July 31, 2009

Along Monterey Bay Grand Seascape Photo

This is one of those grand seascapes that I mentioned yesterday. In this one, I had lots of things going for it—great sky, beautiful blue water, great foreground and a composition that seemed just right.

But, for some reason, this photo really does not do much for me. I have spent lots of time looking at it and finally, came to the conclusion that, although there are lots of great elements within the photo and it had a classical composition, the photo does not have a real subject. My eyes move from the sky to the ocean to the land, but they do not really stop and study any part of the photo.

What do you think?

Enjoy.

Camera settings: Nikon D3, Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8 at 20mm with a polarizing filter and graduated neutral density filter attached, shot at ISO 200, f/13, 1/15th of a second on a tripod.

Post Processing:

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

Photoshop—applied nik Color Efex Pro tonal contrast filter to add contrast to highlights, mid-tones and shadows of the coast line and the sky on separate layers.

July 30, 2009

Along Monterey Bay

I believe that most photographers who have visited the Monterey Bay have took lots of grand seascape photo of the coast line. I have done many of these photos and took a lot more of them during this visit.

But, for some reason, I never seem to get the image that I want. I do not know whether it is a case of trying to capture too much into a single frame or whether my mind builds an image that surpasses what my photographic abilities can capture.

Here I tried a little different approach. I tried to zero-in on part of the coast line and then used the ocean as a background to my main subject. In this photo, I liked the contrast: the pattern of the flowers versus the nonuniform aspect of the background; and the warm colors of the flowers versus the cool colors of the sea.

Enjoy.

Camera settings: Nikon D3, Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 at 36mm with a polarizing filter attached, shot at ISO 200, f/13, 1/30th of a second on a tripod.

Post Processing:

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

July 29, 2009

Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo #3


I really liked this simple staircase. While I was setting-up for this photo, I noticed that clouds were moving in front of the sun and casting light on different parts of the building. After about ten minutes of waiting, I got the light on the staircase that I wanted. I added to the lighting by doing some dodging and burning during post processing.

Enjoy.

Camera settings: Nikon D3, Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 at 28mm with a polarizing filter attached, shot at ISO 200, f/13, 1/4th of a second on a tripod.

Post Processing:

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

Photoshop—applied nik Color Efex Pro tonal contrast filter to add contrast to highlights, mid-tones and shadows of the adobe.

July 28, 2009

Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo #2

While scouting the church the day before, I decided that there were about four or five photos that I wanted to take. I knew that I would be back early in the morning and I had a good idea of where the sun would be at different points in the morning.

My second photo comes from a side of the church that I knew would be shaded from the early morning sun. I wanted this photo to show two things: the bright red window and the texture of the adobe wall. I tried to keep the composition simple and let the colors be the main star of the photo.

Enjoy.

Camera settings: Nikon D3, Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 at 28mm with a polarizing filter attached, shot at ISO 200, f/13, 1/2th of a second on a tripod.

Post Processing:

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

Photoshop—applied nik Color Efex Pro tonal contrast filter to add contrast to highlights, mid-tones and shadows of the adobe and then applied some dodging and burning around the image.

July 27, 2009

Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo #1

Earlier this year, Janice and I traveled to Monterey, California for a wedding. During our trip, I visited the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo or as it is better known as Carmel Mission. We have some life-long friends who live not far from the Carmel Mission, so I have visited the mission several times and have also taken many photos of it.

On this visit, I was determined to get a good photo of the courtyard. I knew that the morning light would be best for the type of photo that I wanted, but the mission did not open until 10:00 AM—long past the time I wanted to photograph the courtyard. I arranged with a priest at the mission to get admitted around 6:30 AM. I walked around the courtyard for a while and then decided that there were three places that might provide a good angle of the church and the courtyard. I went from location to location at four different times during the morning to take my photos. During the interim, I visited with several of the priest who were most entertaining.

This is my favorite of the photos because of the lighting on the building and the overall composition.

Enjoy.

Camera settings: Nikon D3, Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 at 40mm with a polarizing filter attached, shot at ISO 200, f/13, 1/8th of a second on a tripod.

Post Processing:

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

Photoshop—applied nik Color Efex Pro tonal contrast filter to add contrast to highlights, mid-tones and shadows of the foreground and the church and then applied some dodging and burning to the foreground areas.

July 24, 2009

In and Around Houston #10

I knew that my final photo needed to be either a sunset or night shot. I tried a sunset shot of the Houston skyline from near Jamial Skate Park, but I did not like the results. The skyline lacked a real glow that we often get during the summer.

I waited for the sun to go down and took several shots of the Houston downtown skyline, but all the shots looked like every other photo that I have seen of the downtown skyline.

I then remembered the statue of an armadillo in front of a restaurant on Kirby. I loaded-up my gear and headed to the armadillo. Again, I walked around the armadillo to find the best perspective to take the photo. After deciding on the perspective, I decided that I would probably need to use HDR to capture the full dynamic range within the photo.

I tried to use HDR but really did not like what was produced by Photomatix Pro. My photo is the combination of four exposures with various parts of each exposure masked-off.

Enjoy.

Camera settings: Nikon D3, Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 at 32mm with a polarizing filter attached, shot at ISO 200, f/8 and at seven different shutter speeds from -3 EV to +3 EV of a second on a tripod.

Post Processing:

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

Photoshop—combined four exposures in layers and then masked-off various elements of each layer in order to show only the portion of a given layer that I wanted to use.

July 23, 2009

In and Around Houston #9

Without a doubt, my favorite streets in all of Houston are North and South Boulevards near the Museum District. Both streets are lined with these great old (very old) live oaks with a brick walkway down the middle of the median. I think that the red bricks, the green grass and the live oaks make for a very striking picture.

The problem with photographing these streets is the sunlight that filters through the trees. I tried to eliminate this problem as much as possible by photographing the street late in the evening.

Enjoy.

Camera settings: Nikon D3, Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 at 50mm with a warm polarizing filter attached, shot at ISO 200, f/13 and 1/10th of a second on a tripod.

Post Processing:

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

Photoshop—ran nik Color Efex Pro tonal contrast filter to add contrast to shadows, mid-tones and highlights and then added slight vignette and added boarder using onOne Photo Frame Pro.

July 22, 2009

In and Around Houston #8

I was heading to North and South Boulevard when I saw the gold dome on the Chapel of St. Basil at Saint Thomas University. I parked my car and started walking around trying to find the best angle for my photo. Nothing really appealed to me. I did not like the distortion that I was seeing from shooting up and using the 28-70mm lens.

I sat down and tried to figure out my problem. As I was looking around, I noticed that the classroom facing the chapel had a second floor open balcony from which place my tripod. I climbed-up to the balcony and took my shot.

There was probably a ten f-stop dynamic range in the shot, so I decided that I would have to use HDR to make my image. I shot five shots at 1 EV increments from -2 EV to +2 EV.

Enjoy.

Camera settings: Nikon D3, Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 at with a polarizing filter attached, shot at ISO 200, f/16 and 5 shots at various shutter speeds on a tripod.

Post Processing:

Photomatix Pro—combined five shots into an HDR file and then tone mapped the file and imported it into Lightroom.

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

Photoshop—ran nik Color Efex Pro tonal contrast filter on the chapel to add contrast to shadows, mid-tones and highlights.

July 21, 2009

In and Around Houston #7

Everything about my photo of the Texas Junk Co. was pure good fortune. First, there was a wreck on the street that I was traveling down so I turned onto Welch Avenue. A few blocks down I saw the Texas Junk Co. I knew that I had to photograph it. But, what and how?

There was a lot of interesting items laying around outside the building and I took many close-up shots of them. But, I kept thinking that it was the building that got my attention and the photo should be of the building. About that time, this old truck pulled-up and parked across the street. The colors and the wear of the truck fit perfectly with the building, so I knew that I had to include it in my composition. I decided that I wanted the truck to be in the foreground but was not sure how I wanted it to appear—sharp or blurred. I shot it both ways. When I saw the two versions on my monitor, there was no doubt which one was the better photo, the one with the truck out of focus.

Enjoy.

Camera settings: Nikon D3, Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 at with a polarizing filter attached, shot at ISO 200, f/2.8 and 1/2,000th of a second on a tripod.

