Land of Contrast – Yellowstone

Grand Prismatic Basin Monochrome

A monochrome image of tourists at the Grand Prismatic Basin in Yellowstone National Park

I recently returned from a week in Yellowstone National Park with my family.  Six couples and a handful of kids shared a rental house in West Yellowstone, MT. and we spent 5 full days in the first national park in the world.

I am not going to go into detail about the vacation aspects of this trip, I will more than likely document that over on my personal blog, MyBlueHeaven, but I will be sharing some images as well as thoughts about the park itself here on my photoblog.  I decided to start with this image as I think it really illustrates what I mean by “Land of Contrast” in the title of this post.

Yellowstone is a truly fascinating place.  There are contrasts everywhere you look.  You will easily find, as you will see from images I share later, forests and meadows that broken up with volcanic hot springs and geysers.  I can’t think of a more visually contrasting environment anywhere.  You have places like the West Thumb basin where there is boiling hot spring waters within inches of the cold water of Yellowstone Lake.  But none of this really illustrates what I find to be the biggest contrast in the entire park, and what I hope is shown in the above image.

One could argue that Yellowstone is the last remaining place in the United States, at least in the lower 48 states, that is truly wild and potentially dangerous.  Death and injury in the thermal areas are a very real thing, sadly a man died in a hot spring in the Norris Geyser Basin just a week or so before we got to the park.  Attacks by wild animals is also a very real possibility, and you can even buy or rent “bear spray” to carry while hiking.  Even with the park truly being a wild place, and danger is literally around every corner, the real contrast in my mind is the sheer number of people that visit the park, I am told just over 4 million this past year.  I can’t think of anywhere else that you can be in the wilderness but also around so many people at the same time.

This image, which I captured at the Grand Prismatic Basin on our first day in the park, hopefully illustrates that very contrast.  When I saw the people out on the boardwalk with the steam rising behind them, I knew that I had to grab a shot of it, and I am glad that I did, it might be one of my favorite images from the entire trip.

Stay tuned, over the next week or so I will be sharing more images from a wonderful week in Yellowstone.

Posted in Photography

Sharing With Intent

Lower Lewis River Falls

A shot of the Lower Lewis River Falls taking during harsh afternoon sunlight

This past month my friend Jacob Lucas presented his work to the Olympia Camera Club under the title of “Shooting with intent.”  Jacob talked about thing like making an image your own and actually having a reason to press the shutter button.  This lead to a conversation with some fellow photographers about taking that a step further and in addition to shooting with intent, we explored the idea of sharing with intent.

What I really mean by this is finding a way to self edit and not just share images for the sake of sharing them, or to chase that little “like” or “fav” button on social media.  I am using this image as what I think is a perfect example of what I am trying to say.

Most people will look at this image and immediately think it is a great image.  I would argue that if you take just a little more time and really look into it, there are a number of things very wrong with this image.  There are actually enough things wrong with this image to keep it out of my galleries here on this site, but I will get back to that in a moment.

I made this image back on May 1st.  At the time I was really excited about getting this image onto my computer, processed and then shared with the world.  After I got it onto my computer I sort of got wrapped up with other things but always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to get this image “out there.”  I finally had the opportunity a couple days ago to sit down and really look at this image, and it immediately jumped out at me that there was a lot wrong with the shot, and that it might work perfectly for this blog post, which I had been wanting to write for awhile now.

I processed this image anyway, and about 24 hours before sitting down to write this post, I shared it to Flickr.  I was curious as to how this image, which I believe to be flawed enough to keep our of my galleries, would be received on a photo sharing network.  Most people would be thrilled to have over 1700 views, over 100 likes and invitations into 5 groups for one of their images, and that is exactly where I am at after 24 hours of this image being on Flickr.

I suspect that many of the people who have read this far wonder why I consider this image flawed, and why it isn’t in my Nature / Landscape gallery.  There are actually a number of reasons.  The biggest starts with the time of the day that I captured the image.  It was early afternoon, just after 2:00pm and to say that the sunlight coming up the Lewis River Canyon was harsh would be a major understatement.  This harsh light created nasty shadows both in the background and on the elements of the falls.  You don’t have to look to hard at this image to see those nasty shadows.  Secondly, my composition is really quite bad.  I should have brought more of the foreground into the scene, but that isn’t what “ruins” this image for me, it is that I cut off the downed trees on the left side and with them moving diagonally out of the frame, they take the viewers eye right out of the scene.  Simply put, if I were not using this image for this blog post, odds are that people would have never seen this shot.

So, what is the moral of this very long winded blog post.  Simply put, I think we all need a lesson from time to time about sharing with intent.  Share your best work, evaluate your own work with a critical eye, and maybe most importantly, don’t always take the feedback that you get online as a gauge of the quality of an image, more often than not, popular doesn’t equal good.


Posted in Photography

Middle Lewis River Falls

Middle Lewis River Falls

The Middle Lewis River Falls in Washington State

If you were to do an internet search for Lewis River Falls the vast majority of the results would be for Lower Lewis River Falls.  I believe that the reason for this is that while the lower falls are very scenic, they are also much easier to get to.  There is a well established campground and relatively easy trails leading to a well maintained observation deck.  What a lot of people might not realize that there are two other sets of falls in this section of the Lewis River, the Upper Lewis River Falls and the Middle Lewis River Falls.

Both the upper and middle falls are quite scenic, and well worth the visit, but in both cases they are a bit harder to get to.  While there are well established trails to each, the trails are longer and steeper.  Neither have the well maintained observation deck that the lower falls has, but both are well worth the effort to visit.

This image is of the middle falls.  I decided to make it something of an abstract image by getting in close to the action.  The nice thing about the middle falls is that you can actually get quite close to the water.  I hope that you enjoy this image.

Posted in Photography

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