Archive for the ‘Photo Travel’ Category

Tips for Photographing a Japanese Garden in Spring by David Cobb

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Tips for Photographing a Japanese Garden in Spring

By David Cobb


Portland Japanese Garden

Portland Japanese Garden

Recently I took a stroll through the Portland Japanese Garden to admire the cherry blossom blooms, and I took my camera along in case something caught my eye. When photographing for the book “Quiet Beauty: Japanese Gardens of North America,” I noticed the spring and fall seasons were different in the garden. The light was better, the garden seemed fresher due to recent rains, and there was much more color. Here are a few tips for photographing a Japanese garden in spring.

Get there early: The earlier the better in spring to take advantage of that beautiful light. Gardens are best to photograph in soft light, so mornings, overcast days, and sunset can bring the best light to your garden photography. Mornings are preferable because spring days can bring windy weather later in the day.

Fort Worth Botanic Garden

Fort Worth Botanic Garden

Watch your red channel: The histogram on the back of your camera is an average of your red, green, and blue channels. When photographing the red spring blooms of azaleas, rhododendrons, and camellias you’ll need to be aware of your red channel. The average on your histogram might look fine, but your red channel could be clipped off the charts. This means you’re losing detail in the blossoms of those flowers, and when you lose detail the flowers look like sheets of color.

Morikami Museum & Japanese Garden

Morikami Museum & Japanese Garden

Backlighting: This can be the best and most dramatic light in the garden, and the most difficult to photograph. When photographing backlighting I often use a lens hood to avoid image flare, but when it’s captured correctly the backlighting adds a beautiful glow to an image.

Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant

Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant

Don’t include the sky: There are few reasons to include a sky in your garden image, unless you’re interested in a sun star or to include a fabulous sunrise or sunset. When you visit a Japanese garden or any garden, photograph the garden and minimalize the sky.

Nitobe Memorial Garden

Nitobe Memorial Garden

Photograph water features: For some reason water features in a Japanese garden seem cleaner and fresher in the spring. Maybe it’s the spring rains or maybe it’s that the gardeners have caught up on all their chores, but spring is a wonderful time to include water features.

Japanese Friendship Garden

Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix

Use a polarizer: I can’t stress this enough in garden photography, and a polarizer will make or break a shot in a Japanese garden. There are a lot of reflective plants and leaves in the garden, so a polarizer will cut down on those reflections and help saturate the color of the garden image too.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Photograph blossoms by structures: There are a number of structures in a Japanese garden, so I always try to compose a few blossoms near them to give a hint of the spring season. A few flowers and a little greenery also go a long way to help soften the harsher angles and elements of a man-made structure.

Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park

Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park

Change your perspective: This tip is good for any season or for any type of photography, so change your perspective and quit shooting at eye level. Crouch down, get on your belly if you need to or get high and shoot down, but change the viewpoint to create a more interesting and dynamic image.

Shofuso Japanese House & Garden

Shofuso Japanese House & Garden

Winter Photography in the Palouse-by Chip Phillips

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Winter Glow Palouse

I know I have written about this in the past, but wanted to share some images from this past winter that I took down in the Palouse.  Photographing the Palouse in the winter can be kind of tricky.  It seems like more often then not, a good dose of snow will hit the area, and disappear as quickly as it came.  Other times, it will snow really hard, but be so windy that it will blow all of the snow off of the hills, leaving them bare and brown.

Another problem is accessibility.  They don’t plow most of the roads down there, and they never plow the road up Steptoe Butte.  Therefore, the only two options are to snowshoe up, or attempt the drive in a 4WD vehicle with good ground clearance and good tires.  I have snowshoed and skied up the hill, but this year I was able to make it up on each of my attempts in my FJ Cruiser.  It was a bit sketchy a few times, but I didn’t get stuck.

Palouse Winter Afternoon

My favorite time to head out is in the afternoon on a day when a storm system is moving out of the area.  This gives me a chance to catch the sun at a low angle, but still high enough in the sky to light up the hills.  I learned early on that, heading out only just before sunset can result in missing some of the best light of the day.  Often times I find the light more interesting when the sun is high enough in the sky to light up the hills, which just doesn’t usually happen right at sunset.

Winter Tree Palouse

The usual things still apply for photographing the Palouse during winter, such as a good strong setup with enough capacity to hold things steady in the wind.  This means a very sturdy ball head, and very sturdy tripod.  I use a Gitzo 3 series tripod, and a Markins M20 ball head for my telephoto shots.  I also use a tripod collar, and have rigged up a steel plate extension and set screw for added stability to the barrel of my lenses.

Late Spring Snow, Palouse

This last image was actually shot last April, so not really winter but still some snow.  As you can see, snow is a possibility even into April.  This is the first time I have ever seen conditions like this in April.  Usually during March and April, there is heavy rain and hail storms that move through the area.  These are great fun to watch from high vantage points.

