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.

Week 15 – Symmetry

The Challenge for Week 15 of my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Symmetry, which is often considered one of the hardest compositions to pull off. Symmetry, in Photography (and art in general) refers to a line (called the line of symmetry) that splits an image in half, either horizontally or vertically, and if both sides of the image are mirror images of each other, then the image is said to be symmetrical.

Visual balance is a key compositional technique that can bring harmony and stability to an image. An unbalanced image on the other hand can make an image feel dynamic. Not all photos can (or should) be balanced. It i up to the Photographer to decide what he/she is trying to achieve with a photo. The scene also determines whether or an image can even be balanced.

One of the easiest ways to achieve balance in a photo is to shoot a symmetrical scene. Symmetry can be found easily in nature; mirror-like reflections of a landscape on water is a good example. If you read articles on Composition, you’ll see that symmetry is listed as one of those compositional techniques that works extremely well but is not easy to achieve. A slightest misalignment can lead to a distracting image.

For this week’s challenge, I took this shot of the beautiful ‘painted’ hills at Carrizo Plains National Monument reflecting in one of the lakes. The moment I saw this scene, I knew I had to shoot a balanced reflection for the Symmetry challenge. This wasn’t an easy shot to achieve for multiple reasons. One, there were lot of distracting elements in the foreground. Second, the foreground was wet and muddy so standing in one place for more than 15 seconds resulted in wet shoes. Finally, from a composition stand-point, it was difficult to figure out the best way to achieve symmetry.

Well, my shoes got completely wet and muddy but I got a shot that I was able to work with. In my mind, a good example of Symmetry in nature.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

The Reflecting Tower!

Location: Fort Point, San Francisco
Time: Sunset
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 18mm | f/8 | 1/500s | ISO 100

Ever since I shot shots of Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point with the Chains in the Foreground, I wanted to go there. For some reason, I loved that composition. I saw several different comps from this location; some very similar but some very different. My goal was to go to Fort Point and try few different comps.

Escaype forecast predicated very high numbers for San Francisco so we decided to head there for Sunset. We decided to check out Fort Point. Ever since joining Escaype community, we have started chasing the clouds. Literally! The goal is to follow the clouds in hopes that they will light up. We thought we’ll start at Fort Point and move to another location if need be.

We got to Fort Point and saw that there were not that many clouds behind Golden Gate Bridge. We were disappointed but decided to at least try some shots to see what comp we like so we can come back another day. While we started shooting, we noticed that clouds started moving in. We thought we’ll just stay there in the hopes that clouds will stay behind the bridge during Sunset. Clouds did move it but it started dissipating as well. About 45 minutes before Sunset, most of the clouds behind the bridge disappeared.

I took this shot right before the clouds started disappearing. I was walking around and taking different shots of the bridge with different chains in the foreground. I was walking by and saw the reflection and decided to try a shot with the reflection. I had to move back and forth on the road, crouch in different positions to maximize the reflection. I took 3 bracketed shots. I checked for sharpness and comp on the LCD and it looked good. I just hoped I’d feel the same way when I come back home and see it in the big screen.

When I got back home, there were multiple shots from this location to choose from. I chose the version that I liked the most and blended to HDR in Lightroom. Getting the colors in this shot was not straight-forward. I tried multiple things – split toning, temp/tint, camera calibration, among other things. I was able to bring the colors I liked on the clouds. After posting, I realized that the bridge may have become a bit too red. One of my friends shared same feedback as well. Always good to work on a photo, take a break, and come back to it.

Definitely need to visit Fort Point again when conditions are optimal.

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.

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.

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.

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.