Well, it December once again, and that means the new Robinson Noble calendars will soon be in the mail. If you receive a calendar from us, you know that I take all the photos for the calendar. This gives our calendar a special niche, separating it from other calendars that are given out this time of year. While we could populate our calendar with images of drill rigs and backhoes, we prefer Pacific Northwest scenic images so that our clients might be more tempted to hang the calendar on their walls and remember us throughout the year. Besides, I prefer taking scenic subjects to backhoes.
As part of the annual calendar process, I present the upcoming twelve images in a blog post with “the story behind the images.” Below are the stories for the 2017 images.
I’ve mentioned in previous years, there is an unwritten rule that January and December calendar images need to contain snow. As I am not a big fan of winter, I don’t take a lot of photos of snowy conditions. So this year, on February 1st, I made sure I went on a snowshoeing trip with the goal of getting one or two calendar-worthy shots. And this trip was well worth it, turning out to be a goldmine for potential calendar photos.
I went with a friend to Mount Rainier National Park without a specific destination other than to get out on our snowshoes and take some pictures. Halfway up to Paradise, we stopped where the road crosses the Nisqually River. We took a few pictures from the bridge looking down onto the river valley. Here the river forms a braided channel across the valley floor. With snow, this boulder strewn floodplain becomes a beckoning white flat land, perfect for snowshoeing. So we walked down into the valley. We couldn’t hike more than about a mile without attempting a river crossing, which we decided against, but the scenery was excellent and I took a multitude of shots of the braided river channels crossing this winter wonderland, including the shot we used for January.
Recently, I published a book about touring and photographing Seattle (available from me here or through most booksellers, including Amazon). In the book, I also covered the Winslow area of Bainbridge Island. When I was preparing the book, I didn’t have any decent photographs of Winslow, so one February day my wife, Tanya, and I took our dog on a ferry ride from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island. Our dog is a Newfoundland, weighing in at 145 pounds; she was a great hit with the other ferry passengers. When we reached Bainbridge, we walked down along the Winslow waterfront and then back through town. Though February, there was a hint that spring was coming soon, including this cherry tree by the harbor. I like the image for the delicate cherry blossoms just starting to appear extending a hope of warmer days to come. That trip turned out to be very lucrative. On our walk, I also took a photograph of a stack of colorful kayaks. Earlier this year, I sold a license of that image for several thousand dollars to an art dealer in San Francisco for use at a hotel in Florida.
Fishing boats are a favorite subject of mine. Luckily there are lots of good places in the Pacific Northwest with good working-boat harbors. One of the best is in Newport, Oregon. One thing nice about photographing fishing boats, you can take good photos in almost any kind of weather. That was the case here. The morning I took this shot, it was cold with low clouds and a light rain – not the type of weather to take nice scenic shots of the Oregon coast. But in Newport harbor, plenty of good photographic opportunities could be found.
April’s photo is also on the coast, but up in Washington. Every April I participate in the arts show at Ocean Shores. The day this photo was taken, I was in Ocean Shores with my son, Brooks (who took the “monkey on my back” photo in the calendar), to drop off prints for the art show. After dropping them off, we didn’t want to drive back home right away, so we drove up the coast looking for a beach to walk on. We went to the beach at Moclips, but I didn’t find much photographic inspiration there. Driving back south again, we stopped at Griffiths-Priday Ocean State Park just outside the town of Copalis Beach. I had never been to this state park before, and as it was near sunset, was looking for a good subject.
The beach here, like most the beaches north of Grays Harbor and south of Point Grenville, is broad and sandy. In fact, the beach at Griffiths-Priday Ocean State Park is even broader than most. While I like walking on such wide, sandy beaches, I find it difficult to get scenic shots on them. But the interesting thing at Griffiths-Priday Ocean State Park is that is where the Copalis River enters the Pacific Ocean. And the river doesn’t just run straight into the ocean, but instead, just about 1,500 feet from the beach, the river makes a 90-degree bend from flowing east to north, almost paralleling the shoreline for a mile or more through the state park until it finally turns westward and flows into the ocean. Closer to the shoreline, a smaller, though still sizable, unnamed stream follows the same pattern, running north paralleling the beach. Instead of turning directly west, however, this stream eventually bends almost 180 degrees back to the south before then turning 90 degrees west to the ocean. The state park parking lot is between the stream and the river.