Despite the challenges involved in making good images, winter time in the Palouse is definitely one of my favorites.  Last winter, of all the times I went down to photograph, I didn’t run into a single other photographer.  I do see people around though, mostly locals, especially up at Steptoe Butte.  My last trip down I ran into a local farmer and his wife up on their 4 Wheeler just taking a trip to the top of Steptoe Butte.  We had a great conversation on their way down. Winter is definitely a peaceful time of year in the Palouse.

More of my images can be seen on my website: Chip Phillips Photography

Many techniques used on these images are demonstrated in my editing videos available here: Image Editing Videos


Diverse Photography on The Big Island of Hawaii by Sean Bagshaw

Monday, March 10th, 2014

In February I had the great fortune to instruct a photography tour/workshop on the Big Island of Hawaii. In the realm of winter photography, my experience and images stand out in stark contrast to the ones Kevin McNeal shared of photographing the aurora in Norway in his most recent article. Our Hawaii tour was organized by a trailblazing eco-tourism company from California called Destination Earth. Handling the photography instruction along with me was my good friend and colleague, David Cobb. As we have come to expect, our group of participants were fun, talented and ready for anything. It’s always the people that make our photography workshops such a wonderful experience. It was an amazing week long photography adventure with excellent housing, meals and transportation, as well as an adventurously full schedule, all organized by Destination Earth.

Click on images to view them larger. Use the back button to return.


Receding surf on black sand. Pololu Valley. One second exposure. Four of us made the steep hike into the valley near sunset. The light was flat so we spent an hour running back and forth with the surf, taking dozens of slow shutter speed images and trying to capture dynamic patterns of white foam on the black sand. It was addictive and only the prospect of a hike in the dark pulled us away.

The Big Island really is…well, big. To quote from, “it is the youngest island in the Hawaiian chain and is also by far the biggest, nearly twice as big as all of the other Hawaiian Islands combined. You’ll find all but two of the world’s climatic zones within this island’s shores. This is the home of one of the world’s most active volcanoes (Kilauea), the tallest sea mountain in the world at more than 33,000 feet (Maunakea) and the most massive mountain in the world (Maunaloa). All but two of the world’s climate zones generate everything from lush rain forests to volcanic deserts, snow-capped mountaintops to beautiful black sand beaches. The lush east-side town of Hilo gets more than 130 inches of rain annually, while the Kohala Coast near Kawaihae usually gets no more than five inches a year. Ranging from the fern forests of Puna and the cool, misty breezes of Waimea, to the sunny lava plains of Kona and the dry heat of Kau, Hawaii Island is a place of stunningly distinct environments.”


Looking east, the shadow of Maunakea stretches over the Pacific Ocean at sunset. Did I mention that the Big Island is really big? At the high point, where this photo was taken, the elevation is nearly 13,800 feet above sea level and there is frequently snow. Breathing up here is challenging. If you have ever climbed a 14,000 foot peak you know what I’m talking about.

Stand-out features of the trip were how much of the island we were able to see, how much diversity of landscape and climate we experienced and how varied the photographic opportunities were. We visited both well known and off the radar corners of the island and were able to experience Hawaii in ways that most beach vacationers or tour groups never get to.


Colorful bamboo at a the Hawaii Institute of Pacific Agriculture (, a farm that cultivates a diverse collection of Polynesian crops and operates as an educational site offering sustainable agriculture courses, youth programming, community workshops and events.

While instructing photography in the field I don’t photograph with the same kind of focus and stubborn determination that I do when traveling on my own. My priority is providing instruction, pointing out photo ideas and being on hand to answer questions. But I do make a point of getting out my camera and putting some effort into my own photography as well. I find that I’m better able to evaluate light and composition and provide helpful suggestions if I’m in photographer mode and sizing up the scene through my own viewfinder. I also find that one of the best instructional tools in the field is to teach by example and actively demonstrate my approach and techniques.


A lone vessel, stormy clouds and pools of light off the Kona Coast, viewed from our lodging at 1,500 feet of elevation on the side of Hualalai Mountain. 70-200mm f/4 lens at 183mm. 1/15 of a second at f/11, ISO 100. Tripod.

Thanks to our expert guides and the action packed itinerary I had the chance to photograph locations I might not have otherwise visited and take photos using techniques and lighting which are outside of my usual golden hour light, tripod mounted comfort zone. I find that changing things up and operating outside the comfort zone is important for learning and expanding one’s mind creatively. As a result, I feel that the images I’m sharing in this article represent something a little different than my usual fare. Photographically they stretched me a bit and were stimulating and energizing to visualize, capture and develop. I have also thrown in some sunsets and waterfalls for good measure.  I hope you enjoy viewing them.


Rain forest vines and roots. Glowing light filtered into this jungle scene David Cobb and I found near Hilo. Although it was mid day the light was very dim. With an aperture of f/16 for depth of field and a polarizer to enrich colors in the wet leaves and bark the exposure time was 10 seconds at ISO 100.


