Walking Stanford

Out with Lily this morning. Here’s the path we walked – a bit over 1.4 miles as measured and we meandered through the quad on our way back so we’ll claim 1.5 miles. We walked it in about 35 minutes – a bit over 2-1/2 mph. The picture of Hoover Tower was taken with the new Apple iPhone 3G!

Learning Aviation Photography

Frankly, I’m disappointed about some (the most important?) of my Hiller Vertical Challenge 2008 Airshow pictures.

It was a great event again this year – but, unfortunately, my photos of the aerobatic Red Bull helicopter demonstration flight were shot with a bad setting on my camera. Call it “operator error”!

There’s a moral in here somewhere – that smart photographers have to constantly be thinking “what am I shooting – and how am I shooting it?” Here’s my sad story.

Just prior to the Red Bull aerobatic flight, I had been playing around with the Shutter Priority setting on my Canon 40D during the Showcopters flight. The Hiller Aviation Museum’s Vertical Challenge page linked to some tips for photographers that I had read prior to the show. Among other things, that article advocated using a slower shutter speed for some airshow photography to get a “blur” on the prop (or the rotor in the case of a helicopter!). So, I had been playing around with settings between 1/160 and 1/500 of a second. The rotor blur was great – when the subject itself wasn’t moving too quickly.

Unfortunately, when the Red Bull aerobatic routine started, I had to scoot around a building to get a good view – and completely forgot to put the Canon back on fully Program AE mode. As a result, the Red Bull shots were taken in Shutter Priority mode at 1/160 of a second – and, with my new big lens and my shaking arms pointed overhead, that combination led to just too much blur in most of those photos.

I’m sharing all of this to remind myself that you don’t let yourself get “behind the camera” in terms of ALWAYS knowing the camera settings while you’re shooting – and, that if if you do, you’ll end up sloppy in the photos and just a bit disappointed!

Today’s Vertical Challenge 2008 Helicopter Airshow

I’m back from the Hiller Aviation Museum’s 2008 Vertical Challenge Airshow today at San Carlos Airport. My photos from today’s event are available on Flickr.

I was shooting with two camera and lens combinations today. The cameras were a Canon 30D and a Canon 40D.

The lenses (sometimes on one camera, sometimes on the other) were a Canon 24-105 MM f4.0 IS L lens and a Canon 70-200 MM f2.8 IS L lens. I was using a polarizer on the 70-200 MM lens – the polarizer helped to provide some of the starker sky contrast you see in some of the photos.

Not Just Another Father’s Day Sunday

It was an especially poignant Sunday morning watching the tribute to Tim Russert on Meet the Press today. That empty moderator’s chair. Such great remembrances from his close colleagues. And, Tim’s final Father’s Day fairwell.

So many important lessons about living life can be learned from Tim. Perhaps the most important – just “stay in touch.”

Last night, I watched The Bucket List – yet another one of those lessons about how much of life is really all about just finding the joy in your life.

We have so many things to be grateful – and joyful – for. They’re truly impossible to count, as if counting them even mattered – after all.

Coming home this afternoon, I stopped by the Niles Canyon Railway in Sunol. Once a key link in the original transcontinental railroad, today this railway brings joy to riders who simply want to experience a great train ride out in the open air with their friends and loved ones. Indeed, it’s all about finding that joy. Kudos to the Pacific Locomotive Association for so publicly sharing their passions about railroading – and enabling that joy.

Go get ’em!

Apple’s Aperture World Tour

I attended this afternoon’s San Francisco edition of the Apple Aperture World Tour and came away even more impressed with Apple’s latest effort at managing a digital photographer’s workflow.

I’ve been using Aperture 2.0 myself since it came out – but, as is always the case, when you see experts doing their thing using the same software you thought you already knew, you learn lots of new tricks. I had pretty much abandoned Aperture 1.5 in favor of Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom – but the enhancements in this latest version of Aperture won me back!

Today’s World Tour program was introduced by Apple Senior Product Manager Joe Schorr who told the story of how Aperture evolved from 1.0 through 1.5 to 2.0. It was interesting to hear Joe’s story about how the evolution to 2.0 happened – but the meat of today’s presentation was handled superbly by Apple’s Martin Gisborne. Martin took us through Aperture 2.0’s paces – opening up my eyes to features I never knew existed.

Professional photographer David Bergman shared his typical Aperture workflow with us – quickly using it to rank about 145 photos from a shoot he did in New York City last week. It was fun to see him run Aperture through its paces! Derrick Story posts a bit more about David’s somewhat ruthless (!) star rating technique.

