Tag Archives: travel photography

Big Sur to Santa Cruz: Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz images - low res-5Here’s the wrap up to this string of Central California Coast posts – and it’s in Santa Cruz – where we only spent a few hours but where I probably snapped the most images.  And during that 5 hours – I worked on a few things – including flat, simple compositions – then a bit of trying to capture the “moment” – and then some Lensbaby.

Santa Cruz images - low res-2Bottom line: it was a relaxing evening with the camera.

By this time in the trip – Jim had already left to catch his redeye back to Michigan – and Hugh and I just thought we’d work on some travel-style images on and around the boardwalk.

After we wrapped up in Santa Cruz – it was over the hill to San Jose for dinner at the In-N-Out near the airport – where I had a Double-Double (animal style) with extra produce.  Though next time – I might have to cut out the extra produce – that makes for a mighty tall burger.

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Big Sur to Santa Cruz: Monterey’s Lover’s Point

Lovers Point - low res-2 Now typically – I don’t think I’d spend an entire post on a place like Lover’s Point.  Maybe it’s out of pride – as the name sounds like someplace straight out of Happy Days – or simply because it’s just a little city park on the edge of town.  Either way – I typically wouldn’t even stop – and I’d leave it to the joggers and family picnics.

But – Jim thought it would be a cool stop – and I’m glad we did.

We probably spent no longer than 90 minutes checking it out – and most of the images won’t find their way out of LR – but it was a great little location with all sorts of photo ops.

The top image was simply the Lensbaby – wide open – with no aperture ring (probably my favorite way to shoot it).  The bottom image – well – this gentleman was just sitting on the rocks enjoying the sun – and he was agreeable with me taking his photo.

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Big Sur to Santa Cruz: Shooting Fish in a Barrel

Monterey Aquarium - low res-8 On Tuesday morning – we had a chance to stop in and visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium – which gives a whole new meaning to shooting fish in a barrel.

Bottom line: If you’re in Monterey – try to make the aquarium.

As you might imagine – there’s a lot of photo ops at the Monterey Bay Aquarium – and it seemed like everyone had a camera.  And, yes, it might seem like “cheating” to take photos of fish (and other marine animals) in captivity – but I strongly feel that the bottom line of photography is to capture the imagination of your audience.  Monterey Aquarium - low res-12

And if you’re able to do that – even in an artificial environment like an aquarium – your audience will appreciate it.  And – as it turns out – most any time your camera is getting used – it’s good practice.  If we (photographers) can make compelling images in contrived environments – like zoos and auto shows – I think it goes a long ways in helping us be better in the “real” world – whatever the heck the “real world” is.

OK – I’m stepping off the soapbox now.

And speaking of imagination – I just like the thought of all of these fish looking to Hugh for some food.Monterey Aquarium - low res-11


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Big Sur to Santa Cruz: Driving to Big Sur

Big Sur - low res-4 After Pt Lobos – we simply took HWY 1 south with three goals:  (1) find lunch (2) find tall trees and (3) try to outrun the fog.  Fortunately, we were successful on all 3 accounts.

The drive south was quite nice – and we stopped for the obligatory photo op at the iconic Bixby Bridge (maybe I should have washed the sign first?). After that – the turnouts gave us a look along the stunning California coast – and, after not too much more driving, we pulled into the Big Sur / Pfeiffer State Park.

Big Sur - low res-5 Here – we snapped some photos of redwoods and took a hike to Pfeiffer Falls.  To be honest – my images of the Falls were not that good – and pretty boring – so they’re not included here.  In fact – they may not make the light of day.  Regardless – it was a nice 1.5 mile round trip hike to see them.Big Sur - low res-7

We were going to try and shoot sunset at Pfeiffer Beach – but the wind – blowing sand and salt spray – made it difficult to work.  Had I had a rain cover for the camera – I may have been a bit more adventurous.  Oh, well – maybe next time.  I should probably invest in a few of the inexpensive ones just to stuff in the corner of the camera bag – just for times like that.

