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.


Week 18 – Urbanscape

The Challenge for Week 18 of my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Urbanscape/Cityscape. Over the course of last year, I have done some cityscapes. I definitely enjoy shooting cityscapes. Somehow the city lights portrays the hustle and bustle of the city life. Even though I have tired shooting SF Cityscape a couple of times, I’d say I have not been very successful. I did get one shot during a sunrise visit to Embarcedero but my trip to Treasure Island wasn’t very successful.

When I thought about this challenge, the first thought that came to mind was to head to SF to shoot the beautiful skyline. Another thought was to shoot the Boston Skyline.  The challenge was Urbanscape so I decided to do a bit of research on what is a definition of an Urbanscape. What I have realized is that Urbanscape; at least Urbansacpe Photography is a bit difficult to define as it sits between a number of different genres of photography – cityscapes, architecture, street photography, etc.

So, I was looking for a creative way to take on this week’s challenge. When I wen to Sierra Open Preserve in San Jose, I knew that the city lights will come on right after golden hour. I knew I wanted to take a shot of the hustle & bustle of Silicon Valley from the top of the hill. Although, I didn’t know what my comp would be.

For the majority of the time while at Sierra Open Preserve, my goal was to find a good comp for Sunset. After the Sun set behind the horizon, I started looking for comp ideas for the Urbanscape challenge.

I saw this scene where the sky was burning on one side and beautiful colors were happening on the others. The foregound was beautiful greenery and middle-ground was the Silicon Valley citylights. Not a ‘textbook’ definition of Urbanscape but to me, this definitely fits the bill. The busyness of the city can be seen from the hill top, where it was so peaceful and serene. It not only shows the city life but also that calm and serenity is just minutes away. I liked the yin/yang relationship here.


Sierra Sunburst!

Location: Sierra Open Preserve, San Jose
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/16 | 1/60s | ISO 100

Another shot from my trip to Sierra Open Preserve in San Jose. When we got to Sierra Open Preserve, we decided to hike on the trail opposite to the parking lot. We hiked for about 45 minutes trying to find a good comp for Sunset. This was my first time here so it was more of a scouting exercise.

We did find a couple of lone trees as well as rolling green hills. However, we didn’t find a good comp for Sunset. So, we decided to head to the trail close to the parking lot, which also had views of the city below. On the way, I stopped at a few places to get some Starburst. Somehow, I have this obsession with Starburst. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s a phase but who knows.

Anyways, Sun was going down pretty fast and I had to run to the other side of the parking lot to get to this trail. By the time I got there, Sun already started setting behind the hills. I setup my tripod and decided to shoot. I looked around for a good foreground but I didn’t find anything that I could get to. There were a couple of options but those would have taken me more than 5 minutes to get to. By the time I got there, Sun would have already set behind the hills.

So, I decided to shoot wide and at f/16 so I can get a starburst. Colors were starting to show up as well. I kept shooting until the Sun went behind the hills. Looking at the camera LCD, I knew I had a couple of shots that had potential. This is the one that I liked the most.

After I posted the shot, one of my Photography friend pings me and tell me that the shot he took standing right next to me had identical settings but the way I processed was different. Looking at his shot, I do see the difference in the way I have processed mine. I wouldn’t say one is better compared to the other though. It’s personal preference in terms of what colors, texture, and contrast you want to bring out. To me, post processing is where Photographers can really show the world how they saw the scene. Even though multiple people may shoot from the same location, the end result can be completely different after post processing, which is a great thing.

Sunrise Serenity!

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 | 1/2s | ISO 100

One of those situations where Escaype predicted high numbers for inland areas. Whenever this happens, I scramble to figure out where to go. There are only few inland options that I have found so far. I definitely need to explore a bit more and find a few options in the San Jose, Morgan Hill, and Gilroy areas. As usual, I was debating whether to go and more importantly, where to go.

After a bit of back & forth, I decided to head to Lake Cunningham as it was within the area of focus provided by Escaype. I thought even if the sky doesn’t light up, I can get a shot that I messed up last time. Basically, there was a reflection of a boat that took but didn’t realize while shooting that I didn’t frame the entire reflection.

When I got there, it was still a bit dark and I was the only person in the park; at least as far as I could tell. I started exploring to see if there’s any unique comps that I can achieve. I tried getting to the pier to get the reflection but the area was close off. I really didn’t feel like jumping the barricade.

While I was walking around, I suddenly see colors popping up. I ran to this location where I knew I could get some reflection. Most of the colors were happening to the right of this frame. Unfortunately, that’s where the parking lot is. I didn’t want to shoot the parking lot.

