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.

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Brilliancy of Colors

Location: Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/8 | 1/3s | ISO 100

Another shot from my recent trip to Pigeon Point Lighthouse. After I took several shots from the corner to as much of the burn as possible, I decided to move around to try different compositions.

One of the spots that I stopped was where I could use the picket fence as leading line. I have tried this before but not with too much luck as weather didn’t cooperate. This time around, I knew that the weather cooperated; sky was literally on fire. The question was whether I’d be able to include the colorful sky in my comp. One of the challenges when I go to a location is to find interesting comp. Not a unique comp per se but something interesting that I can try. I am going through a 52-week Photography Composition Challenge and my primary goal is to learn different compositional techniques.

There’s  lot of discussion about how you differentiate your photos from others. Everyone wants to get something new; something unique. I guess the feeling is natural. Everyone wants to be different. No one wants to comp-stomp. As far as I am concerned, I am still at a stage where I am learning Photography and one of the best ways for me to learn is to look at photos from other Photographers and try to emulate it. I don’t mean to say that I’ll copy other’s photos but take inspiration from their work. What I’d like to consider as paying homage. To me, there’s nothing wrong with taking someone else’s comp as there’s only so much you can do in a particular location.

To me, one of the best ways to differentiate your works is through post processing. Think about it. When you visit Yosemite National Park and go to the world famous Tunnel View, especially during Golden Hour, you’ll see anywhere 10 to 100 Photographers. Or, think about the Firefall spectacle. You’ll find hundreds of Photographers in one location. How much variation can you really achieve in your comp? However, how you process your photos can produce a completely different result compared to the Photographer who stood right next to you.

Anyways, getting off the soapbox and on to this photo. The sky was still burning and I went to this spot where I thought I’d use the picket fence as leading line and put the Lighthouse on the third. I was able to include the burning sky in my frame. I bracketed 3 shots so I merged the photos in Lightroom and followed my usual workflow.

Burst of Radiance!

Location: Carrizo Plains National Monument, California
Time: Midday
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/16 | 1/15s | ISO 100

One of those days where Escaype predicted high potential/zero skunk for northern areas with no fog. So, it wasn’t a question of whether I was going out but as usual, the question was where. One of my buddies pinged me and we started the back & forth. We have done this several times before. We keep debating about which location to go until the very last minute. Going forward, we should just pick one and go. It’s not like we only get one shot at this; if not today, we can go another day.

So, the debate was between SF and Pescadero. The last few times we went to both locations when predications were high, we got skunked. After a lot of back & forth, we decided to head to Pescadero. Even though the forecaster’s note said north is preferred, we thought Pescadero is north enough and we’ll see a good burn. All I got the last 2 or 3 trips to Pescadero were yellow skies. I hoped and wished for a colorful Sunset.

Now that we decided on going to Pescadero, the question was where specifically in Pescadero. We had multiple options – Piegon Point, Bean Hollow Beach, and Pescadero State Beach. Since all 3 locations were within 10 minutes of each other, we decided to start at Bean Hollow and decided where to go. Since we got skunked the last few times, both of us were skeptical as to whether or not it’ll be a good show.

I headed to my friends place as the plan was for me to park my car there and go with him to Pescadero. I got caught in some heavy traffic on Highway 17 but it was expected. I got to my friends place as planned and we hit the road right away. Since we had plenty of time for Sunset, we decided to check out Greyhound Rock Beach on the way.

The hike down to Grey Hound Beach wasn’t too bad. It took us about 10 minutes to get down to the beach. It was super windy. There was hardly anyone in the beach. We knew that the time was not right to get any good shots as the Sun was pretty harsh. But this was more of a scouting detour than anything else. With so much wind, it was hard to even keep our eyes open; sand was flying everywhere. We walked around a bit and experimented with a few shots. After about 20 minutes on the beach we decided to head back. Obviously, the hike up was a bit more difficult but it wasn’t bad at all.

From Grey Hound Rock Beach, we headed straight to Bean Hollow Beach. We pulled into a beach where we saw signs for Bean Hollow. But that turned out to be the first entrance. We wanted to go to the second one. After a few experimental shots, we drove to the 2nd location. The beach was filled with rocks. Not really big sea stacks but lot of rocks with interesting texture. Bean Hollow is a very unique beach; I can’t quite explain what I saw. Many of the rocks had holes in them and the holes were filled with pebbles.

With some difficulty, we got down to a place where we thought will be good to setup our tripods. It was high tide and the waves started getting bigger by the minute. We spent about 20 to 25 minutes there trying different shots. We started seeing colors pop in the sky. We had a feeling the clouds were going to light up. The question now was to decide whether to stay where we were or to head to Pigeon Point. Honestly, I didn’t like the comp at Bean Hollow. There’s so many rocks, it’s hard to isolate anything. If we spent enough time there, I am sure we would have come up with some good comp. But, both of us agreed that we should head to Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

The drive took less than 10 minutes. We first went to the location that we usually shoot from, which is about a mile or so south of the Lighthouse. When we got there, we realized that the Sun and all the colors that were happening would not be in our frame at all due to the angle. Here came another question. Should we stay and try our luck or head to the Lighthouse and shoot from there. We decided to head to the Lighthouse.

As soon as we parked the car, we took our gear and ran to one corner of the Lighthouse property where we thought would be a good spot to capture most of the burn. Oh yeah, the burn already started and it was simply superb. It was one of the best Sunsets that I’ve seen and definitely THE best Sunset from Pigeon Point. When we got to the spot, I saw a young guy with his parents. I assume he was one of the guys from my Escaype group but I didn’t want to start a conversation. I started firing away.

Moving a few feet, I realized that the Sun was going behind one of the hostel buildings and I decided to go for the starburst. Unfortunately, there was so much dust and moisture on my lens that I kept getting halos. I did get starburst but not a clean one. I decided to switch my lens and give it a shot but by that time, the Sun went behind the building.

