Woodard Bay – 15MAY2011

I have several friends who send me these really great bird photos which they took at Woodard Bay, WA.  I have never been to Woodard Bay, and thought rather than going kayaking for photo opportunities I would venture to Woodard Bay.

I called my friend John to see if he was interested in going out in the field.  John is one of those friends who has very good luck with bird photos at Woodard Bay.  He agreed to join me.  We arrived there around 2:00 pm and walked to the point where the trestle used to come ashore.  There we sat.  No birds, not a duck to be seen.  There was a crow which flew by overhead and a couple Canadian Geese flew over and landed 300 yards off, but that was it.  Despite not seeing any waterfowl, we did see a garter snake on the walk back, curled up sunning itself on a small log.  

So the day wouldn’t be a total disappointment we decided to head over to the stormwater ponds between the Ecology building and St. Martins University.  These ponds, although built as stormwater retention ponds, have a fairly diverse wildlife population.  Several Red-winged Blackbirds live amoung the cattails, a variety of ducks, including a pied-billed Grebe (a new species to add to my life list).

Pied-Billed Grebe

There were several ducklings swimming around in the pond, staying close to the protection of the cattail and reeds.  A red-tail hawk is nesting in the Doug Fir tree just to the NW of the ponds, an ideal location to watch the ducklings.

Three Mallard ducklings in a stormwater retention pond

So, it turned out not to be a bad day shoot photos after all.  Besides, any day out with nature is a good day, with or without a camera or a successful photograph.  And, as the saying goes, the worst day photographing nature is better than the best day at work.

Regard,  Eric

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Olympia Area Sunrises

Last week in Olympia, we had a few days where we were getting beautiful sunrises.  The mornings were cold, mostly clear with some clouds and a light fog which created a bright golden glow as the sun would rise.  I love these mornings because they provide the best opportunities to photograph the sunrise, which is my favorite subject to photograph.

I ventured out to Nisqually early on Thursday, January 12th to try and capture the morning light and was rewarded with one of the nicest sunrises I’ve seen in a long time.

Taken just before the sun peeked over the horizon, the light created two great silhouettes  of Mt. Rainier and of the Nisqually dock.  Also, the shadows from the clouds near Rainier added a special touch to the photo.

Some mornings, it is worth it to miss a few hours of work and venture out to capture a moment which will live with you forever.  This cold morning side trip made my whole day.

Regards, Eric

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Studio Portraits

The last several portraits sessions I’ve had have all been done in studio.  Except for a very few studio portrait sessions taken many years ago, all the photos I have taken of people have been outside using only natural light or in a candid setting inside with either natural light or a single flash.  Sports Team photos are the one exception which were take in a gym using both flash and studio lighting.  A gym however, is by no means a studio (a studio may have made the photos easier).

The studio I had available was in a large back room at a business in downtown Olympia.  As potential studio spaces go, this was actually a pretty nice location.  There were skylights which allowed some natural light to filter in from above, large walls painted white and one wall with wood paneling, high ceilings, and plenty of space for backdrops, light setups and props for the models.

Working in a studio has been a different experience for me and definitely a learning experience.  Lighting was the first issue which I had to figure out.  I recently purchased a couple of Pocket Wizard remote triggers for my Canon flash units as well as for the studio flash I have.  Since the studio space is relatively small (compared to the outdoors) I also purchased a softbox so I could soften the light from the studio flash, a concern I had with using flash units indoors in close quarters.  Where to position the lights was not really an issue.  Position is relative, based solely on the lighting you want to create with your subject.  The problem I ran into was setting up the radio flashes.  Don’t get me wrong, they worked easily.  I just hooked them up and pressed the shutter and the lights would flash.  But, they didn’t always flash in sync.  Sometimes one flash would light one side while the other would not.  Other times both worked great, then the next time neither one would work.  This was especially true when taking shots rapidly.  This was not the case when I had the flashes directly connected to my camera with a sync cord; they would flash every time, perfectly.  Or sometime there was a shutter curtain shadow on the bottom of the photos.  This was really frustrating.

