Week 8 – B&W

The goal for Week 8 of the 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is to shoot Black & White. I love B&W Photography. I have always been drawn to B&W photos. Ansel Adams is one of my favorite Photographers. What he was able to do with his photos as well as Photography in general is unbelievable. I take a lot of inspiration from Ansel Adams as well as several Photographers from that timeframe who primarily shot in B&W like Edward Weston, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Mary Ellen Mark, Irving Penn, Diane Arbus, Dorothea Lange, and many others.

Black & White Photography is extremely rewarding to me. What I have seen is that even people who aren’t into Photography are usually drawn to a great B&W image. My friends, many of whom are not into Photography, are drawn to my B&W shots more than color.

What I have learned is that images that taking a Photo and merely processing it to B&W may get you good results but often times, you’ll be disappointment. To get best results with B&W photos, you have to not only think about post processing but also deliberately think about B&W while shooting a scene. You have to assess a scene to see whether or not it would work well in B&W. You’ll have to look at things like Tonal Contrast, Texture, Pattern, Lines, Shapes, Forms, among other things.

I have seen a lot of people say that they convert their photos to B&W if lighting is bad. This may work but unless you look at things I mentioned above and deliberately shoot a scene with the intention to convert to B&W, the results are not going to be optimal. Don’t get me wrong, B&W does ‘soften the blow’ when you are dealing with bad lighting but there’s more to B&W than just converting to B&W in post processing.

To be honest, I do both. Meaning, I deliberately look for scenes that will be good in B&W as well as convert shots that don’t look good in color to B&W to see if turns out better. I have definitely had better results with the former approach rather than the latter.

One of the places that I look to capture in B&W is Yosemite National Park. How can I not think about B&W given that some of my favorite photos of all time are Ansel Adams Yosemite series? Yosemite definitely screams B&W, especially during winter. I have several shots from Yosemite where I shot with the intention of converting to B&W. A couple of shots in this Photo Challenge series are B&W shots from Yosemite.

This particular shot was taken during my recent visit to Yosemite. We didn’t have fresh snow during our recent trip but all the mountains and peaks were covered in snow. We went to Tunnel View for Sunrise and I zoomed in on the Cathedral Rocks with the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls and decided to capture that with the intention to go B&W for multiple reasons: 1) the tonal contrast in the scene 2) the snow capped Cathedral Rocks with dark rocks 2) the bright Bridal Veil Falls and 4) B&W was basically the only option that day as the weather wasn’t ideal.

Definitely not the best B&W I captured but I think it turned out well. The best thing was I went with the plan to shoot B&W and executed my vision.

 

 

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Walton’s Fire!

Location: Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/8.0 | 1/100s | ISO 100

Another trip to Walton Lighthouse for Sunrise. This time with Sowmya. So, Escaype forecasted slightly higher than medium potential for Santa Cruz but it was expected to be colorful. So, Sowmya and I decided to head to Walton Lighthouse to catch the Sunrise.

We woke up early in the morning and headed out in less than 10 minutes. The drive was pretty smooth; no traffic at all. Of course, at 5:00 AM you don’t expect that such traffic but with road closures and construction on HWY 17, we didn’t know what to expect. We got there about 30 minutes before Sunrise. The colors already started to show up.

It was high tide so no possibility of getting to the beach like last time. Sowmya and I tried to take a couple of shots with the curve of rocks and pathway leading to the Lighthouse. It was basically just the two of us. For some reason, Walton Lighthouse was empty that morning. Anyways, we started moving close to the Lighthouse and I see reflection of the Lighthouse on the pathway.

I immediately setup up my tripod and put the Lighthouse right smack in the middle of the frame with the reflection. I started firing away and the clouds started lighting up. It was simply superb. One of the best sunrises I have seen at Walton Lighthouse. Sowmya moved around a bit and was asking me to come there to check out her comp. But I didn’t want to change my comp. I was happy with it and kept shooting. After seeing Sowmya’s shot, I definitely should have moved. It was a very good perspective. I am glad she got it.

Right when the colors were disappearing, one of the Photographers that is part of Escaype showed up. He was shooting from Seabright beach. I could have done that as well. His comp was pretty good. If I go to Walton for sunrise again, that’s what I’ll do.

