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The T3sk3y Defenestrator

Three Days with Jon Cornforth – Part Two

(NOTE: Part two in a three part travelogue/review of my private photo seminar with Jon Cornforth)

In the weeks leading up to the trip, I found out that I would have to squeeze a business trip to Edmonton in right before my photo seminar. I had originally planned to fly in to Seattle directly from Minneapolis on the night of Thursday, April 10th. Instead, I had to fly to Edmonton late at night on the 9th, have my meeting during the day, then fly from Edmonton to Seattle by way of Vancouver on the night of the 10th. I met my friend Ross (who I was supposed to fly with) at the airport.

This also meant that I had to bring a lot more stuff than I planned. In addition to my photo and camping gear, I needed all my stuff and some nice clothes to visit a potential client. My bag slipped in right at the 50 pound weight limit!

After having a nice dinner and a good night’s sleep at my friend Beth’s house, Jon arrived right on time to pick Ross and I up. He arrived in his truck towing his camper – our home for the weekend. We threw our gear in the back of the truck and headed towards the peninsula.

The trip out to the peninsula went by very quickly – the conversation was pretty lively, and the teaching began almost immediately. Right off the bat it was obvious that even if we didn’t learn anything – it would still be a fun weekend.

Stopped in the Sol Duc for lunch and our first lesson

Our first stop of the trip was the Sol Duc rainforest. We stopped near a nice stream and went to the camper for some sandwiches before starting to shoot. Jon (who I think was still trying to probe our capabilities) talked to us about framing, depth of field, shutter speed for water movement, and eliminating distracting elements. We also learned the art of ‘Cornforthing’ the scene – or how to make sure that distracting twig isn’t so distracting.

Jon checking out a scene in the Sol Duc

When you shoot in a rainforest, you really WANT rain – or at least clouds. In bright sun, you get nasty hard shadows and really washed out colors. Within a short period of time, the clouds broke revealing bright sunlight which would stick with us for the remainder of the trip. Fortunately, we were able to get some keepers before the sun got too strong.

Mossy Tree and Rushing Stream

After leaving the Sol Duc, we headed for La Push to set up camp on the beach for the weekend. We pulled in late afternoon, got the camper set up, and headed off for Second Beach for a sunset shoot. It was about a mile hike through the woods to get to Second Beach – and a real pretty hike at that. Once we hit the beach we had to scramble over a very large pile of logs that had washed ashore. There were numerous warnings to stay away from the logs during a high tide – I can’t imagine them all bumping around!

The piled up driftwood on Second Beach

After scouting the beach a little, we set up to shoot the sea stacks. While we were setting up, we got a primer on shooting sunsets. We talked about spot metering and how to use it to determine which graduated neutral density filter to use, we talked about the use of hyperfocal charts to set focus, and we learned the importance of a bubble level.

I set up with my Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens and a HiTech 3-stop hard line GND being held in a Cokin holder. I got everything balanced, set my camera for f/22 to get maximum depth of field, waited for the light to get just right, and started firing.

Sand patterns made from receding tides

One other interesting lesson I picked up was that you could judge the quality of the light and the scene by whether or not Jon was setting up to shoot. This was a real consideration for him since he’s shooting medium format film – and it’s about a dollar every time he hits the trigger.

It was interesting to see how important Jon’s preaching about preparation and composition turned out to be – the magic light lasted for only a few short minutes. It was short enough that if you weren’t ready to go when you saw it – it was too late!

Second Beach at Sunset

Once the sun went down, we hiked back to the car in the dark and went back for dinner. Once back, Jon made us a great pasta & meat sauce dinner in the camper and we washed it down with some good wine. We spending a little time editing pictures before turning in for the evening.

It was as we were turning in that we discovered that we got our wires crossed during planning – we had no bedding! When we were setting the trip up, we mentioned that we might bring sleeping bags if we needed to – and we never went back and straightened it out. Jon naturally assumed we were bringing bedding so he didn’t bring any. I ended up sleeping under Jon’s daughter’s pink Dora the Explorer sleeping bag – and Ross bundled up in fleece. Fortunately it was going to be a short night.. we had a 5 AM wakeup!

Coming up soon – Part Three!  Until then.. all of my pictures from the trip are here: (link)

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