Monthly Archives: November 2005

Giving Thanks

Meta information: Nikon D70 Raw capture, AF-S VR-Zoom-Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED at 200mm (200mm 35mm equivalence); tripod mounted and VR (vibration reduction) turned off.

Exif: ISO 200, 1/125 second, f/2.8.

Focus: Automatic, at infinity.

Post: Raw file processed twice (once for sky and once for foreground) and combined using a layer mask and gradient, minor cropping, routine level adjustments and sharpening, a dark blue gradient overlay used to enhance the sky.

If you look closely, you can see the first bridge lights coming on. As day turns to dusk, it is a good reminder that today–Thanksgiving in this country–is a good time to be home with our families, and to count our blessings. Whatever the dubious origins of this holiday (and more on this in a moment) it is a good time to remember what we individually have to be thankful for.

I am thankful for:

  • Sunsets, clouds, and sunrises
  • Digital photography, lenses, and computers
  • My three healthy boys, and that (this year) they are all bigger than the turkey
  • The wonderful Thanksgiving feast that Phyllis made

My list of things to be thankful for could obviously go on, as I personally have a great deal of blessings. But let me digress.

Julian has been on vacation from school the whole Thanksgiving week. I took him the other day to see a movie at the Bay Street Mall, which is in a heightened state of lets-start-Xmas early: a great deal of commercialism and more sales pressure than one usually experiences in American upscale shopping malls. (I can remember some real sales pressure in the souks of North Africa, but that’s another digression.)

Julian usually insists on exploring everything he comes across thoroughly, and the odd thing he found in this very blatantly commercial mall was an Ohlone Indian mound and timeline. Sitting just between P.J. Chang’s Chinese Bistro and Old Navy are a set of signs noting significant population changes in the Ohlone tribe.

Roughly, in 1769 before the Spaniards settled the area, there were 100,000 Ohlones in the Bay area, living on shell fish and native plants. They had villages in places like the mouth of Wildcat Creek, and navigated the waters and marshes of the Bay and delta.

Within twenty years of settlement from Europe, 25% of the indigeneous population had died of measles. It was downhill from there, until today all that is left of the Ohlones is a replica mound in a shopping mall.

I’m not really trying to be grumpy, but obviously the Thanksgiving on the part of the old world settlers of North America was at the expense of those here before them (this is not a novel observation on my part).

I think we should try hard in the season between Thanksgiving and Christmas not to succumb to the pressures of commerce, and to believe in the possibility of a world in which one people’s good fortune does not have to come at the cost of disaster for someone else.

Found in the Fun House

Meta information: Nikon D70 Raw capture, AF Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 (157mm 35mm equivalence) with 36mm (3X) Kenko extension tube.

Exif: ISO 200, 8 seconds, f/40. Considering the long exposure, naturally I used a tripod.

Focus: Manual, very close to the subject (about three inches).

Post: Very slight cropping for compostion and routine level adjustments and workflow.

I found this flower the other day in the Tropical House that’s part of the University of California Botannical Garden. (OK, so it’s a tropical house, not a fun house, but it is still quite fun!)

I suppose the flower is some kind of orchid. It’s quite small. It was down close to the ground. I would have sworn the plant was more a bromeliad than an orchid, but the flower has an orchid look to me. Unfortunately, this plant wasn’t labeled, or at least I couldn’t find the label.

That I have no idea of the genus shows my level of botannical knowledge: I photograph things because I love the way they look, not because I know what they are. Maybe someone on Flickr will enlighten me!

Light conditions were poor, as is often the case in the real rain forest or jungle. It took quite a bit in gyrations to get my tripod in place low to the ground, but I sure had fun in the fun (or tropical house) while I was gyrating!

Camellia



Camellia, photo by Harold Davis.

Meta information: Nikon D70 Raw capture, AF Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 (157mm 35mm equivalence) with 36mm (3X) Kenko extension tube.

Exif: ISO 200, 1/5 second, f/36. This was an exterior shot in windy conditions using a tripod that required patience (many shots in the series did not work because the flower had moved during the 1/5 second exposure), but I did want to stop the lens down for high depth of field and apparent sharpness.

Focus: Manual, about 0.2 meter (around 8 inches) from the subject.

Post: Cropping for compostion, routine level adjustments and workflow, sharpening for Gaussian blur, and color enhancement with a graduated dark blue overlay in Photoshop.

I love old-fashioned camellias, like the blossom in this photo that I took a few days ago.

