Category: Gear & Gadgets

Bowling Balls, Wave Cut Lanes, Ocean

Bowling Ball Beach, Point Arena, CA

A slow unveil of the bowling balls at Bowling Ball Beach, 3 miles south of the little town of Point Arena, CA.

(click on the photo for the usual 700px expanded version)

Once lodged in the sandstone bluffs backing the beaches, the bluffs surrounding the bowling ball concretions have eroded faster over time than the balls, dislodging them to join the other bowling balls in the sand below.  The straight lines that form the bowling lanes consist of sandstone and shale and extend from the beach and back up to the cliffs.

This was another full-day photography trip I decided to embark upon due to the extended Labor Day weekend and having the right conditions with the tides.  Low tide matched up with both sunrise and sunset.  There was possible added bonus of the remnants of the last blue moon until 2015 setting an hour after sunrise.  Being that low tide would be at 6:07am, sunrise at 6:44am, and moon set at 7:57am…and the drive to Point Arena taking a little less than 5 hours, it meant that if I wanted a chance at photographing all of this coming together, I would need to leave in the middle of the night.  So neglecting sleep, I packed up the camera gear, food stuffs, extra clothes and was on the road by 1:00am.

A word on driving to Point Arena from all points east and south.  There are two practical routes to Point Arena.  Up Pacific Coast Hwy from Bodega Bay or up further the US 101 to Cloverdale then SR-128 to Boonville and then 30 miles along Mountain View Road.  My advice, travel up PCH.  Mountain View Road is a curvy and narrow road that in some areas is so narrow that the middle dividing yellow line doesn’t exist.  Not the best road to take when you are sleep deprived.  On the other hand, I did get to see the nice little town of Boonville, near the Anderson Valley AVA wineries specializing in Pinot Noirs.

Sadly, the fog bank in the morning prevented viewing of the moon set and heavily muted any colors that would have been brought on by the sunrise.  At least I was given my first view of Bowling Ball Beach, leading to possible compositions when I returned for low tide in the afternoon.

This photograph was taken in the afternoon while waiting for the setting sun.  Using the 10-stop neutral density filter (ND-110),  I was able to take a shutter speed of 1/40 second into an equally long exposed 25 second shot, smoothing out the waves and producing the silky water feel.

Previous post from Bowling Ball Beach:

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center weighted metering mode, 48mm, ISO 100, 25 sec, f/16

Bowling Balls, Wave Cut Lanes, Ocean.  Bowling Ball Beach, Point Arena, California. September 1, 2012. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Setting Sun, Man on Rocks, Silhouette

Bowling Ball Beach, Point Arena, CA

The first post from Bowling Ball Beach… and it shows nothing of the rows of round boulders the beach is named for.  What gives, you ask?  After taking just over 100 photographs of the beach and nearby Point Arena Lighthouse, I am still sorting through the photos and beginning initial processing.

(click on the photo for the usual 700px expanded version)

This silhouette shot is a quick edit that required only a temperature adjustment and a few tiny adjustments in Lightroom.  In fact, this composition is what I call a throwaway shot, one I never plan to take but do so because I am wanting for something to happen.  The something to happen was wanting for the sun to drop lower on the horizon and see what effects it would have to the “bowling balls”.  Another photographer that was there had already set up his camera and tripod for his last shot of the day about 30 minutes in advance.  I had plopped myself on a rock, eating my dinner of granola bars, enjoying the beautiful view, and waiting.

Fortunately, a group of people were on the beach exploring and one happened to be perched on this rock outcropping.  I quickly flipped the lens cover off the camera and managed to take this one photograph before he turned around and walked back off the rock.

More photographs on the namesake beach in upcoming posts.

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center weighted metering mode, 40mm, ISO 200, 1/160 sec, f/25

Setting Sun, Man on Rocks, Silhouette.  Bowling Ball Beach, Point Arena, California. September 1, 2012. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Glass Panes, Metal Roof, Tree, Sky

Old Sugar Mill, Clarksburg, CA

Crumbing, decayed buildings.  The other subject I love to photograph beside landscapes.  And currently the only type of location I would feel comfortable shooting portraits in.

