Categories
Living Sacramento Travel

A Day Trip to Sacramento

Recently my friend Doug Kaye and I decided to venture beyond our usual San Francisco city street photography venues to get out beyond the bay a bit. After considering a couple of options, we headed to Sacramento for a day.

Doug lives in the North Bay and I’m on the Peninsula so we needed to figure out the best way for both of us to make the trip. After a bit of research, we settled on taking the train – the Capitol Corridor line which runs from San Jose to Sacramento – taking advantage of a special “Friends and Family” discount for buying two tickets.

We met at the Richmond BART station which is adjacent to the rail line making for a convenient transfer for me – I usually take BART to get into San Francisco and on this day I took BART under the Bay to Richmond and made the short walk from the BART station to the Amtrak station. Doug drove over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to Richmond.

We were pleasantly surprised by the Capitol Corridor train. It was about fifteen minutes late in arriving – but made up that delay and got us to Sacramento right on schedule. The train cars are double deckers and we headed upstairs to sit on the left side of the train. After leaving Richmond, the train line runs along the edge of the Bay as it heads northeast before crossing the Martinez Strait to head on to Davis and Sacramento.

Doug took advantage of the snack bar in one of the other cars to bring us back a fresh cup of coffee. We arrived in Sacramento on-time and took the long walk on the underground walkway from the train landing to the station building.

The Sacramento Valley Station is in the heart of downtown Sacramento and has one of those classic old high-ceiling waiting rooms.

It’s about a 15 minute walk from the station to our first stop at the California State Capitol. Right after going through security screening into the building, I caught a glimpse of Governor Gavin Newsom as he moved down the hallway waving to visitors.

The Assembly gallery in the Capitol was open the day we visited although the Senate gallery was closed and we weren’t able to visit that room.

On the main floor of the Capitol are several historic offices – including the old Treasurer’s Office which recreates the period when California’s state government didn’t trust banks and kept all of its assets in a big safe in that office! The old Governor’s office was also very interesting – it has many desks for more than just the governor himself!

For lunch, we headed to Biba Ristorante, a great Italian restaurant in a neighborhood east of the Capitol complex that came highly recommended. We enjoyed a great lunch (I had a delicious tomato-onion soup followed by Pollo alla Milanese)

After lunch we headed to Old Sacramento and the Delta King – an old stern wheeler which has been turned into a hotel. It’s in beautiful shape – looking freshly painted and very “ship shape”.

We walked north through Old Sacramento looking at the shops, saloons and restaurants along the way heading to the California State Railroad Museum.

This museum, a California State Park, is remarkable – an amazing place for railroad buffs. The upper level has a large model railroad display which brought back memories for me of the American Flyer train set that was one of my treasured toys growing up. One of the displays is a series of examples of all of the various model railroad gauges – all the way down to the tiny Z scale trains.

The docents at the Railroad Museum were a delight. They enjoyed telling us more about their exhibits, answering our questions and sharing. We particularly enjoyed the walk through both the sleeping car (which rocks and has sound and light effects simulating being on a real train trip to Chicago – “all trains go to Chicago!”) and the dining car with its displays of railroad dining china settings.

After the museum, we walked back to the Sacramento Valley Station and caught our return Capitol Corridor train to Richmond.

While this was a long day, we had a great time – and we got in a lot of exercise – over 10,000 steps and over 3 miles of walking. A great day of exercise for my legs as I’m finally back to almost 100% following my broken femur accident last spring!

Notes: All photos taken with an iPhone 11 Pro Max and edited on the iPhone using Photos.

Categories
History New Mexico Travel

Visiting the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

While I was in Santa Fe in July, I took the opportunity on my way back to Albuquerque to catch my flight to stop by the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History again. This was my second visit – having initially made a quick visit to the museum in July 2018.

Roughly speaking, the museum is divided into three sections – two indoor (nuclear weapons and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy) and the aircraft and missile display area outside. The weapons section is the first part you walk through at the beginning of touring the museum. It describes the history of the development of nuclear weapons – including the race America was against countries like Germany and Japan to develop this technology. It also includes discussion of the famous letter from Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt that led to the creation of the US national effort that became the Manhattan Project.

There’s an interesting exhibit that creatively recreates the scene at the Los Alamos Laboratory as this work was underway. I was particularly struck by the several old mechanical desktop calculators in the display – as the math involved in designing these weapons wasn’t perfected using computers but, rather, slide rules and these old calculators.

The rest of the weapons section includes examples a many nuclear weapons – including facsimiles of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan that led to the end of World War II with that country. As you walk through this display of weapons, it’s striking how they start out being relatively large but then shrink down in size to much smaller dimensions.

Outdoors in the aircraft and missile display area are examples of the Boeing B-29 used over Japan along with a beautifully preserved Boeing B-52 and also a Boeing B-47. There are a number of smaller aircraft as well – along with a replica to the tower used at the Trinity test site in New Mexico where the first test of an atomic weapon was conducted.

