Articles tagged with: photography

Rafting the Main Salmon River

Our Aire Super Puma Raft

Six Spectacular Days with a Primitive Tribe

Rafting the Main Salmon River held a prominent place on my bucket list for years. It turns out, I had it there for good reason. This past summer, my wife, Mary, and I finally made that trip and spent six sunny days surrounded by beautiful scenery, thrilling rapids, and learning the special customs of a unique and friendly tribe.

Our Aire Super Puma Raft

Our Aire Super Puma Raft

Trip Details

On this run, the clear waters of the Main Salmon River, plunge deep into Idaho’s 2.4 million acre River of No Return Wilderness, “the largest contiguous federally managed wilderness in the United States outside of Alaska.” This area contains parts of three mountain ranges, a 6,000-foot-deep canyon, almost no roads or stores, and far more wildlife than people, including bears, mountain lions, wolves, and rattlesnakes. The 80 miles of river we covered holds countless rapids, vast white sand beaches, and canyons lined with steep granite cliffs.

As to logistics, I was a bit flabbergasted when I learned it would cost $475 to have our truck shuttled to the takeout, 80 miles downriver. Then I mapped the driving route and found that because of the vast wilderness area, it was a nine hour, 409 mile drive, with many miles on exceptionally rugged and remote roads. I decided maybe the $475 was quite a bargain.

Way of Life on the River

With that background info out of the way, we can get onto the part about life on the river with a primitive tribe. I better clarify things a bit here, because the tribe wasn’t really that primitive. In fact, they looked a lot like normal people. They just had some interesting, primitive customs that we had to adapt to. Our group consisted of 15 people in seven rafts. Many of these were serious outdoors people that had rafted together for 25 or so years. Three of them had spent their careers working for the US Forest Service.  Their interesting customs included:

  • They pooped in ammo cans and peed in the river. Actually, the forest service requires people to do this, otherwise this tribe might not have followed this custom. These requirements force tribal members to become pretty uninhibited about their bodily functions, often continuing a conversation while nonchalantly urinating into the river.
  • Most tribal members slept on the beach, tent-less, amongst the spiders and snakes. We did notice that after a rattlesnake encounter, two of the tribe members started sleeping in a tent, like Mary and I.
  • Upon finding a rattlesnake that made threatening gestures in the poop can vicinity, tribe members eliminated the rattlesnake. For safety’s sake, this actually made a lot of sense. I may have even taken part in this.

    Tribal Members on a Big Beach

    Tribal Members on a Big Beach

  • Once at a campsite for the day, male tribe members spent a lot of time sitting in, arranging, and adjusting their rafts and gear, while the female tribe members drank intoxicating beverages and focused much of  their time on food preparation. This sort of behavior seems common to many tribes, although many primitive tribal males might focus on carving weapons rather than fiddling with rafting gear. Something that surprised me about this particular tribe was the quality and the elaborateness of meals and intoxicating beverages they prepared. It seemed to me as if the tribe had developed such a strong bond that they strived to honor each other with outstanding meals, including appetizers, side dishes, desserts, and a drink of the day. My wife and I found ourselves enjoying this custom immensely and will try to better honor tribe members during the next trip, with more elaborate gourmet food and unusual drink.
  • On the river, tribal members watched out for one another, waiting at the bottom of a rapids, ready to assist if another member needed help. Then, they generously complimented each other on river-running prowess, after avoiding the majority of boulders in a particularly challenging set of rapids. When tribal members smashed their boats into boulders, others politely pretended not to notice. I appreciated that.
  • Cooking and cleaning was accomplished without electronic appliances or devices. This also applied to communication. Rather than using texting, email, or even phone calls, people actually spoke to one another, telling jokes and breaking into spontaneous laughter.
  • On certain nights, tribal members would have celebrations and ceremonies that included dressing up, dancing, birthdays, and river stories around the campfire. They did use an electronic device (iPod and speakers), rather than traditional drums, on the dance night.

What Set this Trip Apart

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

On a Lower Salmon River trip we took, Mary, our daughter, Heather, and I had only each other, and Mary and I do most of our wilderness trips alone. On our Main Salmon River trip, the tribe is what really stood out. We had been a bit apprehensive about joining a group of people we didn’t know, but they turned out to be a very nice and welcoming bunch of people, with some fun customs.

