Anacortes, the Shipwreck Festival, and Photography

Welcome Seagull

Just waiting

Bargan hunters


What a crowd

Patriotic Hydrant

Fireman,armadillo,H2O bar

Red door

Red Crown gas

three windows

Calm ocean


Kayaks away

Tree at Washington park


Any excuse I can find to visit the coastal town of Anacortes in Washington State is good. An easy four to five hour highway drive from my home in Pritchard to what is referred to as the homeport of the Pacific Northwest’s San Juan Islands, is the town of Anacortes and an annual event called the Shipwreck Festival.

Since 1981, the Shipwreck Festival is actually a giant community garage sale that on the third weekend of July each year occupies about nine blocks of the town’s main street, offering, I suppose, “plunder” or “treasure,” which are the favorite local words from over 200 or more businesses, organizations, antique dealers, small vendors, and families for all the neat stuff they have for sale.

As I wrote, any excuse I have to visit Anacortes is good, and although my main goal is the photographic opportunities I can find in that old town’s architecture and the rugged coastline, I do enjoy wandering through the giant flea market while on my way and always, always meeting interesting people.

And this year was no exception. Just as I finished parking my car and was getting my camera out of its bag I chanced to meet, talk, and exchange emails with local photographer Dan Codd. Although we were both in a rush to get going, my wife and I to begin our journey into the street market and Codd to do some street photography, Codd (from what I can see online is prolific wildlife and scenic photographer) took the time to make some suggestions on places to photograph.

Later my wife Linda and I, met and had coffee with a couple that were spending the week sailing with a group on a very large two masted schooner. We talked about Anacortes, sailing and photography, and coincidently, they were named John and Linda.

Upon arriving the first night we chanced on a downtown bar, “The H20,” and behold, they had live music. The place was packed, but a friendly waiter said, “Just wait”. And after a moment talking with the performers, “Curley Taylor and Zydeco Trouble”, who smiled from the stage area and waved, we moved to the front and sat at the table that had been set-aside for them. And naturally, later that evening, the lead singer, Mr. Taylor, slid in beside us to say hello.

I have to say a that late night at the bar and a day walking and poking through the street market tires a guy out, nevertheless, after a late lunch as my wife took a break back at the motel I grabbed my camera and headed out to prowl the alleys, marina, and eventually the rugged coast of the nearby Washington State park. I started out about at 3pm and got back when I began loosing the light several hours later.

This was not the first time I have strolled through the neighborhoods of Anacortes. I like the bright colours owners have painted their doors, windowsills and porches. Along the main streets there are many buildings still standing that I expect must be from the late 1920s or 1930s. There is a shipyard filled with large vessels, a boat filled marina and, just a short drive away, the wonderful rocky, and easily accessible coastline that surrounds the park, all just waiting for me to photograph.

This was the kind of vacation that I like – the opportunity to photograph, within less than a day’s drive to a completely different environment then the one I live in, a chance to meet new people, great seafood restaurants, and, I almost forgot, the Shipwreck Festival.

I like your comments. Thanks, John

My website is at

A Fun Day Photographing the Pritchard Rodeo.




A family event

Ride 'em


Doesn't look safe


Excellent riding


Horse 1 cowboy ?


JRE_6489 copy


Trick rider






Barrel horse & Rider


Barrel Rider


Leaving the shute

Every year I look forward to spending a dusty, fun-filled day pointing my camera lens thru the arena rails at the Pritchard Rodeo in Pritchard, British Columbia Canada.

My wife dropped me off and I walked down the dirt road to the arena. Events had already begun, and as I looked around at lots of familiar faces I spotted Karl Pollak, his Nikon cradled in one arm waving at me. Karl had driven four hours that morning from the large metropolis of Vancouver to attend our small rural community rodeo.

He had brought another photographer, Meko Walker, and this was her first time at a rodeo. As we were introduced, happy as I was to see Karl, meet Meko, and shoot with the two of them, I wondered how these photographers from the moderate humid climate of a coastal city were going to cope with the sunny, cloudless, windless, extremely dry, 40 degree Celsius day.

