At the northwest corner of the lower 48 states is one of the most amazing natural areas I’ve ever visited. Cape Flattery is located at the tip of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. The views are absolutely breathtaking and I’m not one who uses that word freely. It is a high, rocky point extending into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean. The rocks have been carved into spectacular features by wave action over the eons. For many, Cape Flattery might be a side trip while visiting the Olympic National Park but I see it as a worthy destination all by itself. However, there are many wonderful outdoor photography locations in the area. Shi Shi Beach, Second Beach, Ruby Beach, and of course the National Park are just a few. Cape Flattery is on the Makah Reservation and you will need a permit to visit the area. It’s simple and inexpensive to obtain one when you get there. I highly recommend Cape Flattery as an amazing location for landscape/seascape photography.
I try to see something unique every time I travel and I’m seldom without my camera. It isn’t always possible to make a side trip but this time, my friend and I got to drive through Garner State Park on our way back to San Antonio. The Frio is a pretty river and this place was well worth exploring. After checking the area well for rattlesnakes, I set up and made this one of a kind photo (at least for me). As it’s name suggests, the water is quite cool – yes, I checked. The fisherman in me wanted to cast a line but I’m content to have gotten a few photos. Next time you travel, see if there’s not some place close by that looks interesting. As they say, you never know until you go.
Today I want to share one of the images that started me down this path. This is one of the first images I made with my first digital SLR camera that made me say, “Wow”. It is also one of the first images I digitally printed and hung on my wall. I had a couple of 35 mm film SLRs and used them for several years. I wouldn’t trade my experience with film because it taught me the fundamentals of photography. However, I never really made any images that had the wow factor. Being on a tight budget was mostly to blame. Film and processing costs kept me from truly experimenting with my subjects and the economical 4×6 prints just didn’t offer much feedback. I think the vision was there but the tools and the means to effectively use them eluded me. We have such a huge advantage in the digital world. Our LCD screens give us instant feedback and there is no penalty for making multiple images of the same subject. The information we learn from postprocessing is even greater and most times, is just hours away. We can have complete control over the entire process from shooting to printing if we so choose. Knowing what I know now, I’d have done things differently back in the film days but I can’t complain. I’ve enjoyed the journey and I look forward to future innovations.
Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri is one of the most interesting landscape photography opportunities in the state. The photo above is just one of many possibilities. According to my buddy Ozark Bill, these giant granite boulders offer limitless compositions. He makes it there more often than I do and I certainly agree with him. I’m highlighting his post on the topic today, so please click here to learn more about this amazing location.
Gulls are extremely common in the winter around here. This is one of the most common, a Ring-billed Gull. They’re also very tolerant of humans which makes them great practice subjects for your bird photography. I found this one in a parking lot and was able to drive to within a few yards of it. I spent a few minutes practicing manually focusing. At a nearby dam, there’s always a bunch of gulls flying around looking for baitfish. This presents a good opportunity to practice tracking and keeping birds in flight in focus.
It may not be gulls but I bet there are some common birds in your area too. Canada Geese and Rock Doves are a couple of species that come to mind. If you’re interested in improving your photography skills, try perfecting your technique on these easy subjects.
Wildlife photography can be challenging and getting close to wild animals is difficult most of the time. If animals like this Wild Turkey are not wary, they won’t last too long in the natural world. Getting close to them is hard; however, there is a group we can learn from: hunters. For some naturalists, the idea of hunting may not be very palatable but let’s explore this a little further. Both the wildlife photographer and the hunter are trying to get close enough for a “shot”. The main difference is the camera vs. the gun but the hunter has some advantages that some photographers overlook. Knowledge of the quarry, stalking/tracking skills, attention to the wind, camouflage, decoys, and calls are a few of the hunter’s tricks for getting close to animals. These skills can absolutely work for the wildlife photographer too.
I highly recommend checking out a show called Wild Photo Adventures. I’m not aware of any better example of the application of hunting skills to wildlife photography than the Season 2, Episode 4 show. If you’re interested in learning more about these techniques, you definitely need to watch this episode. You’ll learn more from seeing this demonstrated than I could ever write. This show is nothing short of inspirational. I’m gone…to buy myself a turkey call.
My introduction to underwater photography came three summers ago on a cruise with the family. One of the activities we knew we wanted to try was snorkeling. I found out that I didn’t care much for snorkeling itself or at least that I wasn’t very good at it. However, making photographs underwater was incredible. If I’d had more practice, I know I’d have returned with more good images.
My solution for taking a camera underwater was to buy an underwater housing made by Canon for my G9. I was a little nervous but the housing performed flawlessly and I soon felt pretty confident with it. The advantage of a model-specific housing is that every single control on the camera can be manipulated via waterproof buttons and actuators. The housing also included a flash diffuser to make the built in flash work with the housing. This worked out much better than the waterproof disposable film cameras we also had.
Since my trip, I’ve used the housing a few times near my landlocked home. It’s great for shooting when it’s raining or while boating. It also works well for shooting into the water. I am very interested in using it more in freshwater. Several years ago, I assisted a researcher with locating endangered freshwater mussels in a river. Exploring the river with a snorkel and mask was an eye opening experience and I would have gotten some great photos if I’d had the gear at the time. By writing about it, I’m promising myself that I’ll try it this year.
If you’re looking for new and unique subjects, give underwater photography a try. I think you’ll be as amazed as I was at the possibilities.