Friday, March 30, 2012

Archive photo of the day: Signs of Spring

Signs of Spring by The Bacher Family
Signs of Spring, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

It's a measure of how much later spring is this year that our red-flowering currants on March 30th aren't anywhere near as fully in bloom as they were on March 25th when I took this photo last year. And last year was considered a late spring, too! But then this March has seen above-average rainfall AND snowfall, even at low elevations, and, again unlike this photo, almost no sunny days at all.

I love the backlighting and background bokeh in this photo. It really captures one of the things I love most about spring: the beautiful light that comes with it. I'm looking forward to the arrival of that beautiful light, someday, this year!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Photo of the day: Kimber 525

Kimber 525 by The Bacher Family
Kimber 525, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

This is by far the most unusual image of the photo session, and probably not exactly the image that Kimber was going for... but it works in one of those unexpectedly wonderful ways. For me, it's the unguarded expression, the slightly disheveled hair falling across the mask, the slightly contorted pose, the direct gaze with one eye lit with a catchlight, the other in shadow, that together make this a much less posed and ultimately much truer portrait than it would be otherwise.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Photo of the day: Kimber 484

Kimber 484 by The Bacher Family
Kimber 484, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.
The lighting works so very well on this set, highlighting the blonde hair against the black background and shading the curves of the skin and mask. What makes this particular image work so well for me, though, is the pose, and that's entirely Kimber's work, not mine. The intense look, the folded arms, the open hand, the parted lips, all make this a wonderfully sensual portrait, and I love the over-the-shoulder, upper-body composition.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Photo of the day: Elizabeth 221

Elizabeth 221 by The Bacher Family
Elizabeth 221, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

Here's an image of Elizabeth that's truly desaturated, not black and white or near-black and white but actually in color, just tweaked for interesting emphasis. Specifically, and you can guess this from looking at the image, I chose to highlight the reds of the skin and drape, and the blue of the eyes, and withdraw color from everything else. It creates a very interesting sense of heightened reality with a wonderful texture. The tight framing really works in this composition, too.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Guest photo of the day: The Wembley Way

The Wembley Way by optickarma
The Wembley Way, a photo by optickarma on Flickr.

This is the most awesome photo I've seen in a while: a 15-second exposure of fans streaming out of a football stadium in England. Among other great features, the still horseback riders in the foreground, around which the lights of the crowd break like waves, really anchor this image and elevate it from great to extraordinary.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Photo of the day: Kimber 330

Kimber 330 by The Bacher Family
Kimber 330, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

More of Kimber Collins... we had four lighting setups in the studio, and four models, and after everyone had a chance to practice with each model, they all rotated counter-clockwise to the next lighting setup and the photographers went around again. Here, instead of a black backdrop, Kimber was posed against white; and instead of the strongly directional lighting in the last setup, this one was more balanced. Still, you have to have a brighter key light and dimmer secondary to create dimension. One thing that really works for me about this image is that the brighter light is in the direction she's facing, yet she's looking over her shoulder, so you get the bright light on the face, with vivid color in the blue mask and red lips, contrasted against the darker shadows on her shoulder. The contrast of bright and subtle color really works for me.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Photo of the day: Elizabeth 239bw

Elizabeth 239bw by The Bacher Family
Elizabeth 239bw, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

I've had a wonderful time playing with images from my photoshoot with Elizabeth a few weeks ago, converting them to "black and white" and focusing on line and tone rather than color. I put "black and white" in quotes because, interestingly, in this case I found it more interesting to do the conversion through severe reduction in color saturation rather than true conversion to grayscale. With a model like Elizabeth whose skin is so pale but whose lips are so red, this creates the wonderful effect of being mostly shades of black, but with hints of brighter colors here and there, literally fleshing out the photo and giving it some added dimension.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Photo of the day: Kimber 483

Kimber 483 by The Bacher Family
Kimber 483, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

Another of the models we worked with at this month's photo class was Kimber Collins. In contrast to Elizabeth, whose face is more angular, the light creates beautiful shading on the curves of Kimber's face and shoulders. Combine that with blonde hair, a black background, and a matching mask, and you get a fantastically beautiful image. This is my favorite shot of the night.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Photo of the day: Elizabeth 240

Elizabeth 240 by The Bacher Family
Elizabeth 240, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

Every month or two, I attend a photo class in Puyallup. The subject of this month's class was portraits -- with the added challenge of capturing a model's personality despite much of the face being hidden by a mask. I've worked with this model before, and Elizabeth can always be counted on to deliver something classic and elegant. I love how expressive her eyes are, and how much the mask focuses attention on them.