With that being said, this day started off as one of the semi-annual wine tasting excursions we put together with a fluctuating group of friends.  Instead of gravitating towards Amador or El Dorado Counties like we have in the past, we decided to try the Old Sugar Mill, located across the river and then 15 minutes south of Sacramento.  Formerly, you guessed it, an old sugar mill that was deconstructed in Utah and brought by rail and rebuilt here, operations started in July 1935 and ceased in 1993.  It has now been transformed into a wine production facility as well as the tasting room for 8 wineries.

Not having performed any research as to whether then entire facility had been transformed or if certain buildings were still in a state of decay, I hoped for the best and brought along my gear, just in case.  Of the 6 main buildings, 2 have been renovated into the current tasting rooms and wine facility, 1 has been gutted and used as an industrial chic event or reception area, 1 is being used as a storeroom, while the behemoth five-story plus building and adjacent locker room are relatively untouched and unlocked!

Any building that has broken windows, holes when large machinery spanned floors, or holes from crumbling concrete or wood, is just calling out to be photographed.  I imagine this is how the buildings in Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo used to be before vandalism and potential liability led to deadlocks being put on all doors.  I made it to the very top of the building during my exploration and was glad I did not fall through any holes in the ground and technically ruin it for every future photographer at this location.

This particular photograph was taken on the 2nd of the very large building and looks out south.  There was a quick bit of adjustment to and from the window to frame the lines between the panes of glass just so, with the bottom of the red roof line ending on a window line and the tree not extended up beyond another.

A technical note here: I shoot in RAW format, not JPG, with my camera.  This is important for one main reason, I was able to bring back the dark areas surrounding the window.  The scene outside the window is so bright that exposing the outside “correctly” meant underexposing the interior.  One way to solve this would be to take multiple exposures and create an HDR.  But all I needed to do was adjust the “fill light” slider in Adobe Lightroom.  By shooting RAW, there data in the underexposed areas can be brought back with only a small possibility of inducing excessive grain.  This adjustment would likely produce heavy grain with a JPG format picture as good deal of the underexposed areas had been lost.  While I do like the underdeveloped photograph, my initial vision was more in like with the photograph above, rather than the one below.  Which do you prefer?

Old Sugar Mill, Clarksburg, CA

 

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center weighted metering mode, 38mm, ISO 100, 1/40 sec, f/11

Glass Panes, Metal Roof, Tree, Sky.  Old Sugar Mill, Clarksburg, California. August 25, 2012. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Thunderstorm Cloud Opening, Grasses, HDR

Ione, Amador County, CA

Finally!  An HDR photograph.  I have not processed one for quite a few months even though I will still take bracketed shots when I believe there might be too much dynamic range in a scene.  It is just that the end results of my HDR photographs look so unnatural that end up using and working only 1 of the 3 exposure.

This photograph is the last of the 2 which will see the light of day.  Spot metered both the center of the cloud opening and the foreground grass.  The difference was greater than 2 stops, so bracketing was set for 3 exposures at [-2,0,+2].  The tricky part of this HDR attempt were the swaying of the foreground grass as it was slightly breezy.  I had two options: wait until maybe the breeze dies down (and possibly miss the cloud opening) or shoot away and hope the HDR software can minimize the ghosting artifacts.  I choose the shoot away option.

In the last few attempts at HDR, I have been using Nik Software’s HDR Pro, mainly because of its integration with Adobe Lightroom.  The glaring problem with HDR Pro is that its anti-ghosting abilities did not render the photograph well.  Either the ghosting was obvious or extreme haloing around those areas occurred.  So what next?

Back to the old standby: Photomatix Pro.  Ghosting of the swaying grass is nearly non-existent.  The only problem?  The clouds were not as structured/defined as HDR Pro.  This was the processing option I chose as I would rather remove the distracting ghosting over more dramatic clouds.  (Yes, I just opted for less dramatic clouds!)

Finally in Lightroom, I increased the contrast to darken the photograph a bit.  Even though the scene was actually brighter, having an even lit composition takes away from the focal point: the cloud opening.  The grass leads the eye up the photograph but it should not overwhelm the focal point.  Hopefully you agree, or if not, let me know why.

The other thunderstorm post from the same day: Summer Thunderstorm, Oak Pastures

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, spot metering mode, 55mm, ISO 800, [1/4, 1/15, 1/60 sec], f/16

Thunderstorm Cloud Opening, Grasses.  Ione (Amador County), CA. August 04, 2012. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Cypress Trees, Spotlights, Beach (Lightroom Export Issues – Maybe Not)

Aptos, CA

A quick revision of this post before publishing.  I thought I was having issues with Lightroom recently, with all photographs exported looking a bit oversaturated, especially in the orange and reds.  After spending a couple of hours scouring the internet and reading sometimes overly technical forum posts about ICC color profiles (important for printing photos, not export for screen viewing), hardware monitor calibration, resetting the Develop module in LR, and finally how different web browsers (Firefox, Google Chrome) are or are not color managed.  By default, I use Google Chrome, which is not color managed, while Firefox is.  When a browser is color managed, it read the embedded color profiles and display the true color.  When a browser is not color managed, the embedded color profile is not read and a default property is incorrectly applied.  I’m just not sure why this issue has only come up recently when viewing photos in Windows Explorer Photo Viewer and Google Chrome.  Maybe someone can answer that.  It’s just a little disconcerting to process a photograph one way and have it look different elsewhere.  If you have different browsers, view the images below and they should be significantly different in Chrome and relatively the same in Firefox.

Anyhow, back to the photograph above.  Another in my series of shooting from my hotel balcony vacation series.  I believe I have only one more available I would like to post.  These beautiful Cypress Trees are lit up a night by spotlights so I setup the tripod and experimented a bit with the length of exposure.  I suppose I could have been a little more efficient by obtaining the desired exposure by bumping up the ISO higher first, then bringing it back down to ISO 100 and then compensating the same number of stops by the calculated shutter speed.  But what fun is that?  The first test was at 30 seconds, with this particular photograph at 77 seconds.

Original Post Below

The intention was to post another photograph from the Central Coast, but it appears I have run into a problem with file exports from Adobe Lightroom 3.6.  I started noticing this issue about 6 weeks ago, but did not process and export to jpg much over this time period.  Anyhow, if anyone has any idea what is going on and how this can be fixed, I’m all ears.

The first image is a screen grab from Adobe Lightroom (LR), followed by the export to jpg from LR using sRGB color space.  As far as I can see, the jpg export is oversaturated.  The loss of detail is likely from reducing resolution to 700×700, so that’s not a problem.

(correct) Screen Grab from LR Develop Module
Aptos, CA

Now a comparison of the McWay Fall photograph from my last post.  Same issue.  The screen grab is what I intended, while the resulting jpg export has a mind of its own.

(correct) Screen Grab from LR Develop Module
(bad export ) McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, CA

I suppose I could reset all settings in Lightroom, but I’m not sure what the consequences are.  And at worst, I can reinstall Lightroom, but again, what would I lose.  I would assume my catalogs would stay intact, but who knows.  Strange that after flawless exports for 2 years, this issue comes out of the blue.

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, patterned metering mode, 38mm, ISO 100, 77 sec, f/8

Cypress Trees, Spotlights, Beach.  Aptos, California. June 29, 2012. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Gear & Gadgets: Branch, Water Grass, Circular Polarizer

Lundy Canyon, Mono, CA

Second in a the series of posts about “Gears and Gadgets”.  Honestly, what this means is that I’ve gone through my archives, processed one or many photographs, and ended up unsatisfied with the end result.  So the fall back plan is to take compositions that I’ve taken in multiple ways, with variations usually involving my circular polarizer (c-pol), different f-stops, or focus points.

The evidence is clear in what a circular polarizer can do in a photograph such as this.  In the photograph above, it is almost as though the water doesn’t exist.  With the absolute stillness of the water surface and the light source (sun) at close to an optimum angle of 45 degrees, the effectiveness of the c-pol is at a maximum.  Do remember that when the c-pol is at maximum effect, the light entering the camera is reduced up to 2 stops.  In this particular instance, I needed to increase the shutter speed from 1/60 to 1/30 sec, an increase of 1 stop (by doubling the time the shutter remains open).

In the photograph below, the c-pol filter is rotated to where the effect is nil and thus the reflection on the water surface is evident.  Depending on the effect desired, you may want to have some reflection, none at all, or somewhere in between.  This is important to remember when trying to achieve those intentionally reflective, mirror-like pictures with water.

Lundy Canyon, Mono, CA

The first post I had about c-pols is here: River Ripples, Grasses, Circular Polarizer.

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center weighted metering mode, 145mm, ISO 200, [1/30 sec (c-pol), 1/60 sec (NO c-pol)], f/9

Branch, Water Grass, Circular Polarizer.  Lundy Canyon Beaver Ponds, Mono, California.  September 11, 2011. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.