Thursday, December 31, 2009

Frozen Foliage

I have been to Yosemite both in the Fall and Winter this year (as well as the Spring). Sometimes, when the two seasons collide, it can create some very interesting photos.

In this image I took a few days ago. I found this fallen oak leaf branch on the snow. Well, there was no quick moving it, as it had frozen with the snow pack. The snow pack was very crunchy, as it warms up during the day and melts some and then freezes up again at night. The droplets you see throughout this photo were from the tree above dripping away it's melting snow, as it warms up during the day. It created a very unique texture for this photo.

One of the hardest things to do in Yosemite, for a photographer, is to get away from shooting the obvious icons and look for the smaller details. I am still struggling with that. But, being this was my first year at Yosemite, I am sure with each trip, I will dig deeper and find the smaller details and hidden gems. Many times, it's not about how technically good of a photographer you are that counts, but just knowing when sometimes to keep it simple and just look down and find a gem like this.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Half Dome from a Misty Cook's Meadow

On my third day of my latest trip to Yosemite, I was treated to probably the best weather conditions, thus far. Now, "best weather conditions" has a totally different meaning to photographers, than it does to most everyone else.

We were treated to a fresh new snowfall, then some fog and mist, then some blue skies, some sun, and finally ending the day with low-ceiling clouds from an impending winter storm, which is expected to hit tonight into tomorrow.

So we just drove around the Yosemite Valley loop about 3 times today and each time, different subject presented themselves, depending on which weather condition we encountered. The conditions were different with each loop we made.

In this photo, late in the morning, there was still some lingering low fog in the Cook's Meadow. As you can see in the photo, a mixed bag of conditions. But, that makes it most interesting.

There was an elm tree in Cook's Meadow that I initially went after, with the thought of using it with Half-Dome. But, I really like this tree just off to the left from the elm tree. It is much smaller, but really stands out against the misty fog .

Monday, December 28, 2009

Youth Movement

Winter is usually not a time when you think of things growing or new growth. But, sometimes you don't notice how much new growth there is, during obvious seasons for growth, such as Spring and Summer.

In this photo, yet again, from Yosemite National Park, these vibrant young pine trees, really stand out against the snow and otherwise colorless backdrop. Pine trees' color rules during the winter, when annuals shed their leaves during the fall and are bare and colorless during the winter.

I really liked this row or bunch of young pine trees. I liked how right behind them, everything towers over them. Maybe some day, these trees will continue to grow and reach new heights. The youth movement appears to be on in this section of Yosemite.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Feelin' Blue in Yosemite

Well, another trip to Yosemite I am on. I arrived today and to my delight, Yosemite received some very spotty snow showers overnight and in the morning. Surprisingly, chains were required to be worn on vehicles.

It was my first visit to Yosemite in the winter. I was not let down. I was scrambling a bit, after shooting here in the Spring and in the Autumn this year. I once again had to wipe my hard drive (my memory in my brain) clean. Photos that are there or are great during the other times of the year are no good whatsoever during the winter, and vice versa. So I had to venture with an openmind and find new compelling compositions to shoot. I like this challenge.

In this photo, this is taken at an extremely popular photographer's spot, called Valley View. All the photographers and tourists had their cameras pointed toward the left, mainly at El Capitan and the scene you have seen shot hundreds of times. You might even recognize those rocks or clumps of grass in the Merced River here, as a very common foreground subject, in those photos I have mentioned.

I decided to take a different approach. It was very foggy around the El Capitan meadow and it was foggy here at Valley View, as well. I decided to go against the grain and shoot 90 degrees from the normal shot here. The shot came out a little blue, but I really loved the mood and the blue tint. It's fitting. The fog, snow, and blue make it certainly feel cold. Sometimes it isn't bad to have a case of the blues in Yosemite.

I will be shooting here another few days. Yes! That means to expect more photos from Yosemite in the days and weeks to come. I hope you enjoy the photos.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pier Cottages

One of the most unique piers not only on the west coast, but in the world, is the lesser-know Crystal Pier, in Pacific Beach. This is located just about 15 minutes outside of downtown San Diego. Sure, the Santa Monica pier may have all the stores, restaurants, ferris wheel, etc... on it. But, it seems too commercial for my taste.

This pier is actually a hotel with cottages on it. You can sleep over the waves crashing onto the shores. You can park your car on the pier, right next to the cottage, as well. Now, that is awesome, if you ask me. I bet many honeymooners or couples celebrating anniversaries stay in these cottages. I bet it costs a pretty good penny, as well.

