Castle Peak North Cascades

Manning Park Winter Photography

Manning Park Winter Photography

Castle Peak North CascadesCastle Peak North Cascades #64796  Purchase

Last week I made a trip to Manning Provincial Park for winter photography and skiing fun. Weather forecasts were for cold temperatures and a good amount of fresh snow. Perfect conditions to make some new winter photos.

Manning Provincial Park is a large park in southern British Columbia. It encompasses the northern reaches of the North Cascades Mountains, along the U.S. Washington State border. On the U.S. side the mountains present a rugged appearance with high jagged peaks. However, in Manning Park the range mellows out into high mountains with more rounded summits. Just north of the park the North Cascades ends, and gives way to the Thompson Plateau.

Gibson Pass Ski Area, Manning Provincial ParkGibson Pass Ski Area Lifts  #64771  Purchase

Skiing Manning Park

In summer hikers in Manning Park can find some great trails offering high views and meadows of wildflowers. In winter the park offers a network of cross country ski trails in addition to the small Gibson Pass downhill ski area. Backcountry skiers and snowshoers can also find fresh snow and solitude on the Fat Dog ski route to the Brothers Mountain group.

On this trip I took advantage of both the Nordic trails and downhill ski runs. Manning Park’s Gibson Pass Ski Area offers a bit of a unique experience in the Pacific Northwest. Most ski areas in this region receive a copious amount of heavy wet snow, often referred to as Cascade Concrete. Manning Park, on the other hand, often has colder powdery snow, due to its more inland location.

A few of other things sets Manning apart. For one it has a laid back retro feel perfect for families, and avoiding adrenaline junkies. Also, while the big resorts like Whistler Blackcomb charge a staggering $180 (Canadian) for a single lift ticket, Manning charges only $59 (Canadian). Plus, there are usually no lift lines. On my recent midweek visit, I skied directly onto the chair each time! The downside to these benefits is that there are only two chair lifts, with only one operating in midweek. The vertical drop is a modest 1400′.

North Cascades Winter, Manning Provincial ParkManning Park in Winter  #64780  Purchase

Winter Photography in Manning

While the Nordic trails are fun, they usually don’t offer much in the way of landscape photography. Therefore I made a point of taking advantage of the views offered from the top of the ski lifts. From the ridge top the views south into the Washington North Cascades are very good. The two dominant peaks in that direction are Hozomeen Mountain and Castle Peak. Further off west are the jagged peaks of the Mount Spickard, Mox Peaks, and the northern Pickets, in North Cascades National Park. To the north are the rounded summits of Three Brothers and Big Buck Mountains.

To photograph the twin summit towers of Hozomeen and the Pickets you’ll want to be on the ridge top early in the morning. However, unless you hike up to the ridge before dawn you’ll be limited by the ski lift schedule. The lifts open at 9:00 so you’ll miss sunrise. Of course depending on lighting and snow conditions you can still make good photos throughout the day. If you want to get to the top only for the views, you can purchase a one trip lift ticket for $10.

Later in the afternoon both Castle and Frosty Mountains will begin to receive warmer light. Note that until late spring the north faces of Castle and Hozomeen will be mostly in shadow.

North Cascades Winter, Manning Provincial ParkManning Park in Winter  #64783  Purchase

Timing is Everything

While having great light is always imperative in photography, another important consideration for winter photography is timing the snow conditions. In winter most of the landscape will have a blanket of snow over it. However, trees and forests without snow on them will become black holes for light against all that white.

In my opinion and experience the best conditions can be had just after a storm dumps fresh snow on the trees. This sounds simple and obvious, but it can be tricky. Often in the Northwest a warmer wet snowstorm is followed by sunny conditions, which melts snow off tree branches very quickly. That pristine scene can be gone within a few hours!

Frosty Mountain North Cascades British ColumbiaFrosty Mountain Manning Park  #64791  Purchase

Colder drier locations such as the Rockies present another dilemma. The snow can be so cold and dry that very little to no snow may adhere to tree branches. Unlike the coastal Northwest where wet snow acts like glue on everything. In cold locations and conditions a slight breeze can also remove the snow as easily as warm sunshine.

In the end winter photography can be much more fickle than photographing spring wildflowers or perfect autumn color. Depending on weather patterns where you live or are able to travel to, there may be only a couple of good opportunities a season. So keep a close eye on those forecasts and be ready to go at a moments notice!

North Cascades Winter, Manning Provincial ParkManning Park in Winter  #64778  Purchase

If You Go to Manning Park

Driving time to Manning Park is about 4.5 hours north of Seattle, and two hours from Vancouver. Winter camping is available, as are RV hookups at Gibson Pass Ski Area. Manning Park Resort also offers excellent lodge and cabin facilities, along with a restaurant grocery store and gas. Cell phone signal is limited to the immediate lodge area.

