Archive for Autumn

Banff Elk

Posted in Photography Technique with tags , , , , , , , on November 17, 2014 by chamimage
Bull Elk

Bull Elk

I photographed this elk in Banff two years ago (yes I am still editing images from 2012). I got some great shots of him, but the backgrounds were all very busy with that evergreen forest behind him.

I have yet to find a good way to blur a background without being obvious about it, though the new path and spin blurs in Photoshop CC 2014 are pretty cool for other uses, especially motor sports. I can’t bring myself to do any compositing when it comes to wildlife images so putting him on a different background was really an option for me.

I decided to do my best with Nik Color Efex Pro (still can’t bring myself to call it Google). The darken light center filter is one I have all but forgotten about lately. I put it to work on this image and was quite pleased with the result. I did some dodging and burning of the areas closest to the elk. I then still wanted the background a little bit darker so I opened it in Adobe Camera Raw (from Photoshop, which is totally cool since I always forget to dust spot before opening files in Photoshop and this way I can go back to do it using the dust spot finder in ACR) and moved the shadows slider to the left. This is a cool trick for darkening most backgrounds, as well as use in astro photography to make the Milky Way and stars pop.

This went from being an image I was kicking myself for not throwing away on the first edit to one I am pleased with. So now I am encouraged to procrastinate all the more about throwing out images that are flawed in some way. Perhaps I will think up a way to use it or perhaps someone will come out with a magic filter that will save it.


The Practical Joke

Posted in Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , on December 26, 2012 by chamimage
Red-eyed Tree Frog

Red-eyed Tree Frog

I’m not much of a practical joker, but once in a while someone innocently sets one up and it really seems a shame to waste a ripe opportunity. Just such an opportunity presented itself to me last week.

I have framed photographic prints on the walls at work. In one hallway are a half dozen of them and as part of her Christmas-ification program after Thanksgiving my assistant likes to take them down and gift wrap them and hang them back up in her spare time, which she apparently has way too much of.

These six framed prints have been there longer than I care to admit. Most of them were shot on film and switched to digital in 2006. One is from Laos in 2003. Not that they are bad images, they have just been there for years and everyone is prone to ignore them.

I sensed an opportunity to hang new prints and have a little fun at the same time, so I went in last weekend and carefully unwrapped each print and replaced it with a new one and carefully re-wrapped them. I left a couple of them; one because it is the most discussed image of a pool with an eddy of autumn leaves in front of a waterfall and every body wants to know how I did it (threw everything in the bag in front of the lens that would slow the shutter speed because you could barely notice the eddy with the naked eye). The other was an 8.5 x 11 from France and I didn’t bring an 8.5 x 11 with me.

Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden

This morning I thought I had blown it because I also hung new prints elsewhere and they were noticed right away. Should have waited to change those. But when my assistant unwrapped the first two they were the two old ones so her surprise when she unwrapped the third one was genuine. I told her the rest would be just like Christmas all over again because she didn’t know what to expect.

Truck Full O' Muddy Dogs

Truck Full O’ Muddy Dogs

In the end what saved me was that she couldn’t believe I would actually go to the trouble of re-wrapping all of those prints.

Like I said, these prints are pretty old. The yellow lab above has passed on from congestive heart failure. The golden retriever is looking kind of wary because the yellow lab is the alpha and not above playing a few practical jokes of his own and being trapped in the back of a pickup with him is not the golden retrievers idea of a good time. Actually the black female is the real alpha, she just lets the lab think he is. Any perceived infraction and she will let him have it. Even if he strayed too far out and had to be called back, she would be there waiting to light into him for it. She was my enforcer. She’s mellowed a bit with age. It all just rolls off of her now.

Big Ben_London

Big Ben_London

Autumn in PDX

Posted in Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2012 by chamimage

Autumn Waterfall

I was worried that we wouldn’t have any fall colors this year in the Northwest due to the dry summer and early fall.

I knew the Portland Japanese Garden would have some color due to its various maple tree species. The first weekend in November is ideal there, but if you want to photograph the Japanese maples you need to go earlier.

