The most important thing I teach my photography tour clients is how to anticipate a shot. Let’s use my new image of the fall colors on Mazama Ridge as an example of when to shoot. When I was at Mount Rainier National Park last Friday, the sky was clear blue without a single cloud on the horizon. I knew that the best image in these conditions would be when the angle of the sunlight was a few degrees above the horizon and still yellow or orange in color. Experience has taught me where the sun would go down, but I confirmed my guess by using my SunSeeker app on my iPhone. I wanted to shoot this scene as the sunset light settled into the trees and danced across the foliage in front of my camera. The tree shadows added some mystery to an otherwise beautiful but non-dramatic scene. This light only lasted for about 30 seconds before the foliage went into complete shade. I used my Carl Zeiss 35mm f2 ZE lens along with my Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer and 2-stop Hard Graduated Neutral Density filter to create this image using only 1 exposure which required minimal processing.
Last week, I helped 2 photography clients from Mexico City experience and shoot Washington’s fall colors. With all of my travels out of state, I no longer have as much time to shoot when I am home, so it was nice to do some photography in my old stomping grounds in the Cascades. For some reason, every time that I have been out shooting in the last month, I have experienced clear blue skies which has made dramatic light conditions very difficult to find.Of course, there are worse things than driving around in the mountains on sunny days. On the first day of our time together, precipitation clung to the North Cascades as I drove up I-5 to Picture Lake. I thought that our timing would be ideal for photographing fall colors and was not disappointed. As the clouds swirled and briefly parted late in the afternoon, my clients and I were able to photograph Mt Shuksan’s perfect reflection. The sun sets behind a mountain ridge at about 4:30, causing the foreground and trees on the opposite side of the lake to usually become too dark, but on this afternoon the lifting fog helped to soften the harsh shadows. I used my Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer slightly backed off from full polarization along with my Singh-Ray 4-stop Soft Graduated Neutral Density filter placed above the foreground foliage to balance the exposure. I also chose to photograph this scene with my Carl Zeiss 35mm f2 ZE lens in order to keep Mt Shuksan from becoming too small in the overall composition while still being able to have enough depth of field at f16 to include the foliage along the shore in the foreground.
This past Friday, the second in a row, I woke up at 2:30am and drove down to Mount Rainier National Park to photograph wildflowers at sunrise. I have sold a lot of images of Mount Rainier over the years, so it is worth taking the time out of my busy travel schedule to do the quick round trip for just 1 hour of shooting. I parked my car at 5:15am and ran up the trail in about 20 minutes to my favorite flower meadows on Mazama Ridge. I’m always surprised that I never encounter any other photographers up there at sunrise, but I also only visit during the week to avoid the weekend crowds. For anyone still planning a trip to Rainier, the wildflowers are at their peak, however, I would not describe this year’s bloom as more than ordinary. I did not encounter any diverse fields of wildflowers and the clouds from the day before had vanished, but I still hoped to create a new unique image. All of my previous well-known photos of wildflowers at Mount Rainier were created using medium and large format film cameras. What a pain in the ass that was. With my large format camera in particular, I had to compose the image using a dark cloth, focusing loupe, and dark ground glass where the image was upside down and reversed, spot meter the scene, stop down to f32, place a Singh-Ray non-LB Warming Polarizer on the lens, position the grad filter correctly, and hope that the wind stopped blowing for a 10-30 second exposure because I was using Fuji Velvia 50 film rated at ISO 25 due to reciprocity failure. Still with me? Let me just state unequivocally that creating this image with my dSLR was a lot easier. I like this picture because of the soft warm light illuminating the lupine in the foreground.
Pictures don’t get any fresher than this! I woke up at 2:30am today and drove down to Mount Rainier National Park to photograph the wildflowers around Reflection Lake at sunrise. I have always wanted to photograph the mountain and reflection in the lake with rosy spireas in bloom, and today I finally timed it right. I was surprised by how many photographers were there for a Friday. I have gotten spoiled in Alaska not having to shoot around other people. A slight breeze or surfacing fish occasionally disturbed the reflection, so this is as close to perfect as it got. I am happy with what I created.
For those of you aspiring to photograph wildflowers at Mount Rainier this summer, I did a quick drive up to Paradise before driving back to Seattle, and can confirm that the wildflowers probably need 1-2 more weeks to peak. There are tons of paintbrush and other wildflowers along the side of the road, but the big fields of lupine are only just starting to bloom. I hope to get back down there late next week before I return to Alaska on August 23rd.
My image “Spray Park Wildflowers 1” is featured as the double page opener of the hiking feature in the June 2010 issue of Seattle Met. Spray Park is my favorite alpine location at Mount Rainier National Park and is the closest side of the mountain to my home in Seattle. During the brief summer hiking season, I depart my house in the early afternoon, drive for about 3 hours, and hike the 3 miles up to the wildflower meadows to photograph the sunset. It is both a blessing and a curse if the wind is not blowing, a blessing because the fields of lupine and paintbrush are not blowing around in the wind, but a curse because of the swarms of blood-thirsty mosquitoes that rival any that I have seen in Alaska or Canada. Spray Park is higher than Paradise on the south side of the mountain, so the wildflowers peak about 1 week later, typically mid-August. Based on the cold summer that we are having, I estimate that the wildflowers are going to be a little late this year, which is similar to the year that I created this image during the last week of August.
