Skagit Valley Tulips – 2015

Tulip Sea

Tulip Sea – 35mm, 1/15, f/8.0

These photos were taken at RoozenGaarde, which is a good sized tulip garden with different landscaping and arrangements. Definitely more interesting than a field of rows and rows of tulips.  The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is a seasonal spring event, and I believe there are several tulip growers in the valley.

In the photo above, I was pushing my shutter speed limits again, trusting the image stabilization built into the EF 35mm f/2 IS lens.  The photo might have been a bit sharper at a higher shutter speed, but the petal edges in the foreground are sharp enough.

RoozenGaarde windmill - 35mm, 1/180 @ f/16

RoozenGaarde windmill – 35mm, 1/180 @ f/16

This was the hot spot to take your picture, and even on a weekday there were plenty of tourists.  I don’t mind a bit, but always find it amusing when Japanese tourists single me out of the crowd to request I take their pictures with their cameras, figuring the guy with the backpack and big lens must know what he’s doing.  The truth is that just because you can afford a fancy camera doesn’t mean you know how to use it.


Peachy Tulip - 35mm, 1/30 @ f/8.0

Peachy Tulip – 35mm, 1/30 @ f/8.0

I’m still learning how to shoot flowers to make them interesting.  For example: I’ve known for 20 years that using a wider aperture blurs the background more, but getting the aperture setting just right for each situation is still tricky.  My lens was capable of f/2.0, but I used f/8.0.  Why do that on a macro/closeup photo? I’m using a full-frame sensor EOS 6D, so with a 35mm prime, I have to get considerably closer to the tulip than I did with my EOS 7D with an APS-C sensor.  When you get closer to the subject, depth of field gets shallower. Even at f/8, the smaller tulip, which was only slightly behind the larger one, is quite soft.

One more thing I learned in college, taking photography as an “elective” for my business degree: Color contrast. The above photo makes use of this concept by placing a peach colored tulip (warm color) over the green stems and leaves (cool color) in the background.  This helps focus attention on the focal point by making it stand out. By comparison, tulips with other tulips behind them blend together and don’t have the same impact. Look at the very top of this tulip, versus its sides, which are more clearly separated from the background. So choosing a good angle and background are very important.


Tulips in Shadows - 35mm, 1/20 @ f/8.0

Tulips in Shadows – 35mm, 1/20 @ f/8.0

Here we see the Canon’s in-lens IS system shining again. Holding the camera out at arms length and using the Live View screen to compose, I should not be able to get a sharp shot at 1/20 of a second.  Except I did here, with Image Stabilization turned on.


Tulip Colors - 35mm, 1/45 @ f/11

Tulip Colors – 35mm, 1/45 @ f/11

Here’s another example of color contrast.  Purple is a cool color, and yellow and orange are warm colors.  Combined, they create an impact that all yellow tulips would not.

Also, I used f/11 here, which I normally reserve for landscapes. But if I had used a wider aperture setting, not all of the two star tulips up front would be in focus.  And I still have a blurred background, though not nearly as much as f/2.0 would have produced.


Mt. St. Helens – First days of Spring

Mt. St. Helens

Mt. St. Helens

This photo almost has the look of a painting.  I was shooting into the sun and trying to keep it off my front lens element.  There is a huge tonal range from the clouds to the trees. Extreme light and dark, which was very hard to capture in a single exposure.  Somehow after the post processing in Lightroom, it turned out like this.

Mt. Adams

Mt. Adams

This is Mount Adams’ peak peeking (see how I did that?) above the Cascade Range foothills. This was just a few days after spring officially started.  If you look at the first photo in the post, you can see a tiny Mt. Adams peak on the left side of the photo. I used a 200mm lens to bring it in closer.

Mt. St. Helens valley

Mt. St. Helens valley

I ended up running down the side of the road from the vehicle turnout to find a good view not blocked by roadside trees.  The valley is very dark with evergreen trees compared to the snowy mountain, but you can see the greens of spring starting to come out in places. The view of those three rivers meeting was pretty awesome. The photo doesn’t do it justice. I needed one of those quad-copters that can carry a camera!  When I have an extra $1,000 lying around…

Coldwater Lake

Coldwater lake is near Mount Saint Helens, in the Cascade mountain foothills.  My Dad and I had intended to reach Johnston Ridge Observatory, but found it still closed for the winter.  (Should have checked online before I left the house and drove 2 hours.) So we went to Coldwater Lake and took some photos of Mt. St. Helens from roadside turnouts.


Coldwater Lake – 17mm, 1/30 @ f/11

“Clearwater Lake” would be an appropriate name for this lake also.  I was using a polarizing filter, which explains the dark center in the sky.  It happens with wide angle shots.  But the polarizer cut some of the reflection of the water so we can see the rocks below.

Coldwater Lake - 40mm, 1/60 @ f/11

Coldwater Lake – 40mm, 1/60 @ f/11

This spot on the western shore of the lake gives a view of Mt. St. Helens’ peak. That is a funky looking cloud, but since it wasn’t a smear, I left it alone.  This photo had hardly any color in it. Spring had officially started 5 days before, but there weren’t many leaves out yet.  So it was a good candidate for NIK Silver Efex Pro.

Coldwater Lake - 40mm, 1/30 @ f/9.5

Coldwater Lake – 40mm, 1/30 @ f/9.5

This is the view just a few feet from the parking lot at the south end of the lake, looking northeast.  The ridge at the far end of the lake still had snow on it.

There is always a temptation for me to push adjustments too far where things start to look unnatural.  But I tried to watch details at a 100% while sharpening, at watch smooth areas while adjusting contrast.  The goals is to keep things from “breaking up” or pixelating, yet still have a nice, sharp photo with visual impact.

I also listed shutter speeds, because in an effort to get as much depth of field as possible, I narrowed the aperture to the point where the shutter speed was barely above the focal length. In the case of this last shot, I broke that rule, but still got a decent shot with sharp details. (Breath in, breath out s-l-o-w-l-y… squeeze shutter button VERY gently.)