Archive for the ‘nature photography’ Tag

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.

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Single-image Sunday: Tidepooling on the Lost Coast   3 comments

A crab inhabits the shallows along California's Lost Coast.

A crab inhabits the shallows along California’s Lost Coast.

Although I can’t claim this as one of my best images, it’s a memory I want to hold onto for as long as possible in this rainy mess back home in Oregon.  It seems like two months ago I was on a sunny, warm California Coast, focused on one of my favorite activities (it was last week).  Tidepooling at low tide anywhere on the Pacific is just plain fun.  It is rugged on the Lost Coast, a stretch between the towns of Fort Bragg and Eureka in northern California.  But there are plenty of rocky sections accessible at low tide.

I don’t know how many times in my life I’ve been under the mistaken impression I could keep my feet dry.  This was yet another one of those times.  I was rewarded when I came upon an area where crabs seemed to be congregating.  I’ve never seen this crab before.  It was one of two types I saw with unusual projections on the carapace.  I googled but the closest thing I found was the sharp-nosed crab.  And that wasn’t really a great match.  So if you know please tell me!

He was hiding in a mass of kelp that I stepped on.  I was walking carefully and didn’t put my full weight on it right away.  I felt the kelp moving under my foot and pulled back in surprise.  When I peeled the kelp away I almost got a rude surprise.  He was a feisty fella!  Who could blame him, being stepped on.  Pulled my fingers away just in time.

I found myself wondering what he tasted like.  That’s my childhood talking.  In summer we would go down to the nearby Chesapeake Bay, bare feet in the cool mud, and catch blue crabs.  I let him be.

Beaver Sign   6 comments

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This is a follow-up to my little puzzler last Wednesday.  The picture above was accompanied by the question, “Who made these tracks?”  Jakz guessed correctly that it was a beaver.  All the clues are there, from the tail dragging as he waddled back to the pond with his load to the marks made by the aspen tree he was dragging.  At upper left you can see the tracks he made on the way to the “harvest zone”.  He wasn’t loaded down yet, so there is little sign of tail dragging.

The Colorado mountains are chock full of beaver sign now.  These are the same mountains that drew all those trappers in the early 1800s.  Men like Jim Bridger, Hugh Glass, John Colter, the Meek Brothers (with their unfitting surname), and my favorite character, Jedediah Smith.  These colorful characters were inspiration for the legendary image of the Mountain Man.  And they were definitely colorful.  Consider Grizzly Adams and Liver-eating Johnson.

I have always wished I was born then, wished I had lived the life of a mountain man.  They trapped out these mountains, supplying the beaver pelts for all those top hats worn by fashionable Europeans.  Succeeding decades saw continuous pressure on beaver populations.  But the beaver are definitely back now!

Here are a couple other shots I got on that (freezing) morning walk at over 11,000 feet.  Despite all the sign, I haven’t yet spotted one of the industrious critters on this trip.  When I do I’ll post the pictures.  Hope everyone’s weekend is going well.

This is just a close-up of the ice forming along the edges of the beaver pond near where I saw the tracks.

This is a close-up of the ice forming along the edges of the beaver pond near where I saw the tracks.

A large beaver pond reflects a high mountain in the Colorado Rockies.

A large beaver pond reflects a high mountain in the Colorado Rockies.

Morning Walk through the Aspens   3 comments

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Aspen in Abstract.

Chilly morning walk through the golden aspens, autumn in the Colorado Rockies.  Location: not far from the town of Aspen, Colorado (go figure!).  There were two moods: the first in the heart of the grove; the second nearing its edge with the sun peeking over the high ridge beyond.

Aspen Sunstar!

Aspen Sunstar!

Wordless Wednesday: Guess who made the tracks!   10 comments

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Wordless Wednesday: Simple Grace of a Cedar   9 comments

Fog in the Cedars

Wordless Wednesday: Morning Dew   13 comments

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Travel Theme: Flow   6 comments

A small creek in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge rolls through a mossy forest.

A small creek in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge flows in a rolling way through a mossy forest.

I don’t usually go for the theme post, at least those invented by other bloggers.  I figure it’s sorta cheating, letting other people decide what you will blog about because you don’t have any ideas of your own.  Or something like that.

Since I want to avoid being dogmatic about it, occasionally I’ll go along with the crowd, join the party, however you want to phrase it.  But only when the theme intrigues me.  This time it is the concept of flow, Ailsa’s idea on her great blog Where’s My Backpack.  I love flowing water of course, but that’s an easy approach.  Hmm…

If you’re interested in any of these images, just click on them.  You will be taken to the high-res. version where you can view price options by clicking “Purchase Options”.  The images are copyrighted and not available for download without my permission, sorry.  Please contact me if you have any questions.  Thanks for looking!

