Kevin Merchant Photography News - 2016

Waterfront Festival (Edmonds, WA) - June 3, 4, 5
Taste of Tacoma (Tacoma, WA) - June 24 - 26
Wedgwood Art Festival (Seattle, WA) - July 9-10
Art Walk (Mill Creek, WA) - July 14 - 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Summer Art Festival (Gig Harbor, WA) - July 16-17
Art In The Park (Richland, WA) - July 29-30
Arts & Crafts Festival (Coupeville, WA) - August 13 - 14
Fresh Paint (Everett, WA) - August 20-21
Cranberry Festival (Bandon, OR) - September 10-11
BirdFest & Bluegrass (Ridgefield, WA) - October 1 - 2
Holiday Craft Fair (Woodinville, WA) - November 5
December 26, 2016

As another year winds down, I have produced a 2017 calendar. The image is from a trip this past fall, along Cedar Creek, located in southwest Washington, near the town of Woodland. We were on our way to a fall bird festival, near the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge and had decided to scout fall color at the Cedar Creek Grist Mill. It is a somewhat well known local destination but we were too late in the morning for good light on the mill. Up stream was a different story - with the creek in shade and light streaming through the big leaf maples, it was perfect.

Cedar Creek, Woodland, Washington
ST_093016_5D_III-24 - Cedar Creek, Woodland, Washington

The end of 2016 also marks the end of 10 years in business as a full-time photographer. As a small way of commemorating that, I have written a retrospective of the calendars I started producing in 2008. They have been 8.5" x 11" sized, single image calendars intended for cubicle walls, refrigerators and whatnot. Click here to see the retrospective.

November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who stops by. We are thankful for family, good friends and good health.

I have been engaged in all sorts of year-end activities and preparations for the coming holidays. One activity has been digging into old digital relics - my first 4 megapixel digital camera; or more precisely the images from said camera as I no longer have it. I did a terrible job of organizing and backing up the images. A few have been corrupted due to bit rot. Surprisingly, most have survived. Hopefully, they will be better cared for in the future. Perhaps, I'll share more about that, soon.

The rains have returned to the Pacific Northwest, so we know for sure it is Thanksgiving. Soon, we'll be off to share dinner with friends.

October 31, 2016

Well, Halloween is upon us and we are ready - a boatload of candy, whether the kids show up or not! They will, of course. Who am I kidding?!?

My last show of the year is also upon me - the Holiday Craft Fair, sponsored by SEPAC, this coming Saturday. This will be my fourth year to participate and we are glad to support such a worthy fundraising event. I even got a mention on their Facebook page!

I have managed to get out this year to soak up some of the fantastic fall color that we have experienced in Washington. One of the outings was a day hike to an amazing location in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness - Colchuck Lake. Even though the hike about killed me (I kid, I kid), I had a great day with a good friend of mine. Eight miles round trip with almost 2300' of elevation gain. Completely out of shape? Check! Start in the dark? Check! Miss the trail fork in the dark? Check! Descend in the dark? Check! But, what an awesome view when you get there.

One bit of news to announce is a reorganization of the GALLERY images. This project started over a year ago on a flight back to Alabama. It had been on my mind for some time and so, what better way to spend five hours each way? Once I got home, it sat until a couple of weeks ago.

The library had finally reached a size where the sorting method of by the state where images were captured no longer made sense. So, I have created broad subject categories. In the case of certain categories such as BIRDS and MAMMALS, it made sense to further categorize by certain species. There is still a category for STATES, with all of the origianl states, but they are less cluttered; made up mostly of the landscape subject matter.

Once the dust has settled on the new organization, I'll get back to processing the pile of images waiting, patiently, on my hard drive.

October 5, 2016

I see it was June 28th when I talked about our February/March trip to California. Summer sales events have wound down, fall is upon us and I have finally finished processing all of the images from my four visits to the McCloud River area where I discovered a nesting pair of American dippers. It seemed like such a unique opportunity that I decided it was worth the drive back several times to see the birds and hopefully chicks.

