Monthly Archives: July 2008

Katie Is Coming Home

Katie Rose's Face

Katie Rose’s Face, photo by Harold Davis.

When we got to the hospital today we were delighted to find Katie Rose without tape on her face. She’s been off her oxygen cannula for a few days, but they left the tape cannula holder thingees in place in case she needed to go back on oxygen. You can see the setup in this photo.

So the absence of the tape things was a sign of medical confidence that she was fine on room air, good news indeed, and good to see Katie’s face unbound, but better news was coming.

We learned that Katie Rose can now eat as much as she wants. She gets to determine the pace, provided it is at least 100 mililiters a nursing shift. Digesting this positive info, we were startled when Norma, the social worker, came up to us, and told us that Katie Rose is coming home Monday.

Of course, there’s some insurance stuff to deal with, paper work, and a car seat stress test. As Norma put it, after they’ve taken care of Katie Rose this long [it’s been eighty days] they’re not about to kick her out before she is ready. If something seems off in Katie’s performance between now and Monday, they’ll delay her release. But at this point it seems like Katie is coming home.

Our girl is coming home. We’re very excited and the boys are singing (to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell”), “Katie’s coming home, Katie’s coming home, Hi ho the Dairy-o, Katie’s coming home!”

Magic of the Mundane

Katie's Bottle

Katie’s Bottle, photo by Harold Davis.

This is a photo of one of the small, plastic bottles used to feed Katie Rose her fortified breast milk. It’s amazing how photography can make mundane objects magical. Making the mundane magical creates fetish objects, and is the stock-in-trade of advertising.

Related objects: Pacifier; Katie Likes Her Binkie (scroll to the bottom of the story).

[Nikon D300, Zeiss Macro 100mm f/2 ZF Makro-Planar T* Manual Focus Lens, three combined exposures from one second to 4 seconds at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted; photographed on a white background and inverted in Photoshop.]

Ten Top Techniques

I was recently asked to compile ten of my favorite tips and techniques from Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers. Here’s a look at what I selected, along with the photos from the book that are used to illustrate each technique or tip and page references to text that explains the technique more thoroughly.

Briefly noted: these are not hardware tips (like what memory card to buy), these are photographic ideas that will help you stretch your technique and help you create the photos you can see in your mind’s eye.

1. Choose a wide-open aperture for low depth of field.
Sometimes a photo that is completely sharp is neither possible nor desirable. To create a partial blur effect in windy conditions place your camera on a tripod.

Using aperture-preferred metering or manual exposure control, choose a wide-open aperture such as f/4.0. The resulting low depth of field, possibly combined with motion blur, will create a pleasing effect. (Pages 50-55.)

Wind
2. Use a slow shutter speed to blur the motion of water.
Moving water is rendered differently depending upon the shutter speed you use in your exposure. Setting the shutter actually sets how long the shutter will be open, not a speed.

Fast shutter speeds capture moving water crisply, and slow shutter speeds show water in motion as a blur. To create a very pleasing diffuse blur effect with quickly moving water, try a very long exposure time, for example, about three minutes. (Pages 92-94.)

Yosemite Falls at Dusk

3. Boost the IS0 to use noise creatively.

Photographers usually think of noise as something bad that should be aoided using proper exposure settings and post-processing remove it. But noise can actually be used creatively. For example, one way to create a “pointillist” effect in your photos is to boost your ISO and then shoot straight into a strong light source. (Pages 112-113)

Lobelia
4. Don’t worry about white balance.
Many photographers spend much too much time worrying about their in-camera white balance settings. If you are shooting in RAW, the only thing this setting really does is control the way your photo is displayed in the camera LCD. So leave your camera set to auto white balance, concentrate on the photography not the white balance setting, and correct your white balance when you post-process your photo. (Pages 126-132) Inside the Lighthouse
5. Use a light box and overexposure to create a transparent effect.

To create the effect of transparency, try an inexpensive light box as your light source. Use the kind of light box that is used for viewing slides or other transparencies. Place the lightbox either under or behind the object you are photographing. This is an excellent technique for flowers and other semi-transparent objects. If you overexpose photos like this, you can bring out luminous and transparent details. (Pages 136-137)

Orchid

6. To get your exposure right at night, try a test exposure at a high ISO.

If you want to capture star trails at night, you need to make a long exposure, which means using a low ISO. Before investing the time it takes to create this effect, test your exposure at a higher ISO and a faster shutter speed, then do the math to make sure your longer exposure is correct. (Pages 28-29 and 140-143)

Midnight Rambles
7. Create a studio of your own.

You can create a home studio of your own using surprisingly inexpensive materials. Desktop lamps can be used for flood lighting, and LED headlamps can be used for spot lighting. Venetian blinds can control the direction of light, and sheets can be rigged to work as diffusers. A good art supply store is also a great source of inexpensive supplies that can be used to make a creative home studio. (Pages 146-149)

Getting the Point
8. Use the RAW data in a photo to extend the dynamic range of your images.

