March 31, 2009

The Plaza Cafe

According to Jose (manager), there has been a restaurant at this site in Santa Fe since 1906.  This means that the site has been occupied by restaurants longer than New Mexico has been a state—that is quite an achievement.  Currently, the Plaza Café is occupying the site.  The Plaza Café has been owned and operated by the same family since 1947.

If you go to Santa Fe, I recommend you stop and enjoy the food and service at the Plaza Café.  Why?  The food is good, the service is friendly and the place is interesting to see.

What interested me most about the cafe was the old time drug store look and all the different colors of light.  I wanted the photo to be about those two things.


Camera settings:  Nikon D3, 28-70mm f/2.8 at 28mm, shot at ISO 800, f/13 and 1/8th of a second.

Post Processing:

Lightroom:  Set white and black points, added mid-tone contrast, clarity and vibrance, added saturation to various colors.

March 30, 2009

Contrast: Land vs. Sky

As I was finishing a hike in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, I was watching the clouds form over part of the canyon walls.  I was struck by the extreme contrast between the well defined canyon walls and the softness of the sky and clouds.  I really like the dark area in the middle of the sky. 

I finally got to a place where I could get a relatively unobstructed view of canyon wall and the sky.   I tried various compositions, but then settled on what I knew had to be a panoramic-type shot.  I wanted to emphasize the sky so I only included the top portion of the canyon.


Camera settings:  Nikon D3, 28-70mm f/2.8 at 28mm, shot at ISO 200, f/16 and 1/500th   of a second.

Post Processing:

Lightroom:  Set white and black points, added mid-tone contrast, clarity and vibrance.

Photoshop:  Cloned some tops of trees on the canyon walls and used high pass filter method in the hard light mode to sharpen canyon walls only and then converted to black and white using nik Silver Efex Pro.

March 27, 2009

Old Texas Wind Mill

I really like Cap Rock State Park and took two wonderful hikes; but, I never got any photos that I really liked.  In the afternoon, I visited Palo Duro Canyon State Park, and although its hiking trails were not nearly as interesting, I did take several interesting photos.

Today’s image is an HDR image (five shots at 1 EV increments) of an old Texas wind mill and water storage tank that I found on one of my hikes.  I think I walked around the wind mill a couple times before I finally settled on a spot to set my tripod down-on.  I like the way the light was falling on the middle portion of the photo.  I felt that it gave the image greater depth.


Camera settings:  Nikon D3, 28-70mm f/2.8 at 36mm, shot at ISO 200, f/11.

Post Processing:

Photomatix Pro:  Combined five images into a HDR image and then did some basic tone mapping.

Photoshop:  Did some basic gardening, added mid-tone contrast and added saturation to various colors.

March 26, 2009

Music from My Past

On my way to Cap Rock State Park, I entered Turkey, Texas.  And what greeted me, music from my past.  Growing-up, my grandfather and I would often listen to Hank Williams and Bob Wills.  My grandfather preferred Bob because “he and his music were not fighting so many demons.”

I had no idea that Turkey was the home of Bob Wills.  Not that you would know it as you entered the town—just kidding!  I thought that I needed two shots from Turkey so here they are.

The second image was from an old Philip’s 66 Gas Station in the middle of town.  Considering the time of the gas station, I thought that a sepia toning would be appropriate.


March 25, 2009

Cotton-Farm House

As I was driving to Cap Rock State Park early in the morning, I saw this old, abandoned cotton-farm house.  I stopped and walked around the house a few times.   I tried various things, but really was not happy with what I was getting.  I kept muttering to myself:  “where are my clouds.”  Since I did not have a cloud-maker with me, I switched gears.  I started looking at the scene more about the colors—red browns versus blues.  With that I tweaked my white balance a little and finally got the photo that I wanted.


Camera settings:  Nikon D3, 28-70mm f/2.8 at 56mm, shot at ISO 200, f/5.6 and 1/4,000th of a second.

