mt. baker

Hiking the Chain Lakes Trail at Mt. Baker

On Thursday August 21st, my brother-in-law Kurt, friend Zach, and I hiked the chain Lakes Trail near Mt. Baker. It’s a moderate trail that ranges from easy to difficult. In fact, the last two miles of the trail is downhill. Along for the fun was Zach’s dog Domino.

Baker View:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad © Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Coleman Pinnacle, left, and Mt. Baker from Ptarmigan Ridge. We hiked about 1/2 mile down the trail before turning back to Chain Lakes Trail.Photography - Hike ;along the Chain Lakes Trail with Kurt, Zach, and Domino on Thursday August 20, 2014.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Coleman Pinnacle, left, and Mt. Baker from Ptarmigan Ridge. We hiked about 1/2 mile down the trail before turning back to Chain Lakes Trail.

Starting at Artist’s Point, we began the 7 mile loop at about 10:30 in the morning. It was cool and breezy. The sky was deep blue with patches of clouds around Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker. You can see steam rising from Sherman Crater.

 Kurt on the Trail:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Kurt passes a patch of fireweed as we approach Ptarmigan Ridge.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Kurt passes a patch of fireweed as we approach Ptarmigan Ridge.

The crater is the active part of Mt. Baker. For those who don’t know, Mt. Baker is the second most active volcano in the state of Washington. Right after Mt. Saint Helens.

Booyah! Scenes from “Dante’s Peak” came flashing in. How does one outrun a Pyroclastic flow?

Couple and Cairn:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - A couple  pause at a cairn along the Chain Lakes Trail several hundred yards past the Ptarmigan Ridge turn-off. I came around the corner and saw them then the cairn. I used a shallow depth of field to set them against the forest.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – A couple pause at a cairn along the Chain Lakes Trail several hundred yards past the Ptarmigan Ridge turn-off. I came around the corner and saw them then the cairn. I used a shallow depth of field to set them against the forest.

I packed as I’d normally pack when going on a day hike: a little too much. I used my Camelbak with a 100 oz. bladder full with fresh water, Petzl headlamp with fresh batteries, light jacket, compass, gloves, water filter, Leatherman knife, regular knife, eating utensils, protein bar, protein shake, jerky for snacking, and trail mix.

 Looking West from the Trail:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Coleman Pinnacle, left, Mt. Baker in clouds, and a few other peaks looking west from the trail.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Coleman Pinnacle, left, Mt. Baker in clouds, and a few other peaks looking west from the trail.

In the pack I also carried my 55mm f/2.8 macro for close-up shots in a soft pouch inside a waterproof bag, my Nikon SB-910 flash, SB-29 off-camera cord, my D300s, my 17-35 f/2.8, lens cleaner and cloth, and an extra battery. As weight was a bit of an issue, I left the tripod at home.

Starburst:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - The Sun forms a starburst through a grove of pine with the southern cliff face of Table Mountain on the left. I worked this to try to get the starburst. The aperture was at f/22 on my 17-35.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – The Sun forms a starburst through a grove of pine with the southern cliff face of Table Mountain on the left. I worked this to try to get the starburst. The aperture was at f/22 on my 17-35.

The weight in the pack was nominal, but I like to be prepared: both photographically and in case of an accident.

Fireweed:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - This was a pain to get. I was laying on the ground, holding my camera with one hand, and lifting myself enough to get the fireweed to line up with the tree line. Aperture on my 17-35 was at f/5.6 and at 17mm.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – This was a pain to get. I was laying on the ground, holding my camera with one hand, and lifting myself enough to get the fireweed to line up with the tree line. Aperture on my 17-35 was at f/5.6 and at 17mm.

After heading out, it was clear the photo ops would be phenomenal. The wildflowers were still in bloom, the sky fantastic, and although the light was mid day, it was just gorgeous.

As we hit about a mile out on the trail under the ridgeline of Table Mountain, we saw Mt. Baker in the distance over Ptarmigan Ridge with Coleman Pinnacle jutting into the bluebird sky. The passing clouds framed it wonderfully. The scenery towards Baker Lake was stunning.

