Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pouring Wine Sideways–Defying Gravity

Craig's Grape Adventure-1

The first photograph in this post is the title photograph from my other blog – Craig’s Grape Adventure.  If you have not visited yet, I encourage you to do so.  On Craig’s Grape Adventure I share my experiences with food, wine, and pairing along with some phenomenal recipes and plenty of food photography.  There are thousands of food blogs, wine blogs, and pairing blogs meandering about the internet galaxy.  Craig’s Grape Adventure is distinct among this large group because each pairing comes with a story, the “why” of the pairing, extensive photography, and I discuss the failures as well as the successes.

Several people have asked that I talk about how I made this shot, so here we go.  The setup was pretty simple.  First I set up a light stand with a crossbar and clam to hold the glass upside down as shown in the next photograph.  I used a large white reflector as the background which also served to bounce light back through the glass and pouring wine.  I used an Elinchrom 250 light (modeling light and strobe) at the 8 o’clock position with a bounce off the rear reflector and a second reflector at the 4 o’clock position.  The light was triggered wirelessly using the Elinchrom wireless system.


I used a Canon 24-70 f/2.8L mounted on my Canon 5D which was all mounted on a tripod and triggered using a cable release.  The cable release is an important part of this setup because this was a one man operation.  In other words I had to make the pour and take the shot at the same time…left hand operating the camera, right hand pouring.  The next shot shows that my coordination was further challenged by having to accurately aim and land the pour into a pot (rather than deal with a big mess).  For all you wine lovers, don’t worry, no wine was sacrificed in the making of this photograph.  I used water.

Pouring Wine Setup-1

The final challenge to this shot was capturing an “interesting” stream of water.  Every time I poured, the stream looked a bit different.  The result is that I took a bunch of shots then settled on the exposure I liked the best.

Finally, in post processing I rotated the image 90 degrees, cropped to capture the relevant parts, and hiked up the highlights to washout the background. Voila!  Overall this was a fun and creative exercise.  Now my mind wanders to “what else can I do with spilling wine?”

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Tall Ship on the Potomac

Tall Ship on the Potomac

I arrived yesterday at our humble crab shack on the Potomac river to begin a lengthened holiday weekend.  Shortly after arriving, I looked out through the haze to the yet cool waters of the Potomac to see a tall ship sailing under power toward the Chesapeake bay.

Tall Ship on the Potomac-1

With the haze and excessive humidity, I knew a nice sharp shot would be impossible.  Even had I been able to shoot the ship crisply, the haze coupled with the complete overcast left very little texture to add drama to the photo.  Given these limitations, I decided quickly to go with minimalist approach.  With a sky that amounted to a huge soft box, I decided to use this negative space to draw attention to the subject. 

I find the photos appealing because of the simplicity, the clarity of subject identification, composition (giving room in front of the ship for movement, and including only a slice of the water/horizon), and that the photo does not provide too much information (lots of room for viewer interpretation or questioning).  However, I will admit that I may be approaching or possibly falling over the minimalist precipice.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Muir Woods in Black and White, and a Wrap up of Northern California

Muir Woods Black and White

Since my wonderful trip to Northern California in January, I have posted a number of articles featuring the photography from this visit.  Sadly we have come to the end of the line – at least until I visit again.  The photography featured in this post comes from Muir woods.

Muir Woods Black and White-1

Before talking about Muir woods, Here are links to the previous posts from San Francisco, and north to Point Arenas, Sonoma Valley and Napa.

California Wine Country in the Fog

Northern California Seascapes

California Cows are Happy Cows

California’s Golden Gate Bridge

Muir Woods Black and White-2

If you are displaced Northern Californian, I hope these posts satisfy your need for familiar and beautiful scenes from the bay area.

Muir Woods Black and White-3

We took a very invigorating hike through Muir woods – about 5 hours of hiking which seemed to be up hill every step of the way.  The enormity of these redwoods is difficult to describe or even capture in the photography.  Sure, people benches and other objects provide a certain sense of scale, but even so, they do not convey the majesty of this beautiful park.

Muir Woods Black and White-4

Muir Woods National Monument was established by proclamation of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. Consisting of 295 acres, Muir Woods becomes the 7th National Monument, and the first created from land donated by a private individual.  The Monument is named after naturalist John Muir, whose environmental campaigns helped to establish the national park system.

Muir Woods Black and White-5

Aside from the massive scale of these trees, one of the very interesting things you notice early on in your trek is the fire scaring on many of the trees.  In some cases, the fire has actually hollowed out “caves” in the base of the tree – many large enough to walk into.  What makes this even more interesting is that although this scaring looks fresh, the last forest fire that occurred in Muir Woods was over 160 years ago.

Muir Woods Black and White-6

The average age of these tremendous trees is between 500 and 800 years.  However, these are just youngsters in comparison with the elders estimated at over 1,200 years old.  These old redwoods can stretch as high as nearly 400 feet.  The tallest tree in Muir woods is considered a runt at 258 feet.  But trust me, when you are standing at the foot of these giants, I dare you to distinguish a 300 foot tree from a 400 foot tree.

