Infrared photography and shooting in the middle of the day.

I was looking for some old barns and houses on the Googles one day and came across Waterville, Washington. Never heard of it and didn’t know where it was. After more research I found out that it is a small farming community in eastern WA and it has a couple old barns and houses.

I had a grand plan of loading up my bike to ride up to Artist Point near Mt. Baker. After looking at the weather radar, it was raining where I wanted to ride. I’m not driving 2.5 hours to ride in the rain. It rains enough in Seattle. Because of the rain, I packed up my stuff and headed east. Not sure where I was going or what I was going to shoot but sometimes that is the adventure. I suddenly found myself in Waterville 3 hours later with an awesome old house in a field. It was the perfect scenario for infrared so I broke out the IR camera went to town.

It was also a good opportunity to think about shooting black and white or sepia. Always shoot in color and convert it to black and white as this gives you more control in post processing.

After several hours and a couple more houses and barns, I made the 3 hour trip back to Seattle. It was a good day and scouting and shooting.

Blue Sky House.jpg

Quick Trip to Comet Falls

I’ve been really struggling this year to get out hiking or backpacking. Most of my time has been spent on my bike, in the gym, or on the roller skis. I finally made it out for a hike to Comet Falls in Mt. Rainier NP. It was good to get out and see a new waterfalls. It is a nice 3.8 mile rt hike with a few steep sections but not too bad. This waterfall is much taller than I thought it would be and was quite amazing to see in person.

Comet Falls BW.jpg

Photography on a Budget 2

My last post was trying to focus on realizing that you don’t need to spend money on new equipment that you don’t need. A new announcement happened recently with Sony. They decided to bring out the A7RIV. While this seems like an amazing camera at over 60 megapixels and I’m sure a lot more option, do you really need to spend the $3500 for it? Will it make your photography that much better? Is there something wrong with your current camera? Probably not.

A lot of people that have pre ordered the new A7RIV already use the A7Riii. Think about what you could do if you spent that money on a photography trip. Where could you go and for how long? Add new locations to your portfolio photos. That sounds better than having a new shiny toy on your shelf that takes the same photos of the same locations you have shot many times already. Sure the photos will have more detail but anyone viewing your photos on IG or Facebook won’t notice.

Even better, what if you put that money towards your retirement. If that $3500 is invested at 8%, in 30 years it will be worth ~ $35,000 without putting anymore money in. I understand it is your money and you can do what you want, but spending money on getting out of debt or funding retirement seems like a much better way to go than a shiny new toy.

The good thing about new cameras coming out is the last model is now on sale. Currently the A7Riii is around $2500. If you are looking to upgrade from the A7Rii, that would be a good choice for $1000 less that A7RIV.

What about lenses? You have been saving for the new 70-200 f/2.8 at $2500. What about going with a Tamron or Sigma for $1200 less? The only name brand lens I have is the Canon 16-35 f/4. Otherwise my 24-70 f'/2.8, 70-200 f/2.8, and 150-600 are all Tamron G2 lenses. You can buy 2 of these lenses for the price of 1 Sony G master lens. If you make your living with photography then you will want to spend the money for the sharpest lenses and best focusing system possible but most of us don’t need to worry about that.

These are just my thoughts on spending money you may or may not have to get the latest and greatest toy that really won’t make your photos any better. It seems like many people get caught up in spending money they don’t have on objects they don’t need to impress people they don’t know. Just focus on staying within your budget and don’t go into debt buying new toys for your hobby. Just my 2 cents.

Remember, unless you are getting paid, fill the frame with what you like and have fun.

Photography on a Budget

Looking through IG, you always see photographers in these amazing places. Iceland, Patagonia, Faroe Islands, etc. The first thing most people say “must be nice to ba able to afford that trip”. You have to realize that most people cannot afford this. They go on these trips using credit cards and putting themselves into more debt. The few that are giving workshops in these locations are making some money while traveling, but most are there for vacations. Doing photography within your budget is a much better way than building debt all for some IG and Facebook likes.

I went to Iceland for 2 weeks, rented a camper van and spent almost $7500 for 2 of us. The reason we went is because we could afford to pay cash for the trip. The big expense was the van at $4500 since it was the off season and 30% off peak season price.

