Right next to the San Diego Convention center is a very large, very modern, very clean, but somewhat sterile-feeling hotel. Around the side, between the hotel and what I think is a cargo storage area for the Port of San Diego, is the cleanest alley I can recall ever seeing. And, sometimes, in that very clean alley behind that very clean hotel are hotel employees in very clean uniforms having a dirty old smoke break.
("'Scuse me, do you mind if I take your picture?" "You want to take our picture?" "Yeah, do you mind?" "Nah, whatever.")
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/2, shutter 1/4000, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: straightened; cropped; max recovery adjustment; dodged over the men, the wall, the ground, and the fence; burned over the sky and background building.
Thoughts for improvement: I wish the ashtray thingy weren't right behind the one guy's head. I also had some trouble getting both the horizontal and vertical lines straight, and I'm not sure that the compromise I made looks right. Otherwise, I'm happy.
Every time I ask a stranger if I can take his picture, the first response isn't "Yes" or "No" or "Why?" It's always "Me?" I think that's kind of funny. I wonder if, when this guy got home after work, he said to his wife, "The weirdest thing happened to me today..."
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/1.4, shutter 1/1600 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: crop; recovery; several curves layers to darken the man and the bright parts of the ground; levels to darken shadows and brighten midtones; burned over the man and ground.
Thoughts for improvement: As always, I need to do more work to get the exposure right in-camera.
Here's one from the archives, taken in August at the San Diego DSLR club's group shoot at Belmont Park. The ride is called the "Beach Blaster," and it involves being swung through nearly 180 degrees of arc while simultaneously spinning. I opted not to go on it, and to just take pictures instead.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G DX lens, in aperture-priority exposure mode (spot metering). Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/125 (+0 EV), ISO 1600. Post-processing in Aperture 3: curves for highlight recovery; lightly dodged over the people.
Thoughts for improvement: I actually really like the composition here, the use of negative space and the way the frame cuts off half of the seats. I feel like it gives a sense of action, of falling. The problem is that I cut off just a bit too much of the ride--it would be better if the lights and arm along the left side (left of the frame, top of the ride) weren't cut off, and even better, I think, if you could see the central arm that the seats spun on, which isn't in the frame at all. The girl at the top of the frame also should be a hair lower, so as to avoid cutting off her knee.
One thing about photography: it's turning me into a hypocrite.
I should explain that. See, I'm always chiding Juliette for being nosy. If we go to a restaurant, she looks around at people at other tables. If we go for a walk, she looks to see what she can see through people's windows. "Nosy Noserson," I'll say.
But, of course, if there's anything nosier than a street photographer, I don't know what it is. I'm constantly looking at other people these days, trying to see if they'll show me something I can photograph. That's got to be worse than just sneaking a peak through someone's open front door from the sidewalk.
These two kids were sitting behind us at Shamu's Christmas show when we were at SeaWorld on Saturday. (I didn't actually watch much of the show; first I was watching the crowd, then I was watching Jason.) I glanced back at them several times before the show started, and it reminded me so much of being that age and in love. They kept giggling and looking at each other, taking pictures of themselves together with his cameraphone. (OK, I guess we didn't have that last one when I was a teen.) And all I could think was "How nice."
There's a lot of doom and gloom out there these days. Terrorism, war, people losing their jobs, their homes. But, you know, there's a lot of tenderness, hope, joy, and love out there, too. I think it's worth taking the time to see it. I know it makes my life better.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in aperture priority exposure mode (matrix metering). Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/60 sec (-1 EV), ISO 1600. Post-processing in Aperture 3: maximum recovery adjustment; curves to bring up exposure a bit; cropped to 5x7 and to remove some extra space at the top and a distracting foreground element; light dodging over the couple's faces; burned over the background and the guy on the right.
Thoughts for improvement: The lights in the background are quite bright and are a little distracting. I cropped out most of the man in the right foreground, but if I could have excluded him as I was shooting that would have been better. I also wish I could have gotten a slightly more intimate moment--I like the way she's smiling at him, but he looks a little distracted, which wasn't really representative of how they were acting at the time.
There's no big story to this one. I just happened to look up as we were walking from one part of SeaWorld to another, and liked the look of the audience's silhouettes up in the bleachers above us.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200 mm VR DX lens, in aperture priority exposure mode (matrix metering). Focal length 200 mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/125 sec (+0 EV), ISO 360. Post-processing in Aperture 3: cropped to 5x7; red-filter BW preset; curve for contrast, black point, and white point.
Thoughts for improvement: The main thing I could do without here is the mass of palm fronds right in the middle. It might also be nice if I could have missed the head down near the bottom of the frame.
This one comes from the group shoot last month with the San Diego DSLR club. Right next to the famous Belmont Park amusement park in Mission Beach is the Wave House--an outdoor bar that includes two huge wave pools for boogey boarding and surfing. My friends, Shawn and Andy, pointed it out to me, and I immediately busted out my telephoto lens and took a position near the edge of one of the pools. Many of the people that went in were obviously beginners, which made for some amusing wipeouts, but one or two knew what they were doing. This guy was one of the latter.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200mm VR DX lens, in aperture priority mode. Focal length 150mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/125 sec, ISO 900. Post-processing in Aperture 3: pushed exposure to the max and added a strong curve to drop the shadows and midtones while maintaining the highlights. (It looks like there is some vignetting, but the darkness you see around the edges has more to do with the way the artificial lights were actually striking the wave area.)
