Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My FIrst Print is UP!

Although this image is not new, the print is. Neal Buckland at
www.mimeosquare.com printed it for me on canvas at 42x50 inches,
coated it, and had it stretched onto a frame for display.

It's now hanging at Energy Espresso in Ballard, and it looks
quite impressive, better than I had anticipated.
It was expensive, but hopefully someone will like
the results enough to buy it :)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

White Mountains

The rising sun over the ridge, seen from an overlook in Bear Notch, in White Mountain National Forest.

I spent most of last week in the White Mountains with Tony Sweet's photography workshop. The group consisted of ten students, with Tony Sweet and Susan Milestone as our instructors.

In the mornings, we went out to the overlooks to photograph the magic light on the mountainsides, so we were out bright and early. We headed over to a second location after the dawn to shoot some more, and then broke for brunch. In the afternoons, we showed some our images for critique, and then we went out and did some sunset photography.

The critiques were great, because in addition to getting some feedback on our images shown on a big screen, we also got a chance to see what everyone else in the group had come up with in the same places.

The other photographers in the group were quite talented. Seeing their work was very inspiring.

The shot above is from the second morning. While shooting the hillside as the rising sun cast its soft morning light on the hillsides with the developing color, I saw the sun beginning to crest the ridge to my left, and quickly swung the camera over and captured it, intentionally leaving the aperture at its smallest (f/22) and letting the foreground fade to a silhouette.

A leaf closeup, shot through
a frame of reddening maple leaves.

This was from the first day. Tony and Susan were showing us how to do a "shoot through" where you use an extremely out of focus foreground to frame the subject with washes of translucent color. Susan got us started framing white birch trunks with coloring leaves, but I wasn't having much success with that. Instead, I started framing green leaves with colored leaves, and ended up with this, which I was quite pleased with.

Naturally, I have quite a few more images to sift through, so I will be posting more of them over time.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Phantom Ship

The Phantom Ship is a remnant of Mount Mazama's original cone before it's cataclysmic Plinian eruption 7700 years ago. Whent he dome collapsed, some of the magma dikes survived, and this is one of them. The water immediately around it is only around 20 feet deep, but only 40 or 50 feet away from it, the depth increases drastically to over 1000 feet.

It really looks like a tri-masted square-rigger, and it's even about the right size, and its spires are nearly the right height for the masts.

The only way to get close to it is to take one of the ranger-guided boat tours around the lake. The park service only allows its tourboats, one research vessel, and a their skiff in the water, so there aren't that many options for exploring within the lake. Around it of course, you can explore to your heart's content, and there's a lot to explore in that park.


The water in Crater Lake really does look that blue. Since the walls of the caldera are so steep, it the gradations in color are suprisingly sharp. Some of the overlooks near the Crater Lake Lodge give you a view of such an area, and that's what caught my eye here. Since the deep, blue color is from a combination of reflected sky and scattering in the water, the deeper the water, the bluer it looks.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Blazing Star

At Lava Beds National Monument, my mother and I hiked to the summit of Schonchin Butte, the one cinder cone in the monument that you're allowed to hike on. There is a fire lookout station at the top of the 700-foot-high butte, but there was no ranger on duty when we made the trip.

The view from the summit is impressive. You can see Mount Shasta quite clearly from there, as seen in this photograph. In this view, you can also see some of the Medicine Lake Volcano, which has an enormous 800-square-mile footprint, but not that much height, only around 4000 feet.

And here is an exmple of a blazing star (Mentzelia laevicaulis).

The summit of this cinder cone is pretty incredible. On the one hand, it's not much but a pile of tephra and pumice with a huge lava flow originating at its base, but at the same time, it has a surprising amount of vegetation on it. And yet, to the northeast, you can see the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge alongside the fertile farmlands of Tule Lake.

Aavlanche Lilly

Here is a shot of an avalanche lilly that I captured during the last hike to Van Trump Park. It had become cold and rainy while we ate lunch, so we weren't all that keen on lingering, but I couldn't resist these beautiful flowers. Though I regret not being able to get a good shot of the south summit of Mt. Rainier, known as Point Success, at least I got one of these!

