Saturday, April 6, 2013

Backyard Flowers

Here are some flowers from my backyard in California. I missed the pretty blossoming trees and the roses aren't in full bloom yet, but they're still pretty...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

As Promised...

"Where have i been?" you ask. Where have i NOT been. Wait for it... Yep, here's my oft-repeated quote: "i know it's been a while since my last post, BUT..." Seriously, i have been everywhere but home, it seems, these past few weeks. Here's a brief recap...
  • May 14-16 - Work (keep in mind, this means leaving the house at 5:40am and getting home, after working out, at 9:40pm
  • May 17 - depart for Portland for a wedding shoot
  • May 17-21 - in Portland for wedding
  • May 21 - Go straight from airport to work
  • May 21-24 - Work
  • May 24 - Go straight from work to airport
  • May 25-June 4 - Alaska to visit Jen and kids (and Denali!)
  • June 4 - Go straight from airport to work (again)
  • June 4-5 - Work
  • June 6 - Jen & kids return home, unpack from Alaska, pack for next trip
  • June 7 - depart for Big Bear Lake reunion with my dad and sisters
  • June 7-14 - Big Bear Lake reunion in California
  • June 15-17 - Work
  • June 18-20 - Visit Mom & Sam (& Max) up in Idaho Falls
  • June 21 - Afternoon at Dad's in Eagle Mountain for Father's Day/Bday dinner
  • June 22 - Jen & kids accompany Mom to visit sister in Vegas
  • June 22-24 - Work Phew! Tired yet? I sure am! But hopefully my blog absence is a little more justified now (although no more cared about). But lest another month go by without a post, i thought i would deliver on my promise to show the difference between a polarized and a non-polarized image. And of course i wanted to make an excuse for my lack of posts (again). But i'm home now (for a little bit) and once i finish the wedding pictures i'm currently working on for Scott and Christi (yes, i am working on them) i'll try and get some more blog posts up.

    This first picture was taken WITHOUT a polarizer on the lens. Well, actually, the polarizer WAS on the lens, but it was rotated to eliminate it's effect. Notice how there's very little color saturation and notice how strong the reflection is in the pond. When the polarizer is rotated like this, it allows and possibly slightly increases reflections.

    And here's the picture with the polarizer ON and rotated to eliminate/reduce the reflections. Seriously, that's all that was done, i didn't go in on the computer afterwards and increase the color saturation. The only difference between these two pictures is one had the polarizing filter rotated to permit/increase reflections, and the other rotated to eliminate/decrease reflections. And since the polarizer reduces the amount of light passing through, the polarized image is also one or two-thirds stops brighter. I know, boring, but now you know (and still don't care). Hopefully i'll have more for you later!
  • Sunday, May 30, 2010

    Fun (Wet) Times in (Very Wet) (and Cold) Vancouver

    While i was naturally very excited to go to Vancouver to shoot Scott & Christi's bridals and wedding i was also very excited to see my aunt and uncle (and my cousin & her baby), and to go HIKE to some beautiful waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge!
    i managed to talk my aunt into hiking out to Ramona Falls out by Mt. Hood. I was very encouraged (and a little surprised) to see blue skies (between all the clouds, naturally) when i landed in Vancouver. We stopped by the house, dropped off my bags, and then headed out towards the trailhead which was about an hour away.
    Our enthusiasm begin to shrink just a little as we got closer to the mountain and the skies got darker and darker. By the time we were half way the rain was coming down pretty hard. We stopped at a ranger station to get a Forest Service permit and maybe some maps and also some advice that it was too "dangerous" to hike out there in these conditions.
    Fortunately my aunt wasn't deterred and neither was i! Even the continuing rain and occasional lightning couldn't turn us around. And fortunately, i had brought my raincoat. Because it was still coming down when we started hiking. But it was still a really pretty trail and hiking in the rain seemed almost like a right of passage for hiking in the pacific northwest.
    About half way (or so) to the falls the rain stopped and patches of blue started to peek through the clouds. We even caught a couple of (partial) glimpses of Mt. Hood! Unfortunately, by the time we got to the falls it was already getting a little late and we were losing daylight rather quickly, especially with all the clouds.
    So i took as many pictures as i could, but it was cold, getting darker, and the mist from the falls kept blowing all over my lens. I guess i'll just have to go back again when i have more time to take more pictures (and when it's not so cold!). But it was definitely VERY beautiful!