Thoughts for improvement: I actually like this shot quite a bit. The only reason I didn't pick it the first time around is because although it's a pretty good action shot, it doesn't really speak to me much in terms of atmosphere or storytelling. Technically speaking, this would probably have been much better if I had a fast telephoto lens and a camera with better high-ISO performance, that way I could have operated with a much faster shutter speed and captured the water with less blur and grain. Working within the limitations of my gear as it is, though, I think this is pretty good. Possibly a different crop would be better.
Can I Have Some?
I didn't manage to get out for a shoot this past weekend, so for the next few days I'll be posting a few "B-sides" from previous weeks--photos that I liked but that didn't make the first cut.
This is another from the weekend before last, when Juliette and I took a walk down the Mission Beach boardwalk. About halfway into our walk, we passed by a funny pair having a conversation from adjacent patios. One was a middled-aged woman who was chatty, happy, and completely blitzed. The other was this guy. What caught my eye was the way the dog here was so completely intent on the rib his master was eating--anybody who's ever eaten around a dog is familiar with that body language.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200mm VR DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Focal length 116mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/1000 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: Red Filter BW preset, cropped to a closer composition, curves for highlight recovery and contrast, dodged over the dog, burned the background and the man's hat. Also applied some burning on the man's shirt to try to make the dog stand out a bit more.
Thoughts for improvement: I liked the moment here a lot, but the reason it didn't make the cut the first time around is because the angle is pretty poor. Because I have the dog and man lined up on the same axis as the camera, the edges of the dog's head get lost against the background of his shirt. That, in turn, loses much of the expressiveness of the tilt of the dog's head. What would have been much better would be to either get much closer and lower--so as to both decrease the depth of field and to put the dog's head against a more contrasted background--or to bring them off-axis from one another. The latter is probably the better choice, as it would also allow you to see the dog's facial expression, plus there wouldn't be an umbrella right behind the man's head.
Headed back to the car, I noticed this kid climbing up to look over the little wall separating the boardwalk from the beach. He must have gotten stuck, though, because by the time we walked past him he was calling for his dad.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200mm VR DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Focal length 175mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/1000 sec, ISO 200. Post processing in Aperture 3: applied Daylight WB preset, a bump to vibrancy and a bit of edge sharpening, strong curve to increase tone and contrast, and dodged over the boy's face and arms.
Thoughts for improvement: There are a bunch of distracting elements right behind the boy's head, including what appears to be the top of his dad's hat. This would definitely be better without those. The sky is also kind of boring, and I've put the horizon right at the middle of the frame, which isn't terribly interesting. I should probably have cropped this lower.
This guy was one of the volunteers at the Celebrate Dance festival last weekend. When we first got to the stage area, I noticed him walking around with a donations box. Later, he sat down to watch the performances near where Juliette, Jason, and I were sitting, and the reflections in his sunglasses caught my eye.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200mm VR DX lens, in aperture priority exposure mode. Focal length 200mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/320 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3. My goal with the processing was to isolate the subject from the background, add a little more texture and pop, and make the reflection stand out. First, I used the Daylight white balance preset, then I reduced the saturation (0.81) and vibrancy (-0.1). I then used a curve to darken the shadows just a touch and bump up the midtones and highlights, also bringing in the white point a little. I then applied a reasonably heavy burn (0.6) to the background, then a medium dodge (0.4) to the highlights on the subject, and a light burn (0.1) to the shadows on the subject. To make the sunglasses pop a little more, I used the Intensify Contrast brush just on the lenses, with a relatively light setting (0.3). Finally, I added a little bit of edge sharpening.
Thoughts for improvement: I wish his elbow weren't cut off, but other than that I'm pretty happy with this one.
This was one of the last shots I took during our trip to Balboa Park this weekend. This woman crossed the walkway right in front of us, and the combination of her umbrella, clothes, hair, and makeup turned both my head and Juliette's. I snapped several shots in a hurry as she walked by; I like this one the best because of the moment of recognition evident on her face.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200mm VR DX lens, in aperture priority exposure mode. Focal length 200mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/160 sec, ISO 200. Here again I did a fair amount of post-processing in Aperture 3. The original had a much brighter background and darker subject, so I bumped the exposure and recovery (each +1). I then reduced the overall brightness (-0.5). Then I added a strong bump to midtones using a curves adjustment and brushed that in over the woman and umbrella. To help isolate her from the background, I pulled back the saturation (0.8) and vibrancy (-.2) and applied that to the background and the man in the foreground. Then I burned the background and the man and dodged over the woman and umbrella. I wanted the background even darker, so I used the vignette tool (intensity 0.7, radius 0.92) and brushed it into just the top and right side. Finally, I used the Intensify Contrast brush on the umbrella to bring out the tones a bit more.
Thoughts for improvement: I still need to work on getting the exposure right the first time so I don't need to do as much work afterwards. I think I may have actually overdone the post-processing here--it looks a little too played-with.