I thought I would get out of the heat and head up to Mount Rainier National Park for a day. Forest fires from the eastern part of the state and British Columbia had produced quite a haze, making it difficult to photograph the mountain. As a result I decided to work on an idea I had been thinking about for quite a while. It has always been difficult finding the perfect wildflower specimen and isolating it to make a great portrait. If the the foreground isn’t too messy, then the background just doesn’t fit, or the light is poor. In order to truly appreciate these creative works of art, they need to be viewed apart from all the distractions. I had experimented with using a black background, shading the plant, and using my flash to provide the lighting as a back or side light. Up on Rainier I placed a heavy black folded piece of cardboard in the back of the flower. To shade the small scene, I used an expandable reflector. This enabled me to darken the whole scene and then begin to add back what light I wanted with an off camera flash. I found I needed to snoot the flash, as it had a tendency to spill light on my black background. The next problem was the wind – a constant annoyance at Rainier. Yet it does keep the bugs away. A faster shutter speed helped with the wind and the dark background. It was a bit of a balancing act at the faster shutter speed limited me from using a smaller aperture to gain more depth of field. The setup took longer than I expected, but was a great learning time. This first week in August appeared to be the height of the wildflower bloom, though a few had peaked and others were just beginning to blossom. I may have to return to do their portraits. (Click images for larger view.)
Construction is nearing completion on the Tahoma High School in Maple Valley, WA. Students are scheduled to begin attending classes this Fall in their new facilities. Some of the athletic fields are already being used. The fields are very well laid out and should be great for the student athletes as well as the fans. I’ll most likely go back for more photos when the landscaping is finished. I thought it would be nice to have some aerial images while all is bright and new. (click on photos see larger versions.)
There was nice weather in the Pacific Northwest today, so I drove over to Auburn to check out the Neely Mansion. Volunteers have been keeping this beautiful historic building in great shape. The Neely Mansion Association was incorporated in 1983 and is an all volunteer group. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. This fancy farmhouse was built in 1894. You can find out more about the mansion by visiting www.neelymansion.org or www.facebook.com/Neely-Mansion-Association-177484142383107/.
Two from their board were working on the gardening when I arrived. I took some aerial photos of the building and then some overheads of the grounds for them to use in their future planning. Check their websites – it is well worth a visit.
(Click image to see larger view.)
A friend told me about this facility and we spent over three hours photographing this outstanding historic treasure. For anyone who loves century old machinery, this is a paradise and a feast for the eyes. The colors, myriads of pipes, fittings, and gauges will keep any photographer engaged for hours. There are all sorts of lines from the piping, shapes of the gauges, patterns made by the rivets in the tanks, great patina on the metal, and some outstanding light from the windows.
It was built from 1906 through 1907 by the Seattle Electric Company. Seattle street cars used the power from the plant as well as residential and industrial properties. Oil was burned originally, yet in 1917 it was later converted to coal burning to produce the steam. By 1917 it was only used for emergencies and for backup situations. It saw limited use by 1920. Seattle City Light has owned the plant since 1951. In 1970 it was decomissioned and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1984. The last two operational Curtis vertical steam turbines are housed in this historical structure.
Currently the Seattle Steam Plant is open the second Saturday of every month from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm. There is no admission charge, though donations are appreciated. A large percentage of the windows are being restored and cleaned, so plywood is covering the openings. I was told the glass should be back in place sometime in March or April.
Edit: I returned on the 2nd weekend in April. All of the windows had not yet been replaced, but was told they would all be installed in time for the next open house in May. That should produce some great light on the massive turbines.
Click any image to enlarge.
I’ve been using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to gain some unique perspectives on shooting appropriate scenes. Watching the UAV fly inspired me to make its portrait. The process became quite challenging. One problem was to show the motion of the props spinning, as the short duration of my flashes would freeze the motion. I solved this by using the multiply exposure function to take 5 photographs and blend them into one. I also wanted to display a nice reflection of the flashing colored lights. This required timing the shutter release to match each of the 5 exposures. Balancing the background light, the main light, and the reflected light from the UAV took some time, but came together as I had envisioned.
Liberty Foundation brought their B17 to Renton Airport for display and paid flights. I’ve photographed all three of the major foundations which still fly a B17, and Liberty is by far the friendliest and the most fun. The crew is relaxed, willing to talk, and very approachable. The pilot on this trip, John Shuttleworth always seemed to have time for all questions and spent a good portion of his non flying time out on the ramp. Liberty Foundation was hosted by Pro-Flight, which was also top notch from their owner Diane to several of their flight instructors. Ted Gary was a tail gunner who completed 22 missions and talked with the visitors about his experiences. I salute these men of the greatest generation. This particular B17 had been fitted out to resemble the Memphis Bell which resides in a museum. This plane never did see combat but was used in the movie Memphis Bell. You can read about its history on the Liberty Foundation website. http://www.libertyfoundation.org/index.html
I’ve been mostly working on various colors of paper, plexiglass, or slate backgrounds. I decided I needed something different, so I purchased a black reflective base. After some research, a deep black porcelain was chosen. It does produce nice reflections, but can easily scratch, and also shows the dust if not cleaned thoroughly. The photos included are practice images with a new Buck folding knife. One of the drawbacks with this surface is that great care is needed in the placement of the light(s) and any reflectors, as they can be readily seen in the surface depending on the angle. So the light placement is now not only crucial for the highlights on the product, but also must be watched for unwanted reflections on the porcelain.