I’ve visited this museum twice and learned new things each time. On my recent visit, they were showing a film about the B-52 bomber which was quite interesting. I didn’t know that back in the 1950’s General Curtis LeMay (heading up the Strategic Air Command) had B-52’s in the air constantly that were armed with nuclear weapons and flew toward the Soviet Union only to then turn back and return. Only after a couple of nasty accidents involving aircraft crashes with nuclear weapons on-board did this practice moderate.

The other thing I learned about Albuquerque is what a nuclear city it is. Just a few miles from the museum site is one of the largest storage sites for nuclear weapons in the world – something called the Kirtland Underground Munitions Maintenance and Storage Complex (KUMMSC) where the US stores nuclear weapons – most waiting to be removed from service and disassembled.

Categories
Food and Drink France Travel

Better than French Fries!

During a recent visit to Normandy, we had lunch in the fishing village of Port-en-Bessin-Huppain at Le 47ème Brasserie. I should have ordered some seafood – the fresh fish market in town is right across the street – but, instead felt like a burger. When it arrived, I was surprised – no bun but, instead, top and bottom layers of hash brown-like potatoes. Not something you could pickup and eat like a normal burger – but it was very delicious nonetheless!

Nearby, just across the bridge, is a beach of sea shells unlike any I’ve ever seen (see below). After lunch, I walked about and did some exploring there.

Categories
Books Podcasts santa fe Travel

A Few Links for Labor Day

Here are a few links to articles and podcasts that I found interesting this Labor Day morning and over the past few days:

  • Malcolm Gladwell and Timor Kuran. A few days ago someone mentioned The Portal podcast hosted by Eric Weinstein (@EricRWeinstein) and, in particular, the episode with Duke University professor Timor Kuran (@timurkuran). Their discussion about Kuran’s theory of preference falsification was fascinating – especially about how things in society can “cascade”. A day or two later I happened to watch this New Yorker video (April 2018) with David Remnick and Malcolm Gladwell (@gladwell) during which Gladwell highlights perhaps his favorite New Yorker article titled Thresholds of Violence (October 2015) – about how school shootings have caught on in America. In that article, Gladwell talks about Stanford professor Mark Granovetter‘s famous 1978 paper about how riots happen – in particular how “a riot is a case of destructive violence that involves a great number of otherwise quite normal people who would not usually be disposed to violence.” He asks the question: “But what if the way to explain the school-shooting epidemic is to go back and use the Granovetterian model—to think of it as a slow-motion, ever- evolving riot, in which each new participant’s action makes sense in reaction to and in combination with those who came before?” The connection between Kuran’s false preferences and Granovetter’s threshold models of collective behavior was striking to me. I highly recommend both the Gladwell video and the Weinstein/Kuran discussion on the podcast – fascinating stuff with profound implications for our time.
  • Podcast: Land of the Giants – by Jason Del Rey. A few fascinating episodes exploring the success of Amazon.com. Highly recommended!
  • Podcast: The Moment with Brian Koppelman and his interview with author Ben Mezrich (author most recently of Bitcoin Billionaires which I also really enjoyed reading – see my highlights here).
  • Photography (YouTube): Pro Photographer, Cheap Camera Challenge – Sean Tucker – The challenge provides a photographer with a minimalist cheapie camera – and follows him shooting with it. Good fun!
  • Travel: The Insider’s Guide to Santa Fe – from Outside magazine and Tourism Santa Fe. One of my favorite small cities and the home of Santa Fe Photographic Workshops.
Categories
Hong Kong Street Photography Travel

Street Photography in Hong Kong

IMG_8306My photo buddy Doug Kaye and I traveled to Hong Kong in April for a week of street photography. It was a perfect time of year and the right length of time to be there.

This week Doug shares some of his thoughts from our trip on The Traveling Image Makers podcast with Ugo Cei and Ralph Velasco. It’s a great listen!

Categories
Norway Photography Travel

Scott @ Loftesnes

Scott @ Loftesnes

Back in Norway, my last name was spelled with one “s” on the end. Somewhere along the way, after immigrating to the US, my great grandfather decided to add a second “s” to the name – we suspect to make it “easier” to pronouce (ha!).

This is me – at a road sign at Loftesnes, Norway – shot in June 2002 with my first digital camera, a Kodak DC290 with a whopping 2 megapixel sensor. Tweaked a bit in Lightroom 5 and VSCO Film 05. Lots of memories from this trip!

Categories
Black and White Hawaii HDR Photography Monochrome Photography Photography Photography - Black & White Photography - Canon 5D Mark II Photomatix Pro Travel

Back to Hawaii in Monochrome with my Canon 5D Mark II

Tree in a Field on Mahukona-Niuli Road - Hawaii - 2009 by Scott Loftesness

One of my favorite things about Flickr is how I get to see some of my older images – just because someone else found them by searching on Flickr or Google! Each day, I enjoy looking at a report that Flickr provides of activity on all of my photos.