And though we really didn’t find a place to settle in for sunset on Monday – it was a pretty full day of shooting.  And we found some pretty good tacos back in Monterey for dinner.

Oddly enough – looking back at the afternoon’s photos – it was a lot of fisheye (yep – the Lensbaby).  I’ve found that sometimes it’s just the right tool to pull in more of the story.

And- yes – that’s Hugh down at the base of those trees shooting straight up.


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Big Sur to Santa Cruz: Asilomar State Beach

Asilomar State Beach-1Last weekend I had the chance to spend about 50 hours with a couple of other guys to talk about photography.  Our backdrop?  Big Sur to Santa Cruz.

The first evening we stayed at the Asilomar Conference Grounds – and as we didn’t meet up until around 7PM – we chose Asilomar State Beach as our evening’s shoot – just walking distance from our room.

(Just a side note – if you ever get the chance to stay at the Asilomar Conference Grounds – do it.  It’s a great location – and conveniently located to Monterey and Big Sur.)

Did I mention the fog?  So – our goal for a California sunset didn’t quite materialize on the first evening.

Asilomar State Beach-2 The top two photos were part of my personal project to work on long exposures.  Both used multiple filters – including a 3-stop neutral density filter (threaded) and a 2-stop graduate neutral density (P-filter).  (The first photo also added a threaded circular polarizer.) The top photo was a 20 sec exposure – and even with the fog – there’s warmth in the image as the sun hadn’t yet set.  The second photo is much cooler in color – as the sun had just dipped below the horizon about 5 minutes earlier.

(A quick note on the colors – standing on the beach – looking out at the crashing waves and the fog – it wasn’t entirely evident that these colors would emerge – but the long exposures really helped to capture some of the more subtle hues.)

Typically – I shoot with a shallow depth of field – with an aperture in the f/2.8 to f/4 range.  Stopping down to f/22 on a prime 24mm – which gave me the chance to smooth out the surf and to have a greater depth of field – also revealed a herd of dust bunnies grazing on the sensor.  Thank goodness for that spot removal tool in Lightroom.

And the last photo?  Just the Lensbaby Fisheye trying to take it all in.

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Hot Air Balloons: 750 ft above the Willamette Valley

After shooting the Northwest Art & Air show – I was pining to get some shots from a balloon.  As it turns out – a friend from work is a hot air balloon pilot –and he offered a ride in his balloon in exchange for some crew hours.

So, on a beautiful September morning, at 6:30AM – we met at Tangent Elementary – the site of the Tangent Harvest Festival – where another 3 or so balloons were launching that morning.hot air balloons - Tangent Harvest Festival 2009-1

First thing – I grabbed some leather gloves – and helped unpack and inflate the balloon.  Then it was about 60 minutes of flight hot air balloons - Tangent Harvest Festival 2009-2– and after landing in a farmer’s field – we packed it all up.  At the brunch following the flight (good food!) – I was treated to the first flight ritual.  I think this practice changes a bit from group-to-group – so I won’t post any spoilers here.

As for the photography – I’ve not had much aerial shooting experience.  My thoughts going in was to look for interesting features, buildings, and patterns.  If later I decided to deviate from the plan – at least I started with a plan.

So, how did I do?  Well – patterns are more difficult to shoot than it sounds.  My warehouse images were pretty boring.  And farm animals – really – how many more farm animal pictures does the world  need?  OK – there’s likely room for a few more – but I’m not sure they’re going to come from my camera.

Bottom line: I need more practice shooting from the air.  hot air balloons - Tangent Harvest Festival 2009-5

As obvious as it may sound – it’s different up there.  Shooting straight down requires  good composition – as it will likely be a “flat” image – without a lot of depth / layers.  Contrast will help tell your story.  Horizon / landscape shots also require care – a mountain is still a mountain regardless if you’re at sea level or 1000 feet up.  What additional interesting element is going to entertain your audience?

Lenses?  Started with the 24mm for launch – but quickly swapped over to the 70-200mm f/4L.  I didn’t put the polarizer on as I wasn’t shooting much sky in my images – though looking back at the session – I’d likely try it if there were a “next time”.

