July Photo of the Month: Shadows at Sunrise


Photo and writing by Steve Tosterud

Although I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest my entire life, this was my first trip to the Olympic National Park.  It was a family affair, to celebrate my father-in-law’s 70th birthday.  There were aunts and uncles, adult children with families and myriad cousins.  We stayed for a long weekend in June at the Log Cabin Resort on the northwest shore of Lake Crescent.  Our group rented several cabins on the lake, and the weather couldn’t have been nicer.  We enjoyed hiking, swimming and canoeing, subsisting on hotdogs and s’mores cooked over campfires.

With so much family around, it was a challenge to get a way and take pictures of the incredible landscape.  Early morning, around sunrise, was my primary time to capture the scenery.  For me, photography is a way to more fully experience life.  I don’t think of myself as hiding behind a lens, removed from life.  Rather, I slow down and pay close attention to all the details, savoring the time I look for the right composition.  The moment I press the shutter button, regardless of how well the image turns out, that moment is saved in my mind.  I think of photography almost like big game hunting.  Only instead of animals, it’s experiences that I’m hunting.  Instead of killing, I’m preserving memories.

I was up before dawn, with my tripod and coffee.  Only my mother-in-law was also awake, and she kept me company, along with the ever-present raccoons, while I waited for first light in the brisk morning air.  I figured the water would be calm since the fish were still asleep and was hoping that the sky would cooperate. 

Early on, a thick layer of cloud moved in very low across the water.  So low, in fact, that sunlight was able to get up and over it to create some interesting light and shadow patterns on the surrounding hills.  The earliest images I made that morning show the clouds obscuring much of the scenery, with only some trees peeking out here and there.  I found those images interesting, but not everyone likes a minimalist approach when it comes to landscape photography. 

By the time the sun was fully up in the sky, the low clouds had all burned off.    The sun was still low on the horizon and created alternating layers of shadows on the hills.  The water was still glassy smooth when I took the picture, and I wanted to capture the near perfect reflection of the trees.  I love how shape, color and light provide a textured look in the image.  The fact that, when viewed sideways, the foreground looks like the head of an alien is a coincidence I didn’t notice until afterward.

Steve Tosterud is a full-time Informatics Consultant who spends his days trying to figure out what that means.  He is a very enthusiastic amateur photographer who would love to make a living doing only that.  Although he had a passion for landscape and travel photography, Steve has recently seen the light with regards to mastering off-camera flash and loves to shoot portraits of whoever will model for him.  You can follow his photo-centric musings at SumptuousArt.com and see his full galleries on Steve’s SmugMug site.