I used my usual macro setup, the 105mm VR macro lens with my Metz flash aimed into my reflector (silver side) that Kelli held for me. Because I was raining, I shot this one hand-held.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

We stopped at the Lava Lands visitor center on the way back up north from Klamath Falls. It ended up being a very worthwhile stop, even though we didn't have time to explore the whole place; I've heard that Benhma Falls, a direct result of the lava flow here, is very picturesque. This flow is from a parasitic cinder cone, formed on the flanks of the volcano whose summit lies nearly 20 miles southeast. Yes, it's a huge volcano, occupying close to 500 square miles, and littered cinder and spatter cones.

The Lava Lands visitor center is near Lava Butte, which also has a road leading to its summit, with a trail circumnavigating the summit crater, as well as a paved trail meandering through a small section of the lava flow.

These shots are definitely record shots. The light was pretty harsh when we were there in the middle of the afternoon with a nearly cloudless sky.

Here is an image showing part of the lava field, with the Mount Bachelor and the Three Sisters on the horizon.

In the next image, the forked tree trunk in the foreground is framing Mount Bachelor. The other mountains are the Three Sisters, with Broken Top in the foreground.

The final image is of a bush that I have not yet identified, growing in the lava bed, with the same set of mountains in the background.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Back from Oregon

I'm back from a week in southern Oregon, specifically Klamath Falls. I'm a bit behind on blog postings, still needing to post on the trip to Mount Dickerman, and the trip to Hurricane Hill.

However, right since Oregon is more fresh on my mind, I might as well start there :)

The image above is a stitched panorama shot from Garfield Peak in Crater Lake National Park. It's a moderate hike starting at the Crater Lake Lodge, with a total round trip of around 3.3 miles. Garfield Peak is not the highest in the park or even the highest on the rim of the caldera, but it offers great views of Wizard Island and the lake, as well as of the Phantom Ship. The mountain on the right in the panorama is Mount Thielsen, another majestic peak in the Oregon Cascades.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Comet Falls and Dinner in Paradise

The hike to comet falls is pretty tough, especially if you're carrying a 4x5 system in addition to extra layers, rain gear, and survival gear.

When we began the hike, it was pleasantly warm, and the clouds ere breaking up. It's about a half mile to the first crossing over Van Trump Creek, right above Christine Falls. After that, the trail starts climbing, and really doesn't stop. The trail follows the creek, which has cut itself a nice, deep channel to rush through. There are quite a few cascades and waterfalls along the route; it reminded me of the White Oak Canyon hike in the Shenandoah National Park... only with bigger trees, more wildflowers, taller waterfalls, and more water flowing through the creek.

There were avalanche lily, tiger lily, shooting stars, beargrass, and even some Indian paintbrush along the route.

And the falls themselves, pictured above, were well worth the trip.

We didn't stop there, of course; we continued on up to Van Trump Park. Past the falls, the trail is even steeper, and once in Van Trump Park, it's steeper still.

But even so, Van Trump is worth the visit... it's like Paradise Meadow, but with fewer people; most of the hikers we met turned back at the falls. The meadows of Van Trump were ablaze with wildflowers. We got a brief view of The Mountain when we arrived. It didn't last long, because the clouds rolled in and obscured it pretty quickly, before we reached an area where I could place some wildflowers in the foreground for a near-far shot.

We stopped atop a ridge in the park, with a commanding view of the mountains to the south and east. We couldn't see Mount Adams or Mount Saint Helens because of the clouds, but the views were still spectacular. As the weather closed in and the temperature dropped, we heated up some freeze-dried Thai food, just the thing for chilly weather. We were both glad that we had our extra layers with us.

We began the trip down in a light rain, that stayed with us for most of the remainder. By the time we reached the car, it was pretty chilly, and the cloud cover was solid. We had dinner in the Paradise Inn -- the food there is quite good, and the fireplaces are welcome, even in August :)

It was a long day, but it was also the best hike I have done yet. Already I am looking forward to doing it again, though I hope that the clouds reveal the summit long enough for me to get a good shot next time!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Taylor River

I hiked the Taylor River trail as far as Big Creek Falls with these two lovely ladies a few weeks ago.

I had hiked the same trail in November before the snow started, and ended up with this shot of Otter Falls. The lake that it pours into is Lipsy Lake. I had wanted to return in spring to get some shots of the falls in higher flow, and also for the spring foliage and wild flowers.
On the first trip, the sky was overcast and the quality of the light was very soft and diffused. It made waterfall photography very easy. The second time, the weather was great for hiking; the sky was clear and blue. The light was harsher though, so it wasn't as good for waterfall photography the second time around.
So instead I photographed mainly wildflowers and my companions. :)
Here is a trillium:

I photographed this with my 105mm VR micro lens with a Nikon 2x teleconverter. I used my RRS focusing rail, and a reflector to balance the light out a bit.