A truly great, eye-opening afternoon! Thanks Apple!

A Saturday Shooting San Francisco

This time of year – with the remnants of late winter storms and clouds – is a great time to head up to San Francisco for some photography. We’ve had unsettled weather yesterday and today – so this morning I headed across the Golden Gate to the Marin Headlands to see how things looked.

Golden Gate BridgeI also had a new lens along helping to motivate my quest – a Canon 24-105MM f4 L IS USM Zoom. (Whew, that’s a mouthful!) Most of my shooting to date has been either using Tamron zooms (17-50mm f2.8 or the 18-200mm f3.5-6.3) or a handful of Canon prime lenses (28mm f1.8, 50mm f1.4, or the 85mm f1.8).

This new lens is my first in the Canon L series – which Canon aficionados come to respect at a distance from the red line around the lens barrel! It’s all about “the glass.” For today’s shooting, the new “glass” was mounted on my Canon 40D.

After heading across the bridge and touring the Marin Headlands out to Point Bonita and back through the one lane tunnel, I ended up in Sausalito for lunch. A quick “Golden Gate Special” sandwich at the Golden Gate Market filled the hunger and then I walked down a block along the waterfront and took these views across the water towards San Francisco.

San Francisco from Sausalito Chris Honeysett has taken a wonderful shot from this same location – but with much better technique (e.g., using a very slow shutter speed to blur the water, shooting from the beach not the boardwalk, and doing it at high tide and in deep fog!)!

I’ve uploaded today’s pictures to Flickr here. The smaller sizes I uploaded naturally look a bit darker than the actual full size shots – but the light today was also challenging – shooting back into the Sun much of the time. I had a -1/3 exposure correction cranked in which also contributed to the darker exposures.

After reviewing and adjusting today’s shots (using Apple Aperture 2.0 which I’m finding works really well for my needs), I decided to spring for the Canon Circular Polarizer for the new lens to help out in the future with this kind of challenging sun-lighting situation.

I look forward to repeating this effort either in the next couple of weeks this year – or maybe we’ll have to wait for stormy season again next year.

Book Recommendation: My Favorite Photoshop Books

There are scads of Photoshop books out there – befitting the long history of Photoshop. The vast majority of those books aren’t terribly useful – they basically document features and don’t solve real photographer’s needs.

Over the last year, I’ve come to enjoy two Photoshop books that are actually valuable to photographers needing to understand a workflow that solves their needs.


The first, published about a year ago now, is Welcome to Oz: A Cinematic Approach to Digital Still Photography with Photoshop (VOICES) by Vincent Versace. This book broke new ground for me – helping me understand how to apply the features (oh so many!) of Photoshop in a logical way. This was the first book I had found that addressed the creative side of Photoshop for photographers.


The second, published about a month ago now, is Scott Kelby’s 7-Point System for Adobe Photoshop CS3 (Voices). Kelby’s book takes a basic 7-step process and, through repetition over more than 20 images, tries to make it second nature. Perhaps the book is a bit overproduced – given how simple the 7-steps are – but it was still a very useful resource for me.

Both books are really, really useful for understanding the process of refining images in Photoshop – much more so than the usual Photoshop reference books. Both are Highly Recommended!

Beautiful Etchings by Terry Steinke

Beautiful weather today made wandering through this year’s Connoisseurs’ Marketplace in downtown Menlo Park a real treat. We caught an early brunch at Left Bank and then walked the length of Santa Cruz Avenue downtown looking at all of the artists and their work.

My favorite black and white photographer, Chris Honeysett, was there again this year. The current header graphic on this blog is a photo I shot a couple of months ago at Inverness that mimics a large black and white photo I bought from Chris four years ago. At his holiday showing at Fort Mason last December, I couldn’t resist one of his new photos showing San Francisco that he shot from Sausalito with The CIty barely visible in the shadows through the fog. Superb!

My favorite new artist was Terry Steinke from San Francisco and his beautiful etchings. Turns out that he’s not new to the event, it’s just the first time I noticed his work! We enjoyed hearing Terry describe the process he follows to create these beautiful hand drawn etchings – some using a single plate and others using three or four plates in register to add colors. They are just a delight to look at and enjoy.

Of note, we especially liked his engravings of Stow Lake – one of my long time favorite spots in Golden Gate Park – and Shadow Lake in Yosemite – one of those four plate etchings in color. He’s got a complete catalog of his etchings available online – take a look, they’re all very well done.

Both Chris and Terry are going to be back on the Peninsula next month showing at the Palo Alto Festival of the Arts, August 25-26.