This year, things have changed for me. I focused on paying off my car at $21,000. Completed that task and wanted a new gravel bike. That was $4400 which I saved and paid cash for it. Now I’m building my savings back up. I was able to do this because I dropped my 401K contributions from 12% to 4% and stopped putting into my IRAs. After about 8 months I had saved the money to pay off my car. It hurt to write that check but I am now debt free except my mortgage. Without the car payment, I’m able to increase my 401K to 15% and max out my IRA. It is taking longer to get my savings account back up with the retirement contributions but that is fine.

By going through this process, I had to make the choice to not go to the Palouse, Olympic Peninsula, Columbia Gorge, etc. or other locations for photography. This year has been spent doing more day trips. Finding new waterfalls to shoot, walking around Seattle, and exploring more local areas. Realize that children do what feels good and adults need to do what is right for the future. Going on the normal trips was not in the budget this year.

Many people think they always need new and better gear. I can’t get good Milky Way shots because I have a crop sensor (wrong, crop sensors work just fine), if I only had a better lens, if only had this or that. Well, does this and that fit into your budget? If not, then you don’t need it. It took me several years to upgrade to a full frame camera. Even then I bought it used off Craigslist. I used my Canon SL1 for Milky Way shots, backpacking, Palouse trips, etc. Who cares what equipment you have. If it works and you don’t have credit card debt because you wanted more stuff, you are way ahead in the game.

Do I make a lot of money so I could afford to travel, pay off my car, etc? No, I work for the federal government. I live within my means. I don’t spend more than I make, I put money into savings every pay check, and if I can’t afford to go somewhere or buy something using cash, I don’t. The bottom line is that if you enjoy photography and want to get better gear or travel to new locations, start a written budget, save up enough cash, then buy the new gear or travel to the cool location. Live within your means and remember, the Jones’ are broke so stop trying to keep up with them.

Tips For New Photographers

I often hear questions about how to get into photography. What camera is best? What camera should I get? How do I start taking photos? etc. My response is usually “it depends” followed by “what do you want to photograph?”

Let’s get the camera part out of the way. It doesn’t matter what camera you buy as long as it fits in your budget. The only thing I recommend is one that has interchangeable lens. When I started, I bought a Canon SL1 with 2 kit lens for $600.00. Any camera you purchase will be a lot more than you need for quite some time as you learn photography. If you want small and light, think about a mirrorless camera. They are much more compact than a DSLR. Go to your local camera store and try out all the brand and see which one feels the best in your hands, which is the easiest to use. I have a Canon SL! and a Sony A7Rii. When it comes to ease of use, the Canon is so much better than the Sony. The menu in the Canon is very easy to navigate where as the Sony is complicated and annoying. However, the image quality from the Sony is amazing and worth the annoying menu system.

The next step is to think about what you want to photograph. Street, weddings, portraits, landscapes, etc. Now do some research and find a local professional photographer that gives workshops in the photography you are interested in. If you live in Seattle and want to do landscapes, you can contact me and I will be more than happy to teach a workshop. I took a one day workshop when I was first learning and the knowledge I gained in the that one day worth the money. You will learn how to get the camera out of auto, learn how to shoot in manual, composition, using a telephoto lens, aperture, shutter speed, ISO and how they all work together, etc. You don’t know what you don’t know so you won’t know what you look up on Youtube.

The next thing you should spend you money on is Lightroom and Photoshop tutorials. While Lightroom is fairly easy to learn, Photoshop can be very complicated. Spending $40 to $60 on a tutorial is well worth the money. I have purchased several of them from Ryan Dyar, Joshua Cripps, and Ted Gore. Each one has their own unique style but it’s more about learning the program than anything else. Before you start thinking about how a real photographer shouldn’t use Photoshop, remember that Ansel Adams would spend an entire day in a darkroom editing 1 photo. The only difference is it is on a computer instead of a darkroom. Since you should be shooting in Raw format, the photos are very flat compared to a jpeg but have so much more data that editing is possible. If you only shoot in jpeg, your camera does the Photoshop for you depending on how the manufacturer set it up.

