Saturday, March 19, 2011

February's Photography Successes and lessons

Over the last few weeks I've slowly made my way through the backlog of images I shot on my vacation.  I think the focusing trick I learned from the seminar I attended last April has really paid off, as I came away from this trip with gigabytes of sharp wildlife images.  I wouldn't have captured nearly the amount had I been using my previous focusing method... which consisted of fumbling around with the shutter button, giving up and focusing by hand, then throwing most of the shots out of focus by trying to then take the photo.
Taking the auto-focus function off the shutter release is quite possibly the best photographic decision I made this year.
I compiled so many images that my portfolio update tonight had to be broken down into 7 new galleries...

I loaded them up and placed them under the "Featured Galleries" on my main page - just go to My Site and scroll down to the bottom of the page if you want to take a peek, or here is a list of direct links to each gallery

Snow Scenes - Images taken during the great big snow storm we had in the middle of our vacation.  Many of these were shot from inside the truck as we wove our way down Whidby Island.
Metal, Wood, Water and Stone - kind of a mixture of scenic stuff from around Orcas Island, and experimenting with longer shutter speeds on wave shots.
Birds of Port Townsend - didn't have enough of any individual  bird to do their own album, so the house sparrow, crow and double-crested cormorants ended up here.
Great Blue Heron - it's clear I loved shooting this guy.
Belted Kingfisher - he was more difficult to capture, since he's such a relatively small bird and very, very shy.  I consider myself lucky to have even spotted him
Bald Eagle - an immature bald eagle... I noticed him swoop down just as I was getting into the car to wait for the ferry, and I bolted right back out to follow him.  This guy was being totally harassed by seagulls, who made a racket and dive-bombed him, but never got close enough for me to get them in the shot with him.  The eagle ended up leaving the scene because the heron came back.  It seems in the world of birds, size matters more than talons?
Port Townsend Fountain in the Snow - This is the fountain in Port Townsend which sits at the base of the stairs that connect Uptown to Downtown (they are literal in PT)  We arrived in PT under gray skies, and the snow began to fall just as we brought our bags into the condo.  This is a series of shots taken over the course of our 3 day stay, with varying degrees of coverage and meltage.

This trip was a lesson to me in what it's like to shoot in bitterly cold weather.  I wore fingerless gloves to keep my hands as warm as I could, but I think I may need to invest in some hunting gloves (the kind where you can remove the index finger only) if I'm going to shoot in winter conditions for any length of time.  Also, bright snow, bright sunshine, and transition lenses to not make for a good shooting set-up.  It took me a few outings to realize that the reflection of the sun off the snow made my glasses pitch-black dark - great for driving but terrible for viewing anything through the eyepiece or on the LCD screen.  I started shoving my glasses in my pocket while I shot, but nearly dropped them several times so I really do need to carry my glasses case with me next time.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Driving in a winter wonderland

(I originally started this post a couple weeks ago, then failed to finish and publish... so the story is a little late.  And I'm failing at my "at least once a week posting", so I'm going to get my ass moving on that.  I promise)

That bird-watching opportunity that I mentioned in my last post came about because the school district up here has a mid-winter break.  It's not a vacation that either D or I grew up with, but it's something that is in the teacher's contract, so we decided to take advantage of it and spend a week getting away from it all.  We had no idea that "getting away from it all" would involve driving straight into a bizarre patch of heavy winter weather.  We drove north, took a ferry, and stayed a couple of days on Orcas Island... where we were hit with a relatively massive amount of snow.  Granted, the man who owned the coffee shop in town (originally from Switzerland) thought it was nothing more than a dusting... we considered 3-4 inches dropping in a few hours to be decently significant.  However, with D's big heavy truck and my white-knuckled grip on the rather un-detailed map of the island*, we navigated the snowy roads down to the ferry dock.
*(Side note: those who might plan a visit to Orcas... know that your nav system may not be updated with any road information for the island.  It's not so big that you can really get lost anyway, but if you want to know where you are for certain - say for example, in the snow where you can't really see where the road is... bring a map)
After loading onto the ferry, we had snowy and freezing couple hours ride over to Anacortes, where the snow had blanketed the town in a good 6 inches, and was still falling.

Usually in these kind of driving conditions I turn into... well... I get paranoid.
Hard to imagine me paranoid, right?
However, on this day I managed to distract myself enough with the beautiful scenery that I let go of my anxiety and just put my faith in D's driving skills.  I knew I wasn't going to convince anyone in our party to stop at viewpoint for me to get out and shoot, but I did take advantage of the slow crawls to stick my lens out the window and capture some lovely snowy landscapes.

As we drove down the length of Whidby, we were treated to these kinds of peaceful scenes... rolling hills of farm land covered in a blanket of white, snow capped trees, and off in the distance just the slightest hint of a break in the clouds... just enough to light the scene without washing everything out.

We considered stopping at the viewpoint across Deception Pass, but I wasn't on top of it enough to remind D that the turn off is IMMEDIATELY after the bridge, so we missed the opportunity to stop.  I did manage a shot of the pass below the bridge as we drove over though.

Down the remainder of the island, on our way to the ferry dock that would take us to Port Townsend, the snow thinned.  By the time we reached the dock there was little more than a hint of dusting on a few pieces of driftwood.  Strange what a difference 2 miles makes in the weather up here.

Due to low tide, we had an hour and a half wait for that ferry - which is where my bird watching opportunity came about.  It was lovely timing, as the family had to sit and wait for the ferry anyway, so my shooting adventure didn't take up anyone's time.  We crossed the water and pulled into town, an easy 8 or so blocks from the ferry dock to the condo we rent.  As we unloaded our cars the snow began to fall, and by dinner time the town was covered in a good 4 inches of snow.  Thankfully, Port Townsend is the kind of place that you can park your car and not need to touch it again until you leave town... so all we needed to do was settle in.

The timing was incredible.