You may not be aware just how much exposure latitude there is within a single digital RAW capture. By combining multiple conversions from the same RAW capture using the Adobe RAW converter, you can create a final photo that has brighter light areas and darker dark areas than you would ever have thought possible. (Pages 164-165)

Yosemite Dreams
9. Transform your photos to black and white using color information in the photo.

It’s easy to convert a color image in Photoshop to grayscale by simply dropping the color information in the photo. But this doesn’t get you great black and white images with exposure and contrast subtleties. To create rich black and white transformations, you need to work with the color information in the color photo before you drop the color information. (Pages 172-175)

Toned
10. Get your camera off automatic.

When you use auto exposure, you are letting your camera make the important decisions about the exposure of your photos. Take back control!

Getting your camera off automatic means learning to really understand exposures. Furthermore, once you know how to set manual exposures you may find that your exposure settings are better and more creative than those the camera would have picked. By using manual exposure, you’ll also find out when it is appropriate to use an automatic or semi-automatic exposure mode.

Light & Exposure

Katie’s Smile

Katie's Smile

Katie’s Smile, photo by Harold Davis.

When we visit Katie Rose in her new quarters in NICU West she opens her eyes, glad to see us. Temperature checked, diaper changed, she’s ready for lunch. She drinks her fill from bottle and breast, then burps, and smiles with content. Katie’s smile makes us so happy.

What a long way she’s come!

Spiral into Sunflower

Spiral into Sunflower

Spiral into Sunflower, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Briefly noted: There are spirals in nature and grand artist-created spirals like Robert Smithson’s massive spiral jetty. There are also tiny spirals, like this spiral into sunflower made up of florets at the core of the flower.

The pixel is not concerned with its origin. A pixel knows neither what it portrays nor how it was made.

Some other spirals on my blog: Labyrinth, Resistance to Spirals Is Futile, Spiral in a Mallow, After the Wedding, Nautilus in Black and White, Nautilus on Black, Nautilus 69.

Sunflower

Sunflower

Sunflower, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Briefly noted: I grew this delicious Sunflower for the purposes of photography. Putting it on a black velvet background, I made five exposures at shutter times ranging from 1/2 a second to four seconds. With the darkest exposure on the bottom of the layer stack to make sure the background was black, I layered each of the five lighter versions of the Sunflower on top one by one, moving from darkest (shortest exposure time) to lightest (longest exposure time).

More Sunflowers: Sunflower; Sunflower and Bottle; Sunflower (Sunflowr?); Sunflower.

[Nikon D300, Zeiss Macro 100mm f/2 ZF Makro-Planar T* Manual Focus Lens, five combined exposures from 1/2 of a second to 4 seconds at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Multitasking

Multitasking

Multitasking, photo by Harold Davis.

Mathew, who just turned four, gets so engrossed in his computer that he needs to multitask. Which in his case means dragging his small wooden potty over to sit on it as he manipulates the mouse.

Spoils of Victory

Spoils of Victory

Spoils of Victory, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Briefly noted: At two and a half minutes, this is my longest exposure from the shoot the other day at the abandoned naval base on Mare Island. Shorter than my usual night exposures, but then this is very different subject matter than star trails in Yosemite.

[Nikon D300 with a 12-24mm Zoom lens at 18mm (27mm in 35mm terms), 150 seconds at f/14 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

The Progress of Katie Rose

Katie Rose is progressing. The NICU at CPMC is organized into three different rooms: North is where babies are admitted, first treated and evaluated; East is where babies grow long term; and West is where babies who are going home soon stay. It’s a lower stress environment. There are no procedures and no really sick babies in NICU West, and it is even near the well-baby nursery.

The Quest for Milk

Yesterday when we visited Katie we took her temperature, changed her, let her breast feed, gave her a bottle, and just hung out for a while. Then we had to go home to pick up the boys from Fencing Camp.

We were on our way out when the charge nurse, Erin, came running in to ask if we would help move Katie to NICU West. You bet we said “yes” in a heartbeat!

Yawn!

Katie Rose was snoozing in her basinette. We collected her things and Erin unplugged her. Then we wheeled her down the hall in her progress towards a new life.

Katie Looking at Me

Golden Gate Window

Wandering the dark mid-level tiers of Fort Point in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge I came upon a window without glass. This is the same window I photographed a couple of years back with dirty glass and a happy face. The photo below shows the span of the Golden Gate through the open window, and the bottom photo shows the bottom of one of the towers.

There was, of course, a dynamic range problem with these images. Even given the inherent dynamic range within RAW captures, I needed to take separate exposures for the scene through the window and the embrasures themselves. It’s important when combining images to extend the dyamic range to maintain the same f-stop in the images, so I shot both sets of exposures stopped down to f/22 to create a high depth-of-field effect in the foregrounds. There’s a twenty times difference in shutter speed between the exposure for the inside of the window and the exposures for the brighter Golden Gate span.

