Monthly Archives: April 2007

Patterns of Design

This is a photograph of waves looking almost straight down from a high bluff overlooking Drakes Beach. The surf was moderate in the shelter of Drakes Bay. There was a strong wind, perhaps 20-30 miles per hour, blowing out to sea. You can see the wind as a blurring effect in the upper part of the photo and as small, dark waves rippling back out towards the ocean in the lower left.

I was struck by the pattern made by the waves, almost like a big upper case N. My camera was tripod mounted, and I was shooting at 200mm (300mm in 35mm equivalence terms). I realized that to capture the pattern of the waves I would need as fast a shutter speed as possible (despite my recent glee in long exposures). So I set my camera to shutter-preferred mode at 1/500 of a second, with an f-stop at ISO 100 of f/5.6 for this exposure.

I was on the bluff above the Pacific with Mike Trimble, also known as Pastor Mike. As Mike notes in his blog, we have a great deal in common including deep love for our wives, three kids (his are girls and mine are boys), a love for nature, and a passion for photography. As Mike also observed, our attitudes towards religion are pretty different.

Mike and I had met at the Point Reyes lighthouse parking lot. We went down the 300 plus steps to the lighthouse itself, and chatted with park Ranger Craig Morgan. It was too windy out on the point for any serious photography.

Next, we explored the area near the Chimney Rock trail, and then (hoping for a bit of shelter from the wind) heading for the Drakes Beach area. Later on we’d photograph South Beach and the raging ocean by the dying light, and then head to Inverness and the wreck of the tugboat Point Reyes for a picnic under the stars.

Tug on mud bank near Inverness

Altogether, this was a grand late afternoon and evening despite the wind. Mike is a very nice guy, and seriously interested in photography. He was pretty tactful in bringing up religion. Our most strenuous disagreement went something like this:

Mike: When my daughters got to evolution, I told them it did seem pretty far fetched.
Harold: Well, I see what you mean, but then again it would be pretty hard to take some of the statements in the bible literally.

So far, not so bad. And I think Mike scored some serious points when he said that it was hard to stand out here in a sublimely beautiful spot in nature and not believe in an intelligent pattern of design that must have been planned by a powerful diety.

It’s true for me that I can’t be in the grandeur of nature without feelings of awe, spirituality, and gratitude. However, if you credit God for this pattern of design, then you’d better credit Her for the design aspects of life that don’t make much sense as well. You know, war, poverty, sickness, global warming and so on. This particular point, that it is intellectually inconsistent to credit a diety for the wonderful things in our lives without also blaming the same diety for the things that aren’t so good, was brought home to me as a young teenager when I read Mark Twain’s fantastic, lucid, and angry The Mysterious Stranger.

Still, I was amused to read in Mike’s blog, The Journey: A Pastor’s Thoughts, that he partly regarded our day together as missionary work on his part. What am I, a heathen dancing around a pot in a native costume that I need a missionary? A funny picture, until you think that in a way I was a missionary in relation to Mike.

In fact, for me spending time with Mike, who in person is a decent thoughtful guy, is all about tolerance. I can tolerate Mike and his religious beliefs, and I hope he can tolerate me and mine, whatever they are. To express this differently, I believe that whenever there is true tolerance in the face of different structures of belief, then God is truly present.

Related stories: Waves on the Shore.

Posted in Landscape, Patterns, Photography, Point Reyes

In the Bag

Photographers tend to collect gear bags. I have lots of camera bags. As photographer John Shaw once put it, I am a charter member of the “bag-of-the-month” club.

My favorite new bag is a LowePro Omni Trekker, shown above loaded with my photo gear and a camellia flower. I like this bag because it carries tons of stuff in a secure way and can be carried on my shoulder, using handles, or as a backpack. The bag also has a nifty feature that lets me pull my camera out without opening the whole bag via a kind of pass-through window.

As part of Lowepro’s Omni Extreme set, the bag fits in a waterproof case that can be used in conditions that are dangerous for photo gear. For example, I can pack this bag in the Extreme shell and take it on a white water rafting trip.

When I don’t need to carry so much gear, and I want something that fits well on my back, I carry a Lowepro Mini Trekker AW.

To create the black-and-white image of the camera bag loaded with my gear and a color flower, I first took an exposure straight down on the bag with the flower in position. I used a long exposure and a small f-stop for great depth of field (10 seconds at f/22).

In Photoshop, I duplicated the image, then converted one version to black and white. For information about how to convert digital color images to black and white, see Going with the Grain, More Black and White Conversion Fun, and Converting to Black and White.

My plan was to plop the color version of the image over the black and white version as a layer. Then I would need a layer mask (see From Filter Play to Layer Masking) to block out all the color portion of the image except the flower.

