Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"Reflection" on a New Year

Nothing special... just a peaceful scene to contemplate for a minute or two as we flip the calendar on another year. Thanks for stopping by here to look and a Happy New Year to all.
"Dawn Light at Convict Lake"-California, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Whole... or a Part of the Whole?

Back in a "travel" mode for a few days...
It's tempting when you're dealing with a large subject or a big scene, to try to get it all in the frame at once. Nothing wrong with that if you just want to record the view in a very casual way, or if you're doing classic scenics, as long as you make the effort to consider all the compositional elements of the scene. When done well, it looks easy, which is why most people try it almost by default. If you want to go beyond snapshots, to create an image that someone who wasn't actually there can appreciate, you'll often get a better photograph and be able to capture what it is about the subject that caught your interest in the first place by concentrating on just a certain part of the scene. As an example, here is a night shot of the inner workings of the Eiffel Tower utilizing the iconic structural elements, multicolored lighting and the motion of some giant elevator pulleys, turning the whole shot into a colorful abstract, yet still keeping a sense of the original subject.

"Eiffel Elements"-Paris, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Dawn at Bryce

Spend and day or two at Bryce Canyon, listening to other visitors' reactions and a phrase you will probably hear a lot is: "I think this is even better than than the Grand Canyon!". I wouldn't argue with that opinion. Although the Grand Canyon is much larger and is definitely one of the wonders of the world to be seen by everyone at least once if possible, Bryce is equally impressive with it's intricate hoodoo amphitheaters and multi-colored layers and textures. Even better, it's very easy to hike down into the canyon where you really get the sense of being in another world.
For this shot, I was just below the canyon rim at dawn on a July morning. This especially colorful sunrise started to happen while I was scoping out angles back towards the hoodoos and was lucky enough to be on an outcropping where there were these great gnarly old trees to use as a foreground against the sky. Definitely one of those situations where I end up running around like a madman for the brief ten minutes or so that the light and sky are perfect.
Processed twice from the RAW image file; once for the sky and once for the foreground, then merged to preserve detail.

"Canyon Dawn"-Utah, 2007

Monday, December 22, 2008

To aim or not to aim?

  When it comes to "street" photography I mostly leave it to others. There are many who love to do it and are quite good at it. Concentrating mostly on static subject matter, I prefer a more calculated and slow way of working, but when you're traveling, especially with someone who may not be that happy standing around all day while you set up and fiddle with a particular shot, you have to either give it up entirely or go with the flow and change your habits. Not a bad thing to do once in a while anyway, no matter how confident and happy you are with your usual technique.
  As an assignment in school many years ago we had to go out and literally "shoot from the hip" without looking through the viewfinder and see what we could capture. Big surprise, some of the results were remarkably good. If you try it, I guarantee you'll get something interesting... off angles and interesting compositions that you never would try otherwise. It's especially good for capturing people at ease, since most folks will react to some degree and even stop whatever they were doing when they see a camera pointed at them. This is an example where, even though the men were inside and I was out, I knew if I started aiming at them through the window they would stop and look, so I set my lens to a wide angle and the exposure to "auto" and just fired away with the camera hanging around my neck. No way I could anticipate the nice reflections of the buildings from across the street, but that's where the luck element comes into play.
  Not that it always turns out this well; you'll get plenty of useless junk too, but hey, we don't even have to waste film anymore...  I may have to go downtown and try some more of this again soon just to change things up a bit.
"Butcher Shop"-Paris, November 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

More from Paris

Back to Europe today. Inside the huge Printemps department store on Blvd. Haussmann in Paris, the top floor cafe sports an amazing and beautiful stained glass cupola. Built in 1923, it was believe it or not, taken apart and stored outside the city to save it from bombing during the war in 1939 and then reconstructed again in 1973. It's now considered an historical treasure. As you can see, we stopped in for a beer and a snack after a hard afternoon of gift shopping. The mirrored glass tables provide an interesting perspective on the huge dome overhead.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Waterfall Series

After slogging around boulders and fallen trees for more than 2 miles up into a deep canyon in Zion's Kolob Plateau (en route to the famous Subway slot) you come to a series of wonderful little falls; each one unique from the others. This one manifests itself as a delicate curtain of water, while others are smooth cascades or a series of short, stepped drops.  These were the unexpected highlight of an early October trip to Utah.
"Curtain Falls" -Utah, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

C'mon Nikon...

I love your products, but where's your answer to the Canon 5D-MkII? Not the $8000 D3x, I hope? I, and probably many others, have been waiting for a full frame, 20+ MP camera body for under $3000 and Canon got the jump on this one. I know the D300 and the D700 are both excellent and will do the job, but neither is enough to get me into a new-purchase mode from what I already have. I don't normally talk about what equipment I use because I think it's kind of ludicrous in a way to worry more about the tools than the art itself, but there comes a time for everyone at some point, to take advantage of better equipment. I prefer Nikon for their design and ergonomics, I don't want to start over with Canon, and I thought Nikon was actually ahead of Canon for a little bit there with the D300 and D3, but the 5DII is a major challenge. Non-action/sports shooters, especially landscapers, will be looking hard and waiting eagerly to see what Nikon can come up with in the near future. I bet(hope) that they have something on the drawing boards for early next year... we'll see!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Paris Street Scenes-2

After a long, chilly walk from the river up to the Champs-Elysées, we arrived at the Arc de Triomphe just as the wind and rain were really kicking in. Nearly impossible to keep water droplets off the lens and setting up on a tripod was pretty much out of the question so I had to grab what I could hand held using lamp and sign posts for stability; this one was taken from the shelter of a store canopy just down the avenue. All the trees along the street are uniformly decorated with beautiful lights as far as the eye can see and now I can appreciate the gleaming wet street scenes. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Paris Street Scenes

We had some time to kill on our last morning in Paris before moving on to London, so we took a walk down the Canal St. Martin, near the hotel. I noticed that someone had painted these super realistic characters on the building wall and liked the way they seem to belong in the scene with the parked bicycles. Probably hundreds of people pass by here every day and don't even notice... that's why it's important to get out of your neighborhood where you can see things with a fresh eye.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thanksgiving in Paris

While riding the train from the Musée d'Orsay to the Eiffel Tower we noticed a young American couple, probably early 20's, riding in the same car. They were going to the Eiffel also; unfortunately, they were wearing only light clothing like you might wear around Southern California at this time of year and it's certainly not like California here in late November.. We came up from the Metro station to pouring rain and wind and probably 40°F at best. They didn't seem too concerned, but I doubt they ever made it into and up the Tower. We had parkas, umbrellas and hats and were still cold. Only one of the lifts was open and we had to queue up for at least half an hour in the rain and wind to get in. Many of the people in line, all tourists of course, were unprepared with no umbrellas and were like drowned rats by the time they got into the lifts. It was worth it though; the city was beautiful in the wet twilight and it actually stopped raining by the time we got to the top area, which is out in the open. Still cold though.

The mid level is partially covered so you can spend time looking out from there even if it is raining.

I'm sure the lighting on the tower is extra special for the holiday season.