Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sharp Images Then and Now----

October 25, 2014

With the recent mild fall weather, the Blue Darter dragonfly fluttering up from the narrow half-loop trail off of Mill Creek seemed normal.
Well, momentarily.
It fluttered, rather than zipped like a jet, which seemed abnormal.
I watched until it clung with wrapped legs against a twig 12 feet up, backed by leaves faintly dressed with fall colors.
I aimed the 500-mm lens -- I had been pursuing images of launching herons on the stream -- which automatically focused, nearly filling the frame with the dragonfly backed by soft belated fall colors.
I pressed off a short burst.
With a 1/1000 shutter speed I hoped to get sharp images,  but they appeared soft, yet pleasingly colorful, in the playback LCD.

I recorded a few more images, with lower expectations of sharpness (without a macro lens, a ladder and very tall tripod).
Anyway, the blue darter images would make interesting prints.
In addition, I had added several images of beavers, Great White Egrets and Great Blue Herons (launching) to my collection.
One of the two beavers, by the way, aggressively approached nosy Nora the Schnauzer, who inched toward the beaver  in the quickening darkness until I warned her away.

I’m not sure why, actually, except that I enjoy it.
When I look back and compare older images with present ones, I don’t detect major or consistent improvement. I do understand techniques for proper exposure, focus, etc,. much better than even a few years ago.
And I have better gear, which may or may not account for whatever the improvement.
At least somewhat.
I have used the Sigma 150-500-mm lens for several years, and managed some strong images at the beginning (perhaps with luck), and I have some strong images with my first 300-mm zoom lens.
At least I have some idea how to use sutter speed, aperture, ISO and white balance as well as manual mode and the other so-called professional shooting modes.
Nevertheless, I continue to bring home a few dozen redundant images nearly every day.
Now, if I snap 60 images, 50 of them, or so, will be focused and effectively exposed.
A recent as a year ago, perhaps 10-to-20 of them would meet such standards.
On a recent trip to the Columbia Gorge waterfalls, I assiduously used polarizing filters and  a tripod, rather than holding the camera by hand, for the first time.

I expected to see dramatic improvement in my photos of the falls.
I don’t see that difference, however, when I, perhaps superficially,  compared the photos
posted at (10-28-10 and 8-14-13). Of course some tripod photos may a somewhat smoother water flow than the handheld shots.
Not that I’ m such a fan of the smoothing of waterfall water flow, which has become a visual cliche,. Talk about redundant?
Anyway, I have reasons to keep shooting the same images, despite my guilt at doing so: 1) Eventually I may come home with 60 sharp, perfectly exposed images; 2) I walk from two to six miles a day with an eight-pound camera-lens on one shoulder: and 3) Nora the Schnauzer loves the walks, can’t resist chasing the occasional rabbit or bird, and I really enjoy her company.
Then we occasionally make a trek the MNWR near Burns, to the Columbia Gorge, to the Oregon Coast, or to Twisp Washington.
And I want to be well-practiced.
After all.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mid-day and Evening Reflections

Reflections at Anthony Lake (9-21-14) and  Bennington Lake

September 23, 2014

Late Saturday afternoon, something of a relief  as Saturday’s go -- the aftermath of an exploding hot-water tank in the basement tends to create nervous tensions -- even two days later,   I shook myself, donned my walking boots, hooked Nora the Schnauzer to her leash, shouldered a Nikon and set out for Mill Creek.

The cool evening no doubt accounted for the streams of walkers along the stream and fostered my decision to amble to Bennington Lake and walk along the shore.

I stopped at the last east-end slot for vehicles along the parking area above the lake.  The low sun  already cast the dam’s shadow across the trail heading south, around  the lake, which we followed.
The sun shimmered on the water and reflections from the south and west colored the mirror-like surface.

Then, on the dark south side, a great-horned owl swooped silently through the shadows and perched  as a silhouette on a cottonwood tree's bony limb.
I captured the image, expecting it to be too dark for sharing.
It wasn't.

Finally, with a view from the steep south-side bank,  we shared the saturated  orange glow of the sun dropping behind the Bennington Lake Dam.

The view lifted our spirits, although Nora seemed more stimulated by the scents left by other dogs, rabbits and rodents along the dusty trail.

Then, still uplifted on Sunday, Darlene, Nora and I, rose early, dined in the truck on Egg McMuffins, cinnamon rolls, coffee and orange juice, and set out for a familiar Sunday drive: over Tollgate, through Summerville, Union, and North Powder to Anthony Lakes.
Nora and I walked along the lake-shore trail ogling the keen Gunsight Mountain reflections on the smooth water, the dragonflies cruising the bank (too swift to shoot), and an American Dipper tiptoeing on a boulder (too shaded-back-lit  to shoot).

