Monthly Archives: January 2006

Mirror Worlds

The world of photomacrography is made up of immense–but tiny–worlds. Each inhabiting a drop of water, a blade of grass, or the realm of a miniscule portion of a flower.

Pointing my macro lens at these worlds give me the ability–and license–to explore with passion.

Day followed the night of camellias. In the first light of morning, raindrops on the flowers opened these worlds to me.

Wet Camellia

View this photo larger.

Camellia Night

It was raining the other night, and very wet. The raindrops looked very pretty on the new camellia buds. I could photograph them despite the wetness because our front porch overhang provides some shelter.

The photo above was taken with direct flash. As Solitaire1 said on Flickr, “‘Camellia Night’ should be the name of an expensive lipstick.”

I took the photo below using available light, mostly from the street lamp at our corner. You can see this light, which uses some kind of weird mecury vapor bulb, behind the leaf in the upper left quadrant of the photo. This photo was exposed for about 3 seconds on a tripod.

Camellia by Streetlight

View this photo larger.

Little Shop of Horrors

This wet poppy bud reminds me of the ominivorous plant Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. (“Feed me! Feed me now!”) A little more pruriently, as gladygirlca on Flickr delicately puts it, “I cannot look at this without seeing something else.

It rained over night. This morning early it was calm and still. I went out while the light was still indirect, before the sun was brash. Water drops on the flowers were great.

This Icelandic Poppy was in “Julian’s garden,” a patch in our backyard that our eight year old designed. It was hard fitting my tripod in the cramped space with other plants nearby; thanks to my wonderful Gitzo tripod that I can use almost anywhere I managed it.

ISO 200, 3 seconds at f/36, 105mm macro lens with 36mm of extension tubes.

Newborn Mathew

I took this photograph of Mathew the day he was born, about eighteen months ago. Is there anything more precious than a newborn baby?

I think the photo shows him resting after the hard work of being born!

Here’s Mathew more recently (in one of my favorite photos of him):

Penance in a Flower

This is the flower commonly known as a Lenten Rose. I photographed it in my garden this afternoon.

Of course, it is not a rose at all. It is a Helleborus. This one is Helleborus Orientalis.

I suppose the flower is named after Lent, a time of penitinence and fasting in the Christian faiths, because it blooms in many parts of the world around the time of Lent. But the word “Lent” itself comes from the Old English word for springtime, and its use should simply denote the changing season, not penance. And here in Berkeley, my Lenten Roses bloom now (at the end of January). Ash Wednesday is not even to be considered.

A flower as extravagantly beautiful as my Helleborus should not be paired with penitence and punishment, but rather the wild ravishment of the soul and happiness that unfettered nature can bring.

Here’s a close-up view of my un-Lent, un-penitent Lenten un-rose:

Lenten Rose

View this photo larger

Flowerific!

Over the last week I’ve been playing around with mixtures. Mixtures of lighting: daylight, tungsten, and spot lighting of various sorts. Mixtures of macro equipment: extension bellows, macro lens, extension tubes, close-up filter, normal lens. I’ve applied these mixtures in a variety of ways to the flowers in this story.

Mixed light is interesting in post-processing. Since the color of light in a digital photograph can be controlled (in one way by re-setting the white balance), the color of a light source seems less important than in film photography. But the qualitytand intensity of the light do still matter: a dully lit photo will not inspire emotional response in a viewer.

Said flowers, by the way, come from Trader Joe’s. I’d say they were variegated gladiolas, and I think they are, but I’m not quite sure because they look mostly like glads, but not quite.

Certainly, they’ve been a lovely subject for trial and error and experimentation. Which is what digital photography is largely about for me.

All photos in this round-up were exposed at ISO 200. The photo at the beginning of this story was taken with my 105mm macro and a 12mm extension tube at f/40 with an exposure of 1.6 seconds.

This photo was taken manually with a PB-6 extension bellows and the macro lens:

Very Close (blog story featuring this photo).

This photo was taken with my 105mm macro lens mounted on a 36mm extension tube and a +4 close-up filter at f/36 for 3 seconds.

Pistil and Pollen

View this photo larger.