I took this shot between passing storms. I used yet again, a Lensbaby to take this shot and focused the attention obviously on the cottages. I didn't zoom in close or crop tight. I wanted the ocean and the ominous clouds to swallow up the pier and cottages. The forces of nature are a big secondary subject in this shot, which ties in well with staying at these cottages.

There are some days that I have great success using the Lensbaby. This day was one of those days.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

Christmas in San Diego is certainly a different flavor than having it where I grew up. That would be Cleveland, Ohio. This is a perfect example how Christmas looks a little different.

This photo was taken in Balboa Park, in the Spanish Village section. There is plenty of color in the Spanish Village. I decided to use the Lensbaby for this shot and focus the lens on the ornament. I like how the tree's natural "ornaments" sort of blend in with the violet ornament.

Finally, when I processed this shot, I cross processed this and made the shadows a little more blue. I think this makes the shot pop just a bit more. A little more colorful.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Storm over the Pacific

Here's another from my recent day visit to Pacific Beach, in San Diego. It was a stormy day. Which in San Diego means very interesting skies.

Here, I used a Lensbaby and focused in the center of the frame. If you look closely, you'll see a Christmas tree at the end of Crystal Pier. I used the Lensbaby and I really like it, because in this image, again, it really brings the clouds to life.

Anyways, I hope it isn't storming too bad where you are and you enjoy your holidays! Stay safe and may you find your way without any problems.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Saint Cyricus

One of the more interesting busts, when I visit the Getty Center, in Los Angeles, is the bust of the infant, Saint Cyricus. The story behind this infant and what he went through is pretty gruesome. So, I will spare you the details.

The eyes of this statue are very captivating. I also liked how the light was falling onto his face, especially from the side view. I think the side view is the best angle, because with his eyes looking upward, towards the light, really comes through from this angle. In my opinion, very powerful.

Now, as you can see, I took some alternative routes not only processing the image, but also taking the photograph to begin with. I do this, because taking a straight forward photo of a sculpture is just that. Nothing too exciting about it.

Since the figures in these sculptures come from several 100 years ago, I want to sort of give the feel of that aged look to the photo.

I initially took the photo using a Lensbaby. Then used a toned black-n-white process and texture layers to create the final result that you see. Lots of blending layers were involved as well as scaling back the opacities on these blending layers. The textures I used were some I found on the internet as well as some I take with my camera. I have a folder just for textures and edges.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Getty Center

Here is another image from my visit to the Getty Center, last Saturday. This was an image that was taken right before a security guard told me I cannot be on the walkway square stones. I found that to be strange. Why have a walkway, if I cannot walk on it?

I finally had some nice blue skies and sun on this visit. This created some very nice contrast, as well as made for some nice reflections. It was a gorgeous day. So, I really spent most of my time outside, during this visit.

In this photo, the main entrance is the round building in the far distance, in the center. You come through the main entrance on the other side of that building and you can walk thru into this area. The architecture at the Getty is fabulous. Everything was well thought out and it has a very nice flow to it. Beige and white tones dominant the architecture. When you have blue skies, it really makes these buildings pop.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Swept Away

This past Saturday, I decided to take a visit to the Getty Center Museum, in Los Angeles, California. I thought it was a much better option, rather than fighting people at the malls, shopping center, or on the freeway. Well, I couldn't totally avoid the freeway.

What a beautiful day it was. Temperatures were around 75 degrees, sunny, blue skies. The Getty Center wasn't crowded at all. So it was nice to relax and take in all the beautiful art and architecture, the Getty Center has to offer.

On this trip, the works of the recently deceased, famed fashion photographer for Vogue magazine, Irving Penn, was on display. The theme for the exhibition was "The Worker." Each photo was a full body portrait of some person, as they would dress, performing their trade.

This was a photography exhibit I really loved looking at. Most of the photos were process on platinum-palladium or silver gelatin Tri-X. I also really loved his backdrop he had in these photos. I would just love to have his backdrop. Anyways, you will have to take a trip out to the Getty to see what I am talking about. Irving Penn was a true master of photography.

Now, one of the banners used to promote the exhibition happened to coincidentally line up with those nude works of art, that get photographed so many times, usually in a ha-ha, funny way, by so many visitors and tourists. Now, take a look at the street sweeper's eyes. Something sort of seems to have captured his curiosity. I wonder what it could be?

Like all men. We see a little flesh, and we all get swept away.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fly Away Cafe

I was recently on a business trip and while waiting at the SeaTac International Airport, there is this beautiful food court area with many nice restaurants in it. You get a great view of the runway and planes, while you have a bite to eat.

