Every few weeks, Doug Kaye and I rendezvous at San Francisco’s Ferry Building on a Friday morning – and head out for a few hours of shooting on the street of San Francisco. For me, it’s just a delight – as my brain flips over from left brain analytical mode – that it’s been in all week while working – into a right brain creative mode. Key to that process, in my experience, is just slowing down. It’s like the inverse of entering hyperspace – I need slow down, slow down again, smell the air, stretch my arms and legs, relax my neck and shoulders – and then just look for the good light.
Sometimes I take BART from Daly City down to San Francisco’s Embarcadero station to meet Doug’s Larkspur ferry at the Ferry Building. Other times, I’ll take Caltrain from Menlo Park – and then either a Muni bus (the 81X or 82X if it’s early enough or the 10-Townsend later in the morning) or the Muni Metro N or T light rail. On this particular morning, I was in Caltrain mode – having caught the 8:37 AM limited. After arriving in San Francisco, I walked across the street to catch the N Muni Metro – and then got off at my favorite station along this section of the Embarcadero – at Folsom Street.
On this particular Friday in early November, the fog had come in – which provided some beautiful light for us later in the morning. I opted to turn right along the Embarcadero and head down to the Fireboat Station where both of San Francisco’s fireboats are docked. This image was shot with my iPhone 6 and post-processed in Lightroom 5 using VSCO Film 06 and the Fuji 400H film.
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.
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.
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.
Earlier this week, Scott Kelby posted a new portfolio of images that he described as looking like they had been shot against a background of white seamless. He described the technique he used in Lightroom to create this look – based loosely on blowing out the sky, increasing contrast and clarity and reducing vibrance.
I gave the technique a try on a couple of my images from a bright New Years Day 2014 in San Francisco. This is perhaps the best of what I tried – the Hornblower cruise boats tied up at Pier 3 in San Francisco.
Shot with my Fujifilm X-E2 and post-processed in Lightroom 5.
I recently published an initial version of this image – shot very quickly at San Francisco’s Ferry Building as we were heading into Slanted Door for lunch.
My friend Doug Kaye commented – gee, that image seems a lot darker than what I remember you showing me on the back of your camera! So I tried again – going back to the original and processing it another time. This image is that result – and, I agree with Doug, it’s brighter and better.
Shot with my Fujifilm X100S and processed in Lightroom 5 and VSCO Film.
This image has an interesting cast of characters – what appears to be a family of three next to a mysterious stranger hunkered down in his hoodie – with the special mystery guest walking past in her bright red stocking cap!
On a drizzly Friday in San Francisco, we walked along Market Street heading back to the Ferry Building. It’s fun to get wet pavements – and, sometimes, even reflections – as they’re not all that common in the City.
This is an image of one of the historic streetcars that run on San Francisco’s Market Street – in the livery of the Birmingham Railway and Electric Company in Birmingham, Alabama. The car itself has a subtle sense of motion to it – and the fact that it’s only a partial shot seems to add a touch of drama to the image.
Shot with my Fujifilm X100S. Post-processed in Lightroom 5 and VSCO Film.
A while back while watching one of Kelby’s videos with Jay Maisel, Jay mentioned some other photographers whose work he enjoys. One of them was Fan Ho – who Jay thought was copying his work until he learned that Fan was older than him!
We recently visited an exhibition of Vivian Maier’s photography at a gallery on Geary Street in San Francisco – and down the hall was the Modernbook Gallery which has published a couple of books of Fan Ho’s work and had several examples hanging in their gallery. One thing that pops out when you look at his work is how often his images are shot into the light – and, as a result, have striking contrast between the bright and dark tones in the image.
This is a cheap example of a Fan Ho style shot – along San Francisco’s Embarcadero. Shot with my iPhone 5s and post-processed in Lightroom 5.
This is a shot inside San Francisco’s Ferry Building on a beautiful morning. The windows up top in the building provide beautiful indirect light into the market areas. This image was shot outside the Blue Bottle Coffee shop with my Fujifilm X-E2 and post-processed in Lightroom 5, Photoshop CC and Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4.