Bird Photography for Humans

This post was originally written to assist people with a bird photography contest. I hope you learn something! Please let me give you some general tips on how to improve your bird photography.

Get Eye Level
If you want to create a compelling bird photo, you have to get on the bird’s level. Exceptions exist, of course, but the majority of photos of birds high in trees or sitting down on the ground are more suited for bird identification than contests.

If you want a great bird photo, you have to get it from the bird’s perspective. Be the bird. Get dirty (bend over, lay on the ground, stoop). Do what it takes to get on the same plane as the bird.

You don’t know bird photography disappointment until you use a film camera

The Eye’s Have It
When I say “it,” I mean catchlight: the white little Obies that reflect the sky/sun/light source in the eyes. These are a must-have for bird portraits, and can dramatically improve a close up bird shot.
For example, these two photos were taken within a second of each other, but the one with the little white catchlight is vastly superior:

This photo isn’t even that incredible, the bird is above eye level, it has a cluttered background, but the photo with the catchlight really helps capture how adorable this little Verdin is.

Actively Compose Your Photo
Photography is more about what you leave out, than what you include. Sure, we are all here to get great photos of birds, but, what are we trying to exclude from our photos? Distractions! The goal is to have an idea of the subject, isolate it in the foreground, and remove unwanted distractions from the edges of the frame and the background.

Use your feet to help compose your shot by moving to create the most pleasing angle. These photos of Anna’s hummingbirds were taken within seconds of each other.

My thought process: Oh shit! It let me approach. Quick, take a photo! Oh, there is a car tire in the background – that looks like garbage. Look around. There’s a clean red background. The bird’s still relaxed? Lets shift slowly to not disturb our model, get to eye level, aaaaaand take a million photos!

Taking a million photos is important.

Sometimes just shifting slightly so your subject is on a nice solid field of color can make an enormous difference. Try to get clean backgrounds for your photos.

If your goal is to get a portrait of a bird, the fewer distractions, the better. If you are trying to get a landscape photo, be meticulous about what you include, and most importantly, what you leave out.

As your level of zoom increases, this gets easier. If you are taking photos with your cell phone, you have a very wide field of view to consider. By contrast, if you are taking photos through a telephoto lens or a telescope, you may only have to move a few inches to the left or the right to clean up distractions and completely change the mood and aesthetics of your composition.

Take a Million Photos

I took 30 very similar photos of this bird in an effort to get one good one.

Birds move a lot! They are tricky subjects. That being said, the more photos you take, the more chances you have of getting a good shot. When I see a bird in a good location I will take little bursts of 3-4 photos, as many as I can, until the bird flies off.

I have many, many, many bad bird photos. I try to cull the bad ones.
Here is my thought process on culling as I scroll through the photos.

Oh god, what have I done! That’s sooo many song sparrow photos, delete, that one’s blurry, delete, can’t see the eye, delete, blurry, delete, slightly weird pose, save for later. There is a branch sticking out of its head, nope, clean background, good feather detail, no catchlight, next Interesting pose, catchlight, good detail, Keep!

The More Dynamic the Better

When you are taking photos, or selecting photos to submit and share, the more dynamic the better. If you have to choose between a silly pose or a standard bird sitting on a branch, pick the silly pose. Photos of birds doing more than sitting are very difficult to find. This is the reason you see soooo many birds perched.

Try to capture birds doing one of the Four F’s: Flying, Fighting, Feeding, or Mating (I’m keeping my blog PG-13 for some reason). Any time you are able to get a clean, crisp photo of a bird doing more than simply perching, you have accomplished something incredible. Feeding is probably one of the easier behaviors to capture, because birds just keep coming back to food. Ultimately, though, you want your photo to tell some sort of story, and having any type of gesture or action helps create that narrative.

Get Closer (but not too close)

I said “Not too close!”

This should probably be higher up, and I am sure I am preaching to the choir here, but… it should be our goal to get ethical bird photos.  We should try to observe without disturbing. If you end up flushing a bird, in an effort to get a little bit closer to get a slightly better photo, you lost. The good news is, there are lots of chances to win. Each new bird is its own opportunity.

When I am in the field, I usually am a birdwatcher first, and bird photographer second. Most of the photos I am proud of are photos attained when the bird has gotten too close to me, not me too close to it. If I am lucky, there will be one or two experiences a day in which a bird gets overly comfortable. If you are really lucky, they will also be in good light, and not buried in a sea of greenery.

Seeing a bird shouldn’t paralyze you in bird ethics fear. Ideally you will just walk on paths normally without chasing birds from one perch to another. If a bird is in your path, and you want to see how close of a photo you can get, I recommend this strategy: See a bird, take a photo. If it didn’t fly away, slowly take a step or two forward, and take another photo. Don’t move your camera or your body too fast. Just keep creeping forward, stopping periodically, and snapping more photos.