I really didn't get much of a chance on this trip to take photos I would normally like to take. So I was photography-deprived this week and scrambling to find a few more photos to take, before I boarded my plane to head back to San Diego.

Upon further examination, I noticed that the planes for the most part were lifting off right in plain view of the food court. Sorry. That pun was intentional. So naturally, my intent was to capture a plane lifting off, while capturing people feeding their faces. The trick, of course, was to try and capture the entire plane in between one section of the rectangular frames on the glass. Now, it might appear that the shot is crooked. But, the glass is not flat. It is a curved around the food court area. I just tried to line the tree line up with the one horizontal frame across the image.

Anyways, I certainly didn't expect to get much out of my photography at an airport. But I was pleasantly surprised. I thought this came out pretty good and the activity happening in the food court helped add interest, as well.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rain on the Prado

A lot of photographers tend to stay inside and avoid the weather, when it rains, snows, or what have you. I find it as a great opportunity to go out and catch the usual scenes in a different setting.

In this photo, this was taken on a rainy day, in San Diego. This is at Balboa Park. I specifically like how the wet tile stood out. The tones were also great. I decided to wait for a color umbrella to appear. I also chose a slow shutter speed, just enough to give the slightest motion blur to the people walking. There is the Prado restaurant just off to the right. That is where the people were coming from.

For post-processing, I gave this a sort of film-like look. It's really hard for me to tell you what the process was, because I would be typing for quite some time. I really don't have any "cookie-cutter" process. Each photo I treat different.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Crystal Pier

As I mentioned in my last post. Here is the black-and-white conversion of the same photo of Crystal Pier. Again, this is at Pacific Beach, in San Diego, California.

I really like both the color and black-and-white versions. This version I think is a little more dramatic, especially bringing out the sky and the clouds. The reflection is also even stronger. This was a good shot to use for black-and-white, because there was very good contrast already in the scene. The hardest part was to not overdo the contrast that was already present.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Crystal Pier Hotel

When we get storms in San Diego, we usually don't get socked in with thick clouds. Instead, we get sort of a mix. This creates some very interesting and wonderful skies. This Saturday, between rain showers, the clouds scattered a bit and gave me a treat, as far as sky conditions go. The rains also help clear away all the haze and smog and gives some great blues in the sky.

This is the Crystal Pier Hotel, in San Diego. This is located at Pacific Beach. You can actually stay at one of the cottages and sleep over the waves and ocean. Pretty cool, huh? It' a very unique pier and hotel and the weather made for a pretty special shot. I did a black-and-white version of this, as well. That came out equally impressive.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pier Runner

Here's another Lensbaby shot I took from this past Saturday, at Pacific Beach, in San Diego. He is running under Crystal Pier,

The Lensbaby selective focus effect really warps you through the image and makes the image more dynamic. In that, you really get a sense of motion. I also used a creative aperture disc on my Lensbaby. A creative aperture is a blank aperture disk, which can be custom cut into any shape you like. So anything that is bright and out-of-focus will take on that shape. You can see the shape of the aperture disc I used in the very upper corner of the photo.

Anyways, I hope you like my warped sense of creativity.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Stormy Pacific Beach in San Diego

Here is a similar photo taken from just about the same exact spot as my photo from my previous post. Again, taken with my Lensbaby Composer. This was taken at a very popular beach in San Diego called Pacific Beach. Otherwise, known as "PB."

This time, I basically turned the camera a little more towards to left and included some shoreline in the shot. The clouds kept working their magic. I think it was either rainy off in the distance or just misty. But, I loved the mist that is in the far background, on the right side. The shoreline just disappears into this abyss. Again, the couple along the beach was an added touch if you notice on the shoreline to the left of this couple, another couple, as well. The low tide made me get an angle which was great. I love wet, glossy beaches from where the tide was recently and receded from. You can get angles which normally you can't, if the tide is in.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Running With The Clouds

In the last week or so, the San Diego area has had 2 storms come through, giving the area some much needed rain, to say the least. Now when we have storms here in Southern California, I race out of my place and head out to snap some photos. We do not get much weather around these parts. So, it's an opportunity to capture scenes of San Diego that are a little different then the usual clear, blue skies that we are accustomed to.

In this photo, I was out at Pacific Beach. The rain stopped for a while and the clouds broke a little, creating some very nice lighting and some dramatic scenery. I think the tide was out, at this time, but still had plenty of beach that was wet. With the dramatic clouds and the reflective beach, the runner was the final piece to bring this scene all together. It seems like the world, in the clouds, is all his own.

