Category Archives: Photography Tips
We were invited to go on a photo walk with our good friend/ photographer Ken Powell. We chose the Eastbank Esplanade and spent an enjoyable early afternoon shoot.
Named after Mayor Vera Katz, The Eastbank Esplanade is a 1.5 miles long, floating walkway on the Willamette River, extending north from the Hawthorne Bridge, past the Morrison and Burnside Bridges, to the Steel Bridge with connections to east-side neighborhoods as well as across the river to Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park. At 1,200 feet, the floating walkway is the longest of its kind in the United States. Construction of the Esplanade began in October 1998 and was completed in May 2001.
It provides unique views of downtown Portland and the Willamette River in all seasons and is a must if you enjoy photographing cityscapes.
Each spring, hundreds of thousands of shorebirds stop to rest and feed along the pacific beaches and the river estuaries of the Washington coastline on their migration northward. The peak in migration typically occurs the last week in April. This concentration of birds offer people the chance to view and with a little luck photograph several species.
With this in mind we headed for the Washington coast last weekend. Grays Harbor hosts a shorebird festival each year (this year it will be May 4-6th) which typically draws large crowds. We thought it would be wise to avoid the crowds and go a week or two early so we rented a motel room in Ocean Shores and planned to visit the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge a little before high tide the next day.
The day started great, nice weather and high tide not scheduled until early afternoon. We had a time to sleep in, have a nice breakfast and drive down the coast. When we arrived at the refuge things started going bad… first it was too warm to leave the dog in the car and he couldn’t go into the refuge so Shirleen decided to stay out in the parking area with him. I started off a brisk pace towards the Sandpiper Trail. Everyone I met had a long face and it didn’t take me long to realize why. There were no shorebirds to be seen that day. None… not any… a few seagulls so far out in the estuary that they were just white specks. Either the migration was starting later this year or all the birds were somewhere else. I returned to the car after a warm, fruitless walk around the refuge totally bummed. The only plus that afternoon was that Shirleen had gotten several nice shots of a Marsh Wren when she was walking the dog.
Low and behold on the beach right in front of our motel there was a flock of shore birds feeding.
Now on this part of the Washington Coast cars are allowed to drive on the beach and there were a lot of people walking their dogs, kids running, kites flying and well …. what do you think the chances were of us getting anywhere close enough to the birds to take pictures before someone scared them all away?
As it turned out, our chances were great. The flock seemed to be in a feeding frenzy, as you approached them they would run or fly away just enough to keep a safe 10-15 foot distance from you and then go back to feeding. We approached slowly taking pictures as we went and the birds just sort of flowed around us. It didn’t take us long to get right in the middle of the flock and shoot pictures to our hearts content. We were both shooting with 100-400mm telephoto lenses which worked out well, we could pull back to the 100mm to get groups of birds when they flew and zoom out to the 400mm range to get close-ups of the birds feeding. The late, warm afternoon lighting made for some great shooting and we came away with literally hundreds of pictures. Here is a few of our favorites.
If any of you make it to the Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival we would love to see your pictures and hear about your experiences.
Recently we decided to use the frames from the photographs that were hung in our bedroom to be used as framing for a traveling photo exhibit. So all of a sudden we have a whole wall with nothing on it … like a big blank canvas ready to accept something new. Shirleen (head decorator of the Team Hymas abode) requested something big … like 5 feet by 3 feet…. “you know …..one big something instead of a bunch of little some things.” We spent the best part of an afternoon deciding on a picture that would be peaceful and the right color scheme. (That discussion could fill a blog post by itself.) Finally we agreed on one of a foggy morning at the Refuge.
A short look at the sizes offered for poster prints came up with a common 20 in by 30 in… not nearly as big as I wanted so early on I decided to try this tiled approach. The trick is to break up a picture so that each tile will be a common print size. We decided that if we printed on 11 X 14 landscape borderless prints, for a 4 X 3 print pattern we would end up with approximately 56” by 33” picture, much closer to what we wanted size wise.
This is how I set up the picture for print.
The first step is to crop the picture to the 56” by 33” that we needed to end up with. Start by opening the highest resolution version of the picture that you want to use in Photoshop.
