Two Weeks in Washington State

just completed my blogging of the two week rented motor home trip Laurie and I took in Washington state in June. It was awesome. As an easterner I am always awed by west coast landscapes. I've included text, 3-10"photos per day, and a map showing our daily destinations. If a trip to Washington is in the cards for you, the maps and destinations may be of interest to you. 

As far as gear, I kept it simple: the Fujifilm X100T with its fixed 35 mm(equiv) lens and the Olympus EM-1 with Panasonic 14-140.  Wherever possible I used the Fuji as I much prefer its colors when set for Astria film simulation. Nevertheless, I was surprised that 70% of my images were with the Fuji. I guess I like that focal length and perspective.

We flew in and out of Spokane, where we picked up the CruiseAmerica 25 foot Class C motor home. We traveled basically in a counterclockwise oval, passing through the Northern Cascades to the town of Burlington just north of Seattle, then Whidbey Island and a ferry to Port Townscend on the Olympic Peninsula.  I took some of my favorite images on the Peninsula. 

Highlights of the trip were Hurricane Ridge and the rainforest in Olympic National Park, Rialto Beech, South Beech, Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier, and finally the desert-like landscape of central Washington. 

No, we did not stop in Seattle. Not with a 25 foot RV.  Plus we were here to see landscapes and to camp. (Perhaps I should put "camp" in quotes, as there are many who would not agree that RV-ing is indeed camping.)  We'll have to pick up Seattle on another trip. 

Overall, the RV experience was fun. The pluses outweighed the negatives. Perhaps the pros and cons will be a subject of a follow-up post. But the bottom line is that we'd do it again. In a heartbeat. 

I hope you will be interested in taking a look:


Flowers Around the Yard This Week: Close-ups

I have to look hard to find flowers around our yard. We do not have green thumbs here. Too, everything that we think is growing nicely gets mowed down by the deer. There's a well-worn deer path along the edge of our property, between the lawn and the woods.  We've even seen fox and coyotes following the path.

I do keep any eye out while I'm mowing the lawn. It gives me a chance to survey the land.  When I find something, I'll turn off the mower and go into the house to grab a camera.

Around the yard, I've been shooting mostly with the Olympus EM-1 and Panasonic 14-140 super zoom lens, with its fantastically convenient 1:2 equivalent macro and a focal range that "does it all". Sometimes I swap for the Olympus 60mm macro because of the focus stacking capability this lens has on the EM-1 body (8 shots automatically stacked). Oh, and for the shallowest depth of field I use an old manual focus Tamron 90mm macro on a Sony a6000 camera body.

Here are my favorites from the last week.

Best narrow depth of field is with the Sony a6000 and 90mm Tamron macro.


New fern. This is what happens soon after a fiddlehead opens and unfolds.

Our first iris of the season greeted me earlier this week. 

I saw a couple of these peeking out from under the holly bush at the corner of the house. Maybe the deer won't find them *chuckle*. My best guess is that this is a Bloody Geranium (*Geranium Sanguineum*)

A couple of new phlox buds

Our lilac bushes are flowering and smelling great.

We all know what this is lol. It's hard for me to think of a dandelion as beautiful, especially when it's in the process of “going to seed” on our lawn. But close up it really is so beautiful and intricate …. and so geometric. 

Nature's Perfection... Late afternoon and a back-lit leaf. A brand new maple leaf hanging from our Royal Red Norway (?) maple...as perfectly formed as nature allows.  It's so fresh and new that there are yet no caterpillar bites out of it, though I do see a bit of caterpillar silk in the lower left.


For a Fleeting Moment Only: While Mowing the Lawn

At about 6pm a few days ago I was mowing the lawn in our... by then... shaded side yard, when I noticed the sun shining low through the trees and perfectly and beautifully back-lighting the fresh new maple leaves on this one particular tree, adding a rich golden color. 

I'm not sure what kind of maple tree we have here.  In normal light, the mature leaves are a dark red-brown. The leaves seen here are new growth and are a bit lighter in color and thinner. They have a waxy surface, too, that disappears later in the season. 

One discovery I made while framing this image (and of course a bunch of others I discarded) is that each bud on the tree, when it burst open, first released four leaves, followed by two additional leaves.  My math is still good...that's six leaves per bud. I found that interesting. We've lived here over ten years and I've never noticed that before. Cameras help us discover, don't you think?  

Photo taken with Olympus EM-1 and Panasonic 14-140 zoom. 


