Week 20 – Horizontal Line

The Challenge for Week 20 of my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Horizontal Line. What I realized when I did some research on Horizontal Line in Landscape Photography is that we use horizontal lines in our photography more than we (at least I) realize. There’s most likely at least 1 implied horizontal line in most landscape photographs – the horizon. Other than horizon, there are other examples of horizontal lines – fallen trees, waves, oceans, sleeping people, etc. All these subjects somehow show a sense of stability, rest, and timelessness.

Horizontal lines tend to indicate a sense of homeostasis (lack of change). Horizontal lines can be used when you want to impart a sentiment of timelessness or lack of change to an image. The horizon is stable, dependable and immovable, and for these reasons, horizons become the ultimate example of horizontal line. Horizontal lines are also relaxing and quiet.

When I thought about horizontal lines, I knew I’ll head to the beach and use the horizon as the horizontal line as well as use waves as horizontal lines. When the opportunity to go to Capitola Wharf presented itself, I knew I had the chance to use the Wharf as another horizontal line.

So, after taking several shots from different locations using Wharf in the Foreground, I decided to move to a location where I put the Wharf horizontally across the frame. I see multiple horizontal lines in play in this photo – waves in the foreground, wharf, horizon, and the mountains in the background. I thought this would make a good example of Horizontal Line for this week’s challenge.

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Week 19 – Center the Subject

The challenge for Week 19 of my 52 week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is to center the subject. Anyone that has read a book or read an article or watched any tutorials on Photography Composition knows that one of the first things ‘rules’ of Photography is to ‘never’ place your subject in the center. One of the first ‘rules’ of composition that you’ll find in any Photography Book is the Rule of Thirds.

The Rule of Thirds have worked extremely well for a very long time. The masters of art have successfully used the Rule of Thirds effectively. And, the Rule of Thirds works wonders in Landscape Photography. But, should the Rule of Thirds be used in every single photo you take? Are there times where you place your subject in the middle of the frame? Of course, there are.

For example, anytime you are taking reflection, where symmetry is key, one of the things you have to do is put the horizon in the middle. Not doing so will actually make the photo look out of whack. The bottom half of the image mirrors the top, creating symmetry which makes the photo pleasing.

We have heard this before. Rules are meant to be broken. However, you need to know the rule well enough to know when to break the rules. Not centering your subject is generally a good idea unless centering your subject will actually enhance the subject, make it easy to convey your key message, and improve the overall composition. Reflection is one perfect example where putting the subject and the horizon in the center makes sense. There are many other. It is up to us a Photographers to decide what makes in a particular situation.

For this week’s challenge, I took this reflection of Walton Lighthouse during Sunrise. I have shot Walton Lighthouse from multiple angles. I have shot reflection of Walton Lighthouse from different angles as well. This particular shot, I purposefully decided to put the Lighthouse and the Horizon in the center of the frame. The reflection naturally called for centering the subject and horizon but I did try multiple comps and this is what appealed to me the most.

Pier Reflection

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 | 1/3s | ISO 100

I have been to Lake Cunningham Regional Park several times and always came up with a couple of good shots. The core group (except one person) decided to go to Lake Cunningham for Sunrise. One of those days where there was a lot of debate the previous night about where we should go for Sunrise. I didn’t feel like going anywhere far. So, I told the group that I am heading to Lake Cunningham as I wanted to execute a particular shot. Basically, I tried this shot last time but didn’t’ quite get it so wanted to try it again.

The group asked about potential shots we could get there and I sent them a few shots I took last time I was there. They were all interested and wanted to join. One of my friends came to my place and we carpooled together. Lake Cunningham is just about 15 minutes from my place. We met with the other two at the park.

When we go there, I realized that the shot I wanted to execute wasn’t possible as the Sun’s azimuth changed. I realized that where I thought the Sun was going to come up is not where it actually will. We did see a lot of clouds and colors already started to pop. All four of us went in different direction to find a comp we liked.

The last few times I was here, I wanted to get the reflection of the Pier. Unfortunately, the lens I had wasn’t wide enough and the Sun didn’t line up. This time around I had an ultra-wide lens that I knew will help me get the entire reflection. I also saw that the Sun was lining up nicely behind the Pier and all the action was happening behind the Pier.

I positioned myself in a place where I thought I’d be able to get full reflection. The place I was standing was a boat dock, which was covered with bird poop. I am not kidding. The entire dock was covered in poop. There was absolutely no way for me to step on the dock without stepping on poop. Of course, I stepped on poop. Anything for a good shot J

Apart from bird poop, there was another problem. The dock was moving for wind, waves, and when anyone walked. I knew that setting up the tripod wasn’t going to work. I waited for my friend to get off the dock, stood still and fired a few shots.

Looking at the Camera LCD, I realized that I got some good shots. I never trust the Camera LCD though. So many times, I have trusted that only to come home and realize the shots were not sharp or out of focus. This time around, I did end up with a good shot. I bracketed the shots so I merged the 3 shots in Lightroom and processed using my normal workflow.