In the Image drop down menu select “image size”. Make sure that the resample image check box is unchecked and the measurement drop down is set to inches. Set the width to 56 inches and click OK. You can’t control both the width and height here because if you try to change the height then the width will change to keep the picture in the correct proportion.
To set the height, in the image drop down menu select “canvas size” make sure the measurements are set to inches and set the height to 33 inches. You can control what part is going to get cropped off by clicking the middle, top, bottom or center square in the anchor grid. Click “ok”. Photoshop will warn you that some cropping will occur. Accept it. Notice that Photoshop did round the height up .002 of an inch but this is not a problem.
Ok, now all we have to do is slice this picture up into 12 equal pieces.
From the tool bar select the slice tool. Right click on the picture and select the “divide slice” option. Set the slice tool for 3 horizontal slices and 4 vertical slices. To save the slices as separate images click on the file drop down menu then choose “save for web and device” you might get a warning about the file being bigger that what the tool was designed for but answer “yes” to continue. After a few seconds it should ask where you want to save the files. I suggest putting them on your desktop so that you can easily find them when it comes time to upload for printing. Photoshop will store your files in an images directory.
I uploaded my pictures to Costco to print. They charge 2.99 (plus tax) for an 11 x 14 print for a total cost of 38.82.
Please note that you need to turn off the auto correct feature when you order your pictures. If you leave it on each picture will be auto corrected individually and it can cause some drastic tonal differences between parts of the whole picture as you piece it back together on the wall.
This is the final product
Winter in our northwest is a real challenge for photography. Most days the weather forecast is for sprinkles, showers, rain at times, or heavy rain. The sky is white, gray or dark gray and the streams and ponds all reflect those dismal shades. The skyline is mostly leafless trees, dark branches silhouetted against the gray skies. Light? what light? there have been days in the last couple of weeks that the street lights have stayed on until 10 o’clock in the morning and come back on by 3:00pm that afternoon. everywhere you look muted shades of gray, brown, yellow…. Stop. this is even making me depressed.
So what is a photographer to do?
Sometimes you just have to brave the weather.. a few years ago we went to Alaska on vacation. Even in the summer you cannot expect blue sky’s so we took turns holding an umbrella for each other. it was cumbersome but we still managed to bring back a lot of fun photographs and memories.
If you enjoy photographing wildlife the best time of the year is in the fall/winter/spring when the flocks of cranes, swans, geese and ducks migrate through the area. With these large flocks also come the predators that prey on them… eagles, hawks, falcons and coyote. It’s truly the best time for the wildlife photographer in this area.
But when you don’t want to face the elements…
- Bring your photography indoors. you don’t have to have a fancy studio to enjoy indoor photography. open the curtains wide, let in the natural light and supplement it with natural light fluorescent bulbs. backdrops can be as simple as a sheet thumb tacked to the wall. Now is a great time to photograph that family pet or practice your portrait skills on family members.
- Visit your archives… now is the time to go back through all those photos that you took last year, delete the multiple shots that you took of that waterfall and only keep the best. It’s easier to have a more balanced eye after some time has passed and You will find new treasures (I always do). while you’re there keyword you photos so that you can find them again.
- Improve your post processing skills. Google “photo editing software tutorials”, there are lots of 5-10 minute tutorials out there on the internet on how to post process photos … perhaps one that adds just the finishing touch on that favorite waterfall!
Wait.. I see a break in the clouds… some blue sky…. the sun is shining… sorry, got to go.
This time of the year, late October – early November is a prime time to go outside and photograph nature as it changes from summer greens to the reds, golds and browns of Fall. It’s definitely the most colorful times of the year. We here in the Northwest are blessed with many scenic areas to photograph.
A couple of our favorite fall places are:
Lake Sacajawea in Longview, WA.
This is a beautiful man made lake in a residential area, surrounded by deciduous tress, park benches and pathways that beg to be photographed.