One of the retired rangers told me that they had been more than a bit apprehensive about letting a raft join their group, without actually knowing the skill level of the people that would be running the rapids. I absolutely understand that, because it could be life-threatening having unskilled people on a remote wilderness whitewater trip. He assured me that after the first set of rapids, the group knew we were perfectly competent to run the river. That was nice to hear.

As we fell into the rhythm of sunny days on the river, we became tanner and more relaxed, increasingly feeling like part of the tribe. We also grew in our river-running confidence and competence. Reading rapids on the fly, and sliding effortlessly past boulders became second nature.  I had initially thought that six days sounded like a long trip, but the days streamed by and were over before I knew it. On the way home, I started thinking about our next rafting destination.

Mary & Curt

Photo Tips

FrogPhoto

Basic Photo Tips


Wednesday, April 30th, 2008 Cabin on Lummi Island Washington

Subject-

By looking at nature the way a camera might, you may start to notice great subjects all around you.

Close-up, this shack doesn’t look like much, but by applying a few techniques, it became a very worthwhile subject.

Your subject’s could include close-ups of plants and animals, night shots, buildings or countless other things from new or unusual angles. Oh yeah, there’s always people too.


Composition-

There are many ways you can shoot the same subject, each making a slightly different picture. Moving in on the subject usually makes for a stronger photo, leaving out distractions from your main focus. In this case, I was more interested in how the shack fits into its surroundings, so the whole scene was important.

Centering a subject can make for a static picture, but offsetting it, using the rule-of-thirds, makes for flow, causing your eye to travel around the picture. The rule of thirds suggests placing the subject a third of the way from the top or bottom of the frame and a third of the way from one side or the other.Cabin on Lummi Island Washington

The framing and angle I used above was in hopes of achieving balance between the shack and tree. Some pictures end up lob-sided, due to a strong subject on one side and nothing to balance it. In balancing a wildlife or people picture, consider which direction the movement or gaze is and leave some space there.

Contrast, like between the light shack and its darker surroundings, draws attention to your subject, strengthening your photo. This can also work with a subject that’s darker, more colorful or larger than its surroundings.

After shooting your picture, you may want to try a few different angles, moving closer or farther, including or removing different foreground or background elements. Be sure to leave out distractions, like the tree that seems to be growing out of Aunt Edna’s head, but including that row of daisies might really add some pizazz to your picture.

Horizontal pictures can be more dramatic and may work better, especially with a tall subject. For this shot, I moved in, focusing more on the shack and tree.


Lighting-

Like many, I once believed that bright, sunny middays made for great pictures. After editing many pictures, and reading many photography books, I now realize that sunny midday light can be harsh with little color and problematic shadows.

The first or last light of the day is softer with warm, flattering or dramatic colors, great for landscapes. In the first picture above, there are pink hues in the clouds and a warm cast to the whole picture. The sunny blue skies help too, but for wildlife, people, waterfalls and many other subject’s, bright overcast lighting can be better. It’s great for color saturation, softening shadows, smoothing contrast and preventing squinting.
Madrona tree at Sunset, Larrabee State Park, WA.

There are some tricky lighting situations that might require adjusting your camera’s exposure compensation setting. If you’re not familiar with this, please see your manual, or just buy my prints and forget all this monkey business. Anyway, your camera may try to balance things that shouldn’t be balanced, like making a snow scene gray or a sunset scene bright. For sunset’s, I usually start by dialing down my exposure one f-stop, then experiment some more. Never heard of an f-stop? Please see the above comment again. Otherwise, I intend to eventually add more articles describing fascinating things like f-stops, depth of field, white balance…


Most Importantly-

Shooting a lot makes it far more likely that you’ll capture that great photo, especially if you experiment with different techniques and analyze what did and didn’t work. I carry my camera everywhere, just in case a bear and a mountain lion decide to wrestle at the side of the road I’m on. If you carry your camera too, maybe you’ll catch that perfect sunset or the rainbow after the storm.

