Olympic National Park, Washington

I can’t believe it has already been 2 weeks since my spontaneous trip to the Pacific Northwest. I saw that it had been a really wet Spring and I had been longing to revisit after an ecology trip in 06 during a drought.

I was actually planning to spend most of my time in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge (a later blog post) but just couldn’t resist running up to visit the rainforests of Olympic National Park for 2 days.

I met up with buddy and excellent photographer Alex Mody and we headed north. These are true rainforests, averaging 140-170 inches of rain a year. Miami, gets around 50. They are remarkable environments and I was so happy to be headed their way. We got to the Hoh Rainforest around 11pm and passed out. We awoke to low 30’s and drizzle. Perfect! The overcast and rain was just what I wanted to shoot the forests in…the temperatures not so much. We got moving around 6 am and with a mile or two, we came upon what has become one of my favorite images. Titled “The wizard of the Hoh” this “tree” commanded attention. It is actually a combination of a big leaf maple well over 100 ft. tall and a vine maple reaching out from its base. It just looked like it was raising up ready to cast a spell on all the denizens of the rainforest.

After this image, which I instantly knew would be a keeper, everything else was a bonus for the day. As I continued wandering the forest, I felt I had hit a jackpot with that image. Everything else was just so chaotic, yet beautiful. It seems near impossible to translate the beauty in a photograph, but I tried the best I could. Here is another image where I felt the scene came to have some order.

As we continued, the light got a bit harsh and made it a bit difficult to shoot wide-angle forest scenes. We made our way to the visitor center and found a Barred Owl very relaxed around everyone. Alex commented that it was probably a youngster because it almost seemed dumb. It made several sad attempt at hunting and it did seem to be a bit inexperienced. Regardless, it posed nicely for us for a long time.

As we were leaving the Hoh rainforest to go to the Quinault, I saw this scene in some second growth forest. The second growth is actually a little more organized because the trees are all about the same size and age. Not as dramatic as the other but I thought I showed another environment quite well.

As we entered the Quinault the rain picked back up a bit. As the light faded, the fog begain rising and I got an image I was not expecting. The simplicity and color combo was hard to resist.

In this same area we also saw the largest black bear I have come across. The light was far to gone to get a keeper but I was amazed at my camera’s capabilities to at least get a documentary shot. The settings were: Lens (mm): 400 ISO: 25600 Aperture: 5.6 Shutter: 1/80

The next day we awoke and began a hike. the light wasn’t ideal, getting a little too strong, but I was able to get one image I was happy with.  I framed it with two trees growing out of a fallen nursery log. It is called that because as it decays it provides a great place for the next generation to germinate. Sometimes you will see several large trees all growing in a line, along a now decayed nursery log.

We saw many impressive trees in the Quinault and I couldn’t resist taking a self-portrait, which I will leave you with.

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Ahh, the Swamp

Two weekends in a row I have been able to get out exploring Big Cypress with Mac Stone, a great photographer working down here for Audubon. It is the end of the dry season, so water is at it’s lowest. This allowed for much quicker travel, and we covered a lot more ground. Last week, we hopped from gator hole to gator hole, where the last of the water remained. They are called gator holes because the gators will dig out what may already be a depression to create small ponds. This can keep fish alive, one food source for gators, and attract others like raccoons looking for water.

We found this one gator almost buried in the mud, and it wanted to keep its mud-hole to himself. Fortunately, it led to some different perspectives for our photographs.

This weekend, we were joined by Neil Losin and Garl and we went out to Robert’s Lake Strand. Upon getting to the lake, we saw tons of alligators and something very unexpected, a bear! My first bear in South Florida, although I have seen signs several times. It caught wind of us from across the lake and ambled off. We pressed on to another smaller lake and along the way, found this beautiful little moccasin. It posed so nicely and I am really happy to get this wide-angle image of it. I was at the minimum focusing distance for my lens and it was a bit nerve racking to be so close to a venomous snake, but it really goes to show they are not nearly as aggressive as their unfortunate reputation.

You can also see from this photo why they are also called the cottonmouth.

We continued on to the next lake and again saw it crowded with alligators. As we sat and ate lunch, we noticed them lunge into the air and come down sideways, attempting to catch the also crowded fish. It was great entertainment and I put together this little sequence of one.

