Lightning Above White Salmon, Washington

I should have paid attention to the weather report. A “severe thunderstorm” warning was issued by NOAA and I missed half of it before I saw the first bolt of lightning. The show progressed well into the evening so I was able to capture some good shots in spite of my late start!

Facing East along the Columbia River Gorge

Flower Photography at the Hood River Lavender Daze Festival

My daughter holding up her bag of ladybugs. Most of them had been released by this point.I learned about this festival just today, though my wife had been planning on attending for some time. Initially, I hesitated to join them in favor of cleaning my garage, but she told me one of the vendors had exotic birds so I grabbed my camera and hopped in the car. Upon arrival, I realized this place is a photographer’s paradise. The flower fields were in full bloom and the day was warm, clear and bright. While my daughter had fun releasing ladybugs and sipping a smoothie, I was in the flower fields, dodging busy bees and shooting everything in sight. After my camera card filled up, I was able to browse some of the vendors and ended up buying a Moroccan sandstone geode at The 3rd Rock’s booth. The festival was well attended and featured live music and great food courtesy of Solstice Pizza. [Read more…]

Fourth of July 2013 – Photos of Fireworks

We stayed home this year and watched our local city fireworks. Below are some photos. We had a great time and hope you did too.Fireworks [Read more…]

Maternity Photos Take Two

Lost Lake Maternity PhotosOur new baby gave us an opportunity to take a new round of maternity photos, this time in the great outdoors. We headed up toward Lost Lake, stopping at a cherry orchard along the way. My wife had a few ideas for  poses that she found on Pinterest that  made use of the older sibling in the photo shoot. While Siena did cooperate for most of the photos, we had to bribe her with candy at least once. After the cherry orchard, we made our way up to Lost Lake, past the “road closed” sign and encountered a “resident” about 100 feet from the parking area by the lake. We were politely asked to “leave the premises” due to the imminent dangers posed by the ongoing snowplowing efforts. I scratched my head looking for imposing snow drifts and hazardous black ice, only to find bare roads and parked plows. Still, we complied with the request and returned a few days later. Our return trip offered us a chance to stop at the orchard again, with a different outfit . Our trip to the Lost Lake was successful this time as we parked and made our way to the shore. It was a gorgeous day and the calm wind almost made for a perfect refection of Mount Hood in the lake.

Florida and The Everglades from 35,000 Feet

Lakes and Palm TreesI recently returned from a week-long business trip to Florida where I spent my days learning a real-time kernel for use in embedded systems. I’ve been to Florida once before and I thought it was a festering cesspit then. Not surprisingly, my opinion hasn’t changed. The geography, climate, population, aggressive drivers and prevailing attitude of the locals basically amounts to a resounding “epic fail.” Fortunately, the company that hosted me was top notch, staffed with polite and very intelligent people. By the end of the week I felt fully versed in this new software component. Because of this, and because I wasn’t consumed by a killer sinkhole, I can safely say the trip was successful.

Due to my training schedule and jet lag-induced fatigue, I didn’t get a chance to visit the Everglades. Fortunately, I had a window seat for the flight home so I was able to survey and shoot the massive swamp from the airplane. Once I was done taking photos, I was able to sit back, relax, and take advantage of in-flight WiFi to browse the NTSB’s aviation accident database, starting with ValuJet Flight 592.

Lighted Boat Parade

We headed down to the marina Saturday evening to watch our local yacht club’s Lighted Boat Parade. Six boats participated this year. While we were waiting for the event to start, I set up my tripod while Siena and my wife headed down the waterfront trail. As they returned, Siena decided to run ahead toward me, crossing the path of five very large dogs with glowing LED collars, reminiscent of the robotic dogs from the movie Up! The dogs were friendly, but it gave us all a momentary scare to see them bounding toward her in the dark.

After gathering at the mouth of the harbor, the lighted boats headed off in formation toward their party spot. Sadly I didn’t get to join them; I could only shoot pictures from afar. Siena yelled “Merry Christmas!” to each boat as it passed closest to us. They were friendly and returned her greeting, some coordinating their effort to the count of three.


We were ready to head home as the boats crossed under the bridge and out of sight. Just before we reached the car, our daughter befriended a 5 year old and they took off running in the opposite direction. Together they followed the waterfront trail under the bridge to a nearby hotel where the boats had gathered to put on a show for the hotel’s guests. We definitely got our exercise trailing these preschoolers with boundless energy.

As we were headed home, Siena whined that she wanted to ride on the boats, to which my wife replied, “we ride in airplanes sweetie, not boats”. I smiled.

