Walton’s Reflection!

Location: Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 13mm | f/16 | 2s | ISO 100

I have been to Walton Lighthouse multiple times. As a matter of fact, I met the core Photography buddies when I was at Walton one week early last year. For the first time, I tried my hand at light painting. I was then added as part of a Whatsapp Photography group, which started with just 4 or 5 Photographers. It has since group to close to two dozen Photographers. Meeting the core group that day was awesome. My photography, honestly, has grown leaps and bounds shooting with the core group. I have been to so many new places, tried so many new things. We challenge each other, learn from each other, and have fun together.

Coming back to the story behind this shot now. As I said, I have been to Walton Lighthouse several times. But this time when I visited for Sunrise, it was low tide. I have never seen Walton Lighthouse where the beach was visible on the left side of the Lighthouse. The moment I saw this, I knew I had to get down to the beach. Once I saw the reflection, I knew the type of shot I wanted to get.

So, I went down to the beach. Even though it was low-tide, waves were still coming where I was standing. And, as usual, I got drenched. I seriously need to figure out a way to stay dry. Every trip to the beach, I come back with wet pants, socks, and shoes. Anyways, once I got a bit wet, I decided to not worry about getting wet. I was moving around to get full reflection of the Lighthouse. I have not seen that comp before and I wanted to see if I could get it. I had to be quick as the reflection was only visible partially. Every once in a while, a big wave would come in and hide the reflection.

I took several shots; at least a dozen or more from the beach. I knew looking at the Camera LCD that I had some full reflections. The question was whether the shots were sharp, in-focus, and something that I could use.

This particular shot is a blend of 3 shots (HDR). Basically, I bracketed 3 shots with same focal length and aperture but different shutter speeds. The idea is to combine several photos of the same scene but shot at different exposures to create an image with a High Dynamic Range. I used Lightroom to combine the 3 images and then processed using my usual Workflow.


Week 4 – Framing your Subject

The fourth Challenge in my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Framing your Subject. Framing your subject is one of those compositional techniques that can work wonders or completely ruin photos. This is a compositional technique that I have struggled with a lot and to be honest, still struggle with a lot.

I want things to fall naturally within a scene and feel like it’s forced or manipulated. For some reason, Framing your Subject feels to me like forcing things. In some cases, it works really well but the key is to figure out when it works and when it just distracts more than it adds.

So, one of the things I have started doing is to constantly question whether I am putting in my frame is something that adds or distracts from the main story. Sometimes, many of the compositional techniques that have been tried, tested, and proved before, it may not always work. Framing your subject is one of those things that can just add clutter to a shot and make it feel very cramped. What you think adds a natural frame can actually be seen as distracting elements by others. As Mr. Adams famously said, ‘there are always two people in every picture: The Photographer and the Viewer.”

Based on what I have seen, framing can be just about anything from shooting through a window, tunnel, arches, doorways, branches; they can be natural elements, architectural elements, or anything in between. I have seen some very creative ways other Photographer’s have used frames. I have tried to learn as much as possible but what I realize is that there is a long way to go.

Here’s a photo that I took during one of my trips to Yosemite. I did not think about this framing. I have seen this before and drew inspiration from the composition. I think this is a good example of framing your subject. But to me, it does feel a bit forced.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have been looking for a good subject that is a good example of framing your subject. Maybe that’s the problem. I shouldn’t be looking for a subject to force a compositional technique. If the scene naturally calls for a comp technique, that’s what will add to the photo and not feel forced.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have been looking for a good subject that is a good example of framing your subject. Maybe that’s the problem. I shouldn’t be looking for a subject to force a compositional technique. If the scene naturally calls for a comp technique, that’s what will add to the photo and not feel forced.


I went to Shark Fin Cove for Sunrise recently and I knew there was an arch there. I wanted to see if I can use the Arch and shoot the Shark Fin using the Arch as a frame. I realized that wasn’t possible because of the angle. I was able to frame this other seas stack perfectly within the frame. Does it look forced? Maybe! But this is the best example of framing your subject. At least, for now. I may be able to find a better subject and scene, If I do, I’ll update this post. But until then, this is my pick for the 4th challenge of my 52 week Landscape Photo Challenge.

