Photo of the Week - December 11 & 13, 2014

Playing with Christmas Lights
December 11 & 13, 2014

As I have discussed on previous occasions, photographing Christmas lights is a great way to have some fun during the darkest days of the year. It is fun, organic and doesn't take much skill. 

The photo above is a double exposure. It can be made in camera, with a camera like the Canon 7D mark ii or Nikon D7000. The layers can also be photographed separately and layered together later in Photoshop, using the lighten blending mode. The big circles of color were created by focusing manually at infinity and then shooting a string of lights less than 3 feet away, using a 100mm lens. The strings of lights were made by focusing on lights about 5 feet away and then panning the camera as I shot a 1/4 second exposure. 

The image below is a single image, made with a Canon G11 point and shoot camera. I stood about 2 feet from a hedge covered with a blanket of Christmas Lights. After focusing, I began walking towards the bush as I pressed the shutter continuously, taking multiple shots at 1/4 second. The pattern is enhanced by the different distances of the various lights. 

Experiment and have fun. 


Photo of the Week - November 16, 2014

Early Season Ice

Mount Rose Trail
Lake Cushman, WA

November 16, 2014

Photo of the Week - November 16, 2014


Vine Maple Abstract Landscape

Mount Rose Trail
Lake Cushman, WA

November 16, 2014

This fall, I played with the idea of abstract landscape. For a photographer who carries a tripod with her at all times, this was a bit of a tall order. I like my images to be sharp, crisp and well defined. I am prone to dismiss an image if it doesn't meet my standards. So, to find myself intentionally moving the camera, blurring images, and even taking images without looking through the viewfinder was quite a departure in style. 

At first, my attempts felt stilted and forced. But, as I let myself go and experiment, the quality of the images improved dramatically. And, I learned in the process. As with my usual fair, subject matter and composition are paramount in creating a lovely abstract landscape. A fine balance needs to be struck between bold shapes and fine details. 

I was particularly pleased with this vine maple image. The light cutting through the deep forest illuminated the gold leaves, contrasting them with the blues and greens of the surrounding forest. The camera movement mimicked the dainty shapes of the leaves. 

Photo of the Week- October 29, 2014

Experiment in Abstract Landscape

Seattle, WA
October 29, 2014

Photo of the Week - October 25, 2014


Blacksmith Kelly Rigg demonstrates the art of traditional metal working

Arbutus Folk School
Olympia, WA
October 25, 2014

The Arbutus Folk School in Olympia offers workshops exploring traditional arts, such as woodworking, fiber arts, ceramics, music and blacksmithing. Through hands-on learning, students and artisans preserve and pass on skills and celebrate cultural heritage. 

Find out more about Arbutus Folk School and its current courses at arbutusfolkschool.org


Photo of the Week - October 24, 2014


Double-crested Cormorant defends its territory from
an encroaching Great Blue Heron

Budd Inlet
Olympia, WA
October 24, 2014

To see a short slideshow of the encounter, click here

Photographing Pumpkins at Halloween


ISO 200    f/4     1/10  second
Photographing Pumpkins at Halloween

A mini primer in Available Light Photography

Tools needed:
  • A point and shoot camera with the ability to turn the flash off
    OR
    A digital camera with Program (P) or Manual (M) setting
  • A tripod or other method of supporting your camera
  • A self-timer or shutter release
Option 1: Photographing with a point and shoot digital camera
  1. Place your camera on tripod or use support, such as a ledge or table. Compose your image.
  2. Turn off your flash by pressing the flash button until you see the no flash symbol
    Note; If the flash on your camera  does not pop-up automatically, you do not need to override any flash settings.
  3. Set your self timer to either 2 or 10 seconds. Self Timers help you to shoot without touching the camera and eliminate much of the danger of camera shake.

    If you have a remote, you will be triggering the shutter with your remote.
  4. Focus and shoot. Your hands should be off the camera when you take the photo.
  5. Go to playback and review your photo. If your photo looks good, you are done. Otherwise, continue to the next step.
  6. If your pumpkin is too bright, find yourbutton (exposure compensation).
    Set the camera to a -1 exposure. This is usually three clicks from 0.
  7. Shoot and review the image.
  8. If your pumpkin is too bright, set the to -2 stops.
  9. Shoot and review your image.
  10. Fine tune your exposure compensation for the optimal image and re-shoot if needed.
  11. When you have finished, set your button back to 0.
Note: Once you have determined the proper exposure for one pumpkin shot, you can use that setting as a starting point for additional shots. You should be able to shoot the original pumpkin from different distances and compositions with minimal fine tuning.

ISO 200   f/6.3     1.6 seconds


Option 2: Photographing Pumpkins with a digital camera with Manual Exposure
  1. Place your camera on tripod or use support, such as a ledge or table. Compose your image.
  2. Set your self timer to either 2 or 10 seconds. If you have a remote, you will trigger the shutter with your remote. The self timer will help you to shoot hands free and eliminate much of the danger of camera shake.
  3. Set your camera to Program mode (P)
  4. Set your ISO to 100 or 200. This will reduce noise in the images. Do not use auto ISO
  5. Focus and shoot. Your hands should be off the camera when the photo is taken.
  6. Go to playback and review your photo. If the image looks good, you are done. Otherwise, continue to the next step.
  7. In playback mode, press the display or info button to display your shooting information. You should see both your f-stop and shutter speed settings.  Make a note of these settings.
  8. Go to the Manual exposure mode (M). This is not manual focus, which is found on the lens, camera body or camera back. This is manual exposure, which locks in your f-stop and shutter speed settings.
  9. Set the f-stop and shutter speed values from #7. If you are unsure of how to do this, refer to your camera's instruction manual.
  10. If your original photo was too light, set either your f-stop or shutter speed to a higher number. This will reduce the amount of light in the image. You will probably need to change your settings by 2/3 of a stop (2 clicks) to see a noticeable difference.
    If your original photo was too dark, set either your f-stop or shutter speed to a lower number. This will make the photo lighter.
  11. Take another shot.
  12. Review your image. If it needs to be adjusted further, repeat steps 10 and 11.
  13. Fine tune your settings as needed.
Note: Once you have determined the proper exposure for one pumpkin shot, you can use that setting as a starting point for additional shots. You should be able to shoot the original pumpkin from different distances and compositions with minimal fine tuning.

ISO 200    f/4   1 second

Option 3: Adding Fill Flash to a pumpkin shot

Tools needed:
  • A point and shoot camera with the ability to reduce flash output using either 'flash output level' or 'flash exposure compensation' 

    OR
    A digital camera with Program or Manual Setting with the ability to reduce flash output; this includes most slr and ilc cameras and many bridge point and shoots.
  • A tripod or other way of supporting your camera
  • Self timer or remote release
  1. Shoot a photo using either Option 1 or Option 2 outlined above.
  2. After finding the optimal setting for your camera, turn your flash on or to the fill flash setting.
  3. Access flash exposure compensation by doing one of the following:
    • look in your camera menu (many cameras) 
    • by holding down the flash button (most Nikon slrs)
    • by pressing the flash compensation button (Canon D-series slrs)
    • for further instructions, look up flash exposure compensation in your instruction manual

  4. Set the flash exposure compensation to -1. This cuts back the value of your flash by one stop, underexposing the flash. If you are using a shoe mounted flash instead of the built-in flash, flash exposure compensation set on the external flash will almost always override any settings you may have applied to the camera body.

    Please note that exposure compensation, as detailed in Option 1, controls the amount of available light reaching the sensor. Flash exposure compensation, detailed here, controls how your flash output.
  5. Compose, focus and shoot.
  6. Fine tune the flash level as needed. Note that differences in camera to pumpkin distance may affect the brightness of the flash.
  7. When you are done, set flash exposure compensation and any other overrides back to 0.
ISO 200    f/6.3   1/6 second with flash

Photo of the Week - October 6, 2014


Orb Weaver Spider
spinning a new web in the sunlight

Tumwater Falls Park
Tumwater, WA
October 6, 2014

How does focusing affect Depth of Field?

As we learn about f-stops and depth of field, we often make one major mistake; we assume that aperture is some kind of a constant. I can't tell you how many photographers I have met who think that f/11 will have similar depth of field with all lenses, at all distances, with all styles of cameras. Photograph for an afternoon at f/11 and your photos will prove the fallacy of this idea. 

There are charts showing depth of field with different lenses, cameras and distances; but, who wants to memorize? 

My recommendation is to use the "worry or not?" test
  1. Is your subject more than 30 feet away? Unless you are using a telephoto lens, depth of field is probably not much of a problem. Try using f/5.6 or f/8; switch to smaller aperture if needed.
  2. Is your subject closer than 10 feet away? Depth of field will be more of an issue.
  3. Is your subject 3 feet away or closer? You need to consider depth of field. See the example photos below!
  4. How close is your subject to the background and other objects in the image? If your subject is near the background, the background will probably be distinguishable. If there is a great distance between subject and background, you may need a high numbered aperture to make the background identifiable.
  5. Are you using a compact camera (point and shoot, 4:3 camera, cell phone, etc.) ? As sensor size decreases, depth of field at a given f-stop increases. Cell phones have amazing depth of field because of their tiny sensor size. Depth of field is going to more of an issue with DX sized and full (35mm) sensors
How does focusing affect Depth of Field?

