Photo Cascadia Blog
August 22nd, 2016
There are a number of reasons I’m drawn to photographing ghost towns. Perhaps it’s something to do for a change of pace, maybe it’s photographing the history of a bygone era, or possibly it’s my fascination with dystopian literature. But mostly it’s just fun. I’ve photographed ghost towns from Alaska to Mexico. Most of them exist from the boom-and-bust of the mining era, while others are from the days of Manifest Destiny gone awry; leftovers from a time when Americans thought if we moved to arid lands for cultivation then the rain would follow.
The ruins these people left behind are in different states of disrepair. Some are preserved as parks, some are not and are left to crumble, and others are resurrected as artist colonies for an affordable place to work and live. Whatever their state, there is always something to explore and photograph.
I’ve explored and photographed the well-known ghost towns (i.e. Bodie) to the little-known towns (i.e.) Farlin. Hell, I even did a ghost town long-distance walk across the Yukon and Northwest Territories on the 221 mile (355km) Canol Heritage Trail, and followed a World War II oil pipeline through the wilderness. The walk past little-used and abandoned autos, pump-house towns, and work stations was fascinating. Additionally, I walked the 33-mile (53km) Chilkoot Trail from Dyea, Alaska to Bennett, British Columbia that follows a land of artifacts and relics from the Klondike Gold Rush. But you don’t need to walk long distances for most ghost towns; they’re on maps and a good AWD vehicle will get you to most of them. Just remember that the majority of ghost towns are at a higher elevation and not lowland valleys, so you might need to wait until summer for access.
Upon arriving for the first time, I like to get that establishing shot. Maybe it’s an overview of the entire town from a nearby highpoint, or possibly it’s a shot of one of the more prominent buildings in town like the mine itself. If the light is not right, I’ll come back to that establishing image as the light improves, but at least I’ve found what represents the town as a whole. Once I have the establishing shot, I begin to look for the intimate. Ghost towns are known for what’s left behind. It could be a table setting, an old poster still on the wall, or implements hanging from the ceiling, but I look for those things that might tell more of the story of the place I’m photographing.
Ghost towns usually have plenty of texture and plenty of rust that can create interesting patterns of shape and color. I look at the old boards for details of pattern and rusted old cars with peeling paint can offer a myriad of abstract compositions too. If artists are moving into the area, look for the weird. Near a Nevada ghost town I photographed, there was a whole field of cars planted in the ground grill first. The exposed sections of the autos were covered with graffiti art exploring life, politics, and the exotic.
Since this is a ghost town, also look for the creepy. I had one ghost town all to myself in the middle of Montana. I walked into an old abandoned hotel to look around and then heard something upstairs. When I walked upstairs I just saw a long hallway of light and dark, and thought to myself, “I’m not going down there.” But I did try to capture in a photo the way I felt at the time.
Also when you’re visiting a ghost town look for the cemetery; there is always one nearby. Some can be quaint, others historic, and still others a bit spooky. Any way you capture them, the images can be interesting and will also help tell the story of place. Ghost towns are also a great place for night photography, and light painting the old buildings while photographing the stars overhead can make for a fun evening shoot. If you’re photographing at night, use common sense and leave the steel wool at home. Sparks from these efforts can level a whole town, and enough historic relics from California to Florida have already been lost to photographer’s fire.
In 2017 I’ll be returning to Montana to conduct a photographic loop of the western ghost town locales. I hope you can join me. You can click here for more information.
August 19th, 2016
Recently, my wife and I took our two-year-old son on his first backpacking trip. We spent four nights in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, hiking 22 miles round trip to Shadow Lake, just west of the famous Cirque of the Towers. Are we crazy? Maybe. Probably. But it was one of the most memorable, awe-inspiring, and fun experiences of my life. Even though, weeks later, we’re still getting all the dirt out of our hair.
Our son, who is 27 months old, is pushing 30 pounds. Although he walked short distances on his own here and there, he spent most of the hikes on my wife’s back in a Deuter baby carrier. That left me to carry pretty much all our gear. With my photography equipment in my pack as well, it was very heavy. Keeping weight down any way we could was crucial. My gear is already really light: ultralight tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads; titanium cookware and 2-ounce canister stove. I swear by my Steri-Pen UV water purifier, which is very light. Our son loves drinking milk, so we brought powdered milk, and we brought some individually wrapped snack cheese for extra nutrition with minimal weight. He also loves oatmeal, so we packed a few instant oatmeal packets for him. Besides that, he pretty much shared our backpacking meals with us. But of course the biggest kiddo-related weight issue would be diapers. I did some research and discovered GroVia diapers: they’re “hybrid” cloth diapers with disposable, biodegradable inserts. The inserts, while not quite as absorbent as our usual disposable brand, were light, packed tiny, and worked surprisingly well. We bought two of the cloth diaper “covers” and rotated them throughout the trip. This system saved us so much space and weight.