    We hiked out to Ramona Falls on Monday and on Tuesday i shot Scott & Christi's bridals. Wednesday morning i drove out to the Japanese Gardens in Portland. And guess what... it was raining. Again. i even bought a rain cover for my camera, but it was always raining so hard i didn't want to get it out and put it on my camera. I know, makes a lot of sense. I had an umbrella, but let me tell you, setting up your camera and tripod to take a photo while simultaneously trying to hold an umbrella over yourself and your gear is a PAIN!

    And yes, it REALLY was that green! And that's probably the nice thing about the rain and the clouds. It really just made everything feel lush and fresh.

    But don't be disappointed if you don't get the same results. I did use one special tool, a polarizing filter. What does a polarizing filter do? Simple, the same thing your polarized sunglasses do - remove reflections. Without a polarizing filter, a lot of what you see as green would be white instead from the light reflecting off all the wet leaves. If i'm not too lazy i'll try to find one of the ones i took without the filter to show you the difference. But you know me, i'm pretty lazy.

    Yes, i know these are all the same waterfall. But it was really pretty, so too bad. If you don't like it just close your eyes and scroll down a couple of lines.

    One difference between your polarized sunglasses and a polarized filter is that you have to turn the filter to get the results you want. Screw the filter onto your lens and then twist the filter until the reflections are diminished. Also, usually a polarizing filter works best when it's used perpendicular to the light source (sun). But here, when everything was wet and the light was filtering through the clouds, it seemed to work well in any direction. In just about all the pictures here i was using a polarizing filter.

    One other thing about polarizing filters is that they reduce the light coming through so a tripod comes in handy for the subsequent slower shutter speeds.

    I absolutely LOVED this little section! I love Zen gardens, and i thought this was SO cool! i definitely want one, but i'd want some bonsai trees, or trees in addition to the rocks in the garden. And this was definitely more gravel than sand, probably easier to maintain.

    It's so simple yet just striking and beautiful in an odd sort of way. I don't know, maybe just the simplicity of it brings this peaceful feeling. And while i like playing with the little desktop ones, the act of raking and all that is soothing and calming. But the bigger, lifesize one has a much more profound effect.

    I love this tree! i want to get my little bonsai tree to look like a miniature version of this. So much thought and effort goes into shaping and trimming these trees. Of course i'm clueless on trimming mine. Every time i try to trim it i just make it worse i think.

    After the Japanese Gardens i went over to the rehearsal for the upcoming wedding. It was good to meet the very competent wedding planner and get a feel for where i'd be shooting the next day. After the rehearsal i had planned to get another hike in, but Scott and Christi's incredibly nice families invited me out to the luncheon with them. Of course it was raining when i arrived and i had to find a parking spot on the street and because of the rain i didn't really pay that much attention to where i parked. i figured i'd just be walking right back from the ballroom. But instead we walked over to the restaurant which kind of disoriented me. So i had to go refresh the meter half way through lunch. i walked out the back of the hotel thinking i'd be on the right street, but i couldn't see the car. So i ran up one block and turned left, ran down that block, still didn't see it (i'm running because the meter has expired by now and it's pouring rain), so i turned left again and ran down that block, turned left again (now i'm back on the street where i started just a block down) and sure enough the car was there, i just went the wrong direction when i came out of the hotel. But at least now i was all wet! Doh!
    So after lunch i headed out too see if i could still fit a couple of hikes in. I had grand plans and i wanted to see how much i could still get accomplished. So i headed about 40 miles down the Gorge to Cascade Locks and the Bridge of the Gods. As you're going from the freeway to the bridge there's a little trailhead for the PCT. For those in the know, that's the Pacific Crest Trail. Anyway, of course it was STILL raining, but i had my rain coat and figured i'd be fine. This is only one shot i took going down the PCT. SOOOOO pretty and green! I would've taken more pictures, but it kept pouring rain. There were a couple breaks, but otherwise it POURED!!! But it was still really pretty. I wish i'd had time to put my polarizer on or set up my tripod, but it was just too wet.

