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.

Brilliancy of Colors

Location: Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/8 | 1/3s | ISO 100

Another shot from my recent trip to Pigeon Point Lighthouse. After I took several shots from the corner to as much of the burn as possible, I decided to move around to try different compositions.

One of the spots that I stopped was where I could use the picket fence as leading line. I have tried this before but not with too much luck as weather didn’t cooperate. This time around, I knew that the weather cooperated; sky was literally on fire. The question was whether I’d be able to include the colorful sky in my comp. One of the challenges when I go to a location is to find interesting comp. Not a unique comp per se but something interesting that I can try. I am going through a 52-week Photography Composition Challenge and my primary goal is to learn different compositional techniques.

There’s  lot of discussion about how you differentiate your photos from others. Everyone wants to get something new; something unique. I guess the feeling is natural. Everyone wants to be different. No one wants to comp-stomp. As far as I am concerned, I am still at a stage where I am learning Photography and one of the best ways for me to learn is to look at photos from other Photographers and try to emulate it. I don’t mean to say that I’ll copy other’s photos but take inspiration from their work. What I’d like to consider as paying homage. To me, there’s nothing wrong with taking someone else’s comp as there’s only so much you can do in a particular location.

To me, one of the best ways to differentiate your works is through post processing. Think about it. When you visit Yosemite National Park and go to the world famous Tunnel View, especially during Golden Hour, you’ll see anywhere 10 to 100 Photographers. Or, think about the Firefall spectacle. You’ll find hundreds of Photographers in one location. How much variation can you really achieve in your comp? However, how you process your photos can produce a completely different result compared to the Photographer who stood right next to you.

Anyways, getting off the soapbox and on to this photo. The sky was still burning and I went to this spot where I thought I’d use the picket fence as leading line and put the Lighthouse on the third. I was able to include the burning sky in my frame. I bracketed 3 shots so I merged the photos in Lightroom and followed my usual workflow.

Road to Painted Hills

Location: Carrizo Plains National Monument, California
Time: Midday
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM | 80mm | f/11 | 1/500s | ISO 100

Another shot from my trip to Carrizo Plains National Monument. So many beautiful places in California that I didn’t even know about. It’s funny how we live in a place for so many years but not know about many of beautiful places. Over the course of last year and half, I have been to so many different places, experienced and enjoyed so many different things, all thanks to Photography; more importantly, the Photography Group that I am part of.

I mentioned this to one of my photography buddies and he said he has lived in the Santa Cruz area for more than 2 decades but didn’t even know so many places even existed. I recently got a book from Library about Photography; specifically, different photography locations/spots in California. Wow! So many different places that I had no clue about. I don’t think I’ll be able to cover even 25% of the places listed on that book. I may hit many of the areas but not all the spots in a particular area.

One such place that I had no idea about was Carrizo Plains National Monument. As soon as I saw photos of the place, I wanted to go. I also heard that this year was a super bloom and there were lot more flowers this year than in the past. I should have gone as soon as I heard about this place but I waited and I missed out. Well, I didn’t miss out completely but had I gone a couple of weeks before, I would have seen lot more colors.

Anyways, on the way to Carrizo, we decided to stop on Highway 58 as we have seen some great shots from there. The first spot we stopped on Highway 58 was to shoot the long, straight, up & down road leading to the Hills filled with Wildflowers.

After that stop, we stopped several times to shoot different scenes along Highway 58. One such location yielded to this shot. The first one was long, straight, up & down road leading to vast hills. This one was also from the middle of the road but to hills much closer but fully covered with Wildflowers. I loved this scene so I took several shots. Some in landscape orientation and some in portrait orientation. I bracketed my shots so I can get maximum dynamic range. I stood in the middle of the Highway to take my shots while my buddies watched for oncoming cars. We took turns shooting from the middle of the road and watching for cars.

From a processing stand-point, I first tried making the scene very vibrant, which yielded in a more organe-ish scene. I dialed it back and brought it to more of a natural yellow that I saw while I was there.

 

Firefall!

Location: Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM | 56mm | f/8 | 1/8s | ISO 100

Another one from the Firefall series. I can’t believe how lucky I was to see this natural event. So many years in California and I didn’t even know about this until I got into Photography. Well, better late than never 🙂

I can’t imagine how Galen Rowell must have felt when taking the first-known photograph of the natural Yosemite Firefall. I am sure several others saw the phenomenon before Galen Rowell, he just was the first to Photograph. Such a beautiful thing to witness.

So many things have to line up and work harmoniously for the event to happen. To start with, the Horsetail Fall must be flowing. Obviously! But, think about it. If there’s not enough snow in early February, the Horsetail Fall will not be flowing. Assuming there is decent flow in the Fall, then weather conditions need to be near perfect. The Western Sky must be clear during Sunset. If there are any clouds, they’ll prevent Sun’s rays from hitting the Horsetail Falls and it will not light up. If the Fall is flowing and if weather conditions are good, then the Fall will light up for about 10 minutes and that too only during a 2 week period in February.

But to witness it, you have to be in the right place at the right time. The Horsetail Falls is visible from multiple locations in Yosemite. You have to be in the right angle to see the event in action. Now you can see why you should consider yourself lucky to witness this event. I sure was!

After debating whether or not to stick around and gamble to witness this event, we finally decided to stay. Then came the question of where to shoot it from. After walking for a bit, we decided to stick to our original spot. Until the very last minute, we didn’t know if it was going to light up. It suddenly did and it was simply superb.

I manually focused on the waterfall, went with what is considered to be the sharpest aperture for this lens (f/8) and kept firing away. I changed the focal length and orientation once in a while to switch things up.

