Swans & Geese in the Skagit & Stilliguamish Deltas


Light is everything in bird photography! The time of day will affect the number and types of birds seen in flying overhead or feeding in the farm fields. The photo above is taken at dusk, and the birds are Trumeter Swans. Both Trumpeter and Tundra swans migrate and winter in the Skagit and Stilliguamish deltas.

During the hunting season, fewer Snow Geese are in these areas, due to hunters in the farm fields. During this time, there usually are many flocks of swans in the area. The easiest way to tell the difference is the length of the neck and color. Swans have longer necks, and snow geese have black wing-tips.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

The birds in the photo above Snow Geese. These birds fly in flocks of a few individuals to several hundred. Later in the season (March – April), they gather by the thousands as they prepare for the long migation back to Wrangle Island in Russia. Annually, about 60,000 to 70,000 Snow Geese winter in the area.

Stanwood holds an annual festival celebrating the Snow Geese. It’s called the Port Susan Snow Goose Festival. This year, the dates are Febraury 25 and 26, 2017. I will be speaking on Sunday morning with a following field trip (optional). It is free!

I’ll leave you with one more photo. . .

Happy Shooting. . .Karen

“The Art of Photographing Birds” Feb 26, 2017 at 11 am – 12:30 pm, Registration Required

Architecture & Gardens. . .

copyright Karen Ulvestad

Architecture lends itself to both color and black & white photographic images. Often times, it becomes a composition of lines, shapes, and color / tone. The photograph above shows a modern building with the reflection of historic architecture. The old and the new sit across the street from each other.

This is the story of downtown Oakland. It is a city rich in contrasts and opposites.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

The historic Tribune building rises above other period buildings. In this incident, it is framed by a modern sculpture. The primary colors of red, yellow, and blue work together to make the brown & cream colored building stand out in the image.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

Another way to frame a building or architectural element is with living elements. In the photo above, I used blooming cherry trees to frame the Gothic architecture of the University of Washington. In this case, the cloudless blue sky is the perfect background for the pink flowers and brick buildings.

It is great to contrast man-made structures against or with nature.

Happy Shooting. . .Karen

“Architecture & Gardens Through the Viewfinder” ULearn (Edmonds CC), Apr 27 – May 18, 2017 (Thursday nights)

Story Telling in Black & White


The photo above is one of my favorite story-telling black & white images. This was taken at the zoo, and I loved the wise look on the gorilla. The bonus was the child looking through the glass.

A successful story-telling image gives the viewer an engaging subject with just enough details. Black & white photography cuts out the color, and brings the image to a basic tonal quality. Without the color, the photo relies on the relationship between the elements of the image.


Architecture lends itself to black & white well. In the photo above, the lines, texture, and contrast create a timeless image of a historic house along the Oregon coast. The cloudy sky contributes to the image by fading into the background. The details of the house bring the viewer’s attention to the building.

The linear aspects of architecture, whether historic homes or sky-scrapers, becomes the driving force in the composition. It is more delineated in black & white.

So, what is the story to tell, and should it be color or black & white? Photographer’s choice. . .

Happy Shooting. . .Karen

“Not Your Grandma’s Black & White” ULearn (Edmonds CC), Feb 9 – Mar 2, 2017 (Thursday nights)

Black & White


Black and white photography uses tonality, contrast, and composition to engage the viewer. It is the origins of photography, and the favorite of famous photographers such as Ansel Adams.

This type of photography takes a different “eye” than its color counter part. The tonality of black and white succumbs to the vibrance of color in color photography. Often, a photographer is good at one or the other, but not both. It requires 2 different ways of “seeing” the shot.


The mood of the black and white image is more than its tones. The clarity of the image or softness add to the composition. The top photograph evokes a feeling of a storm, while the second is crisp and shows clarity. Each stands on its own composition, telling 2 different stories of the Oregon coast.

I’ll leave with 1 more image. . .


Happy Shooting. . .

“The Oregon Coast in Black & White” July 1-2, 2017 at Sitka Center for Arts & Ecology

Digital Photography Basics Excerpt. . .


“Ambient light is the naturally available light. Sources would be the sun, moon, or reflected light. Sunlight is the light source even on cloudy days or in the shade. Cloud cover offers soft, diffused light without harsh shadows or contrast. Ambient light can be dramatic like the previous photo, or soft like the photo to the left. Dramatic lighting often requires a wide range in tonal quality in the image. The previous photo was exposed for the light rays coming through the clouds.” ( for complete book excerpt  dpb-exp-comp-pg7 )

A Big Thank You. . .

I decided this year to give a big Thank You for an amazing 2016. I am so grateful for all the students that enrolled in my classes / workshops, all the likes on my photos and blog, and my clients.

Digital Photography Basics is my new eBook, and I just published it on Amazon. I am offering it for FREE through Friday, December 2nd.

Please feel free to download, share, or give as a gift.

Happy Shooting. . .Karen


Spirit of Place

copyright Karen Ulvestad

I cannot teach this workshop often enough! This is the core of a successful photography. The idea is to “capture” the subject’s essence in the 2 dimensional image of a photograph. . .to “tell” a story about the subject.

With people, it is often a smile, tears, or other emotion / action within the photograph. This ideal can be brought to a landscape, wildlife image, or macro subject. Each photographer has their own unique view of the world, and the objective is to share this with the viewer.

Accomplishing this vision includes camera knowledge, composition, “seeing”, and weaving all this into the photographic image.

I love this workshop the most, because we explore all these aspects of photography in the classroom, and strive to combine them in the field. The focus is on techniques, vision, and composition.

I look forward to meeting all the individuals that join this journey to photographic perfection.

Happy Shooting. . .Karen

%d bloggers like this: