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.

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.

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.


Week 3 – Panorama

One location that I have been meaning to go for a long time was the Sierra Open Preserve. I have been there long time back with a couple of friends but I didn’t have my camera with me nor was I into Landscape Photography during that time. Ever since I got into Landscape Photography, this has been one of those spots that within striking distance but I never got an opportunity to go. Without traffic, it’s about 20 minutes from home.

Finally, we decided to head to Sierra Open Preserve as the conditions for Sunset was predicted to be good. When we got there, we started walking one of the trails to get to this lone tree atop a hill. The hike was pretty easy. When we got there, the wide sweeping views of green rolling hills were definitely worth the trip.

I remembered that Panorama was one of the challenges on this 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge. The landscape in front of me was calling for a Panorama. I had my tripod with me but decided to do hand-held as it gave me more freedom to be in a spot that was difficult to setup my tripod.

I took 7 shots in portrait orientation trying to cover as much landscape as I could. When I came back home and merged the first 7 shots, I realized that the setting Sun that I included in the first 2 shots was actually distracting. I did process that 7 shot Pano but decided not use that shot. I had a 2nd set of 7 shots but this time I decided to skip the first 2 and go with a 5 shot Pano. Even with 5 shots, I had to crop a bit to avoid distractions.

This is a 5 shot blend of the photos that I took hand-help and merged in Lightroom.