When I see some nice shorebirds, I like to see which direction they are heading, creep up to them, and try to situate myself in a location where they will come to me. This works with birds that move in flocks too. Try to guess where the birds will go, get eye level, and let them come to you.

Scattered Thoughts

Crisp bird photos come from fast shutter speeds, using tripods or monopods, and luck. You can increase your luck by increasing your shutter speed, or carrying around a tripod.

Digiscope – Sarah Swanson, my friend and co-author of Must See Birds of the Pacific Northwest wrote an excellent blog post about digiscoping for Celestron. Read it.
Main take away: get crispy photos by using a cell phone holder and a remote trigger – not by jabbing the phone screen to take a photo. You can often do this with a pair of headphones.

Clean your lens, especially your cell phone lens. Those things get greasy/grimy/dirty and are not treated with the same kind of reverence as traditional cameras.

Practice makes perfect – Go to a place where people feed birds in your area to get great shots of feeding and flight. Get down low and get that shot! Gulls, ducks, pigeons, parrots?

Don’t forget your own front window. Practice with the birds you are feeding. Make them work for that seed!

Wear camouflage in the field. Scientists say it helps you get 28% closer to your subject.

Good luck out there. Bird up!

January 2019 – 5MR Recap

Menacing Anna’s Hummingbird – 2019 5mr bird 1

What a great idea the 5-mile radius is.
It makes common birds feel special
And uncommon birds feel like an incredible gift.
Maybe its because I have to work so hard to see each one,
Each new bird feels like a true accomplishment.

31/31! I need to get more audio of birds!

In the month of January, I saw 88 species of birds.
I got a flawless, 31/31 days with eBird checklists
A streak I hope to continue!
And I rode my bike approximately 255 miles.
I have stuck to my goal, and have only counted motorless 5mr birds.

Golden-crowned Sparrow – Gettin’ clean – 2019 5mr Bird 9

My co-workers always ask me what I am doing after work,
As I strap on my helmet, and carry my bag full of optics out to my bike.
Same thing I do every day.
I have had more fun this January birdwatching than I have had since I started.
Every day I have been able to eek in a bit of time, with weekends giving me time to make leaps and bounds on my list.

Short-eared owl – watch out lil dude! 2019 5mr bird 83

In the first half of January I found 81 species.
The last half I found 7 more.
But each one gets more exciting than the last

Best view of a shortie I have ever had!

This short-eared owl, for example
I had tried for it 4 times before I found it.
But when I did, it really put on a show
And made my dark windy ride home feel like a victory lap.

I saw 3 different owl species in 3 days!

I have 26 January days worth of Song Sparrows – 2019 5mr bird 10

I have also been able to get incredible looks at some of the most common birds we have.
And visit them in all sorts of habitats.
Many new places, and places that feel like new
Thanks to my newfound human powered wheels.

Mt.Hood – omnipresent as it is omnipotent (not very?)

I have probably seen more sunrises and sunsets this January than any other January.
I have a whole collection of overly-zoomed in Mount Hood views

Sleepy pond Ring-necked ducks – 2019 5mr bird 32

And ducks swimming off into the sunset
Lighting has been incredible on so many occasions
We have had a very mild winter
And I have greedily snatched as many breaks in the weather as possible

Sunset Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 2019 5mr Bird 16

Another benefit of seeing the same birds every day:
I am getting better at birding by ear
I am getting better at picking out high pitch squeeeks of kinglets
And their angry chatter

Calisthenics with Western Grebe – I need to stretch… 2019 5mr bird 58

I am excited to see what I can do in February
We are having a photography competition
And I broke my camera lens (maybe reparable?)
I am sure I will think of something

Greatest Egret – 2019 5mr bird 79

I look forward to keeping my eBird checklist streak alive
I will also try to see 100 species in one month again
(come on swallows, help me get over 90 this month)
And keep riding my bike as we have one legitimate month of winter.

Good luck to us all.

Bird up!

A Man a Plan A Strained Back – Panama

I hurt my back, and it is raining, so… what better reason than to reminisce of warmer, more mobile times?
Did I ever tell you about that one time I went to Panama in the year of our lord, two thousand and eighteen?
Oh, I did? Well, did I show you photos?
Oh, I did? Well, look at ’em again!

Hook-billed Kite

Let’s just start it off with what might be the best/luckiest bird I saw.
Its a Hook-billed Kite.
I only know that it is good because eBird flagged it as Rare
Also, the way that it looks.

Crimson-backed and white-faced.

Panama was incredible. I think everyone should go there.
Even if you don’t like birds.
But even if you do like birds.
This Crimson-backed Tanager is a fairly common bird in Panama.
Besides the red… look at its beak!
Hyper-matte white on red? Crazy!
I loved these guys.

Malachite is both a rock and a butterfly.