Spring melting at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah brings a heavy sediment-laden slurry down from the red rocks.

Spring melting at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah brings a heavy sediment-laden slurry flowing down through the snow from the red rocks above.

 

The upper reaches of East Fork Hood River in Oregon tumbles down Mount Hood's slopes.

The East Fork Hood River in Oregon tumbles down through its canyon near Mount Hood Oregon as a spring flows out of its banks to feed it.

 

Sand dunes in Death Valley National Park, California forms textured shadows as the wind blows hard and the sand flows over the surface.

Sand dunes in Death Valley National Park, California forms textured shadows as the wind blows hard and the sand flows over the surface.

 

This flowing rock in southern Utah's Coyote Buttes area was originally formed into enormous dunes, now solidified into rock.

This flowing rock in southern Utah’s Coyote Buttes area was originally formed into enormous dunes, now solidified into rock.

 

 

A close-up view of sandstone strata in the slickrock country of southern Utah, very near the location called "the wave".

A close-up view of sandstone strata in southern Utah, very near the location called “the wave”.  The sandstone appears to flow on different scales, though it is solid rock.  Originally of course, it was formed by flowing currents.

A small stream deep in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge flows through a green-lined channel.

A small stream deep in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge flows through a green-lined channel.

 

One of the easiest ways to get into a "flow", that feeling of timeless, effortless doing, is cross-country skiing.

One of the easiest ways to get into a “flow”, that feeling of timeless, effortless doing, is cross-country skiing.

 

The clouds rapidly flow out of the basin containing Mowich Lake as night comes on and temperatures drop, revealing Mount Rainier standing above.

The clouds rapidly flow out of the basin containing Mowich Lake as night comes on and temperatures drop, revealing Mount Rainier standing above.

 

The Sandy River flows and eddies, throwing golden reflections from the setting sun back up at Steelhead fishermen.

The Sandy River in NW Oregon flows and eddies, throwing golden reflections from the setting sun back up at Steelhead fishermen.

 

The upper Columbia River in Washington flows smoothly but powerfully during spring's high flows.  On the opposite bank lie giant current ripples, formed during an ice age flood bigger than any we know about in earth history.

The upper Columbia River in Washington flows smoothly but powerfully during spring’s high flows. On the opposite bank lie giant current ripples, formed during an ice age flood bigger than any we know about in earth history.

 

 

Standing atop the columns of a basalt flow, cooled and hardened millions of years ago, in Washington's Channeled Scablands.

Standing atop the columns of a basalt flow, cooled and hardened millions of years ago, in Washington’s Channeled Scablands.

 

Golden light from a setting sun is reflected from the churning, flowing surf at Cape Kiwanda on the Oregon Coast.

Golden light from a setting sun is reflected from the churning, flowing surf at Cape Kiwanda on the Oregon Coast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Foto Talk: Does the Camera Matter?   5 comments

This shot of the Columbia River in Washington under morning light was made with a Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 24-105 f/4L IS lens.

This shot of the Columbia River in Washington under morning light was made with a Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 24-105 f/4L IS lens.

I normally try to stay away from talk of gear.  This is the only day of the week in which I ever blog strictly about photography matters, but even here I stay away from gear reviews and the like.  Last Friday I looked at how water and your camera get along (or not!).  I suppose I dipped my toe into the gear waters when I did that.  So today I’m going to go in a little deeper.  But don’t worry, I’m not about to sell out.  I’ll keep it gear-neutral, and you won’t see any cheerleading.

I’ve been a Canon user since I switched to digital.  Nothing against Nikon, Sony, etc. of course.  I simply looked at the lens lineup, cost of a good camera to begin with, and went for it.  It happened that Canon’s 5D Mark II was the best value at the time I was purchasing, and Canon’s lens choice seemed a tad better than Nikon’s.  I shot Nikon film cameras, and could easily switch if a compelling reason came up.

Phantom Ship is a rock island sticking up in one corner of Oregon's Crater Lake.

Phantom Ship is a rock island sticking up in one corner of Oregon’s Crater Lake.

After I purchased the 5D Mark II I did not want to spend a lot more right away.  So I bought a Sigma lens with it, then a couple cheaper Canon lenses.  I wasn’t happy with the quality, in general.  So it wasn’t long before I took the plunge and bought a few Canon L lenses.  I also bought a Canon 50D as a backup, then a zoom lens that is specific to that camera type (crop-frame).

