Book Review: More Than A Rock, review by David Cobb

by photocascadia
November 23rd, 2015

 Rocky Nook Book resize 2

Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.” –Soren Kierkegaard

Guy Tal is not most men; his photography is deliberate and so is his writing. In his new book More Than a Rock: Essays on Art, Creativity, Photography, Nature, and Life (2015 Rocky Nook Inc.), Tal conveys his thoughts of being an artist through a series of essays. If you’re familiar with his blog you’ll find Tal’s signature style of writing here; if you’re not familiar then get ready for your creative mind to expand. Tal is a deep thinker, intellectual, artist, and critic with the logic of a lawyer. Citing influences such as Alfred Stieglitz and Minor White, (perhaps he is photography’s new Minor White or art’s new John Ruskin) with some of his “artist as critic” themes. More Than a Rock isn’t a “how-to” book on photography with a list of tips and tricks – far from it. This is a book on photography learned through reading, thinking, creating, or osmosis.

His essays are broken into four parts: Art, Craft, Experiences, and Meditations–with the section on Art being the most interesting and well thought out. In his essay “Contemporary Oligarchy,” Tal sometimes takes on the Sisyphean task of dragging one-by-one (not pushing) those in the “landscape photography is not art” camp into the “landscape photography is art camp.” He writes that art’s elite is “placing too much power in the hands of the few, and so I believe the time is nigh for another (peaceful, intellectual, and creative) revolution.” I’m not sure what that revolution might entail, but it did inspire me to pick up Tom Wolfe’s The Painted Word and give that scathing satire of art a read.

Along the way, Tal refers to familiar master writers of the desert southwest such as Wallace Stegner, Joseph Wood Krutch, John Wesley Powell, Edward Abbey, and Charles Bowden. Tal lives in Utah’s Colorado Plateau, and like writers Wendell Berry or Rick Bass, his writing provides the reader with a lay of the land, a sense of place-home. He alludes to and quotes from some of the deep thinkers of the last two-centuries too, from Friedrich Nietzsche to Thomas Merton. Not something you encounter in most books about photography out there today. He’s also not a fan of the derivative, the trophy hunters, or those out to “get the shot.” In his essay “Finding the Needle,” Tal believes that next level of self-expression is much more complex than that. And whether you agree with him or not, you’ll admire his conviction.

During the reading of this well-written and beautifully photographed book, I thought more deliberately about what my photography, art, life, and purpose in this world means. I also thought more about my sense of place living in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon, in that transitional land between the Pacific’s wetter clime and that of the high desert of the Great Basin. My photography takes me to a lot of different places, but I’m looking anew at that region I call “home.”

Advantages To A Cruise Vacation For Photographers by Kevin McNeal

by photocascadia
November 19th, 2015


Coming Into Nassau Bahamas

Coming Into Nassau Bahamas


Looking out at the turquoise waters of the Caribbean from the cruise ship, I think of all the advantages one has when vacationing on a cruise ship. I began my enthusiasm for photography while working on a cruise ship and have seen some unforgettable places. A different day in a different port; this was the life aboard a cruise ship. It wasn’t long before all I could think about was my photography and capturing the beauty of the next exotic location. I was hooked and photography had me.


The Heart Of South Beach In Miami Florida

The Heart Of South Beach In Miami Florida

I quickly realized that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Fast forward to present day and I am fortunate enough to be living out my dream. Even though I do not work on the cruise ship anymore, I still like to take cruise ship vacations with my family. There are many advantages to photographing on a cruise ship rather than a vacation where you remain on land. In this article I’d like to explain why your next vacation should be a cruise vacation.


Island Of St Thomas in the USVI

Island Of St Thomas in the USVI

Firstly, cruising allows me to see several places in a short period of time. When it comes to photography there’s just never enough time to see all the places you want. I often find myself wanting to see more destinations than time can allow. Cruising gets me closer to this goal. It allows me the opportunity to see a new port or city every day. I realize that cruising is not for everybody as many photographers and people really like to explore a place and get to know it intimately. On the other hand, there are photographers like myself who enjoy seeing as many places as possible. Each place or city offers its own unique perspective. Capturing the essence of each place and telling its story is what first got me excited about photography.