Want to Learn More?

Would you like to learn more about photographing in Manning Park and or winter photography? I offer full day, half day, and multi-day photo tours and instruction. Check out my Private Instruction/Tours page for more info, or contact me directly. I would love to help you take your photography to the next level and shoot like a pro!

Purcell Mountains British Columbia

How to Boost Your Creativity Back to the Basics

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How to Boost Your Creativity  Back to the Basics :  You hear it all the time in every field, from sports to science and everything in between. When you’re having difficulty being creative it always helps to start fresh and get back to the basics.

One of the first assignments I had way back in my days of art school was to go out and create images with only one lens. A 50mm focal length often called a normal lens. In addition the camera was to be set only on manual. Back then it wasn’t difficult to do since I only had one lens and my Nikkormat 35mm camera was manual only.

The point of this assignment was to learn the basics of exposure. By adjusting shutter speeds and f-stops, and not relying on technology to do the thinking for you. Limiting your choice of lens to only a 50mm also forced you to visualize your subject matter and compose more carefully.

Try this, find a small object, a flower, trinket, door knob, whatever. Set it up on a table and try photographing it with a normal lens. No filters or special lighting techniques allowed, just room or daylight. See if you can photograph it in a way that brings out an interesting aspect of the object. I  once worked with a woman who photographed through the bottom of drink glasses. A pretty dull subject matter, but she brought to life in a very creative way. I’ll always remember those beautiful colors and patterns.

In my art school drawing class we once had a pile of randomly arranged chairs which we had to draw over and over again for what seemed like forever. The point was to see shapes and patterns of interest in a seemingly mundane object. Not a lesson we enjoyed but effective nonetheless.

During my years working with large format view cameras these lessons paid off and further honed my skills. View cameras are basically just large boxes with a lens on one end. They have no form of auto exposure or auto focusing. In addition each sheet of film can be very costly both in itself and with processing. The result being a forced slowdown in methodology which sharpened my way of seeing more carefully.

Today with digital cameras it’s hard not to just jump in and let the camera do all the creative work for you. However if you want to be more creative turn off all those whistles and bells and put yourself in the driver’s seat for a change.

Another basic way to learn to see more creatively is to work in black and white. Monochrome photography strips the image down to the most basic of elements. It forces the viewer to see the subject in a more pure state. Take a look at your photos and do a quick conversion to black and white. You may notice that some images are pretty dull and lifeless when you strip out the color. You may also see flaws in the composition that aren’t as apparent with color distracting them.

Now this isn’t to say that monochrome is superior to color photography or vise versa. It’s just another way of seeing and a powerful tool creative every photographer can benefit from.

Of course boosting your creativity by getting back to the basics can be extended to post processing the film or digital files. But that’s a big topic for another post.

Imnaha River Canyon, Hells Canyon Recreation Area Oregon

How to Boost Your Creativity Learn From the Past

Imnaha River Canyon, Hells Canyon Recreation Area OregonImnaha Canyon Oregon #45023   Purchase

How to Boost Your Creativity Learn From the Past:  Here’s another easy way to boost your creativity. Study artists and photographers from previous generations. You can do this by visiting museums art galleries and book stores that specialize in art and rare editions.

A few years ago I made my first trip to the California coast. While photographing Big Sur I made a point of spending some time in Carmel. Carmel is the epicenter of early twentieth century landscape photography. It’s also the one time home to Edward Weston and Ansel Adams. I wanted to check out the galleries there to see original prints up close by many of those masters. Both the Weston Gallery and Photography West Gallery displayed numerous prints of both classic well known images, and many I’ve never seen before. I came away from there truly moved and inspired to go further in my own work.

Remember the Masters

In the over 150 years of photography there has been an enormous wealth of creativity that can offer lessons and inspire even the most jaded photographer. Of course everyone in landscape and nature photography knows Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell. However, how many know of Wynn Bullock, Minor White, Morley Baer, Don Worth and a host of others?

And what about photographers outside of the landscape genre? Does anyone remember Diane Arbus, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Robert Frank, Walker Evans and more? Does anyone also remember Alfred Stieglitz? He is the one man who did single handedly elevated photography as an artistic medium, equal to painting and sculpture.

These are just a few of the many who made their mark in photography. Their images have stood the test of time, and continue to inspire and move viewers generations later. If you are truly serious about your photography and you desire to move beyond clichéd images. Check out some of the names I mentioned here. You’ll soon realize that they are just the very tip of the iceberg. There are many newcomers to the field still pushing the boundaries of creativity. Have fun and enjoy the trip!