There was a lull in the action as we talked and the Pritchard fire department’s water truck drove around the arena spraying water. We moved aside continuing our conversation (protecting our cameras from the water), but two young girls ran rail side laughing as they danced around in the wet, cooling spray.

While we waited, sitting on the edge of the hill that ran down from the bandstand, I asked Karl why he would come all the way when there were other rodeos closer to Vancouver. He replied, “I like the wild location. Look at the hills, and trees, and all the open space.” And after snapping a wide angle shot of the arena the added, everyone is so friendly, they say hello even though they don’t know me, and there is a beer garden with people drinking, but no one is getting drunk, being loud, or causing trouble.”

The Pritchard Rodeo grounds are perfect for photographers. The arena is enclosed with a strong metal fence that’s safe to stand close to and doesn’t restrict the view. Of course, one has to be careful when excited horses are getting ready for the Barrel Race, but heck, it is a rodeo and one must remember that the animals, like any other athletes, are focusing on what they are about to do, not some silly person with a camera.

I like that rodeo, and as I wrote, every year I look forward to photographing it. I like capturing things that move fast, it challenges me to think and I enjoy the test of wills between animals and riders. Photographing any action event is fun, and one can be sure there will be action at a rodeo.

This year they added children’s sheep riding. I don’t know who is more bewildered, the poor kids being coaxed along by their parents, or the sheep trying to figure out why there is something on their back and why some big human is trying to persuade them to leave the enclosure they were just herded into. When the sheep finally were cajoled to move, the young rider would usually slide off, and fall to the ground pretty quickly. After all wool is slippery.

Another addition this year was the trick riders. Although I really like the Saddle Bronc, Bareback, Bull Riding competitions and, of course, Barrel Racing, I must admit those trick riders were amazing. I was actually requested to stand center arena so I could photograph them as they performed in a wide circle around me. Gosh, it doesn’t get much better than that.

When they beckoned Meko and I into the riding arena I was briefly worried that my 70-200mm lens would be too long, but as it was I had lots of room to move around and it was just fine.

Rodeos are easy to photograph. One just has to pay attention to where the action is coming from and take up a position that allows everything to move towards the camera.

Then choose a fast shutterspeed and start shooting. I prefer to use shutter priority; I select the shutter, and the camera chooses the aperture. All I need to do is follow the action as the camera’s computer handles the rest. Yep, it’s all pretty easy.

There should be a note saying, “No animals, cowboys, cowgirls, or photographers were hurt during the process of having a great time.”

I appreciate comments. Thanks, John

My website is at

Photographers Must Remember to Consider the Background

Brewster copy 2  Spirit

Gracie 1

Fat Cat

chuck port copy

Looking Scout

Rikkonna 1

Much of the time photographers get so excited about the subject before their camera that they don’t pay any attention to anything else that is captured by the camera’s sensor when the exposure is made. Of course, things can be cropped out during postproduction, but what if the background is so busy that it obscures the intended subject of the photograph? The background can impact a subject in many ways and much of the time it interferes with the subject.

In the past I have written about composition, depth of field, and even bokeh. Composition can be as simple as creating an interesting photograph by using basic guidelines or compositional strategies for a balanced image. Depth of field is that area in front of and behind the subject that is acceptably clear, and bokeh refers to that portion of an image that is out of focus. Using those three mechanisms or strategies as a way to isolate a subject help photographers increase the impact their photographs have for viewers.

A serious wild life photographer once told me that it is important to have a background that is neutral and non descript. I had one experienced birder giving me tips on photographing Loons, explain that soft green water made better pictures than contrasty blue water. I think that this may be his personal opinion, but I have to agree that of the photos I took that day I liked way the green water looks better.