From the parking lot, you cannot get quickly to the beach unless you want to wade across the stream, which I had no desire to do on a cold early April evening. A trail from the parking lot runs through old dunes, paralleling the stream, and slightly above the beach. The April photo was taken along that trail, where I positioned myself so the setting sun was above a smaller branch of the stream (that was following the same pattern of flowing north before turning south and west). The curve in the stream was exactly the type of feature I was looking for to make a “sandy-beach” shot more visually interesting.
May’s photo is of Palouse Falls. Last year I went there for several days with a fellow photographer specifically to take images of Palouse Falls at night with the Milky Way. We were there two nights. The first night, I got a good shot with the falls and the stars (which you can see here). To take the image, my friend lit up the falls with a giant flashlight (6 million candlepower) from the main viewpoint area, while I tripped the shutters on our cameras from a spot close to where this calendar photo was taken. I was very happy with the result. But you will not see it on our calendar anytime soon because I didn’t get one in horizontal format.
The second day I hoped for more clear skies to try again, this time focusing on horizontal compositions. But as the day grew, the skies became cloudy. No Milky Way shots that night. However, all was not lost, the clouds gave us nice sunset shots, like the one used on the calendar. Not a bad consolation prize.
Last June, I took a day trip to Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park. It was kind of misty at the beach; not the best photography conditions. So we decided to go into the Hoh rain forest and come back to the beach at sunset for hopefully less low clouds. The plan actually worked, the low clouds were mostly gone at sunset. Unfortunately the sunset itself wasn’t very good.
This photo was taken on our drive into the Hoh. Unless you live on the coast, you don’t see the Olympic Mountains from the west very often. As we drove past this spot where you could see both the mountains and the Hoh River, I knew I wanted to capture the mountains from this angle, so we turned the car around and pulled over. There is nothing special to this shot; it is one anyone could take. I shot from the roadside for a few minutes, and we continued on to the rain forest. This quick shot from the roadside was one of the better shots of the day.
This image of Mount Adams was taken on a hike Tanya and I took with our dog in 2010. It was a partly cloudy day, though the hike was mostly in the sun. You couldn’t see the mountain until near the end of the hike when the trail left the forest. The clouds seemed to be rolling over the top of the mountain. I liked the look and went searching for a nice foreground. We were near the tree line, and I found this area of miniature trees in a boulder field. I really liked the look of these trees and made a lot of photographs here. The tree in the foreground is only about 18 inches tall, but I’m sure it is many years old. After we got back to the car, we drove to Takalakh Lake to eat a picnic dinner and for me to take some photos of the lake and Mount Adams at sunset.
Photographically, the trip was very successful. One of the images from the lake was on the calendar in 2012. I’ve always liked this present image very much and hoped we would put it on the calendar someday; it finally made it for 2017.
The image for August was taken from Lyle, Washington – a small town in the Columbia River Gorge. Tanya and I were there for a family reunion. We were staying at an Airbnb with a view down the river. I have an app that shows where the moon (and sun) will rise and set, and using it, I knew a crescent moon would be setting straight down the gorge the night of the family reunion. So we left a bit early so I could take this shot, which I took from the deck of our room.
Technically, this was a very difficult photograph to make. I made the shot considerably after sunset, so it was quite dark. Even so, the contrast been the sky and river was large, and it was difficult to capture detail in both with one exposure. Because of the light conditions, a long exposure time was needed. However, long exposures caused the moon and star (actually probably a planet, most likely Venus) to be blurred (due to the earth’s rotation). To make matters worse, the wind was blowing hard, as it often does in the gorge. For this image, I ended combining a 2-second exposure of the sky and 10-second exposure of the land and river into a single image (10 seconds was long enough to cause motion blur on the moon and planet).