Asters at Iceberg Lake:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Blue asters above Iceberg Lake along the Chain Lakes Trail. I used my 17-35 at 17 mm with an aperture of f/11. These are tiny flowers so I had to get super close. At f/11, it gave me sufficient depth of field to get the lake and surrounding mountains visible, but not overpowering. I like how they're a little out of focus.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Blue asters above Iceberg Lake along the Chain Lakes Trail. I used my 17-35 at 17 mm with an aperture of f/11. These are tiny flowers so I had to get super close. At f/11, it gave me sufficient depth of field to get the lake and surrounding mountains visible, but not overpowering. I like how they’re a little out of focus.

As we approached the fork in the trail, I saw the silhouette of a figure against a snow field under Mt. Baker. I took a few frames for posterity. Nothing grand. But here’s a link: Silhouette on Ptarmigan Ridge

Along the way there were some small patches of Fireweed, asters, and daisies. I’m no horticulturist, but I’m certain they’re daisies. As we walked between the lakes, the wildflowers were amazing. The fireweed were tall, the asters stunning, and the scenery unbeatable. Even this Colorado boy was stunned by the backwoods beauty.

Wildflowers

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Wildflowers along  the shore of Iceberg Lake.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Wildflowers along the shore of Iceberg Lake.

While we took a break at Iceberg Lake, Kurt decided it was time for a bath, well, sort of. He went to the water’s edge as he wanted to jump in. Instead after feeling the chill, he opted to cool down and wash his head. A wise move since we didn’t bring any blankets. And I wasn’t going to cuddle with him while he warmed up. LOL.

Kurt Shaking it Off: 

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Kurt shakes off the icy cold water after dipping his head in Iceberg Lake. It's called Iceberg for a reason Kurt.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Kurt shakes off the icy cold water after dipping his head in Iceberg Lake. It’s called Iceberg for a reason Kurt.

After the lakes,  we continued onto the trail which followed the saddle between Table Mountain and Mazama Dome. This provided a splendid view of the valley towards Mt. Shuksan.

The View From the Saddle:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Taking a break in Herman's Saddle, Zach takes photos of Domino as he lays in a snowfield. The peaks of Mt. Shuksan are shrouded by clouds. You can also see the road to Artist's Point on the left. You can see Mt. Sefrit and Nooksack Ridge in the background.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Taking a break in Herman’s Saddle, Zach takes photos of Domino as he lays in a snowfield. The peaks of Mt. Shuksan are shrouded by clouds. You can also see the road to Artist’s Point on the left. You can see Mt. Sefrit and Nooksack Ridge in the background.

From this viewpoint, it was pretty much downhill. Seriously, it was about 2 miles of downhill trail. Relatively easy-going. Unfortunately, Domino began getting tired and as a result, slipped on some sharp rocks and earned a slight cut. He was limping, but still strong.

Getting a Better View:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Kurt climbs atop boulders on Herman's Saddle to try and find an easier route back to Artist's Point. We opted to stay on trail.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Kurt climbs atop boulders on Herman’s Saddle to try to find an easier route back to Artist’s Point. We opted to stay on trail.

During one rough section, in order keep him from hurting his foot any more, Kurt carried him about 50 yards through one part of the trail that was bedded with sharp rock.

A Little Help From a Friend:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Kurt carries Domino through a rough part of the trail that was covered with sharp rocks.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Kurt carries Domino through a rough part of the trail that was covered with sharp rocks.

Half way down, we paused to take a break. We found a small grassy area to chill. This gave Domino a little time to recoup as we also caught our breath and reenergize with some trail snacks. Domino thought it was his playground and just did what dogs like to do, rolled around in the grass.

Happy Puppy:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography -Domino finds a little joy while rolling around in a grassy patch along the trail.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Domino finds a little joy while rolling around in a grassy patch along the trail.

Exhausted and beat at the end of the hike, I already decided I want to backpack in and spend a night at the lakes shooting the stars and trying to capture some of the Aurora Borealis we can sometimes see from Bellingham.

Selfie:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Had to stop for a selfie of me against a valley. I was about a foot from a cliff edge. No worries, I made it out safely.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Had to stop for a selfie of me against a valley. I was about a foot from a cliff edge. No worries, I made it out safely.

What a View – The Last Section of Trail:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography -Kurt, Zach, and Domino head down the trail after we leave Herman's Saddle. The view was fantastic. The light, clouds, sky, and greenery worked well together.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Kurt, Zach, and Domino head down the trail after we leave Herman’s Saddle. The view was fantastic. The light, clouds, sky, and greenery worked well together.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

Also, feel free to share and reblog, link to, and add your site in the comment section.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

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Paul Conrad is an award-winning, nationally published freelance photographer living in Bellingham, Wash., in the Pacific Northwest. His work has been published in newspapers and magazine throughout the United States and in Europe.

