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.

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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