Through all this, I learned one important lesson: Next to the photographer and subject/light, the lens (not the camera) makes the most difference to the quality of image you get.  The camera does matter, don’t get me wrong.  I used a super-zoom point and shoot camera for some years when I was not seriously into photography.  Although the colors were okay, the images tended to be plagued by digital noise.  Noise tends to reduce clarity and make colors look unnatural.  Essentially, noise can ruin an image.  In general, the more expensive the camera, and the larger its sensor, the better it handles noise.

A viewing platform hanging over the lip of Multnomah Falls in Oregon is not for those afraid of heights.

A viewing platform hanging over the lip of Multnomah Falls in Oregon is not for those afraid of heights.

There are plenty of other reasons to get a nicer camera.  Ergonomics is important.  The way the camera feels in your hands and how easy it is to reach and naturally operate the controls is a factor, but depending on how outside the norm the size of your hands are, it’s my experience that you get used to whatever you use.  More important for me is a viewfinder that you can put your eye up to.  I have a point and shoot and use it when I’m in situations where the only camera I want to have needs to fit into my pocket.  This little camera (a Canon S95) handles noise amazingly well for its small sensor size, but I will never like using a screen to take a picture.  I just can’t compose as well.

A great pyrenees (Pyrenean mountain dog) appears to be having trouble staying awake.

A great pyrenees (Pyrenean mountain dog) appears to be having trouble staying awake.

One reason I don’t think is a good one to consider when shopping for a camera is the brand’s “cachet” or name recognition.  Nobody wants to admit they pay attention to this kind of stuff, but deep down we all know we do.  When I’m around other photographers, I’ve noticed other Canon shooters are more likely to strike up a conversation with me than are folks with other brands.  Silly huh?  I know one thing for sure.  If I had the money to go out and buy a Canon 1Dx, or a Nikon D4 (the two full-pro models), I might feel pretty cool around most other photographers.  But there will come that moment when somebody with a Hasselblad H5D (40K) or a similarly priced Leica S with fancy lens will show up.  Then what do you do?  It’s keeping up with the Joneses, a game you can’t win.

A red-winged blackbird sings in an eastern Oregon marsh.

A red-winged blackbird sings in an eastern Oregon marsh.

So back to the question: does the camera matter?  The short answer is yes but not as much as most think.  Glass (lenses) is always more important to the quality of your images, as is your overall skill and comfort with the camera.  The best camera is the one you have with you when you are presented with perfect light and subject.  This is an old truism that will always hold.

All of that said, today I have on the way a brand new Canon 5D Mark III.  I pulled the trigger yesterday and took advantage of a free one-day shipping offer.  It will replace my beloved 5D Mark II, which took a bad fall and bath last week.  That camera is at Canon’s repair, and will be fixed, but not cheaply!  Now I have 3 DSLRs and need to sell one.  My previous backup, the 50D, might be the one to go.  But that camera has given me nothing but sterling service for 3 years and is still going strong.  I might instead sell the 5D Mark II.  I’m not really sure.

Fairy Falls in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge appears to glow in sunlight diffused by the deep forest.

Fairy Falls in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge appears to glow in sunlight diffused by the deep forest.  This was captured with my Canon 5D Mark II and Tokina 16-28 mm. f/2.8 wide-angle zoom.

The Mark II is a full-frame camera with video while the 50D is a crop-frame without video.  The Mark II is a 21 MP camera while the 50D is a 15 MP camera.  But you have more reach with a crop-frame (it basically gives you extra zoom capability), nice to have when your main camera (in my case a 5D Mark III) is a full-frame.  I think most people would sell the crop-frame and keep the Mark II as a backup.  But for me it isn’t so simple and I haven’t made up my mind yet.  So feel free to give me your opinion if you have one.  Let me know if you are in the market and are interested in either camera.  Maybe you can help me make up my mind.

Have fun shooting!  I’ll post pictures from my new camera soon.

This image of a fisherman beneath Crown Point in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge was captured with my Canon 50D plus Canon EF-S 17-55 mm. f/2.8 IS lens.  Not bad for a backup!

This image of a fisherman beneath Crown Point in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge was captured with my Canon 50D + Canon EF-S 17-55 mm. f/2.8 IS lens. Not bad for a backup!

Friday Foto Talk – Patterns I: Line   7 comments

A short hike will take you to beautiful Elowah Falls in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge.

A short hike will take you to beautiful Elowah Falls in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge.  This is an example of very subtle use of line and pattern in an image.

This Friday Foto Talk let’s think about the very basics of composition.  Patterns are definitely worth seeking out in your photography, and this applies especially to nature and landscape photography.  The most essential part of patterns are the lines that define them.  Lines can lead you into a scene, point to your subject, mimic the shapes of your main subjects, and frame your composition, among other things.  They’re very powerful parts of an image.