Post Processing:

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

Photoshop—ran nik Color Efex Pro tonal contrast filter on the building to add contrast to shadows, mid-tones and highlights and then ran the midnight filter and applied it at an opacity of 35%.

July 20, 2009

In and Around Houston #6

I saw this fabrication shop that had lots of cool equipment setting outside. I located the owner and told him what I was trying to do. He liked the idea and immediately showed me around his shop.

Over in one corner of the shop I found this portion of a boat that they were repairing. Two things struck me about the hull—its texture and the light that was streaming from a crack in the door. I walked around the hull several times before I settled on my perspective. I then took several shots at different settings. I settled on setting that would effectively underexpose the image by about three f-stops. I photo to be all about the light revealing the texture and I thought that underexposing the image did this the best.

Enjoy.

Camera settings: Nikon D3, Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 at 70mm with a polarizing filter attached, shot at ISO 200, f/13 and 1/500th of a second on a tripod.

Post Processing:

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

Photoshop—used nik Color Efex Pro tonal contrast filter to add contrast to shadows, mid-tones and highlights and then converted the image to black and white using nik Silver Efex Pro.

July 17, 2009

In and Around Houston #5

After leaving the market, I headed north on Shepherd past 610 Loop. I wanted to take some photos of some light industrial plants in the area.

Along the way, I spotted this sign on one of the side streets. There was the sign and a building foundation. Nothing else. I wanted the photo to include the sign and the building foundation, but I could not find an angle that would eliminate all the clutter in the background. I finally settled on the sign with a simple background of tree and sky. To help simplify the background even more, I decided on using an aperture of f/4 to blur the background.

I wanted the photo to be simple and about the three primary colors—red, green and blue.

Enjoy.

Camera settings: Nikon D3, Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 at 40 with a polarizing filter attached, shot at ISO 200, f/4 and 1/250th of a second on a tripod.

Post Processing:

Lightroom—Set white and black points, added mid-tone contrast, clarity and changed hue of green.

Photoshop—ran nik Color Efex Pro tonal contrast filter on the sign to add contrast to shadows, mid-tones and highlights, decreased color saturation and added boarder using onOne Photo Frame Pro.

July 16, 2009

In and Around Houston #4

Not far from Alice’s Cafe is Henderson Food Market. The second that I saw it, I thought of the many small neighborhood markets that were around Fort Smith, Arkansas when I was growing-up. I think the signs on the Henderson Food Market say it all about what is important: Beer Cigarettes Grocery.

I wanted the photo to look like it might have been taken 50 years ago—when the signs would have read considerably different. I thought that a boarder would help achieve this look. As I was working on this one, I thought that it might be very interesting to see photos of the market taken every five years since it was originally built.

Enjoy.

Camera settings: Nikon D3, Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 at 70mm with a polarizing filter attached, shot at ISO 200, f/9.5 and 1/125th of a second on a tripod.

Post Processing:

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

Photoshop—ran nik Color Efex Pro tonal contrast filter on the butterfly to add contrast to shadows, mid-tones and highlights and added boarder using onOne Photo Frame Pro,

July 15, 2009

In and Around Houston #3

My next stop was the sixth ward—which is just a little north and west of downtown Houston. I headed down Washington Avenue and various side streets looking for some old, interesting buildings. After about ten minutes, I found this old restaurant—Alice’s CafĂ©. I remember that some of my co-workers used to go here for lunches back in the late 70s, but I do not think that I had ever eaten at Alice’s.

As I was assessing the scene, I knew that I had a washed-out sky to deal with. I tried a few close-up shots of the building, but, in all honesty, they lacked the impact that the whole building had. So, I decided that I would shoot the whole building and apply a grunge look to the image in post-processing. I felt that the washed out sky would then become part of the overall look that I was using for the photo. I wanted the photo to have surreal look that would hopefully add to its aged and weathered appearance.

Enjoy.

Camera settings: Nikon D3, Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 at 70mm with a polarizing filter attached, shot at ISO 200, f/11 and 1/90th of a second on a tripod.

Post Processing:

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

Photoshop—ran nik Color Efex Pro tonal contrast filter on the buildings and trees to add contrast to shadows, mid-tones and highlights and then sharpened buildings and tree about 20-30% more than normal using the high-pass filter in hard light mode, and increased the saturation of red, greens, cyan and blues.

