Photo of the Week - December 21, 2011

Objects in the Mirror are Closer than they Appear
December 21, 2011
Olympia, WA

Photo of the Week - December 19, 2011

Holiday Greeting Card Collage
December 19, 2011

Photo of the Week - December 10, 2011

Photo of the Week
December 10, 2011


Photo of the Week - December 4, 2011

Male Ring-necked Ducks taking flight from Capitol Lake
Aythya collaris
Olympia, WA
December 4, 2011

"The Ring-necked Duck forages by diving, but is usually found in shallow water and forages and dabbles at the surface as well. This duck is strong and fast and, unlike many diving ducks, can take flight directly from the water without a running start."

Photo of the Week - December 2, 2011

Cackling Geese in Flight
Branta hutchinsii
Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Olympia, WA
December 2, 2011
According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology 
"The newly recognized Cackling Goose is a smaller version of the Canada Goose. Formerly considered the smallest subspecies of one variable species, recent work on genetic differences found the four smallest forms to be very different. These four races are now recognized as a full species: the Cackling Goose. It breeds farther northward and westward than does the Canada Goose."

Photo of the Week - November 16, 2011

View from Parking Garage
1911 2nd Ave
Seattle, WA

November 16, 2011
I was parking on 1st Avenue the other day on my way to the Pike Place Market when I noticed that many of the windows of the parking garage across the street were spray painted. Being a fan of grafitti, I went over to investigate. Turns out the entrepeneurs of The Bicycle Pull-Apart have painted the windows to advertise their services - selling new and used bikes, taking trade-ins, renting bikes and selling art. The business is also home to Seattle Pedal cabs. From the inside, the bright colors radiate a positive fun feeling in an otherwise dark space.

Unfortunately for the intrepid owners of The Bicycle Pull-Apart, the building is scheduled to be demolished. You have until February 1 to visit them in their current location.

View of the Garage from 1st Avenue

Photo of the Week - November 3, 2011

Pioneer Square Tunnel Station
Sound Transit Light Rail
Seattle, WA

November 3, 2011
From the Metro Transit web site:
  • Architect Jerry McDevitt designed the station with lead artist Kate Ericson.
  • The north mezzanine clock is made of materials used to build the tunnel and stations-polished marble and granite, steel I-beams, electrical wire, galvanized pipes and metals. The clock numbers are hand tools used by workers who built the tunnel. The south mezzanine clock is made of materials found while the tunnel was being built-old cobblestones, cast-iron pipe, rough granite and brick.
  • The large bronze-colored grilles in the station ceiling are air supply ducts, and the white circles on the ceiling are sound baffling devices.
Stop #10 on the Downtown Seattle clock walk.
Robert Ketcherside is a board member of the Puget Sound Historians Guild. He gives walking tours of the downtown Seattle clocks through the Seattle Architecture Foundation.
"The clock walk has been featured in episode 98 of Perils for Pedestrians; webzines such as Seattlest; the Mount Baker newsletter; a couple of times by the Seattle Sketcher."

Photo of the Week - October 28, 2011

Capitol Lake Heritage Park
Olympia, WA
October 28, 2011

To find out more about this movement, check out the article in Olympia Power and Light here

To read about Occupy Olympia's relationships with the State of Washington and local businesses, read The Olympian article

Photo of the Week - October 21, 2011

Spirit of a Ghostly Child
Seventh Annual
Seattle, WA
October 21, 2011

Georgetown, one of the oldest and most colorful neighborhoods in Seattle, has a thriving historical society. Each year, Friends of Georgetown History offers a nighttime walking tour through the back alleys and darkened streets of the community. Highlights include ghosts of former residents, accident victims and the occasional Odd Fellow. During the tour, one is introduced to the Comet Lodge Cemetery,  Georgetown Castle (reported to be the most haunted site in Seattle) and the old County Hospital (where the deceased were buried on the grounds or tossed in the nearby Duwamish River).