His specialty is photojournalism covering news, sports, and editorial portraits, he also is skilled in family portraiture, high school senior portraits, and weddings. He is available for short and long-term assignments.

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NWC Track & Field Championship in Bellingham, WA

This past Friday, Civic Field in Bellingham, Wash., was host for the Northwest Conference Track & Field Championships. All the High Schools in the area participated. The field filled with students from all over the Northwest.

Synchronicity:

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography - Lynden's Hannah Hommes, left, Anacortes' Lexia Hall, and Nooksack Valley's Alex Parson trail in Section 2 of the Girls 300m Hurdles during the NWC track & field meet at Civic Field and Stadium in Bellingham, Wash., on Friday April 25, 2-14.

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography – Lynden’s Hannah Hommes, left, Anacortes’ Lexia Hall, and Nooksack Valley’s Alex Parson trail in Section 2 of the Girls 300m Hurdles during the NWC track & field meet at Civic Field and Stadium in Bellingham, Wash., on Friday April 25, 2-14.

As a volunteer photographer with the Northwest Conference Athletics, I had a front row seat to the organized chaos. Luckily I’ve shot events like this before, so putting my “Press Hat” on, I rambled off to find my assignment: Long and Triple Jump with some track as they circled passed my position.

Amano Landing:

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography - Bellingham High School senior Christian Amano of Bellingham, Wash,. lands in the pit during his attempt at the long jump druing the NWC Track & Field competition at Civic Field in Bellingham. Amano ended 8th overall with a distance of 18 feet, 11 inches.

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography – Bellingham High School senior Christian Amano of Bellingham, Wash,. lands in the pit during his attempt at the long jump during the NWC Track & Field competition at Civic Field in Bellingham. Amano ended 8th overall with 18 feet, 11 inches.

As I was shooting this not as a photojournalist but as an event photographer, my goal was to get as many of the kids as possible. Afterall, who doesn’t want photos of their kids as the land in soft sand while making funny faces.

Beautiful Backlighting:

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography - Burlington-Edison High School senior Megan Wilburg of Burlington, Wash,. lands in the pit during her attempt at the long jump during the NWC Track & Field competition at Civic Field in Bellingham. Wilburg ended fifth overall with a distance of 15 feet 8.75 inches.

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography – Burlington-Edison High School senior Megan Wilburg of Burlington, Wash,. lands in the pit during her attempt at the long jump during the NWC Track & Field competition at Civic Field in Bellingham. Wilburg ended fifth overall with 15 feet, 8.75 inches.

There were multiple challenges I had to overcome: Backlighting of the competitors, and the girls and boys competing at the same time.

When I arrived at the long jump pits, I saw that they had two parallel stations: one for boys and the other for girls. My thinking was they would rotate girls competitors then boys. But, no.

Hard Landing:

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography - Burlington-Edison's Luke Tackett lands in the pit during the first Flight of the boy's long jump at the NWC track & field meet at Civic Field and Stadium in Bellingham, WA. Tackett did not qualify for the finals.

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography – Burlington-Edison’s Luke Tackett lands in the pit during the first Flight of the boy’s long jump at the NWC track & field meet at Civic Field and Stadium in Bellingham, WA. Tackett did not qualify for the finals.

They ran both at the same time and I was hoping at least the competitors would be staggered. But, no. One competitor down each lane at the same time.

So I had to go from one lane and shoot them as they landed, swing my lens to the next lane and hopefully catch that competitor as they landed. Not too difficult. Unless they ran at EXACTLY the same time, then I just concentrated on one.

The other challenge was the incredible backlighting. As it was mid-afternoon when I started shooting, the sun was about 75 degrees above the horizon and to the left. To overcome this, I used the “Sunny 16 Rule” and overexposed by one stop. This gave me workable highlights without dropping out too much detail in the shadow areas.

During the breaks from the long jump action, I drifted towards the track and shot the runners as they passed me. For the photo below, I panned as they went by. I closed down my aperture all the way down and overexposed by one stop (which only blew out the most extreme highlights) to get a shutter speed of 1/30th. I wanted the background blurred with a sharp runners face.