Basically, find a camera that you like and fits your budget, figure out what you want to photograph, take a workshop, purchase Lightroom and Photoshop tutorials, learn to edit your photos, and generally have fun with it. It is an art forma nd takes several years to find you own style and process. So get out shooting and unless you are being paid, fill the frame with what you like.

Infrared Photography and Why You Should Do It

A couples years back I saw some infrared photos and was completely amazed at how they looked. The bright colors, vibrant tones, and different look than normal photography. I started doing some research to find out how to shoot in infrared. The cheapest and easiest way it to buy a filter such as the Hoya R72. This is a 720 nanometer filter which is great for black and white and false color. The problem i had with this set up is my Canon SL1 is not great at detecting infrared light so I had to use a very long exposure in the middle of the day. It is my understanding that the R72 filter is almost 14 stops of light on my camera. Some cameras do a better job of allowing IR light to pass than others. One way to check is to use your TV remote and point it at your camera. If you see a light in your camera from your remote when you press a button, then it will work well for IR photos using the R72 filter.

I tried this for a while with not much luck so I bought a used Canon SL1 and had it converted. There are a couple places that will convert a camera to infrared but realize that it is now a dedicated IR camera and cannot be used for normal photos. I live in Seattle so I sent my camera to https://www.lifepixel.com since they are located just north in Mukilteo.

So why would you want to shoot Infrared? For one, the best time to shoot is the middle of the day when the light is too harsh for normal photography. You can make a summer day look and feel like winter. The photo below was taken in the summer on Lake Washington. Instead of boring green grass, green tree, and middle of the day, now it is wintery scene with amazing blue sky.

Lake Washington Infrared

Lake Washington Infrared

Now think about black and white photography. Most black and white photos are shades of grey with some black and some white. With infrared black and white, the photo takes on a new look. You can see in the photos below, the first one is taken with a normal camera, the second one is with my IR converted camera.

Standard black and white

Standard black and white

Infrared black and white

Infrared black and white

Whether you like the normal one or the infrared is personal preference, but the IR photo is different then other black and whites.

What about color infrared photos. Sure you can make them blue and white with simply reversing your red and blue channels in the Channel Mixer in Photoshop, but with a few more steps, your photos become vibrant and completely different. Take this photo I shot in Idaho during the late morning over Cascade Lake. The air was calm and the reflections were amazing.

Cascade Lake Infrared

Cascade Lake Infrared

What about this one from the Jose Rizal Bridge in Seattle.

12th Ave Bridge IR 1.jpg

One final image from Pier 66 in Seattle during the blue hour one evening last summer.

Pier 66 IR 4.jpg

Shooting in infrared has opened up the possibilities of photography in a way I didn’t think was possible. Shooting in the middle of the day, getting photos no one else has, or simply learning a new photography technique. Post processing infrared images is different than a normal photo so I would recommend studying Youtube videos, purchasing the CLIR panel from Blake Rudis at f64 Academy, or any other resource you can think of. Feel free to send me any questions you have about infrared photography and I will do my best to answer them.

Remember, unless you are getting paid, fill the frame with what you like.

Not Motivated to Shoot

I wanted to talk about an issue all photographers run into once in a while. Not being motivated to get some shots. Sometimes you shoot so much that you burn out. Your life becomes busy and can’t set aside time to get out. You’re just tired of shooting the same things all the time because you don’t have time travel somewhere.

The last one is what has happened to me lately. I don’t want get the same shots from Jose Rizal Bridge, Kerry Park, Pier 66 etc. around Seattle. While it is important to go back to the same location over and over to get the shot you have always envisioned it still gets boring. I was fortunate that we recently had a lot of snow in Seattle so these same tiring shots were now worth revisiting. Now the snow is gone so I don’t want to go back to these locations for a while.

One way to get around this is to give yourself a photography challenge. Go back to the same locations but only use a telephoto lens like a 70-200mm, 100-400mm, 150-600mm, etc. Now you take a scene that is usually shot with a wide angle lens and turn it into an intimate shot of the same scene. Take this scene from Kerry Park. It is the same one everyone gets except the Space Needle was pink for New Years and something to do with T-Mobile. The Space Needle is the main subject and Mt. Rainier is in the Background.

