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First shot of the day. Eh, it's ok.
Canon 5D Mark II with 70-200 f/2.8L IS II. 168mm, ISO 100, 30 sec. @ f/32.

David, Vlad, Tory, and I are in Newport, Oregon, for four days of ocean shooting. That’s the good news. The bad news is the weather: flat, overcast, skies and lots and lots of rain. We did manage to get out around noon today and this was my best shot from a slim set of possibilities.

It doesn’t reproduce particularly well on the blog but none of the highlights are blown out. Promise!

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Canon 5D Mark II, 70-200 2.8 IS II at 200mm. ISO 400, 1/125 sec. @ f/2.8.

(Just going by the numbers I’m guessing I handheld this one! Thank goodness for IS lenses.)

I saw this curvy tree from across the road and spent about 5 minutes walking back and forth trying to get the right position of it against the others in the background. The above interpretation is really just more explorations of Silver Efex Pro 2.0. As you might have guessed the new version adds support for selective colour. I’m liking how it looks in this image, but I definitely have more work to do.

Things I don’t like about the above version:

  1. The tree on the right is too bright and competes with the curved tree. It looks too far forward in the frame. That’s a relatively easy fix: just darken that side of the image to make it recede.
  2. The bottom left looks like it has a bright white ghost hiding in the trees. Again a simple burn will take care of that problem.
  3. The overall image seems to light to me. That was just my bad on the processing side and can be fixed with a few slider tweaks here and there.

Still, as a proof of concept I like where it’s going!

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Canon 5D Mark II, 70-200 2.8 IS II with 1.4x extender at 280mm. ISO 100, 1/60 sec @ f/22.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of going to Yosemite National Park for the very first time. Three other photo friends joined me for four days of shooting, eating, and playing Scattergories. We expected some snow, but didn’t count on getting two feet in two days. It made driving a bit of a challenge!

The above image is from sunrise on the 3rd day of our trip. I have to admit that for the entire trip I really wasn’t feeling in the groove. The scenery is amazing but it’s all been shot before. Many, many, many, times before. By people far more talented than me.

But after I got home and flipped through my photos I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t realize it at the time but my mind was in B&W mode the entire trip and my top images reflect that. I’m still not convinced I have any portfolio-worthy shots, but there are definitely fun images that make me smile.

The above photo is one of two treatments I’ve done on the same base image. All processing was done in Silver Efex Pro 2.0 as a way to try and learn the program. Don’t like the above version? Try this one on for size instead:

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I’m not entirely happy with either one but do see that potential is there. So… back into Silver Efex for a third attempt:

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Not bad, but man, do I ever need to clean my sensor!

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Kentmere Kentona Fineprint VC paper in Rollei Vintage Creative developer. 1:1:16 ratio, 24 sec. @ f/11 exposure, 13:01 development.

One of the best photography classes I’ve ever taken is Lith Printing with Gina White at Photographic Center Northwest. Lith printing is just plain fun. Yeah, you have to develop your prints for a LOT longer than a regular gelatin silver print, but when the shadows start to develop and things start happening fast it’s just crazy cool.

On Thursday night Gina invited me to crash her current lith class as a thank you for providing some lith developer at the last minute for the class to use. I jumped on the opportunity to try something I’ve only done once before: lith printing from a digital negative.

The image above should be familiar, as it’s the shot from First Beach last weekend. I have very little digital negative experience, so I gambled and printed two versions of the image on Pictorico OHP. One was a straight inverted image with no curve applied, and the second had a digital negative curve for some random Epson printer applied. It only took one test print in the darkroom to realize the one with the curve was the winner.

There’s definitely a different quality to a lith print when the starting image was a digital negative. I find the shadows are even more chunky than with a regular negative, and I suspect this has to do with the relative coarseness of the ink when compared to silver particles on film. The other big difference is how much light the OHP lets through: it’s a crazy amount. My exposure time was 24 seconds at f/11. And when you lith print you expose 4x over what you would for a regular gelatin silver print. CRAZY. And a huge advantage when doing lith, as it helps avoid 4 minute exposure! The development time is long enough already!

It’s a very different feeling image compared to the original, but I have to say I like it. I needed about another 20 minutes to really lock in the development time to bring out a few more of the shadow details, but it’s not bad at all for a first try.

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Canon 5D Mark II, 70-200 f/2.8L IS II. 88mm, ISO 100, 1 sec. @ f/11.

The last three times I’ve been to the Hoh rainforest I’ve taken my camera and David’s 14mm lens and nothing else. That’s resulted in exactly one worthwhile shot.

Today I tried something different and took my camera with the 70-200mm. I was going to bring my whole camera bag, but… it was raining. A lot. So I took an umbrella-ella-ella instead.

There really wasn’t much to shoot, so we resorted to standing around and playing with texture and patterns. We must have looked pretty silly! All three of us would stand somewhere, press our cameras up to our nose, and start waving them around in the air.

Each of us came away with at least one image that we really liked though. Mine is above. From a processing standpoint, the neat part about this image is that all the edits were done using Paddy for Lightroom and a BCF2000. Fun!

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Canon 5D Mark II, 70-200 f/2.8L IS II. 70mm, ISO 50, 2 sec. @ f/32.

We spent early Saturday morning shooting at Ruby Beach. In the rain, of course. We’ve been to Ruby twice before, and both times I wasn’t super impressed (although I did get a sweet self-portrait on the first visit).

This time was different.