I took a lot of photos from farther back, but consistently the best images are those that pull in close, to capture the exquisite details in the face and the wonderful textures of the masks.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Archive photo of the day: Trail Heroes

Trail Heroes by The Bacher Family
Trail Heroes, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

Here's another blast from the past, selected because it's one of the inaugural images on Mount Rainier National Park's new Flickr site! Check it out at You can also contribute your own photos to the official Mount Rainier National Park Group at

In November of 2006, 18 inches of rain fell on Mount Rainier National Park in 36 hours. The resulting floods devastated roads, trails, and campgrounds throughout the park. Mount Rainier's main entrance road was closed for six months during the repairs. Some of the first to return were volunteers, who contributed more than 80,000 hours of work to the park in 2007. This was our first volunteer group of the year, a team of REI employees who did general maintenance on the Trail of the Shadows and, more importantly, symbolically kicked off the Mount Rainier Recovery Project. They were led by crew leaders (in white hats) from the Student Conservation Association.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Archive photo of the day: Flowers in the fog

Flowers in the fog by The Bacher Family
Flowers in the fog, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

For the first day of spring, a day in which it snowed all the way down to our home elevation at 920 feet above sea level, a trip down memory lane to warmer times.

Of course, in Washington, it's worth remembering that even the riotous flowers of summer often bloom under cover of clouds and fog -- especially at high elevations. I took this photo during a memorable hike to Spray Park in August of 2007, a day that began with nice sun breaks but ended up fogged in in the high country, with no hint of the grand Mountain on the horizon. Still, clouds turn the sky into one enormous softbox, and the colors can be even more vibrant than on a sunny day when they're washed out by the sun.

I especially like this picture because of its many layers -- the sharply focused lupines and painbrush in the foreground, the out of focus bistorts behind them, and the subalpine firs fading into the fog in the background.

Here's another photo of flowers saturated with color from that day's trek:

A spray of lupines

Monday, March 19, 2012

Photo of the day: Snow on the Alder Hills

Snow on trees is a study in contrasts, and in the low light of a winter's morning with low clouds drifting through the treetops, it's a monochromatic scene that begs for the simple geometry of black and white. Looking over several versions of this image to choose my favorite, it really comes down to an intuitive sense of balance: the whiter deciduous trees in the lower left foreground balancing with the whispy white clouds in the upper right, the whole set creating multiple layers stretching away into the distance.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Photo of the day: The Hills of old Reliance

Looking across Alder Lake, the low foothills of the Cascades rise into a snowy morning. As I thought about what to title this picture, I wondered, what are the official names of those hills? Do they have a name? Surely they do, and I'm sure if I asked the right person they'd tell me right off. The topo maps don't say, though the highest hill -- probably out of the frame to the left of this image -- is labeled Reliance Hill, elevation about 1600 feet or so. That reminded me that, in fact, there once were two towns in this valley, Alder and Reliance, which were submerged under the reservoir that formed behind the Alder and LaGrande Dams.

Regardless of what they're called, these hills are beautiful in the morning snow with the clouds moving in and out among their peaks. The homes at their base look small in comparison. It truly is a Northwest landscape, starkly beautiful in color, and even more starkly defined in black and white.

Here's the same image in color. Which one do you like best?


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Photo of the day: Mid-winter in Alder Lake Park

There's little more austere than a stretch of alder trees in the middle of winter... unless it's that same scene doubled by its reflection in the still water of Alder Lake. This is Alder Lake Park, in fact, a small picnic area and wading beach in the summer time but abandoned to the elements in mid-winter. Still, there's a stark and quiet beauty to the scene as the snow drifts across the surface of the lake, barely enough to ripple its surface but just enough to make the distant peaks fade a bit into the fog.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Photo of the day: The slow drip of spring

This time of year, even as the snow falls, the sun comes out between the clouds and sparkles on a drop of water dripping from last night's accumulation on a blade of dry grass. Capturing it all was a fun challenge that required a lot of patience, waiting for just the right combination of light and focus at the precise moment when the drop of water was full but hadn't yet dripped off the end of the leaf. Once it had, it was another couple of minutes before the drop formed again and I could make another attempt. I even caught the drip in the middle of falling, twice, though the high shutter speed required to catch it made such a wide aperture necessary that it was difficult to keep all the elements of the photo in focus. In the end, this is my favorite of the set, with that transcendant light shining through the translucent leaf and refracting through the drop of water at its tip.