Here is a convincing list of pros and cons based on my experience
Panama pros:
Everything else (including this Malachite Butterfly)
You have to go home too soon

A spider big enough to photograph from the safety of a boat.

Man, that spider is both big and red.
Two things I look for in spider avoidance 101.
If you look closely, behind the spider you will see a White-headed capuchin.
It is hard to tell if it is looking warily at the spider,
Or eyeing it as a spicy treat.


Ooooeee! Another good bird!
Snail kite, with a snail, freshly plucked from the canal.
Their hooked bills are perfectly suited for getting tasty morsels from the inside of an otherwise too-crunchy container.

Best bird buds

Panama is great for Flycatchers.
I saw 10 species of flycatchers while in Panama, including these Social flycatchers.
They hang out in pairs and small social groups and catch bugs on the wing.
One of the more ubiquitous Panamanian flycatchers,
They seem to thrive in city parks, on rooftops, in gardens, and forest edges.

A very special bird.
The Blue dacnis, also called a turquoise honeycreeper.
I married a honeycreeper (who happens to also love turquoise).
So, I may have a natural affinity to them.
But, I remember feeling elated and overjoyed when I first saw it.
Such a brilliant blue, and such cool patterning.
I wish it was my job to photograph tanagers…
I look at this photo literally every day,
I think this is my favorite bird photo of the trip.

Just hangin’ out.

Panama City has a jungle park, a short taxi ride from downtown.
In it, you can find monkeys, sloths, terrestrial crabs, frogs, insects, weird rodents, and lots of good birds.
And also this Hoffman’s Two-towed sloth
Taxi to sloth, its incredible.

Can I get the spinach tortilla, and then just fill it with sour cream? Thanks.

This is the equivalent of eating a burrito in one bite with no hands.
Black-throated Trogon
Man, I can’t wait to see Trogon’s again.
The whole family is soooooo coooool! It includes Quetzals too.
I want to see all of them.
This might be the best reason for me to retire as soon as possible.

Industrial sized Egret

I visited the Panama Canal too!
This was probably my best photo from the canal.
I like that it makes it look like a techno-wasteland
Maybe a Great Egret,
Maybe a poorly disguised government drone.
Definitely the moody urban aesthetic I look for in a good bird photo.

Streaked Flycatchers love black licorice

The crazy thing about the trip is that it wasn’t necessarily a “bird watching” trip.
I was supposed to be a chaperone to a herd of middle schoolers.
They were, fortunately for me, very well behaved.
And I had a lot of time to hang at the back of the group and look at birds and take photos.
This streaked flycatcher was in a tiny park a few blocks away from our downtown hotel.


Another bird just a short walk from the hotel.
A Saffron finch new just where to perch so it would have the most interesting background.
Almost accidentally, I saw 97 species of birds this trip.
I bet I could have seen 100 if birding was my main objective.
In about an hour and a half, I saw 25 bird species, just walking through downtown!

Young apprentice Yellow-crowned Night-heron

Arguably the best night heron.
The heron design is just perfect.
Eyeball to Head/bill ratio + antennae + thicc legs


Green Herons are surprisingly accommodating in Panama
In Portland you have to look hard, scan pond edges, look under manhole covers.
But in Panama, they just exist in the open.
I wish I could explain why.
Probably one of those solvable mysteries I hear so much about.

Black Vulture Senior Portrait

Well, it has been fun looking through and re-editing all of these old photos.
I loved Panama more than my trip to the DR, or my trip to Peru.
I want to go back, and if you go, I want you to take me with.
I am a very enthusiastic bird partner, and I will bring snacks.

Powell Butte to Broughton Beach

Every day is a big day when you bird by bike. At least the way I do it. I was away from home for 9 hours, rode 35 miles, and saw 52 species of birds. My first stop of the day was one of the three highest locations in my 5 mile radius: Powell Butte. The whole ride there was a headwind. I felt like I was in purgatory. I need to get stronger…

The reason for tackling such a hill so early in the year was that there was a report of a Northern Shrike.

Shrikes are great because they are killer songbirds. That, and they impale their prey on pokey things. They are great birds and they are by no means a guarantee in anyone’s 5mr. This Shrike was well worth the climb and 2 hours searching. I’m happy I got it on my first try!

While on Powell Butte, I saw most of the expected winter raptors. I got my year Norther Harrier, I saw an American Kestrel harass a Red-tail Hawk, and two other Red-tails soaring. It was soooooooo windy up there, I saw almost no smaller birds, and felt very lucky to find my shrike.

On the edge of the forest, on my way down the butte, this male Anna’s Hummingbird bid me farewell and congratulated me on finding my shrike. I think.
It was a very forward little guy. While I was walking my bike it flew right up to me, about 5 feet away, and just hovered in front of my face. It was a weird experience.

As it landed I took this photo. I guess it could have just been eating the insects that were attracted to my bike-induced stink.

