Spring-cleaning and plans on Summer Photography.        

I am such a hoarder.

I knew I had an old tripod mount stashed away somewhere, but when I started searching (unsuccessfully I might add) through years of bits and pieces randomly stockpiled in unmarked containers I came to the conclusion that it might be time to do some spring-cleaning. I’ll call it that because it’s spring here in British Columbia.

No doubt there are other photographers that hold on to all-things-photographic as much as I do, so here are some thoughts that I had that might be helpful. I am sure there are many additions readers can think of, but I am starting with just a couple.

  1. This should be the year to get rid of all that old film camera equipment. I know it is hard to part with favourite old cameras. The pictures they produced were so great, and gosh, they initially cost so much money, but sadly there isn’t much resale value currently. The fact is today’s camera technology has progressed far beyond those old film cameras and most individuals that have embraced the high quality digital world will never return to film. If you haven’t, my recommendation is remove the batteries that are probably leaking, clean the camera up with an old toothbrush, and sell it to someone interested in playing with “retro” equipment or donate the camera to a student still using film in their photography classes. Don’t put it off, film cameras only loose value as time passes and very few ever become valuable collectibles.
  2. Might this be the year to “finally” organize all those old prints and slides? There are many ways to copy photographs and slides. For prints I use my camera, a tripod, and a level. For slides a scanner works best.

Regarding scanners, my recommendation is to do some research, and not purchase too cheap (or to          expensive) of a model. Find out which scanners produce quality resolution scans. A space saving and cost  saving idea would be to share one with other photographers.

  1. A couple years ago my wife and were evacuated as a fire raged down the hills above our home. Linda and I rushed through the house photographing everything before we left. I think spring is a perfect time to make the effort to photographically inventory household goods. I have to admit I am as lax as anyone when it comes to a photographic inventory. Nevertheless, when faced with that fire approaching my door I sloppily needed to do it in a hurry. Its not very hard, and I think worth the time.

I’ll add two spring goals that have nothing to do with photo house cleaning. However, I have made them part of the spring planning process for the summer to come. And anyway, these are way more fun.

  1. There are several of us that meet once a week to talk about photography. It’s not a club, there are no rules, everyone has strong opinions, and this spring we are all filled with energy and photography projects. Joining up with others that have different interests in photography to talk about or accompany on photo outings is fun and always instructive.
  2. It’s time to plan photography a trip. I am planning a July photography excursion down the coast of Washington State for a few days with my friend Dave, his wife Cynthia. I know we’ll be up early with our cameras and, I am sure, still up late talking about our day’s photography.

Those, like me, that that enjoy lists will delight on writing out their spring goals. It’s a good way to begin thinking about photography projects and goals for this year. I have only included a few from my personal list. Some might not get done, but it’s a start. I try to be realistic and I’ll hang my list on the wall next to the calendar I print each month and attempt what I can. That might help me keep it a spring instead of a summer project.

 

 

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

Discovering a Small Town with my Camera

19th century view   Green window    Texaco 1      the boats   control pannel    Red Bricks  Hippies use back door  Phillips 66 twenty five cents a ride

I usually like to have a plan when I go out to photograph a subject. However, this past weekend when my goal was to photographically discover a small town or city like I did in La Conner, Washington, USA, the unusual and unknown becomes the accepted rater than the exception. The experience was one of those rare times when I just wanted to wander about and let the unexpected observations rule the day.

The distance from my lodging at the Wild Iris Inn in La Conner to the waterfront was about six blocks and that photographic stroll took me nearly two hours. I spent another hour photographing the buildings, and the boats moored along the boardwalk, and then approximately another hour roaming the adjacent neighborhood on my way back.

I to like wander, and yes, that’s the word that works best. I mounted a 24-70mm on my new (to me) full-frame sensor camera, stepped out of the room and let the historic, western architecture, and the coastal lighting, determine my path. I wasn’t on any direct course by any intent, and spent a lot of time backtracking when I decided to see how the light affected an interesting door, or window, from a different perspective than I had just photographed it.

