Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012

Well, thats goodbye to another year.  Photographically the year started off with a whimper.  I was busy from January to March with the Stanford PRIE (now called Stanford Ignite) program and so didn't get a chance to go out for much photography.  Finally in April, I managed to get out to the coast and shoot in  the Big Sur area, first with Eric Chan and then with Edward Mendes and +Edward Mendes and +Greg Mitchell.
Soberanes Sea Arch - Leica S2, 30mm, f/16, 3s, ISO 160
I also managed to sneak away for a day to the Yuba City area to photograph a beautiful waterfall named Phantom Falls with +Greg Mitchell.

Phantom Falls - Leica S2, 30mm, f/22, 2s, ISO 160
Then things got busy, with a trip to Spain and Sardinia and then Toronto.

After nearly 7 years, I left my great job at Adobe and joined the Google+ Photos team.  In the short time there, I've met many new fantastic people whom I am fortunate enough to call friends.

August brought the highlight of the year with the birth of my second daughter, Zara.

Finally, this year brought the trip to South Georgia that I've been looking forward to for the last 2 years.  Its an incredible place and Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris and +Ted Cheeseman run a fantastic expedition.

King Penguins by a Stream - 5D3, 24-70 II @ 47mm, f/13, ISO 100, 3 exposure fusion.
I'm thankful for everything this year and am looking forward to what 2013 will bring, stay safe and have fun!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sedona Sunrise

Sedona Sunrise - 5D3, 24 TS-E, f/13, varying exposures, ISO 100, 5 panel stitch.

I got up early this morning and drove down to Sedona in the hopes of catching some nice light.  There were wisps of cloud so the conditions were promising.  I made newbie mistake though and didn't properly scout my shot for the morning the previous day, though in my defense being on a family vacation, its hard to squeeze in time for location scouting.  Even though Cathedral Rock is probably the most photographed landmark in Arizona I though I may as well go for it.  Going back to the lack of scouting, trying to find a place to photograph it for sunrise without any familiarity of the location was a mistake.  I had opportunity to make a backlit silhouette, but passed.  Soon I had no chance but to take what I could get by the roadside as the light was getting close to peak.  As soon as my tripod was set up the color started to spread, and spread at a very quick pace.  Soon the entire sky was filled with ribbons of intense pinks and purples.  I wanted to capture a panorama of as much of the scene as possible to show the "big sky" nature of this part of the country.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Yesterday's Image Redux

- Sony RX-1, f/4, 1/80s, ISO 250
This is a different version of the image from yesterday.  I made this one hand held with a Sony RX-1, at a wider aperture and was processed without any HDR.  I processed it completely independently from how I did the one yesterday and so yes there are some color differences.  I'm on a family vacation and I've been shooting with the RX-1 along side the Olympus OM-D EM-5 and the Fuji EX-1.  The RX-1 is a monster when it comes great image quality in a compact package, I am really enjoying using this camera.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

This isn't an evergreen conifer and it isn't decorated, but being out in the middle of a desert, it was the best I could do :)  Hope everyone gets a chance to relax and spend time with those most important to them.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Black-browed Albatross in Flight

Black-browed Albatross in Flight - 5D3, 70-200 @ 200mm, f/8, 1/100s, ISO 200
It took dozens of tries to finally make this image on Steeple Jason Island in the Falklands.  I had already spent a few hours photographing Black-browed Albatross sitting on nests and making sharp images of Albatross in flight.  Then, expedition staff and photographer +Hugh Rose suggested doing some panning blurs, so props to him for the idea.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wild Clouds

I made this image of a mountain behind a lake with some wild clouds in the sky in approximately the middle of the day during an excursion into the Chilean Andes.  Can only imagine what the place would be like during sunset or sunrise.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bosque Season

Crane Pool Sunset - 5D2, ZE 21, f/5.6, 1/125s, ISO 400
The other place its the season for visiting is the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.  In addition to being able to photograph Snow Geese, Sandhill Cranes and other avians, its also a place for spectacular sunrises and sunsets.  I was hoping to head out that way this year, but it doesn't look like I'll make it, maybe next year.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pfeiffer Beach Arch Season

Pfeiffer Beach Arch - 5D2, 24 TS-E II, f/11, 1/30s, ISO 100
Now is the time to head to Pfeiffer Beach if you want to photograph the famous sea arch with the evening sun pouring warm light through it.  The weather might not be that co-operative though but if you can swing it, you want to head there during low tide so that you can get closer to the arch without getting soaked and the rocks become exposed.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bison against Trees