Coral fragment on wave tumbled lava rocks. I was intrigued by the graphic simplicity of this bleached coral on the black lava. This was taken handheld at mid day with bright overcast filtered light. I knew that exposing for the light coral would underexpose the lava and further showcase the contrasting tonal values. I developed the image to further enhance this quality wanting the coral to appear to almost float above the inky background shapes.


Health inspection fail. At one beach we explored an abandoned and decaying resort. At one time this stainless steel commercial kitchen gleamed and produced gourmet meals. Now it looks like something from a post apocalyptic sci-fi film. I’m glad that in the gloom I couldn’t see what types of crawling creatures were living there. 30 seconds at f/10, ISO 100.


In the Waipio Valley one of the participants found this old fishing boat in a pool of light filtering through the canopy beside a dirt jungle road. In addition to the moody spotlighting I liked how the red of the boat complimented the greens of the forest. Low light, a polarizer and an aperture of f/16 required a 5 second exposure even though it was the middle of the afternoon.


Fish pond at sunset. What’s a tropical island without palm trees and a beach at sunset?


Flowering banana (Musa ornata). Walking through the rain forest on the wet side of the island I was looking above my head for silhouettes of lizards on the translucent banana leaves. I didn’t find a lizard, but I was enthralled with the quality of light filtering down onto this large banana flower. Apparently, at this moment, the light was streaming in rays through clouds over the nearby waterfall, but I was glad to have discovered this smaller scene.


Go gecko! Sometimes wildlife wanders into my nature photography and steals the show. This gecko was a natural performer. Handheld, 100mm macro, 1/160 of a second at f/2.8, ISO 400. Without a tripod I had to take several frames until I got one with the focus spot on his eye.


Black and white image of hala trees in the Waipio Valley.


The historic, ornately painted and aptly named, St. Benedict’s Painted Church. In the late 1800s, Belgian-born priest and self-taught artist Father John Velge painted the walls, columns, and ceiling of this Roman Catholic church with religious scenes in the style of Christian folk art found throughout the South Pacific.


Northern California? Along the old Saddle Road high above the arid beaches and lava fields of the west side of the island and the steamy jungles of the east side of the island there is a region of open temperate grasslands that make you forget you are in Hawaii. This part of the island is home to one of the largest cattle ranches in the United States. When we passed through the area we found carpets of yellow flowers and dramatic cumulus clouds and had to stop for a photo.


Forest in the fog on the rim of the Waipio Valley.


Kona sunset. Rocks, wave patterns and the last light of the setting sun.


The jungle waterfall, another icon of the Hawaiian landscape. This is the well known and often visited Akaka Falls.


Aquamarine water in motion along the rugged and remote North Kohala coastline.


The abyss. Taken at a turtle lagoon on the Kona side of Hawaii. I shot this handheld from a lava outcrop looking down into the aquamarine water, but I love that it gives the illusion of being taken deep under the sea. A polarizer helped cut surface reflections.


Sunset on the snows of Maunakea, taken on the high point of the island on our final night of the trip. It was a grand send-off to a spectacular week of exploration and photography.

How To Successfully Photograph Northern Lights by Kevin McNeal

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Northern Lights Over A Winter Cabin

One of my dreams has always been to photograph the Northern lights under a fresh blanket of white snow. A few years ago I got a chance to photograph the northern lights in the Canadian Rockies. I happened to be on a workshop at Abraham Lake shooting winter landscapes when we received an unexpected stunning display of lights. At this point I had no experience and was not sure even how to do it; all I knew was the photography mantra, “expose to the right always”. So I made the mistake of shooting the northern lights for thirty seconds or more to get the scene exposure on the right side of my histogram. During my moments of excitement and panic I did not even think to look at the images, just the histogram. I learned a hard lesson that night as the final result was a series of images that had all been overexposed. This overexposure caused all the Northern lights to blend together with no detail or patterns. A lot has happened since then in terms of camera equipment technology and photographer progress. With the year 2014 being a great year for Northern Lights I thought I would write a brief article on my experience and what I have learned.

Converging Points Of Patterns

When it comes to locations and where to find the right places to shoot the Northern Lights there are a few places that always win the hearts of photographers for their visual beauty. As most know the Northern Lights are called that for a reason, because they are seen in the higher areas of the Northern Hemisphere. The areas that I find the truly most scenic are Iceland, Norway/Scandinavia, Alaska, and Canada/Yukon. Each has its pluses and minuses which are beyond the scope of the article.

