Kevin Merchant Photography News 2014

Wings Over Water (Blaine, WA) - March 15
John Scharff Migratory Bird Festival (Burns, OR) - April 11-13
Grays Harbor Shorebird & Nature Festival (Hoquiam, WA) - April 26-27
Artists Garage Sale (Everett, WA) - June 7 - 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Art Walk (Mill Creek, WA) - June 12 - 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
International Art Festival (Blaine, WA) - June 20-22
Wedgwood Art Festival (Seattle, WA) - July 12-13
Mill Creek Festival (Mill Creek, WA) - July 19-20
Fresh Paint (Everett, WA) - August 16-17
Waterfront Arts Festival (Mukilteo, WA) - August 29
Chateau Ste. Michelle Event (Woodinville, WA) - August 31
Washington State Fair (Puyallup, WA) - September 5 - 21
Harvest Festival (Prosser, WA) - September 26 - 28
BirdFest & Bluegrass (Ridgefield, WA) - October 4 - 5
Woodinville Holiday Craft Fair (Woodinville, WA) - November 1
Bothell Farmers Market (Country Village, Bothell, WA) - Fridays beginning June 6th
Woodinville Farmers Market (Woodinville, WA) - Saturdays beginning May 3rd
December 29, 2014

Here it is, the end of the year and the Seattle Seahawks have secured a spot in the playoffs with home field advantage no less. To show a little Seahawk spirit I thought I would trot out one of my more successful images taken earlier this year. In fact, this image was shot the day before the Super Bowl.

Go Hawks!
Go Hawks!

I have this image available as the full panorama in a large framed & matted size (16" x 40") using Seahawk blue and green for a double mat. I also have it in a smaller 12" x 16" size with the image cropped, of course. Drop me an e-mail if you are interested in a purchase.

My images have been piling up all year (as few as they are), but I have been slowly working through them this month. A few have made it up to the GALLERY in the NEW section. Be sure to check those out. I hope to add more as the weeks roll along.

We wish each and every one of you a Happy New Year.

November 7, 2014

The Woodinville Holiday Craft Fair was a success again for us this year. This event is sponsored by the non-profit, Northshore SEPAC, a worthy organization involved in the education of special needs children. We are happy to support this fund raising event.

A big thanks to all of our customers at this event. Thank you for your support. We also thank the organizers and volunteers of this event. A well organized and run event; good signage and advertising.

This event closed out our selling season. Time for us to go into hibernation and do some catching up. We hope to see you all again next year as we venture out for another retail sales season.

October 6, 2014

We are back home after back-to-back trips - first to Prosser, WA for the 25th annual Prosser Balloon Rally and second to Ridgefield, WA for the 15 th annual BirdFest and Bluegrass gathering. Both were successful events for us. A big thank you to all our customers and everyone else who stopped by. Also, a big thank you to the organizers who make it possible to be there. These events do not happen by themselves and in many cases are completely or predominantly volunteer based.

The balloon rally is always weather dependent and this year was no different. The Friday lift-off happened but the wind was not conducive to the balloons making it to the Yakima River, which is one of the main goals - one balloon managed to make it to the river for a very short touch down but that was it. It turns out the wind made for very short flights for most of the pilots. As soon as the balloons were all out of shooting range, I headed over to town to begin setting up the booth.

Hopes were high Saturday for better weather and indeed, it was better. I was getting text messages from my wife who was at the airport on one of the balloon crews - test balloons showed that winds were not going to be favorable for a lift off, but one balloon was going to go up and see how it looked. I abandoned my post at the bridge and headed to the airport in hopes of salvaging the shoot by getting shots of balloons inflating and such. As it turned out, the first balloon took off, wind looked favorable and so other balloons followed suit. Pretty soon they had all launched. By now, the bridge is crowded with people and no chance of finding a spot to set up, so I opted to make the best of the situation and get shots of each balloon as they were taking off. This way, I at least have shots of all the balloons that took off in the morning.

The Saturday evening's Nite Glow event was held at Art Fiker Stadium where there is room enough for about five balloons to inflate. After sunset, the balloons begin inflating under the stadium lights. When they are all ready, it is time for lights-out. Shooting this event is a bit tricky as you need to determine a proper exposure when the balloon is glowing. Also, not all of the balloons are glowing at the same time. So, if you are trying different compositions, you end up missing shots. That is the nature of the event and one of the trade-offs. Also, moving around once the glow starts will ensure that you are in some other photographer's way, so my plan is to get a good spot to begin with, stay there, accepting that you cannot get all the best angles. This is a public event and everyone has a right to be there so it is best to be considerate. Finally, the glow portion only lasts about twenty minutes, so it is best to be as efficent and prepared as possible.

