Spring is starting make itself comfortable up here in the Pacific Northwest and after what felt like too long of a winter, I feel like I'm ready to bloom! After some reflection of the years since I left California, I realized that photography sort of became a passive focus of mine; I was mostly filling out my Instagram or stuffing a roll of film in my little red Lomo LC-A+ when out on vacation and capturing whatever caught my eye. And even that started to dry up a bit for me. In short, I didn't feel particularly... inspired? Or that I had any direction with my work. Photography became secondary and I just stopped trying to learn more about my craft. But, as the ebb and flow of life goes, slowly I started to have more reasons to start shooting again. My work with my employer started to incorporate more photography and I had a couple small shoots with friends that honestly brought me so much joy. But it wasn't until last summer when I really got my spark back.
My wife and I heard that a comet, NEOWISE, was going to be gracing our skies for a little while. Not particularly familiar with astrophotography, I picked up my 7D to attempt to capture the event. My wife and I set out to Manzanita, OR, a tiny little strip of a beach town and set up a tent in the sand as the sun set over the Pacific. Around 10pm, I started to see a slight glow in the Northwestern skies. I set up my tripod, popped on the basic zoom lens I had in my bag, and began to locate the comet. It had been a long time since I played with long exposures, but as my shots of the comet started become more and more clear, I felt the giddy excitement of getting decent results after trying something outside my wheelhouse. I wouldn't say the shots were anything to write home about, short of "hey look, a comet," but you can judge for yourself:
The point of this is, that moment of practicing my photography with intent to learn and grow sparked something in me. I wanted to expand my skillset and improve on my weak spots, namely nature, landscapes, and astrophotography. I realized that after getting the basics at Aperture Academy, I never really dug further and instead took the knowledge I had and ran with it myself. But, I think I built myself the perfect foundation to do more and do better now. This winter I finally took the dive into the treasure trove of photography knowledge there is on the internet, writing whatever I wanted to remember in a dedicated notebook. Let me tell you, I have already learned SO much and I feel full to the brim with that inspiration I was missing. From there, I began to scout out potential shooting locations nearby to practice at that wouldn't be horribly muddy and crowded.
My first semi-successful outing was in Astoria, OR. I wanted to check out the nearby Youngs River Falls to play more with long exposures and possibly take some frames of varied exposures to try my hand at HDR photography. I recently upgraded my wide angle lens as well as my tri-pod in preparation for these new adventures and so once we got to the falls, I began to eagerly set up my gear for the best composition of the falls, which was really in one spot unless I had a pair of waders... But that was no problem. What the problem actually was, was that I didn't take into account that shooting a waterfall comes with a never-ending spray of mist that covers you and your camera. Because of that, I did not bring a microfiber cloth or lens cleaning tool and my lens cap didn't fit on top of the neutral density filter I needed for the long exposure. There I was, covered in mist, unable to get a clear shot of the falls. It was a humbling experience. But I made the most out of it!
I got out of the way of the water and removed the dewy ND filter and brought out my Star Wars Clone Trooper friend that I now bring along on shoots. If my main goal is bust, at least I can have some fun posing him in whatever environment I'm in. Right by the falls, there was a cliff that the one trail curved along as a cluster of trees hung right off the cliff's rocky face. I began my mini shoot with the Clone Trooper until, as I was looking for a new setting along the branches, I noticed something bigger in the scene. From a certain angle, the way the tree was wrapped along the cliff side exactly resembled a giant skull with a gnarly, winding crown of mossy branches. The ferns at the base of the cliff sprung out from the chin of the skull, almost a wild goatee, similar ferns sprouting from the crown like a bushy head of hair. I felt like I struck creative gold! After composing the shot, I captured the scene in a bracket of 5 exposures which I later merged for HDR. While my attempt to shoot the Youngs River Falls was foiled, I think I captured one of my new favorite photos:
This one shot made the whole trip worth it. I got a few other decent shots from the day which I will post below, but this success will keep my flame alight until next time... And in the mean time, I will continue to learn as much as I can!