Volunteers from the community channel the spirits of early Georgetown residents. This tour is a Halloween treat and scarefest all rolled into one.

Photo of the Week - October 18, 2011

Great Blue Heron
fishing for Stickleback fish

Percival Landing
Olympia, WA 
October 18, 2011 

Presentation at Eastside Audubon - October 27, 2011

Migration: The Transformative Power of Birds and Nature

Date: Thursday, October 27
Refreshments: 6:30 p.m.
Program begins: 7 p.m.
Location: Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church, 308 Fourth Avenue South, Kirkland (map below)

Nature photographer Michele Burton presents "Migration: The Transformative Power of Birds and Nature," an evening of photographs, humorous stories, and inspiring tales about critters and birds who just may hold the keys to enlightenment (or at least know where the garage door opener is hidden)!

Michele's photography is featured in "The Wild Within: Wetlands of the Washington Park Arboretum." She spent 200 hours over the course of a year kayaking, walking, and photographing in the wetlands for the book project.

She is the author of "Woodland & Wetland: Puget Sound Birds," a limited-edition coffee-table book, and "Patterns in Nature," a collection of kaleidoscope images. She teaches photography at Bellevue College and leads photo workshops.
See some of Michele's photography and find out more about her at

Bring a friend and join Eastside Audubon for this entertaining evening. Open to the public; admission is free.

View Larger Map

Photo of the Week - October 7, 2011

South Puget Sound Community College
Fire Art Student grinding a piece of metal artwork

Fall Arts Walk
Olympia, WA
October 7, 2011

South Puget Sound Community College offers full technical training and degrees in welding. In addition, they offer welding and fine art metal working to the general public with their continuing education courses. Student and instructor work from the fine art program is always a big hit at Arts Walk. The booth with working artists adds an extra spark to the goings on.  

Link to SPSCC Continuing Ed Metal Courses
Link to SPSCC Metal Working Program

Photo of the Week - September 23 and 25, 2011

Natural spawning salmon
Lower Elwha River
Port Angeles, Washington
September 23, 2011 
Returning salmon on the Deschutes River
jumping into Tumwater Falls
Tumwater, Washington
September 25, 2011

This is a story of two salmon completing their journey from ocean to spawning grounds; one fish has spawned on a river which is the center of the grand experiment into removing the century-old dam to allow native fish to return to the pristine waters of Olympic National Park; the other fish is jumping into a tall cascade to attempt to bypass a fish ladder on its way back to the Tumwater fish hatchery where it will be captured.

The salmon in the picture at the top was seen on the lower Elwha River, just a mile or so from where the Elwha Dam is being removed. The hundred-year-old dam was built without a fish ladder, virtually eliminating what had once been a thriving salmon river. The Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act was passed by Congress in 1992, calling for the restoration of the fishery and the surrounding ecosystem. In September 2011, after many years of research, negotiations and preparations, the Elwha and Glines dams were breached to begin a three year, $325 million process of removing the dams. Progress on the dam removal can be watched with a series of webcams. To learn more about the project, check out the National Park Service's website

The salmon in the lower photo was spotted at Tumwater Falls. According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, "The Deschutes River lower falls was historically an impassable barrier to salmon and other anadromous fish, preventing a native salmon run on the river.

In 1954, the Department of Fisheries constructed fish ladders to allow fish to circumnavigate the falls and rapids. A facility to capture returning salmon was established adjacent to the upper falls in 1964.

In the mid 70s more than 10 million fall chinook salmon were released annually from the facility; today, the annual release is about 4 million chinook. These fish contribute to recreational and tribal fisheries throughout Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Coho salmon were introduced into the Deschutes watershed in the 1970s. Established with hatchery fish, this run of salmon has been allowed to maintain itself through natural propagation."

Photo of the Week – September 16, 2011

Pied-billed grebe bathing
Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Podilymbus podiceps

Olympia, Washington
September 16, 2011

Photo of the Week – September 12, 2011

Eight–Spotted Skimmer devouring a bee
Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Olympia, Washington
September 12, 2011

The Eight-Spotted Skimmer is a common dragonfly of the Puget Sound region of Washington. It can be found at elevations from sea level to 3000 feet and is seen from late spring until early October.