The photo of backlit flower petals below was taken with my 105mm macro lens, 12mm extension tube, +4 close-up filter, at f/40 and 2 seconds.

Petals

View this photo larger.

The last photo (below) was taken with my 18-200 zoom lens at 70mm (105mm in 35mm terms) with a +4 close-up lens, f/32 at 1 second.

Light Show

View this photo larger.

Sunflower from Summer

Sometimes immediately after I take a photo, I fall in love with it. But after a while it’s no longer so great, in my opinion. Other times the opposite happens: I archive a photo, forget about it, then come back to it and see it as grand. It’s like falling in love again with your spouse!

Seriously, there are a number of reasons for this phenomenon in both directions. What they boil down to is that with a little distance and space I’m more likely to be objective about one of my photos. And I probably don’t even remember what seemed so great to me when I looked through the lens. So my photo editor’s objective cool is not biased by my intense photographer’s passion. A good marriage of photographer and photo editor (even when they are married in one and the same person) requires both the passion and the coolness.

My screen saver randomly plays through my photographs. This is one mechanism I use to salvage photos from the archives. If I glance at the screen saver and really like what I see, I have another look at the photo. The screen saved is the Windows XP Slide Show, which also dispalys the file name and path for every photo it shows.

I shot this sunflower in the summer time, and when it appeared on my monitor just now, I decided it was worth another look. Looking at it, I decided to publish it in my blog. It kind of goes with the African Daisy, anyhow.

How many photos are there in my archives waiting to be rediscovered?

African Daisy

Julian and I got some plants last weekend including this African Daisy. As an aside, I said to Phyllis, “I bet you didn’t know that I garden to photograph.”

She replied, “I had a hunch.”

So I can’t wait to see the flowers from the spectacular Pincushion plant (Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbons’) Julian and I bought.

Anyhow, once I’d planted this African Daisy, originally from South Africa, but now naturalized in the Western United States, and seemingly happy in our garden, I photographed it. Handheld, using my Lensbaby and macro lens, with the “sweet spot” aligned around the center of the flower.

Here are a couple of other recent Lensbaby photos:

Pistil Heart

View this photo larger.

Alone

View this photo larger.

Centered

Finally! Centered! After many long troubles, toils, and fear: the sun centered above the suspension arcs of the Golden Gate Bridge.

<golden gate bridge> <center> <sun> </center> </golden gate bridge>

(It took a fair amount of sleuthing to figure out how to actually get those XML/XHTML brackets in the text of my story using WordPress; here’s how.)

Yes!

You can read about the hardships, privations, desert nights, climbs up mystical peaks, and other fantastic adventures and dangers that were involved in the creation of this photo here and in this earlier entry showing the sun centered over the southern tower.

Well, maybe I do exaggerate somewhat. Perhaps you don’t want the back story and would just prefer to look at some of the other pretty photos of the sun near its perigee with the span of the Golden Gate Bridge taken from Indian Rock.

Not quite centered, but as close to the perigee as one is likely to capture:

Perigee

View this photo larger.

In this one, the sun looks to me like it has merged with the bridge, and is sitting on the road between the cables:

Merger

View this photo larger.

I’d like to have been on the sailboat in these photos!

In this photo, the sun’s arc has taken it over the edge of the known world–and to the right and north of center as our star sinks:

Over the Edge

View this photo larger.

Mathew in the Kitchen Sink

Mathew in the kitchen sink,
Nicky playing hide and seek,
Julian having photo fun:
Look out! Sand croc in the playground sun!

Nicky Hiding

I take so many pictures of my boys, from time to time as a proud papa I have to work them into my photo blog!

This sand croc was basking up at Step One. I think his missing front teeth neatly balance Mathew’s teeth coming in (see the photo at the beginning of this story).

Sand Croc Rising

Goose and Crane

Julian and I wandered around the bizarre Middle Harbor Shoreline State Park in the Port of Oakland. Great views of downtown San Francisco, and of the Golden Gate Bridge through (and under) the Bay Bridge.