Post Processing:  Lightroom:  Set white and black points, added mid-tone contrast, clarity and adjusted color balance of blues, oranges and reds.

March 24, 2009

Movies from My Past

I spent the night in Clarendon, TX, which has a population of about 2,000 and is the county seat for Donley County.   I stopped in Clarendon because I planned on visiting Cap Rock State Park and Palo Duro Canyon State Park the next day.

Clarendon is a small panhandle town with an interesting county court house, but I must admit that was not what I found most interesting in the town.  A couple blocks from my hotel, I found the Sandell Drive-In Theatre.  The drive-in was a throwback to a drive-in my family and I regularly visited when I was growing-up.

I wanted the photo to reflect the 50+ years it has been since I went to the old Midway Drive-In with my family.  I am presenting two photos here because I am not sure which one best present what I want to present.


Camera settings:  Nikon D3, 28-70mm f/2.8 at 28mm, shot at ISO 200, f/11 and 1/60.

Post Processing:

Lightroom:  Set white and black points, added mid-tone contrast, clarity and vibrance.

Photoshop:  For the black and white version I used nik Silve Efex Pro to convert the image and for the color version I de-saturated various colors until I got what I though was an old and worn look.

March 23, 2009

Possibly the Last Newspaper Standing

I drove out to Santa Fe for my workshop.  I had not been out to west Texas in a long time and I thought that driving would be a little easier than getting on a plane with a lot of camera equipment.  I decided that I would go the northern route to Santa Fe (Houston to Fort Worth to Abilene to Santa Fe) and then return the southern route (Santa Fe to Carlsbad to Fort Davis to San Antonio to Houston). 

Electra, Texas (population 2,832) is between Wichita Falls and Vernon, Texas.  Now, I know that fixes it perfectly for everyone! 

I stopped in Electra to get a little coffee at a local café.  As I was drinking my coffee, I began to read the local newspaper—The Star News.  Two things struck me about the newspaper:  first, it was not just one story of dome after another—there was actually some “good” news sprinkled here and there; and second, the stories were not loaded with opinions or analysis—“just the facts, madam” as Detective Friday would request.  Don’t misunderstanding me, I am not going to cancel my subscription to the Wall Street Journal and replace it with one from the The Star News; but, the articles were a good, solid read.

As I as heading out of town, I went by the newspaper’s office.  I stopped and went into the office.  I learned that the newspaper had: a circulation of about 2,000 (growing slightly each year); growing add revenue; and, a positive approval-ratings.  As I left, I thought about all the problems newspapers are having across the nation.  I decided that I might have just read the last newspaper standing in the United States.


Camera settings:  Nikon D3, 28-70mm f/2.8 at 65mm, shot at ISO 200, f/11 and 1/250.

Post ProcessingLightroom:  Set white and black points, added mid-tone contrast, clarity.

March 20, 2009

In a Foreign Jail

My final photo comes from a series of shots that Britt and I took of how we thought an American might look in a third world country’s jail.  
I wanted to include part of the bed so I selected my 17-35mm f/2.8 lens.  This lens would allow me to get very close to the bed and keep most of the frame in focus.
I made several shots from outside the bars, but really did not like them.  The bars became very distracting, so I decided to let the lighting indicate that Britt was behind bars.  I placed two strobes outside the bars.  One strobe was at about 7 feet and pointed slightly downward to produce the shadows on the back wall; the other strobe was at about 4 feet and pointed at the foot of the bed to produce the harder shadows on the bed.  After a few test shots, I decided that I need to warm-up the light some, so I placed a full cut CTO on both strobes.
I was now happy with overall lighting, but did not like how Britt’s face was being illuminated.  I added a strobe with a fine grid on it to light Britt’s face and left side.  After tweaking the settings for this strobe including putting some gaffer's tape on the grid to help direct the light where I wanted it, I was happy with the level of light on Britt, but not the color.  I then added a ¼ cut green gel to the strobe to bring back the real colors of his face and clothes.
I was surprised at how fast we were able to get to our final images.  It usually took us about 20 minutes to derive our final product.  One of my biggest problems was that I had not worked with studio strobes and therefore was constantly surprised at the level of light the produced.  I almost always had to turn them down significantly from my original settings.
Overall, I was happy with the shot.  I like the color combination—warm earth tones and blue.  I think that the photograph looks like it was taken with only ambient lighting.  I do, however, wish that I had removed the light bulb.  It adds nothing to the photograph.  It is just a big, white distraction.
Camera settings:  Nikon D3, 17-35mm f/2.8 at 20mm, shot at ISO 200, f/11 and 1/250.
Post Processing:
Lightroom:  Set white and black points, added mid-tone contrast.
Photoshop:  Used nik Color Efex Pro’s tonal contrast to increase the details in everything but Britt’s skin and sharpened the image using the high pass filter in overlay mode.