For more information on dragonflies and damselflies, you may want to check out Dennis Paulson's field guide entitled Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West. Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West is the first fully illustrated field guide to all 348 species of dragonflies and damselflies in western North America. 

Photo of the Week – September 9, 2011

Dappled sunlight refracted by an antique window
September 9, 2011
Olympia, Washington
In the summer of 1989 the national Gallery of Art in Washington, DC produced a show celebrating the 150th anniversary of photography. The title of the show was “On the Art of Fixing a Shadow: 150 Years of Photography”. It contained 415 black-and-white and color photographs spanning the range from 1839 to 1989.

When I encountered this wonderful play of light and shadow filtered through the antique window I was immediately reminded of that phrase – the art of fixing shadow. Photography is unique as an art form in its ability to capture the ephemeral. Time is both elastic and finite in a camera. It is one of the great joys I have as a photographer to be able to capture something that lasts for only a moment.

The pattern on the wall disappeared as quickly as it had appeared – the whole episode that lasted less than 2 minutes.

Link to the National Gallery of Art's page for the show "On the Art of Fixing a Shadow : 150 Years of Photography"
Link to Amazon's page for the book "On the Art of Fixing a Shadow : 150 Years of Photography"

Photo of the Week – September 2, 2011

Pink flamingo wearing yellow boots
in the window of Olympia Supply

September 2, 2011
Olympia, Washington

Now we know what flamingos where to work!

Photo of the Week – August 30, 2011

Bee collecting pollen on a dahlia
Seattle, WA
August 30, 2011

Photo of the Week - August 28, 2011

Blue Pond Damselflies Mating
Capitol Lake
Olympia, WA
August 28, 2011

University of Puget Sound database and reference material on dragonflies
National Geographic article on the mating habits of dragonflies

Photo of the Week - August 19, 2011

Visitor Center and freshwater ponds in the early evening
Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Olympia, Washington
August 19, 2011

Photo of the Week - August 9, 2011

Cedar waxwing eating serviceberry fruit
Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Olympia, Washington
August 9, 2011

I came back to the refuge a couple of days after these photos were taken. The bushes near the parking lot, which only days before had been loaded with plump fruity serviceberries, were denuded and looked as though they had not borne fruit all summer. Such is a testament to the skills and thorough nature of the team of hungry waxwings.

Photo of the Week - August 8, 2011

Garter snake basking in the summer warmth
McLane Creek Nature Trail, Olympia, WA
August 8, 2011

One of the great joys of hiking in the woods in the Puget Sound lowlands is seeing all of the critters. In the summer time we are lucky to have a wide variety of residents and visiting birds. At McLane Creek ponds, we also can see the occasional beaver, rabbit and other rodent. In addition, if one walks lightly along the boardwalk and looks carefully a few feet ahead one might just see a beautiful Garter snake enjoying the warmth of the sun drenched boards. Their S shapes, coils and rounded curves are always a geometric delight.

Photo of the Week - July 30, 2011

Hatiora cactus buds
at my next-door neighbor's house
July 30, 2011

Photo of the Week - July 29, 2011

Red Dragonfly resting on basking Western Pond Turtle

July 29, 2011
This juvenile Western Pond turtle is part of the species recovery program which is a collaborative effort between Woodland Park Zoo and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The program is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year; it is one of the most successful programs of its type. The number of Western Pond Turtles in the wild has grown tenfold since the program began.

This photograph was taken on the day when one-year-old juvenile Pond Turtles are released back into the wild after spending their first year growing large at Woodland Park zoo in Seattle. The extra time to mature gives the juvenile turtles head start against the predators they will face in the wild.