Giving our son a chance to hike a bit, especially in the flat, sandy-trailed meadows, was a lot of fun for him, and a nice break for my wife’s back. It gave him an opportunity to stop and smell the wildflowers, and point out all the butterflies. My wife: “what does a butterfly say?” Son: “butterfly say I love you.”
Seeing him take joy in bugs, clamber up a granite boulder and giggle with pride, and greet the tiny baby trout in a crystal-clear mountain lake (“hi littley fishy!”) are things I’ll never forget. There’s nothing in the world like witnessing my son experience the wonder of the wilderness.
Our sleeping arrangements took a bit of planning. As we were just above 10,000 feet elevation, nights got pretty cold. Our son slept in an REI poly base layer long-sleeve tee and socks, under fleece footy pajamas, in a fleece sleep sack (like a sleeping bag with arm holes). We tried having him sleep in his toddler Patagonia down coat, but that didn’t seem to be comfortable for him, so we wrapped my down coat around him like a blanket. He slept between us on his own kid-size Thermarest sleeping pad.
Backpacking with a toddler is a challenge. I’m not gonna lie. Our packs were heavy and our backs were sore. But it was so worth it. I hope to give my son the opportunity to, as Emerson said, “live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” I want him to feel the exhiliration of the wilderness; to wonder at the stars and feel the ancient earth under his feet. I want him to know the calls of ospreys and the peeps of marmots. And, hopefully, I want to experience this with him again. Soon!
August 15th, 2016
Every year since I began photography, my summer days are spent hiking on Mt Rainier looking for wildflowers. After scouting several places on the mountain this year, I have compiled a list of some of my favorite places to find wildflowers on Mt Rainier. Everywhere I look, there are all sorts of arrangements including Indian paintbrush, lupine, asters, and lilies just to mention a few. Trying to recommend one place to go would be impossible but I am going to try to highlight a few places I think should not be missed. Every wildflower season I begin my journey on Mt Rainier on the Sunrise side near the visitor center and generally the wildflowers always start peaking here first. This is an easy location to drive to when looking for wildflowers without much hiking. This year for some reason there are no flowers in the vicinity of the Sunrise area.
But if you park your car at the Sunrise visitor center there are many trails that branch off from the visitor center if you don’t mind hiking. I like to hike the Sourdough trail working my way to Berkley Park and Grand Park. This is usually for my first trip of the year when photographing on Mt Rainier. Park at the Sunrise Visitor center and make your way up along the Sourdough Trail.
Look for flowers on the slopes with Rainier in the background; just be careful not to fall on the rocks. While hiking this gorgeous trail take in the view. It is one of the best on the mountain. As you continue you make your way by Frozen Lake. Take note of the color of the water – unbelievable! To make it to Berkeley Park keep going roughly 2-3 miles to witness without a doubt the most wildflowers in the park. Even though you do not get a view of the mountain from this park it is worth the hike. As you hike here you will pass a creek that follows you throughout the park.
This is a great opportunity to shoot Lewis Monkey flowers (the pink ones that grow next to streams). Do not be afraid to get your feet wet to get the best compositions here, as there is opportunity everywhere. To get more views of the mountain keep going on the trail to Grand Park as you are met with an open meadow that goes on forever.
On the return to the visitor center makes sure to head down the trail when you hit Frozen Lake to go by Shadow Lake, which is a great place to relax and have a picnic. This is the lake you can see from the Sourdough Trail when you look down into the valley. Now keep along this trail and you will get back to the Sunrise visitor center.
For a sunrise if you are situated on the Sunrise Visitor Center side, I would highly recommend a visit to Tipsoo Lakes which is looking very good this year with a variety of wildflowers. Tipsoo Lake is a short drive back down the mountain from the Sunrise Visitor Center. It offers great reflections of the mountain and wildflowers together. Make sure to hike the hill behind the lake to even get better views of the mountain.
Now if you are heading to the Paradise side, which is always a fan favorite for wildflowers, it offers great views as well. I always begin my journey on Paradise side with a sunrise shot from the Dead Horse Creek Trail.
You cannot go wrong from here as long as get high enough to unobstructed views of the mountain. There are plenty of wildflowers along this trail and a great place to get sidelight on Rainier. Follow this trail all the way up to High Skyline Trail to get closer then you could ever imagine to the mountain. The treat this year is the wildflowers are higher then they have ever been and you can get some very close up views of the mountain with great foregrounds of wildflowers. To get there make sure to keep going all the way to the top so you are heading in the direction of Muir Camp. Once up top you will have a completely unobstructed view of the mountain and wildflowers. After this continue along the High Skyline trail until he heads back down to Paradise area.