Sunrise Reflections!

Location: Capitola Wharf
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm 2.8 | 17mm | f/16 | 20s | ISO 100

This was shot during the first Photo Shoot of 2017. As mentioned in my previous post, the goal for this Photo Shoot was to use the Capitola Wharf as the primary subject and capture the rising sun in the hopes that the sky would light up with vibrant colors.

I got a couple of good shots of the Wharf from the high vantage point (previous photo). So, I decided to head down to the beach. While walking on the beach taking shots of the Wharf from multiple angles, I saw this small driftwood. The last time I was here, I used driftwood along with the Wharf in my Composition. It worked out well. This time, I decided to use one of the often-overlooked Compositional Techniques; the power of simplicity.

So, I decided to just use the driftwood in my Composition. The colors and reflection were spectacular. It was beautiful. In terms of processing, I just had to do basic workflow in Lightroom. Didn’t even have to take this into Photoshop for any clean-up.

I think it worked out well!

Week 3 – Panorama

One location that I have been meaning to go for a long time was the Sierra Open Preserve. I have been there long time back with a couple of friends but I didn’t have my camera with me nor was I into Landscape Photography during that time. Ever since I got into Landscape Photography, this has been one of those spots that within striking distance but I never got an opportunity to go. Without traffic, it’s about 20 minutes from home.

Finally, we decided to head to Sierra Open Preserve as the conditions for Sunset was predicted to be good. When we got there, we started walking one of the trails to get to this lone tree atop a hill. The hike was pretty easy. When we got there, the wide sweeping views of green rolling hills were definitely worth the trip.

I remembered that Panorama was one of the challenges on this 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge. The landscape in front of me was calling for a Panorama. I had my tripod with me but decided to do hand-held as it gave me more freedom to be in a spot that was difficult to setup my tripod.

I took 7 shots in portrait orientation trying to cover as much landscape as I could. When I came back home and merged the first 7 shots, I realized that the setting Sun that I included in the first 2 shots was actually distracting. I did process that 7 shot Pano but decided not use that shot. I had a 2nd set of 7 shots but this time I decided to skip the first 2 and go with a 5 shot Pano. Even with 5 shots, I had to crop a bit to avoid distractions.

This is a 5 shot blend of the photos that I took hand-help and merged in Lightroom.


Glorious Morning!

Location: Capitola Wharf
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm 2.8 | 17mm | f/11 | 122s | ISO 100

One of the first Photo trips of 2017. I woke up pretty early in the morning (around 5:00 AM) to get to Capitola for Sunrise. One of my Photography buddies wanted to carpool so he came around 5:30 and we hit the road right away. We had good conversation on the way to Capitola. Another Photography buddy was planning to meet us on location.

We weren’t sure how the weather was going to turn out. Obviously, we were hoping it would be good. We did hear from sources with ‘knowledge’ of the weather that it might be a good show. This was my 2nd trip to Capitola. The first time around was during the Christmas break. I made the trip alone. The weather was ‘ok’ that day. It was extremely cold and for a period of time, I was the only person on the beach. It was a good shoot. I came back with some good shots.

When we got there, it was pretty dark. We were a bit early. The other friend wasn’t going to show up for another 10 to 15 minutes. So, the two of us decided to go down to the beach. While waking on the stairs to the beach, we saw a spot half way down that we thought would make a good spot to setup our tripods and get a shot. We wanted to get the Capitola Wharf from a higher vantage point.

This is one of the first shots that I took that morning. It was still dark but I could see beautiful colors in the horizon. I decided to go with a ultra-long exposure (around 2 minutes) to capture all the light.

We spent some time shooting from this high vantage point and then I decided to head out to the beach. I moved around and used the Wharf as the main subject and shot from all angles. When I came to this location end of last year, there were lot of driftwood on the beach. I was able to use the driftwood as foreground elements. There weren’t any this time around.

