Archive for Portland

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?


Helicon Focus in Photoshop

Posted in Photography Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2010 by chamimage

The Moon Bridge

A Japanese Garden in autumn offers up a million photographic possibilities all at once, so I was surprised that after a whole day of shooting on Saturday I had only 128 images on my card. For one thing, I was being very selective and after setting up for an landscape, would take one or two images and move on, not really working the scene like I might otherwise do when not feeling overwhelmed with other possibilities. The other factor was that after setting up for a shot like this bridge, it would take a good twenty minutes of waiting to get the people off of it. People tend to linger on a bridge, it turns out. Note to self, next year go on a Monday, not a Saturday.

Japanese Lantern

In editing my images from the day I found four identical images of this scene. They were all the same exposure so I knew I didn’t do an HDR. In looking closer, I discovered that I was fudging the focal point on my exposures just a bit each time, trying to find the hyperfocal point where there was maximum sharpness throughout the depth of field. Faced with the four images, a light went on over head head. There is a program, called Helicon Focus, that blends a series of images with the focus adjusted a bit further back in each image. For a flower macro on a breezy day, you can shoot it at F4 and still have full depth of field. I don’t own that program, yet, but I learned from George Lepp last spring that you can do the same thing, with mixed results, in Photoshop. So I did.

First you need to have taken the images on a tirpod so they are all exactly the same, except for the focus point. Select all of the images in Adobe Bridge by selecting the first one and then holding down the Shift key while clicking on the last image. Then under theĀ  Tools drop down menu, select Photoshop>Load files into Photoshop Layers. This will open Photoshop and each of the images will be on its own layer.

Then, in Photoshop, again highlight all of the layers as you did in Bridge and click on the Edit drop down menu and select AutoAlign Layers. This will line up the images in case you bumped the tripod leg, etc. Then, under the Edit drop down menu, select Auto Blend Layers and click on Stack Images in the dialog box. Photoshop will then keep the sharpest areas of each image to produce a new image with better sharpness throughout. Very cool.

If you look at the masks of the layers you will see the areas of sharpness that were selected from each image. I don’t know how Photoshop does that, but I’m glad it does. George Lepp says the Helicon Focus software is more likely to get it right for any given set of images. The trick to a good result is not to move the focus too far between images. Any areas of unsharpness in there will stick out like a sore thumb.

By the way, George Lepp has a new book out. I don’t have it yet, but it is on my Wish List at Amazon and I’ll get to it as soon as I finish Moose Peterson’s new book and the Freeman Patterson book I started.

Lion Cubs Playing

Have a great week, and don’t forget to play. And wag your tail a lot.

The Portland Swifts

Posted in Natural History with tags , , , , , , , on September 26, 2009 by chamimage
Vaux's Swifts Entering a Chimney

Vaux's Swifts Entering a Chimney

I live forty-five minutes south of Portland, Oregon. Portland is known to be a granola town, lots of denim and flannel. We wear lots of vests, they just happen to all be polar fleece. The personal ads here mention walks on the beach, candle-lit dinners, and shopping at REI, the camping equipment store as favorite dates. Portland is home to Nike and Columbia Sportswear, and yes, Ma Boyle is real and she is formidable, in a Jewish mother sort of way. Portland is voted the most bicycle friendly big city every year. If people even own a car it is usually a Prius.

I tell you all of this to explain a phenomenon that happens every fall in Portland. Each night in September up to 3,000 Portland residents gather on the lawn at an elementary school to watch birds. It turns out Chapman Elementary School in Portland has the world’s largest concentration of Vaux’s swifts roosting in their chimney, about 40,000 birds. When the swifts showed up in about 1994, the school did not know what they were, but in true Portland fashion, they kept their boiler off and wore coats in class every fall so as not to disturb the birds for several years.

Portland Audubon got involved and in 2000 they arranged some corporate support via Northwest Natural Gas, Metro, and the Collins and Autzen Foundations and got a new heating system for the school so the boiler could be permanently retired and the kids and teachers could be pink instead of blue and could stop trying to see the chalkboard through their frozen breath in the fall again. They also stabilized the chimney so it wouldn’t go to ground, as it was threatening to do.

I’m pretty sure other communities would have handled the swifts differently. My home town had a similar swift occupation in the chimney of the middle school I attended. One night the custodian turned the boiler on and there were 1,700 singed and dying swifts all over the place the next morning. They now have a metal grate over the chimney to keep the swifts out.

On Thursday night I was one of the throng enjoying the swifts. It was high drama. The villain in this drama was a Cooper’s hawk that positioned himself at the mouth of the chimney for most of the evening, preventing the swifts from going to bed until he got his meal. At one point he flew off after an unsuccessful lunge at a swift and that was met with cheers. Then he flew back from a nearby tree and he was roundly boo’ed. The parents picnicked on the lawn while the children slid down the hill on cardboard. A clown made balloon animals for them. When the hawk left and the swifts started making for the chimney a peregrine falcon circled, trying to time his passes for when the swifts were going into the chimney, each pass met with oohs and aahs from the appreciative audience. Whatever was on television Thursday night paled in comparison.

I am left with the thought that these kids that attend the school and those that are brought to see the swifts by their parents are very lucky kids. They are learning that we coexist with nature and the wild animals, and we need to be tolerant and make some sacrifices for them. Mostly they are learning that it is very cool to watch and appreciate wild animals. And I am very proud of Portland, Oregon this week.

Cooper's Hawk Watching Swifts from a Chimney Top

Cooper's Hawk Watching Swifts from a Chimney Top