Tall grass is reflected in a pond in the Potholes area of eastern Washington.

Tall grass is reflected in a pond in the Potholes area of eastern Washington.  Abstracts like this one often make use of repeating lines.

Think about looking out at a landscape.  There is a winding river or roadway stretching toward some overlapping hills.  The ridgelines that define the hills are slightly curved.  And wouldn’t you know it, the clouds above are in gentle arcs as well.  Perhaps you got lucky and sitting in the grass alongside the road or river there is an old abandoned car.  It’s from the 1950s and has nice gentle curves that define its fenders and hood.  These curves are outlined by a bright backlight from the setting sun.  This image draws your eye partly because of the beautiful light of course.  But it is the lines which lead the eye and clouds and hills that mimic the gentle shapes of the car that makes you stand and stare.

The narrows at Oneonta Gorge in Oregon are here full after spring rains.

The narrows at Oneonta Gorge in Oregon are full after spring rains.  The curved lines in the water contrast with straight and jagged vertical lines of the canyon walls and falling water.

A photograph I’ve always believed is effective if it captures what you would stop and look at even without having a camera.  I always try to keep this in mind: would I stop and admire this even if I wasn’t out shooting pictures?  Lines that make up patterns draw our eyes because of our evolutionary history.  We evolved in semi-open areas where picking out patterns from the background of grasses and trees really mattered.

One of the many lakes in the Channeled Scablands of eastern Washington is calm and colorful at sunrise.

One of the many lakes in the Channeled Scablands of eastern Washington is calm and colorful at sunrise.  The curved shoreline and angled lines of the orange sky help this simple image.

Lions and other predators, I found out during my recent trip to Africa, blend in very well to their surroundings.  I drove right by one in Kruger, South Africa.  She was crouching at the roadside only a few feet from my open window as I passed slowly, scanning for wildlife.  I stopped to look at something else (a rock it turned out) and caught a tiny movement out of the corner of my eye.  That’s the only reason I saw her, and she was actually in plain view.  Our ancestors, already very visual creatures, developed even greater ability and passed this acuity on to us.

The Columbia River where it passes through the gorge along the Oregon/Washington border forms wetlands along the river bottom in springtime.

The Columbia River where it passes through the gorge along the Oregon/Washington border forms wetlands along the river bottom in springtime.  Reflections can often get you a two-for-one, doubling the lines in the landscape to make a closed shape.

Often the most interesting photos are those that mix and match different line patterns.  Straight lines combined with curved, horizontal combined with vertical, or slightly curved combined with tightly curved.  You only need to see these patterns and photograph them in the kind of light that brings them out.  Some amount of contrast can be added later in software, but you need light with depth and clarity to really bring line patterns out.

One of the many wetlands in the Potholes area of eastern Washington, a paradise for waterbirds.

One of the many wetlands in the Potholes area of eastern Washington, a paradise for waterbirds.  The think lines of the grass are fairly subtle but contrast with the overall horizontal nature of the image.

For me, I think I like gently curved lines the best.  I normally seek out peaceful settings, and gently curved lines help to establish that mood.  The image at top shows an obvious gentle arc (the falls), repeated by the more subtle curve of the tree’s left side.  The rock at right also has a similar angle.  Very dramatic and imposing  mountain or desert scenes may benefit from a different type of line pattern.  When photographing these scenes it is natural to go for sharply angled or jagged lines.  Maybe you like different kinds of subjects.  Whatever you are photographing, think about the kinds of lines that will both help to define the mood of your image and also lead the viewer’s attention to your main subject(s).

A double rainbow appears as a spring storm clears over the lush Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.

A double rainbow appears as a spring storm clears over the lush Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.  I loved how the arcs of the rainbows were so close to the forested walls of the Gorge, and also at a similar angle.

The photos here are all very recent, captured during my recent trip to eastern Washington and in the nearby Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.  I hope you enjoy them.  Remember they are copyrighted and not available for free download without my permission.  These versions are much too small anyway.  If you’re interested in high-res versions just click on the image.  Then once you have the full-size image on the screen click “add this image to cart”.  You will then get price options; it won’t be added to your cart until you make choices.  If you don’t see an option that matches what you want to purchase, just contact me with any special requests.  Thanks for your interest.

The sun goes down over the wheat fields of the Palouse in eastern Washington.

The sun goes down over the wheat fields of the Palouse in eastern Washington.  The subtle lines in the rows of wheat lead into the scene, and the angled line of clouds helps to frame the sun (which has its own radiating pattern of lines).

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