Doll Arm, Newspaper, Dust

Bodie, CA

Doll Arm, Newspaper, Dust.  Bodie, California. October 16, 2010. © Copyright 2010 Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Photograph was taken on my first and, thus far, only visit to Bodie State Park in Mono County in the Eastern Sierras.  Bodie is a photographer’s paradise that appeals to different types of photographers as the entire town is in a state of  “arrested decay”.   I went into my archives to pull up this picture after seeing a post on Tim Messick’s blog last night.  What caught my attention was the headline on the newspaper “Huskies Defeat Bruins”.  Being a Bruin alum, the losing part wasn’t what caught my attention (as it happens often these days), it was the fact I didn’t recall the headline at all.

Here’s what’s also interesting.  Not only do I have a photo of the inside of the same building, it looks as though the arrangement of items had changed since I took the picture last October and when Tim took his picture this October.  Does someone from the State Park Service go in a move things around?  While the focus of my picture is the doll arm, you can barely see the arm in Tim’s picture.

EXIF data: Nikon D50, patterned metering mode, 55mm, ISO 200, 1/25 sec, f/5.6

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Tower, Trees, Birds, Night

K Street, Sacramento

Tower, Trees, Birds, Night.  Sacramento, California. January 08, 2011. © Copyright 2011 Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Here’s an instance of my planning ahead in order to provide myself an opportunity to practice night photography, though not in the truest sense of the term.  I had arranged to have dinner with a friend and his wife in downtown Sacramento.  Being that I no longer live near downtown but had mentally put together a list of possible locations I had wanted to shoot (Crest Theater marquee and sign, Christmas tree in front of the State Capital, Tower Bridge at night), I made sure to pack up my gear before I left home.

By the time dinner was done and we had parted ways, it was only about 9 or 10pm and plenty of time to shoot.  After shooting the Capital, I move onto K Street, which is a vehicle-free pedestrian mall that used to be full of shops that became a source of blight a few years back only to see new development recently.  After taking a few photographs of the Crest Theater marqee and neon sign and not being completed satisfied with the results due to power lines and trees blocking the compositions I really wanted, I was resigned to packing up and going home.

Throughout this walk on K Street, I had noticed an unusual amount of crows/ravens perched in trees all along the street.  They gave a very Hitchcock feel during my time there.  I had tried to take one photograph a few minutes earlier of the birds, but to no avail.  Mind you, during this shoot I was still using my cheapie $20 Vivitar tripod purchased from Wal-Mart a few years back and hadn’t yet purchased a remote shutter (to prevent additional vibration from physically pushing the shutter button on my camera).

So as I had started to walk back a few blocks to my car and continuously hearing bird poop splat around me, I took one final look back towards the birds and saw the Church of the Sacrament tower nicely framed by the trees.  I snapped a few photos, glanced at my camera’s viewfinder and was enough satisfied with the results to go on home.

While the original shot was very orange color cast due to the use of what I’m guessing as sodium lights used pretty much everywhere, I processed the photo and the white balance as tungsten and thus removed much of the overall orange color.

EXIF data: Nikon D50, patterned metering mode, 52mm, ISO 200, 10 sec, f/5.6

Hood Ornament, Shadow, Vintage Car

Vintage Car

Hood Ornament, Shadow, Vintage Car. Ione, California. May 07, 2011. © Copyright 2011 Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

On some days, you do have to go far for a shooting opportunity.  In this small town in the foothills, a vintage car show lined the 2 blocks of Main Street.  While most car buffs were interested in taking photographs of the entire car, much I am while taking landscapes, I tend to focus on the details.

This is a close-up of a hood ornament and its shadow on a 1951 GMC Surburban.  The selection of an f/11 aperture allows me to focus on the end of the wing and place all other parts of the ornament into soft focus.  Conversely, a wide aperture (smaller aperture number) would caused any items not on the same focal plane to be even more out of focus.  A smaller aperture (larger aperture number) would place more of the picture into focus.

EXIF data: Nikon D50, patterned metering mode, 42mm, ISO 200, 1/100 sec, f/11

Point Bonita Lighthouse, Bridge

Point Bonita Lighthouse

Point Bonita Lighthouse, Bridge. Marin Headlands, California. March 13, 2011. © Copyright 2011 Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Another photograph from the Marin Headlands during a weekend stay in Mill Valley.  The hope here was for either clouds/fog with some gap for sunlight to shine through or for threatening storm clouds.  Not much of either happened.  The fog had burned off by the time the tunnel was opened by the National Park Service for the 1/2 mile walk to this location and was slowly rolling in by the time we left.  Again, the tunnel carved into the stone hillside is only open from 12:30-3:30pm on weekends and the bridge to the actual lighthouse is closed until structural renovation in 2012.

