MaiFebruary… what a fantastic month. Birthdays, Phung and Andrew’s wedding, a trip to Cabo, and lots of sunny days. I was given a challenge for 30 days to bring my camera around with me and film every day. At the end, I compiled the video clips together in a show reel that I’m very happy to share.
If Labor Day means the end of summer, then Memorial Day must mean the start of summer and I am very behind on the blog! For Memorial Day Weekend, Xavier and I went to Eastern California for some snow hikes. The first day, we started with a warm up hike around some frozen lakes and I tried out snowshoes for the first time. I was a little disappointed with the lack of grippy-ness on inclines in soft snow (many near wipe outs). Otherwise, snowshoeing turned out to be not very different from hiking in boots.
Camping near Twin Lakes. (Post about the wildlife tomorrow.)
We woke up to a little winter wonderland.
The next day we attempted to summit San Joaquin Mountain. The hike normally has amazing views, but the weather that day was pretty rough and there was no visibility. Many factors resulted in us turning around, which could be summed up to: lack of time, lack of equipment, and poor weather conditions. The road to the trailhead was unplowed which lengthened our approach by two miles, cutting into our time. For some reason, we opted not to bring crampons resulting in some dicey moments. From where we turned around we could see where crampons would be needed. Lastly, the weather was terrible. Winds were blowing at 40mph causing me to have visions of me being blown off cornices like a little rag dog (how… fun.) and the last half of the hike visibility was terrible with the wind bringing snow and clouds onto the mountainside.
Xavier tried to get some shots of me looking bada$$, which wasn’t possible since I felt so pathetic.
We turned around at the last dry spot, at dead man’s pass.
For the last day, we headed to Tahoe for a snow hike up Rubicon Peak. This was a great hike without any need for snowshoes or crampons. There were amazing views of Lake Tahoe and, besides the occasional cross country skier, mostly empty. We followed the cross country ski tracks and paw prints most of the way up. I really enjoyed seeing when the canine bounded off only to quickly return to its companion. 🙂 I love dogs.
I went up to Seattle to visit some friends, along with an overseas friend who happened to be in the Northwest visiting her sister. Since I’d only been up to Seattle for dragon boat races or various scheduled events, I had never taken the time to see the city. This time, however, I was taken everywhere in Seattle. With the aid of several friends (passing me off to one another) I did the full blown tourist tour of Seattle.
A bit of a geek alert: I used my “travel camera” for this trip. My Nikon D80, which I had brought all around Europe, hadn’t seen much use ever since my D700 took over. But, for the sake of “letting go” I opted to bring my prosumer camera instead of my professional camera. I wanted my trip to be more about visiting friends and seeing the city while taking “some” pics (aka a lot since my friends like taking pictures just as much as me) and having a LIGHT load. It was good, and I don’t regret bringing it instead of the D700.
Originally, I was going to have a top ten personal favorites, when I realized about 90% of them were animals, so I switched to wildlife. Really, my top ten wildlife photos are my top ten wildlife photos of Alaska, with a few randoms thrown in, and it’s because of those randoms that this post is happening.
1. Caribou. Walking. This ranks pretty high in my favorites. I like the backlighting, and I like how the caribou are walking towards me.
2. Moose in the Morning. Ah, this photo is from our last minute decision to drive through Denali National Park for my last morning in Alaska. This girl was walking along side the car for a while, just 20 yards off. Again, like the back lighting from the morning sun.
3. Moose and the Mountain. I like this photo because of the mountain backdrop, even if it takes a lot of attention away from the moose.
4. Sea Otter Therapy. Okay, I love this photo. It looks like a therapy session going on in the water.
5. Bear and Cantaloupe. This fella made it to the favorites because as adorable as she was, and as much as I wanted to give her a bear hug (yes I’m a dork), she was actually quite large, with very large claws, and those cantaloupes are very shredded.
6. Lynx in the Bushes. This fella made it to the top ten just because of its backstory. We were driving through Denali National Park when we noticed a bird standing on the side of the road. When the bird was spooked by our car and flew off, Alenka, in the backseat, happened to catch some movement in the bushes. It’s a total fluke we found him.
7. Marine Loving Bird. I’m a fan of birds, perhaps it’s jealousy of the fact they can fly, or maybe I’ve been living in Portland too long (put a bird on it!). I enjoy taking photos of them, if only it weren’t so difficult. This bird is in the top ten because 1) he’s crisp, 2) the backdrop works for him, and 3) he’s a bird.
8. Duckling with an Attitude. You looking at me? Definitely a top ten personal favorite.
9. Eagle Perched. I like the negative space in this photo, and I also like the fact that it’s a real bald eagle that I managed to see in Anchorage, not Homer, Alaska.