Photo of the Week - July 16, 2011

Carnival lights
Sinbad Ride
54th annual Capital Lakefair
Olympia, Washington
July 16, 2011

To see more images from Lakefair,
click on the image above to go to the Lakefair gallery

Composite image made from four separate fireworks images.

Lakefair fireworks display from the state Capitol campus in Olympia, Washington
July 17, 2011

Photo of the Week - July 16, 2011

Between the rain squalls on the new boardwalk
Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Olympia, Washington
July 16, 2011

If you are taking a look at this picture months from now, you might assume it was taken on a fall or winter day. In fact, it was taken in mid-July. This particular July weekend will be remembered for the 1.2 inches of rain that fell. Our normal rainfall for the whole month of July is .8 inches!

There is a silver lining (literally silver) to this weather we've been having. The light has been quite amazing. And, this squall managed to clear out the vast majority of trail walkers who would normally  be found on the trail on a Saturday in July. Thus, we found ourselves enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Nisqually Delta interrupted only by the vociferous calls of the gulls and terns.

If you are interested in visiting the beautiful refuge at Nisqually, visit the refuge website

Photo of the Week - July 9, 2011

My newly painted Keen shoes
reflected in a very shiny bus hubcap

South Lake Union
Seattle, Washington
July 9, 2011

Photo of the Week - June 30, 2011

Photo Composite
Male Wood Duck in eclipse plumage
Aix sponsa

McLane Creek Nature Trail
Olympia, WA
June 30, 2011

If this week's photo outing were Sesame Street, it would have been sponsored by the letter "W". I spent the better part of a day at McLane Creek Nature Trail in Olympia observing Wood duck families, warblers (Common Yellowthroat and Wilson's), Willow flycatchers, and water creatures (including newts).

The Wood ducks are a particular joy to see. At least seven juvenile Wood ducks can be seen exploring the pond. They are old enough to investigate the beaver pond on their own, although they are not able to fly yet. Two female and two male Wood ducks can also be seen on the pond.
Juvenile Wood Duck
This individual is not able to fly yet.

An interesting feature of birds in general and ducks in particular is eclipse plumage. The transformation takes place when drakes shed their body feathers after mating. The bright plumage necessary to attract a mate is no longer needed, so the males replace their feathers with a muted color scheme. Males lose their iridescent green head and bold stripes. However, their distinctive red eyes and bill are still present. Wood ducks can have two broods per year and so eclipse plumage will not appear until summertime.  
Male Wood duck in eclipse plumage

Female Wood Duck

McLane Creek Nature Trail is part of Capitol Forest in Olympia, managed by Washington State's Department of Natural Resources. It is a popular hiking location in all seasons with its diversity of plant and animal life. In the Spring, hundreds of people come to see the rough skinned newts swimming in the pond. As summer arrives, sounds of Red Winged Blackbirds and Warblers fill the air near the ponds as Swainson's Thrushes make a chorus of music in the surrounding woods. Fall brings an amazing crush of spawning salmon to the creek. Winter is time to enjoy native birds, including Spotted Towhees and Chickadees as they forage amongst the old growth stumps of century-old logging operations.

McLane Creek Nature Trail is easy for all ages and includes some wheelchair accessible paths.

Get a copy of the McLane Creek trail map here

Creating a composite image using Photoshop

The purpose of this exercise is to create a composite image using multiple photos stitched together in Photoshop to create a single image.
We will create two different composite images in this exercise: the first is a panoramic stitched image, wider than any camera view; the second is a layered image of the same scene where elements have moved or changed.
When shooting images for a stitched photo, keep some things in mind:
  • Images should overlap by at least 20%. The greater the amount of overlap the less lens distortion comes into play. Images with 10% or less overlap will be hard to stitch together.
  • Avoid using wide angle lenses when shooting images for stitching. Wide-angle incorporates curvature as it widens the view.
  • Do not use a polarizing filter when shooting images which are to be stitched. The amount of polarization will vary as you rotate your camera and one edge of the picture will be darker than the other.
  • Use the same exposure on all images. I recommend shooting a test image in aperture priority or program mode with the zooms set where I will be using it for the series of images. Check to make sure that this is the proper exposure by using your histogram in playback mode. If the exposure is correct, take note of the aperture and shutter speed settings, go to your camera’s manual mode, and sets the same aperture and shutter speed settings there. If the exposure is incorrect, darken or lighten the picture accordingly.
  • Try to shoot your image on a day with relatively even lightning; harsh light or strong shadows can make stitching difficult and may make your picture unattractive.
Once you have shot you were series of images you are ready to begin stitching.