Once back home, the processing was rather straight-forward. Didn’t have to do a whole lot to enhance the colors in this photo. I did my basic Lightroom processing and then took it over to Photoshop to do some cleanup.

A spectacular Sunrise! Enjoyed it quite a bit.

Golden Glow!

Location: Four Mile Beach, Santa Cruz
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm 2.8 | 23mm | f/16 | 95s | ISO 100

This was shot during my visit to Four Mile Beach. This shot was taken moments after the Sun set behind the horizon. We were pretty close to the water and waves were very unpredictable. It kept hitting us hard. A couple of times, small driftwoods and rocks would come hit my tripod and move it slightly but enough to cause blurred photos. I have quite a few blurred photos from this series.

I experimented with this rock in the foreground quite a bit. For this particular shot, I saw the reflection of the rock when I used long exposure. So, I decided move back a little bit to capture the entire reflection. I went for a minute and a half exposure to make sure that the waves were completely smoothed out.

There colors were there but I had to work a bit on this one to bring it to where I liked it. I worked primarily in Lightroom. Apart from my usual workflow, I did a bit more with Vibrance and Saturation. I played a bit with Camera Calibration too.

Sunset Stacks!

Location: Four Mile Beach, Santa Cruz
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm 2.8 | 35mm | f/8 | 25s | ISO 100

The first Photo Shoot of 2017. One of my Photography buddies and I decided to go to Four Mile Beach for Sunset. We’ve been there before but for Sunrise. The last time we were there, it was a ‘sendoff’ shoot for someone from our group who was going back to India. About half a dozen of us decided to meet for Sunrise at Four Mile Beach. The person going back to India was the resident expert of Drones in our Photography Group. So, one of the main purpose of the meetup was for him to showcase and demo his drone. A couple of Photographers were really interested in getting a drone.

Until last minute, I wasn’t sure if I would actually make it for Sunrise as I came home from a business trip pretty late at night. I didn’t set my alarm. I decided that if I wake up in time to head out, then I’ll go. I woke up and made the trip out to Four Mile Beach. Getting to the Beach from the parking lot is a short hike. Once down at the beach, we started shooting right away. There were lot of Sea Stacks. I moved around quite a bit and got some good shots during the Sunrise trip.

For the Sunset visit to Four Mile Beach, we decided to go close to the big Sea Stack that’s a prominent feature of this beach. The walk took about 10 minutes but it wasn’t really difficult. Waves were pretty rough and unpredictable as we got pretty wet but that’s nothing new. We moved around a bit to get different shots by placing the multiple Sea Stacks in different places of the frame.

This particular shot was one of the best from that day. I shot this pretty late; actually, just a few minutes before we packed up. One of the last shots that I took. The colors were subtle but spectacular. I was above a big flat Sea Stack and waves were crashing in. I took a few shots and this came out really well.

In terms of processing, I did my usual Lightroom workflow. There were no spots to remove but there was a small rock sticking on the bottom left of the frame that I removed in Photoshop.  Overall a great day shooting in a beautiful location.

Week 2 – Leading Lines

The second Challenge in my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Leading Lines. To me, leading lines are one of the most effective but often overlooked compositional tools.

When done right, leading lines connect the foreground to the background of your scene. Leading Lines are a great way to create depth and dimension to your photos, drawing the viewer into the scene. As I have mentioned before, my goal is to  tell a compelling story with my photos. Leading Lines is one of those compositional techniques that helps you tell a story by drawing the viewers attention to specific parts of the scene. It is said that the human eye naturally follows lines. When used in photography, viewers follow the line to where they lead and placing key elements of your scene where the line ends is a good way to draw the viewers attention.

When we talk about Leading Lines, it can take many forms. For example, Leading Lines can be railroad tracks, roads, fence, line of colorful flowers, and many other things. The Line usually begins at the bottom of the frame and extends into the main subject of your scene, bringing the viewers attention right to the main subject. Sometimes, Leading Lines are also used to lead to a vanishing point. The goal is to make our viewers feel like they are actually standing and watching the scene unfold. Starting the line if the foreground helps us achieve this.

