Mount Shuksan Sunset-click to enlarge-
This is one of my newly processed photos from Picture Lake in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest – featuring the iconic Mount Shuksan. In October 2011 I again photographed this location and now that I have my website gallery organized I have finished off the processing of images from that trip. This photo (and the horizontal version) has a bit of a different look to it than the others I processed from the same evening.
More photos of Mount Shuksan and the surrounding area can be found in my Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Gallery.
Mount Shuksan Alpenglow-click to enlarge-
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of doing some hiking and photography in the Heather Meadows area of the Mount Baker Wilderness with Alan Majchrowicz. We hiked to the top of Herman Saddle along the Chain Lakes Trail which had a fantastic view. Clearly I had been riding my office chair for too long because my lungs didn’t quite handle the hike as well as I had hoped. Most of my familiarity was with the Picture Lake and Artist Point areas so to see a few of the other sights was an eye opener. I know a few hikes I want to do next summer!
Back at our vehicles we were talking a bit about how the “good” light can come and go rather quickly. I know I’ve seen the light turn to something fantastic as I am in my car driving away from my recent shooting location. I have also seen it disappear as I am trying to reach a viewpoint. I have learned through some recent experiences that staying until the light is definitely gone is always a good idea. You never know what might develop after you leave! So it was not without a touch of irony that this conversation ended quickly as we noticed great light appearing on the mountains. A quick drive and a hurried jog up the boardwalk later and I made these images of Mount Shuksan.
Mount Shuksan Alpenglow-click to enlarge-
Photography for me is usually a very relaxing endeavor, which is part of my enjoyment of it I think, but sometimes when you know the light will go at any moment this can be accompanied by some adrenaline. Years ago when this would happen I would rush and make a lot of mistakes because of the urgency, which does not happen now. I still feel the excitement though! I have been at this location many times, but I have not seen good light on the mountain while it had this backdrop of a subtle purple/mauve cloud coloration. It was colorful enough to give a nice contrast with the snow and ice of the mountain, unlike a simple grey cloud background (which I have seen many times).
I am often a bit torn at this location between trying to get foreground detail or just creating a silhouette of the foreground trees. I think this silhouette version was quite successful but I also like the other version. Which do you prefer?
Late Evening Light at Mount Rainier National Park
-click to enlarge-
Save your photos! Well, some of them.
Sometimes I read how others delete all the shots they aren’t immediately happy with, not just those that were out of focus etc. As I have written before I do go through and quickly delete photos that are obviously not up to par (focus accidents, test shots etc) – but then I tend to sit back and digest them for a while. Immediately after I shoot the impressions I have of the results may not be very objective. I wait for a while to process most images so I can more clearly see what is going on, and to distance myself from my initial expectations. Even after some distance and thought I do not always get things “right” in my choices, and sometimes images fall through the cracks.
The image here is one such example. This is a late evening shot I made in Mount Rainier National Park in October, 2010. Ricksecker Point is a good vantage point for Rainier itself, but unless you get some really special light things will look just like all the other “iconic” shots from the same spot. I had gone there hoping to get some good sunset shots near the Tatoosh Range but this just wasn’t going to happen with that day’s conditions so I started looking for alternative compositions. I noticed the glow of the late evening light on these fir and cedar trees and made a few photographs of what I saw. When I first looked at these at home though, they did not really seem to stand out.
A few weeks ago I was going through some of my folders of photographs from 2010. I like to review things occasionally and look over shots I have passed by in favour of images that, at the time at least, appear stronger. I noticed this shot and was somewhat surprised I had never really noticed it before. It had not been a throwaway but was not selected for bigger things at the time either.
I am curious what other photographers do with the shots they initially think are “borderline”? Do you purge everything but the strongest images right away or do you sit on a lot of shots so you can evaluate them later?