More Close Ups with the Panasonic 14-140

I'm shooting here with the Panasonic 14-140 on the Olympus E-M1.

This lens is the newer of the two Panasonic 14-140's.  Maximum aperture is F3.5 to F5.6. I purchased it in December and have found it to be great for closeups.  It has a 1:2 (35mm camera equivalent) maximum magnification.  That's very adequate for flowers and is accomplished at a focusing distance of about 20" when zoomed between 22 and 140mm.

I like the lens paired with the Olympus E-M1 because I am enjoying the focus bracketing feature that recently became available on the E-M1 with the latest firmware.  Images #2 and #3 were focus bracketed with up to 10 images and stacked with Zerene Stacker.)

Nothing particularly great here.  We've been having a patch of cold and dreary weather.  So between raindrops today I took about 10 minutes and walked around outside our home looking for things to snap.

All of these were taken at wide open aperture.


My first walk through Acton Arboretum

As suggested by a high school friend whose home abuts this beautiful 65 acre public resource in the town of Action, Massachusetts, I spend a couple of hours roaming around last weekend with my close up photography tools and a fold up stool.

I stuck to the wildflower garden area. The main walkways in the wildflower garden were paved about 3' wide and there were also a few dirt path short cuts. The access for wheel chairs and baby carriages was excellent.  It was great to see so many people enjoying the nice weather.

All of the images below were taken with an Olympus E-M1 and Panasonic 14-140 "travel zoom". I shot with the lens wide open at F3.5 to F5.6 depending on the focal length.  I bought this lens in December and love it, though I have not reported on it here on my blog yet.  My sense it that it is plenty sharp enough, though not as sharp over common focal lengths as the very nice Olympus 12-40mm F2.8.  And of course it is not as fast at the 12-40. But it is certainly quite versatile and has great close up capabilities as you can see below. It provides basically a 1:3 equivalent macro.  That's generally quite adequate for flowers. However, for the mosquito image I snapped onto the end of the lens a Raynox 150 two piece acromatic filter so as to acquire a 1:1 macro.

Any cropping was just to enhance the composition. I have no complaints about sharpness of this lens for close up work.

Thank you Bruce Carley for helping with the identifications.

Wood Poppy Flowers

White Trillium

Spring Beauty

Squirrel Corn

Fern Unfolding

Red Trillium

Wood Poppy

Double-Flowered Bloodroot

Fuzzy antennae = male mosquito


My Favorite Coffee Mug...With Flash Plus Ambient Light

I took this picture while...well, drinking coffee. It was in the morning last weekend, and I was sitting on the porch playing around with the settings on my Sony a6000.  It's pretty hard to play with camera settings without taking a picture or two. (Over the years I have taken a ton of pictures of my feet on our coffee table!)

Perhaps a coffee mug photo is a silly thing to post here... though I did get some nice comments when I posted the image on my Instagram and Facebook pages (by the way, there are more than 2,500 posts on Instagram with #favoritecoffeemug.)

This mug came from my mom's house when I was cleaning it out after she passed away a few years ago. The loop is perfect for the first two fingers of my right hand and my thumb appreciates the flat top of the loop. The shape is nice too.  With a low center of gravity its less likely to be knocked over when I am fumbling for it while reading my iPad in the morning. Perhaps theoretically the shape holds heat longer than a mug with a wide opening. I like the three shades of color (assuming you accept beige as a worthy color). The ridging at the top is functional as well as good looking. When I reach with my left hand and grip the mug with my full hand (I just ignore the loop), my first finger neatly wraps around the groove at the top. Any disadvantages?  Yes, it doesn't hold enough coffee! Lol.


I used my Sony a6000 with 30mm Sigma prime at F2.8. Metz i40 flash was bounced up 45° from horizontal, and swiveled 120° to the right of forward.  I love the way the Sony works with flash: When using TTL it automatically balances half ambient light with half flash.  Since I use auto ISO, it does the balancing act by cutting the ISO to half of what it would use for ambient light only.


Tulips and Daffodils at the Botanic Garden Last Weekend: 5 Images

All taken with the Panasonic 14-140 mm (28-280 equivalent) "travel" zoom. This lens has fantastic closeup capabilities.  Not quite macro, but close to 1:2 equivalent...though even that was not quite necessary for these images.

A Nice Little Surprise on the Way to the Botanic Garden

Last weekend I headed for the botanic garden for a couple of hours of shooting and walking. I entered the gate, pleased that we'd renewed our one-year pass, and was motoring slowly along the long driveway when I spied a group of wild turkeys.

