Showing posts with label Photography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Photography. Show all posts

Thursday, March 2, 2023

California Memories

Searching For Lost Gold

In the spring of 2007, I made three trips to the California coast to take photos with a large-format film camera that I had recently purchased. It was an adventurous undertaking. I was still learning how to use the camera which typically took several minutes to set up and focus. This built-in delay required me to think ahead and visualize what the light was about to do. This was particularly tricky at or near sunrise and sunset when lighting conditions change quickly.

a photo of point sur lightstation california in morning light
Point Sur Lightstation In Morning Light - California, 2007

The trip presented a number of challenges, like spending time each day loading and unload film holders, managing and labeling boxes of exposed sheet film, and lugging some heavy bags along narrow, hilly trails.

Along the way, I managed to capture some keepers. I also made a lot of mistakes, often in terms of exposure. The camera was fully manual. I had to meter the scenes with a handheld spot meter, and admittedly this was not a skill that I had practiced enough prior to hitting the road.

a photo of a golden sunset at point reyes california
Sunset With Flowers From Point Reyes - California, 2007

I had a digital camera with me, as well. My plan was to use the digital camera to grab quick shots and research compositions, and to use the film camera to capture the best shots. That worked to a degree, but I had overlooked a couple of important factors.

First, images captured on film have to be scanned into digital form in order to be used the way we use images today, i.e. sharing them on blogs and posting them to online galleries. Quality scanning is a laborious effort if you do it yourself, and it's expensive to have it done by professional services. For that reason, most of my film photos live in a box. I take them out occasionally when I'm feeling nostalgic, but I'm not going to invest in scanning most of them.

Second, the quality of digital cameras even in those days was quite good. Further, software has gotten more powerful. I'm able to resize 10 megapixel images to the point where they look like they came from a 40 megapixel camera. That's plenty of resolution to make large prints and even do creative cropping.

a photo of a point bonita at dusk san francisco bay california

I've been through those digital images recently to see what gems I may have overlooked or forgotten. The quality varies - sometimes, camera shake was an issue. It's windy on the coast - but I'm happy to report that I've been finding some pleasant surprises among them, and I'm looking forward to seeing what other treasures I may discover.

Nikon D200
Lens:        Nikon AF-S 17-55mm f/2.8

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2023 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Friday, December 30, 2022

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Haystack Rock At Dusk

a photo of haystack rock at cannon beach oregon at sunset dusk

Wonders of the Pacific Northwest

Fujifilm GFX 100S
Lenses:     GF 45mm f/2.8

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2022 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

California Sunset

Path To The Waves

I took this shot from a trail that led down a steep incline toward the water. There aren't many places in the Big Sur area where you can get close to the ocean. A lot of the coastline is on private property, and trespassing is strongly discouraged.

I was delighted to find a trail that went down so far. I hadn't explored this spot before, and I wanted to see what was visible as I got close to the edge. I wasn't looking forward to climbing back up to my car in darkness, but I didn't have to worry about that yet.

a photo of the sunset on the big sur coast in california

I discovered that the view at the edge of the water wasn't particularly spectacular. The vantage point was too low. I climbed back up the hill a little way until I reached this position and took shots in different directions.

This was the most dramatic view, but it was a complicated shot to capture. Setting a tripod up on a steep incline is always a challenge. There was a lot of vegetation, so there wasn't a lot of firm ground where I could place the tripod legs. On top of that, the wind was strong and getting rather chilly. I didn't have a good place to stand, so I had to bend my body in strange ways to compose and focus the shot. My feet got sore from clinging to the sloping path while recording long exposures.

Was it worth it in the end? I'll let you be the judge. It was an experience. Thankfully, the climb back up to the roadway wasn't as bad as I expected.

Fujifilm GFX 100S
Lenses:     GF 120mm f/4

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2022 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Visiting A Friend On The Coast

I have spent a lot of time photographing Pigeon Point Lighthouse over the years. I've learned a lot about photography on my visits to this iconic tower, about light and composition, about weather and focus, about attaining critical focus in a variety of conditions.

