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.

New Year’s Day 2012 at the Golden Gate

New Year's Day - San Francisco - 2012

In what’s become sort of a tradition for me, on New Year’s Day I head for the Golden Gate and see what I can find to start the new year off right.

Today, my favorite venue was blocked by construction fencing – so I headed to my next favorite venue – Baker Beach. I happened to arrive just as the California Hornblower sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge.

This image was shot in RAW with my Canon 5D Mark II and then processed tonight in Photoshop using Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 and Silver Efex Pro 2 before importing into Lightroom 3 for final cropping (16:9), toning, sharpening and noise reduction.

There were a lot of people enjoying Baker Beach when I shot the original image – but they were removed using the content-aware healing brush in Photoshop CS5 – yielding this final image. I’m sure they don’t mind! 😉

Time Together

Time Together - Rodeo Beach - 2011

Here’s one of my favorite images from last Saturday’s Rodeo Beach photo walk with Doug Kaye. Sort of like street shooting – except on the beach.

We were heading down toward the dramatic rocks at the south end of Rodeo Beach when I happened to notice this couple – hand in hand – walking toward the water.

They later explored together – looking for shells and other objects that had washed up on the beach.

But I’ll always remember them this way – hand in hand…

France 2006: An Example of Layers in a Photo

Shoes - Saint-Paul-de-Vence France - 2006

I had a great time this afternoon catching up with my good friend Doug Kaye. Doug’s recently had a pretty serious illness – and we were all worried about him during that time. But, based on my visit today, he’s almost back to his usual self – and about 20 pounds lighter. I hope we’ll be out shooting together again soon.

While we were getting caught up, Doug talked about this reaction to this particular photo of mine that I posted on Google+ last week. It’s kind of a strange shot – taken in a village in Provence, France in 2006 using one of my early Canon Powershot cameras – an S500. I was casually flipping through my portfolio of images in Lightroom when I stumbled across the original and something about it caught my eye. I brought the original image into Photoshop, tweaked it a bit (Tonal Contrast primarily) in Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 before taking it to black and white using Silver Efex Pro 2. A bit of vignetting, some subtle toning, and it was complete.

Doug’s reaction was what stimulated our conversation this afternoon – his comment on this photo was:

Love this one! The foreground bars give such a twist to the story. Lighting/vignetting really place the emphasis well. Great composition & crop.

— Doug Kaye

This fall, I’ve been taking a photography course at Stanford and one of the themes the instructor has educated us to is the notion of layers in a photo. I think that’s what Doug saw in this photo – and, perhaps, what I saw when I originally spotted in among a mass of older photos in my library. There are several layers at work here – the outer bars, the wall and ledge with the shoes, the windows, and the reflections in the windows – or both the bars and a more distant wall. Almost seems hard to imagine squeezing more layers into an image like this!

Another area of interest which caught my eye as I was scanning was the two window panes above the shoes with the whiter borders – as if the glass in them had recently been replaced. I like the checkerboard pattern those two panes add to the visual interest of this image.

I suspect I had no clue about any of this when I originally took this shot! But, it’s great fun to look at it now – and to appreciate a bit of what it teaches us about the power of layers and the treats those layers provide to our eyes!

Stars and Stripes – San Francisco – 2011

Stars and Stripes - San Francisco - 2011

I was out on San Francisco Bay yesterday for the Fleet Week Air Show with the Marin Photography Club. Here’s a shot I took in between the air show flights – this lovely old sailing vessel with a huge American flag flying off the fantail.

This image was shot with my Canon 5D Mark II using the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS L lens. It was post-processed using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 with a bit of selective color on the American flag – and a touch of blue toning overall.

If you ever have the opportunity to get out on the Bay for the Fleet Week events, do so! It was an incredible experience for me – and not just for the airplane pictures!

