The Call of Iceland

As a photographer, specific places call to my spirit to visit. Iceland calls. It calls to the very core of my being. It’s all about the birds.

I’ve been watching the birds here on the Pacific Ocean shores, and it’s interesting to see their successes and slow disappearance. Iceland isn’t different. The largest colony of Atlantic Puffins have not had a successful breeding season in the past 5 years (from my online research). I want to see 500,000 birds before they disappear. I want to feel dwarfed by the amazing landscape, powerful sea, and the incredible bird colonies.

The water temperatures are changing, which is changing the food supply. This is a personal project for me. Those without voices look to those of us with words and photographs to speak for them.

I want to invite other photographers to join me in the isolated and breathe-taking landscape. I’m putting together lodging and guided trips to isolated areas. I’m hoping to connect with a biologist or two, and to experience the culture of Iceland.

Let me know if you’re in for the adventure. I’m going the end of May 2016.

The Spirit Of Place

The Spirit of Place is one of my ideas or personal concepts about photography. At its core is the idea that photographs are created by the photographer through use of light, exposure, and composition. It is our personal view-point or way we translate the scene in a visual way.

copyright Karen UlvestadThis photo uses shadow and light, lines, and people to create the composition of the place. In this image, the viewer sees the blowing sand (top of dune), the rocky wall in the foreground, and the people making their way up the sand dune. It speaks of man and nature co-existing in the late afternoon light.

Nature is one constant in our lives that is ever-changing, yet remains the same. The challenge for the photographer is to take existing elements, and create a pleasing photographic image. Photography is a tool to document the world around us, yet our personal view-point is always present in our images.

copyright Karen UlvestadThe blowing sand in this photograph creates designs on the sand that mimic the wet sand reflecting the blue sky and the ocean waves. In this image, one could see the hillsides in the background as repeating the wavy shape created by the sand and ocean. The scene is completed by all the people enjoying the beach, whether walking along the water or sitting in the sand. By including people, I have given a reference to the size of the landscape.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

Another way to look at this scene is to eliminate or hide the man-made or man’s influence upon the scene. By moving the point-of-view, this image the viewer sees the ocean waves and four gulls. Yes, there is some indications of civilization, but they are not the main components of the composition.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

Now to end this entry, I’ve added a little different concept. This image is titled Windy. It leaves the question, how do we as photographers show wind or other elements in our images? What is that special ingredient that we have included to make our photograph stand-out from the millions of images on the internet?

Stay tuned for more. . .or simply join me for my Spirit of Place workshop on the Oregon coast in June.

Happy shooting. . .Karen

Light & Composition In The City

copyright Karen Ulvestad
I seldom get the opportunity to stay in the city, and photograph all the different types of light. Composing in the city is similar to Landscape photography, but the lines are more linear and defined. I find that it give me a different perspective to take back to the natural world I love to document.

The shot above is an example of “outside” the box composing. This long exposure was taken through the hotel window at F22. The yellow cast to the image is the temperature of the street lights. The “spotting” effect is the dirt on the outside of the window. All this together creates a “grunge” feeling for the photo.

Photographing the city at night, illustrates the different temperatures of light. The colors that look “true” are most likely daylight balanced fluorescent or LED. The yellow is tungsten or incandescent. The green cast is most likely regular fluorescent.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

Daylight brings another look to the buildings. I love the reflections in the modern glass buildings, mixed with the historical brick buildings. The strong use of diagonal line in the above photo guides the viewer’s eye through the picture. Diagonal lines add a feeling of motion to a static image. The reflection in the glass is the buildings across the street light by direct sunlight. I used a polarizing filter to enhance the blues, and was careful not to eliminate the reflection in the glass.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

Cities are filled with contradicting images and ideas. The above image is bullet damage to a 1/2 inch glass window. I like the story it tells of prosperity (see inside the building) and the reflection of the historical buildings across the street. This building was a corporate headquarters, and is was situated in an area of diverse stories of prosperity and decline. The lines in this image are the arrangement of the bullet damage which are taped, and the diagonal lines of the buildings in the reflection.

