Midnight Photoshoot by Candlelight

Will at Stonehenge

I received an inquiry late last Summer from Billy Kyle the singer from the Portland Oregon Metal band Will telling me that they had seen a Milky Way photo that I had taken from the Stonehenge replica in the Columbia River Gorge near Maryhill Washington and was wondering if I could photograph their band at night there. I had a full schedule of workshops but had a day after a videography job in the Eastern Oregon town of Halfway when I was able to do it so we set a date to meet.

Will at Stonehenge
Will at Stonehenge

I had arrived home the day before from eastern Oregon, unloaded my gear and repacked my gear for the photo session before getting some rest and loading back up to head out. I arrived and Billy Kyle and the other band members were there. They had a few props and some excellent red capes that were perfect for the dark medieval theme that we had planned for the shoot. Something reminiscent of an ancient Pict or Druid ceremony.

Will at Stonehenge
Will at Stonehenge

Prior to the photoshoot I had planned on throwing some soft light onto them from some remote flashes. I did a few test shots with the gear that I had brought but the band had brought some candles along with them. We decided to take some shots lit just with the candles, and they nailed the look that we were hoping for. Not only were the candles a part of the shot but their light was the right temperature and gave the scene the right organic feel that helped to make this seem ancient. The architecture of the Stonehenge replica in the dim light gave it a stone castle feel.

Will at Stonehenge
Will at Stonehenge

The only challenge was trying to get quick enough exposures without underexposing the shot. Even at some fairly high ISO's these were dim, but with some help from the steady nerves of the band we came away with some images that we were all proud of.

Will at Stonehenge
Will at Stonehenge

Will has a new album coming out. They plan on using a couple of these shots for the artwork. The rest they'll use to promote the band as well as their music. I couldn't have worked with a nicer, more professional group of musicians. They were all enthusiastic even in the cold of the night.

If you like dark metal music, please go check out Will. https://vvill.bandcamp.com/releases

The Weeping Walls Autumn Color

Weeping Walls Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

This is an off trail location on Eagle Creek in the Columbia River Gorge near the little town of Cascade Locks, Oregon. This area was affected severely by 2017's Eagle Creek Fire. I feel fortunate to have been able to photograph many of the areas that are now closed to hiking.

Although the Eagle Creek Trail is still closed at the time that I write that, the US Forest Service hopes to have the trail reopened soon.

Although Springtime workshops will be delayed Autumn workshops are still a go. Contact me for more information.

6 Things a Photographer Can Do While Social Distancing

Paul Processing

As I write this the whole world is dealing with and addressing a worldwide pandemic called Coronavirus - COVID-19. This is a serious situation that we all have the ability to affect. Social distancing and self isolating has become a part of our lives. Those who are able to work from home are doing just that.

As photographers we can take this time to catch up with certain chores that are usually left for more opportune times. If you find yourself with some time on your hands during this odd time I have a few suggestions for you to consider that will help you in the long run. Let's just call them chores - Necessary chores that are easily put off for later. These really don't have to be unenjoyable, especially if there's really no rush.

So here you go. 6 Things a Photographer Can Do While Social Distancing.

Clean your camera and sensor - Dust bunnies sound cute and cuddly, but they're certainly no friend to the photographer. Most modern cameras have a self cleaning feature that one can use for most common dust specks, but in time there will eventually accumulate more stubborn particles that will need to be dealt with with a direct cleaning of the surface of the sensor.

Sensor cleaning sounds scary. We've all been warned how we could ruin our sensor if we do it wrong, or have heard horror stories about how a friend ruined their camera for good trying to clean their sensor. And, in fact, the earlier methods of sensor cleaning could cause scratches if an abrasive dust particle was dragged across the surface of the sensor. I was scared for years to even try it until one day I decided to take an older camera that I had replaced with an upgraded body and attempt to clean the sensor. This sensor was terrible.

I had done some research into the different methods and kits available for one to clean their own sensor. I decided upon one that had a sticky pad that you would dab onto the surface of the sensor. It worked great and at this time it's the type of sensor cleaner that I would recommend.

But if you still are unable to build up the nerve to try this yourself you can still take some time to clean your camera body and lenses. Once this situation is resolved and we're all able to mix and mingle again, take your camera body to a camera shop and let them handle the sensor. It doesn't usually cost a lot.

Clean your lenses. Purchase some good lens cleaner spray and some soft cloths and take some time to carefully clean the front and back elements (glass part) of your lenses. While you're at it pull out your filters and do the same to them.