Also great views of the monster cranes in the Port of Oakland, which continue to remind me of huge, metal sea horses, and also, well, cranes:

Port of Oakland

View this photo larger.

Julian had a great time helping me photograph the wild geese (who look kind of ironic in my opinion in front of the mechanical cranes). You can see that Julian was a happy child:

Happy Julian

The trick to the flying goose picture that started this story is, of course, to be ready. Have a reasonably long lens, and have your camera set to a fast shutter speed. That, and having an eight-year-old boy herd the geese, and a bit of luck, should do the trick!

Compression and Symmetry

As marvels of engineering, suspension bridges are known for their use of compression and symmetry. The Golden Gate Bridge is also known for its elegant beauty.

I’ve been contemplating for months the possibility of creating a photograph that showed the sun setting symmetrically in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge. But this is a project with considerable difficulties.

Depending on where in East Bay you locate your camera and tripod, this phenomenon will occur in sometime in late January or early February. To start with, there’s the big chance that the cloudy winter Bay weather will not cooperate, with the sun going down into a fog bank and not the center of the bridge.

You need a really long lens on a tripod to make this a successful photo. And, it’s almost impossible to expose for both the sun and the surrounding landscape. Sandwiching together several different exposures in Photoshop is dicey because the apparent movement of the sun is very fast (at this time of year) as it sets, and the multiple exposures show the sun at different sizes, and don’t really register together. (In case you can’t tell, I tried it!) Oh yeah, forget about any kind of automatic exposure metering, you want to set your camera on manual, and stop it down far below what your meter tells you to do. No matter how you expose things, the sun will blow your highlights way out–and look kind of weird like an egg dropping goo–until it goes way down.

More serious than any of these technical issues is the extreme danger of eye damage that can be caused by poking a long lens at the sun, and then looking through it. Ideally, you should review images in the LCD, not the lens.

I decided to photograph from Indian Rock, because it has a great head-on view of the Golden Gate, and easy for me to get to quickly so I can be back in time to help feed the boys dinner (the sun is setting at about 5:30PM).

Well, the weather at least has been cooperating this year. A few days ago, the setting sun framed the southern tower:

I kind of like that this image reminds me of Sauron’s eye in the Peter Jackson movies of the Lord of the Rings, but not scary in the same way.

After that, things started to speed up as the sun journeyed north:

In other words spectacular, but not quite centered. Last night, the sun was rolling down the suspension cables, like this:

You’ll note that the sun moves north as it sets. So it’s constantly going down and to the right. The sunset that began with the “rolling” sun ended with the sun centered as it fell through the horizon under the bridge (I think this is my favorite of the sequence, which is why I am showing it twice):

But the photo with it centered at the very tail end of sunset was from a day earlier:

Well, so much for the taxonomy of one of my current obsessions: the phases of the setting sun in relationship to the Golden Gate Bridge from Indian Rock. It’s doubtful whether that photo in my mind’s eye–of the sun as a red ball above the roadway at a mid-point between the cables–is actually possible due to the sun’s trajectory and exposure issues when it is higher.

Anyhow, after the sun is down the landscape is still beautiful and worth photographing:

Of course, I’ll be going back again tonight. I just can’t resist.

Very Close

I wanted to see if my old Nikon PB-6 extension bellows, set on a railing, would work for photomacrography with my digital Nikon D70. Here’s a review and a photo of the bellows.

If I tell you the age of this bellows, I’ll be giving away too much about my age. So let’s just say (as I sometimes tell my kids) that dinosaurs still roamed the earth in the days of film when I bought the thing.

Vagure memories of how tough this piece of equipment was to use flitted through my primordial brain. I knew I would lose all the D70’s automation. Even the light meter would stop working. But I though there wouldn’t be any particular problem connecting my macro lens to the business end, and the D70 to the camera end, and using the thing in manual mode.

Silly me! Mechanically, the bigger body of the D70 got in the way. A little Google-based research disclosed: (1) the PB-6 is still in use, and is Nikon’s only extension bellows; (2) Nikon makes a piece that can be used to clear the mechanical obstacles in the case of “certain motorized cameras” (as the Nikon catalog puts it); (3) Talk on the internet suggests attaching camera bodies vertically rather than horizontally in the case of mechanical obstacles.

