In honor of Apple’s latest operating system announcement, OS X Yosemite (which, if you know me, that word alone gets me excited) I figured I’d rehash some of my images from my Yosemite adventures last year. In case you don’t want to (or can’t) wait until the fall for the official release, after the 'read more' break below, you'll find a few of my favorites optimized for your desktop backgrounds, and below those are the iPhone-optimized versions. To save them, just right click and choose ‘Save Link As...’Read More
In a word: frickin' brilliant!
Ok, that was two words. Well, one real word and one, eh…you get the point.
It was a common frustration for DSLR shooters such as myself that the only means of checking for focus and composition is on the LCD screen on the back of the camera, at least until you get home and look at them on your computer and then want to shoot your computer in the face because that critical point was actually in soft focus!
Sure, that's a huge step up from no screens at all and having to wait to get the prints back from a lab hours, or even days, after, but still, this is 2013, and we're demanding madness, so Eye-Fi has delivered, well, madness (optimized for mobile of course).
So I was recently sent to photograph some rental cabins on property in the National Forest bordering Yosemite, and I've been reading and hearing so much about this bugger that I figured it was finally time to make an upgrade to my camera bag that I can afford. Their new Mobi card was right within that budget. 50 smackeroos.
Best thing ever. Well, that and tacos.
For those of you that are unfamiliar with the basics of what it is and what it does, the Eye-Fi is an SD memory card for you camera. The magic in it rests in what else it contains - wi-fi, effectively turning it into an adhoc wifi network between your camera and your mobile device, be it a smartphone or a tablet.
Why? Well, when you snap a photo, it automatically send the jpg version to your mobile device. GONE are the days of the 2 inch LCD monitor and RUE THE DAYS of excitedly uploading your recent batch of photos only to realize the BOOM one wasn't in focus. Now, you can immediately, no matter where you are, use your mobile device as the viewer screen for your shot as soon as you take it. Not only that, but if you feel so inclined, you can now immediately Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/smoke signal your DSLR images from your device as if you shot them on your phone...
For my process, I set the Nikon D7000's LCD screen to show just the histogram, and then used my iPhone as the viewer screen to check for critical focus and composition. It took me 5 minutes to set up in a taqueria parking lot, and now it never leaves slot 2 in my camera. While the Mobi is designed for mobile use, if you'd like a version where the RAW images can be sent directly to your computer as well, they have the ProX2 version that covers that base!!
The one thing that took me a minute to figure out was that I shoot in RAW in order to post-process later in Lightroom and/or Photoshop, so wasn't sure how that would work, but a quick Google search gave me the 'duh!' answer to shoot RAW+JPG. Then it beams the jpgs to your device, and you have your RAWs for later. The Nikon D7000 conveniently has two slots, so I set it to shoot RAW to slot 1, and JPG to slot 2, and that was that.
And the slideshow below is a selection of what happened.
For the full blog posts on my escapades in the Sierras (less fan-boy, more gushy), start here with part 1:
Now go and get your Eye-Fi card by clicking here.
