Light


     Lighting! Every photographer that writes seems to have written at least once about the role of light in photography. I read and for the most part I believe, but in real life I've found that if I want to take many pictures of wildlife I have to use what is. If it's early morning or late evening and I can get the sun behind me, I can get a nice warm-toned picture which seems to be the desire of most whose articles I have read. Usually though, I can't get in that position without spooking whatever I'm trying to photograph, so what I do get is partly washed out or partly in too deep shadow or both. That's if the sun is out, which it usually isn't in western Washington/Oregon where I live. When it isn't out those times of day it's too dark to take good pictures, especially in the late fall, winter and early spring.
    Mid-day actually seems to present better light most of the time in this part of the world. At least for wildlife. If the sun does come out, it usually isn't overpowering except miday, midsummer. The rest of the time it seems to be just about right to illuminate the subject for good color and contrast. Much of the time though, we have gray. Gray sky, gray water. For contrast we have fir green, dried grass yellow or mud brown. Most of the time then, I open the lens wide, try not to have a gray background and take lots of pictures, hoping that some will be good. Sometimes they are.
Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl


     A week ago as I write this, I was able to spend an hour taking photos of this Snowy Owl. While I worked in a half-circle at distances ranging from 35 to 75 feet away, other people and even dogs walked past on the opposite side. Sometimes he watched me, sometimes he looked elsewhere, sometimes he even seemed about asleep. Only when a dog went by did he go to full alert.
    I'd been hoping for a couple of years to get a picture during some winter when usually a few visit this far south, but this far exceeded anything I had hoped for.
    You'll notice the sun is pretty much overhead and the sky in the background is blue/gray. High thin clouds veiled the sunlight but still allowed for a well lit subject.
    After writing what I have so far on this page, I got to musing without writing. This picture I had chosen out of the 150+ I had taken because it had the best angle. But it was one of the early shots, taken at ISO 400 with an extender still between the lens and camera. And none of the pictures showed the eyes with the light in them which really makes a difference as you can see below. Soooooooooo............
Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl in Sunshine


     Ten days after the above photo was taken, I went back. I knew now what I was after, but didn't really expect to get it all. But I did! I couldn't have asked for better conditions than this and wouldn't have known how to do better if I had. But before I go on with the technical aspects, let me say a little about the experience itself.
    These are beautiful and interesting birds to watch. I saw my first one about 10:30 AM and finally had to quit when this one flew off around 2:40 PM. I was too tired and hungry to do anymore than limp to the truck. During that time I had taken over 260 pictures and watched eight different birds. The picture shown here is number 231 and while I was taking this last series I knew I had been blessed.
    That warm but elusive afternoon sunlight I mentioned at the top of this page was at my back and making the eyes light up like flashlights. The background was a pleasant wheat color and the sky was blue and above the bird where you like it to be. The angle was perfect. I was just the right distance, using just the 500mm lens set to f8 at 1/4000th of a second and ISO 200. It was full frame. I have changed the format from 4X6 to 4X5 and cropped just the tiniest bit from the left side for position.
    One more note; he looks a bit startled and I am sure it's because he has never seen a human that pleased before.
Snowy Owl Snowy Owl Snowy Owl

These three are just for fun.

Mt Rainier

Mt Rainier


     This recent picture illustrates what I mean about the light in this part of the world. It was taken mid-day on the 28th of November. Most of that day was even darker and sunshine never happened. Could have left the camera in the car, but hey, this is what is.
    An added note; this is the same day I later photographed the winter wren on this page.
Mt Rainier

Mt Rainier Sunset


     Two weeks later, after a cold gray foggy morning, voila!, late afternoon sun. As long as it is shining directly on something it does warm it up. But notice that anything not in the rays of the sun still is dark and gray.
    I really believe most good landscape pictures of the northwest are taken in the late spring to early autunm.
    Don't misunderstand me, I'm talking about light. I'm not sure there is any more beautiful landscape in the world than what is within eyesight of these cascade mountains.
Winter Wren

Winter Wren


     It's possible! You can get pictures of little fast moving birds in the woods on dark, cloudy afternoons in late November in the northwest. But it ain't easy.
    This winter wren is another bird that has been on my 'want a photo of' list for some time. In spite of watching and looking for it in likely areas, this was only my second sighting with camera at hand. I spotted this one while stopping to look over a small logging operation on a friends place. For the next hour or more I worked at getting a photo, before, during and after visiting with my friend.
    Like all birds they are fun to watch, when you can see them. About the size of a golf ball, they seldom stop moving and they like playing hide and seek. This one was moving in and out of the piled up logs on the landing. And it was late afternoon on a cloudy day. I tried for a while handholding my 100-400mm lens but with only a f5.6 aperature couldn't catch him at all, just a blur. Finally I set up the 500mm on the tripod and got serious. Both lens are image stabilized, in this case a must have. At f4, 1/160th of a second and ISO equivalent to 800, he stopped moving in the same eyeblink I pressed the shutter and I had my only usable winter wren photo ever.
    After that, as I packed up and left it was getting dark. But the day is a bright spot in my memory now.
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