Earlier today, Doug Kaye and I headed to Open Studios at Hunters Point in San Francisco.
We had a great time talking with one of my favorite local visual artists – Pep Ventosa – at his studio in Building 101. I love Pep’s work – with multiple exposures and blending in Photoshop. Beautiful work.
Afterwards, we headed over to another area of Hunters Point for some photography…
This is a shot of +Doug Kaye working one of the more interesting subjects we came across – a sculpture of a woman seated – made of nails. Doug’s shooting with his Sony NEX-7.
Shot with my Nikon D600 and post-processed in Photoshop CS6.
My friend Chris Gulker taught me late in his life to pay attention to light and shadows. It’s a way of seeing – being focused on the contrasts we see. Another thing I’ve learned to pay attention to are puddles – as they open another window on a subject. Often with an unusual perspective.
After we got back from Cuba, Doug Kaye and I headed to Embarcadero Center in San Francisco for another photo walk. This has become one of our favorite venues – so much great light, angles, people, and other delightful stuff.
As we were getting started this particular morning, we headed out southeast of the Ferry Building and started noticing the puddles along the way. Ah, reflections!
While Doug was capturing this shot – shooting with an Olympus OM-D, I captured him.
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:
I made a similar image a few years ago – which has been my iPad’s lock screen image from then until today.
But before getting to South Beach that Tuesday morning, we went to South Pointe Park – and walked around the point along the beach. It was a beautiful morning – one of those amazing days in the middle of winter where you realize why some folks really like living in Miami – and you’re envious!
Along the way, we captured some beach scenes – including this one above of a bicycle hitched up to a post.
And, below, another shot – of my photo buddy Doug Kaye as we were shooting each other on the beach!
Looking back on it, I think 2011 was perhaps the steepest slope in my photography learning curve – it was a remarkable year.
This year, my photography has continued to progress – but perhaps not quite as dramatically as that year of 2011. Looking back on it, I think I’ll remember 2011 as “my year” – when I seriously began moving beyond “snapshots” into serious photography. Here are my highlights of 2012 for my photography.
Last year I mentioned paying more attention to getting the image right in capture. What’s proven to be most important about that is slowing down – and “working the subject” in the moment. For me, it’s a struggle between my right/left brains. I need to force myself to flip between the more critical, analytical left brain and to get into the more creative right brain. I’m finding this easier to do – the more I shoot in the field, the more aware I’ve become of the flip.
I still worry a lot about getting the right capture – applying all of my left brain analytical skills to that task – but try to flip modes over to my right brain where I worry less about those details and just be creative. In my experience, I’ve begun to de-emphasize the gear and technique and emphasize the “in the moment” aspects – which are almost always surprising – and which I find delightful. Those shots add a lot to my enjoyment of photography.
Once again in 2012, Doug Kaye and I did several 1:1 photo walks around the Bay Area in 2012. These are always special – we pick a venue but let the experience take us where ever it does – at least once a month.
There’s nothing better that doing this kind of shooting – it’s great fun with a great friend and always a delight. As I mentioned last year, these photo walks are a “learning accelerator” for me.
I benefited greatly from several photo workshops this year.
Perhaps the most valuable was the Eastern Sierra Fall Colors workshop that Doug and I attended led by Michael Frye. I’d never been to the other side of the Sierras – and seeing the colors in the fall in the company of Michael was amazing. A wonderful experience. I’m a big fan of Michael’s – having taken a private one-day workshop from him in Yosemite with my son David back in the fall of 2010. He’s a great teacher!
Earlier Doug and I enjoyed the Sonoma Coast Workshop led by Derrick Story. We’ve both taken several weekend workshops from Derrick – and learned a lot from each one. This time we headed up to Fort Ross – and had a great time shooting in wonderful light – plus doing a model shoot on the beach at Bodega Bay.
If I were to label my 2012 photography learning, it’d be labeled Post-Processing. I’ve learned so much this year about how to take an image and make it into something I really enjoy. Lots of new tools have been part of that process for me – including the suite of Nik’s tools, Photoshop, Lightroom, etc. I’ve come to respect the Topaz tools for their ability to simplify and amplify images. And a huge set of learning came from the Lab color techniques of Dan Margulis and, simplified, Lee Varis. A workshop with local expert Mark Lindsay also had a big impact on my awareness of these techniques. 2012 was a great year for my post-processing skills – and I look forward to learning and applying them in 2013.
In 2011, I began creating my portfolio – for the first time. This year, I continued to add to it – such that there are now several hundred images in that portfolio.
