Story behind the image: Mt. Pilchuck

The photograph that is the focus of this blog brings up some great memories for me. My oldest son loves to hike. He had been asking me to go on a “grown up hike” which was code for “come on dad, bring on the challenge!” Given that he was only 3 1/2, I could only go so far with the challenge before I would be accused of child abuse. So I decided to take him to Mt. Pilchuck. It’s a rather well known hike just outside of Seattle. It's challenging, but not too crazy. Enough that I could tire him out and then survive carrying him the rest of the way.

The hike takes you up to an old fire lookout tower that is positioned on the summit of Mt. Pilchuck. The views from up there are stunning. It’s about 2.7 miles up and 2.7 miles down a trail that many adults struggle with. So I was expecting I would have to carry him most of the way.
As I prepared him for the hike he was super excited to get to go on a “grown up hike.” To his credit, when we got there he jumped on the trail like a duck on a June bug! He would crank along for a few hundred yards then he would sit down as he told me, “I’m tired. I need a break.” But after about 10 seconds and a few deep breaths, he was up and at it again! He hiked about 2.5 miles of the way up! I only carried him the last little bit. And when we got to the top he asked me to put him own so he could scramble up the big granite boulders into the lookout tower on his own.

On our way up, we had been passed by a number of folks (mind you only teens and adults- no kids remotely close to his age) who were quite impressed with his ambition as he tried to hike up on his own. When he came crawling up the boulder field and then up the ladder into the tower there was an applause from a number of the folks who were up there. As we got into the tower he was greeted with smiles, congratulations, and high fives. He was like a little local celebrity! I was really grateful for how encouraging folks were and it was clear that he was really excited to be greeted with such enthusiasm.

After enjoying the view from the tower we headed over to a nearby lookout point so I could snap the following photo without all the visual distraction that was inevitable amidst the crowds in the tower and to allow me to capture the amazing spread of mountains in the background.

After a snack and a break we headed down the trail. My little hiking buddy was determined to tackle as much of the down hill as he could. He made it about half a mile down and finally gave out. I put him in my kiddie back pack and within minutes he was OUT! He slept hard all the way down. To his credit - he was only 3 1/2 years old at the time and in total he hiked over half of the total 5.4 miles (not to mention that most of his work was done going uphill). I was super proud of how hard he worked and for how great his attitude was!

This image immediately stirs all sorts of great memories from that fun day hiking with my little buddy. It was shot mid day, under a direct and harsh sun. I didn't have any flash or light modifiers handy. But we were hiking. I was traveling light. And with nothing else but my camera and an understanding of how to use the basic settings, I was able to capture an image that carries a decent visual impact and that in turn stirs up tuns of great memories for me!


In my most recent blog I talked about how using your camera’s Aperture value setting (AV) can be key in creating more impact in your photos. I thought I would follow that up by talking about how I used the AV setting to get the impact I wanted in the image above. Then I’ll share another situation which called for a different effect and how I used the AV setting to accomplish that (in the photo below).

In the image above I wanted my son to be in focus in the foreground but I also wanted to capture the detail of the mountain range behind him so I chose a big AV setting. My AV setting for the photo above was was13 (remember from yesterday’s blog that a bigger AV = bigger depth of field = more of the scene in focus).

In the photo below, I wasn’t so impressed with the background and I wanted to draw the focus specifically to my son. So I used a smaller AV setting. My AV setting was 2.8 (remember from yesterday’s blog that a smaller AV = smaller depth of field = smaller scene in focus).

As a side note, do you notice that his pants are dirty and stained? While I do involve myself in the scene to try to shape an image that will have maximum impact, I also like to be genuine and authentic. So I love that this image was captured of my son right after he had dirtied up his pants in his efforts to climb up into this beautiful tree. He was chilling after his big accomplishment. I merely gave a shout to capture his focus for a mere moment before he went back to playing.

Do you see how the AV helps to increase or narrow the depth of field (the area that’s in focus) and how that can be sued to create the impact you want in your images?

Now go practice by playing with the AV setting on your camera and playing with how it changes the look and therefore the impact your photo has.