Panning to Accentuate Speed:

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography - Anacortes High School senior Grace Dzieciuch battles her second lap in the Girl's 3200 Meter Run during the NWC track & field meet at Civic Field and Stadium in Bellingham, Wash. Dzieciuch finishied in 13th with a time of 12m51.7s.

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography – Anacortes High School senior Grace Dzieciuch battles her second lap in the Girl’s 3200 Meter Run during the NWC track & field meet at Civic Field and Stadium in Bellingham, Wash. Dzieciuch finished in 13th with a time of 12m, 51.7s.

By the time the finals began for the Long Jump, the Sun had settled too low and the light turned horrible. The flare was relentless and ruined most pictures. So to challenge myself and get something different, I shot from the side.

Switching from my telephoto to my wide-angle (17-35 f/2.8), I took a few test shots as the athletes warmed up. I picked a spot on the ground perpendicular from where I thought the apex of the arc the jumpers created as the went up and over the pit.

Sailing Through:

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography - Sedro-Woolley's Mason Elms flys over the landing pit of the long jump during finals at the NWC track & field meet at Civic Field and Stadium in Bellingham, WA. Elms won 4th place with a distance of 20 feet, 3 inches.

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography – Sedro-Woolley’s Mason Elms flys over the landing pit of the long jump during finals at the NWC track & field meet at Civic Field and Stadium in Bellingham, WA. Elms won 4th place with 20 feet, 3 inches.

Once I figured out where the apex would be about, I placed my camera on the ground right on the edge of the pit, angled it up, and shot a few test frames as to get the crew on the other side of the pit on the bottom of the frame. This helped exaggerate the height of the jumpers and kept them in frame.

As the competitors jumped from the line, there was a distinct “thump” and that was my cue to begin shooting. As they went over I watched then quit shooting before they landed. It worked for a few, but the above photo was my favorite as the athlete had the best “pose.” To me it shows him really pushing it to get the last few inches.

Hand Off:

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography - Sehome's Girls hand off during the final lap of the 4x400m relay during NWC track & field meet at Civic Field and Stadium in Bellingham, WA. Sehome won second place with a time of 4 mins, 8.1 secs.

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography – Sehome’s Girls hand off during the last lap of the 4x400m relay during NWC track & field meet at Civic Field and Stadium in Bellingham, WA. Sehome won second place with a time of 4 mins, 8.1 secs.

When the Long Jump competition was over, I moseyed to the finish line and began shooting track. There were still a few races left. Mainly the long relay races.

So once again, I used panning to help accentuate the speed of the runners and try to capture the handoff. I got a few photos, but nothing I would rant and rave about. I just like the two I posted.

Reaching:

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography - Lynden Christian's Brianna Bruneau gets the baton from Emily Sytsma during the final lap of the Girl's 4x400 realy at the NWC track & field meet at Civic Field and Stadium in Bellingham, Wash. The Lynden Christian team of four won First Place with a time of 4 min and 7.29 secs.

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography – Lynden Christian’s Brianna Bruneau gets the baton from Emily Sytsma during the last lap of the Girl’s 4×400 relay at the NWC track & field meet at Civic Field and Stadium in Bellingham, Wash. The Lynden Christian team of four won First Place with a time of 4 min and 7.29 secs.

While I walked around searching for photos, I noticed the reflection of the field in the press box window at the top of one of the westside sections. I liked how you could see the field and the spectators in the stand. I worked it for a few minutes.

Later in the afternoon or early evening, the light on the north side stands was dramatic. I worked it as much as I could to get something nice. But everyone was just sitting in their seats. As I turned to walk away, the little girl on the left started running up and down the stairs. So I shot a few frames.

Running Up:

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography - NWC track & field meet at Civic Field and Stadium in Bellingham, WA.

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography – A little girl runs up the stairs of the east stands during the NWC track & field meet at Civic Field and Stadium in Bellingham, Wash.


After editing the photo in Photoshop, I zoomed in tighter and liked the composition. I just don’t know which one I like better. What do you think?

Running Up – Tight:

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography - A little girl runs up the stairs in the east stands during the NWC Track & Field Championship at Civic Field and Stadium in Bellingham, Wash., during the early evening April 25, 2014.

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography – A little girl runs up the stairs in the east stands during the NWC Track & Field Championship at Civic Field and Stadium in Bellingham, Wash., during the early evening April 25, 2014.

In the last shot, I was just waiting for a race to begin when I looked up and saw the reflection in the press box windows. I like it so I found a spot that would give me some balance in the image. It’s a quickie, but after coming home and editing, I really wish I would’ve shot just the windows super tight.

