We may be getting close to spring, in the Pacific Northwest, but it looks like winter is holding a pretty steady grip. We are again experiencing some pretty awesome snow storms in the Cascade mountains but also some relentless rain in the Willamette Valley. This can only mean one thing for all of you flower lovers…muddy and sloppy flower time. If you plan on visiting any of the numerous tulip festivals throughout Washington and Oregon, you better plan on bringing your rubber boots and rain jackets. There is nothing more messy than walking along the rows of flowers that other people and machinery have trampled on. However, we may get lucky from next weeks forecast and just maybe get some sunny skies that might dry up some of the standing water that otherwise would be rows of flowers. However, I wouldn’t get my hopes up. I took this picture while visiting the Woodburn, Oregon tulip festival last year. It was also pretty muddy then as well. There weren’t a lot of photo opportunities due to the weather conditions and extremely muddy and flooded spots all along the grounds. March can be a really tricky time, in the Pacific Northwest, and it’s too bad that some of our best flowers sprout during the month of March. It’s especially bad if we get a late start on winter or a second winter since it always takes place in March.
Spring is officially here and the tulip festivals are being celebrated all over the western parts of the Pacific Northwest. Some of the best tulip farms are located between Western Washington and Western Oregon. There are over 50 places to go take in the majestic beauty of the flowers but one of the easiest to get to, if you reside in the Portland area, is the Woodburn Tulip Festival. It’s a very nice drive and pretty easy to get to. However, you will be surprised if you haven’t been to the festival over the past two years. I was unpleasantly surprised to find out that their entry prices have skyrocketed and the annual parking pass has gone from $15 to $40. You also have to pay $5 per person, which is much more than the $5 per car entry the last time I went. They have really cashed in on the tremendous increase of out of state residents that need to get their Festival fix. It also didn’t help that the parking lots were completely packed and you were lucky to be able to walk along the pathways without bumping in to a family or two. It also didn’t help that it’s still pretty early and the tulips were pretty sparse and need about two more weeks before they will be out in full force. I normally just go to get some really good pictures but I was impressed to see that they really increased the amount of rides and events that they offer. They almost tripled the amount of rides and added several tractors along the walking paths so families could take more photos of their kids with the flowers in the background. It’s a great place to bring your kids and they even allow dogs to walk along the flower paths. I probably wouldn’t recommend that you visit during a weekend since it would be pretty crazy and since we went on a weekday, I could only imagine what the weekend will be like. Since the tulips were not out as much as I would have liked, I ended up attaching my 50mm prime lens and concentrated on getting some close up shots in order to avoid having a million people in my panoramic photos and a sparse row of flowers standing out like a sore thumb. I highly recommend that you visit but plan on shelling out some cash if you have a large family.
Spring is in the air and it feels like it outside. On the last day of February…… it’s sunny, warm and you can even see snow capped mountains in the distance. It’s already shaping up to be another standard Pacific Northwest Spring like debacle! Debacle you say! why yes! I say that because the forecast for tomorrow is calling for a severe storm system to move in and blanket most of the state with rain in the valleys, snow in the mountains and much colder temperatures in the Cascades. Government Camp may only get a high of 17 degrees even though today it’s partly sunny and much warmer. However, this isn’t any different from all the other years in the Northwest. People in Chicago, IL have a saying… if you don’t like the weather just give it a few hours. That’s nothing, compared to our seasons in the Pacific Northwest. We can have Spring weather on one day and then winter the next. This is much different than just rain one day and then sun the next. We experience complete seasonal changes within just a day. However, I’m totally ready for the Spring weather as well as hoping that we get some descent snow storms in the mountains, so I can revel in both worlds. I’m ready to take out my 50mm prime lens, for some great tulip shots and get out my 17-70mm lens so I can take it up to the mountain while snow shoeing through some rugged powder. Another great thing about the Pacific Northwest is that it’s really easy to experience several seasons on the same day since you can admire in the spring flowers while taking in the views of snow capped mountains.
I never thought that I would see the day when tulips would begin to spring up out of the ground and completely grow to their absolute potential during the month of January. However, that’s exactly what I have been noticing along some of the neighborhood’s in NW Portland, Oregon. I’m sure that older tulip bulbs can probably start to grow earlier but in January? I have noticed that some of my tulip bulbs, that I planted last year, have started rearing their heads but they are only about 2 inches high. The ones that I saw the other day were about two feet tall and had completely bloomed. The photo shown on my blog was taken at the Woodburn, Oregon Tulip Festival and I took the shot on April 1st.
[/caption] You can get very creative with your shots when photographing flowers with a prime/macro lens. This is a photo of a Dahlia flower and I was only about 6 cm from the flower. I was using my Sigma 50mm prime/macro lens. The great thing about prime lenses is that you don’t need a tripod or even IS when getting ultra close to your subject. The trick is to make sure that you remove your CIR-PL and attach a warming filter and a UV filter. It’s also an advantage if you find the right angle as well as finding the best saturation and angle of the sun before taking your shots. I usually just move around and look through the lens to see if it looks like it may be a keeper or not. Since I don’t have to hassle with a tripod, I can just as easily delete the shot and move on to my next one. Utilizing the histogram is necessary and I always adjust the white balance whenever needed. I try to keep the ISO at 100 and keep the camera mode at Program/Normal. One thing to always remember is that you want to be sure that you find the focal point and ensure that you either have the entire subject in focus or just the part that you’re interested in. This is one of the best parts of a macro/prime lens. Having the creative instinct to just play around with your subject and get some really cool shots can be very rewarding and usually unexpected.