Clean and adjust your tripod. We don't think alot about our tripod until it breaks or quits working. And when it does it's usually because we have neglected it. We've allowed the parts and pieces to corrode or to become out of adjustment.

Most all tripods have some sort of metal parts, be it a screw or the whole thing. Even carbon fiber tripods can have places where corrosive or abrasive material can hide. Saltwater and sand is the worst and it's recommended that you clean your tripod completely as soon as possible after getting it wet with saltwater. Aluminum can corrode quickly and make disassembly difficult. Rinse your tripod with fresh water right away and disassemble and clean it as soon as you can.

Disassembling your tripod can be a bit intimidating at first but once you do it once you'll remember the next time. Especially if you do it with a certain amount of frequency. If you're unsure of your ability to reassemble it, take photos as you disassemble it so that you have some reference when you put it back together again. You can do one leg at a time so that you have the others to reference.

Once it's apart wash and dry the pieces in fresh soapy water and then rinse and dry completely. Never use oil or WD-40 on your tripod as it will attract and adhere dirt particles which will hinder operation and wear the tripod out prematurely.

Calibrate your monitor. I've heard so many people complain that their photos, when viewed on a different computer or their phone, don't look the same as they did when they processed it on their computer. Sometimes the photo is darker or brighter than it looked or that the colors aren't right. There are times when someone is printing their photo and it comes back from the printer looking completely wrong.

Computer monitors need to be calibrated every so often. It's not a difficult chore to do but you will need to invest in a monitor calibration device. It's a good investment and once you buy one you will own it and use it forever. I use a Spyder 5 Pro but most all are good.

Organize and backup files. It's easy to come in from a trip out in the field and download all of your photos and then forget about them until you have time to process one or two. They can all add up and then left unattended, including backing them up. Redundancy isn't just a fun word to say, it's something that's important o a photographer when it comes to keeping their work secure for the future. Hard drives and memory cards fail. Accidents happen.

If you're anything like me you will have ten times more unprocessed files than you will keepers. Create some hard drive space. Thin them out and backup the keepers. In addition to any hard drive backups consider uploading the master files for any photos that you process and finish to some cloud space. Most of us have some free space available to us from our cell phone providers, for instance. Secure some cloud space and create a folder in a file that contains the raw file, the finished processed file in a high resolution/non-lossy format such as PSD or TIFF and even your formatted jpegs for sharing on social media etc. If you do that you won't need to worry about hours of uploading all of your files, good or bad, and you will have a secure copy of your finished photos, the most important ones.

Clean cards/charge batteries. Don't wait until the night before a shoot to clean your cards and check your battery charge. If you have multiple batteries consider getting some small round sticky tags to stick onto the batteries that are charged so that you don't have to put the battery in the camera to check the charge. Take it off of the charger, tag it on the end. Once you use the battery take the sticker off of the end of the battery and stick it on the side so you know that it's been used and needs to be charged once you get back home.

Learn something new. What a great time to sit down in front of YouTube and pull up a few processing videos. YouTube can be a good place to learn something new or to completely run in the other direction, but you have the power to know if someone there aligns with your vision or not. Whether they have value in their video that you can use to make your photos better.

We have finally come to a place in photography where people understand that digital photos can be shot in a format that allows the photographer to decide how the finished photos will look. They are understanding that many of the processes are similar to what was done back in film days in the darkroom by artistic photographers like Ansel Adams. Talented photographers are usually also expected to be talented in how they process their photos in Lightroom, Photoshop or both. Find some videos that will push your understanding of Lightroom or Photoshop, or both.

Also, in this day and age, there are so many other options for photographers than Lightroom or Photoshop. Give one of them a try, you may like it better. Process some of your photos using the help of a tutorial video using software such as one of my favorite alternatives to Adobe, On1. Give some new software a try. You might like it. You can usually download and install a program for free for 30 days to try it out.

These are all ideas for things to do, but in reality they're all things that we are doing or should be doing anyway. Zombie apocalypse or not. This is just as short list of six things. I'm sure that you'll discover more things that you've not had time to do because you had too much time away from your desk. I didn't mention cleaning out Clif Bar wrappers from your backpack. Now's the time. Make social distancing work in your favor. Then once it's over you'll be raring to go. Your camera and sensor will be clean, your tripod will be smooth and functioning properly, your monitor will be calibrated, your files will be organized and backed up, your cards will be clean and your batteries will be charged. And furthermore you'll be smarter than you were before because you've taken the time to learn something new in your down time.

Now. Tell me how bored you are.

