Shadow Play

Blog_20120304_1While observing the light around you, it is always good to keep an eye out for shadows. Maybe it is the middle of a bright sunny day and it is not so good for capturing what you had in mind. Look around, there may be something fun in the shadows. The two stairway shots here were the last images I captured on an outing to a sewage pump station (more on that at a later date). As we headed for the stairs to exit, I saw these fun shadows and stopped to work with them a bit. As always, I try to look for both horizontal and vertical framing compositions. Sometimes a subject can lend itself well to both.

The images were processed with Nik’s SilverEfx Pro.The edges were burned (darkened) to keep the viewers eyes in the frame. I used local adjustment points to selectively lighten/darken and add contrast to specific areas of the images – areas where I wanted to draw the viewers eye.




Posted in Uncategorized

Two Interpretations

When faced with the scene before you, there is always the question of how you want to interpret it. Here are two takes on the same scene taken when we had another snow recently. Both represent an orchard in the snow, but there both have a different feel.This first is a very literal interpretation documenting the receding visibility of a foggy winter morning in an orchard. The later is a more whimsical interpretation that is less harsh and only gives the impression of an orchard in winter.



Which do you like best and why?

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The Gorge

Latourell Falls

One of the beautiful places I have the privilege of living near is the Columbia River Gorge. It is a little over an hour away from my home. I don’t go there enough, but when I do, I am always in awe of the beautiful landscape there: falls and meadows, mountains and ravines. From thick forest in the west to golden brown treeless terrain in the east. They can all be found in the gorge. If you have never been there, I highly recommend it The photographic opportunity is endless.

On the left is one of the many falls in the gorge – Latourell falls.

Below is a wetland meadow that you will find behind you when you visit Horsetail falls. It can be found just across the railroad tracks (watch out for trains!). Late afternoon sunlight gave the grasses and trees a wonderful golden hue.






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Some you win, some you loose

Blog_20090221_1I received the results from a juried exhibition on Friday. Much to my disappointment none of my images were selected. The same was true in the fall for another juried exhibition. It can get discouraging. But as in the past I reviewed the images selected by the juror and tried to learn something for the future. 

After looking at the images that were selected, I can see that I was a bit off the mark in the images I submitted for the targeted theme, “In Your Dreams”. I should have submitted some other images that might have done better.

I did do some quick review of the juror’s work before hand but I didn’t really study as I should. Here is a pointer to the selected images – PhotoPlace (In Your Dreams). They are quite good. Take the time  to look and them and evaluate the overall style of the images selected.

Blog image – this is one I probably should have submitted. It would have been a better match than most of those I did. This image is an B&W HDR image shot at Pittock Mansion with a radial blur blended into the edges using Photoshop. The ghost (me) was blended in using layers as well.

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Sunset on Fire

Last night there was a spectacular sunset. I had just arrived home and I noticed the beginning of some nice color and texture in the sky. Deciding to grab a couple texture or abstract shots I got out my camera with a 100-300mm zoom and turned on the VR (vibration reduction). The slide show above is a set of images taken progressively as the light show continued. I would have liked to have been by a lake or some other great setting, but I made do with what I could shoot through an open upstairs window. Yes, the colors were that dazzling and the light rays were all there. There was also virga adding to the show.

 This was a series of the magic moments I wrote about in a previous blog entry.

Posted in Light

Still Life Light Painting – How To


I have continued to explore and experiment with new techniques during the winter months. Light painting has become somewhat popular with landscape images and is used by s0me commercial photographers for product lighting. Light painting involves taking long exposure images while the photographer (and/or assistants) use flashes or flashlights to "paint" the landscape or still life arrangements. I have included a couple of samples from my experimentation in this blog. As you can see, very dramatic and what appears to be complicated light setups can be created this way. I happen to have a collection of old cameras and the associated gear so I have been using that for my subject matter.

I learned this technique from Dave Black who is a master of lighting (I highly recommend you take a look at this work – very nice). I have outlined the basic steps below. It is hard to describe all the nuances without showing the technique on a video.

