Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Guest photo of the day: S.


S., originally uploaded by flickpan.
Clean lines, simple poses, soft lighting -- these are the things that make a classic portrait or fine art photograph; and while I love creative, off the wall photographs too, I deeply admire a photographer's ability to capture that timeless quality that defines simple and essential beauty. This fine art photograph is a perfect example, though "flickpan" also has some gorgeous studio-style portraits, too, and some outdoor shots that are fantastic. In fact, it was really hard to choose which photo I like best, to feature for this guest photo. In the end, I chose this one because it most captured both a sense of classical elegance and creative spirit.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Archive photo of the day: Hands-on experience

Hands-on experience by The Bacher Family
Hands-on experience, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.
One of the outreach programs we offer at Mount Rainier National Park is called "CAMP" -- "Camping Adventure with My Parents." It's taken different forms over the years, but has generally involved providing opportunities for camping experiences to families who've never camped in a national park before. So, when you have a first-time camping trip planned, you want everything to go perfectly, right? And as part of that, you want the weather to be ideal--not too hot, not too cold, and certainly not wet. Who likes dealing with a muddy campsite?

Well, as it turns out, the answer to that question is: KIDS! This young lady had the time of her life playing in the mud around her tent, helping to redirect the flow of rainwater around the tent rather than under it. Her parents, to their credit, didn't panic in the wet weather, either. "We brought dry clothes," they said mildly. "It's part of the experience."

I captured this image with a fill flash, and I'm really pleased by the bright colors and high contrast that resulted, with the tent in the background just a little darker, less bright, and out of focus.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Photo of the day: Christmas Jedi

Christmas Jedi by The Bacher Family
Christmas Jedi, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.
Every year, we put up our Christmas tree, and then the boys put their pajamas on and pose in front of the tree. We have a nice series of these photos over the years, as the boys have grown and changed. This time, after taking the standard photo, I thought, why not get creative. "Boys, go get your light sabers," I said. Both David and Daniel are strong with the Force, and have been Jedi Padawan for years. I took several portraits with the lit sabers, but of course nothing looks as spectacular as crossed swords.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Photo of the day: Lacey and Aubrey

Lacey and Aubrey by The Bacher Family
Lacey and Aubrey, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.
I took a lot of pictures at this year's family Thanksgiving gathering, but when I look back through all of them, none catches my eye quite like this one. There's just something very lovely about the expressions on the faces of Lacey and her daughter Aubrey -- Lacey, with that look of infinite love on her face, and Aubrey, with an expression that says she absolutely knows it. In my opinion the very tight crop just adds to the intimacy of the photo.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Archive photo of the day: David on the bus

David on the bus by The Bacher Family
David on the bus, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.
This is one of my all-time favorite photos of my son David. I took this photo as we rode a bus in to Seattle to see the Christmas decorations and the lighting of the city's Christmas tree, just after Thanksgiving. I love the natural lighting on his face from the window, and the casual composition of the photo. It really has the look of being something spontaneous, caught in the moment -- which it was -- and yet it's perfectly lit, with nice catchlights in his eyes and good separation between David and the foreground and background.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Photo of the day: Blue Jack

Blue Jack by The Bacher Family
Blue Jack, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.
I've been attending studio photography classes every week or two this fall, and have been learning amazing things about studio lighting. A lot of this is obvious stuff to someone who's been doing it for a while, I'm sure, but for me, some of it is revelatory. Who knew, for instance, that a perfectly black background would take on a beautiful hue when a colored light is shined against it? I this case, a blue gell over a spotlight with a grid on the front creates a beautiful blue highlight fading to black around the edges. Carefully centered behind the head of a subject (in this case, our instructor, Jack Kegley) wearing a blue shirt, it creates a really nice portrait in which the blue color pulls the image together. Jack's face is lit on the right by a key light, and by a secondary light on the left. Shooting from the dark side of the face narrows the appearance of the face subtly, and the strobes create nice catchlights in the eyes.

Here's another version of the portrait I like just as well. In this case, the highlight behind Jack's head is centered behind the darker side of his face, creating more contrast. He's tured a bit more toward me, and I shot from a higher angle, giving a completely different energy to the shot. This one also has more contrast, because instead of a second light, we used a reflector on the darker side of the face.

IMG_4694_1

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Guest photo of the day: Beautiful Gutter

Beautiful Gutter by i5prof
Beautiful Gutter, a photo by i5prof on Flickr.
I love this colorful image by Julie Akers. As I've said recently myself, I can't resist the alure of a beautiful leaf. I find myself wondering how close to the original color this image is, or if Julie boosted the vibrancy and saturation in photoshop. Either way, it's expertly done, without any of the colors burning out or hiding the textures, and it makes a great patchwork quilt of natural tones!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Archive photo of the day: Autumn in Paradise

What a difference a month makes.