Intimate Landscape Scenes

Intimate Landscapes

Landscape photography has a reputation for requiring travel to epic corners of the earth to bring back photos of places that are rarely seen by most people. Or places that we’ve seen in a National Geographic magazine or a TV documentary. But from my point of view landscape photography as an art should include the photographer’s personal creative touch. It should be separate from documentary photography or marketing photos that are seen in magazines. It shouldn’t always need to depend on a location to send a message. I think that a beautiful artistic landscape photo can be taken along most any roadway if we learn how to read the details of the landscape. 

A photographer can consider that landscape photography could be reduced to two basic types, grand landscapes and intimate landscapes. A grand landscape typically is a territorial view, or one where there’s a view off into the distance that includes a lot within its frame, whereas an intimate landscape is typically one that’s a smaller part of a larger scene. A grand landscape is more apt to include a recognizable location and is more likely to be location dependent and in a lot of cases weather dependent, such as if it’s raining and the clouds are obscuring the view. In many cases the composition of such a grand landscape is fairly basic and simple to find. I feel that a landscape photographer really spreads their wings when they embrace intimate landscapes. The photographer isn’t necessarily looking at an obvious photo. Many times it requires imagination and a little time analyzing the scene to be able to look past the obvious to recognize what is typically overlooked. Be creative in choosing your subjects and be creative in how you compose and photograph them. 

Intimate landscapes typically include a small part of or a detail within a grander scene such as a small segment of a creek instead of the whole forest or maybe a section of the scene that is affected by some atmospheric conditions, think fog and sunlight as it filters through the forest, or maybe sunlight illuminating a curtain of moss that is draped across the limbs of the trees. I also look for designs and patterns within the scene, such as patterns or colors on rocks. An intimate landscape can include a part of the scene that, when extracted from the larger view and seen separate from the context of the larger scene, stands alone and on its own merits. Put the wide-angle lens away and use your zoom lens. Get closer to the scene.

It’s said, in painting as well as photography, that it’s not what’s included within the frame but what’s excluded that strengthens a composition. And this is very true in simplifying complex or, at first glance, generally unappealing scenery. Analyzing a scene and trying to find an interesting composition for a photo allows us to look deeper into the scene and to recognize what more that it has to offer. The first glance at a scene is like looking at a book’s cover. Looking further into a scene is like reading the book.

I tell my students that as artists we shouldn’t take the scenery at its first impression. In most cases we will take all it has to offer all at once. Instead take some time to stop and analyze the components of the scene and separate these smaller scenes and abstracts. Be creative and I’m confident that you will be able to stop along most any side road and find a photograph within sight of your car. No longer will a destination be a requirement to make a beautiful photo. You will be able to make a beautiful photo in between your forays to far off lands. Mastering composition of intimate scenes will also help to strengthen the compositions of your grand landscapes. 

Repairing Severe Water Spots In a Waterfall in Photoshop

Repairing Water Spots

I was perusing my archives the other day and came across this gem. It's one that I took at Elowah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. I remember that it was a rainy day and I was having a hard time keeping the rain spots from my lens.

I'm sure that I decided not to process this shot because I didn't have the tooks or the skill to remove them in a way that wouldn't show. I looked at this photo and decided to try a more creative approach to repairing the damage the the raindrops had caused. I looked hard at the other areas inthe photo and was unable to find any more raindrops in the image. I think that I lucked out.

I decided that I would process the shot and the first thing that I did was to address the waterfall by creating a copy of the photo and applying a motion blur to iut and them ,asking that area into the photo again. It worked quite well.

This video will also help those who have wondered how layering and masking works.

Go check out the video and let me know if this was any help to you. Repairing Severe Water Spots In a Waterfall in Photoshop.

Multnomah Falls Emerging From The Veil

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls through the Columbia River Gorge mist

Multnomah Falls is more than iconic and easily recognized by most anyone who sees it. Even if they don't know the name, there's a good chance that they've at least seen the waterfalls in a painting or a photo before.

I find that the one best variable in determining how beautiful the waterfall is on a particular day is the weather. And in the case of Multnomah Falls, sometimes bad weather is good. On this particular day the waterfall was emerging from a low layer of clouds and everything was lush and wet and green. The rain had dominated that day but it certainly didn't hinder our photography.

Nikon D810 - 28mm - f/14 - 3 sec - ISO 64 - CP filter

Fantasy Forest

Fantasy Forest

A day in the Mt Hood National Forest

Here's my first photo of 2020… and the first photo after my stroke, taken not far from where I live.

It's kinda funny but while I was going through the stroke I was thinking of potential consequences from the damage that the stroke could cause and if I would still be able to go out and stand in a creek and take a photo. I'm serious. I wasn't afraid of dying. I was afraid of living but without photography. Thankfully I've been blessed to be able to go back to what I love with, perhaps, a new and fresh purpose.

This is a photo of a creek in the Mount Hood National Forest. The moss is in its Winter color and the leaves have left the trees, but the forest is no less beautiful than it is any other time of the year.

I had an exceptional this day with my good friend Chris Byrne and his friend Bronwyn. I needed this day so bad. I was back in my realm doing what I'm meant to do. I was so happy. Thank you Chris. I appreciate all that you do for me.

Christmas Valley Oregon

Christmas Valley Oregon

Christmas Valley Oregon - I love the diversity of landscape in Oregon. We have most everything that a landscape photographer could want to photograph. Oregon has a pretty awesome ocean coastline abutted against forested mountains and hills, valleys, glacial peaked mountains, sage and juniper high desert plains, low elevation desert mud playas and a canyon that’s deeper than the Grand Canyon – Hells Canyon on the Idaho border. We also have windswept sand dunes, not just along the coastline, but right in the center of the state in Central Oregon.

Christmas Valley Sand Dunes in Central Oregon are some of the remnants of the catastrophic volcanic explosion of Mount Mazama just 7000 years ago that blew 1600 meters (almost a mile in elevation) of the 12,000 foot (3700 meter) mountain completely off, creating a caldera that contains the iconic 1,943 foot (592 meter) deep Crater Lake,  that we know today. The Christmas Valley sand is composed of ash and pumice that was ejected during the eruption. Although the dunes are majestic on their own, they’re only a small part of the evidence of an event that changed what we know as Oregon forever, and greatly affected the people who lived there.

What's thought provoking to me is the fact that humans were in the area and were witness to this event. Incredibly preserved reed sandals have been unearthed in a cave near the little town of Fort Rock not far from Christmas Valley that have been dated from 9000 to 13000 years old. Life for the native Klamath people in the area changed forever after the massive eruption. Their legends tell of an angry battle between Llao, their "Chief of the Below World" who inhabited Mount Mazama (Giiwas in the Native American Klamath language), and his rival Skell, their "Chief of the Above World". Llao fell in love with a beautiful Klamath maiden but she refused his offer of immortality if she would become his wife. This angered Llao and he rained rocks and fire down from the sky onto the people below. During the battle Skell tried to protect the people from above while standing atop Mount Shasta. The battle ended when Skell was able to force Llao back into the mountain. All of this commotion formed the crater on Mount Mazama which filled with torrential rains that followed the battle.

The mountain became sacred ground to the natives and the people were forbidden from going there. Some shaman forbade them from looking in the direction of the mountain. 7000 years ago, all of this would make perfect sense. The human catastrophe and the pure terror that they witnessed must have been something that we as modern humans can hardly understand.

Today we can still witness the effects of the massive geological battle that forms so much of the landscapes that we photograph. I feel that understanding the science as well as the legend of these areas works to enhance our appreciation for them and allows us to better translate their meaning and message through our photos.

The winds in Central Oregon blow with some regularity in this area and create dunes as well as ripples in the sand. The patterns that they create are perfect for a photographic foreground. Unique conditions such as a vivid sunrise or sunset can complete a breathtaking scene.

Christmas Lake, Christmas Valley and nearby Peter's Sink and Peter's Creek were named for pioneer stockman Peter Christman, who grazed his cattle there and had a house at Silver Lake, 18 miles (29 km) to the southwest. The name "Christmas" was an early corruption of the name Christman that became entrenched in the vernacular by 1900.

The Christmas Valley Sand Dunes are administered by the Bureau of Land Management and are easily accessible and are designated as a recreational area for campers and wanderers as well as OHV use. Camping areas are available for extended camping stays. If you find yourself wandering in Central Oregon exploring our amazing public lands a trip to Christmas Valley should be on your list of places to stop and experience. 

Why Do We Need Tripods?

Why do We Need Tripods

There’s no other piece of equipment that a photographer possesses that elevates the perception of skill and professionalism than a tripod. Walk down a pathway or a trail with just a camera and you’ll blend in, but put it on a tripod and walk down the trail and you’ll be noticed and recognized as someone who must obviously be taking more than snapshots.

A tripod is usually the first accessory that photographers will acquire after they buy their first fancy camera, but I have found that it’s also the most misunderstood. A tripod doesn’t elevate a photographer’s skill or professional ability. Sometimes it’s the photographer without a tripod that knows when and how to use one, but understanding your tripod (as with any other tool that you use) will certainly allow you to elevate the quality of certain photos.