We drove over the mountain toward Granite. At the bottom of the hill, however, we turned right, to Hilgard on I-84, left to Mission and a late lunch in the truck (again) at Subway ( bright sun and heat curtailed leaving Nora in the car while we dined) before returning to Walla Walla.

More photos at

An Angry Deer Highlights a Walk Around The Big Sink

September 22, 2014

Despite the blue mid-morning sky, strong winds soughed through the tall Ponderosa pines and Douglas firs, assuming those names described most of the massive evergreens bordering the Motet-Sinks Trail on the Umatilla National Forest, a few miles south of Jubilee Lake, creating a repetitive roar reminding me of a high gray March surf on the Pacific Coast at Newport, Oregon.

Despite the absence or the coast’s chilling fog and hovering sky, the trail bordering Big Sink -- a geologic oddity rumored to have  unnatural powers as well as inexplicable causes -- winds north and northwest through a dark, and occasionally foreboding shadowy darkness.

On an 85-degree day Nora the Schnauzer had no qualms about the dark. She and I would enjoy the relative coolness of the shade.
And I carried plenty of water and snacks.

Nora trotted eagerly ahead as we headed north from the truck. She paused often, checking to keep me in tow.
I peered carefully into the dark, sun-spotted woods on the right and down, eventually,  the sharp slope into the sink, shaped like a large horseshoe, a mile or so long pointing to the northeast and a slightly shorter distance wide on national forest maps of the area. 

Often, from the edge of an abrupt drop-off, I stood  taller than a carpet of  70-foot high trees. Stories claim that hikers at the bottom of the sink often became disoriented and found that their compasses failed to function.
My Garmin GPS  bravely recorded our distance and direction below the thickly timbered roof along the trail.

The south-end Motet-Sinks trail-head  begins a quarter mile from a limited parking space at a gate, off  FR 63. The trail courses north and northeast for 4.5 miles, a total distance of 4.75 miles (according to my GPS) to the more obscured north-end trail-head, where a short gated road leads to Motet Creek (often dry  in September) to the trail at N46 03. 689; W118 19. 489).

Overall the trail climbs from about 3,250 feet to 4,016 feet. Nora and I hiked the complete 9.5-mile route on September 15, 2014 in six hours (4 hrs, 42 minutes moving time and 1 hr, 19 minutes stopping time (for photos and gawking).

At about  2.5-plus miles, and 4,568 feet we followed the trail into a more gentle incline, with shaded and sun-spotted woods.

A large, whitetail doe thumped away, giving me a glimpse of her flag-waving tail. An indignant, back-lit gray squirrel ranted with garrulous chattering and menacing body language as I snapped photos.

 I took many photos along the tree-lined trail, often of giant dead-fall sections cleared from the trail over many years.  
I used a Safari Rogue flash-enhancer for photos in the darkness.
I won’t claim it worked brilliantly, but it avoided underexposures.

I snapped images that struck me as, perhaps, examples of found impressionistic Modern Art. A weathered gray root, for example, that resembled a Picasso (Blue Period?) deer head with eye lashes lay on the ground.

A small dead pine tree, in the sunshine and perhaps bent permanently by wind or snow, with limbs forming an outline shaped like, unless I'm exaggerating, a miniature Schnauzer, caught my attention.
It looked like Nora.

Although some photos turned out OK,  I missed the elk that we met (a huge cow and a calf) when Nora rounded a twist in the trail and they dashed off with a crash and a thumping of hooves through the forest floor's carpet of dead-fall.
I also missed the whitetail deer that stood on hind legs beside the trail, apparently stretching for moss in a tree, and like the elk, it thumped away deeper into the shadowy forest.
Unlike the Elk, or any other deer that I had ever seen, this one acted more like the voluble, angry squirrel. Once safely away, down a 40-yard slope, the deer confronted us and screeched in a bleating voice that stopped me in my tracks.
I stared open-mouthed.
Nora did the same.
As I reported to Darlene later that evening, it was the first time a deer had responded in my presence so much like an angry driver I had cut off after racing for a shaded space in the Safeway parking lot.
Luckily, for exposure, the deer stood in a sunspot.

Well, the deer bleated, but eschewed shaking a hoof at me.
At least.

On the way back, at the top of the sinks horseshoe, an elk bugled through a range of notes and octaves sending nerves tingling down my spine.

Then, near the lower trail-head, two more elk crashed through the woods, a large antlered bull paused briefly, looked my way, and charged off before I raised the camera.
It would have been too dark anyway, and red-eye would have marred the image with the flash.
That was the case when I flashed deer eating moss from a downed tree beside the road as we drove away from the sinks trail. I treated the white eyes in Elements 12.

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