Category: Self-Critique

Amador County (CA), Sacramento Valley, Light Rays

ISO100, 105mm, f/11, 1/60 sec
Amador County, CA

Maybe I have an aversion to creating panoramas.  While they can look great on my screen, panoramas do not translate well in WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, or any other medium that sharply compresses images on upload.  Perhaps other photogs are doing something I am not in choose resolution settings.  (If so, any hints would be appreciated.)  Thus, you are left with a single non-panoramic exposure of the Sacramento Valley from Hwy 88 in Amador County.

(Click thru the image for the 700px view)

The intent of this out was to drive up Hwy 88 towards Caples Lake and Carson Pass and find some locations for night photography.  And if the conditions were right, I might continue on over the Sierra Nevadas and into Nevada.  Unfortunately, partly cloudy skies from incoming thunderstorms (after days of clear skies)  were in the forecast, but were expected to only be scattered clouds until late evening.  There was a chance it could still all work out.  I packed up the gear, prepared some hydration and snacks, and was on my way.  Only 10 minutes away from home and with my first view of the cloud cover, I knew this night of shoot was not meant to be.

The only saving grace of this effort to get out and shoot was this view back down the hill towards the Sacramento Valley.  After hopping in, around, and through some slightly painful Yellow Star-Thistle plants, I was able to snap these shots of the light rays piercing through the clouds.  Amazingly enough, after a few photos here, and a quick trip to the market, the sight upon return was even more spectacular.  More on that in a future post…

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center weighted metering mode, ISO100, 55mm, f/5.6, 1/1000 sec

Amador County (CA), Sacramento Valley, Light Rays. Amador County, California. September 01, 2013. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Self-Critique: Arden-Arcade (CA), Weeds, Fence, Wall, High Contrast

ISO100, 55mm, f/5.6, 1/1000 sec
American River Parkway, Sacramento, CA

Run and gun photography did not quite work in this case.  “That’ll probably do” usually does not.

(Click thru the image for the 700px view)

Yet, I wanted to make a point to shoot in the midday light for the academic reason of using the very harsh light to search of monochrome compositions.  So the problem ended up being the composition.  Too much blank wall space give the impression of an expanse of nothing in the middle.  The top and bottom of the image become crowded.

Maybe this works for some, but this was not the image I was going for.  Perhaps I could have stepped down the embankment a bit and brought the fence line up higher in the image, but that might obscure the Mare’s Tail weeds behind the fencing.

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center weighted metering mode, ISO100, 55mm, f/5.6, 1/1000 sec

Arden-Arcade (CA), Weeds, Fence, Wall, High Contrast. Sacramento, California. August 31, 2013. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Critique: Ione (CA), Sunset Clouds, Moon

ISO100, 35mm, f/8, 1/6 sec
Amador County, CA

I have not put together a self-critique post in some time.  For any given composition, I may shoot 2 exposures, sometimes only 1.  Then I move on to the next target.  The result is a greater variety of compositions, but also a greater chance a composition has 0 usable exposures because I dislike what I shot.  I suppose this approach stems from many of my photo day-trips the last couple of years where I construct a time-sensitive itinerary the requires I get as many locations into the day as possible.  Of course the biggest negative is having a great potential photograph and then flubbing it.  The photo in this post could have been really good, but I also didn’t completely flub it, so we will use it as part of this critique post.

(click through on the image to view in 700px)

Issue #1 – Timing.  If you don’t prepare for a sunset shoot, your window for getting to or finding a location is greatly diminished.  You will eventually get there, but the light will not.  So if you are at home and notice some good light hitting the clouds, chances are you probably should have been out there 30 minutes ago.

Issue #2 – Location. Intertwined with #1.  I had time to drive 5 minutes away from home, but it was still not far enough to completely get away from powerlines and rooftops.  Instead of having wide open pastures, I had to walk around and find areas where the full sky was not obscured by trees, homes, or powerlines.