Due to totally forgetting to set my clock back I was an hour early for the 10 am opening of the gardens, so stopped at Hoyt Arboretum and the Viet Nam Memorial on the way.

Washington Park Railroad

The fall color in the west hills of Portland were amazing. why was I worried? Conditions were perfect, with just the right amount of leaves on the ground, while the trees were not looking the least bit bare yet.

The Japanese Garden was awesome as well. As I was approaching the parking area I remembered that I had made a note to myself last visit to come on a Monday next time to be able to take a wide angle photograph without twenty people in it.

Needless to stay, I forgot and the garden was packed with people. There were more tripods than I have ever seen there, despite the two dollar tripod fee. The problem with Monday is that they are only open from noon to 4 pm on Monday instead of 10-4 like on Sunday. I had planned on working fairly tight this time, anyway, so the people didn’t bother me much except where the path was narrow. I missed only one shot because it was just too narrow for people to get around my tripod and there was no end to the stream of people wanting to get by.


One of my classic photographs is the waterfall pond with leaves swirling in an eddy in front of the waterfall. My best shot of that is on film and I have been trying to get it on a digital image. Last visit the swirl was too slow despite a dark, brooding sky giving me a long exposure, and the blur was not as good. Yesterday there were no leaves in the water. I’m not sure if someone removed them, or if the source tree was removed.

I entertained myself with koi blurs in both ponds. I’ll probably post those in a later blog after I’ve had time to process them.

It turns out that I could have entertained myself shooting fall colors in the West Hills of Portland all day without the Japanese Garden, but who can pass up red, orange, white, and pink maple leaves, koi, a waterfall, leaves on water, leaves on rocks, and emerald green moss everywhere?


Posted in Natural History, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2012 by chamimage

Emerald Lake_Yoho

Things I learned in Banff last week:

1. The Canadian Rockies are still beautiful. It had been 14 years since I had visited.

2. You really do need to keep shooting photographs to keep in practice. I made a whole bunch of stupid mistakes the first couple of days.

3. The new Nikon D4 has, for some reason, turned the exposure meter in the viewfinder upside down as opposed to the previous six Nikon cameras I have owned. I have been shooting long enough that I usually dial in exposure compensation without looking in the viewfinder so this caused some problems. After an embarrassingly long time I finally found the sub menu that turned the exposure meter readout back right-side up. THEN the main command dial dialed the exposure the wrong direction so I had to go back in and find a sub menu that let me reverse that as well.

4. I use the function button on the front of the camera for the virtual horizon so I don’t have to purchase ($35) and use one of those hot shoe bubbles that I always manage to break off. The virtual horizon in my brand new, extremely expensive Nikon D4 does not work. Neither does the multi-selector on the back of the camera you use to go back through images (chimp). Okay, it sort of works. Press it three times it might finally back up one image, or two images at one time. Or not. Not stuff that is worth sending the camera in to Nikon repair and never see it again for a month, but irksome in a brand new camera. The important stuff all works.

Aspen Grove

5. One of the reasons I went to Banff was to try to shoot a calendar photo of an elk. I failed. One reason is because elk are getting to be scarce in Banff. They have had to bring elk up from Yellowstone to maintain the breeding capacity. Not sure why. Wolf haters blame wolves, but they have always had wolves in Banff. The wolves did come into town and kill the tame local elk, which they weren’t really supposed to do. Of course they shot them for fear of the big bad wolf. These elk are as far north as elk can survive so it could be that heavier snow fall has simply made it impossible for them to survive winter. They don’t have a National Elk Reserve to migrate to in winter like the Yellowstone elk do.

6. Another reason I didn’t get a calendar photo of an elk is because the backgrounds are awful in Banff. Banff is woodsy, compared to Yellowstone, and there are either bushes and branches right behind the elk or there is a sloping road cut bank right behind the elk. The elk don’t spend much time in meadows in Banff.

