I’m honored to announce that my print "Across From Reedo, Seattle" has been chosen for inclusion into the R.G. Endres Gallery International Juried Photo Competition 2018 exhibition. The exhibition will hang during January, 2018. The R.G. Endres Gallery is just outside Kansas City in Prairie Village, Kansas.
This image was taken in 2009 and has been one of my favorites. It has also become as much of a historical document: most of the structures pictured have been demolished as Seattle is completing a tunnel for highway 99.
I am honored to announce that my image, “Pier 61/62, Seattle” has been selected for the 4th Annual International I-Phonography Now exhibition. This juried exhibition is sponsored by the Plymouth Center for the Arts, south of Boston. The photograph will be published in the third issue of the “Literate Image” magazine.
Please join me on Nov. 3rd for the opening of my exhibition, Standing Meditation, Zen Photography at Spoke Yoga Studio & Gallery, Vashon Island, Washington. This is part of the First Friday activities on the island from 6-9PM. There will be live music at the Spoke gallery, which is just east of the post office. Standing Meditation will be up through the end of the year.
I am honored that my print “Quartermaster Harbor from Burton Beach, Vashon Island, Washington” was chosen for the international juried art exhibition, Nature’s Way (a search for beauty), to be held from November 11 – December 5, 2017 at the Lightbox Photographic Gallery in Astoria, Oregon.
About three times per week I ride a water taxi from my Vashon Island home to my workplace on the waterfront in downtown Seattle. The water taxi is a passenger-only ferry, a hydrofoil, that is new, large (about 225 bodies), comfortable, reasonably priced, and damn fast.
Here's the gloat part: for me, the logistics are great. I can roll down the hill from my home to the ferry dock in about 13 minutes. The water taxi trip itself takes about 25 minutes. Once downtown, I walk along the waterfront for about 1.3 miles. For lunch I can walk another two blocks and hang at the Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture park which is basically stunning. And then at day's end, I walk the 1.3 miles back to the water taxi dock. Going uphill the third of a mile home is usually not all that much fun, especially on our rainy, dark autumn and winter nights, but I figure the exercise helps keep me if not young-ish, then at least mobile.
So today was one of our quintessential freaky transition days that begins one way and concludes very differently. This morning was thick fog that limited visibility and contributed to fun photography. As I waited for the tardy water taxi, a large vehicle ferry pulled into one of the two adjoining vessel slips. This route goes to West Seattle.
Waiting for Water Taxi From the Island to Downtown Seattle
I was glad I brought my 24-70mm f2.8 zoom lens so I could tightly frame the scene using the vertical "dolphins" as visual borders.
When we arrived in Seattle the sun was just starting to appear, but the scene was not photogenic enough for me. That changed, however as the day unfolded. Around lunch time there were still enough clouds and residual fog that added layers to the sky. I hit the outdoor patio that sits above Elliott Bay with a northwest view to the Olympic mountains.
I noticed one of the maintenance staff in a cherry picker, and he was repairing something on the exterior wall. Fortunately the lighting, his position, and the vista came together for me to be able to capture what I hope will be a shot that honors his and his team's fine work. Most likely he would have had to do the same task if it was miserable outside instead of glorious.
Maintenance Work with a View West
The most rewarding part of my commute home are the views we get of downtown Seattle and the waterfront as we leave for the island. When we get on the water taxi the outdoor seats face west. After September, I'm usually not hardy enough to sit outside for the whole ride--I'll hit and run for a few shots, or to chat with a friend for a bit, and then return to the comfort of the interior, maybe even snooze for 15 minutes. But today was too visually compelling
State Ferry Dock Downtown Seattle
This is another of Washington's mega auto ferries that take commuters between downtown Seattle and exurban cities like Bremerton and Bainbridge Island. But the light and the sky are the stars here.
The water taxi then reverses direction heading directly west, allowing us east facing rear riders with a diminishing view of downtown Seattle as we head off.
Downtown Seattle As We Head West
Happily there was just enough daylight left to see the dissapating clouds over the island.
Arriving on the Island
This is the part of the rock where we live (nope, not waterfront, nor water view). And as the darkness fell, it was good to be home.
Notes on the photography technologies used for these images: These photographs were taken with a Pentax K-1 DSLR and a Pentax 24-70mm f2.8 zoom lens. Aurora 2017 HDR software was used to merge three bracketed exposures into a single HDR-type of image. Additional post-processing was performed using Lightroom CC or NIK Silver EFEX Pro2 software.
