Olympic National Park Scouting Report

I just got home from a ten day photography scouting trip at the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. During my time there, I visited Olympic National Park along with multiple state forests and beaches.  In addition, I hiked loads of trails through beautiful rain forests and even squeezed in some time for Thai food. It was great!

I had a lot of help from many of the members of the Olympic Peak Camera Club, most notably; Marian and Michel Bodart, Roy Kropp, Jim Hagen, Laurence Smith, Ken Kennedy, Bruce Fryxell and Lori Moilanen. Each of them opened their hearts and shared many of their favorite spots as well as much of their time and resources to assure a great scouting trip for me, so thank you all very much. I know I have made some life-long friends on this trip.

So back to the peninsula and the photography! The place is an enchanted forest on steroids. There are literally thousands upon thousands of photo opportunities for the taking. It can be a bit daunting when you first arrive, however you quickly become accustom to the ever changing light and shadows that can help to create dramatic images. Chaos-well…yes, but you need to “embrace the chaos” and “fear no light” as my new photo buds on the peninsula would say.  

Below are several of my favorite images from the trip. I have just scratched the surface but these give you a good idea of what I saw while I was there. We had zero rain, but I have to tell you I was hoping for a little. I wish I had more time out there; I really enjoyed the variety of subjects. I haven’t even looked at my sea stack photos yet, but many of the stacks have trees growing on them!

In a weeks’ time I head back to Patagonia for some Puma and landscape photography. I will be there for a week before heading out to the Palouse. Stay tuned for an announcement on my upcoming Olympic National Park Workshop 2020, 6 spots are already taken so I imagine the trip will fill quickly-if you are interested shoot me an email or mention it in the comment section below. It should be a five day workshop starting on June 8, 2020 but not confirmed yet.

I saw the poem below on one of the trails, it really touched me and I wanted to share it here.

The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot, cannot go.

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow.
And the storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.

Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing drear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.
— Spellbound by Emily Brontë, 1818 - 1848

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Using Filters with Ease

Filter Quick Tips

This is a repost that I was asked to share again…so for those who missed it…

If your images aren't as sharp as you'd like and if you have a UV filter on your lens try taking it off. Many times dust and dirt can get trapped between the front element of the lens and the UV filter. Also, UV filters are extremely difficult to clean; they often get a smeared, filmy look to them after cleaning. In my opinion, UV filters really serve no purpose (except to protect the front of your lens). I've been shooting for many years and I never use a UV filter. I have only dropped one lens (knock on wood) and a UV filter probably would not have saved it since the entire front of the lens was damaged. I recommend if you are going to continue to use a UV filter, then keep it clean on both sides and keep the front element of your lens clean too. Also consider replacing the UV filter often to keep it from getting that smeared look even when cleaned.


Sometimes filters get stuck on the front of the lens and are extremely difficult to get off. The Lens Filter Wrench, works pretty good, they are lightweight and they use to be cheap-now I would say they are fairly inexpensive.

Step Up Filters

If you own a DSLR camera than there is a good chance that the filter thread diameter sizes of one or more of your lenses will not be the same size. This becomes an issue when you are buying the screw on circular filters for these lenses. Let's say your 24-105mm lens is a 77mm and your 16-35mm f/2.8 lens is 82mm; you can't use the same size neutral density (ND) or circular polarizing filter for both of these lenses. You will need to purchase 2 different sized filters OR you can purchase a step up ring ,so that you can use one size filter for both size lenses. They are relatively inexpensive and come in handy as an alternative to carrying/purchasing multiple sized filters.


How to Set a Circular Polarizing Filter to the Darkest Setting

With some filters there are dots and notches on the filters that show where the lightest or darkest points are. For the most part if you put the filter on and rotate it you should be able to easily find the darkest setting. If not follow these easy steps:

First mount the circular polarizer on your lens. Next set your camera to Aperture Priority mode and set your EC (exposure compensation) to zero.  Now point your lens at the sky 90 degrees off sun angle. 

You will need to turn the polarizer slowly while taking note of the shutter speed as you rotate the polarizer. Stop turning once you get to the slowest shutter speed. It’s that simple, you are now ready to shoot right down sun angle at several stops slower. 