Pink Needle 2.jpg

This next image is from the same location at Kerry Park but a few days later so the Space Needle is not pink. However, there is nothing else in the image but the top of the Space Needle. I used my Tamron 150-600 G2 lens for this shot to focus only on the top of the Needle.

IMG_0422.jpg

This is just one example of how to become motivated again. You could also try something new. I have been thinking about doing some street photography. Of course it would be easier if I didn’t have to deal with traffic in Seattle or pay for parking every time I go downtown.

I will also put my extension tubes on and take some macro photos. Getting up close to your subject like flowers or bugs is more challenging than I would have thought. I realized the more macro photos I took, the more I learned the background is as important as the subject. Take a look at this photo and you can see how the background is the same color as the subject. I also learned that not much has to be in focus. As long as some part of the subject is in focus, that is all that matters.

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This next photo I took while walking home from work one day. It was a weed in someone’s yard but but up close you wouldn’t know it’s a weed.

Macro Weed.jpg

What about taking a trip just for photography? Many times shooting some place new will bring back the drive. It doesn’t have to be a far away land but it should be for a couple days. For me, going to the Palouse in June is an amazing time to get back into shooting. Spending the weekend shooting and riding my bike in a new place brings back my passion for both and it is only a 5 hour drive from Seattle

Next time you are not motivated to shoot, try something new, or just put the camera away for a while. There is nothing wrong with not shooting for a few days, weeks, a month etc. The drive will come back and you will be having fun again. Happy shooting and always fill the frame with what you like.

Using Leading Lines for Composition

In the last post I discussed using the Rule of Thirds for composition. Now I want to go into using leading lines.

Leading lines do exactly what you think they would. Lead your eye through the photo. You can use almost anything for a leading line. A highway, water, rocks, lines in the sand, etc. The best part about using leading lines is giving your photos dimension.

When it comes to leading lines, make sure the lines leads somewhere. You can see in the photo below, the road goes through the photo but falls off the end without going anywhere. That is exactly what your eye will do when looking at the photo.

Line falls off the frame.

Line falls off the frame.

This photo was taken while I was on a workshop learning photography. The instructor asked me why the road was off the frame. I didn’t have an answer. Then he explained how the lines need to stay in the frame to complete the story.

Take a look at the next photo. This was taken from the same location just a couple days back when we had a lot of snow in Seattle. Notice how the road leads your eye from the left corner to the upper right where the downtown Seattle is the main subject. I also lucked out and had some amazing gold light wash over the city briefly due to a break in the clouds.

Road leads your eye to the city.

Road leads your eye to the city.

When it comes to photos with creeks and rivers, the water is the subject. The path of the water leads your eye through the photo. That is all it needs to do. Start in one corner and go to the water’s end. This next photo shows how this works. You eye starts in the lower left, heads to the right of the frame then back to the center. It gives direction your eye can follow. Notice how the water stops around the top third of the frame. This photo uses leading lines and Rule of Thirds. Crazy, I know.

Grade Creek-Edit.jpg

One other example of leading lines is from a backpacking trip I did last year around the Copper Ridge Loop in the North Cascades. The second night of our trip we were at a small tarn above Whatcom Pass with Mt. Challenger and Whatcom Peak in the background. As the sun set, I found this group of rocks on the edge of the tarn leadings my eye to Whatcom Peak. Although it is not an actual line like a road or river, the rocks and edge of the tarn accomplish the same job.

Using rocks as a leading line.

Using rocks as a leading line.

Now you have an understanding of how to use leading lines and to make sure your eyes do not fall off the frame, put them into practice on your next photo shoot. The lines don’t have to start in a corner, you can put it in the middle of the frame if you want. It is your photo so do what you want but have fun in the process.

Until next time, happy shooting and unless you are getting paid, fill the frame with what you like.

Discussing the Rule of Thirds

I thought I would spend some time and talk about how to improve your photos with composition techniques that have helped me and I still use today. 1 rule I use quite often is the Rule Of Thirds

Let’s examine the Rule of Thirds. Think of the screen on the back of your camera with Tic Tac Toe lines on it. 2 lines going horizontal and 2 lines going vertical.