Though the trip up to Powell Butte was difficult, it was literally all downhill from there. I rode from the southeast most corner of my 5mr all the way to the Mighty Columbia. It was very fast and easy. I was surprised.

Once on the bike path I stopped to look at every group of ducks. I tried my hardest to turn one of the 100+ Common Goldeneyes I saw into a Barrow’s Goldeneye, but my efforts bore no Barrow’s fruit.

I’ll try again next weekend.

The whole day was fairly windy. Fortunately I had a nice tail wind while surveying the Columbia for secretive ducks.

Broughton Beach, and the trail to the east was fairly birdy. I added 3 new year birds: Common Loon, California Gull, and this menacing killdeer.

Last stop of the day was Whitaker Ponds. A reliable great egret spot, that also had reports of a spotted sandpiper. The Egret eventually flew right over me into the setting sun.

I ran into Audrey there, who asked,
“Did you see the Great Horned Owl or the Spotted Sandpiper?”
Wait, what? An Owl?
And then she walked me 25 yards, said it was in that tree, and I looked up and saw it immediately.
Normally, if there is an owl in a tree I don’t see it. Or, I do see it, after walking around like an idiot for an indeterminate amount of time.
I was very happy! Also, I didn’t expect to get an owl in the 5mr challenge so early!

Hurray Audrey!

Right after that she walked me over to where she said she saw the Spotted Sandpiper. It was right there waiting for me! Double Wow!

Oh yeah, and perhaps most importantly of all… I saw the Bald Eagle everyone has been talking about. Somehow I made it 13 days without seein’ it. Bald Eagle was bird 81, and my last bird for the day. Also, Audrey found this one too, so I owe her the majority of my birdwatching success.

If anyone was wondering what I look like, this is me.
I am smiling because I saw the Bald Eagle. Also, because I know at this time that there is pizza and beer in my future.

How to make a 5MR Shopping List

EDIT: There are easier ways… :

After I wrote this, these two really easy methods popped up. Man, they are easy. I don’t like the way they display data as much as the csv format in my directions below, but… they are easy. Check em out:
or this place

So, you want to take the easy path, and just chase the best birds that have been seen in the 5 miles around your house?

You are lazy, and you should feel bad.
I know I do.

Anyway, here is how to find all of the birds that have been seen in the last 30 days in the five miles surrounding your house on eBird. Big thanks to Dick Vreeland for writing the API I am using in order to create this shopping list.

Step one. Find out your latitude and longitude.
Need help? Here is a link:

Got that, great, now you need to enter it in this fancy shmancy code thingy:

See the lng= and lat= part? This is the number you are supposed to replace with the latitude and longitude of your house (if it is not working, make sure there are not empty spaces copied at front or back of the url). If you are in North America, the first number is a negative… Don’t mess it up!

It might be easiest to copy/paste this link somewhere, and edit it there.

Once you have the correct link up top, with your lat/long, copy that new link, and go here to the XML to CSV converter:

Choose the enter url tab, and paste the link you edited

From here, it is as easy as pushing the “Load URL” button and exporting this to a csv file. I open these CSV files using google sheets, but you can use excel, or any open source spreadsheet program.

You did it! You are now free to do with this spreadsheet whatever you want! It should contain all of the birds that have been seen in the last 30 days in the 5 miles around your house, and their locations, regardless of the county/state they are in.

Feel free to make some new bookmarks of the links I provided to make this easier for yourself. I know I have been running through this process every night. I am getting fast!

Here is a snipit of what my 5mr info looks like once it has been turned into a spreadsheet:

There are about 5 columns of info that aren’t super helpful, but it tells you the birds seen, the date, and the location. From here, you can prioritize whatever you think is important and sort the information as you see fit.

Bird up!

Big ol’ Birdin’ by Bike day

Wow, I am tired.

I rode my bike 24 miles today. I did a big loop on the northern half of my five mile radius. I saw 56 species of birds! 25 of which were new birds.
Hurray me!

I haven’t ridden my bike this much since I was 17!

This pace of one new bird per mile ridden is unfortunately not sustainable.
Soon, I fear, it will be one bird per 10 or even 20 miles. Hopefully I will be stronger by then.

Such a relief to see these guys this year. Weird that the best bird I might find this year was found on day 4…

My first stop of the morning, was the Eastern Bluebirds I have missed before/after work for the last 3 days. They are lazy little dudes. I could have slept in. I arrived at 8:45, and Just as I was about to leave at 10, like a little present from the heavens, they flew almost directly to me. They modeled for me, and I got the best photos of them that I can reasonably expect. I saw them choke down huge berries, and hunt for big wormy insects in the tall grass.

Gettin’ messed up on fermented berries (maybe).

