Samish Bay Bellingham Bay

Samish Bay Bellingham Bay

Clayton Beach sunset Larrabee State Park Samish Bay Bellingham BayClayton Beach Sunset, Larrabee State Park, Washington  #59666

Once again its time to post some new photos from my favorite winter doldrum photo haunts, Larrabee State Park and Bellingham Bay. These locations are only a few miles from my home, so when I can’t get out on some winter ski trips I head to the local beaches for some fresh air and inspiration. These photos were made within a two day period when there was a lively mixture of sunny and stormy weather, a time during which you can usually get a wide variety of lighting conditions. To read more about Larrabee State Park check out this post from last year.

Bellingham Bay Washington Samish Bay Bellingham BayStorm clouds over Bellingham Bay, Washington  #59689

Clayton Beach Larrabee State Park Samish Bay Bellingham BayClayton Beach Sunset, Larrabee State Park, Washington  #59666

Bellingham Bay Cormorant Washington Samish Bay Bellingham BayCormorant, Bellingham Bay, Washington  #59699

Bellingham Bay Washington Samish Bay Bellingham BayBellingham Bay, Washington  #59692


Bellingham Bay

Marina on Bellingham Bay #23198

Bellingham Marina 23005

We’re finally getting a nice break of spring-like weather today and tomorrow up here in Bellingham Washington. I’m planning on taking advantage of it by photographing on the Bellingham waterfront and Larrabee State Park. It sure is nice to live in such a photographically rich region!

Larrabee State Park Sunset #47173

Larrabee State Park Sunset 47173

In case anyone out there is planning on visiting and photographing at Clayton Beach in Larrabee State Park the access is temporarily closed. Visit the park’s website for more info



Using a Reverse Gradual Neutral Density Filter

Larrabee State Park 47212

Last week I was out shooting in evening light at Larrabee State Park near my home in Bellingham. Along with me on this trip was Michael Russell who was new to this location. As we were setting up some photos I mentioned to him that this is a great example of when to use a reverse gradual neutral density filter instead of a standard grad. Since he had never used one I thought there may be others out there who could benefit from a little explanation as to why this filter should have a place in every nature photographer’s location kit.
First off I am a firm believer that it is much better to use GND filters in the field than to replicate their effect later digitally. Get your exposure right when shooting and you’ll have less work correcting it later. In extreme instances it may be impossible to digitally correct for contrast in a bright sky and dark foreground. Of course you can resort to bracketing and HDR or merging exposures, but again why not try for a perfect exposure in the first place?
Reverse Grads come in handy anytime there is an area that needs to be toned down that is bordered by mid or dark tones. An especially good example is when shooting near or in the direction of the sun. In that situation where you need the filter the most is in the middle along that bright band on the horizon. Further up in the sky you will will not require as much filtration. With a reverse grad you can put that density exactly where you need it and avoid the rest of the sky from going too dark.

Larrabee State Park 47178

In the image above made last week at Larrabee you can see how this plays out. Here I used a two stop reverse grad, I also have a three stop reverse grad but it rendered the top half too dark. With the two stop the highlights were still a little brighter then I hoped but were well within range of correction. Without a filter the highlights all along the horizon would’ve been completely clipped, leaving no pixels at all to work with.

Above is a two stop soft grad on the left and a two stop reverse grad on the right.
As with all GND filters it pays to buy the best, they’re definitely not cheap but are a great investment in the future of your photography. I use Singh Ray for all of mine. You’ve already invested thousands of dollars in those great lenses, why would you put an inferior filter in front of it?
Would you like to learn more about this and other location techniques? Join me on one of my workshops or photo tours!
Click here to see more of my images from Larrabee State Park.

Larrabee State Park Washington

Larrabee State Park 47165

This winter I’ve been photographing mostly near my home in Bellingham Washington. Fortunately I live in a very scenic part of the country with photo opportunities just minutes from my door. Larrabee State Park situated along Samish Bay a few miles south of Bellingham is one of the best locations in the area. For the hiker and trail runner there are numerous trails into the Chuckanut Mountains, but for the photographer the shoreline along the bay is the place to be. Facing out to the famous San Juan Islands the shore is lined with sandstone cliffs and boulders eroded into fascinating formations, there is even a small natural arch dipping into the water, if you can find it.
The best location for photos is Clayton Beach at the south end of the park. It is accessed by a trail approximately one half mile long, emerging on the beach there are great formations to the left and right, my favorite being just to the left of the beach. At the main park entrance a little to the north a short trail takes you down to a sandstone formation jutting into the bay with more great compositions.

Larrabee State Park 47158

If you go you will need to purchase a day use pass, unreasonably priced at $10, a yearly pass for all Washington State Parks, the Discover Pass is $30. The best time for photography in this park is late afternoon to sunset, when the golden colored sandstone glows in the light. Low tide is best since you’ll be able to access more formations, however since this is a popular park it will be next to impossible to get photos without the sand being tracked out. The good news is that in winter most people leave around sunset, during my last three trips I had the beach all to myself. It’s a different story though in summer when the park is packed with people.
To see a portfolio of images made this winter in the park click here.
Fine art prints are available from these images!

Samish Bay Washington

Clayton Beach
The weather up here in the PNW has been unusually cold and wet for this time of year, so I had to postpone my Oregon coast trip until La Nina took a break. The other day however offered an hour or two of broken clouds in the morning so I took the opportunity to head down to one of my favorite coves on Samish Bay. In Larrabee State Park the Chuckanut Mountains come right down to the water and being composed of sandstone the rock is eroded into some fantastic shapes. Since the light wasn’t exactly spectacular it seemed like a good idea to have some fun and process the images in a less traditional manner.
Clayton Beach