Jaxson's Journey Continues


I want to thank all of you that have reached out and asked how Jaxson is doing. I also want to update you all-it’s easier for me to answer everyone’s questions here, rather than individually. I am not trying to devalue your concerns, just trying to keep up with my crazy busy life. For those of you that are not familiar with my sweet young grandson, you can catch up here.

On April 22nd, my daughter will be taking Jaxson back to St. Louis for a follow-up visit with his surgeon Dr. Park. This past August, we were told by his doctor that Jaxson needed to start the transition from his walker to hand canes. He has been working diligently with the canes; first with three pong canes and now transitioning to single prong canes.

Each advancement has been monumental and extremely arduous. This young boy has one therapy after another. In addition, he has to practice with his canes daily. It sometimes feels like a chore to him and my heart breaks but he is quick to turn it around when he pictures Dr. Park’s face when he see’s him walking.

Jaxson sees a private tutor once a week for reading. He also has strength training sessions with a private trainer. With everything that he has going on, he and his family still find time to schedule play dates, see his brother play T-ball, go to the park, movies and play video games.

In school Jaxson is doing really well; he seems to have a lot of friends and his cousin is even in his class. His grades are good and he is boasting straight 100”s in all of his math tests! He’s so proud—and so are we. I can’t tell you how infectious his smile is. Everywhere he goes he makes friends. People truly care about him. He is a rock star and my fingers are crossed that Dr. Park will fall off his chair when he sees how well Jaxson is doing with his canes.

hugs, denise

UK Puffins & Gannets 2019 - Spots Open

UK Puffins & Gannets Photo Adventure with Denise Ippolito
June 15 through June 22, 2019: $4999, 7 nights. Limit 8 photographers-spots available

This UK trip offers unparalleled opportunities to photograph Atlantic Puffin, Common Murre, Razorbill, Shag, and Gannet. As well as Arctic, Sandwich, and Common Terns. On one of the islands that we stop at Arctic Tern chicks line the pathway. Black-headed, Lesser-Black-backed, and Herring Gulls are constantly harassing the Puffins trying to grab their fish that they bring in by the mouthfuls. This makes for some great photography. But don't worry the Puffins are quick to slide into their burrows. To sign up CLICK HERE.

During this photo adventure we will have 5 scheduled Puffin landings at two of the Farne Islands. We also have one Bass Rock Landing scheduled. Bass Rock is one of the world's largest gannet colonies with over 150,000 gannets at peak season. To land on "The Rock" is truly a special event. You will have the opportunity to walk through the colony and see the interaction at point blank range. These large seabirds will most likely be on eggs during this time. There will be many different types of behavior to capture including; mating, squabbling, landing with nesting material, nest care, eggs being warmed by their feet, sky pointing and more... We will be briefed by one of the Bass Rock caregivers before landing and they will be there to assist us while we are there. Please keep in mind this landing is weather permitting and the boat captain will have the final say as to whether or not the boat will sail on the scheduled day. Participants wishing to sign up must be in good physical condition -able to climb a flight of stairs.

There is a beautiful castle nearby and we will go there one evening after dinner to capture a sunset shot of the castle from one of my favorite spots. We may also visit a second castle if the schedule permits.

Fly into Edinburgh International Airport (EDI) on the first morning of the trip -June 15th. I will meet you at the airport and we will drive to our cottages from there. Group meeting time will be in the detailed PDF file so be sure to book your flights accordingly. In the PDF I will also go over gear selection, clothing selection as well as electrical outlets, currency and much, much more...

We will be staying in two upscale country cottages that are lovely with beautiful views of the countryside. The cottages boast a large living area and lots of open space for informal image sharing and Photoshop sessions. The shared rooms are nice-sized, each with a private bathroom. There are also two laundry rooms, so no need to bring loads of clothes! Single supplements are limited, please inquire within.

All ground transportation including a group transfer to and from the airport is included. All boat fees, national trust fees, and permits are included in the price.

All breakfasts, lunches and dinners are included. All boat lunches will need to be prepared by you in advance, taken with, and consumed at your leisure. I usually eat mine on the short boat trip from one island to the other. There will be at least one or two nights of take out and one fish and chips dinner. All other dinners will be at local restaurants. Desserts and all beverages as well as all snacks are not included.