In late February, the pair were actively building the nest, which seemed to me to be pretty far along. It was located on a cliff wall on the opposite side of the river from where I had access. I returned about a month later in April and the pair were still actively building the nest. In May, the nest building had ceased, but the birds were not sitting on eggs, so I could not decifer a timeline of when to expect chicks. My final trip in June, I found four chicks that had already fledged the nest. Since there were other dippers in the area, I could not be certain that the chicks I found were from the pair I had photographed on the previous three visits.

American dipper nest - February
American dipper nest - February
EOS 7D Mark II / EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM AF / 1.4x Teleconverter / 1/160 S, f/8, ISO 800
American dipper nest - May
American dipper nest - May
EOS 7D Mark II / EF500mm f/4L IS USM AF / 1.4x Teleconverter / 1/400 S, f/5.6, ISO 800
American dipper pair
American dipper pair
EOS 7D Mark II / EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM AF / 1.4x Teleconverter / 1/160 S, f/8, ISO 1600

There would be periods of activity where the male or female or both would show up with nesting material - much of which was moss gathered from the river. Then, both birds would disappear for an extended period to feed, rest or who knows what.

American dipper pair with nesting material
American dipper pair with nesting material
EOS 7D Mark II / EF500mm f/4L IS USM AF / 1.4x Teleconverter / 1/1000 S, f/5.6, ISO 1600

They were also quite curious to know who this intruder was that came and camped out (well, not literally) near their nest. Dipper is quite accurate as that is what they do - a deep knee bend type of dipping motion. When the dippers were not resting they were in constant motion much of the time. Between the constant motion, less than ideal lighting conditions from trees and cliffs and sometimes harsh shadows, I was working off of a tripod with flash. Moving around on this wild river with such a set up was difficult and precluded doing any moving when the birds moved up or down stream.

American dipper on rock
American dipper on rock
EOS 7D Mark II / EF500mm f/4L IS USM AF / 1.4x Teleconverter / 1/1250 S, f/6.3, ISO 800
American dipper on rock
American dipper on rock
EOS 7D Mark II / EF500mm f/4L IS USM AF / 1.4x Teleconverter / 1/640 S, f/5.6, ISO 1600

On my final visit in June, there were four chicks which had fledged the nest. The fledglings were quite mobile and feeding on their own, although the parents were both quite attentive and making regular visits to feed them. However, my goal of shooting chicks in the nest was not meant to be.

And, shooting conditions were considerably more difficult as I had to move up and down the river whenever the fledglings moved. This being a wild river, it was not a simple matter of walking up or down the river (ask any of the fly fisherman on the river). It was a matter of inserting and extracting myself from one shooting location to another, among the boulders, tall plants and less than sure footing (my knees and elbows took a few falls for the camera gear). This meant it was going to be all handheld shooting with a smaller lens (the 500mm lens was just too bulky to move about with) and with no flash. Definitely the most challenging shooting I have ever done.

American dipper fledgling
American dipper fledgling
EOS 7D Mark II / EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM AF / 1.4x Teleconverter / 1/6400 S, f/8, ISO 1600
American dipper fledgling
American dipper fledgling
EOS 7D Mark II / EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM AF / 1.4x Teleconverter / 1/320 S, f/7.1, ISO 800

The fledglings were definitely getting the hang of foraging underwater for food and becoming fearless of the fast moving sections where they would find some of the choice food. But, as soon as one of the parents made an appearance, a switch was flipped and the fledglings would go immediately into begging mode. They also learned to shadow the parents to get more feeding time rather than go back to foraging when the parents would fly off. This, of course, meant that I had to do quite a bit of moving to be in position to have shooting opportunities.