    Oh, right, i forgot to mention where i was going. I headed down the PCT for Dry Creek Falls. Obviously, there was nothing "dry" about this hike or the waterfall. Soooooo pretty! Now keep in mind that i had just purchased some rain covers for my camera, but did i think to bring them again? Nope. That would be too smart. And of course it started pouring again when i got there. And this time i didn't have an umbrella! Doh!

    But i had brought my lightweight camping towel to dry myself off in case i got wet. So i just put that over the camera and lens while i set up my shot, then i'd move the towel real quick, take the picture, wipe the lens off, and then put the towel back. Yeah it worked real great, seeing as how part of the towel ended up in a bunch of my pictures. Doh again! But at least the camera stayed (mostly) dry.

    A sane person would probably just take a couple of pictures and then bust out of there as quickly as possible, but i couldn't. It was just too pretty! i even switched out lenses in the rain so i could shoot some photos with my wide angle lens.

    And of course even after i finished taking pictures of the falls i had to walk back down stream to get more pictures of the pretty creek. Yes, it was still raining.

    Think it was worth it? You can see the falls there off to the right. Everything is just so crazy lush and green!

    i want to live out here and just go find the source of a creek and then just walk down it and take tons and tons of pictures. Each section is different and absolutely beautiful. So many little falls, i could've spent SO much longer here! But i did still want to try and get another couple of hikes in so off i went back to the car.
    By the time i got back to the car i was DRENCHED. Apparently my rain coat is only so waterproof. My coat was drenched, my shirt was drenched, my shoes were drenched, my pants were drenched, EVERYTHING was soaking wet. Well, except my backpack, i wisely brought my waterproof one and that ended up being a VERY good idea. It was also a good idea to at least bring a dry shirt too. i brought dry socks too, but since i wanted to hike more i figured i might as well leave the wet ones on (they were smartwool, of course, so they were still keeping my feet warm... kinda).

    The daylight was fading fast, it was still raining, and now i was wet and cold, but i wasn't giving up on my crazy plans. So i figured i'd head out across the Bridge of the Gods back into Washington, down the highway to Carson and up the Wind River Rd. (or something) to Panther Creek Falls. It was probably at least 30-45 minutes away, but a really short hike. i followed the directions in Curious Gorge (a great hiking guide to the Gorge) and found the unmarked trailhead. I hiked down the trail a few hundred yards and found this - two falls combining into one spectacular display!

    There's a viewing platform from the top of the falls, but the guidebook also said you could scramble down to the base of the falls. Of course, my raincoat was soaked, but at least it had stopped raining for a little bit. So downclimbed a little (wet) mossy wall, and then hiked down to the base of the falls (nearly sliding onto my butt in the mud on more than one occasion).

    It was super pretty and green and mossy from the bottom, but the mist kept getting all over my lens again, and it was making me VERY cold. There still more falls below this one, but i couldn't figure out how to get there and i was too cold anyway.

    But naturally by the time i got back up to the top of the falls i just had to take more pictures of the pretty creek leading down to the falls. If they seem a little dark it was because i was frustrated from earlier pictures where the waterfall was just a solid white line, i didn't want to lose the detail in the water.

    I absolutely love this one! The falls with all the old growth trees along the banks in the background. i wish i could've gotten a better angle with more of the falls, but i wasn't willing to get any more wet and it had started raining again.

    So i snapped a few more pictures and headed back for the car. i would've loved to head out to Falls Creek Falls, but it was still another 30-45 minutes away, plus at least that much hiking. And i just didn't think there'd be enough light by the time i got out there to take any pictures. Plus it was cold and rainy and i couldn't put my rainjacket back on because it was still drenched. i thought maybe i could hit Beacon Rock on the way back instead, a short little mile long out-n-back, but then i picked up a severe wind advisory on my phone's weather alert. And of course it had started raining again. Oh well, i still had a BLAST!

