The Way I See It

Archive for August 2011

dreaming with my eyes wide open, part i

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After shooting and posting Cycle of Life, I found the image so boringly literal that I did another shoot. This time, I chose to only keep a very, very narrow plane in focus, allowing everything else to fade into color and light. I like it, but it’s probably too out-of-focus for some?

dwmewo i

dwmewo, i

Photog Notes
This one is literally straight out of the camera. I overexposed by about ½ a stop to get the brilliant green glow. To light the scene, I used reflected sunlight from a big bay window with sheer white curtains. But, using this kind of lighting also meant that I had to use a long exposure (2 seconds, which is very long for daylight images)  in order to get the proper tones deep inside the leaf. I mounted the camera on my ultra-heavy tripod, composed the image, locked down all the controls, set the shutter on self-timer and made sure everything was kept as still as could be during the exposure, myself included (I have wood floors that would have transmitted some vibration if I had been moving about).

 

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August 30, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Joyful Dance

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Joyful Dance

Joyful Dance

Gorgeous sunny weather today. Not a cloud in the clear blue sky, (late afternoon) temperatures hover around 80°F (26°C) as I type. I made this image on an equally beautiful Pacific Northwest summer day last week. I ended up getting a bit wet, but who can complain on days like today?

Photog Notes
Shoot enough seascapes and you get reasonably good at judging the direction, frequency and size of the incoming waves, the positions and profiles of the rocks at the waterline, and thus the patterns of spray when the waves slap into those rocks. I try to stay away from vertical rock faces, especially when the prevailing wind and tide drive incoming waves headlong into them….because this usually means widespread, unpredictable patterns of flying water. But on this day, all I had to work with was ~30 feet of shoreline and wouldn’t you know it, mostly-vertical rock faces that were taking the brunt of the incoming tide. So I tried as best as I could to hide the camera in the spray shadow of an adjacent rock and judiciously covered the camera while not making exposures.

 

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August 27, 2011 at 5:16 pm

The Blue Angels

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Angel and Albert

Angel and Albert

The Blue Angels were in town recently. I decided to mosey down to the Museum of Flight, where they were based. Tons of people and we only got to see a little bit of the action (the main airshow takes place over Lake Washington), but it was worth it. I enjoyed the speed and the carnival atmosphere. Also, got lots of usable shots, but nothing that really struck my fancy except for these two.

Vapor Trails

Vapor Trails

Photog Notes
Angel and Albert was actually shot through a chain link fence, which I used as a design element (there were just too many people between me and the fence). To isolate the Blue Angel, I used an extremely wide aperture of f/5.6. This made the fence dissolve while pulling the jet out from Fat Albert and the structures in the background.

Vapor Trails was one of many, many in-the-sky images that I made. Since this was my first serious attempt at chronicling the jets, I literally ended up with ~100 images with the Blue Angels glued to a brilliant summer sky. Perfectly in focus, in double formation, triple, quad, quint  and even all six of them. Problem was, I’d done no better than if I’d photoshopped them onto the blue background. Gotta work on the technique more next year.

 

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August 25, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Chengdu Rising

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Beijing and Shanghai are often seen as the symbols of modern China. But Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, impresses me mightily. It is a city on the rise. A metropolis in a hurry to become world class. There is an electric ambition in the air that far outpaces any of the bustle and development that I’ve seen in those other places. If I had to pick a place to live in, I’d be hard-pressed not to pick Chengdu. And the 24 x 7 availability of Sichuanese cuisine doesn’t hurt either  😉

Chengdu Rising

Chengdu Rising

Photog Notes
I made this on the way to lunch in the Chunxi Lu retail district. To me, this image embodies the rise of the new China. Modern, sophisticated, affluent, with a uniquely contemporary Chinese flair that is rooted in traditionalism. Surrounding the couple are symbols of the growing economy, intermingled with vestiges of the old…just like the nation itself.

I shot this with a mid-range focal length of 65 mm to compress things front-to-rear, while using a relatively large aperture (f/8) to isolate the couple. I liked the resulting points of attention, but the harsh midday sun played quite a bit of havoc with the lighting. The shade from the umbrella made things worse, of course. To restore the scene to the way that the human eye sees, I created two subtly different images with respect to exposure, then manually blended the two. I also applied a teeny bit of dodging and burning to further highlight the differences. As always, I welcome your comments!

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August 21, 2011 at 3:04 pm

You Are My Never-Ending Song

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I made this image at sunset on Sunday. Things looked bleak from the house but I decided to head down to the water anyway (because any sunset hour on the beach is a good hour). I got there to find dark clouds obscuring the horizon, except for a break north of where the sun would set. Things were not looking good but as 8:30 approached, brilliant orange light spilled from that gash in the gray, and soon the sky was aglow and the crests of waves took on amazing color. I didn’t feel like setting up the tripod and gear so I decided to work on some handheld interpretive images instead.

你是我一首唱不完的歌

你是我一首唱不完的歌

Photog Notes
To achieve a painterly effect, I exposed this image at ⅓ second while panning the camera parallel to the horizon. To bring out the detail in the waves and mountains, I used a relatively long 105 mm focal length, aperture set to f/38 (to achieve maximum depth of field as well as to allow for the long shutter speed). One key with making images like this is to achieve a smooth sweep while the shutter is open. This accomplish this, I usually start panning before I trip the shutter. As I’m panning, I’m also visualizing the horizon line (remember that the viewfinder is blacked out while the shutter is open) to achieve a level horizon.