After success with the bluebirds (and Lincoln’s sparrow, and cedar waxwings), I decided I wanted to be the first one this year to see a Black Phoebe in my county. It had been reported last year, so it is not an incredible feat or anything, but I was first to re-find it this year. And it is a good bird, and I am happy to have found it in my 5mr. Yay!

Photos are terrible, but if you wanna look at my ebird checklist… go for it.

I was two for two. Next priority was the recently re-found rarity: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Apparently, it is only the third ever January record of seeing one in the pacific NW.

It took about an hour of searching. I had a fleeting glance, and then nothing for about thirty minutes. rode my bike down and back on this trail, stopped where I saw it the first time… and it graciously popped up and perched for a solid 4 seconds.


I was able to successfully relocate the two best lost birds in the county, and they were just a moderate bike ride away. Wowsers!

Really great news is that this trail was very birdy, easy to get to, and fun to bird by bike. I will definitely be back soon.

hey that’s not a bird

The biggest surprise about birding by bike, is that it is fun.
I thought it would just be hard. But, I get to feel fast, stop wherever I want, whenever I want. If I hear something exciting or interesting I can zoom over to it, and I can cover way more ground than just walking, while being able to scan for interesting and exciting birds and animals.

Unexpected picnic break

The only bad thing about birding by bike, I have noticed thus far, is that getting a flat tire is a thing. Today I had two. This may be from inexperience, or just bad luck.

Bike path is just a warm spot, but this goose could have been hiding whatever popped my tire.

Today was incredibly fun. I rode my bike a bunch, I got up to 62 birds for my 5mr, I got more exercise than I have had in 3 months, and I had a delicious beer! I wish I could do this every weekend!

Cheers to bird beers!

New Year – New Challenge

I sure do love starting a new challenge.
The hardest part, if you have read my blog, or ever talked to me, is finishing them. But, I love starting fresh… So… here we go again!

Oh, that fresh feeling of zeroing out the year. Everything counts, everything matters.

This year my goal is to see as many birds as possible, by bike, in the 5 miles radius around my house. It is great to start from zero: the first crow, the first song sparrow, they all matter. My first bird of the day was an Anna’s hummingbird, sipping some sweet sweet sugar water outside of my window.

New Year, new bike, new satchel full of bird seed.

January 1st was a frosty one. I went to the Dharma Rain Zen Center in an effort to locate my Eastern bluebirds. I failed, but I was able to see a Merlin, a couple Yellow-rumped warblers, and some cackling geese fly in to this non-frozen seasonal puddle.

Tough urban geese hiding in the tall grass

I ran out of time here and had to rush off to work. The hour after I left someone found my bluebirds, so it is good to know that they were just hiding from me…

On my way to work I stopped to take some quick photos of gulls at my local gull wad that I would be able to sort out later in the comfort of my home.

Good looking ring-bill stood out.

I picked up most of the gulls I will probably see this year, all in one stop. Ring-billed, Herring, Glaucus-winged, Western, Icelandic. 5 Gulls for the day, and in my time bird watching in Multnomah County I have only ever seen 10 species.

Gull goal: tie that lofty number of 10 gull species in a year. #yeargulls

Herring Gull, you can tell by its mean look, light eye, and sloped forehead.

Pizza work was calling. Had to be there in order to help people achieve their resolutions of eating pizza every day. No leftovers… and it was slow. I ducked out a bit early, and tried for the Eastern Bluebird again.

Very menacing little Golden-crowned Sparrow

You can tell by the lack of blue/orange that this is not a bluebird. I missed them again. But, the good news is someone else saw them the hour before I got there. I was just the bookend of bluebird failure that the zen center needed today.

Regardless of my bird misses. I saw 29 species in my 5mr, rode my bike 9 miles (half of it in freezing fog), and got a couple of good photos. Happy with the start of my year.

If you are interested in doing a 5-mile radius challenge around your house, I urge you to join us in our facebook 5mr group.

A Year in Film: Week 9

My 9th week of photos. I shot my 10th and 11th roll of film in the Hasselblad 500c in a matter of hours.  A new record for me in pumping out film content.

We went to the Oregon coast on a beautiful day, stayed in a yurt, watched an incredible sunset, frolicked on the beach, and had a really wonderful time.

I also ended up creating quite a large job for myself.  Scanning and editing 2 rolls of photos made writing this blog seem like quite the daunting task.  But I thought, you know, I will just half-ass it and try to catch up so I can do a better one some day (hopefully).


Sun directly over Haystack Rock

I took this photo for the symmetry of the sun directly over the most interesting thing at this beach.  Although this also provides quite the juxtaposition of light and dark.
That rock is really dark.

I like that I got the wave crashing over the rock on the bottom, I don’t really like how I edited it/color corrected it.  I may come back to it again later.  I do love re-visiting old photos to see if I can improve them.


Tiny Dancer on the Beach.