As I recall there was one male and several females.  The male was definitely showing off.

I stopped the car and fortunately had a long zoom attached to my camera.  I did get a few shots of the turkeys in the field next to the car.  However, my favorite shot was this "attitude" shot taken as the male crossed the road in front of me and headed into the woods on the other side, following the females.

I posted the image on my Instagram and Facebook pages, with the title: "Struttin' Swagger".  It's fun to think of titles for photos.  I'm thinking better titles might be:

Struttin' Some Stuff

Showing Some Attitude

I like the fact that the turkey is in the middle of the road, looking ready to stop all traffic while he struts his stuff slowly across to the other side.

I personally think that the above image makes a better story than the "natural" images I took of him displaying in the field.  That being said, below is the best shot I was able to get of him in the field.

(Both of these images were taken zoomed to 280mm (equiv) and wide open at F5.6 on my Panasonic 14-140 "travel" zoom.  Shutter at 1/320 and ISO at base 200.)


Sunrise and a photogenic lobster boat

Over the past year I have printed several of my favorite Maine coast sunrise photos. Below are a six of my sunrise favorites.

No. 4 was printed for a photo club contest last month, no. 2 was printed 18" wide and mounted and framed for a colleague entering retirement, and no. 5 was printed 20" x 30" and framed for my office.

Let me explain why all the images have the same boat it them.

My wife and I spend a couple of weeks each summer in a cabin on the edge of Maine's Penobscot Bay. The cabin faces east, which is perfect for sunrises. We're on a cove that has one photogenic boat in it. It's the "Sea Keeper", a classic Maine lobster boat. And I seem to find a place for it in many of my images, not just sunrises.

I suppose I should spend more time roaming the coast looking for other sunrise viewpoints, but at that hour in the morning I think I'm doing pretty well just grabbing my camera backpack, a fold-up chair, and a big travel mug of coffee... and making my way down to the rocks at water's edge or to the fisherman's wharf a hundred feet away, and fighting off mosquitoes as I await the sunrise. 

This richly saturated sunrise is printed 20" x 30" and is framed in my office:

This final image was taken from a slightly different perspective.  As I recall it was low tide and I was able to walk along the rocks.  I was intending to take pictures facing east, but when I looked north I saw this scene and was quite pleased:


The ski season is almost over. What a bust for us in New England

It was a terrible ski season here in New England.

In reviewing my pictures (all taken with a cell phone or little point and shoot), I see that my first day out was not until February.  And now it is April 3, and most areas are closed.

During the past week I did get two fine days of skiing under my belt, however.

Last Sunday (a week ago) it was at Waterville Valley. There were 40+ trails open and the morning skiing and views were made memorable by a thermal inversion. Waterville was closed Monday through Thursday, and reopened for its $1 lift ticket, April 1st celebration on Friday. Yesterday (Saturday) was their final day, and they were only able to run one lower lift and had just 3 trails open. The three days of 70 degree temperatures this past week didn't help.

Waterville Valley last Sunday: fog at the bottom of the mountain
Waterville Valley last Sunday:  breaking through the fog

Waterville Valley last Sunday: Sun at the top!

My favorite from Waterville last Sunday.  I would have waited for
people on the lift. The silhouettes would have been nice.
But this lift wasn't running.

Before the 70 degree weather arrived, I skied a nice day at Cannon on Tuesday. There had actually been snow on the upper mountain during the prior 24 hours which provided some winter conditions, with spring skiing on the lower half.

Cannon this past Tuesday: winter conditions on the top half.

Cannon last Tuesday.  Spring conditions on the lower half.
Shot looking down Gary's trail.
I don't think I have ever skied Cannon without ice on Echo Lake.

Cannon is open today (Sunday) but will close Monday through Friday to conserve snow, to then open again next weekend. I'm optimistic because it looks like we'll have cold weather this week with a wee bit of snowfall.


Some of the pictures I have included below show how little snowfall we had. You can see bare ground in the woods. Waterville received only 58" of snow this season.  Cannon I believe received the most in New Hampshire at just under 100".  I'm not sure what is normal, but I see that Mad River Glen (closed most of the season because they do not have snow making) normally gets over 200".

Next three images are from Mt. Sunapee:

Add caption

The remaining images are from Waterville Valley:

My favorite rest stop: Schwendi Hutte.  Waterville has the best sweet rolls and cookies. (Well, perhaps tied with Sunday River). A big mountain cookie is mandatory during an 11:00 coffee break.Waterville's coffee is also the best.