Northern Light Pancakes

Northern Light Pancakes


This year has been predicted to be a fantastic year for Northern Lights so I decided to plan several trips based around photographing them. For my first trip I visited the countries of Sweden, Finland, Norway, and more specifically the Lofoten Islands. I had never been there and had seen all the images with fresh snow and snow capped mountain peaks. It was exactly what I had been looking for. From research I knew driving would be extremely difficult in the Lofoten Islands so I decided to take a photo tour where I would not have to worry about that. If you have ever photographed with me you know that was a smart decision. It was nice to be able to just be taken to places without worrying if I would end up lost and frozen somewhere in the night. Some nights it was -28 and a few seconds in this temperature and you felt the numbness already. The other advantage of taking a photo tour is the instructors will know the best places to go when the Northern Lights do happen. The last thing you want to be doing is trying to find a place when the lights occur. Not only was this advantageous to have instructors take you to the right places but they also have the knowledge of where the lights are most likely to happen and when. This was really helpful so that you did not have to stay up all night looking out the window when you have already been shooting all day.

Northern Lights Down At The Shore

So how are you supposed to photograph Northern Lights?  With experience the following is what I have found works best.

The first thing I want to talk about is shutter speed and how long you should expose the image. This depends on the light available at each scene and the elements of the scene. The most important aspect I found to be essential to shooting aurora is to make sure you don’t overexpose. What I found works best to capture detail in the Northern Lights is anywhere from five to twelve seconds. Any more than this and the lights just blur into one another and you lose the stunning movements of the lights. I adjust the shutter speed based on how fast the lights are moving. When you get high action movement in the lights adjust your settings to have a shutter speed of five seconds. This short shutter speed will allow you to capture all the stunning patterns and movement of the Northern Lights. When the lights are barely visible I was up around twelve seconds.  I adjust my ISO so that I would be able to get the proper shutter speed.  I photograph with a Nikon D800 with a 14-24/2.8 lens, a good camera and lens combination for night photography. I found that most of my images were taken at ISO 1600 and a few at ISO 3200 for the short bursts of light. In hindsight most of the images that I took at ISO 3200 are too noisy for large printing. It goes without saying that newer cameras will do better with noise and low light situations. I also recommend using a lens that has an aperture of 2.8 or less. Shooting an f/4 lens I was not able to shoot the lights with minimal noise and fast enough shutter speed. If possible an aperture of 1.4 or 1.8 would be even better. For focal length I always use as wide angle a lens as possible. Using a 14mm lens I was able to capture most of the patterns in one image. I have seen plenty of fantastic images with a fish-eye lens as well.

Frozen Reflections Of Northern Lights

So, what happens to the rest of the elements in the image when shooting specifically for the Northern Lights?

When shooting just for the lights, the rest of the elements went completely dark and had no detail. This meant I had to do another exposure just for the rest of the scene and manually blend the two images together in post processing.  It is vital that you use a strong tripod with a sturdy ballhead to prevent any kind of movement during the shot especially when shooting on the ice. The first night of shooting Northern Lights we visited a frozen lake surrounded by mountain peaks. The creativity of shooting Northern Lights has been improving and the best images today almost always include the foreground. So being that I was on a frozen lake I looked for ice cracks that would provide great leading lines to connect the foreground to the background. To properly expose the complete scene you need to take at least two images. One image should expose for the Northern Lights and a second image that exposes for the foreground and the other elements in the image. A critical consideration for exposure in the foreground is the elements present. If there is plenty of snow, especially in the foreground, your exposure will be much less. After the images are taken I usually shoot another image with my hand in front of the lens to signify the end of the series of images. Later in Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Bridge I can stack those images as the same set or series. This is very helpful later on when trying to sort what image goes with what. So I shot the Northern lights at ISO 1600 for nine second and then exposed for the foreground ice, which was anywhere from thirty to sixty seconds. I then manually blended the two in Photoshop.

River Reflections Of Magic

The next component to photographing Northern Lights successfully is Aperture and focusing. Aperture is a constant from my experience. I need to be at an aperture f/2.8 (lower if I had a faster lens) always to get a fast enough shutter speed to capture the patterns in the Northern Lights. Combining an aperture of f/2.8 and ISO 1600 allowed me to achieve a shutter speed of less then ten seconds. The trickiest part for me was the focusing. I started by focusing on the background first to make sure I got the Northern Lights in focus. I set this up by looking at my LCD live view and focusing on a star in the distant sky. I go in at 100% preview until I find a bright star and then rotate the focus until it is sharp. Once that has occurred you can shoot the background Northern Lights with the assurance you have those sharp. Double check after by checking the LCD review of the image at 100% to see if all the stars are sharp. You know you are in the right area if you are focusing on infinity and then pulling back a smidge from that. If that all seems like too much work you can practice test shots during the day and marking on your lens where the background is in focus and use that mark on the lens later when shooting Northern lights. There are other ways that people use to focus on background stars but I found these methods worked best for me. Once you are confident the background Northern Lights are sharp, refocus for the foreground without moving the tripod or the camera position. If you are going to later blend the two images together in post processing there can be no movement in the camera. In my experience this was the hardest part in the process. I tried a couple of images where I shot one image focusing only on the background but all my foreground elements would be soft. So I would say it is imperative to refocus for a second shot. Once I got the hang of that process I took it one step further and took several images focus bracketing at several different increments blending all the images in post processing.

