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The Master’s Tools – Fort Ross – Sonoma Coast

The Master's Tools - Fort Ross - 2012

Last weekend, I was in Bodega Bay for the Sonoma Coast Workshop led by Derrick Story. This was my third workshop with Derrick – and the second taken alongside my photo buddy Doug Kaye.

Derrick is a great teacher and his workshops are among the best I’ve ever experienced. The groups are small – which makes everyone feel open and sharing – and this particular venue was just outstanding.

The shot below is from Fort Ross on the Sonoma Coast. Doug pointed out this amazing room – I thought of it as the carpenter’s master suite – and I shot this image with my tiny Canon PowerShot S100. It was post-processed using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 and Lightroom 4 – a great combination for this kind of nimble, lightweight photography on the move!

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The Solent Mark III Flying Boat

Short Bros. Solent MkIII - Oakland - 2009

Imagine boarding this flying boat in Southhampton, England for your journey to Johannesburg, South Africa in the late 1940’s! With several stops along the way for overnight rest – as the plane only flew during daylight hours.

According to the museum’s commentary, the flying boat made “overnight stops along the route in such exotic locales as Augusta, Sicily; Luxor, Egypt (landing on the Nile); Lake Victoria and at the head of Victoria Falls in what was then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) with the final stop at Vaal Dam outside Johannesburg.” I suspect you got to know your fellow travelers pretty well by the time you arrived in Africa!

This is a Short Brothers Solent Mark III Flying Boat on display at the Oakland Aviation Museum near the Oakland International Airport. The museum offers tours of the flying boat on Saturdays and Sundays – and is also offering a unique dining experience onboard the Solent on the second Saturday of each month.

The image was shot with my Canon 5D Mark II and post-processed using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2. A red filter was used to darken the sky and add contrast – and the image was tightly cropped to emphasize the body of the flying boat. I happened to stop at the museum on July 4, 2009 and captured this image as the foggy skies were beginning to breakup over the airport.

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A Walk at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Yesterday, we took a walk through the “tunnel” of trees at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve north of Half Moon Bay. This image was shot using my iPhone 4S and adjusted in Snapseed on the iPhone itself – pretty amazing how you can hold such great photography tools in your hand these days!

Fitzgerald black and white

These trees were planted in the late 1800’s by Juergen Wienke, a German immigrant who named the area “Moss Beach” and opened a hotel in the area.

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Our BART Photo Tour

Car 28 - San Francisco - 2012

Yesterday, Doug Kaye and I headed out for another one of our duo photo walks. These are always great fun – as we get to catch up and chat while having a fun time photographing things that we see. We usually pick a venue and work it pretty thoroughly – but this time we tried something different.

The weather forecast looked like it might be a nasty day to be out and about – so Doug suggested we try hopping on BART and then getting off at a couple of the more interesting stations to just see what we could find that might be interesting.

Sounded like a plan – we agreed to meet at the Powell St. BART station – me arriving from Daly City and Doug from North Berkeley. We both got there within 5 minutes of each other and could see some blue sky up through the exit. So, instead of staying underground, we headed outside to Market Street and began taking pictures.

The one above is of the Muni cable car turntable at Powell and Market Streets. This image was shot with my Canon PowerShot S100 and post processed using Adobe Lightroom 4. Because of the weather and our original plan of mostly being underground, we both left our big cameras behind and just brought along small cameras – the S100 in my case and a brand new Fujifilm X-Pro 1 that Doug had rented for the weekend.

From there, we walked down Yerba Buena Lane to Yerba Buena Center where we explored “puddle photography” – taking pictures of reflections in puddles of water, glass reflections, the kids’ carousel, and more.

After lunch at Mel’s, we walked back to BART and headed toward the Glen Park station – apparently known for its architecture.

After that, on to SFO Airport and the Aviation Museum there. I’ve been to that airport hundreds of times – but never to the museum! We had fun talking with the curators there and were able to have some fun taking photos of an Italian motorcycle exhibit in the large International terminal. From there, we headed home – to begin looking at what we had captured during the day – some 115 images in my case!

It’s always fun to see what we each captured and what (and how) we choose to interpret our images in post-processing.

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Looking Back…

This is one of those weekends that provokes a look back. As I wrote last year, these two days in March will never be quite the same.

I spent some time tonight looking back at my photo archive and ended up settling on a few shots taken in 2008 – from a trip to Sausalito and Fort Baker. These were both taken on the same day in March 2008 with my since retired Canon EOS 40D DSLR (a really great camera, IMHO!) – and I processed them for the first time tonight. Most of the processing was done in Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 and Lightroom 4.

Up top is a shot taken at Fort Baker of a woman fishing out in the Bay. I chose a traditional monochrome view for this shot.

