Monday, June 29, 2015

3-in-1..... Spectacular Olympic National Park

With towering glacially-sculpted mountains that seem to rise straight up out of the ground, temperate rain forests housing the largest biomass on Earth, and wild and rugged coastlines, Olympic is like three national parks in one.  All this diversity within a few miles.  It's unparalleled.

Joe LeFevre and I led a six-day workshop to the region, scheduled around a new moon to take advantage of Olympic's dark skies. On clear nights the Milky Way shone brightly above the serrated edges of Sitka spruce.  We photographed stars circling over jagged peaks, with the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the lights of Victoria, British Columbia in the distance.

Sunset from Hurricane Ridge overlook. ©Mark Bowie 2015
We also visited the lush forests of the Solduc River Valley, perhaps my favorite forest anywhere.  Giant spruce, pines, and red cedar climb the hillsides, many draped with hanging mosses.  Velvety green mosses cover boulders in small streams.  We shot golden reflections in the Solduc River, just upstream of Solduc Falls, which plunges through a dramatic chasm.  In the Hoh Rain Forest, our challenge was to make order out of the chaotic richness of Life.  Here plants seems to cover nearly each inch of forest floor.  Elk thrive here as well.  One participant counted thirty-two in one place!

Exploring the Hoh Rain Forest, Hall of Mosses trail. ©Mark Bowie 2015
The mountains and lush forests are impressive, but to me, Olympic's wild sea coasts are the most photogenic.  The motion of the ever-changing tides, the wind and waves that bring in fresh atmosphere, and the presence of numerous sea stacks on the beaches and just off-shore, provide an endless variety of subject matter, forms, textures and color palettes.  At sunset we practiced timing our shots of waves as they curled up on shore, then receded.  We shot time lapse sequences of clouds streaming overhead.  And on one magical evening on Ruby Beach, witnessed one of the most spectacular and long-lasting sunsets we had ever seen.  As twilight descended the beaches and sky turned blue.  Venus and Jupiter appeared, shining over the sea stacks.  They put on a show each night.  We shot into the night, as stars peered out from behind clouds, reflected on the sand beaches.  The possibilities here are astounding!

Early night at Second Beach. ©Mark Bowie 2015
We heartily thank those intrepid photographers who experienced this place with us.  And to all our workshop attendees, whether you've been with us for one workshop or several... thank you for your support.  We'll continue to bring you the latest field techniques and digital workflow information as we pursue our creative endeavors together, in wild places far afield, and at home in the beautiful Adirondacks.

Mark Bowie

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

So Many Waterfalls, So Much Beauty - Exploring Ricketts Glen

There are so many waterfalls on Ricketts Glen's Kitchen Creek — 22 of them over a 3-mile stretch, ranging from 10 - 100 feet high — it's hard to photograph them all well in a single workshop... but we tried!  Joe LeFevre and I led an intrepid group of shooters here over two full days.  We experienced a range of lighting conditions, from sunny and breezy to overcast and quiet.  And the falls put on a show.   When the sun was out, we learned how to capture the colorful reflections of spring foliage in the creek.  The reflections changed with our vantage point and the wide contrast range demanded shooting multiple exposures to blend later in processing.  When it was overcast, the lime-green forest surrounding the cascades made a magnificent backdrop.  The lighting was even and the forest glowed against brilliance of the falls.  So both conditions created special imaging opportunities.

During the indoor instructional sessions Joe and I covered many field and processing techniques specific to waterfall imagery, including blending multiple exposures for exposure latitude, expanding resolution and focus stacking.  We discussed the creative use of filters for lengthening shutter speeds and reducing glare.  And we illustrated the special conditions produced by flowing water that make photographing waterfalls so enticing.

The concentration and variety of Ricketts' waterfalls makes it one of the best places in the East to photograph falling water.  This was our third trip here and we were again overwhelmed by the sheer number and beauty of the falls.  They're seemingly around every bend of the trail.  So much beauty over such a short span.  We can't wait to return!