I tried to include as much color as I could without including any distracting elements. I have shot from this very location before so I tried to create a slightly different comp. I could see pink colors everywhere. It was a very serene and calm scene. I still was the only person in the park. I enjoyed this Sunrise quite a bit. The sky didn’t burn but the subtle colors were superb.


Alviso Glow!

Location: Alviso Marina County Park, San Jose
Time: Golden Hour
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5/6 IS STM | 10mm | f/16 | 2s | ISO 100

After I took some shots with the dead tree stump and the driftwood (see post titled “Golden Ray), I decided to walk back towards the parking lot. I wasn’t ready to head out. I saw a good comp on the way in so wanted to go to that spot to see if I can get some shots.

The sky lit up with beautiful colors and light was changing fast. So, I told Sowmya that I will run to the spot but asked her to take her time and walk slowly. She was on the phone with her mom so she was taking her time slowly walking the trail.

When I got there, the sky was gold and the gold colors reflected beautifully in the water. I went down to the shore so I can get a shot from a low vantage point. I put on my ND filter so I can smooth out the water and maximize the reflection. I was moving quite a bit to get different comps. I didn’t know which one would turn out to be keepers but I knew the potential was there.

Insects were everywhere and I started itching everywhere. So, I decided to head up to where Sowmya was. At this point, she was on video chat with her mom and showing her the beautiful Sunset. I was ready to head home but Sowmya told me to get a couple of shots with wildflowers in the foreground. I tried different ideas but felt that the FG was too dark. I haven’t quite processed those photos so not sure if I’ll post any from that series.

Overall, a good day at Alviso Marina County Park.

Golden Ray!

Location: Alviso Marina County Park, San Jose
Time: Golden Hour
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5/6 IS STM | 18mm | f/16 | 1/6s | ISO 100

The things I do for Photography! More importantly, the things I make Sowmya do for my Photography! Last Sunday, we have a fully packed day. We had a baby shower in the afternoon and a birthday party in the late afternoon. We left home around 11:00 and headed to the Baby Shower. Apart from the couple hosting the event, Sowmya & I didn’t know anyone else at the Baby Shower. We spent an hour or so there, had lunch, and then left for the birthday party. Food at the Baby Shower was ok; nothing really to write home about.

It was a pretty hot day and we were worried about the Birthday Party as it was going to be at a Lake Park. Luckily, the area where they gathered was in shade. We spent several hours socializing at the birthday party. Unlike the Baby Shower, we knew almost everyone at the Birthday Party. They were all Sowmya’s cousins/relatives.

So, after almost the entire day out, primarily standing, I asked Sowmya if she was up for a Photo Shoot. Meaning, I wanted to go shoot Sunset somewhere and I asked if she’s ok with it. I knew very well that she was going to say yes. I decided to head to Alviso Marina County Park as I have not been there for a Photo Shoot especially during Golden Hour. I realized after getting to the park that Sowmya had her high-heels on and it was going to be difficult for her to hike. But she was a trooper and told me she’ll be fine.

We started walking and I started taking some test shots. I was looking for some good comp as well. After walking a bit, I found a dead tree stump on shore. I decided to use it as foreground. The entire place stank quite a bit. When I went close to the dead tree stump, thousands of small insects that were sitting on the seashore floor started flying low to the ground. I hesitated for a bit but decided to go close anyway.

There were insects everywhere and some even got to me. I tried shaking them off but I was more worried about composing and getting a shot. I then saw this small driftwood that I wanted to line up with the sun rays. I really didn’t want to touch the driftwood as it was rotten and had lot of insects. I tried to move it using my foot and I was more or less successful. My shoes got completely dirty and wet.

My first thought was to wait till the Sun goes behind the hill so I can get a starburst. I realized that once the Sun goes behind the hill, I will no longer have the rays. So, I decided to fire away a few shots. This is a 3 shot blend merged in LR. The sky turned even more vibrant after the Sun went behind the horizon. But more on that in the next post.

Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring!

Location: Shady Oaks Park, San Jose
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50 f/2.8 | 50mm | f/7.1 | 1/40s | ISO 400

This beautiful park is in my backyard. Not literally but it’s less than 10 minutes from where I live. I have lived in this neighborhood for a long time but didn’t even know this park existed. I have driven past this park multiple times but didn’t know it was actually a park. We went on this street to see a couple of houses while we were house hunting. During Spring, I have seen mustard flowers here but thought it was just an empty land.