American dipper fledgling begging
American dipper fledgling begging
EOS 7D Mark II / EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM AF / 1.4x Teleconverter / 1/400 S, f/8, ISO 1600
American dipper fledgling begging
American dipper fledgling begging
EOS 7D Mark II / EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM AF / 1.4x Teleconverter / 1/500 S, f/8, ISO 1600

I have learned from some research that American dippers live almost exclusively along fresh water streams and rivers. They don't migrate except in cases where the water freezes over and they are forced to move downstream. They almost exclusively use the waterways for flight - in my time with them I never saw them deviate from the river. An interesting fact that I did not have the chance to witness is this - like some ducks, they molt their tail and wing feathers at the same time and are flightless.

I really enjoyed the opportunities I had with these fascinating songbirds. They are probably not the first songbird to come to mind when spring starts bursting out, but I will certainly keep them in mind. Perhaps I will have more opportunities in the future.

Be sure to check out a few of the images from my time spent on the McCloud River this year - GALLERY >> NEW >> October_5_2016. Besides the birds, I was able to capture some of the surrounding landscape. And, there are a few fun shots from when there were long periods of boredom. Thanks.

September 15, 2016

I'm back from a trip to Bandon, Oregon for the Cranberry Festival, which was a success for us. I'd like to thank all of those who supported us with your business. It helps us to keep coming back to locations where our work is supported.

I managed to get out a few times for some sunrise and sunset photography - Coquille River Lighthouse and sea stacks. Really nice light.

In a couple of weeks, we'll be heading to Ridgefield, Washington for the BirdFest & Bluegrass festival. We are looking forward to returning and hopefully getting some bird photography in while there.

In the meantime, I will keep plugging away on my big project of the year - American dippers. I'm down to processing the last trip that was primarily for fledged chicks. I hope to have images to share very soon.

August 22, 2016

Fresh Paint was a success for us. The heat on Saturday definitely kept people away. But, Sunday's temperatures were much cooler and friendly for art browsing and shopping. It was also a welcome relief for tearing down, unlike Friday's heat for set up.

Once again, I met lots of friendly folks interested in the birds. I heard lots of interesting stories about bird encounters.

This year's festival had a new space for booths in a location that, in the past, has been occupied by the farmer's market on Sundays. Things are definitely in transition at the Everett waterfront. Hopefully that will be a good thing in the future.

The next festival coming up for us will be in Bandon, Oregon - the Cranberry Festival. We are looking forward to a few days in the Bandon area in September. Hopefully, I will have a little bit of time to get out and do some landscape shooting at the beach.

August 19, 2016

August? Check. Hot weekend? Check. Must be time for another show. I will be at the Fresh Paint art festival this weekend. May the weather forecast be sufficiently inaccurate that we'll have some cooler temps. I don't mind the warmer temps that we have been having, but I can't say the same for festival attendees.

With that said, I am looking forward to the weekend. As I have done the past two years, I will be demoing some of my RAW image processing technique. I start out by asking the question, "What color is white?". Silly question, right? But it does demonstrate a fundamental priciple of digital photography. The camera must know what color white is, in order to determine the rest of the colors in the image. We humans have no problem with what is white, even when something does not appear white. But, our brains tell us it must be white. Take snow for example - in the shade it will actually have a blue appearance, but our brains will tell us it is white. Digital cameras are not so sophisticated; they need a little help. This is where post processing comes in and RAW files are critical.

Be sure and stop by my booth and I'll be happy to discuss it further.

August 1, 2016

The Richland Art In The Park festival was a success. Boy, was it hot! I'm still re-hydrating. And, thankful to be back home where temperatures are more reasonable. A huge thanks to all my customers. And I hope to hear from others who stopped by and took a business card. Thanks for your interest.

Is it really August already? Summer is flying by for me. Next up is the Coupeville Arts & Crafts Festival in a couple of weeks. Time to make more prints.

July 25, 2016

Another batch of images have been uploaded to the NEW section of GALLERY - July_25_2016. These are from my trip to Grays Harbor in May of this year, for the annual shorebird migration.

I had two shooting sessions with exceptional light and a third day that required flash. In all, it was a very productive trip. An added bonus was bumping in to an old friend while out shooting. Nice.