Anytime I plan a trip to this section of the California coast, I make sure to stop by and spend a little time with my old friend.

a photograph of the pigeon point lighthouse in california with spring flowers
Pigeon Point Lighthouse With Spring Flowers

a vertical photo of the pigeon point lighthouse tower

a photo of pigeon point lighthouse at sunset in northern california

Fujifilm GFX 100S
Lenses:     GF 45mm f/2.8 (photos 1 and 3)
                GF 80mm f/1.7 (photo 2)

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2022 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 12, 2022

Remembering Galen Rowell

Discovering The Possibilities

I had a casual interest in photography as a young adult. When I was growing up, my family had a black and white television. I got my most vivid view of the world through photographs published in magazines.

Cameras fascinated me. I was always a fan of gadgets, and cameras seemed like marvels of precision and craftsmanship. They also had the almost magical power to capture moments for later review. I dreamt of buying a nice camera one day and using it to take pictures of seashores, sunsets, and lighthouses. I subscribed to photography magazines and read them eagerly each month.

But the dream had to wait. I didn't have the expertise or the financial resources to pursue photography seriously. The camera ads in the magazines were more confusing than helpful. The myriad of choices seemed overwhelming.

I took snapshots with point and shoot camera. I recorded family events and short trips, and dropped the film off at the drugstore to be processed. The prints were reminders of places and events, but with rare exceptions, there weren't artistically impressive.

a photo of pfeiffer beach big sur california at sunset
Pfeiffer Beach Sunset - Big Sur, California

One day, while visiting a museum, I happened upon an exhibition of photographs from the Tongas, a rain forest in Alaska's panhandle. It was a surprisingly moving experience. The photos were beautifully colored and highly detailed. It was hard to imagine that such images actually came out of a camera.

The photographer was the late Galen Rowell. Rowell was a seasoned climber and wilderness enthusiast. He traveled the world capturing images of remote and surprising places for National Geographic and similar magazines.

These were impressive locales, but the magic of Rowell's photos was in their vivid colors, stunning detail, and surprising juxtapositions, like dramatic skies and rugged foregrounds. Rowell liked photographing in what he called "last light," a post-sunset glow of dim but saturated colors.

I found these qualities fascinating. I was immediately obsessed with this style of photography. I wanted to figure out how he had captured these breathtaking images and hoped that one day I would be able to make photographs of my own using a similar approach.

I drove to my local Borders, bought a few books about photography, and started studying. I bought a reasonably priced Nikon with a serviceable zoom lens, along with twenty rolls of the film that Galen preferred, and I got to work. Every week, I was shooting, experimenting, making mistakes, trying again, and learning all the time.

Sadly, I never had the chance to meet Mr. Rowell. He died in a plane crash on August 11, 2002. That was twenty years ago as of the writing of this post. Coincidentally, I am now the age that Rowell was when he passed away.

Inspiration is one of the most wonderful things that can happen to a human being. A magical moment can change the trajectory of our lives, taking us in directions that we never thought possible, leading us to places and experiences that we could never have imagined.

The Tongas exhibition set my photographic journey into motion. Seeing Galen Rowell's dramatic images printed in all of their finely-detailed glory was more than an inspiration. It was an awakening. It introduced me to possibilities in image making that I would never have imagined possible and to a fascination with the art of photography.

Fujifilm GFX 100S
Lens:         GF 30mm f/3.5

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2022 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Cleopatra's Needle

Egyptian Obelisk In Central Park

a photo of cleopatra's needle egyptian obelisk in central park new york

Camera:    Fujifilm GFX 100S
Lens:         GF 80mm f/1.7

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2022 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Nights In The Park

Finding Beauty In Darkness

My low-light photography journey began long ago. One of the first books I bought when I was learning to use a camera specialized in the challenges of capturing images in dimly lit conditions.

a photo of bethesda terrace central park at night in new york city
Bethesda Terrace and Reflections - Central Park, New York City

That was back in the film days, and the process was quite different. We didn't have the ability to confirm a proper exposure at the time of capture. HDR, Image Stabilization, and Night Mode didn't exist. High ISO film looked horrible, and the film that we used to capture most images required specially calculated adjustments to exposure time when the exposures lasted longer than a few seconds. Focusing effectively in the dark was extraordinarily challenging.

a photo of castle belvedere at night with a moon in new york city
Castle Belvedere With Moon - Central Park, New York

I didn't do terribly well at first, and for some years, I all but gave up the idea of taking photos at night. The only photos I took at night were star trails which, surprisingly, were easier to capture on film than with digital sensors.

a photo of bethesda terrace at night with the moon in central park new york
Bethesda Terrace With Moon - Central Park, New York

Once I made a firm switch to digital imaging, I gave night photography another try. One year, I went around the city photographing exterior Christmas decorations in the Winter darkness. It was a great exercise. I learned a lot in a few months, and I haven't looked back. I'm always looking for opportunities to capture the beauty of the night.