One thing that may never end is my love of taking photos directly into the sun to get some sort of cool sun flare effect.
It pleases me.
I also really like all the cool things the clouds are doing in the photo.
As far as getting tiny dots doing interesting poses, I think my subjects are doing as good of a job as I could ask of them.  Their reflections look great.


Beach Raven

When walking on the beach I pointed out how cool this tree was to Jenny.
I also remember remembering how dumb most of my photos of trees look so far… But I don’t want to give up on trees.  So as I approached the tree a raven flew onto it.  He sat there for a while, and I was able to get close enough to it, that when it was ready to fly off, I was ready to capture it.  Luckily, it is slightly larger than a spec, which for a camera without a telephoto zoom is all you can really ask of a bird photo.


Jenny contemplates  vastness

This is my favorite photo of the roll.  Probably because it features my favorite model, but there are some other things I will point out too:
I love Jenny framing that big ol’ rock.
I like the band-aid on her thumb, I love the shadow of the earring on her neck.  Her purse perfectly matches her earring, and lends continuity to the photo (and outfit, what a fashionable lady).
The pattern on her shirt is great and the blue of the sky and pink of the shirt complement each other in a nice way.

I like it a lot.


Sunny Beach

Well, this photo proves that just taking a photo into the sun isn’t quite enough.  This is pretty boring.  I think the clouds were doing something cool, and they are pretty, but the photo isn’t that exciting.


Haystack Rock Jr. 

I like the cool sun rays emanating from the top left.
The cool hazy rocks make me happy.
The surf at the very bottom edge gives a nice dramatic feeling to the photo, like my toes are going to be wet in about one second.

Haystack Rock Jr. Part 2.

I was enjoying the reflection on the sand and tried my hardest to capture it here.
It is cool to see the clouds and sun in the sand, as well as my favorite little Haystack Rock Jr.
I think having the rocks at the top of the photo makes them feel larger than they actually are.  It’s an okay photo.



I love the absurdity of this sign.  I tried to lift up the box to see if I could open it, and also to prove that the sign was referring to the grate and not the box.  Better watch out guys, that sewer grate leads to a confined space.  And the only reason we shouldn’t go in there, is… because it is confined…
I wonder how many people had to go in there in order for this sign to be put up.


Lil pup Cerberus

My other favorite photo from the from this roll.
Jenny and I went to a different beach after Haystack Rock, to watch the sunset.  I saw this woman walking 4 enormous dogs on leashes and ran down the beach to get in front of her.  It was worth it though.  I was far enough ahead of her that I had about 5 seconds to set up the shot before she was in my frame.  For that fact alone I am happy it turned out,.
But… man, this is a pretty cool photo.
This photo is one where I do wish I was closer to the subject… though I do really like the reflection.    I am mostly just relieved that it turned out.


1. Sunset

Okay, Okay, Okay, now we are into sunset territory.  I was so enthralled with the beauty of this sunset that I ended up finishing this roll, and taking an entire second roll of photos in the following 20 minutes.
Now here is where I think I made my mistake.
I am supposed to show you guys photos and why I like and don’t like them.  What I think works and doesn’t work… Well… They all look the same.
These photos are all the same.
So I am just going to tell you a bit about my process and the problems I encountered processing them instead.


2. A bird makes this sunset different

Okay, so… All of the sunsets are functionally the same color.  But… I kind of just played with Adobe Lightroom to see what I could get away with as far as color combinations, luminence and saturation goes.  I don’t like all of them, but this is where most of my experimentation energy went.

These photos all have little captions if you click through them.   If you don’t I get it.


Well, another week in the books.  I am obviously late on this one, so I already have the other roll scanned and almost edited.  See you soon.  Also, I am curious which color scheme you think looks the best on the sunset if you care to give me your opinion.  I numbered them for convenience.

A Year in Film: Week 8

February is over.  Week 8 is complete, and I feel pretty good about it.  This week’s photo prompt was “forsaken,” so I headed down to my favorite dilapidated building in Linton only to find that it was recently demolished.  Forsaken indeed.  Backup plan was just go to one of the most photographed places in all of Portland and try to take some semblance of an original photo there.


f16 1/30

The first photo I took this roll is one of my favorites.
I love how much it has going on.  So many layers.
The tree frames the scene well,
and the St.Johns bridge makes  a nice cameo in the background.
Also, this Airstream van is one of the most “foresaken” things I saw all day.


f22 1//60

Another thing I have been interested in is taking photos with the sun as a subject.
I really enjoy sun-rays filtering through trees, as well as the shadows of the trees.
having a small aperture, something slightly filtering the sun, and a fast aperture seems to help the photo not be too blown out.
I looked at a lot of photos of the bridge and didn’t find too many that looked exactly like this, so the sun-rays also help set it apart from the millions of other photos taken here.