I have used Leading Lines quite effective in some of my photos. It is something that I have consciously stared looking for. I don’t try to force the issue but if there is a natural leading line, I try to use it. Here’s an example of Leading Line where I stood in the middle of the road and used the dividing line in the middle of the road as a leading line.

The Leading Lines work well here but it is not perfect. If the road would have curved left instead of right, it might have been even better as the lines would directly lead to the Half Dome.

The Featured Photo in this post was shot from Fort Point in San Francisco. I have another shot where I put the chains as diagonal line. That is a completely different composition. With this one, I waked away from the main subject, the Golden Gate Bridge, to a point where I could use the road and the chains as leading line. The red line on the road acts as another leading line. All lines leading to the end of the frame where the sun is setting as well as the main subject, the Golden Gate Bridge, is.

That was my vision. How well it actually works is up to the viewer. Based on feedback friends and family that have looked at this picture, it seems to have done the trick. Not a perfect use of leading line but a good example. I have also used the Rule of Thirds in this photo.


Week 1 – Rule of Thirds

My journey to learn Landscape Photography Composition begins with the Rule of Thirds. This is the first Challenge in my 52 Week Landscape Photography Composition Challenge. My goal is to go out and shoot photos using specific Compositional Techniques so I can tell a compelling story with my photos.

I specifically assigned Rule of Thirds as the first challenge and Compositional Technique. Rule of Thirds is one of the (if not THE) most used and well-known ‘rule’. You’ll see this technique used in paintings, photography, and even videography. It is so common that your Camera has an option to display it on your LCD.

So, what’s the Rule of Thirds? Basically, you have to imagine breaking your frame down into ‘thirds’; both horizontally and vertically. Once you do this, you’ll have 9 parts. Like the image below.

Image result for rule of thirds


As you can see from the grid above, you now have four focus points as well as four intersecting lines. While framing your scene, you can use this grid as a guideline and place important elements in one (or more) of the focus points as well as in the intersecting lines.

The theory behind this ‘rule’ is that if you place key elements of your image in the four points or the intersecting lines, your photo becomes balanced, energized; it creates interest and enables your viewer to interact with your image naturally.

Rule of Thirds is probably my go-to Compositional Technique. One, because I know it very well and for the longest time, one of the few techniques I knew. And two, because it works extremely well. No wonder, it has been used for thousands of years.

For this week’s Challenge, I am using one of my shots from my recent trip to Walton Lighthouse. As I mentioned above, most of my photos use the Rule of Thirds in one way or the other. As you can see from this photo, I have use the Rule of Thirds in multiple ways: 1) I have put the Lighthouse in one of the intersecting points as well as one of the vertical lines. 2) I have put the horizon on the top third so I have 1/3 sky and 2/3 water.

I feel that the Rule of Thirds, even though is very commonly used and easily recognizable, it does work. This is a good example of the Rule of Thirds in action.



Story Behind the Shot!

One of the things that I’ve decided to do in 2017 is to document some key details that led to some of my photos. I’ll call this section, ‘Story Behind the Shot’.

What’s the ‘story’ behind my ‘Story Behind the Shot!’ blog posts? Well, with multiple shots every week it is becoming increasingly difficult to remember some of the details of not just the shot but the Photo Shoot itself. As the famous Chinese saying goes, ‘the faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory’. So, my goal with ‘Story Behind the Shot’ is to document some of the details that I’d like to remember about my Photo Shoots and specific Photos.

As such, I will not go into a lot of technical details about the shot or my post processing. Every Photo Shoot is an adventure. I am not just there to take Photos. Albeit, that’s the primary purpose and I absolutely enjoy taking photos. But, to me, the story behind the shot, the journey to get to the location, the people that I was with, the feelings that I had, all add to the adventure and make the overall process that much more interesting and rewarding.

I am not going to write a lot about what’s in the picture. Meaning, I will not write a detailed description of my photos. The photo will (or at least, it should) describe itself.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes (especially to me) it is important to remember the Story Behind the Shot, and not just the shot.