The National Parks Traveler published my latest photography article. This month’s article deals with focusing on more than just “The Mountain” in Mount Rainier National Park. Click on the photo above to be taken to the article.
Let me begin by saying I love staying in historic lodges within national parks. Usually, the lodges are constructed of log , wood plank and glass which more or less blends in with the natural surroundings. Historic lodges always have interesting histories to go with the architecture, and publications may be found in local book stores, or online.
My aim was to arrive at the park via the Paradise entrance, drive up to the Paradise area, and stay a couple of nights at the Paradise Inn.
Paradise Inn is located just a parking lot away from the Henry M. Jackson Memorial Visitor Center. The Inn is a lovely 2-story creation (which now has a large annex of rooms attached to the main lodge). I wanted to stay in the main lodge and the reservationist obliged me. FYI, if you plan on visiting this area, then make your room reservations here early; I made my reservations about 4-6 months ahead of time as the place fills up quickly. In the photo above, my room was the 4th from the far left of the photo, on the upper level.
I chose a room with no bathroom. There was a sink, but the toilets and showers were down the hall, in separate rooms. That was OK, but if I ever stay at the Inn again (and I definitely want to do so), then I will try and reserve a room with the toilet/shower in the same room.
Paradise Inn is not the Hyatt Regency nor the Hilton Hotel; it’s not 5-star with all the amenities. It’s a beautiful, rustic piece of architecture with history and charm. As with most other park lodgings, it’s all about location, location, location. My room was clean and basic, which is all I ever ask of any lodging; I’m spending the majority of my day outside anyway, so my main requirement is a bed. I don’t need radio, television, or internet. The room came with a desk upon which I could place my laptop, portable hard drive, and memory card reader.
The main lobby, as well as the upper level right over the lobby, are the most picturesque portions.
The upper level during the day:
The upper level at night:
As you can see from the photos, the furnishings are beautifully rustic.
There’s a large restaurant at one end of the Inn; my room was situated over the restaurant and I could hear the clinking of crockery below – a comforting sound to me, rather than an intrusive sound. There’s also a small “deli” at the other end of the main lodge serving ice cream, bottled drinks, and quick foods like sandwiches, soup, and chili. Of course there is a gift shop, and even a little mailbox into which you may drop your postcards purchased from said gift shop. There is no lounge (aka bar aka saloon aka tavern), so if you want a beer or a glass of wine (not accompanied by your meal), you will need to purchase a six-pack or bottle of vino prior to your arrival at the Inn and save it for when you get back to your room.
Paradise Inn is a stone’s throw away from trails of varying lengths, paved and unpaved, all of which afford the visitor stunning views of Nisqually Glacier and The Mountain itself .
You can see all sorts of things in addition to The Mountain.
One of my goals was to photograph the Inn all lit up at night.
Oh yeah, I also made it a goal to get a photo of myself with the Paradise Inn (to prove I was there and….ok…..to use for bragging)
If you get a chance to stay at the Paradise Inn, you won’t be sorry.
The other night, I upgraded to the most current version of Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2. LOVE this conversion plug-in. My aim was to take selected photos from my recent Washington vacation (April 2012) and convert them to black and white.
This software has a lot of very cool presets of which I made ample use, then tweaked here and there with my own changes. One of the things that popped out immediately is how much black & white delineates texture, light, dark, shadow, and detail. I saw things that I never noticed with the color images. This is especially apparent with photos that have lots of clouds.
I’m also pleased with my black and white conversions of people and pet photos.
My previous post was getting a little long – not so much with words as with images. So I knew I needed to break my visit to Seattle into two separate posts.
I am not a lazy person at all, but I must tell you that most of the photos you see of the waterfront in both the previous post and this post, were taken from my hotel room window! I managed to stay in the comfort of my own room, complete with bed, desk, TV, and fridge – and look out the window to capture some wonderful, quintessentially-Seattle images. All I had to do was aim my 70-200mm lens (handheld) either straight ahead, to the right, or to the left (sometimes hanging out of the sill a little bit).
As I mentioned in my previous post, the view window of my room was such that I could open it up and literally drop a line and fish out of it if I wished! No screen and only a very short railing protecting me from the elements. The bellman told me that on occasion, they still had to drag people out of the bay because they’d fallen overboard…..usually, that incident involved alcohol. Big surprise.
Since I had just arrived in Washington the day prior, my body clock still operated on Texas time. Needless to say, I was up at about 3AM Seattle time (5AM according to my body clock – time to get up for work). So I dressed, made coffee (yes, I brought my own coffee and purchased real cream up at Pike Place Market Creamery the afternoon prior), opened the windows to let in the fresh, crisp, salt air, and sat down to my laptop to process photos. Occasionally, I would get up to look out the window. The scenes that greeted me that morning made me realize just how lucky I was to be there right at that moment.
At dark-thirty, when the ferries begin their day.
The blue hour, as the morning progressed.
The Mountain was out on that day.
A low bank of heavy, cottony clouds partially obscured the Olympic Mountains.