Sunday morning, the wind was not favorable at all for a lift-off, but several balloons inflated, staying tethered to the ground, to at least give the crowd a show. With my wife crewing on one of the balloons that inflated, I was able to get close-in shots of the inside of the balloon as it was inflating - how fun.

We will definitely be making plans to attend future balloon rallys. It was a very fun weekend.

The bluegrass music returned to Ridgefield this year after a two year absence. Between great weather, bluegrass music and the refuge being opened the festival this year (last year it was closed due to the federal government shut down) had a much bigger turnout and made for a much more enjoyable event all around. We managed to get out Saturday and Sunday morning for some bird photography - sandhill cranes primarily. A very pleasant way to start the day as the sun is coming up. Fall weather is definitely in the air but we enjoyed a weekend of sunny weather.

This concludes our sales travels for the year. Overall, it has been a good year for us. I hope to soon be getting to processing photos I have taken this year - I have just stayed too busy to keep up with all of the shooting. And, I'm still hoping to get out for some fall color this year.

September 9, 2014

The Washington State Fair is well underway. Yesterday was my first day of working at the fair. Before executing my duties, I strolled the fairgrounds taking in all the sights, sounds and smells (YES, the smells) and sure enough it's the fair. Whether it be a county or state fair you have that all encompasing sensory experience. And, if you dare, ride the rides - a few have the look of that inside-out induced feeling.

My "job" is in the Artists In Action area, located under a portion of the grandstand where the concerts are held. You wouldn't really know it until the end of the concert when there was this thunderous stomping of feet for one more song. This goes on every night of the fair.

What do I do? Keep an eye on the comings and goings of customers, either at the door or out on the floor. Also, make sure that inventory gets replenished. Pretty simple, really.

Last night there was discussion of an abundance of blank wall space, so I offered to hang more pieces to fill in a few of the blank spots. It looks like I am going to have all of my display pieces tied up at the fair (not a bad thing), but it may make being at the farmers market a bit more difficult. I already have a lot of my bin inventory at the fair so, we shall see if participating in one last market day (for me) makes sense.

September 2, 2014

The Labor Day event at Chateau Ste. Michelle was a success for us. The morning started off a bit cloudy with a threat of rain, but that finally cleared up in the early afternoon. The day was filled with live music. Of course, the primary reason people come is for the wine tasting and come they did. But there were quite a few who were ernestly looking at all the art on display as well. We were glad to participate in this one day event.

Today was setup day for me at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup. And, it's official - I'm employed. At least a few days at the fair in the Artist In Action area where my work is on display and for sale. The fair runs for 17 days, so hopefully you'll have a chance to make a day of it at the fair and "do the Puyallup". You'd have to be a local to get that.

At the end of the month, we will be heading to Prosser for the Harvest Festival and the Prosser Balloon Rally. We are hoping for better weather this year; with conditions suitable for the balloons to lift off. Last year was a complete bust - three days and no lift offs. We did have the opportunity to meet several of the pilots and crew members. In spite of a shortened Harvest Festival (we packed up the end of day Saturday due to weather), we had good sales. We're looking forward to being there again this year.

August 18, 2014

The Fresh Paint Art Festival in Everett was a success for us this past weekend. There were rain showers Friday morning but they were gone by set up time in the afternoon. Nice. We had pleasant weather Saturday and Sunday. The booths are located along the promenade of the marina - a very scenic place to spend the weekend. On Sunday the Everett Farmers Market is located nearby, bringing in many additional shoppers.

We want to say thank you to all of our customers and also those who stopped to look.

It won't be long before the Mukilteo Waterfront Arts Festival is upon us - the Friday before Labor Day. It is located in a new location this year just up from the waterfront at the Rosehill Community Center. And, it is a one-day only event. There will be a total of 35 artists in attendance.

Mukilteo Waterfront Arts Festival
     Rosehill Community Center
     304 Lincoln Ave, Mukilteo
       - Friday, August 29th - 10AM to 7PM

Following on the heels of this event is a wine and art event at the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery in Woodinville, WA on Sunday, August 31. They are expecting 25 artists to be in attendance.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery
     14111 NE 145th St, Woodinville
       - Sunday, August 31th - 10AM to 5PM

We hope to see you at one of these events.

