Off to the Woods!

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***

The Pacific Northwest has been feeling the heat lately, as a very persistent block of high pressure is parked over the West Coast. At the same time, over the border to our north, British Columbia is experiencing its worst wildfire season in 60 years. Thousands of people have evacuated their homes and the province is under a state of emergency that now looks like it will stretch to a month. Almost 900 wildfires have been reported since April 1st, so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that smoke drifted down here early last week. Our air quality has been worse than Beijing’s! A swirl of cleaner air came through on Saturday, but overall we’re smothering in hot, stagnant, unhealthy air.

To add to the extremes, we are about to surpass the record for the most consecutive days without measurable rain.  At 51 dry days and counting, there is no precipitation in the forecast. My admittedly cynical prediction is that the clouds will come rolling back just in time to obscure the solar eclipse, two weeks hence. (I should say that summers are always dry and sunny here, and due to a very wet Spring, we aren’t in bad shape as far as moisture goes.)

Yesterday we tried a quick trip to the woods for some relief, but little comfort was to be had. Smoke lay heavy to the horizon and the sun was relentless.  To top it off, road work made traffic a trial.

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So I was happy to discover that I had some decent photographs after all that. I had begun taking photographs before we arrived at our destination, shooting from the passenger seat as we slowly worked our way up a dusty, gravel forest service road. Spada Lake is a reservoir in the central Cascades foothills with day use recreation areas scattered around its perimeter. A pretty place to picnic, the lake is surrounded by thick, still-green forest. Sunlight sparkled on the alder leaves and little waterfalls still carried trickles of water, but views across the lake were very hazy.

For the in-motion shots I used a 45mm fixed lens and tried to focus on a tree (using auto focus) while panning the camera, with the window rolled down. The shutter speed that worked best was 1/6th; apertures ranged from f11 – f22.  It’s a hit or miss technique – you have to check to be sure you’re not getting just a white blur, and even as you adjust settings to find the best shutter speed and aperture, you’re still leaving much to chance, hoping for something useful. You don’t really know what you’re getting until you see the images on a bigger screen.  Processing often requires a significant amount of sliding up and down the contrast, clarity and other scales. It may sound like a lot of uncertainly and effort, but when it works you get very interesting results.

“Smokezilla” is easing today – we’ve slithered out of the unhealthy category and are back in the moderate zone. The air cooled overnight, and maybe I really cannot complain. The local botanical garden is ripe with the fruits of the gardeners’ work, I understand plenty of wildflowers are in bloom up on Mount Rainier, and closer to home, the beginning of fall’s photogenic decline can be seen. I am not lacking for subjects!


49 comments

  1. The first shot is brilliant and ethereal. Aren’t we glad to know that climate change is a hoax. We were in extreme drought last year and quite the contrary this year and we have experienced many once in a hundred years storms over the last few years.

    • Yes, climate change seems pretty obvious, but it’s such a complex tapestry of effects – e.g. the fires plaguing British Columbia are at least partly to blame on human interference in the landscape, from logging practices of fire suppression to the introduction of non-native grasses that burn more easily than natives. Add excess heat on top of excessive fires and it gets ugly! On your side of the country, storms, like you say, are more severe and the damage will continue, especially in coastal communities, where people have built too much, too close to the water. It’s sad that we stepped out of the Paris Agreement. Oh well, I’ll get off the soapbox and thank you for your comments – the first is my favorite, too.

  2. Beautiful selection, Lynn. Because I’m a technician at heart, I enjoy hearing about the technical specifics other photographers use to achieve certain effects. I can’t wait to get an autonomous car so I can shoot while I’m driving.

    • Great, I’m glad you liked having the technical stuff. As you probably know, I’m not a techie sort, but I try to build my meager knowledge to support what I want to do. That car is not so far in the future! 🙂 But yes, I’m aware that I’m lucky to be seated in the passenger seat regularly – a luxury. The driver doesn’t do well as a passenger, so we both win, most of the time.

  3. I’m not much of a fan of the blurred or “in motion” shots…can’t seem to find the appeal…but I do so love the other images…that forest scene with what I imagine to be a dry waterway with the downed trees over it…and the lake…so wonderful. I hope you’re managing to stay out of the heat…that becomes such a drag and seems to taint the whole experience sometimes.

