Marin Headlands (CA), Layered Hills, Pacific Ocean

•April 16, 2014 • 1 Comment
ISO100, 68mm, f/13, 1/60 sec

near Hill 88, Marin Headlands, CA

There are times I lived closer to the San Francisco Bay Area, not that 2.5 hours is really that long of a drive time.  Yet the area has so much to offer photographically.  Each well-chosen location yields a handful of compositions and a handful more if you have the time and patience to revisit a location for the various atmospheric and weather conditions.

This day in the Headlands was not the usual photography exploring free-for-all (translation: finding slightly original compositions in overly shot locations) that I am used to.  I usually pick one or two sunrise locations, leave the house extra early for the drive, shoot said locations, and explore for the rest of the day.  This day was centered around the sunset hike workshop we were lucky enough to be chosen for with Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy (web, Facebook) photographer Mason Cummings (web, Facebook).  The two of us, two more lucky photogs, and Mason.

He contacted us a few days prior and asked what type of photography or locations we wanted to do or see.  I had requested less seen compositions of familiar sights, a place to shoot panoramas, and maybe some macro-type shots using kit lenses.  After scouting a few locations near Mt. Tam and the Headlands, he decided on a ridge above Fort Cronkhite and just below Hill 88.  The location provided sweeping views of San Francisco and all the way up the coast, Mt. Tam, macro work, and the sunset dipping into the Pacific.

The conditions were a bit tough since we were mostly shooting perpendicular to the sun on a windy cloudless day.  I had to be aware of lens flare from the sun, intended and unintended silhouetting of foreground objects, and just the overall high contrast of the scene.  Of course, when given the opportunity to capture layered hills, I am all over it.  While the brief 90 minute shooting time frame did not help a low-volume shooter like me, it was helpful to hear how Mason close the location (rock outcroppings forming leading lines to the sunset — that somehow none of us remembered to shoot).  At least now I know of additional spots to shoot from.  It is a matter of walking a few (thousand) extra steps, taking that trail, and finding that shot.

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center-weighted metering mode, ISO 100, 68mm, f/13, 1/60 sec

Marin Headlands (CA), Layered Hills, Pacific Ocean. Marin Headlands, CA. April 05, 2014. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

El Dorado Hills (CA), Dam Remnants, Water, Long Exposure

•March 30, 2014 • 2 Comments
ISO100, 28mm, f/5.6, 73 sec

Sweetwater Creek, El Dorado County, CA

If there is a photograph you want to take, take it.  There is no sense in leaving it for later.  (The caveat being unless you are in an extreme time crunch to get to another shot.)  The goal was to see if there were any good shots of the Old Salmon Falls Bridge along the South Fork of the American River.

Back in early January, the water was low enough that I could walk on the river rocks to the middle of the river and the bridge was completely exposure.  Now that the nearby Folsom Lake’s level has risen 40′, this location further upstream has the water level elevated 6′, but is now only 3-4′ from the underside of the bridge, which is normally partially submerged or underwater.

Anyhow, Sweetwater Creek empties into the South Fork and during the gold rush of the 1850′s, a few small dams were erected to control and redirect water for mining activities.  Over time, the small town of Salmon Falls boomed and busted, and the dams were somewhat dismantled.   The remains of one dam is seen here flowing over the lip and between a cut in the rocks.

The B+W ND-110 (10-stop) filter was used to decrease the shutter speed to 73 seconds, producing this silky water effect.

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center-weighted metering mode, ISO 100, 28mm, f/5.6, 73 sec

El Dorado Hills (CA), Dam Remnants, Water, Long Exposure. Sweetwater Creek, El Dorado County, CA. March 28, 2014. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Folsom (CA), Floating Stump, Cloud Reflection, Long Exposure, Monochrome

•March 22, 2014 • 1 Comment
ISO100, 38mm, f/5.6, 85 sec

Folsom Lake, CA

I have been making an effort to take a couple of late afternoons during the work week to go out for a bit of a hike.  As always, I carry my camera gear, put on some earphones for music, and start exploring.  The ability to clear my head, if only for a little bit, is an important aspect of reducing mental fatigue from days upon days of late nights working on the laptop, catching little sleep, and repeating the routine all over again.

The plan for this day was to walk along the lake shore and search for more driftwood or specks of color among the drab sand.  Add in some long exposure action of lightly lapping waves and we are set.  The only problem?  After about an hour of walking around, nothing really caught my fancy.  I had taken some photographs of a dead tree on the way in and was prepared to leave with no shots from the lake itself until this composition revealed itself.  No, this is not your standard landscape photo.

