Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Drake's Estero Blahness

I went to Point Reyes on Saturday to try to take pictures of elk at Tomales Point, except it was super foggy, I was getting hungry, and I nearly rear-ended a ridiculous government vehicle who decided to stop in the middle of the road without telling anyone.  The fog through me off.  I hurriedly stopped by McClure beach, but I didn't like what I saw.  It was drizzling, water was getting on the lens, I dressed too warmly, I felt a time crunch because it was getting dark, and there were a lot of people there.  A surprising amount of people.  I had never seen it so crowded.  It was very uncomfortable.  So I left for Drake's Estero and ate when I got there.

Unfortunately, there were people there, too.  And they were photographers.  I did not like that.  I wanted to be alone because I wanted to experiment, and I felt like I had people looking over my shoulder, which they kinda were.

I only stopped by Home Bay.  I was concerned that it would get too dark, and I wanted to explore one particular area.  Plus, I was hoping that the other photographers would move on past it (which they didn't...).  I was trying to feel the scene, but it was hard with other photographers occupying too much emotional space in my head.  I still hadn't expelled all the stress and frustration of Tomales Point, and I didn't quite reach that feeling of oneness with my surroundings.  I did notice that I liked the pattern of the water in the marshy area.  I liked the way the fog was creeping into the bay, and I thought perhaps it would add some depth.  The other photographers were where I really wanted to go (and I didn't dare interrupt them), so I decided to just shoot away from them.

Tokina 11-16mm @ 11mm, f/8.0, ISO 200, 20 sec exposure

That's with the black glass.  It adds a color cast that I need to do homework on to determine whether it varies per white balance setting.  The fog was actually rolling in, so I thought a longer exposure would smooth out the motion of the fog.  It might have.  This picture really sucks.  I was not in a good spot at all.   There's nothing going on in the top 1/3 of the picture, though that doesn't bother me.  It just makes the actual bay look not-very-interesting.  I don't like that dry grass thing before the water/marsh.  I think the trees on the right side would have been kinda interesting (that's where the other photographers were).  I was feeling blah about the situation, and it shows.

Tokina 11-16mm @ 11mm, f/5.6, ISO 400, 1/125 sec exposure

That's a little further along the hike and higher up.  I like it just a little better.  The fog got too thick and the hill is barely visible in the distance.  This is cropped significantly.  I should have realized this out there.  There's too much blahness in the bottom-left quadrant, and the path on the right doesn't add to the image.  I like the flow of the water in the marsh and the angle of the trees and the reddish brush is okay.  I wish the fog wasn't as thick.  I could probably bring that distant hill out in post, but I'm too lazy.  The other photographers were off in the distance somewhere, to the left of those trees.  But they're not visible in this picture.

At that point I just got tired.  It was getting too late to venture on and I really did not like the people-interference, so I gave up and headed home.  The other thing I didn't get as much of a chance to do as I would have liked was test out the Tokina more.  I feel like it should be sharper, but I'm also focusing on relatively far objects, so it could just be a distance thing.  It is irking me.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


I went to Coyote Lake near Gilroy to see the meteor shower.  I brought my camera along but it was mostly a secondary consideration; I chose the spot based off of a recommendation from an astronomers' website.  It was super dark, but I didn't like the landscape for framing possibilities.  I wanted to stare at stars, so I just pointed the camera up and shot continuously while I was there.  This was the best meteor I caught.

24-70mm @ 24mm, f/2.8, ISO 800, 30 second exposure
I believe the camera was facing directly north at the time.  I should try to map out the constellations at some point.  The reddish hue on the left side is light pollution from Gilroy (assuming I'm right that this is north), and the blueish hue on the right side is light from the moon.

I didn't have a cable release so I couldn't reliable shoot longer than 30-second exposures (max on my D90).  I boosted up the ISO to 800 and shot wide open, but in retrospect, I should have experimented with boosting up the ISO even more.  A few of the meteor pictures I saw on the internet actually had higher ISOs than what I was using.  I guess since there isn't any shadow detail, concern about noise in the black isn't a big deal.

The reason I now feel that I ought to boost up the ISO is that the meteors I saw weren't much brighter than the stars around them, but were only exposed on the camera for a fraction of a second, compared to the 30 seconds that the stars got.  So I think a higher ISO would result in a brighter meteor.  Oh well, maybe next time.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Workflow thoughts with printing in mind

I've never really settled on a workflow for "nice" pictures, but after getting prints back that seemed a touch too soft, I thought about how I should go about doing things.

