Rhododendron(less) Park


Lush Quietude. Trees rise above thick foliage in Rhododendron Park, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with PC Nikkor 19mm f/4E ED at 1.5 sec, f/13, ISO 64.

Since Rhododendrons bloom in May and June, there weren’t any in evidence during my September morning visit to Rhododendron Park on Whidbey Island. Even so, it was a beautiful little park with scattered campgrounds. Since much of Whidbey Island is covered in small farms, this densely wooded area added some nice variety to my photographs for the trip. The image above is perfect material for a wide angle tilt-shift lens: the camera is kept level (so the trees stay vertical), the lens is tilted forward (so the close foreground and the trees are both in focus), and the lens is shifted down to adjust the relative amounts of foreground and background to taste. An extra benefit of shifting the lens down is that otherwise the wide angle was picking up bright slivers of sky between the trees that are pretty distracting. A little bit of cloning in some extra leaves to cover annoying bright spots is an easy fix, but it is nice to minimize that.

The trees were generally quite straight and the way that the moss grows on the outer surface of the bark and not in the crevices between makes for a nice visual texture. Lately, whenever I am in a forest setting I will try taking a few intentional camera motion photos. There is nothing original about doing a vertical pan of trees, but even so it is always interesting because you can never be exactly sure what you’ll get. I thought this one had really interesting colors:

Vivacity. A dense forest is alive with greens and blue-greens in Rhododendron Park, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S at 92mm, 1/2 sec, f/5.6, ISO 64.

I had to play with the color balance in the photo at the top of this post to get the colors natural-looking; for this image I just left in the blue cast because it isn’t a natural-looking photograph to start with. I haven’t decided whether I like the bright yellowish streaks near the top or not, and may try toning them down a bit. Being a very abstract image, it is really a matter of seasoning to taste.

I mentioned that with this sort of photograph you are never quite sure what you are going to get. Here’s an example:

Forest Wisps. An inadvertent single-frame multiple exposure caused by moving the camera in the middle of a long exposure, Rhododendron Park, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 24-120mm f/4 S at 92mm, 1.5 sec, f/9.5, ISO 64.

It took me a while to figure out what happened with this image. It’s a very long exposure (1.5 sec) and I was trying to have a underlying crisp image for most of the exposure and then add streaks to it. So, I would press the shutter, wait, and then swipe the camera straight down. I think what ended up happening is that my swipe down was so fast that the streaks didn’t actually get any of the exposure; rather than streaks, I ended up with the blurry leaves on the bush right in front of me getting the rest of the exposure. The result is essentially a multiple exposure of the trees and the bushes, taken in a single press of the shutter. It’s a weird result, but I like it. I really should do more of these, but after five or ten exposures I get impatient. (And start feeling silly, waving the camera around while standing next to a perfectly good tripod!) As an aside, I am pretty impressed that the Z8’s in-body camera stabilization held the trees in the image so crisp before I swiped down; that part of the exposure was probably close to 1 second at 92mm, which is pretty impressive.

Forestmates. Trees, young and old, stand in a line in Rhododendron Park, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with PC-E Micro Nikkor 85mm f/2.8D at 1.5 sec, f/9.5, ISO 64.

Returning to more traditional images, this is another good use of a tilt-shift lens, in this case a telephoto one rather than a wide-angle. This scene happens to have half a dozen trees of various diameters lined up pretty much in a row. The well-lit one on the right is the closest and the really thin one on the left is the farthest. With the lens tilted (or swung) to the right, I can get all of those trees in focus at the same time. A consequence is that the foreground foliage on the left side is out of focus even though the foliage on the right hand side is in focus; in this image, I think that is fine.

Skyward Surround. Trees stretch to the sky in Rhododendron Park, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with AF-S Fisheye Nikkor 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED at 8mm, 1/10 sec, f/9.5, ISO 64.

I use my fisheye lens pretty regularly, but not usually at 8mm where the resulting image is a circle. Looking straight up through the trees is a pretty good use for it, though, even if not particularly original. The thing to realize about this lens is that when used this way, the ground is essentially visible in every direction all the way around the image, so it is important to have the camera pointing as close to straight up as you can get it. This is easiest to do on a tripod with the screen tilted. I also used the camera self-timer so that I would have two seconds to duck down out of the way, or my face would have been disturbingly present somewhere around the edge. Obviously, this image can be spun any way you like when displayed; it came out of the camera this way and I thought it was fine so I left it as it was. The very edge of the circle, straight out of camera, has a lot of blue fringing and outside of that is black, not while. Using the masking tools in the current version of Lightroom, it is pretty easy to make everything outside of a given circle either white or black depending on your preference. I made both versions, but since this website has a white background, I used the white version here. In older versions of Lightroom, this wasn’t possible to do cleanly without switching to Affinity Photo (or Photoshop, if you prefer).

You can (and I have) made similar images with a wide-angle lens rather than the fisheye, but rectilinear lenses will distort the trees in a different, non-symmetric way. Unfortunately, I can’t do a side-by-side comparison to show the difference; next time I am in a similar situation I will try to remember to do both versions.

I am pretty happy with the images I made at this park, especially given that I was only there for about an hour, twenty minutes of which I spent trying to wipe a shocking quantity of dog doo off my shoe. I was mostly successful, but still caught whiffs of it for most of the day. I must offer my sincerest apologies to my fellow workshop-mates who spent the rest of the morning trapped with me in a fairly small room.

I still have more posts to do for Whidbey Island, but next week I am planning to take a break and post some recent Colorado fall color images.

Thank you for visiting my blog! See you next week!

If you would like to receive my weekly post as an email, please subscribe:



2 responses to “Rhododendron(less) Park”

  1. A further set of fascinating images. It is interesting to see you include ICM and, in effect, multiple exposure images. Perhaps it is not so challenging to give these a go (and then stop!) after all.

    I can imagine the discomfort of the situation you mention towards the end. No matter how well we prepare, someone or something can catch us out!

    • Yeah, there was a narrow side path through all those plants, but they had pretty much grown together about thigh-high and I couldn’t see where I was stepping…not something I would have done in Arizona, to be sure, between snakes and cactus. On a cheerier note, I hope you post your pictures from Puglia soon!