This is the time of year around here that camellias start to bloom. These wonderful flowering bushes, closely related to the tea plant, bloom through the middle of the spring. We are lucky enough to have four mature and very productive camellias in the front garden of our house.

Camellias are the Tsubaki of Japan, and were first brought to Europe in the 1700s. They made it to the United States in the mid-eighteenth century, and to the Bay area following the gold rush–where they are deservedly a cult flower with an immense number of varieties. But my personal choice is for the simpler, more old-fashioned varieties like this one.

Here’s a nifty timeline of the history of western cultivation of the camellia.

Lights across the Bay



Lights, photo by Harold Davis.

Meta information: Nikon D70 Raw capture, AF-S VR-Zoom-Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED at 200mm (300mm 35mm equivalence); tripod mounted and VR (vibration reduction) turned off.
Exif: ISO 200, 1/4 second, f/2.8.
Focus: Manual, at infinity.
Post: Extreme cropping (about 5% of the original image to emphasize the building lights), routine level adjustments, extreme sharpening for Gaussian and motion blur, “motion picture” lens flare added with the Photoshop Render > Lens Flare filter.

Another photo of sunset from Indian Rock, this one cropped in very tight and showing the holiday lights used to outline some of the buildings in downtown San Francisco!

Bromeliad in Full Bloom

Meta information: More or less the same as the original bromeliad photo.

I have photographed this bromeliad flower three times now. The very first time, about a week ago, the central bloom was about 1/3 in flower. The second time, four days ago, the bloom was maybe 2/3 in bloom. As of yesterday (and this photo) it is pretty fully in bloom. Quite striking (at least in my opinion)!

With my Iris and fig photos it took quite a while for people to get impatient with my obsession. This time, boredom seems swift. Two comments from readers:

I’ve noticed how you get carried away by your subject matter, but if you want me to go on reading your blog, enough with this one poor flower already!

First you went on and on with one single iris bud, then you did this thing with really gross and disgusting photos of the inside of a fig that looked obscene. I don’t want to see anymore of this flower. Please get back to landscapes, roses and digital techniques.

So I guess three posts of this bromeliad are enough, although I do think it is wonderfully beautiful with its vibrant red, interior green, and blue and yellow blooms. But I’ll desist!

Fun Pile of Leaves!

Piles of autumn leaves are pretty rare around here, so the kids have a great time when they find a big leaf pile like this one.

Nicky (shown here) and his younger brother Mathew have never seen snow, so they’ll probably really flip when we take them to the mountains in the winter!

Alas for Analog

Meta information: Nikon D70 Raw capture, AF-S VR-Zoom-Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED at 78mm (117mm 35mm equivalence); tripod mounted and VR (vibration reduction) turned off.
Exif: ISO 200, 1/5 second, f/2.8.
Focus: Manual, at infinity.
Post: Raw file processed twice (once for sky and once for foreground) and combined using a layer mask and gradient, minor cropping, routine level adjustments and sharpening, a dark blue gradient overlay used to enhance the sky.

I took this picture last night with my camera mounted on a tripod on top of Indian Rock, one of a sequence of photos taken as sunset faded into dusk, and then dusk into night.

Taking these photos somehow led me to muse about reciprocity failure and analog photography.

Here’s the connection: Many serious film photographers bemoan the loss of analog (film) photography, just as some serious audiophiles miss analog high fidelity sound.

In the realm of photography, my opinion is certainly that the gains in the digital toolset more than make up for the loss of the delicious quirks of analog film–but it is fair to recognize that there have been losses. One of these is the bizarre (and sometimes beautiful) effect of reciprocity failure: when making really long time exposures, the color balance of film can shift to create unreal looking effects because a given film stock (such as Kodachrome, or whatever) was only rated within specified time exposures to provide accurate color renditions.

This “reciprocity failure” could be a royal headache when precise results were called for, but it could also produce (unpredictable) spectral and dreamlike effects, particularly in night time photography with light sources of varied color temperatures.

Well, it is goodbye to all that for reciprocity failure and other analog effects. A digital camera sensor is essentially a scanner, and to this scanner a pixel is a pixel. If the pixel is there to be recorded, it will be recorded, using whatever color balance the camera thinks is right (or that you’ve told the camera to use). You can always adjust the color balance later.

The photograph I’ve illustrated this story was taken at too brief an exposure for reciprocity failure to kick in even in the bad old days of film, but a couple of implications do come to mind:

  • If you want an old-fashioned analog effect in your digital camera, you need to meticulously recreate it using post-processing
  • There’s no longer any evading responsibility for the way a photo looks by saying “I just took the picture, and here’s how it came out.”