Below is a San Francisco bay and skyline shot taken from Sausalito. This one, while also monochrome, has different toning applied – appropriate to the sky/water elements in this image.

I love both of these images – they bring back lots of memories of that day! Hope you like them! Click on either image to see a larger version.

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Walker Evans – from the Ideal to the Ordinary

Last Thursday, I attended a lecture on Walker Evans given by Jeff L. Rosenheim at Stanford’s Cantor Art Center. Rosenheim is Curator, Department of Photographs, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art – and a leading authority on Walker Evans. The Cantor has a comprehensive exhibition of Evans’ work on display currently – it’s a delight to enjoy.

Walker EvansRosenheim divided his talk into three parts – a biographical introduction to Evans, his primary years photographing New York, Paris, Havana, and the American South, and his later years at Fortune and Yale. A frustrated writer, Evans turned to photography instead – and made photographs that have become the iconic images that document life in American in those days.

As I’ve been spending a bit more time studying the works of Evans, I found a wonderful volume at my local Menlo Park Library this morning titled “Unclassified – A Walker Evans Anthology” edited by Rosenheim and published by the Metropolitan in 2000.

In the introduction to this volume, Maria Morris Hambourg, Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs at the Metropolitan writes:

“…[Evans] sensed that the timbre of the time was conveyed with a peculiar authenticity through vernacular things rather than formal or academic expressions, and he therefore made a habit of studying billboards, roadside stands, wrecked cars, rural churches, graffiti, and trash for signal significance. Shifting attention from the ideal to the ordinary, he leveled the landscape of art.”

From the ideal to the ordinary – Evans made the ordinary so special. Walking through this exhibition of his images, you can see the most ordinary elements of American life through Evans’ special eye. Remarkable.

Whether he is an artist or not, the photographer is a joyous sensualist, for the simple reason that the eye traffics in feelings, not in thoughts. – Walker Evans

[Notes: When asked about his other favorite American photographers, Rosenheim mentioned Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Dorothea Lange, Lee Friedlander and Helen Levitt.]

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An Appreciation of Walker Evans

With my friend Doug Kaye today, I explored the Walker Evans exhibition currently running at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University.

As we explored Evans’ images, several themes came through, among them:

  • His composition – with street shots that are aggressively composed or cropped to leave just a hint of some elements. Cars, for example, were often present but very limited in their intrusion into the scene.
  • His desire to include advertising signs – as indicative of the mood on the street. Doug comments about how Coca Cola advertising signs could be seen in several of Evans’ shots – and how it reminded him on recent times in Africa where Coca Cola advertising could be seen in the villages today.
  • His subway shots – and how they exposed his subjects. About his subway shooting, he wrote: “The guard is down and the mask is off even more than in lone bedrooms (where there are mirrors), people’s faces are in naked repose down in the subway.” Indeed.
  • His SX-70 shots – in the last year of his life – which are strikingly like Instagram shots we take and share today on our iPhones.

The is a great exhibition – be sure to get there if you can before it closes on April 8, 2012. See also my post Walker Evans – from the Ideal to the Ordinary.

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Point Montara Light Station

Late this afternoon, I headed over to Half Moon Bay – specifically to Montara and the Point Montara Light Station – to join up with a small group of Google+ photographers. I tried several HDR shots – none of which worked very well given the continuous movement in the ocean. But this image grabbed me – primarily because of the vanishing point effect of the clouds merging at the lighthouse.

I shot this with my Canon 5D Mark II on a tripod – using a Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 lens. I shot it at f/11 at 1/50 of a second and post-processed it in PhotoShop CS5 using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 and Color Efex Pro 4 filters. I particularly like the wide tonal contrast around the lighthouse in this image.

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Water Jugs Revisited

Water Jugs 2 - San Francisco - 2011

Back in September, I posted a black and white image of three water jugs that I took earlier at one of the restaurants at the Ferry Building in San Francisco using my tiny Canon PowerShot S95. I loved the black and white treatment I was able to create with Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2.

This afternoon I played around a bit more with this image – basing my new treatment on that earlier post-processed black and white. I wanted to try some selective color enhancements to add some glow and depth to the image. Above is the result. Not sure why this image came to mind – but there’s something about it that I particularly enjoy and it drew me back to post-processing it again using some new techniques and new tools that I’ve been learning this fall.

This afternoon’s image certainly isn’t perfect – for example, I don’t like the subtle glow around the jugs or the bright lines on the bottle edges – but you get the idea of what’s possible from this version. In particular, the filters I used to enhance the image included Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 – especially detail enhancer to pull up the details of the condensation on the jugs – along with two Solid Color adjustment layers to add the tonality to the image and a final Selective Color adjustment layer to tweak the final colors.

For easy reference, below is the earlier black and white version. Click on either image to see the large version. Which do you prefer?

Water Jugs - San Francisco - 2011