4th of July, 2019

Last night was one of my favorite nights for photography of the whole year.  The 4th of July is the one time I get to shoot fireworks, and I look forward to it very much.  We always get a spectacular show here on Vashon Island; the only variable is where I get to shoot from.  This year, we were invited to a client’s house on the island with a close, direct view of the launching barge.  Before the official show even began, the next-door neighbors were setting off huge shells of their own.

I wasn’t sure if that dock would be a welcome foreground or annoying distraction.  That’s up to you, I suppose, but I like it.

The biggest challenge this year was that there was almost no wind.  This means that smoke built up as the show went on, and I think that takes away from the color and clarity of the bursts.  Actually, there was already a pretty good amount of smoke between me and the show because of the neighbors’ pre-func celebration.

You’re not seeing all the smoke in these pictures because Lightroom’s new(ish) Dehaze feature works very well for reducing its appearance.

This year marked the first time that Tommy (now 4) actually sat through the show. He’s come close before but always lost his nerve at the last second.  He stayed through the whole thing this year and really enjoyed.  As a bonus, Claire (almost 3) and little Baby Ben (who will be 1 in two days) also watched the entire show.  It was a full-family affair.

Once again, Vashon Island’s little fireworks show did not disappoint.  I’ve never been out to see the display at the Space Needle, and at this rate I probably never will.

If you want to learn my technique for shooting fireworks, please feel free to check the little tutorial I put together. It’s totally free!

How to Shoot Fireworks

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Spring Season for Crew

The Spring season for crew has all but come and gone now.  It was another fast and busy couple of months that flew by.  Like last year, it started with our club’s own regatta, the Burton Beach Invitational.  This would be the second annual occurrence of that prestigious event.

It was cold and wet and a very long day, but another success.  Only one rower went into the water this year, better than last year’s three rowers.  So that was another improvement.  Of course, no one was actually injured, and all the other events went off without incident.

Our club is quite a bit bigger this year, with several new, younger rowers.  We have eighth-graders through high school seniors and no lack of enthusiasm on the parts of either rowers or parents.

At different points during this season, our club sent rowers to New Zealand, China and Canada.  Our family and rower didn’t make it to any of those international events due to other commitments.

In preparation for Regionals, we were once again invited to the Vancouver Lake Scrimmage.  This is the same course as the NW Regional Championships, and the event is one week before that, so it’s a great opportunity for our team to practice.  And the weather couldn’t have been better.

Even though it’s just for practice, it’s still a 2k course and can be challenging for our youngest rowers.

Next, we went back down to Vancouver (city in Washington State) for the actual NW Regional Championships.  It’s a very different atmosphere from the scrimmage the week before.  For Regionals, there is an ocean of people at the lake, with events starting every few minutes for the entire weekend. The weather was threatening rain almost the whole time.

Last year our club sent a pair to Nationals, so of course that crew was competing again this year.  Once again they qualified and will be a stronger force at Nationals this year.

We had a women’s single qualify as well, so we’ll be sending 3 rowers to Sarasota for the National Championships.  Technically, Regionals is the last regatta of the Spring season.  Even though the season feels short, it is emotional.  When it’s over, there is both a sense of relief and loss.  Here’s a shot of some of our parents capturing a group photo of the rowers.

Next up is the National Championships in Florida, which I will unfortunately not be attending.  After that, our rower will be home for only 2 days before heading out to Connecticut for the entire summer to train with the Junior National Team.

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Mishmash of Updates

It’s been ages since my last post, and for that I can explain in one word:  Kids.  Not only have they kept me extremely busy, but almost all of my photos are of them now.  I made a decision a long time ago to not use this blog exclusively for family photos, but since I have posted some kid pictures in the past, here are a few of the more artistic-looking ones now.

Tommy just turned four years old.  We were hiking recently and came across this tree.  I told him to lean against it and look casual, and this is what I got.

It feels like Claire is perpetually 2-and-a-half.  She’s definitely been the most challenging personality at home for some time now, but she’s such a cutie.  Here she is standing in our front yard, among the debris from the recent storm.

Baby Ben is a bit past 8 months old now.  He’s not walking yet, but he’s mobile.  That adds an extra layer of security concerns around the home.

Gabrielle continues to excel at crew.  You know she was on the Junior National team last year and won solver at Worlds in the Czech Republic, right?  She’s this weird thing called a “teenager” now and exhibits strange behaviors like “driving” and “having a boyfriend”.  For example, she recently went to a semi-formal dance with said boyfriend.

It doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago that we were dressed up for a Luau in Hawaii.

I supposed there’s been some landscape photography since last we spoke.  There was this crazy hike along the longest sand spit in the country – Dungeness Spit, near Sequim.

They moved four skyscraper-tall cranes down Elliot Bay, past my house, to Tacoma.

And going all the way back to last year, the Island land Trust puts on this neat thing every year on the Winter Solstice.  They put out hundreds of candles around Fisher Pond, her on Vashon Island, and invite everyone to walk around the trail.

It’s pretty and peaceful, but also cold and a bit treacherous in places.  I’m not sure we should have brought the toddlers along.  They didn’t make it very far before fussing, but I did manage to get one picture of them before then.

And with that, we’ve come full-circle.  I’ll try to get another post out sooner than this last time.

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We’re well into the fall regatta season, and last weekend the Burton beach Rowing Club was up in Bellingham at Lake Samish for Seattle Rowing Center’s Row2Remember.  It’s a beautiful area, especially at this time of the year, but the weather was a little challenging.

It was so foggy the first morning, the races were delayed by a few hours.  We even had to bring the rowers who had already launched back onto shore.

This gave some of us parents time to explore the quaint little town of Fairhaven, where we ended up having several excellent meals over the weekend.  Once the races started, though, they came fast and furious.  The BBRC was involved in many. many events.

I ended up taking more than 1300 pictures over the course of two and a half days.  A higher percentage than normal turned out to be keepers, so I hope you’ll visit the large gallery that came together for this regatta.

This was a time of constantly-changing weather and light conditions.  There was plenty of sun.

And plenty of . . . not so much sun.

Being a smaller club, I don’t recall if we’ve ever rowed an 8 before.  At this regatta, we were able to put together a women’s 8, and that was pretty exciting.

They rowed in the not-so-sunny weather.

Of course, we’re most proud of our own Gabbie Graves.  Fresh back from the US National Team, she rowed in EIGHT events this weekend.

Her boats came in first in just about every race, and the rest of our little club did very well too.  It was a very good, if a little soggy, regatta, and we hope to be invited back next year.

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Pretty Good Start to July

July started off pretty good for me.

This image made the front page of Reddit in the r/EarthPorn sub.  It topped out at 37.4k net positive upvotes with 426 comments, including the observation that, when viewed sideways, it kind of looks like an alien head.

For those who may not be familiar with Reddit, this is no easy task.  I’ve posted other pictures before that I thought were better and more interesting than this one, and they barely got double-digit upvotes.  I don’t even consider this the best image from our trip to Lake Crescent.  Perhaps we are not the best judge of our own work because it seems to have struck a chord with some people.

A few days later I was contacted by the Nature Conservancy of Washington about the image.  They wanted to feature me as their July photographer of the month and asked me to write a little bit about the picture and myself.  Someone saw the image on Reddit, and a week or so later, I was up on this site.  Apparently some of my friends follow the Washington Nature Conservancy because I started getting asked if I was the same Steve Tosterud.  I guess there really are more than one of us, but I still think that’s kind of funny.

Washington Nature Conservancy July Photo of the Month

A short time after that I got another message in my Reddit inbox.  This time it was from a user (u/Jishmael) who was giving me creative credit for his use of this picture.  Turns out, this person I’ve never met took the time to create a watercolor rendition of the photograph.

That’s pretty good mileage for a picture I took 5 years ago and then posted to Reddit on a whim.

Did you see my tutorial about how to shoot fireworks?  I posted it  a little before the 4th of July, and it got picked up by SmugMug.  I had to pull out all the copy and then send them the original image files separately, but after that they completely recreated the article and then published it on their site.

How to Photograph Fireworks (SmugMug Media)

This went out on all their social media, so that’s pretty good exposure.

The local Vashon newspaper, the Beachcomber, featured one of my fireworks pictures from this year on their front page.  It was a full-color print, above the fold, of this image:

I was a little shocked when I first saw this one on my computer screen.  The reflection in the water makes a near-perfect representation of the Mexican flag.  We have a pretty significant Mexican population here on The Island, and I was hanging out with several families on the shore of Quartermaster Harbor when I shot this.  Some people vehemently assert that I faked this, but I promise you that I did not create that reflection in the water in Photoshop.  It’s really what the camera captured.

But July hasn’t been all landscapes and fireworks.  On July 7th (7/7), our new son came into the world.  I now have a whole new subject for photographing!

So, yeah, July has been pretty good so far.

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