Dawn Patrol at the Arboretum

April 19, 2014

It's Saturday morning, which means it's time for Dawn Patrol again! This morning I thought I'd head to the arboretum, in the hopes of both getting a sunrise over the lake as well as maybe some nice light on the trees in the arboretum.

As it turns out, the 0500 wakeup probably was cutting it a bit close, as I got to my spot on Foster Island a bit later than desired. I forgot to factor in the walk, so there was a bit of speedwalking involved. I still got a few nice pictures though.

Pastel Sunrise

Pastel Sunrise
Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle, WA
Canon 6d, 24-105L at 105mm and f/11. 1.6 sec. ISO 100. Lightroom 5, Photoshop, Nik Color Efex, and Nik Sharpener Pro.

This one I took right before the sun came up over the mountains. That's Webster Point at the south end of Laurelhurst you see where the houses are, and of course the Cascades behind. Really pretty colors thanks to the incoming rain clouds.

This shot is a digital blend of two exposures using the luminance masking technique. This is I think the third or fourth picture I've done with this technique, and practice is starting to help quite a bit. With this one, I started with the darker image as the base, and blended the lighter one on top for the houses and the eastside. I tried to be a bit more precise and subtle with the brush as well, and wound up brushing out the mask on the water so that the dark image for the water shone through.

If you're curious, my post process was roughly:

  1. Set white balance, fix spots.
  2. RAW pre-sharpen in Nik.
  3. Export both images to .PSD and open in Photoshop.
  4. Take the brighter image and paste it as a layer in the darker one.
  5. Add an all-black mask for the bright image and hide the layer.
  6. Generate luminance masks for the dark image.
  7. Switch to the bright image's mask and select the "Dark 3" saved selection (I had to experiment to find the right saved selection).
  8. Set a brush with white, ~950px, ~30% opacity and paint in the mask until I was satisfied with the result.
  9. Save and bring back to Lightroom.
  10. Export to Nik Color Efex and add contrast (seriously, Pro Contrast is awesome).
  11. Export to Nik Output Sharpener and add a touch of sharpening (not much is needed as this lens is sharp as hell).
  12. Save/publish.

So, a few more steps, but the result I think is worth it. Total editing time was maybe 20-30 minutes.

After the sun came up I got a few shots of the sun in the trees. It looks like the tree is on fire, hence the name:

Tree on Fire

Tree on Fire
Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle, WA
Canon 6d, 24-105L at 105mm and f/11. 0.5 sec. ISO 100. Lightroom 5, Nik Color Efex, and Nik Sharpener Pro.

Unlike the first shot, this is just a single image, as there was enough dynamic range to pull shadows up. I don't like it as well as the first one, but it's still pretty cool.

On my way back to the car, I tried to take a detour on the boardwalks towards the UW, but they were pretty muddy and eventually underwater. What seems to have happened is that the lake level has risen and swamped the boardwalks. Be mindful of that if you plan to go there soon. Reversing my detour and heading back to the car for real this time, I spotted a few ferns with some rather well-placed dew on them:

Dew on Ferns

Dew on Ferns
Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle, WA
Canon 6d, 24-105L at 60mm and f/5.6. 1.6 sec. ISO 100. Lightroom 5, Nik Color Efex, and Nik Sharpener Pro.

I wound up shooting a bunch of these ferns at different apertures and then just picked the one with the best depth of field when I got home. Even with DoF preview and zoom in image review, I find it tough to get it 100% right, so I figured this would ensure I got the shot.

All in all a good morning. Three good images, all hit popular on 500px, and I got to see a nice sunrise. Not bad.


Baker Lake

April 18, 2014

Baker Lake has been on my list for years, especially the last few since we're around the corner (somewhat). Trouble is, I've never managed to make it there, because it's either crappy weather on the west side, or later in the season where we're going out on longer trips.

In that sense, the DOT did us a favor. The weather forecast looked great for western Washington, the DOT had Snoqualmie Pass down to a lane in each direction, and we didn't feel like driving too far, so off to Baker Lake we went.

A lot of westside hikes are pretty similar: you slog through the trees for a while and eventually get a nice view. The forest is usually nice, but somewhat repetitive, and whenever I'm on the westside I try to make it a point to pick someplace with at least some variety. Not knowing anything about Baker Lake, I expected the usual "hike through the repetitive woods to get to the spot" type of hike, but we both were pleasantly surprised.