Here's a wider shot that I like just as well:


And finally, the holy grail of shots, a perfectly formed globe of water actually suspended in mid air as it plunges from the tip of the leaf:


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Photo of the day: Receding shoreline

Deep focus
Receding shoreline, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.
On my way home from dropping Daniel off at school one morning I stopped by Alder Lake to snap a few shots of the lakeshore in snow, with the clouds moving moodily in and out of the hills. I took a lot of different shots, focusing (no pun intended) on trying to get both foreground and background elements in focus in the picture: nearby grass and stumps and rocks, distant trees and hills. The one that feels most successful to me is this one, with the snow-frosted grass in the foreground in sharp focus, and the snowy hills in the background equally sharp. I took a whole series of pictures with different focus setting on my narrowest aperture in order to find the perfect setting that would capture the widest range of focus.

I like this example, too, with the rough edge of the lake reaching away toward the trees in the distance.

The stark lines and contrasts of winter ended up looking even better in black and white than they did in color.

Receding shoreline by The Bacher Family

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Photo of the day: Artist at work

Artist at work by The Bacher Family
Artist at work, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

Daniel's latest project for school was to create an African mask and shield. We bought him a large sheet of cardboard and some paints, and when he told me he was going to start working on the project, I said OK, I'll come downstairs and help you with it in a little bit. When I walked in ten minutes later he was already deep into the project, sprawled on the kitchen floor. My favorite photo from the set was this one, using forced perspective to emphasize the reach of Daniel's arm as he puts the final touches on his work.

Sometimes the right perspective is the most important thing to look for when you're photographing a subject. Do you get in close and use a wide angle, or do you stand back and zoom in? Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and alters the look of the scene in different ways. I'm pleased with the choice of close up and wide angle on this shot.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Photo of the day: Real science

Real science by The Bacher Family
Real science, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

Another great image of my son's fellow students, busy conducting real science along the Nisqually River in February. They look (and are) so serious about the work they're doing, and I love the way the cloudy weather (with a few showers sprinkled in, that did nothing to dampen the kids' enthusiasm) creates great even lighting and enhances the opportunities for shallow depth of field shots.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Photo of the day: Young scientist

Young scientist by The Bacher Family
Young scientist, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

I got to serve as a chaperone for a field trip by Daniel's class in February, across the road from his school and down a little trail through the woods to the edge of the Nisqually River. Twice a year the 5th and 6th grade students in his Summit Class conduct water testing on the river, checking for dissolved oxygen, nitrates, turbidity, pH, and other factors. I was so impressed and proud of the kids, who dived into the project with the care and seriousness of real scientists. I wandered among the subgroups of kids taking pictures. This is one of my favorites, of a young scientist inspecting her sample with an expression that appears to be a mix of interest and satisfaction.

Here's another one:

Young scientists

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Photo of the day: Hoya bella

Hoya bella by The Bacher Family
Hoya bella, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

I photographed this beautiful and delicate set of flowers in the home of my friend Crow as we were practicing with off-camera flash lighting. The plant is located next to a large window, so there's quite a bit of light from that source, the flash just filling in on the other side. I like the perspective, shooting from underneath with the rest of the plant out of focus in the background, though it would also have been fun to spend a little more time looking at ways to isolate the lighting of the flowers so that the background disappeared into the dark (like this: I shot this image lying down on my back looking up.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Photo of the day: Lee

Lee by The Bacher Family
Lee, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

With Lee looking so sharp in her black tuxedo, I wanted to take a few portraits outside as well as inside, especially since her suit kind of blended in with the black background in the studio shots. The snowy landscape along the Nisqually River made a great backdrop, and frankly, if it hadn't been so cold, we'd probably have taken more photos out here. The gray skies made for great even lighting, too. After a few more traditional images, I took this final shot from a low angle, giving her a much more imposing look. The unusual perspective makes it my favorite of the set.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Photo of the day: Choices

Choices by The Bacher Family
Choices, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

Don't we all feel this way sometimes?