Bison against Trees - 1Ds3, 500, f/4, 1/400s, ISO 400
Time to take a little break from the South Georgia images and come back to the good old USA.  I made this image in the Grand Tetons last summer and it sat largely ignored.  There are two things I wanted to highlight, first the texture of the Bison and second the shapes in the trees in the background.  Converting to black & white with Silver Efex Pro seemed the best way to go and with control points, getting all the tonality in various parts of the images where I wanted it was a snap.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Patterns in Ice

Patterns in Ice - 5D3, 400, f/5, 1/1250s, ISO 100
I find the patterns that form on the sides of icebergs to be fascinating subjects.  I made hundreds of different images with just one iceberg, playing around with framing to get interesting patterns.  Though this was made with a 400mm prime, the flexibility of a zoom lens is very useful for this kind of work.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Buildings at Sunrise

Buildings at Sunrise - Olympus EM-5, 45, f/2.8, 1/15s, ISO 200
It was about 8:15 AM and I was sitting at the desk in my hotel room in Hamburg working and in a quick glance noticed beautiful pinks the in the skies over a few buildings.  The view from my room is otherwise pretty uninspiring so with the colors in the sky I grabbed my camera and snapped something quickly.  The colors didn't last and in a couple of short minutes they were gone, replaced by light gray skies.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Lubeck Christmas Market

I am back in Lubeck, Germany this week for work and as luck would have it its Christmas market season.  It was snowing heavily last night which coming from California was a treat.

It was good to get a hot drink and warm sandwich in the cold and snow.

I was amazed by how many people were out at the Christmas market last night.

Yep, its a guy juggling.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Channel of Ice

Channel of Ice - 5D3, 24-70 II @ 24mm, f/11, 1/320s, ISO 100
I made this image from the boat as we sailed into the Cumberland Easy Bay on the way to Grytviken.  People who have been to the Antarctic peninsula are less likely to find the iceberg impressive but for me the sight was breathtaking.  I had to work quickly because the ship was moving quickly though the ice.  I used my 24-70 and even at 24mm, it wasn't quite wide to capture it all.

I've also had the opportunity to shoot with the new Canon 24-70 f/2.8 II lens and have made several landscape images with the lens, including this one.  I've made a 16"x24" print of the image, and it holds up very well.  Chromatic aberration is as well controlled as the 70-200 f/2.8 IS II and resolution when stopped down is superb even into the corners.  I'm thinking the 24-70 II + 70-200 II combo makes for a very flexible 2 lens kit while giving up nothing in terms of image quality, even for large fine art prints.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Gentoo Penguin on Nest

Gentoo Penguin on Nest - 5D3, 70-200 IS II @ 200mm, f/4, 1/125s, ISO 800
I made this image on a pretty miserable morning.  It was cold, and since it was only drizzling lightly on the boat it seemed like the landing would be a good idea, besides I hadn't missed a single landing and wasn't about to start.  When the first couple of zodiacs got to shore, the rain started to really come down.  Some people immediately went back but I figured I was already here, might as well head up the tussock grass covered hills to the Gentoo Penguins on nests.  The hike was extremely wet and rather muddy and after getting up there, composing these guys was a challenge.  I wanted to keep it light so I took only the 5D3 with 70-200 mounted inside an Optech rain sleeve.  Still, with all the rain and mud, do I regret the landing?  Nope, it was the only chance I had to see and photograph Gentoos on nests and am glad I went.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Right Whale Beach Elephant Seal

Elephant Seal - 5D3, 70-200 IS II @ 170mm, f/5.6, 1/160s, ISO 400
Elephant Seal bulls look more peaceful than fur seals during breeding seasons but when two bulls get into a fight, things can get pretty bloody.  Still, they usually don't perceive humans as a threat to their territory so as long as you keep a reasonable distance, you're fine.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rock Hopper Call

Rock Hopper Call - 5D3, 400 f/2.8 IS II, f/5.6, 1/1250s, ISO 200
A Rock Hopper Penguin stretches its head for a call.  As the name implies, these Penguins tend to build their nests on rocks and yes they do hop as needed.  They also look like they have attitude with the distinctive white feathers on their head.

