Bunker 3

Here’s the first photo from my Point Bonita shoot last weekend. With the eclipse, kids going back to school, and work it’s been hard to find time to go through the images and pick some to post.

To be honest, I wasn’t happy with my shooting that day. It was a fogging day, so everything looked really flat. Point Bonita has incredible views of the Golden Gate and the western part of San Francisco, but the fog made it difficult for me to shoot any nice landscapes. I ended up taking a lot of pictures of the old military bunkers. For some reason, they are good subjects for me.

I also spent a bit more time processing the images. Normally I do a little brightness and contrast adjustment, maybe some cropping, but not much else. For these shots because the lighting was so flat, I played with curves more to bring out the colors and add depth. For this shot I applied a colored filter to bring out certain tones and did some pretty drastic curves adjustments. I’m starting to experiment more with post-processing on some shots, but I’m not sure how I like it. I tend to be more of a “get right in the camera” photographer, but sometimes some shots just need more help. When I took this shot I planned on a lot of processing and intended it to be black and white. I guess the more abstract the shot, the more processing I’m willing to do. When shooting I usually do think about what level of processing I’ll do on the computer when I get home. I knew this image would have a lot or processing.

One thing I’ve learned while working with RAW images is that I need a faster computer with more RAM. My 1.5 GHz with 512 MB of RAM is just too slow. Maybe I’ll get a new motherboard and processor instead of buying some of the photo gear I’ve been planning on.

There are more Point Bonita shots on Zooomr; I’ll probably blog a couple of them this week. You can view this one on Zooomr with a GeoTag. Since Zooomr isn’t showing EXIF info, I’m including it on the blog posts. I’ll update this post later with that info.

Poor Man’s Macro, Take 2


After my first attempts at the Poor Man’s Macro, I decided to give it another try with my new camera. At some point in the past couple of weeks it dawned on me that I had an old Canon T70 with a 50mm lens on it that I could use for macro shots. The only problem was finding the camera. It turned out to be stashed in the attic with my wife’s old Pentax. Both were great cameras that we used until they stopped working.

I pulled the lens off my camera, but couldn’t figure out how to open the aperture all the way. When the lens is off the camera, the aperture closes down, which makes the lens useless for the Poor Man’s Macro. Luckily my wife’s old Pentax also had a 50mm lens that didn’t close down when off the camera. So, now I have a second lens I can reverse without taking the 18-55mm lens off my camera.

To take this shot I simply held the 50mm lens in front of my regular lens, but reversed. I’m still unsure of whether to use a large or small aperture on the normal lens. The depth of field is already compressed, and the slightest movement forward or backward changes the focus. I think the compressed depth of field comes from the reverse lens since the aperture is wide open. I don’t think the aperture on the normal lens matters. I’m also unsure of where to focus, and if changing the focus on the reverse lens matters. I need to experiment more with the focus ring of both lenses to see how they impact the images. Right now I just move closer or farther from the subject to change the focal point.

It is somewhat difficult to hold the reverse lens in the right place. An adapter of some kind would help, but since the lenses are different sizes I doubt I can find a reversing ring that would work. I may have to build my own. Having the reverse lens actually mounted on the normal lens would allow me to experiment with changing both focus rings. I’ll keep playing with this technique to see what works best for me.

I took a lot of pictures, but this is the only one that worked out. I converted it to monochrome in Digital Photo Professional and did some contrast adjustment.

Shot Details:

Taken August 23, 2007.
Normal lens: 55mm
Reversed lens: 50mm
1/50 shutter speed, f5.6, ISO 800

Dahlias in Golden Gate Park

The things you know

On our day trip to San Francisco last weekend, my wife had to take me by the dahlias outside the Conservatory of Flowers. I’m glad she did. I’m so bad with flower names I probably couldn’t have identified a dahlia myself, so didn’t really know what to expect until we got there. I had no idea dahlias came in so many sizes, shapes, and colors. My wife is a florist, so I’m a little ashamed to admit me floral ignorance. But I do like to take pictures of flowers, and this was an excellent opportunity. I geotagged the image on Zooomr so you can find out how to get there, but if you want to see them you’d better go soon. The flowers were a few days past their prime (according to my wife) so won’t be as spectacular much longer.

We went there late in the day, around 6:00 pm, so were able to park right next to the flowers. There were several other people taking photos of the dahlias, including a few people with the exact same camera I have, the Canon 30D. I’m still getting used to the controls on the camera, so I was slowed down a little. I still managed to take a couple of dozens photos in a few minutes. There are so many varieties and great shots, it wasn’t hard to take a lot of pictures. I wish I had thought to write down the flower names as I shot, or at least took shots of the little plaques with names. I’m going to need to get a notebook to start writing things down. The JPG records EXIF data, but usually there’s more going on in a shot than what EXIF records.

I used my 70-300mm IS lens to get the shots. The light was starting to fade, so even with the image stabilization a couple of shots were blurry.