A couple of days ago, an earlier color HDR image of this photo turned up. It brought back memories of that place – on the Big Island of Hawaii on the road heading east of of Hawi. I shot this as a 3-image handheld bracketed shot with my Canon 5D Mark II. The original image I posted on Flickr was processed in Photomatix Pro.

Tonight, I opted to process the HDR using Photoshop’s Merge to HDR Pro. I then brought it into Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2, added some control points for tweaking before finishing it back in Photoshop with some dodging and burning using some new techniques we’ve been learning.

I find this composition very pleasing to the eye – with that gradual slope on the hillside, the beautiful angle of the tree and the foggy skies above. Ah, Hawaii indeed!

Categories
Black and White Cuba iPad iPhone 5 Monochrome Photography Photography Photography - Black & White Portraiture Travel

Sketching in Havana

In the Market (Sketch) - Havana - 2013
In the Market (Sketch) – Havana – 2013

Over breakfast this morning, I stumbled across a recommendation for the iOS application (both iPad and iPhone) My Sketch – which costs $1.99. I installed it and tried it out on one of my recent photos – which took all of about 30 seconds for me to complete and save! I liked the look of the pencil sketch lines coming into the image very much like the rays of light behind him actually did at the time I shot the image.

See more of my shots from Havana and Cuba here.

Categories
Photography Photography - Canon 5D Mark II Photoshop Travel

Adding Depth to an Image using Photoshop and Luminosity Painting

Sunrise - Lee Vining - 2012

As part of my desire to learn more about some advanced techniques in Photoshop, I’ve been concentrating on learning how best to take a flat image out of the camera and add depth to it using various image adjustment techniques – especially, dodging and burning. At one level, I’ve understood the basics of those techniques for a while – but I’ve not attempted to apply them in any serious way before now. Any student of Ansel Adams understands the use he made of those techniques!

So, I set out to explore and learn some more – and I learned a lot. What did we do before the Internet? Seriously, it’s amazing what a resource it’s become!

The basic idea involves being able to select carefully certain parts of an image for adjustment. Typically, luminosity – brightness – is most important but saturation, sharpness and other features follow. Most of the tools in Photoshop are blunt instruments that apply to the whole image – but you can constrain those adjustments to only portions of an image using selections and/or layer masks. In so doing, you can make much more selective adjustments – and create depth in an image that might have originally looked flat.

One of the first to describe a technique for this was Tony Kuyper – who in 2006 wrote about the idea of luminosity masks. A couple of years later, he described luminosity painting – and most recently, cooperated with Sean Bagshaw who has created a comprehensive video tutorial describing how to apply Tony’s techniques and Photoshop Actions/Panels in detail. If you want to understand the details, Tony and Sean’s work seems very comprehensive.

At the other extreme is a short video by Aaron Nace titled “Dodge and Burn Like a Boss: Using Apply Image” I stumbled across on Phlearn.com. In this video, he describes how to do selective dodging and burning using the notion of luminosity masks. His technique is different, in many ways simpler – but also less precise. For many images, that might be fine – it all depends on the level of precision adjustment you might want. And, when you watch the video, fasten your seat belt. Aaron moves along quickly – so be ready to stop and review as he explains his technique!

Tonight I created an example of applying Aaron’s technique to an image I shot last fall in the Eastern Sierras on an amazing photo workshop with Michael Frye. Up top you can see the image after walking through the adjustments – and below is the original, out of the camera image. It’s pretty flat, frankly. The edited image has more color – but, more importantly, more depth and, I think, overall richness.

IMG_0717

But, I’m still learning! Let me know what you think by sharing a comment below!

Categories
iPad Nikon Photography Photography - Nikon D600 Travel

Crafting an iPad Wallpaper – On South Beach

Easy Rider - Miami Beach - 2013

There’s something about some photos that just grab you. When Doug Kaye and I were exploring South Pointe Park and the beach heading north from there in late January 2013, we came across this bicycle, probably one of the local rentals, hitched up to a post right on the beach. Wow. You start thinking that it’s one of those special moments – where it doesn’t get better than this. So, you take the shot.

As I was looking back at this image today, I thought that it might be a good candidate for an iPad wallpaper – for my lock screen. Seeing it brings me back to that lovely morning – just walking up the beach, a peaceful easy feeling indeed.

So, I decided to try making it into an iPad wallpaper image for my lock screen. I pulled it into a 2048×2048 square image at 264 dpi (for iPad’s with a Retina Display) in Photoshop CS6. I adjust the image placement for the rotation that the iPad does between portrait and landscape – brought down the highlights a bit and then tucked in my contact information.

Here’s a generic version of the result:

Bike at the Beach-iPad Wallpaper-generic

I made a similar image a few years ago – which has been my iPad’s lock screen image from then until today.