Lastly, for this shot, I used my Lensbaby Composer. I think by using it, it kept the scene very dreamy and soft, which I felt fits perfectly for the type of scene it was. I think harsh lines would have changed this photo quite a bit.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mirror Lake at Yosemite

Here's a couple sitting on a huge boulder, taking in the wonderful scenery at Mirror Lake, at Yosemite National Park. There is barely any water here during the autumn months. This little bit of water does create some wonderful chances to get some "mirror" or reflective images. I have been lucky both times I have visited Mirror lake to have people positioned in some great spots.

There are many elements in this photo that I like. You have the rich, clean blue sky, the sand bars, the river meandering through the shot, the huge granite cliffs, the huge boulder, even some fall foliage, and the human element. All these elements make for a wonderful scene.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Merced River and Cathedral Rock

Another gorgeous view you can find at Yosemite national park, especially during the autumn, is on the bridge, overlooking the Merced River, facing towards Cathedral Rock. The water here is like glass and the reflected colors are just amazing here.

I took this photo in late morning sun, yet, still the colors look vibrant. You can almost shoot throughout the day during the fall months, because the angle of the sun never gets that high. Thus, the light is not as harsh and doesn't wash out the colors, or created harsh shadows, like it would, during the summer months. You will need an ultra-wide angle lens, to capture this shot.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Here's another photo from my recent trip to Yosemite, that I tried again to make an iconic shot a little different. This was taken from just across the road from the Ahwahnee meadow, right next to the asphalt path. Now, this is a photo of Half-Dome, I have not seen before. Yet again, I did not have to hike a few miles into the back-country to find.

I was just strolling along this path, when I just happened to notice how Half-Dome was sort of poking through the canopy of trees. Again, Half-Dome might not be in the best of light, but the back-light lit up the foliage on these trees and really made them vibrant. So while Half-Dome might be the subject of this photo, the vibrant foliage that the trees are displaying makes the context of this photo simply that it is autumn in Yosemite. Even the ferns along the ground change color and add some nice reds to the shot.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Shooting the Scene - Bluish Duotone

Here's the same exact shot I took, except processed in black-n-white, with a bluish duotone. I chose a blue tone, because I figure that a twilight scene with a full moon, the whole blue moon thing of course, was fitting.

This again was shot in Bremerton, Washington. I rarely use the blue duo-tone when doing black-n-white photos. But I think it works well for the scene here. Does it work for you?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Shooting the Scene

Another photo during my trip last week to Bremerton, Washington. Again, I raced out to get the moonrise, right at sunset and dusk. There was a public access to the pier, in which I was able to get away from a lot of the harbor clutter and get a much better angle.

This is an image in which I did not use any gradient filter. So the scene was this spectacular. It's also a little bit funny. It almost looks like the 5-inch turret gun on the USS Turner Joy is shooting a round of moon. Looks like the moon came from the gun.

For post-process, I just used Canons DPP software to convert from RAW to a TIFF. Then, just did some levels. That's it!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Moonrise Over Bremerton

Here's one I took on my business trip this past week up to Bremerton, Washington. It had cleared this day and gave way to a gorgeous moonrise during the twilight hours. The scene sure looks a lot warmer than it really was. This was taken at the marina, right next to the USS Turner Joy and the Bremerton ferry landing.

I raced out to get this as I just got off of work this day. I didn't pack a tripod and I took this hand-held. This was right next to the hotel I was staying at. I really loved the hues of this shot and the 3 birds entering the frame was a very nice final touch on a gorgeous scene.I really didn't do too much to process this photo, except sharpen it up.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Backyard Bridge

I was up in Bremerton, Washington for a few days on business. In order, to get from SeaTac Airport to Bremerton, you will take highway 16 west. This will lead you across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

The original Tacoma Narrows bridge, is infamous, especially amongst civil engineers. Back in 1940, the original bridge started swaying and eventually collapsed. I am sure most people have seen that at one point or another. For civil engineers, it was an embarrassing moment at the time, but now it is a valuable learning tool.

I took this photo while on my way back to SeaTac airport. This was taken from the east side, the Tacoma side of the Tacoma Narrows. I walked around and went down a side street, looking for a different perspective of this infamous bridge. By the way, the the bridge on the left side was recently built and completed only a few years ago.

What a neighborhood! I really like the contrast between the neighborhood and the towering bridge right in their backyard. How would you like to have that in your backyard?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Oh Deer...Again!

Here's another image of a deer from my recent trip to Yosemite. There was a group of about 7 deer in the Ahwahnee meadow grazing. Taking advantage of the beautiful weather, before winter comes and makes it much harder to find food.