Clouds, Elliott Bay, the Olympic Mountains peeking out, and Shilshole Marina.
A quintessential Seattle day.
I’d decided earlier that morning to visit the Seattle Aquarium. I needed more practice taking fish photos and wanted to test my brand new lens. But first, I wanted to take a walk along the waterfront. For this day, I used my own Canon 5D Mark II and 24-105mm lens plus the rented Canon 5D Mark III and the 50mm f1.2 lens. I wanted that 50mm lens for aquarium shots because it’s a fast, sharp prime.
The Seattle Aquarium opens at 9:30AM. It costs $19 and some-odd cents for a ticket (why they just don’t make it an even $20, I don’t know). On this particular day (the Saturday before Easter), the place was jam-packed with kids and parents. Try battling that combo to get a particular photo.
The first sight to greet the visitor is this scene. The docent (just outside of this view) is chatting with the diver feeding the fish, educating and entertaining the audience at the same time. The really little kids are the most fun to watch.
From there, one passes on through various exhibits including a number of petting tanks, where kids (and grown-ups like moi) can touch the anemones and star fish. After touching wet, soft, squishy sealife, one looks up toward this very cool circular aquarium, a portion of which is hidden beneath the floor. They call that the Moon Jelly exhibit.
Next are the exhibits for the giant Pacific octopus, then a number of other fish that I can’t identify; and the frustrating thing about the gift shop is that it’s geared toward kids – I never saw a decent fish identification guide in the shop….oh well, that’s what Amazon.com is for.
Although I used a fast lens, I kept the ISO pretty high in order to allow for a relatively fast shutter speed to try and get a clear image of the fish, which are constantly on the move. I think I maybe used my 24-105mm lens once or twice. It’s not a fast lens, but I needed the wide angle view for a couple of shots.
After the aquarium visit, I realized I was tired and my shoulder hurt from the cameras and lenses (and souvenirs and food I’d purchased at the Market earlier that morning – no more hotel re$taurant for me).
I was not going to kill myself trying to do everything on this visit to Washington. I simply could not do it all and still enjoy the scene and the moment. So, I took my goodies, camera, and self back to the hotel to process images and photograph more wonderful Elliott Bay water scenes from my room window.
It was definitely a great day to be in Seattle
Note: If you have the opportunity to travel to Washington, by all means, stay in Seattle a night or two. And, if you can afford to splurge a little, stay either at the Inn At The Market (located smack dab in the midst of Pike Place Market), or at the Edgewater Hotel – and get a water view room. Both hotels have discounts during various times of the year. A discount based upon a reservation 7 days ahead of time with no refund was how I snagged my room. Worth every penny to me. Their restaurant is lovely, with wonderful views, outdoor dining, and awesome food. However, it’s on the pricey side. Thankfully there are a bunch of neat places to dine up in Pike Place Market, with prices ranging from $2 to $$$, depending upon your food budget. My room was clean and comfortable, which is all I really ever require of any room in which I stay. I don’t need many amenities, although an in-room fridge and coffee maker are nice (I actually packed a small 4-cup coffee maker and a package of ground coffee in my luggage, since I tend to wake up very early in the morning to review and edit my photos – during this WA trip, I took around 3000).
Sometimes, you need to listen to that little voice inside your head. Usually, I don’t, but today, I did. And I’m glad.
Day 3 of my Washington State vacation saw me heading toward the Longmire entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park. I had a reservation for two nights at the National Park Inn. I love staying in historic park lodges. No, they aren’t 5-star hotels – they are very basic with no bells or whistles and usually no television or phone and definitely no internet service. But, they are always rich with park history.
April means The Mountain still has quite a bit of snow, making access to many places difficult to well nigh impossible. I’d already stayed at the Paradise Lodge, so I figured staying someplace a little lower in elevation would allow me to hike around without having to resort to cross-country skis (back in the day, I loved downhill skiing, but was a terrible alpine skier).
Naturally, I arrived at the National Park Inn way too early for check-in, having left my Seattle hotel around 7AM that morning (it only takes 2 hours to get to the Longmire entrance). So, I figured I’d try to drive up to the Paradise area to see how it looked covered with snow; I’d visited during the fall, when the huckleberry bushes were brilliant oranges and reds, and the sky was a deep, dark blue.
The best adjective I have to describe the day is: “bleak”. The sky was a hazy white. The cloud cover was high enough in altitude to not hide Mt. Rainer and surrounding mountains, but basically, the scenery was white on white, with a little bit of dark from the treeline and the rocks sticking out of the snow.
I realized I was fighting an uphill battle when my attempt to hike to Narada Falls was a total bust before even leaving the parking lot. The snow level reached above my head and I had no snow shoes (perhaps I should invest in a pair, although I do live in southeast Texas where snow shoes do nothing but make for an interesting wall decoration). Then, I heard a little voice inside my head telling me to head back down in elevation, away from the hues of white, and toward the multitudinous hues of green deep within the shadowy forest.
