Lately, we have been getting phone calls asking if Robinson Noble is doing the calendar again for 2014. For those of you that normally receive a calendar every year, do not worry. The Robinson Noble calendars are currently being printed and should be in the mail soon. The timing of the calendar production is roughly the same as last year. We had intended to get them out a bit earlier this year, but your humble photographer held up the process.
Last year I wrote a blog entry telling a bit about each of the photos on the 2013 calendar. So I thought, “why not do it again for 2014?” So here we are, another year over and another calendar on the way. As many of you know, besides being Robinson Noble’s President, I’m a part-time professional photographer, and all the photos in the Robinson Noble calendar were taken by me (save the one taken of me, which was shot by my son). The process of selecting photos for the calendar every year is fairly complicated (and resulted in the delay on my part for the calendar production this year). Though I have tens of thousands of photographs on the computer, most are not suitable for the calendar. Images for the calendar need to be:
- horizontal, not vertical (to fit our calendar format)
- of a scenic subject matter without people prominent in the shot (so none of my great portrait shots ever make the cut)
- limited to subjects in the Pacific Northwest (someday we may do a special edition with photos from elsewhere, but not in 2014); plus we always try not to get too many shots from the Puget Sound region (which, you might imagine, make up the majority of my photo library since I live in Tacoma)
- are generally taken in the month the image will illustrate (this is more Jim Hay’s rule than mine, but he’s the editor, so he’s the boss)
- are not too similar to images that have appeared in the previous few years
- are not too similar to other photos in the same calendar (we can’t have six sunset shots and six shots with Mount Rainier, for instance)
Taking all this into account can make it difficult to come up with 12, high-quality images every year. This is why I try to take some new photos every month, to keep the supply available for upcoming years. (I shot some great November shots last month, but you’ll have to wait a year to see those, unless you keep up with me on my blog, http://joebeckerphoto.wordpress.com – sorry for the blatant plug of my blog, it just slipped out.)
Winter images are always a challenge. There seems to be some unwritten rule that calendar images for December and January must always contain snow, despite the fact that most years there is very little snow on the ground in the Puget Sound region in December and January. Since, I’m not much of a winter person, this can present a challenge. The image of Mount Rainier for January 2014 (above) was taken in January 2010 from a viewpoint east of White Pass and includes the requisite snow. My wife, Tanya, and I stopped at the viewpoint while on a trip to see the elk at the Oak Creek elk feeding station near Naches. If you like seeing elk, the feeding station is a great place to visit; while there, we were lucky enough to ride on the back of a truck out amongst the elk herd. If you go, bring your camera!
But back to the image of Rainier, the challenge to a photograph like this is that it was taken in the middle of the day. Often the light present in mid-day is not very good for photography. A high, overhead sun creates flat lighting. However, in this case, being in the middle of winter, the sun was low in the sky and was diffused by a high overcast, which created a beautiful light on the mountain. A zoom lens helped remove clear cuts in the foreground, and allowed me to really bring the mountain into the image.
February’s image was taken at Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island last February. Earlier this year, I published a digital (ebook) photographic guidebook of Seattle. As part of that book, I included the ferry trips to Bainbridge Island and Bremerton. In February, the book was mostly written, yet I did not have any decent photos from the Bainbridge trip I described in the book. So Tanya, our dog Carson (who sadly recently passed away), and I hopped aboard the Bainbridge Island ferry one Sunday in February. (If you want to gain attention on a ferry, try taking a 140-pound dog on board.) I wasn’t very hopeful for a good shot as it was a very gray day with temperatures in the low 40s. We arrived at Bainbridge and did a walking tour of Winslow. While down near Eagle Harbor, we were lucky enough to have the sun come out briefly, which provided some nice light on the boats in the marina, where this image was taken. I particularly liked the reflection of the Jaida Marie. You can see more images from that little trip on my blog. (Oh no! Another blatant plug.)
The Tacoma Narrows is featured in the March image. This photo was taken in March 2009 from the Fox Island Fishing Dock, informally known as the “concrete dock.” Living at the time on the Gig Harbor peninsula near Fox Island, I had been to the dock several times and liked the view up the Narrows toward the Narrows Bridges. I think the view of the Narrows there is very unusual, with the two bridges lining up, appearing almost as a single bridge. In fact, I’ve had people tell me this shot cannot be of the Narrows, because there is only one bridge shown. Anyway, on this particular March weekend, we had unsettled weather, which often makes for good images. Hoping for a bit of sun on the water, I drove to the concrete dock and was not disappointed. I love how clean and colorful the water looked at the time, attributes not often seen in Puget Sound during warmer months.
The Skagit Valley is famous for its tulips. And while our calendar did feature a daffodil field from the valley a few years back, it has not had one of the tulip fields. This fact solicited a trip up to Mount Vernon and La Conner last April, again with Tanya and Carson. I am not a fan of big crowds, and I know the tulips really gather hordes of admirers. So we purposely chose to visit on a weekday instead of weekend. As it turned out, rain was threatening, so the crowds were relatively small. It’s hard not to come away with any number of great shots from the tulip fields (see more images here). A trick for good photographs when the sky is overcast, like it was that particular April day, is to limit the amount of sky in your image because the sky is so much lighter in tone than things on the ground. In this image, I needed to include some sky, as I also wanted the barn in the background. But with a little work on the computer, I was able to darken it up to show some detail.