[/caption] One of the best ways to get a really good and tack sharp close-up photograph of a flower is by attaching a macro/prime lens and utilizing your cameras settings in order to ensure that you take only the best photos as possible. I have a 50mm lens and never attach it to my tripod when I’m taking macro photos of flowers or insects. You always want to be sure and use your histogram since it’s one of the most important things that you can do in order to eliminate photos that you will just end up deleting when you get home. The histogram also helps you learn ways to change settings in order to take a good photo. You will also want to attach a warming filter and remove the CIR-PL if it’s attached. I almost never use a tripod since I want to be able to move around a lot and get into some very peculiar positions in order to get the best and most unique photos. A tripod is too cumbersome and can limit the angles that you can get the best photos. However, sometimes it’s appropriate to use a tripod but 95% percent of the time I won’t use a tripod when I’m taking photos of flowers or other close-up shots. Since you also want to try and keep the ISO at 100, you will want to get comfortable with the white balance setting since it’s the best way to brighten the photo without having to increase the ISO. I also set the camera to Program/Normal mode in order to make sure the camera focuses on the spot I want to ensure is in focus. The close-up setting won’t always focus on the part of your subject that you will want to focus on and will hamper your abilities. It’s also important to attach a battery pack on the body of your camera so you can have a large grip for vertical shots. I have a Canon T1i and I purchased the battery pack and only use it when I’m taking macro photos. And last but not least is to ensure that you keep a steady hand and always make sure that you take advantage of the lighting, background noise and color format of your subject. I normally put the sun in the back of my subject in order to get full light but look for shade in the subject that I’m photographing. This increases the chances that your subject will evolve into a great photo opportunity and have an awesome personality that will catch someones eye. Normally the pedals or the body of the flower will shade some of most of the direct sunlight but still allow the light to shine on the area of focus.
[/caption] Early morning dew cascading over a sea of flowers at the Portland International Rose Garden in Portland, OR. Early Spring is the best time to visit the Rose Garden if you are wanting to photograph or just view the many flowers that inhibit the Rose Garden. However, June is the best time to see the Roses.
[/caption] One day it’s snowing in the Willamette Valley of Oregon and the next day its sunny and warm. It’s hard to believe that it’s already Spring but even harder to believe that we just received over 3 feet of snow in the Cascades the last few days. I guess this is why I love the Pacific Northwest so much. I just returned from a long walk with my dog, basking in the glorious sun and smelling the flowers in the air and now I’m getting my gear ready to go on a snow-shoe adventure. If the weather holds, I may even make a trip to the coast and try to get some sunset shots. The Pacific Northwest is known for its wildflowers and known even more for the many flower festivals and public gardens that sprawl all over the Northwest. This photo was taken at the Portland International Rose test garden last June and there are literally thousands of roses to photograph. I always take my Sigma 50mm prime/macro lens with me when I’m photographing flowers. Since I don’t use a tripod while taking macro shots I make sure to always remove the CIR-PL so the photos won’t turn out blurry or have any camera shake. However, I do make sure and attach my warming filter and UV filter. I can usually set the ISO at 100 and then just adjust the white balance to get the right amount of exposure. I rely on the histogram and always try to position myself in order to take advantage of the sun light.
[/caption] The peony flower can be a very difficult flower to photograph from afar but a close up view offers an entirely different aspect. Since the peony is so big and has so many different peddles, you have to really work hard to get a good photo. Luckily, you can break out your macro/prime lens and photograph the anatomy of the flower. This is where the true magic takes place since there are so many different types of the flower and so many different colors. I was using my Sigma 50mm macro/prime lens and was only about 1/4 of an inch from the flower. I wasn’t using a tripod or remote switch so I made sure to remove the CIR-PL and made sure that I kept a steady hand to ensure there wouldn’t be any camera shake or blur. I didn’t want any shade to obscure the photo but I also didn’t want any glare from the bright sunlight so I set the ISO at 100 and reduced the white balance to -0.7. I made sure to attach the warming filter in order to enhance the warming tones of the colors. The aperture was at f-8 and the shutter speed was at 1/400 second. It’s always best if you try to take advantage of the direction of the sunlight. I normally end up walking around the flower garden or wildflowers until I find the best lighting as well as the best flower to photograph. You also need to be aware of the time of day and the position of the sun. Sometimes it’s best to wait for the sun to go behind some clouds if there is too much glare. Since I don’t use a tripod or remote switch during any of my macro photography, it’s really important to ensure the the light is to your advantage and be sure to keep your camera steady and turn on the image stabilization.
[/caption] I had never heard of an Icelandic flower until two years ago and I was amazed at how beautiful and awesome they are to photograph. They are so small and low to the ground that you have to really work to get a great shot but if you have a 50mm or a 100mm macro lens you can get in really close and photograph the intricate parts of the flower. I was using my Sigma 50mm macro/prime lens and got within an inch in order to get this photo. I wasn’t using a tripod so I just made sure to remove my CIR-PL and set the ISO to 200. Luckily the sun wasn’t too bright and I was able to find some shade in order to avoid any glare. The flowers only grow about 6 inches or so from the ground and I didn’t see any growing in pairs. I have only been to one place that have these flowers and if you’re interested in finding out where you can find them you can send me a comment or e-mail.