Monthly Archives: March 2007

Island in the Sun

Dawn comes to Yosemite Valley. In the fog of a snowy winter day, only one peak is lit by the early morning rays: an island in the sun.

Posted in Landscape, Photography, Yosemite

Bridge and Sky

I photographed this view of the Golden Gate at sunset from Wildcat Peak a few weeks ago during the same session that I captured the Eyes of a Newt.

When I reviewed my captures from the session just now, I liked this capture of the Golden Gate at sunset for the immense and wonderful gradient in the sky above the firm line of clouds. However, I worried that when I lightened the bottom of the image, the amount of noise that lightening would introduce would conflict with the pristine quality of the image.

A valid fear indeed! In Photoshop’s RAW capture conversion module, on the layer that I used from the RAW capture for the foreground, I pushed the slider for Shade to the minimum. The result was a ton of noise, digital’s analog to analog’s grain. Put another way, noise is to digital as grain is to film. By whatever name, in the context of this image, yuck!

I’ve had good luck using Noise Ninja’s Photoshop plug-in to reduce noise. This time it was clear to me that I needed radical noise reduction on the lower portion of the image, and none at all on the sky.

So I duplicated my background layer, and operated Noise Ninja on the duplicate layer. This gave me the opportunity to crank Noise Ninja to the max, and yet only apply it where I wanted in the underlying image through selective layer masking. I also applied Noise Ninja several times, the first time set high, and the second time using normal settings. On the second setting, I applied the noise reduction only to the luminance of the portion of the image I was modifying by using the Fade command and selecting Luminance as the blending mode.

On the whole, Noise Ninja worked pretty well!

Posted in Landscape, Photography, Photoshop Techniques, San Francisco Area


I photographed these trillium along the Steep Ravine trail under Mount Tamalpais this weekend, using a tripod, long exposures, and a stopped-down lens.

Trillium 1

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Trillium 2

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Posted in Flowers, Photography

Snow Crystals

Overnight in Yosemite, snow froze on trees and plants in weird crystal-like formations. When dawn came, the sun first touched the tops of the cliffs, then headed down into Yosemite Valley. As the sun started to warm the valley, and Julian played in the snow, I photographed this snow-and-crystal covered plant in Leidig Meadow.

Posted in Photography, Yosemite

Snow on Pine

In the early morning of Yosemite winter as Julian and I explored the valley, snow crystals hung on the branches of the trees, bending the branches towards the earth.

Posted in Patterns, Photography, Yosemite

Julian in Yosemite

Julian came with me to Yosemite, played in the snow, and woke me every morning so I could be sure to photograph dawn.

He had, I think, a very good and special time, although the immensity and ferocity of the winter landscape sometimes gave this child of California pause. What did he do while I was engrossed in photographing the Merced River or some other heroic landscape? He built ice castles by the banks of the Merced River, and enjoyed snowballs!

Julian and Snowball in Yosemite

Posted in Kids, Photography, Yosemite

Winter Afternoon in Yosemite

Like Snowstorm in Yosemite, I took this photo from Tunnel View on a recent winter’s afternoon in Yosemite (this image follows Snowstorm in Yosemite by a day). The greatest challenge in taking this photo was finding a space between the tripods and lens shades belonging to nature’s paparazzi.

Both Snowstorm in Yosemite and this photo of a winter afternoon in Yosemite are, of course, quite compositionally close to Ansel Adams’s famous Clearing Winter Storm.

Posted in Landscape, Photography, Yosemite

Calypso Orchid

The Calypso Orchid grows up from the detritus of the evergreen forest. This beautiful, small flower can be found poking its way up from piles of brown leaves and twigs. If you don’t know where to look, you are likely to miss it.

I photographed this Calypso last Saturday on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais, at the southern end of the range for the orchid in California. I used my 105mm macro lens with a 36mm extension tube and a +4 diopter close-up filter.

At best, depth of field in this close is very shallow, so I needed all the depth of field I could get. To get maximum depth of field, I exposed at f/36. Even on a bright, sunny day on the forest floor the small aperture meant opening the shutter for a second.

I was lucky to have the flower hold still for me for a full second.

Close up, I love the iridescence of the orchid, and the way the “slipper” part of the flower is almost transparent.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Shooting Star

I photographed this shooting star (Dodecatheon hendersonii) from the ground looking up towards the sun using my Lensbaby 2.0 with a +4 close-up filter and the star aperture disk from the Lensbaby creative aperture kit. I was hoping the star aperture disk would make stars near my shooting star. Indeed it did!

Related: More of my Lensbaby flower macros on Photoblog 2.0.

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Lensbaby, Photography

Dream Sky

Coming out from the Steep Ravine trail it was almost night. The car was parked on a curve in the road down to Stinson Beach. I saw the final stages of sunset a couple of hundred feet down the road, walked down, put the camera on tripod and snapped these time exposures.

The unpredictable effects of long exposures at night on digital captures are amazing. In these I like the dreamy, watercolor effect in the night sky.

Related stories: Night for Day, Starry Night, Marin Headlands at Dusk, Winter Sea, my Night set on Flickr.

South Farallon Island

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Bolinas and Point Reyes

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Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography

Steep Ravine

Late afternoon on Saturday we hiked up Steep Ravine, on the ocean side of Mount Tamalpais. This is a deep and lucious gorge, which flows exotically to the Pacific Ocean near Stinson Beach. Sunset was near, and the woods were getting dim. Pointing my camera straight down at the creek on my tripod, this time exposure solidified the rushing water.

Posted in Landscape, Photography

Snowstorm in Yosemite

Yosemite’s landscape is surely heroic, and the landscape of Yosemite has played a heroic role in the history of photography.

Related stories: Yosemite Storm, Nature’s Paparazzi, Yosemite Dreams, To Clone or Not to Clone, Magical Portals, Winter in Yosemite, Even the Miwok Names are Forgotten.

Related links: the Yosemite category on Photoblog 2.0, the Harold Davis Yosemite set on Flickr.

Posted in Landscape, Photography, Yosemite

Poppy Bokeh

I left this Icelandic Poppy (Papapver nudicaule) out in the rain. Still in its pre-planting pot, I photographed it in the waning light after the rain ended. The thirty second exposure with the lens stopped all the way down produced excellent bokeh (smooth and pleasing background blur in a photo).

Related links: Wet Poppy Bud, Little Shop of Horrors, my Poppy set on Flickr.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Eyes of Newt

There was great clarity yesterday after all the rain. Great fluffy clouds scudded in from the Golden Gate. I decided to hike to Wildcat Peak to photograph sunset.

Wildcat Peak (in Tilden Park) has a panoramic view of the Bay area. As someone put it to me, it is the highest mountain-without-roads in the Bay area. You can drive up both Mt Diablo and Mt Tamalpais, and they have structures at the top. The only way to get up Wildcat is to walk. Then you can enjoy the views of the Golden Gate, Tamalpais, and Diablo (the top of Diablo was fretted yesterday with fresh snow).

On the way up my pack felt a bit heavier than normal. I stopped to take a look, and discovered I had packed my bulky and heavy 200mm macro lens. I don’t normally carry this lens around on treks.

Coming out from the memorial grove of redwoods below Wildcat, I saw this salamander, a perfect subject for the telephoto macro. I believe it is a red-bellied newt, Taricha rivularis, native to California coastal areas north of San Francisco.

The newt had a dirty top and a bright pink underbelly. If he is indeed a red-bellied newt, his skin also contains strong toxins.

Part in the sun and part in the shade, he posed for his close-up portrait, and then ambled on all four legs into the bushes.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography