Evolution of a Photographer

Evolution, as defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, is a ‘progressive change and development over time’. It’s wild to think I’ve been photographing landscapes and the natural world for just over 10 years now. That journey began with a fairly basic point & shoot camera with a desire to explore and capture images of the natural world. It wasn’t work to me, it just came natural. A little over 2 years ago I decided: “This is something I want to do as a professional”. A lot has changed since I picked up that first point & shoot: technology, equipment, image processing software, financial ability to travel, business growth, well you get the point. Today I’m going to focus on the path of my education & experience. I believe they both go hand in hand, or at least should. I’ve chosen several images from one location: Mount Rainier National park. My decision was based on allowing you to get a better feel of the progress my images have take over the past several years by comparing a location I’ve been to several times over that span of time.

My first digital camera was a Fuji Finepix 3800. That brings back some memories….3.0 MP with a 6x optical zoom. It even had threads to add a filter! My first experiences taking that camera out were very basic, frame a shot and capture the image. Simple, right? Now I’ve always had a eye for art, photography being my passion of all the arts, but I had no idea in buying that camera that I needed to know more then frame. point. shoot. I had only dipped my toes in the water a bit, understanding some affect on my images was provided by using filters while shooting. I began to use a circular polarizer or warming filters and with fairly happy results (at least at the time I thought). The images below are two I captured from Mount Rainer National Park in 2003. To me they almost look rudimentary, very basic images. The color was flat, poor lighting, and limited contrast. I understood framing and composition, but not much beyond that. I captured these images as jpeg, that’s it. No RAW files….and what the heck was Lightroom (which didn’t even exist then) or Photoshop?

DSCF0033-2 DSCF0025-1

The next step was purchasing a DSLR, I purchased my Nikon D40x in summer of 2006. I was almost overwhelmed by the ability to adjust settings, shoot in new file formats, use various lens – the list goes on and on. The world of photography was much bigger than an automatic setting. And within 2 years I wore out the shutter mechanism and purchased a Nikon D90. Over a 3-4 year span I began to read more about what f/stop, shutter speed, film speed, and depth of field meant to the images I created. Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t take learning how each of those components affected my images a serious as I should have and my images suffered because of it. I began to see elements in my images regarding depth of field, exposure, over exposed skies or underexposed foregrounds. I learned more and more about post processing, using Nikon’s Capture NX 2 for editing all my RAW images. Still, I feel like what I was outputting didn’t meet my personal expectations. The below images are from summer of 2008. As you can see a marked improvement from 2003. The images were taken as RAW files, processed in Capture NX 2. What do you see that could be improved upon? I feel the red channel is blown out in the below photo. I also would’ve liked to have a less depth of field to make the flowers pop from the background. Simply, I didn’t think thoroughly enough about what I was doing. The next image? What are your thoughts?

Mount Rainier NP 206 (1 of 1) Mount Rainier NP 028 (1 of 1)

Two years ago I made a decision that I was going to pursue my dream as a landscape photographer seriously. I have spent hours reading, searching the web, asking questions, having conversations with some great photographers, experimenting, and shooting. The effort has paid dividends in the quality of my work. I made the decision to move to a full frame senor with my camera, purchasing a Canon 5D Mark II at that time. But to be honest, as much as I love that camera, it’s not what has made be a better photographer. Education and going out and shooting, shooting, and more shooting was the key yo better photography. I also expanded the use of my post processing techniques, using Lightroom and Nik software (which is incredible, but another post on it’s own). The last images I’m sharing are form the past August at taken Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park. Much more dynamic images. Increased contrast, depth of field throughout the images, and one key the above images lacked – good lighting. Letting the natural light speak for itself allowed me to create some images I walked away very happy with.

Mount Rainier 2012 - Paradise - 178 Mount Rainier 2012 - Paradise - 233

My evolution has taken many steps the past 10 years, but here are my take away points that can lead you to being a better photographer. 1. Learn. I mean really invest in learning, read, experiment, ask quesitions. 2. Spend time. Now that you’re educated yourself, spend time taking photographs. Not just here & there, but as often as you can. 3. Gear. Nope, not what you’re thinking. The latest gear is great and I’ve worked hard to have nice gear. But now a days a DSLR whether $600 or $6000 can take quality images, but it’s not about the gear. It’s all about your education & experience. I’m excited to continued progress and change as a photographer, continuing to evolve as my career grows.

Advertisements

Recovery

photo

There it sits, staring at me. Asking, ‘When are we going outside again?’ Soon, very soon I think to myself.

As a landscape photographer I am active, I mean really active. Hiking miles on end, camping in the middle of nowhere, staying out late, up early, scrambling over rocks and down canyons to capture moments in time and the incredible beauty of nature. I will admit, I sometimes take my mobility, health, and ability to get up and go for granted. It’s never been an issue, sure I’m getting little older and those Pacific NW beers I love aren’t helping my waist line, but still never any history of injuries for me. That all changed on a lazy Saturday morning. I felt perfectly normal and with the simple action of squatting down to grab something under the sink it all came crashing to a halt:

It’s been about 7 weeks since I suffered a series of lower back spasms. Now spasms don’t sound like much of an injury, but in my lower back, they could possibly be the most painful thing that I’ve ever experienced. I was relegated to lying on my back in bed for a couple days after each time the muscles spasmed. Then slowly moved to the couch with help for my trusty trekking poles as my crutches, only to lay there uncomfortably. Every movement hurt, most positions uncomfortable. The whole ordeal was more than just physically painful, it was emotional and mentally painful – an independent guy who is active and moving for a living was now stuck on a his back. For a moment, be it brief, but still a moment, doubt crept into my mind. What happens next? Do I heal or does this happen again? How long will this take? Can I hike in the wilderness again? Can I carry around multiple pounds of gear? What was my outcome going to be?

Ok, I thought, enough with the negative stuff. This wasn’t going to beat me. After digging deep and spending time in prayer and rest I found the strength to get back up. I wasn’t going to let this be my story. Eventually the pain subsided, I began to move more and be mobile, but by no means my old self. Over the past three weeks I’ve returned to the gym, working on strengthening, stretching, and building up my confidence to get back to what I love.

If this injury has taught me any thing it’s to never take anything we do for granted. Love what you do everyday. Appreciate what an incredible blessing and journey that we have as photographers. That is fuel for my body and my SOUL. I am ready. Ready to strap on my backpack and head out to do what I love the most – explore the world and capture the beauty and art in nature.

A Photographer’s Journey: My Best of 2012

Wow, is it really almost 2013?? How did that happen so fast? Each December, as the year comes to a close, it’s a great time as photographers to look back at what has come to pass, taking inventory of the adventures, journeys, and the moments we’ve experienced. It’s one of my favorite times of year, partially because I get to take a breather from travel and adventuring (not a long one though). Also because of what starts popping up in the blogging and social media sites – ‘Best of/Top Lists’.  It is inspirational, educational, and enjoyable to see what others have done this past year. As I put the finishing touches on my 2012 list, it’s my time to reflect on the past year. That reflection allows me to put in perspective the depth and size of the experiences I’ve lived out as a photographer this past year. This year was an incredible journey for me as a photographer – I grew my business, learned new techniques, experimented with and learned new gear, made new friends. I certainly can’t complain about any of the adventures and travels from this past year. Yup, the light wasn’t always perfect, I wasn’t always in the right place at the right time, and didn’t always get ‘the shot’ I had visioned in my mind, but it was one heck of a journey. I was blessed enough to spend time in Utah canyon country, the high Sierra of Yosemite, the peaks of Washington’s cascade mountains, the Canadian Rockies, fall colors in the Tetons, and here in my home state of Oregon. I’m proud to share with you my ‘top 12 of 2012’ favorite images from this past year. I hope through my images you enjoy the journey as much as I did!

Pear Orchard and Barn – Hood River Valley, Oregon

I had been wanting to catch the pear/apple blossoms in the Hood River Valley for the past few years, but hadn't been able to time it right, until this year. I found this location based on driving around all the little back roads and from a few few rumors of 2-3 great barns to photograph. As I walked into the orchard all I could hear was a buzzing sound...from all the bees. Now, I'm no fan of bees, but with all the blossoms I knew they wanted nothing to do with me.

I had been wanting to catch the pear/apple blossoms in the Hood River Valley for the past few years, but hadn’t been able to time it right – until this year. I found this location based on driving around all the little back roads and from a few few rumors of 2-3 great barns to photograph. As I walked into the orchard all I could hear was a buzzing sound…from all the bees. Now, I’m no fan of bees, but with all the blossoms I knew they wanted nothing to do with me.

Tioga Pass Road at Olmsted Point – Yosemite National Park, California

Our first day in the park was spent along Tioga Pass road w/ a sunset destination of Olmsted Point. We had packed all the camera gear, a few snack, and a couple beers to enjoy while sitting for a couple hours and watch the light change. I wondered over to the road just before the last light of the day I really liked this composition with the curved road and dramatic peaks w/ just a hint of light on them.

Our first day in the park was spent along Tioga Pass road w/ a sunset destination of Olmsted Point. We had packed all the camera gear, a few snack, and a couple beers to enjoy while sitting for a couple hours and watch the light change. I wondered over to the road just before the last light of the day I really liked this composition with the curved road and dramatic peaks w/ just a hint of light on them.

Sunrise Over Bryce Canyon – Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

I was incredibly excited to get a week of shooting in Utah's National and State parks in March. My first (and very chilly) morning out shooting I captured this moment. Not another soul around for the first hour I was out.

I was incredibly excited to get a week of shooting in Utah’s National and State parks in March. My first (and very chilly) morning out shooting I captured this moment. Not another soul around for the first hour I was out.

Last Light and Storm Over Lake Louise – Banff National Park, Canada

Although not remote (literally a giant hotel was right behind me) Lake Louise is impressive, turquoise waters and glacier covered peaks. I spent sunset shooting the shores w/ long exposures and although I love the turquoise waters, something about the contrast of this image in black and white set the mood for the late afternoon storms that had moved through the area.

Although not remote (literally a giant hotel was right behind me) Lake Louise is impressive, turquoise waters and glacier covered peaks. I spent sunset shooting the shores with several long exposures. Although I love the turquoise waters, something about the contrast of this image in black and white set the mood for the late afternoon storms that had moved through the area.

The Explorer – Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Canada

I spent one day hiking across the Athabasca Glacier with a guide, as we approached the shelves of the icefall my guide went ahead to scout the ever changing route. His bright orange coat was a catching contrast to the blue/white/gray of the galcier. Also the image creates a perspective and raw feeling of how large that glacier really is.

I spent one day hiking across the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper NP with a guide, as we approached the lower shelves of the icefall my guide went ahead to scout the ever changing route. His bright orange coat was a catching contrast to the blue/white/gray of the glacier. Also, the image creates a perspective and raw feeling of how immense the glacier is in size.

Summer’s Bloom – Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

After making my way up to Mount Rainier on a sunny afternoon, the late day light turned spectacular. I have to admit the light this day was the best light I've ever experienced.

The light this afternoon was almost, if not, the best light I’ve ever experienced as a photographer. The flowers were blooming perfectly, the clouds moved into the right place, and I literally had to share this area of Paradise with one other person. As a photographer it doesn’t get much better than this.

Summer’s Bloom II – Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Again, another favorite image from Mount Rainier NP in the Paradise area. No matter what direction I looked the light was incredible. A photographer's dream.

Again, another favorite image from Mount Rainier NP in the Paradise area. No matter what direction I looked the light was incredible. A photographer’s dream.

Grand Light – Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The iconic Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Parks has been photographed probably more than I could ever count, but it's iconic for a reason. I patiently waited for the sun to rise to the east, but the clouds weren't willing to play. That is, until for a few minutes when light peaked though a few holes in the clouds resulting in this pattern of pink light on the Tetons and clouds.

The iconic Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park has been photographed probably more than I could ever count, but it’s iconic for a reason. I had to spend my typical 1-2 mornings here. As I patiently waited for the sun to rise to the east the clouds weren’t willing to play nice. That is, until a few minutes of light peaked though a few holes in the clouds resulting in this pattern of pink light on the Tetons and clouds.

Fall Storm and Color – Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park is always an amazing place to spend time, however fall can be even more magical as the trees change color and the temperature dips at night. 2012 was a very dry year across the country and much of the tree around GTNP were a duller yellow and very dry, but there a couple special places in the park that didn't get the 'it's been a dry year' message. I visited this spot several times, however my favorite was the first afternoon where a few thunderstorms had moved through wetting the leaves and making for a dynamic sky.

Grand Teton National Park is always an amazing place to spend time, however fall can be even more magical as the trees change color and the temperature dips at night. This past was a very dry year across the country and many of the trees around GTNP were a duller yellow in color and drying out quickly, but were a couple special places in the park that didn’t get the ‘it’s been a dry year’ message. I visited this spot several times, however my favorite was the afternoon when a few thunderstorms had moved through wetting the leaves and making for a dynamic sky.

Road to Opal Creek – Opal Creek Wilderness, Oregon

Sometimes images just sneak up on you when you had no intention at all of photographing them. This is the story of The Road to Opal Creek. My wife and I decided to take on last fall hike to shoot color in the Opal Creek Wilderness that's near our home in Salem. The weather was supposed to be cloudy, but not rainy, however the day/night had been rainy and surprisingly the snow level dropped, coating the trees with the seasons first snow. I converted this image to black & white in order to maximize the tonal contrast between the white snow and dark trees/shadows.

Sometimes images just sneak up on you when you least expect it. That is the story of ‘The Road to Opal Creek’. My wife and I decided to take one last fall hike to shoot remnants of color in the Opal Creek Wilderness. The weather was supposed to be typical Oregon cloudy, however the previous day/night had been rainy. Surprisingly the snow level dropped overnight, coating the trees with the seasons first snow. This view along the road caught my eye. I converted this image to black and white in order to maximize the contrast between the white snow and dark trees/shadows.

Proxy Falls – Three Sisters Wilderness, Oregon

Oregon has 100's of waterfalls, but this one, Proxy Falls, is my hands down favorite. It's a photographers dream, literally dozens of angles you can shoot from. But my favorite is up close, getting the softness and details of the cascades coming down the basalt columns.

Oregon has 100’s of waterfalls, but this one, Proxy Falls, is my hands down favorite. It’s a photographers dream, literally dozens of angles you can shoot from. But my favorite is up close, getting the softness and details of the cascades coming down the basalt columns.

Tulip Fireworks – Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, Woodburn, Oregon

Every spring the tulip and iris gardens bloom for several weeks adding a giant splash of color to the green patches of farm land in Oregon. Sunset was a bust, but shortly after - this display of color hit the clouds. I captured a handful, this being the only one I was satisfied with the sharpness.

Every spring the tulip and iris gardens bloom for several weeks adding a giant splash of color to the green patches of farm land in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Sunset was a bust this night, but shortly after – this display of color hit the clouds. I captured a handful of images, only a few sharp enough for my satisfaction.

Please be sure to check out my website at: wildernessadventureimages.com

You can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook

This is My Backyard Part 1: Mount Rainier National Park

     Living in the Pacific NW lends it self to a bounty of amazing places to explore as a landscape photographer, hiker, and all around adventurer. From jagged volcanic peaks, rugged coast, to moss covered waterfalls, and high desert – this is my backyard!

  Mount Rainier National Park is one of those gems of the Northwest, maybe one of my favorites in all of the national park system. Every year in August the subalpine meadows erupt with every color of wildflower imaginable. Recently I received word that the wildflower display at Paradise was in full force. I had assumed I had missed this years bloom due to being in Canada most of early August, but thanks to a slightly later bloom than I’d experienced before – I hadn’t!I made the decision on a Sunday evening that I’d head up to the Paradise area of the park the next day, spending the late day and evening exploring and seeing if the light would lend it self to photography. Monday arrived and quickly after lunch I tossed my gear into the Xterra and headed north. I arrived with about three and a half hours of daylight left before the ‘golden hour’, so on went my backpack with camera gear in hand and up the mountain I went. If you’ve never been there, Paradise isn’t far from your car, but does require a bit of a climb because it’s all uphill and steep (but don’t let that ever be a deterrent to visiting). The information I had about the flower display was right on the money! I enjoyed hiking around for the next couple hours while exploring for unique spots to put my tripod down. I found my way up the skyline and glacier view trails to several patches of vibrant lupine, indian paintbrush, alpine aster, broadleafarnica, etc.