The Chilliwack River in Winter
When I first started getting serious with a “real” film camera I had a 28-90mm kit lens. Eventually I wished to move on from just taking random snapshots and actually gain more skills and take better photos. I read a bit on the internet about lenses and bought a Canon EF 50mm f/1.4. The “nifty fifty”. It was at this point that I realized the difference lens quality can make. I couldn’t believe how sharp and clear the shots with the 50mm were.
A few years after buying the 50mm I upgraded to a DSLR – A Canon 30D. Wow not only could I take 100′s of shots at one time, I was not paying for film and developing so I could actually afford to experiment and try new things. The 28-90mm kit lens was a bit better on the DSLR (cropped out some of the edge anomalies) but still had nothing on the 50mm. On the APS-C sensor of the 30D (1.6x) the 50mm was more like an 80mm lens. I really wanted to go wider so that I could get more into a shot. I saved up and bought a Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5. Good quality and really wide compared to the 50mm. I shot with the 10-22mm and the 50mm (the kit lens now relegated to a drawer for bad behaviour) for quite a while. I wanted to determine what I was missing the most before I went in that direction with a new lens.
Alpenglow on Nodoubt Peak in North Cascades National Park
A year or so after I bought the 10-22mm I filled in the gap between my lenses with the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM. At that point I had opted for crop sensors over full frame (largely due to price of both long lenses and the FF cameras) so the 17-40mm was not on my list. From there I went to a Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM to get a bit more reach for wildlife. What I had not really anticipated is that I would be using this lens so often for landscapes.
Abstract Chilliwack River
Often as a beginning photographer I read about wide angle lenses as the be all and end all of landscape photography. Walking in to a camera shop and being asked what I like to shoot – the answer of landscapes would push wide angle lenses in my direction. I was rather surprised to learn what I had been missing in a longer telephoto lens for landscapes. In some scenes I have found it difficult to use the wider focal lengths in that they actually get too much into the frame. Ironic considering this is why I earlier had thought I needed a wide lens. The details of the scene are there, but are drowned out by distracting elements that take the viewer’s eye away from what is important. So my initial impression that I would always want to be at a wide angle all the time has actually changed to looking at the details and what is more essential.
I never would have predicted this sort of outcome when I started. I see many posts and articles devoted to gear and purchasing wide lenses for landscapes. I wonder how many of the beginners reading these thing will eventually start to favour longer lenses for their landscape photography? Would they be better off getting a telephoto lens before a really wide angle one? Maybe this is just a normal evolution for a photographer. Regardless, I am happy I have moved away from all wide angle all the time – the variety of shots possible at longer focal lengths is liberating.
Alpenglow on Mount Redoubt and Nodoubt Peak from Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park
(click for larger version)
6 exposures stitched, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM @ 144mm
When I spend time shooting I will normally take a quick overview of the days results immediately. There are often a few shots that will stand out – and those are often processed and sometimes show up here on the blog right away. I have learned that taking a long step back from a series of new photos can be beneficial to me in terms of my objectivity in culling the weaker shots. If I were to go through all the shots immediately I still carry my mental image of what I had planned for a photo. Not everything I try works out of course, and sometimes my initial expectations turn out to be too high. Sorting and processing images a month or two later gives me a lot better perspective of what is a “good” shot or a bad one – as many of my initial expectations have settled down. This has generally worked out so far – and I think I am better at choosing strong images than I used to be in part because of it.
I recently had an experience where the month+ delay in processing a panorama didn’t really seem to help. I processed and stitched this panorama 3-4 times – never quite happy with the colour of the sky. Things got to the point where I was no long able to view the photo at all objectively.
For this particular panorama I stood in the snow next to Chilliwack Lake for over an hour, freezing, taking the odd shot but waiting for the right light. When it came – I shot about 3 panoramas (and many single shots) with a few different compositions. I like the composition of this one the best. The colour of the sky seemed quite purple compared to what my brain was telling me looked “natural”. This could be a case of over analysis – but I try to process images such that they are faithful to what I saw at the time. So I processed the 6 shots that make up this image again in Camera Raw with some PS adjustments to account for the colour. Then I did this again. Still not happy I put the image away for a few more weeks. I should note the purple color is present in the raw file – not as a result of some other colour processing I have done.
