This is, I believe, a permanent civilizational shift. It is perhaps the most important thing that’s happened in my lifetime, a consequence of the internet that’s maybe even more important than the internet. Permanently divorcing physical location from economic opportunity gives us a real shot at radically expanding the number of good jobs in the world while also dramatically improving quality of life for millions, or billions, of people. We may, at long last, shatter the geographic lottery, opening up opportunity to countless people who weren’t lucky enough to be born in the right place.
For the first time since January 2020 (15 months ago) I met my good friend Doug Kaye on the streets of San Francisco. It was a glorious day around the Bay and lovely to be back out if only for an hour or two. We have both been vaccinated a while back and it finally seemed like a good time to do this.
We had a delicious pizza lunch at A16 on Chestnut Street and then headed over to The Palace of Fine Arts for a quick walk around. We both reminisced that the last time either of us had visited this wonderful old place was a few years ago when we also did it together.
Doug had a new gadget (a digital back for his Hasselblad) and I had my trusty iPhone 12 Pro Max. While Doug explored with his big camera I played tourist and snapped a few snapshots to remember the day.
After so long avoiding public places like the streets of San Francisco during the pandemic it was great to get out in the fresh air and bright sun in the City!
Yesterday, the US CDC came out (at last!) with newly updated guidance for those who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. In essence, masks are no longer needed for protection (for either you or people around you) if you have been fully vaccinated.
It’s been a difficult 15 months during this pandemic. Yesterday’s updated guidance from the CDC does feel like we’re emerging from the deep, dark tunnel we’ve been in. It’s almost hard to believe – we have been so accustomed to this weird way of hermit-like living. But here we are.
Thanks especially to all of the scientists and miracle workers who so rapidly developed the vaccines that deal with this nasty virus – and to the many healthcare workers who dedicated themselves to trying to save every life they could among those who became infected.
One of my favorite things to do is to visit one of the great local libraries in our area and just hang out. Browse the new books, look at some old classics, read the latest magazines, and just chill.
Since the start of the pandemic over a year ago all of our local libraries have been closed. They’ve continued to support their communities through drive-up pickup service and online ebook checkouts – but the quiet beauty of just being in a library space hasn’t been available.
On Thursday this began to change as the local libraries that are part of the San Mateo County Library system began re-opening – taking their first baby steps to re-emerge from the last year of forced isolation. Yesterday I stopped in at one of my favorites – the Portola Valley Library – just to get reminded once again of what a great place it is. A cheerful staff member greeted me as I walked through the open front door – both of us fully masked up of course. A delightful breeze was wafting through the place – keeping the air moving.
I took a few minutes just to browse the new books and to take a look around at the physical space. Much of it was still off-limits – including the lovely reading area near the front with its wonderful big leather chairs – but the study desks were reopened (with only one seat instead of two). You’re limited to a maximum of one hour inside until restrictions ease further.
But it’s a wonderful first step towards getting back to normalcy – and seems aligned very nicely with the spring season. I’m looking forward to heading back again, and again…
“It wasn’t that time stopped in the library. It was as if it were captured here, collected here, and in all libraries—and not only my time, my life, but all human time as well. In the library, time is dammed up—not just stopped but saved. The library is a gathering pool of narratives and of the people who come to find them. It is where we can glimpse immortality; in the library, we can live forever.”
Back in 2018 I took a week-long photography workshop (“The Soul of a Photograph“) at Santa Fe Workshops led by Christopher Michel. Along with a dozen other photographers, we explored many aspects of creating images with impact while out and about in some of the beautiful venues in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. It was a wonderful week with a great teacher who is famous for his beautiful and prolific work.
For most of the week I was teamed up with Cira Crowell, another great photographer who lives in Santa Fe. We had a great time together working on our images – including a particularly great day working with a few models at Eaves Movie Ranch outside of Santa Fe.
The following year Cira taught a new course in Santa Fe titled The Language of Black and White which I was also able to attend. Cira is passionate about the power of black and white imagery and she built her course on some of the earlier work and teachings of George DeWolfe who had also taught at Santa Fe Workshops. Coincidentally, I had met George on a visit to Havana in 2013 and had several wonderful chats with him over buffet breakfast at our hotel that week in Havana. Note: Cira is planning to teach another section of this course in July 2021 in Santa Fe.
Taking Cira’s course in Santa Fe opened my eyes to exploring new techniques to apply black and white processing to my images – in particular how to add depth to my images so that they take on more of a three dimensional look even though they’re just two dimensional by nature. I shared some of my thoughts about the course on our local InMenlo blog. One of the exercises involved taking one of the color paintings of a great master and converting it to black and white – while adding depth.
This month I started an online version of Cira’s course as a follow-up to the in-person workshop I took two years ago. While being together in a classroom seems ideal, an online workshop comes pretty close in terms of providing the vehicle for teaching and understanding. And it’s a necessary approach in this pandemic era where our travel opportunities are so severely restricted. What falls away with the online approach are the social dynamics of being together – an important aspect to the workshops held in Santa Fe.
In the workshop, we’ve been exploring post-processing in Lightroom – converting a color image to black and white – and using some of the tools available to move beyond just the default conversion from color to black and white. Below is an example – a simple color photograph of an orange on a countertop being converted to several different versions of black and white.
One of the important lessons in this process is understanding the difference between the values in an image versus the tones in an image. Different tones can result in the same values – creating some unusual situations such as red converting to the same tone as green, for example. If you have a red subject on a green foliage background, for example, the subject will almost disappear into the background.