The shot is simple, but there are things that I really like about it. One of them is the tone is pretty even and the deer blends in well with the meadow grasses. I also like the eye contact, the raised ears, and even the little tongue sticking out.

This shot was taken with a 24-70mm lens. Goes to show you how used to people these deer are, which in this part of Yosemite, is not at all surprising.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


In this latest photo from Yosemite National Park, I pulled off to a picnic area off of Rte. 140, just a little west of the 120/140 junction in Yosemite. This was taken Nov. 3, 2009.

One of my areas to target on this trip was along the Merced River. There seemed on my internet research, before my trip, that many good fall foliage shots could be found along the Merced. This was my first time at Yosemite, during the fall foliage season.

When I got to the picnic area, it was just a very short walk back to the river. I was first taking pics in the other direction, because there was a lone tree surrounded by some neat rocks in the middle of the river. But, when I glanced the other direction to find other things to photograph, not only did I see some fall color, but I also spotted this sand bar and what appeared to be almost like a natural dam. I walked a little further back that way along the banks of the Merced.

What I found was a very pleasant scene. The clumps of grass almost appear to be damming up the Merced River. There are many elements I liked in this shot. I liked the back-light making the trees with fall foliage more brilliant. I also liked how the back-light was hitting the tops of these clumps of grass, putting even more emphasis on it. The colors reflecting into the still Merced of course are nice. Then I like the layers of tress that give nice depth to the scene. Lastly, the sand bar off to the left helps guide you down the river, towards the mirage of the dam.

It's a shot I have not seen anyone else take and I always like these types of photo opportunities, rather than the obvious scenes which have been shot by many photographers. I will spare you the dam rhetoric or jokes.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Iconic Reflection

When you speak of natural icons here in America, one of them is the largest block of granite rock in the world. It is one that experienced climbers from around the world love to climb. Of course, this icon can be found at Yosemite National Park, in California.

In this photo, I took a more indirect way of showcasing this icon. I was situated in an area called Cathedral Beach, along the Merced River. This was taken on my most recent trip to Yosemite, during the first week in November. If you try this shot in the Spring, let's just say, you will not have the still, glass, calm waters of the Merced.

This is a pretty challenging shot, as far as exposure goes. El Capitan, if shooting it from a shaded area, is very hard to keep from blowing out. Dynamic range is maxed out here. You have to ensure that you leave some details in the shade, while not blowing out the portions in the sun. I composed the shot to minimize the area in the sun.

Reflection shots are not as easy as they may seem. So many will just take the easy way out, and do the 50/50 composed shot. Meaning they will show exactly what they see on top in the reflection, where the horizon is split right in the middle, giving a 50/50 view of the reflection and the non-reflected.

The added grass and fall leaves in the very foreground nicely adds a little nice touch and frames around the tip of El Capitan's reflection. Hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Relics of Yesteryear

As promised, here is the black-and-white version of the shot I just posted previous to this post. This black-and-white conversion, wasn't just a one-click conversion. Here is what I did to process this image.

I converted this image to a solarized look, using a photoshop plug-in. On this layer, I adjusted the opacity back to about 73%, blended normally. I then used a large, soft, history brush, set at 100%, normal blend mode, and brushed back in the areas of dirt. I didn't want the dirt to have the solarized look at all. After I did this, I have a weird looking image.

The next thing I did was use Photoshop's Black-and-White tool, to change what still has color left in the image to black-and-white. This has really no effect on what is already black-and-white, when I did the conversion to the solarized look, the first time. This basically is just getting rid of the leftover color, that remained. Most of this was the dirt and obviously, the dirt doesn't need any dramatic black-and-white conversion applied.

This is what I am left with. When you compare the color version to the black-and-white version, you can see what the soloarized look does. It sort of inverts the highlights and shadows somewhat. It's not really a negative look, but has some properties of it. The purpose when I used the history brush, was to decrease the contrast and to give it a little hazy look, which makes the image have some attitude and look eerie.

Well, which version do you like better? The color or black-and-white image?


One of the places I love to go to, when I have a free Saturday, is the Motor Transport Museum (MTM), out in Campo, CA. It's about 60 miles east of San Diego. This museum basically has old trucks, dating all the way back to the early 20th century. You can find old milk trucks, tow trucks, gas trucks, fire trucks, some buses, dump trucks, etc... There is such a great variety. There is also a lot of odds and ends, as well. They do restore some of the vehicles. You can find out more about the MTM at

This was taken this past Saturday. The museum is only open to the public on Saturday, from 10A.M. to 5P.M. It was a stormy Saturday. It rained most of the time, while taking photos. But weather can create some interesting lighting conditions.