Reflecting:

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography - NWC track & field meet at Civic Field and Stadium in Bellingham, WA.

© Paul Conrad/ Pablo Conrad Photography – The field is reflected in the press box windows of the west stands during the NWC track & field meet at Civic Field and Stadium in Bellingham, Wash., on Friday afternoon April 25, 2014.

Again, which of the photos is your best and why? Do you have a questions about technique such as shooting into the sun? Or Panning? Or keeping sane in all the chaos?

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

Also, feel free to share and reblog, link to, and add your site in the comment section.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

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Follow Me on Google+

Pablo Conrad Photography

“Like” my Page on Facebook

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Ups & Downs of News Photography: Covering an Assignment for the San Antonio Express-News

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine, Andy Bronson of the Bellingham Herald, referred me to Photo editor Luis Ruiz of the San Antonio Express-News for an assignment.

The assignment was to cover the official release of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board report which states the cause of an explosion that killed 7 people in the early morning hours of April 2, 2010, at the Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes. The refinery is about 45 miles southwest of Bellingham. San Antonio is home of the Tesoro Petroleum.

Refinery Lights across the Bay from Seafarer’s Memorial Park

© Paul Conrad/San Antonio Express-News - Public hearing and official release of the U.S Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation report on Thursday evening Jan. 30, 2014, at Anacortes High School in Anacortes, Wash.. The report concerns the safety failures at the Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes which exploded and killed 7 people on April 2, 2010.

One glitch in an otherwise routine news assignment, San Antonio is two hours ahead and the meeting at the High School begins at 6. The newspaper’s deadline is at 9 Central. So the meeting starts an hour before their deadline. Wonderful.

Refinery Lights Reflecting in Fidalgo Bay
© Paul Conrad/San Antonio Express-News - The Tesoro refinery as seen from Seafarers Memorial Park across Fidalgo Bay on Thursday evening Jan. 30, 2014. A public hearing was held with the official release of the U.S Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation report on the safety failures at the Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes which exploded and killed 7 people during the early morning hours of April 2, 2010.

I’ve worked on deadline before. However, it is usually at my newspaper so there is some leeway if you just call and let the editors know you’ll be 10 or 15 minutes late. But this was a big assignment for a rather large respectable metro newspaper. Looks like I’m going to work my ass off to get the images in.

The assignment was pretty simple. Other than the early deadline, the next day I was to spend with Vicki shooting images around Anacortes of people’s reactions and shots of the refinery. But as editorial assignments can sometimes go, that changed.

Chemical Safety Board Begins the Presentation:

© Paul Conrad/San Antonio Express-News - Chemical Safety Board lead investigator Dan Tillema during the public hearing and official release of the U.S Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation report on Thursday evening Jan. 30, 2014, at Anacortes High School in Anacortes, Wash.. The report concerns the catastrophic failure of a heat exchanger at the Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes which exploded and killed 7 people on April 2, 2010.

Which is fine as that’s not anything new to me. You have one of two choices: either bitch and whine about it, or just accept the new limits and finish the job. Water off a duck’s back. Roll with the punches. Improvise, adapt, overcome.
You must be flexible when working with newspapers. It is demanding at times, but that’s one of the reasons I like it so much. And you get to see some cool stuff on someone elses dime.

In this case, instead of going around town seeking local reaction, the business page editors just wanted shots of the refinery. No big deal, except fresh in my memory is a few disturbing reports of photographers being arrested while taking photographs of refineries. Here’s a link to a New York Times Lens Blog concerning photographers being arrested: Criminalizing Photography

Brian and Jeremy Hughes discuss the report: 

© Paul Conrad/San Antonio Express-News -  Brian Hughes of Seattle, left, and his brother Jeremy Hughes of Bellingham discuss the U.S Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation report on Thursday evening Jan. 30, 2014, at Anacortes High School in Anacortes, Wash.. The report concerns the safety failures at the Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes which exploded and killed 7 people on April 2, 2010.
The reporter was pretty friendly. Vicki was nice to work with and she knew her stuff when it comes to Tesoro. Strong communication skills go a long way to help reporters, visual and word, work to get the necessary information to the public.
I left a few hours earlier than I needed for several reasons:

  • To meet Vicki and discuss an action plan
  • To scope out and shoot some refinery shots for the deadline
  • To understand what was going to happen at the meeting, get names of the presenters, and get photos of the audience as they wait for the presentation to begin.

