USA 2013 Part 6+: To the conclusion


I’m speeding up the end of this series to the USA as I do feel I would like write about a few other topics! Here’s a summary of the rest of our trip and some tips about each image.

Chapter 15: Any ‘ole mountain

When I was doing my virtual research for walks around the Mount Hood area, I came across several pictures of Mount Hood with Mirror Lake in the distance below. I actually thought people were ‘taking the mickey’ of the walk by saying that they climbed ‘Tom Dick and Harry Mountain. Now I know it is a real place, and I also know that it isn’t just any ‘ole mountain. It happens to have a superb view of the whole area. Our accommodation was  the little town of Government Camp which meant that I had very easy access to this trail and decided to do it in the dark. There were no issues with path finding but for my recovering lungs, it was a challenge to walk at my usual pace up the mountain. The path itself is never particularly steep or challenging but more unrelenting in its slow climb.

Photo tips to achieve sunstars : Try to have the sun partially obscured. Shoot at a narrow aperture (f16 or smaller). Have clean glass. Have less glass (exposure blend if you have to rather than having layers of filters which can create extra flare). Place an object (like your finger) over the source of light to prevent flare over the rest of the image. Consider taking shots on either side of your desired image (like a panorama) with your flare suppression technique such that any residual flare can be recovered from an overlapping image source.

Mount Hood from ‘TDH’ summit

Chapter 16: Mojo returns

By this stage of the trip, we had thankfully returned to health but Marianne’s recovery took somewhat longer as the pregnancy no doubt also took it’s impact on the course of influenza. I was glad that some time while in the Mount Hood area, her mojo for photography returned. Our second day in the Mount Hood area was spent doing a beautiful hike to Tamanawas falls. The trailhead was about 30 minutes drive from Government camp and ascends slowly through lush forest scenes toward the falls. At the time of of our visit, the fall colours were among the most vivid we had seen all trip and Charlotte certainly appreciated the walk from her seat on my back.  She was so comfortable that she once again fell asleep during the walk! Whenever this happens, we adjust our plans to wander around for an extra hour to give her undisturbed sleep. While we were doing this, we were able to find many species of fungus which we attempted to photograph. This fungus exploration and the walk’s photography was largely led by Marianne while I kept the paces going to lullaby Charlotte’s ongoing snooze. The evening was once again completely clear and so, we stayed home while munching some fries and spending some down time watching TV.

Phototip on shooting waterfalls and foilage: Often the wind will be blowing and moving foilage so your long exposures of the water will be accompanied by blurred leaves. You can take separate images at higher iso or larger apertures with a shorter shutter speed to overcome this problem but when you do so, try to compose to have the leaves not directly opposed to water as your shorter exposures will also include shorter exposures of the water motion.

Tamanawas Falls : long enough for water motion, short enough for still foilage

Chapter 17: Pumpkin Mania!

The drive from Mount Hood to Mitchell is a beautiful one through agricultural land and a gradual departure from alpine scenery. Along the way, the autumn colours were blazing as were the oranges of pumpkin fields the likes of which we never see back home!

Phototip on shooting landscapes with long focal lengths : One of my favourite aspects of shooting landscapes at long focal lengths is to achieve what is known as ‘compression of planes’. Simply put, the perspective of a highly ‘zoomed’ image minimises the apparent distance between different objects of interest. In the shot below, Mount Hood to the naked eye , though visible and looming appears much more distant than this image portrays.

Pumpkin workers with Mount Hood in the background

Chapter 18: Dali-esque landscapes:

The painted hills are an amazing array of bald , eroded hills in Central Oregon. They are part of the larger John Day Fossil Beds national monument. We based ourselves in the town of Mitchell in some beautiful holiday homes. (www.paintedhillsvaction.com) . The weather was once again clear which meant that the landscapes did not compete with dramatic skies for attention.

Phototip for choosing lighting direction: At given locations, consider how much of the detail in the landscape you want. In front lit scenarios shooting into light, it can be difficult to extract detail from the landscape due to broad dynamic range but the results can often be striking in terms of contrast. In back lit (or side lit) situations, the scene is often easier to capture and the risk of losing detail from flare or incorrect exposure is lessened. Side light can also provide some interesting shadows. At the time we visited, the painted hills overlook appeared to be best shot at sunset for a slightly side lit appearance.

Sidelight on the hills provided shadows across the textured hills

Chapter 19: From nowhere :

The next leg of our journey took us back to Eastern Washington with much more arid landscapes passing by the car window. Our final destination was Colfax in the Palouse region. Naturally we had been attracted by the rolling hills and greenery we had seen in previous images but we were visiting at the wrong time of year for those conditions. The land instead comprised of tilled earth with groves of autumn colours speckling the undulating land. Just over one hour from Colfax, Palouse Falls makes a sudden appearance seemingly out of nowhere. There was no hint of gaping chasms or any flowing water for miles around before arriving at the state park.

Phototip for shooting icons or well shot locations: Certain vantage points do offer the best view and most pleasing composition of a given scene. I found this to be the case at Palouse Falls with the ‘traditional’ top down view of the falls seemingly squeezed in on the left of frame. When visiting locations like this, I do like to photograph ‘that’ scene but try to achieve something else either by exploring the area more thoroughly or visiting at different times of the day. These are some of the takes of these magnificent falls :

The hike to the base of Palouse Falls is moderate , but the view not so grand.