I recall a photographer who had exhibited his photograph in a local exhibition being angry because he didn’t get a mention by the judges on his photograph of an eagle posing on a branch. He had exposed it properly and displayed it sharply. He was so proud of his photograph of that bald eagle that he was unable to see the busy background and how it negatively impacted on the overall photograph. I believe the judges did see that.

My advice to that photographer would be to curb his excitement and spend some time examining his subject and its surroundings. Using the term, coined by Ansel Adams, that I mentioned in my 26 June 2014 article, he should “previsualize” the image for its best impact.

Compose and isolate the center of interest, and decide how to use the background to the best effect; whether the background should be in, out, or partially focused, or to have it clear or cluttered, and if it is appropriate for inclusion or to be excluded. A busy background distracts viewer’s attention.

Backgrounds present both opportunities and challenges to photographers. Here are four very simple suggestions other photographers have told me take into consideration to make the background work.

1. Check your background before pressing the shutter;
2. Pay attention to your shooting angle;
3. Use the aperture or the focal length to blur the background;
4. Fill the frame with your subject.
They are all great tips, or thoughts for us all to remember, and I personally like the words of Ansel Adams that fits well,  “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” And I’ll add, remember to consider the background.

I enjoy all comments. Thanks, John

My website is at

Photographing a home’s interior


a. front room  B. front room  c. Kitchen  d. dinning suite  g. kitchen wine  h. dinning room

The past month has seen me spending hours and days painting a rental property that my wife and I own. The tenant had lived in it for the seven years since we purchased it and was already there for about four years when we purchased the duplex, so needless to say, when that nice, old lady finally decided it was time to leave the place showed plenty of wear.

I loaded my truck with tools and pretty much moved in to change a worn out house back into an inviting home. Finally, after what seemed to this lone-painter, to be a never-ending job has reached an end. I have painted the complete interior for the one side and all the exterior trim for both sides. Whew!

We have decided to sell and relinquish the job of landlord to other investors, and that means after I pick up all the ladders, paint cans, brushes, and vacuum the place; my fun days will begin. It’ll be time to get out my camera, tripod, and flashes, and produce images of that shining place that will make it easy for a realtor to find buyers for us.

I suppose pointing a camera inside a building to take a few pictures has never been easier than it is today, and I have seen some interior work where a photographer saw and worked with the existing light, without any additional flash units, and was able to produce excellent images. But I like using flash, and any chance I have to modify a room’s ambient light I am going to take. Yep, I just like using flash.

I remember the difficulty of trying to hide my lighting unit’s power cords before we had the benefit of Photoshop, and then after Photoshop was available the extra time it took to clone out those ugly flash cords. However, now everything is wireless, the cords are gone, and I no longer pack in large studio type lights. Gosh, other than the light stands, my whole lighting “kit” of four-hotshoe type flashes fits into a small seven by ten inch bag.

Later this week I’ll show up at the renovated rental unit with two flashes on light stands and start taking pictures. I don’t like to use lenses that are too wide angle. Everything gets distorted, so I will be using my full frame D800e and a 24-70mm lens. I prefer the zoom rather than a fixed focal length (prime) lens because it gives me a bit of in-camera perspective control. And although I use a tripod, I find much of the time I end up jamming my shoulder into a corner, or sitting on the floor, or standing on a stool to get the most interesting view of the small rooms. The neat thing about using a wireless sender/receiver on one’s camera and flash is that the flash can be positioned in another room to illuminate a hallway or give the effect of light coming through a window.

I’ll arrive in the late afternoon and stay till late morning. There’s lots of food and drink in the refrigerator and I’ll stick some CDs in my portable player and start having a great time, listening to music and doing my photography.

Photographing any interior space presents a variety of photographic challenges and coming up with interesting ways to light the indoor space to show texture and form, and solving the challenges that windows and exterior lighting introduce is time consuming and enjoyable.

Adding light to a portrait is probably one of the best ways to improve the mood, emotion, contrast, and impact for viewers. And the same applies for interiors and architecture.

I welcome comments. Thanks, John

My website is at