I checked out the La Conner on-line gallery and it shows lots of scenics and wide images of street side buildings, but my photographic captures didn’t always show the whole. I chose to photograph those parts that caught my attention; signs, doors, railings, roof supports, or the moulding, and sometimes just the window frame, cornice or decorative lintel, and how the light touched them, was what peaked my interest and filled my the memory card of my camera

La Conner is a coastal town of Washington State and received its current name in 1870 from the owner of the area’s first trading post, J.S. Conner to honor his wife, Louisa Ann Conner.  One of my favorite writers, Tom Robbins, author of such great books as “Even Cowgirls get the Blues”, ”Life with the Woodpecker”, and “Another Roadside Attraction” is supposed to be a long-time resident. Each spring, La Conner attracts thousands of visitors to view the wide array of tulips at the annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.

Here is a humorous note about La Conner: in 2005, the town named the wild turkey as their official Town Bird, however, a debate in 2010 declared the turkeys to be a nuisance and they were removed from the town limits because of “complaints about noise, fecal matter, and ingestion of garden materials”.

This is one that is closer to my heart because it is a story about a dog.  There is a statue of a dog whose name was “Dirty Biter” and he once freely wandered the town. One of his favorite hangouts was an1890’s tavern, where a bar stool was always reserved for him. When he was killed in a dogfight, the heartbroken townspeople named a small park next to his beloved tavern for Dirty Biter and installed a bronze statue of the dog.

I didn’t see any turkeys, or writer Tim Robbins, but I took the time to stop in that tavern before continuing on my photographic stroll and I drank a pint to all of them; Mr. Robbins, the turkeys, poor old Dirty Biter, and of course, the subject of my photographic excursion, the historic town of La Conner.

I always appreciate your comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

Excellent Photographic Adventure with old cars in the Palouse

Resting in deep grass In a field of green  In the shade of a tree GMC grill   the trunkJRE_4530bJRE_4529b

Last week I wrote about my photography adventure in the Washington Palouse area, with its undulating landscapes and picturesque dunes.

For me, the most satisfying moments of that trip was photographing the patterned fields from the top of Steptoe Butte as the sun came up in the mornings, and, finally, at day’s end standing at a canyon edge capturing the falling light on the spectacular Palouse Falls.

However, during the day our group’s leader, Aaron Reed, offered the opportunity to photograph old derelict vehicles he had located on dusty back roads, and we spent our mid-day driving to several different locations.

I have always enjoyed photographing old clunkers left resting, rotting, and rusting in forgotten fields. Even though where I live in British Columbia they aren’t that hard to find, when we stopped and wandered out into some field when an old car was spied, I was as just as eager as the others.

My approach isn’t very formal and while the others strategically placed their tripods, and selected filters; I would kneel in the deep grass, or lie down in the dirt, and start shooting. Grass stains and dirt clung into my clothes as I shifted, rolled, and dragged myself along on the ground making photographs from low angles.  For me, it’s all about the picture, right?

My lens of choice usually is a 24-70mm used at the 24mm focal length, which on my camera’s ¾ frame sensor is equal to about a 35mm. I will add that in the days of using film cameras, a 35mm was what I liked the best then, same as now for photographing derelict vehicles.

I know many photographers prefer dramatically distorted images created with ultra-wide lenses, but even a 35mm has distortion, certainly not as much as the 11mm lens one person of our group on that trip was using on his full frame Canon, but distortion enough for me.

I usually place a polarizing filter on my lens when photographing automobiles. Not because I am concerned with controlling the sky as I would in a scenic shot, but because a polarizer allows me to reduce the glare on chrome and glass. And I prefer to photograph reflection-free windows, if I can get it, as opposed to those that mirror the sky and surroundings.

As I stated, my approach isn’t that formal. I usually operate my camera in manual mode, and I don’t use higher ISO like over 400, unless the lighting conditions demand.  Normally, I take a meter reading off the ground, get just as low as I can by sitting, kneeling, or laying down, depending upon the high grass or other obstacles in the way, then focus on the old vehicle, making both horizontal and vertical images, and then move on to the next.

I admit I also like close-up views and select features that interest me on the rusting clunkers, so I would set the focal length of my 24-70 lens to 70mm while looking through an open window, open door, or when I found an interesting hood, or trunk, ornament.

Photographing those dilapidated old automobiles was, in my opinion, the icing on the cake for what was already an excellent photographic adventure.

I always appreciate comments. Thanks, John

My website is 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