Because it is so dark, the image is also technically difficult to print. And, unfortunately, the image did not print well in the calendar, with the land and river being much too dark. I was concerned about that when we decided to use this image, but the proof from the printer came back looking good. However, something happened when the actual calendar print run was made, and I am not happy with the results. The image presented here in the blog is much more true to what I saw and what the image on the calendar should look like.
I love shooting in the Palouse. Spring brings wonderful greens, and late summer brings delightful golden yellows. Last year, on a trip to Spokane to see my Dad, we left Tacoma in early morning so we could spend the afternoon driving the backroads of the Palouse before heading up to Spokane for the evening. The weather was great for photography, mostly sunny, but with lots of interesting clouds.
I love to just drive on random back roads through the Palouse looking for interesting subjects. And if I have a lot of time, I will do just that. But in this case, we only had a few hours in the afternoon, so I went with Plan B – using a photographer’s map. There are two photographer’s maps of the Palouse – one is free from the Pullman Chamber of Commerce and the other costs $25 from a photographer named Teri Lou Dantzler. Both show locations of barns, lone trees, viewpoints, windmills, and more. Though different in format, both are nearly identical in content, and Teri Lou claims the Chamber of Commerce copied her map. I have both maps, and I think Teri Lou has a case.
Even when using the maps, you cannot tell if the light will be good for any particular shot; some subjects photograph better in morning light and some better in evening. Plus, some of the barns, other structures, and lone trees on the maps have fallen down. So, even with the maps, you still need to search for good subjects. However, when the maps directed us to this tree, I know I had a winner. I hope you agree.
As with the unwritten “snow” rule for December and January, it seems there is an unwritten “autumn color” rule for October. This is a harder rule to follow, because the colorful autumn foliage season is short and colorful autumn foliage is less common in the Pacific Northwest than other parts of the country.
In search of fall colors, Tanya and I took a trip in October 2015 to Silverton, Oregon, which is about 10 miles north of Silver Falls State Park. I’ve seen beautiful photographs of Silver Falls State Park for years and decided I had to go. I was not disappointed. Though the water falls in the park had small flows because of the time of year, the trees were beautiful, and I came home with many wonderful images. In addition to visiting the state park, I made a big looping drive through the central Oregon Cascades and found some other colorful spots, and one of these images may show up in a future Robinson Noble calendar.
The featured shot here is of Middle North Falls, a several mile hike into the park along the Trail of Ten Falls. Considered the “crown jewel” of Oregon State Parks, the park covers over 9,000 acres. Hopefully I can get back again soon in the spring time when the falls will have a higher flow.
November is always a tough month for me to do a lot of photography. Normally, with work and chores at home, it is hard for me to find time to take pictures. But with a short month and family holiday obligations, November is especially hard. Also the weather is usually rainy and cold; the lowlands just look sadly wet, and the highlands don’t have much snow yet.
Several years ago, Tanya and I made a weekend trip to Port Townsend with friends. According to Tanya, this was not to be a “photography trip” but a “friend trip.” In other words, I could take my camera, but photography was not to control the agenda. During the weekend, the four of us were strolling in downtown Port Townsend after lunch, doing a little shopping. I snuck off and went up to the harbor with my camera where I captured this image of a wooden boat. I was especially taken by the reflection. After this and a few other quick shots, I returned to Water Street and found Tanya and our friends. They barely know I had been gone.
As I’ve mentioned – snow is required for a December image. This photograph was taken at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park and was actually shot in January. The snow pack was very low that winter. We had gone up to Hurricane Ridge to go snowshoeing, and after an afternoon tromping around in the snow, we stayed for sunset. The road closes at dusk, so I stayed near the parking lot in case a ranger came and told us to leave. Sure enough, just as I was starting to pack up my gear, the ranger stopped and shooed us out. It was not the first time I’ve been asked to leave by a park ranger and probably not the last.
Any of these images are for sale as fine-art prints. If you enjoy my photography, please visit my blog at joebeckerphoto.wordpress.com or my website at seldomseenphoto.com. I can be contacted at either, or by leaving a comment here.