And tonight…I write by candlelight…
So yeah, the power on the trailer went out so I'm left with a few candles and just enough charge to offload today's photos and jot down today's haps, so, again, I'll try to keep it as short and sweet as I can and hopefully let some of the images do the talking…
I must say, waking up to a symphony of birds singing, mist evaporating, and the soft golden sunlight beaming through decades old redwoods, bouncing poetically across wildflowers outside your window…does. not. suck.Read More
The stillness is a tad unnerving at first…but then the fact that there is absolutely no noise coming from anything other than the keyboard and an occasional distant howl, the source of which I've yet to determine, begins to quickly become soothing. Once your brain gets past the fact that you've decided, on your own will, to drive through the central valley during one of the most scorching heat waves we've seen in these parts (I watched my car thermometer climb from 103 and end up at 109 before finally beginning to gain elevation after passing through Oakhurst and winding my way up to the Far Meadow on tires that should have been changed 5000 miles ago), and you catch sight of the foothills of the High Sierras, and you start heading in their direction…everything begins to fall into place.Read More
So had a house I had to shoot this week for Airbnb. It was actually the second of two units on a property I shot before, but I hadn't seen the second unit as it was occupied that first time. Anyway, not important…so after I was done shooting the interior, I figured, no one was here, I was going to take advantage of the moment and just kind of chill for a minute. When you're standing on a deck with nothing in front of you but a gorgeous canyon that opens up to the Pacific Ocean (see image at bottom of this post), it's hard not to force yourself to take a break and soak it in. So as I sat down and took a few gulps of my warm ice tea that had been sitting the car since I showed up, I saw this ridiculously quaint and charming little candle holder with a pile of little rocks alongside it, being draped PERFECTLY by a grapevine. And when I mean, perfectly, it's as if it was staged. For some reason, my imagination took me to the Mediterranean coast, perhaps Spain, maybe Italy, I don't know, but my wanderlust got the best of me and I started snapping a few shots of it as if I was actually on that coast. So when I got home and started processing, I began doing what I normally do…Lightroom…Develop pane…etc…and I just wasn't feeling it. None of it. To top it all off, my favorite shot as far as composition wasn't exactly exposed too well. But I figured, let's see what we can do with it anyway…let's hit the 'reset' button.
First step..grab a glass of scotch and a chunk of smoked gruyere cheese (hot damn, if you haven't had smoked gruyere cheese…you haven't had cheese!).
Second step…lean back a bit and let's look at this from a different set of eyes.
Third step…NO! Not a different set of eyes…let's look at it exactly with the eyes that I was looking at it with when I snapped the shot…my imagination.
Fourth step…refill scotch.
Fifth step…get crazy.
And what you see up above here is what came of the madness.
Yeah, it has a lot of filters, yeah, it's super processed, and yeah, I added a flame! But I had to remind myself that it's okay!
So my favorite composition of the thing was one of the poorer exposed shots. So I felt the need to do something to 'cover up' what otherwise would have been a throwaway. But that's only one way of looking at it...
The other way is that, if I processed it the way I normally do with my normal workflow, then perhaps it wouldn't have worked, and if it did, I would have had a decent image, but not the image that was in my mind as I was taking that picture. It took me having to find a way to 'cover up' a poorly exposed photograph to tap into the creative side of me and find a way to get closer to that visual I was envisioning as I was shooting it.
I guess my lesson here is to not be afraid and not really give a mouse fart about what anyone might think or what any purist might criticize. I get so wrapped up in what's 'right' and what's 'proper,' I often forget that, well, there's really no such thing in art.
I suppose certain things do happen for certain reasons. This time something happened to remind me not to take things too seriously and to do what got me so passionate about photography to begin with…have fun.
And c'mon...you have to admit, that final version of the image above is kinda Mediterraneany...
Just another small reminder that patience, adaptation, and going-with-the-flow can pay off. Finished a gig yesterday and turned to get on the freeway to get home. It was packed. Nothing but an endless sea of red brake lights. My only other option was to add an extra 15 miles to my trip by driving through the hills on a side road that runs parallel to the freeway. So I said screw it…that's what I'm doing. Would rather look at the hills than a million other cars on the 101. Not only that, but the sun was getting ready to drop behind the mountains…and that's enough to turn on any photographer.
So there I go, drove past the freeway entrance and into the hills. As soon as I was out of sight of the freeway madness, the initial frustration of adding time and distance to my drive home melted away…immediately! And when I say immediately, I mean IMMEDIATELY - I went from frustrated and tense, to calm and relaxed in significantly less than an instant. Told myself that I had to somehow document the day and moment with an image to remind me of that mental transformation and how powerful a simple trigger can be to the mind.
So with that...this is what I found just as the sun was getting ready to drop behind the hill. I know it's nothing special, and hell, I don't know what Fox Creek Farms even does, but the lighting, the fence, and the situation made it seductively charming to me. And taking that picture made me smile. And standing outside in that sunlight made me smile. And quite honestly, that's what this photography thing is to me - a reliable impetus to get in a good headspace, no matter what's going on outside that viewfinder. Sometimes it's the process, and not the image, that's important.
Plus, sure as hell beats sitting in traffic.
So this is a short and sweet one, but every now and then it's nice to see things like this…I suppose it's a bit of a validation that perhaps, finally, I'm on the right track. To have two of my images used on a billboard and a label is pretty satisfying encouragement to keep going with this thing. It's a damn good feeling to know that others are appreciating what you do.
Anyway, so I know a few weeks back I brought up that the two beef jerky companies reached out to use some of my images for various purposes…the local gluten-free jerky company, Topanga's Finest Jerky, and then there was Oh Oberto. Well, worked out a deal with Topanga's Finest and here's a version of the label below. Crazy stuff!
And the billboard…that was interesting…it's in Scotland of all places, surrounding a town of about 40,000. Yeah, I know…it's for a church…but still, it's pretty neat to see one of my images on a BILLBOARD.
[Update: 01.22.14: Topanga's Finest Beef Jerky is now available, and the label has been finalized! Click here for more madness!]
One, he's the MAN! I learn more from a one day session with him than I can on my own in months. He simplifies things so much to the point where you start asking yourself, why the hell did I ever think that was complicated to begin with? I had a great experience at his Photoshop seminar last Winter, was hoping for the same with this one, and I got it.
Two, WHY DIDN'T THE METRO RAIL EXIST WHEN I LIVED IN LOS ANGELES!???? Damn…parked my car in Culver City, made it down to the Convention Center in 20 minutes on the train, and just as easy on the way out. No traffic, no rush hour, no gas, no driving, no cell phone ticket, no 20 dollar parking, no hassle. Frickin' insane. Right in my stomping grounds…L.A. almost felt like a (gasp!) real city!
Anyhow, after spending 8 hours in the workshop and trying to absorb as much as I could, I figured I'd try out some of the new techniques the next day. Had an opportunity to grab a Nikon 18-200 for SUPER cheap from someone in San Diego that didn't know what they were doing, so had my cousin pick it up, who lives down there, and figured I'd make the journey down on Saturday to pick it up, hang with the family a bit, and play with the new bugger. Love it!!!! And as if that wasn't enough, my cousin's husband is a working professional photographer, so he was able to provide me with many inspirational and valuable tips as well.
So here's a bit of what happened around the cousin's Lakeside property using a mix of Scott Kelby techniques/ideas and my cousin's husband's wisdom, all rolled up into one neat new remove-everything-else-from-my-camera-bag lens, the Nikon 18-200 VR.
So I'm kind of hyped. The new episode of one of my favorite photography podcasts was released today, and every week they choose a few photo posts from their Google Plus community and talk about and critique the photos. This week, they chose one of mine, the second time that's happened, and I couldn't be happier about which one…it's the oak tree from the earlier post about Malibu Creek State Park and the borer that's threatening California's oaks. Any attention I can bring to that I'm happy about…it would be an incredible tragedy if we lose those iconic oaks. Anyhow, check out the podcast, it's called Digital Photo Experience (http://dpexperience.com) and it's hosted by two extremely well-respected names in the photography industry, Rick Sammon and Juan Pons. If you download it, I highly recommend listening to it all, it's the April 1 episode, but if you just want to skip to the photo critiques, they start with mine at the 1:02:45 mark.
So spent Easter with the family. Was really nice. We don't get together all that often, and decided this time we'd take a day trip and just kinda cruise around. Headed to Idyllwild up in the Anza Borega Mountains (I think…), had some coffee and beef jerky (don't ask…my love for the stuff got revived in Yosemite earlier in the month), then headed through the mountain range along the Pines to Palms Highway just south of Mount San Jacinto. After a crazy Jurassic landscape drive through mad boulders and twisty madness along the Pines to Palms Highway , it threw us out into Palm Desert, where we continued into Palm Springs and ended up at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.