After spending about an hour shooting the refinery, I called Vicki and met her to go to the High School. Being as she was from San Antonio, I offered to pick her up and take her.

For an hour before the presentation I photographed people as they came in, sat together discussing the reports, and attempted to find any of the relatives of the victims. During this time I met brothers Brian and Jeremy Hughes. They are engineers who live in Seattle and were curious about what the CSB would show. (Read the full report here: CSB Release Report of Fatal Tesoro Refinery Explosion)

Unfortunately, I did not find any relatives of the victims before the presentation began. So, I shot an overall of the auditorium, the CSB presenters, and the closeups of the observers. Not very strong stuff, but you shoot what you can.

Ken Powell getting  hugged by Marie Howling Wolf
© Paul Conrad/San Antonio Express-News - Ken Powell  of  Mount Vernon, Wash.,  is hugged by Marie Howling Wolf (cq) during the public hearing and official release of the U.S Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation report on Thursday evening Jan. 30, 2014, at Anacortes High School in Anacortes, Wash.  Powell's daughter Katheryn Powell, 28, of Burlington, is one of seven workers killed in an explosion at the Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes in the early hours of April 2, 2010.

An hour after the presentation began, I needed to download my cards, make an edit, and upload to a Dropbox folder for Luis to use for the paper. In half an hour I had uploaded 6 images for them to use: 2 of the refinery, and 4 of the meeting.

While uploading, the presentation ended and then began public commentary with questions from the audience. I shot a few of these and as I did, noticed a few older people in the audience. As they began speaking, the introduced themselves. Some of the participants are locals interested in the safety of the community, and several others family members.

Herschel Janz listens to the Presentation. His son Lew died in the accident.
© Paul Conrad/San Antonio Express-News - Hershel Janz of Anacortes, Wash., listens to Estus Ken Powell during the comments section of  a public hearing and official release of the U.S Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation report on Thursday evening Jan. 30, 2014, at Anacortes High School in Anacortes. Janz's son Lew Janz and Powell's daugher Katheryn are two of seven Tesoro refinery workers killed in an early morning explosion at the Anacortes refinery on April 2, 2010.

As I was photographing one man, Herschel Janz just watched the commenters. Another older gentleman came up to the microphone and he introduced himself as Ken Powell. His daughter Katheryn Powell, 28, died from burns she received in the blast. After he finished, he stopped and shook hands with Herschel. Ken received a standing ovation as he returned to his seat.

Late afternoon Sun lights the steam as a tanker rests at dock:
© Paul Conrad/San Antonio Express-News - A ship is docked at the Tesoro Anacortes refinery in Anacortes, Wash., as seen on Friday afternoon Jan. 31, 2014. A public hearing was held during official release on Thursday evening of the U.S Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation report citing safety failures at the Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes which exploded and killed 7 people on April 2, 2010.

As I shot this, it occurred to me to call Luis and let him know of the images I was getting. It was past deadline, but in cases like this, it is always good to let the editor know if you are getting anything good and that you will be uploading them soon. Editors know that in these situations, you can sometimes get something good after deadline they will use.

Then next came Tesoro refinery worker Marie Howling Wolf. She was a good friend of Katheryn and knew Ken really well. After she spoke at the microphone concerned of the safety of her coworkers. She hugged Ken afterwards in a poignant moment.

After the filing the extra photos and story for deadline, I talked with Vicki to find out what we needed to cover and what time to meet her. She said the editors had changed the story to cover the safety record of the refinery and not local reaction. Basically, my job would be to drive around getting refinery photos.

The next day, the first thing I did was actually drive to the gate at the refinery, introduce myself, and let them know what I was doing. I was actually surprised when the Chief of Security told me that it was OK and to stay on the main road encircling the refinery. I was free to photograph any part of the refinery as long as it was visible from the road. That must made my job super easy.

Steam Rises from the main Stack:
© Paul Conrad/San Antonio Express-News - The Tesoro Anacortes refinery in Anacortes, Wash.

I spend most of the afternoon shooting the refinery from various angles from the road. While doing so, I discovered a walkway that goes from Fidalgo Bay Road, across Fidalgo Bay, and to the main road around the refinery. So I walked the Tommy Thompson Trail over the water shooting various angles.