Here are two other shots, the second one is the same variety as the main image:
Your Shining Face

What will be

Golden Gate Series

Golden Gate series 1

Yesterday my family took a day trip to San Francisco, mainly to walk the Golden Gate Bridge. I have lived basically my entire life within a few hours of San Francisco and have probably driven across the bridge over a thousand times, but until yesterday had never set foot on the bridge. If you live near San Francisco or are visiting, it is worth the effort. I don’t recommend Saturdays, but it was still quite an experience.

You’re walking within a few feet of traffic, so the noise gets to you. If you start on the city side, the crowds can be a chore to navigate. And bikes riding on the wrong side of the bridge can get annoying. (Bikes are not supposed to ride on the east walkway on weekends, but apparently a lot of people can’t read the signs.) But once you get past the south tower, the crowds thin out and the view gets better. We didn’t walk all the way across, but did go about 2/3 of the way. I had kids with me and they weren’t up to the entire walk. I imagine on foot it would take less than two hours to go all the way across and back, taking some time to stop and enjoy the view, or shoot some pictures. You really could spend a day just around the bridge, there are plenty of things to see on both sides.

So, if you can, walk the bridge. I know it’s a “tourist” thing to do, but really should be done by anyone within driving distance, at least once. It is probably the single most recognized landmark west of the Statue of Liberty and probably the most well known bridge in the world, so it’s worth a couple of hours of your life.

I shot this in RAW (of course) with my standard 18-55mm lens. I did use a polarizing filter. I converted it to black and white and did all other processing in Digital Photography Professional, which came with my camera. It’s quite a good program, I was impressed with all it had to offer. I did apply a red filter to the image to add contrast. DPP can simulate red, yellow, orange and green filters with monochrome images. I thought that was pretty cool.

Here’s a few other shots. More are on Zooomr.

Golden Gate series 3 Golden Gate series 2

Golden Gate series 6

Sundial Bridge

Bridge lines
Last weekend our family and three other families headed up to Trinity
to do some camping. On the way up we stopped in Redding, CA to see the Sundial Bridge. One of the dads had read about the bridge and wanted to see it since it was on the way. (It was literally a couple of blocks from the freeway we were on.) Simply put, the bridge was impressive. If you are ever near Redding, it is worth stopping at. It’s only a couple of minutes off I-5, has plenty of parking, and is great spot for taking pictures.

The bridge is a pedestrian only bridge that spans the Sacramento River in the middle of Redding. It gets its name from the fact that the bridge actually is a massive sundial. There are markers on the North end that show the time as the shadow of the spire moves during the day. The accuracy varies because any sundial is really only accurate at Summer Solstice, but it was still pretty close last week.

I’m not going to go into all the details of the bridge, if you want them them you can visit the Wikipedia entry. Aside from the stunning design and engineering, one thing I thought was cool was the surface of the bridge – it’s glass. We were there during the day so didn’t get to see the bridge lit up, but I imagine it’s pretty spectacular.

I was also impressed that a city actually had the foresight and political will to build such a fabulous landmark. I can’t imagine the debates and battles that took place to get this project approved, but it was worth it. I’ve driven through Redding several times over the years, but only ever stopped for gas or food. Now I’ll stop by the bridge every time I drive through. It’s a great place to hang out and relax. This bridge is in itself an attraction. It drew our families, and I’m sure will continue to be an draw others for decades to come.

When we were there it was over 100 degrees, so the water looked really inviting. At the North end of the bridge you can walk under the bridge and wade in the river, but even in 100+ degree heat the water is too cold. The Sacramento River is fed from Lake Shasta, which is primarily snow runoff. I was surprised by how cold it was. I could only stand in it, ankle deep, for about a minute. While the kids tried to see who could stay in the water the longest, I wander around taking pictures.

You can see this image on Zooomr with a geotag. Here are a few more shots:
Glass over water
Sundial Bridge
Sundial Bridge
Into the sky

Owl’s Barn

Old Barn
Last week we spent some time visiting with friends and family on a ranch in the lower Russian River valley. I guess ranch isn’t the right word, it’s vineyard land with several varieties of wine grapes. Anyway, this barn is on the ranch and is a moderately famous barn. I’ve seen photos of it at an art show in Emeryville and it’s been in calendars and postcards. It’s usually shot from farther away and from the opposite side, but when I was there the sun was setting and the light coming through the barn made the shot better from this side. This shot is on Zooomr here, there is an alternate shot here.

The barn isn’t really used for vineyard operations, other than for storage. It’s now home to some owls. The floor is littered with the bones of small animals eaten by owls. My kids (who studied owls in school) were quite eager to tell the adults about the dietary habits and digestive functions of owls. It’s very fascinating, but I’ll spare you the details. I’m sure Wikipedia has ample information on the subject. I don’t know much about rodent anatomy, but others in the group could point out various bones of various creatures. Later in the evening we saw an owl fly over, I assume it was eventually heading for the barn.

Other than getting out to take pictures, it was a great evening spent with family and friends. One of those evenings you wish you could have everyday.