I am not sure what this berry is, but I liked its look and the background.

And this is Otter Falls in spring, photographed with my Sigma DP-1.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

You don't need exotic places

To find interesting subjects. I found this spider perched on a flower right outside my front door while I was unloading my gear from my car, so I took a few minutes out to photograph it, while my cat Calypso kept calling me from inside. She loves attention and does not like to be denied :)
I used my d80 with the Nikon 105mm VR micro and a Nikon 2x teleconverter. I held my reflector above the spider and aimed my flash into it to light the spider.
If anyone reading this can help identify this spider, I would appreciate it. I'm certainly not an expert at identifying arachnids, but I would like to learn!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Tiger Lily

On a recent trip to the Quniault National Forest on the Olympic Penninsula, I found several of these tiger lillies in bloom. Naturally, I stopped to photograph them.

For this one I used a Nikon 105mm VR macro lens with a 2x teleconverter. I had one of my fellow hikers hold my reflector with the silver side facing the flower, and aimed my flash into the reflector, with the flash's secondary emitter enabled.

The dark background is a result of using a fairly high shutter speed because I was hand-holding the camera, and the background was in shadow. I usually prefer to record some of the background along with the subject to give it context, but sometimes the black background works, because it allows the viewer to see the subject with no distractions.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mount Saint Helens

We left Seattle at midnight, at the very end of Triskadekaphobia Day, also known as Friday the 13th. When we arrived at around 3am, the sky was very dark, and we marvelled at the intensity of the stars, the fact that we could clearly see the Milky Way while we put on our hiking boots and all that. The sky lightened quickly though, so we didn't get very many star shots.

The sky was very clear, as we were above the thick clouds in the valleys. By the pre-dawn light, we could see the dense layer of clouds that filled the north fork of the Toutle River Valley; normally an expanse of desolation five miles wide, this time it looked like a sea of clouds.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Beaches at Low Tide

The tides during this time of year are lower than usual in the Puget Sound, so a few friends and I went to Lincoln Park to wander along the beach and see what the receding tide would reveal.

What we found exceeded our expectations; we found sea stars and sunstars bigger than our hands, anemones and even sunstars all over the place under the pier. Most of spend most of our time doing macrophotography, zeroing on in the creatures that we normally can't get to because they're underwater. To get most of these shots, I used an on-camera flash fired into a reflector that one of my friends held for me. The resulting lighting was much softer than direct flash, and I was very pleased with the results.

The first shot is of an anemone submerged under around six inches of water. With a friend holding my reflector, I set up the camera on my big Gitzo tripod. I used my 105mm VR macro lens with a Nikon 2x teleconverter. One of my friends held the reflector for me, and I pretty much just aimed the flash into the reflector.

The 2nd and much creepier looking shot is of what we think is the breathing tube for a clam or oyster. It was gradually opening and closing, making the small mound of wet sand surrounding it look as it it were breathing. It was quite a sight. The setup was pretty much the same, except that this was above the waterline.

There are some more images from this trip on my Pbase site.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


A few weeks ago, I went to the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle for the first time. A lot of rhododendrons were blooming when I visited, with red, white, and pink flowers. The ones that seemed freshest were the pink ones like the Rhododendron Puralbum pictured above, so they were the ones I spent most of my time on. The red ones were showing signs of some wear and tear, so I suppose they bloomed earlier.

There was a little bit of a breeze that day, which made the closeup photography a bit challenging, since I didn't bring a flash with me. A lot of my shots ended up showing just enough motion blur to ruin them, but there were a few that worked out pretty well, like this one.

For this shot I used my 105mm f/2.8 VR micro-Nikkor lens, set atop my large Gitzo tripod. I used a Really Right Stuff macro focusing rail for precision focus.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Portrait of a Rattlesnake

I went to the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains over the weekend with a fellow photographer (http://www.flickr.com/photos/27336152@N00/), and he introduced me to this spot in the desert.