The image below is a combination of a sculpture and the Tribune tower. I intentionally framed the tower with the brightly colored sculpture, and used a large depth of field to bring out sharpness in the foreground, mid-ground, and background.

Happy shooting. . .Karen

copyright Karen Ulvestad

The Bird Festival Season Begins

copyright Karen UlvestadThe bird festival season begins! Here is the first article of the season, and please check it out. I’ll be speaking at the festival the afternoon of January 24th. Happy New Year!

This year’s Skagit Valley Eagle Festival started this weekend. The annual festival runs through the entire month of January, and each weekend is filled with fun activities. Each Saturday is scheduled with one-time workshops or activities.

This year, the eagle counts are up over 200 bald eagles between Sedro Woolley and Nehalem. These birds are feeding along the river on the spawning salmon. They congregate along the banks and sand-bars in the river or in the trees.

For the rest of the story, go here. . .

A New Year. . .

Karenulvestad's Blog

copyright Karen UlvestadI’ve been quiet. I’ve been very quiet lately. I’ve been focused on each day, and making the best of it. It’s how I process information, and I’ve received a lot of it the past 3 years. These are my thoughts for healing the past, and moving on into the new year.

It started the Christmas of 2011. I suddenly realized that a person in my life was not going to be around the next Christmas. If they were, they might not recognize any of us, and we definitely would not be at the tree farm with them.

copyright Karen UlvestadSo, I picked-up my camera, and started to document the final year of my father-in-law’s life. He slowly succumbed to Parkinson’s. The dementia took his mind, and the disease destroyed his body.

The death march started New Year’s Eve in 2012. My cousin suddenly died. Definitely didn’t see this coming! I hadn’t seen…

View original post 408 more words

Best Places For A Fall Getaway Near Seattle

copyright Karen Ulvestad
Tumwater Canyon

This is my latest article on Fall Getaways. These are all great areas for fall color, and many opportunities for photographs.

“There are many places within a two-hour drive of Seattle that show intense color in the falls. The best viewing time for color varies from year to year, but usually falls between mid-September to the end of November. The higher elevations change first, and the lower elevations linger into November on a dry year. The brilliant yellows, oranges and reds of the deciduous trees stand out against the deep green of the evergreens.”

For the complete article, click here.



Photography is Painting with Light



copyright Karen Ulvestad

Light is everything when it comes to photography. These three photographs were taken on the same evening. To the east towards the coastal mountain range, the weather was thunder and lightning. Along the coast, the clouds created a dramatic sky for the coming sunset.

The top photo shows the warmth of the late day light in the yellow tone to the green grass on the sand dunes. The dramatic clouds were either dark grey or white, and contrasted against the brilliant blue sky.

The photograph below is a simple composition of the sky and clouds. One of the tools used for the blue sky is a polarizing filter. For digital cameras, the filter must be a circular polarizing filter.

copyright Karen Ulvestad


The white balance on these images is daylight, or simply use the AUTO setting. Minor adjustments can be made in the Digital Darkroom on the computer.

The bottom photograph is the sun peeking through the dramatic clouds. The sun starred because of the large aperture setting on the camera. Each of these photos was shot on the manual setting for maximum control over the final image.


copyright Karen Ulvestad


Remember, using manual settings for exposure give total control over the final photograph. I am available for private consultations, lessons, and individual/group instruction (both in person and online).

Happy Shooting. . .Karen

Sitka Workshop Went Great

“Excellent instructor – willing to help and make accommodations for all. . .” Student comment. . .

