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 www.spaceweather.com.  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

Red Tulips

Close up image of red tulips at a nearby tulip bulb farm

Close up image of red tulips at a nearby tulip bulb farm

Clever title for a blog post featuring an image of red tulips isn’t it? Ok, if I am going to be totally honest I really couldn’t think of anything other than “red tulips” to title a post that features a close up image of red tulips. Now that I think about it, this post might do OK if someone is doing a web search for red tulips. :-)

I made this image last week while visiting the DeGoede Bulb Farm down in Mossyrock, WA.  For those who care, I shot it with one of my Sony a6000 bodies and used my Sony 70-200 f4 G lens.  I then used the new On1 Photo 10 to bring out some detail, add some dynamic contrast and boost the reds and greens.  For those that follow me, you probably know that I have been a fan of, and at times a beta tester for, the On1 products going back a number of versions.  The new version 10 of the package is no exception, in fact it might be their best release yet.  The folks over at On1 have been doing a great job of brining a number of great apps together into a more complete photo editing package.  I do have plans to post some workflow videos of how I used the On1 software.

That’s it for today.  I hope that you enjoy this image, and as always, please click through to see a larger version as well as other images from my Macro and Still life gallery.

Posted in Photography

Lower Lewis River Falls

Lower Lewis River Falls Panorama

A seven image panorama of the Lower Lewis River Falls in southwest Washington State

I have wanted to visit the series of Lewis River waterfalls since moving to western Washington back in 2012.  Lower Lewis River Falls, featured in this post, is the most popular, and possibly the more photogenic of the series of falls, but the whole area has a lot to offer photographers.

We started the day photographing tulips at the DeGoede Bulb Farm in Mossyrock.  After shooting the bulb farm, images from that shoot will be making their way to this blog soon, a few of us decided to make the trek south to Lewis River.

Lower Lewis River Falls are the first of the Lewis River Falls that you come to if you enter the area from I-5, and it was actually a lot further away than we thought it was which lead to us spending a really long Saturday out shooting and not actually being able to explore the area as much as we would have liked.  We shot both the lower and middle falls as well as some of the small un-named falls along the highway but we never made it to the upper falls.  I am already planning a full day trip back to more properly explore the area.

For those interested in the image that is featured in this blog post, It is a seven image panorama.  Each of the seven images used to create this panorama were shot vertically with one of my Sony a6000 bodies and the Sony 70-200 f4 G lens.  I then stitched them together in Adobe Lightroom and stylized the image a bit in the new ON1 10 suite of software.

I hope that you enjoy this image, and this is one that I would suggest your clicking through to see a larger version.

Posted in Photography