Cloudy ocean

Cloudy Ocean

Sometimes a photograph becomes so abstract that it is no longer a representation of reality. I took this black and white, high key picture during a camping trip at Patrick’s Point State Park, September 2019. The park, located 25 miles north of Eureka, has many sweeping views of the ocean from cliffs and beaches. The weather was mostly rainy, overcast, and foggy, typical of the region.

Unlike the ocean photos in my previous posts (Beyond Fort Ross, My Mood of the Ocean and The Face of the Ocean), where I emphasized dark areas in conjunction with smaller bright areas to achieve a “dark and moody” feeling, the image above  has a “bright and airy” look with a preponderance of paler tones. These types of images, to me, are dreamy, soothing, and have the lightness of unreality.

The two types of images mentioned above are best taken under different conditions: generally, dark and moody require a contrasty scene to start with, whereas bright and airy are easier to take under very diffuse light and low natural contrast.

Location: Patrick’s Point State Park, CA, USA

Equipment: Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8, tripod, lee filters (polarizer, 6 stops, blue filter).

Settings: 50 mm, f/14, 30”, ISO 100

Tips: Southern and central Californians be aware, it rains there! Little to no cell phone reception on the coast. Use a remote trigger, experiment with very long exposures for this look (25″ and up). In post, played the the blue slider in Photoshop to lighten the blues and slightly overexposed the image.

Anatomy of a monocot leaf

Parallel Lines

In a previous post I showed the leaf of a dicot plant, which is characterized by branching major leaf veins. The leaf above, on which I applied the same photographic technique, is a monocot plant, characterized by major leaf veins running parallel.

This is the leaf of a Cala Lilly. I took this photograph on January 31, at the local arboretum. The leaf is large, green, glossy. I converted the photograph into black and white to enhance the vein pattern and I also added grain in post-processing to enhance the texture.

Location: UC Davis Arboretum, CA, USA.

Equipment: Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 105mm F2.8G,  speedlight, off camera trigger, light stand, diffuser.

Settings: f/8, 1/200”, ISO 100.

Tips: to highlight the shape of the leaf and the veins, and avoid glow, illuminate from behind. I used an off-camera speed light going through a diffuser placed behind the leaf.

Ocean view

Ocean View

Classically, landscape photography has focused on the natural landscape that has not been modified by humans. Little by little, however, photographers have started to balance the pristine beauty of the land with anthropic elements in a movement loosely known as “contemporary landscape”. 

Last Monday, February 8th, when I visited the Portuguese Beach for photography, I initially tried to avoid photographing the houses on the cliffs and along the beach.  However, they were so ubiquitous and so conspicuous that not only I surrendered to their presence, but I also made them an important component of my compositions.

Location: Portuguese Beach along Highway 1, Sonoma County, CA, USA

Equipment: Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200 mm; tripod, Lee filters (polarizer, Neutral density, Graduated Neutral density, blue);

Settings: 200 mm, f/20, 5”, ISO 50 ;

Tips:  Get there early. Sonoma Coast is a very popular place, and it gets really full of people. Be careful on the cliffs, it can be dangerous to approach the edges. Take different grades of neutral density filters, because the light in this location changes fast, from overcast and dark to bright and sunny. A polarizer and graduated ND filters are also advisable.

Spring musings

“If you want something to look interesting, don’t light all of it.” Quote attributed to John Loengard (he died last year at age 85).

Chaparral Currant, Hybrid Hellebore and California Poppy were flowering last weekend at the UC Davis arboretum. There were a few other flowers in the garden: Angel’s Trumpets, succulents, yellow daisies, Manzanita, Narcissus and Oxalis

Spring is finally upon us in California. Soon, the social media sites will be filled with flower pictures, so it’s a good time now to start thinking about different techniques to capture these beautiful subjects. Selective lighting and darkening the background are among my favorite tricks to make a flower picture look a little different. What is yours?

Chaparral Currant

California Poppy

Location: UC Davis Arboretum, CA, USA;

Equipment: Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 105mm F2.8G,  speedlight, off camera trigger, light stand, Rogue Flash Grid System;

Settings: f/5, 1/200”, ISO 100;

Tips: To obtain a dark background,  I used an off-camera speed light going through a Rogue Flash Grid pointing at the flower from the side. The grid directs the light into a spot, rather than illuminating all of the subject. A diffuser between the subject and the flash is always advisable. I used a piece of foam underneath the grid to soften the otherwise hard light coming from the speed-light.   

The Mermaid’s face

It is Friday again and the weekend is upon us. I have not made photography plans yet, the forecast says that it will be sunny everywhere. Definitely not a good forecast for photography.

I have been to the Marin Headlands a number of times, and those who follow me on Instagram might have seen a few photos I took at that place. And even though I have photographed the three rocks below several times and again, it was only last Saturday that I saw the Mermaid’s face. 

Location: Coastal trail at the Marin Headlands, Sausalito, California, USA;

Equipment: Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm F2.8,  Lee Filters (Polarizer, 6 stops); tripod;

Settings: 200 mm f/20, 5”, ISO 50;

Tips: Get there early. The Marin Headlands is a very popular place, and it gets really full of people. Take different grades of neutral density filters to the photoshoot: the light in this location changes fast, from overcast and dark to bright and sunny. When doing long exposure of the ocean, don’t be scanty, take many pictures with the same settings and vary the camera’s settings also. It is better to sort things out at home than to miss that especial moment when the waves do just the right thing.

The face of the ocean

The Face of the Ocean

On January 09, I came home with many pictures from the Fort Ross expedition. At first, I wanted to delete all of them: the camera-processed jpgs looked lifeless and uninteresting. As I started processing the raw files, however, I began to like a few, two of which I have already posted on this blog: Beyond Fort Ross and My Mood of the Ocean. The one above is, in my opinion, a nice abstract addition to that series. 

