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.