You will make your way for about two miles before you get to the meadows worth shooting again.Warning: this place is filled with people and hard to get pictures without people in them. If you are lucky enough to get the place to yourself make sure to stop at the bridge and get a few shots of Edith Creek and the surrounding wildflowers with Rainier as your backdrop. Make sure though to include the S-Curve that leads up and around to the mountain for a great shot.While there get a shot of Myrtle Falls with Rainier in the distance.
Just past the bridge continuing up the hill you find great meadows of wildflowers and views of the Tatoosh Range if you look the opposite way of the mountain.
This year the meadows are abundant with lupine. You can never go wrong with this image for stock purposes. If time allows I always like to make my way over to Mazama Ridge as this place rarely fails for good compositions of the mountain and wildflowers.
There are great patches of wildflowers along the trail on the switchbacks up to Mazama Ridge that look great with views of the mountain from the Mazama side. While here also don’t forget to look the other way and photograph wildflowers with the Tatoosh Range. A favorite place to photograph the mountain is Reflection Lakes. This is a great place to photograph for sunrise when you are looking to get somewhere quick. Because you can drive right up to it is very popular and usually has a lot of photographers there but it is easy to find room to shoot especially at either of the far ends.
Well these are some of the stunning locations to shoot on Mt Rainier this year if you get a chance to visit. Remember every year it changes when and where to find the wildflowers so always do your homework before coming to make sure you plan everything correct to time the wildflowers!
August 2nd, 2016
I have to say that getting regular Photoshop updates and new features through my Creative Cloud subscription has been great. In the most recent update to CC Adobe gave the Refine Selection/Refine Mask features a big overhaul and combined them into a single new task space called Select and Mask. This new task space makes it even easier to create selections and refine them so your masks can be even more precise and will target adjustments just how you intend. It seems that the edge detection ability in this new feature has also been improved over the old Refine tool, making even better selections of very fine details, such as grass, hair and tree branches.
In this video tutorial I demonstrate how to use the new Select and Mask feature and also show how it can be used in conjunction with the TKActions V4 panel, even though this feature didn’t exist when the panel came out.
Sean is a full time photographer and photography educator. You can see more of his images and find out about his video tutorial courses and upcoming workshops, tours and classes on his website at www.OutdoorExposurePhoto.com.
July 31st, 2016
by Zack Schnepf
I’ve been doing art festivals and gallery shows for 8 years now. In that time I’ve noticed several changing trends in regards to what type of prints customers prefer. I’ve seen a huge shift away from traditional framed prints and canvas and toward newer technology like aluminum and acrylic prints. I think there are several reasons for this shift. In this article I’ll talk about my observations while selling prints and share my opinion on why people are buying more metal and acrylic and what advantages they offer over traditional print mediums.
A little history. When I started doing art festivals eight years ago there were only two mediums most photographers were printing on. Tradition printing papers like glossy and matte inkjet paper, and canvas prints. About five years ago, I started to see a few photographers printing on aluminum, acrylic and a few other non-traditional mediums. I really liked the look of these new mediums, but they were more expensive and in the case of the acrylic prints, really heavy. At that time I was in the middle of a failed experiment trying out canvas printing. Canvas prints failed for me because I specialize in highly detailed grand landscape scenes and the detail gets lost in the texture. Certain images still sold well on canvas, but they were primarily low detail abstracts and painterly looking scenes that lent themselves to the medium.
After my failed canvas experiment I wanted to try some prints on Aluminum. Aluminum prints have a lot of advantages over traditional print mediums. They are much more durable, water proof, scratch resistant, light weight, very archival, don’t need to be framed, very three dimensional, and very bright. They also have less reflection issues compared to framed prints with standard glass. They do have a few disadvantages as well. They are not as detailed as traditional inkjet prints and have a much more limited color gamut. The limited color gamut is my biggest issue with metal prints. It can be very challenging to get certain colors to render correctly. Because of this, I have test prints made before I order a full size aluminum print. Once I get a test print, I make adjustments to the print file and order a another test print until I get the results I’m looking for. In my experience, green is the hardest color to render correctly.
5 years ago, when I tried aluminum prints for the first time, they were a big hit. Very few other photographers were printing on metal so my images really stood out at shows. They also look very impressive in person due to their 3 dimensionality, brightness and punchy colors. Pretty soon, all of the images I displayed were printed on aluminum and I’ve enjoyed good success at shows ever since.
Photo: iPhone photo of my 2016 both setup displaying aluminum and acrylic prints.
Recently I’ve been experimenting with acrylic prints and they are my current favorite. They represent the best of both worlds and the best overall quality in my opinion. Like aluminum prints, they are bright and have a beautiful three dimensional glossy look, but they also retain the detail and color gamut of traditional inkjet prints. They do have a few draw backs compared to metal prints. They are heavier, and they scratch easier. Scratching is the only real issue i have with the acrylic prints. You need to be careful when moving, or cleaning acrylic prints.
