My wife and I are big fans of river cruising. The pace is slow, there are WAY fewer people, you are dropped off right in the heart of the town or city, accessibility to great light is more available, and it's just very "civilized." Our first venture was to China in 2007, the year before the Olympics. We got four nights on the Yangtze River, catching the ship a few hundred yards upstream from the under-construction Three Gorges Dam. Summer in China and Good Light are oxymorons. It just doesn't exist what with the horrible pollution. We never, not once, saw the sun or any hint that the sky is blue. So, on the top photograph of the Yangtze, I did a B&W conversion in NIK Silver Efex since almost all color was washed out. It's much more moody in B&W. The light in the bottom photo was much better and the color version holds up fine, but I wanted to give the other shot a River cruising partner. This is on the Mekong River in 2011. We used Viking Cruises both times and can whole-heartedly recommend this line. Their land portions are every bit as good as their river service, both in China and Southeast Asia. This is my last post of 2012, as we will be getting on an airplane tomorrow morning and jetting off to Puerto Rico before getting on a huge ship and ringing in the New Year in the Caribbean with two other couples. Happy New Year!
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Top and bottom, Trinidad, Cuba, 2012, Sony NEX7. Middle, taken from our hotel room in Havana, 2009. Nikon D300. The guy watching TV in this picture was all but invisible in the original, but some work with Photoshop plug-in NIK Viveza brought the man further into the light.
One thing about living in California is we don't often get dramatic skies. I am not a meteorologist so I have no idea why. When I travel, then, I try to take photographic advantage when I see a particularly striking sky. From top to bottom, Venice, 2004, taken with the Konica-Minolta A2; Wasilla, Alaska, Rocky Lake, 2009, Panasonic DMC LX1; somewhere near Albany, New York, Canon Powershot G9; Wasilla, Alaska, Rocky Lake. Not the best composition as my friend George in the boat is hugging the edge of the frame, but I still like this picture, taken about 10:30 at night just after we got back from waterskiing. The last photograph is of Cook Inlet in Anchorage, Alaska. nothing special about this except for the sky, and we were eating very fresh crab legs at the Snow Goose in downtown Anchorage. Canon Powershot G9.
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Merry Christmas! After breakfast and the opening of presents (Thanks Santa), I begin the daily perusal of the archives. All three of these photographs are from 2012, taken with the Sony NEX 7 and 5n. The top one is on approach to SFO. You can see power poles at the bottom of the frame. The middle is from June in Corvallis, Oregon. The bottom is an abstract of Kat Cora's restaurant in the Virgin America terminal at SFO. I like the way the colors work together in these three photographs. I'm also trying to pay attention to geometry.
Monday, December 24, 2012
Sunday, December 23, 2012
It's the 23rd of December in Northern California. How can I really complain about the weather? I just wanted to see if the Sony RX 100 could maintain focus on the wet window/screen and blur the background. Yes it can. F/1.8 at 125 ISO.
I was browsing through some photographs of a Baltic Cruise a bunch of us went on in 2011 and remembered we had stayed a day in London before setting out to sea. We had time for a walkabout and found ourselves down by the Thames where I got this shot of my friend Sue. Despite living in the States for many years, she still speaks with a funny accent!
I'd probably have to think for quite a while to come up with anything I don't like about Hawaii. I have spent about a year of my life there, mostly on Oahu coaching Summer College baseball. In the summers of 2008 and 2009, I got the opportunity to go back, this time to the big island of Hawaii, to do baseball clinics for the kids of Kona and Hilo. I got to work with some outstanding baseball coaches for six days. There was some free time too, and we all took advantage of it. The top photograph is my sucker-for-a-sunset shot. The middle is of my great friend Mark O'Brien on the balcony of our hotel, and the bottom is from our hotel to the volcanic landscape of Hawaii. Nikon D90.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
There is a lot of discussion on various web sites/blogs about street photography. Try as I might, I can't get my head around what exactly it is. At any rate, most of what I see is in black and white, often taken with ridiculously expensive Leicas and their even more expensive lenses. Although I like black and white, I don't see how that medium is any more "authentic" than color. There also seems to be an ongoing search for the Holy Grail of street shooting cameras and a furious discussion of what the perfect camera would be. As is to be expected, there is no clear consensus, and a lot of the talk smacks, to me, of elitism. Of these four photographs, only one was taken with any sense of stealth. For number 2 and 4, both subjects clearly knew I was taking their picture. In the top photograph, I was zoomed way out to compress the shot, and the guys walking by had no idea I was there. For the cowboy shot, I saw these guys talking, walked by them, turned around, and fired off one frame before they could change their natural poses. A couple of them glanced in my direction, I smiled, gave a thumbs up, and walked away. I use Sony NEX cameras these days, as well as the new RX 100. Each seems perfect for this sort of photography.
