News from Stephen Penland
Spring, 2013: Refocusing
I've been away for too long. My focus has been on 1) participating in other photographic websites and 2) selling my house. I moved to Walla Walla, WA, in the southeast corner of the state, in 2009. I had gone to high school and Whitman College there years before, so I knew a bit about the community. I purchased a house that turned out to be a disaster because of its location. I simply put too much trust in a realtor who said things about the place that proved to be untrue, and I suffered the consequences. Two weeks after moving in, the house was back on the market, and it took three years to sell it again. That nightmare is now over, thankfully. I'm living in my camper on the back of a 2002 Dodge Ram pickup, so I've become a rather shifty character, always moving around. I'm spending a lot of time in the southwest, primarily Utah and Arizona, and I'll be posting about my experiences in these places. Zion National Park was absolutely wonderful, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon was a zoo, and I'm looking forward to exploring the backroads of southeast Utah.....as soon as the truck gets fixed. I'm staying at an RV campground in Page, AZ, while the truck is in the shop. Having electricity and a daily (rather than weekly) shower are nice, but I'm anxious to get on the road again. I'll use this downtime to catch up on photos that need to be processed and photographic experiences that need to be written up with other photographers in mind.
October 24, 2012: A New Gallery
I have long had an interest in cemeteries and have found them to be great locations for photography. I have added a new gallery of photographs taken at cemeteries in western Washington (primarily Olympia) and the area around Walla Walla in SE Washington; other individual sites will be added over time. One of the more interesting of these sites is a weed-grown, declining cemetery of pioneers I found in the Walla Walla area (actually south of town, just over the state line, in Umatilla County of Oregon). I had mixed feelings about including images of gravesites in with photographs of forests, streams, wildlife, and other natural features. However, I find a lot of visual interest and history in cemeteries, and I think these areas have a well-deserved place among landscape photographs.
Winter, 2011-12: Wind Turbines
Wind turbines aren't usually thought of as an interesting landscape subject, but I've spent a couple of weeks trying to find the aesthetic side of these huge electricity-generating machines that sit up on ridgetops in increasing numbers in Washington State and elsewhere. I made multiple visits to wind farms locate just west of Milton-Freewater, Oregon, and just southwest of Dayton, Washington. I'll be making more visits as the weather allows. One of the best things about photography is the fact that I can visit the same place time after time, and each visit is a different experience: the clouds change, I find new views, I discover new things, and I come back with different photographs. Such is the case here, and I will keep visitiing until I feel I've "told a story" and captured the essence of these wind turbines in photographs. I've written about this experience in a blog article, and several new photographs have been added to the galleries.
Fall, 2011: Time to Organize
I've moved to all-digital photography, and for the first time in my picture-taking life I don't have a film camera. However, I still had file drawers full of film transparencies taken over the last several decades. Whle some were keepers, many were photos that I know would never see the light of day (we all have those, I know), and it was time to downsize. I spent many weeks examining transparancies, scanning those that were keepers, and heartlessly discarding the rest. In the end, I kept about 10%; the rest ended up in the trash. While I have digital copies of the keepers, I also kept the original transparencies, and they still look absolutely wonderful on a light table. The digital files are backed up on three 3-terabyte drives, one of which is a Raid 1 array (two copies on two disks in the same drive). Two drives are kept with my computer, and one drive is kept in a safe deposit box at the local bank. Having one copy kept offsite is key to digital data protection.
After culling and scanning the keepers, I sold my scanner, and with that I left film photography for good. I wrote about this in a blog article.
Summer, 2011: Harvest
It's a bit frustrating to see so many photo opportunities of large equipment harevsting wheat all around the area, but find myself inside one of those pieces of equipment and unable to do photography. I wanted to purchase a new camera body (Canon 1D MkIV) to be better able to take photographs of flying birds, and working in the harvest would bring me a bit closer to being able to do tnat. But when a farmer is paying me to drive trucks and haul wheat, I'm reluctant to brinng along a camera and tripod to get some photographs from time to time. So months went by without a good photograph. Perhaps next year I could be allowed to document the harvest rather than haul wheat -- we'll see.
