Scenic photography on Fidalgo Island        

Last week was my second article about my trip to the coast. I wrote that there were three very different photographic opportunities that I took advantage of on my four-day stay, the street photography during the festival, the architectural photography on a quiet Sunday morning and the scenic photography.

Jo and I wandered the beaches early in the morning. Walked along wooded paths during the day. Climbed the rock-covered breakwater beside a deteriorating wreck in the afternoon, and stood on a darkened pier at night.

We trudged to each location carrying equipment filled backpacks with tripods on our shoulders talking about, and making decisions concerning the photographs we would take.

As I sat down in the sand that first afternoon I thought about how hard it is for most people to do photography with me. Jumping out of the car, running to a view point, taking a picture, then jumping back in the car and driving to the next view is not my style.

I have to think, ponder and sit for a while. I am never in a hurry when it comes to scenic photographs. I have a need to experience the place. And, of course, I like to use a tripod.

On this trip we had my new 14-24mm and 28-300mm lenses to try out.

I have never been a fan of really wide photos, so using the 14mm was quite an experience. I purchased a 150mm polarizing filter and filter holder for that wide lens, and although that seemed to be a good setup the protruding front lens glass is vignetted by the filter holder resulting in a disappointing 19mm view.

The 28-300mm was a surprise. I wasn’t expecting to like it after trying it in a dimly lighted studio. In the studio it had a hard time finding focus. However, I think the problem might be the lack of contrast in the studio because in that bright coastal light I was stopping birds in flight and getting sharp, colourful pictures.

I’ll hang on to both lenses. Like cameras, they are just tools and not every tool fits every job.

I had visited most of the places we photographed many time before. But all I have to do to make them different from past years is to place my tripod in a new location, crop my view and change the center of interest.

Even after all the years going there I still don’t have a favourite place, Although there are locations that I like to stop at depending on the time of day.

I always choose Cap Sante Park with its high lookout over Anacortes when I first arrive. During the day there are several rocky beaches that are waiting to be re-explored and photographed, and I always make time to walk out on the high Deception Park Bridge for a photo of the Deception Pass as it connects with the sea.

The evenings usually find me in Washington Park photographing both the leaning tree (it was still alive when I started visiting in the mid 1990s) that hangs out over the sea, and the island filled ocean from a high lookout as we complete the parks winding ring road on the way back to the city center.

The best place to stand a tripod after dark is the beachside Seafarers Park for a long exposure night photograph across Fidalgo bay of the Marathon refinery’s lights.

I do enjoy my yearly excursions to Anacortes and plan on many more. I was having dinner with several people this past week and was asked about my trip to the coast. And as with many times before I talked about what I did, but I didn’t have any photographs to make clear as to why I return there year after year.

The famous American scenic photographer, Ansel Adams, explained it best when he said, “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.  When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”

Variety makes photography interesting.               

 

Washington Park’s Leaning Tree

Tesoro

NIght refinery

Pacific Madrone tree

Cormorants and a seagull

 

Deception Pass kayaks

Dave and Cynthia at sunset

 

I have never been one of those photographers that proudly declares myself limited to one kind of subject. My visual interests depend a lot on what is happening when I have a camera in my hand, and when on vacation I never restrict myself to one subject. My past two articles were about my photographic experiences on a three-day weekend in Anacortes Washington with my friends Dave and Cynthia Monsees.

If I didn’t have a camera my goal would simply have been to attend the annual Shipwreck Festival, but I do have a camera and photography is always a major part of any vacation for me. When I plan my getaways I look for a variety in the subjects I will photograph. This trip was easy, I began by photographing the festival committee volunteers the first afternoon, then spent most of the second day photographing the festival, and on the third day we photographed the scenic coast from dawn to dusk.

The Rotary volunteers were waiting to meet me and were all looking forward to being photographed. The Festival photography was, well it was a street festival filled with excellent subjects. And finally, photographing a coastal landscape is pretty easy when one is on an island.

I am not sure if Dave and Cynthia were aware that I’d be constantly dragging them from location to location for three days, but there were so many places that after my three years away that I wanted to return to, and I was determined they should see and photograph as much of Washington state’s Fidalgo island as possible.

Someone, a long time ago said, “variety is the spice of life”. I have always liked that old saying that reminds me to try different things, and change my approach, especially in photography. Varity when it came to the subjects I photograph has kept my life with a camera interesting.