You can see in the image below, the Tic Tac Toe boxes divide the photo into thirds. The green tree is on the third line, the red tree is on a third line, the top and bottom of the yellow trees are on a third. If the green tree was in the center, you may cut off most or all of the red tree. If the top of the yellow trees were any higher, they would be cut off and too much grass would be showing. If the top of the trees was farther down, the hill in the background would take up too much of the photo causing it to be unbalanced.

Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds

Let’s take a look at another photo of a bird I took. The bird is on the right third looking into the photo. The direction the subject is facing is an important part of the Rule of Thirds. The left 2/3s of the frame would distracting if the bird was looking to the right. Looking into the photo gives the left 2/3 a purpose.

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You can see in the image below, the bird is looking out of the frame and it just looks wrong. There is no story being told and it makes you wonder why the right side of the image is even there.

Wrong side of the photo.

Wrong side of the photo.

Photographing a building uses the same method. The building should be facing into the frame like the barns in the photos below.

Building looks into the photo.

Building looks into the photo.

Palouse Country Barn BW.jpg

You can see in the last photo the barn looks into the photo, is on the right third and the grass is in the bottom third. The reason I put the sky in the top 2/3 of the frame is because it was more interesting than the grass. If it was a plain blue sky, it would have only taken up the top 1/3.

Now that you know the basics to the Rule of Thirds, go out and practice. Just remember, rules are good to know and understand how to be used. However, don’t be afraid to break the rules while shooting and fill the frame with what you like.

Photographing the Canadian Rockies

During the Christmas holiday we headed up to Banff to enjoy the amazing scenes of the Canadian Rockies. We really wanted to go cross country skiing but there was not enough snow in Banff to groom the trails and Lake Louise was a 45 minute drive each way. With the sunrise at almost 9 am and sunset at 4:30 pm, we figured with so many other things to see and do we would have plenty on our plate without skiing. Low and behold, I got a head cold by day 2 and wasn’t really feeling like doing much strenuous activity.

However, I did feel like going out and standing in the -15 c weather waiting for the sunrise every morning. At least I was dressed for the weather but that still didn’t keep my hands and toes from freezing every morning.

The scenes of the Canadian Rockies are amazing and something everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. From Mt. Rundle in Banff to all the amazing peaks along the Icefields Parkway, you will not grow tired of the views.

One of the days I was looking for compositions of Castle Mountain and came across a set of North Face Hyvent mittens. I stayed in the area for over an hour and no one showed up for I brought the mittens home for Dina. They were too small for me and after a good washing, they fit her perfectly.

Aside from the head cold, it was an amazing trip and cannot wait to go back during a warmer time of year. We are thinking the end of September next year to catch the fall colors and miss all the summer crowds. For now, enjoy my vlog and the photos.

Vermillion Morning Mist.jpg

Waterfalls and Mountains (and learning to shoot B roll)

When I’m spending the day photographing waterfalls, oceans, etc, I tend to get overwhelmed wile trying to record a vlog as well. Before I know it, I’m done shooting and I didn’t get any video footage. When I do spend the time to get video, I forget the B roll side of it. For those that do not know what B roll is, check Google.

This time when I was out, I remembered to film and try to get some B roll. Try being the operative word. But for a first time, I think it went well. Another thing I did was get a subscription to Epidemic.com. Epidemic is a website that has copyright free music so it can be used for anything you want without legal issues. The biggest advantage to Epidemic is that you can download the whole song, just the singing, drums, guitar, or any other single part of the song.

I was looking around not the waterfallsnorthwest.com website tryin to find some good waterfalls that weren’t a long drive from Seattle. I settled on the Suiattle River road since it is only about 1.5 hour drive north. The falls are not very big but worth the drive. Not only were the falls worth photographing, I came across a cloudy scene with forests and mountains. Mt. Chaval was poking out of the clouds so I had to stop and get some shots. This was also a good opportunity to get out the Tamron 150-600 G2 lens to zoom in on the mountains and forests. I have not had the lens very long so I’m still learning how to use it and the proper camera settings when zooming in to 600mm.