But I didn’t want to have to hand generate the layer mask by painting the flower shape on the mask, a tough job. So I created the layer mask with no hand work by duplicating the color version of the image, converting it to LAB color, and discarding all the layers except the A channel (Magenta-Green). In the A channel, the camellia flower was almost white and everything else was dark, so it didn’t take much fiddling with the Curve to create an acceptable grayscale mask.

Finally, I used Image > Apply Image with the color layer of the layered version of the image active to add the layer mask so only the camellia appeared in color.

Posted in Hardware, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

My Santa Fe Photo Workshop

Wandering around Santa Fe, New Mexico on the cloudy last day of February 2006, I snapped this photo of the Cathedral in the center of old Santa Fe as dusk approached.

Please consider joining me in Santa Fe for a week of fun and photography July 8-14, 2007. I’ll be giving a workshop called Digital Workflow: From the Field to Flickr at Santa Fe Workshops.

Related links: Harold’s workshop; Santa Fe Workshops for a catalog; PDF download; please contact me with any questions.

Posted in Photography

Mountains of the Mind

On the kids and my last day in Yosemite, of course it rained. High up above the valley floor it was snowing.

Mostly we did indoor things. We rode the shuttle bus, and thoroughly explored the Ahwanee Hotel.

But as I looked around I found the clouds on the waterfalls, cliffs, and walls very interesting. I exposed this view of the Cathedral Spires, and post-processed it, with Chinese landscape painting somewhat in mind.

Related story: Magic Portals (Cathedral Spires from the other direction).

Posted in Landscape, Photography, Yosemite

Turquoise’s Mosaics

My Flickr friend Turquoise Bleue creates marvelous mosaics using her favorite Flickr images. Sometimes the Turquoise mosaics include my photos (I am always flattered). Floral imagery seems to predominate.

Turquoise’s mosaics illustrate a number of my favorite things about online photography communities like Flickr:

  • Turquoise is a true friend of mine, but it is unlikely I will ever meet her outside the virtual world (for what it is worth, she lives in France).
  • Flickr makes a vast and eclectic collection of images available to everyone.
  • The Flickr software and community encourage “mash-ups”: combining imagery to create another image that might be greater than the sum of its parts like Turquoise’s mosaics.
Posted in Flickr, Photography

Golden Gate and Sky

This is a photograph of the Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay at sunset. I took it from Indian Rock, which is near my home in East Bay. Typically, if I see that the sunset is going to be nice, Indian Rock is one of the first places I think of nipping over to, camera, tripod, and maybe even a little boy in tow.

I’ve taken so many sunset views from Indian Rock (and even a sunrise or two) that I can’t possibly get around to processing all of them. Explaining why this image dates back to January of 2006.

Posted in Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area

Tiarella Two

This is a re-post-processing (using Photoshop, of course) of a photo I took at sunrise about a year ago of a tiny tiarella plant. (Tiarellas are members of the saxifrage family). In this version, I emphasized the colors and brightness, and didn’t worry if the highlights blew out.

Which version do you like better?

Original version: Moving Mountains and Breaking Stones.

Related story: Dawn in the Flower Forest.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Pacific Dogwood

I photographed this Pacific Dogwood blossom, Comus nuttallii, near Happy Isles. The dogwood are early in Yosemite this year, and I enjoyed their white against green sheen. Getting really close, as in this photo, the inner pink of the core of the blossom is also apparent. I understand that this core, or dogwood nut, is edible, although not very tasty.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Bridalveil Falls Rainbow

I’d positively expect to see a rainbow when hiking the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls. It is not at all unusual to see a rainbow from the spray in Nevada Falls or Yosemite Falls. But I’ve never seen a rainbow in Bridalveil Falls before.

The kids and I were hiking on the old Inspiration Point trail above Tunnel View. On our way down, I looked across the valley and saw this Bridalveil Falls rainbow.

I quickly screwed my polarizer on the end of the lens to heighten the rainbow effect and render the colors more deeply saturated. I snapped a few captures, and then the rainbow was gone.

Posted in Landscape, Photography, Yosemite

Kids in Yosemite

This photo shows Nicky and Julian on the so-called Swinging Bridge (it doesn’t really swing anymore although maybe a predecessor bridge once did) with Yosemite Falls in the background.

For me, showing the kids Yosemite Valley was really fun but tiring. It was hard to get too much serious photography done with a five year old and a nine year old to tend. My least favorite things:

  • Waiting for line on food, like the time I was trying to get lunch for the kids and the Japanese tour group ahead of me ordered thirty-five cheese burgers.
  • All the people insisting on yammering on their cell phones, even on a wilderness trail. Can you imagine? What’s the point of being there if you are going to be tethered by your mobile devices?