These examples demonstrate several principles:
  • At close distances, depth of field is often a concern.
    The total depth of this image is less than 1 foot and yet
    a relatively small aperture such as f/11 is unable to bring
    the entire image into focus
  • Telephoto lenses, such as the 200mm used here, magnify
    the subject and make depth of field more of a concern at
    short distances.
  • In the example images, more of the 'gained' depth of field
    is coming behind the focusing plane than in front. Generally
    speaking, 2/3 of the additional depth of field comes behind
    plane of focus. The exception is macro images, where
    half the extra depth of field is in front of the plane of focus
    and half in back. 
All images taken from about 4 feet away
Canon 30D slr (APS-C sized sensor)
200mm lens at f/11

Click on any image to enlarge
Yellow dotted line indicates plane of focus
200mm lens f/11
focused about 1/4 of the way into the image

200mm lens f/11
focused about 1/2 of the way into the image 
200mm lens f/11
focused about 3/4 of the way into the image

200mm lens f/11
focused near the back edge of the image

Photo of the Week - September 27, 2014


Julie's Vases in the Sunlight
(where have the flowers gone?)

September 27, 2014


Photo of the Week - July 12, 2014


I think I see a trend going on here?
Perhaps there is something in the water

Olympia, WA
July 2014


Photo of the Week - July 7, 2014


Origami Style Kaleidoscope created from 2 Botanical Photos

July 7, 2014

See more examples of Michele's Kaleidoscopes here

Photo of the Week - June 5, 2014


Close-up of a fern
Polystichum sp. 

Bellevue Botanical Garden
Bellevue, WA
June 5, 2014

Photo of the Week - June 4, 2014


Pink Peony Petals
among the Green Sedum 

Closed Loop Park
Lacey, Washington 
June 4, 2014

Photo of the Week - May 30, 2014


Dusk at the wetland pond

Pearrygin Lake State Park
Methow Valley, Washington

May 30, 2014

Photo of the Week - May 14, 2014


Welsh Poppy in my front yard
Meconopsis cambrica

Olympia, WA
May 14, 2014

Photo of the Week - May 12, 2014


A Lunchtime Exploration
of Space, Color, Line and Shadow

Volunteer Park
Seattle, Washington
May 12, 2014

Photo of the Week - May 5, 2014

Springtime on the Prairie
white camas among a field of blue camas and western buttercups

Mima Mounds and Scatter Creek Natural Areas
Thurston County, WA
May 5, 2014

Mima Mounds

Scatter Creek

Photo of the Week - May 1, 2014


Male Rufous Hummingbird
just about to land
Selasphorus rufus

Black Lake Meadows
Olympia, WA
May 1, 2014


Photo of the Week - April 26, 2014

2014 Procession of the Species
Samba Olywa
Bee Dancer
April 26, 2014
Olympia, WA



A sure sign of Spring in the South Sound is the appearance of thousands of birds, bees, giraffes and monkeys on the streets of Olympia. The annual Procession of the Species parade takes place each year at the end of April, giving Greeners, State Workers and schoolchildren the opportunity to dress up, dance and drum their way through the streets. 

One highlight of the event is the marvelous Samba Olywa dance troupe, whose energetic choreography is accompanied by a symphony of drums and other percussive instruments. This year, Samba Olywa came dressed as bees. Their colorful outfits and engaging dance moves inspired many spectators to tap their feet and swing their hips. 

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Procession. It is a tradition which is not to be missed. 

Photo of the Week - April 13, 2014


Bleeding Hearts herald the Season!
Taken in my backyard
Olympia, WA

April 13, 2014

Photo of the Week - March 21, 2014


A Spring in Her Step
Happy First Full Day of Spring

March 21, 2014

Photo of the Week - March 9, 2014


In Praise of Ordinary Things
Sunlight falling on a paper napkin

Olympia, WA
March 9, 2014

Photo of the Week - March 9, 2014


Cafe Chairs Waiting
Olympia, WA 

MArch 9, 2014

Photo of the Week - February 19, 2014


Construction Site - Denny Triangle
Seattle, WA
February 19, 2014

Most of the time, my mind is like a sieve. Brilliant ideas and plans make a fleeting appearance before they disappear into the cosmos.

Every once in a while, something sticks.

Twenty years ago this week, I was driving westbound on Denny way between three and four in the afternoon. It was a magnificent sunny day like we get in Seattle around President's Day. I was on my way to an important appointment (long since forgotten) when I was stopped by the traffic signal at the base of Denny Way. My eye was drawn to an old industrial building to the right; large pieces of peeling paint cast long, textured shadows against the vivid, yet aged wall. I was mesmerized.

Lacking a camera and time, I vowed to return soon to photograph the wall.

When I returned a few days later, my window of opportunity had passed. The sun had traveled further North in the sky and no longer cast shadows on the side of the building. I decided to come back the next year.

It rained every day of my February photographic window the following year. When fate allowed me to come back several years later with perfect light, the building had been repainted. It has since been torn down.

Fast forward to 2014. I found myself on Denny Way on a late February sunny afternoon. The sky was clear, blue and bright. The light was angular. I was instantly transported back in time to the mesmerizing emotions I had felt before. The neighborhood has changed and is changing. But light remains the same.


Facing East - Facing West
Two views of a brick wall
Denny Triangle
Seattle, WA
February 19, 2014

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