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Gold Lining!

Location: Lake Cunningham, San Jose
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 18mm | f/16 | 1/4s | ISO 100

As I have mentioned in my previous posts, one of the biggest challenges these days is deciding where to go. Especially, when Escaype forecast comes with high potential to an area that I am not very familiar with.

That was the case Saturday night. The Forecast came up with very high potential but only for inland areas south of where I live. Monterey was out of question as the high potential was only for inland areas. I didn’t know any good areas. I talked to a few friends but we all came up empty handed. We thought we’d check out Alviso Marina but that was outside of the Escaype mapped area.

We thought about checking out CA 152 as we have seen good sunrise while driving. But didn’t know of any spots to park and we didn’t want to take any chances. So, I decided that I’d go somewhere local as it will be known location and I can wake a bit later.

So, when I woke up in the morning, I debated between Santa Teresa Park and Lake Cunningham. I didn’t know if Almaden Lake Park was open so didn’t even consider that. I decided to check out Lake Cunningham. When I went there, I was basically the only person in the park. At least, in the area that I was walking around.

I was walking around to see if there’s any good comp. Nothing jumped out at me so I kept shooting, trying different things. While I was trying to find a good comp, I noticed that the colors started changing. For a few minutes, the entire sky turned pink except the horizon, which had a golden glow. I decided to use the tree’s reflection in my comp. I tried a couple of shots.

This is a 3 shot blended in LR. Processing was pretty straight-forward. All the colors were already there. All I had to do was slightly enhance it.

 

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.

Sunrise at Lake Cunningham!

Location: Lake Cunningham, San Jose

Time: Sunrise

EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS SM | 10mm | f/8 | 1/50s | ISO 100

One of the biggest challenges within the core Photography group is deciding where to go for Sunrise or Sunset if weather is predicted to be good. We were in one of those debates deciding where to go for Sunrise. Escaype recommended going inland so I decided I’ll try out Lake Cunningham, which is about 15 minutes from home. Almost all (expect one) of the core group decided to join.

I have been to Lake Cunningham for Sunrise before. It was sometime mid last year. I got some decent shots. I was experimenting with a Variable ND Filter but I didn’t like that at all. It has a huge color cast. My goal was to repeat some of the shots and try to execute some new comp ideas,

We got there and we all went to one corner of the Lake to setup our tripods. Even though the colors started appearing, the comp wasn’t quite right. I started moving around and got a couple of different shots but nothing seemed right. A couple of us decided to go into the pier to shoot some boats that were docked. The pier was closed but we decided to jump in. I got a couple of good shots from here but after coming home realized that I didn’t get the complete reflection of boats. I wish I had.

I then moved to a different location and noticed that the clouds and trees were reflecting very well on the lake. So, I decided to setup my tripod and capture this hot. I wasn’t sure if was a keeper but thought it was an interesting comp.

I came back home and processed this multiple ways. I tried to not end up with a really ‘purple’ looking image but the colors were really purplish that day so decided to enhance what was there. Overall, a great morning shooting with the core group. Every time I go out with my Photography friends, I have a lot of fun. We discuss different comp ideas and processing techniques. I wish we took some time to review some of our photos so we can comment & critique. Hopefully, we’ll get to do that soon.

Walton’s Fire!

Location: Walton Lighthouse, Santa Cruz
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/8.0 | 1/100s | ISO 100

Another trip to Walton Lighthouse for Sunrise. This time with Sowmya. So, Escaype forecasted slightly higher than medium potential for Santa Cruz but it was expected to be colorful. So, Sowmya and I decided to head to Walton Lighthouse to catch the Sunrise.

We woke up early in the morning and headed out in less than 10 minutes. The drive was pretty smooth; no traffic at all. Of course, at 5:00 AM you don’t expect that such traffic but with road closures and construction on HWY 17, we didn’t know what to expect. We got there about 30 minutes before Sunrise. The colors already started to show up.

It was high tide so no possibility of getting to the beach like last time. Sowmya and I tried to take a couple of shots with the curve of rocks and pathway leading to the Lighthouse. It was basically just the two of us. For some reason, Walton Lighthouse was empty that morning. Anyways, we started moving close to the Lighthouse and I see reflection of the Lighthouse on the pathway.

I immediately setup up my tripod and put the Lighthouse right smack in the middle of the frame with the reflection. I started firing away and the clouds started lighting up. It was simply superb. One of the best sunrises I have seen at Walton Lighthouse. Sowmya moved around a bit and was asking me to come there to check out her comp. But I didn’t want to change my comp. I was happy with it and kept shooting. After seeing Sowmya’s shot, I definitely should have moved. It was a very good perspective. I am glad she got it.

Right when the colors were disappearing, one of the Photographers that is part of Escaype showed up. He was shooting from Seabright beach. I could have done that as well. His comp was pretty good. If I go to Walton for sunrise again, that’s what I’ll do.

In terms of processing, I really didn’t have to do a whole lot. The colors were simply superb. I just enhanced it a bit and cleaned up some dust spots.