My first garden in decades… it’s so nice to finally have a space where I can grow something pretty, so I can sit and drink my coffee every morning; listening to the beautiful melodies from happy birds and watch the bumble bees dance from flower to flower… filling my heart with joy.
Finally… after over two months of being a couch potato to heal my broken ankle; I escaped on a road trip yesterday. The weather was the typical Pacific Northwest winter — rainy and gray, not exactly the best weather for landscape photography. But I didn’t care… I was in desperate need to get away before the insanity of boredom takes over permanently. I knew I was getting to the point of no return when I actually watched the season premier of The Bachelor. If I was looking to regain my self-respect and intelligence, I definitely lost more than a few IQ points for watching the entire episode. So… to redeem myself, I decided I need to put some creativity back in my brain. At first, I thought about escaping to the Oregon coast but given the fact my leg is still in the healing process, I decided to stay close to home — and shoot the bald eagle migration that happens around this time of the year, along State Route 20.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a single eagle in sight when I got to the area where they usually hang out. But… no matter, nothing could dampen my excitement and the exhilarating feeling to finally get out of the house and be in nature with my Nikon. I decided to do the dam road trip instead. There are several dams along Route 20. The route is also one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever traveled. Because of the rainy, gray, sunless weather, it was a challenge with lighting and exposure; everything was mostly flat and lifeless in color. I knew most of the images would be converted to monochrome. With that in mind, I try to shoot with the exposure that would allow me to manipulate in Adobe Lightroom for the mood I wanted to create.
The Diablo Dam is the second of the three dams along the upper Skagit River. The Diablo Lake is probably one of the most beautiful places on earth. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to capture its beauty and grandeur. It’s one of those places that you really need to see it in person, especially on a sunny day, to experience its breathtaking vista.
As I continued on to the third dam, Ross Dam; I came upon this sign. At the same time, I was starting to feel pain in my leg. So I took it as a sign to turn around and go back home… and lucky me — the perfect ending to a perfect day — I got to see a few eagles along the way. Since I still use crutches to get around, I wasn’t able to get close to the eagles without scaring them away. It was really difficult trying to hike close to the eagles with my crutches. After a few frustrating attempts of tripping and falling to the ground, I was able to shoot one from the comfort of my car. Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend. Happy shooting. 🙂
A couple of months ago, Pirate John introduced me to the world of sailing and now he has rekindled the love that I have lost years ago –Scuba Diving. I was probably about eight years old the first time I watched Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s undersea exploration shows. I was mesmerized by Cousteau’s beautiful underwater world and his French accent. I remember telling my grandma that I wanted be a scuba diver, undersea scientist like him when I grow up. While I ended up studying art, I never abandoned my desire to explore the ocean. A few years after moving to Seattle, I became a certified scuba diver. What an amazing experience. During my first open water dive, I encountered a huge octopus and that was it… the experience made me want to pursue my dream of being an undersea explorer. However, my undersea world was short-lived. Motherhood took center stage and I had to quit scuba. Over the years, I’ve thought about going back to the scuba world but for one reason or another, the timing and money just didn’t work out… until now. Pirate John gave me a wondrous gift — scuba lessons. Since it has been twenty years since my last certification, I have to start over. I will complete my certificate in a few weeks. It’s truly an amazing gift to combine my passion for photography and scuba diving. While I realized that I no longer wanted to be a great undersea scientist like Cousteau, I am looking forward to being an undersea photographer.
Since I can’t shoot underwater yet, I spend the weekend photographing Pirate John, scuba instructors and students from Evergreen Dive Service; the school where I will get my certification as a scuba diver. It was a fun and challenging shooting experience. The day was gray, the water reflective and the divers were mostly black moving objects. Talk about exposure nightmare. It was very difficult to get both the water and the divers with correct exposure at the same time. I decided to shoot a little under exposed so that the sky and water would not blow out. I find it easier to fix an under exposed dark area in Lightroom than a blow out area. Another challenge I encountered was the low light from the gray sky and the constant movement of the divers. I didn’t want to use high ISO so it was difficult to capture sharp images. But in the end, it was all good. I learned a lot on technique and processing. Mostly, it was great shooting and observing the divers in action… I can’t wait to be one of them in a few weeks.
Pirate John & Cool Scuba Instructor, Chad.
Calm, cool, dive instructor Chad. So patient and understanding.
Alex, happy like a fish in water. He passed his dive tests. I’m sure he is looking forward to his diving trip he has planned already…
While walking around the yard looking for inspiration, I came upon a nice spider web covered with morning dew. However after a few shots of a boring spider on a web, I couldn’t get inspired to shoot more; the light wasn’t ideal to make the background interesting. Then a stream of sunlight broke through the cloudy sky and made the morning dew droplets sparkly and more inviting. I shot a few more frames, though I still find the images boring. But the sunlight helped stir up my creative brain and gave me the challenge of wanting to take the ordinary and make something unique with it.
After a few close up shots with different aperture settings, I decided to shoot at the largest opening available for my lens (f/6.3) to get the most shallow depth of field and bokeh background. With this in mind, I shot all the images a little underexposed so the background would be dark, with very faint details while keeping the details of the water droplets as sharp as possible. In Adobe Lightroom, I converted the images into monochrome with yellowish undertone for the highlights. After adjusting the exposure, contrast, and clarity; I added more highlights by using the brush tool to dodge and burn. I used the tool more like a paint brush: adding highlights to create a more illustrative, surreal image. It was a good experiment and helped me think outside of the box — which is always a good thing… 🙂
Last week during my daily morning hike with the furry kids, I decided to take the camera with me to photograph the abundant cactus plants in bloom. It was about 5:30 am and as we walked along the familiar trail, I was attracted to the soft glow of the morning light on everything. I’ve been looking forward to taking my first cactus blooms in the wild and when I came upon this plant with clusters of buds and blooms, I knew it would be the perfect subject to experiment with.
One of the challenges I enjoy in photography is to try to get as many POV (point of view) of the subject as I can. While the color version was pretty to look at… I converted them into B&W. Oftentimes, I find images become more interesting and unique when it is in B&W rather than color.