In this photo, the sun was barely breaking through a hole in the clouds, which created some wonderful lighting on this area on the museum grounds. I always love this bus, which is in the foreground. I used my strobe attached to the top of my camera, to provide some fill light.It kind of has an eerie feel to it. I also converted this image to a black-and-white image. I will post that image, as well. I was really torn again, on which one I prefer.

Anyways, this is just a fraction of the faded, rusty relics you can find at this wonderful museum. It is also just 2 miles up the road from the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum. You can come and check out both wonderful museums, for just a few bucks between the two museums. Donations are welcomed at the MTM.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cloudy Combination

Here is another from the stormy Saturday we just encountered, here in San Diego county. I was out east and was driving back to get  on the I-8 freeway and head back into San Diego, when I saw the fog rolling in. I had other intuitions of coming over here earlier in the day, because it had snowed a little, as well. Funny enough, the road I took this from is called Sunrise Highway. This was also taken not long before sunset. Talk about the name of the highway not living up to it's name.

The one thing that captured my interest was the lone house sitting on top of the hill. I hurried to find a turn-out on the road, so I could get in position before the fog engulfed this house. The main interest though, was the fog and also the clearing clouds in the sky. That is why I didn't zoom in so close to make it just about the clouds surrounding the house. If it was maybe just the fog down in the valley, then perhaps. But the clouds clearing from the storm and the fog just dominate this photo and so the subject is not necessarily just about the fog or the clouds in the sky, but about the clouds in general. Kind of an interesting combination.

One of the hardest things to post process, in my opinion, is a scene with fog. The reason is, it is so easy to increase the contrast too much. A scene with fog will have low contrast throughout the scene. If you did your levels or curves in Photoshop, you would grossly adjust the contrast, via this method. So many people who post process, use the levels method, will always pull both sliders in till they hit the first pixels on the histogram. That is what so many instructional photoshop books will advise you to do. This is a big error, I feel. There are many times where you will not have pure blacks or whites in a scene. This is one of these cases.

I think this looks good here. I thought about cropping down to a 16:9 ratio. But, I felt it would cram the clouds in the sky too much. I felt room was needed for the clouds to roam in this scene. You can sense the fog rolling in and the clouds dispersing in the sky above the hills.

This was a rare treat to get here in San Diego county. For most of the year, we have the same usual, blank, blue skies. The stormy weather was the reason I went out to do photography this day and I am glad I got some dramatic results.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Southern California Foliage

Today was the first good storm of the rainy/winter season here in Southern California. Since rain happens so infrequently here, I decided to take advantage of the ideal bad, wet, and chilly weather and head out east towards the mountains in San Diego county.

Now, I had a few things in mind, when I headed out the door today, to do some photography. One, the wet weather gives a change of the usual scenery. Two, I was hoping for a little bit of snow, at around the 4,000 ft level. Three, I was hoping that there might be still some fall color out there. Four, I was hoping for some mixture of fall color and perhaps a dusting of snow. Lastly, the wet weather is a nice natural saturation brush from Mother Nature. When it is cloudy and wet, just a tad of light will really make colors pop.

This photo was taken right below a bridge/overpass about 5 miles off I-8, along Buckman Springs Road, heading out towards Campo. There was a nice grouping of fall colors around this bridge area. I remember there use to be a stream along here years ago. But, the lack of rainfall has dried this stream out. Now, it is commonly used as a bridle path (horse path). The good thing is that it makes it much easier to walk down there and find a good composition.

I am guessing the split tree which dominates this photo is some sort of willow tree. There are other trees in the background intertwined in the scene. I composed it not only so the tilted tree would finish in the upper right, but I also made sure that I had some nice background trees filling in the right side, along with the dried-up grass, which when wet, is really golden yellow. This was taken in between some rain showers.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sentinel Rock, the Black and White Version

Here is the back and white version of Sentinel Rock, from Cathedral Beach. The Merced River in the foreground. I kind of prefer the black and white version versus the color version I posted yesterday. Not sure why, but I do. I think the detail stands out more in this version.

Another look I like to process with, is more of a tin or ambrotype finish. I like to fool around with all sorts of different looks. But, I try to keep the actual fabric of the photo looking natural, as much as possible. I try to get as much out of the camera as correct as possible. I do not like to post-process an image that long at all. I feel the more time you mess with it, the more damage you start to cause. So I keep my processing time down to usually no more than 15 minutes an image.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sentinel Rock

On my recent trip to Yosemite, one of my aims was to target the area around the Merced River. Then, as I approached these areas, my aim was more targeted to finding spotlit trees in fall foliage on a sand bar. I know. Getting picky, am I?