Lake Crescent Olympic National Park

How to Boost Your Creativity Second Tip

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How to Boost Your Creativity Second Tip

In my last post of How to Boost Your Creativity I spoke of photo sharing websites. In this post I’m going to talk a little about stepping outside of your comfort zone. Once again I’m addressing primarily landscape and nature photographers. Although these tips will work for anyone in a creative rut.

Today’s tip is probably the most important in helping you boost your creativity. It’s also one of the easiest to do and nearly guaranteed to bring quick results, or at least get you thinking a little different.

Tip #2: Look Beyond Your Genre. If you limit your online and print media exposure to magazines like Landscape Photography Outdoor Photography Nature’s Best, you’re going to end up with a severely myopic view of the natural world and what it should look like. Consequently you won’t experience much creative growth.

To truly get inspired get out of your comfort zone! To create something new you must look beyond your genre of landscapes and nature.

My first suggestion is to look to the commercial photography field for a change in scenery. Commercial assignment photography is often looked on as a dull unimaginative field. A field where photographers record what the art director and or ad agency dictated to them. However, over the years commercial photography has grown in leaps and bounds creatively. Now many photographers have blurred the line between commercial and true fine art. One example is my current favorite photographer, Colin Homes. His excellent work has earned him a thriving business in both the fine art market, and commercial photography.

Publications and Websites

One of my longtime favorites for creative inspiration is Communication Arts. CA has an extensive website, with resources for illustrators photographers and designers. They publish lavishly produced annuals for these and other fields in the commercial genre. If you enroll for a subscription make sure it includes the printed versions of the annuals. The photography side of CA often shows a surprising number of creative photographers. Many are nearly unknown in the landscape photo sharing circles. These photographers are creating astonishingly fresh images.

Another source I like to check out on a regular basis is A Photo Editor (APE). This site, built by Rob Haggart a former photo editor for several large magazines, showcases some of the more creative photographers working in both commercial assignment and fine art fields. Another aspect of this site I love is the regular sidebar feature of promotional mailers sent to Rob for review, lots of good stuff there.

While up to this point I focused on sources for inspiration in the commercial side of photography, it is also important to look to other segments such as editorial and traditional fine art. If you are strictly creating in color it would be a sore mistake to ignore what’s going on in the black and white world. Successful monochrome images utilize a different way of seeing that may not be apparent to those working in color, and some of those techniques are easily transferable.

A few more sources I like that may help I’ve you a creative boost are Photographer’s Forum Magazine and LENSCRATCH, the later of which will most definitely challenge your way of seeing the world. There are many more sources than those mentioned in this post in which you can check out with a little searching.

So in conclusion if you want to boost your creativity try and look to different genres for inspiration! See you next time.

How to Boost Your Creativity Second Tip

Isle of Skye Scotland

How to Boost Your Creativity Tip One

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How to Boost Your Creativity Tip One

Everyone in the wide field of the Arts suffers from creative block from time to time. From writers and musicians to painters and photographers. No one is immune, and these periods can be very frustrating and occasionally depressing. Sometimes though only a small change of environment or way of looking at things is needed to get those juices flowing again.

In this and subsequent articles I’m going to address some ways photographers, specifically in the landscape and nature genre, can find inspiration. Ways to be more creative so their individual vision can shine through. Although I’ve been photographing quite a long time, and have a background, in the arts I don’t consider myself an expert by any means. These are just some tips and pointers I’ve learned throughout the years.

Define Creativity

Let’s start with the basics. What is creativity? Here is one definition:

creativity |ˌkrē-āˈtivitē| noun   The use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

Taking this definition in a strict sense is pretty tough. Yes, we all have an imagination, some bigger than others. But can we pull truly original ideas and concepts out of it on a regular basis? Hopefully some of these tips will give it a nudge in the right direction.

Tip #1: Use Online Photo Sharing Sites. Sites like 500px Instagram can at times be a wonderful source of inspiration to get your creative juices flowing. Be warned though, they can also be  an addictive trap that can stifle your creativity. Online photo sharing sites host a wide variety of talent. From photographers just beginning, to advanced professionals.

I mostly like to browse through some of these sites to research locations I may be visiting sometime in the future. It helps give me an idea of the photographic potential of an area. Unfortunately though I found that I rarely came away from these sites creatively inspired. There just isn’t much originality here.

Word of Caution

Spend even a short amount of time browsing through posted photos on these sites and you’ll begin to see a follow the leader mentality. Both in locations visited, and the trend of the day style of processing. One of the worst aspects of these sites, in my opinion, is that some have devolved into competitive venues. A forum where it is more important to accumulate Likes and Faves than it is to post creative content.

So yes, online photo sharing sites can be a good source of inspiration for your creative self. Just make sure it is only one of many tools in your kit. Don’t get sidetracked into a race to keep up with the next guy!