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.

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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.

Pride of Madiera!

Location: Bixby Bridge, CA
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/13 | 1/40s | ISO 400

A plan started brewing Saturday evening to head to Treasure Island for some blue hour photography. Basically, shoot the SF Skyline & Bay Bridge from different locations in Treasure Island during blue hour. The thought was to not worry about whether Sunrise is going to bring good colors or not and just shoot during Blue Hour. I went to bed setting my alarm for early AM to head out to Treasure Island.

When I woke up, I saw that the prediction for Monterey was very good. Golden Hour in Monterey and south was predicted to be have excellent colors. So, I told the guys that Treasure Island may not be a good idea and we should go to Monterey instead. One of my friends was picking me up and he didn’t respond for a while. I really wanted to go to Monterey as the chances of a good Sunrise was high.

Everyone agreed that we’d head to Monterey, specifically, Bixby Bridge. One of my friends picked me up and we went to another spot to pickup another friend of ours. He got delayed and that put us behind schedule by about 15 to 20 minutes. We then drove to Scotts Valley to pickup another friend of ours. With a packed car, we headed to Bixby Bridge.

When we got there, it was still blue hour. It was extremely cold and windy. The recommendation from Escaype was to face South, which is the direction we would face when shooting Bixby Bridge anyway. We waited in the car for a few minutes as it was too cold outside. After a few minutes of waiting, we decided to go out and start shooting.

It was still blue hour so we were trying to find the right composition. Time went by and we didn’t see any colors. It completely skunked. I was so disappointed. This was a long drive and to not see any colors was truly disappointing. We walked up and down PCH 1 to get a good comp. I got a couple of good shots even though there were no colors in the sky.

We were about to leave and one of the guys found this beautiful flower and said it would make a good foreground. These flowers are referred to as the Pride of Madeira. They were positioned in an awkward angle, which made it extremely difficult to shoot. We had to walk down the hill and stand in a very small space to get the shot.

When I went there, I tried a few shots. I first tried putting the flowers in the left; then in the center; and then I tried putting the flowers in the right of the frame. From a comp stand-point, I liked this the most. I actually sat down on a branch to get this shot. Having my ultra-wide angle lens definitely helped.

As I said, the sky did not have any colors. Actually, it did have some colors but definitely nothing compared to what was predicted. I had to bring colors in post processing, which wasn’t really difficult to do but would have loved to see more colors. I shot this hand-held so I bumped the ISO to get a sharp photo. I like how the photo turned out but wish I had done a couple of things differently. I should have move a little bit to the left to see if I could get all the flowers. As you can see, some of the flowers are hidden. Not sure if this is possible but I could have tried. Another thing is to leave a bit of room on the right so the rock is not on the extreme right.

 

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.

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.

Pigeon Point Starburst!

Location: Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero

Time: Sunset

EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 | 20mm | f/16 | 1/250s | ISO 100


This was shot during the same day as the shot (Ready to Shine) I wrote about a couple of weeks back. As mentioned in that post, we parked at the Lighthouse parking lot and started walking around to see if we can get any good shots. Sun was still pretty high up and hot. Most of the shots were blown out. Even when I tried HDR, I wasn’t able to get any decent shots. There were a lot of solar flares. I need to learn how to shoot straight into the Sun.

Anyways, while walking around, I noticed that if I shoot at a certain angle, I’d be able to get Starburst. Over the last few months, I have been obsessed with Starburst. Every opportunity I get, I try to capture a Starburst. Whether it’s the rising/setting Sun or lights on a Bridge, or even moon, I have tried to capture Starburst. So, when I saw the opportunity at Pigeon Point, I had to give it a shot.

I moved around quite a bit to see if I can get at least one shot without (or at least minimal) solar flares. But it turned out to be quite challenging. But I kept shooting. I did see looking at the LCD that some of the shots came out without solar flares and clean Starburst.

Once I came back home, I figured out that this was the best shot. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of imagination. I had to clean some flares, I had to dodge and burn a bit. I had to work different things to get the colors I wanted. More important, I had to get Sowmya’s help with some cleanup. I am not at all good with Photoshop so I pull in Sowmya whenever I need help 🙂

She worked on it for about 10 minutes and got it to where I wanted it. Definitely, lot more to learn when it comes to capturing Starbursts.

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.