    The next day, before the wedding, i had really wanted to head up Oneonta Gorge. But i knew i'd have to swim a little ways up it and when i woke up guess what it was doing outside. Yep, raining. And the rain i could handle, but it was also barely 40 degrees. Being that wet, swimming up a rather cold creek, and all that on day where i'd be lucky if it broke 50 degrees. Even i'm not THAT crazy. Oh well, one more reason to come back out there again!
    Now don't get me wrong, in spite of all the rain, and somewhat colder weather, i still had a great time. And i would still love to live out there. I think it just comes down to being better prepared. Getting a better rain coat, wearing my waterproof shoes and gore tex pants, bring some waterproof gloves, actually using the raincover for my camera. It might rain a lot, but if that's the price you pay for all the green, then i guess i'll take... at least for a little while. Plus i don't think it'd be so bad if it was a little warmer.
    Oh, and a little teaser for future posts, i still have MORE waterfall pictures from my last trip i've yet to post. I just haven't been able to decide which ones i liked best yet.

    Thursday, May 27, 2010

    Scott and Christi: Vancouver Bridals

    Whoa! Can you believe it?! A post that's actually fairly recent! What's the deal with that?! Well actually, the post was recent when i wrote it, but still, all things considered, it's still pretty recent. I had the good fortune to photograph Scott & Christi for their engagements the last time i was in Vancouver for Kayla's wedding. Doh. i was going to link to those blog posts, but it appears i never posted them. Oopsie. Well, they're on my website until i get them posted here. Anyway, Scott & Christi asked me to come back to Vancouver and shoot their bridals and wedding and i was more than happy to oblige.

    I flew out to Vancouver Monday after having worked the whole weekend - i was excited to get some hiking in between taking their pictures, but more on that later.

    We were supposed to shoot their bridals Tuesday morning, but a number of elements combined to keep that from happening. When Scott went to pick up his tux Monday night his was the only one that wasn't ready. So we pushed the bridals back until Tuesday later in the afternoon. Which i suppose was good since it rained and stormed and hailed all morning.

    Unfortunately, when Scott and Christi arrived to pick me up it was STILL raining. Doh. But while discussing our plight someone noticed a little blue peeking through the clouds off in the distance. So off we went hoping for the best.

    Christi had sent me some pictures of the area she wanted to do her bridals in, but it's hard to get a feel for an area in a few snapshots. And while the rain had indeed stopped by the time we got there, the wind was still blowing rather furiously. So here i am, wind is blowing, could start raining again any moment, and i've never been here before. You can imagine what i was thinking.

    And believe it or not, doing this kind of work, wedding-related photography, is EXTREMELY stressful. The fear of making bad photographs, of the bride and groom not loving the photos is ALWAYS present. I'm always paranoid that my clients won't be happy with my work. So i was obviously very nervous right about now.

    Fortunately, the wind eventually died down a little and we found this cool little stone stairway behind the fence leading down to the river. i think it ended up being one of those locations you would never think would be good for bridals, but ended up actually being really nice. I ended up being pretty pleased with the results and i think Scott and Christi liked them too!

    And yes, i know that being a part-time wedding photographer isn't stressful like being a doctor, or fireman, or soldier. But the consequences of making photographs the bride and groom, alright fine, just the bride, don't like are very real and long lasting. Don't believe me? Just ask Jen about our wedding photos. (Yeah, you'll regret it).

    Oh, and normally i would be more than happy to tell you where i took these photos in the unlikely (impossible) event that someone from Vancouver is looking at these photos and wondering where they were taken, but i have no idea. All i know is that we drove west on highway 14 (i think) until it ended or something around I-5 and that we were right next to this Mexican restaurant with a funny name (two guys' names).

    But see, i can shoot photographs in Washington somewhere other than at waterfalls or in the Columbia River Gorge. As unwilling as i may have been to do so initially.

    Oh, and just in case you think i'm done being nervous, i'm not. I still have to go through all the wedding photos which were all taken indoors under very low light. See, that's the other things about being a wedding photographer - you never get to shoot in good light. Alright fine, sometimes you do. But those times when there are no second chances, you never get to choose the light then. It's either in the middle of the day outside in harsh light, or in a dimly lit ballroom, church or other reception center. All i know is that my noise reducing software is going to get a workout while i'm working on the wedding photos.