10. Bald Eagle. There’s another shot of this eagle I got where the trees create a nice framing and composition, but I prefer how spread out his wings are. The story behind this shot amuses me too. We were watching the eagle (see above photo), waiting for it to make a move, when we heard the sounds of a train approaching. The tree that the eagle was perched on was right by the tracks, and our first reaction was disappointment that the eagle would be scared off. This was quickly replaced by our easily distracted minds when we began focusing on the approaching train. The train blew it’s horn, the eagle took off, and I barely managed to regain focus (both in mind and in camera) to capture this shot.
They aren’t so much wildlife animals, but I like these photos, so I wanted to include them.
Howling Sled Dogs. The story behind this is one of the reasons I like this photo, the other being that I love dogs. We were paying a visit to the sled dogs in Denali National Park, when I walked into the center space of the kennel. It was at this point one rowdy pooch decided to start on a huge howlfest at me, and managed to convince many others to participate. Instantly, I was surrounded by howls.
Oso Basking in the Sun. I love this photo of Little Dog. She parked herself in the middle of the sidewalk, and sunbathed.
Smiley Giraffe. Heh. So… not quite wildlife at all, but I love the giraffe, thus I love the photo.
Finally! I’m caught up with year 2010 blogposts!! As a treat (and part of my new years resolution), for the next few posts I’ll be featuring my favorite photos! We’re going to start with my 2010 favorite Travel photos.
1. Mt. Adams from the top of Mt. St. Helens. I lugged my D700 up this mountain, with the sand and dust blowing harshly at me. That camera isn’t making it to the top of anymore mountains, unless it carries itself up in it’s own sand and dust proof bag.
2. Resurrection Bay from the shores of Seward, Alaska.
3. Shadows waving from the top of Mt. Tumalo. This was the trip where I experimented with Eric’s super fattie: the 14-24mm lens.
4. Walking along the shoulder of the Spit in Homer, Alaska, I found the urge to go with negative space.
5. Tern Lake, Alaska. I really liked how the sun was lighting up these blades, so I went with artistic.
6. Skilak Lake, Alaska. Driving and driving around looking for an access point to Skilak Lake for a sunset pic, we finally gave up until we came across a campground with a boat ramp access. The sun was pretty much all but gone, but I loved the blue tint everything was taking.
7. Crater Lake, Oregon. A girl dressed as a hotdog is jumping into the lake. No joke.
8. Sunset at Crater Lake, Oregon. The wind had picked up, so there was no reflection in the water, leaving the color to the sky.
9. Red Sky in a Crater Lake sunset. Thanks to Ben, I now know that this effect is called Virga.
10. My new favorite flower. Why is this travel? Well, this was from my trip to the Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC. I don’t normally take pictures of flowers, but I think this flower is the prettiest thing ever.
Or really, it should be carpe noctem. As I mentioned in my previous post, due to spending 17 of my waking hours on WPPI and eating, there wasn’t many hours left in the day for exploring Las Vegas. We often chose to spend the last 3 waking hours with geeky photo talk late into the night. However, on the last night in Vegas, we dragged ourselves outside (whoa, outside???) the hotel for a 4am visit to the Bellagio Hotel (to see fountains that don’t turn on in the middle of the night). I can finally say I’ve visited the Las Vegas Boulevard and won $5.50 in slots! I’m such a Big Spender.
That’s right. It’s a lamppost.
Paris and New York City with palm trees. Interesting.
My experiences with Las Vegas:
– the people trying to get your business or tips are abnormally cheerful and friendly
– a shuttle ride from the airport to MGM Grand takes 75 minutes (40 mins waiting, 35 mins driving)
– Las Vegas air is dry and casino air is dry, so lotion, chapstick, and lots of water are a must.
– Starbucks at the MGM Grand does not do a discount for bringing a personal cup
– Fancy phones lose power quickly inside casinos, whereas my simple phone does not
– walking in the middle of the night on the Vegas strip is a way to avoid crowds and random flyers
– a shuttle ride from MGM Grand to the airport does NOT take “7 minutes since we [MGM Grand]” are NOT the “last stop before the airport”
Next stop on the February Awesomeness Train: WPPI in Las Vegas!
Thanks to Leather Craftsmen, I got to go to the WPPI Convention in Las Vegas. Some classes were disappointing, while others were awesome. I tried to go to as many classes as possible, attending classes from 8am to 8pm, and only straying to visit the exhibitor booths at the Trade Show and eat. I was on a mission at the Trade Show to do as much research on album companies (of which there were 50-60 companies) . Mornings started at 7am (waiting in long coffee lines) and dinners weren’t finished until 11pm. Everyone was excited to be around fellow photo geeks, so we stayed up late talking for hours about photography, photo gear, courses we’d been to, and courses we wanted to go to. I’m pretty sure I averaged less than four hours of sleep a night and about 10 miles of walking a day. I was exhausted by the end of the convention, but the amount of knowledge I gained (more on that in another post) and the friends I made was worth it.
