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.
Tonight I came across this image – of a couple in beautiful light on a rock in New York’s Central Park. The original image wasn’t very sharp – shot with my tiny Canon PowerShot S90 – so I opted to exploit the light and textures instead – using a painterly treatment in Photoshop CC along with some other tricks.
I love how the light turned out – and how they’re so present in the image.
I’ve got two photos of mine hanging in my home office. One is a wide image shot at Sparks Lake near Bend, Oregon this summer. The other is a monochrome version of this “Bookends” image. Both are Sizzlpix images – and they’re magnificent. No frames, they just stand out from the wall as if they’re floating there. Beautiful.
I’ve been wanting to go back to “Bookends” for a while – to try a color version. The monochrome is very powerful – but there are some beautiful colors in the original shot taken with my Canon PowerShop S90 (since sold!).
This version was re-edited in Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC. A subtle use of Topaz Simplify 4 was applied before using the Camera Raw filter to make some final tweaks. A bit of sharpening and a vignette applied back in Lightroom finished it off.
Brings back such great memories of our visit to New York!…
I hadn’t – until just a few years ago – even though I’ve lived within a few hours drive for over twenty years. Finally, I took a few one day quick trips in – and came away in awe of the beauty of Yosemite Valley.
This image is from one of those trips – shot with a tiny Canon PowerShot S90. This is early June 2010 – three years ago – when I made one of those one day dashes into the valley. Yosemite Falls was flowing and I was able to capture this image from along the road heading west out of the Valley.
If you haven’t been to Yosemite, you must go. Try to go in the spring or fall to avoid the crowds – but, even with the crowds, it’s an amazing place. You won’t be the same again after seeing it!
Three years ago, in 2010, we took a winter vacation to the big island of Hawaii.
We met up with our friends for a Saturday morning drive up to the Waimea Homestead Farmers Market – and captured this shot of these “bright beets” with my Canon PowerShot S90. I’ve put some of my other shots from that morning in this set of photos on Flickr.
I’ve since sold that camera – and upgraded to the Canon PowerShot S100 – but I learned so much about compact point and shoot photography with that little S90. Brings back lots of great memories – including the great time we had in Hawaii on a winter vacation just three years ago.
I just took a look back at the most popular web pages here on my blog during the last twelve months of 2012. The most popular pages – based on page views – weren’t written this year – but they’ve stood the test of time – at least as far as Google and the other search engines are concerned.
Here’s the list of top 10 posts based on page views during 2012:
A Floating Faucet Fountain (Jun 13, 2009) – One of those fun stories that brings back childhood memories of home shows and the like!
Look at that list – no posts from 2012 made the top 10! It’s kinda crazy how long the long tail is. In the case of my blog, the top 3 posts accounted for over 50% of this year’s page views. The remaining 40+% were spread out among hundreds of other posts. I wonder how this distribution might change in 2013?
Tonight’s edition of Trey’s Variety Hour (Episode #34) is hosted by my friend Doug Kaye. The topic of the show – totally unrelated to gear for a change! – is “How do you learn and improve your photography?” A great topic – and one I’m sure I can learn from.
As I think about the topic before watching the show, it’s caused me to do a little reflecting back on what has been important to me as I’ve been learning and exploring photography over the last five years or so. I happened to get back into photography in a big way about that time when my first granddaughter was born. That gave me a great excuse (!) to go out and buy a decent digital SLR. Since then, it’s been mostly about practice – but sometimes new inputs are very helpful in lifting you from plateau to a new level!
So, unlike the show topic, let me first talk about my experience with gear – because that’s been an important part of my learning of photography…
How did I decide which DSLR to buy? Well, I happened to come across a blog post by Doc Searles – he had taken a memory card into a camera store and shot a bunch of images using both a Canon and Nikon body. After looking at his results, he decided to buy the Canon EOS 30D DSLR. It took me about three minutes to read Doc’s review – which caused me to then pull the trigger on Amazon.com and order my own 30D! Amazing how social recommendations can be so powerful! As any DSLR photographer knows, that first camera body decision effectively locks you in – since once you start adding “glass” (lenses), you’re committed to that manufacturers system.
My 30D was a great DSLR to get me back into photography. When I bought it, I didn’t even know what a crop (APC) sensor was – I learned that after the fact when I bought an additional lens. I’ve got many images on Flickr shot with that 30D – see some of them here. Mostly snapshots of family and local environs.
About a year later, Canon introduced the 40D – and for no good reason I decided to upgrade to it – selling my 30D to help pay for the new camera. About this time, I became acquainted with HDR – High Dynamic Range photography – and some of my images from this period have that “over the top” amateur HDR look. I remember one of my first attempts at handheld HDR at Stanford – the rapid fire bracketing of the 40D was just right for my early experiments. Heck, I didn’t even own a tripod then!
Then, in January 2009, I upgraded again to the Canon 5D Mark II – again selling my 40D. I listed the 40D for sale used on Amazon.com – and the buyer ended up being another local Menlo Park resident. We met at my office to give him the camera – small world sometimes!
