Sunday, March 31, 2013

Merced River and El Capitan

Merced River and El Capitan - Alpa STC, IQ180, 32 HR, ~f/16, 4s, ISO 35
I needed to get away this weekend, so we packed up the kids and went off to Yosemite yesterday morning.   To many it may seem to daft to drive 3-1/2 hours each way to only spend one night at Yosemite but its all the time I had, I love to drive and getting out there and doing something different was important.  I checked the latest weather reports and to my dismay it was calling for rain Saturday afternoon, evening and Sunday.  When we got out there Saturday afternoon, it was beautiful, though it soon started to rain sporadically in different places in the valley.  I managed to do a little bit of shooting in two of my favorite spots, valley view (this image) and tunnel view.  The conditions for a beautiful sunset in tunnel view were there, but alas there weren't enough clouds in the right places.

I awoke early this morning to heavy rain and figured the morning was a loss.  However, the rains cleared up by about 8 AM and we had the nicest weather I've experience in Yosemite valley.  There was plenty of opportunity for photography with clouds/mist rising everywhere and with the sun being filtered though lights layers of cloud.  It was also just beautiful weather to walk around and take it all in, which made the whole trip worthwhile.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

On the Way

On the Way - 5D3, 70-200 IS II @ 120mm, f/7.1, 1/125s, ISO 250.
A pair of loafing penguins makes their way to a small group of molters off in the distance.  I made this image on the first full day of landings, in the morning at Right Whale Bay.  There was still some decent snow and I was on the first zodiac to land and so set off immediately for groups of molting penguins in the distance to photograph them against the snow covered mountains.  You have to be careful with molting penguins, since they can't enter the water, they are very skittish.  They are usually low on energy (not having eaten in a while, because of that whole can't enter the water until the new coat comes in) and causing them to expend even more energy running away from you could kill them.  We all kept a good distance away and opted to make more landscape style images.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spring Flowers

Spring Flowers - Leica S2, 120 APO Macro Summarit, f/16,  1/12s, ISO 160.
I drove down to the coast late yesterday afternoon in the hopes that the Calla Lilies at Garrapata State Beach would be open and fresh and we would be treated to a pretty sunset.  There is a particular image I've wanted to make for the last few years and every year I go back hoping for the right conditions.  As you can probably guess, since I'm not posting an image with Callas, I wasn't successful this year either, which is fine as its the journey to that image that I find enjoyable.

What's more disturbing is the wild flower situation along the coast, which is nearly non-existent.  The Callas were drying out with very few fresh specimens.  This problem was compounded by the fact that there was a family of jack-asses that went around picking the Callas.  I wandered around the area looking for photographic opportunities but found none.  The image above, I made last year on April 7, a full two weeks later than now the area was popping flowers.  This year, I saw nothing even close to this.  The exact place I made this image was dry and dead looking, I guess the dry winter/spring we've had has taken its toll.

Feeling a bit defeated, I drove to another favorite spot at Soberanes Point and encountered a similar situation with the vegetation.  In the end, I drove back home not having made a single image or even pulling the camera out of the bag.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Boulder Covered Shore

Boulder Covered Shore - Alpa STC, IQ180, 32 HR, ~f/22, 3s, ISO 35.
This was one of my test exposures where I was trying to see if I liked the composition.  I set up my camera on a large boulder and wanted to create a composition with Bonsai Rock on one side and the boulders of the Tahoe shore on the other.  Friend and fellow photographer +Dan Hughes was scouting alternate shooting locations and ended up in this shot.  Though I have this same image without Dan in the frame, for some reason I like this one with him, not sure why.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Another Phalaenopsis

Phalaenopsis - Alpa STC, IQ180, 180mm, ~f/11, 1/500s, ISO 35, 10 image stack
This Phalaenopsis is interesting because the color can change depending on the intensity of the light.  I originally thought it was white in bright sunlight but in more controlled lighting, all the purple hues come out.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Return to Land

Return to Land - 5D3, 400 f/2.8 IS II, f/4, 1/4000s, ISO 400
About 20 minutes after I took the image from my previous post, I swung the lens around to capture the group return to land.  A still image doesn't quite the capture the hilarity of it but there's dirt flying everywhere and Penguins struggling to get off their bellies and get walking.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Waiting to Enter

Waiting to Enter - 5D3, 400 f/2.8 IS II, f/4.5, 1/1600s, ISO 400
Penguins are funny.  These guys do like to swim in the water but they hang out at the beach and wait.  Sometimes a large wave comes up high enough to grab a few of them and when it does a bunch of others will go in too.  They swim for a bit and then come back onto shore, which is also one of the hilarious things I've seen (picture a different day).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