Ducks and Geese dot the water, some native to the lake and others there because this is the time of the fall migration. Several bridges span the lake and ornamental concrete lookouts at several spots along the shoreline offering perfect vantage points to shoot from. On a calm day the lake is a mirror reflecting this photo rich environment. We have had our best luck early in the morning from the south side of the lake. If you give this location a try we would be interested in your opinion (and favorite spot to shoot from)
The Columbia River Gorge
The Gorge is beautiful any time of the year, but with the fall colors in the mix it really gets…. Gorg-ious
If you have time take a day trip. Start from Troutdale Heading east along the old Scenic Highway stopping along the way at the Women’s Forum, Vista House and several of the waterfalls along the Oregon side of the river. They don’t call the road the Scenic Highway for no reason … every mile has something beautiful to view.
Eat lunch overlooking the Columbia River at the Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River then cross the river to the Washington side and meander west on Hwy 14 towards Vancouver. Be sure and stop at Beacon Rock and climb at least part of the way up to get some stunning views then continue west to Cape Horn where you can see most of the area that you have traveled today, and get that last picture of the day. Enjoy!
For more ideas of fall photography
in Oregon: http://oregonfallfoliage.wordpress.com/
In Washington: http://gonw.about.com/od/attractions/ss/foliagetrip_5.htm
Both Shirleen and I have Canon 100-400mm L IS lenses, they are our primary telephoto and Wildlife lenses. I have found that these lenses are a great way to shoot close-ups of what most people consider macro subjects(bees and flowers). The results are not true macro shots, but you get a very nice close up of the subject and usually some of their habitat too.
- Use a tripod or monopod. The built-in image stabilization on these lenses works well to keep the picture steady. However, I find that my arms tire fairly quickly waiting for that perfect shot
- Make sure that the focal length slide on the side of the lens is set to the shorter 1.8 side.. this helps the lens find focus faster at shorter ranges.
- Set up about six to eight feet from the blooms that you are going to photograph. With the lens at full extension (400mm). Try to focus on the nearest flower. if you successfully get focus move closer and retest until you get as close as you can and still focus.
- Shoot on a sunny day with the subject slightly backlit. Honey Bees abdomen will give you a nice golden glow with this type of lighting.
- My last attempt with this type of photography I use a TV setting (time value 1/1000 – 1/2000) trying, but not succeeding, to stop the wings in mid-flight. I have also used AV ( aperture value of F8) to produce some very nice still shots.
For more photography of this type see our flowers and little things gallery
Roads and cars have intruded into almost every area of our country, making the birds and wildlife accustomed to cars whizzing by – so much that they pay less attention to a car than they do a person on foot! With this in mind, I would like for you to consider your car a giant rolling blind…easy to move and much more comfortable than the classic blind.
Plan your outings accordingly. Birds are active, feeding early in the morning and late afternoon.
Use the longest lens available. Birds are usually small, and no matter how long of a lens you have, you will always want a longer one!
Have your equipment out and ready before you think you will need it. The sound of Velcro ripping open can easily startle your best/first shot of the day.
Know your equipment. Have it set up for the most likely photo before you start. If you need to use one of the fancy features on your camera, but have to consult the manual to figure it out, you’ve lost the shot.
Use extra support. Place a beanbag on the half opened car window to rest your camera on, or buy a car-window clamp. Both methods will supply the necessary support for bird photography out of a car window. [Tip: If funds are low I have seen people use foam pipe insulation from your local hardware store]
Buddy System. When possible, take along a friend or family member who can take turns driving and watching for traffic. This enables the other person to devote their full concentration towards making images.
Take it slow. Once you’ve spotted your subject, approach slowly, and well in advance. Take a few images, work in closer, and then take a few more. Move in until you are as close as possible without jeopardizing the subject or the environment. Even if your subject bolts at closer range, you will have taken a few shots of them.
- Speak quietly, turn off your radio
- Roll your windows down ahead of time
- No sudden stops
- Set your focal point on the eyes
- Turn off your engine to ensure the sharpest focus possible
- Drive Carefully – Drive slowly – it’s difficult to spot birds (or any wildlife) at normal travel speeds!
The bottom line… your car, whether it’s a $4,000 VW or a $40,000 BMW, is one of the best bird blinds that you can buy.
Examples of this type of photography can be found in our bird gallery (with the exception of the hummingbird)