As it began nearing sunset, I found myself looking east towards Mount Baker. The clouds still obscured the dormant volcano so a shot of the refinery with the mountain in the background would have to wait for another day. I still needed something with the huge oil tankers docked near the refinery. So looking at Google maps on my phone, I found a few spots to go check out.

One of them required a ferry ride to Guemes Island and drive along South Shore Road to find that angle. Lucky for me, the clouds parted in the west and let the Sun shine over the refinery. Got a few shots using my 80-200 and teleconverter.

Then the skies opened east as I was on the ferry ride back to Anacortes. The setting Sun lit everything in a beautiful orange as it dipped below the horizon. I drove back to Fidalgo Bay Resort to shoot a composition of the refinery against Mount Baker. The Sun had set but the alpenglow was phenomenal.

I parked my car and ran quickly to the shore with my gear. While running, I began extending the legs on my Manfrotto 055XProB tripod and placing the tripod mount on my Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8. I had to work fast as alpenglow can fade rather fast.

As I began shooting, the lights of the refinery began to turn on. I wanted the starburst-effect I know my lens can produce with the aperture stopped down to f/16 or f/22. So I based my exposure on these settings. I was getting 2, 4, and 8 second shutter times. Not only that, the alpenglow was becoming strong so I was getting both.

And in about 15 minutes, it was all gone. Taking a breather, I went through the images on my camera and found a few I liked. As I’ve had issues before of accidentally deleting them, I locked those images. One had a particularly nice twist in the steam coming from the main stack.

Alpenglow on Mount Baker as the Refinery Lights turn on
© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Mount Baker is illuminated by the setting Sun as the lights at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Wash., turn begin to illuminate the petroleum plant.

You can view some of the images on the San Antonio website: Tesoro Taken to Task for 2010 Explosion that Killed 7

Overall, it was nice to complete an assignment and to get a compliment from an editor I have never worked for.

If you have any work that needs covered in the Pacific Northwest, feel free to contact me here: Contact Form

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Paul “pablo” Conrad

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© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography The last rays of the setting Sun bathes the snow-capped peak of Mount Baker in alpenglow as the lights of the city of Bellingham, Wash., begin to turn on during evening April 23, 2013.

Mt. Shuksan in Alpenglow

***Before my computer hard drive failed, I began writing this post. Now that it’s up and running, I’ll be catching up on a few entries***

Late last week, I headed up Highway 542 in western Whatcom County east of Bellingham, Wash., to photograph Mt. Shuksan to bathed in alpenglow. Being typical Northwest weather, I wanted to head up while it was sunny and nice.

After a few stops including Horseshoe Bend Trail and Nooksack Falls, I arrived at Picture Lake in the Mount Baker Ski Area at the base of Mount Baker. Hopefully, I thought, the lake would be somewhat melted. However, as expected, it was still covered by deep, hard packed snow.

Using One Flash:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Alpenglow on Mt. Shuksan in the Mount Baker/Snoqualmie Wilderness in northwest Washington east of Bellingham.

No worries. I drove around a bit to find a good angle and wasn’t seeing any “sweeping vista” that excited me. So I got out of my car and just walked around the loop shooting generic “I was Here” photos. Nothing spectacular.

The light was somewhat late afternoon super bright sun. Taking a break, I noticed to trees growing by themselves and I visualized Mt. Shuksan between them. In summer, the trees would be on the shore of Picture Lake.

Using Two Speedlights:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Alpenglow on Mt. Shuksan in the Mount Baker/Snoqualmie Wilderness in northwest Washington east of Bellingham.

To get to the trees, I’d have to walk across a snowfield which covered part of the marshy area of the lake. Rather than chance postholing my way to the trees and possibly falling through the snow pack, I opted to find another angle.

But even after another half an hour of seeking, I couldn’t find something visually interesting. Time was running out so I just grabbed my ski/trekking poles, put on my ski jacket and walked down to the two trees.

I must mention, I lived in the Colorado high country for many years before moving up to the Pacific Northwest. Walking across snowfields is somewhat second nature. Caution is the operative word when doing so.

As the Pacific Northwest gets heavier snow, and ofttimes more, than Colorado, I found the traverse rather easy. I still took caution by using my poles to test the snow pack in front of me. I did not want to fall through.With ease, I made it to the base of the trees and saw my composition. Nothing super fantastic, but definitely something different. One caveat to work with: Lighting the trees with portable strobes/speedlights as they were in full shadow as the Sun was below the ridge behind me.