As soon as we got to the beach I noticed an odd part of sand where wave water washed back out to the ocean in an arc. I immediately saw a composition with the arc in a relatively wide crop. I set up my tripod and fired away. At one point a leaf made a guest appearance on the left, and I knew I had my image. I managed to squeeze off four shots before a wave came in and the leaf was gone.

I didn’t even have to get back to the room to know I had my image for the day. The rest of the beach shooting was just absent-minded screwing around.

The trouble with this image is that it’s completely pointless to view it on a computer monitor. The leaf is actually green, but you can’t really tell that. There’s film grain across all the smooth areas that brings a lovely texture to the image, but you can’t really see that either. It’s a shot that just demands to be printed, and I’ll do so as soon as I get home.

The only question is: which paper should I use?

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Canon 5D Mark II, 70-200 f/2.8L IS II. 200mm, ISO 3200, 1/60 sec. @ f/2.8.

Remember how I said yesterday the weather was rainy and windy, and that was the forecast good day for the trip? The forecast was right. Today was worse.

When it rains, where do you go? The rainforest of course!

Every time we’ve gone to the Hoh Rainforest I’ve always found the best shooting to be outside the actual park, on the right side of the road at a nice sweeping curve. The left is a field, which isn’t interesting. But the forest on the right is awesome, and in the span of about 1/4 mile presents three very different looks at a rainforest.

Today when we were driving up the road in the rain I was staring blankly out the window when I saw a vine maple peeking out of the forest. Brakes were slammed, David whipped off a k-turn, and I was out of the car standing in the rain. No time for rain hoods, tripods, etc. Crank the ISO, turn on the lens stabilization, and hope for the best. The light was perfect, and I didn’t want to lose it. The result is above.

The challenge of shooting in the Hoh is how incredibly messy the underbrush is. There’s crap everywhere and getting a shot where things stand out is extremely hard. Rather than fight the mess I figured I’d celebrate it, and the light catching off the vine maple makes it stand out just enough from the rest of the forest clutter.

This isn’t my favourite image from the trip, and it still needs some processing work, but it’s definitely one I’m proud of.

(By the way, this image was pre-visualized in B&W. There’s no way it would look good in colour, and post-processing proved it. The colour image is ugly!)

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Canon 5D Mark II, 17-40 f/4L. 34mm, ISO 100, 4.0 sec. @ f/6.3.

Another season, another trip to the Washington Coast with Vlad and David. This trip is timed to match low tide with sunrise and sunset. That was the smart part. Of course, we can’t control the weather.

It’s raining. And windy. And today’s forecast was the good day.

Even so we’ve managed to make two highly successful stops. The first was to the Hoh Rainforest, mostly as a scouting trip while we waited for our hotel rooms to get ready. The second was to First Beach for “sunset” (I assume there was one, the clouds completely covered the sky so it’s not like we could actually see it). When we got out of the car I actually said to Dave and Vlad that I was just going to take my point-and-shoot and leave my gear in the car.

They looked at me like I was an idiot.

I took my camera bag.

Anyway, we walked down the beach and it sucked. I couldn’t understand why on earth we were at the stupid place. There were pebbles on the beach and waves. YAWN. And we were walking so far from the car! David just kept grinning and walking.

Then we got to the end of the beach, and I understood. The next 33 minutes was a haze of composing and shooting. I came away with at least three shots that I just love, one of which is shown above.

Lesson learned: always take your camera bag.

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Canon 5D Mark II, 70-200 2.8 IS with 1.4x extender. 280mm, ISO 100, 1/30 sec. @ f/8.0.

Today is day six of seven on the trip and it’s the first time I pulled my camera out of my bag.

This hasn’t been much of a photography trip. I brought all my gear with me, but I knew going in that the trip would primarily be about family. Oddly, I haven’t minded, as the scenery (while quite beautiful) just isn’t my cup of tea. The mountains around are impressive, but they don’t have much snow and the trees are just trees. Lakes everywhere, but again, they’re just lakes. I could take photos, but they’d be like everyone else’s photos.

Today, however, was different. We were driving from Canmore, AB to Creston, BC, and went through a forest that burned about two decades ago. Lots and lots of dead trees everywhere looked quite interesting. Even better, there were purple wildflowers everywhere. We looked for a place to pull off, and as luck would have it we pulled into the Marble Canyon parking lot with a few short trails around the river. Wow.

Amusingly, while it was the interplay of the wildflowers and dead trees that made me stop for photos, the ones I liked best were just trees.

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Canon 5D Mark II, 70-200 f/2.8 IS II. 200mm, ISO 100, 1/500 sec. @ f/2.8. 

As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry I was pretty worried about going to eastern Washington. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to come up with a unique view of the classic rolling hills of the Palouse region. One way we tried to get a different perspective on things was to rent a plane and take to the air.

The flight far exceeded my expectations. Not only was our pilot really nice, he did a great job positioning the plane to help us get the shots we wanted. He didn’t even mind spending 10 minutes circling two tractors at work while we shot them from various angles. The result was the above shot, one of my favourites from the trip.

We did learn a few valuable lessons regarding shooting from the air:

  1. Don’t be shy about asking the pilot to move the plane around so you can get your shot. You’re paying for the plane rental, so you control where you go (within ATC limits, of course!)
  2. Make sure you know well in advance the quality of the windows on the plane you’ll be renting. In our case the only window that opened was the passenger’s window, and it was only a tiny port. Vlad and David had to shoot through very scratched plexiglass (and still wound up with some impressive shots).

It was great fun though and we will definitely do it again next year!

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