The Spirit of Place workshop I taught at the Sitka Center for Arts & Ecology went great! The students were a fantastic group of diverse individuals with a desire to learn more about photography. We ventured out on our second day to Cape Kawanda (Pacific City), and Neskowin. We practiced the workshop skills photographing the expansive landscape, dories, tide pools, gray whales, and birds. Below is an image of one of the students photographing the dories, as they came into the beach.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

Below is one of my photographs taken of the dories from the beach. The tide was out, and we were able to walk through the tide pool area near the cape. The dories require a fast shutter speed to capture the action with clarity. My students had the opportunity to shoot these experiences, while learning the finer points of exposure and composition. My workshops are balanced between learning in the classroom, practicing in the field, and exploring the possibilities of the photographic medium.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

While exploring the area after teaching the workshop all day, I came across this mule deer buck and a doe. The light was waning since it was later in the evening. The morning had started out with a bald eagle flying by, and the day ended with deer. Sitka is a fantastic place to take workshops with top-notch instructors, and they offer a variety of art classes through-out the summer months. I’ve been blessed to have been teaching workshops through this school for 3 years.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

Happy Shooting. . .Karen

copyright Karen Ulvestad

Sharing a Story in a Photographic Image

Photographs come in many different styles, such as landscape, wildlife, people, and commercial. There are many more that are not listed here. What separates a photograph from others is the clarity of the story it tells. What does the photographer share with the audience that isn’t shared in other images.

The photograph below is a shot of Proposal Rock on the Oregon coast. This area is photographed often by locals and visitors. So the challenge becomes, how does a photographer make his/her photograph different from every other photograph of this beach and rock? In this case, the difference is a pair of shoes with bright colored laces.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

This second photograph utilizes people in a landscape photograph. The viewer first sees the child holding the lens, the railing behind the child, and finally the landscape in the background. This shot is from Waimea Canyon on the island of Kauaii (Hawaiian Islands). The depth of field in this shot give value to its elements. . .the child, the railing, and the canyon. The clouds in the sky add further texture to the image.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

It seems fitting to end with this photograph of a Bald Eagle at sunset. The sunset becomes the sun, color of the sky, and the silhouetted eagle. This is a single shot in the camera, which means it was thought through before the photograph was taken. Planning can help create a one-of-a-kind photographic image.

copyright Karen Ulvestad


This is an excerpt from my upcoming workshop The Spirit of Place at the Sitka Center for Arts and Ecology in June.

More next time. . .Happy Shooting. . .Karen

Spring is the Time for Bird Festivals – Part III

Cedar Waxwing

The Leavenworth Spring Bird Festival is happening May 15th through May 18th. I’ll be teaching a workshop on bird photography. Here is an article I wrote about the event, and visit the link for more information. Thank you. . .Spring is the Time for Bird Festivals – Part III.

Selecting the Shot. . .

Spring has sprung in parts of the world, and the flowers are coming forth. Often times, locations are crowded with people when the light is best for shooting. In the Puget Sound area, spring means cherry blossoms on the University of Washington campus, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, and Washington Park Arboretum. Every season has its crowds. . .so, how do you find the photograph?

copyright Karen Ulvestad

In the photo above, the throngs of people are obvious, and the garbage cans are over-flowing. The scene is quite noisy, and full of activity. Everyone is out because of the sunshine and the cherry blossoms. This is Sunday on the University of Washington campus (at the Quad). It is late afternoon light, which is warmer than mid-afternoon.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

One way to cut-out the crowds is to choose selective portions of the buildings and cherry blossoms. The image above shows the Gothic architecture against a vivid blue sky, and framed with the subtle pink cherry blossoms in front. The crowds are below the bottom of the frame, and the photo takes on a peaceful quality. It exudes quite afternoon on campus.

copyright Karen Ulvestad

Another way to exclude the crowds is to change perspective. This shot is looking straight-up under the cherry trees. The branches become a linear component of the composition with the repetitive pattern of the cherry blossoms. The only limit to the possibilities is one’s imagination. . .

Happy Shooting. . .Karen

Spring is the Time for Bird Festivals

In the spring and fall, thousands of migratory birds travel through Washington state on the Pacific Coast and the Puget Sound area. Communities celebrate these migrations with bird festivals, that give opportunities to participate in lectures, workshops, and bird outings. . .

For the rest of the article, click on the link Spring is the Time for Bird Festivals.

Note:  I’ll be giving a Free Mini-Workshop at the Wings Over Water Bird Festival in Blaine on Saturday, March 15th at 2 pm to 4 pm.

%d bloggers like this: