Twinkling Reflection!

Location: Treasure Island, CA
Time: Twilight
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM | 28mm | f/16 | 79s | ISO 100

Last year when we went to Treasure Island, we basically stood in the parking lot for a couple of hours to shoot the SF Skyline. Even though one of our friends gave specific details for 4 or 5 other locations, we really didn’t experiment. One of the guys had to go back to work so we weren’t planning on trying to find different locations. Moreover, we have heard stories after stories about Photographers getting robbed at Treasure Island. So, we definitely didn’t want to go to places that required a lot of walking or to any sketchy looking spots.

After we came back from that trip, the friend that didn’t make it asked why we didn’t shoot the Bay Bridge reflection. We didn’t know where that location was. Apparently, that location was right across the street from the parking lot 🙂

We decided that we needed to make a trip back to Treasure Island and hit as many spots as we can. We’ve been planning for a while but things didn’t quite line up. Since this was primarily SF Skyline and Bay Bridge, we really didn’t worry about waiting for the perfect weather conditions. We decided to go before Sunrise and shoot during Twilight and Blue Hour. We were hoping that we wouldn’t get mugged during the wee hours of the morning 🙂

So, around 3:15, one of my friend picked me up and we went to another friend’s office so we can all carpool from one location. We got there around 4:15 when it was still pitch black. The first spot we stopped this time was to shoot the Bay Bridge reflection. It was literally right across the street from the parking lot.

I took maybe 3 or 4 shots from this location. I really wish we stayed in this location and not worry about other locations. But, that’s not what we went there for. The goal was to hit as many spots as we could so we can scout what would work in what situations. The first couple of shots, I tried to shoot in Aperture Priority but that required me to stay around f/11 where I couldn’t be able to get crisp starburst. I am a sucker for starburst so I plugged my remote trigger and went to f/16 so I can get starburst.
In terms of post processing, it was pretty straight forward. Other than my normal workflow in Lightroom, all I did in Photoshop was to remove some distracting elements in the foreground.
Hindsight is 20/20! We should have stayed to shoot the reflection in blue hour as well as Sunrise. The other locations didn’t work as well as we hoped.
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San Fran Silhouette

Location: Treasure Island, CA
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 | 20mm | f/16 | 2s | ISO 100

A few of us decided to head to Treasure Island to shoot the SF Skyline. I have never been there before and I was looking forward to the trip. Getting anywhere in the Bay Area during peak hours is a challenge due to traffic congestion. Going to SF or through SF is even more challenging as there’s heavy traffic. It took us a while to get to Treasure Island but we got there well ahead of Sunset.

One of our friends who couldn’t make the trip with us gave us several locations to checkout. The first location was on lot of the hill overlooking the Bay Bridge and SF Skyline. We drove to the location and realized the road leading to the spot was closed. So, we came down to the parking lot where there’s clear view of the Bay Bridge and SF Skyline. We had to wait for about 10-15 minutes for parking but we got lucky. I thought no one would leave right at Sunset but someone actually did.

We decided to basically shoot from the parking lot as the view was spectacular. We decided to go to other locations after we were done getting our shots from the parking lot. Sunset was happening as we pulled into the parking lot so we started shooting right away. I started shooting hand-held but the shutter speed was going down rapidly as light was fading.

I setup my tripod and decided to do a long exposure to smooth the water out. I didn’t go for an ultra long exposure; just enough to smooth the water. There were some clouds but not to cover the entire frame. I initially took shots of the Golden Gate Bridge with the setting Sun but it didn’t work out as well as I hoped. Golden Gate Bridge was too far away.

So, what I decided to do was to just focus on the SF Skyline ignoring both the Golden Gate Bridge as well as the Bay Bridge. I did get some shots with the Bay Bridge and SF Skyline but that comp was a bit challenging as there were lot of distracting elements to the left of the Bay Bridge.

Since Sun was already behind the horizon, SF Skyline was silhouetted, which looked attractive to me. I was hoping to see and include a boat in my frame but nothing sailed by.

We stayed for about an hour (well past blue hour) to get the SF Skyline all lit up. After we were done at the Parking Lot, we tried to head to other locations but all that needed us to walk about 15-20 minutes and the areas was very shady so we skipped. One location was on the other side of the parking lot but we didn’t know 😦

From a processing stand-point, it was pretty straight-forward. Apart from my usual workflow in Lightroom, all I did was dodge & burn (primarily burn) a bit.

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.

Shining Through!

Location: Garrapata State Beach, CA
Time: Golden Hour
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 | 18mm | f/16 | 1/2s | ISO 400

Another one from the Garrapata series. Sowmya & I had such a good time during this Photo Shoot. The purpose of the shoot was to see (and shoot) the Calla Lilies that is abloom every Spring. When one of my photography buddies mentioned he was going to check out the Calla Lilies, I decided to join him as well. Of course, I dragged Sowmya along with me.

After shooting the Calla Lilies, I decided to go to the beach to shoot the Susnet. I didn’t think I would be able to get a good shot of the Calla Lilies along with the setting Sun in the frame. The hike to the beach wasn’t difficult but it was a bit hard. Especially, the last bit where we had to use a rope to get down to the beach. I was worried about Sowmya but she found a way to get down without risking a fall. Apart from the last bit, what Sowmya read online was that the trails on this park is one of the scariest places to walk on as it is surrounded by ravines and poison ivy.

The moment we got to the beach, we realized that it was high tide and the waves were very unpredictable. Sowmya asked me to stay away from the waves but within just minutes, I got completely wet up to my waist. Once I got wet, I decided to stand where I really wanted to and not worry about waves hitting me. Sowmya comfortably sat on a rock and for the most part, waves didn’t touch that rock. But right before we were about to leave, a big wave hit the rock she was sitting. Luckily, she didn’t get wet; neither did the camera bag she had with her.

Within a few minutes of walking into the beach, we saw the Sun shining through the clouds. The Sun Rays were clearly shining through the clouds. I immediately setup my tripod and tried to capture the shining Sun. This is a 3 shot HDR blend merged in Lightroom. I thought about enhancing the light rays in post processing but didn’t want to make it look fake or forced.

Between the Rocks!

Location: Garrapata State Park, California
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/22 | 4s | ISO 100

We made a trip out to Garrapata State Park to see (and shoot) the Calla Lilies. There were lilies in the Valley but not as much as I hoped. Based on what others told me as well as some of the photos I saw online, I thought the entire valley would be covered with lilies. I am not sure if we went late in the season, or if this year there weren’t as many lilies, or if it was a combination of both. In any case, I tried different spots and came up with a decent shot. More about that shot and experience in my other post titled ‘Sunset Lilies’.

After shooting the lilies, I decided to head to the beach for the Sunset. My buddy decided to stick around in the Calla Lily Valley go get some starburst of the setting Sun with the lilies in the background. I thought about staying with him but decided to go to the beach to see try some Long Exposure shots.

The waves were really rough. No place seemed to be safe unless you were well behind these stacks. The rock on the left seemed to be safe as the waves weren’t hitting it as hard and often as the rocks on the right. I actually stood on top of the rock on the left with my tripod to get some shots. I was firing away shots and saw waves closing in. Before I knew it, the waves crashed on the rock and somehow went above my head without a drop of water touching me. It was awesome. Sowmya was taking video and had stooped seconds before this happened. I should have realized how lucky I was to not get my camera wet and not go on top of the rock again. Well, I went on top of the rock again. Guess what happened this time? The waves hit me and Sowmya captured that on video as well.

Anyways coming back to this shot. I got down from the rock when I got the idea to put the Setting Sun between the rocks. Waves were hitting me again and again. I was drenched will my hips.I tried several shots to get it right. Looking at the LCD, I knew there were a couple of decent shots. The Sunburst was not at all easy to get. I had to work hard in post processing to enhance what I got.

Golden Gate at Dusk

Location: Fort Baker, Saulsalito
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 | 17mm | f/16 | 1s | ISO 100

This was shot during the same day as the other two Golden Gate Bridge shots that I posted. We first went to Fort Point, got a few shots but decided to move as clouds that were moving behind Golden Gate Bridge started to disappear. We then went to Fort Baker and we walked to the corner of the Pier.

We setup our tripods and hoped that the magic would happen as Escaype predicted Sunset to be spectacular. There was a window of about 10 to 15 minutes when the sky was going to light up. This shot was take during that timeframe.