f16 1/30

Another pleasing photo!
I love the green/blue cool color combo, also I am pleased with the color pallete.
The bridge really is a lovely piece of infrastructure
The clouds do a great job of framing the bridge,
The lines from the bottom left to top right lead the eye through the photo nicely.


f22 1/125

Another photo of the sun.
Again, I am pleased with the sun-rays and the way the sun hits the camera.
This photo was a bit tricky to color-correct due to extremes of light and dark
It’s very high contrast may be better for black and white,
Though I do think it is an interesting photo, and I love how forgiving color film is compared to digital photos.
If I took this photo on my digital camera, I think there is no way I would capture any detail of the bridge across the water, or the subtlety in the two rows of trees or the buildings across the river.


f8 1/125

I saw this couple sitting on the bench and I walked right up to them from pretty far off.
They are very small in the photo, but I like their symmetry and the sense of scale they provide.
The exposure is perfect, the light is good, but it is lacking something…
Maybe it feels like this image or something like it has been made too many times.
Maybe it is too busy, or the trees are missing something.
I’m not sure, there is just something about this photo that doesn’t really excite me.


f11 1/500

Hey!  Another photo taken directly into the sun.
This may be the least interesting of them all.
Though this boat did appear to be pretty forsaken, I don’t think I captured that.
I was obviously more interested in the little golden Roman dude.
The photo itself, kinda interesting, sun is cool, has sun-rays.
Subject: boat/hood ornament… Is it worth taking a photo of?  Maybe.
Is it my favorite photo ever: nah.
Would I choose this photo to show to friends outside of this blog?  mmmaybe.


f11 1/60

I wish I was closer to this Love sign
Also, this boat is way more interesting than the last.
I wish I was closer to that boat.
The dock is private and it belongs to this place called Green Anchors.
I need to go visit this place some time, I think there are a lot of good photo opportunities there.
Water/sky/clouds/reflection and exposure/color are all pretty okay though.
This one is a tossup if it would make it to my Instagram feed.


f16 1/8

Another outsider view of the Green Anchors compound.
There are other businesses there too.
And this photo definitely gives off a forsaken vibe.
I like the sign, a lot, and the barbwire is pretty nice too.
However; everything else seems pretty busy/jumbled.
I think this photo would be better if it was less busy.


f11 1/15

I hate this photo.
I think the shutter speed being so slow did something
Also, the light is weird.  I failed to make it look good.
It kind of falls flat.
One thing worth noting, is there are about 10 people at different places in this photo, I think most of them were photographers.

I am glad to have ticked it off my list of places to photograph, I am happy with some of the first photos I took there.
Though there are many opportunities to take cliche photos like the one above, these well photographed locations have some muse-like qualities to them that inspire and challenge me to create interesting photos.  Just knowing that millions of photos are snapped in one location creates a sense of competition – I feel like I have to work harder in these places to make my photo stand out in some way.  I obviously failed with this garbage photo, but I think my photo with the Airstream is notable and unique. This feels nice.


f8 1/60

O wow.
This is also the best photo of the roll.
Really happy with the exposure, model, creepy eye-holes.
Many of us in the pizza world have taken pizza-as-mask photos.
I think the one that sets this apart is that it was taken outside in the real world,
Not in the safety of a pizza restaurant.


f8 1/60

Another photo of what appeared to be something in the forsaken category.
Car on blocks with busted window and no tires.
Though it probably just belongs to one of these people,
I like to imagine the wheels were stolen
The photo does tell some sort of story though
I was really happy with the light of the setting sun on these houses,
This photo would be way better if the car was lit as well.


f16 1/15

Last photo of the roll is across the street from the car with no wheels.
The sun looked really cool on these buildings.
There is a lot of empty space though.
The photo may have been better if I moved my tripod, not in the middle of the road, as I am wont to do, but off to the side of the road, and focused more on the way the sun hits the buildings and the sunset.
It feels like there is a lot of dead space in this photo, and not the cool minimalist kind.
Well, it was a fun and productive week overall.  I have really enjoyed scanning and editing these photos.  My techniques keep changing, and I like to think I am improving. Tomorrow I am going to the beach and I am hoping for some sort of beautiful Oregon Coast sunset photos.
I have no idea what my next week’s photo prompt is supposed to be, but I do know I will be taking a lot of photos this weekend.

