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© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree

Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree

Being avid outdoorsmen, living in the Pacific Northwest has a distinct advantage: It’s not a far drive to either the ocean nor the mountains. You practically live in the outdoors.

Sunset Kayak:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - A kayaker paddles on Bellingham Bay under a brilliant sky near the Boardwalk in Boulevard Park in Bellingham, Wash.

This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge is Carefree. Living up here promotes a carefree lifestyle and encourages one to visit the Great Outdoors.

On weekends and even during the week when neither has work to do, my wife Heidi and I like to drive around and enjoy the area. We are both from Colorado. She’s from Colorado Springs, and I from Aspen. I worked at The Aspen Times for over 7 years as their Chief Photographer. After living in Colorado for many years being and avid camper, hiker, backpacker, biker, snowboarder, and Jeeper, we needed someplace in the great outdoors.

Joy at Sunset:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - My wife and Sweetpea Heidi takes in the sunset at Larrabee Beach south of Bellingham, Wash, on her birthday in 2012.

Before meeting my wife, I moved out here after the newspaper industry began taking the big economic hit in Jan. 2009. I pulled roots from the great little town which I have great friends, some of those I almost consider family.  Heidi moved out here after we met in 2010.

Dancing With Itself:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) appears to dance on a piling in Bellingham, Wash.

Blazing Fast:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - A runner jogs along the Boardwalk at Boulevard Park in Bellingham, Wash., during a blazing Sunset on Sunday evening April 14, 2013.
***The photo above won Best of Show Third Place – Professional in the City of Bellingham, Wash., photo competition Essence of Bellingham***

We live now in Bellingham, Washington, where we go on drives to enjoy the carefree outdoors of the Pacific Northwest.
Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

Trying His Luck:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad PhotographyA fisherman tries his luck at Deception Pass on Whidbey Island north of Seattle, Wash., as the setting sun washes the sky with its hues.

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Paul “pablo” Conrad

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Fixing a Photo to Make it Better

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dali.

Even though perfection is not attainable, by attempting to reach it, you become a better person and a better photographer.

It’s one of my favorite shots so far this year. Definitely in the top 12. But to me, it had an annoying flaw.

On Monday I chased the rising full Moon. The race started in Whatcom County north of Bellingham, Wash., and ended in downtown. Here’s the earlier post showing Mount Baker in alpenglow and the Moon rising over a ridge: A Quick Update, and a Few Photos

Supermoon over Whatcom Museum and Art Gallery- Final Image

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - The full super perigee Moon rises over the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Wash., on Monday evening July 22, 2012.

Earlier in the day I used The Photographer’s Ephemeris to plan my shoot for evening rising of the full Moon. I wanted a nice shot of the Moon as it rose over Mt. Baker, but to get a clear shot I’d have to drive into Canada. That was clearly out of the question. Not that there’s anything wrong with Canadians, I just didn’t want to drive that far.

So I set my sights on local landmarks. With the TPE on my phone, I drove to a spot to see where I could get a clear shot of the Moon over the courthouse, the tallest steeple in Whatcom County, and a few other places.

Although the TPE is a valuable tool, it only shows where on the HORIZON the Sun or Moon will rise. It does not give the approximate trajectory as the object arcs its way across the sky.With that I use the Sun Surveyor app on my phone. I just point it in the direction I want to shoot and it shows the trajectory of the Sun or Moon across the sky. It’s pretty cool. And fairly accurate. However, you MUST calibrate your phone each time you turn on the app. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow my advice and calibrate the app. The trajectory was way off and I cancelled shooting the Whatcom County Courthouse and Museum.

So instead I headed north and shot the alpenglow on Mount Baker and the Moon rising over a ridgeline. After that, I decided to take a chance and drive to the Courthouse and try to get it. I really love the old building. It’s classic late 1800s architecture and well maintained.

The Moon wasn’t high enough to be visible yet. As the Courthouse become visible, you could see the glow of the Moon to the LEFT of it and not the RIGHT which the uncalibrated app showed. So I had time to find a spot.

I stopped about 1/4 mile from it and within minutes found a clean unobstructed shot. The courthouse is surrounded by power lines and poles for some strange. But I got lucky and walked down an alley and found a spot with a clear view of the courthouse.

First “completed image:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - You can notice the cyan haze around the Moon in the original version. After getting rid of the black ring, I worked on reducing the cyan glow. The end result is a much better looking photograph. The full Moon rises over the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Wash., on Monday evening July 22, 2012.

Now using the Surveyor and properly calibrating it, I could tell if I moved about 10 yards to the left, I’ll get the Moon between two spires. When I did, and the Moon finally came out from behind the courthouse and it was a beautiful sight. The yellowish Moon between a perfectly lit red brick with white trim Victorian era building.

But UGH!!! Can’t get the exposure to work for me. Either the moon is perfectly exposed and the building underexposed, or the moon’s blown out and the building perfect. And I’m a “Get it in Camera” kinda guy.

The Black Ring:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - I could not see the dark ring around the edge of moon unless the image was blown up to 100% or more. But knowing it was there, I needed to fix it.

When I got home, I actually chose a frame with the moon slightly overexposed and plenty of detail in the building but it was dark. Importing the NEF file into Adobe Camera Raw, I adjusted it for color balance favoring the tungsten lights on the building over the sunlit moon, added 100% to the “highlight recovery,” 100% to the “fill light,” and left the rest alone.

When it imported to Photoshop, I did some pre-burning of the moon to add a little contrast. With relatively simple curve adjustment brought out the color and texture of the courthouse without overexposing the moon. Then I added a warming layer at 25% to add just a touch of warmth to the photo and knock out some of the blue in the sky as I thought it looked fake.

It looked super nice. However, upon closer inspection of the moon, I noticed a black ring just inside the edge and a cyan halo around it. Ugh. What would cause it? Investigating the cause led nowhere. Until I took the NEF back into ACR and played with the adjustments.

The “fill light” setting was a touch too high. So I dropped it a bit, but it was still there, barely. Then using clone and heal, removed it as best I could. The used the “Replace Color” tool found under “Image > Adjustments,” I selected only the cyan channel and a very narrow band, and changed the color slightly (by a +5 or so) and dropped the saturation to a -5. This fixed it for me.

Before / After:

Minor adjustments was all it was. Just a simple matter of paying attention to your settings both in camera and while you’re post-processing.

Have you ever had an image you weren’t happy with? What did you do to correct it?

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

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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