Fujifilm GFX 100S
Lenses:     GF 110mm f/2
                GF 30mm f/3.5
                GF 23mm f/4

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2021 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, November 23, 2013

City In Motion - The Inspiration Behind The Photographs

Reflection and Possibility

Urban photographers like to work with reflections. Modern cities are endowed with a generous supply of glass panes and shiny surfaces.

One evening in the summer, I noticed a black marble wall. I pulled out my camera and experimented with shots of the reflections of passing people and the vehicles.

a photo of the Empire State Building in New York City in Motion
Empire State Building - New York City in Motion

It was an interesting idea, it presented technical challenges. There wasn't much light at that hour, and the dark surface absorbed most of what was available.

Even with a highly sensitive modern digital camera, I was struggling to set a shutter speed that would freeze the motion of my reflected subjects. 

My mind began to search for solutions. I considered trying again with extremely fast lenses and using special noise reduction software.

And then I said to myself, "Stop!"

I realized that I was thinking in a habitual ways. I was solving the same problems in the same way, using the same thinking that I had been using for years. It was time for a break, time to set my automatic responses aside and approach the problem from a new perspective.

a photo of Grand Central Station in New York City showing Motion
Grand Central Station - New York City In Motion

What if I couldn't freeze the motion of passing objects? What if I let them blur on purpose?

Legendary photographer Ernst Haas used motion blur creatively in his images. Search online for a copy of his photograph, La Suerte De Capa, captured in Pamplona, Spain in 1956. It's one of my all-time favorite photographs in part because it defies common practice. Instead of freezing the motion in the frame, Haas enhanced its impact on the final image. 

I began to the see a possibility. I didn't necessarily have to fight to freeze my subjects. If I cold capture motion effective in the frame of a still photograph, I could use it to show the dynamic pace of life in New York City.

Empire State Building: Nikon D800E, PC-E Nikkor 24mm f/3.5

Grand Central: Canon EOD 5D Mark III, TS-E24mm f/3.5L

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Pretzel Girls

Capturing The Moment

As a rule, I avoid photographing children whose families I don't know. Society has become hyper-sensitive to any activity that could be construed as child exploitation. And for good reason.

Having a cute-kid-holding-a-lollipop photo in my portfolio isn't worth the hassle if the parents get the wrong idea. In most cases, I see the kid, but I just keep walking. There are plenty of other subjects.

Children doing something interesting in a group, however, is generally a safe exception. I think of it more as shooting the activity than photographing any particular person. I don't care who is doing the activity; it's the activity itself that's interesting.

When I noticed this group of young ladies eating soft pretzels on the steps of Federal Hall on Wall Street, I made a quick decision to grab the shot. The camera was on and hanging from my neck, so all I really needed to do was positioning myself, frame, focus, and shoot. It all happened in three to four seconds.

a photo of a group of young girls snacking on pretzels in new york city
Pretzel Girls - New York

The lady on the right moved into the frame just as I was getting ready to shoot, but I managed to capture the photo of the kids before she impeded the shot further.

This is one of my favorite "people in the street" shots. It's colorful, fun, relaxed, and relatively unique. It's not often that I see six nicely dressed children eating pretzels together. I'm very happy that I decided to take the shot in the fleeting moment when it was available.

'Pretzel Girls' was part of 2012's 'Summer in New York' photo exhibition.

 Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Lens: Canon 24-105 f/4L IS

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Painted Piano

On Rating One's Own Work

Part of the lure of photography is the surprise factor. Sometimes things work out better than we might expect and sometimes less so.

I spend time each week reviewing, rating, and categorizing my photos. I want to understand what differentiates an outstanding or exceptional image from one that is merely competent. I figure that the more I know about what makes a meaningful image, the higher the probability of capturing more of them in the future.