I printed it and it came out too soft

Here's what I think I should do:
1)  Corrections in ACR.  Light exposure corrections, highlight recovery and fill light, fringe removal, vignetting, distortion corrections.  Then export to PSD.  Try to keep dimensions for print in mind at this point, though resolution is still full.
2)  Photoshop: convert to LAB color.  Further contrast/exposure adjustment and color restoration if needed.
3)  Back to RGB.  Anything else.  Possibly nothing.
4)  Save new file?
5)  Noise reduction with neat image.
6)  Definitely save new file.
7)  Flatten new file and sharpen.
8)  Save AGAIN?!
9)  Resize and sharpen for print if necessary.

Okay maybe step 4 is not necessary, depending on how much work is done in 2 and 3.  Saving 2 other times, I can see doing.  Flattened PSD's aren't too big, so two files shouldn't be a big deal.

It's not pro, but maybe it's a start.  I don't print enough, partially because I don't feel like I know enough.  There's still an activation energy to printing.  I'm not comfortable with it, so I hesitate to do it, so I don't do it enough to get past the activation energy.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Compositional Ruts

Sometimes I wonder if I'm just taking the same pictures over and over.  That is, if I'm shooting with the same composition and mindset but simply with different subject matter.  Then I wonder if that's what everybody's doing.  I suppose that knowing why you are composing a picture one way makes all the difference.  It's all too easy to go into "shoot first and ask questions later" mode.

I keep thinking that I need to make an Oblique Strategies with photography and composition in mind, though maybe the original works just as well.  I really should carry my set around, or at least leave them in my car or something.  It'd be nice to be able to randomly draw one up.  I should figure out a way to put conveniently put them on my rudimentary phone.  At the very least, it might help me to not go into autopilot.

Nikon 50mm f/1.4G at f/4.0 - 1/160s - ISO640

It's a picture of the inside of my car.  Why?  I was waiting for my cousin to arrive at his house and didn't want to wander around too far.  I've never taken a picture of the inside of my car.  There's no point to the picture.  I'm not trying to say anything or express anything.  

I was experimenting with different apertures but I found that having the front console and shifter a little more discernible worked better (having the top of the hand brake more in focus was also nice).  I put the hand brake in focus since it's in the foreground.  Then I put the shifter on the opposite side of the picture for balance.  The knobs and buttons of the console fill most of the space in-between.  Why did I do that?  I don't really have any good reason.  It seems to follow a few compositional "rules" is all.  (Not that knowing the rules is a bad thing.  I always feel like knowing the rules helps me know when I want to break them)

The reason I even bring the picture up is because I started to wonder: if the picture did mean something to me, would my thought process would have been any different?  Would I have just gone through the same routines in my head on how to frame the picture without giving thought to why I was framing it?  If I had a tripod and was not in a hurry, I might have taken the time to ask myself why, but I often am not in that frame of mind.  I still spend a lot of brain power making sure I have basic technical aspects right.  I'm sure part of it is getting experienced enough to relegate the technical aspects to autopilot so I can free up brainpower, but I'm also sure that some of must also be a conscious effort to continue asking why.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Black glass

I bought a 10-stop B+W ND filter awhile ago.  People call it "black glass" because it is quite close to opaque.  I finally got a chance to play with it a few weeks ago.  This at Abbott's Lagoon in Point Reyes.  It was already mid-late morning by this time.  I didn't have high hopes for the photo coming in and I didn't concern myself too much with composition, but I wanted to experiment and this was a convenient spot.  The 10-stop ND filter let me take a 30 second exposure in the middle of a sunny day. 

Tokina 11-16mm @ 16mm, f/8.0 30s ISO100 with 10-stop ND filter and polarizing filter

I had the tripod as high as it was because I wanted to emphasize the water; it was a bit windy so I wanted to see how the waves and ripples translated.  In retrospect, lowering the tripod some may have been a better idea.  I don't find the foreground very nice.  The water in the distance does look nice and has a pleasant dreamy quality to it, but the water in the foreground looks too murky.  Adjusting the polarizer through the black glass was impossible, so I had to eyeball it.  The shallowness of the near water made some of  the reddish sand/soil visible, but I think the water would have looked nicer without it.

I read on the internet that someone didn't like the effect of long exposures on trees and plants on windy days.  It is not at all appealing on the lily things on the right, but I think the shoots coming out of the water look nice, at least, if it weren't for those little bubbles which I don't like.

I don't think this is a particularly interesting image apart from the water in the background, which looks good in spite of the relatively high sun (or perhaps because of?).  The sandy hill could make a nice backdrop and the rocky outgrowths on the left and right side could make for okay framing, but the foreground is frightfully dull.  In the end, it's just a picture of water, but the experiment made it worthwhile.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Hello world.  I think photo challenges and contests are kinda lame and scary, so I decided to just post pictures that I take and talk about why I do and don't like them.

I have a Nikon camera (D90) and I love to take a photograph (unless I don't) so please don't take my kodachrome (Adobe Camera Raw preset) away.  Since I only have one camera, I'll just omit it in my captions.