My dictionary defines Perspective as; outlook, point of view, attitude, frame of mind and reference, approach and interpretation. Unlike many other creative mediums photography not only allows, but encourages one to change their perspective and interpretation of reality. That change might be as simple as removing the 28mm lens and replacing it with a 105mm. (or changing the focal length on that zoom lens from 28mm to 105mm)

Anyone watching the three of us standing on a rocky beach as we waited for the right light to photograph the famous Washington park leaning tree might notice that although we were all photographing the same subject, our approach, perspective and interpretation was very different. Not only where our tripods were positioned, but also with our selection of lenses. And adding the word “variety” that evening, well that’s easy, as soon as the tide came in and it got too dark for the tree, we drove to the other side of town to photograph Tesoro Refinery’s bright lights shimmering on the dark ocean waters across the bay.

As I wrote in the beginning, “my visual interests depend a lot on what is happening when I have a camera in my hand, and when on vacation I never limit myself to one subject.”

Practicing Street Photography      

I have read that Street photography is the practice of photographing chance encounters and random incidents in public places, Well, like the street.

In an article about my experiences in Vancouver BC some time ago I wrote, “I think that successful street photography captures a moment from the society around us. It’s a moment in time that is an important for the present and future.”

I am fascinated with this kind of candid photography that has been around since people began to carrying cameras in public, and I am always up to any occasion that allows my somewhat reserved and not so confident approach to photographing strangers going about their life on any public street. So when that opportunity presented itself at the giant outdoor flea market in Anacortes Washington I was excited.

Most modern street photographers seem to be recommending small, inconspicuous mirrorless cameras. However, in spite advice posted on many of the forums I have visited I still wondered if I could again try using my big DSLR with a battery grip and 24-70mm attached. I admit that’s a huge and very noticeable combination that the last time I tried at this event had curious by-passers looking right at me.

I remembered a 1969 Algerian-French movie, called “Z”, about some foreign dictatorship and a photojournalist who helped to uncover evidence about a murder. The photographer, wielding a big camera with a loud motor drive, continually shot from his hip. So I thought, what the heck, lets see if I can get away with that. Also, knowing I could easily crop, I moved the lens to its widest 24mm and photographed everything holding my camera at my waist.

I also figured that people at the street sale would be so absorbed with their treasure searching that if I didn’t hold my camera up to my eye, like I did last time, they would be oblivious to my photography.

My results were much better than last time. I wandered releasing the shutter anytime I observed people doing something interesting. There were a few camera conscious people that remarked about how big and nice my camera was, and one guy even asked the model I had. Nevertheless, none of my pictures showed people turning to look at me as I was taking a picture, except for those times when actually I asked someone to pose.

The big street market made things easy, and my new “stealth” photography technique made me more comfortable. And as I said, my results were much better this time. Whether it will work when I am not at an event that distracts people’s attention away from me remains to be seen.

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

Cormorants

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 www.enmanscamera.com

Using a Camera Modified for Infrared on vacation.

Infrared lightInfrared tree  construction IR  Cupola IR  Waterfront IR  Infrared and brick  Marina in IR    Infrared in street  Tower IR  IR light on clock  Flag & Building in IR

When on vacation I always bring along my camera. Actually most of the trips I take are for the purpose of relaxing and making pictures. If I couldn’t bring a camera I would suffer because I would see shots I wanted to take and wouldn’t be able to do it.

I enjoy wandering about with my camera wherever I go and for the short vacation my wife and I took to the coast of Washington state at La Conner.  For this trip I wanted to make a real change from my everyday shooting, and decided to spend each late afternoon making exposures with the well-worn Nikon D100 I had modified many years ago to only “see” infrared light.

Digital camera sensors are as sensitive to infrared light as to visible light. In order to stop infrared light from contaminating images manufacturers placed in front of the sensor what they call “a hot filter” to block the infrared part of the spectrum and still allow the visible light to pass through. My infrared modified D100 has had that filter removed and replaced with a custom filter for infrared only.

The first day we had lodging in the town of La Conner.  I began walking the town in the morning with my Nikon D800e, and then returned in the late afternoon walking the streets and waterfront with my Modified D100 for infrared images.

On the second day, after a leisurely drive sight-seeing unsuccessfully trying to get close to the annual snow geese migration, we went a bit further to some big stores at an outlet mall near Seattle my wife wanted to check out.  Next day we moved about 20 miles down the road to a motel in Anacortes and again I roamed the streets, alleyways, and oceanfront with my infrared camera in a new location.

There is nothing quite like infrared (IR) Photography. Making an image with a modified camera is an exploration.  I like the contrasty tones that I can obtain when I convert the image to black and white. I suppose, like any form of photography, or art, it’s all a matter of taste.