Kayso came along to classes in my bag, but I told him that he had to stay behind for the Awards show. He tried to convince me otherwise by dressing up for the event.
This week I’ve been in Las Vegas for the WPPI convention. Today’s my last day here, and I’m sitting in the airport waiting for my flight. It was my first time in Vegas, and, while I spent mostly all my time at the convention, I did manage to make it to the strip on my last night. Kayso says Hello from Las Vegas!
My rock climbing trip to Leavenworth, WA marks the transition between the Fall Schedule of Chaos to the Winter Season of Maladies. Following this trip, I would proceed to get very ill for a week’s length (multiple times despite pumping myself with Vitamin C), but for now, let’s enjoy the climbing!
High ball alert!
Some awesome problems at the Cracked Egg:
You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m a huge fan of lakes, so you can’t be surprised that I went crazy over Crater Lake. I’ve been there once before, when I first moved to Portland, and haven’t been back since. For those of you looking for a quick tutorial about Crater Lake, it’s a caldera formed from a volcano that erupted long ago. Over time, snow, ice melt, and rain water filled the caldera, leaving it today at it’s balanced level. It’s fascinating, and a must visit.
One of the earliest debates Xavier and I ever had (day 2 of meeting each other) was whether “Crater Lake” was in California or Oregon. He had seen a sign for a “Crater Lake” while driving on the highway in California, so he was pretty certain it wasn’t in Oregon. I, having actually been to Crater Lake in Oregon, was pretty positive I was right. Initially, I won, but we eventually found a Crater Lake in California. We talked about visiting Crater Lake for years, so we finally gave it a visit during our Portland->SF drive.
Okay, that was a fun stint of present day blog posts, now back to… October!
After I returned from Alaska, I immediately went to uploading the Oregon Fun Run race photos. I told them they’d be up in a week, and for sure, less than two days later, I got them online by Wednesday morning. Xavier flew in later that day and we headed out at 4:30am (delayed due to car troubles the night before and morning of) the next day on a road trip down to California. We drove the scenic route where we stopped along the way for some small day hikes, which we dubbed our “black butte” circuit, and a break at Crater Lake.
We started off with a hike up Black Butte, outside of Three Sisters, OR. We followed that up with lunch at Alpenglow in Bend, OR (my favorite place to eat there) and a (hot) afternoon hike up Mt. Tumalo. Both hikes had great views for the easy effort required. Afterwards, we risked running out of gas to drive the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway where we found a $$$ functioning gas pump at Lava Lake and a sunset spot by Davis Lake.
On this trip, I was on a mission to make myself comfortable with using the wide angle 14-24mm lens. It was a major change from my usual telephoto preference, so sometimes I traded cameras with Xav for his super zoom.
The day afterwards was spent around Crater Lake and a hike up Mt. Bailey (Baldy), which I didn’t summit due to time constraints and my lack of speed. Crater Lake was awesome, so it’s getting its own post. The following day we finished the drive to California. We stopped at Black Butte, CA to complete our circuit (we also stopped to watch the Steelers game). We got to the summit of Black Butte in pretty good time (I was feeling especially motivated) where we saw the amazing view of Mt. Shasta…. covered in clouds. There we were, right next to the huge thing, and there was no evidence that a mountain existed. Bah!
On the way down we did see it, so we snapped a shot and finished the drive to the Bay Area.
Well, my Alaska trip report is (finally) done, so I’d like to make a post about my actual photography learning experience. So, here are ten tips for wildlife photography, all of which I had to consider while in Alaska. Warning: it starts to unravel at the end.
1. Know their schedule.
Animals like to come out during dawn and dusk.
2. Use the “1 over” rule.
I may have made up the name, but I didn’t make up the rule. If you’re shooting at 200mm, your shutter speed should be at least 1/200, even faster if you’re unsteady like me. Even faster if you have a cropped sensor camera. Even faster if you’re on a rocky boat.
3. Use spot focus on their eyes.
Don’t use matrix focus. You don’t want to see the focus on the shrub in front of them…. unless you’re going for artistic.
4. Know your camera.
Shooting with someone else’s camera can lead to disaster if you don’t know what you’re shooting with, like shooting at f/20 instead of f/4.
5. Watch your settings.
It’s morning, and no longer night time, so change your settings back to daylight, since you don’t want to be fumbling with it when an animal pops up and then pops away. And be sure to set it back if you do something drastic. Especially if you borrow someone else’s camera. Sorry Drel.