Instead, we found quite a bit of variety all along the entire trip. Right off the bat we started in the shade, and when the sun came over the adjacent mountain, we were treated to some cool sunbeams:

Sunbeams

Sunbeams
Baker Lake, WA
Canon 6d, 24-105L at 24mm and f/16. 1/60 sec. ISO 1600. Lightroom 5, Nik Dfine, Nik Color Efex, and Nik Sharpener Pro.

I'm actually a little disappointed in this shot because I left my tripod on the trail. It would have been immensely useful as I had to shoot at 1600 and it came out a bit darker than I wanted. Still, I think the sun and the lens flare is neat.

The trail winds through the woods for quite a ways, and much of it is old growth. Lots of character here, with neat moss formations clinging to the old trees.

Tall Trees

Tall Trees
Baker Lake, WA
Canon 6d, 24-105L at 24mm and f/11. 1.3 sec. ISO 100. Lightroom 5, Nik Color Efex, and Nik Sharpener Pro.

At least for this one I did set up on the tripod. I've actually started carrying it in my hand as I hike explicitly so I use it more, especially since I like the results.

After a while on the trail, you'll start to hear the river (Hidden Creek) up ahead, and you come to a neat zig-zag bridge. Not content with that view, I decided to head down below the bridge to get some waterfall shots.

Water in Motion

Water in Motion
Baker Lake, WA
Canon 6d, 24-105L at 24mm and f/13. 5 sec. ISO 100. Lightroom 5, Nik Color Efex, and Nik Sharpener Pro.

Getting this shot required a bit of contortion and getting my feet a bit wet. It also required two trips to this spot, since I lost my sunglasses on the first one and had to go back for them. I can't recommend trying to get under the bridge, but if you do, be ready to get a little wet. Still, a neat spot. I was as wide as I could go on the 24-105 and still filled the frame with the falls - that's how close it was. I intentionally packed lighter for this trip and left the Rokinon at home, or that would have been a good choice here.

After this point there are lots of small creeks to cross on the trail, many of which require creative footwork and/or wet feet. Some of these creeks have neat waterfalls, like this one:

Trailside Falls

Trailside Falls
Baker Lake, WA
Canon 6d, 24-105L at 24mm and f/16. 2 sec. ISO 100. Lightroom 5, Nik Color Efex, and Nik Sharpener Pro.

Around this time we were starting to get a bit hungry, so we made a pit stop about a mile before our intended destination for lunch. Our lunch spot provided a nice spot for a selfie of both of us:

Baker Lake Selfie

Of course since I went light I didn't have my remote release, so the 10 second delay was a bit fun trying to hit the shutter and get in position!

After lunch we made it to our final destination, which was the Noisy Creek campground. It sits on a small peninsula and offers pretty commanding views of the lake and Mt. Baker. I think the stump in this shot looks a bit like it has three legs:

Tripod

Tripod
Baker Lake, WA
Canon 6d, 24-105L at 28mm and f/16. 1/30 sec. ISO 100. Lightroom 5, Photoshop, Nik Color Efex, and Nik Sharpener Pro.

I set that shot up actually as a composite to try luminance mask blending, so this is actually two images, one exposed for Baker and the sky, and other exposed for the rest. I blended them in Photoshop, which was actually a bit tricker than many of the videos and tutorials on the internet might have you believe. A gentle touch with the paint tool is helpful when dealing with the mask.

The reflection in the lake was pretty intense:

Deep Reflection

Deep Reflection
Baker Lake, WA
Canon 6d, 24-105L at 55mm and f/16. 1/10 sec. ISO 100. Lightroom 5, Photoshop, Nik Color Efex, and Nik Sharpener Pro.

I shot this one for a composite, but it turns out that the camera had enough dynamic range to make it work as a single shot.

After enjoying the view and a snack, we headed back to the car. Lauren had her GPS tracking the mileage on the hike, and we actually noted an interesting discrepancy. The books for this hike list it at around 9 miles, but we measured closer to 11. Part of the extra distance was due to a few detours, but we figured out that the book is measuring from the junction with the Baker River Trail, not the parking lot. It's 1/2 a mile from the parking lot to the junction, so you'll add a mile to the 9 mile figure. It seems like a bug in either the book, or more likely on the Green Trails map that the book probably used. Green Trails is notoriously bad about rounding mileage and altitude, so it wouldn't surprise me if that was the case.