Sailing Away From The British Virgin Islands

Sailing Away From The British Virgin Islands



And this is what I try to convey in my pictures. In preparation for each place, I take notes, read books, and gather all the information I can. There are many travel books, travel forums, and sites that can assist you in getting familiar with each place. Also, I often will look at Lonely Planet books, Trip Advisor forums, and cruise ship excursion feedback to get all the information I need. Once I’ve gathered all this information, I choose a guide to privately show me the island, or an excursion set up by the ship to get me to all the places I need in the quickest time. Using a private guide helps me find the best places that often tourists don’t find in terms of hidden gems of the island. At the end of each day, I make a summary of where I went, what I like, and what I would do differently.


One of the outer islands in the Bahamas Chain

One of the outer islands in the Bahamas Chain

This helps me in the process of narrowing the places that I would like to re visit. From this, I choose one or two places I would like to spend more time exploring and do a vacation on land by way of a hotel. For example, I was able to visit Turks and Caicos by cruise ship and was enthralled with it. The color of the water, the friendliness of the people, and the variety of landscapes were absolutely amazing. I recently was able to revisit Turks and Caicos, but this time I stayed at a resort. This afforded me the opportunity to stay longer and really explore.


Coming Into the Port Of Miami

Coming Into the Port Of Miami

Secondly, an advantage to a cruise vacation for photography is the vantage points and perspective it will capture. To be more specific, the ship sails into port from sea and gives a perspective of the city at sea level. The ship’s height gives you the vantage point of shooting elements from high elevations. The high elevation of the ship gives the image an aerial look. Cruise ships come early in the morning to the ports, take advantage of this opportunity. Find a position high up on deck and capture first light. The combination of the early morning light and higher vantage point makes for outstanding photography. The other advantage in terms of perspective, is the port is usually located in the central part of town and gives you a good overview of what you can expect. To be more specific, it gives me a good lay of the land and gets me right in the middle of the action.I’m able to photograph the heart of a city in great light and from unusual perspectives.


One of the many islands in the USVI

One of the many islands in the USVI


The next advantage that I find while cruising is that it forces me to slow down. Often when I am on a land-based vacation, I am always going from place to place trying to get to as many destinations as possible. I find that I am so rushed that I don’t take the time to really tell my story. Photographing while you’re cruising give you an allotted time to photograph and then you are back on the ship and you can relax. This gives me time to reflect on what I photographed and really embrace the experience. It gives me the time to prepare for the next port and spend time with my family. I think many photographers feel a rush to capture everything and, as a result, don’t take the time to really enjoy the moment. The ship sets the hours I can photograph and allows me to relax when back on board.

Coming Into The Bahamas

Coming Into The Bahamas


Lastly, the advantage of cruising while on a photography trip is the people you meet. I meet people from all over the world who are curious to know what I’m doing and I like to share my experiences. Mutually, we learn so many things about each other as well as new places to photograph.


The Outer Islands Of Bahamas

The Outer Islands Of Bahamas

Cruising is not for everybody, but it does hold a special place in my heart. It offers me the chance to see several places in a short period of time, photograph places from rare perspectives in great light, and meet people from all over the world.

Image Editing: Start-to-Finish#1 “Grand Teton Winter”

by Chip Phillips
November 11th, 2015


I am happy to announce the release of the first video in my “Start-to-Finish” series: Image Editing: Start-to-Finish#1 “Grand Teton Winter”.