This can be visualized by looking at these two images that depict the luminance values vs the color tones. You’ll notice that the reds and the greens have very similar grey tones while the yellows are much brighter grey and the blues are much darker greys.
Learning the language of black and white is all about learning how to translate these hues into greys so that the image of an image is enhanced.
When converting a color photo to black and white in Lightroom Classic, the color sliders can be used to change the tonal values of the different colors. You can actually adjust the colors first in color before converting to black and white and then take the image through a quick round trip through Photoshop to preserve your color edits before then converting to black and white and editing further. This technique provides the most control over the translation from hue to tone in the greyscale image.
A final round trip through Photoshop can also be used to add depth to the grayscale image. In Photoshop duplicate the background layer and change the blend mode to Soft Light. Adjust the opacity to a low value – say 15% as a starting point. If need be you can add a layer mask and control more precisely where the effect is applied. If you want even more you can duplicate the layer again and see how that works. Then save the image back to Lightroom Classic for any final edits.
And remember, black and white isn’t “plan b” – it’s an intentional approach to creating classic, more timeless looking images.
Yesterday I shared an image from Boronda Lake in Palo Alto’s Foothills Park that I had post-processed using techniques I learned in a recent workshop with Dan Burkholder.
I took a few more images while I was there – on a grey, overcast morning – and wanted to share them here. It’s a lovely place and worth a visit now that it’s open to all. I’ll likely come back and do some creative post-processing on a few of these images as well.
Recently the city of Palo Alto has opened up access to Foothills Park which for many years has limited access only to residents of Palo Alto. I’ve never been there so this morning – a grey one here on the San Francisco peninsula, I decided to take a quick drive to visit Foothills Park and see what it’s like. In particular, I was interested in seeing the small lake – Boronda Lake.
Last week I finished up a workshop led by Dan Burkholder on iPhone Artistry. Dan reawakened my interest in capturing and editing photos just on my iPhone. I made the following image using the Camera app on my iPhone 12 Pro Max:
I then used the free Snapseed app that Google provides to edit and stylize this image. Dan had walked us through the capabilities of Snapseed during his workshop so I put many of the tools he taught us to edit this image – here’s the list of tools that I applied:
I was particularly intrigued by the Grunge tool – one of my fellow workshop participants was a fan of the tool and shared some of his techniques with us. Using the Grunge tool, I was able to colorize and texturize the image resulting in the final version:
Earlier today, Om Malik shared a post comparing the iPhone camera with the old Kodak Brownie Camera – see Why the iPhone is Today’s Kodak Brownie Camera. It is amazing what these small “supercomputers in our pocket” are capable of in terms of image making and processing. This morning’s image of Boronda Lake is just my latest example.
The bright sun this Sunday morning motivated me to head over to Moss Beach and one of my favorite locations at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. A few of us were out walking when I turned around and saw this morning glow behind me.
Here’s the original image shot on my iPhone 12 Pro Max in ProRAW format and post processed in Lightroom on my iPhone.
I’m currently taking an iPhone Artistry course from Dan Burkholder and he has taught me some new techniques for image post processing. One of the approaches he taught involves using the app Formulas to create a distressed version of the image:
Next, I used the app InkWork to create a line drawing version of the image:
Using the app Image Blender, I combined the distressed version with the ink version to create the final version. This was over 90% blended to the original image with just a slide amount of the inking being added:
I like how the inking layer added some darker shadows to the tree trunks. And I was finished!
One of my favorite trees in Filoli is the Camperdown elm that sits between the Pool Pavilion and the base of the tennis court. It’s at the end of a long grass lawn across from the west side of the Garden House.
Here are a couple of earlierposts I’ve shared about this tree including one from 2013 when I first began noticing this tree. I had mistakenly called it an oak tree originally but was quickly educated to learn that it’s really a Camperdown elm.
During a recent visit, I was patiently waiting for some folks to get out of the image I was trying to make when two kids walked into a sunny spot on the edge of the image – and one of them was wearing red. Talk about the decisive moment!
I’ve had fun post-processing the image in different styles all on my iPhone. Here’s the original image shot with the Camera app on my iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Here’s the first processed version – with a lot of white balance tweaking and cropping done using both the Photos app and Snapseed.
Finally, here’s a painterly version – created using Adobe’s Paint Can app on my iPhone and then processed in Snapseed to brighten up a bit and add a border.
“There’s a belief among some — not all — nonfiction writers that all that matters is to get the facts,” Mr. Caro said, reflecting on his continuing quest to find the right words. “I don’t believe that. I believe that the quality of writing is just as important in nonfiction as in fiction.”
Meanwhile, at the White House this morning, the president’s schedule: President Trump will work from early in the morning until late in the evening. He will make many calls and have many meetings. Indeed.
Post-truth is pre-fascism, and Trump has been our post-truth president. When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves.
George Washington warned us that this could happen. Our nation’s first president wanted to unite Americans, and he believed political factions and parties were antithetical to that goal. He was the only president to avoid claiming one.
That means, to win elections, virtually all Republicans now need superheated turnout from the Trump base: white, non-college-educated, nonurban, and evangelical Christian voters. And that means Republicans of all stripes will feel pressure to continue portraying Democrats not merely as misguided or wrong, but as an existential threat to GOP voters’ lives—even as Wednesday’s riot captures how those alarms are exacerbating the greatest strains on the nation’s cohesion since the Civil War.
Like so many innovations in their early days, from the internet to the smartphone, no one is quite sure what low-cost, low-power data relays from space will enable—or whether there will be enough demand to sustain the many companies jostling to provide it. In the next year, hundreds of satellites from more than a dozen companies are set to launch.