It was not a particularly warm day, but the sun came out for a while toward late morning, and we found several rattlesnakes sunning themselves on the rocks. One in particular was surprisingly cooperative, allowing us to take our time to get the shots framed and focussed.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Q: Hi Rakesh, welcome to Askablogr. Looks like you haven't yet installed your widget or a text "ask" link, so let me know if I can help with that. (Great photos btw).
Asked by Chris DeVore

A: Thanks!


Installing was flawless, you just beat me to it. I'm glad that you like my photography! 

Ask Tamerlin a question.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Macrophotography in Tide Pools

When we visited Ebey's Landing, we gave up on getting a sunset shot, because the weather was pretty nasty; it was getting cold and windy, and intermittently raining. While we ate dinner, the sky started clearing, so we decided to take a chance and stop at Deception Pass on the way back.

Since the tide was out, were able to explore some tidepools while waiting for the sunset. I found quite a few subjects in those tide pools, and also discovered how difficult it can be to photograph them.

These anemones were quite small; I had my macro lens nearly so close that the lens shade was nearly touching the water's surface. Of course, at that magnification, the light loss is pretty severe; in order to get some depth of field, I had this stopped down to around f/32. The tidepools were also in shadow, so even though the sky had cleared enough to let out the sunlight, I was still limited to a shutter speed of around half a second. So there is a little bit of motion blur in most of my images from that trip.

This one was relatively free of motion blur, though it was still very difficult to get the focus right. These anemones are also quite small; they were in the same little tide pool as the ones above, maybe 8 inches in diameter (that's 2oomm for those of you who are used to using a good system of measurement ;)).

There were a few barnacles that had their gills extended. It turned out that they were very sensititve; the slightest hint of a shadow falling across them was enough to make them retract their gills. I attempted to photograph them a few times, but every time I wound up making them retract their gills while I was trying to get the composition set up and focussed. Maybe I'll have better luck with them next time.

Technical Details
Since there may be some photographers reading this who are interested in how I shot these, I'm including a little technical info here.
Because I was trying to fill the frame with these small subjects, I was getting pretty close to them with my Nikon 105mm VR macro lens. To make up for the loss of depth of field, I was shooting at an effective aperture of f/32. The resulting shutter speed varied from 1/4 to a few seconds, so hand-holding the camera wasn't an option. I used a Really Right Stuff ground pod with a Really Right Stuff macro focussing rail. This helped a lot, because the tripod was small enough to be manouverable in the small area I had available, while my large Gitzo would have gotten in the way. The focussing rail gave me a bit of extra flexibility as far as positioning my camera, since I could use it like a rotated center column, a bit like the one on the Gitzo Explorer series tripods. The lead screw made focussing fairly easy once I had the composition set up.
Even with all that, setting up the composition was pretty tough. Some of the subjects I was photographing were very difficult to see without magnification, and in some cases just the glare on the surface of the water made them hard to see was underneath. For the same reason, additional lighting would probably not have done much good, so in spite of the slow shutter speeds, I didn't miss the extra lighting gear.
For some shots, there was still some glare from the sky reflecting in the water, and since I was shooting without a polarizer (I need to get a polarizer that will fit my dSLR lenses, the 105mm that I use for my large format is too unwieldy on a smaller camera, and it's also linear rather than circular), I had to shade the water with my hand while shooting. To avoid shaking the camera by pressing the shutter, I used the timer release since I don't (yet) have a cable or remote for my Nikon dSLR. In any case, with the shutter speeds being so slow already, using a polarizer might have backfired due to the potential for additional subject movememt. Even in these tiny tide pools, the water and the creatures continue to move. At least not all of them are as shy as the barnacles!
Setting up these shots was quite challenging. I'm glad I got a few decent shots, but it's going to take quite a bit more practice before I can get some great ones.

Friday, March 28, 2008

First Stitched Pano Attempt

During the same trip to the Cowiche Canyon, I tied shooting a series of images for a stitched panoramic. I wasn't as careful to keep the rotation angles even as I probabl should have been, but it still stitched quite well in Photoshop CS3. It stithced together surprisingly nicely.
For those that are interested in how I did it, here's some technical info:
I used a Nikon D80 with a 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro lens. I use a Really Right Stuff generic L-bracket for this camera, as it mates perfectly with my RRS clamps. The tripod is a Really Right Stuff groundpod, and the head is a suprisingly small RRS BH-40. I used an RRS panning clamp, and for a nodal slide I used my RRS macro focussing rail. I shot seven images.
To stitch the images together, I used the included action in Photoshop. The only post-stitch tweakig I did was a little bit of cropping and a little bit of levels adjustment to boost the constrast a bit.