In terms of processing, I really didn’t have to do a whole lot. The colors were simply superb. I just enhanced it a bit and cleaned up some dust spots.

Alone but not Lonely!

Location: Santa Teresa Park, San Jose
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM | 28mm | f/8 | 1/500s | ISO 100

I am now part of the Escapye community. I didn’t expect to get in but to my surprise, my application was accepted right away. Being part of the Escaype community means I get weather forecast specific for Photography. Meaning, what areas will have good cloud coverage, what parts of the clouds will light up, how much burn will be in the sky, and so on. The forecast showed high potential for San Jose.

So, I decided to go to Santa Teresa Park, which is just about 10 minutes from home. Santa Teresa Park is located in the Santa Teresa Hills and offers spectacular views from its trails above the Almaden and Santa Clara Valleys. I thought the high vantage point and the wide-open landscape will be good for Sunrise.

When I got to the location, I started hiking up a trail and I really didn’t find any good composition. I did see this beautiful lone tree (Oak, I think) atop a hill but didn’t really know how to get there. I also saw a fallen tree atop another small hill. There was no easy way to get to this fallen tree as well but I decided to just go off trail. Grass was knee high and there was lot of dew and water. So, as usual, my shoes and socks got wet. I went up to the Fallen Tree and used it as my Foreground to shoot the rising sun in the background. Colors were very good.

I just stood there firing away dozens of shots. I should have moved around a bit but since I was in a precarious location, I really didn’t want to move and the colors were fading fast. Unfortunately, none of the shots from this location turned out good. The fallen tree is more of a distraction with lot of branches than anything else.

I really wanted to go to the large beautiful oak tree but didn’t have time. But on the way out of the park, I saw the moon setting behind this beautiful tree. So, I setup my tripod and took a couple of shots right from the trail. I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out.

Once I got back home, as suspected, none of the fallen tree shots worked out. I wasn’t able to salvage anything. I tried processing the moonset behind the tree a couple of different ways but didn’t really like anything that much. Then I tried B&W and I loved it. So, I did a little bit of dodging and burning and the final result turned out well.

Not at all what I had in mind but one of the shots that I took while exiting the park turned out to be a keeper. From the moment I parked my car and started hiking the trail, I didn’t see anyone else in the park. It was just me. Even though I was alone, I didn’t feel lonely at all. Sometimes, you just need to be alone. Not to be lonely, but to enjoy your time being yourself and enjoying the moment.

Week 7 – Long Exposure

The challenge for week 7 of my 52 week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Long Exposure. The goal for this week was to slow down the shutter speed, significantly. When you hear Long Exposure, one of the first things that come to mind is a waterscape where the waves have been smoothed while keeping some element in the frame sharp like foreground rock or bridge. However, Long Exposure can basically be anything. As long as you slow down your shutter speed to show motion, it’s considered long exposure. There is no clear definition of what Long Exposure is.

Long Exposure Photography portrays time; at least, that’s the intent. Moving clouds or waves or light trails or even star rails all portray time or passing of time in your photos. For a photo to be considered long exposure, you don’t necessarily have to use a certain shutter speed. As long as your intention is to capture moving objects with a shutter speed and exposure time longer than ‘necessary’, then it qualifies as Long Exposure. Some people use Long Exposure in a busy street to blur people and create a ghostlike feel. Some people take it a step further. If they are in a busy monument or natural attraction and they don’t want people in their photo, they use a ultra-long exposure and anyone that does not stay stationary for a long time disappear from the photo.

Here’s an example of Long Exposure that I shot for this week’s challenge. This is a shot of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco Skyline shot from Treasure Island. This was well past Sunset and my goal was to use a Long Exposure (about 2 minutes) to capture all the lights from the Bay Bridge as well as the Skyline. Not what you think when you hear Long Exposure but definitely fits the bill for this week’s challenge.

Week 6 – Zoomed In

The Challenge for this week was to zoom-in on the primary subject and eliminate everything else. When you think about Landscape photography, what immediately comes to mind is the wide sweeping landscape. One of the first things you need as a Landscape Photographer is a wide angle lens; the wider the better.