I also threw in some images from much closer to home in the Jaunita Bay park. I had a tip about a nesting pair of red-breasted sapsuckers within reasonable shooting distance. I managed exactly one morning of shooting. My bonus was a northern flicker that showed up and made several poses; he was more cooperative than the sapsucker. Go figure.

Well, the time has arrived for the Art In The Park festival in Richland. I'll be heading over on Thursday. If my weather app holds true, it is going to be a scorcher. Not good. I'm hoping for cooler temps.

July 20, 2016

It's hard to believe that this is the 10th year of posting news about my travels and photo activities. My business journey started in 2006 and I spent a considerable amount of time cataloging my film library (using an Excel spreadsheet), which at the time represented the bulk of my images (and 22 years of shooting). Sadly, very little of my film has made the analog-to-digital transition. There are bits here and there. Part of the reason is that my emphasis has been on birds and wildlife, very little of which is on film. Digital capture has come a long way in those ten years and only occasionally do I have reason to reach back to the film. Someday. Likewise, the tools to manage images has come a long way in ten short years; I still use Excel but for other reasons. I use Lightroom for image management and it is the beginning point of all my post-processing.

Speaking of post-processing, I have uploaded the latest batch of images to the NEW section (July_20_2016) of the GALLERY. These were all taken right here at the house; what I like to call my zero mile collection since I don't have to drive anywhere. According to my offline records, this is the 55th installment since I instituted the NEW gallery section in 2011.

I have a weekend off and then head to eastern Washington for the Art In The Park festival in Richland. It takes place in a beautiful setting in Howard Amon Park, on the banks of the Columbia River. I am busily preparing prints for the festival.

July 11, 2016

The Wedgwood Art Festival was a success for us again this year. Friday night rains left a few lakes in booths where there were low spots, including mine. But, thanks to the organizers, we were able to get mostly dried out by the time the festival started. And, we had nice enough weather for the weekend - no down pours and pleasant temperatures.

It was great to meet lots of new folks and to see several that I have met from past events. Lots of business cards left the booth and I hope everyone takes some time to have a look around the GALLERY. Be sure to check out the NEW section where my last year's worth of uploads are located. In the coming weeks, I will be adding new images from this year's adventures. I've been on the road and am attempting to catch up on processing.

As has always been my experience, Wedgwood is one of the best organized festivals that I have the privilege of participating in. The organizers are artists themselves and make every effort to make sure that we are taken care of. I appreciate this very much.

This will be another busy week for me. I am participating in this week's Mill Creek Art Walk on Thurday evening. I will be at the place of business for John L. Scott real estate. Then, on Friday we will be heading to Gig Harbor to set up for the Summer Art Festival on Saturday and Sunday. This is our first year at the event and are looking forward to being in this scenic city right on Puget Sound. I will be busily producing new prints for this show.

Here's to hoping for good weather and another successful festival.

July 9, 2016

In case you didn't know, in the GALLERY, there is a NEW section where I post new images that have been added to the Gallery. The folders are date coded as to when they were posted and they appear in the order of newest to oldest. Hopefully, this helps to find the newest images that have been added to the web site.

My most recent additions are from a February/March trip to northern California and Death Valley National Park.

As always, thanks for stopping by and taking a look.

July 6, 2016

I have just finished producing some new canvases for this weekend's Wedgwood Art Festival. So far, the weather forecast is not looking so promising. But, last year it was so hot that many people didn't venture out into the heat. We are hoping for no rain and a better turnout.

In the meantime, I continue to process images from this year's adventures to northern California and Washington's Grays Harbor county. As time permits, I will be sharing a few images and stories from my journeys.

June 28, 2016

I have been perpetually behind this year. A lot of time was spent doing advance planning for another desert bloom trip to southern California. We left in late February, hoping to catch some of the bloom we missed last year. We made a stop in the Mt. Shasta area to spend a day or two for the mountain and nearby waterfalls. It was a bit of a scouting stop as I was not familiar with sunrise and sunset locations for Mt. Shasta.

