Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My Favorite Location to Hike & Photograph

Today I'm going to step back from blogging about writing and books, and turn my focus (no pun intended) to photography.

I've always been into trying to capture a setting in such a way, that to the person looking at the finished product, they feel as if they're there. What this means to me, is not over-processing. Photoshop and Lightroom have their place -trust me, I know this- but for nature photography, realism means transporting the viewer to where you were, not to where you wish you were. ;)

My personal challenge is to see how close I can get with the raw image. No, I don't mean shooting in the RAW (for those reading this that now what that means). I have shot in the RAW and it drove me crazy. I now have a laptop brimming over with gigantic RAW and TIFF images that I have no desire to do anything with. Call me lazy, but I want to spend my time getting to where I'm taking the pictures, not sitting here redefining them.

It might be for that reason, that I may never progress too far in this industry. It seems that lately, it's all about the latest programs and gadgets. Stacking, morphing, blending and enhancing. I like to keep things simple.

Having said that, I'd like to share some images from both my favorite place to hike and photograph, Mount Baker. More precisely, Baker Lake, as seen from the North Baker Lake trail. It's a maintained trail that runs north and south along the east side of the lake, around 14-16 miles long. There's a trail head at either end, and several hike-in campgrounds along its course. I have started out at both ends, and I definitely prefer the south end. Maple grove campground is four miles in, and has what I consider to be the nicest camping spots, as well as the only dock.

This first picture I took at dusk from one of these campgrounds. It was last summer, during my brief experiment with shooting in the RAW.

Here's the set up:

Camera: Nikon D7000
Lens: Wide angle 14mm
Aperture: F2.8
Shutter speed; 14.5s
ISO: 800

Both exposure and focus were manual. I had the camera on a tripod with an infrared remote.

Although this was shot in RAW, as I said above, the processing was minimal. Mostly sharpening, with a little adjustment to the contrast and saturation.

This second picture is also up at Baker, but taken from the public boat access at the PSE campground just before the Baker Lake dam.

It was around 1 am in the morning, and it's the second time I've caught the northern lights up there!


This was NOT shot in the raw, but just good 'ole high res jpg

Camera: Nikon D7000
Lens: Wide angle 14mm
Aperture: F2.8
Shutter speed; 69.2s
ISO: 800

Manual focus and exposure.

As you can see, I held this one open for a long time! I again had the camera on a tripod and used my remote. (obviously, you would have to with such a long exposure)

One thing I need to stress, is that to capture these nighttime sky shots, you REALLY need a lens that has an infinity setting. Otherwise, the focus isn't going to be right. When you're dealing with long exposure, any little thing that is off will distort and ruin it. I have found this out the hard way. Make sure you're on a firm surface, don't hang anything from the tripod, don't walk around it, don't bump it and you HAVE to use a remote.

On THAT note, I want to mention a new, what I would consider revolutionary camera. If you are both a hiker and photographer, you know what it takes to bring your camera 'in the field'. Between my Nikon body, three lenses, and tripod, I add about 6 or 7 lbs to my pack, not to mention the simple bulk of it. I've gotten to where I leave it home more often now, and stick with my cellphone, but then, of course, I end up seeing that 'perfect shot', and kick myself for being lazy. I was contacted recently by a company that looks as if it's come up with a solution to that problem. Now, I'm not saying that I'll ever hang my Nikon up. I'm a control freak, and I simply enjoy being able to manipulate every aspect of a shot. However, if I had the option of bringing a camera with me that wasn't much bigger than a cellphone, but delivered a high quality image? You bet I'd pounce on it! The Light L16 camera appears to be just that. It's pretty incredible technology. Basically, it's a palm-sized DSLR quality camera, with several built-in lenses. It comes with the expected price tag, but for the outdoor AND photo enthusiast (OR anyone who enjoys taking pictures but not lugging around a beast), it might very well be worth it.

Here's the link. Check it out for fun, if nothing else: Light L16 Camera

I hope this might be of some help to those of you wanting to try some night excursions! It's really been a journey of trial and error for me. I know, that my lack of interest in the more advanced processing might hurt my end results, but that's just how I am. I tried it. I forced myself to experience it, and it made it feel more like a job than something I loved. Now, that's not saying that the photographers who excel in photoshop and advanced editing are doing something wrong. On the contrary. But for me, photography is a way to relax, and as soon as I turn it into anything else, it looses its appeal.

So ... get out there! Do whatever makes you happy and experiment with the settings, as well as how you look at things.

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