May’s image is of Latourell Falls in Oregon. This image was taken in May 2009 during a visit I made to my friend, professional photographer Jack Graham. We spent two days photographing the Columbia River gorge. Jack, who regularly leads photographic workshops in the area, led me to many great sites, though I was already familiar with Latourell Falls and had photographed there previously. With tall waterfalls, such as these, the tendency is to try and include the full length of the falls in the photo. Yet, I’ve found that more pleasing images often only include a portion of the falls, typically the bottom, and that was the case here. When photographing waterfalls, I like to use fairly long exposures to blur the water; in this case, the shutter speed was one second.
In 2012 Tanya, Carson and I made a trip to the Palouse region specifically to capture spring time in the heart of the Pacific Northwest’s farm country. An image from this trip was included in the 2013 Robinson Noble calendar. June’s image from 2014 is from the same trip. Featured this year is the Freeze Community Church outside of Potlatch, Idaho. While Tanya and Carson slept at our motel in Colfax, I got up before sunrise to drive to Steptoe Butte, then on to the Freeze Church to capture some morning light. I ended up spending several hours around the church, capturing it from many different angles (on my blog, I used 24 photos from the church to illustrate how to completely cover a subject). This image, from the cemetery next to the church, was one of my favorites from the shoot.
July’s image is of Mount Baker and the Dungeness Lighthouse. I shot the image in July 2011. At the time, Tanya and I were spending the day on the northern Olympic peninsula, mainly to photograph some of the lavender fields. However, knowing that the view from the Dungeness Spit lines up Mount Baker with the lighthouse, I wanted to capture the shot at sunset. One problem: the viewpoint is approximately ½ mile from the parking lot, and the trail closes at sunset. To make matters worse, there was a park ranger hanging out at the trailhead that day. We got there about an hour before sunset, and I quickly hiked with my gear to the viewpoint. As sunset approached, a fog bank started rolling in from the Straits of Juan de Fuca. This particular image was shot about 15 minutes before sunset, and shortly after it was shot, the fog took away the view of the mountain. I ran back to the car, quite out of breath, reaching the parking lot just as the ranger closed the trail.
The image for August is from Cannon Beach, Oregon and was taken last August. Every August, the Becker clan (I have four sisters and two brothers, each with spouses, kids, etc.; it’s a big clan) gathers for a weekend, and in 2013, we chose Cannon Beach. I wasn’t’ doing much photography that weekend, but I did have one goal in mind – a sunset shot without the famous Cannon Beach icon, Haystack Rock. Using a great little piece of software, The Photographers Ephemeris, I was able to determine where the sun would set relative to some rocky islands off shore. Getting the shot was just a matter of walking to that spot on the beach just before sunset and setting up the tripod.
September’s image is yet another sunset shot; I’m not sure how Jim allowed the calendar to have three sunset shots in a row. Perhaps it is because they are quite different in character and location. The September image is from near Harts Pass in the North Cascades. The Harts Pass area is the highest elevation you can drive to in the state of Washington. The pass itself is at about 6,200 feet above sea level. The road ends, just above where this photo was taken, at approximately 7,200 feet. Tanya, Carson and I were camping in the area, and I scouted the location for this shot earlier in the day. Come sunset time, I drove from our campground to my selected location and collected a lot of good shots.
The October image is also from the North Cascades, though a good distance away from Harts Pass (which is accessed from Mazama, on the east side of the mountains). October’s image was taken at Picture Lake near the Mount Baker ski area (also known as Heather Meadows), accessed, of course, from Bellingham. The featured mountain is Mount Shuksan. The shot of Shuksan with Picture Lake prominent in the foreground (typically with a reflection of the mountain) is an iconic image of Washington. (Don’t believe me? Try doing a Google image search of “Mount Shuksan”). The October 2012 day I was there, a slight breeze rippled the lake water preventing the reflection seen in many so many photos. I typically try to find other compositions other than those repeated ad nauseam, and in this case, I like this shot much better than the iconic one. The fall colors were great in Heather Meadows in 2012, but only visible for a couple weeks before being covered with snow. I was lucky to be able to see them.
A cold Snoqualmie Falls is the November image. I captured this shot in November 2011 during one of those occasional cold spells the Puget Sound region experiences every winter. That year, we had a few inches of snow followed by several days of below freezing weather. I knew the waterfall should be quite beautiful with snow and ice, and I wasn’t disappointed. The only problem was that the mist from the falls had encased much of the viewpoint area in a thick sheet of ice, causing the closure of the best viewpoints. When I was in college, I had a field-geology professor who said “No trespassing signs really say, ‘Geologists welcome.’” Well, photographers are a lot like geologists, and especially for me since I’m both. Glancing around to make sure no one was looking, I stepped around the closed sign and walked down to the prime viewpoint to capture this shot.
The final image on the 2014 Robinson Noble calendar is of downtown Seattle. Normally a photo of Seattle wouldn’t make the December page because such images lack the requisite snow (see above). However, the snow covered Cascades are visible in the background of this image, so it technically does follow the unwritten snow rule. This was shot on the first day of winter in 2012 while on a photo outing to capture images for my Seattle guidebook. It was taken from the Belvedere viewpoint in West Seattle. It was a fantastic day in Seattle that day, and I was able to capture lots of good shots for my book. With the sun, I knew an afternoon shot from Belvedere would be good–having the fire boat practicing was just icing on the cake.
Having to come up with 12 new images every year is challenging, a real monkey on my back. Which brings me to the last photo in the 2014 calendar I’d like to tell you about, the photo of me with a monkey on my back (clever segue, don’t you agree?). My son, Brooks, took this photo. As you might guess, it was not taken in the Pacific Northwest. Can you guess where it was taken? Leave a comment on the blog with your guess as to where it was taken, and I’ll send a copy of my ebook Scenic Seattle, the Best Spots – Best Shots Guide to Photographing the Emerald City to the first person with the correct answer.