The area where I took this from was very close to Cathedral Beach. Now, I went past Cathedral Beach many times, and each time I went, it seemed the light wasn't right. Well, that is if I was looking back the opposite way, towards the imposing El Capitan. When we finally pulled in to park the car, myself and my friend found a group of painters on Cathderal Beach (it's a big sand bar), all facing towards El Capitan. So what did I do?

Well, I walked down the opposite way and noticed this sand bar  receiving some nice light. When you check this area out, you will see there are other prominent rock features, which can be photographed from this area. One of them, you see here, is Sentinel Rock.

When you approach this area, make sure you have your graduated filters and polarizers handy. This is a tricky exposure, especially if you do not have any filters. The light on this sand bar was only around for a couple more minutes, until it disappeared into the shade. So I had to move fast to get into position. I think it was well worth the effort. This is also a photo which I think will look great in black-and-white.

During the autumn months, you can get these vantage points along the Merced River, unlike in the spring, when the waters are much higher and much faster flowing.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Lower Yosemite Falls

This latest Yosemite photo was on my first ever trip there, back around the Memorial Day weekend, when the waters were roaring. This was one of the few angles of the falls, where the tourists weren't flooding the area around the falls.

Now, so many photographers when they see a waterfall instinctively want to try and make the shutter speed as slow as possible, so they can really blur the water and give a sense of motion. But, when you have this much water flowing, I think you get that sense of motion. The mist coming off the falls also helps give you that feeling. When you come here in the Autumn, the water coming down the falls can completely dry up. It's a stark difference.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Autumn in Ahwahnee

For everyone who has visited Yosemite Valley in the Autumn, knows very well about this cluster of aspen trees in the Ahwahnee meadow. It isn't exactly the most elusive photographic shot in the world, to say the least. So why couldn't I resist not taking this photo? Hopefully, the image shows why.

The aspens are cool, but they are past prime color and many of the leaves on the bottom branches have fallen off. But, it is all about the light here. The aspen trees still stand out, as the pine trees behind them are enough in the shade. This helps make the aspens pop. I also like how the sun hits the tops of the pine trees and the cliffs only, while leaving the rest in the shade. Finally, the grass in the meadow is lit at varying intensities throughout the scene.

What is cool about these aspens, even though they are photographed so many times, is that you can put them into so many different scenes. This is just one of several options. Just walk around the meadow and this cluster of aspens and you can be here for a while.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Obvious

Here's another from Yosemite. Once again, a picture can be quite an illusion. Now, the photo is rendered as accurately as possible in my eyes. Very little photoshop was done to the photo. So what do I mean by an illusion?

It looks like I hiked into the back country to find this "hidden gem." Yep. I sure did hike. All of a few hundred feet from the car parked at Yosemite Village.

The way this tree lit up in the late morning, was spectacular. This is right off the main road going out of Yosemite Valley.

Many things appealed to me here. Besides the glorious fall light, the leaves both on the tree, as well as on the ground dominates the image. I also liked all the branches and how they really stood out amongst the vibrant yellow of the maple leaves.

Again, the beauty of Yosemite finds you. You don't have to look hard or far to find it. Some times it's so obvious, you just have to stop the car and grab the camera.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Well, another Saturday is upon us and for me, that means another full day of photographing marching bands, here in Southern California.

This Saturday, I will be out in Riverside, CA, shooting approximately 35 marching bands performing around a 10 minute show each. This day will last around 12 hours. I truly enjoy photographing pageantry arts. There is never an absence of photographic subjects.

This is an image taken at last week's show. I like this image, because usually taking photos of the front pit members, I don't get a complimentary background, without having to wait and time it just right. When I am trying to take photos of as many individual performers, I do not have the luxury to sit and wait for my shots all that long. But, in this shot, I really like how the 3 out-of-focus performers add to the xylophone player in th foreground.

By the way, all the photos I take at these are shot in jpeg format on my camera. If I shot these in RAW, I would never get through all the photos. I can literally shoot somewhere between 5,000-10,000 shutter clicks during one show.

Well, time for me to get ready and head out. Hope you all have a wonderful Saturday!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Oh Deer

On this trip to Yosemite, it was basically impossible to avoid the deer, no matter where you were in the park. In this photo, I spotted this deer at Happy Isles.

I really like the leaves and branches that are framing the deer. Of course, the deer looking right at me, with it's ears at full attention makes the shot. I believe I switched over to my 200mm f2.8 lens for this shot. The deer at this time of year are very used to humans and it seems as long as we do not bother them eating, they could care less.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Maple Leaves

Here's another fall foliage photo, on my recent trip to Yosemite National Park. In this one, I used what is called a Lensbaby. A Lensbaby is basically a selective focus lens.