This image was made on Sea Lion Island in the Falklands.  The landing site was about 1.5 miles from the Rock Hopper colonies, requiring a hike.  Since we stopped many times along the way to photograph various other wildlife, it took nearly 2 hours to get out to to the Rock Hoppers.  Once there though, one set of the Penguins were positioned ideally so that they could be photographed with the deep blue of the ocean.  Many times the sun was out in full force, but clouds would occasionally obscure it, diffusing the light as it did for this image.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wet Rock

Wet Rock - Sony RX100, 10.4mm, f/4, 1/30s, ISO 2000
I took my sister who is visiting for the weekend from Boston on a hike through Big Basin Redwoods State Park yesterday.  We did my favorite loop in the park which covers about 11 miles.  We started at the park headquarters and made our way to Berry Creek Falls via the Skyline to the Sea trail and then visited Silver Falls and Golden Cascade connecting to the Sunset trail to come back.  The weather was ideal, sunny but cool, though the water levels were rather low.  I made this image on part of the Golden Cascade and with the lower water level I could easily cross to the other side to get a different angle.

Back to Serious Printing

My New Printer - OM-D EM-5, 7-14 @ 7mm, f/5, 1/8s, ISO 1000
I got a little Black Friday present for myself this weekend and am very excited to get some use out of it.  One of the really nice perks I had with my previous employer was being out-fitted with an Epson 7900 24" printer which was used primarily by me.  I got to know how to use the 7900 very well and got accustomed to the smooth tonal transitions and how well it could render subtle shadow tones.  Over the last few years, I've gotten to love making prints and have found that regardless of the size and quality of the display, my personal preference is always for a finely crafted print.

So when I changed employers earlier this year I knew I was going to have to give this up.  The Epson 7900 is not only an expensive printer (outside the ~$3k the printer costs, a full set of inks is about $1k) but its also freakin' huge, so I knew I could never fit one at home.  On Friday I found someone in the bay area selling their lightly used 4900 and bit the bullet.  The 4900 uses the same type of inks as the 7900 (and yes costs about the same) and has the same print head technology.  Its a smaller 17" printer so I won't be doing any 24x36 posters but even with the 7900 I usually made 17"x22" prints.

As soon as I saw my first contact sheet of test prints come out of the printer I was delighted.  The tonality was exactly like what I was used to with the 7900.  The printer is borderline absurdly huge in my home office but my wife hasn't complained so far so I'm happy.

One of the things I'm looking forward to doing is experimenting with the ink deposition amounts with different papers and building my own profiles to hand craft fine art prints.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Oakum Boy Close-up

Oakum Boy Close-up - 5D3, 400 f/2.8 IS II, f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 200
One of the things I found most interesting about the juvenile King Penguin is the eyes.  It has a fascinating pattern and the change between the eyes of the juvenile and the adult King Penguin is quite noticeable.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Colony

St. Andrew's Bay Colony - 5D3, 24-70 @ 24mm, f/9, 1/160s, ISO 100.  6 panel stitch.
After the clouds had settled in, we made our way to the main colony at St. Andrew's Bay.  Everyone keeps asking what those little brown guys are, they are juvenile King Penguins also called Oakum Boys.  The colony was quite large and rather noisy, a single photography truly doesn't do the experience justice.

I put this 6 panel stitch together to capture a field of view that covered almost 180 degrees and to get a higher resolution image to potentially make a large print.  Below is a Zoomify version of this image.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Beautiful Early Morning

King Penguins by a Stream - 5D3, 24-70 II @ 47mm, f/13, ISO 100, 3 exposure fusion.
This is one of my favorite images made in South Georgia.  It shows not only the incredible wildlife but also the amazing landscape.  This image was made on an early morning landing at Saint Andrew's Bay.  We had landed shortly after 5:45AM that morning and though I had only gotten about 5 hours of sleep the night before, it was absolutely worth it.  The skies were clear and the light was wonderful but it only lasted about an hour.  Shortly after 7, clouds started to cover the peaks and within 15 minutes we were under a blanket of cloud for the rest of the day.  In all my years of waking up at crazy hours to photograph, I haven't regretted the loss of sleep even once, even those times I've been skunked.

I made this image as were walking to the main colony site.  It was hard to leave the area and continue to the main colony as King Penguins would keep crossing the stream making for interesting photography.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Penguin Love

King Penguins Courtship - 5D3, 400 f/2.8 IS II, f/6.3, 1/800s, ISO 800
Avian courtship behavior is probably one of my favorite things to observe in nature.  Some behaviors can be quite complex, while very simple.  This pair of King Penguins were engaged in courtship for some time and since we had splendidly long landings, I spent a long time observing and photographing them.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Southern Giant Petrel over the Scotia Sea

Southern Giant Petrel over the Scotia Sea - 5D3, 70-200 II + 1.4x TC @ 280mm (equiv.), f/5.6, 1/1250s, ISO 400
This image of the Southern Giant Petrel was made from the stern splash deck of the ship on the Scotia Sea enroute to South Georgia.  The timing with the swell was lucky as the Petrel was coming in and banking just as the swell behind the ship rose up putting the sea and bird in the ideal place for me to release the shutter.

