Photographing the Columbia River Gorge

Photographing the Columbia River Gorge

Photographing the Columbia River Gorge  - A day Photographing the Columbia River Gorge with my client and now friend Chris Byrne from Chris Byrne Photography. This was a great day for a photography adventure.

This video was taken a couple season's ago prior to the recent Eagle Creek fire that devastated the Columbia River Gorge. Most all of the trails in the gorge are now closed for the foreseeable future. The last that I had heard, as of the writing of this blog post, Multnomah Falls trail will be closed for a year minimum while the area is stabilized and trails cleared.

In this video you will visit Latourell Falls, Shepperds Dell, Ponytail Falls (Upper Horsetail, Elowah Falls, Wahclella Falls and seen from a photographer's perspective.

Please keep an eye on my blog to hear of news of trail openings.  You can also see the work of one of my students, Candee Watson at this link. <--

Grizzly Giant – Carleton Watkins

Grizzly Giant - Carleton Watkins

Grizzly Giant - Carleton Watkins - I want to tell a story while It's on my mind. Something that is becoming more relevant in my life as time goes on. A story of a well intentioned photographer and a giant Sequoia called Grizzly Giant - Carleton Watkins.

I’ve always been a huge fan of the late 19th century photographer Carleton Watkins. His life was filled with hardships but his passion was the natural world and photography. I’ve found inspiration in his work and his life. He was also the first person to photograph the gorge.

Carleton Watkins was born in New York but moved to California in 1851 to find gold. He had never taken a photo before but was asked to tend to a shop for a daguerreotype photographer. He learned photography from his employer and by 1858 he had his own photography business. Most of his photos were commissioned work including one that took him to Mariposa.

In 1861 he made a trip to Yosemite that would change his career. Carleton used a huge view camera that used 18” x 22” glass plates. This allowed him to take much larger and more detailed views. When he returned from Yosemite he had made 30 huge glass plate photos and a hundred stereoview images. The photos were some of the very first photos that anyone had seen back east.

One of his photos was of the Grizzly Giant sequoia tree. His huge 18x22 camera captured the whole tree, which was the first time that it had ever been done. Between making a photo that had never been done before and his fame the photo went 19th century viral.

Watkin’s intentions were to photograph the trees to protect them but what happened was quite the opposite. More exposure led to more tourism and with more tourism came more commercial exploitation of the resources he intended to protect.

Today in the 21st century we’re going through a similar situation with photography. With digital cameras comes with more photographer taking photos of these amazingly beautiful natural places and with more people comes more wear, tear and damage from overuse or bad decisions.

I can’t help but think that I can understand how Carelton Watkins feels, especially in the aftermath of this senseless fire in the precious, fragile and sensitive Columbia River Gorge. I have spent over ten years innocently posting photos from the gorge not realizing how it could help cause such an influx of people both caring and uncaring.

It hurts me inside that my intentions would have some part, even in a small way, in causing harm to a place that I love so much.

Tedeschi Trucks Band Portland Oregon

Tedeschi Trucks Band

Tedeschi Trucks Band Portland Oregon November 3, 2017.

Low light, no flash, hand held photography is something that needs to be understood by any photographer of any genre or style. There are many times where one will need to get a shot but a flash or a tripod are not an option. A great way to practice this method is to take photos at a concert. If you can master photographing a concert, with bright lights and deep shadows, and quick movements you can skillfully photograph a wedding, for instance. The primary challenge is to get photos with a fast enough shutter speed to prevent blurring the subject.

The Grammy award winning Tedeschi Trucks Band came to Portland Oregon November 3rd to play to a sold out show at the Keller Auditorium. I was able to secure photo passes to the show which allowed me to move to the front to take photos of the band during their first three songs and to bring my pro level camera inside. Many concerts will not allow pro style cameras inside without a pass, but many others will so call ahead of time and ask what their policy for photos are. I’ve been able to bring my camera into smaller venues and clubs in the past. I’ve even used these techniques at informal live shows at backyard parties.

Before the Tedeschi Trucks Band took the stage the crowd was fully warmed up by the Hard Working Americans, an American rock “supergroup”. The Hard Working Americans consist of lead singer Todd Snider and bassist Dave Schools from the group Widespread Panic, Neal Casal of Chris Robinson Brotherhood and guitar and vocals, Chad Staehly of Great American Taxi on keyboards and Duane Trucks who was also a member of widespread Panic and brother of Derrick Trucks on drums. The Hard Working Americans put on a powerful show with songs that were a mix of classic hard rock, blues and traditional roots Americana.

While the Hard Working Americans were on stage I took that time to make sure that my camera settings were correct before the Tedeschi Trucks band hit the stage. I used my Nikon D810 and my 70-200mm zoom lens for most of the photos. I set the camera on Aperture Priority with the aperture set to f/2.8 and Auto ISO with the max ISO set to 6400 and turned my Vibration Reduction on the lens to ON. Aperture Priority means that I set the camera’s aperture manually and then the camera sets the shutter speed for me. It’s semi automatic. Next my decision to set the camera to Auto ISO was to allow the camera to lower the ISO if possible and to not move past a set maximum ISO, 6400 in this case. I set my aperture to f/2.8 to allow the most light into the camera, which allows a faster shutter speed. The one drawback to a wider aperture is a shallow depth of field but this can be used to a certain effect by isolating the subject from others in the background.

Although I used a single lens reflex camera many consumer level cameras, and even some mobile phones today, will allow one to make adjustments to the aperture and ISO settings for better low light photos.

I shot the first three songs and then went to my seat, sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the show.