I came up with the following rating scheme to help identify my best photos, the good ones, the not-so-good ones, and the inevitable turkeys.

No Stars - A flawed or otherwise unimpressive photo. I might keep it in my files for historical purposes only, but I wouldn't show it to my friends.

1 Star (*) - A well-executed photo without discernible flaws, but one that I need to spend time reviewing before deciding whether to publish it. I may have a better version of the photo, but I'm keeping this one as an alternative.

2 Stars (**) - A strong image with definite impact, an image that I would be proud to print or display on my website. This is the level where people start to say "Wow!" when they first see the image.

3 Stars (***) - An outstanding photograph with all of the qualities of a two-star image plus a uniquely impressive or interesting quality that makes it stand out in a collection.

4 Stars (****) - All of the qualities of a three-star image, but with some rare or remarkable quality. For people, it might be that one shot with the perfect expression or a spontaneous gesture that increases the impact of the image.

5 Stars (*****) - A rare gem. An image that captures a very special moment or situation and depicts it splendidly. A photograph that could not be improved in terms of impact.

a photo of a man playing a brightly colored piano in new york city
The Painted Piano

The Painted Piano qualifies as a five-star photo on my scale. It represents a unique and precious moment. I don't see painted pianos on the street every day.  In fact, it happened only this one time. I could walk the streets of the city for the next twenty years and never see anything like this again.

The gentleman playing the piano while wearing his New York Yankees hat and T-shirt had a wonderful expression, his eyes looking off into infinity. The colored paint on the piano adds to the uniqueness of the image, and the light was supportive and had just the right amount of contrast.

This wasn't a technically perfect capture. I had to crop out a pedestrian and a garbage can. (That can happen when you work fast.) Luckily, there was enough frame left over to yield a moving and memorable image.

I'm glad that I decided to take a walk that day. I'm glad that I decided to carry my camera with me. I'm glad that I stopped by to take a picture of the man playing his painted piano.

I'll treasure this image forever. It's one of those nice surprises that exemplify the joy and magic of photography.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Lens: Canon 24-105 f/4L IS

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Death Valley Impostor

The Rock That Wasn't There

Welcome to the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park, that magical anomaly where rocks move mysteriously across a clay-like surface and cut trails to mark the path or their travel.

At least, that's what we think happens. Rain softens the playa and the surface becomes slippery. Wind currents channeled through the mountains are strong enough to move the rocks and cut trails through the soft clay. It's impossible to verify the theory because except for the smallest of pebbles, no one has ever seen the rocks move.

Yet, move they do and trails they leave, and in so doing they capture our imagination. The entire phenomenon is like something from a science fiction story.

There is, unfortunately, a dark side to our story, and that dark side is the hand of man. There are individuals who lack respect for the fragile wonder of places like the Racetrack Playa.

Here is case in point, a subject that I call 'The Impostor Rock'.

a photo of a sliding rock on the racetrack playa at death valley by daniel south
Impostor Rock - Death Valley

We see a long, well-defined trail in the playa, distant mountains, a clear sky, and a rock right in the middle of the action.

The problem is that this rock did not cut the trail, except perhaps for the last few inches. The rock that did cut the trail had a different shape. It would have been a bit wider, and it had a ridge that cut a groove to the left of the main trail.

This rock is an impostor.

Someone took the original rock as a souvenir, probably leaving the trail empty.(There are many empty trails on the playa.) I'm guessing that some well-meaning person put this rock in its place. Hopefully, the didn't snatch it from one of the other trails.

The Racetrack Playa is remote and not well-patrolled. Even if there were rangers on site, the playa is more than two miles wide. It's not possible to watch the entire surface at all times. Inconsiderate people take liberties.

There are signs posted: Don't move or take the rocks. Clearly, this one has been broken a few times. Don't walk on the playa when it's wet, or you'll damage the surface and leave footprints. I saw lots of this type of damage at the southern end of the playa. Don't let your dog run on the playa. While I was there I met a man who told me how much his dog loves to run on the playa, and then he let the dog loose.

The world is full of inconsiderate people, and there's not a whole lot that we can do about it. Let's hope that they don't destroy everything.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Lens: Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved