Monthly Archives: May 2016

Mothers Day Northern Lights

Mothers Day Northern Lights

Northern Lights over Olympia, WA on Mothers Day weekend

People always seem shocked when they see images of the Northern Lights over the Puget Sound area in Western Washington.  I constantly get comments on social media like “I didn’t know they could be seen this far south” for my personal favorite, “I have lived here all my life and have never seen them.”

The fact of the matter though is that the Northern Lights are not all that uncommon, you just need to know when to out out and look.  Ok, you also need a clear sky and that is sometimes a challenge here in Puget Sound area.

This image was made during a solar storm over the Mothers Day weekend.  I shot this from the Washington State Capitol grounds.  This was actually very early in the evening and the storm faded from view for quite awhile after this.  Sadly I packed up and left for home about 15 minutes before the storm intensified and put on a display that puts what you see in this image to shame.

So, you might be wondering what makes the conditions favorable to see the Northern Lights here in the Puget Sound area.  As I already mentioned, you need a clear sky, clouds will kill your chance before it even starts.  A moonless night also helps, but isn’t always a deal breaker.  Most importantly though, the solar conditions have to be just right.  The best resource that I know of is  When you visit the site you will see a sidebar on the left side of the page.  Scroll down to section that starts with “Current Auroral Oval” and look for “Planetary K-index”.  In order for the Northern Lights to have a chance of showing up here in Puget Sound, that number will need to be at least 6.  7 or 8 are even better, but it was 6 when I made the attached image.  The second number you need to look at is right below the Kp number and is the Bz.  In this case it isn’t so much the number you care about, but the polarity of that number, you want it to indicate that the Bz is to the South, not the north.  It is also important to remember that these numbers will vary though the night so you will want to be patient.

In any case, I hope you enjoy this image, and hope that it motivates you to get out and enjoy the lights the next time they show up.

Posted in Photography, StormChasing

Kylo Ren and his lightsaber

Kylo Ren Lightsaber

Toy shot of Kylo Ren and his lightsaber

I am fortunate to be “real life” friends with a handful of very talented toy photographers. I am also the leader of the Advanced Photography Group of the Olympia Camera Club, and this month these two things came together when one of the best toy photographers out there, Matt Ferris, shared with the group how he captured and processed an image of Kylo Ren and his lightsaber.

Matt made a great presentation on not only how he sets his shots up, I think many of us assumed that he did a lot more composite work then he does, and how he does some of his post processing.  Matt brought in, and basically built, a model scene to shoot that evening, and was gracious enough to let the club members present shoot the scene as well.

This image is my “take” on the scene of Kylo Ren that Matt setup for the group.  This is way outside of what I normally shoot, but I had a blast shooting and processing this image.  I have always understood the passion that toy photographers shoot with, I have the same passion for things like lightning, but after Tuesday night there might be a little more toy photography in my future.  Perhaps it is time to reprise my model train personal project from a few years ago.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, I captured this image with a 60 year old lens attached to one of my Sony a6000 bodies.  Who says that you have to have the latest and greatest gear to make interesting images?

Posted in Photography

Ape Cave Stairs

Ape Cave Stairs

The rock stairs at the entrance to Ape Cave near Mt. St. Helens in Washington State

I made this image of the stone stairs leading down into the Ape Cave near Mt. St. Helens a couple weeks ago, but thanks to some computer problems I haven’t been able to share it here on my blog until now.  I am not going to go into details on my computer issues, yet, but stay tuned for a potential “lessons learned” blog post or video at some point.

As I said, I made this image a few weeks ago.  It was on my second trip down to the Lewis River and specifically the Lower Lewis River Falls which I have shared an image of here before.  On the way to the falls is a fairly popular local, natural attraction, the Ape Cave.  Ape Cave is actually a lava tube that wasn’t discovered until the early 1950s.  We didn’t spend a lot of time at the cave, we simply didn’t have the gear to explore the cave, but I did want to capture a few images of the entrance to the cave from the transition point from light to dark.

I also utilized a few tricks from a recent “Hand Crafted” episode over at The Photo Frontier, of what I am a proud explorer.  In that episode Justin and Armando used a Lightroom technique to blur the edges of an image, and while it is something I have done in Photoshop in the past, I had never tried it in Lightroom.  I am happy to report back that I was quite pleased with the results and will use that technique again in the future.

I actually have a lot of images to share, but with my current computer issues, which I hope are almost resolved, it will most likely be a few more days before I make another post here, or share any new images via social media.  Please stay tuned.

Posted in Photography