Golden hour had arrived and I was witness to one of, if not the best, displays of light I’ve ever seen as a photographer. Now, I’m what I’d describe as a bit of a ‘roving photographer’, I like to move around my scene, see if there is a better angle, more interesting foreground, better position for the light? How was I going to tell the story of this night? The light and how it danced along the ridges and lit up the clouds was telling the story without any help from me. I walked away excited because I was able to capture a handful of images I was very happy with. And believe it or not I shared the entire area with one hiker who was enjoying the sunset and not taking a single photo (there is also a lesson to be learned in that: sometimes it is ok to just take it all in and NOT be behind the lens). If you’re in the Pacific NW, Rainier is not to be missed now matter the time if year, but August may be my favorite. I’m already looking forward to my next visit – when fall color takes over the park!

Intimate Landscapes

Intimate Landscapes

‘Intimate Landscapes’ that seems to be a term being thrown around a lot lately(maybe just new to me). I will be the first to admit that as a landscape photographer I haven’t exactly focused on this part of my ‘game’. With that said, recently I was out on a hike in south western Washington, just north of the Columbia River Gorge – which living in the Pacific Northwest opens up for excellent opportunities to photograph forests, streams, rivers, and especially waterfalls. Only one problem: sunny and 70 was the forecast. Now, normally I don’t plan on extensive shooting on a blue bird day, but like any good photographer, I never go without my gear. We arrived at Panther Creek Falls, a unique 135 ft waterfall that may very well be dynamic to shoot in evenly dispersed light, but not so much on this day. My perspective had to change. What in my surroundings was unique enough to create a image that represented the scene I was experiencing? After setting up my gear and moving around I found one particular spot that stood out. The image above is what caught my eye. I framed this one bright green, moss covered rock w/ the waters of the creek swirling around. The direction of flow in the water at a long exposure created a soft, but dynamic texture.  It was only a small portion of a much larger scene. My intimate landscape.

My perspective has changed. Almost by force, but not in a negative sense of the word – a creative force – better describes the change. What is your vision as a photographer? What is your perspective? Have you walked away from a scene because the light wasn’t just right? The time of day wasn’t perfect? It wasn’t what you had pictured in your head? My new found perspective: Look around, slow down, capture the intimate details of your surroundings and capture the scene. Step out of your comfort zone and tell us a different story.

Spring comes to Oregon

After the usually long (or what feels like long) rainy winter in Oregon, spring has arrived. In early April the Hood River valley turns into a pallet of white blossoms with a sweet nectar smell hanging in the air. I took advantage of an unusually warm April Saturday with my energetic dog Ellie to explore the valley and orchards. Scattered among the trees were a few barns, some well kept and some not. It was this one that stood out to me with it’s position and Mt Hood hanging over the barns left shoulder. I was hoping for some clouds to make the sky a little more dynamic, but the color from the apenglow on the mountain, barn, and blossoms carries the image. I enjoyed this shoot a little more than some due to the company of several other photographers that also had an idea of what this barn might have in store come sunset. Great day shooting and great company and conversations.

Up and running!

I’ve been working long and hard to re-tool my website wildernessadventureimages.com and now my blog. I’m glad to announce, I’m 99% of the way there….ok, so I never really feel like everything is exactly the way I want it, but things are looking good. Now the long haul sets in….processing images. Just a quick history lesson – I spent 7 amazing days with incredible weather, in Utah about 2 weeks ago. What does that mean you say? Lots of images to process. I’m looking forward to spending time in the ‘digital darkroom’ and posting some new images. I’ll be adding posts including images from the Utah trip this coming week.