We got to the ticket center and all of us were deciding whether or not it was worth the 21 bucks each to ride the thing. We've never even heard of it, but apparently it's been around since 1963, some crazy rich guy's dream and he made it happen. I figured if we were to look back on this day in 10 years, this would probably be the thing that we'd remember, so when I said that, everyone agreed. Let's do this thing. A rotating aerial tram that climbs up about 6000 feet in less than ten minutes up through the craggy rocky prometheus looking mountain to the peak of San Jacinto Mountain, overlooking the entire Coachella and Palm Springs Valley from the peak of a snowy mountain top. Had dinner, watched the sunset, snapped a couple of photos, including the one you see in this post, and headed back down. Easter with the family was a success. And discovering this aerial tram thing was a heck of a bonus. Well worth it and will definitely be back.
And I think I may have had a bit of a photographic breakthrough on this one…while we were driving through that valley, it was some of the most beautiful landscape I've seen in Southern California…like a time machine into old ranches and half lit trees and mountain tops and crazy cloud formations…usually, I'd be pulling over every half mile snapping away like a madman, and still filled with anxiety that I'm not getting anything. But not this time. The folks even said, if I wanted to stop at any point, let them know, but something inside of me was telling me that I didn't need to snap everything I saw, sometimes I'm allowed to just sit back and enjoy and appreciate it. This time, I just wanted to appreciate it the same way the rest of my family was appreciating it.
The other thing was, I like to think it's my confidence building as a photographer, but I figured that no matter where I ended up, I'd find something that I can make a photograph out of. I didn't have to think about the shots I was 'missing,' and was more focused on being in the moment…and then when I had an opportunity, I can think about the shots that I was getting. Sometimes it's just nice to just be. This was one of those times.
Anyway, in the midst of this post is the crazy Pines to Palms Highway road, and at the top and bottom of this post were the views from the top.
So after all that, they didn't even remember to have us present our projects...but that didn't stop me from moving with it. Not because I felt I needed to prove anything but because I truly want to do what I can to help out the park system. Budget woes are apparent all over, but that's driving the passion of the volunteers, myself included, to make sure people are aware of the parks and these public spaces. They're frickin' insanely beautiful and they've basically saved my sanity and I know that anyone that shows up will feel the same. It just does that. So I created a Google Plus page for the Malibu Creek State Park Docent program, started posting to it, and plan on getting it going. So if anyone's reading this and is on Google Plus, add us to your circles. If you're not on Google Plus, well, you should be…just sayin'.
Also began the process of making some prints of some of those shots that I posted in the gallery on that Google Plus page that I can present at the visitor center on the park grounds to help bring up to date some of the shots hanging in there now.
While you ought consider yourselves warned…there are plenty more Yosemite shots coming, in the spirit of the first week of spring, I'll break from those for my Spring 2013 shot. Solstice Canyon, California. There's a reason it's an oak tree…and that reason comes from something disheartening that I learned last weekend at the interpretation…apparently, not only are the budget woes getting worse for the park system, but now there's a non-native pest that is threatening to literally take out all of California's oak trees, and it's no joke. The Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer. This thing has already started attacking trees around California, including an iconic oak at the Huntington Library Gardens grounds, and is causing sequestration of a lot of these infected trees.
Anyway, ok, enough of the hippie me for now. Hope you enjoy the shot…
It's strange how my life has turned into a series of photo taking and processing. Sure, not getting paid for all of it, so can't really call myself a true professional, but all of my income is coming from this stuff, which is actually kind of…eh…neat. For the first time in my life, I'm actually feeling like I'm doing something I'm supposed to be doing. 36 hot damn years old and now I'm figuring this out?
Anyway, woke up with the intention of spending all day today working on editing the Megan Racing videos and processing those photographs so I can get a paycheck before rent-time creeps up in a hurry, but remembered that my docent project is due tomorrow at the final interpretation I'm required to go to as a new Malibu Creek State Park docent.