I knew I can add the starburst in post processing. It may not look ‘real’ to some trained eyes but I decided to give it a shot. I went through my normal workflow in Lightroom and then took the photo to Photoshop to add the star as well as clean up the photo. I posted the photo in my Escaype group and got some good feedback, which I incorporated.

After posting the shot, I now realize that the star wasn’t needed after all. The photo by itself would have still been spectacular. Lesson learned! I probably won’t add starburst in post anymore.

Calero Sunset

Location: Highway 58, California
Time: Midday
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/11 | 2s | ISO 100

One of those days where inland was projected to have better potential with low skunk compared to the coast. The quintessential question was where inland should I go to catch the Sunset. For some reason, Calero County Park comes up as default selection when I open the Escaype App. I have been meaning to check out Calero County Park for a while but never got a chance.

Actually, I did drive up to Calero County Park in the wee hours of the morning several weeks back to catch the Sunrise but turned back after going to the park. It was pitch dark and I didn’t want to really wander in a place that I haven’t been to before; especially when it was pitch dark.

When Calero County Park came up with high potential, I decided to head out. The forecaster’s note did say that there won’t be a lot of different colors; the sky will be golden. I decided to check it out as I wanted to see what I can get a Calero County Park.

Sowmya was planning to go to one of our friend’s place for dinner so I dropped Sowmya off at our friends place and headed to Calero County Park. It took less than 20 minutes for me to get there. I put directions to Calero County Park on my phone and it took me to the County Park. What I realized was that the reservoir is several miles west of the park and has a different entrance. So, after few minutes of walking to see if I can get a good comp, I decided to get back on my car and head to the reservoir.

When I got to the reservoir, I went straight to the parking lot as the ranger station was closed. I then saw a Park Ranger so I asked her where the pay station was. She pointed me to the Pay Station but asked if just got here. When I told her that I just got here, she said not to worry about paying as it was pretty close to Sunset and the park will be closed about 10 minutes after Sunset.

I thanked her and headed to the lake bank. I saw lots of shells so I decided to go as low as I can and see if I can use that in my foreground. I soon realized that it did not work at all; very dirty and distracting. Sun was going behind the hills so I decided to get some starburst. It didn’t work out as well as I hoped; even after putting my ND Filter, it didn’t work out well. I then started walking up and down to see what comp I can get. I was also looking to see what comp I can create.

I saw this driftwood so I decided to position it in line with the setting Sun to form a leading line. I decided to go with Long Exposure to smooth out the water. I tried several frames with the driftwood. I then moved around a bit to get different shots. I kept walking along the lake ban to take different shots. I wasn’t really happy with any of the shots that I got but I was focused on enjoying the Sunset and make the best out of the situation to take a bunch of shots.

As it got darker, I heard the Park Ranger’s horn, which I assumed was warning for people still in the park to head out as they’d be closing the park. I took a few more shots and decided to call it a day. Moreover, there were so many bugs all around and I didn’t want to catch anything. My shoes got completely wet and muddy as well.

I went straight to my friends place for dinner. We spent several hours there and then went back home. I loaded my photos to my Hard Drive but didn’t import it to Lightroom as it was pretty late and I was tired.

The next day, I imported my photos to Lightroom and checked to see if there were any keepers. Unfortunately, I didn’t like any of the photos. So, I decided to move on to photos from other photo shoots. For several weeks, I didn’t even look at the Photos from Calero. I was caught up with most of my other photo shoots so I decided to go back to the Calero shoot to see if I can make someone of the 2 dozen or more photos I took.

I found one frame that I liked but didn’t like where the driftwood was placed. What I decided to was something I haven’t done before and honestly have shied away from. I did my normal workflow in Lightroom and then took the photo to Photoshop, where I moved the driftwood where I wanted. I also took a couple of driftwoods from one of my other frames and added it to this to make the comp a bit more interesting.

This level of manipulation is something I’ve never done nor even thought about. I did it for multiple reasons: 1) to see if I can actually do it in Photoshop and 2) to see if I can actually salvage a photo that was technically sound but wasn’t attractive.

I don’t think I’ll be doing this often but always good to have the skills in your arsenal.

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.

Week 14 – At least 2 Comp Techniques

The Challenge for Week 14 of my 52 Week Landscape Photography Composition Challenge is to use at least 2 comp techniques. One of the primary reasons I embarked on this 52 Week Photo Challenge is to add Compositional Techniques to my shooting arsenal. Pun, of course, intended 🙂

My Landscape Photography has significantly increased over the course of last year and a half. However. many of my photos use the same set of Compositional Techniques – the rule of third, leading line, and in some cases framing. I try to use balance & symmetry where I can but most (if not all) my photos will use the rule of thirds in one way or the other. I try to have a good Foreground, Middle-ground, and Background on all my Landscape Photos but it doesn’t work out all the time.

I try to use what I am comfortable with, in terms of comp techniques. My goal with this 52 week challenge is to make sure I learn many more comp techniques so they become second nature and I have a wide array of techniques I can use in my photos.

For this week’s Challenge, I took this Sunset scene at Alviso Marina. I saw how the Sun Rays formed a leading line. I saw a driftwood lying on the shore and I lined it up with the Sun ray to extend the leading line. That’s the first comp technique used here. The second is Rule of Thirds; actually, that is used in multiple ways – 1) horizon is on the third 2) Sun is on one of the points 3) Leading lines are on one of the vertical lines as well.

The Sun may actually be in the ‘golden’ spot. which would satisfy the golden ratio comp technique as well. But I don’t know enough about that technique to say for sure. Still ways to go before I get to Golden Rule.

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.

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.

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.