The 5D Mark II has been my main camera for serious work over the last three years. Along the way, I’ve added some additional lenses – including the Canon 70-200MM f/2.8 L and the Canon 24-105 f/4 L lenses – both of which have been my workhorse lenses. I’ve also got a few primes – 28mm, 50mm f/1.4 and the 85mm f/1.8 which see less frequent usage.
Along the way, I had a serious rotator cuff injury in my right shoulder such that I couldn’t even lift the 5D for shooting. That’s all been fixed – but, along the way, I bought a Canon PowerShot S90 to allow me to continue to shoot pre-surgery. Since then, I’ve upgraded my tiny camera twice – to a Canon PowerShot S95 and am now using a Canon PowerShot S100. These are great tiny cameras! On most of my serious photo sessions, I’ll have my 5D Mark II over my shoulder (thank you Black Rapid!) with the PowerShot in my jacket pocket. I’ll always also have along my iPhone which, now with the iPhone 4S, also takes some amazingly great images! So, I’ve got three cameras with me in the field! Go figure!
On to learning. So what’s been my learning process? Of course, since I’m an avid online reader, I’ve soaked up a bunch of articles, etc. that have taught me new things. My early infatuation with HDR was fueled by Trey’s own Stuck in Customs blog – and his tutorials. Trey also taught me about the use of textures to enhance images – and I’ve had fun with that for a few of my shots.
I’ve taken several photo workshops along the way including one with Ken Rockwell and Dave Wyman that was a lot of fun out in the field. Perhaps the most valuable workshops for me have been the two I’ve taken with Derrick Story at his studio in Santa Rosa. Derrick’s a great teacher and these workshops with seven other colleagues were very helpful to me – highly recommend what Derrick does.
But I think, as is so often the case, the real learning takes place by just doing it – trying new things, experimenting, and pushing myself. The best approach for me is a combination of regular solo shooting – photography really is mostly a solitary pursuit – along with regular venue shoots that Doug and I have been doing over the last couple of years – here’s a list of my posts about our adventures.
I find a two person photo walk with a good friend to be very rewarding – we see through each others eyes in new ways, things we might otherwise have missed. We slow down, we work a venue – and things just open up for us in the process. After the shoot, we each go home and independently work on our images – and then slowly share them. It’s so much fun to see what we each pick to work on first, how we approach post-processing, and then sharing our comments back and forth. My son and I also did a one day workshop in Yosemite with Michael Frye – a very similar experience. These sessions have definitely been the most valuable learning opportunities for me.
As I’m finishing up an already too long post, I realize that I’ve skipped over the post-processing learnings that have also had a big impact on me (including an amazing 2 hour 1:1 Skype workshop last year with Jaime Ibarra). I’ve also unfortunately overlooked the learnings from the late Chris Gulker – my good friend and walking partner who taught me so much about the power of black and white photography in the short time that I knew him. I’ll have to share more on those later. One final learning – in 2011 – was the begin curating what I thought were my best images – you can find them in my gallery here: http://photos.sjl.us – I’d love to hear your feedback on them! Click on the Contact link in the nab bar above to email me your thoughts.
2011 turned out to be a big year for me in my pursuit of photography skills. As I reflect back on my learnings, I thought I’d try to write down the highlights of the year for me in this New Year’s Eve post.
Beginning with my purchase of my first digital SLR about five years ago (a Canon 30D which I purchased immediately after reading Doc Searls post about his evaluation of this camera!), I’ve been making steady progress learning more about both the most important shooting skills for capturing images as well as the post-processing techniques that can really help enhance an image.
For me, it’s all about trying to get it right at capture time in the camera – but then also maximizing the image’s beauty in post-processing. Among other things, I’ve learned that even if the capture isn’t perfect, the end result can still be stunning with the right post-processing. But, it all begins with trying to get the right image at capture.
As we’re wrapping up 2011, I took a look back at what posts on this blog generated the most page views during 2011. Here’s the top twelve list (in honor of 2012!) – along with my commentary on each post:
Last year, I attended Sunset’s Celebration Weekend and, among the images from that day, I especially enjoyed this succulent wall. One of the exhibitors – Succulent Gardens – had put together this succulent wall that I found really interesting.
I took the photo with my tiny Canon PowerShot S90 (since sold and replaced with an S95). It’s been post-processed a bit more than usual – first I tweaked it in Nik’s Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro 3 before adding just a touch of Photoshop’s Pixel Bender Oil Paint and then, back in Lightroom, gradients around all four sides with a bit of darkening and subtle blurring to keep your eyes from wandering off the edges! Hope it works for you – this is one of those images where there’s so much to see – a lot of visual interest! Click on the image to see a larger version.
When I began working on it, I thought it would be a good black and white candidate – but I ended up liking this color version better. For an example of a black and white – actually greyscale (!) version of a succulent, see this one taken in San Francisco in 2009.