April 4, 2011: End of film? A new Hasselblad H4D-40 camera.
I can feel the tide shifting, at least under my feet. I've gotten some great photos with my Pentax 645 gear over the years; it has been my go-to camera for a long time. As I was scanning 645 transparencies along side transparencies from a relatively recently acquired Hasselblad 501cm and several lenses (50mm CFi, 80mm CFE, 120mm CFi, and 180mm CFi), I was impressed by the superior color and resolution of the Hasselblad slides. I've also been dismayed at the decline in availability of film in general, and the loss of some films altogether. In addition, local labs have been calling it quits, with the most shocking personal loss being Ivey Labs in Seattle (fortunately, there are several very good alternatives for photographers in the area). I now send my film to Denver Digital Imaging in Denver, Colorado.
Given these changes, I've said goodbye to my Pentax 645 system. The body and lenses have been dispersed to new owners in Canada and across the U.S. To take it's place, I've taken a step that only rich people, crazy people, or single people can do, and that's a heavy investment in a Hasselblad H4D-40 digital camera and the 35-90mm H lens. I'm not rich, but I am single; whether crazy also applies depends on who you ask. I've seen what this camera can produce in terms of detail and tonal quality, and I'm hoping it will be a great alternative to scanned medium format film.
The learning curve is steep. I've gone through the manual several times, and I've practiced using it in the field. My goal is to use it as freely and as easily I might use my Canon digital or old Pentax, and that will just take practice. Fortunately, a lot of the organization of the controls is intuitive. The camera has been around for several years in previous incarnations, so they've had time to smooth things out and make the camera relatively user-friendly.
The software (Phocus) to process the Hasselblad RAW files is completely new to me. It has also necessitated the purchase of a new MacBook Pro computer, which fortunately has just come out with major new features that may allow it to take the place of my current laptop as well as my desktop computer. I'm looking forward to receiving the new laptop this week, getting Phocus installed, and actually producing an image on the screen and in print from the new camera. Ultimately, it needs to be a tool that I don't even have to think about because it has become totally integrated into my walk through the woods, my treks across fields, and my drives across the countryside. That's my goal.
April, 2011: Trip to the Southwest
I've recently returned from a trip to the Southwest with cameras in hand. My main destinations included Bryce Canyon (first time in winter), Zion (first time), Bosque del Apache (first time), White Sands (first time), Chiricahuas (first time), Saguaro (second time), Joshua Tree (too many times to count), Death Valley (several times), and southern Oregon coast (several times). I'm writing about each destination and including photos in my photography blog; I invite you to take a look. It will be a month or so before I'm finished with the summary of the entire trip.
January, 2011: Winter Trip to the Southwest
With seemingly unending gray skies in the Pacific Northwest during the winter months, what better excuse to take off on an extended trip with a camera? I've always wanted to visit the Bosque del Apache wildlife refuge in New Mexico to see the wintering sandhill cranes and snow geese, and the birds are there from mid-November until sometime in February. Armed with maps of the western states, I set off on January 7 for a two-month photographic journey to Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Bosque del Apache wildlife refuge, White Sands National Monument, Chiricahua National Mounument, Kartchner Caverns, Saguaro National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park, and as yet undetermined points between southern California back to the Pacific Northwest. New photos and blog articles will be posted along the way (I'm currently catching up while visiting my son in Los Angeles; the most unnerving part of the trip so far has been maneuvering a truck with camper through the streets of downtown L.A. looking for a place to park.
November 14, 2010: Photo Trip to the Columbia Gorge
I had a couple of days over Veterans' Day for photography and had intended to take my camera to the National Cemetery near Auburn, Washington. On my way over the pass, I saw that many of the maples and cottonwoods still had some of their leaves, so I switched my destination to the Columbia Gorge. November 11 is getting very late in the year for fall foliage in this part of the world. However, I had photographed the National Cemetery several years earlier, so I changed my destination to the Columbia Gorge. A summary of my trip (with elements of previous trips thrown in) along with photos is posted on my blog.
