Blazing Glow!

Location: Almaden Lake Park, San Jose
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/8 | 1s | ISO 100

Almaden Lake Park is my go-to location for Sunset if there’s no other plan. As a matter of fact, one of the first locations that I went to when I wanted to get serious about Landscape Photography was Almaden Lake Park. Another one of those locations that’s minutes away from home but didn’t even know about.

Even when I used to do a lot of bird photography, Almaden Lake Park never came up in my research. I primarily went to Palo Alto Baylands, Charlston Slough, Lake Elizabeth, among other places. When I went to Almaden Lake Park, there were so many birds – Night Heron, Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, etc. Why I didn’t know about this lake, I’ll never know.

Anyways, this was one of those days where inland areas had decent prediction. My first thought was to head to Santa Teresa Park and hike up the hill to the lone tree I have shot before or find another lone tree. Sowmya didn’t like that idea as there were reports of rattle snake in the park and she didn’t want me to go off-trail. We heard in the news that a guy got bit by rattlesnake at Fremont Peak; luckily, medics came in few minutes and saved his life.

So, Santa Teresa Park was out of question. I went to Hellyer Park a few weeks back and due to the amount of water, I wasn’t able to get a good comp. We decided to go to our ‘go-to’ place, Almaden Lake Park. As I mentioned, it’s a place I’ve been to plenty of times and have shot both Sunrise and Sunset. There’s always something new at Almaden Lake Park. As a matter of fact, that’s how I feel about any location. I don’t understand when some of my non-Photography friends ask me why I go to take photos of Sunrise or Sunset as they say – ‘it’s the same Sunrise’ or ‘haven’t you been there before?’.

To me, Photography gives me the opportunity and pleasure to visit so many places and experience so many things. While I enjoy capturing moments through my viewfinder, I have learned to take some time to enjoy the scene that unfolds in front of me. So, even though I’ve been to Almaden Lake so many times, I will always go whenever I get an opportunity. Even if I don’t take any photos, I’ll happily enjoy the Sunset with Sowmya. We’ve been to the park so many times just to take a walk and enjoy the nature.

When I got to the Lake, I knew the location I wanted to go to and the type of shot I wanted to try. I have seen a lot of driftwood in one location so I wanted to see if I can use that as part of my comp. There lot of bugs everywhere so I was a bit hesitant to go to the lake shore but I decided to go ahead anyway. Sowmya was sitting on one of the park benches and started talking to her mom & sis.

I found the comp (or I should say, I created) that I liked. I sat down on the floor and setup my tripod. I started firing away. I put a ND Filter and tried some Long Exposure shots. In terms of colors, there definitely were colors but I wouldn’t say it was a spectacular burn. It was beautiful, nevertheless.

In terms of processing, I just followed my normal workflow in Lightroom and cleaned up some unwanted items in Photoshop.

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Pier Reflection

Location: Lake Cunningham, San Jose
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/16 | 1/3s | ISO 100

I have been to Lake Cunningham Regional Park several times and always came up with a couple of good shots. The core group (except one person) decided to go to Lake Cunningham for Sunrise. One of those days where there was a lot of debate the previous night about where we should go for Sunrise. I didn’t feel like going anywhere far. So, I told the group that I am heading to Lake Cunningham as I wanted to execute a particular shot. Basically, I tried this shot last time but didn’t’ quite get it so wanted to try it again.

The group asked about potential shots we could get there and I sent them a few shots I took last time I was there. They were all interested and wanted to join. One of my friends came to my place and we carpooled together. Lake Cunningham is just about 15 minutes from my place. We met with the other two at the park.

When we go there, I realized that the shot I wanted to execute wasn’t possible as the Sun’s azimuth changed. I realized that where I thought the Sun was going to come up is not where it actually will. We did see a lot of clouds and colors already started to pop. All four of us went in different direction to find a comp we liked.

The last few times I was here, I wanted to get the reflection of the Pier. Unfortunately, the lens I had wasn’t wide enough and the Sun didn’t line up. This time around I had an ultra-wide lens that I knew will help me get the entire reflection. I also saw that the Sun was lining up nicely behind the Pier and all the action was happening behind the Pier.