A digital photographer is responsible for all aspects of the way the final image looks.

Above Us Only Sky

Meta information: Nikon D70 Raw capture, AF Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 (157mm 35mm equivalence).

Exif: ISO 200, 1/125 second, f/7.1. This was an exterior, daylight shot with considerable wind and motion, and handheld.

Focus: Manual, about 1 meter (around 3 feet).

Post: Slight cropping for compostion, routine level adjustments and workflow, sharpening for both Gaussian and Motion blur in the flower area, center lightened and vignetting added to the edges in post production.

On my way to photograph the marvelous bromeliad flower yet again, I found this flower (belonging, I think, to some kind of climbing bean). The thing that was amazing about it was that it hung from one supporting stalk, for all the world like a modernist standing floor lamp.

I lay down below the flower, and pointed my lens up at it and the sky. The flower floated alone, by itself, in the wind. Above us was only the sky.

Rose Spiral

Meta information: Nikon D70 Raw capture, AF Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 (157mm 35mm equivalence).

Exif: ISO 200, 1/250 second, f/5. This was an exterior, daylight shot with considerable wind and motion, and handheld.

Focus: Manual, about 0.45 meter (around 1.4 feet).

Post: Cropping for compostion, routine level adjustments and workflow, sharpening for both Gaussian and Motion blur, color enhancement with a graduated dark blue overlay in Photoshop.

Spirals are often seen in nature. It’s surprisingly common for these spirals to be a visual representation of a series of numbers, such as the Fibonacci series. In the Fibonacci series, each number in the series is the sum of the two previous numbers.

However, I haven’t often seen this kind of spiral in a rose. So I was delighted to be able to photograph this one in the wind and sunshine of our front porch!

Patterns

This is a re-post of an earlier blog story, with bromeliads added!

Bromeliads, toy slinkies, a single dandelion bud, irises, desert landscapes, and some of my photos on Flickr

slinkies

Dandies

Iris

Quilties

Meta Flickr

Bromeliad Redux

Meta information: More or less the same as the previous bromeliad photo. Note that a good field tripod is essential for this kind of long-exposure macro photography.

A few days ago, I photographed a hidden bromeliad flower in Blake Garden. On Friday, I paid the flower another visit. There were more of the blue blooms:

Bromeliad Close

I think the flower looked even more beautiful than the first time:

Bromeliad Redux I

I’m planning to keep following the progress of this bromeliad bloom: time, weather, and the garden hours permitting!




Nicky is 4

We had Nicky’s fourth birthday party today! Happy birthday, Nicky!

There was a bouncy thing shaped like a castle, a whole bunch of four-year-olds, and a race car cake that looked like Herbie the Love Bug (sort of). Play your cards right (or wrong) and I’ll post a picture of the Love Bug Cake. OK, here it is:

Herbie the Love Bug Cake

It was a great party. Thanks to everyone who came, and helped make it so much fun.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty tired now, and glad the kids are asleep.

This post is dedicated to Rachel (you know who you are): a picture of Nicky for you!

Fish Swirl

Meta data: Nikon D70 Raw capture, AF-S Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED at 70mm (105mm 35mm equivalence).
Exif: ISO 200, 1/100 second, f/5.
Focus: Automatic
Post: Cropping, cloning out of distracting areas, routine level adjustments and sharpening.

There’s something fishy here, what it is isn’t exactly clear!

What interests me about this photo is the swirl patterns in the water around the fishes.

Portrait of a Flower



Dahlia, photo by Harold Davis.

Meta data: Nikon D70 Raw capture, AF-S Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED at 70mm (105mm 35mm equivalence).
Exif: ISO 200, 1/200 second, f/9.
Focus: Automatic
Post: Cropping, cloning out of distracting areas, routine level adjustments and sharpening.

It’s not every day that one gets to take a “portrait” of a flower as colorful as this one: frontal, head-on, just as if it were a head shot of a person!

“Good Day, to you too, Dahlin’ Dahlia!”

Shadows in the Sand

Meta data: Nikon D70 Raw capture, AF-S VR-Zoom-Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED at 200mm (300mm 35mm equivalence).
Exif: ISO 200, 1/200 second, f/9.
Focus: Automatic
Post: Routine level adjustments and sharpening.

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed shadows in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of shadows,
other times there were one set of shadows.

This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of shadows.

And what really bothered me when I noticed it was…that I was a seagull. With homage to Mary Stevenson and the Official Footprints in the Sand page.