I’ve been to San Gregorio beach often enough to know the drill. You walk out on the bluffs two or three hours before sunset and shoot down across the beach towards the sun. The sun is still high enough to be out of the picture, but there is sparkle off the water and beachgoers in silhouette. This attractive combination of subject and lighting occurs only once in … well, actually, it’s every sunny day. Afternoon haze on a recent day added an extra measure of dream-like atmosphere.
The quickshotartist principle is that the most important part of photography is pointing the camera. Here is a photo I took with a pocket camera over the holidays. It’s almost as taken, although I did darken the highlights slightly in Photoshop™. The dusk sky adds interest to the colorful illuminations. I went to the event near sunset to capture the sky effect.
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.
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.
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.
When returning to well known places you are often greeted with something new. Goat Rock Beach, a California coast park, is a surefire photogenic place, but last weekend we encountered the additional floral splendor of fields of cow parsnip on top of all else. So what to do with so much cow parsnip? Closeups of cow parsnip in repose? Cows frolicking amidst their namesake parsnip? One must do one’s best.
A sign points to Butano State Park from Highway 1, on the coast about 50 miles south of San Francisco. The coast there is grassy hills, but the road keeps going inland until you end up in a redwood forest. Redwood forests are wonderful to visit, but a pain to photograph. You can’t get back far enough to show whole trees, so you get photos of a forest of stumps. There is no telling whether they are big or small. One solution is to spoil the purity of the nature scene by including people, paths, and even cars to provide scale.
Iron Horse vineyards is a champagne maker in Sonoma County, two hours drive north of San Francisco. Except that calling California sparkling wine champagne may land you in the World Court charged with a misdemeanor; champagne is strictly French. In any case, Iron Horse is a world-class producer of whatever-it-is, and visiting their facility is a delight for photographers and tasters. My challenge was to get a good photo out of their tasting room window, without spending too much time away from tasting.
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