What really put me more behind this year was a discovery, made on this trip, of nesting American dippers on the McCloud River. Dippers are notoriously difficult to see, much less photograph (at least for me, anyway). Finding a nest site meant being able to get many opportunities with a pair of birds in active nest building mode. However, on this particular trip I was not equipped with my big lens. They would have to wait.

Before leaving home, there was talk of Death Valley National Park experiencing a super bloom this year. It had not yet been declared to be so, but clearly there were going to be more flowers in bloom than we saw last year. Even though our plans were to skip Death Valley and go further south, we decided this was a very unique opportunity that should not be passed up. So, we altered course and drove on to Death Valley.

We arrived late Tuesday evening, on March 1st, to a spectacular sunset and found all of the tent camping spaces occupied. Fortunately our plans were to tent camp in the back of the truck with our newly acquired truck tent. So, we claimed a space with all of the motorhomes and paid through to Sunday (good thing, too, as the campground filled up to overflowing capacity).

We spent the next three and a half days exploring parts of the park, some of them we had not been to before - an adventure. Saturday morning found us at Zabriskie Point to photograph Manly Beacon with the hoards who had flocked to the park for the super bloom (yes, it had hit the national news). Afterwards, we headed to Echo Canyon, a four wheel drive road, and hopefully away from the crowds. We had a boulder strewn gully to ourselves, scouting for wildflowers and some were really awesome. That's when it happened. My wife slipped and fell atop a large boulder, landing in such a way to break her right wrist, which we did not know at the time. I could not get to her immediately with all of my camera gear. Once the gear was secured, I went up to see how bad it was. The wrist had swollen up immediately and we knew it was not good. It took a while for us to work our way back down the gully to the truck. Fortunately, we had packed First-Aid gear. I was able to immobilize the wrist with a makeshift splint and elastic bandage.

This is a remote park. There are no emergency services nearby. It was Saturday. The visitor center was overrun and no nearby parking to be found. We used our GPS to search for emergency clinics - one was in Lone Pine, CA (two hours away) and the other in Pahrump, NV (about an hour away). So, we headed to Pahrump. The on-call doctor said the break would require surgery. We knew right then and there that our planned three week trip was cut short by two weeks.

With a much better splint than I had been able to create at the truck, the hospital staff sent us on our way. After finding dinner, gas and a drug store for pain medication, we were on our way back to the park. With a rather indirect route to Pahrump, thanks in no small part to the GPS, we arrived at the hospital much later than expected - the blessing and curse of technology. This meant that we arrived back at the campground around 8 PM. It was dark. A wind storm, with 40 to 50 MPH gusts, had come up since we left the park. After putting up the truck tent (without the aid of my injured wife), in the dark and the wind, it became clear the tent was not going to stand up to the wind. We really did not want to wake up in the middle of the night to the tent being shredded by the wind, so down it comes and we spent a miserable night in the cab of the truck. Did I mention one of us has a broken wrist? Morning could not come soon enough.

Between nursing my wife through the surgery and recovery and return trips to photograph the American dippers more extensively, I have fallen quite far behind for the year. However, I have been able to process photos from Death Valley and Burney Falls which you will find in the NEW section of the GALLERY.

I also want to promote an upcoming event in the Seattle area - the Wedgwood Art Festival, the weekend of July 9-10. With two shows behind us, we have worked out some of the kinks of a new configuration and are pleased with the result. This will be our fourth year to participate and it is a great art festival that is well organized. We are looking forward to the weekend.

I still have two Canon lenses for sale; the EF 24-70mm F/2.8L and the EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS. Both are auto-focus. There is not a thing wrong with either lens; I have simply upgraded to the newer versions of both lenses that have been introduced by Canon in recent years. They have both been workhorse landscape lenses for me. I am looking for a good home for both of them and am asking what I believe to be very fair market prices. If you have an interest in either or both lenses, please contact me. Thanks.