Even though we saw some colors behind Golden Gate Bridge, it wasn’t as much as we hoped. Most of the colors were happening behind Bay Bridge and the SF Skyline. Hawk Hill might have been a better option. We thought about going to Hawk Hill on our drive to Fort Baker but decided to skip it. Had we gone to Hawk Hill, we could have capitalized on the colors that were appearing. Even the colors that appeared behind Bay Bridge and SF Skyline weren’t as anyone hoped.

Straight out of the camera, the colors on this shot were pretty subtle. I didn’t add any clouds or Photoshop any colors. I just enhanced what was already there using Lightroom by playing with WB, Tint, Vibrance, Saturation, Split Toning, and Camera Calibration.

Overall, I am happy with how this shot turned out. One of these days, I’ll have to repeat the shots from Fort Point and Fort Baker when the sky really lights up.

Beacon of Hope!

Location: Walton Lighthouse, California
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 | 17mm | f/16 | 10s | ISO 100

This was shot the same day as the other shot (Walton’s Fire!) that I recently wrote about. We had the Lighthouse all to ourselves. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I have never seen Walton Lighthouse empty. Somehow Sowmya and I end up in places with no body around us. I remember multiple instances where this has happened – Grand Canyon, Shark Fin Cove, Uvas Canyon, Garrapata, and so many other places. We definitely enjoy when this happens.

Anyways, we went to Walton in the hopes that we’ll catch some nice colors during Sunrise. We were not disappointed. It was an awesome Sunrise. After shooting it from the middle of the pathway and getting reflection of the Lighthouse, I decided to move around a little to try different perspectives and angles. I decided to go o the left of the Lighthouse and Sowmya decided to go right. She asked me to come and check out her comp but I was too busy shooting. She got a great reflection from where she stood. The Lighthouse was not centered in her photo but the reflection was pretty nice.

I went for a long exposure shot to smooth out the water and bring that ethreal feel to the scene. Several of the shots that I took didn’t turn out the way I wanted. So, I kept at it and got this shot. Looking at the LCD, I felt that I had something to work with.

Processing was pretty straight-forward. What I need to learn is how to patiently work in Photoshop to further enhance the photo as well as clean up. I know some pros spend an hour or more on just one photo. Well, I have heard that Ansel Adams worked several hours (and in some cases, days) dodging, burning, and processing in Lightroom. That’s dedication and commitment. I take about 10 minutes per photo. I have a decent handle on Lightroom but Photoshop, I only know the very basic stuff. Lot more to learn.

Ready to Shine!

Location: Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF 70-200mm f/4L USM | 70mm | f/8 | 13s | ISO 100

This is my second Sunset attempt at Pigeon Point Lighthouse and both times, I got Golden Skies. The first time was when Sowmya’s mom was visiting us. In October, the Sun sets right behind the Lighthouse so one of my Photography buddies asked if I wanted to go. That shoot, I took Sowmya and her mom with me. We picked up my friend on the way and headed to the Lighthouse. The Sky was golden but absolutely no clouds so nothing really lit up.

For this time around, we had the Escaype forecast. Both SF and Pescadero were forecasted to have high potential. My friend and I went back & forth for several hours trying to decide if we should go to Pigeon Point Lighthouse or to SF. We finally decided to go to Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

Sowmya and I stopped on the way at Shark Fin Cove as she has only seen it at night when we went to capture the Milky Way rising above Shark Fin. When we stopped this time, I saw a path down to the beach. It didn’t look that complicated so I asked Sowmya if she was up for it. She said yes and we headed down. I really didn’t get any good shots but I wanted to scout the location.

We then drove to Pigeon Point Lighthouse. We were meeting my friend in the Lighthouse parking lot. We tried to see if there is any good comp in and around the Lighthouse but decided that we have to be a bit far from the Lighthouse to get the clouds behind it. But before heading to another location from where we shot last time, we decided to do some hand-held shots. I tried to get a starburst of sun behind the Lighthouse and it worked out well. I will write about it in an upcoming post.

We went to the other location and walked around a bit to see where to setup our tripods. We found a stop that we thought would work out well. Even though Escaype predicated that clouds will light up, it really didn’t happen. This was another Golden Sky sunset at Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Nevertheless, it was still very beautiful.

I used my Telephoto Lens for this shot. I used an ND Filter to get long-exposure. In terms of processing, I just did my usual workflow in Lightroom and took it to Photoshop for some clean up and sharpness.

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.

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.