Deposit Info
A non-refundable $2,000 per person payment is required to save a spot. Please be sure to check your schedule carefully before committing to the trip and see the travel insurance info below. Your balance will be due on January 29, 2019. Please make all checks payable to “Denise Ippolito LLC”. Overseas folks can pay their balances via wire transfer; the registrant is responsible for the fees on both ends. If I do not receive your check for the balance on or before the due date above I will try to fill your spot from the waiting list. If your spot is filled, you will lose your deposit. If not, you can secure your spot by paying your balance. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions.

Travel Insurance
Travel insurance for big international trips is highly recommended as we never know what life has in store for us. I strongly recommend that you purchase quality insurance. Travel Insurance Services offers a variety of plans and options.

*All scheduled landings are weather permitting.

And the Winner Is....

During my recently concluded Charleston workshop I offered a challenge to my clients. There was a fountain in the downtown area that looked extremely hard to shoot-many walked right past it. The shot was difficult at best and I knew that if I made it a challenge most of the participants would put forth a greater effort. As the complaints kept coming in- that the scene was hard and it wasn’t interesting…I started telling them that the prize would be huge, never letting them know just how huge it was, until everyone was finished shooting the fountain. I then announced that I was offering a free spot on my upcoming Olympic Peninsula workshop (TBA -soon) for the winning image.

To be honest, on my workshops when I offer prizes for shooting challenges, they are never this big, but I wanted them to dig deep and really try; I also wanted to tell them all about my upcoming workshop since I was busting at the seams. I can’t wait to get out there next month and scout. I am giving a presentation to the Olympic Peaks Camera Club, Sequim, WA . I know a few of the members; everyone is welcoming me to the area with open arms and they will be assisting me in my scout-since some of the members know the area like the back of their hand.

Back to the contest, Scott Young (the winner) really tried both in the capture and in post processing, I was rewarding the effort more than the image but they did not know this and are probably just now finding that out. My thoughts are this: If you are going to take a photo-it should always be your very best, or there is no reason to even take it. Every image should be your best foot forward—-always!!!

Some of the workshop participants were not inspired by the subject and did not enter and that is ok. You need to be inspired. My challenge inspired some of the clients to look harder, work longer, dig deeper—and that is what it was all about.

Scott shares his post processing steps for anyone that is interested. The before and after image are included below. He did a great job! Click on each image to see the full version.


1. Initially, I had no idea how to approach the assignment, which seemed impossible to me. My first inclination was to try to do a zoom blur with the fountain at center but those looked terrible. I was lucky to find an angle where I could use the iron "fence" and vines to frame the fountain and leave most of it showing through. It bugged me that I could only get substantial leaves on one side but, because of the angle, there was no way to get around that without a lot of messy cloning. 

2. I did normal processing on the single raw frame in PS Camera Raw. 

(The next steps I have mostly learned from Denise's e-books and lectures and some trial and error)

3. Next I applied Topaz Simplify (BuzzSim preset) at 40% opacity to "soften" the feel of the fountain, vines, and iron fence.

4. Then I applied Topaz Impression (Davinci Sketch I) to the image to isolate the fountain and vines from the distracting elements around them.  

  • I have found that using the "Masking" controls within the preset,  I can tweak the coverage of the vignetting effect of Davinci so I used that to include more of the vines at top and bottom. 

  • Using the preset "Color" controls I changed the "Overall Saturation" slider from -1.0 to +.15 to bring back the colors in the central area of the image (fountain and vines)

  • Once back in PS, I used a layer mask to further tweak the coverage of the Davinci effect and to emphasize the fountain/vines in the center. I applied the Davinci effect at 100% opacity except for the masked areas. 

5.  In the original image the rising sun caused the fountain to have a "peach" color cast, which I liked, but I thought it was better to have the color of the fountain match the color of the vines so I used the Image-Autocolor control to return the fountain to the natural gray tones. I hated to give up that peach color, though!

6. The last thing I did was to add a "Levels" adjustment layer, brightened the image, and then used an inverted layer mask to only increase the highlights of the white water cascading and pooling in the fountain base. 

In reading back over this it sounds like a lot but I use these particular filters, pre-sets, and masks frequently so I can do them pretty quickly.  

To see more of Scott Young’s images from Charleston, check out his gallery HERE.