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Event at Sand Point Country Club


We do the photography for the Seattle Milk Fund, we do it for free as our contribution to the community. Today was the annual brunch to thank members and to welcome any new staff. The event was at the Sand Point Country Club, located on a hill overlooking Lake Washington in Seattle. The power was out when we arrived, but as luck would have it the location was bathed in beautiful, diffuse natural light. 

It's fairly unusual to have a small, captive subject group to photograph so I took the opportunity to do some more artistic shots. Here are a few of the more poignant moments. 

Went you want rain...

I specifically went downtown to take photos in the rain. It was dreary and miserable all morning with no signs of letting up. So naturally as soon as I parked it stopped raining. I got a few shots and called it a day. 

A Brief Breath of Spring

What a beautiful day! Our yard is beginning to explode with color. I took the time today to film some of our flowers and blossoms. The music is by Alone With Everybody and is called "A Brief Breath of Spring".  I used the D810 a 50mm lens, 105mm lens, and a 18-35 ultra wide. 

1:1 Early spring macro

I spent the morning after drop off at the arboretum, exploring the park and looking for signs of spring. My 105mm is a tremendous portrait lens, super sharp with great colors and a fairly fast f2.8.  It is also a terrific true macro lens, capable of 1:1 reproductions. Since it is still early in the season, most of the signs of spring are really small. 

Nature is amazing. At 1:1 scale the details on the smallest bud are fascinating, there is so much happening that most of us never take the time to see.  I intend to go back as spring progresses to capture more of it. Click on each image for high resolution.

Riding along the Burke-Gilman

It's finally warm enough and light enough to be able to take the bike out. I rode 32.7 miles from Ballard to Kenmore and back. During the peak of the last bike riding season I was able to do 60 miles in one afternoon. It won't take too long to build back up to that, but the length of today's ride was just right.  

So, I was smart enough to bring the external battery for the GoPro, but not smart enough to format the memory card before leaving. So I only filmed half the ride before running out of space. This time lapse is one photo taken every 5 seconds. 


A shadow is cast on the heavy plastic that covers the windows at Pike Place Market. 

It was a long week. I always look forward to the moments where there is limited responsibility, the rare moments where it's ok to just live in the moment. It wasn't 10 minutes after the week was over that I was in the car and on my way downtown to take photos. It was a beautiful evening, and the streets were teeming with tourists and locals. I didn't get a ton of photos, but the ones I got I really like. 

This is the time of the year where a well timed trip to Pike Place Market could result in great photos. In the late afternoon the sun is low and and makes its way through the west facing windows. With proper exposure settings, it is possible to capture some nice shots with heavy backlight. 

Buckets of flowers. Click the image to enlarge.

A woman prepares an arrangement for a customer. 

An evening at the Seattle Harbor.

It was a beautiful summer evening at the Hamilton view point near Alki Point in West Seattle. I used a Nikon D800 and 105mm, 85mm lenses. I especially like the tug boat ballet in front of the Space Needle. Music is "Running Waters" by Jason Shaw via the Free Music Archive

I can see clearly now

Ok. So there is nothing particularly striking about these images. They really do look like any of the hundreds of Pike Place Market shots I have done over the years. But these really are special. 

I started wearing glasses in 1990 after having surgery for a detached retina the year before. Aside from a brief flirtation with contacts at that time, I have pretty much been wearing glasses while awake for 25 years. Every single paid photograph I have taken for 10 years was seen through a pair of glasses.


Today was the first day I went shooting without my glasses on. Yeah, it doesn't sound like a big deal. But my eyes are the main instruments I use to express myself, and for my entire career there literally has been a barrier between my eyes and the camera. Maybe it's all mental, but I felt closer to my work when I was shooting today. I feel like removing the physical barrier of my eyeglasses removed a mental barrier as well.  I suppose if there was such a big difference the images would be better by some measure. But they look the same, it's me that is seeing things differently. I have to make the work reflect that. 

Finding yourself in the middle of nowhere.