Spring is Here

Our last photo safari was in Cowiche Canyon, near Yakima. Though it was raining when we left Seattle, and snowing in Snoqualmie Pass, the weather was petty nice when we arrived at Cowiche Canyon.
At the canyon we started on the ridge trail. Sagebrush surrounded us, and in the distance we could see the jagged, snow-capped Cascade mountains. Among the sagebrush was a fair variety of flowers, including the ones shown here.
Unfortunately, there was a bit of a breeze. In the morning it was not too bad, and we were able to find flowers that were sheltered among the sagebrush and in depressions. Later in the afternoon, the wind picked up enough that even the sagebrush was quivering, making it very difficult to photograph the flowers.
I made this photograph of a pair of yellow bells around that time, during a brief lull in the wind. I would have liked to be able to shoot it again, with the flower on the left a bit more out of focus and not cut off, but with the wind being what it was, I didn't get another chance, and even this shot was a little bit rushed because of the wind. I am surprised that it turned out sharp; I was expecting some motion blur, but I supposed I was fortunate this time.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Setting Sun Over the Sea

We headed up to the Chuckanut Mountains just south of Bellingham for a winter hike. The weather was beautiful, surprisingly warm when we reached the trailhead. We began be heading up the Pacific Northwest Trail from the parking area one mile north of the Chuckanut Manor Inn. Our goal was Oyster Dome, and eight-mile loop hike with a 2000 foot elevation gain.

On the way out, we decided to take a detour for a scenic overlook. The view from there was gorgeous, and would probably make a stunning sunrise or sunset shot. We could see from the Cascades to the Olympics, though the cloud cover was enough to obscure Mount Rainier.

From there we tried following “Max’s Shortcut” to get back on the trail rather than going back the way we came. It wasn’t much of a shortcut though; it added a mile or more to our trip. It was also buried under three feet of snow for most of its length, making it rather slow going. When we got back onto the main trail we stopped for lunch alongside Lake Lilly.

After that we started heading back to the car along the route we left on. The downhill stretches were pretty tough going for a while, because the snow was packed down and slick, and carrying a 50-pound pack certainly didn’t help.

We missed the turnoff for the trail to Oyster Dome which was our primary goal, so we’ll have to go back for that. We did find the turnoff for the “Batcave” at least.
The Samish Overlook is about a mile from the trailhead. We reached it on the way back around half an hour before sunset, and after chatting with a couple that was sitting there watching the show when we arrived, we decided to stick around for a bit to see how the sunset went. I was reluctant to make my friend wait for an extra half an hour knowing that we were already out later than she’d hoped, but she’s a sweethart, and wait we did.

We passed the time for a bit watching some bald eagles circling overhead, and I gave my 200-500mm lens some excercise, but not with much success; I’m not that good at wildlife photography yet. Having autofocus helped though, it’s much easier to track birds in flight when you don’t have to focus on them manually at the same time :)

As the sun vanished behing the upper cloudband you see here, I set up the tripod and the 4xt with my 300mm Fujinon lens, and waited. I ended up shooting this at f/64, in the hopes of getting a bit of a sunstar from the resulting diffraction, and it worked better than I expected. I also got more of a reflection from the water than we could see, and it didn’t last long enough for bracketing, so I’m very glad that my first shot was properly metered and exposed.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mount Saint Helens

A view of Mount Saint Helens, showing the crater and the lava dome. The large hunks of rock in the foreground are the hummocks, parts of the summit deposited along the Toutle River Valley during the landslide that occurred during the eruption in 1980. This was from my second trip to Mt. Saint Helens; on my first trip, the cloud cover obscured the crater the entire time I was there.

Even when the falls are not in full flow, they can make for beautiful photographs. This is an image of Lipsy Lake, and the trickle flowing down the rock face in the background is the 1800 foot high Otter Falls. There was a lot less flow than any of us had expected, and the lake was suprisingly small, but still very peaceful. It isn't even a particularly difficult trip, as long as you reach the trailhead; the forest service road leading to the trailhead is pretty rough, and Snoqualmie Pass has been getting a lot of snow lately.