I positioned myself in a place where I thought I’d be able to get full reflection. The place I was standing was a boat dock, which was covered with bird poop. I am not kidding. The entire dock was covered in poop. There was absolutely no way for me to step on the dock without stepping on poop. Of course, I stepped on poop. Anything for a good shot J

Apart from bird poop, there was another problem. The dock was moving for wind, waves, and when anyone walked. I knew that setting up the tripod wasn’t going to work. I waited for my friend to get off the dock, stood still and fired a few shots.

Looking at the Camera LCD, I realized that I got some good shots. I never trust the Camera LCD though. So many times, I have trusted that only to come home and realize the shots were not sharp or out of focus. This time around, I did end up with a good shot. I bracketed the shots so I merged the 3 shots in Lightroom and processed using my normal workflow.

Calero Sunset

Location: Highway 58, California
Time: Midday
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/11 | 2s | ISO 100

One of those days where inland was projected to have better potential with low skunk compared to the coast. The quintessential question was where inland should I go to catch the Sunset. For some reason, Calero County Park comes up as default selection when I open the Escaype App. I have been meaning to check out Calero County Park for a while but never got a chance.

Actually, I did drive up to Calero County Park in the wee hours of the morning several weeks back to catch the Sunrise but turned back after going to the park. It was pitch dark and I didn’t want to really wander in a place that I haven’t been to before; especially when it was pitch dark.

When Calero County Park came up with high potential, I decided to head out. The forecaster’s note did say that there won’t be a lot of different colors; the sky will be golden. I decided to check it out as I wanted to see what I can get a Calero County Park.

Sowmya was planning to go to one of our friend’s place for dinner so I dropped Sowmya off at our friends place and headed to Calero County Park. It took less than 20 minutes for me to get there. I put directions to Calero County Park on my phone and it took me to the County Park. What I realized was that the reservoir is several miles west of the park and has a different entrance. So, after few minutes of walking to see if I can get a good comp, I decided to get back on my car and head to the reservoir.

When I got to the reservoir, I went straight to the parking lot as the ranger station was closed. I then saw a Park Ranger so I asked her where the pay station was. She pointed me to the Pay Station but asked if just got here. When I told her that I just got here, she said not to worry about paying as it was pretty close to Sunset and the park will be closed about 10 minutes after Sunset.

I thanked her and headed to the lake bank. I saw lots of shells so I decided to go as low as I can and see if I can use that in my foreground. I soon realized that it did not work at all; very dirty and distracting. Sun was going behind the hills so I decided to get some starburst. It didn’t work out as well as I hoped; even after putting my ND Filter, it didn’t work out well. I then started walking up and down to see what comp I can get. I was also looking to see what comp I can create.

I saw this driftwood so I decided to position it in line with the setting Sun to form a leading line. I decided to go with Long Exposure to smooth out the water. I tried several frames with the driftwood. I then moved around a bit to get different shots. I kept walking along the lake ban to take different shots. I wasn’t really happy with any of the shots that I got but I was focused on enjoying the Sunset and make the best out of the situation to take a bunch of shots.

As it got darker, I heard the Park Ranger’s horn, which I assumed was warning for people still in the park to head out as they’d be closing the park. I took a few more shots and decided to call it a day. Moreover, there were so many bugs all around and I didn’t want to catch anything. My shoes got completely wet and muddy as well.

I went straight to my friends place for dinner. We spent several hours there and then went back home. I loaded my photos to my Hard Drive but didn’t import it to Lightroom as it was pretty late and I was tired.

The next day, I imported my photos to Lightroom and checked to see if there were any keepers. Unfortunately, I didn’t like any of the photos. So, I decided to move on to photos from other photo shoots. For several weeks, I didn’t even look at the Photos from Calero. I was caught up with most of my other photo shoots so I decided to go back to the Calero shoot to see if I can make someone of the 2 dozen or more photos I took.

I found one frame that I liked but didn’t like where the driftwood was placed. What I decided to was something I haven’t done before and honestly have shied away from. I did my normal workflow in Lightroom and then took the photo to Photoshop, where I moved the driftwood where I wanted. I also took a couple of driftwoods from one of my other frames and added it to this to make the comp a bit more interesting.