March 19, 2009


In 2007, Bay Area Photo Club had “trouble” as one of the monthly assignment.  Today’s photo was what I wanted to do for that assignment, but could not get any of the local jails to allow me to take photos within the jail.  When I saw the row of cell blocks, I knew that I wanted to take this photo.

I wanted the photograph to show the hands with as much detail as possible, depth of the cellblock and the light coming from the windows in the various cells.  After the first couple of cells the light fell-off very dramatically, so I knew that I need to light both the hands and the middle part of the cells so that the bars were clearly visible.  The real trick to the lighting was in making the light fall only on the portion I wanted lighted and dialing the light down to the level I wanted.  I did not realize how much light studio lights produce.  We only had two strobes so I was unable to light the final few cells.  I think that would have helped show the depth of the cellblock.

When I downloaded the images to my computer, I immediately knew that it had to be converted to black and white.  The bars were painted turquoise and that just didn’t go with the mood that I wanted the photograph to convey.


Camera settings:  Nikon D3, 28-70mm f/2.8 at 40mm, shot at ISO 200, f/13 and 1/125 of a second on tripod.

Post Processing:

Lightroom:  Set white and black points, added mid-tone contrast, clarity.

Photoshop:  Converted to black and white using nik Silver Efex Pro. 

March 18, 2009

Behind Bars

Today’s photo is of Charlotte and was taken about 15 feet to the left of the photo of Britt that I posted on Monday.  I wanted this photo to be primarily about the light from the window and the textures of the prison walls.  I wanted Charlotte to be well lighted but I wanted her to be only part of the overall scene.

We tried lighting her with a strobe at various levels, but the strobe light kept breaking the beam of light.  I finally moved the strobe with a snoot outside the window and got what I wanted.


Camera settings:  Nikon D3, 28-70mm f/2.8 at 70mm, shot at ISO 200, f/11 and 1/60 of a second on tripod.

Post Processing:

Lightroom:  Set white and black points, added mid-tone contrast, clarity and vibrance.

March 17, 2009

A Different Kind of Portrait

I had passed this graffiti on a bathroom wall several times.  Each time, I would look at it and think “there is a photo there, but . . .”  Finally, I decided to just stop and look at it until I saw the photo that I wanted to create from the scene.  After a while, I decided that I wanted the photograph to be about light filtering through the windows at the far end of the bathroom and the graffiti.  I tried a shot with only ambient light, but I got nothing.  I needed to add light; but, where and how much?

I started by putting two strobes outside—one pointed slightly upward and the other pointed slightly downward.  I played around with the levels and finally settled on about ½ f-stop underexposed for the middle of the far wall.  After taking a few shots, I liked the level of the light on the wall, but not the color, and not the way the graffiti was lighted.  I tried to light the graffiti with a strobe, but quickly learned that I could not dial down the strobe to get “just the right amount of light on the graffiti.”  I then placed a silver reflector opposite my strobes to bounce light back on the graffiti.  It worked, but I was getting a little more light than I wanted.  I flagged the reflector to reduce the area illuminated, but the silver reflector just put more light on the graffiti than I wanted.