    • You and Gunta, I think! No problem, I understand everyone won’t like everything. The forest scene was quite lovely at that moment, because of the way the light filtered down. The trees there are really tall. It’s been logged at least once, but as you probably know, things grow super-fast here. The heat is really unfriendly. We don’t deal with it often, and add in the smoke…ugh. It’s supposed to be little less smoky Thursday. I’m strategizing! Maybe take a ferry, it should be better on the water…keep cool yourself!

  4. Oh, that first one. It’s as if the tall brown trunks are swirling green fringe—and oo la la the colors. In number two, we’re rushing by the beauty we never have enough time to relish properly—but it’s a lovely photograph. Love the colors and swish of number four. And I’m quite fond of numbers five and ten; they make me feel as if I am there in all that beauty. Thanks, Lynn, for them all.

    • I was really pleased with that first photo, and it looks better the bigger you see it. Glad you like it too. It’s so curious how the little bits of leaves are in focus here and there, blurred elsewhere, and yes, the colors – I hardly did a thing to them at all. I like your impression of the second photo – makes sense. The fourth was black on first look but I kept it and dialed it way up, exposure-wise. Then I could see it was interesting. It was taken with a faster shutter (1/10th sec). When I checked & saw the LCD all dark, I slowed to 1/6th. But I got something out of it anyway. You never know what drama lurks beneath! 😉 5th & 10th and a few others help give context; it was pretty that day, but too hot to stay out. And what I didn’t write about was the shooting going on and the surprising amount of trash (and you see the ugly logging aftermath) in the area. People in this area are generally very respectful of the environment and rarely litter; not so in that area – a big turn-off.

      • I have your blog set to display bigger than normal, so I always get to see your photos bigger (but even bigger would probably be even better). I have wondered about some parts being in focus and some a blur in Intentional Camera Movement. Maybe the parts in focus are when the lens sees when the shutter first opens? I think part of the fun of ICM is that you aren’t controlling all that much. It’s a collaboration where time is doing it’s thing while you choose the location. Shooting? Like hunting? Wonder why people litter there. Is it the visitors who do that?

  5. Great series of photographs, but I’ll confess my favorite is that first one. Makes me think of Fun House Carnival Mirrors…in a prehistoric forest. Something you might find in a Dr. Who episode. 😝

  6. So sorry to hear of your yucky skies. Looks like that first one has had quite an impact on more than just me. Oddly enough it makes me think of a kaleidoscope. The feeling of action is amazing. Then again the haze seems to have created that feeling of distance to the mountains beyond the lake (in your next to last shot). I’ve always loved the varying colors as various mountain peaks recede in the distance. Hard to imagine fall is bearing down on us already. I think I’ve had quite enough heat and dry for a good while.

    • I thought you didn’t like the intentionally blurred shots (see my reply to Scott above). Wrong again! The haze has its beauty – I love the march of horizon heaps as it pales, too – but we are ready for some fresh air! It’s “moderate” right now but may get unhealthy again as the day progresses. Thursday it’s supposed to clear up a bit, I hope so. I’m thinking I might get on a ferry – walk on, it’s cheaper – because the air quality is better near/on the water. Which is why you’re OK, I think. Yes, the decline has begun, and fall will be here soon…

  7. Your experimental shots please me as much as the traditional ones, dear Lynn. Those “top-or-flop” ones will give you more top material with growing experience, they say. Moving the camera, defocus willingly and so on is playing around for photographers’ delight!
    I wish you some rain and clean air soon.

    • That’s nice to hear – I’m glad both kinds of images please you! “Top or flop” is a funny expression – translated from the German? I haven’t heard it before. You’re right, just practice, practice…and it gets a little better.
      The bad air, like everything else in life, is temporary. 😉

      • As always: wise.
        Translated – not exactly; – there’s a lot of expressions used in Germany sounding English. For example: it’s usual to name a mobile phone “Handy”, and many people believe it is the correct English Expression (even though you might find a mobile handy ;-)).

    • Many moods from one place and not much time spent outside either! But you know more about dealing with heat than I do, any day. I don’t know about worse every year but definitely the big fires keep cropping up in various places, and it is at least partly because of our long-term practices of fire suppression. When it finally comes, it’s worse – there is so much undergrowth to feed it. Also, I understand that the introduced grasses are more flammable than the natives, and many of these fires start in grassy areas, from lightening strikes. Thanks for visiting, Tina, and keep cool!