Best View In The House

How do you focus in the foreground when everything is in complete darkness? The answer is bringing some sort of light like a LED light or your headlamp. Find an object in the immediate foreground you will want to include in the image, shine the your light on it and then focus on that. Use the LCD preview at 100% to make sure everything is sharp. There are many techniques that people suggest when it comes to focusing on subjects in the foreground, but for me I chose the most important element of the foreground I wanted and used that. This works well except if you are in a group or a workshop where everyone is photographing in the same area. Shooting with several other participants in the workshop in a wide open space with head lamps buzzing everywhere lead to contamination of light in most of my images. Even though people are spread out, any kind of light that people use can show up in your images. No matter how far away I seemed to get away from the group I could see other photographers flashlights in my images. So be wary if in a group situation. For this reason I tried to avoid using any light and use my best estimate for focus. This proved to be a big mistake and I lost several images to the foreground being soft.

Mystery Ocean Under The Stars

To overcome this obstacle I decided I needed to wait till the next day. I would practice during the daylight and mark my lens where the optimal sharpness point should be; choosing to focus on something one-third into the foreground scene. When testing I looked for a similar situation that I would find myself in while shooting the Northern Lights. I was looking for something where the foreground element would be similar such as a rock, ice crack, etc. This foreground subject would be right in front of me with the mountain peaks in the far background. Once I found the spot of optimal sharpness I marked this on my lens. I could then go straight to that focus point the next time I was in the dark and shooting in a group situation. I want to note this was not the ideal situation and the focus was not always a 100% but it was the best I could do under the circumstances.

The last thing I did was take some time to just enjoy the Northern Lights without doing any shooting. Just enjoy the amazing show that so few people ever get to see!

If you have any tips that you have found helpful when photographing the aurora consider sharing them in the comments as I’m sure others would love to read them.

Featured Photographer – Paul Marcellini

Monday, February 17th, 2014

By Adrian Klein

Starting this month when we send out an updated newsletter we will including a featured photographer. To keep the newsletter itself from becoming too long and large we will include the full interview on the blog and only the initial part in the newsletter.

This month we welcome Paul Marcellini. I got to know Paul and his work through NPN and we met briefly when he was in town a few years back. Like many of us I am interested in work that  helps me experience new places. In this case it’s the swampy parts of Florida. I have respect for someone that can get within inches of strong jawed crocodiles and wade around in swamps. Somehow hiking and backpacking in bear country rarely concerns me yet the thought of crocodiles is not very inviting to me. One of these days I will make it down that way to experience it  myself. Until then I will continue to enjoy Paul’s photos.

Paul Marcellini

AK: You have some pretty amazing images of the Everglades area and associated wildlife. Have you always been interested in exploring the area or did it come after getting into photography?
PM: Actually photography came second. I love nature and photography is my current way of expressing it. Before photography, I painted. The Everglades is my backyard essentially, so it was my first base of exploration and is the “old familiar” but I seem to fall in love with most places I visit that offer a feeling of wilderness.

AK: What do you think is the biggest challenge to being a landscape/wildlife photographer today?
PM: Creating work that stands out and is new and original. I try to find unique scenes and luckily, Florida is not a state full of natural icons. The gear is better than ever so technically perfect wildlife photography is much easier, but getting an artistic image still is very much dependent on the photographer.

AK: I am sure it’s hard to pick one yet do you have a favorite location to photograph and if so why?
PM: Iceland comes to mind immediately. It is like another world over there, even with pretty bad weather, I had a blast. It is the current hotspot it seems, but there is a big reason for that.

AK: What are your top 3 personal favorite images and why?
PM: The three that make me the most money! It is hard to pick, but I would say Holy Sunstar!, Welcome to the Jungle and Wizard of the Hoh. All three depict a lot of mood and I think the compositions really worked. I personally like more complicated imagery, even though the simpler stuff is what usually sells.

AK: With nature photography weather and other elements can be unpredictable. How do you work through these challenges to create engaging photos?
PM: I really enjoy chasing the storms in the summer. These are definitely unpredictable, but knowing the terrain helps to get last minute compositions squared away. I usually don’t have set images in mind, I am very reactionary and I think it helps to keep a flexible mindset.

AK: What is the most important piece of photo or computer equipment that you simply cannot live without?
PM: A wide-angle…it is the basis of my photography. Many of my newer images are stitches of the Canon 17mm tilt shift for what I am guessing is about 10mm view on full frame.

AK: Any tips you are willing to share for photographers new to photography, especially in swampy places like the Everglades?
PM: Anything unknown is daunting but the Everglades is not as scary as everyone thinks. Get your feet wet and be cautious. Slow down and look around. I like the complicated nature of the swamp, digital speeds us up so much, that this forced slower pace is beneficial to my art.

