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.

Golden Streaks!

Location: Battery Spencer, San Francisco
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM | 16mm | f/16 | 10s | ISO 100

Another one of Escaype’s predictions that didn’t quite hold. This is the second time I am getting skunked in San Francisco. The first time was when we went to Fort Point & Fort Baker. We had some colors that day but not so much this time around.

So, Escaype came up with very high numbers for San Francisco; especially looking East. After debating whether or not to go and where to go, we decided to head to Battery Spencer. I have been to Battery Spencer once but Mr. Karl showed up. We woke up at the wee hours of the morning to head to SF but fog completely covered the Golden Gate Bride. We then decided to head to Mt. Tam to shoot the fog. It worked out well as we got some good shots of the fog from Mt. Tam and while coming back, fog cleared enough for us to get some good shots from Hawk Hill.

When the opportunity to go back to Battery Spencer presented itself, I wanted to take advantage. I woke up early in the morning and headed to pick one of my photography buddies from his office. We then drove to Battery Spencer together. When we got there, we realized that the parking lots were closed. Not just the one close to Battery Spencer but pretty much everywhere in that hill. We even went all the way up to Hawk Hill. Our only option was to park at the lot below and hike up. Not something we planned or were looking forward to but you gotta do what you gotta do to get the ‘money’s shot 🙂

We parked at the lot below and there was a trail going up but it didn’t say Battery Spencer. Even though we had a feeling that it will end up at Battery Spencer, we didn’t want to take a chance. So, we walked around on the road to Battery Spencer. On the way up, we did see the trail coming up.

When we got to Battery Spencer, it was the end of Blue Hour. We started shooting and it started drizzling. We had very little hope of seeing any color. We got confirmation from Escaype that it might not happen after all. We still waited for 30 minutes or so and continued shooting in the rain. Absolutely no action. It was grey, grey, and more grey. On one hand, it allowed me to try my new 16-35 f/2.8 lens but on the other hand, I was worried about using my new lens in the rain.

There was enough rain to cause some of the photos to be unusable. After spending about 30 minutes trying to shoot from different spots, we decided that it was time to head back. We hiked back through the trail, which was definitely shorter than the path we took up. We were both disappointed but there isn’t a whole lot you can do. Predictions were high but it didn’t hold. Hopefully, there isn’t too many of these with Escaype. It kinda defeats the purpose of getting Escaype. But, there is only so much a weather forecasting model can do.

When I got back home, as expected, several of the photos were unusable due to rain spots. Many of the spots were right on the Golden Gate Bridge and cleaning it in PS would have taken a long time. So, I found about half a dozen shots that were ‘clean’. I tried my best to bring some color but there wasn’t a whole lot I could do. I liked this shot where the car streaks covered the length of the Golden Gate Bridge. Wish I had a vibrant sky in the background to go with this but it is what it is.

 

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.

Golden Twinkle!

Location: Fort Baker, Saulsalito
Time: Twilight
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 | 17mm | f/11 | 30s | ISO 400

This was shot the same day as my shot from Fort Point (The Reflecting Tower!). As I mentioned in that post, while we got to Fort Point, there were no clouds behind Golden Gate Bridge. After waiting for a few minutes, we realized that clouds were moving in. So we hung around trying different compositions. what we realized was that clouds started clearing. We then debated for a few minutes as to whether we should stick around at Fort Point or if we should head over to the other side of the Bridge to Fort Baker. We were going back & forth. We finally decided that we’ll try our luck at Fort Baker.

We were driving to Fort Baker and a thought came as to whether we should check out Hawk Hill. We decided to stick to our plan and head to Fort Baker. When we got to Fort Baker, we did see a lot of clouds. So we were hopeful that it was going to be a great show in terms of the clouds getting lit up with beautiful colors.

We looked around to see where to setup our tripod and decided that setting it up at the edge of the pier would be the best bet. We were taking shot after shot while hoping for the colors to show up anytime now. Unfortunately, it never happened. Even though Escaype predicted that it would be good, it ended up being a bust. I still got some very good shots during the Sunset time frame that I’ll post soon.

After the lights came on, I decided to try a different vantage point. So, I moved to this location and started experimenting. My goal was to get a good starburst of the Golden Gate lights. It took a couple of failed attempts. I kept changing my settings to get the right exposure. I didn’t have my remote trigger so I wasn’t able to use Bulb mode. I had to stay within 30 seconds exposure so I bumped my ISO to 400. At f/11, I was surprised to see how well the starbursts came out.

The Reflecting Tower!

Location: Fort Point, San Francisco
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 18mm | f/8 | 1/500s | ISO 100

Ever since I shot shots of Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point with the Chains in the Foreground, I wanted to go there. For some reason, I loved that composition. I saw several different comps from this location; some very similar but some very different. My goal was to go to Fort Point and try few different comps.