A Year in Film: Week 7

This was a difficult week for me to get motivated.  I love taking photos, but I don’t always feel inspiration to point my camera in a specific direction.  One of the hardest parts of making 12 images every week is just leaving your house.


f16 1/125

This is the first example of how hard it was for me to leave my house.
This is my neighbor across the street.
Light was perfect, the house was lit up but the sky was dark and interesting.
This house has a lot of character, which I love,
I also love that it exists because it means I don’t have to try as hard to “Keep up with the Joneses”
As far as houses go as subjects… this one is not that interesting to me
Though I do like how the shrub on the right helps the eye move around the image.
And the lines from the electrical wire draw your eye back to the house.


f4 1/125

My second example of how difficult it was to leave the house.
The literal interior of my house.
I worked surprisingly hard on this bad photo.
I went back and forth about 15 times between the camera and the plant to remove as many distracting details from the photo as possible.
I still missed a few things.
In my brain, this photo would have been at its best if it was just a field of white and beige with a splash of plant in one-third of the frame somewhere.
This almost happened, but it was a little difficult to capture.
The inside of my house was fairly dark, so the whites are plunged into shadow.
Whereas the plant is being bombarded by light, so to make sure the plant wasn’t blown out and completely white, I ended up having to make the rest of the house a little darker than I wanted.
Color film has more dynamic range than digital, but no amount of range of lights and darks will make this an interesting photo.


f5.6 1 second

Okay!  Now a photo I like.
It started snowing in Portland and I was suddenly inspired again.  Over the last few weeks I had been keeping a mental list of locations that would be worth revisiting to get a photo.  This pool slide existence alone really stood out to me.
The snow helped make it way better.
I like that it is split into thirds.
One Dark third, where the subject pops,
The Middle which is neutral looking, but allows us to imagine what is behind it.
And the bottom is a nice field of white.
I also like that the slide is directly in line with the snow-covered shrub
And if you look close you can see that it is snowing in the top third.
I feel like this photo is a success in minimalism, and it is my favorite photo of the roll.


f8 15 seconds

Every time I drive by this staircase my eyes are drawn up the zig-zag pattern.
I don’t think I captured it well from this angle.
It may be something I have to try with a different lens from the middle of 82nd.
I like the lens flare from the top right light.
I don’t really like how there is no obvious subject and the bottom third is out of focus.
This photo is missing something.


f8 1 second

I love this Motel Sign, the colors and the shadows.
You can’t really tell that is snowing on me while I take this photo though,
so that is a failure.
I love that this place’s TVs are all in color, and I think the color sign is a very good use for my color film.
I don’t really love the angle I have of this photo.
In order to remove some distracting elements from the photo I had to get pretty close.
This photo would probably be made better if I went higher and got a better angle.


f8 4 minutes

I had such high hopes for this photo.
I turned off all the lights except my fireplace.
I wanted to capture the coziness of the falling snow and the reflection of the fire.
The fire just looks like 4 orange dots in the bottom.
An interesting thing about this photo is that the exposure time was 4 minutes.
That is the longest time I have ever used to take a photo, so that is cool, regardless if the photo is interesting or not.
My vision of what would make an interesting photo didn’t really materialize.
Good learning experience.


f5.6 1/30

The next morning I woke up early, energized by snow, and went down to the Zen Center next to my house.
I actually went with this little statue in mind.
I was glad to see it was covered so nicely in snow.
The sunrise, hint of orange and blue in the sky, really make this photo for me.
When editing the photo I also lowered the contrast to make the snow look more serene and powdery.
This photo pleases me.


f5.6 1/60

This is a real throwback to my palm tree photos from California a couple of weeks ago.
I got pretty low to get this photo, but I wish I got a tiny bit lower to separate the bottom-most thistle from the trees in the background.
I really like the clouds and the colors though, as well as the subject.
This single plant is similar to a nice five-stem bouquet, and I do remember my 7th grade art teacher saying that paintings of odd numbers of objects are usually more pleasing.
So… its okay.


f16 1/30

My intent with this photo was to get a bit more of a sense of the trail through the trees, as well as the bridge.
I like the colors and serenity, but it seems a bit too busy in the mid-ground.


f16 1/125

I probably spent the most time over the last few days editing and re-editing this photo.
I still don’t know if I like it.  But I do like the solar flare.
I think it may be a little too contrasty, I’m not sure.
I do like how the sun lights up the foreground and the hills are in shadow.
Seems like an acceptable photo, but nothing incredible.


f8 1/125

You may recognize this house from before.
Does the snow make it any better?  I don’t think so.
One success here though, is that the photo is a bit more in focus than the other.
I mostly took this so I could have a before an after
I think I actually like the non-snow cooler light version of this house better.


f11 1/60

The colors on this photo work well for me:
Green, pink, blue.
I really love this plant, and I like the snow-covered flowers.
I think I missed focus on this photo though.  It isn’t quite as crisp as I want.
It could be focus or, I might need a faster shutter speed to make sure it is crisp.
Something to consider for when I take photos of plants in the future, is they move in the wind.

Well… I’m glad that roll is over.  Ultimately, I am happy with a few of the photos, and I am proud to have done this for 7 weeks in a row.  I only have a few more photos to take for my 8th week, so we can look forward to this continuing.  I also just bought another 5 rolls of film, so I hope to keep going strong.

I’d love to know if you like a photo that I didn’t like.  Until next time…