Coupeville

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Dawn Under. A sailboat sits in the calm morning waters of Penn Cove, Coupeville, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S at 73mm, 1.0 sec, f/9.5, ISO 500.

Coupeville is in Washington, not Portugal, so as promised last week this is a post-Iberian post. During the photo workshop on Whidbey Island last fall, we made several visits to the area by the Coupeville pier, both morning and evening. It was definitely pretty, but I would not say that it was an easy place for me to photograph. Based on the results, I definitely had more success in the morning than the evening. But in any event, after multiple visits I was able to come up with some images I liked.

There were a number of interesting compositions underneath the pier, such as the one above. One challenge with almost all of them is the dynamic range. In the image above there is a lot of green seaweedy-algae stuff all over the ground, and with the light being essentially pure blue, when you lighten the shadows in post-processing the greens end up looking a pretty radioactive. Dropping down to base ISO (64) instead of ISO 500 would have helped, but that would have been an 8-second exposure and the boat would have likely started to blur from rocking back and forth. Eventually I was able to tame the greens, but I probably should have taken a second exposure for the dark part of the scene and blended them afterwards. Lesson learned.

At one point while I was busy with my camera under the pier a deer walked past just behind me. It was not a photography moment, but was a weird one.

To say that the great blue heron below was collectively featured in a lot of our images is a gross understatement. The heron changed positions and perches regularly, and by walking up and down the short pier you could change the relative relationship between the post, the boat, and the background. This was probably my favorite rendition, and I love the sense of calm from the soft pastels.

Dawn Heron. A great blue heron greets the new day in Coupeville, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S at 125mm, 1/6 sec, f/9.5, ISO 64.

The cute little building below was built on the end of the pier itself. I don’t recall ever seeing the building open for business, but given my exclusively early- and late-hour visits that is not surprising. I enjoy the light and the bold diagonals of this composition. I am also grateful that none of the sign is in shadow; a few minutes later and “Coffee” would have been half in shadow. I do have this image marked for future editing, however, because the solar panel needs to go. That does not look like it will be very hard to do in Affinity Photo, but it exceeds Lightroom‘s capabilities. I have been thinking of having a before-and-after series of articles on this website; if you would enjoy that, let me know in the comments and I can post how this one turns out.

Shop on the Pier. The early morning sunrise falls on the pier in Coupeville, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S at 26mm, 1/30 sec, f/9.5, ISO 64.

I spent a fair amount of time down on the the floating pier one morning. Having spent so many years in Arizona (and now Colorado) photographing around boats and wharfs and the like is always a treat. In this case, I really liked the textures of the boards and neat coils of rope. The very low angle of the sun accentuated both; in fact, without it the black coils would have been featureless blobs. I spent quite a bit of time doing gymnastics with the wide angle tilt-shift lens to get this composition and then get it in focus. But it was worth it: I like the way the foreground in the front left has so much texture, the strong pattern of the planking, the repeating three coils, and the touch of glare brightening the upper right corner which gives it a little more draw on the eye than it would have otherwise. The couple of red planks mixed in are neat, too.

Tidy. Mooring lines are carefully arranged on a floating pier, Coupeville, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with PC Nikkor 19mm f/4E ED at 1/15 sec, f/11, ISO 64.

I forget what the long-suffering chain below was attached to, but the textures and colors of the chain and the rocks were great. The whole scene was in deep shadow. When textures are a big part of an image, direct light that rakes across a scene (like in the previous image) is often useful, but I don’t think that harsh shadows on the chain itself would have been easy to work with.

Chained Melody. A chain lies draped across boulders near the Coupeville Pier, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S at 24mm, 4 sec, f/11, ISO 64.

This last image was taken while walking back to the car after sunset. Coupeville is a quiet little town that does stay open late, so I was able to see this awesome little window display at its most striking with the darkened shop behind it. Since everything is artificial lighting, there is a lot of leeway on how you adjust the color balance for it to look good. The light in the upper right was very orange and I really couldn’t tame it with global image settings: if I dialed everything towards blue, by the time it looked merely pleasantly warm the white vertical molding looked quite blue—and quite wrong. So, I had to cool down that corner of the image locally, but not too much, for everything to balance out well. Artificial lighting can be challenging like this, with color balances that are very extreme. When looking at a scene in person, your brain tempers all of that and it seems fine, but when your brain only has the picture itself for context, sometimes it looks hideous. This is very much a season-to-taste affair, so I won’t assert that this is the best possible rendition. And I am pretty sure it is not, but I am content with it for the moment.

Starry Night #2. A brightly colored window display adds cheer to a lonely shop closed for the night, Coupeville, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S at 32mm, 0.7 sec, f/9.5, ISO 64.

Thank you for following me back to Whidbey Island. By the end of my five days photographing there, the place definitely grew on me and I would like to go back at some point. Next week I will reveal a big reason why.

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4 responses to “Coupeville”

  1. Enjoyed this blog, Jim. Thank you.

    For me, one image definitely stands out: Tidy. There is so much to take in but no confusion. The two coils of rope (or similar) echo each other. The placing of the chain and whatever it is that projects from the far side of the boat is perfect. The colours etc … The crop … All spot-on, in my view.

    Yes to some before/after images. Interestingly, the buoy on Dawn Heron troubles me far more than the solar panel.

    • Thank you for the comment, Rob! I am glad you liked Tidy! I am happy with it, too.

      Well, the bouy is easy enough to remove; I will have to try that and see if I prefer it. Ironically, I what I don’t like is the blurry seagull to the left of the sailboat by about one boat-length. I got rid of it and then noticed its faint little reflection in the water (to the right of the heron) and that bothered me so I just left the bird in because it is easier. I doubt anyone would have noticed the shadow since it is so mushy (for lack of a better term) but I was worried that my attempts to get rid of it would be more obvious than the thing itself. But I didn’t bother trying, I admit, and it probably would be pretty easy enough.

      I will put you down for some kind of before-after feature. I’m not sure that I want to do blog posts, per se, but maybe a before-after living article.

  2. Great post, Jim. I love the color in Under Dawn. Thanks for keeping the radioactivity out of it! The way the pier posts intersect just right of the center is interesting (I see they intersect on the left also but it’s much harder to tell). I agree with Rob. Tidy is quite nice. I’d love to play around with a tilt-shift lens. The perspective on that photo is really lovely. I like Dawn Heron also but I do agree that the buoy is distracting.

    Please do a before and after! I’d enjoy seeing what you think should be removed from some photos. (Please include the cattail from Chatfield State Park – Extended)

    • Thank you, Barrett! Well, if you and Rob are going to gang up on that buoy, I suppose that it has got to go! 🙂

      You have a good memory—I had forgotten all about the cattail! I think I did a good job removing it because I had to go back to the original file to figure out where it had been. You are right, though, that would be a good one to include.

      Maybe Charlie or Lucy will pile on and cast the deciding vote. Given my modest readership, I think a 3-0 lead can be considered insurmountable.