The purpose of a tripod can be to steady the camera to prevent it from shaking during extended shutter speeds that are longer than is practical by hand, such as for smooth water photographs of creeks and waterfalls. It can also be used to simply allow for a brighter exposure or to give the photographer a platform to rest their camera on while they compose their photos. You can maintain the same position while you wait for conditions to change for instance. The most practical purpose is that it’s used when the shutter speed isn’t fast enough to hold the camera by hand for the photo that you are trying to make. 

The times where your tripod is indispensable is when light is dim and the shutter speed needs to be extended, but the average photographer isn’t taking photos during this time. Daytime lighting can typically allow photographers to have a shutter speed that’s fast enough to eliminate motion blur for a clear and focused photo while handheld. Making sure that you have a shutter speed that’s quick enough is usually nothing more than choosing the proper ISO or aperture setting, as both can allow increased exposure without extending the shutter speed.

Taking photos without a tripod can be liberating, especially while hiking. A tripod can be cumbersome, heavy and usually unnecessary. Using a tripod can also limit creativity in composing a shot. You must fiddle around with the tripod to get it positioned properly to get the photo, when if you didn’t have it you can simply come up to the scene, focus and frame the shot and snap it. A photographer is typically more apt to wander around and find different compositions if not tethered to a planted tripod.

A tripod comes in handiest to landscape photographers as they tend to take their time composing, focusing, adjusting and reshooting the scene. In that case it’s handy to set up on the tripod and take the time to make sure that everything is perfect. It’s also used to maintain a composition while conditions change. It’s most indispensable to a landscape photographer than most other genres of photography. In the case where there’s a lot of moving from one shot to the next, such as candid photos during an event, being able to react quickly prohibits the use of one.

Tripods can come in varied levels of quality, sizes and types and made, basically, from two kinds of material – aluminum or carbon fiber. Weight is a very important consideration, especially while travelling, hiking or in cases where the tripod is carried throughout the day, but weight saving should never compromise stability. Make sure that it’s sturdy enough for the camera that you use and the conditions that you plan to use it in. Remember that we use tripods to steady our cameras, so having a steady tripod is a must.

When choosing a tripod, I’ve found that paying a bit more for one that is of a higher quality, like most things in life, will pay dividends in time. When I first started in photography I used cheap tripods, but after having a few break, typically with no way to repair them, usually at the most inopportune times, or being frustrated by unstable versions that would move in the slightest breeze, I decided to save my money and buy a sturdy carbon fiber tripod that will last a lifetime. If I had done so in the beginning it would have eventually paid for itself.

No tripod is complete without an accessory that attaches the camera called a head. The more inexpensive versions may have a head that is attached permanently, but most tripods will need a separate head. There are typically two types that are most commonly used – pan-tilt or ball head. My experience is that a ball head is the most versatile, reliable and most simple to use. A ball head has a spherical joint that can be easily positioned in many ways and then locked down with a single knob. A pan-tilt head has two levers that are used to adjust the tilt, elevation and direction separately. As with the tripod legs, buying a sturdy head will save you a lot of frustration and will last longer.

Carbon fiber or aluminum? Carbon fiber is always preferred, but carbon fiber tripods are usually more expensive.. Carbon fiber is lighter and will not oxidize or rust. There have been many times where I’ve been in creeks or lakes or even worse, in the surf at the ocean with my old aluminum tripods where I hadn’t gotten around to cleaning it before it started to seize up due to the corrosive nature of saltwater. Saltwater is terrible for aluminum. Carbon fiber and plastic parts will not corrode and will give you more time to get around to rinsing or cleaning your tripod. Keeping your tripod clean is an absolute must, so learn how to disassemble it and reassemble it.

I hope that this helps to better understand your tripod and how and why it’s used. My advice is to learn your camera and the basic principles of photography to allow you to know when a tripod is needed and when it’s not. As with any tool, using your tripod properly will enhance not only your photography but your experience of creating photos.

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Goose Island Lookout at Glacier National Park Montana

Goose Island Lookout in Glacier National Park Montana

It was a windy and stormy day at Goose Island Lookout in Glacier National Park Montana with an incredible display of storm clouds in the sky that mirrored the majestic mountains above them when I took this photograph.

I took this photo with my Nikon D810 - 24mm - 1/25 sec - f/14 - ISO 64

Processing - Adobe Lightroom Raw conversion finished in Adobe Photoshop.

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