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.

Seeing & Incorporating Patterns into Composition

copyright Karen Ulvestad

Patterns in a composition can take many forms. It adds an interest depth in the photograph, or an element of chaos. Patterns are the repetition of shapes or similar shapes. It works in macro, landscape, and most other types of photographs.

Patterns are naturally occurring in nature, or created by man. Either way, intentional use of patterns creates a greater depth in the photograph. In the image above, the main patterns are created by the clouds in the sky, and the patchy snow on the meadow.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

Patterns take many forms. It is simply the repetition of a shape, color, or color. The above photograph is a common murre colony. The pattern comes from the multitude of birds with their consistent black and white coloring.

Sometime, the goal is to fill the frame with something that creates an interesting scene, and it also includes a pattern. It this case, the common murre offer the visual of a nesting colony and the pattern of their shape / coloring.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

Then, there is the multitude of flower. This pattern of pink is broken up by the strong lines of the tree branches. The subject matter is endless. . .

Visualize ~ Create ~ Evoke

Composition. . .Man & Nature


Composition is one of those subjective topics. It varies from person to person and artist to photographer. . .or, is there really a difference between artists and photographers? At it’s core, composition is simply about the arrangement of the visual image.

From an artist’s perspective, it is broken down into lines, shapes, forms, color, etc. All these concepts span all the art forms. The combinations of these concepts help a viewer “see” the intent of the artist.

In the photograph above, the design of the man-made arch incorporates mirrors to reflect the natural environment surrounding it. The shapes of the clouds are similar to the circles on the arch. The composition brings both of these elements into focus.


The photographer adds a few other “rules” to the idea of composition. The rule of thirds is one of the best known. It brings the focus away from the center point of the photograph, offering another perspective.

The photography above uses columns to move the viewer’s eye through the photography. It is the perspective that allows that to happen. The columns are framed by natural elements. . .the trees and clouds.

The use of perspective as a composition element is valuable to a photographer. It gives a “feeling” to the viewer about the subject. The art of the photographic images is how the photographer chooses to compose the photograph.

In the last photograph, the surrounding scene is reflected in the lens of the lighthouse. It’s all about the creative point-of-view.

Visualize ~ Create ~ Evoke


Bird Photography Interview

Create ~ Visualize ~ Evoke

Backgrounds & Choices


The combination of background and available light affects the outcome of a photograph. Birds are adept at camouflage, and our cameras are great at hiding the subject. The photo above is a corn field and 7 sandhill cranes. The coloration of the cranes allows them to blend into the remaining brown corn stalks, and almost disappear.

The late afternoon lighting leaves long shadows for these cranes to blend into the field.


In this photo of the trumpeter swans, the dark background helps the swans stand-out as the subject of the image. The swans are in shade (similar to the crane photo above), and their coloring allows them to be easily differentiated from the trees in the background.

Both of these images are taken with a 600 mm lens, yet the ease of see the subject is dependent on the background and exposure. Both are shot at F8. The difference is the location of the birds with the background. The cranes are in the field. The swans are flying past the trees.


This last photo has the simplest background. The solid blue sky offers a background to easily see the subject, 2 sandhill cranes in flight.

Background choices can help or hinder the success of a photograph. Ultimately, it is dependent on opportunity, exposure, and choices made by the photographer.

Tip – Use backgrounds for your subjects that help convey the vision of the photograph.

Visualize ~ Create ~ Evoke

Choices, Exposure & Composition


The experience included hundreds of sandhill cranes flying overhead, with some landing in the field below. Their sounds waft in the air, like a light trill. Unlike ducks and geese, the cranes seem to fly without formation, and their flight is affected by wind gusts.

At a distance, it becomes easy to place hundreds of these amazing birds into a single frame. The photo above is taken with a 600 mm lens. The challenge becomes “how are the birds placed in the frame?”


One thing to remember is that these birds are not small. There size ranges from 3 to 5 feet tall (depending on sub-species and male/female), and their wing span ranges from 5 to 7 feet across.

The photo above is a grouping of 3 birds against the sky. Light is important in all photography, and especially important when photographing birds. The light in this image is late afternoon sun, and it casts a warm glow in these cranes. It is important to light up the head (or face) of the bird.


In this photo, the light brings the cranes out from the blue background. Without the sunlight, the birds would blend into the background, and be more difficult to see. As for where to focus. it is good to select an area with a large concentration of birds. It is easier for the camera’s auto-focus to actually focus on the subject.

As for exposure, expose for the birds. The background isn’t as important as the cranes, and it’s okay for it to go light or dark. The shutter speed needs to be fast enough (1/250 sec or faster) to keep the cranes from blurring. At a distance, an aperture of F8 should offer enough depth of field to keep most of the birds is focus.

Tip – Use the available light. Set the shutter speed to stop the action, and the aperture to keep most of the flock in focus.

Visualize ~ Create ~ Evoke

Othello Sandhill Crane Festival


This is one of the best birding festivals! It is located in the heart of eastern Washington, the programming is amazing, and it is during the height of the Sandhill Crane migration through the area.

Celebrate Birds Through Photography

March 24th, 2018 at 9 am

Othello, WA

Hope to see you there. . .

Happy Shooting. . .Karen

Familiar Subjects – New Perspective


The migratory trumpeter and tundra swans are a familiar subject to me and my camera. Often, they stay at a distance to areas that they can be photographed from. The limitations become equipment and the cost of these longer lenses.

Today, I tested out my new lens. It’s a Tamron 150-600mm 5-6.3 lens, and it is amazing! The photographs in this post are taken today with this new lens. It allowed me to fill the frame with more bird and less environment. I was happy with the image stabilization of the lens. These images are taken hand-held.


I think this one is my favorite of these two photos. This is un-cropped and a full-frame sensor camera body. The lens is at 600 mm. With my previous lens (Canon 100-400), the swan would be much smaller in the frame, and the environment would be a stronger element.

Sometimes, it takes new equipment to bring a fresh perspective to a familiar subject. I cannot wait to find the next flock of birds to photograph!

Happy Shooting. . .Karen

%d bloggers like this: