Play time

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Play time
My desk, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
The oncoming holidays, a crunch at work, and dismal weather have conspired to limit the time I can spend with camera in hand this past week.

So, I've been playing around with various photography apps on my new iPhone.  This fun shot was taken by putting the Super Camera app into "Lomo" mode.

I'll be back to using my PowerShot in the next week or so, but I'm having fun with the phone for now.
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Lonely Sculptures

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Lonely Sculptures
San Diego Museum of Art Sculpture Garden cafe, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
This shot was taken by setting my tripod up very close to the ornamental gates in the last shot, and shooting through one of the gaps.  I played with exposure and aperture quite a bit for this shot, trying to retain enough detail in the wall sculpture and the intricate ball in the lower middle.  I'm very happy with the results.

These sculptures are in the middle of the cafe courtyard in the sculpture garden.  This shot would only be  possible at night, I think.  Not just because of the lighting, but because the cafe would be full of happily dining visitors at any time during the day.  Without the patrons, these sculptures felt lonely and unappreciated.  Except by me, I suppose.
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Night Outside the Museum

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Night Outside the Museum
San Diego Museum of Art Sculpture Garden cafe, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
I rather like this shot.  The gates surrounding the sculpture garden at the San Diego Museum of Art are, to my mind, beautiful sculptures themselves.  I like the warm colors of the yellow incandescent lighting and the red cafe tables and chairs.  Framing them with the ornamental gate overlaying the scene gave me an interesting composition.
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Night Arches

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Night Arches
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
Balboa Park features a formal garden, bordered on one side by these ornamental arches.  At night, the ground lights show off the arches and the trees above.

I like the contrast between the hard arch of stucco and the graceful arching curves of the tree's trunk and branches.

Composing this shot was an interesting challenge.  There is a parking lot just beyond, with an assortment of lights and reflectors.  Finding a position that showed off the tree and arch well, while masking the distracting elements beyond, took some time.
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Incandescent Stairs #2

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Incandescent Stairs #2
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
A second shot of the beautifully lit ornamental stairs.  The (relatively) bright light fixture is just out of the frame, above.  I like the variety of depths revealed by that light.
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Incandescent Stairs #1

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Incandescent Stairs #1
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
I spent an hour or so last night in Balboa Park, looking for interesting combinations of shape and nighttime lighting.  These stair rails are lit by an incandescent fixture of yellow-orange glass. The warm light on the tan walls and terra cotta tiles is very pretty.  I liked the graphic composition of the rails, shadows and steps.
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Table with a View, #2

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Table with a View #2
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
November, 2010

Another view of the table and chairs, placed by someone with a sense of humor atop this tall stone monument/chimney.

In this case, I kept the image in color, because I liked the complimentary colors: blue sky with the orange stones and rust.  The chair in the lower right is at once distracting and interesting.  I can't decide whether I like it there or hate it.  Any attempt to frame this photo with more of the lower chair necessarily included intrusive background greenery, unbalanced empty space to one side of the chimney or the other, or both.

It only occurs to me now that I could have easily taken that lower chair down, shot an ever better scene, then replaced it.  Maybe this will all still be in place when I return next weekend.

I'd also love to get a shot of a couple, seated across from each other in the higher pair of chairs, trying to make the best of the situation.  Now...to convince someone to climb up there...  The seats of the upper pair of chairs are, I would guess, (only) ten feet off the ground.
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Table with a View

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Table with a View
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
This tall structure is a monument, as well as an open air stone oven and chimney.  Someone...I'm assuming either an artist or a prankster...placed a small metal table up on top, and two chairs on the tops of stone supports on each side.  The second chair on this side is below and to the right, off camera, atop another support.  These chairs and the table were so incongruous, and so interesting, that I had to find a way to photograph them.  I liked the mixed up, puzzling story, the contrast between the smooth white metal and the dark rough stone, and the clean lines.

Composing a photograph, I find, is often as much about what you leave out of the frame as what you include.  In this case, there were several Eucalyptus trees nearby, and there were those other, lower chairs.  There was no point of view that included more than one chair, that didn't also include distracting and unbalancing greenery in parts of the background.  There were only a couple of points of view that let me put at least one chair and the table in the frame nicely.  This is the one I'm happiest with.
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Open Spanish Window

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Open Spanish Window
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
I spent some time this weekend walking around the edges of Balboa Park, looking for places I'd never been.  At one end, there is a collection of buildings.  Along the backside of one, a single window is of the older, mullioned style, with most of its panes painted over.  The rest of the windows in the area are modern, aluminum-framed single panes.  I found this one visually interesting, and it was standing open, a clothed table just inside with a bowl atop it.  It caught my eye, because of the shapes and lines, but also because of the story it seemed to tell.