My final shot included blue gels on the strobes and a flagged silver reflector.  I think a white reflector would have given me the level of light that I wanted, but . . .

After downloading my photos, I could never decide what caused the bright blue light in the lower right corner of the photo, but, I felt that this is something that I could correct in Photoshop, if I was going to present the image.


Camera settings:  Nikon D3, 28-70mm f/2.8 at 40mm, shot at ISO 200, f/13 and 1/60 of a second on tripod.

Post Processing:

Lightroom:  Set white and black points, added mid-tone contrast, clarity and vibrance.

March 16, 2009

Believable Light

Greg Heisler said that he separates light into two categories:  believable light and “for effect” light.  In believable light, you try to augment the scene with your lighting so that the viewer is not really sure whether there is any lighting involved in the photograph.  On the other hand, for-effect lighting is done just because it makes the scene look “cool.”   I must admit, I never really thought about lighting in those terms, but, in looking through a few magazines, I can see his point.

All of the photographs this week were taken at an abandoned New Mexico prison.  The prison had a very violent riot by the inmates during the 1970s and was closed shortly thereafter.   The prison has some a very interesting grunge look that offers backgrounds with a lot of texture and color.

My first portrait is of Britt (who is the staff photographer for the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C).  Britt is standing just inside a doorway.   I wanted to do three things in this photo:  make it low key; cast a shadow on the back wall to add a little more mood; and make it look like is was lighted by ambient lighting only.

I started by setting a strobe outside a wall with cross bars and directing its light through the bars.  I set the strobe so that it would produce light that was about 1 to 1½ stops under my intended exposure values.  Next, I placed a strobe with a fine grid just inside the doorway to put some light on Britt’s face.  I wanted only his face to be properly exposed.  I wanted the rest of the scene to be slightly underexposed.

I was relatively happy with my overall shot until I realized that I had not done anything with the light coming from a window to my left.  Just enough light was coming through the window to cast some shadows going the wrong direction on the floor.  I could have fixed this very easily by placing a gobo between the window and Britt.  I think that the photograph would have been much more believable and effective had I eliminated these shadows.


Camera settings:  Nikon D3, 28-70mm f/2.8 at 48mm, shot at ISO 200, f/6.7 and 1/180.

Post Processing:

Lightroom:  Set white and black points, added mid-tone contrast, clarity and vibrance and cropped photo.

March 15, 2009

What Is Coming

I recently attended Choice and Vision photography workshop conducted by Gregory Heisler at the Santa Fe Photography Workshops.   Greg does some truly great portraits that utilize a wide range of lighting techniques.  

Greg told us on Sunday night before the workshop started that this week was not one in which we would add lots of images to our portfolios; rather, it was one in which he wanted us to push ourselves in new, uncertain directions.   Most of our work was done in groups of three with each of us acting as the photographer, the light person or the subject.  Greg thought that we could learn different aspects of a portrait being in the different roles.  I think I learned something from each role.

This coming week, I plan on presenting five photographs from the workshop.  I selected these photographs, not because they were necessarily my best shots, but, because I could easily explain what I was trying to do and give each of you the opportunity to tell me whether I achieved my objective.

Before I sign-off, I want to explain a few things about my blog. 

First, I was asked if I really post my blog at five something in the morning.  Yes, I do; but, my posting are generally for a few days out—in other words, the time is correct, but the day is not the day I actually wrote the blog.  I try to have two or three days posting on the blogspot server ready to go so that if I get too busy, I will still have something posted for that day.

Second, someone wondered why I do not reply to people’s possible negative comments.  To begin with, I do not always read the comments each day.  At the end of each week, I usually read my postings and the comments associated with each post.   I think that when you put one of your photographs on the internet, you are saying to the world:  “What do you think?”  With that in mind, who am I to tell someone that they are wrong?   When I get negative comments about my photographs, I look really hard to see if I can see the same thing that the poster saw.  Whether I agree or disagree with the comment, I try to learn something from it and move on.

I hope you enjoy the images from my workshop.