Photographing the seafront

 

Last week I wrote about photographing the waterfalls at Whatcom Park. I also mentioned that Jo and I took some time after spending most of the day at the park to visit the waterfront.

When one lives in the British Columbia’s dry mountainous interior a trip to the ocean is always stimulating. Sure we have a big wide river where I live, but there are no large ocean going ships, big fishing boats or air that smells of saltwater. Oh, and Jo doesn’t get to spend time wandering the beach looking for seashells.

The coast along the large city of Bellingham is well built up with marinas, people packed piers and buildings of all sorts that makes it perfect for someone meandering with a camera that wants to experience the city’s seafront.

We drove around a lot trying to find places on the map. Some of the streets began with one name and suddenly change to another, and Google maps seemed to be for another planet. However, my “car-rule” is to always stop when something looks like it should be photographed. The driving isn’t as important as the picture.

I used my 24-70mm for everything and Jo stayed with the 28-300mm. There is always the temptation to carry every lens you own, but I think it’s best and easier when one is visiting a new place to stick with just one lens.

When we arrived we chanced on an area that was in the process of being redone. There are old brick buildings and some tall metal structures that look like they must have been for some kind of storage still standing, but it was obvious that the large area was under some kind of massive renovation.

I met a fellow from Idaho who told me that part of the coast park renovation will include a bicycle park and some of the old brick buildings will be for retail and some for art. He walked with me as I photographed a sailboat moored near some buildings, the remnants of a pier and a strange giant metal ball that he said was once a storage tank that is now a sculpture called the Acid Ball.

After leaving the waterfalls we eventually found the long metal pier that extends along Bellingham Bay that was packed with photo opportunities. Men and women with long poles catching crabs, kids jumping off it into the ocean, boats of all kinds, people that I’ll bet were from all over the world, and also, to Jo’s delight, a small sandy beach to hunt seashells.

It is fun visiting places with the goal in mind to take photographs. I suppose now days most people have their tiny cell phones to grab memories with, but in my opinion, having a DSLR with different focal length lenses, a tripod, and an assortment of filters and the knowledge serious photographers have to have to use all that equipment is a prescription to get creative.

Bellingham was a grand photographic adventure that I might just repeat some day. That park was an exciting find and photographing the coast was a pleasant way to spend our last afternoon and night in that busy city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Photographing Victoria’s Harbour

        

We had decided to escape for a few days to Victoria, British Columbia, over the Thanksgiving weekend. The ferry docked at Schwartz bay, we disembarked, and made the scenic drive into Victoria. This is a bustling, picturesque city surrounded by water that is, in this photographer’s opinion, a perfect place for a photographer to wander around looking for photographic opportunities.

We were lucky in that our hotel room was on the ninth floor with a beautiful view overlooking a panoramic harbour only a block away. It was perfect setting for a photographer. Upon reaching our room, the first thing I did was set up my tripod on the balcony, attach the camera, and start taking pictures of the view. I wanted photos that showed the warm afternoon light, and later on more photos displaying the early evening sky as the city lights began turning on, and finally as the sun vanished, I made lots of long exposures with the only illumination coming from the harbor and the city.

Our first morning had a beautiful blue sky with only a slight breeze and as my wife got together with her long time friend and left for a day of site-seeing and some shopping, I got out my camera and made my way to down to the water front on foot.

My wife and I live in the very dry interior of the Province with rolling hills, lots of lakes, and a large river, however the ocean and everything connected to that environment there is unfamiliar and exciting and I couldn’t wait to start taking pictures.

I chose to bring my 18-200mm lens. The 18-200mm is a lightweight, multifocal length lens with an aperture range of f/3.5 – f/5.6. I know that many photographers these days are favoring wider apertures like f/2.8, but I would be using smaller apertures because I wanted scenics with a sharp focus from foreground to background. Using a wide aperture would reduce that depth of field. And for those readers that would say, “what about those lowlight evening images from the balcony?” My answer is that those were the images that especially needed all the depth of field I could get and most were f/8 or more.  Besides I was using a tripod and a cable release. Anyway, there wasn’t anything in my pictures of that lowlight cityscape that would be moving and I could use as slow a shutter speed as was necessary to get an exposure that worked.

I call lenses like that 18-200mm “vacation” lenses because they are so versatile. I have never been one for carrying lots of equipment and a lens that gives me both wide and telephoto capabilities saving me from carrying a bag full of lenses. My plan was to spend as much time as possible walking along the waterfront. I meandered back and forth thinking nothing of retracing my path when there might be another subject angle I wanted to consider, and the added weight of a heavy wide aperture lens, or additional lenses, would have slowed me down. Exposures change with how the sun reflects off a subject and returning to a place previously photographed several blocks away seemed worth the effort.

I had to get used to how the reflection off the water tricked my camera’s light meter. I don’t know if all cameras are the same, but in my experience relying on the camera’s meter in many cases will result in an over exposure. So I always underexpose around large bodies of water. That’s easy. I just make a few exposures and check my histogram until I am satisfied.

I had a great time photographing boats, planes, birds, and pretty much anything else on, off, and around the water that caught my eye as I roamed Victoria’s waterfront. I found new subjects, met interesting people, and even spent time with other photographers. I really enjoyed the change of photographic scenery and highly recommend any photographer to change things up to refresh their perspective.

I appreciate your comments.

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com