Photo: iPhone photo, acrylic print made by Nevada Art Printers
Conclusion and recommendations. We have more options that ever for printing our photographs. Different types of images work well on different print mediums. For the grand landscapes I’m focusing on, metal and acrylic are my current favorite print mediums. If I were choosing a print to hang on my own wall I would probably choose an acrylic print, unless it was an area that wasn’t lit very well. In that case I would choose an aluminum print for it’s brightness and reflectivity. For most customers I recommend aluminum first. The durability, brightness, visual impact, and ease of maintenance are hard to beat. The exception is certain images don’t print well on aluminum. There are about 20% of my images that I can’t get to print very well on aluminum. In these cases I recommend acrylic instead.
Where do I have my prints made? I still produce my own traditional prints, but I use specialty printers for both acrylic and aluminum. For aluminum prints I use: http://www.hdaluminumprints.com. Randy at HD Aluminum Prints does a fantastic job and profiles better than any other aluminum printer I’ve used. I have my acrylic prints made at: http://www.nevadaartprinters.com. They produce incredible quality acrylic prints!
July 18th, 2016
The digital era has ushered in an abundance of stunning landscape photographs that represent clouds ablaze with color at sunrise or sunset. Thanks to increasingly capable cameras and software, photographing fiery skies and developing those images has never been easier. The wonderful visual impact of vibrant colors will surely guarantee the appeal of such scenes until the end of time, but there are many other options for creating compelling photographs of grand vistas. Here are some suggestions for types of light that can be very photogenic for large, scenic views.
1 ) Ambient Light
Even when the sun is well below the horizon, particles in the air can reflect its light, casting a soft ambient glow across the land. This type of light can be very subtle and warm, producing pleasing, feathered shadows and allowing colors and textures to appear very distinct. Once an area begins to receive direct light, shadows form hard edges and become strong elements on their own, often cutting across the lines of other forms. In areas where the lines of the land itself are what you want to feature, it is usually best to avoid hard shadows that complicate the scene. Locations that work particularly well with ambient light are those with interesting textures and with varying elevation of the terrain. Soft, warm light of any sort is great for bringing out colors, so colorful land can be particularly photogenic in ambient light as well.
2) Dappled Light
Dappled light occurs when the sun is still relatively high and cloud cover is about fifty percent or more. The effect of soft shadows alternating with bright, spotlit areas can be very dramatic. In these sorts of conditions, the light tends to change very quickly, so it’s often a good idea to find a composition and then wait and watch for a while. When your primary point of interest gets picked out by a spot of light, you’re likely to come away with an exciting photograph.
3) Diffused Light
Even overcast conditions can show off the special qualities of certain locations. A solid layer of clouds can act like a giant soft box when the sun is above them, diffusing its light enough to soften shadows. Like ambient light, diffused light works well for locations with a lot of textures.
Twilight is often called the “Blue Hour” by photographers because of the rich blue hues that the sky takes on while the sun is not very low beneath the horizon. This period is a great time to photograph the moon or to feature textures on the ground that appear clearly when reflecting soft light. After the sky goes black, it becomes a somewhat vacant space in an image until it is dark enough for the stars to shine brightly or for the colors of the Milky Way to be visible. I am placing twilight and night in the same category because landscape photographers often combine exposures of both for better handling of dynamic range in night scenes. A so-called “twilight blend” entails shooting the land portion of a scene at twilight and then leaving the camera in place on its tripod until the stars come out and can be captured in a second exposure (or the reverse order in the case of sunrise).
These four types of light are not the only alternatives to photographing scenic views at sunrise or sunset, but they can be especially fruitful. With the right combination of light and location, it is possible to produce compelling, expansive scenes at any time of the day. Creating photographs in different types of light can provide your portfolio with great variety and depth, and it will give you more options for the sheer enjoyment of photographing landscapes.
If you have any questions about these suggestions or would like to add to them, please feel free to leave a comment below!
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 www.erinbabnik.com. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter and 500px.
July 14th, 2016
In May of this year I had an opportunity to spend a few days in Acadia National Park. If you are not familiar with the area it’s in the state of Maine, one of the six states making up the New England region. When it comes to photography the area is certainly more known for visiting in fall season to capture vivid red, yellow and orange colors from the plethora of deciduous trees filling the landscape. Fall season aside there is still much to see and photograph during the other three seasons, including spring. In spring the trees and foliage are in full bloom with an array of green hues to fill up your camera lens.
While a few days allows for seeing the main sites I would overall recommend a couple more beyond that to check out more of the area and get on a couple more trails or kayaking. I will also say I am someone that typically researches quite a bit ahead of time for any trip of a few days or more. This one I pretty much winged it. I give that caveat ahead of my trip review for additional context.
When I got into Acadia it was the Friday starting on Memorial Day weekend. I was certainly prepared for jammed roads, too many tourists and little space. Much to my surprise it was not bad at all with plenty of moments to take in the area without too much commotion.