So, I did.
I parked, pulled out my tripod and cameras, set things up, then just stood there.
The forest is still and silent, yet alive with the sounds of nature: birdsong, wind blowing through the trees, the creak of the trees as they bend in the wind, the drip of moisture from the leaves to the ground, the flow of water from countless meltwater springs and rivulets.
I captured images I would not have thought to photograph had I not listened to that little inner voice telling me to leave the white-on-white.
Do yourself a favor – listen occasionally to that little voice inside your head because it may well lead you to the best images of the day.
While digging through my photo archives for images to use in the previous post, I happened upon several CDs with Raw 2007 files taken with my IR-converted Nikon D40 (camera long since sold). Neato, I thought to myself, I now have another subject for a blog post!
What is IR photography, and IR (infrared) in general? Without getting too tech-y (I’m not really a tech-y kind of person), this refers to the infrared (or, near infrared) spectrum of light which the eye cannot see. Let’s just say that the resulting images can look pretty funky/dreamy/spooky and definitely out of the ordinary. Skies and water are so dark as to be almost black, foliage is a dreamy white, and clouds are out-of-this-world detailed.
Back in the pre-digital days, the only way to achieve images like the ones you see here, was to affix an infrared filter to the lens and use infrared-sensitive film. Because of the opaque-ish blackness of the IR filter, focusing was difficult, to say the least, and the camera needed to be on a tripod since long shutter speeds were necessary to let in enough IR lightwaves. Even with the advent of the digital camera, the same issues are encountered because the in-camera filter over the digital sensor blocks IR light rays.
I never tried the lens filter route, because by the time I discovered IR, there were places out there (like Life Pixel) that would actually convert one’s camera’s sensor by replacing the IR-blocking filter with an IR-friendly filter. And Life Pixel isn’t the only IR conversion company around. LensRentals.com (my favorite rental place for lenses and cameras) has their IR cameras converted by MaxMax. And there are a host of other conversion companies out there, including Precision Camera.
I thought the whole idea of a digital camera I could hand-hold, use regular ISOs, and capture IR photos without long shutter speeds was a pretty cool thing, so back in ’07, I purchased a used Nikon D40 on eBay and sent it off to Life Pixel. I purchased the straight IR filter conversion (they have other types of conversions, of varying costs).
Here’s the deal, though. With the typical IR filter conversion, your images straight from the camera are red!
You must bring them into your photo editor and from there convert them to black & white, or play around with the red, green, and blue channels for some funky results.
I had alot of fun re-processing these older images, and this is a good opportunity for me to remind all of you photographers out there to NEVER get rid of your photos; editing technology and your expertise with post-processing improve with time, allowing you to return and rescue images once thought to be total losers (but which now turn out to be incredible winners).
How did I process these photos?
First thing I did was bring the raw images into Lightroom 3, where I applied a preset I created and saved to the program: I clicked on the Enable Profile Corrections, moved the Recovery slider all the way to the right (100), and applied some Clarity (50).
From there, I tweaked/cropped/straightened or rotated as I saw fit. Then I chose which images I wanted to convert to black & white, and went up to the menu bar to select Photo-Edit in-Silver Efex Pro (a plug in I use in Lightroom). After playing around with selected images and converting them to monochrome, I exported all the images (the red ones as well as the monochrome-converted ones) as TIFs to a folder I titled “IR”.
I opened up Adobe Photoshop CS5 and brought in the TIF files – easy to open up lots of files at once because these were taken with a Nikon D40, with an effective resolution of 6.1 mp (as opposed to my Canon 5D Mark II, with an effective resolution of about 21 mp). At the end of all my edits, I applied a teeny bit of Unsharp Mask to these photos (instead of my regular 85%, I dialed it down to 60%).
I also had a little more fun with the IR photos by using the Channel Mixer (Image-Adjustments-Channel Mixer).
Here’s the Original:
Channel Mixed one way:
Channel Mixed another way:
or just Monochrome (as converted with the Silver Efex Pro plug-in):
Next to one side of my sister’s home is a little hidden area with a bench, surrounded by trees and plants – I call it their Secret Garden.
En route to Mt. Rainier (or, as the locals call it: The Mountain).
At a view area not too far from Tipsoo Lake in Mt. Rainier NP, I stopped to capture this image of the moon.
A view of the valley on the way from Ellensburg WA toward Wenatchee.
An image of an old barn located on the road to Wenatchee WA.
Scenery at the Sunrise area of Mt. Rainer NP. I didn’t realize I hadn’t cropped out the people, but decided to leave them in since they provide a nice scale.
The Mountain, framed.
I believe this is a Jimson flower.
IR photography is like HDR – it’s another medium allowing the photographer to express and improve upon their creativity. Unless you plan on working with infrared extensively, it is somewhat pricey to have a SLR camera converted for IR photography. Instead, why not rent a converted camera for a few days and enjoy experimenting with this medium to create something new and a little out of the ordinary for yourself and your viewers.