With winter on its way, I thought it fitting to start the series with a winter image. In this video I take you through the entire editing process of my image “Grand Teton Winter” from beginning to final product. This video will give you a pretty good idea of the process behind my approach, and the steps involved in editing an entire photo from start to finish. The techniques that I use are fairly advanced, so a good understanding of layers and masking in Photoshop is recommended. Some of the techniques I use in this video include:

-Raw adjustments in Lightroom

-perspective adjustments using the Warp tools in Photoshop,

-tonality adjustments using Tony Kuyper’s new “Infinity Masks” (these are custom luminosity masks for any tonal value built in real time by simply adjusting a few sliders)

-adjustments with the Camera Raw filter in Photoshop

-adjustments using Nik Color Efex

-dodging with color

-Orton and soft focus

-some fast and easy methods for web and print sharpening

In this video I use Tony Kuypers 16-bit Action Panel V4 and highly recommend having it in your arenal of tools. It is available from his website:  Included in this video download is the original Raw file for practice purposes, and my own “Orton Protect Darks” action. Run time is 1hr 26min. Total size of the MP4 dowload is 931mb.

I have some clips available to view below.  If you end up checking it out, I hope you enjoy, and thanks for the support! Chip


by photocascadia
November 5th, 2015

by Zack Schnepf

As I’ve mentioned before, composition is the most challenging part of photography for me.  It’s also one of the most rewarding aspects of photography.  Bringing together different elements into a compelling composition is a wonderful creative process.  It can be a very “zen” experience as well.  When I photograph on my own, it’s a kind of meditation for me.  I’ve never been someone who get’s too preoccupied with following compositional rules, but there are a lot of very useful composition ideas that I try to keep in mind while composing in the field.  In this article I’ll discuss some of the different composition models I look for when composing a landscape image.  There are a lot of composition models that have been used throughout art history.  I’ll be focusing on just a few, otherwise we might be here all day.  The following are some examples of my favorite composition archetypes I look for in the field.

Rule of thirds

This is one of the oldest compositional rules and is one of the first compositional rules many of us learn about.  The ancient greeks used the rule of thirds in their architecture and it was probably used even before that.   The human brain seems to like compositions balanced by thirds.  We also naturally look toward the power points where rule of thirds lines intersect.  Compositions that utilize this theory tend to feel balanced and are more compelling.


Frame within a frame and natural framing

I love finding elements that naturally frame a scene.  Using elements that also tell a story about that particular place are even more compelling.  This first example is a composition I found my very first year photographing.  I didn’t capture the light I was hoping for so I came back years later and captured the same scene with better light.  I love the way the tree frames the scene and helps tell the story of Crater Lake.  This next example is Teardrop Arch in Utah.  A beautiful scene framed in this tear drop shaped arch in Monument Valley



S and C curves

S curves and C curves help viewers travel through an image and add an interesting visual flow.  I love incorporating curves in my compositions.  In this example the C curve of the petrified sand dunes in white pocket draw your eye in and through the scene creating visual flow.  This image also uses a type of symmetry that I’ll talk about later.


Puzzle Piece 

Puzzle piece compositions have elements that visually fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.  These can make for very interesting compositions if constructed well.  In this example, David Cobb deliberately composed this image with the shape off the ice berg mirrored in the reflection above it.



When most people think of symmetry, they think of mirror symmetry, but there are several more types of symmetry I look for when composing as well.  This image of death valley is a good example of rotation semmetry, or inversion symmetry.  The curve of the dune is mirrored and opposite that of the blue in the sky.  This is one of my favorite kinds of symmetry to find while composing.  It’s not always possible, but when things line up, this is something I have my eye out for.  To learn more about basic types of symmetry you can follow this link:



These are just some of the composition models I look for when composing.  There are a lot more and I encourage everyone to try find different composition types when you’re in the field.  You can learn about many different styles of composition by simply viewing art.  Whether it’s looking through a book of artwork, viewing an exhibit at an art museum, or just looking through images on 500px.  Studying the work of artists you admire is a great way to learn about composition and influences how you look at a scene.  This is one of the best ways to improve your photography and progress as an artist.  I studied art and art history in college and it has had an enormous influence on how I perceive the world and try to capture it.  There is so much to learn from the masters of different eras, artistic movements, and styles?  It’s a humbling and incredibly enriching experience.

In part four of this series I’ll talk about the elements that I try use to build compositions.

New Luminoisty Mask Tools: Infinity Masks and Zone Picker

by Sean Bagshaw
November 3rd, 2015

If you are a TKActions user, luminosity mask enthusiast or just like to keep up to date with the most current tools and techniques available for high end image developing, then this article will interest you. If you aren’t versed in what luminosity masks are then you might want to check out these articles first and then come back.


Right now I won’t ramble on the benefits of using luminosity masks as part of a finely controlled Photoshop workflow or the backstory of how Tony Kuyper introduced these techniques to the world of nature and landscape photography a decade ago. Those topics have been well covered before.

The main story here is that Tony consistently innovates and improves the way his custom Photoshop actions panel generates luminosity masks. In June he released the current iteration of the TKActions Panel, Version 4, which introduced a completely new interface, added a ton of features and increased the overall efficiency. Despite that, he has already added new features and tools to the V4 panel that I wasn’t able to include in the Video Guide to TKActions or Complete Guide to Luminosity Masks, 2nd Edition tutorials.

The two main new tools in the latest update are Infinity Masks and the Zone Picker and they both offer significantly different and intuitive methods of generating very specific luminosity selections and masks. If you currently own the TKActions V4 panel then you already have these features, although you many not have realized it yet. If you purchased the V4 panel through the Adobe Add-Ons website then you may need to update the panel through your Adobe My Add-Ons account and the CC Desktop App for the new tools to show up.

In addition to Infinity Masks and the Zone Picker, other updates include transparent dodge and burn layers, layer bookmarking, View Button support in Lab mode and the ability to toggle between red and blue view modes. Tony recently published an article on his blog that explains the new tools and features in detail.

In an effort to help everyone stay informed and get full use of the features, I produced the following tutorial. In addition to watching the video here online you can use the link I include below to download it to your computer for free and add it to your library. The video is now also included as a bonus chapter in the Video Guide to TKActions series. I hope you find it to be helpful and that you are able to put the new tools to use in your image developing. If you have any questions be sure to leave a comment below or contact me.

Helpful links:

Does a Landscape Photograph Need a “Subject”?

by Erin Babnik
October 20th, 2015


Of all of the terms that typically appear in discussions of photographic composition, the word “subject” may be the most confusing. In typical explanations, a photograph has a subject when it presents a main feature as being distinct from its setting, which is everything else in the image. These explanations usually assert that the lack of a subject will cause the eye to become restless as it searches for something to lock onto, making the viewer lose interest quickly. Without a subject, they say, the viewer will be left wondering what the photo is ‘about’.

While there is some real value in this concept, the use of the word “subject” to describe a compositional feature conflates the realms of form and meaning, making it potentially confusing for anyone who would like to apply the concept in their own photography. The main problem with applying the term is imagining its opposite, the idea that a landscape photograph could be devoid of a subject. We are likely to see the river, the desert, the ocean, the chain of mountain peaks, or whatever feature might have inspired us to press our shutter button, as the subject of our resulting image—after all, aren’t the features in the image what the photo is ‘about’? What follows in this article is an attempt to answer that question by cutting the cake a different way, to provide an alternative framework for understanding the ideas behind the typical usage of the word “subject” and for determining when these ideas might be relevant for a given photograph. This framework can be explained with three simple concepts: Hierarchy, Intention, and Meaning.

Hierarchy: Providing a Sense of Order

In a previous article for the Photo Cascadia blog, I discussed the concept of visual hierarchy and provided a brief explanation of what it can accomplish and why it is not the only mode of organization that can result in compelling photographs. The use of the word “subject” in discussions of composition aligns closely with what I described as the primary point of interest in an image—the locus where the eye knows to stop between explorations of the frame. While there may be other points of interest in a photo, the primary one will stand out from all else and will generally provide a sort of terminus for eye movement in the composition. Light, color, texture, mass, or form may all contribute to establishing visual hierarchy, but the result will be the same: the eye will have a home base where it can rest, and the overall image will seem well resolved.

Although hierarchy is only one possible organizing principle, it is essentially what discussions of the proverbial subject aim to describe. A common alternative term is “anchor”, a label often given to any compositional element that has the most visual weight in an image. While that term nicely avoids the suggestion of meaning, it comes with its own set of potentially confusing implications. An anchor stops movement, yet it is something that is connected to the ground and that has great mass; therefore, it is an awkward term to use when describing something like a sunstar or a crashing wave that may be at the top of a photo’s visual hierarchy. Regardless of what you call the primary point of interest in a photograph, it will help to provide a sense of order. Besides hierarchy, schemes that can establish order include, patterning, connecting forms, visual echoes, and dualities, among others.


Pearly Gates

“Pearly Gates”: This photo has two strong points of visual interest, the mountain and the cluster of flowers. The sunstar, bright sky, window of mist, and lines of the cliffs all emphasize the mountain as the primary point, but the flowers register as an important element too. The size of the cluster of flowers relative to the mountain encourages eye movement between them and suggests meaningful connections.


Intention: Providing the ‘Aha Moment’

But is order really necessary? What do we gain from it?

The main benefit of any organizational scheme is that it makes the decisions that went into a composition seem intentional: order indicates the will of the photographer who found or created it. Without any such scheme, a photo is likely to seem random and unresolved, leaving viewers to wonder what they are supposed to make of its various elements. Therefore, a lack of order tends to be less satisfying than compositions that indicate a high level of intention. When a viewer recognizes a clear photographic motivation, they have a satisfying ‘Aha Moment’, which will secure their interest and will encourage them to appreciate the other merits of the photo more fully.

So while there may be artistic arguments in favor of compositions that seem arbitrary or accidental, the most compelling images tend to be the ones that allow viewers to make sense of what they are seeing so that their appreciation can extend to deeper levels.


The Connection

“The Connection”: A clear organizing principle can provide an image with a strong sense of intention.


Meaning: What a Photo is ‘About’

Those deeper levels of appreciation ultimately involve interpretation, the process of deciding what an image is about, which involves more than just recognizing a subject within it. Contrary to what the term “subject” implies, a main compositional element is not necessarily the source of a photo’s meaning. Meaning emerges out of the organizing principle that governs an image as a whole, not merely from any single feature within it. In other words, what a landscape photograph’s various features collectively suggest is ultimately what the photo is ‘about’. If a photo depicts a rainbow over a dried lakebed with arcing mud cracks in it, the photo is not simply about one of those two features or the details within them; the echo of the rainbow’s form in the mud cracks indicates a relationship between the rainbow and the lakebed, and therein lies the potential for identifying meaning, however anyone wants to interpret it. (To read some possible interpretations of the described image, see the article that I wrote about it previously.)


Sweet Nothings

“Sweet Nothings”: While the hill in the foreground is the most dominant element in the frame, it is not necessarily the “subject” of the image.


Putting it All Together

In short, the simple answer to the question posed in the title of this article is no, landscape photographs do not need a “subject”. What they need is to hold the interest of the viewer, and that is most likely to happen when an image conveys a sense of intention. An ordering principle such as hierarchy can get a viewer past the point of looking for purpose and onto deeper levels of appreciation. The age-old term “subject” has earned its place in so many discussions of composition because it attempts to identify what is probably the most common method of creating order. Clearly the term has its shortcomings, but the ideas behind it are relevant for many photographs and are worth salvaging. I hope that reformulating those ideas through the connected concepts above may help more photographers to appreciate the value in the ideas and may help to prevent misunderstandings.

As with any compositional decisions, the time for conscious analysis of these concepts may not be while you’re out in the field, rushing to catch some spectacular light. An instructor once said to me when I was in art school, “Creativity is a messy place.” We don’t always arrive at our best ideas by thinking methodically about them, and compelling compositions don’t always result from stopping to ponder the full implications of our decisions. Nonetheless, analysis is extremely valuable when selecting images for editing and when tricky compositional situations present themselves in the field; if creative instincts alone are not quite bringing about that ‘Aha Moment’, a bit of analysis can help to point the way forward. Also, thinking about composition helps us to internalize ideas about it and to draw upon them later subconsciously.

Can you think of any other compositional terms, like “subject”, that may be confusing to many people? If so, please feel free to share them in the comments below. And as always, your thoughts about this article are also very welcome!


Erin divides her time between Cascadia’s Californian southern boundary and Slovenia, traveling and photographing extensively from home bases in both locations. Make sure to bookmark Erin’s site at You can also follow her on FacebookTwitter and 500px.

Nature Selfies

by Adrian Klein
October 12th, 2015

In this online world of the selfie crazed photo posts there is still the more classic selfie of putting up a tripod with camera for setting up the perfect scene. I like to say I have a selfie stick and jokingly point to my tripod. Taking a more old school approach I feel it can tell a better story to the viewer of what the place is like and how it might have felt. I do realize selfie as the word is coined for photos of today means holding the camera yet I am not covering big in your face shots here, it’s more nature self-portraits with purpose.

You might think it’s as easy as setting up the camera for the nature scene in front of you, setting the timer, jumping in front of the camera and waiting for the shutter to trip. Well sometimes it is, yet often it’s not. For those that have done them you know what I am talking about. Many takes to get one image that works well can get frustrating. The angle was off with your body, the way you were stepping on the trail doesn’t look natural, you are too large… or too small compared to the rest of the subjects, and the list goes on.

Why do I take these shots? Simply put because I want a human in the scene for one of a variety of reasons and in these cases I am typically the only one around or the only one willing to take the time to get the image I am after. I am not taking them for an Instagram account filled with selfies although don’t let me stop you if that is your cup of tea.

Here is me and my “selfie stick” just playing around during a hazy forest fire smoke sunset on the Oregon Coast. It usually gets some interesting looks when I use it. A family member off in the distance said “Is that Adrian taking photos with a selfie stick!” There you go… a tripod and selfie stick in one.


Now to more worthwhile information. Here is a list of things to think about I have learned over the years when trying to setup and pose myself into a scene with some example photos.

  1. You will want the basics. By basics I mean setup of camera, tripod and timer remote is essential. Without these you may find it very tough to impossible to get what you are conceptualizing.
  2. Does it look natural or too set up, the composition just like without people in the photo is critical to get right. Ask yourself how the scene balances with you in the shot and where you plan to stand, sit or do some awesome jumps!
  3. Besides composition of the scene the placement and body stance is very important. It should look pretty natural. If it looks overly posed or contrived you won’t be as happy with the photo in the end. You won’t know what this feels like until you practice and look at the results.
  4. Are you using newer equipment that allows you to see the scene in  real time such as apps on phones with WiFi or Bluetooth. This way you can stand a ways from your camera to click the button when it  looks right on your phone instead of setting a timer, running and stand still just in the nick of time for ‘click’.
  5.  Show a much more of the scene and a lot less of yourself. You will see in the many examples below I am only a fraction of the scene. Sometimes you can see it’s me and other times I am small enough you can’t tell.
  6. Look away from camera vs always looking at camera. A viewer will tend to look more into what the image is about and what you are looking at if you are not staring at the camera.
  7. Bright colors might be better or worse depending on what you are  after yet it’s good to think about this before you head out. Are you looking to stand out or blend into the scene.
  8. Buckles, straps, zippers should be checked before taking the shot. I  can’t count how may times I looked at the image after the fact to  find I had undone sagging buckles or straps that drew attention to  what I was wearing or carrying not in the way I had hoped.

Golden Rays – While teaching a workshop a number of years back I was showing participants how putting themselves in the photo might be another composition to think of. I kept a strong composition with leading lines from the bottom corners with the road, placed myself in the power point and let it snap when it was to a natural looking position in my walk.

The Heavenly Road

Mount Rainier – This is a case where color helps. It is an amazing scene yet if I had a pack that blended in the scene it would not be as dramatic. Notice the way I am positioned at an angle towards the mountain with a step up on the edge of the trail.

Hiker and Mount Rainier

Alvord Desert – Notice where my right foot is placed. It’s right where the larger crack starts giving it a stronger look. The cloud also appears to stretch from the top of my head. These combined with my stance I feel provide a stronger image than simply standing anywhere on this playa.

Wild Hairy Sky


Mount Adams – It was a fine morning along this lake and I wanted to capture what I was feeling eating breakfast and drinking coffee. Again I positioned my self in a power point and looking towards the mountain making sure none of the trees are spearing my head. This is a case where I used the app on my phone to look at the composition and then clicked the 2 second timer on my phone, very handy!

Hiker and Breakfast in Backcountry

Broken Top – The intent here was to keep myself small and have a big open sky as I was staring off into it just day dreaming . I don’t like I how left the branch of the tree poking in the back of my head yet it’s less of an issue with how small I am in this image.


Walchella Falls – Notice I placed myself in one corner and the falls in the opposite corner to help create balance from those two sides. Notice the un-clipped buckles on the left side of my pack. I forgot in this case and did not notice until later.

Soaking It In

Abiqua Falls – This was a tough one. I wanted to get myself in the stream of the falls get the side stream in the foreground. It took a number of takes to line myself up right. How did I avoid standing in the same spot each time in a sea of rocks that look at the same and about 40feet from the camera? I purposely marked each spot with a wet rock before I went back to my camera so I knew if it didn’t look quiet right to move slightly next time.

Standing In The Way

All of these images and others I have taken of myself, other objects and people can be found in my adventure gallery. If you have further thoughts to add around this topic please share them here for others to see.


Erin Babnik Joins PhotoCascadia

by photocascadia
October 9th, 2015

ViaFerrataWithSnow1PhotoCascadia is proud to announce the addition of Erin Babnik as a new full time member of the team! If you didn’t previously know Erin’s photography then hopefully you were introduced to her when she began contributing to the PhotoCascadia blog back in March of this year. Erin has the distinct honor of being the first and only person to be asked to join PhotoCascadia since the six original members formed the group several year ago.

Since the beginning, PhotoCascadia’s mission has been to explore areas of natural beauty, encourage appreciation and conservation of wild places and offer inspiration by sharing our images, our stories, and our knowledge with other photographers who share our passion. We were quite content with the group and were not looking for a new member.

Erin BabnikHowever, over the past several months it became clear that Erin was too good a fit not to be a member. She is smart, humble, kind, energetic and generous. Her photos are of the highest quality and artistry and were already admired by the group before we knew who she was. In addition to being a talented photographer she is an educated art historian, an excellent writer and has great energy, passion and vision. Erin’s love of nature, adventure, exploration and sharing her knowledge aligns directly with the PhotoCascadia mission. During the time she has been contributing articles to the PhotoCascadia blog she has engaged, inspired and connected with our readers in a very positive way. Finally, hailing from northern California, she lives on the southern boundary of the Cascadia region so she knows, explores and photographs the area intimately.

Please join us in giving Erin a very warm welcome! You can look forward to seeing a lot more from her in the future!

GettingClose FlowersForMiles ChromaticScale


Ode to the Silhouette by David Cobb

by photocascadia
October 5th, 2015

Ode to the Silhouette

By David Cobb

  Tahoe Sunset Silhouette

Silhouette: The dark shape and outline of someone or something visible against a lighter background, especially in dim light.

There was a time in photography when the silhouette was used more because it had to be. There wasn’t much dynamic range for a camera to work with so your options were limited. When photographing a strongly backlit subject without lighting or flash, you either chose to show detail of the subject and over-exposed the sky or you chose to expose for the sky and lose the detail of the subject to create a silhouette. The latter option was often chosen.