There are many options just outside of park as well as some inside the park, including camping. Since lodging when I travel by myself literally means a decent place to sleep, and nothing more, I chose an inexpensive motel on the main highway just outside the main entrance of the park. It worked out well for me.
In the park options are limited. Just outside the park there places like Bar Harbor with plenty of options. As said before I was mainly there to see sites. I hit the local grocery store and used the fridge at the motel. Don’t forget to eat plenty of lobster, it’s pretty much everywhere.
You can actually fly into Bangor International which is only about a 45 mile drive to Acadia. I happened to already be in Portland (Portland, Maine that is not to be confused with my hometown Portland, Oregon) where it made sense for me to drive the 160 miles vs getting on another plane.
There is a little bit of everything here from small ponds to ocean waves and lush forests to mountain views. The Park Loop Rd is the main route in the east portion of the park. One thing I like about the setup of the main loop is the one-way two lane feature where the right lane doubles as a parking spot in most parts. For photography this is great. I see something I like and can literally stop the car in the middle of the road to get out and take photos. Yes this means that once you pass a spot the only way back to it is doing the full loop again but the pros outweigh the cons.
Whether you like rough rocky shores or small town boat harbors ANP has them as well. The iconic Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse is located outside the busiest part of the park and worth checking out. Truth be told I was looking forward to photographing the Portland Head Lighthouse more, yet on my visit it was dressed in scaffolding for maintenance, maybe next time.
The first afternoon and morning of my second day brought spells of fog which made for some great atmosphere to photograph. We often talk about national parks being too crowded and for the most part I agree with that. Yet on my first evening I was photographing this fine grove of ferns and I had wondered if the park was closed and I got locked in! I spent 15 to 20 minutes standing on the road photographing this scene in the early evening with not a single car coming by and it was on the main park loop. All I could hear was the sound of occasional water dripping and leaves waving when breezes came through. It was fantastic.
The next morning as the sun scorched it’s way through the fog there was fine scenes I encountered. On this foggy road I ‘parked’ my car just behind where I stood to take this photo. Only a couple cars and runners strolled through.
My good friend and fellow Photo Cascadia team member did tell me there are good options for photographing rocks. There certainly are some cool finds. While my hair got soaked to the point water was running down my face from the dense fog I found this neat rock formation. I am thinking boot yet I also see a dolphin. What do you see?
Perhaps the most fun to see and photograph rock wise was Little Hunters Beach. There is no big sign to show you the way; you can easily miss it if you aren’t looking for it. It’s like one gigantic bag of marbles were dumped on the shore. Can’t remember the last time I saw this many beautiful rocks in one spot.
Some of the best views are up on Cadillac Mountain; at just over 460 meters is the highest point which feels low until you remind yourself you are on the ocean. You can hike just a short ways and be away from the masses. If you are a curb side shooter this place works too. Don’t be fooled thinking that just because you are nearing summer and sunrise is before 5 am that it will be quiet. Boy was I in for a surprise. Hundreds were up there to watch the sunrise, most just to experience the scene not to photograph.
This sunrise was the best I had all trip and the sliver of sun poking through was all we saw before the clouds engulfed it. This foreground seemed fitting as the rocks look a little like lobster claws.
If you prefer a little more man made than pure nature there is very nice little Japanese one right outside the park called Asticou Azalea Garden that is free to visit.
Definitely cannot forget about getting down close to the rugged rocky ocean shoreline. I get mesmerized watching the waves slosh around. Thunderhole is a great place to see if you can time it right for waves. During my time there the water was too calm for much action according to one of the rangers. No worry for me plenty else to see.
All in all it was a pretty quick trip yet a fine place to spend a few days photographing and exploring. If you have never been it’s certainly one to add to your bucket list. I hope to make a trip back during fall in the future.
On the subject of national parks I will get on my soap box ever so briefly. With the staggering increase volume of visitors each year to some of the major parks in the United States it’s no wonder we are seeing the many headlines of a small number of people making poor decisions negatively impacting a park landscape or wildlife. I would say mostly I have seen stories from Yellowstone this year yet that park is not alone. Others may not agree with me yet I feel the most popular parks are approaching a crisis. If we don’t effectively manage through the high visitor rate that appears to be continuing upward I fear a system of national parks we know today may be a lot less enjoyable 30 to 50 years from now. Although I don’t love permitting systems or limiting access to what we deem ‘our national parks’ I am beginning to wonder if the peak seasons at large popular parks need to entertain new ideas to effectively limit traffic, both number of people and vehicles. I won’t dive into a deep debate here, simply something to ponder. On that note get out there and enjoy your parks as I will be doing the same this summer with my family.