During the afternoon, the sun’s light can strike at beautiful angles

Don’t forget the iconic shot! The touch of autumn colour at least added something different to this inconic view

Chapter 20 : Grass is greener

We had a very relaxed three days based in Colfax where we didn’t adventure past Steptoe Butte to the north and Kamiak Butte to the south. The skies were once again crystal clear on the first two dawns there before unexpectedly firing up for the last morning when we didn’t have plans to shoot!

Phototip for travelling and sunsets: We had been getting used to a sunset at approximately 6pm for most of our trip and planned a sunset shoot on our first evening in the Palouse for about that time. However, remember that when travelling east within a time zone, all times are pushed back to a varying degree! In turned out that the sunset was about 20 minutes earlier in the Palouse than around the Portland area meaning that we arrived late on the scene. The safest thing to do of course, is to double check with tools such as ‘The photographers’s ephemeris’ rather than make assumptions….

The Palouse from halfway up Steptoe Butte after arriving late!

Surprise! This dawn came out of the blue and had us scrambling to somewhere outside of Colfax…

Chapter 21: Happy returns

For the last two nights of our trip, the original plan was to visit the Stevens Pass area and possibly do a strenuous return hike to one of the alpine lakes in the area. However, given that our initial visit to Mount Rainier was plagued by influenza and the closure of the National Park, we decided to return to the area to close out the trip. It would also mean a shorter drive to the airport on our last morning. We are very glad that we chose this option as we were finally able to appreciate the park itself and in good health. From Reflection Lake, Mount Rainier itself initially  proved  to be elusive before bearing too much of herself with the absence of any cloud on our last day. Of the two lakes we visited, I’d say the view of Mount Rainier is more complete from Bench Lake even though it is a short muddy slog down to its shores.

Phototip for shooting alpine conditions: Simply this, don’t give up on the light! On the first evening at Mount Hood, there was constant drizzle and no visible sky as we drove from east to west across the park. Returning to Reflection Lake at sunset, there seemed to be no chance of any light or visibility of Mount Rainier but out of the blue, some spectacular light fell across the mountain albeit shrouded in cloud.

Initially there was no Mount Rainier!

Then there was a pink cloud mountain in Mount Rainier’s place!

Finally, some visibility from Bench Lake on the following morning

Chapter 22: Transition back to Urban life.

“Charlotte , do you like forests or the city?” . To which Charlotte repeatedly responded “Charlotte like forest”. That’s our girl! After leaving the crisp cool autumn of the Pacific Northwest on a beautifully clear morning, we headed to our last stop before returning to Adelaide. Marianne and Charlotte had not been to Los Angeles before while I had visited as an emo-driven teenager who did not necessarily appreciate. In a short visit there, we planned to visit Hollywood itself before spending some time in Disneyland. Even though those aspects of our visit were fantastic, we also encountered the most stress while here for the entire three weeks away. We had to wait in a rental car queue for 2 hours while trying to prevent a 2 year old meltdown. Driving itself wasn’t as bad as I had imagined but on our departure, we experienced lengthy delays due to  a shooting at LAX a few hours prior to our departure! On the positive, Charlotte enjoyed placing hands and feet at the Chinese theatre and surprisingly enjoyed most of the fast moving rides at Disneyland! On our last night, I managed to talk my way into obtaining a ticket to Mickey’s Halloween party after hours which was absolutely packed on Halloween evening.

Phototip for photographing your toddler on the go!: As posing and standing still are not two things toddlers are accustomed to doing, your shutter speed needs to be relatively high. Regarding movement to and from the camera, picking very wide apertures is highly likely to miss focus no matter what funky artsy shot you might be aiming for. After all I’m more taking images of Charlotte as  a record rather than artistic statement. For those reasons, I try not to open up below F4, I try not to reduce shutter speed below 1/100 (even when we’re posing for a family shot) and adjust iso accordingly. 

At any second, Charlotte might do a sudden movement to cause blurring!

Charlotte enjoyed most rides with the exception of Ursula who brought her to tears! 5dmk3 showing off clean high iso capabilities at  iso12800.

Phototip for shooting multiple trails of fireworks: Prior to the display commencing, work out what exposure you need for the background at a low’ish iso. Then probably halve that exposure time (for 1 stop less light) and keep that exposure time in your mind. When the fireworks start, leave the camera in bulb exposure mode with a black card over the camera until fireworks are launched. Count how long you have left the black card off for and end the exposure once you’ve reached your approximate exposure duration after varying salvos of fireworks. I hope that works for you as it did for me during Mickey’s fireworks over the castle!

Multiple trails of fireworks in the one bulb exposure

Lastly, Charlotte has the last word in this video of her trip experiences!

Well, that rounds out a fantastic trip to the USA and hopefully we’ll be able to return in a few years time with an older Charlotte and sibling at the same stage of development 🙂 Have a merry christmas and happy new year everyone!

-D & M & C & (yet to be named infant!)

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Posted on December 24, 2013, in Photography, USA and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Love that mono image, really striking! Some very good tips in there amongst the narrative as well. I’m sure Charlotte will look back on the footage and photos with great fondness some years into the future.

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