Once the Tedeschi Trucks band hit the stage, led by guitar prodigy Derek Trucks and his extremely talented singer and guitarist wife Susan Tedeschi, it was obvious their following and fans in the Pacific Northwest. The crowd was enthusiastic as the band played through a dozen songs, a mix of original tunes as well as classic covers from Sailing On by Toot's and the Maytals and the country classic George Jones - Color of The Blues to I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free by Jazz pianist Billy Taylor and How Blue Can You Get? by the popular 1940's and 1950's African-American vocal group Johnny Moore's Three Blazers. A diverse array of music brought together and played in the iconic style that the power couple, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, have developed with their extremely talented lineup of musical masters backing them up. They finished the show with a three song encore the included the classic Leon Russell song - Song For You, the traditional class Will The Circle Be Unbroken and the original song Bound For Glory.

Being able to be successful at taking concert photos, for me, enhances my concert experience, especially when my shooting time is relegated to the first three songs. The limit allows me to let the photos go and enjoy the rest of the show knowing that I have great souvenirs from the evening.

Tedeschi Trucks Band Portland Oregon

Hard Working Americans

A Primer on Wedding Photography

Wedding Photography
Wedding Photography
Wedding Photography

With the Spring and Summer months behind us and the Fall and Winter months ahead many people start planning ahead for the next season’s warm weather activities. Many of these plans will revolve around weddings and wedding engagements. Because of that I’ve decided to try to provide some information that will help in deciding what photographer would be best for you from a photographer’s point of view. So here is A Primer on Wedding Photography.

First and foremost is the misconception that all that a photographer does is show up, take pictures, go home and send them in an email. That’s no different than thinking that all that the caterer does is show up and put some food on a table, serve it up and throw away the paper plates. That food needs to be carefully prepared, delivered carefully and served in a beautiful way and then the dishes need to be done. It’s a process as photography is a process. It’s certainly true that you can hire someone to come and take pictures inexpensively, you can also hire a caterer that will serve TV dinners.

When you hire a professional photographer you will expect more than snapshots of the wedding. A photographer can take hundreds or sometimes a thousand or more photos at a single event. Once back at the studio they will need to sort out all of the stinkers before starting the processing phase of the project. Out of focus, closed eyes, redundancy etc are all considered in this phase. This all takes time. After the initial sorting of the photos there are still many more left to consider whether they’re worthy of being a final photo.

Wedding Photography
Wedding Photography

If the photographer is using film, which some still do, they will have shooting time plus processing/developing time. If they shoot digital they will also have processing time. Modern professional photographers photograph their images in what’s called a RAW file which is considered a digital negative as it will need to be converted into a usable image format for printing or digital display. This RAW format gives the photographer the same form of adjustment ability that the film photographer does in a darkroom, primarily brightness, contrast and color adjustments such as white balance and saturation, plus a lot more. Because each photo is unique each will typically require separate attention from the rest. In other words each photo is typically processed in its own unique way.

In many cases a professional photographer will have a second or third photographer at the event. The second, or assistant photographer, is helpful in capturing fleeting moments that come and are gone in a flash. This assistant is also helpful in setting up any equipment such as lighting and backdrops as well as posing people, seeing overlooked details as well as sorting the photos after the event. Once sorted the primary photographer will process the final photos. A second shooter will also help with any video captures of the event. Today most professional wedding photographers provide video service as well.

A professional will also have a backup photographer who will cover for him if he becomes ill or is unable to photograph the wedding for unforeseen reasons. The last thing that you want is a sick photographer at the event or one that’s too ill to attend.

What do you get for your money?

All of this can add up when considering cost. Generally speaking one can expect to pay from $2500 - $10,000 for a true professional wedding photographer. Most photographers will have packages at different levels of pricing. The packages will typically provide a specified amount of final photos provided as well as other products such as specialty printing like canvas or acrylic prints, a hard bound portfolio album or a video of the event.

Wedding Photography
Wedding Photography

I know what you’re thinking. Holy macaroni, right? I know because I’m asked a lot about photographing weddings and have seen the look in a few faces when they start to think about their budget. First consider this. Will you remember or enjoy or remember the catered food in twenty years? Will you remember the DJ or the wedding planner or the venue manager? In my mind photography is the most important part of the wedding besides the vows. The photos will be with you for the rest of your lives and will help you to remember the details like the fabulous food and great music. Why compromise on what will truly be heirlooms for you and your family?

I also understand that a professional, in many cases, is impractical. In those cases my advice is to look for a photographer who is trying to make a mark for themselves or one who is trying to gain experience and a professional portfolio. Most aspiring photographers are not only willing to work for less they’re also usually enthusiastic. In this day and age, in many cases, one will know someone that’s either a friend or a family member that has a nice camera that would be willing to do this, sometimes for free. Ask to see their photos. You may be surprised.

And a final word concerning attendees with their own cameras or cell phone cameras who are tempted to snap photos during the ceremony or during the professional photographers time. Please consider that if there’s a hired photographer working please allow them the freedom to work. There have been many times where I’m unable to get the photo through or between guests trying to get the same photo. It also makes it difficult when eyes are straying while a group of people are all looking at different cameras all at once. Many weddings ask attendees to not take photos during the ceremony and to relax and enjoy the event. If the bride and groom ask or if there’s not a professional working photographer there some brides and grooms want their attendees to snap photos. They figure that 25 photographers working for free are better than one or two pros working for a wage. That’s a valid approach which I give as an option when I discuss a job with a potential client.

I hope that this helps those who are considering hiring a photographer for their wedding. And may I be the first to congratulate you.

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