Bottom line 2: If you get the chance to go up in a hot air balloon – and heights don’t concern you – go for it.

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Early Morning Shoot: Downtown Albany, OR

downtown Albany - low res-2 Up on Saturday morning at pre-dawn-thirty for a self mini-assignment: walk around downtown Albany and shoot a few pics – and be home before 9AM.

Note to self: Starbucks doesn’t open until 6AM on Saturdays…downtown Albany - low res-1

A beautiful morning – but it seems that I was just a bit flat – regardless of what I pointed the lens at.   Though – I did like the “cash for clunker” advertising from a downtown dealer – which definitely put a time stamp on the morning’s shoot.downtown Albany - low res-3

Gear?  The 50D and the 70-200mm f/4L.

From top to bottom:  (1) downtown Albany (2) new mural in-progress downtown (3) “cash for clunker” advertising (4) shadow on brick wall.

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Photos from a Window Seat

It’s summer – which implies travel.  And sometimes that travel is on an airplane.  I just thought I’d pass along 10 tips to getting some shots from a commercial flight.window seat-1

  1. Sit in a window seat. Now – this isn’t always within your control – nor is it always the right choice.  But – on short hops – especially over interesting terrain – go for it.
  2. Obey the rules of air travel.  Just count on reading your favorite photography magazine for the first and last few minutes of your flight – unless you’re shooting a film camera with no electronic interface.
  3. Try to avoid the wing in your photo – unless it’s part of your story.  With the perspective– folks will likely know that you’re shooting from the air.window seat-2
  4. Get the camera as close to the window as possible – but try not to bump your lens.  If you have one of those rubber lens hoods – even better.
  5. Every airplane window is – as they say – not optical glass.  Nor are they typically clean.  Just find the best spot possible – and wait for a good shot – e.g. patterns, mountains, cities, …
  6. Set yourself up for depth of field.  Likely f/8 or so.
  7. Turn the flash off.  Just trust me on this.
  8. A circular polarizer, if you have one, could be very useful.
  9. When you get the images – they’ll likely require a bit of clean up (see #5).  My quick fix here is high contrast B&W.
  10. And if you don’t know straight away what cool mountain is in your landscape – the nifty online mapping sites are great tools – especially with their integration of satellite images.

And the shots above?  Alaska Airlines – from San Jose to Portland with the Canon 20D and 24mm lens.  Top image: Mt Shasta.  Bottom image: Mt McLoughlin.

Corvallis Photo Walk

Picture1Scott Kelby’s Second Annual Worldwide Photo Walk will be held on 18 July 2009.  As of the writing of this post – almost 750 locations around the world have registered – and Corvallis is on the list!

The Corvallis Photo Walk will be from 8AM to 10AM – and start near the daVinci Days festival.  From there, we’ll leisurely make our way through town to the Farmers Market – the hub of Saturday morning activity.  I’ll be your walk leader and the rest of the details – with the opportunity to sign up – can be found here.  There’s also a Walker’s FAQ here.

If you don’t happen to be in the Corvallis area – but are interested in participating – check for a location near you.

(And I’ll just apologize now for not getting a photo on the web page.  I’ll add it to my “to do” list.)

If you’re in the area – hope to see you there!

A Day at the Oregon Zoo

zoo low res - may 2009 for blog-4 We took a mid-week trip to the Oregon Zoo – in Portland.   The thinking was something like this:

“Hey, mid-week before school gets out – and the weather is mid-80’s…”

And when we arrived, big yellow buses filled the parking lot.

Oh, well.  At least it was enjoyable to get a day out – and though the place was filled with kids on field trips – it really wasn’t too crowded.

As for the photography – I started with the 70-200mm.  Nice for the animals roaming their enclosures – but not good for setting the scene.  Dang – tough choices…  Finally went to the 24mm – and kept that on for the rest of the day.  Trips like this, photographically, I think, would be easier with a wide-to-mid zoom lens.

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