Abandoned farmhouse amid a wheat field near Waterville, WA

Just a gentle nudge is all it takes to send a person off course, sending them at life speed towards an entirely different end point than the one they want.  The longer it takes to recognize and correct the path, the longer it takes to get back on course. It's this waveform of nudge and correction that is the graph of our lives.  The goal would be to have a long, wavy graph with as few spikes and as possible. Well, that's my goal at least. 

Assuming you buy my idea of the graph, it seems it would be really smart to have a reliable way to get back on track when you realize you are off course. This is the reason it is so important to develop a strong creative facet of your life. With a strong creative core, you can focus your frustration into something tangible, all the while correcting your course.

Taking photos is my connection to my creative self. To me, photography is where the hard facts of science blend beautifully with the ethereal nature of human feelings and emotion. Like a guitar, you can only operate a camera within a range of very strict limits. There are only so many notes to be played on a guitar, and a camera is limited to the tonal range of the camera, set by nothing less than the immutable laws of physics. The beauty is there are infinite ways to express yourself inside that very strict set of rules. That's where the art is, that is where creativity lives for me. It is magic to take something as indefinable as a sunset and translate it via science into something that might move someone.

Why am I telling you all this you ask?

Because I had found myself drifting further from the centerline of my graph.  I realized it a while ago, but it wasn't until last Saturday that I was able to make any headway in fixing it.  It was a quite simple fix with an almost instantaneous effect.  

I was standing there in a muddy field in front of an abandoned farmhouse in central Washington, the wind swirling around me, the branches of the dead trees rattling. The structure in front of me was in one of the later stages of decay, most of the roof had collapsed, the walls were leaning.  The lathe from the old plaster work visible everywhere, like ribs. Almost all of the glass was gone, and the floors had all fallen into the basement. All at once these details came to me, and I was in my creative zone.  I love taking photos, but I had not been in this zone in a long time. It hit me like a tornado and I spent the next three hours finding and photographing these wonderful old structures, each shutter click filling up that part of me that fights back against the boring parts of life. The fire was lit on Saturday, it's still with me as I write this. I am brimming with creative energy. I was able to find myself again in the middle of nowhere. 

Clear night on Mt. Saint Helens

The sky above Mt. Saint Helens in southern Washington State.

My intention was to drive to Portland to practice street photography on a different set of streets. After awhile, all of my shots from downtown Seattle start to look the same and I needed a change of scenery. I left Seattle with a full head of steam, ready to capture the gritty funkiness of Portland.  But by the time I got there the motivation had passed and I had a hard time even summoning the energy to find a spot to park and get the gear ready. I have been in this situation before, a long drive followed by no real creative fire. There are two choices:  suck it up and force it or try to come up with something else. For me, forcing it never works, it's only been recently that I have realized it. Trying to force a creative groove only ends in frustration. So this time I decided to try to find another focus. 

I noticed on the way down I-5 that the sky was almost completely clear, and that Mt. Saint Helens could be clearly seen. In five years and many road trips, I have only seen Mt. Saint Helen's from I-5 once or twice. So as I sat in a parking spot I paid for but had no intention of using, I made the decision to finally get the star photos that have been so elusive to  me. After all, the girls were in BC and I had no reason to hurry home. The sky was clear and I was only 2 hours away, all the variables lined up. A few minutes later I was headed north, only stopping for gas and an Am/Pm fish sandwich and a 5 Hour Energy. 

There was no snow on HWY 504, the main road to Mt. Saint Helens. It's the middle of February and there is no snow at the higher elevations. The viewpoints along the highway are usually blocked by snowbanks pushed to the side by the plows, but since there was no snow to move, the viewpoints were clear and available. I arrived about 30 minutes before sundown, just enough time to set up and get my bearings. Waiting for full dark is an exercise in patience. The sun went down at 5:17, but it wasn't until 6:45 that the sky was dark enough to take photos. I spend an hour or so shooting, I was the only human for miles. Being alone under all those stars was humbling and quite beautiful.