Joshua Tree Silhouettes_PCB


Today the silhouette isn’t in vogue. It’s fallen out of favor to the technology of high dynamic range which allows us to display as much detail as possible, but the silhouette is still a viable option. The silhouette creates a layer and a useful pattern simplifying form against a beautiful sunrise or sunset to make a striking graphic image. It generates mystery, drama, mood, and can help make an image more emotive. As you look for your subject, search for an uncluttered image stripped of detail and depth. (It often works best if it fills the frame in an interesting way or balances against a dramatic sky.) Try to keep your elements separate or at least the outlines defined in some way; if there is too much overlap the composition becomes confusing. Also focus your lens on the subject that is silhouetted. This is the part of the image you want to be the sharpest.

Next time you’re in a situation of choosing between showing detail or going with a silhouette, expose for the sky and go for simplicity. Leave part of the image up to the viewer’s imagination and choose the silhouette.

Gone Fishing

Interview: Marc Adamus

by Chip Phillips
October 2nd, 2015

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing one of my all time favorite landscape photographers, Marc Adamus. Marc is an award-winning landscape photographer based in Corvallis, Oregon, whose images have been featured in countless publications, including Outside and National Geographic Adventure. 


Tell me about your life pre-photography.  How did you first get into photography?  What did you think you would be when you grew up?  I heard you worked as a chef at one point, is this correct?

When I was in my teens and early twenties my entire life revolved around the next outdoor adventure, particularly in remote places, winter, and in the mountains. I got into photography seriously in 2001, after carrying a camera with me on mountain and wilderness trips for several years, just to document my adventures.  My greatest influence at the time was the late Galen Rowell; a world famous climber/photographer, whose work inspired me to dive into the art of photography.  I did have a job as a chef in a past life and did the culinary arts thing for awhile, hoping I’d be able to move to whatever beautiful places I wanted and find a job.  That job experience was mixed with many others that ranged from a camera store, an outdoor store and wildland firefighting, all so I could continue to plan and finance my next escape to the wilds somewhere.


If you are comfortable in saying, how many kids do you have?  As a new dad myself, I am really experiencing the challenges of balancing family and photography.  Do you ever bring your family on photography trips?What has your experience been like, and what advice would you give to someone like me?

My son, named Galen, came along in 2009 four years after I had met my wife, Anni.  We have taken dozens of trips around the country and the world together and are off to New Zealand soon for 3 weeks.  Despite all the family adventures, I keep photography trips totally separate, as they consume about 200 days out of my year.  The camera doesn’t come out during my treasured family time, although recently my son has shown interest in helping me ‘scout’ for trips, hiking and flying around in helicopters in Alaska and such, and is keen towards escaping outdoors.  For a dad who’s away a lot on his own shoots, I could have probably picked a worse profession.  I am doing what I love, and I think of all of our time together as being high quality time.  I am able to provide well for them so they can live their lives to the fullest, and we keep in touch always.


Tell me about your most exciting project this past year and what you are most excited about coming up in the next year.

In three days, I leave to spend 3 weeks backpacking in the Kharta Valley in the Tibetan Himalaya near mount Everest, a place few Westerners ever get to see.  I also have major expeditions planned to Greenland, Alaska and a different part of Tibet in coming years.

Do you ever feel burnt out and if so, how do you re-inspire yourself?

I keep it moving all the time so I rarely feel burned out.  The world is an enormous place.  There are always new adventures, new challenges.  To feel like it has ‘all been done’ is silly and just shows a lack of imagination and desire.  The only time I feel burnt out would be if I was in a place filled with other photographers, which is never a problem for me.


What are your top 5 personal favorite images?

A ‘personal favorite’ image is hard to pick, and is so often for reasons that go beyond what meets the eye, but these are some I am very fond of.   Feel free to use these with the article.



More of Marc’s work can be seen on his website.