Well, I couldn’t find anyway to quickly email Nikon technical support, I couldn’t figure out the vertical mounting thing, and I didn’t want to spring for the extra height extender pieces that might (or might not) work. What I did was attach a 36mm extension tub to the back of the bellows. I figured I was going to use it to be very, very close anyhow, so what the heck?

The mechanics then worked fine, and I snapped the camera and lens onto either end of the bellows-with-extension tube.

As this picture shows, I can use this setup to get as close as I’d like (or closer!). I do find (as you can see in this photo) that stopped way down using the bellows, digital exposures seem to get a little pixelated (I was almost going to say grainy). This falls into the “feature” or “bug” sphere of things: I like the effect in this photo, but at times I’d prefer to have greater apparent clarity!

Bayscapes

Morning in the Hills

I’ve been photographing the bayscapes of the San Francisco area with great passion and joy for much of the past year. My subject matter isn’t so much the Bay itself–although the Bay is in many of the photos. I’m interested in the play of clouds, sky, weather, water, and color.

The subject matter of these photos range from fog below Mount Diablo in the morning, to a storm on the Marin shore, to giant hoists in Port Oakland. And I’ve made many, many images of the Golden Gate. Particularly from the hills of the East Bay.

You can see these photos in the San Francisco section of this blog and in my San Francisco Bay photoset on Flickr.

Here are some of my favorites. You can click on a small image to see it larger, or click the link to see the related blog story. Enjoy!

Storm over the Golden Gate Storm over the
Golden Gate
Bridge Shadow Bridge Shadow
There Goes the Sun There Goes the Sun
Tug and Fog Tug and Fog
Sea Horse Sea Horse
Golden Gate Golden Gate
Golden Gate Sunset Golden Gate Sunset
Morning in the Hills Morning in the Hills
Storm-Bound Shore Storm-Bound Shore
Sunset over the Straits of Carquinez Sunset over the
Straits of Carquinez
Bay Sunset from Wildcat Peak Bay Sunset from
Wildcat Peak
Golden Gate Sunset Golden Gate Sunset

There Goes the Sun

A day early when I visited Indian Rock in the rain, I had the summit to myself. At the last moment, the sun cleared for a great skyscape.

There were no clouds today, and the crowds had gathered for the sunset show. There were couple nuzzling. There were couples eating sushi. There were people doing business on their phones. There were dogs all over the place, kids scrambling around, and parents yelling at their kids. There were a couple of bicycles that had been carried to the top of the rock. A circle of “dudes” passed a reefer and a bottle in a brown bag around. Two different radios played. In two words: serenity not.

I could see that for me this sunset was going to be a one-trick pony. Oh, all sunsets are grand and worthy of obesiance. But without a cloud in the sky, the sun was going down quickly like a fiery ball. That fiery ball in the context of the Golden Gate Bridge was the only photo for me.

Without about ten minutes to go, I looked around for a place to set up my tripod and long lens. The only place I could see–considering the crowded, partying condition of the top of the rock–was the very pinnacle. I clambered over someone and up, and found a way to perch my tripod securely. I placed my equipment backpack on the one flat spot, and perched myself somewhat insecurely between the legs of the tripod.

Someone called out, “Don’t fall off!”

One of the dudes said, “Yo! Vertigo!”

A kid climbed up from the drop behind me. The dude called, “If you’re goin’ to fall, grab the tripod!” The kid’s father started yelling at the kid to get off the cliff and come to safety.

I postioned the long lens on the tripod, and then attached my camera.

Golden Gate sunset

Then the sun was setting in its assigned fiery ball of flame. I took my photos at 600mm in 35mm equivalence, later cropped in a bit in Photoshop, taking care to review results in the LCD rather than looking straight through the long lens at sun (this can damage your eyes).

A few minutes after sunset almost everybody was gone from the rock. It was quiet and serene once more. I got off the high spot carefully, packed up my kit, and carried some of the detritus left behind by the sushi eaters to the trash cans below.

Almost Gone

View this photo larger.