Ritzville is easy to overlook. A small city in Eastern Washington, Ritzville serves as the go-to depot for getting humongous amounts of wheat onto the railroads heading west to the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma. To most, Ritzville is a refueling stop to or from Spokane. But there is more.
We ended up in Ritzville because we couldn’t get a room in Spokane in June during the Hoopfest that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. Our son had to be at Gonzaga that Sunday morning to Keeley Cottage attend an academic summer camp. The only place available to stay within a 50-mile radius was a charming Victorian era B&B in Ritzville called Keeley Cottage and operated by the very kind Ruth. What a pleasant surprise!
Ritzville has texture; hundred-plus year old texture. The place peaked during the Great Depression, and has kind of been desiccating ever since. Abandoned buildings that sit for photographers. A functioning movie theater, neon sign crackling. And a classic Main Street that doesn’t wake up until, well, I don’t know, as I couldn’t find anyone to ask when I was there. Ritzville also has fantastic light. Dawn offers crisp, clear skies that reflects arid Eastern Washington. Dusk brings the golden hour to great swaths of the downtown streets. And I’ve tried to capture all that texture in the shots.
Escure Ranch lies within the scenic Rock Creek drainage in southeast Washington (south of Spokane) in the Palouse, formed approximately 12,000 years ago by the massive Glacial Lake Missoula floods. Here you will find 30 miles of non-motorized trails and solitude.
Rock Creek is increasingly popular for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, trout fishing, and hunting. The historic Escure Ranch was built in the early 1900s and focused on sheep ranching. The Rock Creek Great Depression saw the ranch become d Loggerhead Shrike ilapidated. It was purchased in the 1940s by two Basque immigrant bothers, John and Marcus Escure. They ran a successful operation. The distinctive corrugated metal sheathing on several of the buildings was installed during the 1950s. The sheep market declined during the mid 1950s and the brothers then initiated cattle ranching. The BLM purchased the ranch in 1999. The ranch house, barns, buildings and corrals still stand.
The surrounding area is splendid for photography, with many birds and a landscape with strong geological features. My wife and I were only able to spend limited time here, so I concentrated on documenting the ranch infrastructure. We were also able to hike some, enough time for me to grab some snapshots of a few local birds and land features.
Meadowlark at Rock Creek If you like to wake up to a brisk, clear sunrise campsite without another party within miles, then I encourage you to visit Escure Ranch.
Earlier this year I revised my original article about photographing sports. It was originally published in ShutterMonks magazine in 2012. For this edition, I've updated some equipment specifications and tweaked a few recommendations. The core guidance has not changed at all. The basic message is that shooting sports well is not easy, but it is certainly achievable. It takes a lot of practice, and Girls Lacrosse , unlike most other kinds of photography, the right equipment including long lenses and a camera that has good predictive auto focus.
The article is a PDF that you are welcome to download and especially reference. U-16 Vashon Club Soccer vs. University Place
Have you ever had a boss who just seemed to have your number? Someone who knows you better than yourself? Well, I have three of them. These people even claim to love me so much that they wanted more of my attention during our vacation to Costa Rica. The mandate as received was, two lenses max, no long time outs for art photos, we’re not waiting for you and you are not falling behind.
Wow, I almost cried. And they really mean it.
I had to hustle and to define my shooting requirements quickly, as we were leaving in a few weeks. Costa Rica has lots of amazing birds, so I needed something with length. The country also has a lot of tropical plants and exotic insects, so a closeup lens would be nice. And I like wide angle shots when hiking in mountains and jungles. Something on the lighter side would be great too. One of the smaller planes had luggage weight restrictions that we took seriously.
Tamron 28-300mm at Widest Tamron 28-300mm Extended
I pulled and reset numerous configurations of the lenses I owned, and nothing met the two lens rule. Anything that came close, like the Canon 100-400mm L was too heavy.
Approaching Sunset, Manuel Antonio Beach, Costa Rica
Acceptance is a healthy practice: with people, the universe, and even lens designs. So I began the acceptance process by checking out all-in-one superzoom lenses. I've always considered myself as a kind of mid-brow lens purchaser. Certainly not a high-end Zeiss buyer, but not a kit lens bottom feeder either. I try to balance fast high quality single focal length lenses with f2.8 zoom lenses. Unfortunately, fast zooms lenses imply something heavy and that was out of scope. I’m also generally brand agnostic, so third-party lens makers were game.