Now that I have picked up this panorama again, I am still not sure if this looks natural. I like the colour on the mountain peaks, this is how it looked when I was there – but the sky still bothers me. I have stared at it so long I no longer remember what it looked like in person – perhaps that is the downside in waiting to do post processing? Maybe I just have to drop an image for longer or toss it entirely? I again processed an alternate panorama – taken about 7 minutes before the one posted above – and the sky looks bland and the clouds undefined – the whole image is uninspiring.
So what is the good thing about all this?
During this process I learned a few more Photoshop techniques that I otherwise would not have. Tweaking sky colours using Selective Color in Photoshop, for example. Next time I have a sky colour problem as a result of changing colour temperature etc – I know how to fix it. I have also learned that sometimes I might need to move on from processing an image that just isn’t right – or leave it behind entirely.
Recently the mountains of the Fraser Valley had a good snowfall so I headed out there to see what I could photograph. I parked myself next to the Chilliwack River for an hour or so and having failed to entirely freeze at that location I moved once again on towards Chilliwack Lake.
I had to park outside of the gates again as Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park is closed this time of year. The walk in was much uglier than last time – no tire treads to walk in on. I followed some tracks left by a (much smarter and prepared) person with snowshoes. As I took each uneven, slippery step I vowed to never do this again wearing only trail running shoes and jeans in a cold -10°C (14°F) with a windchill estimated at about -20°C (-4°F). A good parka and toque don’t really make up for freezing the lower half of ones body. So despite freezing and stumbling I did manage to get there in time to catch some of the last light on Mount Redoubt/Nodoubt Peak. A more interesting shot than last time – with clouds swirling around the peaks and a great alpenglow.
8 exposures stitched, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 IS USM @ 97mm
From left to right: Knight Peak, Lady Peak and Cheam Peak (Mount Cheam).
When I took this panorama of Mt. Cheam and Cheam Ridge back in September I had intended on returning when there was more snow. On Thursday I made it back out and the snow conditions were exactly what I was hoping for. This shot is from a slightly different vantage point on Seabird Island but it worked out quite well.
I think overall I like the wide version above versus another one I shot just a while later that is a bit of a closer view of the mountain
A few “leftovers” from my trip to Mt. Baker back in October. I like these shots but never found the will to make dedicated posts about them. So here they are.
First I have always liked the angle of the Hwy 20 near Artist Point from this vantage point. The short hike to Huntoon Point from Artist Point has a few small tarns but I think this was a bit late in the year to have them full and capable of reflecting more of Mount Shuksan.
Canadian Border Peak, American Border Peak, and Mt. Larrabee from Artist Point (above).
Finally, Mount Shuksan reflected in Picture Lake.
10 exposures stitched, Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM @ 35mm
Click for larger version…
For the past few years I find myself wishing that I’d spent more time in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest photographing the peaks in the Cascade Range. The classic/cliche Picture Lake is awesome and can yield interesting photographic moments almost every time but the wide range of possibilities from up at Artist Point make it more appealing to me. The trouble is the road remains snow covered until sometime in July (this year it opened on the 30th of July – a bit late). As the road closes with the first major snowfall, this year in late October – this isn’t a lot of time to enjoy it. I live only an hour away just north of the border in Canada but always seem to get caught doing other things. At this time of year I know I will be waiting at least 7 months until I can get back to Artist Point. Editing images like this always give me ideas as to what I want to do next time I am there… but so long to wait!
This panorama is from Artist Point looking north into the Cascade Range peaks north west of Mt. Shuksan. The peaks are (from left to right): Mt. Herman (foreground), Tomyhoi Peak, Canadian Border Peak, American Border Peak, Mt. Larrabee, Winchester Mountain, Goat Mountain, Goat Mountain East Peak, and Mt. Sefrit.
If only the last light of the day lasted longer!