July 14, 2009

In and Around Houston #2

After the Kemah sunrise photo, I headed to downtown Houston. I wanted to take a few photos of the Houston skyline and/or some of the individual buildings. Since it was still relatively early in the morning, most of the city had a nice natural glow to the light reflecting-off the buildings. I shot several buildings and then noticed how the light made the sandstone of the church turn a nice soft orange. I wanted the photograph to be totally about the light and the complementary colors of the blue sky and the orange light on the church.

Enjoy.

Camera settings: Nikon D3, Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 at 42mm with a polarizing filter attached, shot at ISO 200, f/11 and 1/180th of a second on a tripod.

Post Processing:

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

Photoshop—sharpened church using the highpass filter method in soft light mode and increased saturation of blues and orange in an adjustment layer.

July 13, 2009

In and Around Houston #1

A few weeks ago at a meeting of the Bay Area Photo Club, I walked into a conversation that went something like this:

Member #1: “There is just not much to photograph in Houston. I am planning a trip to Place X next month. Really looking forward to working on some new techniques I have been reading about.”

Member #2: “I know what you mean. I have not taken a photo in Houston that I think is very good in over a year. I plan on going to Place Y next week. There are so many good photographing opportunities there.”

Member #3: “I wish I was going some place, but just cannot get away anytime soon. Larry, how about you?”

Larry: “Daaaa. I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it.”

I have been thinking about his conversation a lot over the past few weeks. During the Next Step workshop last year, Craig Tanner said that he felt like great photos come from within the photographer and that by allowing your photography to be dictated by what you were shooting, limits you as an artist. I then recalled my experience in Naches, Mississippi last year (written about on my December 4, 2008 blog).

By no means do I want anything that I write to be interpreted as being a put-down of anyone in the conversation. But, I decided that my fellow members were talking about “taking photos, rather than, making art.” Here, I use a very loose definition for “art”—to me, “art” in photography means putting my own unique interpretation on what I am photographing.

With all this in mind, I decided to give myself an assignment: spend a day photographing Houston and publish at least five photographs on my blog. I decided that I would limit myself to one lens, use only available light and not photograph any people (because you could photograph people anywhere); however, I would not limit the post-processing of my images to Lightroom only—any and all post processing will be on the menu.

As I drove around looking for places to photograph, I found several locations that would make for good photographs, but not in the current light. Since it was my assignment and I could do what I wanted, I changed the rules to ten photographs over a two-day period.

A project like this must start with a sunrise photo. What makes a good sunrise photo? Sun, clouds and water. So, my first photo comes from Kemah area. Luckily, the sun was cooperating when I got to Kemah. I took several shots, including some bracketed shots for HDR processing and thought that I was finished, when this bird landed on a piling. The bird made a good anchor for the photo’s foreground. I wanted the photo to be very traditional landscape photo with a foreground anchored by the bird, a middle ground anchored by the pilings and finally the background of the sun hid by the clouds. Overall, I was happy with the results, but I did wish that there was more orange in the sunrise, but decided that I would not change that aspect in the post processing.

Enjoy.

Camera settings: Nikon D3, Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 at 30mm with a polarizing filter attached, shot at ISO 200, f/13 and 1/180th of a second on a tripod.

Post Processing:

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

Photoshop—ran nik Color Efex Pro tonal contrast filter to add contrast to shadows, mid-tones and highlights to the water and added a curves adjustment to the sky for overall contrast.

July 10, 2009

Friendswood 4th of July Parade #5






No parade is complete without a full array of people having fun and we had loads of them at THE PARADE!

By the way, how many parades have patriotic dogs? Only in Friendswood, and only on the Fourth of July.

Enjoy.

July 9, 2009

Friendswood 4th of July Parade #4






“You cannot play in Texas without a fiddle in the band” and you cannot have a parade in Texas without some horses. Our little parade is blessed with some of the most outstanding horses that any parade has. The only problem I have with them is that I start watching them and forget to take any photos.

Of course, even in Texas, we have some people who think that the horses need a little “fashion” when they go to a parade.

Enjoy