I photographed this sunflower as part of an ongoing project for a client. To achieve the simple look of this image, I improvised a studio in a sunny room in the house and used a black velvet background. I then manipulated the shades to light just the flower.

[Nikon D300, approximately 100mm in 35mm terms, 4/5 of a second at f/32 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Noise As a Historical Artifact

In my spring release from O’Reilly Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers, I show that image noise can be used creatively. This material is in the ISO and Noise chapter. For example, the noise in this close-up capture of a tiny Lobelia flower is what makes the photo interesting.


View large size. Photoshop Nyet: see my blog entry for backstory information featuring this photo.

However, since I’ve begun playing with my new Nikon D300, my thinking about noise has shifted. It takes a fair amount of effort to get an extremely noise-filled image out of the D300, even at relatively high ISOs. Very long exposures do still create noise in the darker areas. But still, the direction of things is as clear as a noiseless image.

Within the next few years, five or ten at the outside, noise generated by digital sensors will be a thing of the past. If you want noise, you’ll have to Photoshop it in. This will mean that noise will become a visual and historical artifact, like film grain. Perhaps people will even collect digital cameras vintage circa 2006 and 2007 for the ability of their sensors to add “pleasing” levels of sensor noise!

Posted in Photography


Anemones are members of the ranunculus family, and related to the buttercup. Taking a break from my task of working on my new book, Digital Light and Exposure, I couldn’t resist cutting some flowers from the garden, including dahlias and this anemone. With the cut flowers in water, I just had to photograph them. I used natural light in my studio, and classic high depth-of-field macro technique.

Related images: White Anemone, Anemone Japonica.

[85mm macro lens (127.5mm in 35mm terms, 36mm extension tube, 20 seconds at f/64 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Anemones are said to be symbolic of memory, although I think this one looks more like an angel with wings and a burning core than a memory bank. In any case, the flower is apt for the day, 9/11. Few of us will forget the anniversary of an event that transfigured our world, and changed it for the worse. Here’s one of my photos, scanned from a slide, of the New York skyline before the Trade Towers came down.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Slipping into the Future

In a significant way, photography is about time. A photograph freezes action and captures a moment. Looking at photographs we see the past, perhaps our past. Photographs become memories. Unlike the wizard photos in Harry Potter’s world, the people in our photos don’t move around to get our attention. The time slice is static, and the time capture is usually created with shutter speeds that are a small fraction of a second.

Still Standing

View this image larger. Read the back story featuring this image.

When shutter speeds get longer, and are measured in seconds or even minutes, then the capture of time changes. Moving cars become streaks of light and people are featureless blurs (unless they hold really, really still like they did at the beginnings of photography). Water in motion becomes ethereal, like the action of the surf in the photo above and below. The waves crashing on the rocks have been tamed and gentled. The rock and arch almost look like mountain peaks peering through clouds.


View this image larger. Read the back story featuring this image.

In both these pictures, I combined two exposures. Each exposure used the same aperture (f-stop). I used twice as long a shutter speed for the rocks as I did for the surf. I combined the exposures manually in Photoshop using layers, masking, and blending modes. This is not exactly High-Dynamic Range processing, as I explain in Multi-Raw Processing Versus Automated HDR.

The photographic trick is to absolutely and completely not move the camera between the two exposures. A tripod is, of course, required. But absolute camera stillness can be harder than one thinks it will be, particularly when the fierce wind that drives the surf is raging. Even the slightest motion of the camera will show up as a registration problem when you try to combine the layers. A solution can be to anchor your tripod with something heavy (like your camera bag).

Posted in Landscape, Photography, Point Reyes

Nicky’s Graduation

Nicky’s moving on to elementary school Kindergarten after three years of pre-school. He’s been very happy at Step One, and these have been good years for him. But he’s very excited and happy to be graduating, and counting the days until his new school begins.

We’re very proud of Nicky.

It was a bit dark at Nicky’s graduation ceremonies because it was indoors and the kids were in constant motion. I considered using flash, but thought that would be disruptive and inconsiderate. So instead, I boosted the ISO and took advantage of image stabilization to photograph hand held.

[200mm Vibration Reduction lens, 300mm in 35mm equivalent terms, 1/40 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 400, hand held.]

Posted in Kids, Photography

Moon over Bolinas

Returning home after an afternoon hike in Steep Ravine followed by dinner and sunset photography on Stinson Beach, Mark and I stopped beside the road between Stinson Beach and Muir Beach. The crescent moon was headed down into a cloud bank, and I raced the descent of the moon as I assembled my camera and tripod in the dusk. The photograph shows the tip of the Bolinas peninsula and Duxbury Reef gleaming in the moonlight.

[200mm, 300mm in 35mm equivalent terms, 13 seconds at f/5.6 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area

Still Standing

I photographed this arch looking down a cliff on the western side of the Tomales Point peninsula on Point Reyes. Like Adamant, I combined two exposures to fully capture the surf and rock, and to create an effect that’s almost as though the rocks are peaks in a roiling sky.

[50mm, 75mm in 35mm equivalent terms, 3.6 seconds and 8 seconds, both exposures at f/32 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Landscape, Photography, Point Reyes

Cloud Catcher

We hadn’t been to the Albany Waterfront Trail for a while, so Julian and I went exploring. This area was a landfill and dump until it was made into a park. Artists came along and did their transformative thing. Now the bushes are growing back and the trash as well as the art is partly hidden. Julian and I thought this sculpture looked like she was catching clouds.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography

Sea of Drops

Here are a pair of water drop photos, my last for a while.

I’m taking Julian (he’s nine now!) up to the mountains next week, and I expect to be putting water drop and garden photography on hold for a while.

Different Planets

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Posted in Photography, Water Drops

Golden Gate from Middle Earth

The trees are of the ancient Old Forest, but the trail leads to modern-day San Francisco. You can see the Golden Gate small in the distance.

In fact, this photo was taken from Grand View Park above San Francisco’s Sunset district. Part of the thought behind Grand View is to preserve a little bit of the original ecology of San Francisco’s flora.

Posted in Bemusements, Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area


The center of a flower is a wonderful sensuous thing. If I were a bee, I’m sure I would be seduced. (Click here for my Bee’s Eye View set on Flickr.)

This sunflower was double-processed using a layer mask and Paintbrush tool for the flower center versus the petals.

This Venidium fastuosum, known as “Zulu Prince,” shows a wonderful pattern in its center:

Zulu Prince

View this photograph larger.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Two Heads Are Better Than One

Just what are these dragonflies up to? Photographed at Blake Garden by a decorative pool the other day…

Posted in Bemusements, Photography