    By the way, don't you hate it when you use a term that you don't know your audience understands? On the one hand, you don't want to imply someone doesn't understand a particular term or something because then they'll think that you think they're stupid or something. But on the other hand, you don't want to assume that everyone knows what you're talking about because then they'll just think you're arrogant or something.

    Anyway, what i was getting at is just in case you don't know what "noise" refers to. If you haven't already gotten bored and stopped reading a long time ago and don't need to know what noise you can just stop reading now. (But my feelings will still be hurt).

    "Noise" refers to any sound or sounds that are made that are frequently loud, unexpected, unpleasant, or unintelligible. Just kidding.

    In photographic terms, "noise" refers to any part of the end image that is not true to the original scene but is caused instead by the communication medium. Film and digital sensors have adjustable sensitivities to light. The more sensitive the "film" is to light, the less light is required to expose the image. The benefit is that with more sensitive sensors you can shoot in lower light. The drawback is that as you increase the sensitivity you also increase the likelihood the digital sensors will misfire and create noise.

    This noise is manifested in final images as a grainy appearance, or multi-colored pixels in areas of the photograph. This noise also results in a loss of detail in the photo. So if you don't want noise in your photographs then you should always shoot in the lowest ISO setting your camera supports (the ISO setting refers to the film or sensors sensitivity to light).

    For instance, i always try to shoot at 80 or 100 ISO. But unfortunately, sometimes you can't when there's simply not enough light. And then you have to deal with noise and the subsequent loss of detail. So the fast and easy "rule" that i try to follow is to use the lowest ISO setting i can while not shooting slower than 1/15th of a second on a compact camera with image stabilization.

    If you're not shooting with a stabilized lens, you might be able to get away with 1/30th of a second, but you're better off with 1/50th or faster. The more you zoom in, the faster (shutter speed) you'll also have to shoot.

    If you're shooting with a focal length you know, or a lens with a set focal length, then the general rule is to shoot no slower than 1 over the focal length - and that's assuming you have no image stabilization. So if i'm shooting with an 85mm lens, that means that at ISO 100 i shouldn't shoot any slower than 1/85th of a second.

    If you DO have image stabilization then you can turn the dial that controls your shutter speed about 2-3 clicks slower than that. But that's a GENERAL rule. If you're really shaky, or really steady, then you can adjust that rule to meet your personal needs.

    Also keep in mind that with some removable lenses, the length of the lens never changes. So with my 70-200mm lens which is always the same length, even if i'm shooting at 70mm, to safely get a sharp image, i shouldn't shoot any slower than 1/200th of a second. Fortunately, my 70-200mm lens has image stabilization, so i can go slower than that.

    So now you know what to do. Look at your camera's settings and try not to shoot slower than you can safely hold the camera without introducing any blur to the image. If you're shooting a scene on a point and shoot zoomed all the way OUT and you know you know you can safely shoot at 1/10th or 1/15th of a second and the camera is telling you that at ISO 100 your image will be significantly underexposed, then either make sure your aperture is open as far as you can make it (the lower numbers) or increase the ISO sensitivity until you have enough light. So if my image is too dark at ISO 100 and 1/15th of a second, then i will slowly increase my ISO sensitivity until the image is not too dark. And i guess i'll deal with the noise later - it's better than no picture at all, right?
    Oh, and two last points. Still want to shoot at a low ISO but there's not enough light to safely handhold your camera then the easy solution is to put your camera on a tripod (or even a monopod). But in certain situations, like weddings, slowing your shutter speed and putting your camera on a tripod doesn't mean your subjects will hold still for that long. Personally, i don't think many adults can hold still longer than 1/15th of a second or so. And definitely not kids. And lastly, if you're shooting with a DSLR, don't forget most have a crop factor of 1.6x (for Canons, i think it's 1.5x for Nikons). So if you think you're shooting at 100mm on a Canon, you're actually shooting at 160mm. So shooting at 1/100th of a second may not be fast enough, you may need to go to 1/160th of a second or faster. (And you thought this post couldn't get any more boring).
    Anyway, hope the "photo lesson" wasn't too boring and that you enjoyed some of the photos!