  8. Good pictures – especially the top two and, if anything, I like the second one best – a real feeling of ripping, tearing speed. And I agree about the technical details you’ve given too – always good / useful to hear such things. 🙂

  9. We have smoke here as well seems so much is on fire in BC….and I love the woods one of my favourite places to be…doing mindful walks with my little black box….your images are so painterly I love the movement and the colours….another beautiful post Lynn…also I appreciate your photography language…I always learn by seeing 🤓 smiles hedy have a beautiful week!

    • I’m always happy to please you, Hedy! How about this slight change to your comment – “I always learn by seeing smiles.”
      Sorry to hear you too are under smoke’s haze…they’re saying now we may get some relief tomorrow, and we may have rain – it will be the first in 55 days – Sunday. Meanwhile, the world goes on…

      • Yes smiling 😀 I’m an over smiler 😉🤔🤓 Thích Nhất Hạnh writes about smiles…I’m a happy person by nature and I work to stay that way…life’s short and I dance through most days…smoky today but rains are apparently coming and yes the world does go on…hope your rains arrived Lynn ☀️😎💦🌈

      • Yes, rain arrived today, after 55 days without it! Luckily the wet spring keep us in good shape in spite of the long dry spell…it smelled so good today, and we can see blue in the sky once more, so pretty. Life’s too short, yes, but moods do come and go. Dancing through the day sounds lovely.

    • Thanks Camilla! Glad you liked these. There weren’t many insects around, except dragon & damsel flies which were elusive. But I did get a nice skipper butterfly the other day – we have many similar species, it will be hard to ID.

  10. My favorite in the group is the forest scene, with the felled logs across the creekbed. Its variety of colors and general complexity is inviting; there’s a lot the draw the eye and reward exploration. I’m not so much a fan of the blurred images. They make me a little queasy — almost on the edge of vertiginous. The physical reaction makes any sort of real comment on them impossible, since my first reaction is to stop looking. It does make me wonder if there’s some sort of physiological basis for different reactions to blurred photos. Someone, somewhere, surely has studied such things!

  11. I don’t understand why I am unable to see the images. May be my internet is slow. I just read the text. But for complete understanding, I need to see the images. Will try again in a few days.

  12. HI Lynn, Your swipes and abstracts are terrific. Your lead and second photos feel like I’m walking into a dream. I love their “abstract reality”. Hoping you get some heat relief and wind shifts. Take care.

    • Hi Jane, thanks, I’m so glad you liked these. I’ve taken many photos from the passenger seat, but some of these were much better than usual. And yes, we have relief! Whew! (Sounds like you’ve been up and down the coast?)

  13. I think you could make one lone toothpick a work of art! The images are all lovely…

    May the clouds soon give welcome relief to all, and on the 21st, you have a perfect view of the eclipse!

    Will be offline most likely until Wed…. have a good week!

    • Thank you Lisa – sorry you’re off line but you must be busy these days. We are refreshed now, temps back in reasonable range and air cleaned of all the smoke. Re the eclipse: of course I’ve been giving it thought, and from here it’s 93%, which is certainly good, but we expect clouds. How much, is so far unclear. We made a reservation for one night on the other side of the mountains, where it’s 95% and much less likely to be cloudy – or if cloudy, only a little. We’re playing it by ear, the reservation can be cancelled, so we’ll decide Saturday and then go or stay Sunday, for the Monday morning extravaganza. Lots of open space on the other side of the mountains; if we stay here we have to drive somewhere, too many trees, and they are VERY tall.
      Eclipse glasses seem impossible to obtain, but frankly I’m most interested in what the view on earth will look like when it gets dark, not as interested in looking right at the sun. No plan for photos (of the eclipse) – way too technical! But maybe a series of shots of a spot on mother earth as the sun recedes? We’ll see.

  14. Found myself breathing differently as I moved through this post . . . I was breathing ekphrastically

    this is exquisitely realized

    it works perfectly in words and pictures

  15. Love the images. The one which I like most is 10th… Appears like a dense forest. And what I like most is the way you composed this post. Fewer words and more photographs. I always have been interested to convey the message in fewer words. Most of the time it is difficult to express in few words, but here you did this job beautifully 🙂

      • And BTW, the 10th photo is not an uncommon scene here – many forests have that look. The light was coming in beautifully, and with the little creek and so much moss on the trees, it was natural to take that photo.

  16. There seems to be so much extreme weather nowadays, yet the climate change deniers continue in their foolish beliefs. I love your blurred photos of the trees. They’re very artistic, as always. 🙂


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