Art and Photos by Randy L. James

Focusing in on my creative passions.

I’ve chosen to take two images, one focused in the fore and one in the back, of electrical components that are part of the hideous Elwah River Dam.  Are they foreboding?  Are they friendly? In the end they are going to be extinct very soon.  I was personally part of the original movement to remove the related dam, some 19 years ago.  If you read the linked article you will find out that patience pays.

I had the opportunity to visit the Hoh Rain Forest on the Olympic Peninsula without getting rained on.  I’d like to think it was luck since the Hoh arguably receives the most annual rainfall on the face of the earth. It’s amazing what you can find just a few hours from Seattle.

I had a few people asking me how I got the Walla Walla wheat photos to look so good.  Mainly it was the use of a polarization filter that helped create a more dramatic sky.  However that only got me part of the way there.

As with all of my images, I have to do some post production work on them.  The tools we use today in the digital dark room are similar to the ones used yesterday, they are just easier use.  Typical things tools used, in the dark rooms of yore, were dodging, burning, masking, bending, exposure adjustments, chemical baths and paper characteristics.  All of which lead to a print final that the photographer is ready to show.  The digital dark room is the same but quicker and easier.  We lighten, darken, crop, sharpen, mask, bend, push colors etc.  This risk with any tool set is that you go to far.  You can use chemicals to make some pretty bizarre prints, you can also use photoshop to really mess up a decent image. Practice and feedback is the best way to stay on course.  My best advice is to take the picture you want and use post processing as the final fix up.  The less you have to do in post processing the better your final image will be.

Here is a simple before and after setup that demonstrates how the wheat pictures were made to pop.  The first shot is the “raw” shot from my Canon Mark II 1DS.  Its comes out plain, low contrast, soft and not in the exact color ranges I would like to see.  This is by design for the settings I use on the camera.  Starting this way, in the middle so to speak, allows me to push an image further in many directions in post production.  The second shot shows how I lightened and darkened areas, added contrast, sharpened the image, fixed up colors and adjusted the crop and the skyline’s center line.

Walla Walla, once the land of sweet onions has become a wonderful wine tasting destination.  As a bonus there are still lots of sweet onions,  wheat fields, asparagus, peas and more organically grown veggies.  We ate some excellent food at the Brasserie Four, a surprising find in Walla Walla I must say.  I should also mention my favorite vineyard: K Vinters.  They have very rich, dark, earthy, smokey, etc, etc Syrah wines.  My favorites by far.

Anyway back to the wheat.  These shots were all taken a bit east of town up toward the Blue Hills.  I used a polarizer filter, thus the dramatic sky.  Another factor that made these shots so vivid was the lack of dust and haze in the air.  July is a good time of the year to visit.

Hear is a stitched image based on some fun shots I took while skiing at the Heavenly Ski Resort at the south end of Lake Tahoe.  I took several images and combined them to create this very wide final image.  The altitude was near 10,000 feet and yes, it was very cold!