The Valley in January – Yosemite – 2011

The Valley in January - Yosemite - 2011

We’ve all seen photographs of this particular vantage point – Tunnel View as you enter Yosemite Valley on Wawona Road. When the valley opens up in front of you as you emerge from the tunnel, it’s stunning. And photographers love shooting the valley view from this site.

This January we spent a few days in Yosemite – and, naturally, we stopped at Tunnel View to snap a photo or two. As I was relaxing this Labor Day, I went looking through those photos to see if one might have potential. I chose this one taken in the late afternoon – because of the expansive view – and also because of how the sun shadow swept across the valley from upper right to lower left.

In the original image (see below), the shadow area in the lower right quadrant is almost completely darkened. I wondered what I might be able to accomplish with post-processing and first did a single-image tone mapped HDR of the original RAW file taken with my Canon 5D Mark II. Photomatix Pro did an amazing job of popping the details up out of the shadow area – including beautiful Bridalveil Fall. But, the rest of the image was very busy – a cluttered mess. I wanted something that was non-traditional – a different kind of perspective from this iconic location.

First, I used Nik’s Silver Efex 2 to convert the image to black and white. I adjusted the toning a bit, added a vignette – but was still unhappy with the result. After trying a couple of other filters, I settled in on the combination of the Low Key filter in Nik’s Color Efex 3 and Topaz Simplify. The toning is the result of Low Key, the reduced complexity/busy-ness of the image is the result of simplify. I used a tweak in Viveza to drop a control point on Bridalveil and brighten that up just a touch before pulling the image back into Lightroom for final noise reduction.

The result is different from the traditional valley view photos – hope you also enjoy the difference! Click on the image to see the large version.

Yosemite from Tunnel View - January 2011

The Rack

The Rack by by Scott Loftesness

I’m heading up to San Francisco this afternoon to meet up with Doug Kaye for an afternoon of exploring and photography. Thinking about it last night, I remember this photo taken at the first photo workshop I attended in 2009 with Chris Honeysett.

During the workshop, Chris had us set our cameras to display our images in black and white – and I remember feeling how different the feedback was when in that mode vs. looking at the usual color display on the back of my DSLR. There’s something about seeing the results in black and white that focuses on the quality of the light and not the noise of the color.

As we were leaving Embarcadero Center, I happened to notice this circular bicycle rack – which had exactly one bicycle in it – you can barely see it at the far end. I loved the symmetry of the circles in this rack – and bent down very low to take this shot. I post-processed it (an original JPEG) using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 and added in just a bit of color to set the mood.

The Power of Black and White – Canon S95 HDR

Maybe it’s the visit to the Ansel Adams show with Chris on Saturday that has sent me over the edge, but I’m continually intrigued by how one can take a color photo and turn it into a much more powerful black and white image.

See the photo below – it’s #3 from my initial Canon S95 HDR post earlier this morning.

Rodin's Gates of Hell @ Stanford

Frankly, I didn’t spend much time on this photo – the point was to provide it (a traditional HDR post-processed shot) as a point of comparison with the new in-camera HDR feature built-in to the S95.

As I was looking at it, I wondered how a conversion to black and white might look – now that I’ve become acquainted and familiar with Lightroom 3’s excellent Black and White Mix controls.

So, I gave it a shot – here’s the result – after about 10 minutes of tweaking in Lightroom:

Rodin's Gates of Hell - Canon PowerShot S95 - HDR

Obviously, it’s the same subject as the original photo – Rodin’s Gates of Hell – but it’s been transformed into a more powerful photograph through the conversion to black and white.

I also experimented for the first time using the new Lens Correction features in Lightroom 3 – to remove the distortion in terms of angle, etc. that I had in the original image. It now looks very close to a direct, head-on shot at the scuplture.

Finally, I tweaked it in Flickr – using Picnik to add a museum frame around it – dressing it up a bit.

I like the result. What do you think?

You may also want to view my Flickr set of Canon S95 HDRs taken this morning at Stanford.