Friday, December 21, 2012
At home in Cambodia, on land or river. A young boy alternating between his books and the TV in a small village; on the river, complete with hammock; in a temple, getting things just so. I thought about cropping the photograph at the bottom but didn't want to lose the sandals. All photographs taken with the Nikon D90 and 18-200 lens.What a fantastic place!
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Well, it's only five days until Christmas. When I think of Christmas, as a photographer, I think of RGB. That sounds really silly as I read it back, but that's not all I think about of course. I just wanted to try out the new Sony RX 100 around the house in a few situations: close-ups, zoomed, low light, still life, and a few others. For me, if I have to do a lot of work in Photoshop to get accurate colors, I won't be happy. With this camera, I am very happy. All I did was punch up the shots using Nik's remarkable Viveza plug-in. I went to the Structure slider, moved it a bit to the right, and Voila! My favorite of the four is the bottom shot of my wife's wooden animals, her pepper jelly, some bread from a student, and some homemade Kahlua from our next-door neighbor. Merry Christmas!
I am as far from a car afficianado as you can get, but every time we go to Cuba, I turn into one for a week or so. These were mostly taken in Havana on one of three trips, and the second from the bottom is from Moron in 2012. I used at least four different cameras for these shots, Nikons and Sonys. The bottom is maybe my favorite, taken in 2003 with the Nikon Coolpix 5000, now occupying a place in my camera graveyard on a shelf in the living room with at least eight other retired friends.
I sat on the curb opposite this home in Trinidad, pretending to look down at my camera's screen, and waited for something to happen. The kids noticed me at first but then eventually turned their attention to the dog. After a few minutes, mom came out to have a look. Sony NEX7, 2012. The lovely lady in the middle is the mother of an artist living in Havana Vieja. Behind her is their combination studio/living room right off a very busy Obispo Street where we had gone to change money the morning after we arrived in Havana in 2009. My wife, Margaret, who speaks fluent Spanish, could barely understand a word the artist said, but somehow I ended up buying a pair of small paintings from him. Nikon D300. At bottom, we're back to the summer of 2012, also in Havana. A couple of children are sitting outside their home. On the wall you can see the letters "CDR," which stands for the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution. This is kind of a watchdog group found in every neighborhood in every city and town across Cuba. It happened to be the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of the CDR, and one can see these letters painted on walls everywhere. There's no advertising except for political and revolutionary sloganeering. Sony NEX7
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
All along the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia in the summer of 2011, we saw families and individuals at home on the river itself or in villages just up from the water. The great National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry recently added to his blog a number of pictures of people all over the world in their homes. I thought I'd steal from his idea in a series of posts. In Southeast Asia and Cuba, I finally got the chance to photograph people proud of where they live and willing to have their picture taken. Most of the people I saw spend a lot of time outside because of the weather in the summer and the lack of air conditioning. Can't say as I blame them. Taken with either the Nikon D90 or D300.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
In all three photographs I am looking down on my subject. The top two are from 2000, the bottom from 2001. All three involved hiking or climbing, Paris, France, Salzburg, Austria, and Venice, Italy. Was I dealing in cliches at the time? All seem to be influenced by postcards in one way or another. Despite that, I still like them in that they give a sense of place. For many people, the top and bottom pictures literally scream Paris and Venice. Each of these photographs brings me back to a place and time, and I remember who I was with and why we were there. Would I take the same photographs again? Maybe not, but at least I got the chance to be in these remarkable cities.
I often use a point-and-shoot camera when I'm not really planning to do any artsy-craftsy type of photography. They're great for just having something to shoot with when you want to relax and not take things too seriously. Both of the top two shots were taken after a long day lugging my big Nikons around. After showering the sweat off, I was up on deck as we were cruising slowly down the Mekong River and a cloudburst seemed imminent. Many of us were enjoying a beverage and waiting for the dinner bell to sound. My camera on this trip was the Panasonic DMC-ZS7. The bottom photo was taken on my ride into Hong Kong before heading home to San Francisco. Shooting out a bus window is challenging but the Panasonic was up to the task. Ming Thien, on his blog/website, does a great job explaining why a point-and-shoot might be all a traveling photographer really needs if he/she has the chops to compose a photograph. All three pictures at iso 80-100.