Rocky Mountain Elk Bull

7. Bull elk frolic in meadows. I photographed a relatively small bull elk for about an hour one evening as he grazed along. At the end of the hour he inexplicably ran off. “Was it something I said?” I asked. I walked around some trees, expecting he would come out the other side into a large meadow. He did. He walked for a while and then he broke into a run again…and he frolicked. I have seen caribou in Alaska run around all of a sudden in response to a Bot fly up their nose so I can’t discount that as a possible explanation. Looked like play to me, dancing sideways and throwing his antlers around. The bull elk in Banff all seemed relatively good-natured in comparison with the Yellowstone bulls that savage cars and fight endlessly. Even when the largest herd of cows got spread out and was split in half by a competing bull one morning there was no battle. The two bulls just walked uphill side by side as though they were defining an imaginary boundary line and then one went one direction and the other the other direction and that was it. Near Lake Louise, where there are seemingly no cow elk, I saw six bulls feeding together as they do, but not during the autumn rut.

Frolicking Bull Elk

8. It is always a thrill to see a wild wolf. I didn’t get great shots, but I got to photograph them. The wolves are doing a bit better in Banff than they were twenty years ago. They are run over by cars all too frequently. A major highway bisects Banff. It has fences along it and wildlife overpasses and underpasses to minimize the carnage, but one female wolf got hit despite the fence and others got hit when a tree fell on the fence and it took forever to get it fixed. There is no fence along the Bow Valley Parkway and if you do the speed limit (60 km/hr or 45 mph) you will be constantly tailgated by speeders. Constantly. Even in town there is a Welcome to Banff sign followed by a sign warning that there have been way too many bear, wolf, cougar, and deer deaths along this road. They continue to use salt on icy roads instead of magnesium so the bighorn sheep are crucified when they go on the road to lick the salt. They can afford to build fences and wildlife overpasses, but not to use magnesium on icy roads?

Wild Timber Wolf

9. Water from the Bow River, which originates in the Bow Glacier above, you guessed it, Bow Lake in Banff, flows all the way to Lake Huron. Water from the Athabasca River, originating in the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper flows all of the way to the Arctic Ocean and down the Frazier River to the Pacific Ocean. Impressive.

Bow River

10. Canada celebrates Thanksgiving on October 8th. I got a two-fer this year.

Happy Halloween from the Bow Valley Parkway


Posted in Philosophy and Spirituality with tags , , , , on November 22, 2011 by chamimage

Lonesome Tree

We all seem to be involved to some extent in social media – Facebook, Google +, Twitter. Some more than others. It is time consuming and I started wondering just how worthwhile and to what extent. It turns out that a British anthropologist named Robin Dunbar worked out that 150 active social contacts is the maximum that we humans can maintain.

It would take a massive effort to maintain that many active contacts so we all have much fewer, maybe around 60 people that we follow, interact with regularly, etc. The number depends on how much effort you put into being social so I probably have like 5.  Of course, two of those are dogs. Interestingly, this work about social contacts came about as a result of field work done studying primates.

Primates require social contact within a group and they generally maintain their social bonds through mutual grooming. The number of social contacts they maintain turned out to be proportional to the size of the neocortex in their brain. You can only remember the names of so many other monkeys.

Columbia Gorge Bridge

It was extrapolation of the group sizes and brain sizes that the maximum number for humans was derived. The number of 148 seemed to hold up when the average village size and army unit sizes were considered. Villages and army units are highly motivated to work together for the common good so they work hard at maintaining the maximum group size. More than 150 and the groups starts to splinter.

Now, we humans have some social stigmas and laws attached to mutual grooming, at least in public, so Facebook seems to be our grooming substitute of the moment. I think I prefer it that way.

Horsetail Falls

So next time you here about Dunbar’s number, remember that it is a maximum that can be attained only if you are highly motivated. Do not ‘Friend’ 150 people. Please.