Issue #3 – Composition.  Due to #2.  The cloud formation in the photograph?  The photo only shows only about 1/3 of the lit up cloud formation.  If I had more time, I could have driven to a different location or walked further out, but the light was fading fast.  The problem with including the entirety of the formation is diminishing the size of the moon even further.  So a decision would have had to be made on whether it was more advantageous to shoot at an even wider angle.

Secondly, the bottom of the photo gives a hint of some really interesting textures and should have been focused on along with the moon in a portrait composition.  The elements on the ground were bland at best, so the location itself did not lend to this composition.

Overall thoughts: This is not an instance of having a nice shot in front of you and either messing up the exposure or composing it wrong.  This IS an instance of deciding to shoot at the last minute and not leaving myself enough time to even put myself in the position to have a nice shot in front of me.

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center-weighted metering mode, ISO 100, 35mm, f/8, 1/6 sec

Ione (CA), Sunset Clouds, Moon.  Ione, California.  August 17, 2013. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Self-Critique: Tree-Sprouting Boulder, River

West Fork Carson River, Hope Valley, CA

The aspen sprouting out of this river boulder is visible from Hwy 88 just past the Hwy 89 junction.  It seems like such an easy object to photograph.  It did not turn out too well.

Issue #1: Wrong time of day.  It was about 8am when this photo was taken.  There was even a blanket of clouds drifting through, but the sun was still shining through.  But as you can see, the sky is still too bright and overblown here.  Perhaps sunrise light would have illuminated the clouds and provided a more appealing backdrop for the photo.  Afternoon light would have helped also, but I would have lost some of the backlit quality.

Issue #2: Composition.  The scraggly branches entering the photo from the top left was not intended, at least I don’t remember it being my thought process here.  At last it breaks up the monotony of have a lot of overblown sky.   Also, I really hoped for an isolation of the boulder tree, but a nearby tree snuck in and there was not an angle I could find to eliminate it.  I did position myself to place the aspen in front of the green pine so the aspen would not be lost to the sky.

Previous posts from this trip:

Unless you live up in the Eastern Sierras or have the ability to drive to the area every few days, your best bet is to visit the following sites for the latest color information:

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center weighted metering mode, 22mm, ISO 100, 1/8 sec, f/11

Tree-Sprouting Boulder, River.  Hope Valley, California. October 05, 2012. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Rock, Rock Wall, Sand Patterns

Morro Rock State Beach, Morro Bay, CA

Pulled another sand pattern photograph from the archives.  Yes, this is a sign I should go out and shoot more photos.  Well, maybe not when it is over 100 degrees F as it has been for the past week!

This photo was taken during a side trip up the central California coast at the end of 2011.  While Morro Rock in the town of Morro Bay is quite impressive, a behemoth of a rock jutting out of the bay, it was not very photogenic on this particular day.  What did catch my eye were the windswept sand dunes on the beach adjacent to Morro Rock.  Various patterns in the sand that could make interesting compositions given the right B&W processing.

As is the case with all of my B&W conversions, processing begins in Lightroom, moves to Silver EFex Pro 2 for B&W/monochrome conversion and edits, and final adjustments made back in Lightroom.  As with most edits in SEP2, I saw the adjustments into user saved presets for future use.  Since I had previously processed a sand pattern photo from this same day, the thought entered my mind that I could just reuse the preset and quickly edit this photograph.  It did not end up that way as the sand patterns did not pop like I had hoped and I also wanted to accentuate the rock wall.

I ended up using selective coloring to bring back some color to both the rock wall and the rock in the foreground.  While this photograph turned out decent, the composition could have been better.  Both the rock wall and the fence posts seem a little squished up towards the top of the photograph.

Additional photographs from this day:

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, center weighted metering mode, 19mm, ISO 100, 1/80 sec, f/11

Rock, Rock Wall, Sand Patterns.  Morro Rock Beach, Morro Bay, California. December 30, 2011. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.