Most of my Landscape photos are wide sweeping scenes. I have noticed that going wide (or ultra-wide) sometimes distracts the viewer. I remember shooting Sunset from Asilomar Beach and I love the scene that was unfolding in front of me. It was a gorgeous Sunset and there were lot of rocks in the foreground. I took a lot of shots and felt I had some keepers. When I reviewed the photos to pick the ones I wanted to post process, I didn’t really like a lot of photos from this series. Why? The scene ended up being too confusing; too distracting. Way too many rocks in the foreground; no clear focus point; no leading line; no symmetry; no balance.

Got me thinking that no matter how beautiful a scene may me, it is up to the Photographer to focus on the right things and tell a compelling story. That’s where the different compositional techniques come in. With a wide landscape, you have to pay careful attention to where you place different elements of the scene.

One of the compositional techniques used masterfully by some of the world’s best Landscape Photographers is to zoom-in. The goal is to put the primary subject the sole focus of the image and eliminate everything else from the frame. Ansel Adams did this very well. His shot titled “Moon and Half Dome” is a great example.

When I was in Yosemite recently, I decided to try the zoom-in technique. I was shooting a reflection of Half Dome with my wide-angle lens – the 10-18mm. I loved how those shots turned out. I wrote about one of those shots – Snowy Reflections! I didn’t have my camera bag with me so didn’t have the option to go beyond 18mm. When my friend walked in with his camera bag, I borrowed his 24-105mm lens. This lens is considered a good walk around lens as it covers a wide range.

On my 7D, which has a 1.6x crop factor, this lens essentially becomes 38-168mm. I zoomed in to get  close up shot of Half Dome. I tried a couple of different frames and liked this particular frame. I convered to B&W as the contrast between snow and dark shadows of the Half Dome came out clearly.

Week 5 – Reflection

The Challenge for Week 5 of the 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Reflection. I love reflections; especially those that occur in nature such as waterscapes. For some reason, I am drawn to reflections and love capturing them. To me finding reflections in nature is like a scavenger hunt; I try to seek out as many reflective surfaces as possible – lakes, ponds, water puddles, windows, mirrors, and on and on.

In my mind, the keys to photographing reflections is to achieve an acceptable amount of clarity in the reflection so both the main subject and its reflection are super clear. I often move around to find the perfect reflection. I try to get a clean reflection of my main subject and nothing else. This brings in symmetry as well. In some cases, I find a small rock or driftwood, or tree bark, or something in the foreground to offset that symmetry. But in most cases, my goal is to capture a mirror reflection.

During my recent visit to Yosemite National Park, I shot this reflection of Three Brothers. I have been to this particular location a couple of times before. The first few times I went to Yosemite last year, I was not able to find a good location to shoot the Three Brothers. During one of my visits to Yosemite with Sowmya and her mom, I was on the lookout for a location to shoot the Three Brothers. Not only that, I knew that there is a location in the Valley where you can get a good reflection of the Brothers.

While driving around, Sowmya found a pullout that she thought would be a good spot to park our car and walk off-trail to see if we can find a spot to shoot the Three Brothers. We got lucky. This spot was not too far away from where we parked our car. I was very happy to get the reflection of Three Brothers. Actually, that morning, almost all of my shots were reflections – El Capitan, Half Dome, Three Brothers, Tenaya Peak, Stately Pleasure Dome, and Cathedral Rocks.

During my recent visit to Yosemite, we went to this location again to get the reflection of the Three Brothers. I converted it to B&W as the contrast seemed to work very well. The water was pretty still. I was able to get this shot hand-held and still get a sharp focus on both the main subject and the reflection.

Guiding Sentinel!

Location: Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 16mm | f/16 | 1/1s | ISO 100

This was shot during the same time as my last shot (Walton’s Reflection). After taking several shots of the reflection, I went up to the pathway leading to the Lighthouse and took a few shots. Nothing really worked out from there that day. When the sun started rising above the hills, I decided to go back down to the beach and use the waves as leading lines and put both the Lighthouse and sun in the frame.

I was able to execute on my vision but now that I look at the shot, having a startburst on the sun would have been awesome. I didn’t think about it while on the field. I didn’t want to miss the rising sun so I kept shooting. I didn’t want to add starburst in post processing.

I liked the way this turned out. I was able to use multiple compositional techniques on this one; the rule of thirds, leading line, balance, symmetry, and placement. In terms of post processing, other than my usual workflow in Lightroom, I also did some dodging and burning. I also cleaned some solar flares and dust in Photoshop.