What is it you ask?  A tree stump, or maybe a lumpy piece of wood with reflections of white clouds up top and shot with an ND-110 10-stop filter to extend the shutter speed to 85 seconds to completely smooth out the surface of the water.

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center-weighted metering mode, ISO 100, 38mm, f/5.6, 85 sec

Folsom (CA), Floating Stump, Cloud Reflection, Long Exposure, Monochrome. Folsom Lake, CA. March 19, 2014. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Folsom (CA), Tumbled Driftwood, Waves, Long Exposure

•March 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment
ISO100, 68mm, f/18, 3 sec

Folsom Lake, CA

With the ruins of Red Bank now back underwater in Folsom Lake after a series of rainstorms pushed the lake level up 40′ in just over a month, there was not a possibility of hoping standing water surrounding the ruins for a reflection shot.

I was left searching for compositions.  At least the rain has brought down debris that has washed up on the banks of the lake.  Here the tumbled smooth branch catches the light from the sun as waves wash over.

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center-weighted metering mode, ISO 100, 68mm, f/18, 3 sec

Folsom (CA), Tumbled Driftwood, Waves, Long Exposure. Folsom Lake, CA. March 16, 2014. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Sacramento County, Hills, Light, Shadows, Monochrome

•March 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment
ISO100, 200mm, f/5.6, 1/15 sec

Southern edge of Folsom, CA

The one advantage of daylight saving time is we now have more daylight, at least for those of us that are not in favor of waking up early.

(Click thru the image for a slightly larger view)

For a moment, the idea crept into my mind to make a trip to Folsom Lake after the recent rainstorms.  The lake level has risen 30 feet and may have brought the water level back up to the stone remnants of the town of Red Bank (or what most people incorrectly refer to as the town of Mormon Island).  Reflections and stone ruins make for better photographs than stone ruins backed by dirt.  Unfortunately, the sky was clear and there were no clouds to reflect off the potential pools of water near the stone walls.

So it was back to driving along the the hillsides nearby for studies in contrasts and shadows.

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center-weighted metering mode, ISO 100, 200mm, f/5.6, 1/15 sec

Sacramento County, Hills, Light, Shadows, Monochrome. El Dorado Hills, CA. March 12, 2014. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Sausalito (CA), Bridge, Bay, Shadow, Bay with Shadow, Monochrome, Long Exposure

•March 2, 2014 • Leave a Comment
ISO250, 55mm, f/5.6, 20 sec

Marin Headlands, Sausalito, CA

Continuing with attempts to not shoot the same compositions we frequently see, I have been focusing on smaller vignettes, particularly the details of structures or where are areas of light and shadows.

You may think I am against shooting the iconic shots.  I am not.  But there are mainly 3 non-mutually exclusive reasons to shoot “the shot” at a well-known locations.  1) It’s your first time there and how you shoot “the shot” helps you gauge your work against the photogs before you.  2) You sell your photographs as a stream of income.  If you have “the shot” in your portfolio, there is a chance someone will buy it.  This also applies to photogs that have been to a spot tens or even hundreds of times to hopefully capture those one or two rare moments. 3) Hmm, I’m sure I had a third reason that escapes me right now.

Yet, it is exercises like the image above that make you a better photographer.  The ability to see beyond the obvious.  The ability to search for compositions.  While the beginning photographer or even a casual tourist/visitor snaps photographs in a documentary-style catalog of images, the more seasoned photog should have a different mindset.

The seasoned photog needs to evoke emotion, feelings, or thought from their images.  That may mean taking a relatively bland midday scene, but seeing enough in the structure, light, and shadows to see a possible B&W/monochrome photograph in their head.

So when I visit the next iconic location, I will take “the shot”, but I will also try to remember to search for the smaller vignettes fewer photogs look for.

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center-weighted metering mode, ISO 250, 55mm, f/5.6, 20 sec

Sausalito (CA), Bridge, Bay, Shadow, Bay with Shadow, Monochrome, Long Exposure. Marin Headlands, CA. February 17, 2014. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Sausalito (CA), Golden Gate North Tower, Light Trail, Monochrome

•February 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment
ISO250, 65mm, f/4.5, 4 sec

Marin Headlands, Golden Gate Bridge, CA

A closer view of a well-known scene.  The Golden Gate Bridge has been photographed every which way over the years.  Ultimately, this composition is probably no different from dozens of others.  So the key is to process the image in a way to convey a specific mood and feel.  In this case, a bit of a Christopher Nolan-esque gritty Gotham City look.

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center-weighted metering mode, ISO 250, 65mm, f/4.5, 4 sec

Sausalito (CA), Golden Gate North Tower, Light Trail, Monochrome. Marin Headlands, CA. February 17, 2014. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

 
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