August 11, 2014

As I mentioned before at my upcoming show, Fresh Paint in Everett, I will be demonstrating my RAW image work flow in Adobe Lightroom, which is my tool of choice. The demo will be a first for me, so I am hoping to impart useful information to fellow photographers who are interested in RAW image processing or are already processing RAW images and to people who are just curious what RAW is all about.

RAW is kind of a mystery when you first encounter it; I know it was for me. I think it helps to put RAW into the context of film photography. RAW files are literally unprocessed sensor data coming from the camera's digital sensor and stored in the proprietary format of the particular camera manufacturer that you are using - in my case Canon. There are people who would even make the distinction that the RAW sensor data is just that, data and not an image, yet.

Relative to film, the image contained in the RAW sensor data would exist before the film was even manufactured. How so? Well, when Kodak (or Fuji) formulated a particular film, they had to decide if the film was going to be color balanced for daylight (5500° Kelvin) or some other light source (tungsten - 2700° Kelvin, fluorescent - 5000 ° Kelvin). The color balance informed the decisions for the formulation of the color layers contained in the film (I'm presuming color film here). Some films emphasized blues & greens, others emphasized reds & yellows, some emphasized skin tones and other such color formulations. The Kodachrome family of films tended to render colors in a neutral way, so that no one color was emphasized over others. Some Fujichrome films became very popular because they tended to render colors in a very saturated way emphasizing blues & greens.

In the case of the sensor data contained in a RAW file, the color balance for the source light has not yet been cast into stone, so-to-speak. These days digital cameras give the photographer a White Balance function to tell the camera what the light source is such as "daylight", "cloudy", "shade", "fluorescent" and so forth. Or, you can let the camera decide by using the "Auto" setting for White Balance " where the camera makes an intelligent guess as to the light source (color temperature). If you are shooting in RAW mode, the color (white) balance can be altered in any post processing tool of your choice (Adobe Lightroom, in my case). If however, you are capturing the image as a JPEG, then whatever color balance setting is selected in the camera is the color (white) balance that will be rendered in the actual JPEG image. In the case of shooting in JPEG mode, the camera performs a set of processing steps on the sensor data before rendering the image as a JPEG file. This is one of many reasons that I choose to shoot all of my images with the RAW mode.

In RAW files, adjusting the color balance will globally determine all of the colors in the final image. This is not the end of what you can do to color in a RAW image before rendering it into a final image, rather it is the beginning. There are other advantages that RAW has over film as well, but hopefully this sheds a little light (pardon the pun) on why I prefer RAW files over JPEG files coming out of the camera. Come to Fresh Paint to hear more of the story.

I hope to see you there either Saturday or Sunday.

Fresh Paint Art Festival
     Port of Everett Marina
     1700 West Marine View Drive, Everett
       - Saturday, August 16th - 10AM to 5PM
       - Sunday, August 17th - 10AM to 5PM
July 22, 2014

The Wedgwood Art Festival was a success for us again this year. The new location is not nearly as dusty as the location that has been used in previous years. I believe there was excellent signage to direct people to us. So far, this weekend was the hottest of the summer and did affect the number of people who came out to shop for art and enjoy the music. We had great neighbors at the festival which always makes it a great weekend.

Now looking forward, our next show is Fresh Paint, located on the Everett Marina. This will be our first year participating in this great art festival. All of the participating artists are required to demonstrate some aspect of their art. I am planning to demonstrate some of my RAW work flow that is used to produce final images. Probably not as exciting as seeing pottery turned or paintings produced, but this will demonstrate some of the work that goes into producing the fine art prints available in my booth.

I look forward to seeing you somewhere along the journey this summer.

July 9, 2014

Festival season is in full swing for me. The Wedgwood Art Festival is coming up this weekend and the weather is shaping up to be really nice, which is always a plus. The festival had to relocate a few blocks north of last year's location. It appears we lose some visibility from 35th Ave NE, but knowing the organizers I am expecting they will once again have great signage to the event.

Wedgwood Art Festival
     Our Lady of the Lake School
     corner of 35th Ave NE & NE 89th St, Seattle
       - Saturday, July 12th - 10AM to 5PM
       - Sunday, July 13th - 10AM to 5PM

I'm looking forward to a good turn out. Stop by and say hello.

April 28, 2014

The 2014 Grays Harbor Shorebird & Nature Festival was a success. Whether this festival occurs or not, the migration itself is a world-class, must-see event. I have said it many times that the images I capture do not do justice to seeing the birds in person. To most of my audience, this is in your backyard - go see it.