Despite the lack of fog/clouds, the view from all side of this viewing location is amazing.  The lighthouse, suspension bridge, Pacific Ocean, San Francisco Bay, and the city of San Francisco is all around along with the sound of the foghorn and crashing waves.

The suspension bridge to the lighthouse precedes the building of the nearby suspension Golden Gate Bridge.

EXIF data: Nikon D50, patterned metering mode, 20mm, ISO 200, 1/50 sec, f/18

Dock, Point Reyes, Tomales Bay

Inverness

Dock, Point Reyes, Tomales Bay. Point Reyes National Seashore, Inverness, California. March 27, 2011. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

A simple photograph taken from the same location as the Point Reyes at Point Reyes.  The boat would be to my right as I took this shot.

One of the more difficult things to do, at least when it’s something I don’t do often, is to look at a composition in terms of how it would look in black and white.  It isn’t a matter of taking any photograph, converting to B&W, and being done with it.   Actually, if you try that, you’ll quickly find out A LOT of shots look pretty plain and awful.

And I’m not even saying this particular shot is great in B&W, but it was rather boring.  I knew that would be the case when I took the shot, but saw enough distinct light and dark areas in front of my that I thought there would be a chance I could get a decent B&W photograph out of it.  Did it work?  Maybe, maybe not.  Ultimately, it’s about learning to recognize what works in black and white before you take that shot in color.

Inverness (Original color version)

EXIF data: Nikon D50, patterned metering mode, 75mm, ISO 200, 1/3 sec, f/16

Sunrise Clouds, Tioga Lake, Cathedral Ridge

Tioga Lake at Tioga Pass

Sunrise Clouds, Tioga Lake, Cathedral Ridge. Outside Tioga Pass Yosemite Entrance, California. October 13, 2011. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

The first stop in our 2 day Eastern Sierra Fall Foliage trip was not for the foliage at all.  I offered to take my parents on this trip if they were willing to visit me.  After leaving the house at 3:10am, it became apparent we were not going to reach either Mono Lake South Tufa or any of the canyons with aspens by sunrise.  Yet, as we exited Yosemite National Park through Tioga Pass, the first light was starting to hit the Cathedral Range in Yosemite, with Tioga Lake in the foreground.

My first photo was taken at 7:26am and by the time these 3 exposures were taken for eventual HDR use, it was 7:40am.  While it was a nice sunrise hitting the mountains scene at first, this cloud formation at the end.

Given the wide dynamic range of this photo with the bright sunlight hitting the peaks and clouds while the foreground lake and trees are still the dark shadows.  I set my camera to take 3 bracketed exposures at -1, 0, +1.  I metered the dark trees in the center of the photo for my “0” exposure and then used my remote shutter to trip the 3 photos.  The shots were then taken into Adobe Lightroom with Profile set to “Camera Standard”, exported as TIFFs into Photomatix Pro 3 for combining and tonemapping, and then finally imported back into Lightroom for final image tweaking.

EXIF data: Nikon D7000, spot metering mode, 55mm, ISO 100, [1/8 sec, 1/15 sec, 1/30 sec], f/8

Oak Tree, Clouds, Sunset

Carbondale Road, Ione

Oak Tree, Clouds, Sunset. Ione, California. March 09, 2011. © Copyright Steven Tze – all rights reserved.

Sometimes it is just a matter of getting out and shooting.  Even when your digital card is full of “blah” photographs, you never know if the last shot of the day is a keeper.  This shot is one of those keepers.

On some weeks I will set aside a hour or two after work to drive around the rolling scrub oak hills near where I live.  I can’t always just sit around hoping for storm clouds or a day away at a photo destination.

After over an hour of seeing potential for great sunset clouds yet not getting any decent landscape or silhouette, I took one last drive down Carbondale Road without any hope of any inspiring compositions before heading back home.  That’s when I spotted this potential shot while looking out my side view mirror.  After a quick u-turn, I parked near the entrance to a ranch, walked a bit back up the road and snapped this photo.  I would like to think I made sure I placed the sun where it ended up being, but I can’t honestly remember if I was lucky or good.

EXIF data: Nikon D50, patterned metering mode, 40mm, ISO 200, 1/1250 sec, f/6.3