I've also now had plenty of opportunity to use the 5D Mark III for avian flight photography and am now confident in saying that for me its has the best auto-focus system for moving subjects I've used (I've used them all except the 1DX).  The 5D3 performed very well giving many bursts of perfectly in focus frames.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Black-browed Albatross on Nest

Black-browed Albatross on Nest - 5D3, 17 TS-E, f/14, 1/200s, ISO 200
From one kind of close-up, we go to another.  This was one of the few images I made with the 17mm TS-E lens.  I spotted the Albatross on a landing below a cliff I was standing on and so I slowly got on my belly and extended my upper body over the cliff and made this image, careful not to disturb the Albatross.  This kind of ultra wide angle image of a Black-browed Albatross is something I've wanted to make for a while.  I also used shift on the TS-E lens to exaggerate the size of the foreground, in this case the bird; which makes for a unique perspective.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

King Penguin Detail

King Penguin Detail - 5D3, 400 IS II + 1.4x TC (560mm equiv.), f/13, 1/400s, ISO 200
My last two images involved King Penguins at different scales.  First there was the landscape with the Penguins making up a very small part of the frame, then a single Penguin within a larger part of the frame.  Now lets get real close and look at feather detail.  My inspiration for this was something that Artie Morris did for the rat eradication auction (read about it on his blog post).

This image was made at St. Andrew's Bay on a ridge that overlooked the colony.  It was an overcast day, making the light ideal for this kind of detail work.  I performed only basic adjustments in Lightroom and then hit the image with a little bit of Detail Extractor and Tonal Contrast in Color Efex Pro.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Snow! Wheee!

King Penguin Enjoying the Snow - 5D3, 400 IS II, f/5, 1/500s, ISO 100
The weather in South Georgia can change in an instant.  One moment its somewhat clear and the next there are 60 MPH winds and blowing snow everywhere.  This was was made during a transition from the latter to the former.

Monday, November 12, 2012

King Penguins at Right Whale Bay

King Penguins at Right Whale Bay - 5D3, 70-200 II @ 102mm, f/7.1, 1/125s, ISO 160
A group of King Penguins, some molting walk in a line towards their larger group at the base of a mountain at Right Whale Bay.  With the sky overcast, black & white was definitely the way to go for this image.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls - 5D3, 17 TS-E, f/16, 2.5s, ISO 100
Those that have visited the spectacular Multinomah Falls know that it can be a challenge to capture all of it in a single frame.  I knew I wanted to photograph the water fall in the morning light before the sun got high enough to start making things too bright.  I got there with my family (this was done during a family vacation) at around 8 AM and though much of the waterfall was in shade the sun was starting to illuminate the top a bit more.  Normally this is no problem as it is easily fixed with a graduated neutral density filter.  However, in order to capture everything including the very vibrant ferns in the foreground I needed to use my widest lens the 17 TS-E, which doesn't have filter threads and very large bulbous front element.  This was the perfect time to try out the homebrew LEE filter adaptor for the 17 TS-E.  I stacked a circular polarizer and a 2 stop graduated ND for this image and got no vignetting.  I could even shift a couple of mm without vignetting.  This is not a tool I'll use often but when the need arises, its useful.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Zebra Caravan

Zebra Caravan - 1D4, 70-200 @ 700mm, f/7.1, 1/640s, ISO 200
After being ill for much of the early part of the week and then just busy with work, I finally found the time to post another image here.  I worked on this image initially entirely in Lightroom 3 but wasn't satisfied with the results so it sat untouched for 18 months.  I then went back, started from scratch with an intent of doing the B&W in Silver Efex Pro and was able to quickly get something I was happy with.  I used Lightroom 4 with Photoshop CS6 along with Silver Efex Pro and Color Efex Pro for this image and did all my work non-destructively so that I can go back at any point to tweak any aspect of he post production on this image.  This non-destructive workflow is one of the things I'll be teaching at my workshop tomorrow at the Mistlin gallery.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Ant in Ginger

Ant in Ginger - OM-D EM-5, 60mm, f/2.8, 1/125s, ISO 640
I received the new Olympus 60mm macro lens for m4/3 on Thursday but didn't get a chance to even unpack the box until yesterday.  Fortunately I came home from work just as the sun was about to set so I had enough light to go into the yard for some handheld macro photography.  I spotted an ant crawling inside and around a ginger flower and so spent just the couple of minutes of light I had finding an interesting composition.