My hat is off to all the volunteers who put together a very well organized and run festival. It is a great event with many educational and birding opportunities. They always manage to have engaging key-note speakers as well.

This coming Saturday will be the opening day for the Woodinville Farmers Market. I will be in attendance for many of the season's market days including the opening day. Please come and shop locally - hours are from 10 AM to 4 PM.

April 24, 2014

April is rushing by me. I'm back from Burns, Oregon plowing through images, many taken with a Canon 600mm f/4 II lens that I rented for the trip. As with my 500mm lens, it took some getting used to this lens. Its longer length and wider diameter made shooting from the vehicle a bit more challenging (think managing a large object in a confined space) - this is a trip that is mostly about shooting from the vehicle. The focusing ring was generally resting on the bean bag that I use, which meant that every adjustment for bird movement usually meant focus was lost. The good news is that it has very fast focus acquisition.

Shooting conditions were challenging for the simple reason that this is a very dry year for Harney County. Very few of the fields had any water and the main reason for going there is the water birds. The north end of Malheur NWR was dry and had no birds to speak of. This meant that I spent the majority of my shooting time in and around the Burns area, which was good on the gas budget.

I did venture out to the sage grouse lek at Foster Flats. There were only five males and one female that I saw the first morning. On the second morning the female flew off before daylight. I later found out that a fire in the summer of 2012 burned approximately one quarter of a million acres, and killed a large portion of the flock. The challenge of this shoot was with so few birds, they were all quite far off the road. Two things were in my favor - the burn had cleared off a lot of vegetation that obstructs the view of the birds and I had a 600mm lens with a 2x teleconvertor for an effective 1200mm focal length.

With so few bird opportunities, I turned my attention to a species that I knew was in the area but had no idea where to start - burrowing owls. I asked my fellow photographer friend and Harney County resident, Kim Rollins, if he had eyes on any nesting sites. He did not, but had some good suggestions on where I might look. Two of the three suggestions had owls and one of those presented excellent morning opportunities for two nesting pairs. So, I spent two mornings with the one nesting pair closest to the road. Once again, the 600mm lens came to the rescue as this pair was sufficiently far off the road that my 500mm lens would have been less than effective at capturing feather detail the way the 600mm lens did.

I've been plowing through over 7300 images taken and have edited these down to just over 4100 images. I can certainly tell that a)I have not been out shooting in over a year, and b)I was shooting with a very long focal length (1200mm) which requires a more keen sense of technique for managing and maintaining sharp focus. Maybe I'll have something for you to see up on the site soon.

Once again, it's time for the Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival and this year I plan to be at the market both Saturday and Sunday. The shorebird migration is an amazing phenomenon. Words and pictures don't really begin to describe what it is like to see thousands of shorebirds flying in unison, turning together on a dime. Unfortunately, personal business is once again preventing me from being there for photography, but I hope next year will be different. If you get the chance, by all means go. You won't regret it.

Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival
     Hoquiam High School
     501 W Emerson Avenue, Hoquiam
       - Saturday, April 26th - 9AM to 5PM
       - Sunday, April 27th - 9AM to 4PM
March 31, 2014

My summer festival schedule is slowly starting to take shape. In the meantime, I will soon be heading to Central Oregon for the John Scharff Migratory Bird Festival. I'm looking forward to participating again this year.

John Scharff Migratory Bird Festival
     Burns High School Gymnasium
     1100 Oregon Avenue, Burns
       - Friday, April 11th - 5PM to 9PM
       - Saturday, April 12th - 9AM to 5PM
       - Sunday, April 11th - 9AM to 2PM

In advance of the festival, I am planning to spend a week photographing birds in and around the city of Burns, Oregon as well as the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. This year I am doing something I have never done before - I'm renting a lens for an extended trip. Not just any lens though - it is Canon's new 600mm f/4 super telephoto lens. I could not tell you how many times I have wished for more reach with my 500mm lens. If it is as good as I have read (yes, I've done a LOT of reading about its capabilities) and really does give me that extra little reach I keep wishing for, it may be time to upgrade. I'll plan on giving a report some time after I return.

On another topic, take a look at the new Image File Organization article that I've written. One thing I know is that everybody takes a different approach to how they organize all of their digital images. I am no different. There is no ONE right way. But, I would say there are a few wrong ways. I should know since I've employed several of them. In this article, I share my current method which has been refined over the last nine years of shooting digitally. Whether you subscribe to my method or not, hopefully what I share may be of some benefit. I welcome any comments you might have.