 

Late Afternoon Light

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I made this image on my walk up Namsan on our last afternoon in Seoul. I had come to the mountain hoping to catch the twinkling city lights set against the afterglow of sunset, the way it had looked when a friend took us to dinner a couple of evenings before. But it was not to be. The prevailing winds had brought in an extreme haze over the course of the afternoon. Nonetheless, I was not displeased, for there were some interesting tones and silhouettes to gaze upon.

Late Afternoon, Seoul

Late Afternoon, Seoul

Photog Notes
To isolate a portion of the skyline, I used a longish focal length of 170mm. The shutter was tripped at 1/500 second with the aperture set to f/9.5, handheld. As with most of my pics, what you see is basically what I saw; “Fill the Frame” is a personal mantra. This image required very little processing – I only applied a teeny bit of contrast and tone adjustment to punch things up a bit.

 

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August 14, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Twin Tree Tower

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My trip to Seoul was bookended by very different weather: (very) cold and clear, then warm and (very) hazy. While wandering around the Insadong art district on the first day, we came across a pair of fabulous steel and glass structures with beautiful organic lines – the Twin Trees (aka Twin Tree Towers) by local architect Byoung Soo Cho. This is how Gattaca came about.

Gattaca

Gattaca

Photog Notes
The human eye is an amazing organ. It allows us to instantaneously alter focus from close to distant objects; it automatically compensates for extremes in brightness. The electronic eye is not as adept. With this image, the extremes in light levels meant that exposing for the details in the sky made the building a near silhouette. And capturing the beautiful flowing lines of the building made the sky go completely white. To solve the problem, I created two separate layers – one exposed for the sky, the other for the building – then manually blended the two together. A relatively simple solution, once I figured out what was required. 😉

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August 12, 2011 at 11:35 pm

Love Eternal

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Love Etermal I

Love Etermal I

I’ve been to some pretty romantic places in my travels. But on a hill outside downtown Seoul, I witnessed something that I will not forget for a long, long time.

The location is the base of the TV tower on the top of Namsan (South Mountain), overlooking the city. Ancient legend has it that couples who came to the shrine would have their wishes granted. Fast forward several hundred years. The shrine has now been replaced by an elevated lookout platform and here – along its perimeter – run the world-famous cable fences, gaily festooned with thousands upon thousands of apparently abandoned padlocks.

Let me explain. The locks are symbolic – of love and hope and promise – proclaimed in this romantic place; lovers locked to each other forever. Every day, couples show up with shiny padlocks in hand. On these locks (usually festooned with rubber plaques), they pen their hopes and promises to each other. Then they carefully select a location on the wall and it is to this special spot – high above the noise and bustle of one of the world’s largest cities – that they fasten their proclamations of love. Love that is undying, lovers bound together eternally.

Several times during sunset on that evening, I witnessed the earnest scribbling, the careful choosing, and that final, lingering, click. The tenderness and innocence of this unencumbered love etched itself into my being. I came to Namsan fully expecting to document the well-known lock walls. I departed with so much more.

Love Eternal II

Love Eternal II

 

Photog Notes
Patience was the name of the game for this location. I arrived about 45 minutes before sunset; there were so many visitors that it seemed like it was going to be impossible to isolate a special pair. But somehow, I lucked out and during a lull in the stream of bodies, I spied this couple lovingly penning their thoughts. I snapped a few, then moved on. As fate would have it, I managed to catch them again as they secured their lock.

I used a relatively long focal length to make these images. Focusing on their faces and using  a relatively wide aperture allowed me to isolate them, while leaving in enough detail to communicate what exists in the out-of-focus bits. In both images, their backs were to the waning sun. I thus overexposed by ⅔ stops to better illuminate their faces. This turned out to be adequate, but was not really to my liking so I selectively adjusted the exposure a bit more during processing. I also performed a teeny bit of tone mapping to bring out some richness in the sky (it was very, very hazy that day).

 

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August 7, 2011 at 9:18 am

Tianzifang

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Happy Feet

Happy Feet

One my favorite things to do in Shanghai is to sip coffee and browse curiosities and snap photos at Tianzifang, a preserved part of town where modern retail comingles with French Concession-era shikumen housing. Traditionally known as the creative and bohemian center of Shanghai, today’s Tianzifang caters a great deal to the tourist and expat populations. Nonetheless – thanks to conscientious preservation – much of the charm remains, especially when one goes off season and wanders off the beaten path. Here are some images that I made on the last trip. These are dedicated to all of you who help feed my Tianzifang fascination. I hope to see you (there) again soon!

Shanghai Story

Shanghai Story

Night Out

Night Out

 

Photog Notes

Apart from the signage and storefronts, Tianzifang isn’t really all that bright at night. I made these images with the D300 set to 1600 ISO and the Tokina 11-16 wide open at f/2.8.

Happy Feet – The Chinese characters say “Tianzifang 43”. The advertising was “painted” onto the ground by a projector fitted with a mask over the lens. It moved about the courtyard in an elliptical pattern. The EV range in this scene was thus rather large. The camera did a great in capturing the darker detail – something not so apparent until I processed the raw file in Capture NX.

Shanghai Story – This was the image that I had to process the most. The strong directional lighting created highlights in a lot of places that I didn’t like. I ended up doing a lot of burning to minimize them. The mixed incandescent and fluorescent lighting sources also played havoc with the tones on the subject. Her face came out dark, with a fluorescent blue-green tone. I ended up taking care of this by creating a new layer, correcting for her face, and blending that into the rest of the image.

Night Out – Pretty much straight out of camera. To punch things up a teeny bit, added a small amount of contrast.

Written by xinapray

August 2, 2011 at 2:40 pm

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