IMG_8249lab Paul Marcellini


To see more of Paul’s work check out his website –

Photo Cascadia – Best of 2013

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

By Adrian Klein

Here we are, another year is coming to a close for all of us which brings time to reflect on the past and what potentially lies ahead for the new year. We  don’t know about you yet we can say it’s breathtaking to look back at the photos each of us from Photo Cascadia captured this year and the places we visited. Wherever 2013 took you with your photography adventures we hope you enjoy looking back at what it brought for you. For us viewing this slideshow is fresh reminder of the beauty that surrounds us on this planet allowing us to create the work we do and all we have to be thankful for. One of my favorite quotes sums it up best.

“I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want.” – Andy Warhol

We invite you to take a few minutes (3:27 if I have to be precise) to see a few of the favorites from the team this year.

We would also like to thank all of our subscribers and viewers to the newsletter and blog. All of you inspire us to continue along this Photo Cascadia journey. We will take a holiday break from blog posts until mid-January. After that we should be posting again and look forward to engaging with our readers as we usually do. We hope this holiday season brings you memorable experiences and quality time with family and friends.

Happy Holidays and New Year from the crew at Photo Cascadia!

Adrian Klein, Chip Phillips, David M Cobb, Kevin McNeal, Zack Schnepf and Sean Bagshaw

Life in Focus Mini Series

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

By Adrian Klein

Last winter f-stopgear’s videographer (Cam) came out to the Northwest for a couple days of adventure to follow me around in my element as part of the company’s Life in Focus mini-series. They picked a group of their staff pro’s to partake in the project. I feel fortunate to have been included.

Cam did a top-notch job on the video and post production work. The colors and mood really show what it’s like to be hiking around the damp cool forests of the Northwest in winter. Below are some links to check out the video as well as text interview with f-stopgear.

Happy viewing and reading…

Full text interview on Phoblographer.

Here are some images from the video shoot. We were fortunate to have some pretty amazing conditions.

Valley Glow

Valley Glow near Mount Hood National Forest













Final Flames of Fall

Final Flames of Fall in the Columbia River Gorge













Fog Shrouded

Fog Shrouded Forest













Stormy Blues

Stormy Blues in the Columbia River Gorge on a moody sunset

















View more of my work on

Unknown Oregon – Owyhee Canyonlands Proposed Wilderness

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Way down in the southeastern corner of Oregon lies a vast sagebrush sea. Driving through this endless high desert it is easy to assume there is nothing else to find. Outside of some hardy ranchers, truckers, sportsmen, desert rats and river runners, few people drive along southern Malheur County’s lone paved road, much less venture off of it. Highway 95 runs between Orovada, Nevada and Nampa, Idaho and passes through a single lonely town in Oregon; Jordan Valley, population 181. Thousands of square miles of the surrounding countryside are accessible only by four wheel drive vehicles, horses or on foot. Malheur County, Oregon’s largest, has a population density of just three people per square mile. However, at least 20,000 of the county’s 31,000 residents live in the northern reaches making the density of the lower 80 percent of the county almost devoid of people. That such a large area in Oregon is uninhabited and little known to the rest of the state is somewhat surprising. Learning that this same area houses a massive complex of deep river canyons, on par with canyons found in the US Southwest, is just plain amazing. The Owyhee River and its tributaries are responsible for creating the deep and winding system of canyons, some of which have headwaters in the Owyhee Range in Idaho while others come north from Nevada.


In 2011 I first visited the Owyhee Canyonlands and explored some of the better known areas  to the north such as Succor Creek, Leslie Gulch, Jordan Craters, the Pillars of Rome and Birch Creek Ranch. Earlier this fall I had the opportunity to visit some of the more remote canyons, guided by members of the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA). In four days I traveled over 200 miles of dirt roads, some little more than tracks through the sage, and hiked many more miles along canyon rims, and yet I still saw only a very small piece of all that is there.




ONDA’s mission is to protect, defend and restore Oregon’s high desert. The Owyhee Canyonlands are a priority. To quote from the ONDA website, “With over 1.9 million acres of wildlands and hundreds of miles of Wild & Scenic rivers, Oregon’s Owyhee Canyonlands represents the largest conservation opportunity remaining in the lower 48 states.


The Owyhee Canyonlands are home to the world’s largest herd of California bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, Rock Mountain elk, mule deer, 7 species of bats, sage-grouse and songbirds, redband trout, longnose snakes, and pygmy rabbits. Innumerable archaeological and historical sites are hidden in its canyons.”

In addition to the biological, geological and historical treasures found in the area, it “calls to those searching for solitude, self-reliance and unconfined space.” For someone in my line of work it offers the opportunity to explore and capture images of places rarely visited and seldom, if ever, photographed.


I hope that these images from the Owyhee will create new awareness and perhaps even inspire you to get involved. If you enjoy desert wilderness, are interested in visiting the Owyhee Canyonlands, would like to help protect Oregon’s high deserts or are interested to learn more about ONDA I encourage you to visit them on the web. The main ONDA site has information about the organization and all the regions in Oregon in which they work. They also maintain a website dedicated specifically to the Owyhee Canyonlands campaign.