Enjoy my latest video of my trip to the Suiattle River road.

Grade Creek Falls

Grade Creek Falls

Why is the Light Behind Me?

Somedays I get up and want to photograph the sunrise. But I also don’t want to drive very far. This day I decided to head over to Bellevue because I saw a photo of the buildings reflected through water. With a little Google searching, I found the pool and headed off. I worked for a bit trying to find a good composition. As I walked around the pool, the reflection would change and trying to find the right one took some time. I also had to deal with the leaves on the sidewalk and how it all works together.

I finally found the composition and the light happened behind me. There were no clouds above the buildings to catch the light. This happens more times than not. Gets a bit frustrating but that’s photography. Luckily the glass on the buildings reflected he glowing clouds so that helped.

I used my IR camera most of the time since the light was not like I was hoping but worked perfect for infrared photos.

Enjoy the video and see what happened that morning in Bellevue.

Bellevue Falls.jpg

Cold Winter Sunrise at Artist Point

Woke up at 3 am, left at 3:30 am to drive 2.5 hours to Mt. Baker Ski area. From there, I walked up the road for 2 miles to Artist Point to photograph the sunrise. It was cold, sometimes my camera did not want to work, my gimbal was having issues, and I almost fell down a couple times walking on the ice. Once I sorted out my issues, things went much smoother for the rest of the trip. The best part, was that there were only 2 other people at Artist Point.

Although the skies were clear, the first light touching the mountains had a wonderful soft golden color that lit up the snow beautifully. I was able to get out the Tamron 150-600 G2 lens and really focus in on the mountains to the north. American Border Peak, Mount Larrabee and the Winchester Mountain lookout. Looking south, Baker Lake had a nice fog layer along with filtered light streaming towards it. The morning mist and mountains created a nice image that I knew would look good as a black and white. After spending about an hour at Artist Point, I decided it was time to head back and stop at the Wake N Bakery in Glacier for some bakery treats.

On the way to the bakery, I drove up a forest service road that I found on Google maps. There is a nice creek that I stopped and photographed but I will discuss that in a later blog after I go back up and spend more time focusing on the creek.

For now, enjoy the video from the morning.

Mountain Pano.jpg

Using a Solid Color Layer to Enhance Photos

As a photographer, I tend to stick to the same post processing on all my photos. For one, this saves time as I know what needs to happen. However, I come across some photos that need the colors enhanced to match what I saw while taking the photo. One way to do this is to use the Hue/Saturation layer in Photoshop or Lightroom. If you add too much saturation, many colors become blotchy especially blue skies.

I recently learned a new technique by using Solid Color layers in Photoshop. This allows you to enhance the colors, keep the detail, and leave out the blotches. To use the Solid Color layer properly, luminosity masks are needed to isolate the color and area you want. I use a program called Raya Pro but there are many programs out there to use so find the one that works the best for your needs.

Here is the video on how I use this technique to enhance the colors on my photos. Thanks for watching.

Image taken near Lake Wenatchee this fall. Enhanced using Solid Color Layers.

Image taken near Lake Wenatchee this fall. Enhanced using Solid Color Layers.

Wet and Soggy Photography

I recently went out for a day to shoot some waterfalls and possibly fall color around Mt. Baker and Baker Lake. As I was doing some research on the waterfalls near Baker Lake on https://www.waterfallsnorthwest.com, I found a creek with 4 falls I wanted to check out. When I arrived at the creek crossing, some trucks and trailers were there and looked like people were living in them. Not wanting to approach that, I went up FS12 and found a couple other waterfalls.

The drive up wasn’t too bad but by the time I got to Baker Lake, the rain was pouring down. The best part is that I forgot my rain jacket. That wasn’t very smart but luckily I had my soft shell jacket and an umbrella. In the video you can see how hard it was raining for most of the day.