This year, I wanted to focus on pairing that huge collection down to what I might consider “my best” – but I failed to do so. A goal of mine in 2013 is to try to do that – to distill my work down to 40 or so images that I consider my best work – out of the 400+ currently in my portfolio culled from the ~30,000 images in my Lightroom library. I’m always amazed at how the great photographers in history are judged on the basis of such a small set of their life’s work in photography. We went to see a Walker Evans exhibition at Stanford’s Cantor Art Museum this year – about 70 photographs represented his lifetime of work in Photography.
In November, I began working on a photo book with my most interesting work from 2012. I used iPhoto again this year to build the book – and the results came out looking great. I gave several copies to family members as Christmas gifts. Here are the photos I used for the 2012 photo book.
Online, I continue to enjoy Google+ where the community of photographers is very strong and engaged. After each of our photo walks, Doug and I typically share a few of our favorite shots on Google+. Flickr continues to be another valuable resource – and the iPhone app update that Flickr made late in the year brought a lot of fun back to using Flickr on the go.
I’ve been living a digital life with my photography – meaning that I’ve only been sharing bits of images online and doing very little printing of my images. What printing I’ve done this year has been using either Apple’s iPhoto books service or, for individual prints, Costco’s in-store printing.
I realize this is the next and, perhaps, final step for my work – completing the capture to print workflow. I’m looking forward to adding printing to my photography skills in 2013!
2012 was a different year for my photography – a more serious year and one more focused on both the details of capture but, perhaps more importantly, on the world of post-processing.
I’m looking forward to the new photography experiences and learning coming up in 2013 – including some radically new venues like Havana and Death Valley. Should be fun and rewarding!
My 2012 Photography Resources
See my Cool Tools page for my current list of recommendations. One major change this year was the purchase of a Nikon D600 2 – my first new DSLR in several years.
Photography is such an amazing and satisfying hobby. Here’s my latest example…
In late October, my photo buddy Doug Kaye and I headed east over Hwy 120 through Yosemite to Lee Vining for an Eastern Sierra photography workshop led by Michael Frye and Mike Osborne. We’d never made this trip – over the ridge and down into Lee Vining and Hwy 395 that runs on the eastern side of the Sierras.
I’d done a private workshop with Michael and my son David two years ago in Yosemite Valley and knew that he was a great teacher. That experience is what caused me to sign up for this Eastern Sierra workshop when it was announced almost a year ago. (Michael’s workshops fill up very quickly – often the same day they’re announced!)
This weekend turned out to be an amazing experience – one that I’ll never forget. Doug and I both agreed this workshop was the best workshop experience we’d ever had. We came home exhausted – but amazed at what we’d learned along the way.
I have many favorite images from this weekend – but one of my favorites is an image I shot from a special spot in Lee Vining Canyon where we spent the late afternoon on Saturday.
When we arrived, the sun was just beginning to set over a ridge to the west. We shot a bunch of canopy shots before the sun went down behind the ridge to the west. When the sun went behind the ridge, the most amazing color shift began. The trees in the distance began to pick up a beautiful blue cast – while those up close continued to reflect the aspen yellow from trees down the road whose canopies were still in the late afternoon sun. I was completely captivated by this shift and how the colors changed.
Here’s my original shot as that was happening:
After we got back, I looked at this image and post-processed it a couple of different ways. I import my images into Lightroom and often do basic adjustments there. I had fun making some basic adjustments and shared the photo online in a couple of spots.
But, as it turned out, I was about to learn some new tricks – thanks to a photo workshop that Doug had arranged with Mark Lindsay. Mark is a very talented artist, image editor, and photographer based in Marin. We spent a day with Mark learning some new techniques for using Photoshop to further enhance our images. Mark’s workflow steps through image adjustments by focusing first on color cast and then on getting the tonality of the image right. “Good bones” is what tonality is all about – ensuring an image has the right tonal range. And, then, Mark uses the tools of Lab color mode to enhance the saturation and colors of an image. The combination of these steps takes an image from being average and flat to being very special.
Here’s my post-processed version of that original shot – applying the core techniques of what I learned from Mark:
You can see how striking the differences are between the two. The original is soft and flat, the adjusted version is so much more three dimensional and, frankly, realistic to what I remember having taken the shot in the moment.
I still have lots to learn – but what a great time I’ve been having – both in the field shooting in amazing places like the Eastern Sierra and back home applying new techniques to creating even better images! My focus is on taking images off the page – from flat to three dimensional in a way that keeps me and viewers engrossed inside the image. Great teachers like Michael and Mike helping me at amazing places in the field and Mark helping me post-process back home are my “sherpas”!
My good friend Doug Kaye and I headed out today to the Marin Headlands – in particular, Battery Mendell up high on the cliffs and, down low, Rodeo Beach itself. I’ve yet to process most of the photos from this walk with Doug – but I did especially like the image above – a couple walking along the cliffs near Battery Mendell. Click on the image to see a larger version.
Doug is helping plan a photo walk at Rodeo Beach after Christmas – details here.