I took this photo in October in 2008, as Mount Rainier enjoyed its first dusting of snow on the upper ridges, and the huckleberries and heathers in the subalpine meadows were turning orange and crimson in the frosty mornings. By November, these same meadows are buried under five feet of rapidly accumulating snow, and the smaller trees are already beginning to disappear. They'll remain buried, in a typical year, for seven months, and in some years eight. But first, they add a beautiful evergreen color to the vivid landscape, below the great Mountain floating on its misty cloud of fog.

This is usually a morning image, by the way, the Mountain making an appearance as the clouds burn off, but in this case it was late afternoon, as you can tell by the shadows, before the fog finally cleared, giving the landscape a warmer and softer hue than you'd see at sunrise.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Photo of the day: Bigleaf Maple

Bigleaf Maple by The Bacher Family
Bigleaf Maple, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.
I'm not sure why I like photos of leaves so much. Maybe it's just because they're often so beautiful, especially in the autumn when they've turned yellow and orange and red, creating splashes of color against the sky or on an otherwise drab forest floor. Maybe there's something metapyhysical about something once so full of life drifting to the ground to slowly return to the earth -- and maybe I'm overreaching for significance where, really, there's only a nice abstract pattern. Regardless of the reason, I do love leaves, and I love it when they make interesting layers of shape and color. This one caught my eye because it's such a bright yellow amid the browns and dark greens of everything else around it. The trick is composing the image in a way that's equally interesting. I chose, in this case, to center the leaf, but oriented at a 45 degree angle. There's no artistic or photographic principle at work -- it just looked good to me. And in the end, that's the standard I rely on most.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Photo of the day: Jim Kennedy

Jim Kennedy by The Bacher Family
Jim Kennedy, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.
This is one of my favorite portraits from my recent studio lighting class. Jim's an excellent photographer in his own right, and, since we didn't have any professional models signed up to work with us, graciously agreed to pose for some of the other members of the class. He and another student were playing around with a pair of lights, one of them a softbox set up camera right, the other an umbrella light almost directly behind the camera. They weren't very satisfied with the results, so I suggested moving the umbrella to camera-left. The results were striking: suddenly the images "popped," almost three-dimensionally, out of the frame. Our instructor, Jack Kegley, wandered by and suggested we improve the image still further by "flagging" the umbrella light so that less of it struck the white background, thus creating more tonal separation from the subject. I'm very pleased with the result. Besides the great lighting, I also love Jim's bright shirt and jacket and the way the colors saturate the image; the great detail I was able to get in his beard and hair (thank you, 50mm prime lens!); and the nice catch lights in his eyes. I'm pleased that there isn't any reflection on the glasses, either. And I even like that he's not grinning into the camera -- the indirect, more thoughtful look is a nice alternative.

Here's the fully-flagged photo. I do like the separation it provides from the background, but I think the expression and catchlights are better in the first image:

IMG_4679_1

And, for good measure, one with a smile. What do you think? Is the smile better than the more thoughtful look above?

IMG_4678_1

Monday, November 14, 2011

Archive photo of the day: Daniel!

(80) Daniel! by The Bacher Family
(80) Daniel!, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.
This is one of my favorite photos of Daniel. On the 3rd of July a few years ago, Daniel and I were outside playing with a magnifying glass, and I demonstrated how to focus the light from the sun to burn holes in a piece of newspaper. Daniel was fascinated by this, and when we were done, he took the piece of newsprint, attached a piece of yarn to it, and made it into a nametag. He wore it that evening as we waited for the local fireworks show to begin. He was proud to show it off for a photo, and the evening light was just perfect. I love the way the light and the shallow depth of field makes the image look three dimensional.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Photo of the day: Eastwood. Kathy Eastwood.

Our fifth class in studio lighting was all about "multi-light setups." We practiced with key lights and secondaries, different placements of the lights, hair lights, reflectors, background spotlights with screens and gels. At the end of the class, after playing with all of the usual setups for an hour and a half, I grabbed one of the unused backdrops and a pair of lights and asked Kathy, the manager of the studio, to model for me. I had a particular "look" I wanted to figure out. It took me a while to get it right, but in the end, wow! Here's the result. I wanted a dramatic look, well-lit but with deep shadows on the face. I only had a vague notion in my mind of what it might look like. I started with two lights, one on either side of my model, then played around with different intensities. Finally, I moved the lights behind Kathy by about 20 degrees on both sides -- and voila, there it was! I asked Kathy to give me her best Clint Eastwood, and the result is phenomenal. I'll let you judge for yourself, but I'm super-pleased with it.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Photo of the day: The Brockmans

The Brockmans by The Bacher Family
The Brockmans, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.
Looking back through my recent photos, I was struck by this image. It's not a technically perfect image -- I wish Randy, in the center of the photo, were a little sharper. But it catches my eye for its unusual composition. The extremely shallow depth of field -- the marvelous f/1.4 of my 50mm prime lens -- focuses the attention entirely on Randy's face, framed between the blurred images of Mary Jane and Bill Brockman in the foreground. The lighting also highlights Randy more than the Brockmans, and the catchlight in Randy's eyes completes the image. The eye is inexorably drawn first to Randy, to his expression, and then to the couple in the foreground to see what he's looking at. Only then do you see the intertwined arms, the look of devotion on Mary Jane's face, and fully understand the picture. It's the kind of shot that reminds me that sometimes an unconventionally composed picture can be the most interesting shot of all, and the one that communicates most effectively.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Photo of the day: Old Friend

Old Friend by The Bacher Family
Old Friend, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.
Lois Kenagy is a woman at my church who is, as you can see, getting along in years. Her husband passed away recently, she's grown forgetful, she's now in a nursing home, and frankly, I think a lot of people think she's a little dotty. There may be a little bit of truth in that, but probably no more so than there ever was -- Lois has always been a progressive voice in a conservative congregation, challenging the rest of us to live up to our professed Christian commitments to tolerance and pacifism. She was active in community service organizations, protested against nuclear weapons, and, when her daughter came out, became a tireless supporter of gay rights. I've always respected her commitments, and I think she's always had her eye on me, since her son Eric, just a year older than me, died in a car-bicycle accident the summer I turned 19, and I get the sense that I remind her of what Eric might have been.

My mission, this weekend at our annual Church Retreat at Drift Creek Camp, was to see if I could capture a little bit of that spark still aflame in Lois's mind despite the slow failure of her body. I'm very pleased with the result, as you can clearly see the sparkle in her eyes in this photo. (She also still reads voraciously -- here, Jimmy Carter's White House Diary.) She may be growing forgetful, but she's absolutely unforgetable.

IMG_4069_1

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Photo of the day: Night glow

Night glow by The Bacher Family
Night glow, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.
At the end of August, we attended the annual Art and Air Festival in Albany, Oregon, which included three days of balloon events. This photo is from the opening "Night Glow," during which balloons don't lift off, but light their envelopes in sequential patterns to create a dazzling light display. This is the balloon that was closest to where we were sitting, so with a tripod, I was able to get some good shots of the balloon lit from within. I wish I'd had a wider-angle lens so I could have captured the entire balloon, but the effect is pretty remarkable nevertheless.

Here are two other images from the evening:

IMG_8893_1

IMG_8929_1

Monday, November 7, 2011

Photo of the day: Suspended in time

Suspended in time by The Bacher Family
Suspended in time, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.
Relaxing at Drift Creek Camp, in the coastal mountains east of Lincoln City, Oregon, I went for a walk in the gray morning light of a late October day. I took a lot of pictures of mushrooms, but this image of a leaf, slowly decaying on the end of its branch, was my favorite of the set. I love the subtle colors of the leaf, the narrow depth of field, with scenery blurred both in front of the leaf and behind it, and the way the light refracts around the twig itself, leaving the leaf suspended both literally and figuratively in time.

Here's another one from the same set that I like, too.

IMG_3838_1

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Photo of the day: Morning hunt

Morning hunt by The Bacher Family
Morning hunt, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.
On my way to work this week, I passed by an artist's studio in Ashford, Washington, caught a glimpse of this image out of the corner of my eye, and promptly turned the car around and went back to take pictures of it. The metal outline of Indians engaged in a buffalo hunt, rimmed with frost and dew in the morning light, caught the light in such an interesting way, and I spent a good ten minutes snapping all kinds of angles and compositions of it. In the end, this is the one I liked the best: the full panorma of the sculpture, against the backdrop of the trees, rimmed with the light of the morning.

Sometimes photography is all about seeing a shot and having your camera ready when it comes along...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Photo of the day: The Gak Monster

The Oobleck Monster by The Bacher Family
The Gak Monster, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.
At Albany Mennonite Church's annual retreat at Drift Creek Camp, in the Coast Range east of Lincoln City, one of the highlights this year was making "gak," a concoction of washable elmer's glue and borax. As you can imagine, it made for some colorful photos, but none that I like better than this one, of young Andrew posing with a creation that matches his own hair! The orange ooze dripping down his arm only makes the picture better, and his spontaneous face is awesome.