March 17, 2014

This is the 5th year that I have had the opportunity to participate in the Wings Over Water festival held in Blaine, Washington - a small-ish festival with no national wildlife refuge to help make it a bigger attraction. But let me tell you, Whatcom County is a great birding area with Drayton Harbor attracting a large number of water fowl species. And, there is no less enthusiasm among the many volunteers who help put this great event on than any of the other birding festivals that I have had the opportunity to participate in.

And, like in years past, the weather was less than cooperative. But, if you come prepared for the weather, you won't be disappointed - it is a good time to see the birds. They always have excellent presentations and this year was no different.

I was invited to participate in the art exhibit held at the Semiahmoo Resort. I only had four pieces available to show, with the rest being reserved for my market place display on Saturday. After the artist reception Friday evening, we had the opportunity to hear Noah Strycker speak about his experiences from spending an entire summer (two and a half months) in Antarctica supporting a research project on adélie penguins. It was both an informative and entertaining presentation on a species of bird that has no fear of humans.

This year was very successful for us. A big thanks to all of our customers at the festival. And, a big thank you to all the festival volunteers who make it possible to be there.

February 20, 2014

Somehow it wouldn't seem right if I didn't get a little Seattle Seahawks fever this year. The Russell Investments building in downtown Seattle showed their 12th man support by strategically illuminating certain outer offices to display a 12 on the building side facing Elliot Bay. Alki Point in West Seattle, a well known location for seeing the Seattle skyline, was a perfect location to capture the Seahawks spirit.

The display was shown the weekend of the playoff game with the San Francisco 49ers but I only found out after the fact. So, I went to Alki the next Friday thinking surely it would displayed again until after the Super Bowl, but it was not. It was also disappointing that there was just enough wind disturbing the water that nice skyline reflections on the water were not going to happen.

Seattle skyline from Alki
Seattle skyline from Alki
EOS 5D Mark III / EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS + 1.4x III Teleconvertor / 6 S, f/8, ISO 400

My next and only chance would be Super Bowl weekend. I went back to Alki on Friday and sure enough, as sunset turned to twilight, you could see that the 12 was going to be displayed again. But I could tell that the sought after reflections were not going to happen - the wind was worse than the previous Friday erasing any chance for good reflections, and the wind made for difficult shooting conditions. Getting reasonably sharp images was a real challenge with the amount of magnification I was using.

After shooting from the waterfront vantage point, I went to a park above Alki that also has a great view of the skyline. The advantage of being a couple hundred feet above the water is that you have a better viewing angle for the small amount of reflection that was occuring right in front of the Seattle waterfront. The resulting image is a much tighter crop to eliminate the dark water in the foreground beyond the reflection.

Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLVIII Champions
Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLVIII Champions
EOS 5D Mark III / EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS + 1.4x III Teleconvertor / 15 S, f/11, ISO 400

Saturday before the big game was my last chance as I was not going to miss the game on Sunday to do another shoot. As soon as I arrived at Alki, I knew the conditions were just what I had been looking for - no wind, calm water, Seattle skyline reflecting in the water.

Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLVIII Champions
Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLVIII Champions
EOS 5D Mark III / EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS + 1.4x III Teleconvertor / 13 S, f/10, ISO 400

Hopefully, it's apparent the differences in the three days of shooting. I have posted other results that can be seen in the NEW section of the GALLERY.

I suppose there isn't much point in saying that had the results of the game been in favor of the other team, this post would not be appearing on this web site!

January 6, 2014

I wish a prosperous and happy New Year to everyone. It is solidly winter here in Redmond - the pond has frozen over and we're bringing the hummingbird feeder in at night to keep it from freezing.

This year's holiday season had a decidedly different flavor for us - we had no particular family gathering to speak of. Instead we spent two weeks on the south coast of Oregon in the small town of Bandon. We called it a working vacation as there was no schedule to speak of, but there was work involved - both business and personal. There were some family visits and catching up with friends.

I had some really good morning light at the beach on the days that I made it out. The extended time allowed me to do a little bit of exploring in the Charleston/Shore Acres area which I have not had the opportunity to do in past trips. If nothing else, I have a better idea of places to target for shooting next time.

It is that time of year to start submitting applications for festivals in the upcoming months. It is not possible to formulate an entire season's schedule as the applications trickle out, but I hope to be at most of the usual places as in years past, with a few deletions and a few additions. Until then, it is time to do some catching up.

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