The next issue with working in the studio was set up.  Since I had to bring all my equipment with me, setting it up took time.  I didn’t like making the models wait while I set up the studio, especially since it took me a fair amount of time to get the lights and flashes working correctly so I could start to take the portraits.

And last was giving direction to the models on what I wanted them to do and making them feel comfortable while I was taking their portraits, keeping them smiling and cheerful.  This was a challenge at first, but by talking to them and asking questions to keep them talking about themselves helps…so does humor.

I was fortunate to have a model who was patient and would sit and wait while I practiced with my lighting and setup.  She was easy to talk to and made me feel more comfortable as well.  Here are a few of the photos of her from our last session:

Please visit my website for more photos of Samantha at efhphotography.com

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Shorebird Festival

The other day a friend and I decided to make an early morning attempt at getting a look at the shorebirds gathering in Grays Harbor.  The weather in Washington has been really cold and rainy this spring (in fact it is the worse spring in Washington since 1948 – according to the UW) so we weren’t even sure the weather would be any good.  Checking the weather reports, the weather called for rain, but depending on which weather site you checked, the chance of rain varied from 20% to 100%.  We decided to wait until morning and if it was crappy, then we would go to the Tacoma Aquarium instead.

At 4:00 a.m. I checked outside and was delighted to see stars in a clear sky.  I checked the weather reports and was pleased to see the rain would be holding off until 11:00 am, so I e-mailed John and suggested we give it a try.  It was the right decision.

We went to the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge at the airport in Aberdeen and although cold, the sky was partly cloudy and no rain.  As the morning progressed, the sky stayed clear and the sun rising in the east brought a golden glow the tide flats.  It was great photo light…the only problem was there were no birds near the shore within camera range.

The birds stayed away all morning, the tide never got high enough to push them in and the rain started to fall around 10:30…time to leave.  But the day was not a waste; no day is a waste when spent outside with nature.  I was able to get a few shots, not great ones but good enough to document the day and show the marvelous light which has been rare this spring.

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Washington State Penitentiary – Cemetery Restoration Project 2009-2010

The Washington State Penitentiary has a historic cemetery which dates back to the late 1800’s.  This cemetery was used to bury inmates who died in prison and whose bodies were not claimed by family members.  A total of 346 inmates are known to be buried there (including at least two women) along with at least six unknown and unmarked graves for someone, maybe inmates, maybe not.  The headstones are marked with only the inmates’ prison number, no names or epitaph.  At one time, the cemetery was nearly a half mile to the west of the prison and outside the prison walls.  But over the years, as the prison population grew and the facility was expanded the cemetery eventually ended up inside the prison perimeter fence.

During the last expansion, the site surrounding the cemetery was raised and leveled off, leaving the cemetery sloping down below the ground level of the new site.

This created two problems: water collected at the low end of the cemetery creating a pond several feet deep, and it created spots for offenders which could not be seen by the guard towers.  The solution was to raise the cemetery to the same level as the surrounding grade.

Our proposal to the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation was to map the entire cemetery using a Trimble GPS Unit (<10 cm accuracy), remove each headstone, bury the cemetery with clean fill dirt and replace each headstone in its exact location.  In addition, since many of the old headstones were no longer legible, new headstones would be cast and placed in the location next to the original headstone.   This entire project would be done using offender labor and overseen by a professional archaeologist.

The survey and mapping of the cemetery was started during the 2009 summer, field checked in the fall, backfilled this winter, and restored in the spring of 2010. However, nothing goes exactly planned, especially when you are working in a cemetery.  We were plagued with multiple problems including the GPS unit not working correctly on two occasions, data glitches involving the geographical datum used for satellite location (all eventually corrected), dump trucks breaking down, scheduling conflicts with other projects, and prison lockdowns.  The latest challenge  is the unanticipated time it takes to replace a headstone in its exact original location.  We scheduled three days, but as it turns out, it took 14 days.

Removing the headstones and the actual filling of the cemetery had to be done at night.  Since we were bringing in 427 trucks of dirt from outside the perimeter fence, the prison had to be secured to make it easier to move the dump trucks through the facility.  Again we used offender labor to do the actual digging up of the headstones.  We asked for volunteers to help on this project but when walking out to cemetery I discovered some of the offenders weren’t completely briefed on what they would be doing.  One actually thought we were going out to dig up the bodies and was concerned by the fact we were doing the work at night.  One told me he wasn’t real comfortable digging around in a cemetery in the middle of the night.  And, I must say digging in a cemetery at midnight on a very cold foggy winter night does add a touch of reality to the term “graveyard shift”.

