That Decisive Moment – Street Photography in San Francisco’s Chinatown

Walker - San Francisco - 2014

Lots of credit – deservedly so – has gone to the notion of “the decisive moment” in photography and its origin with Henri Cartier-Bresson. The notion is a precise capture at the moment of most interest.

In late August, Doug Kaye and I went exploring in San Francisco’s Chinatown. We came across this lovely alley way that heading up hill – a perfect “stage” that street photographers love to find. Once you’ve got a stage, you have to wait for something interesting to come by and fill it – patience helps!

I got lucky – this fellow walked into my shot and I was able to capture him in mid-step – holding that coffee cup in his left hand. A decisive moment to be sure!

Exploring Street Photography in San Francisco

Mid-Day - San Francisco - 2014

I just finished a week long masterclass in San Francisco led by Ming Thein. Ming’s an outstanding photographer based in Kuala Lumpur who I’ve been following for the last couple of years. I was originally encouraged to follow Ming by my photographer friend Doug Kaye who was particularly intrigued by Ming’s monochrome photography. Ming’s web site is a treasure trove of valuable content for photographers looking to up their game – and the masterclass was that and more, in person, on steroids!

I primarily shot with my Fujifilm X-T1 using the new Fujifilm XF 18-135mm Zoom Lens. This kit is great – a superb camera and a lens that provides excellent coverage for almost any scene you’ll come across in daylight hours.

The image above was shot in the early afternoon outside the Bank of America building on San Francisco’s California Street. For more of my photos from this week’s masterclass, see this Flickr album.

Less but better.

Less But Better

I’ve been enjoying reading Greg McKeown‘s new book “Essentialism” – and, after listening to the beginning, put together this image suitable for desktop or screen saver use. It’s a shot made in the kitchen at the James Johnston House in Half Moon Bay – and was one that seemed to focus on the essential!

Here’s a link to Greg’s book and perhaps an easier to download version of my image on Flickr.

Back to Fort Point at the Golden Gate

Fort Point - Golden Gate Bridge - 2010

One of my most popular images on Flickr has been this one – shot in January 2010 on the top of Fort Point. I’ve always enjoyed it for the couple getting their picture taken sitting on the wall – while the sign in the lower right reads “DANGER! stay off walls”. The image was shot handheld with a tiny Canon PowerShot S90 – my favorite “on the belt” point and shoot at that time.

Tonight I re-processed this image in Lightroom using a couple of new presets and some recently learned techniques. Here’s the earlier version for comparison.

Playing with Sepia Toning of Highlights in Monochrome Images

Moody #2 - San Francisco - 2014

I recently got reacquainted with the beautiful monochrome work of Michael Kenna. His images have a number of striking qualities – mostly long exposure, his use of grain, and the square (and small 8×8 inch) print size. But for me it’s the light in his images that grab me.

Doing a bit of reading of interviews of Kenna, he has spoken about his he uses a light sepia toning in the highlights of his images – and how, by doing so, the mind’s eye sees the highlights as a bit forward in space while the shadows are pushed back – adding a sense of dimensionality to an image.

This is an image of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge shot from San Francisco’s Embarcadero with my Fujifilm X-E2 on a particularly moody February morning. I used it as an example for applying this kind of technique – sepia toning of the highlights. To do so, it’s an easy process in Photoshop CC. Select the RGB channel to create a selection, then add a gradient map adjustment layer – the selection will automatically be loaded into the adjustment layer’s layer mask. Then select the photographic toning Sepia 1 tone – and you’re done with the highlights.

I took it a bit further, duplicating that process but inverting the layer mask to add a Selenium 2 tone to the shadows – pushing them further back in the mind’s eye.

Below is the original monochrome version of this image – you can see the difference. Click on either to see a larger version.

Moody - San Francisco - 2014

Over 1,000,000 Views on Flickr

Working - Village Pub - 2014

For the last several years, I’ve been working in the kitchen – in the kitchen of taking photos and, more importantly, making images. Photography has become a real source of joy for me over the last few years – a craft that keeps me learning.

Today was a milestone of sorts. I happened to notice that my images on Flickr have now been viewed over 1,000,000 times. I really appreciate how Flickr has served as my sort of master archive – and enjoy the feedback I get from everyone who follows my photostream there.

I put together an album of the top 10 images as measured by Flickr based on “interestingness” – you might enjoy seeing them here.

Creating Photo Books to Journal My Recent Photo Adventures

Over the last year or two, I’ve developed the habit of putting together a photo book following each photo adventure I take. Creating a photo book is a great to bundle together those photo experiences into a convenient format for sharing with friends or just to keep on your coffee table to help you keep your own memories.

I just finished putting together the one for the Mystic Forest Workshop with Michael Frye.

Screen Shot 2014-06-28 at 5.15.40 PM

A few weeks ago I did one for the Jay Maisel Workshop.

Screen Shot 2014-06-28 at 5.20.15 PM

I’ve been using iPhoto ’11 for these books and enjoy the editing process of putting them together. For my photo books, I’ve been using iPhoto ’11′s Picture Book theme – in softcover and the medium size option (8×6 inches). I find this format is just right for these adventure-specific books. I use Lightroom as my primary photo management application. To create a new photo book, I first find the images (“selects”) I want to use in Lightroom and export them as full size JPEGs to a folder. I then fire up iPhoto ’11 and create a new library (important!) – putting it and the selects in a new, separate folder in my Photo Books folder. It’s important to just do one photo book per iPhoto library – keeps things simpler and better organized. I think import the selects into iPhoto and start creating the new photo book.

I also do an annual portfolio photo book of my “best” images from the year – something I start in November and like to have finishing in time to have portfolio books to use as gifts with family. For my annual portfolio books, I use the same Picture Book theme also in softcover but the larger version. It’s more expensive but provides a more substantial book of great images.

On Friday, Apple announced that it would be moving to a new Photos application beginning in Mac OS X Yosemite – and no longer enhancing either iPhoto or Aperture. I’ve really come to appreciate the quality of the iPhoto books – and I hope that Apple continues to provide great photo book printing options in the new Photos app going forward!