I am pleased to share my latest publishing accomplishment. My “Paradise Wildflowers” image from Mount Rainier National Park is the June 2010 cover on Alaska Airlines! This is also my 2nd cover with them this year. This picture is my all-time most successful art print and has been licensed numerous times since I created it in 2003. Most of my regular readers will know that I shot all of my landscape images up until last year with a Pentax 67 system. One of the challenges of that system was that I had limited depth-of-field compared to a 35mm system. In order to overcome that limitation, I created this image with Toyo 4×5 view camera, a Rodenstock 65mm large format lens, and a Horseman 6×9 roll film back. (Did I lose you, yet?) With the large format camera, I tilted the lens so that the flowers would be close to the camera while keeping the summit of Mount Rainier in focus. I also used my Singh-Ray Warming Polarizer and 2-stop Hard Graduated Neutral Density filter with Fuji Velvia film. I think that the exposure was about 10 seconds at f32, which is a life-time when waiting for a slight breeze to stop rustling the wildflowers. Now when I photograph flower landscapes like this, I use my Canon 5DmkII with a wide-angle lens with camera settings more like f16, 1/4 second, and 200 ISO. Since this was the first image that I ever took with my 4×5, I was still learning how to use it that morning. I mentioned that I used a 6×9 roll film back. All of my images that I shot were the 6×9 format except for 1 frame that overlapped the frame before it. That image perfectly cropped itself in the camera to 6×7 which is my favorite photo that you see here. Beginners luck?
My Reflection Lake Sunrise image is featured prominently in a new Washington State tourism advertisement. This ad will be shown in markets throughout North America during the next year. If you are looking for an exciting travel destination, Washington offers an incredibly diverse experience. It is one of the few places where you can experience islands, beaches, mountains, glaciers, forests, & deserts all during the same trip. I always recommend early September to first time visitors. It has the most reliable dry weather and the summer crowds are gone. Are you ready to experiencewa?
I created this image during a private photography tour last July. The weather was overcast with a light drizzle all 5 days, which made for perfect rainforest shooting conditions. We spent each afternoon visiting the Quinault, Hoh, & Sol Duc Valleys and ended each day by shooting sunset at Ruby & Second Beach. The fastest way to improve your composition skills is to shoot in the chaos of the rainforest. If you are interested, you can join my upcoming Olympic National Park Photography our. My tour groups are small & exclusive so that I can provide my clients with personal attention. I accept a maximum of 4 photographers & have still 2 openings available for my April 22-25 tour. To sign up, please email me at .
This is another beautiful green temperate rainforest image that I took last week while leading a private photography tour of Olympic National Park. This image is from the Sol Duc Valley on the way up to the iconic Sol Duc Falls. About 1/2 way to the falls is a very scenic little stream covered in green moss that is often photographed. About 3 winters ago, one of the big storms caused a terrible amount of flooding in the area, and a lot of the moss that covered the boulders was washed away. I was out there last year and did not even take a picture while leading a private workshop. This year, I decided to walk up hill to scout for better photo ops. A good 10-15 minutes above the bridge that crosses the stream, I found some much more pleasing mossy boulders than lower down and proceeded to spend several hours taking pictures.
This is my favorite image. This vine maple overhung a nice section of moss covered rocks and had some really cool delicate branches. Even though there was no wind blowing, this image was incredibly difficult to photograph as the leaves were ever so gently bouncing, making long exposures blurry. I was trying for the largest depth of field possible by shooting within 2 feet of the foreground leaves while trying not to fall into the stream on the slippery rocks. I finally got one image while shooting at f16, 3.2 sec, and ISO 400. You gotta love the backlit leaves during a photo shoot in the rainforest! Also, you better like the color green.
I just returned from a 1 week private photography workshop/tour that I lead for a client of Olympic National Park. The trip started last weekend with a sunny 80° day in Seattle. We drove down to Mount Rainier National Park for the first night with ambitions to photograph Reflection Lake at sunrise. The weather changed while we were sleeping, and when we woke up it was cloudy and 40°. So after getting skunked, we started our drive out to our main destination for the week in typical NW crummy weather. I kept telling Dan, that this weather was going to be great for our ambitions to photograph in the rainforest, but that it might not be great for photographing beach sunsets. Over the next 4 days, it mostly drizzled or poured on us, but we took advantage of the weather to photograph the spectacular greens of the temperate rainforest. I spent a lot of time walking around looking for patterns and unique mossy things to photograph. I really felt like I pushed myself photographically in a way that I have never done before in the rainforest. It is not an easy place to see the pictures through the chaos of branches and leaves. I was especially drawn to backlit leaves that just glowed green. I had fun, but it is again sunny and 80° here in Seattle. I’ll be outside working on my tan this afternoon.