Escaype forecast predicated very high numbers for San Francisco so we decided to head there for Sunset. We decided to check out Fort Point. Ever since joining Escaype community, we have started chasing the clouds. Literally! The goal is to follow the clouds in hopes that they will light up. We thought we’ll start at Fort Point and move to another location if need be.

We got to Fort Point and saw that there were not that many clouds behind Golden Gate Bridge. We were disappointed but decided to at least try some shots to see what comp we like so we can come back another day. While we started shooting, we noticed that clouds started moving in. We thought we’ll just stay there in the hopes that clouds will stay behind the bridge during Sunset. Clouds did move it but it started dissipating as well. About 45 minutes before Sunset, most of the clouds behind the bridge disappeared.

I took this shot right before the clouds started disappearing. I was walking around and taking different shots of the bridge with different chains in the foreground. I was walking by and saw the reflection and decided to try a shot with the reflection. I had to move back and forth on the road, crouch in different positions to maximize the reflection. I took 3 bracketed shots. I checked for sharpness and comp on the LCD and it looked good. I just hoped I’d feel the same way when I come back home and see it in the big screen.

When I got back home, there were multiple shots from this location to choose from. I chose the version that I liked the most and blended to HDR in Lightroom. Getting the colors in this shot was not straight-forward. I tried multiple things – split toning, temp/tint, camera calibration, among other things. I was able to bring the colors I liked on the clouds. After posting, I realized that the bridge may have become a bit too red. One of my friends shared same feedback as well. Always good to work on a photo, take a break, and come back to it.

Definitely need to visit Fort Point again when conditions are optimal.

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.

The 2016 – 52 Week Photo Challenge

A few months back Sowmya got me into Pinterest. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be beneficial to me at all but I wanted to give it a shot. I love the concept of Pinterest and the content is very useful. For instance, a long time back Sowmya decided to make one of our bedroom and our common bathroom into a beach theme. I loved the idea but we didn’t do much. Once I got into Pinterest, I found a lot of cool DIY ideas and we now have an awesome beach themed bedroom and bathroom. What we are going to do about the other guest bedroom is not sure but I am sure we’ll find something. We do have an idea for our Master Bedroom and the inspiration for that came from Pinterest.

Anyways, I have started using Pinterest regularly – to check out DIY ideas, road-trip ideas, travel suggestions, hiking trails, camping spots, books to read, and photography. While reviewing Pinterest today, came across this 30 day photo challenge. Basically, pick a theme for each day of the month and take a photo, process it, and post it. I loved the idea but not sure if I am ready for a daily photo challenge given my other priorities. From the 30 day photo challenge, there was a link to another pin for a 52 week photo challenge. The idea is to do one photo a week based on a pre-determined theme. I loved this as I’ll get to do some targeted photo shoots and it’s once a week, which is very manageable.

Unlike most other photography challenges that are just simple list of idea, this particular 52 week challenge apparently was designed to push the photographer’s skills to the next level. It looks like the list is going to be more challenging to complete than a simple 52 week photography challenge list. The best thing is that there is no specific start date for this challenge. Each photographer is on their own journey, and only competing with themselves from week to week. Although, if you wish to form a challenge group and compete with each other based on this, I am sure you can do that.

There are three categories in this 52 week photo challenge – Portrait, Landscape, and Artistic Impression.

This challenge was put together by Dogwood Photography and the author does encourage sharing work each week. He has setup hashtag (for Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.), Facebook Group, Flickr Group. I am not sure if I’ll do this but who knows, maybe I will.

Here’s the link to the 2016 Photo Challenge: https://dogwood.photography/52weekchallenge.html

Here’s the 52 week challenge:

WEEK 1 Portrait: Self Portrait Start things off right with a “selfie”! Explore the self timer setting on your camera.
WEEK 2 Landscape: Traditional Landscape Shoot a beautiful landscape and share it with the world. Find a nice foreground and don’t forget the sky.
WEEK 3 Artistic: Red Shoot whatever inspires you. Red should be the focus of the image. Don’t be afraid to be creative.
WEEK 4 Portrait: Headshot You shot a selfie, now shoot a “selfie” of someone else!
WEEK 5 Landscape: Black and White Look for a scene with great contrast that will make a great black and white.
WEEK 6 Artistic: Candy Your artistic interpretation this week should be inspired by something sweet. A great chance to play with macro photography.
WEEK 7 Portrait: Faceless Tell someone’s story without showing their face.
WEEK 8 Landscape: Wide Angle/Panorama This is a great opportunity to explore panorama stitching and create a wide sweeping landscape.
WEEK 9 Artistic: Shadows The opposite of light is dark, the absence of light is shadow. Interpret this into a masterpiece.
WEEK 10 Portrait: Environmental Show a subject in their natural habitat. Their place of work or hobby is a great start. Tell their story with the environment
WEEK 11 Landscape: Reflection Find a way to show your landscape/natural beauty in reflection. The mirror world revealed.
WEEK 12 Artistic: Transportation Our world is one defined by how we get around. Literal or interpretative, find inspiration in transportation.
WEEK 13 Portrait: High Key Expose to the right and create a light, airy high key portrait.
WEEK 14 Landscape: Zoomed in Most landscapes are wide sweeping images. Try an alternative and zoom in instead.
WEEK 15 Artistic: Metal Cold, hard steel. Shiny Aluminum. Or even rusted and broken down. Find your inspiration in metal this week.
WEEK 16 Portrait: Movement Most portraits are stationary, so this week explore adding some movement. Dancing, twirling, or even hair flips.
WEEK 17 Landscape: Urbanscape Most Landscapes are wide open spaces of natural beauty… this week find the beauty of the urbanscape/cityscape.
WEEK 18 Artistic: Texture The artistic inspiration this week is texture. You should almost be able to feel the image.
WEEK 19 Portrait: Messy Take an amazing portrait of someone, make a mess while you are doing it.
WEEK 20 Landscape: Nightowl A tripod is going to be handy this week… time to shoot a night landscape. Look for some light for the scene! Car lights, city lights, or maybe just moonlight.
WEEK 21 Artistic: Fantasy Is this real life, or is this just fantasy… Your artistic inspiration this week is fantasy.
WEEK 22 Portrait: Hands Usually the face is the strongest element in the frame; with the hands being second. Make the hands the most important element in your image this week.
WEEK 23 Landscape: Weather This week should be as unpredictable as the weather! Feature the weather in this week’s landscape.
WEEK 24 Artistic: Sparkle! Shoot what inspires you this week, just make sure it sparkles.
WEEK 25 Portrait: Silhouette Expose for the background and let your subject fall into shadow. Shape is important this week.
WEEK 26 Landscape: Simplify Simply the scene to make your primary subject stand out.
WEEK 27 Artistic: Blue You were inspired by the fiery red earlier, now be inspired by calming blue.
WEEK 28 Portrait: Family Whether it’s the family you are born with or the one you choose, show the world what family is to you.
WEEK 29 Landscape: Waterscape Ocean, lake, river, pond, or puddle. Make water the primary subject of this landscape.
WEEK 30 Artistic: Patterns Get inspired by the rhythm that patterns bring to your images.
WEEK 31 Portrait: Street Candid Candids on the street, show us life in your town through the lens.
WEEK 32 Landscape: Colorful Shoot a landscape that packs as much color as you can find into the scene.
WEEK 33 Artistic: Collaboration Doesn’t matter what you shoot, just do with another artist. Share vision and ideas. Collaborate.
WEEK 34 Portrait: Child Candid or posed, capture an image of a child. Try getting down on their level for a unique perspective.
WEEK 35 Landscape: Nature up Close Get up close and personal with nature in this natural beauty shot. Flowers, bees, bugs and spiders might all make great shots
WEEK 36 Artistic: Food Take your food photography to the next level. Its not lunch, its art.
WEEK 37 Portrait: Fashion Avant-garde to commercial to traditional, and everything in between. The focus is the clothes this week.
WEEK 38 Landscape: Get Low Time to look at the world from a different angle. Shoot a landscape from a low point of view.
WEEK 39 Art: Handmade Your artistic interpretation should be inspired by another artisan’s handmade work. Literal or interpreted.
WEEK 40 Portrait: Sitting in a Chair Either a formal sitting portrait or a re-interpretation of this classic. Photography your subject sitting in a chair.
WEEK 41 Landscape: Get High Everything looks different when you are high. Find a high perspective to shoot this landscape.
WEEK 42 Artistic: Minimalist Isolate your subject using the minimalist approach. Inspire someone with your art.
WEEK 43 Portrait: The Elderly Tell the story of an elderly person through the power of your camera. Capture the lines of their life.
WEEK 44 Landscape: A Tree Some of the most famous landscapes in the world feature a tree. Time to see what you can do.
WEEK 45 Artistic: Nostalgic Use nostalgic as your inspiration this week. Long for the moments we want recapture. The good times.
WEEK 46 Portrait: Backlit The sun makes a great back light, as well as a flash. Don’t forget the fill light. A flash or reflector can be used to fill in the subject.
WEEK 47 Landscape: Abandoned Capture an image of that which others have forgotten. It may be the last image before its gone from us forever.
WEEK 48 Artistic: Bokeh A shallow depth of field is often used to isolate the subject. Create an artistic interpretation using shallow depth of field.
WEEK 49 Portrait: Dancing Whether it’s a professional dancer, or just some kids in the street. Try experimenting with slow and fast shutter speed to both blur and freeze the subject.
WEEK 50 Landscape: Symmetrical Often considered one of the hardest compositions to pull off, Symmetry. Challenge yourself this week by shooting a symmetrical landscape/urbanscape.
WEEK 51 Artistic: Art It is time to really challenge yourself. Your artistic interpretation should be art, about art. So meta.
WEEK 52 Portrait: Another Self Portrait For your final challenge, we end where we started. Take one last self-portrait, and be amazed at how far you have come in a year.