Waterfalls Pano.jpg

Backpacking to photograph the Milky Way

I recently took a couple days off work to backpack into Tank Lakes in the Cascade mountains. The weather was not looking good for the weekend so heading out Wednesday and Thursday was the best option. It was a hard hike but worth the effort. Only 1 other person was out there, and the weather was perfect for the Milky Way. The trail started off with 5 miles of flat terrain that I was able to cover in about 1.5 hours. Then it went up for 2.5 miles and 2500 vertical feet. I stopped for lunch at the first lake in Necklace valley before continuing on to Tank Lakes. The lakes are about 11 miles 1 way and it took me 5 hours. The views from the lakes were amazing with Summit Chiefs, Chimney Rocks, and Overcoat peaks to the South. Iron Cap mountain was the view to the west.

If you have ever thought about backpacking for photography, just start doing it. If you don’t have experience with this, find someone local that can take you out and show you the best practices for backpacking and photography. The gear can be expensive but spend the money on the best gear you can afford. Some say it is like spending a small fortune to be homeless. This is mostly true but being comfortable in the mountains is important. Good goretex clothing will never be money wasted.

In the following video, there is a section where I go through the gear I take with me. Lightening my backpack was a goal of mine this year so I spent some money on a new tent, quilt, backpack and a few other items. I also have links at the bottom of this blog post with my gear. These are not affiliate links and do not benefit me at all.

Enjoy the video and if you have any questions, feel free to send me an email of leave a comment below the video.

Tanks Lakes Reflections 2.jpg

Failing as a photographer

Failing as a photographer can mean different things to different people. Most would think that you fail because you cannot make a living at it or you tried but failed. When I talk about failing, it's things like forgetting your memory cards, charging your batteries, etc.

How many of us have gone out to shoot only to realize you forgot a key element. Pulled your memory card from the camera to download you photos and forgot to put it back. I have done this one personally but I always keep 4 other cards in my camera bag. However, keeping 1 or 2 in the glove compartment or console in your card would be a good idea in case this happens.

What about not charging your battery? When I first got into photography, I only had 1 battery and if it went dead I was done taking photos. I soon purchased another one but realized 2 was not enough. Eventually I ended up with 6 batteries and always keep them in my bag.

Forgot my remote shutter on a shoot. That really sucks when you want to do long exposure. A camera cannot do more than 30 second exposure without a remote shutter. You can take a lot of photos then stack them in Photoshop but that takes a long time.

That one that really hurts is when you catch your filter holder on something and you watch the new Haida Clear night filter come off the camera and land on the rocks. I least I used it for 1.5 weeks before it broke. 

Failing is something we all go through and if you haven't, you will. Take it in stride and hope you are with others that have the equipment you forgot. If not, make sure you have extras of all the small stuff. Just get out and fill the frame with what you like unless the smoke in the air is so bad that nothing will turn out. That is what we are dealing with in Seattle right now.

IMG_9675.jpg

Using a Light Pollution Filter

I have been thinking about getting a light pollution filter for shooting astro photography. I asked around and no one I knew has one or used one in the past. After doing some research, I purchased the Haida Clear Night filter. Luckily, I was able to get it delivered before shooting the Milky Way two days later. 

A few of us went to Haller Pass near Mt. Rainier for the new moon in July. We had really clear skies and perfect weather that weekend so it was perfect. While we were waiting for the Milky Way to show up, we set up our tents, ate some dinner and prepared for the show. 

The stars arrived along with the Milky Way so I got out the filter and started getting some shots. The photo on the top is taken without the filter and the photo on the bottom is with the filter. I used my Tamron 70-200 G2 for these photos. All the green in the photos is the air glow we had that night and not caused by the filter.

The photos of the Milky Way are edited exactly the same and the photos of the Space Needle are straight from he camera with no editing.

No light pollution filter.

No light pollution filter.

Light pollution filter.

Light pollution filter.

After shooting the Milky Way that night, I wanted to test it on the city at night. I went one night to Alki Beach to shoot the sunset then city lights. While waiting for the city to light up, I knocked the filter off my camera and it landed on the rocks. Needless to say, I had to wait for my new filter to arrive before shooting the city.

Once my filter arrived, I had a good chance to shoot the city. The photo on the top is taken without the filter and one on the bottom is with the filter.

 

No light pollution filter.

No light pollution filter.

Light pollution filter.

Light pollution filter.