Flat Footed Bug, Costa Rica
Being human, I admit to having some biases. One kind of lens I often dissed are those all-in-one mega zooms. They cover everything from 16mm to 300mm, and have variable apertures usually from f 4.5-f 6.3. On paper it's a good idea, solving all your problems with one lens. Unfortunately, physics and optics get in the way. While these lenses capture things accurately at f8 on a sunny day, as shooting conditions deviate, the optical prowess falters. At the widest focal lengths, there is significant barrel distortion and often pincushion distortion towards 50mm. Plus vignetting at the widest settings, especially on a FF camera. When extended out to maximum focal length, all-in-ones aren't very sharp, especially in the corners. There's just too much intermediate glass getting in the way.
But I had marching orders. I was stuck.
So I broke all my lens buying rules and ordered a Tamron 28-300mm, f 3.6-f 6.3 from a Canadian grey market seller Amazon. New retail pricing in the US was not inexpensive, but the grey market price was about 40% discounted. Heck with the warranty I say, I’m not gonna like this thing anyway and will be dealing it away three weeks later. I also picked up a used Canon 500D Closeup lens which I will write about in the future. So I was good with the boss, all of them.
About 4000 miles and 1500 shots later, I have some opinions about this lens. I still think it is optically mediocre, but I accept that. Miraculously, Lightroom corrections fix the distortion issues well enough, and the new Lightroom Transform functionality makes things even more accurate. Not only does the pig have lipstick, but it’s wearing shoes as well!
Green Heron, Costa Rica
What I really like about the 28-300mm is that I can be much more spontaneous taking shots. No stopping the action to swap lenses. No stepping back or lurching forward. Just zoom in some more. And some more after that. On a crop-sensor 7D, that 300mm delivers a 450mm field-of-view.
The physical traits of this lens are perfect for travel. The Tamron weighs about 21 ounces or 1.3 pounds. It also compacts down rather reasonably on the camera at its widest angle. [photo of lens on 5D, extended too], so it can fit in a shoulder bag nicely.
And the Tamron did allow me to get decent shots. After all, this was a family vacation, no art pretenses allowed.
I’ve surprised myself by hanging onto the Tamron. Its role as my primary hiking lens was reprised during a camping weekend in the Olympic mountains. Again, the capability for spontaneity was such a strong point. I could take semi-candid shots of my family and even a few closeups of plants.
Get moving folks
Shopping advice: before going out and buying just anything, I recommend you choose the latest superzoom models. Tamron has improved the Vibration Control (their name for image stabilization) and having an ultrasonic motor makes things much quieter and more precise. Generally, I avoid grey-market purchases, but as noted, the cost differences for this one was worthwhile for me. I’ve had no repair-related issues during the nine months of ownership. Also check out offerings from Sigma.
A common query seen among online forums asks about the best lenses for use on vacation. Because requirements should always drive your equipment choices, I always ask about the nature of the vacation: is this a family vacation or a photography vacation?
They are usually very different affairs.
Howler monkey, Costa Rica
For photography, a family vacation can be full of compromise. You the photographer are there primarily as the parent, spouse, or even adult companion to older parents, spending your precious leisure time with your loved ones—many of whom don’t spend enough quality time with you throughout the working week. You also may have to carry around supplies for the day’s journey including food, water bottles, a diaper bag, a rain coat, or even a Frisbee, which leaves very little space or strength for heavy, high-quality camera gear. If things go well enough, you can run off fun family snaps, and maybe a few shots of famous places to prove you were there.
You may also not be in charge of the pace of the day’s excursions. Often things can go either painfully slow when traveling with elderly or the very young, or too hastily when cramming an itinerary into a box of time. None of these are photography friendly.
Today's catch on the river, Costa Rica
A photo vacation, however, is a much more focused and self-oriented endeavor. You can shlep as much gear as you can carry, or move at a snail’s pace so you can setup that tripod, macro lens and ring flash. It’s easy to go off trail to capture that bird. If you are fortunate, your loved one has a complementary pursuit. My wife Fran is an avid amateur botanist which allows me to photograph unusual or at least cool looking plants that many would never pay attention to.
But there is hope. You gotta have your photographic wits about you, and be able to instantly identify that decisive moment. Sometimes on a family vacation you can negotiate some photographic self time where you are left alone. And sometimes you are lucky.
Skies over San Jose, Costa Rica
Having gone through this cycle a few times, below are my recommendations that may serve your family vacation photographic needs quite well. One thing to recognize and make peace with: a lot of the lightweight lenses depend on software to overcome optical distortion issues. But the software, such as Lightroom lens corrections, works effectively.
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