I used Liquid Mask to quickly pop out the window from the versions shot for the distance so I could slide it on top of the versions exposed for the window frame.

Golden Gate Window

View this image larger.

Speaking of the Golden Gate, if you are in the Bay area, I will be making a presentation about 100 Views of the Golden Gate on Sunday, July 27 at 2PM at Book Passage in the San Francisco Ferry Building (more info about the event). I’ll discuss the artistic connection with Hokusai and Japanese art and ideas, the aesthetic and spiritual dimensions of the bridge, the landscape of the Golden Gate in the context of the Bay area, and some of the photo techniques I used during the years I made the photos in this book.

Holding up the Bridge

View this image larger.

[Both images: Photoshop composites of two exposures at 1/20 of a second and at 1 second, Nikon D300, 18-200VR Zoom lens, f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted. Top image shot at 29mm (44.5mm in 35mm terms), image above shot at 22mm (33mm in 35mm terms).]

Dome

Dome of St Ignatius Church

Dome of St Ignatius Church, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Briefly noted: this is the dome of the Jesuit St Ignatius Church, adjacent to San Francisco University. Related image: San Francisco City Hall dome.

[Nikon D300, 18-200mm VR zoom lens at 56mm (84mm in 35mm terms), 10 seconds at f/13 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Doing Normal Baby Things

It’s great to see Katie Rose doing normal baby things. She’s still monitored and in the NICU, still on supplemental oxygen, and still gets most of her calories via a feeding tube. That said, she breast feeds, drinks from a bottle, burps, poops, and goes to sleep on the drop of a dime—just like a normal full-term baby.

Yesterday, I got to feed Katie a bottle. I loved looking at her eyes, with her little fingers touching my hand as I fed her.

Bottle Feeding Katie

After she had drunk her fill, Phyllis held Katie Rose on her shoulder and helped her burp.

After the Bottle

Katie Rose looks so plump and happy, just like a normal baby doing normal baby things.

Katie Content

Jesuit Baroque

Briefly noted: the Jesuit parish St. Ignatius Church was built in 1914 following the destruction of a previous Jesuit church in the great San Francisco earthquake. The docent history of St. Ignatius proudly proclaims its style as “Jesuit Baroque,” and you can see that this is an apt description from my photo.

Jesuit Baroque

Jesuit Baroque, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

St. Ignatius sits on a hill, its baroque towers designed to be seen by ships coming in through the Golden Gate, and from many other points in San Francisco. In fact, the church dome and towers are visible from upper windows (and the parking deck) at California Pacific Medical Center, where Katie Rose is in the NICU. After a recent visit to Katie Rose, I had a little extra time, and I decided to explore this mansion of God on the hill.

On a bright but cloudy Sunday afternoon, the nave was deserted. Lighting was fairly low in dynamic range, so I felt no need to shoot multiple exposures (Yellow Roses is an example of this technique). I did, as is my usual practice, multi-process a singe RAW file to come up with the results shown.

[Nikon D300 with a 12-24mm Zoom lens at 12mm (18mm in 35mm terms), six seconds at f/13 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Ghosts of Mare Island

Ghosts

Ghosts, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Mare Island, a peninsula across the Napa River from Vallejo, California, was the site of the first naval shipyard on the Pacific coast. As many as 40,000 people worked here during the 1940s.

All the bustle is gone, leaving toxic waste dumps, decaying industrial structures and dry docks. One part of Mare Island is a planned real estate development, surrounding an elementary school, with some homes already “bank owned.”

The Mare Island Naval Shipyard hosts a small museum. But mostly it seems the haunt of ghosts. A sad and untidy industrial waste land, but great to photograph.

A couple of weeks ago I spoke at the Marin Photography Club about night photography techniques. (Here’s my story about after that meeting.) The presentation was to help prepare the group for an afternoon-to-night photo shoot on Mare Island. Merrill Mack of the Photo Club was kind enough to invite me to join the group on Mare Island. The company was enthusiastic about photography, and Mark and I had a great time exploring and photographing. I’m sure I’ll be back.

Mare Island Moonrise

View this image larger.

[Both: Nikon D300, 18-200mm VR zoom lens, tripod mounted. Top: 22mm (33mm in 35mm terms), 30 seconds at f/5.6 and ISO 100; Above (Moon rise): 200mm (300mm in 35mm terms), 4 seconds at f/5.6 and ISO 100.]

Without Training Wheels

Without Training Wheels

Without Training Wheels, photo by Harold Davis.

Katie is now without tubes, not all the time, but sometimes when she is feeding, and for hours at a stretch. Partly, she’s engineered this herself, by repeatedly pulling the oxygen canula out of her nose.

As Dr Chris put it, she’s riding without training wheels.

Precious Rose