanks for your interest!

Mount Rainier and the largest glacier in the lower 48 United States, the Emmons, are bathed in early morning sunshine.

Mount Rainier and the largest glacier in the lower 48 United States, the Emmons, are bathed in early morning sunshine.

Mt. Rainier, at 14,411 feet (4392 meters), is one of America’s most spectacular mountains.  It sticks up hugely and dramatically a little more than 50 miles southeast of Seattle, Washington.  Rainier’s prominence is enhanced by a total of 26 glaciers with over 35 square miles of ice.  In North America, only Alaska and the Canadian Rockies have more dramatic, glaciated mountains.  By the way, don’t get confused about Part III and Part 1.  It’s just that with this particular mountain, there’s too much to fit into one post.  Stay tuned for one or two more posts on Rainier, but we’ll still be on the Cascades Part III until we jump to another mountain.

Mount Rainier's Paradise Park

Mount Rainier’s Paradise Park

The hairy pasqueflower blooms in contrast with indian paintbrush.

The hairy pasqueflower blooms in contrast with indian paintbrush.

Mount Rainier was named by Captain Vancouver of England for a friend of his, Rear Admiral Rainier.  It’s original name, from a local American Indian tribe the Puyallup is Tahoma (or Tacoma).

A Dangerous Volcano

Rainier is considered one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes, and there are a few important reasons for this. Like Vesuvius in Italy, Rainier is situated quite close to population centers.  That is the most important factor that makes it dangerous.  The second most important reason is not, as you’d expect, the volcano’s activity level.  Rainier sleeps for long periods.  Instead, what makes it potentially deadly is the fact that it is steep and weak.  In other words, the same thing that makes it dramatic, sticking up so steeply as it does, also makes it dangerous.

Spray Falls on Rainier's northwest side is a spectacular cascade.

Spray Falls on Rainier’s northwest side is a spectacular cascade.  The mountain receives abundant precipitation, much of it in the form of snow.

The glaciers, with their incredible erosive power, have done a very good job of steepening the volcano.  But how is it weakened?  As the mountain sleeps between eruptions, it sits above the magma chamber below and literally stews in its own juices. Rainier is in a wet climate, and the mountain’s bulk draws even more precipitation its way.  Because of this, Rainier’s rocks are wet.  Add heat and acidic gases from below and you have a corrosive mix.  As a result the rocks are altered to clays, greatly weakening Rainier’s steep cone over time.  In other words, much of the peak is literally rotten.  Add these two things together, the volcano’s steepness and its inherent weakness, and you have a very real and constant hazard on your hands.

Fields of lupine bloom in the subalpine meadows of Mount Rainier, Washington.

Fields of lupine bloom in the subalpine meadows of Mount Rainier, Washington.

The biggest volcanic hazard at Rainier is not from lava flows but from mudflows (aka lahars).  If the mountain erupts lava or hot ash, large amounts of ice could melt quickly, causing a catastrophic flow of mud, rocks, trees, bridges, cars, etc. that cascades down river valleys, wiping out everything in its path.  But here’s the thing: an eruption is not really necessary to bring destruction to the surrounding populated valleys.

Now imagine a small earthquake, perhaps during an unusually warm summer when much of the ice high on the mountain is melting (can you say global warming?).  This could easily trigger a large and very destructive mudflow.  Geologists know this has happened in the past.  In fact, a good portion of the city of Tacoma (plus some of Seattle) is built on deposits from an enormous Rainier mudflow that buried the area some 5000 years ago.

Bears are not that uncommon at Mount Rainier.

Bears are not that uncommon at Mount Rainier.

The Rainier region now has a warning system made up of sirens that are triggered when mudflows higher on the mountain begin.  Citizens of towns like Orting and Enumclaw are taught to heed these sirens by escaping to high ground.  Mudflows are powerful enough to sweep away large bridges and buildings like a spoiled toddler kicks over his leggos.  But all their dirty work is limited to river bottoms, so getting up out of the valley will save your life.

The last of the day's light falls on Mount Rainier in Washington.

The last of the day’s light falls on Mount Rainier in Washington.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Focus   19 comments

A frog enjoys the shallows of Snow Lake at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

A frog enjoys the shallows of Snow Lake at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington.

I was inspired to do a rare Monday post by the Weekly Photo Challenge on WordPress.  Also, this week’s topic, focus, gives me a good excuse to post some of the close-up shots I captured during my recent trip to Rainier and Olympic National Parks in Washington state.  I had a great time up there photographing both the landscapes and small details of a beautiful corner of the country.

The mountain in the lake: Reflection Lakes at Mount Rainier National Park.

The mountain in the lake: Reflection Lakes at Mount Rainier National Park.

This challenge is deceptively simple.  Focus gives even experienced photographers fits on occasion.  I often take only a camera and lens on photo walks, no tripod.  My goal is to sharpen my creativity.  With no tripod and a lens choice of one, you need to improvise to get decent images.

Pasqueflower is a hairy beast!

Pasqueflower is a hairy beast!

For instance at Mount Rainier’s Paradise Park, which is the park’s most popular area, I didn’t want to be burdened.  I wanted to simply stroll through the wildflower meadows with only my camera and macro lens.  Doing macro with no tripod is definitely a challenge, and this time was no different.  But when I saw other photographers with heavy backpacks full of camera gear, tripods in tow, I felt very happy with my choice.

Tracking this interesting beetle was a challenge hand-held with macro lens.

Tracking this interesting beetle was a challenge hand-held with macro lens.

In the Olympics I hiked up to a popular waterfall, Sol Duc Falls.  While shooting this triple cascade, I noticed the wild huckleberries, along with some other kinds.  For some reason I was the only one who was partaking of these scrumptious trail-side treats.  I didn’t understand that, but I made sure to photograph the berries before plucking and popping them into my mouth.

A fresh huckleberry in Olympic National Park just before it became a snack.

A fresh huckleberry in Olympic National Park just before it became a snack.

Rain overnight and cloudy skies means perfect conditions for macro photography.

Rain overnight and cloudy skies means perfect conditions for macro photography.

I hope you enjoy the pictures.  Please note they are copyrighted and not available for free download, sorry.  Go ahead and click on the photos to be taken to my main gallery page, where purchase options are listed.  Please contact me if you have any questions.  Thanks for your interest.

Lupine in the morning dew, Mt. Rainier National Park.

Lupine in the morning dew, Mt. Rainier National Park.

The rainforest in Olympic National Park, Washington receives what it thrives on: water!

The rainforest in Olympic National Park, Washington receives what it thrives on: water!

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