From a processing stand-point, apart from my regular processing, I did some dodging and burning to highlight the lava-like waterfall. I like how it turned out.

Looking for Breakfast!

Location: Natural Bridges State Beach, California
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/8 | 1/15s | ISO 100

Ever since I joined the Escaype community, looking for Golden Hour predictions from the Escapye Forecasters seems to have become a regular part of the routine. The Forecast comes out 4 times a day and I am awake for 3 forecasts and in some cases the fourth one as well. Friday night was busy a busy night within Escaype community as Saturday was predicted to be very good for Sunrise.

I was debating whether to go to SF or SC for Sunrise. Debating where to go for a Photo Shoot has become a major part of the process. I just feel that I should just pick a place and go. I really shouldn’t spend a lot of time deciding where to to. But, I do this all the time. As a matter of fact, the core group of Photographers I shoot with do the same thing.

Anyways, the plan Friday night before I slept was to wake up in the morning and look at the latest forecast. If SF has higher numbers than SC, I would go there. If not, I’ll go to SC. If SC, I decided I’ll checkout Natural Bridges. Another Photographer from was planning to join me as well. He is part of a Whatsapp group for Photographers that I belong to. I haven’t met him before but have chatted with him via Whatsapp numerous times.

When I woke up in the morning, the first thing I did was check the forecast. Actually, I did this in the middle of the night when I woke up thinking it was time to head out. I must have done woken up multiple times throughout the night. This happens to me all the time. Sowmya tells me that I do this whenever I am planning to go to a Photo Shoot. I am not sure if it’s the anticipation of the shoot or what it is.

The numbers showed high potential for both SF and SC. When I asked the forecaster, he said go to SC instead of SF due to fog. As a matter of fact, he asked someone who was en route to SF to turn back and head to SC. So, my decision to head to SC was an easy one knowing that there was going to be fog in SF.

The drive was pretty smooth. We got there right at the beginning of Golden Hour. When we got there, what we saw was rather disappointing. We didn’t see any break in the horizon. It was completely fogged. We were really hoping that it was going to open up and the sky will light up.

We started shooting, trying to make the best out of the situation. We did meet a couple of other Escaype members. After about 30 minutes of shooting the grey skies, we realized that it was not going to open up. As always, I moved around to see what comp ideas I can try. I did look for ideas from others as people were standing in different places in the beach.

Everyone left after realizing that the sky was not going to light up. I decided to head back as well. I was on top of some rocks that were a bit slippery. On the way down, I almost took a tumble. I slipped but somehow managed to keep my balance. After gaining my balance, I see this scene in front of me. The reflection of the arch rock as well as a snowy egret. I didn’t have time to change my lens. So, I shot this with my wide-angle lens. I tried to put the bird on one of the third. I also tried to put the arch rock on the third as well.

I like the comp. I just wished the sky lit up as predicted but fog rolled in. Maybe, next time I’ll get the lit up sky from Natural Bridges.

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.

Fuzzy Reflections!

Location: Santa Teresa Park, San Jose
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF-s 10-18mm f4.5-5.6 IS STM | 18mm | f/8 | 5s | ISO 100

This was shot during my recent (February) visit to Yosemite National Park to catch the Firefall, which is an amazing natural phenomenon. More on that on my other post titled El Capitan & His Fiery Horsetail. We reached Yosemite right around lunch time. Sowmya had packed some potato sandwiches for us. She thought she was made enough for just breakfast on our way but we had more than enough left for lunch as well.

After eating the delicious sandwiches, we started exploring Yosemite Valley. We stopped at different locations; some well-known but others considered to be part of ‘secret’ location. Nothing really ‘secret’ about it; you just have to explore a bit. After hitting a few of those places, we ended up at the Sentinel Bridge.

This is a very famous photo spot. You can see Half Dome clearly from this bridge and if conditions are right, you can get a perfect reflection. Also, during Sunset, you can get the famous red/pink/orange headed Half Dome. When I was in Yosemite last year during Spring, I happened to be near Sentinel Bridge and watched the setting Sun hit Half Dome. It was spectacular.

This time around, I shot this during mid-day. I took a couple of shots hand-held but didn’t like the rough waters. Merced River was flowing pretty rapidly. I then went to the car, got my ND filters and put on a 6 stop ND filter. I was able to smooth out the running water. I liked how the reflections turned out.

Week 10 – Movement

The goal for Week 10 of the 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Movement. Photography, is a all about capturing a moment, which essentially means you are stopping motion and freezing the frame. Even though we freeze the frame with our photos, we have multiple options when doing this. We can freeze a fast moving race car with a 1/1000 of a second or higher. Alternatively, we can keep our shutter open long (or even ultra-long) to let in more light; say to capture the night sky.

When talking about movement in Photography, there are multiple ways to do it – fast shutter speed, slow shutter speed, panning, motion blur, lens blur, etc. Shutter Speed is what determines how you capture the movement of your scene.

I love long-exposure shots. Every time I am near a waterbody, I try to show movement by going with long-exposure as I like the smooth water rather than fast shutter speed. Somehow, the though of elongated time makes the scene look ethereal.

For this challenge, I didn’t want to do a long exposure. Definitely, not an ultra-long exposure. I have seen some photos online where the waves are frozen. Not a fast shutter speed nor a very slow shutter speed. Something that just freezes the wave in the air. When I was in Garrapata State Park, I tried to do this. After a few failed attempts, I got a shot where I froze the wave crashing the sea stack. Since I was shooting at f/22, I was able to capture a starburst of the setting Sun as well.

I thought this was a good example of capturing movement.

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.