6. Always bring your camera.
And your super zoom while you’re at it. You never know when you might see random animals in the water. Like a porpoise.
7. Go to where the animals are.
Or, in our case, stay on land to see water animals, and head out on water to see land animals.
8. Have no fear.
Or be crazy and walk up to a huge male moose as the he stands by a cow and calf. That should bode well.
9. Don’t get distracted.
Just because a train is coming does not mean you should take a picture of the train instead of keeping your focus on the elusive bald eagle.
10. Bring Alenka along.
She’ll spot any animal. If you want to spot crazy people, bring Andreal along.
Day 5 in Alaska, the last day of my trip. Our plan was to head back to Anchorage in the morning, since there were two places I still wanted to go before flying out that night: Power Line Trail and Knowles Coastal Trail.
Ah… Day 3, hump day in the Alaska trip, and hump day in the week. I put off this post because I didn’t like what I had already written for it, but three days later and I can’t improve it, so it’s getting posted. Day 3 in Alaska was a more low activity day where we spent the morning in Homer, eating breakfast and walking around, before taking the long drive up to Denali National Park.
National Fjords Tour
This boat ride took you around Resurrection Bay where you can catch a close up view of the Fjords and Glaciers, along with many wildlife sightings. Less than a week before, Alenka’s hostel roommate had shown her pictures of the tons of Orcas that she had seen on this boat tour, so our expectations were to see at least one, but not likely much more. The tour guides had mentioned that most of them had migrated away already, but we were still hopeful. Alenka had chosen Alaska specifically to see the Orcas (Slovenia doesn’t really have those coming into the Mediterranean) and Andreal was also big on seeing Whales. I was on the boat to see Puffins (a guaranteed no sighting) and Mountain Goats (since we had seen none on land thus far).
The views on the boat were pretty spectacular (although for the second half of the tour I just wanted to be back on solid land)
Alaska… what a fun trip. Andreal and I went to Alaska for five days at the end of September. We planned a long distance driving tour of Anchorage->Seward->Homer->Denali National Park->Anchorage. My trip reports often become overly detailed, so rather than one epic post of five days, I’m breaking it down into multiple posts.
I went up Mt. St. Helens with Annie, Ben, and Ben’s parents. I’m not going to do a play-by-play, because 11 hours worth of play-by-play would be a ridiculously long post. But yes, it took us 11 hours to do the round trip.
When we were racing in Victoria, our Saturday dragon boat races were very early (first race of the day!), so we made tentative plans to see the Butchart Gardens in the afternoon. Well, the races ended up running 2 hours late (due to a boat capsizing and possible other issues), which they made up partially by skipping their hour lunch break (those poor race officials and volunteers). The day was very very hot and very very sunny (not a cloud in the sky), so by the time we finished our second race, we were debating on finding a cold pool to dunk ourselves in, or walk through the sunny gardens of Butchart.
My new favorite flower
Happy Labor Day everyone! Hope yours is fantastic and you get to spend it outdoors.
It’s been over a month since I went climbing (ack!). The last time I climbed was at Fontainebleau (in France!), the birthplace of bouldering. This place is amazing! The number of rocks and routes to climb is ridiculous. A circuit can consist of over 100 routes! Needless to say, I did not complete a circuit.
Went on a hike up Dog Mountain. Supposedly it’s 6 miles round trip, but according to sign posts, it ended up being more like 7.5 miles. Boy was I sore the next day. But, the hike was nice, with lots of wildflowers up top. The last stretch of the hike had great views, but was extremely windy. Next time, I’m packing a warm hat and a wind breaker. But, if you’re looking for a good hike end of June or early July, this would be one!
Wildflowers in abundance at the top
I was asked to shoot NW 23rd St for a Portland Hotel Book. They wanted enticing photos of NW 23rd that would make you get out of your hotel room and head on down to the Northwest. NW 23rd is actually really interesting. It hadn’t occurred to me that shops set up in old Victorian houses aren’t exactly the norm in most cities. That, combined with tree lined streets and good food makes it a pretty good place to go.
So, I’ve been to Vancouver, BC many times now, but never have I seen Stanley Park. However, this time, my parents flew in from DC to meet us in Vancouver for our dragon boat race, so we stayed an extra day in Vancouver to sight see. We didn’t do the bike around Stanley Park because the weather looked like it might rain, so we opted to visit the Beluga whales outside the aquarium, and take a walk around Beaver Lake. I have always felt a personal attachment to Beluga whales due to their large foreheads, a physical trait that the Duongs also share, so it was nice to see them in real life 🙂
My parents outside the Vancouver Aquarium