Monochrome Photography Nikon Photography Photography - Nikon D600 San Francisco/California Street Photography

Double Vision – The Nikon D600 and Street Photography

Double Vision - San Francisco - 2013 by Scott Loftesness

Here’s an image I shot at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on Saturday morning as I was heading to the annual San Francisco St. Patrick’s Day parade. The whole Yerba Buena Center complex is a photographers delight – chock full of interesting people, some amazing textures, waterfalls, trees and lawn – you name it, it’s all here in a bit less than a city block!

For the last several years, my primary camera has been a Canon 5D Mark II DSLR. It’s a wonderful camera and has done an amazing job for me. I’ve got a collection of Canon prime and zoom lenses for that camera that work beautifully and have helped me capture some beautiful images. I have lots of wonderful memories of trips to venues around the west with my Canon! (Check out my Cool Tools page for details on my favorite gear!)

In January, Doug Kaye and I headed to Havana, Cuba to participate in a person-to-person cultural exchange program organized by the great folks at Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. Along with our workshop colleagues, we had an amazing week in Havana – and I had a blast getting into the world of street photography which was pretty much a new experience for me.

A few months before the Cuba trip, I bought a new Nikon D600 – shortly after this new camera body was introduced. In particular, I was interested because of the early reviews and reports about the D600’s Sony sensor – and its wider dynamic range. Dynamic range describes the range of the camera’s sensor in accurately capturing whites to blacks – and the D600 ranked very highly at being able to capture one of the widest dynamic ranges. For a lot of my kind of photography, that dynamic range is important – so I opted to get the D600. I was also stimulated by my friend Doug Kaye’s Nikon passion and the fact that on many of the photo shoots we do together he brings along his wide assortment of Nikon lenses!

For the Havana trip, I mostly shot with the D600 kit lens – Nikon’s 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 zoom lens – and it did a fabulous job. I mostly left the D600 on auto everything (ISO, Focus, P mode, etc.) and just shot away. I got some great shots – the camera did an wonderful job.

Recently, I decided to get the Nikon lens that seems to be everyone’s favorite for street photography on Nikon DSLR camera bodies – the Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens. On Saturday, I took this one lens up to San Francisco to shoot the annual San Francisco St. Patrick’s Day parade and, along the way, snapped this self-portrait image in the window at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. This is a great lens for street photography – the combination of its ability to go reasonably wide along with its ability to do a long zoom make for a near perfect lens for daytime street photography. Here’s another example of using the reach of this lens.

I’m still trying to master the autofocus options on my D600 – especially for street photography. The “double vision” in this image has nothing to do with those – it’s just the glass! – but I’m convinced that once I master those the D600 and this 28-300mm lens with be my ideal street photography rig. I’m anxious to do more exploring with it!

Black and White Golden Gate Lightroom Nik Software Photography Photography - Black & White Photography - Canon 5D Mark II San Francisco/California

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! 😉

Palo Alto Photography Photography - Canon 5D Mark II Photoshop

New Photoshop Learnings from Jaime Ibarra

I recently took a 1:1 workshop with Jaime Ibarra – wanting to learn more about his technique for post-processing images. His approach to post-processing is strikingly different – and one which I enjoy. And he’s also an amazing photographer as well!

Jaime and I spent a couple of hours together via Skype video talking about both his approach to photography, some new challenges for me, and then his approach to post-processing images in Photoshop. I’ve been to several photography workshops over the last couple of years – but this one was really unique and different – and I learned a lot!

Frankly, I expected our time together would focus mostly on post-processing – but we spent a lot of time upfront talking just about photography, what it means to us, how we approach it, how we’re challenged by it, etc. That discussion was surprising for me – and enlightening. Great fun. Perhaps even more useful to me in terms of my wanting to learn about portrait shooting than the post-processing techniques Jaime subsequently shared.

So, what did I learn? Here’s an example of an image I both shot and post-processed earlier today using some of what I learned from my workshop with Jaime. The colors are different – not exactly unusual, but different. Different enough to matter and capture the mood. The venue is the California Avenue Farmers Market in Palo Alto. The image is titled “Karmel Korn” – shot with my Canon 5D Mark II with the Canon 135mm f/2 lens.

Kettle Korn -Palo Alto - 2011

Thanks to both Trey Ratcliff and Victor Cajiao for introducing me to Jaime.

Black and White Nik Software Photography Photography - Black & White Photography - Canon 5D Mark II Yosemite

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
HDR Photography Photography Photography - Canon 5D Mark II

Yosemite – Handheld HDR with Canon 5D Mark II

Half Dome - Yosemite - 2010

Very early yesterday, I headed into Yosemite National Park for a quick one day photo shoot – with my Canon 5D Mark II and Canon PowerShot S90 in hand. You can see some early results in my Yosemite Flickr set here.

Most of the photos I shot with the 5D were shot on a monopod – good for some stability and sharpness in the individual images but not good enough for post-processing HDR images without aligning the photos.

A few tests confirmed that Photomatix wasn’t nearly as good as Photoshop CS5 at aligning the 3 raw images I had shot for each capture. So my workflow evolved into the following:

  1. Open the 3 images in PhotoShop as layers in a single document. The simplest way to do this is to use Bridge CS5 – selecting Tools – Photoshop – Load Files into Photoshop Layers… after selecting the 3 images to be used.
  2. Once Photoshop has opened the images, then select Edit – Auto Align to align the layers.
  3. Then select Files – Scripts – Export Layers to Files… to export each layer (now aligned with the others). Select JPG when prompted and select a filename and location that makes sense for these 3 images.
  4. Now that the images have been aligned (this is only a requirement for handheld HDR!), you can go ahead and open them in Photomatix and continue the HDR creation process.
  5. Once you’ve tweaked Photomatix and saved the resulting HDR image, you may want to open it again in Photoshop and apply a few additional adjustments – sharpening in particular.

That’s it – a bit complicated. Makes me want to go invest in a good tripod – to avoid the need to auto-align the images!

HDR Photography Photography Photography - Canon 5D Mark II Photomatix Pro Stanford

Shoot HDR on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II – Rodin’s Gates of Hell

IMG_0088_89_90_tonemappedHere’s my first attempt at handheld HDR photography using my new Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

The setting is Rodin’s Gates of Hell at the Cantor Arts Center on the Stanford University campus.

I love their description:

“The Rodin Sculpture Garden is open all hours, with lighting for nighttime viewing. Admission is free.”

I took three raw shots while seating on the ground, holding the camera as steady as I could, using Aperture Priority with three high-speed shots on the 5D Mark II.