Reflection Lake Wildflowers 1

Reflection Lake Wildflowers 1

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.

Brotherhood Park Fireweed Sunset 1

Brotherhood Park Fireweed Sunset 1

WOW! What else can I say about my recent 19 day adventure in Southeast Alaska? WOW! There, I said it again. I experienced my usual ups-and-downs, but overall the trip was incredibly productive. Humpback whales bubble-feeding, tidewater glaciers, harbor seals on ice flows, playful Steller sea lions, fireweed in bloom, and many sunny days in a row. This trip had it all. I am home for barely 3 weeks before returning to Alaska again on August 23 and I am very busy with my family during this time. I am not going to make any progress editing the 6500 images I just created, but will share a few of my new images as time allows.

For those of you unfamiliar with Alaska, this image of the fireweed in bloom at Brotherhood Park in Juneau is one of the most iconic Alaska images. Even though I have regularly visited Juneau the past 4 summers, this photo has eluded me until now.

After cleaning my boat all afternoon on Monday, I decided to try to shoot this scene since the weather was so nice and I was flying standby. The wind was gently rustling the flowers, but I was able to capture a few images without movement by using ISO 400 at 1/10 second. I never would have captured this scene if I was still shooting medium or large format and using Fuji Velvia 50 film at 6+ seconds.

Seattle Met June 2010 Hiking Opener

Seattle Met June 2010 Hiking Opener

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.

Alaska Airlines June 2010 Cover

Alaska Airlines June 2010 Cover

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?

Ibex Dunes Sand Verbena Sunset 1

Ibex Dunes Sand Verbena Sunset 1

I want to thank California photographer Steve Sieren for camping with me last month in Joshua Tree National Park & for sharing his location advice about photographing desert wildflowers near the Ibex Dunes in Death Valley National Park. Following his advice, I drove 90 miles from where I set up my camp at Furnace Creek down to the southeastern corner of the park where the dunes are located. After a short 4wd excursion from the highway, I parked my truck and hiked for 45 minutes towards the dunes. I’ve been working with a lot of photo tour clients the past few months, so it was refreshing to experience such a fantastic location by myself. The sand verbena was in full bloom so I composed this image and waited for the exquisite light of sunset to capture the moment. If you want to photograph sand dunes without a ton of people & tracks on them, keep the Ibex Dunes in mind.

Mormon Point Wildflower Sunrise 2

Mormon Point Wildflower Sunrise 2

I prefer shooting wildflowers still and sharp rather than a blur in a maelstrom. After waiting patiently for the wind to stop blowing in Death Valley National Park, I was rewarded with this scene (on April 13th) of desert sunflowers and purple phacelia framing the Panamint Range at firstlight. Internet reports heralded an unusually lush bloom this year. This information proved accurate. Anyone who has the opportunity should head to Death Valley this week before the heat dries out the spectacular display.

Carrizo Plain Tidy Tips Sunrise 1

Carrizo Plain Tidy Tips Sunrise 1

I left Carrizo Plain National Monument on Saturday morning (April 17) after photographing this attractive display of tidy tips at sunrise near the south end of Soda Lake. It was my first visit to the area. Most of the wildflowers were already about 1 week past peak, but I still found this delightful 10’x10′ bloom that was worth photographing. The blowing wind made still images of the flowers impossible in the afternoon, but I woke up to calm conditions with gorgeous skies both mornings. The fleeting pink-purple cloud color lasted just a few moments. I used my Singh-Ray 3-stop Hard Graduated Neutral Density filter to balance the exposure of the sky above the wildflowers. I also created this image with a loaned Carl Zeiss 35mm f2 ZE lens. I’ll be writing a blog post about it and the 28mm f2 lens soon. I have appreciated using them so much that I do not plan to return them!

Antelope Valley Poppies 1

Antelope Valley Poppies 1

I just returned from 11 incredibly productive days shooting wildflowers in Southern California. I am exhausted after 20 hours of driving back to Seattle and only home for 3 days before leading my Olympic National Park Photography Tour later this week. I took this beautiful picture of the poppies in bloom last Thursday (15th) at around noon in the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve. Several locals told me that this years’ bloom is turning out to be one of the better ones that they have ever seen. I found the hills covered in poppies overwhelming to look at. I had a conversation with a volunteer who was wearing one of those bright orange worker visibility vests which seemed a dull orange in comparison to the brilliant poppies. Anyone visiting the Antelope Valley this week should still find the flowers at their peak.