Muir Woods Black and White-7

If you have the opportunity to visit Muir Woods, you will not be disappointed.  The views are spectacular and unforgettable.  The trails in the park are reasonably well marked and well maintained.  The layout of the park is well suited for a casual stroll or other more ambitious options.  If you want a little burn in your glut’s, Muir Woods can help.

Muir Woods Black and White-9

The last two photos are here to help provide a sense of scale.  As you consider these two shots, keep in mind that these are the “babies” running along a ridge line.  The elders are down in the valley and simply dwarf these infants in both girth and height.

Muir Woods Black and White-10

Thanks for joining  my tour through a small and beautiful slice of Northern California.

Have fun and go make some great photography


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Golden Gate Bridge–Black and White Part II

Golden Gate Bridge Black and White

Iconic subjects such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, are photographed daily by hundreds, if not thousands of people each day.  That might deter an experienced photographer – why bother?  Well, it did not deter me.  So what if everyone in the world has shot the Golden Gate on everything from a iPhone to a large format camera?  While not likely unique, these views of the Golden Gate are my interpretation, and I enjoyed the process.

Golden Gate Bridge Black and White-2

On the other hand, knowing that the Golden Gate Bridge has been shot to death, I knew I did not want to take a “normal” approach.  To achieve something at least somewhat unique, I decided to mimic a 6 x 6 medium format, black and white using a DSLR.  In other words, I composed the shot with the intention of cropping to a square format, and post processing as black and white.  To further mimic the medium format, all the photographs are three shot HDR.

Golden Gate Bridge Black and White-3

The last two photographs are very similar, but I liked them both for different reasons and decided to include them both for the simple reason of indecision.  I will let you be the judge.

Have fun and go make some great photography.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Minimalist Photography–Checkout John A Downey Photography II

This Way

If you type “minimalism” in the handy search bar at the upper left corner of this page, you will find that for some time I have been exploring the idea of minimalist photography.  Different people have different views of what this means.  For me, I am happy to continue exploring it and defining it on my terms.  In other words, I am experimenting to define what minimalism in photography means to me along with what works, and what does not work.

Walking in the Fog

Extremely helpful to this exploration are my conversations with good friend and fellow photographer John Downey (John A Downey II Photography).  John recently posted a couple of articles featuring some excellent minimalist photography:

You Go Your Way

I refer you to John’s work for several reasons.  If you are exploring any particular form of photography, there are a few things that can be very helpful:

  1. Look at work of people who are doing similar work; it can help you refine your preferences as well as provide inspiration.
  2. Discuss with a friend – critique and refinement of your approach through dialogue (i.e. my discussions with John) with a good friend can be revealing and very helpful.
  3. Shoot – shoot a lot – then take some time to think about it with a friend.  Collaboration is fun!
  4. Take your time – you are not in a race to define your style or approach.  I know John agrees with me on this; it is all about the process of getting there, not the destination.

I am confident you will see and hear more about my exploration of minimalism.  Stand by for more fun.

Have fun and go make some great photography,


Friday, May 20, 2011

San Francisco Fishing Boats–Details

Boats at Fishermans Wharf San Francisco-9

This will be my final post featuring the San Francisco waterfront and I thought to turn it into an explanation of my approach to photographing a place I am visiting.  In one sense, you could view this as part of my approach for creativity.

The recent photography of the San Francisco fishing fleet and Fisherman’s Wharf were generally wide angle or landscape type photographs.  Those featured here are more detailed photographs – filling the frame with the details of the fishing boats and gear.  This represents part of my approach to improving my creativity.

Boats at Fishermans Wharf San Francisco-5

More specifically here is part of my routine:

  1. Shoot what I’m looking at – generally wide angle
  2. Get closer and shoot details – fill the frame
  3. Get even closer and shoot smaller details
  4. Find a high angle and shoot down
  5. Find a low angle and shoot up
  6. Turn around and look at what is behind me
  7. Wait – photography is often about patience – give your eye time to see something interesting

Boats at Fishermans Wharf San Francisco-6

This may seem simplistic, but when this is part of your process of shooting, new and interesting compositions will present themselves.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, at Sunrise

Boats at Fishermans Wharf San Francisco-12

Like many of the other San Francisco Photos I have posted in this series, the photographs for today were taken at sunrise.  The light was perfect and therefore the colors were just amazing.  Those of you who have been reading my blog for sometime are well aware of my bias toward black and white.  However the brilliant colors in these shots were too compelling to ignore.

Boats at Fishermans Wharf San Francisco-11

All of the photographs here are three shot HDR images.  In part, this explains the vivid color.  But trust me when I tell you that the native settings in Photomatix Pro (HDR processing software), the colors were so intense they were not only hyper-real, but overwhelming.  When processing these photographs, I backed off the saturation in Photomatix Pro, and then again in Lightroom.

