Sunday, March 30, 2008

The wind and the water

It was time to head outdoors and leave the stress of work behind. Our latest hike would take us on a cold climb on the northwest slopes of Mount Tamalpais at Alpine Lake Dam to view Cataract Falls.

Hiking and photography partner Alice DeLaurier-O'Neil I headed out for an afternoon hike on the mountain. Even at midday the temperatures were chilly as we struck out on the trail. The trailhead wasn’t the best marked as it lay hidden beyond Alpine Lake Dam near a hairpin turn on the road. Our drive up the mountain was fun as we stopped to view a group of wild turkeys near the roadside.

The trail was a narrow and filled with steps as we climbed to about 1,400 feet. Along the trail among the moss covered rock and valleys of ferns were the waterfalls.

Heading up the trail past the wind rustling the trees we could hear the rush of the waterfalls. Fallen trees occupied some of water pools were they crashed down and we took our time to enjoy the sights. I used slow shutter speeds to give a feel of motion to the falling water.

The shade made our walk a cold one as we kept bundled up in layers of sweatshirts and jackets but we shivered along to see the collection of plants and a ferns that lined the path between the falls.

It was another great hike, filled with sights and sounds and plenty of great picture opportunities. Our next hike will probably take us back to the summit of Mount Diablo for a double summit adventure.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Single Lens Reflex


Two up and coming photographers, Alice and Cheri.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Symphonic sights

The Stockton Symphony made its first performance at the Grand Theatre and I was assigned to photograph the performance.

It was a little tricky, bright spotlights, black clothing black background made for a very contrasty scene to photograph.

I basically underexposed the scene by two stops to hold some detail in the highlights and keep the black portions of the pictures reproducing black.

The best vantage point to photograph the concert I found was from one of the second floor balcony box seats. I had an almost straight down view of the entire group. I switched between wide angle and zoom telephoto lenses for some tight crop shots of the conductor.


The other day when I was on assignment to the Tracy CHP office I snapped a few photos of reporters from the “other” newspaper. I don’t know why they didn’t like it; they just kept saying they didn’t want to end up on my “stalker blog”. I think the picture turned out nice.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Go fly a kite

I found this really cool looking kite on assignment today. Kind of looks like some of my nightmares recently.


So how you keep a rambunctious dog still during a photo shoot?
Maybe a right cross on the snout to get his attention?

Or how about terrifying him with a scary looking glove? No wonder he kept peeing on the floor.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I have been seeing this scene for a couple weeks in downtown Tracy but never had the chance to take the picture. I was walking back to the office from the Tracy Fire Administration building when I finally got a few frames off. I just like the repetitive patterns and the one splash of red against the darker tones, makes for a cool looking photo.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Life is a blur

It’s funny how you can go about your job and take simple things for granted. In photography one of the key elements is focus. I know it is important but what I overlook and took for granted is the part of the picture that is out of focus, that everyday blur in an image.

I was reading David Busch’s book “Canon Eos 40D Guide to Digital Photography” when I stumbled across a few interesting entries. While most of the book is describing the various features and multiple menus the cameras has to offer it also gave some general descriptions of photography and lenses. Among those descriptions were two photography properties I never heard of but use every day when I take pictures: Bokeh and circles of confusion. What are they? Simply put they are blurring.

Blur, or more aptly put the out of focus areas of an image has a technical name, bokeh. It’s not the blur of two slow of a shutter speed to freeze the action but the areas of a image that are rendered out of focus, either partially or completely. As photographers we can use selective focus to improve the composition of a photo by decreasing the amount of image area in sharp detail to make a part of the image standout or emphasize a portion of the image to the reader. For example I used selective focus to emphasize the pitcher facing off against the batter at the plate at the picture at top.

Different focal length lens produce different amounts of depth of field, the amount of area that looks in sharp focus. Generally the longer the focal length of the lens and the wider open the aperture the less depth of filed and the more bokeh an image will have.

While you might think a circle of confusion might describe my life at work these days it is the description of the focusing point of a ray of light. When a point of light is out of focus its edges become indistinct and soft. When the point of light becomes large enough our eyes see a disk of light with no sharp and distinct edges.

Lots of things affect the shape of these circles of confusion from the type of glass used in the camera lens element to the styles of blades used to build the lens aperture. These disks can be either pleasing patterns of light in an out of focus background or distracting globs of light.

It was odd that after almost 30 years of picture taking dating back to my high school days I discover a name for some of the basic elements of photography. It just proves that it is never too late to learn something new

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Reflections of life

We had to beat the stress from the week so with hiking partner Alice DeLaurier-O'Neil we headed out for an evening walk around Bethany Reservoir outside town.

We arrived late in the evening with the sun heading down and we were treated to a quiet walk around the banks of the reservoir. As the sun set the light cast a spectacular show of reflections in the still water.

A glass smooth surface cast mirror reflections of the opposite bank’s trees and windmills.

We walked and took photos of the colors playing in the water and marveled how the reservoir seemed to be a hidden jewel in the edge of the Altamont hills.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Cloud 9

They say you should always make time to stop and smell the roses. I prefer to look up at the clouds. I have always loved their ever-changing shapes and the range of light and shadow in their flow across the sky.

On assignment in Mountain House today I had just such a chance to stop and admire a wave of thunderclouds rolling over the valley.

No raindrops fell, no thunderclaps echoed through the hills but I still enjoyed the show.