Departing San Francisco

San Francisco

Yesterday I was outbound from San Francisco and our flight made this wonderful loop up and around the City itself. Fortunately I had a window seat on the left side of the airplane and had a window seat to all of this.

I snapped this image (along with many others!) using my iPhone 6s.

Below is a monochrome treatment of the same image.

San Francisco

Cuban Nights

Whites - Lady in Red - Havana - 2013
Whites – Lady in Red – Havana – 2013

I wrote yesterday about Paul Graham’s exhibition at Pier 24 in San Francisco. Graham’s exhibition features three different approaches to photography. One of his approaches he called “American Nights” – consisting of images that had a high key, sort of faded look.

While enjoying the whole show, I found Graham’s “American Night” images the most interesting of the exhibition – and wanted to try the technique on a couple of my images. Here’s my first example – “Cuban Nights” version of one of my favorite images from Havana in 2013 that I titled “Lady in Red”.

The whiteness was added to this image in Photoshop by adding a white Color Fill adjustment layer and adjusting the opacity to approximate what I saw in Graham’s images. The original image can be seen here – but don’t look at it until you’ve stared at this version for a bit of time and begin to see some of the details emerging. That’s the fun part of Graham’s technique – at least for me!

And it works especially well with large prints on the wall – more so than with this small web image version!

That Glance

Glance - San Francisco - 2016

Today I joined a group of friends to visit the current exhibition of Paul Graham’s work at Pier 24 in San Francisco. Pier 24 is a beautiful gallery for the display of photography – with large neutral spaces in many different rooms – and controlled reservation-based entry to minimize any feeling of crowding the in the space. It’s a joy.

Graham’s work was organized into three bodies of work: American Night (1998–2002), a shimmer of possibility (2004–06), and The Present (2009–11). In his video, Graham talked about how each body of work was based on one aspect of the camera. American Night was based upon aperture – overexposing the images to create the soft white images. A shimmer was based upon time – snapping multiple images in a sequence to tell the story of something in a series of images. The Present was based upon the use of selective focus – or very shallow depth of field – to shift the viewer’s attention to a different point of interest in each image.

After watching Graham’s video explanation of each – and walking the exhibitions, I came away really liking his American Night collection best of all. These images at first look like nothing – you glance and them and want to move on. But when you stop and spend time with each image, your eye begins to see details that you originally overlooked. As you move closer to the image, the effect is enhanced – you start seeing more. A lovely treatment – and something I want to play with in the future.

Meanwhile, as we departed Pier 24, I came across this man walking toward me in the shadows under the pier’s overhang. I grabbed a quick shot and then he sat down. I continued walked toward him – and asked him – with a quick motion of my hand with my camera asking if it was OK to take his picture. He said yes – and then I captured him in this pose glancing off to his left. One of those great moments when it all comes together in street photography!

Adding Presence to Black and White Photos

Three years ago I was in Havana participating in a person-to-person cultural exchange organized by the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. One of the photography group leaders at that session was George DeWolfe. While I wasn’t in his group, we did share breakfast a couple of days and I really enjoyed getting to know him a bit more.

After that meeting, I’ve followed George from a distance – and I particularly enjoy the work he’s been doing for years around the notion of adding “presence” to black and white images. I haven’t been using his techniques, however – but a blog post that I read this morning by Julia Anna Gospodarou brought me back to George and re-learning one of his simple techniques for adding presence to an image in Photoshop.

Last night I processed the top image below taken on a photo walk with Doug Kaye in San Francisco last Thursday. We often find the Muni bus stops along San Francisco’s Market Street to be good “stages” – and we await for interesting actors to appear. I was pretty happy with the image last night but when I looked at it again this morning I found it a bit “flat”.