I was out in Ouray, CO for a landscape photography class with Charlie Waite. There were several in our group which had spent some time working on night photography. We spent one evening with their assistance learning the technique. Wes Grimes suggested we attempt a group photo with the Milky Way as our background. We planned to use our normal exposure for the stars and then add flash to light up the group. Our exposure was 25 seconds at f2.8, using an ISO of 3200. We bounced one light into a reflector to the left of the camera. The fast flash then froze the movement of the group. We had to change our focus from just under infinity to about 8 feet for the group. Still I believe this technique has merit. My plans are to try this technique with soft boxes so I can better control the light on the subject. With a group like this, I would use two soft boxes on either side, aimed at the respective far edge of the group.
I spent last Friday over in Colfax, WA at the Whitman County Fair. The library wanted some photos of their booth. It was very popular with the kids, as they could spin a wheel and receive a prize. The enthusiasm of the kids was catching. Here are a couple of the photos I took. (Click on photo for a larger version.)
Colfax, the county seat for Whitman County in Washington state, has a great library. This past week I participated in a library sponsored photography exhibition and photo tour of the Palouse region in conjunction with their Concrete River Festival. The exhibition was in the county’s main library and as a result I became acquainted with their library director. The library had some photographic needs so I volunteered to photograph their staff and the kids’ story time that morning. Here are a few of the photographs. (Click on photo for a larger view.)
I went back to Smokey’s Barbecue in South Cle Elum to finish the photos of the meals and the desserts. I started working around 2:45 pm, and since the crowds had not yet arrived for dinner, I had to sample several of the items. The berry cobbler was outstanding. Later I sat with their guests and enjoyed a brisket sandwich. Brian and James plan to use the photos I printed for specials and the digital images will be in a constantly changing digital picture frame to illustrate their menu. I was told they ran out of food early last Saturday evening.
I finished up the photos for CJ’s Bakery in Black Diamond. Jim Storer is an actual artist with frosting and all things edible. I struggled keeping my mind on the photos, due to all the tempting smells and treats surrounding me. It was another fun morning.
A friend is just starting up a barbecue restaurant in South Cle Elum, WA. He’s located in a historic railroad depot. I went over Thursday night to take some photos for him. He was giving away samplers to police, firefighters, and teachers – and any that happened to stop by. Outstanding food. I spent as much time sampling as I did taking photos.
I spent this afternoon experimenting with a new background idea for products. It’s simply firing a light through some pegboard with a white finish on the camera side. Changing distances, focal length, and f-stops affects the way the holes of light appear. I think it will fit for various types of products. I added another – regular Coke can with a bluish background. That one was bubble wrap.
I took photos today for one of the greatest bakeries in the Seattle area. Their maple bars are my favorite, but everything I’ve eaten there has been outstanding. The photos are for their new website and will require one more visit. It was an enjoyable time with some very good people.
It was one of the nicest days we’ve had in the Seattle area for quite a while. As a result, the yard work was put off again. I drove downtown to see the Seattle Big Wheel, the waterfront, and the Pike Place Market – a lot of the attractions that get neglected by the locals. It wasn’t the greatest day for photos as the crowds had the same thoughts as I did. Yet it was a fun change of pace. Lots of colors and visually stimulating sights.
I have been watching some spring flowers popping up around the yard and waiting for some good light. But it’s a typical gray winter day in the Seattle area. So this morning I finally took the matter into my own hands. I figured the flowers weren’t going to last that long – either the rain would beat them down or the deer would eat them. I went out before it rained and “made” some good light. I used a full CTO gel on my flash for an early morning or late evening quality of light.
I visited the LeMay Car Museum in Tacoma, WA. My purpose was a scouting trip, in hopes of obtaining permission to return with my Nikon gear and tripod and possibly doing some commercial work for them. So today was reconnaissance with the RX100, one flash, and a VAL (voice activated light stand). This is definitely a location I plan to return to. The building is fairly well lit and the cars are spaced nicely, so components can be isolated. When I return, I’ll shoot the outside at dusk when I can blend the exterior lights with the city and the fading light of the sky. (Click on image for larger view.)
I recently purchased a Sony RX100 so I would always have a good camera with me. This one has all the manual controls I need, it’s small enough so that I will take it with me, and the image quality is outstanding. It fits easily in a jacket pocket and even in a pants pocket. I decided to see how well it would sync with my speed lights. My wife was working on a quilting project, so I began to photograph some of her work. So far I’m pleased, but the focusing does require attention. The lights have to be manually adjusted, but dialing down the on-camera flash and covering it so it wouldn’t influence my exposure, produced a satisfying result. (Click photo to enlarge.)
The colors, textures, and the patterns of the fabrics do lend themselves to visually interesting subjects. I may continue this as a personal project, documenting all the many steps until the final quilt is ready for use.
Wind farms are being constructed in one of the most beautiful and agriculturally productive regions in the Pacific Northwest. The Palouse area is known for its gentle and graceful rolling hills, reminding many visitors from Europe of Tuscany. It is also one of the highest producing wheat and lentil regions in the world. Photography workshops in this area draw many during the spring and summer. It is quickly becoming known for its outstanding scenery and the vast photographic opportunities.
Currently the wind farms are confined to the northern area, just west of Oaksdale, WA. But one wonders, will they continue to spread. These towers do mar the sensual curves of the hills, as well as remove some productive land for crops. Of the 58 wind generators some are located on unproductive land, but many are not. I was told by a local farmer that 10 acres are required for each generator. The wind farm requires new larger and straighter roads, transmissions lines, and staging areas. There has been much controversy among the local land owners, but I have not yet seen the reaction from the photography community. This will have an impact, as these photography tours do bring in many dollars to the local communities.
Link to my Landscape work: www.ronheusserphotography.com Go to Galleries – Eastern Washington for Palouse photos.
My ebook, The Land of the Palouse, featuring the beauty of of this area of Eastern Washington just became available.