It’s so easy to be impressed with the brilliant flowers in Hawaii that the tropical foliage is overlooked. Flowers usually stand as individual subjects while foliage forms patterns. Foliage patterns call for close cropping to remove distracting surroundings. Usually there is no need for elaborate processing of the images, but sometimes posterization can be used to strengthen the patterns.
A jack-o’-lantern is a carved pumpkin. It is associated chiefly with the holiday of Halloween, and was named after the phenomenon of strange light flickering over peat bogs, called ignis fatuus or jack-o’-lantern. Thanks, Wikipedia. The difficult part, after carving them, that is, is getting the exposure right in the inevitable photographs. Too little and only the cutout face appears. Too much room light and the internal illumination is lost. The trick is to get close and check the results on the camera’s LCD display.
Point Lobos is one of the world’s beautiful places, and every visit has photo opportunities. There is one spot where low tide reveals rock strata with tide pools, ideal for closeups. I was tired from lugging around an SLR with a lens assortment, and acquainted with the old-guy-on-slippery-rocks-while-balancing-equipment problem, I walked around with just my pocket camera. That works great for closeups because the camera focuses very close and is easy to hold with one hand. A shot of the general scene proved irresistible, and that led to some Adobe Photoshop™ retouching of original images that could have been better.
When summer is fading there are days that still look more like summer than autumn. The leaves haven’t started to change. Nonetheless, the cloud patterns change, the sun is lower, and air feels sharper. I like this photo because it captures some of the change-of-season, even though the subject is more snapshot than classic. Some work in Photoshop™ helps.
Photaf™ is an app for Android smart phones that automates taking and sharing panoramic photos. It has an automatic mode that uses the phone’s compass to guide positioning the camera to take overlapping images, and the shutter is clicked automatically in each new position. The stitched panorama can then be uploaded to the Photaf site, e-mailed, or shared on facebook. It does all the basics well, and panoramic snapshots are more fun than ordinary snapshots. Squeezing the best quality from Photaf requires some care, as we will discuss.
San Gregorio Beach, California, taken with Photaf on a Droid X
A higher resolution version is here. It’s the default resolution for e-mailing images.
Filoli in Woodside, California, comprises an historic mansion and acres of gardens, meticulously cared for by upwards of a thousand volunteers plus some permanent staff. Photographers know they are guaranteed seasonal garden scenes. Earlier this year I posted pictures of the lilacs in Filoli. Recently we were running an errand and decided to drop by for the summer views. This precipitated a near crisis, because I had forgotten to bring my camera. I know that’s unforgivable, but unforgivable things happen sometimes. I came close to having to enjoy the scenery entirely without photographic aid. Then remembered I had my older pocket camera, a Canon A570IS in the car.
Cameras built into cellphones have improved substantially. My Droid X phone captures 8 megapixel images through it’s tiny lens. Since I almost always carry a pocket camera I haven’t used the cellphone camera very much, but recently I decided to give it a try. One advantage of the cellphone camera is that the pictures can be sent out as e-mail directly from the spot where you took the picture. We’ve all seen the blurry products of those attempts, but it seems the problem is not always with the camera. In good light, they can take respectable pictures.
I like to photograph flowers in a natural setting to preserve the feeling that the flower is part of nature, rather than extracted as part of a bouquet. The problem is that the background can be confusing, so much so it’s hard to identify the subject. Recently I brought along some black background material to experiment with isolating flowers. Perhaps predictably, the photos are more dramatic and, yes, less natural.
My wife wonders why I keep take photos when we revisit places we have been to many times. I do have a certain number of photos that an insensitive person might claim are essentially the same.. However, many things change: the lighting, the clouds, the wind and fog, the seasons, the tides and the surf, the people, and human constructions. As you get old, you even start to notice the trees have grown and some have died and gone away, and the dunes shift and cliffs erode. And there are changing animals, birds, and plants. A case in point, recently, was a display of seaweed at Point Lobos.
For those of you too young to know about film, let me tell you it’s nasty, and you should stay away from it. Some of us, however, have images captured on film that are worthy cleaning up for the digital age. Here we’ll deal with the three most common problems: dust, color shifts, and grain. It’s painstaking work, but those old photos can’t be replaced, and modern digital tools help a lot.
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