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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Pre-Wedding Pictures for Caroline and Scott

Last weekend I had the opportunity to take the pre-wedding pictures for Caroline and Scott.  They were getting married in Seattle the following day but got all dressed up for some pictures on The Island first.  We started the shoot on the beautiful grounds of the Tesoro de Luz retreat center.

The bride was beautiful, the groom was dashing, and both were a pleasure to work with.  They even brought refreshments for everyone and explained to me how to pronounce La Croix.  There were, of course, plenty of fairly formal posed portraits.  Gotta have those for the relatives.

But the couple’s personalities insisted on some improvisation as well.  This wasn’t the only sequence of the bride running to her groom.

We couldn’t help but take a few, somewhat cheesy, symbolic pictures as the couple walks down the path together.  Awww.

And this location provided endless possibilities for settings and backgrounds.  We easily could have spent several days on the property and still not taken full advantage of every available space to shoot.  Truly, we barely scratched the surface, and I hope to make it back there some time soon.

What made the day so enjoyable for me, as the photographer, was how naturally their love for each other came through in the pictures.  We went through countless poses and posing adjustments, but ultimately it was their relationship with each other that was on display, that and really made the images special.

The weather was also cooperative.  We’d had our typical gray and rainy skies the two days before this.  In fact, it was a little overcast and windy on this very morning.  It’s a very good thing I had an assistant to hold the lighting equipment down because that stuff sails in just a little bit of wind.  We did have a couple crashes, but fortunately my subjects were never under the light stand when it came down.

From the retreat center, we went to the Maury Island Marine Park.  For such a small island I live on, I’d never been to either of these places before this day.  I’ve got to get back to both.

We timed out arrival at the Marine Park for sunset. It was unusually busy, and there’s a little bit of a hike involved, but eventually we got to the shore during the hallowed golden hour.  My favorite series of images from the day came from a suggestion from our friend and assistant Liz.  I’d been behind the couple, taking pictures of them looking out to see, with the sunset light on their backs, when she suggested I walk around to the front.

I had to let go of the notion that, since we were at a Marine Park, there must be water in the pictures.  The Puget Sound may be to my back in these images, but I love the halo of light the low sun provided.

Even Mt. Rainier even came out for an appearance.

The two were married the following day and then whisked off to the next state over – Hawai’i – for their honeymoon.  I wish them all the success and happiness in the world and would love to have another photo shoot with them, just because.

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Getting Ready for Fireworks Pictures

It’s that time of the year again.  We’re getting closer to the 4th of July and my annual opportunity to take pictures of fireworks.  I’m getting excited!!!  Here is an updated version of my How-to-Shoot Fireworks tutorial that has also been reformatted as an Adobe Spark post.

How to Photograph Fireworks

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In Memoriam

We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see;
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.
In Memoriam, Alfred Lord Tennyson

Some years ago my wife and I lost the pregnancy of what would have been our first child together. Since we were not insignificantly far along, it was a sad and somewhat traumatic time. We decided to hold a small funeral for the remains of the baby, and a family friend even made a tiny coffin.

It reminds me of a Hemingway story.  Our priest came over, and we had a little service in our backyard for the child we came to call Jude. After burying Jude, the ground looked like this.

But this is not meant to be a sad story. Several years later, we’ve had two glorious children, with a third on the way. At 22 months, the current youngest, Claire, is completely unaware of the passing of what could have been her older sibling.  At a recent family gathering, she wandered over to Jude’s resting place and sat down on the rock that is still there. What follows is a sequence of unposed pictures of Claire sitting over there. These are presented in the same order they unfolded.

We first noticed Claire when she was just sitting there, appearing to contemplate the ground.  There was a lot going on around the house at that moment, and she’d been sitting here for a while before we saw her.

Next, she felt and played with the ground.  It didn’t seem like much at the time, but in retrospect, it’s kind of strange.

Then she looked up at us, almost like she felt something she didn’t know how to articulate.

And then she . . . well, it looks to me like she’s discussing things with a higher, unseen power, but I could just be applying my own interpretation. Remember, this whole sequence happened without any prompting. Notice that she now has the dirt she was touching on her face and clothes.  And she seems fairly content.

And to top it off, all of this took place on . . . Memorial Day.

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Italy Trip Converted to Adobe Spark

I only recently discovered Adobe Spark, and so far I’m loving it.  For my first project, I decided to dust off the recollections of that time I took the family to Italy.  Personally, I think this presentation looks much better than on my own website.  Check it out if you have some time.


Epic Trip to Italy

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