— Dane Creek

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Trips

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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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Canon 5D Mark II, 70-200 f/2.8 IS II. 200mm, ISO 100, 1/200 sec. @ f/4.5.

We were driving down a back road somewhere around Colfax, WA, when I saw a hill. I can’t remember if we were driving at the time, or if we’d stopped to shoot some of the fields, but it didn’t matter. As soon as I saw the hill I smiled and took a picture.

What’s so special about the hill? Well, it reminded me of this shot from the Lemaire Channel in Antacrtica that I took in January 2009:

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Canon 5D Mark II, 70-200 f/2.8 IS. 95mm, ISO 400, 1/500 sec. @ f/7.1.

I’m not quite sure what it is about that shape but I see it everywhere. In fact, I shot a third copy of it while we were in the air flying over Steptoe Butte. I just didn’t realize it until I was back in the motel room doing image review.

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Canon 5D Mark II, 70-200 f/2.8 IS II. 95mm, ISO 125, 1/500 sec. @ f/2.8.

Perhaps I should print all three of them and hang them on a wall together!

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Canon 5D Mark II, 70-200 2.8 IS II @ 200mm. ISO 100, 0.8 sec. @ f/32.

Whenever I go on a photo trip I find it takes me a decent period of time to get into the groove of shooting. This is especially true when it’s been a while since I picked up the camera.

Lately I’ve been trying to jumpstart the creative process by literally messing around with the camera early in the trip. The photos I take are never meant to be anything special. I’m just shooting to try and get my head back into photography.

On the trip to Eastern Washington this weekend we stopped at Denny Creek. David, Teresa, and I did some long exposure handheld shooting. It was all about coming up with interesting patterns and textures. No stress about getting perfect composition in camera. No worries about nailing the exposure. Just carefree shooting for the fun of it.

The whole trip to Eastern Washington was hugely successful (as you’ll see in a series of upcoming blog entries). I like to think it was because we stopped for some mindless fun at a creek.

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This Friday I’m headed to the Palouse region of Eastern Washington to take some photos of fields. I’m very excited and incredibly apprehensive.

I’m excited because I grew up in central Canada, where there are plenty of wheat, Canola, and flax fields around. I have a fondness in my heart for wide, flat, images, and really miss some of the summer sunsets from back home. Unfortunately I moved away long before I developed a serious interest in photography, so my field shots have generally been limited to winter trips for the hoildays. The Palouse region will finally give me a chance to do some serious farm photography.

I’m apprehensive because the region is a destination for photographers and everyone comes back with the same kind of shot. As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, it’s easy to come back with tulip shots from this part of the state. I’m terrified that I’m going to arrive, take a bunch of really pretty shots, but have none that stand out from the pack.

What am I going to do about it?

Well, for starters, I’m trying to convince myself that I get like this before every trip and that I’m bound to come back with one special image.

I’m also making a focused effort to avoid the cliche shots of rolling fields. I’m going flying with a private pilot to try and get some aerial shots for variation. I’m going to try some extreeeeeemly wide and thin panoramas. And I’ll likely do a lot of black and white work.

We’ll see what happens!

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Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200 2.8 IS + 1.4x extender @ 125mm. ISO 100, 1/500 sec @ f/5.6.

The above shot is from my trip to Antarctica back in January of 2009. I never planned to shoot much wildlife when I was there, and the shots I did take of penguins were halfhearted attempts just so I had a few to show people when I got back.

When we were on Petermann Island I forced myself to take a few minutes to photograph penguins. At one spot I noticed a curving glacier in the background with penguins and rocks in the foreground. I shot a few photos, and then back on the boat found the above image. I was thrilled. Between the glacier, the rocks, and the cute little penguins, I thought I had a spectacular image.

Then I showed it to Seth Resnick. His immediate comment? “Why the %(*! is that penguin sleeping?”

Sigh.

He’s right, and he taught me a valuable lesson. When you come upon an interesting composition it’s useful to just sit and wait for a while. Just because it looks nice now doesn’t mean that’s the most awesome you can capture at that location. If I had waited another 5 minutes there was a good chance the sleeping penguin would have woken up and reached his beak to the sky. Then I would have had an awesome photograph.

This doesn’t just apply to animals, by the way. If you are shooting landscapes pay close attention to the clouds. Very often a 10-15 minute wait means the difference between clouds that are just there vs. clouds that add awesome movement and energy to the image.

The lesson has stuck with me over the last year. It’s a tough one for me to apply, since my natural inclination is to “go go go” and not really stop and take in the overall scene. I’m getting better at it though!

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