Tuesday, June 29, 2010


My brother Matt braved the mosquitos with me for some night photography on the beach in Galveston, Texas.

It ended up being too dark for the kinds of shots I had in mind--there was only a partial moon and it was hiding behind clouds--so we decided to mess around with some light painting instead. We used a AA maglite and took turns running in, trying to write our name, then running out and waiting for the 60 second exposure to finish. We had about 8 failed attempts before I finally got this one--the trick ended up being to write slowly, and move in between each letter.

After that, we decided we couldn't tolerate any more mosquito bites (despite copious amounts of bug spray! I even got a bite or two through my t-shirt!), and headed back in before Matt had a chance to redeem himself :)

There seem to be frequent thunderstorms in Galveston, and I had hoped to catch one while we were there, but wasn't lucky enough. Had fun hanging out with my brother, though!

The original unedited image.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Harbor Under Fog

One last image from my harbor outing back in May.

As I was heading back to the car, the fog was starting to roll over the harbor in broken chunks. The moving breaks in the fog created the nice gradation of light you see in this image.

Also, the white balance was a big key in editing these photos. Most of the light sources in this shot, particularly the light from Santa Barbara illuminating the glow in the sky, are very orange. If you look at the original image with auto white balance, it's overwhelmingly orange.

I shot these in RAW and brought the color temperature way down to turn the orange glow into a cool blue. The original white balance is probably much truer to what my eyes saw that night, but I think the blue just has a much better atmosphere.

I've learned that the white balance can have a huge impact on your night photography. If your images are coming back with an orangish-brown sky, try bringing down the color temperature and--poof!--you'll have a blue night sky. (Or, when you're out there, try shooting with your camera's "tungsten" white balance mode).

The original, unedited image.

Another image from that evening. I didn't like how it turned out enough to put it at the front of my photostream, but I thought it was at least a cool idea.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Saturate your Sunsets!

I made an interesting discovery today that's left me feeling a little cheated. As Jess and I have felt our way through editing over the past five years, one thing we've learned is that you have to be careful with saturation. It's great to have your colors "pop", but you can easily overdo it--the colors start to bleed and you start losing detail and variation of tone. So, as a sort of rule, I never push the saturation very far, in either my photographs of people or my landscapes. I'm realizing that was a mistake, at least for my sunset shots.

This past week I started to create a Flickr gallery of seascape images that inspire me so that I can spend some time pulling them apart and learning from them. One of the things I've realized so far is that a lot of the great sunsets on Flickr are heavily saturated, and it's even pretty clear that detail has been lost in the sky for the sake of emphasizing those dramatic colors.

So I grabbed one of my recent photos, and pushed the saturation slider farther. It looked pretty good! So I pushed it farther. Even better! I pushed it all the way to +100, and it looked awesome.

Check out the before and after. The 'before' is how it looked when I originally posted it last week. I had boosted the saturation some, but only to about +23. Also, since I was spending some more time on it today, I tweaked the exposure some and brought up the foreground--so look at the difference in the sky more than the difference in the water and sand.

Move your mouse over the image to see the change

I can't believe that something so simple has eluded me for so long!

One thing that may be worth noting is that I always shoot in RAW format, and this may have been important in allowing me to push the saturation so far. We always shoot RAW because Lightroom makes it so easy--it's essentially transparent to us that the images are RAW and not JPEG.

I'm looking forward to sharing more about the Flick gallery when it's finished. I think the other thing that's become very apparent already from assessing others' work is that my shots are underexposed. I've got to fix that next time I go out!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Stormy Sunset

Another one from my outing to Hendry's back in April.

In hindsight, it would have been nice to have kept the shutter speed the same, but overexpose it by a stop or two to get the foreground exposed better. It's hard to know exactly what shutter speed is going to look best when you're out there. I am learning, though, that I have to overexpose it some to get the foreground right, and then I can pull the sky back down in post processing.

I did bracket this exposure, and blended in some of the overexposed image to recover detail in the rock. The water only looked this cool in this exposure, though, so the rock was all I could take from the other one.

Here's the original, unedited image. It's so off-level that you'd think I was drunk! This was one of my last outings with the $30 tripod before I got the new one, so that's probably what happened there. It needed to be cropped in anyway!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Everything's Bigger In Texas

This was taken on Galveston island in Texas at a place called Pointe West. I was looking inland, across the bay towards Houston.

That cloud is huge. it's probably over 25,000 feet tall--taller than any mountain and probably more massive. You'll never see anything like that in Santa Barbara :). Check out the original size for some nice detail in the clouds.

This is a panorama, stitched together from 5 vertical frames at 17mm.

Here is the original, uncropped and unedited panorama.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Harbor at Night

Another shot from my outing to the harbor back in May.

This is the Santa Barbara harbor at night, viewed from the breakwater. At the left of the frame is the yacht club, and the brightest lights in the middle are the SB City College stadium.

There were so many different sources and colors of light in this scene, I think that's what excited me most about it.

The atmosphere of these harbor shots is coming from a layer of fog over Santa Barbara--that's what's producing the glow along the horizon.

The original, unedited image.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Huge Beetle

Jess was out pruning the roses and came across this monster beetle hanging on to one of the stems.

Here's a less interesting, but more informative photo of the thing that I buried in my photostream:

This photo is a good example of how you can get a decent "macro" shot with your kit lens. The focal length of the lens doesn't affect the minimum focusing distance, so you can focus as close as possible then zoom all the way in to 55mm and get pretty good magnification. I wrote my very first blog post in 2009 about this subject, and interestingly enough it's by far my biggest source of traffic.

If you agitated this guy, he'd buzz something in front of his mouth and make a chirping sound; here's a little clip of it.

Here's the original, unedited image.