Stacking is Addictive

Posted in Photography Technique with tags , , , , , , , on November 7, 2011 by chamimage

Crown Point/Vista House from Shepherd's Dell

This photograph shot from Shepherd’s Dell back toward Crown Point and Vista House in the Columbia River Gorge on Monday wasn’t the best shot of the day, but it is impressive in the amount of filters I used in processing it in Nik Color Efex Pro 4. I’m getting a bit addicted to stacking filters.

I shot a series of exposures of this scene assuming I would need an HDR to cover the wide range of exposure between the sky and the shadows. Once I looked through the images and noted how fast the clouds were moving between exposures I thought I would probably composite the sky from one exposure and the foreground from another instead of HDR.

But when I got pretty good results with using the grad filter in Lightroom on the sky, I decided to go for it with one image. I’ll post the RAW file I started with here. This is after the grad filter in Lightroom.

Lightroom file

Then the fun began. I usually go straight to the Nik Color Efex Pro4 once in Photoshop, though I could have pretty much used it in Lightroom for this one. I usually start with Pro Contrast to get the color balance close and add a bit of overall contrast. I really like the new dynamic contrast slider in Pro Contrast.

Next I added Tonal Contrast for definition in those clouds. I haven’t used the new Details Enhancer Filter much, but toned it way down (I took the enhancer slider almost all the way to the left) to eliminate the HDR’ish heavy handed default settings and it helped define the foreground and mid-ground trees. It really helped the mid ground. I picture using this filter very mildly and very selectively, with Control Points, in the future. If you like grungy HDR you will like it in larger doses.

The image still needed some more saturation so I added Brilliance/Warmth, using only the Brilliance slider. It still, believe it or not, need more punch (well, consider the original I started with). I didn’t think I could get away with using Contrast Color Range, but I did.

I have been noting this fall that the Polarization filter does something quite amazing for autumn leaves, both the yellows and the reds, so I added it.

I now have a new recipe with six filters in it (once you’re hanging yourself this far out you might as well save it as a recipe so you can find your way back). The downside? Noise. Artifacts in the blue sky. And more visible dust spots than I ever thought imaginable on a single image. I am obviously overcoming my initial tepid first impression of the new CEP 4 and am starting to like it for its filter stacking capability. The Recipe thumbnails are a huge improvement as well. I can open an image in CEP 4 and then look at thumbnails of the filter recipes, both mine and Nik’s, and find one that pops (usually mine). I’ve started looking at all of them instead of just mine because sometimes I find a look I would never have imagined for that image on my own. It’s nice to be taken out of your comfort zone once in a while. I am now infatuated with filter recipes. Lord knows what kind of mischief this is all going to lead to.

Columbia Gorge

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2011 by chamimage

Wahkeena Creek

The Columbia River Gorge is a lovely place to be in the fall. I spent the day there on Monday with my friend, Sandy Nykerk, visiting from Bozeman, Montana. It was fun to see the reaction of someone from sagebrush and rattlesnake country to our lush rain forest.

Wahkeena Falls has always been my favorite in years past, both for the photography and the loop trail for a good hike. The young hardwood trees have finally grown up to obstruct the view of the falls from below now. They have also runed the shot of the creek above the bridge at the top of this photo.

Latourel Falls

Of course, the lushness of the forest comes at a price. We had only two rain showers on Monday, one at noon and one that ended the day at 4:30 pm. Not bad for Oregon. We did fight the wind and spray all day, as the drops on the lens and the wind artifact in the trees attests to in this photo of Latourel Falls. We gave up on photographing Multnomah Falls altogether due to the volume of spray being blown around. The green mold on the rock walls might give another hint at a bit of dampness year round.

Stone Wall

I loved this mossy stone wall. It snaked through the forest and would have made for some great sinuous curve photos had it not been for all of the tree limbs and brush in the way of the wider shots.

Bridge Over Latourel Creek

If you like bridges, this is a great place. I finished this image and the next one with a filter recipe in the new Color Efex Pro 4 that I like called Warm Sunset. It stacks polarization, sunlight, and vignette filters. I made some tweaks to the image above.

The image below is the filter effect untouched. A bit too warm for me in most cases, but I guess that is the point of the filter.

Latourel Creek Bridge