October, 2010: Photo Trip to Puget Sound
I spent October 5 through 16 in the Puget Sound area visiting many of my favorite places (Mt. Rainier, Kestner Creek, Hoh Rainforest, Second Beach, and Rialto Beach); photos and details are posted on my photograph blog. I also spent a lot of time at various doctor's offices, still trying to keep this old body going until the Pentax 645D is released. I've been hoping for the camera for the last five years, and it appears it will finally be available in the U.S. this December. What a nice Christmas present that would make!
September, 2010: Harvest Time!
I participated in the pea and wheat harvests when I was in high school, some 44 years ago. Being an experienced farmhand, I decided to do it again. The pea harvest consumed 12 hours per day, every day of the week. The wheat harvest allows Sundays off, but the hours average about 14 per day. Do the math and one can see that there is very little time for photography. I've watched incredible sunrises and sunsets come and go across the Walla Walla valley. I've watched beautiful formations of cirrus and cumulus clouds drift slowly by. I've watched raptors swooping down on mice and voles displaced by the big harvest machines. I've watched these machines form abstract patterns across the landscape. Watched, but not photographed. This is a time-out from photography to earn a few dollars to pay truck repair bills. Fortunately, it's temporary.
May 17, 2010: Photography in the Palouse
Spring is a great time for photography in eastern Washington, and I recently spent several days in the Palouse. Much of my time was spent on Steptoe Butte that has a commanding view of the landscape. The fields were various shades of green and brown, and the early morning and late evening shadows of the rolling hills made for some wonderful views. One photo of a tree in the far distance, made with 700mm worth of lens (500mm + 1.4x multiplier), was worth the entire trip; it also is made of two stitched photos in a 2:1 aspect ratio. Time was also spent on the backroads, and I got stuck once in some wet clay. Even with the weight of a camper on a 4WD truck, I couldn't get traction; wet clay is unbelievably slick. (I was once stranded for three days in eastern Montana when a rainstorm came through while I was driving on a clay road far, far away from anything remotely resembling civilization.) I've written about photography in the Palouse on my blog, and new photos have been posted.
I also intended to spend up to two weeks photographing the basalt cliffs of central Washington. I started at Dry Falls in Sun Lakes State Park, but after one day the truck developed some significant problems (e.g., it wouldn't go). So I returned home after only one day. The truck will be fixed this week, and if I have any of my monthly allowance left (highly unlikely), I may return before it gets too hot and the mosquitoes realize it's feeding time.
May 5, 2010: Prints Can Be Ordered
After weeks of establishing working relationships with professional print labs, ordering test prints, deciding on mounting surfaces, assigning prints to categories based on aspect ratios, and incorporating this into the website, prints can now be ordered. Mounting surfaces that I've chosen include archival paper that can be framed at your favorite frame shop, Colorplak mounts that are wonderfully constructed yet less expensive than traditional glass and frame mounts, canvas wraps, and brilliant aluminum surfaces on the larger sizes. More information is provided on the print page.
I'm always happy to work with clients on special orders. These may include alternative sizes, alternative framing options (some of which are described on the print page), and large orders for corporate offices and institutions. I'm limited in what I can provide in a drop-down menu on this website, so please contact me if you have something in mind regarding one or more of my photographs.
March 24, 2010: Trip to Montana
I just returned from a trip to Montana with the primary intent to photograph the snow geese migration at Freezeout Lake (see blog entry). I was early, stayed only two days, and went on to Glacier Park (not yet in business for the season), Libby, and Bull Lake on Highway 56. Photographs in the galleries will follow.
March, 2010: Welcome to my new website.
I got my first camera in the 1950s, my first computer in 1975, and now finally in 2010 I've combined the two. Thanks to Jack Brauer of WideRange Galleries, I can now share my great love of landscape photography with you through this new website.