The Zen of Nature Photography

The Benefits of Nature and Photography

by Curt Remington

Spending time in nature, keenly aware of your environment, can give you a whole new perspective on life. You might get caught up in a stunningly beautiful scene or the details of a flower or bug. If you go out in pursuit of nature photography, you’re likely to pay more attention to the details. As a bonus, you can capture an image to experience and share again and again.

Dragonfly on Flowers

Dragonfly on Flowers

Arctic Wolf

Arctic Wolf

I had a new perspective, after a day at the Vancouver, BC Zoo, which is spread out and more like a wild animal park. I visited on midweek, in the middle of winter and saw only a handful of other visitors. At the Arctic Wolf display, the dominant wolf walked laps around the enclosure. Once he noticed me, he walked over and looked up, holding my gaze. I felt an incredible connection, as we psychically communicated. He posed for a few pictures, then trotted 50 feet away and began howling. Soon, the other Arctic Wolves joined in. Shortly after that, another group of wolves (Vancouver Island Wolves) joined in the chorus from a quarter mile away. They all continued with their song, as if they were sharing their love and longing for the outdoors, especially the wild places. Not only did I have an incredibly memorable moment, but I got some great pictures, one of which is on the back of my business card.

Howling Arctic Wolf

Howling Arctic Wolf

Spending time seeking photos in nature is a wonderful form of mindfulness or meditation, which basically means to reach a calm state as you find something in the present to gently focus on, letting all those other thoughts go. This can help you relax, think more clearly, let go of stress, improve your health, have fun and create artistic photos. With all those benefits, you’d think everyone would be outdoors with their camera.

Of course, you can get a lot of these benefits by just going out and tuning into the details of nature. But, if you do so with a camera in hand, it may be a more focused experience, and you can come home with beautiful images.

With a camera you may work harder to find beautiful places and go when the lighting is best. Early or late in the day tends to have warm, soft light and saturated colors. Mid-day light can be harsh with washed out colors and difficult highlights and shadows. It also makes people squint.  The soft diffused light of a partly cloudy day works well for people, flowers, wildlife and many other subject’s. If you find a good subject, consider returning when the lighting is ideal. Sitting and waiting patiently for the changing light of a sunset can pay off in the meditative state you reach and in the images you capture.

Matia Island Dock, Washington

Matia Island Dock, Washington

Composition can dramatically affect a picture’s impact. Simple is usually better, so try zooming or changing angles to eliminate clutter. Be sure to scan the viewfinder for unwanted items and to check that the horizon is level, especially with pictures of water. Some pictures look best in a vertical format, so try turning the camera sideways.

Balance is an important element of composition, one which I look for in nature when taking pictures. In the photo of the dock and island, the two subjects balance each other. That photo is also an example of the rule-of-thirds. By placing your subject(s) a third of the way over from center, and a third of the way up, you have a more dynamic picture. When you offset your subject, your eye tends to travel around the picture.

Park Butte Trail, Washington

Park Butte Trail, Washington

To add depth to a picture, you can include foreground details. A path, road or creek that lead your eye into a picture also give a sense of depth. This is especially effective if you find one with s-bends.

Father & Son at Sunset

Father & Son at Sunset

The absolutely best pictures capture a feeling or tell a story, so watch for such opportunities. Pictures of people or animals work well for this.

There are great subjects for pictures all around us. If we pay close attention to our environment, we can find beautiful pictures that we might have walked right by. You might get creative and try a close-up of pebbles or insects, maybe try night photography, clouds or fascinating patterns. And of course, there’s landscapes, seascapes, wildlife and flowers.

As to gear, there are a lot of good cameras out there, depending on your needs. If you’re not making big enlargements, a point and shoot digital might be best. They’re very compact and lightweight. I carry heavier Nikon digital single lens reflex gear, like the Nikon d5100, with an 18-200 lensKenrockwell.com has excellent reviews on a variety of cameras and lenses. Digital editing software, like Photoshop, can vastly improve photos. You can adjust contrast or color, darken a sky, sharpen a photo or remove imperfections. There is reasonably good software on the internet for free.

The best piece of advice is carry a camera often. The more pictures you shoot, the more instinctive it becomes. This makes it easier to let go of your thoughts and really get into the moment. Using some simple techniques, you may come home with some spectacular photos. Please be sure to visit my photo gallery for picture ideas.