July 5th, 2016
Book Review by David Cobb
“Unless you photograph what you love, you are not going to make good art.” Sally Mann
Sally Mann photographed what she loved: her land, her husband, her children, herself; but where does her creativity come from? In her new memoir Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs (2015 Little, Brown, and Company) Mann gives us insights into this world by exploring her life, family, friends, death, and sense of place. She never writes directly about her creativity in this memoir, but it exudes from the pages; like the oppressive humidity from one of her summer Virginia landscapes.
In the chapter ‘Hold Still,” Mann goes through the process by which she photographed her children, from the mundane to the disturbing. Her likes, dislikes, successes, and failures are all there to see. The images from this time period brought her celebrity status and with it controversy, and that fame and contention added a creative temperance to her psych. She sums up this thinking with a quote from writer Adam Gopnik, “When we hit pay dirt, we often find quicksand beneath it.”
Mann seems to credit her mother’s side of the family for not only her work ethic, but also her romanticism of the land, her love of place, and the land which she inhabits. If it’s her family and her own life on the land which built a foundation for her landscape images, perhaps it’s photographer Michael Miley and her artist friend Cy Twombly who helped shape and inspire her landscapes. She photographed Cy Twombly’s art studio in her early years and noticed by doing so her work “changed from documentary to evocative.” Mann’s landscapes aren’t the usual fare you might be used to seeing on the internet—they can be dark, moody, and claustrophobic, while also being timeless or by hearkening back to a bygone era.
Maybe her landscape images changed because of her father’s influence. His life-long fascination with death and his own stoic demise appears to influence her last chapter of creative energy. After a death on her land, she wondered how the land had changed for her with that incident and set about capturing it with images. She writes that “It’s not that we southerners are exactly in love with death, but there is no question that, given our history, we’re on a first-name basis with it.” For me, her photography at this time goes to another level. Before my workshop in Florida this year at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Garden, a professor sent me an email question about “how to capture kami (spirits) of the garden?” I could now point him to the ending chapters of this book as a guideline.
From the death on her own land, she travels to Civil War battlefields such as Antietam to represent the landscape and death that took place there over 150 years earlier. These chapters are well-covered in the documentary What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally Mann. The film also mentions the irony of her collodion process in the creation of these prints, and that collodion was also used to hold wounds together for the injured on the Civil War battlefield.
Her work changes from the metaphorical to the literal, as she photographs at the University of Tennessee’s Anthropology Research Facility known as the Body Farm. The program records decomposition and decay of the human corpse. Her work here for the New York Times Magazine added to her closing chapters and furthered her creative exploration of death.
Overall, Sally Mann’s Hold Still is an outstanding book on many levels. Intellectually interesting, whimsical, and humorous; and at times it carries the shock value of a who-done-it novel. Ultimately for me this memoir is about creativity, and it’s a look into the soul of an artist. By taking a page from Sally Mann, I wondered how those around me and the land I hold dear influences me and contribute to my artistic process–and that’s the kind of thinking that can help artistic creativity and growth.
June 27th, 2016
One of the my favorite tools to use when post processing is the Radial Tool which can be found in either Adobe Camera Raw 7.0 and higher or Adobe Lightroom 6. The purpose of the Radial tool is direct attention to a certain focal point or subject by using a vignette effect. To be more specific I use it to really add drama and impact to my images by way of mood. The Radial filter allows you to make changes to a part of the image called a localized adjustment. This localized adjustment can be used to really draw your audience into a part of the image you want them to focus on. For most of my images this is where the main subject can be found. I can use the radial filter to do almost anything to this area of the image.
Where to Find The Radial Filter In Camera RAW
The Radial Filter Dialog Box In Camera RAW and Its Tools
In this article I will describe a few of my favorite techniques when using the radial filter.
How you chose to apply the filter depends on you and your vision for the image. Once the filter is open you are given several options when applying the filter.
Here are some of my favorite options when using the radial filter to create impact in images.
The first option is to either choose to have the effect on the inside or the outside of the radial filter. I like to apply the effect to the inside of the radial filter.
Once that is chosen you are then presented several different options to apply to that area of the image. When I am looking to add drama and mood to my image the first thing I do is decide on a mood for the image by choosing a warm or cool temperature for the area I am looking to have the viewer focus on. I am very fond of using a warm color temperature inside the radius of the radial took to create a strong tension. This is especially important when the rest of the image has a cooler overall tone. In general, studies have shown that people are more attracted to warmer colors. Applying a warm color temperature inside the radial filter is great way to draw the viewer into the part of the image you want them to look at.
Secondly, the next option is exposure and whether to increase or decrease it. As a general rule for maximum impact I like to do the opposite in the radial filter of what the rest of the image looks like. Thus, I have found that I like to increase the exposure inside the radial filter while overall globally decreasing the overall exposure outside the filter. This gives the image the added drama through light and tones. This all gives a certain mood to the image that I would describe as ethereal. I use the contrast, highlight, shadow, white, and blacks in conjunction with the exposure to achieve the desired effect. While exposure is the main tool, I use the other tools just mentioned help to accentuate the exposure to get it looking just right.