We pressed on to the last area for the day and one of the most visually promising for landscapes. The swamp is so intense, with so many details, that it is always a great experience. It is not however, usually the most productive for landscape images. It is more about eliminating details from your image and that can be quite hard to do when everything crowds in on itself. Epiphytes, vines, shrubs, aquatic plants, trees going up, trees fallen down…lots of lines that don’t want to organize easily into an image. So with that said, I got a somewhat decent landscape, it probably won’t make it into the portfolio but it is always fun to exercise the brain.

What I liked about this image was how the light played on the distant layers of vegetation and the clean foreground, so hard to find. I may have moved a fallen twig or two though. =) And then began the 3 mile hike back to the car. I gotta say, my feet feel it a bit after all that tromping.

 

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Ft. Myers Beach Pier Variations

2 weeks ago I participated in Artfest Ft. Myers. So, after setting up on Friday I ran over to the Ft. Myers Beach Pier hoping for a nice sunset over it. I got a decent sunset but after that I continued to shoot. I never seem to be happy with just one take on a place and many times my favorite develops after I have gone through a few compositions. Anyways, here are a few different views I took. My personal favorite is the last, taken in the perfect balance of natural twilight and the glow of artificial lighting.

Thanks for looking!

Paul

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Those Foggy Mornings

I am not a morning person. As a photographer, this can be a big hindrance. It means I am missing 50% of the good-light opportunities of the day.  If you look through my portfolio you will notice a lot of sunsets. The sunrises, however, are a bit limited.

One thing that sunrises have that definitely helps pull me out of bed, is the possibility of fog. I always strive to have a mood or atmosphere to my images. This can be created most easily by lighting at the ends of the day(sunrise/sunset). Fog, however, really can ramp things up.

In the Everglades, I  seem to gravitate to the pinelands when it is foggy. Sometimes hard to shot, the fog can really simplify things and allow you to isolate elements easier. I went out twice recently and got several images I am happy with.

The first morning I stayed around the Long Pine Key Campground. There is a lake there with an awesome island of pines that is a wonderful element. I created this panoramic before the sun came up and the moody blues really helped here.

The Still of Morning

This morning was so thick with fog, and you could hear the condensation dripping off the trees.  It was perfectly still and quiet. As the sun broke through the fog I hiked out in the pinelands to get a composition I had in mind but never with these conditions. As I was hiking out to this spot (1 mile away) I could hear turkeys calling. They were reintroduced to Long Pine key after several attempts and it is good to know they have stuck around and not become bobcat food.

A New Beginning

I hiked back to the lake to see how everything looked with different lighting conditions and got this tighter shot of the island.

This was the first shoot of the year and for several months. It definitely helped renew my desire to get out and to create new images.

As the forecast called for fog again, I ran out a week later and it happened to coincide with the full moon. What is great about the full moon is that it rises and sets opposite the sun. This can help with the evening out of lighting conditions and lead to some dramatic images.

As I was driving out this morning I noticed the fog wasn’t as thick as I wanted. I was thinking of running out to the dwarf cypress but decided to go to Pine Glades Lake. I figured getting the  moon setting would be a nice image. I waited until the sun was about the break the horizon and got this image. It is a single image double processed to just barely bring back the overly bright moon. The sun’s light on the foreground helped to even out the dynamic range.

Moonset Over Pine Glades Lake

I briefly walked back into the pinelands and shot this clump of pines, with a nice glow behind them.

Fog doesn’t always help produce dramatic images but sometimes subtle is what you need. Still there is no denying it helps set the mood. Have a great weekend everyone!

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One Mantis, Two Photos

Hey guys, miss me? It has been a while. This morning I finally made some images worth sharing. I have been shooting with John Moran and David Moynahan, two fantastic Florida nature photographers.

They have showed me some great new shooting methods and techniques, and while shooting a praying mantis this morning, I was able to try one out. First let me show you a traditional shot of how I would normally go about it. I shot this guy with my Tamron 180 macro, tripod mounted, with some off camera fill flash.

And now the “other” type of image. Both David and John use a Tokina 10-17 fisheye. This lens is WIDE! They usually shoot it on a crop sensor. I did try it on my full-frame 5d2, and it is really only usable above 15mm. Anyways, I dropped my memory card in John’s 7d with the Tokina mounted, and again, some off-camera flash. This is the result, a totally different feel, mood, everything. I have known about this wide-angle macro technique for some time, really getting it demoed to me by Clay Bolt. I definitely will need to play around with it myself more, but was quite excited by this quick result.

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