I also exposed this shot high key on purpose. The look I was after was a more free-flowing, whimsical, softer image. Kind of gives the feeling that the wind is blowing the leaves.

Once again, I took this photo as I was eating a delicious sandwich at Yosemite Village. That is the great thing about Yosemite. You never have to go very far to get great photos, even when you are stuffing your face.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Magical Moods of Yosemite

On my recent trip to Yosemite, some of the images I wanted to capture were the ones right at the break of dawn. Not to really capture the sunrise or the morning light, per se, but to try and capture some of the early morning fog. Unfortunately, the weather was so nice and warm, that there was hardly any fog to be found in the valley, or clouds for that matter.

In this image, this layer of fog was found very often while driving into the valley from Wawona. This is right across the road from the Wawona Hotel and right next to the 9-hole golf course (which I have yet to see anyone play on).

I liked a few things about this image. One of them was the setting moon. Another element I liked, of course, was the layers of fog. Third, I liked how the evergreens were in a few clumps together. I like how the fog seemed to weave it's way down these hills and around these clumps of trees. The last thing I loved about this scene was just the color of the sky. I just overall liked the mood of this scene.

This is yet again a scene you do not have to hike 5 miles into the back country to find. This was one of those driving into Yosemite and pulling the car off to the side of the road moments. That is one thing you always have to do in Yosemite, is to keep your eyes open and on the lookout, because there always seems to be magical scenes wherever you are in the park.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Passionate About Pageantry

One of the things I love to photograph is pageantry. During the fall, every Saturday, I shoot the marching bands doing their field shows.

A field show is around a 10 minute show, usually made up of about 3-4 songs, which center around a theme or concept. There are many different styles of bands and show concepts. That makes this always entertaining to photograph, because each show is never the same.

In this photo, I show a member of the colorguard. The colorguard usually adds visual impact to the band's performance. It can also add an emotional impact to the performance.

I really like the passion, which is easy to see here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Parking Lot Vista

Sometimes as photographers, especially at well-known, highly photographed, popular places which attracts millions of tourists, we seek out and hike into the back-country for photos that the normal tourist might not see, just to have something different. We figure this view has been captured in about every imaginable way possible. So we do our best to avoid these photos.

I think this is an easy trap photographers fall into. Sometimes, some of the most unique photos can be had at such the most obvious spots. We can't overlook the obvious, as photographers. I think taking a well photographed spot and putting your own twist on it is a great challenge and sometimes a very hard thing for photographers to accomplish.

This is a photo I took of the infamous Bridalveil Falls, at Yosemite National Park, just recently. Let me correct myself. This is a shot which includes Bridalveil Falls. The subject is actually the vibrant oak tree.

See how just how the light hitting the scene can totally change what the subject in the photo is? This is like my Half-Dome ("In the Spotlight") photo I posted yesterday.

This is early November in Yosemite and the peak of the fall colors. I have again sought after the fall colors. When we pulled into the parking lot to hike towards the falls, I immediately saw this oak tree begging for attention. Now, with the falls in the shade and the oak tree being backlit, making it so vibrant, the attention is squarely on the tree, yet with the falls acting as a reference or secondary subject in the background. If this same shot was front lit and the falls were in the sun, then the focus would be totally on the falls, with the trees only framing the falls, and not a subject on their own.

All of this was taken in the middle of the parking lot for Bridalveil Falls. Of all the spots to capture a beautiful image, sometimes there is no better option than the parking lot. Sometimes, it can be that easy and save your legs a few miles of hiking in prospects of finding hidden gems.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

In the Spotlight

This classic view of Half-Dome, from Sentinel Bridge, in Yosemite National Park, is usually a spot that most photographers shoot in the late day sunshine. This is because Half-Dome and the trees along the Merced River are front lit by the sun.

I was driving across Sentinel Bridge in the morning, when I saw this lone tree spotlit by the early morning rays. I was with a friend and we immediately parked the car and headed over to the bridge to snag this shot. The focus is on the brilliant foliage of the tree, almost like stealing the spotlight from the obvious Half-Dome. I felt very fortunate to be in the right spot at the right time. So a classic Yosemite iconic photo, which is usually always associated with late day sun was a gem in the early morning.

About Me

San Diego, California, United States
Thanks for checking out my photography blog. I am a photographer from America's finest city, San Diego, California. This blog is just a regular update of what I am photographing or what catches my fancy, when I am out and about with my camera. So subscribe and stay up-to-date with my latest photographic adventures.


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