Unlike the photographers who are proud of their “in camera” photographic accomplishments and process their images with “no edits” and only small adjustments, I like to work more consistently on my photos in post-processing. The final product may take several hours of work to accomplish, and it may not look anything like I saw when I was taking the picture. As I pointed out in a previous post, developing my photographs in black and white helps to free my mind, and the viewers’, from the original scene, or from what an equivalent scene is supposed to look like. On this day, the sky was blue, the sun was out, and the ocean was unquiet.

Location: Fort Ross Cove in Sonoma County, CA, USA;

Equipment: Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8G ED, tripod, lee filters (polarizer, 6 stops Neutral Density filter,  1 stop N.D. graduated filter);

Settings: 70 mm, f/22, 10”, ISO 50;

Tips: get there early, particularly in the summer. No cell phone reception on the coast. Use a remote trigger with the filters mentioned above, experiment with different exposures. To darken the sky and bring out contrast in the ocean water, play with the blue and aqua color sliders in Photoshop. To have shapes appearing at the wave break while also capturing some texture, 6’’ to 10’’ exposures are needed. 

My mood of the ocean

My Mood of the Ocean

It is Friday again and with that comes the promise of a weekend. Maybe some photography…

I was asked why all my pictures here are in black and white. I am not against color and I may post color pictures here at some point. However, I like the freedom from reality that black and white gives me. In color, there is often the expectation that a scene has some resemblance with reality, and when it does not, it looks strange, because in our minds we compare it with the real world. In black and white, by contrast, there is no such expectation because there is no real world in black and white to use as a reference.  

I took the picture above on the 09/Jan/2021 when I drove with my son and friends to the coast. The day was beautiful, the breeze was light, and the sky was blue. A perfect day, calm, soothing day by the sea. This picture, however, is dark and contrasty, emphasizing the movements and mood of the ocean: a personal interpretation.  

Location: Sonoma County along Highway 1, CA, USA;

Equipment: Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8G ED, tripod, lee filters (polarizer, 6 stops Neutral Density filter,  1 stop N.D. graduated filter);

Settings: 70 mm, f/22, 2”, ISO 320;

Tips: get there early, particularly in the summertime, bring a jacket. No cell phone reception on the coast. Use a remote trigger with the filters mentioned above, experiment with different exposures. To darken the sky and bring out contrast in the ocean water, play with the blue and aqua color sliders in Photoshop. 

Branching patterns

Branching Lines

I am fascinated by the branching patterns in nature. Our circulatory system, our lungs, the tops and roots of trees, the rivers flowing to the ocean, and the evolution of life itself can be recovered as a branching pattern.

I took this photograph on 17 January, in the local arboretum. The leaf is large, green, glossy. I converted the photograph into black and white to enhance the patterns and shapes. I have also added grain in post-processing to enhance the texture.

Location: UC Davis Arboretum, CA, USA;

Equipment: Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 105mm F2.8, tripod, tripod, speedlight;

Settings: f/18, 1/15s, ISO 220;

Tips: to highlight the shape of the leaf and the veins, and avoid glow, illuminate from behind. I used an off-camera speed light going through a diffuser placed behind the leaf.

Beyond Fort Ross

Beyond Fort Ross

I took this photo last weekend on a trip to the coast with my son and friends. It was a beautiful sunny day with no fog, and we went all the way north to Fort Ross. I used to go the the California coast a lot back in 2018-2019 for photoraphy and I took quite a few pictures that I still like, but in 2020 I stopped going because of the pandemics and lockdowns. Last weekend we decided to go anyway. We took the usual covid-19 precautions and it was an almost perfect day, only lacking a stop by a café or restaurant on the way back, to warm the soul.

I like the mood of this picture and want to create a few more to complete my series. One thing I have been trying to decide is how am I going to deal with black areas in this type of photograph henceforward. In the California coast, the rocks are often dark, covered with mussels, and for that reason they may appear partly to completely black, even under soft light. Black areas without detail are often frowned upon by photographers and may look funky in print . In this photo, instead of trying to recover the details in the shadows, I used a non-destructive burning method to darken the rocky ridge in the background. Although I like this result better than the more usual alternative of dodging it, how much burn to apply, and where, remains open to investigation.

Location: Fort Ross, Sonoma County, CA, USA;

Equipment: Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8G ED, tripod, lee filters (polarizer, 6 stops Neutral Density filter,  1 stop N.D. graduated filter);

Settings: 50 mm, f/22, 3”, ISO 100;

Tips: get there early, particularly in the summertime. Bring a jacket. No cell phone reception on the coast. Use a remote trigger with the filters mentioned above, experiment with different exposures. In post, dodge and burn to bring out your vision. 

UFO at the Arroyo Park

UFO in the Fog

The fog is minimalist, it only reveals what is essential.

A while ago someone brought to my attention the fact that I rarely show a portrait image, and that I should remember to explore that orientation as well. With that in mind, I have started a small, solo project taking portraits of the winter versions of the trees in the Sacramento area. 

Even though this winter’s fog has been perfect to hide the visual clutter typical of city parks, I was not able to leave, out of the frame, this UFO, which, I have been told, crashed at the Arroyo park a long time ago…  But I think that it complements the frame very well.

Location: Arroyo Park, Davis, CA, USA;

Equipment: Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm F2.8G ED, tripod;

Settings: 24 mm, f/8 1/8s ISO 100;

Tips: for this kind of photograph, use a wide angle, get close, use spot metering to calculate the exposure and expose for the tree (this will overexpose the fog and make it brighter).