Using the filter requires the exposure to be about 0.5 stops brighter, I like the overall results and the editing is much easier. One thing about the filters is they enhance reds so a red building will be more red in the photo and red foliage will be very red.

Overall, I think the light pollution filters are a nice tool to have in my bag. Are they worth the price? That is for you to determine. I like the results and will continue to use it while shooting at night whether it is city or stars.

The links in this article are Amazon Affiliates but will not add any additional cost to you if you purchase anything from Amazon. They simple help me out to keep the content going. 

Thanks for reading and remember to fill the frame with what you like, unless you are being paid.

Tips for photographing the night sky

Mt. Baker Milky Way Vertical 2.jpg

On July 13th, TJ Simon and myself will be leading a Star Photography Workshop around the Seattle area. It all depends on the weather where the workshop will take place. Our options are Artist Point, Haller Pass, Mt. Rainier, and a few others.

I get questions every now and then about how I photograph the stars and Milky Way Galaxy. Using these tips, anyone with a DSLR camera can take the same photos as the professionals.

Sturdy Tripod-The first thing you will need is a sturdy tripod. The exposures need to be long and hand holding the camera is not an option. The tripod I use is the MeFoto Globetrotter carbon fiber. 

Remote Shutter Release-Avoiding camera shake is important and using a remote shutter release will prevent the shake. There are many styles so find one that works for you.

Wide Angle Lens-14mm or 16mm are great lenses for photographing the stars but even the kit lenses will work just fine. I use the Rokinon 14mm f2.8 or the Canon 16-35 f4. I went with the f4 due to price and it is sharper than the f2.8 v2. The new f2.8 v3 is suppose to be better but it is also $1900 and the f4 is only $999.

Once you the tripod, lens, and shutter release, now you need to work on camera settings and lenses. Any lens will work for shooting the stars. The best ones have a wide aperture like f2.8 or f1.4. If you only have an f4 or f5.6 lens, increasing your ISO or shutter speed will be required. Once the lens is set to it's widest aperture, set your focus to infinity. Many lenses have an infinity mark to help with focus. If your lens does not have this, either focus during the day and tape the focus ring or shine a bright light on a subject about 20 feet away and set your focus on that subject.

Now that you have the focus set and your lens set to the widest aperture, setting the shutter speed is the next step. There is a rule for photographing the stars to prevent trails. This rule is the "500 Rule". Divide 500 by the focal length of your lens. For instance, If I'm using the Rokinon 14mm, the shutter speed would be 500/14=35.7. This means I could keep the shutter open for 35 seconds before the stars begin to have trails. A 50mm lens would have a shutter speed of 10 seconds. If the camera you are using is a crop sensor, you must take the crop factor into account for the calculation.

ISO for astro or star photography is usually set high. I usually start at 3200 or 6400. That will usually let in enough light to see the stars and milky way galaxy on the back of the screen. With the 14mm lens, and ISO set to 6400, a shutter speed of around 15 seconds will let in enough light and prevent the stars from having trails. This way I don't have to leave the shutter open for 35 seconds.

Now you are all set to take photos of the Milky Way Galaxy and the stars. Set the camera to continuous shooting, lock the shutter release, sit back and let the camera do the work. Once you have around 20 photos go ahead and change the composition. If you want star trails, take a couple hundred photos unless you want to figure out the calculations for 1 shot that has long star trails but that seems like a lot of work while trying to stay up late to photograph the Milky Way Galaxy.

Check out my gallery of Milky Way photography http://www.randybottphotography.com/astro/. These photos were taken from various location around Seattle like Artist Point, Sun Top Lookout, and other mountains around in the Cascades.

Now that you have the basics on how to photograph the night sky, get out and try photographing the stars and Milky Way Galaxy.

All the links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links.

Photographing Mashel Falls

I recently learned about Mashel Falls a couple weeks back and decided to go last Friday. Unfortunately the flow was lower than I was hoping. However, this will give me a reason to head back in late winter-early spring when the flow is greater. It is only around 2.5 miles to walk to the falls on a road and a short trail. Check out the video of behind the scenes on how I got some of the shots.

 

Mashell Falls 1.jpg