This level of manipulation is something I’ve never done nor even thought about. I did it for multiple reasons: 1) to see if I can actually do it in Photoshop and 2) to see if I can actually salvage a photo that was technically sound but wasn’t attractive.

I don’t think I’ll be doing this often but always good to have the skills in your arsenal.

Mirror Mirror!

Location: Carrizo Plains National Monument, California
Time: Midday
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 16mm | f/8 | 1/2000s | ISO 100

After we stopped at a few places on Highway 58, we decided to head to the meeting spot within Carrizo Plains National Monument to meet up with the group. The meeting organizer was already there. We were one of the first people to arrive. There were more than 2 dozen people that signed up for the event. It took a while for everyone to show up. The more time it took, the more irritated the organizer got 🙂

Once everyone showed up, the organizer told us the general direction we’ll be going and took off. We had to scramble to keep up with him. He’s the first car leading about 7 other cars, going pretty fast. With so much dirt from his car, it was very difficult to follow him. But everyone tried their best to keep up. Unlike the fall colors meetup in the Eastern Sierras, no one got lost 🙂

One of the first spots we stopped was this place with yellow flowers everywhere. On the other side of the field of flowers was this beautiful lake. As soon as I saw the lake, I wanted to go there to shoot the reflection. I knew I had a Symmetry Challenge to complete and I love reflections.

When I got to the lake, I saw perfect reflection of the painted hills. I also saw some tumble weed in the foreground that reflected well. I wanted to get closer to the water so I can avoid the lake bank, which had lot of distractions. When I took a couple of steps, I realized that the floor was not quite solid. My shoes started sinking. I thought I can be quick and take a few shots. But, within a matter of seconds, my shoe got completely wet.

I decided to walk to the far end of the lake to see if I could get the entire lake and maximize the reflection. After about 10-15 minutes of walking (and stopping along the way to take photos), I noticed that there was lot of wind on the far end of the lake causing the reflection to be fuzzy.

I walked almost all the way back to where I started and took this shot. It’s actually a 3 shot HDR blend. There was some foreground that cropped out of the frame.

Calm before the Storm!

Location: Almaden Lake Park, San Jose
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM| 10mm | f/8 | 1/50s | ISO 100

Another spectacular Sunset from Almaden Lake Park. This is one of my go-to spots near home. For a while, this used to be ‘the’ go-to spot but now I have discovered a few more. I love Almaden Lake Park. It’s scenic, beautiful, and has lot of trails that Sowmya and I love to walk around. They also have picnic areas that Sowmy and I go to often. We pack lunch or dinner and go to the Lake and sit at the picnic tables by the water and enjoy our meal. The Lake also is home to a wide variety of birds. Even though I don’t do that much bird Photography anymore, I always love watching birds.

Anyways, it was Sunday afternoon and Sowmya wanted to finish some errands. I thought I’d go check out a farm about 20 minutes from home as I heard that they have Sunflowers. We finished our errands and I decided to not check out the Farm as I didn’t feel like dragging Sowmya with me.

When I got home, I checked Escaype add San Jose came up with very high potential. I wasn’t sure if the numbers were accurate. I was debating if I should go out or not. Then, I decided I will go but wasn’t sure where to go. I thought I’d checkout Sierra but by the time I decided to head out it was pretty late so I wouldn’t have made it on time.

I was under the impression that Almaden Lake Park was closed so I set my mind on Santa Teresa Park. I thought I’ll hike up the hill on one of the trails to see if I can find a lone tree or some interesting foreground. I asked Sowmya not to come as I didn’t want her to hike a lot. She agreed for a second but changed her mind. So, the two of us headed out. I asked Sowmya to call Alamaden Lake Park to see if it’s open and it actually was so we decided to go there instead.

When I got there, the colors were already starting to show. I had a feeling it’ll be a good Sunset. Sowmya sat on one of the park benches and started taking to her niece. As usual, I walked up and down to find a good comp. I went down to the lake bank and took a few shots. While coming up, I was looking at Sowmya and didn’t pay attention to where I was going. I took a fall! I didn’t get hurt or anything but my camera hit the ground. Sowmya came running to me to make sure I was ok. I was more worried about the camera than anything else. My knees did hurt a bit but I wasn’t bleeding. The camera and lens were just fine. The ND Filter did get a couple of small scratches so I did a couple of test shots. Seems to be ok but time will tell.