Once the cemetery was filled with dirt, each gravesite was marked with a pin flag placed within 10 cm of its original location using the Trimble GPS unit.

The original headstone was “planted” at that location and a newly cast headstone was placed next to it.

Finally, a sprinkler system will be installed and the entire cemetery will be hydro seeded with grass.

As projects go, this was a very unique project.  This cemetery is not one which will be visited by people; most who are buried here are long forgotten except for a number.  Visitors are not allowed within the penitentiary and inmates are restricted to only certain locations and the cemetery is not one of them.  But none the less, it remains as a historic site, part of Washington’s heritage.

This project is finished but one photo remains to be added, that of the completed cemetery project with the newly planted grass and landscaping.  Come springtime, when the grass is green, I’ll get that photo and add it here.



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First Digital Photo

First Digital Photo

Photography has always been a hobby of mine, more so when I was younger and through my high school and college years.  After a long photographic dry spell I started to become interested in photography again and dusted off my old Olympus 35mm SLR cameras and lenses and started shooting.  Eventually my curiosity in digital SLR’s began to grow and I started to look into digital photography, the quality of the images, and the various DSLR’s on the market.   It wasn’t until late 2007 that I decided it was time to make the switch to digital.  I have taken some digital photos with inexpensive digital cameras, but nothing much more than taking family photos and documenting work projects.  So in December 2007, after much research and fiddling with the cameras in the camera shops, I finally decided to buy my first DSLR.

I decided on a Canon 40D for a number of reasons, but mostly because several friends of mine were using Canon and the potential for learning from each other and swapping lenses and equipment seemed like a good reason.  Now, nearly four years later, and after purchasing my second DSLR (Canon 7D) I believe it was the right decision.

As is always the case, when you get a new toy, you must play with it.  Such was the case with my new Canon 40D.  While playing with my new Canon and messing with the shutter options, and exposures, etc, I accidentally took this photo. 

I had pressed the shutter release with a couple second exposure.  The room was dark and the camera was pointed at a poinsettia we had sitting in the window.  The photo naturally was a blurred image and I was about to delete it when I decided to hold off and download it first.  The more I looked at the photo, the more I grew to like it.  So I decided to keep it and eventually I decided to print the picture.

In Olympia each year there is an event called Arts Walk where local artists can display their work in downtown shops for the weekend and the people of Olympia come out and wonder the shops looking at the various art works.  I displayed this photo along with some of my other photos at one of the local businesses.   Ironically, I sold two photos during Arts Walk, and this one was the first one to sell.  I guess it was abstract enough for someone to think of it as art and not just a photo.  Since then, I have printed several for others who have requested it.

Abstract art is not really my favorite, and I can’t paint at all thus my interest in photography as my means of expressing art.  But this accidental photograph has lead me to start experimenting with other options and techniques which I have found for digital photography.  Although I don’t go around holding my camera shutter down and moving the camera in weird patterns, I have found that taking existing photos and applying various techniques have created some interesting photos which I might even venture on calling ART. 



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Welcome Back…

Welcome to EFH Photography’s Blog.

As some of you might know I recently changed and updated my website.  My old website which I designed myself got to be a little to time consuming to keep current and I found myself putting off adding photos and updating information, including keeping my blog current.  So I switch web hosts and updated my site to a simpler and more manageable host and site.

While I was able to access my old website offline, I wasn’t able to access my old blog site once I changed web hosts, so I lost all my old blog posts.  Not that there was anything all inspiring or insightful posted on the site, I would like to have moved my posts from to this site.  But that is not going to happen.  I will over time try and rewrite some of my posts, those which I would really like to pass along, but the rest are most likely lost for good (except for the photos…those I still have).

Moral of the story, make copies of your work or back it up.  I’m sure my old posts are floating around somewhere in cyber world, because once something is on the internet, it never goes away, I just can’t find it.


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