Here are a few other shots from the same day:
St. Helena

Daisies and Vineyard


On the vine


Shedding Skin

Shedding your skin
As summer warms up, manzanita bushes in Northern California start shedding their bark. Having grown up in the middle of these bushes, I pretty much ignored what was right in front of me until I started taking pictures and the ordinary became extraordinary through the lens. Last week as I drove up my in-laws driveway I noticed the bark peeling off the bushes and thought “How cool”. Something I grew up with became the focus of my shooting. For this shot, I converted to Black and White in Picasa and adjusted the brightness and contrast quite a bit. It’s hosted on Zooomr. Most of the year the bark is a deep red color, almost burgandy. In the summer it peels off to expose fresh green bark. I have an alternate shot that shows the colors.

As I wrote this post I started remembering scenes from my childhood. I clearly remember peeling the bark of the bushes during the summer and trying to see how big of a piece I could get. I spent many hours every day in the summertime amongst the manzanita bushes on our property. They made excellent forts. At my grandparents house in the Sierra Nevada foothills the manzanita bushes were much bigger and provided a canopy for taking walks in the summer. More on Manzanita bushes can be found on Wikipedia.

Twins and Clouds

Twins and Clouds

Indian Springs Resort in Calistoga, CA has easily a hundred palm trees on the grounds. Most of them are young, but quite a few have been there for decades and tower above you in the sky. The sky in Calistoga is also the perfect shade of blue, and on this day had fascinating clouds in the upper atmosphere that kept changing. I spent a little time walking around in the 90+ degree heat taking photos. The palm trees drew me in the second I saw them against the sky. The clouds happened to form the perfect background for the trees.

Even though the color of the sky was perfect, I liked the shot better in black and white. Here’s the color version.
Twins and Clouds, color

Both are on Zooomr with Geotags.

Days Gone By

Days Gone By

Last weekend we went up to visit our parents for Father’s Day. I’ve taken a lot of shots at my in-laws, but not many at my parents house. This one is at my parents house. My dad has a large garden that he and my Grandma take care of. This year they haven’t planted a lot, mostly flowers, because my dad is working this summer and water conservation is critical in their area.

This chair sits at the edge of the garden, in the shade of a large manzanita bush. The chair has been around probably longer than I’ve been alive. It was originally a poolside chair at a trailer park my grandparents owned many years ago. I’m sure it was sitting by the pool there when I was born. My grandparents eventually sold the park to their children, who eventually sold it to someone else. Along the way the poolside furniture was updated, and the old chairs made their way to various family members homes. Unfortunately I was too young at the time to have need of the chairs, I was probably in high school or college, so I didn’t get one. I wish I had, they’ve come back in style and I see them at antique stores for outrageous prices. They certainly hold up better than the chairs you can buy today, and are more comfortable.

The chair, for me, brings back memories of warm summer days by the pool. It wasn’t a fabulous pool. It was old, even 30 years ago, and had a lot of cars driving just outside the fences, but as a young child it was heaven on a hot day. I learned to swim at that pool and spent many summer days there when I was young. It’s nice to have a reminder of those days long gone by.

This is on Zooomr, along with a couple of other shots from the same day.

Reaching Skyward

Reaching Skyward
Last week our family went up to Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa so my wife could scope the place out. She’s doing the flowers for a wedding there next week and wanted to be sure she planned adequately. Anyway, it’s a pretty cool place that I didn’t really know existed before she got this job. It’s up on a hill overlooking the southern Russian River valley and has great views. I imagine the sunsets from up there are pretty spectacular. The wedding next week is in the evening, so maybe I’ll get some shots while I help my wife.

This shot is an oak tree in the middle of a deck at the entrance to the tasting building. The tree is pretty spectacular – large, old, and majestic, the kind of tree you almost hate to photograph because you can’t do it justice. I figured my best shot at a decent photo was to make it a little abstract. The thumbnail above doesn’t really do it justice, check out the large version on Zooomr.

The winery is small with simple, but elegant grounds and decor. It fits in with the surrounding hills and doesn’t try to be overly pretentious. It was laid back and classy at the same time. The winery also has a very cool outdoor sculpture gallery. We walked through and the kids just loved it. Lots of great sculptures in a variety of mediums and from many artists. The best part
is that it is free to walk around. The sculptures are spread out in an grove of oak trees on a hillside, so the surroundings are quiet and peaceful. If you’re in Santa Rosa, take an hour and visit. It’s worth the small effort.

I have a few more shots from the winery and sculpture garden on Zooomr. I’m going to blog at least one of them in the next day or so. You can view this shot with a geotag on Zooomr as well.

Off to a completely unrelated topic, Zooomr Mark III is shaping up to be awesome. The Zipline and new Discover page are both cool new features. I’ve run into some bugs, but I’m sure Kristopher will work them out soon enough. I’ve run into problems trying to GeoTag more than one image at a time and some of my old images are smaller than the size I uploaded, but since the Markk III upgrade I’ve spent a lot time finding many amazing photos. Zooomr is fabulous, and the community is incredible. If you don’t have an account, join. Now.