Photographing the Perseid Meteor Shower in Trout Lake

I attended a star party last night in Trout Lake with Jim White, our local astronomer. Once again, he brought his 20″ Newtonian reflector telescope and showed us a variety of deep space objects: nebulae, distant galaxies (including M101 and M51), open and globular clusters, etc. The weather was perfect with not a single cloud in the sky.  We also were fortunate to have a new moon, with the only source of light pollution being a tiny light at the nearby school. The Perseid Meteor shower was peaking last night, so I brought my camera and set it up for automatic interval shooting. I shot about 200 frames, but only a few captures meteorites. Due to the randomness and brevity of these  showers, it was mostly luck and a ton of patience that allowed me to capture anything at all.

Final perseid

Some Tips

Just in case you’re interested in my technique (or lack thereof) here are a few pointers on what I did.

  • Use a sturdy tripod – this cannot be emphasized enough
  • Remove any filters from the lens that could block light (neutral density, polarizer, etc.)
  • Try to focus at infinity or on a distant source of light. Use manual focus.
  • Wide open aperture
  • Use a relatively high ISO without generating too much noise (I used 640)
  • 30 second exposure (go longer and the rotation of the Earth will blur the stars)
  • Set interval shooting to occur in rapid succession

May 20 Annular Eclipse

The Nugget and Daddy watching the 2012 solar eclipseToday we were treated to a very rare event, an annular solar eclipse. Because the orbit of the moon is more distant, it does not completely occlude the sun and produces a “ring of fire” effect. In fact, the word annular means ring-shaped. Jim, a local astronomer, was ready with a telescope and solar filters but the weather did not cooperate today. Instead we were cursed with a large blanket of thick clouds, so the eclipse viewing event was canceled. In fact, the cloud mass covered the entire Northwest, so driving to a better viewing location was not an option. I took my family and camera to Panorama Point anyway, just in case there was a break in the clouds. We arrived at 6:17PM, just 2 minutes after the point of maximum occlusion. Supposedly up to 70% of the sun’s light would be blocked but it didn’t seem that much darker when we arrived. Amazingly the solar disc was visible through the clouds so I was able to snap a few photos:

I was not fully prepared to photograph the eclipse since I only had a portrait lens with me. I probably should have taken my older Canon Rebel, a less capable camera, but it comes with a 300mm zoom!

Shooting in the Dark: How to do Muzzle Flash Photography

I brought my camera to the range yesterday with the intent to capture some muzzle blasts from pistol rounds. The idea was originally inspired by my friend who has a Bersa Thunder in .45 and some +P rounds. The results were amazing, to say the least.

The process is fairly straightforward provided you have solo access to an indoor range or can find a safe place outside to shoot with low lighting conditions. You’ll need a good SLR camera with support for bulb exposure, a solid tripod and some patience. Follow the tips below:

  1. Choose a location where you have control of the light. Ideally this would be access to a private indoor range. In order to get a good exposure, the shutter of the camera must be depressed with ambient light at a minimum. Obviously it would be unwise to shoot in complete darkness, so dim the light just enough that you won’t overexpose but are still able to see the target. Always observe the four rules of gun safety, especially rule number 4: “be sure of your target and what lies behind it.”
  2. Set up the tripod and camera near but slightly behind the shooter. Adjust the focal length to frame the photograph how you want. If you instruct the shooter to keep the firearm in an invisible box, you can try zooming in to fill the frame with more of the blast.
  3. With the lights on, instruct the shooter to take position and take aim, but not fire. Set the focus to manual and adjust until the firearm is in focus. In cameras that have a live-view mode, this is a simple task since the LCD display can be zoomed in while the focus ring is tweaked appropriately. Mark the position of the shooter’s feet, so he can return to that position for subsequent shots.
  4. Set the camera to the lowest ISO speed to reduce grain and light sensitivity.
  5. Set the camera for manual bulb exposure and adjust the aperture to an fstop that darkens the background without reducing the muzzle flash. I found that f/5.6 to f/8 works the best in very dim light.
  6. With the shooter in position, turn down the lights and instruct the shooter to fire after depressing the shutter button. A bulb exposure holds the shutter open as long as the button is pressed, so when the shooter is done firing the button may be released and the muzzle flash will be captured.
  7. Adjust aperture as needed to brighten or darken the blast.

Here are the results:

TTL Wireless Flash Workshop

LRH and I attended a photography workshop in Portland focusing on using wireless flash for creative lighting. We had a fun and learned a ton. Here are some results.

Photos from a wireless flash workshop