I have been looking for wildflowers to shoot so on the way home from my parents place, Sowmya & I went to check this place to see if there are wildflowers. That’s when we realized that this was actually a park. There were plenty of wildflowers. So, I decided to go back there during Sunset to see if I can get some good shots.

As planned, we went there during Golden Hour. I realized that most (if not all) of the shots will be facing East so it’s not a good Sunset spot. This dead tree immediately caught my attention. So, I setup my tripod and took a few shots. I then wanted to go close to tree so I can try different comp ideas. Sowmya didn’t like that idea but I convinced her that it’ll be alright.

I was actually standing on top of this dead tree at one point trying out different shots. One of the ladies walking yells something out and I didn’t quite catch what she said so I asked her to repeat and she said ‘watch out for ticks’. Apparently, this place is filled with ticks. Sowmya immediately asked me to get back to the paved roads so I don’t transport ticks to our home.

We did see a lot of ticks. I tried to be careful. I didn’t go into the bushes. I stayed on the road as much as possible and tried different shots. We walked a mile or so and then decided to head back to the car. I took this shot on the way out. As a matter of fact, this was the last shot that I took. None of the shots I planned and used a tripod turned out well. I shot this hand-held on the way out and it turned out to be a keeper. I am wondering how different this shot would have been if I used a lower f-stop and used a tripod. Only way to find out is to go back and give it a shot.

Walking Together!

Location: Sierra Open Preserve, San Jose
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/8 | 1/6s | ISO 100

What a beautiful place! As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, this place is very close to where I live but unfortunately, I haven’t explored it much. When we went here for Sunset, we took the trail to the other side of the parking lot to see what we can find in terms of good composition.

We must have spent an hour or so on the other side hiking and trying different shots. As the Sun started setting behind the mountain, we decided to checkout the trails that have city views. We thought that would make a better comp compared to where we were. So, we started heading that direction. We stopped several times on the way as I was trying to get some starburst of the setting Sun as there were rocks that the Sun hit at the right angle.

I was asked to model for a few shots as the guys tried to shoot Sun through my hands and get a Starburst. As soon as we were done with that, I ran to the other trail so I can get the setting Sun. The colors were spectacular. I was able to get some starburst of the setting Sun.

Once the Sun was done, I was looking for other comp ideas. The colors were still spectacular. I went to this place to shoot the colorful sky with the busy city in my frame. As I was setting up my tripod, I saw this couple walk by. I thought I’d use them in my frame. I waited till they got to the right spot and clicked a few shots. I didn’t spend a lot of time processing this photo. I just did enough to tell a story. After publishing this to 500px, I do see a couple of things I can change to make it even better.

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.

Standing Strong!

Location: Sierra Open Preserve, San Jose
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm 2.8 | 17mm | f/8 | 1/1250s | ISO 100

I have lived in the Bay Area for long time and this place is well within striking distance from home. It’ll probably take just 45 minutes to get up the winding roads to the top of the hill. Even though this place is so close, I haven’t really explored it. Definitely not for Photography. I have been there once or twice with friends before but those are what I call ‘drive-by’s. We basically drove up there, saw the city lights, spent a few minutes and drove back.

I’ve been thinking about going here during Sunrise or Sunset for a Photo Shoot; or, just to hike. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do it until recently. When Escaype forecasted high potential for inland areas, the usual back & forth started as to where we should go for Sunset. A friend and I were supposed to go to Sierra the previous day but because the forecast changed last minute, we decided to skip.

I checked on the Escaype forum and Sierra Open Preserve came up as a very good option for Sunset. So, we decided to check it out. My friend came to pick me up and we headed to Sierra. Another friend wanted to join as well so we went to his place and picked him up. The drive to the Open Preserve was smooth. When we got there, we had an hour or so before Sunset so we decided to explore one of the trails.

As we were walking the trail, all of us are thinking about comp ideas. We decided to go to one of the high spots so we can get a panoramic view. The view from the top was simply spectacular. On one side, we have the busy Silicon Valley buzzing and on the other side, the calm & serene rolling green hills. I took some shots trying to see what will work for Sunset. I took a couple of panoramic shots of the rolling green hills.

We all saw this lone tree, which was on the hill that we were standing but not on the top of the hill. So, I hiked down to see if I can get to the other side of the tree and use that as foreground during Sunset. As soon as I got there, I realized that’s not gonna work as the Sun was already going behind the hill. I decided to materialize the setting Sun and moved around to get a sunstar. It wasn’t easy but I got lucky. I was able to get a good Starburst and keep the image sharp.