If you haven't done Baker Lake yet, add it to your list. It's great early season on a nice day, and I expect it would also be nice on a rainy day too, since you're in the trees. That said, the view is pretty great, so if you get a nice day, give it a go.


Springtime in the Northwest - Snow Mountain Ranch and Magnolias

April 17, 2014

I have a few new pictures to share today, kind of a grab bag of sorts. Those are always fun.

First, Lauren and I went to Snow Mountain Ranch a few weeks back. The ranch is a park of sorts near Yakima that's on the site of a former working ranch, as the name might suggest. It's got wide open views and friendly weather, which is why we were interested, so we hopped in the car and headed over.

The ranch itself offers around 10 miles of trails, most of which seem to lead to the top of Cowiche Mountain, from where you can see for quite a ways. We opted to take the Wildflower Trail and join up with the main trail to the top. We did see some wildflowers, although I didn't get too many pictures of the flowers worth sharing.

Good compositions were hard to come by, which is probably a limit of my own skills more so than the wide open nature of the ranch. This fence offered something interesting though:

A State of Disrepair

A State of Disrepair
Snow Mountain Ranch, Yakima, WA
Canon 6d, 24-105L at 24mm and f/9. 1/100 sec. ISO 100. Lightroom 5, Nik Dfine, Nik Color Efex, and Nik Sharpener Pro.

I think the wires create a nice contrast between the old fence post and the movement of the clouds.

I also found a few interesting old bushes/trees:

Better Days

Better Days
Snow Mountain Ranch, Yakima, WA
Canon 6d, 24-105L at 24mm and f/11. 1/80 sec. ISO 100. Lightroom 5, Nik Dfine, Nik Silver Efex, and Nik Sharpener Pro.

I like the shot but the color didn't come out quite right, so I opted for a black and white treatment to bring out the contrasts between the lights and the darks.

I also took this hike as an opportunity to shoot a timelapse with the new Michron I got, which is a little timelapse widget that is programmable via your iPhone. I set up the camera on the tripod as we ate lunch at the top, told the Michron to take a photo every 10 seconds, and let it run for about a half an hour. This was the result:

Reasonably interesting, although I'm not terribly happy with the camera shake from the wind. This is probably due to my lack of experience with Premiere more than anything else, and also a reasonably poor tripod for the 6d. The timelapse was fun though and I'm eager to do more.

Finally, Jon Miller and I shot some blooming magnolia trees on a nice afternoon around the Microsoft campus. These trees are really stunning I think:

Magnolias

Magnolias
Redmond, WA
Canon 6d, 24-105L at 80mm and f/8. 1/250 sec. ISO 200. Lightroom 5, Nik Dfine, Nik Color Efex, and Nik Sharpener Pro.

We wound up shooting both this tree as well as one that was mostly purple, but the purple one was a bit too far away to get good shots, and neither of us felt like climbing through bushes to get there. This particular shot was my favorite of the bunch though, and I tried a bit of soft focus on it just because I liked the effect.

I'm slowly catching up on my processing backlog... more soon!


Dawn Patrol at Kerry Park

April 17, 2014

Given that Lauren has practice for an upcoming half-marathon on Saturday mornings, I decided to start going out and taking pictures at sunrise then too. Of course her practice is at 8 so I have to get up far earlier to make the sunrise, but it's a nice chance for me to get some cool pictures and enjoy a nice sunrise.

Last weekend I went to Kerry Park, which offers the classic view of the Space Needle and the Seattle skyline. When I got there, I was alone, but that soon changed. At one point, there were something like eight other photographers taking pictures of the same thing, which felt a bit silly. I did manage to get a few good shots though.

Dawn at Kerry Park

Dawn at Kerry Park
Kerry Park, Seattle, WA
Canon 6d, 24-105L at 105mm and f/11. 30 sec. ISO 125. Lightroom 5, Nik Color Efex, and Nik Sharpener Pro.

This first one was from right after sunrise. I opted for the long exposure to get a bit of movement in the clouds and get some color in the buildings. It has a nice effect with the blue color from the sunrise plus the lights on all the buildings.

I also tried a bit of digial blending:

First Light at Kerry Park

First Light at Kerry Park
Kerry Park, Seattle, WA
Canon 6d, 24-105L at 105mm and f/11. 1/4 sec. ISO 1OO. Lightroom 5, Photoshop, Nik Color Efex, and Nik Sharpener Pro.