Sowmya and I had a good laugh and I went to different side of the lake to take a few shots. I was trying to go down to the lake bank again and as Sowmya was trying to prevent me, I stumbled. I almost fell again but I was able to keep my balance. We laughed out loud for several minutes. We both sat on the bench for a few minutes laughing.

Sowmya then continued her call telling her sister, her niece, and her mom about my fall. I decided to walk around to see if I find any good comp ideas. I saw this drift wood and immediately thought about using it in my comp.

I sat down on the floor in the lake bank, put my tripod as low as it would go and started taking shots. I was waiting for the sky to get lit up. A small portion of the sky in the horizon did light up and it reflected very well on the lake. This is a blend of 3 bracketed shots. After processing the photo, I see a lot of triangles which I think add to the composition.

Literally, minutes after taking this photo, I packed my gear and met up with Sowmya who was sitting in the picnic area. We started walking toward our car and it started raining. Before we could even say it was raining, it started pouring and we got drenched.

Gold Lining!

Location: Lake Cunningham, San Jose
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 18mm | f/16 | 1/4s | ISO 100

As I have mentioned in my previous posts, one of the biggest challenges these days is deciding where to go. Especially, when Escaype forecast comes with high potential to an area that I am not very familiar with.

That was the case Saturday night. The Forecast came up with very high potential but only for inland areas south of where I live. Monterey was out of question as the high potential was only for inland areas. I didn’t know any good areas. I talked to a few friends but we all came up empty handed. We thought we’d check out Alviso Marina but that was outside of the Escaype mapped area.

We thought about checking out CA 152 as we have seen good sunrise while driving. But didn’t know of any spots to park and we didn’t want to take any chances. So, I decided that I’d go somewhere local as it will be known location and I can wake a bit later.

So, when I woke up in the morning, I debated between Santa Teresa Park and Lake Cunningham. I didn’t know if Almaden Lake Park was open so didn’t even consider that. I decided to check out Lake Cunningham. When I went there, I was basically the only person in the park. At least, in the area that I was walking around.

I was walking around to see if there’s any good comp. Nothing jumped out at me so I kept shooting, trying different things. While I was trying to find a good comp, I noticed that the colors started changing. For a few minutes, the entire sky turned pink except the horizon, which had a golden glow. I decided to use the tree’s reflection in my comp. I tried a couple of shots.

This is a 3 shot blended in LR. Processing was pretty straight-forward. All the colors were already there. All I had to do was slightly enhance it.

 

Sunrise at Lake Cunningham!

Location: Lake Cunningham, San Jose

Time: Sunrise

EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS SM | 10mm | f/8 | 1/50s | ISO 100

One of the biggest challenges within the core Photography group is deciding where to go for Sunrise or Sunset if weather is predicted to be good. We were in one of those debates deciding where to go for Sunrise. Escaype recommended going inland so I decided I’ll try out Lake Cunningham, which is about 15 minutes from home. Almost all (expect one) of the core group decided to join.

I have been to Lake Cunningham for Sunrise before. It was sometime mid last year. I got some decent shots. I was experimenting with a Variable ND Filter but I didn’t like that at all. It has a huge color cast. My goal was to repeat some of the shots and try to execute some new comp ideas,

We got there and we all went to one corner of the Lake to setup our tripods. Even though the colors started appearing, the comp wasn’t quite right. I started moving around and got a couple of different shots but nothing seemed right. A couple of us decided to go into the pier to shoot some boats that were docked. The pier was closed but we decided to jump in. I got a couple of good shots from here but after coming home realized that I didn’t get the complete reflection of boats. I wish I had.

I then moved to a different location and noticed that the clouds and trees were reflecting very well on the lake. So, I decided to setup my tripod and capture this hot. I wasn’t sure if was a keeper but thought it was an interesting comp.

I came back home and processed this multiple ways. I tried to not end up with a really ‘purple’ looking image but the colors were really purplish that day so decided to enhance what was there. Overall, a great morning shooting with the core group. Every time I go out with my Photography friends, I have a lot of fun. We discuss different comp ideas and processing techniques. I wish we took some time to review some of our photos so we can comment & critique. Hopefully, we’ll get to do that soon.