Looking Back on 2020

WOW! I made through 2020, but looking back I discovered that I shot less than 10 shoots. Most years, I’ve reached this number of shoots by the end of February. We made through Pandemic lock-downs, travel restrictions, and other limiting factors. I taught only 4 classes, 1 bird festival, and sold a couple prints. With all this, there is visible growth in my photographic vision, and I’m looking forward to 2021. Here, I’m posting my best from 2020.

May the New Year be filled with may photography opportunities. . .Karen

  • copyright Karen Ulvestad
  • copyright Karen Ulvestad

2020 holiday Special

As the year 2020 is coming to an end, it is a great time to learn a new skill or improve an old hobby/passion. I decided that I would offer a special price for an hour of instruction, including answering questions. The topic of instruction will be discussed with the student prior to the session, and will focus on the student’s needs. These sessions will be scheduled between me and the student, and will take place via a ZOOM session. This would make a great Holiday gift for the camera enthusiast, or a child/adult wanting to learn photography. I look forward to working with you in the New Year.


One Hour Learning Session

This hour long ZOOM session is designed to help learn a new camera, expand existing knowledge, and/or learn new photography skills. Skills taught could range from camera operation, understanding exposure, composition, the digital darkroom, storing and accessing picture files, and/or subjects/locations to shoot. The subjects taught will be tailored to the student prior to the session. These sessions are great for children or adults. I have taught both age groups in-person and via ZOOM classes. Each session will be scheduled to the availability of the student and instructor. Parents are welcome to be part of a child’s session.


Creating a Photographic Story

copyright Karen Ulvestad

A photograph is the reflection of the photographer at the time the image is created. It reflects our mood, vision, and emotional state. The way the light is captured in the image, then post processed reveals the story hidden in the photograph. It is a visual communication between the photographer and their audience.

The image above was take this spring during the afternoon (during a short day escape during the Pandemic). The weather report called for rain, yet it hadn’t rained yet. The clouds were amazing and dynamic. The hillside viewpoint allowed me to include the Columbia River, Vantage, I-90, and the dynamic clouds. I brought more contrast into the post processing. I like how it look a ominous.

In the next image, I took a different approach. . .

copyright Karen Ulvestad

What attracted my attention in this image is the dynamic clouds, the lines of the hillside, and the wild horse monument. I return to this place at least once a year to experience the high desert changes. I love the changing sky. Often this area is a treasure trove of opportunities to explore line, shape, textures, and other compositional elements. It usually isn’t over-run with people, and the hike to the top is relatively easy.

The biggest piece in creating a photographic story is the photographer’s vision or ability to compose in the field. It is the culmination of an idea, and the cooperation of the weather/other elements in the environment. The subject or important element needs to fill the frame. The following photograph focuses on the amazing cloud formations.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

The clouds are far more interesting than the landscape, yet what sits on the horizon? This is looking west towards the Cascade Mountains, and the clouds have created a dark blue-gray background for the turbines in the distance. A small airplane sits in the sky against the background of the massive clouds. Both the turbines and airplane give some perspective on the size of these cloud formations.

Exposure for these images is important and contributes to the story. All three are shot with at F16 or F22. This is a large depth of field, and gives the viewer a visual reference to the fore-ground, mid-ground, and background. A larger depth of field gives an expansive feeling to the photographs, and contributes to the 3D feeling in the images. A shallower depth of field would give less visual information to the viewer, and feel more 2 dimensional.

Through all these social challenges we face today, may everyone stay well and continue to photograph the world around us.


Changing Times. . .

It’s amazing how quickly our world changes! I hope this post finds all my followers in good health. As we navigate this new world filled with a dangerous pandemic (virus) and travel restrictions, I think it becomes more important to find ourselves behind our cameras documenting the world.

The act of being creative puts perspective to the unseen and sometimes frightening aspects of our lives. I sit here at home contemplating opportunities that have been canceled in the past few weeks and in the upcoming future. There is a lot to fear, yet it is an opportunity for a new future and growth in vision.

I believe that this is an opportunity to hang out at home, work previous images, and plan / execute new subject matter / ideas. It’s like we have been asked to take a step back from our normally busy world, and breathe. I look forward to the photographic images that emerge through this time of transition and change.

The photo above was taken last year on my way to the Othello Sandhill Crane Festival. I spoke on bird photography. It was an amazing trip and opportunity to meet fellow photographers. This year, the festival was canceled due to the pandemic. I was going to lead a photography tour highlighting the migratory Sandhill Cranes. Maybe, I’ll get to do this next year. . .

I did venture to the Port Susan Snow Goose Festival. It was a quiet year for sighting birds at a close distance. This photo was taken last year (2019).  A year made an immense difference in flock sizes and attendees of the festival. It seems like there was a shadow hanging overhead in the background.

Many of the festivals and gatherings for photographers (and others) are canceled in the foreseeable future, so what are we to do?

First, I think it is important to continue shooting. It might sound difficult to achieve in this home-bound times, but it only requires a bit of creativity. Maybe, it’s time to learn a new photography skill. It could be choosing subjects at home that will improve skills. Everything we learn as photographers translates into better photographs. Now is a great time to try new things.

Second, I believe it helps to create assignments to complete. An example would be to shoot a photo a day, or select a word and try to accomplish it in a photograph.

Third, this is a great time for planning. I’ve been working on planning 6 to 12 months from now, making the plans flexible. I know that these plans help me with creating course content for my classes / workshops, designing new products to sell, and personal projects. Often times, these sessions reveal opportunities for books, articles, and blog entries.

One last thing. . .all of my classes will be taught online until further notice.

Finding the Spirit of Place

copyright Karen UlvestadThis workshop is the culmination of creativity combined with photography. It is the art of exploring the environment or subject to express its true nature from the perspective of the photographer.

It is offered through the amazing art school Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. It is the former home of Georgia O’Keefe.

Here is the synopsis of the workshop. . .

Ready to take the next step in your photography? Learn to “see” the world around you through the camera’s eye, and create amazing photographic images. Simply put, photography is light. It’s important to see it and learn to control it through camera settings. In the digital age, photography is more dynamic in what can be captured in a picture. Our cameras are able to capture both low light and high light situations. To create a photograph, this is combined with our knowledge of our camera’s settings. Exposure and composition combine together to make the photograph a true representation of the photographer’s vision through management of light, color, and highlight/shadow. This class includes the formulas and techniques to create dynamic photographs, and the importance of equipment choices. Different lens focal lengths change the depth of field recorded by the camera. This is an important piece of creating a story-telling photographic image. Discussions include in-camera techniques and digital darkroom adjustments. The digital darkroom is basically the photo lab of the film days of photography. We will learn basic techniques, along with the best software and best hardware choices. This is where the photographer adjusts the photograph to match his/her visual representation of the scene/subject. It is as important as in-camera techniques to create the picture. Class includes time to practice these new concepts and techniques through practice and assignments. Questions are encouraged both in-class, and during practice times. Each class includes time for review / critique of students work. The feedback helps clarify the concepts of the class, and encourages creativity.

We will cover:
*Seeing Examples of concepts through visual presentation
*Learning how to “see” and “seeing” techniques
*Creativity is encouraged *Exposure & composition (basic to advanced depending on level of student)
*Equipment & how to select which pieces to use
*Learn visual story-telling and finding inner vision
*Planning and accomplishing the photographic concepts
*Color or Black & White? What works best with the photograph’s concept
*Experimenting with visual concepts
*Connecting with the subject or place
*In-camera techniques for better photographs
*Digital Darkroom techniques

Link for the class is on the Workshops page. . .

Not Your Grandma’s Black & White

For more information or registration, click here.

Summer Photography: Beaches & Sunsets

I love teaching this class! Please come join me. . .
Register Now https://bit.ly/2Yc8NB3

Photography In Motion

My latest class is Photography In Motion. Here is a sample of the type of photographs we will learn to take.

Autumn is Coming!


The colors in Autumn are either amazing or subtle in the Pacific Northwest. After a long hot summer, the weather is turning to rain, cooler temperatures, and the days seem darker. The reds, yellows, and golds are beginning to peek through, and shine on these shortening days.

There are 2 different weather conditions I prefer to shoot fall color in. . .sunny (or partly cloudy) and over-cast. These offer 2 distinct opportunities to record the amazing color of the trees and flowers at this time of the year.

The sunny sky offers bright, vibrant leaf color, and a blue sky to place in the background. It is usually warmer, and more pleasant to be outside photographing nature. I use a polarizing filter to bring out the best color, and minimize the “hot” spots in the photo.

On the other hand, over-cast days offer even light and less contrast. The colors are often muted. The clouds at like a giant diffuser of the sun’s light, and offers a “softer” light on everything. I may or may not use a polarizing filter under these conditions. I do like the way it removes the “white” reflection of the clouds on the colors making them richer in color saturation.

Then, there is the rainy weather. I’ll save that one for another entry. . .

Happy Shooting. . .Karen

Black & White Photography Tips


Black and white photography relies on the tonal quality of the colors in the scene. The way the photographer “sees” the image changes. Without the reliance on color, the photograph relies on whites, blacks, and gray tones.

The human eye sees about 16 million colors. To create a successful black and white photograph, those colors need to be translated into their tonal quality. This is dependent on camera settings, and post production processes.


Traditional black and white was done with black and white film. The process of exposure and film choice dictated the end photograph. Modern digital cameras work differently. The camera’s photo sensor sees light and filters colors. Black and white settings on the camera can produce beautiful photographs, though it will depend on the camera’s programming.

The contrast between light and dark, along with the mid-tones, create the black and white image. The settings for black and white are in picture style, filters, or color (tone) menus of the digital camera. In many cameras, the photographer can set the contrast, brightness, and other settings for the photograph.


The second way to create successful black and white photographs is in the post processing phase of modern photography. There are many different types of photo processing software and photo filters available. The photos in this blog were done in Adobe Photoshop.

Visualize ~ Create ~ Evoke

To learn more, I’ll be teaching Black & White photography on the amazing Oregon coast this June 2018. The Oregon Coast in Black & White, June 18th & 19th, 2018 at the Sitka Center for Arts & Ecology. For more information, click here.

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