This is a blend of three exposures just as the sun was peeking through the clouds (sadly the only time that morning that we got any direct light). I blended these in Photoshop with luminosity masks and some hand painting of the mask. For a first go at that technique, it came out alright, but I need to practice more. In particular, the tripod shook during these exposures, which forced me to manually align these in Photoshop. I think I did an alright job, but it was still a pain.


Sunrise at Vermillion Lakes (+bonus)

April 12, 2014

More sunrise pictures! Sunrise is such a fun time, not just to take pictures, but also to just be out and enjoy nature. I much prefer it to sunset as everything seems calmer, the colors are usually more interesting, and there are fewer people.

This set of pictures is from the night I spent a Vermillion Lakes, in the same place and on the same morning as I shot The Flare. For The Flare, I was the only one at the lake, but by the time I took this the photographers were piling in Iceland-style. No matter though, it was a nice place to be.

The Blue Hour

The Blue Hour
Vermillion Lakes, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Canon 6d, 24-105L at 24mm and f/11. 6 sec. ISO 100. Lightroom 5, Photoshop, Nik Dfine, Nik Color Efex, and Nik Sharpener Pro.

For this shot, I waited until the moon had risen a good way and created a reflection in the lake. I had to shoot quite a few to get a shot that I liked with the water still enough to get the moon's reflection. Editing was a bit exciting in that there are three separate shots here. I couldn't get the moon how I liked and remove all of the CA in the same picture, so I wound up making three versions and layered them in Photoshop.

Rundle Reflected

Rundle Reflected
Vermillion Lakes, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Canon 6d, 24-105L at 50mm and f/11. 6 sec. ISO 100. Lightroom 5, Nik Dfine, Nik Color Efex, and Nik Sharpener Pro.

This is a classic view of Rundle, after I repositioned to get as much of it into the hole in the ice as I could. I couldn't get more of it in the water as I didn't bring hip waders. Also, there were a few other photographers over there and I didn't want to be in (or bogart) their shot.

As a bonus, here's one from Johnston Canyon:

Upper Johnston Falls

Upper Johnston Falls
Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Canon 6d, Rokinon 14mm at f/11. 1/160 sec. ISO 200. Lightroom 5, Nik Dfine, Nik Color Efex, and Nik Sharpener Pro.

Johnston Canyon is sort of the "Paradise" of Banff, in terms of "Paradise" being like Paradise at Rainier. Tons of people in the summer, particularly in high heels. In the winter it's a lot quieter, and the waterfalls freeze, which makes for a nice hike. This shot is from the end of the boardwalk (really a steel catwalk) at the upper falls, looking nearly straight up with the Rokinon. Sadly I didn't make it here at night, because this composition has tons of potential for stars, but that's on the agenda for summer.

That wraps up nearly all of the Banff photos! I say nearly all because I have a few more for the Banff Centre to do and some portraits of Lauren for Facebook. Thankfully I've got a ton of new stuff sitting in the queue too!


Sunrise at the Hoodoos Viewpoint

April 10, 2014

After our early morning photo session in which I shot stars at Lake Minnewanka and Vermillion Lakes, I made a quick stop at the Hoodoos Viewpoint off of Tunnel Mountain Drive to get some pictures of the Bow Valley. This was actually our second time to the viewpoint - we had stopped there on another afternoon with poor light, and the pictures turned out poor as well, so I resolved to go back.

First Light

First Light
Hoodoos Viewpoint, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Canon 6d, 24-105L at 40mm and f/11. 1/25 sec. ISO 100. Lightroom 5, Nik Dfine, Nik Color Efex, and Nik Sharpener Pro.

The sun is just out of frame to the left in this picture and it created a nice bit of light across the cliff side of Rundle. I went with a slightly warmer tone for this one and a touch of the cross processor in Nik Color Efex to get the slight pink tone in the sky, as that's what my eye saw. I always try to process my pictures to match what I see, and I thought this was a nice addition.

Good Morning Rundle

Good Morning Rundle
Hoodoos Viewpoint, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Canon 6d, Rokinon 14mm at f/11. 3 shot HDR. ISO 100. Lightroom 5, Nik HDR, Nik Color Efex, and Nik Sharpener Pro.

For this shot I grabbed the Rokinon 14mm and shot three photos, bracketed for HDR, and processed them in Nik HDR. I don't do a lot of HDR, but this seemed like a good candidate given the wide range of brights and darks.


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