Friday, October 05, 2012

New Mexico Sunrise

New Mexico Sunrise - 1Ds3,  70-200 II @ 200mm, f/8, 8s, ISO 100
Some of the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets I have witnessed have been on my past trips to New Mexico, particularly the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.  For photographing the migrating sandhill cranes and snow geese, the ideal time starts late November and goes to early January.  I made this image on my first morning at Bosque in 2010.  Each morning and evening of that trip we were treated to beautiful colors.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Wildebeest Drink

Wildebeest Drink - 1Ds3, 500, f/9, 1/160s, ISO 400
Herds of Wildebeest stop for a drink, but not for too long as they are always on the lookout for predators.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Empty Street

During our walk around Lubeck last Monday, we came upon this empty street lit beautifully by the late day sun.  I am always a sucker for these kinds of streets as its not something I get to see often where I live in California.  I made one image using just a single frame and then a few seconds later also captured a bracketed set for future HDR creation.  The image above is the single frame, converted to B&W with Silver Efex Pro.

This one is the HDR version, created in HDR Efex Pro 2 and then converted to B&W in Silver Efex Pro.  I processed each one completely independently from the other.  Which do you prefer?

Fishing on the River

I'm back in Lubeck for a couple more days before returning home.  It was raining yesterday but here's an image from early last week.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Mini - RX100,  10.44mm, f/2.8, 1/640s, ISO 125
We did a walking tour of Cologne yesterday afternoon and along the way the classic Mini was spotted. I used the HDR mode of the RX100 to capture a JPEG with decent dynamic range and then finished up working on it with Snapseed on the desktop.  Not bad for a few minutes worth of work.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

View From Kölner Dom

View From Kölner Dom - RX100, 10.5mm, f/5.6, 1/400s, ISO 125
I've been in Cologne for the last few days attending Photokina.  This morning I climbed to the top of the Cologne Cathedral to get a panoramic view of the city.  It had been raining in the morning but fortunately the rain dissipated shortly before we started the climb.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lubeck Sunset

It rained lightly for much of the afternoon in Lubeck yesterday but just as we got back to our hotel, the clouds started to break up and the soft, warm sunlight started to light up the buildings.  When I got to my hotel room (this is the view from my room window), I knew I had to capture a panorama of the scene before me.  I didn't realize it at the time, but there was even a very faint rainbow in the sky.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Rooftops and River of Lubeck

Rooftops and River of Lubeck - RX100, f/10.5, f/3.5, 1/320s, ISO 125
I arrived in Lubeck, Germany yesterday, a city about an hour north of Hamburg.  Knowing that if we remained in our hotel room, we would eventually succumb to a nap, we decided to head out and explore the city a bit, which turned into a bit of a photowalk.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Street Guitar Player

Street Guitar Player - M9, 21 Super Elmar, ~f/4.8, 1/80s, ISO 160
I made this image as I was walking down a side street in Seville taking in the highlights of the city.  One of the questions I often get from novices is just much color processing my images have had in post.    For example one may look at this image and wonder, was the wall really that deep orange color.  So I'll walk through all the work I did on this image to give folks an idea.

First, I was walking quickly down the street.  I knew the framing I wanted, I knew that I wanted as much of that wall as I could get.  So before I got to the spot I was going to shoot from, I pre-focussed using zone focusing.  Then when I arrived at the spot I was going to shoot from, I framed from the hip, made the frame and kept walking.

Next, my camera's white balance was set to Auto which in most scenes sets a reasonable white balance.     In this case, that super orange wall threw the meter off and the camera decided the white balance should have been closer to tungsten (2850 temp, -18 tint).

With these two facts, the image as it came into Lightroom, untouched looked like this:

The first two things I did was to correct the white balance (setting it to 5000 temp and 0 tint) and crop the frame to the way I had wanted it, which results in:

Then I usually do some tonal adjustments so that I get the kind of global, shadow and highlight contrast I am looking for.  In a lot of images I prefer having areas with deep shadow tones.  This was a tricky image to work with as small changes to some highlights sliders could result in regions of that orange wall taking on wild colors.  I had to experiment and the resulting values at times look contradictory.  I made the following tonal adjustments: Contrast +23, Highlights +18, Whites 0, Blacks +40, Clarity +37.  In Tone Curve: Highlights -68, Lights +25, Darks -17, Shadows +31.  I also applied a post crop vignette which I usually do if I want to darken the edges a bit to bring the attention to the center.  This gives the final image (same as one above):

Note that I didn't say anything about vibrance, saturation or the HSL settings.  Thats because these were all 0 and were untouched.  In fact, looking through a lot of my images, its rare that I apply vibrance or HSL saturation adjustments (one some images I will due targeted hue adjustments).