In two trips to Owyhee country I have just barely become acquainted with it but it has made a big impression on me. A lifetime of exploring would still only reveal a fraction of what is there. The unique and rugged beauty is as captivating as just about any wilderness area or national park in the country. I hope to return many times to explore and photograph. I also hope that my images, along with the efforts of organizations like ONDA, will help to protect this area and keep it wild for future generations.




Shooting Wildflowers In Summer Season – Kevin McNeal

Friday, October 18th, 2013
Mt Rainier From Tipsoo Lake

Mt Rainier From Tipsoo Lake

One of the most challenging aspects of nature photography is shooting the subject of wildflowers successfully. There are many aspects to learn and nothing is more rewarding when the outcome is positive. I have made many mistakes over the past few years shooting wildflowers and I hope to pass some of this wisdom down to other photographers. Having the right tools in your camera bag is essential to capturing impact in your images. The first goal when shooting wildflowers is to capture vibrancy and color in the wildflowers. When we look at images of wildflowers the first thing that captures our attention about these images is the color that seems to “pop “off the page. You especially want to have a lot of impact in the foreground to grab your viewer’s attention.

Morning LIght On Mt St Helens

Morning LIght On Mt St Helens

Therefore producing wildflower images that contain good color rendition and vibrancy are vital to the overall goal. To make sure that you are able to reproduce the colors you need a filter that can realistically take advantage of the bold colors and then allow it to come through in the image. The filter I turn to in all my wildflower images is the LB ColorCombo Polarizer. The filter offers two successful qualities in an image that boost impact. The first aspect in the filter is the color intensifier so that images taken with the filter will consist of vibrant and bold colors. In many nature scenes this might not be vital but when shooting wildflowers this is critical.

Lupine Surround Pond In The Rockies

Lupine Surround Pond In The Rockies

The essential component to shooting flowers is color. While improving color saturation it also renders the image with a natural color balance so that what you see is what you get. I have tried other filters in the past and found I was getting unusual colorcasts when I used their filters. Not only did I receive a colorcast with other filters but often the colors were also muted. With the Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo the results are excellent when it comes to reproducing accurate results. The second component contained within the LB ColorCombo that gives it a huge advantage over other similar filters is that it contains a warming polarizer within the same filter. In the past you would have to stack filters to get these same results. Shooting wildflowers there is always a certain mood you are looking to convey; I will always lean towards a warmer tone in the image as this really attracts more viewers to your image then cooler tones. So having a warmer within the polarizer I can really take advantage of this as well as gets the best of the warmer tones in the image like the reds and yellows. Thus, the color is accentuated yet remains natural in its overall tone.

Wildflower Meadow In The Grand Teton National Park - Wyoming

Wildflower Meadow In The Grand Teton National Park – Wyoming

One of the arguments I often hear is that I can recapture that color in RAW images so why is it necessary to have this filter. And it always comes back to the notion that it is vital to render the image as close as possible to how the scene was originally. You can add saturation and vibrancy later in post processing but the side effect to that is that you are pulling pixels from the image and thus destroying the image. This is especially prevalent in the shadow areas of an image. The effects become very visible when enlarging an image for larger print. When it comes to reproducing colors through RAW the images maintain their vibrancy without really having to increase the saturation past higher levels.

Mazama Ridge Sunset On Mt RainierMazama Ridge Sunset On Mt Rainier

Mazama Ridge Sunset On Mt Rainier

Another advantage I have noticed with the LB ColorCombo polarizer is the image rendered from the filter remains sharp throughout. With other filters I have noticed a dramatic reduction in quality pertaining to sharpness. This is critical when shooting something in the foreground close to the lens. Whenever shooting wildflowers there is always a fine balance between ISO and shutter speed. In the past I have had to shoot without a filter to capture the flowers without movement. The use of other filters has decreased the shutter speed and not allowed me to capture sharpness and detail in the foreground flowers. Shooting wildflowers with success is much easier now with the newer LB ColorCombo being one stop faster combined with newer cameras having the ability to shoot higher ISO’s with fewer noise pixels.
With the advantages of clarity, color rendition, and color saturation being natural and true to the subject when shooting wildflowers the use of the LB ColorCombo is a definite asset in your arsenal of photography tools.

Sunset In Van Trump Park Mt Rainier

Sunset In Van Trump Park Mt Rainier

The Smartphone and Landscape Photography

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

By Adrian Klein

I remember when I got my first iPhone a couple years back I did not believe I would use it much. Someone told me you will use it more like a computer and a lot less like a phone. Looking back they sure hit the nail on the head. Between texting, apps and Internet access calling people seems to have taken a backseat. The sea of apps and other options we use our smartphones for is endless and I bet each of us could write an article that would enlighten the person next to us on something new.  I also believe there are folks out there using their phone more than I since I still believe in trying to do some small trips on a whim without checking every detail and seeing what comes of it, which is part of the fun. Not to mention the sea of apps now days is large and always changing. I am sure there will be a part 2 in the future!