The kids loved Yosemite Valley, it is a natural playground. Their favorite activities (probably in order):

  • Snowball fights (these were near Crane Flat above the valley)
  • Playing on the beach at Mirror Lake
  • Climbing rocks
  • Riding the shuttle bus
  • Exploring the Ahwanee Hotel looking for secret passages
  • Hiking the Mist Trail

The kids’ least favorite things about visiting Yosemite:

  • (Julian) “We didn’t get far enough hiking the Mist Trail.” (But Julian, Nicky’s only five and he went as far as his little legs could take him!)
  • (Nicky) “I was afraid a bear would come into our tent.” (Nicky, it wasn’t a bear, it was only Daddy!)
Posted in Kids, Photography, Yosemite

Night in Yosemite

This is a view from the meadow outside Curry Village in Yosemite. It is looking up at Glacier Point.

It’s a longer exposure than Yosemite Falls at Dusk: Five Minutes (300 seconds) with the lens wide open. Long enough to see the motion of the stars.

I had helped Julian and Nicky brush their teeth, and read them Harry Potter. With a certain amount of nervousness, I had left the kids asleep in our tent at Curry, strapped on my camera pack, tripod, and headlamp, and headed out into the dark.

Each exposure seemed to take forever, particularly since the processing of these long exposure, high noise images took a long time, even after the shutter had closed.

I was torn between wanting to get “just another exposure” to increase the odds of even one exposure coming out, and worry that the kids might not be OK.

In this capture, the light is peculiar, and there are a couple of strange artifacts. The line of lights on the left in the sky was a slow-moving airplane. Glacier Point itself was lit from a number of low-light sources: star light, and once someone’s flashlight.

Then again, there was a good bit of ambient light pollution: bright Yosemite Valley shuttle buses, headlights from passing cars, a fellow night stroller out with a bright lantern, and light from the Curry buildings. Each time a car passed away to the right I did my best to shield the exposing camera from stray light. At the same time, these light sources lit Glacier Point itself with weird colors piercing through the trees.

Packing up, I returned to our tent. Nicky opened his eyes briefly. “Daddy,” he said, “You’re not a bear.” Then I heard his steady breathing.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography, Yosemite

Yosemite Falls at Dusk

This is Upper Yosemite Falls photographed at dusk, basically by star light, from near Sentinel Bridge. I purposely stopped the lens down as far as possible to make the exposure as long as possible, so that the water would hopefully become a solid flow. The final exposure: three minutes (180 seconds) at f/22.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography, Yosemite

Happy Easter

This is a close-up photo of the sexual apparatus of an Easter Lily, Lilium longiflorum. Lilium longiflorum is a bulb native to the Ryukyu Islands of southern Japan.

Unavailable from Japan following Pearl Harbor, the Easter Lily was successfully grown along a narrow strip of coastal Oregon and California. It’s now one of the top selling flowering shrubs in the world following the Poinsetta (which is really more of a weed than a shrub). The bulbs are harvested in the autumn and shipped to florists and nurseries, who must deliver massive quantities of these beautiful flowering plants to customers during the narrow two-week interval leading up to the Easter holiday.

Odd, isn’t it? A bulb native to the islands of Japan, and cultivated along the Pacific coast of the United States, has come to symbolize a religious holiday celebrating events in a land where they didn’t even have this flower.

While the rise of the Easter Lily may represent the triumph of the agri-floral business over any kind of historical authenticity, the Easter Lily is certainly a beauty.

And celebrating beauty is always OK.

So on that note, I wish you a happy Easter!

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography

Rose Studies

As everyone knows, roses are associated with seduction and obsession. As Diana Wells puts it, “the rose represents love, magic, hope, and the mystery of life itself.”

My obsession with roses as a gardener was swift and overwhelming, until my small garden was overwhelmed with more roses than could possibly fit. Today, I find myself as a gardener more excited by flowers such as hellebores, echinacea, and protea from South Africa such as my leucospermum.

Obviously, I am still obsessed with photographing roses. Few flowers can equal the rose for beauty of line and shape, not to mention sumptuous coloration.

These two images are two of the studies from my rose photography marathon this week.

The photo above was stopped down to f/40 for maximum depth of field and then underexposed to bring out the tonal richness in the dark red rose.

On the other hand, I overexposed the rose below to emphasize the transparency of the variegated petals.

Now for something different, as I’m off to Yosemite with Julian and Nicky!

Rose Study 10

View this image larger.

Related link: my Rose set on Flickr.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Shadow of Diablo

From the top of Mt Diablo at sunset, Nick and I saw a very long shadow pointing east into the great central valley of California.

The shadow in this photo is probably aimed at cities like Stockton and Tracy.

Related story: Cloud Bow.

Posted in Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area