Thirdly, I like to use the combination of the clarity, dehaze, and saturation tools together to achieve a soft, surreal, and painterly look just inside the radial filter area. You can also combine these three tools with the sharpness and noise reduction options to really fine-tune your results. The subject inside the radial filter will determine whether you increase or decrease it. For example, if I am working with the sun or another source of light coming into the image; I will decrease the clarity and dehaze tools. I generally always increase the saturation a small amount within the radial filter to really maximize the impact.
The last important tool when applying the radial filter is the feather effect. By my experience I have always had good results with the feather at a high amount. Thus, the gradient is smooth and not as noticeable. It’s important for your changes in the radial filter to look natural even though the results are adding more drama.
Applying the radial filter is a great way to add a substantial impact and mood to your image overall. My choosing where to use it you can accentuate light and mood together to achieve excellent
The following is how to get to the radial filter within Photoshop:
***Important You Can Get To The Radial Filter In Camera RAW with the Shortcut Letter”J”
Or In Lightroom Shift + M
(The following instructions are direct from the Adobe Help Page on the Radial Filter)
you can also visit: https://helpx.adobe.com/lightroom/help/lightroom-radial-filter.html
The Radial Tool In Camera RAW
Before The Radial Tool In Camera RAW
While Applying The Radial Tool In Camera RAW
After Using The Radial Tool In Camera RAW
How To Get To The Radial Tool In Photoshop
- ) Open one of the following:
- Open a camera raw file.
- With an image open in Photoshop, choose Filter > Camera Raw Filter.
- ) Select the Radial Filter tool from the toolbar. Press J to toggle the Radial Filter tool.
- ) Use the New and Edit radio button options to choose whether you want to create a filter or edit an existing filter.
- ) Do one of the following:
- To create a Radial filter, click and drag across the region, and draw a circular or elliptical shape. This shape determines the area affected or excluded from the alterations you are about to perform.
- To edit a Radial filter, click any of the gray handles on the photo. When selected, the handle turns red.
To determine what area of the photo is modified, choose an Effect option (located below the sliders).
- OutsideAll modifications are applied outside the selected area.
- InsideAll modifications are applied to the selected area.
- ) Adjust the size (width and height) and orientation of the Radial filter added. Select a filter and:
- Click and drag the center of the filter to move and reposition it.
- Hover the pointer over any of the four filter handles, and when the pointer icon changes, click and drag to change the size of the filter.
Hover the pointer close to the edge of the filter, and when the pointer icon changes, click and drag the edge of the filter to change the orientation.
Where To Find The Radial Tool In Lightroom
In the Develop module, select the Radial Filter tool from the too lstrip
- The Radial Filter tool (Shift + M) is available in the Develop module.
2) Do one of the following:
- To create a Radial Filter, click and drag the mouse across the region of interest. This will draw an elliptical shape, which determines the area that is either affected or excluded from the adjustments you perform.
- To edit an existing Radial Filter, click any of the gray handles on the photo
While drawing, press Shift to constrain the Radial Filter to a circle.
3) To determine what area of the photo is modified, select or clear the Invert Mask checkbox. The checkbox, by default, is not selected.
- Invert Mask not selected (default): Changing any setting affects the image region outside the marquee area.
- Invert Mask selected: Changing any setting affects the image region inside the marquee area.
4) Adjust the size (width and height) and orientation of the Radial Filter added. Select a filter, and:
- Click and drag the center of the filter to move and reposition it.
- Hover the pointer over any of the four filter handles, and when the pointer icon changes, click and drag to change the size of the filter.
- Hover the pointer close to the edge of the filter, and when the pointer icon changes, click and drag the edge of the filter to change the orientation.
The filter area is represented by an elliptical marquee area.
5) Use the adjustment sliders (shown in step 1) to create the desired visual changes. Use the Feather slider to adjust the visual falloff of the applied adjustment.
6) Repeat steps 2 through 5 to continue adding or editing filters.
7) Click Reset, to remove all the Radial Filters applied to your image.
June 20th, 2016
I have to admit, I am a bit of a coffee nerd. I am pretty picky about my morning coffee. Also, if you don’t know me, I get really into the things that I love I have tried pretty much all of the options for the outdoor coffee enthusiast so I thought I would share some of my findings.
The most simple and lightest weight option is instant coffee:
Instant coffee has come a long way since Folgers Crystals, but it still just doesn’t do it for me. I just can’t get over the slightly burt flavor and bitterness compared to coffee brewed with fresh beans.