Two of the props in our toy box for the Valentine's Day luncheon were little rubber ducks, one of them a red devil with horns, the other a sweet pink bird and the message "kiss me." It was too good an opportunity to pass up a chance to stage the classic dilemma of having an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other whispering in your ear. Who to listen to? To add to the effect, I erased the "kiss me" from the pink ducky and replaced it with a nice little halo. Isn't she devilishly sweet?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Photo of the day: Future's so bright

Future's so bright by The Bacher Family
Future's so bright, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

As we finished our Valentine's Day luncheon and were beginning to wrap up, Lee discovered a string of Christmas lights tucked into a corner, and promptly draped them around her neck for a final photograph. I took the first picture with the flash, but it cancelled out the effect, so this one was taken entirely with available light, including the light from the nearby window and the amber glow of the string around her neck. Combined with the tuxedo and shades, it makes a fantastically surreal effect.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Photo of the day: Follow your heart

Follow your heart by The Bacher Family
Follow your heart, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

What can I say? I have friends that are creative and a little odd. It is just two of those things we have in common!

Need more proof? Here you go:


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Photo of the day: Me

Me by The Bacher Family
Me, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

Along with clever and creative pictures, I thought it would be a good idea, while I had the lights set up, to also get some more traditional portaits of myself in my National Park Ranger uniform. I'm really pleased with how these came out.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Photo of the day: Framed

Framed by The Bacher Family
Framed, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

As we took Valentine's Day portraits, I of course had to get a few of myself, too! My friend Crow triggered the shutter, but the lighting and pose are my own. I'm pleased with how this "self-portrait" turned out. And yes, the off-center frame is both intentional and metaphorical.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Photo of the day: My friend the Crow

My friend the Crow by The Bacher Family
My friend the Crow, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

As we set up for the Valentine's Party, my good friend Crow obliged me by posing for innumerable photographs as I set up the lights and tried out different settings and placements. Along the way, I got some fine portraits of her. I really like these that involve strong and dramatic side lighting, as it really emphasizes the solitary and strong personality that Crow has. There's a dignity about them that I like very much.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Photo of the day: MiG

MiG by The Bacher Family
MiG, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

Another favorite image from the Valentine's Day party: Fawn Bauer and her husband Chuck Young, Chief Ranger at Mount Rainier National Park. They took some silly poses together, after which I suggested they do some more serious ones. "OK," said Chuck, "but I have to be wearing these cool shades." Fawn, of course, put some on to match him. The pose was my own suggestion, but try as she might, Fawn could not stop laughing long enough to strike a serious expression. I have several tries in which she's half-smirking, but the best image is this one, in a moment where she'd given up on containing her overbubbling amusement. Her laugh makes a great contrast to the stern expression of her husband.

It's like Men in Black. Except green.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Photo of the day: True love

True love by The Bacher Family
True love, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

Out of all the portraits I took at the staff Valentine's Day luncheon, this is the one I love the most. The couple had a great time trying on hats and other props to get their look just right, but the pose was spontaneous. Sometimes, when you're photographing people, a bell goes off in your head saying "red alert! Snap the picture NOW!" That was the case here, and I'm so glad I captured the moment, because it's so sweet, with her classically romantic pose and his half-embarrassed, half-delighted expression in response.

On a semi-related note, this is a perfect blog photo for today because it's my wife's and my 16th Anniversary. Happy anniversary, Kelli! Thanks for making it so sweet!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Photo of the day: Prom king

Prom king by The Bacher Family
Prom king, a photo by The Bacher Family on Flickr.

Jim Hinote is such a classy guy. I love photographing him because he's so photogenic, with those classic rugged looks and great smile. All he needs in this photo is a letter on his letterman jacket!

Jim's led a very interesting life. He's been a cruise director, a park ranger, and an actor on (among others) Hawaii Five-O. Some say he may even be the most interesting man in the world.