  1. Setup your still life arrangement in a very dark room.  (Test if your room is dark enough. Take a 30sec exposure at f8. If it comes out completely black, you are good.)
  2. Setup your camera on a tripod and frame your composition.
  3. Setup the camera for a 20-30sec exposure (at least as a start) and turn on noise reduction in your camera. Set the f-stop based on your desired depth of field.
  4. You will want a couple of flashlights- a penlight and a larger flashlight (LED ones work well). Make a black plastic snoot (tube made from black tape or such) so the bulb is not visible from the side. Your flashlight is likely get in the frame and you don’t want to see it.
  5. Turn off the lights and use a flashlight  to paint on your still life. Always keep your flashlight moving. Use the penlight to highlight where you want to draw the viewer’s eye. Use the larger flashlight briefly if needed to "dust" the setup with light, keeping it moving.
  6. This will be an incremental process and it will likely take lots of trial and error. Start by just painting a small area at first to see how much light is needed.  View the results, adjust the light as needed and add another area. Personally, I count as I paint each area and try to follow the same basic sequence to get some repeatability.
This technique requires some patience, but it can be fun as you let your creative juices flow to come up with very unique lighting.
Posted in Composition, How To, Light, Photographers



When unique events occur we need to be ready. This past week I made a point of getting out to shoot given the extensive flooding in the area. This presented an opportunity to create images that aren’t available every day. I set out to create an image I missed last time it flooded. The water was not the same as before so the image I had in mind was not there. Driving around the area, I did end up finding some opportunistic images as the sun rose and lit up the mist and fog.

In the lead image, corn stalks sticking up out of the water in a flooded field add interest to this image of the sun rising above the early morning fog. In the image below, oak trees in the water surrounded by golden grasses presented another unique scene you can’t capture everyday.


Is there a unique environmental condition taking place where you live? Record snow, floods, drought or fog? While these may not be good things, they do present the opportunity to capture images that may not be available for years to come. Images taken at times like these can set yours apart.

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Magic Moments


I love it when you are in the field shooting and the light turns magical. This seems to happen most often when you get out in less than pleasant weather or catch the weather in transition. A few days ago I went out early in the morning to capture snow scenes near my home. It was cold and still snowing off and on, but a good snow doesn’t come that often in the mild Willamette Valley; I wanted to get out there before it melted. From what I could see, it was going to be a totally cloudy grey morning, but then to my delight cloud breaks formed shortly after sunrise. The images here were caught during those magic moments.


The problem with magic moments is that they don’t last very long. Capture them when you can.


Posted in Light



Allowing yourself to fail is one of the keys to creativity. Trying new things, experimenting and not caring if you will be successful. If you are working with a new camera, try all the modes, push the edges of the settings, see what it can do. For post processing software move the sliders all around from end to end, explore the menus, try the different presets and see what you like. As a friend of mine likes to say “Nobody gets hurt.”.

Recently I was reading an interview with a commercial photographer. He believed that being willing to experiment was his edge in getting assignments. He indicated that most commercial photographers are afraid to take risks and play it safe. The art directors that picked him wanted something different – they knew he would push the envelop.

Right now I am trying a new technique (new to me) I learned from Harold Davis’s book, Photographing Flowers. This technique involves the manual blending of HDR image sets as applied to flowers that are backlit by a lightbox. I am finding it challenging to recreate his exact “look” (it is okay to start with imitation and let it evolve to your own style in time). I am also combing these images with texture overlays. The blog image is one of my first attempts. I am not totally happy with it yet, but thought I would share it with you.

I will go over this technique in a more detailed fashion in a future blog.

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Light Field Photography

You may have noticed some ads as of late for a new kind of camera from a company named Lytro. This camera introduces a totally new type of digital camera sensor (light field sensor). This sensor not only captures the color and intensity of the light coming through the lens, but the direction of the light rays. It is based on technology developed at Stanford University some 15+ years ago using super computers. What good is that, you may ask?

  1. You can now change the focus of an image after it has been captured. Later you will be able to change the depth of field (today the DoF is similar to that of an f2 apeture)
  2. No shutter lag to allow for autofocus. Capture the exact moment in time you intended. This will be great for sports, street, and other quick action photography.
  3. The ability to switch between 2D and 3D images seamlessly. The file format is compatible with today’s 3D.

While this first instantiation of this technology in a commercial form is limited in its effective megapixels (maybe around 1.0 megapixel equivalent) you know that will increase quickly over time. For now the camera is intended for web images and small prints.

The blog image is just one example from the public Lytro gallery. Click on each flower and watch the focus change. Look at more examples here: Lytro Image Examples.

Looking to the future, I can see combining this technology with HDR photography. Think of all the control the photographer will have after image capture. Add multiple cameras at different angles and you can capture even more and change perspective, angle, focus, etc. after the fact.

When photography moved from film to digital, that was only the beginning. Photography is going to evolve at an ever increasing rate into a whole new visual art form. Enjoy the ride.

Posted in New Technologies Tagged , |