Category Archives: Topaz

Down We Go – Spiral Staircases at San Francisco’s Embarcadero Center

Down We Go - San Francisco - 2014

One of our favorite places for photography in San Francisco is Embarcadero Center. The Center’s architecture is very special and unique – with lots of lovely nooks and crannies along with beautiful vistas of the four tall buildings that make up the core of the center.

There are several spiral staircases within Embarcadero Center that make wonderful subjects for photographers. A couple outside and another couple inside the buildings. As the light shifts, the outdoor ones take on a variety of moods – sometimes they’re in bright light/shadow. Other times, when it’s foggy and overcast, there’s a soft light aspect that can be special.

Yesterday, we were on our way to see the movie Tim’s Vermeer at the Embarcadero Center Cinema when I walked by this particular staircase and captured it with my iPhone 5s. I brought it into Photoshop CC and tweaked it a bit using both Topaz Simplify 4 and the Oil Paint filter to add a bit of interesting texture. The image deserves more time to make it even better – but this quick, first cut version captured my eye!

Waiting for a Boat at Versailles

Waiting - Versailles - 2002

For some reason tonight I started looking back through my image library for images from France.

I stumbled across this one from 2002 – shot with my first digital camera – a Kodak DC290 – at Versailles. I love the composition – totally accidental though it was at the time! I captured a very special red head in the photo!

I post-processed this using a bit of Topaz Simplify and Photoshop CC’s oil paint filter. I love the look and the subtle textures!

In the Field along Tomales Bay in August

In the Field - Tomales Bay - 2010

In August 2010, I took a workshop focus on Tomales Bay and Point Reyes. One of the other participants – Jack – was shooting with a set of classic cameras. It was a joy to watch him work.

Here’s a shot of Jack taken early on a late August morning along Tomales Bay. He’s shooting the famous Point Reyes fishing boat – aground at Inverness. The morning sun is on his back. I can smell the scene.

Shot with my Canon 5D Mark II and the Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS lens. Post-processed using Lightroom 5, VSCO Film and Photoshop CC with Topaz Simplify 4.

All the World’s a Stage – and Sometimes You’re On It!

Listen to Me #2 - San Francisco - 2013

Earlier this summer, I picked up a Fujifilm X100S – a street photographer’s delight. The rangefinder design, its gorgeous styling and superb image performance make it a camera you just want to take with you everywhere.

When Doug Kaye and I go out for a photo walk in San Francisco, we’re always on the lookout for “stages” – great backgrounds that are just waiting to be filled with interesting people.

This is a shot in the park adjacent to the Transamerica Building (“the Pyramid”) in San Francisco. We had rich summer morning light flooding in along with some wonderful shadows – which help add depth to an otherwise two dimensional image. We also had four actors already on stage – nicely spread out! And then this woman walked across the foreground – wow, I couldn’t have scripted it any better – as she made her point to her friend on the other end of that pink cellphone call!

For this version of the image, I used a touch of Topaz Simplify in Photoshop CC to reduce some of the high frequency elements (trees) in the image. VSCO Film Velvia 50 was used to boost the colors a bit. A final pass of high pass sharpening was used to bring back the facial expressions of all of the actors!

Good fun!

Hailing a Taxi on New York City’s Madison Avenue – Fujifilm X-E2

Taxi Hailer on Madison Avenue - New York - 2013

Here’s another shot from our pre-Thanksgiving visit to New York City. We were walking up Madison Avenue to dinner. Something friends have always told me – be sure to turn around and look back – came into my head. I did – and here’s what I saw. Love the scope of this image – from the guy on the left with the garbage can to the taxi hailer and then on to the FedEx truck on the right.

Shot handheld with the amazing Fujifilm X-E2 and post-processed in Lightroom 5 with VSCO Film 04. Adjusted a bit further in Photoshop CC using Topaz Simplify 4 to reduce detail on the buildings in the distance to keep the eye down at street level. Click on the image to see a larger size version.

Ah, New York City in the fall…

A Sharon Park Sunrise with the Fujifilm X-100S

Sharon Park Sunrise

As I headed out the door this morning to do a bit of grocery shopping for our dinner tonight I stopped by Sharon Park briefly. I love the low sun angle this time of year – and it was filtering through the trees from this particular angle which captured my eyes.

I post-processed this in Photoshop CC using a combination of Topaz Simplify 4, the Oil Paint filter, and some old fashioned dodging and burning to add a stronger sense of depth. Shot with my Fujifilm X100S.

Those Bell Bottoms in San Francisco

Bell Bottoms - San Francisco - 2013

As a street photography, you’re always trying to look for stages – places of visual interest against which you can shoot an interesting image. Finding a stage is one thing – being patient enough to wait for something of visual interest to walk into it is another.

On this particular morning in San Francisco, Doug Kaye and I were finding stages – but the pedestrian traffic was so light that we got frustrated waiting for something to fill the stage.

For this particular shot, I got lucky. I happened to like the stage of the stores’s display window behind – and captured this shot very quickly with my Fujifilm X-E2 as this young woman – in her bell bottoms – walked across the stage. Perhaps not the greatest illustration of this technique – but you get the idea!

I post-processed this in Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC – applying a bit of Topaz Simplify 4 and a touch of the Oil Paint filter to add a bit of interesting texture.

Four Up in San Francisco

Four Up - San Francisco - 2013

I wrote earlier this week about the beautiful light that Doug Kaye and I found recently in this “street” near the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco’s Financial District.

This is another image shot with my new Fujifilm X-E2 that took advantage of that magical light. Originally, I thought I’d process this image in color – as that ketchup bottle just pops in red – but, instead, I converted it to monochrome in Photoshop CC using Topaz Simplify 4 and then applying a touch of Photoshop’s Oil Paint filter.

I really love the tonality of this image – and the subtle textures that the oil paint added to the glow of the metal.

San Francisco’s Magnificent Seven

Magnificent Seven - San Francisco - 2013

While exploring San Francisco’s Financial District with Doug Kaye, we came across this group of seven guys eating lunch on the steps of Bentley Reserve building on Battery Street. This is one of those lovely old classic bank buildings with columns and all.

I saw these guys as we were about to cross Sacramento Street – and captured this shot. The light was wonderful and they were having fun. Sometimes you get lucky – and this time I did with the look on the faces.

I decided to process this image using a simplification technique that removes details and enhances the overall structure of the image. It helps remove distracting details and often delights. This time it did.

Shot with my Fujifilm X-E2 and post-processed using Topaz Simplify 4 and Photoshop CC.

Doug captured a straight-on shot of these seven – here’s his image!

That Painterly Look…

Easterly - San Francisco - 2013

While I enjoy crystal clear sharp images for most of my photographs, I’ve also developed a taste for a more painterly look for some of my images.

This painterly look is something that can be applied in Photoshop – using either the new Oil Paint filter in Photoshop CC or using the Topaz Simplify 4 plugin. They’re different – and the results are different but both can yield very pleasing results.

There’s something that my brain likes about removing sharp details – and simplifying an image – and that’s what these painterly effects do. Instead of crisp details, those details fall away and just the major elements remain. The effect can be quite subtle – such as in the image above – or more dramatic – such as in the image below. For me, photography encompasses a wide range of techniques – and that painterly look is one I sometimes enjoy in my images.

Both of these images were shot earlier today along San Francisco’s Embarcadero using a Fujifilm X-E1. Doug Kaye and I once again enjoyed exploring one of our favorite San Francisco neighborhoods – along with a late lunch at our favorite: Slanted Door!

Waiting - San Francisco - 2013