Reflected IR light produces an array of surreal effects. Vegetation appears white or near white. Black surfaces can appear gray or almost white depending on the angle of reflected light. And the sky is my favorite part; it will be black if photographed from the right direction. The bluer the sky, the more the chance there is for a dramatic appearance.

Get everything right and there will be a “crispness” that’s rarely seen in regular photography, with everything looking very different from a normal black and white conversion.

The low-angled, late afternoon coastal light created lots of deep shadows on the buildings and trees, and it was that light and the contrasting effects that I was able to capture.

I like photographing architecture and other human-made structures. Well, actually, I like photographing just about anything. But on a trip when my goal is to photographically discover, or in this case, rediscover a small town or city, I let myself be as creative as possible with the many architectural structures, and a camera that sees only infrared does help. In addition, the colourful coastal architecture is very different from what one finds in the usually very dry, forested interior of British Columbia where I live.

I walked and walked. I photographed and re-photographed. I talked to people I met in the alleyways, along the street, and on the waterfront. My only goal was to capture the way the infrared light touched things and to be back at the motel before dark.

Life Pixel, http://www.lifepixel.com/ writes on their website, “Are you tired of shooting the same stuff everyone else is shooting?  Then be different & shoot infrared instead!”

I don’t think I care whether I’m shooting the same stuff as others, but I sure do like to change how other photographers sees the stuff I do shoot, and infrared works perfectly for that.

Of cours….I am always happy when someone comments. Thanks, John

Visit my website at www.enmanscamera.com

I like Photographing Buildings

Red wall & Stairway1 blue door1 parking1Northern Junk co.  Captain's ride  porch couch1Brick doorway 1 the yellow door1 Waiting

Strolling along sidewalks with my camera, in cities, large or small, is exhilarating. And whether the architecture is low and flat, or skyscraping, or old bricked, or shiny metal and glass, I always find something different to photograph.  Usually, I approach urban areas with a plan and I don’t just wander about hoping to find something interesting. That’s not my way.

Sometimes I am after the cityscape and watch for shadows, highlights and interesting sky. On other occasions, my plan might be to select a particular area and visually capture the story of how structures and features interact. I might be more interested in the colours, and spend my time using the colour evidence to make a story.

In October 2012, I wrote about images I made while walking along the waterfront in Victoria, and, in February 2013, I showed photographs and discussed the small South Thompson River town of Chase, in the BC interior.  In each instance I approached the municipalities with different photographic goals. Goals that were not so much defining visuals as they were photographic thoughts about the architecture in each place.

Some years ago I spend three days wandering the side streets of Anacortes, a town along the coast of Washington. Although I enjoyed both the downtown and harbor districts of the small American town, what struck me most were those places where people lived. The inhabitants appeared to go out of their way to differentiate each dwelling and my plan came about to document the entrances of the places where people lived.

In that instance and whenever I decide to work my way through, or around, some city I always take some predetermined course of action. I remember a late afternoon in Port Townsend, WA and on that trip I spent my time photographing the unique turn of the century buildings along the narrow, main street using an infrared modified camera. I wasn’t so much documenting the well-known seaport town, as was trying to create a distinct impression of the ornate Victorian architecture.

I once read a quote by an anonymous writer that said, “The difference between the recorder photographer… and the artist photographer… is that the artist will, by experience and learning… force the camera to paint the imagination…the emotion… the concept and the intent… rather than faithfully and truthfully reproduce an unattractive and unflattering record.”

I must admit that my intent isn’t usually to document the cities I visit, as much as it is to create a personal vision of the buildings I photograph. That vision, although uniquely mine, rarely strays much from reality other than when I use my infrared camera. I haven’t entered the artistic world of HDR (high dynamic range) image making yet. HDR is the process of merging multiple exposures into one image.  I expect that it is only laziness on my part, because I am intrigued by how well HDR post-processing with software like Photomatix, http://www.hdrsoft.com lends itself to the creative architectural work. I anticipate that I will tackle that process at some time in the future when I make plans to photograph my way along another city’s streets.

I will mention that I rarely use lenses that are wide enough to exaggerate the foreground or make those dramatic vistas. My camera isn’t a cropped sensor so an 18mm lens would be, effectively, only a 28mm. That allows me to include lots of visual details and limits the distortion between near and far objects.

Summertime is quickly approaching and with that my wife and I expect to do some driving around British Columbia and possibly stray into Washington State, and those trips will always include architectural photography opportunities in the towns and cities we pass through, or stop and visit.

As always, I appreciate your comments and please let me know you were here.

Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com