A few weeks ago I bought a set of radio slaves. One transmitter and two receivers. I’ve used them a few times before this, so setting up my speedlights wouldn’t be an issue.

Carefully I hiked back to my car to get my tripod, camera, lens, filters (Polarizing and ND64), radio slaves and speedlight. Upon returning, set up my tripod with camera and adjusted my composition. I then waked about 15 feet to the left to set up a speedlight with radio slave.

I had to move fast as the light was beginning to change fairly quick. As I took a few test exposures to get the light on the mountain balanced with the speedlight, I noticed I needed another. One speedlight wasn’t enough even in manual mode at full power. So I went back to my car to get a second speedlight.

I placed the second speedlight next to the first effectively doubling my light on the trees. I made sure neither had the diffuser and both were set to telephoto to narrow the light, therefore effectively increasing the output. Then I tested various aperture settings and shutter speeds. I found the one exposure that worked well.

REMEMBER:  When using an off camera speedlights, this basic rule applies: Aperture controls both the total image exposure and the flash exposure. Shutter speed controls the exposure of your ambient light. Read more on these earlier blog postings: Intro to Creative Flash Part 1: Shutter Synch, Intro to Creative Flash Part 2: Aperture, and Intro to Creative Flash Part 3: Using Speedlights as a Portable Studio.

With the above exposure “rule” in mind, I set my aperture to get correct exposure for the trees, and set my shutter speed to get a good exposure on the mountain.

I started figuring my exposure by using the “Sunny 16 Rule.” At 1/250th for my shutter speed, I began at f/16 on my aperture. The trees were underlit. So I opened my aperture 2 stops to f/8 and the exposure were a little under, but I liked them as they weren’t overly dominate.

Here’s a quick primer on the “Sunny 16 Rule:” Sunny 16: An old Rule for a New Age.

As I knew the light would wane dramatically as the Sun set, I stayed at that exposure. As the light waned, I just used longer shutter speeds to compensate for the loss. However, the exposure of /250th at f/8 seemed to balance the light the best.

The Final Result:
© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Alpenglow on Mt. Shuksan in the Mount Baker/Snoqualmie Wilderness in northwest Washington east of Bellingham.

As the Sun set behind me, the color began to change from a very light pink to red. It was very peaceful watching as Mt. Shuksan changed color. I noticed an odd noise that went “whum whum whum whum” every minute or so. It was low pitched and echoed. I half expected a bear to come investigate.

When the light faded on Mt. Shuksan, I packed up everything and headed back. I did fail to photograph my impromptu lighting setup. Didn’t think of it until I was back at the car.

When I was finished packing everything back up, I looked up to see my tracks to the two trees and noticed the pink afterglow in the sky and how it lit the mountain. So I took a few more shots.

My Tracks and Pink Glow:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Alpenglow on Mt. Shuksan in the Mount Baker/Snoqualmie Wilderness in northwest Washington east of Bellingham.

Camera info:  Nikon D300s w/MB-D10, Nikkor 17-35 f/2.8, SB800 & SB80DX Speedlights, radio slaves & trigger.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. All comments are appreciated.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

Pablo Conrad Photography

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© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography The last rays of the setting Sun bathes the snow-capped peak of Mount Baker in alpenglow as the lights of the city of Bellingham, Wash., begin to turn on during evening April 23, 2013.

Mount Baker in Alpenglow

Just a quick posting of a beautiful photograph I captured of Mount Baker from Tuesday evening April 23, 2013.

Mt. Baker in Alpenglow:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - The last rays of the setting Sun bathes the snow-capped peak of Mount Baker in alpenglow as the lights of the city of Bellingham, Wash., begin to turn on during evening April 23, 2013.

Several weeks before I shot this image, I was driving westbound on Bakerview Avenue in Bellingham, Wash. It was just before sunset when my wife Heidi and I just left the gym. As we were stopped at the light, I looked in the rearview mirrow and saw Mt. Baker in this beautiful light. The alpenglow was gorgeous.

On Monday evening while driving home, It was a starkly clear day. I told myself if it was going to another crisp and clear evening, I was going to skip the gym and drive to Lummi Shore Drive, which is west across Bellingham Bay from Bellingham.

It was a crisp day so I left the gym early, drove to Lummi Shore, and captured this.

Prints available for purchase for all sizes up to 24″ x 36″
Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. All comments are appreciated.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

Pablo Conrad Photography

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