Example 1: stitched panoramic
  1. Open Adobe Bridge and navigate to the folder containing your images
  2. Single click on the first image in the series; hold down your shift key and click the last image in the series.
  3. Click Tools >  Photoshop  >  Photomerge
  4. The Photomerge dialogue box will open - choose Interactive Layout
    • Click OK.
    • Wait for Photoshop to make the preliminary stitch.
    • Once the preliminary stitch has been made you can drag any of the pictures around for a better match. You can also delete pictures from the panoramic image by dragging them to the bar above the composite.
    • Click OK
  5. Photoshop will create a stitched version of your series.
  6. Save your work as a PSD or TIF file to keep the layers.
  7. Crop to remove any jagged edges.
  8. Make a test print.
  9. If you are satisfied with your results, flatten your image by clicking Layer > Flatten Image.
  10. Click file > Save as to save your flattened file as a PSD, TIF or JPEG.
To view instructions on how to create a stitched panorama using Photoshop Elements, go to

Example 2: layered composite
  • Open Adobe Bridge and navigate to the folder containing your images
  • Single click on the first image in the series; hold down your control key and click on additional thumbnails of images you'd like to layer.
  • Click Tools  > Photoshop > Load files into Photoshop layers.
  • Photoshop will open a new document with each image of your series as a layer in the document.
  • Go to the layers panel. Hold down the shift key and click on the bottommost layer(this should make all your layers active).
  • Click Edit  > Auto-align layers.
  • Auto align layers dialogue box will open; choose auto and click OK.
  • Photoshop will align your layers. If the resulting image looks distorted, close the file without saving and return to the beginning of the exercise. When the dialogue box opens for the second time choose reposition as your alignment option.
  • Save your work as a PSD or TIF file to keep the layers.
  • Most likely part of one image will be obscuring part of the other so you will need to determine which image is your base image. Go to the layers panel and turn off the visibility of each of your layers by clicking the eyeball at the left-hand side of the column. Choose one of your layers as your primary image and drag it to the bottom of the layers panel so that it becomes the background image.
  • Turn on the visibility of your first non-background layer. Make this layer your active layer by clicking on it in the layers panel. Zoom in as necessary to see detail.
  • Use a selection tool such as the lasso, magic wand or quick select tool to outline the area you would like to keep.
  • Click Select > Refine edge to soften and feather your subject.
  • Click Layer > layer mask > reveal selection. Now you should see your background image with your first non-background image layered above it.
  • Save your work.
  • You may find that you are image needs a little softening where your first non-background image merges with the background. If this is the case, will need to adjust your mask. Begin by typing "d" on your keyboard to set your colors to default.
  • Zoom in as necessary.
  • Choose either your brush tool to add to the subject or your eraser tool to remove parts of the subject.
  • Using a small to medium-size brush, paint or erase to clean up the edges of your selection. If you erase too much, you can switch to the brush tool and paint the detail back in.
  • Save your work.
  • If you are making a composite with more than one added component make your next non-background layer the active layer. Repeat steps above to add your next image.
  • Crop your image for best composition.
  • Make a test print.
  • If you are satisfied with your results, flatten your image by clicking Layer  > Flatten Image.
  • Click file  > save as to save your flattened file as a PSD, TIF or JPEG.
To learn more about Layer masks in Photoshop CS5, go to

To learn more about clipping paths in Photoshop Elements, go to my post on them

or the Photoshop Elements help file:

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