Composition Tool

I would say one of the biggest uses for me is simply to get an idea of what the composition will look like without the process of taking out my DSLR when it’s tucked away in my backpack which is often the case when I am hiking and backpacking. Before this I was always trying to use my hands out in front of me to isolate the scene when composing (Still do this some out of habit). Sure it’s not perfect yet many times I have said “oh wow this has potential” after taking an iPhone photo and ended up with a keeper image with my DSLR.


Sure there are many apps yet sometimes just a bookmark to the right page is all that is needed. I have tried a number of options but my current top choice is using their mobile site. Although we all know weather forecasts are not 100% accurate NOAA seems to have the most reliable forecasts. On the page you can save many places you frequent to quickly access up to the minute forecasts.

Cost: Free
OS: All

NOAA Forecast Graphics - showing change of precipitation by percentages

NOAA Forecast Graphics – showing change of precipitation by percentages













The one app I do use occasionally for weather is from NOAA. This app gives more insight and better detail on predicted intensity and direction of precipitation than the mobile site.

App: NOAA Weather Radar
Cost: Free to $3.99
OS: iPhone app only but I have seen similar for Android

NOAA Weather Radar - screenshot of radar loop over Yellowstone National Park

NOAA Weather Radar – screenshot of radar loop over Yellowstone National Park














Despite the many photography apps most of us will still need a separate tide app. Don’t leave tides to guessing as that can lead to a bigger adventure than you ever expected! There are many apps for a few dollars that can give fancy charts and graphs. I simply want to see the tide table and that will do me just fine. I use Tides which allows me to see multiple locations and adjust number of days visible from a few to a month. Good for those inside the United States as it only applies to the US and Caribbean Islands.

App: Tides
Cost: Free
OS: iPhone app only but I have seen similar for Android

Comprehensive Photo Planning

Whether it’s our computer or smartphone technology is giving us many tools to plan specific photos in a way that could only be done in the past with extensive scouting and knowledge of an area over time. One of many is the ability to know moon rise, moon set, sunrise and sunset points in correlation to the horizon for the moon and sun.

Recently I have been using the app Photo Pills which is proving to be quite useful in the field and ahead of time. It has features that a variety of apps have separately as well as additional useful features. There are too many features to go into detail without dedicating an entire post to it. That said here are two very hand features that I have been using.

Augmented Reality – This is a game changer from how surgeries are being performed to planning photos. Getting an overlay of where the moon will rise, sun will set, the direction the stars move is very cool. We all have shown up at locations for sunrise for the first time and don’t know the exact location the sun is coming up. This app takes that guessing away.

Photo Pills augmented reality feature. Here you can see a location where the overlay shows when the sunrise will occur along with moon set.

Photo Pills augmented reality feature. Here you can see a location where the overlay shows when the sunrise will occur along with moon set.














Scouting – We all come to locations where the light is not right, wrong time of day and too many more to list. Being able to log the location for future reference is great. In this app I can log the location as a Point of Interest (POI) including notes, mapping  and multiple photos of each location. If your list gets long enter in search word to shorten the list. I am a list person and until this app came along I would try to (not always successfully) log in my own folder for places to visit in the future.

Photo Pills points of interest you can store locations for future reference.

Photo Pills points of interest you can store locations for future reference.













App: Photo Pills
Cost: $9.99
OS: Apple

This is a complex app and although some pieces are intuitive there is a learning curve to fully understanding many features. The website has many short tutorials to help understand the different features.

The Photographers Ephemeris (TPE) is an app which many of us already know is similar in features and price although does not have quite as many features as Photo Pills. The advantage is availability for both Android and Apple.

Full disclosure: I was provided a copy of the app by Photo Pills to demo. No expectation of review or feedback was requested.


If you are horizonally challenged (photographer speak) like me you have two options 1) always correct the horizon later or 2) use a bubble level. In some cases where I forgot my bubble level and I cannot get the horizon close enough by site I have used a level on my phone to help.

App: iHandy Level
Cost: Free
OS: Apple and Android

Although there are apps that have sunrise and sunset info (Photo Pills, TPE and others) I find sometimes I want one click to get this info without digging through an app of other features when I am on location. As a landscape photographer this information is crucial where many other pieces of planning can be more nice-to-haves. This simple app gives sunrise, sunset as well civil twilight and dawn.

App: Sunrise Sunset Lite or Pro
Cost: Free to $1.99
OS: iPhone and Android

As we are starting to see the smartphone will be an extension of our cameras where more and more we will have the ability to control our camera from the phone, preview images, store backups in the cloud and more. It will be interesting to see how this evolves. One last thing to say…I do actually take snapshots with my iPhone as well. Imagine that! I recently started an Instagram account (akphotonw) to post some snaps for fun that are much different than my DSLR work.

What app(s) do you find most useful for photography? Feel free to add them with your comments.