Reading Julia Anna’s interview with George got me motivated to try a quick version of one of his techniques for adding presence – using the Color Range tool in Photoshop to separately adjust the brightness and contract of the highlight, mid-tone, and shadow areas of the image. This is a super easy technique – using the Color Range tool to create a selection of, for example, the highlights in the image – then use a Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer to tweak the brightness and contrast of just the highlights. Do the same thing for the mid-tones and then for the shadows. Takes about 2 minutes to adjust the image this way – and it does help reduce the flatness and spread out the tonality of the image to make it more appealing. The second image below shows the result of my quick adjustments this morning.

There are other ways to accomplish this – with much finer grain control, for example, you can use Tony Kuyper’s Luminosity Mask technique to also do this. But the quickness of using Color Range with a few Brightness/Contrast adjustment layers makes for a very speedy workflow. Thanks to George DeWolfe for sharing this technique – which he first wrote about back in 2007, almost ten years ago.

San Francisco Streets – January 2016

Doug Kaye - San Francisco - 2016

My photo buddy Doug Kaye and I met up yesterday in San Francisco for our first walk together of 2016. As usual we met at the Ferry Building – and immediately got immersed in the setup activities for Super Bowl City which is opening tomorrow. It was very cool to see the scope of this event – as lots of craftsmen, stage hands, and security staff did their work in Justin Herman Plaza and up Market Street.

Doug was shooting with a new – used but mint – Rolleiflex film camera. It was fun watching him look down to capture shots – Vivian Maier style. Meanwhile, I was shooting with my first Fujifilm X camera – the Fujifilm X-E2. I had a new lens – the 35mm f/2 prime – and put the X-E2 into black and white (with yellow filter) mode – and had a great time shooting. This camera really does work wonders in your hands – and the Fujifilm monochrome film treatment just looks superb right out of the camera.

Some examples follow. It was a very good day.

The Beard - San Francisco - 2016

Plugged In - San Francisco - 2016

Love to Sign - San Francisco - 2016

Plans - San Francisco - 2016

Philz - San Francisco - 2016

Touch - San Francisco - 2016

Amazing Grace

John Boyd - New York - 2015
John Boyd – New York – 2015

I came upon a magical moment last June in New York’s Central Park. We were walking through the park and came across this underground pavilion – with beautiful voices filling the chamber.

Turns out the Boyd family is known for singing their best in this space. It was magical to hear John sing Amazing Grace in this place – something I’ll carry with me as one of those memories you try to go back to when you just want to settle your mind down!

No Excuses

No Excuses - San Francisco - 2015

Citicorp Center in San Francisco is at One Sansome Street – just across from the former Crown Zellerbach building.

This stretch of Sansome just off Market Street is the province of motorcyclists – the parking is just for them. The architecture of the Citicorp Center provides an interesting stage – and there’s the Montgomery Street BART station entrance just off to the left. A locus for some fun street photography in San Francisco!

On a bright March morning in 2015, this bike rider was eyeing for a spot.

Side Swipe on San Francisco’s Sansome Street

Profile - San Francisco - 2015

There’s this great Art Deco doorway along San Francisco’s Sansome Street. One of the “stages of San Francisco”!

In the right light – at the best time of year – with a great subject passing through – it’s pretty magical.

Stepping Down

Stepping Down - San Francisco - 2015

This is one of my series of shots captured at San Francisco’s Ferry Building in March 2015.

I’ve previously processed one of these images – showing the worker climbing up the ladder.

This image shows the worker starting to step down off the ladder. I like them both – great memories of a beautiful morning at the Ferry Building!

Ernest Hemingway said: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down to a typewriter and bleed.”

It’s the same with photography – it’s nothing.

On the Grand Stage

On the Grand Stage - New York - 2015

While I was in New York last June participating in a street photography workshop led by Peter Turnley, a couple of us wandered by New York City’s Grand Central Station. It’s a beautiful place of architectural wonder – and we were lucky to be there on a day when the sunlight was beaming down brightly onto a tiny portion of the floor.

This wedding couple was posing for their wedding pictures – and, of course, we also joined in taking our own shots as they were chatting in between shots.

I love the light in this image – it epitomizes Jay Maisel’s manta – Light, Gesture, Color!