San Francisco Sunrise

An HDR made moments after the sun had come up just behind San Francisco.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Convict Lake Sunrise

I captured the frames for this image on a photo trip in the Eastern Sierras, fall 2011.  That particular morning, there were no clouds, thus no interesting color.  In the hopes of making something I captured an HDR panorama and wasn't until recently that I bothered putting it together.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Phalaenopsis Orchid - Alpa STC, IQ 180, 180mm, 17mm + 34mm adaptors, ~f/16, 1/350s, ISO 35.  T5D-Rx2.
I don't usually do floral photography, mostly because I suck at it (if you want to see great florals check out +Greg Mitchell's work).  But I succumbed to temptation today for two reasons.  First I noticed this orchid had flowered and more importantly I've been looking at close up work folks have been doing with technical cameras and wanted to give it a shot myself.  There's nothing too special about doing close ups, you insert additional adaptors between the camera and the lens and in return for being able to focus even closer, you give up infinity focus.  Its called an extension tube and the concept has been around for ages.

I haven't been too fond of using extension tubes with my DSLRs mostly because the lenses aren't designed for great close up performance (with the exception of dedicated macro lenses of course).  I was curious to see how the Rodenstock 180mm Digiron would do with 51mm of extension.  The answer is that it does exceptionally well.  Aberrations are well controlled and the resolved detail is out of this world.

At these focus distances (and focal lengths), depth of field is shallow, even at nearly f/16.  So I made 12 exposures started at the "rear" where the back petals of the flowers were in focus to the "front" where the tip of the lip is in focus.  I first tried to use Photoshop for the stacking but the result was a mess, so I turned to Helicon which produced great results using the depth map technique (great but not perfect, there are 1 or 2 artifacts).

Using a lens with a leaf shutter for this work was beneficial.  I could still trigger the strobes at the slightly higher shutter speed of 1/350s which helped to eliminate any ambient light since I made this image during the day.  I used two lights for this image, one to the right in a mini softbox and another to the left with a snoot.  I found my images to be a touch too cold so I ended up holding a mild warming gel in front of the shoot to warm up just one of the lights.  It took a few hours to make the image since I had to work on it on and off, holding a 7 month old baby who refused to be put down.  A fun project for a Sunday afternoon.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Couple Days in Tahoe

I just returned from spending the last two days near Lake Tahoe with my team from work.  Many people opted for skiing and snowboarding, but I chose to photograph instead.  It snowed on and off for most of the day on Thursday and so we opted to do some long exposure work with rocks.  An initial attempt at Sand Harbor didn't provide much fruit so we opted for Bonsai Rock.  I've been curious what Bonsai Rock was like during winter and though there was snow on the hike down to the water's edge, there sadly wasn't much snow on the rocks themselves.

I chose to work mostly with my technical camera and 32mm lens using rise/fall to exaggerate the relationships between foreground elements and the background.  A lot of people ask me why I use these movements and it so happens that on this trip I captured this scene in two different ways.  In the image above, I leveled the camera and then used fall to bring in the foreground rock.

Now in this image, I switched to my 5D3 with the 24-70 and tilted the camera down to try and frame a similar composition.  The field of view is slightly different (the tech. camera image has a wider field of view) but the important distinction is how movements can change the relative sizes of objects.  Though Bonsai rock is larger in the second image, since it is a subject that is often photographed, I like how its relative importance is reduced in the first.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Old Veteran in Color

Old Veteran in Color - Alpa STC, IQ180, 32 HR, ~f/8, ISO 32
Old Veteran Cypress in Point Lobos is over a thousand years old and is one of the landmarks in the state park.  The image is a bit overdone since there aren't too many different perspectives and lighting is usually a challenge.  This was only my second time photographing this tree (the first time was last year) so I went ahead and made some images anyway.  Up until this point I had made images exclusively with the  90mm lens and I was itching to try out my new Rodenstock 32mm lens.  I knew I would crop the image in post (there is a bunch of stuff at the edges of the frame that was uninteresting) so made the original capture with this in mind.  I also used Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 for this image since it was shot backlit and HDR was needed.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Hazy Morning

Hazy Morning - Point Lobos - Alpa STC, IQ180, 90 HR, ~f/11, 1/30s, 2 panel stitch
Its been a while since I've been out shooting and like most things, photography needs practice or you get rusty.  So I forced myself to get out to Point Lobos on Saturday morning and make a few images.  It was a partially cloudy morning, making it great for photographing the area as you avoid harsh shadows.    I am continuing to enjoy using my technical camera and I made a lot of images with the Rodenstock 90mm lens.  The files are gorgeous but my computer whimpers everytime a new CF card is downloaded.