Boats at Fishermans Wharf San Francisco-13

Hopefully, I am convincing you that shooting at dawn (or dusk) is a creative gift.

Have fun and go make some great photography.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Alcatraz at Sunrise


Continuing the series of photographs from San Francisco, I selected this view of Alcatraz.  I find this photograph appealing because the composition moves it in the direction of minimalism.  In other words, the subject (the island and buildings of Alcatraz) are prominent, yet somewhat muted.  The composition is dominated by negative space – the pink hues of a morning sky.

In composing this photograph, I felt it was important to leave a sliver of the San Francisco Bay waters to provide context for Alcatraz.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Friday, May 13, 2011

San Francisco Fishing Fleet at Sunrise

Boats at Fishermans Wharf San Francisco

The hour or so surrounding sunrise is my favorite time to shoot.  The light is magical, and sometimes the world makes a truly painterly impression.  These photographs of the San Francisco fishing fleet are a great example.

Boats at Fishermans Wharf San Francisco-1

These shots were taken just after sunrise.  With the sun low on the horizon, the light is softer, and the colors otherworldly.  The pastel hues of these photograph mimic the cotton candy vendor at the county fair.  Although these are both HDR shots, I did not intentionally alter the colors and what you see is pretty close to what I remember.

The next time you get a chance, get a cup of coffee, take a stroll at sunrise, and be ready for pleasant surprises.

Have fun and go make some great photography.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

San Francisco Street Car Diptych

San Fancisco Trolley

Every once in a while I am surprised by my photography.  Don’t get excited, these are not the words of an overblown ego.  The real meaning behind these words is that once in a while I am pleasantly surprised by seeing something during post processing that was not my intent when the shot was taken.

While processing some shot from a trip to San Francisco in January, I saw the two photographs (below) and instantly saw they belonged as a diptych.  This was not my intention when I was shooting the street cars parked along Fisherman’s Wharf, and therefore my pleasant surprise.

San Francisco Trolley Diptych Small

My take away from this is to be open to pleasant surprises.  Just because I did not plan a shot, does not mean it is a throw away.

Have fun and go make some great photography.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Scenes from the Newseum–Osama Bin Ladin is Dead

Osama Bin Ladin is Dead - People at the Newseum-13

While out on a photo walk around DC, John Downey (please visit John Andrew Downey II Photography to see his fantastic work) and I passed by the Newseum.  We ended up hanging around the Newseum for about 45 minutes photographing the people reading the front pages of newspapers from around the country announcing the JSOC success in killing Osama Bin Ladin.

I will let the photographs tell the story without my commentary.

Osama Bin Ladin is Dead - People at the Newseum-11

Osama Bin Ladin is Dead - People at the Newseum-10

Osama Bin Ladin is Dead - People at the Newseum-8

Osama Bin Ladin is Dead - People at the Newseum-7

Osama Bin Ladin is Dead - People at the Newseum-6

Osama Bin Ladin is Dead - People at the Newseum-3

Have fun and go make some great photography.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Golden Gate Bridge–Black and White

Golden Gate Black and White

I am doing my best to live up to my commitment to improve on the time between taking a photo and processing it.  At times during the last year, I have been behind by as much as a full year.  This photo comes from the last of the collection of photographs taken in California during a visit in January.  Only four months behind…not so bad.

One benefit of not processing my photos immediately is that once separated in time and/or space from the original photograph, I am more capable of looking at the photograph more critically, and less emotionally.  Even making a first pass of processing then returning to finish in a week or two can improve my ability to produce a better photograph.

Have fun and go make some great photography.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spring Flowers on Capitol Hill, Washington DC

In my last post “Spring Flowers at the U.S. Capitol Building” I talked about my new lens and showed the fruit of this new lens by featuring some photographs of flowers at the U.S. Capitol Building.  As promised, I am back with some more photographs from the same walk around Capitol Hill.  Again, the subject is flowers.  I was having some difficulty in narrowing the field for this group of photographs.  So rather than expend a great deal of energy making those decision, I decided to make a short slide show that makes it easy to include a number of photos, and easy for you as well.  I hope you enjoy.

Spring Flowers on Capitol Hill

Have fun and go make some great photography.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Minimalism–Foggy Field at Point Arenas California

Foggy Field at Point Arenas

A common approach I have seen among photographers that are attracted to landscape minimalism can be demonstrated with this photograph of a foggy field adjacent to Point Arenas California.  Here are the characteristics I have seen as most common:

  1. A somewhat strong foreground that serves as an anchor, but has no real focal point.
  2. A distinct, yet not bold subject.  In this case, the trees on the bottom 1/3 line along with the cliff edges toward the right on the lower 1/3 line.
  3. Layered background.  Notice how the ground, trees, cliffs, and distant trees form layers that are highlighted or distinguished by the luminous fog.
  4. Empty (or negative) space – in this case the sky beginning just below the midpoint and extending through the top of the photograph.

I am not proposing this as a formula, but just a recognition of common patterns I have observed.

Have fun and go make some great photography.