Yeah, started the process over a year ago as a means of staying outdoors and being involved in the California Park system after my attempts at becoming a park ranger two years ago were thwarted by…well…a story we'll get into at a later date, but as part of my requirement, I was supposed to create a project for myself to help better the park and docent program and I had a year to create it and am supposed to present it tomorrow at the Spring Interpretation.
Well, I tasked myself with the project of taking new fresh photos that we can present in the Visitor Center and creating a Google Plus page to help bring the docent system into the internet age to help attract a fresh crop of park-goers and outdoor enthusiasts. Unfortunately, it wasn't until I woke up this morning that I remembered this was due tomorrow. I spent an hour trying to convince myself that it wasn't, even though I knew it was, and so replaced my train of thought from trying to think of excuses, to getting at it.
Luckily, I have spent a lot of time in the park over the past year photographing all over, so I had the files, just had to get through them and process the better of the bunch, so that's what happened today. Got it all together, even got a Google Plus page started (add us to your circles: gplus.to/mcspdocents), and am now uploading the photos to an iPad to present when my turn comes up tomorrow. So after having a full year to get this done, culled it all together in a day. Another example of how I work better under pressure I suppose.
Anyhow, will also get prints of some of them made so we can present them in the Visitor Center. That'll be my next part of the project. Hopefully sometime in the next couple of weeks so they'll be there for Spring and Summer park attendees. So with that, above is one of the photos, as is one here below (this one actually got mentioned on This Week In Photo podcast, which I was gloating about a few weeks back). And here's a full gallery: http://goo.gl/uE2wi
One of my best friends, who shoots a completely different style than me, mostly street photography with human subjects, asked me a few days ago…what do I see when I look at one of my pictures? Is it just a pretty picture? Or is it more? I knew what i wanted to say, but had to think about it for a little while before figuring out how to say it. I had to think mostly about what I was trying to capture. Then it just started coming out...
What I'm trying to capture is what seems to be pushed in the background more and more and more as technology begins to take over our lives in a singularity-esque fashion. While most people are so narcissistically involved in themselves and their cell phones and their tablets and their computers and their feeds and posts and status updates and whatnot, they're increasingly becoming less and less aware of theirs surroundings and those things that are outside of their little bubbles…just outside of their little bubbles. We are forgetting more and more those things that are bigger than us, those that are more magnificent than any blog post or new app or making sure everyone knows what they're having for lunch.
My intentions with my subjects and photography are to try to do what I can to counter-balance that to the best of my abilities. What I'm trying to do is bring attention to those very things that we're paying less and less attention to, and those things that have been here long before us, and will be here long after we're gone.
The natural world.
I'm trying to document nature and life in its magnificent glory to the best of my abilities and hope that maybe, one person that sees it, will be inspired enough to unplug for just a little bit and look around them. see and feel and experience these things that we so take for granted. all these things that are more incredible and more amazing and more vital to our lives and our well-being and our survival as a species than any tablet or feed or pair of glasses we can ever find ourselves engrossed in. none of that stuff…NONE of it…matters in the least. but all the stuff around us that we selectively ignore…that stuff does. that is the basis of our existence. that is the source of our happiness and our relief. and that is what i'm trying to bring attention to.
So with that, here's another one from last week's snowy trip to Yosemite. The peak of El Capitan peeking through the clouds. The grandeur of that chunk of granite is so ridiculously awe-inspiring that it has galvanized scores of ridiculously strong-willed people folk to climb the bloody thing with nothing but their bare hands. It's like that.
So I just got 'fired' from my job. Long story, but it is what it is. I truly hope the best for the company, I wholeheartedly believe in the product and plan to work with them on a freelance basis for sure. But I suppose I lost a bit of enthusiasm over the past few months. Probably has a lot to do with my personal situation. Not good financially, coming off a long and arduous year of a rocky relationship that ended in epicly hurtful fashion, live alone in the hills so don't really have much interaction with humanity these days. But something about getting fired was ok with me. Granted I haven't been fired from a gig since Trader Joes in high school, but still, I was okay with it.Read More