May 28, 2016

Memorial Day weekend is upon us and I have been busily getting ready for the first show of my summer sales season. I am upgrading to a newer booth confiruration and will see how it works for the next few shows. Next Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I will be at the Edmonds Waterfront Festival, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Edmonds. This will be my first time at the event and I am looking forward to it.

Today I fired up the printer to make some 5" x 7" prints. With a little coaxing, it has recovered from it's winter-time slumber. I will just say it was a crazy winter and spring and leave it at that. With the acquisition of some additional ink, I should have prints ready by next weekend.

For the last couple of years, we have been offering for sale, in our booth, 4" x 4" prints mounted on ceramic tiles, finished with a decoupage surface and acrylic spray for UV protection to use as wall hangings - birds and a cute baby bunny. I now have those available on the TILES link on the PURCHASE page.

You may have noticed that I have two Canon lenses for sale; the EF 24-70mm F/2.8L and the EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS. Both are auto-focus. There is not a thing wrong with either lens; I have simply upgraded to the newer versions of both lenses that have been introduced by Canon in recent years. They have both been workhorse landscape lenses for me. I am looking for a good home for both of them and am asking what I believe to be very fair market prices. If you have an interest in either or both lenses, please contact me. Thanks.

May 23, 2016

Last Wednesday afternoon I had the opportunity to make a presentation to the Mill Creek Camera Club; an enthusiastic group receptive to what I do as a natural history photographer. I decided to make the talk about how I got started with bird photography back in 2006.

While 2006 does not seem that long ago, it was quite telling to see the camera bodies I have acquired and used in the process of learning to photograph birds - the Canon EOS 20D, EOS 5D, EOS 1D Mark III, EOS 5D Mark III, and currently the EOS 7D Mark II. It is a reminder as to how quickly the digital technology advances. A digital camera body can become obsolete in a very short period of time. Not in the sense that it stops recording good quality images, but certainly in the sense that it is perceived to have little or no value after a new model is released. Anyone who has owned a cell phone, particularly the smart phones, knows this all too well.

It was fun to go back through my bird images from the last ten years. Time really does fly by these days, pardon the pun. I'm crazier now about pursuing birds than I've ever been. My birding skills have increased dramatically alongside my bird photography skills. It really is surprising how much knowledge you pick up along the way. In any case, I was glad to share a little of what I have learned about birds and their habitats. Thank you, Mill Creek Camera Club.

February 4, 2016

Year-end inventory count done? Check. Re-install of Windows 7? Check. Upgrade to Windows 10? Check. E-mail system back up and working? Check. Photoshop & Lightroom re-installed and working? Check. Applied for 2016 festivals? Check. Well, you get the idea. It's that time of year to do all the end-of-year housekeeping and stuff I have put off until there was enough time to get it done and not intefere with business operations.

I have applied to as many shows as is possible so far (of the ones I want to apply for). As acceptance notifications are sent out, I will be posting a show listing at the top of this very page. They should start trickling in by about April. There is always a lot of uncertainty in my yearly schedule, even when I am certain about something. As in years gone past, new shows will be tried and a few old shows will be scratched off my list. It is the way of the festival circuit.

I am still woefully behind on image processing, going back to about the middle of last summer. It doesn't help that I have been plotting to get out to do some birding. Thankfully, the weather has made it easy for me to decide where my priorities should lie - staying dry!!! At least, for now. I may still dash out before heading south to the desert. Rumors are that there has been rain in the desert, which makes me hopeful for a good spring bloom. We shall see. Until then, take care.

January 5, 2016

I've had a busy last few weeks of 2015, including the usual Christmas celebrating and wrapping it all up (no pun intended) with a successful birding get away with my wife. The New Year started out right, going on a winter photography outing with a good friend. With temperatures hovering just above zero degrees Farenheit, it was a cold but successful winter shoot.

Now it's time to hunker down, catch up with image processing that is woefully behind, and start plotting out my summer sales season. Another desert bloom trip to southern California is already in the planning stages. And, I do hope to get out for more local birding adventures.

I wish a prosperous and happy New Year to all the visitors here. I hope you all had a great holiday season.

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