I used to use a french press like this one:
It is called the GSI Outdoors Java Press . It only weighs 10oz and will make 30 oz of fresh pressed coffee. All you need is access to hot water which is fairly easy to come by if you have a camp stove. I have used this for many years and it has been my main source of morning coffee while camping or backpacking up until recently. For some reason, I have never really enjoyed french pressed coffee as much as the drip coffee I make at home every morning, and my wife hates it. It just seems too bitter and over extracted for my taste. I have tried everything too, including a more course grind, shorter brewing time, etc, and, I usually drink my espresso straight so I am used to a pretty strong product.
This year I set out to see what other options are out there. My first thought was to try and seek out a drip coffee maker that would run on 12 volts for use while camping in our [email protected] travel trailer. A quick search on Amazon revealed that this wasn’t the best option. There were few available and they all had pretty bad reviews. I also learned that, due to the large amount of current they draw, the only way to make coffee from a home drip coffee maker in the outdoors is to have a huge power inverter of a couple thousand watts, and a bunch of 12 volt battery’s. Needless to say, not an option either.
All this digging around lead me to a method of brewing coffee that I had heard of in past but never really tried. The “pour over” method. I guess I always thought it would make bitter coffee just like my french press. But, oh boy was I wrong. I have recently come to the conclusion that in my opinion this the best tasting and most compact method for making coffee in the outdoors and at home. This method of brewing coffee involves manually pouring water over the grinds though a filter and filter holder, allowing complete control over the brewing process and highlighting the unique character of the coffee. After some extensive research, I learned quite a bit about this technique. It is actually kind of an art form. Check out this YouTube video and you will see what I mean. Many of the products are Japanese and they even have brewing contests in Japan for this method of brewing coffee! The best thing about it is, it is cheap, portable, and very tasty. There are a couple of things that are very important keep in mind when brewing pour over coffee. The first is kind of obvious. Start with fresh quality coffee beans and clean tasting or filtered water. The next thing is the grind. It would be easiest just to forgo the grinder and buy pre ground beans, but freshness starts to suffer almost immediately. It is important to use some type of burr grinder. Hand burr grinders are fairly inexpensive and readily available on Amazon. They take a bit of elbow grease, but I don’t mind that too much. The first one I tried is the very popular Hario Skerton. At about $25 this produced pretty good results but its main flaw was that the burrs didn’t line up very well so the grind was somewhat inconsistent. Further research lead me to the Porlex JP-30:
This one is a little bit pricier at about $50, but the results were far superior to the Skerton. Its capacity is just enough for one generous 16 oz cup of pour over coffee. At 11oz, this is even an option to take backpacking if you are a real coffee nerd.
If you have access to a power inverter that is at least 200 watts wired directly to a 12v battery, and have the room, an electric burr grinder is also an option. I tried out two different burr grinders, first the $50 Cuisinart Supreme Grind Burr Mill, which was lacking in consistent grind and very noisy. The next grinder I tried out and am very happy with is the highly recommended Baratza Encore. At $129, this grinder is more expensive but well worth the extra money. It produces a very consistent grind, and is quite a bit more quiet than the Cuisinart. Build quality is also top notch.
Next, on to the coffee maker. For lightweight travel I use the very compact GSI Outdoors JavaDrip:
At $12.95 you can’t beat the price, and at 4.8oz it is extremely portable. For filters, I recommend #2 unbleached paper cones. This device sits directly over your favorite lightweight coffee mug. My mug of choice is the GSI Outdoors Infinity Backpacker Mug.
I like this method of brewing so much that I have invested in the iconic Chemex pour over coffee brewer for use at home:
At $40, this won’t break the bank and should last forever if the glass doesn’t break.
I you are a real nerd like me, you might want to invest in a gooseneck kettle like this one. This allows for more precision during the pour. It isn’t absolutely necessary, and is not really an option while backpacking, but can be used at home and for car camping. The last piece of equipment that isn’t totally necessary but I have found very helpful for determining coffee amounts is a cheap gram scale like this.
That is basically all the equipment this really needed to start brewing pour over coffee in the outdoors. The process is fairly simple and I have found it to be very satisfying.
-First, start with the proper amount of freshly ground coffee. I use about 30 grams for a 16oz cup. This is about 1/4 cup of beans. The grind should be medium to medium course, about the consistency of sea salt.
-Next, warm up to a boil 16oz plus a little extra for wetting the filter and warming the brewer and cup.
-Once your water has reached a boil, remove it from the stove and pour the extra into the empty filter to rinse and warm, leaving about 16oz behind.
-Pour the grinds into the filter and add enough water to soak the grinds and let them “bloom”.
-After about 30 seconds, start slowly pouring water in a circular motion over the grinds until all of the water is gone.
That is basically it! The whole process should take about 3 minutes from start to finish. If it takes longer, grind a bit courser, and if it is too quick try a finer grind. If you are a real nerd, for a more detailed description of the process check this out.
Hopefully you have found this helpful, and I highly recommend that you give the pour over method of brewing a try sometime.