I chose black-and-white here because, with exception of the dark wooden posts and the deep shadowed interior, the rest of the photo is wall and window, all painted the same beige.  I feel that the use of black-and-white removed the distracting same-ness, emphasizing the story implied by the window, and focusing the eye on the textures of the paint, the reflection, and the partially painted wooden beam.
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Palm Trunk

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Palm Trunk
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
Another bright sunlit day in San Diego, making the location of objects and scenes worth photographing a challenge.  The high contrast works, in some cases.  This palm trunk is nearly pure white.  The bright grazing sunlight brought out the texture, as well as casting one side in shadow.
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Husk

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Husk
Studio, San Diego, CA
June, 2010
I found this insect-eaten, dried out husk of a tangerine in the back yard, and brought it inside for a studio shoot.  I laid out a large sheet of white paper, set out the husk, and lit it from two sides with 100 watt lamps.  I took about twenty shots of this bit of ex-fruit, playing with shooting angle (from above, from below) and the side from which to shoot it.  I also played with long exposures while panning a flashlight around the interior to light the interesting detail inside.

In the end, I liked the versions with the darker interior.  A lit interior made it hard to discern the shape of the husk, because it reduced the contrast between the interior and exterior.

In editing, I played with the levels to accentuate the texture on the surface and crank up the contrast.  Conversion to monochrome made the shape and shadows much more interesting, as the husk is a dark tangerine orange inside and out.  Like the interior lighting experiment, the similar colors made it hard to make out the shape.
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Tree Kin #7

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Tree Kin #7
San Diego Zoo, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
More tree faces.  At least this one's smiling.  I think.
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Tree Kin #6

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Tree Kin #6
San Diego Zoo, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
These...err...limbs?...are positively intestinal.  I'm very happy with the graphic, architectural composition of this photograph.  But it's going to give me nightmares.
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Tree Kin #5

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Tree Kin #5
San Diego Zoo, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
I see Tree People.

This lovely, creepy tree is the where I started to see faces in the twisting limbs.  This one took several tries to get the composition close to what I wanted.  And then I had to crop in a bit to eliminate some distracting bits on one side that I hadn't noticed on site.
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Tree Kin #4

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Tree Kin #4
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
The scale of these trees is impressive.  The tree on the left measures about ten feet across, where the roots start to merge with the trunk.
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Tree Kin #3

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Tree Kin #3
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
A different composition of the same root structure as Tree Kin #2.  This time I went for monochrome, primarily because the subtle colors of the roots were starting to get lost as I zoomed back out, and because the large sunlit patch in the upper-left was too distracting.
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Tree Kin #2

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Tree Kin #2
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
These roots look, to me, as though they've melted and fused.  I like the dappled sunlight making its way through the leaves above.  I'd like to return to this tree after a rain, when the wood gets a wonderful sheen.
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Tree Kin #1

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Tree Kin #1
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
I need to find out what these trees are.  Their roots fascinate me.  Their writhing shapes are suggestive, dark, ominous and deeply organic.

As I shot these, and the others in this series, I started seeing faces in their branches.  Tolkeinesque images abounded.

Whether I chose to finish one of these photos as a color or monochrome image depended largely on whether the colors of the limbs and roots were interesting, without being a distraction from the shapes.
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Gondola Drive

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Gondola Drive
San Diego Zoo, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
This was a spur-of-the-moment shot.  My family and I were standing in line waiting to ride the Zoo's gondola, and I noticed the spinning drive wheel, and the graphic shapes surrounding it.

This is a rather closely cropped shot, in an attempt to pull something nice out of pretty badly composed larger shot.  I'm reasonably happy with the results, but will probably go back when I have more time to try this again.
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Shadow Leaves

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Shadow Leaves
Chula Vista, CA
November, 2010
One more sunny day composition, focused on the shadow cast by leaves onto the trunk of their tree.  I'm really very pleased with this one.  I like the contrasting textures of the craggy bark and the soft leaf shapes. And I like that my photographer's eye has improved to the point where I actually noticed this shot.
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Bars and Shadow

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Bars and Shadow
Chula Vista, CA
November, 2010
Another sunny day shot, focusing this time on the stark shadows cast by the bars of this horse corral.    I took a half dozen shots here, trying to get the depth of field right, in order to keep the bars and ground in focus, and (re)arranging the composition.  I'm happy with the results, but I think there's more photographic gold to be had in this location.  I'll be back.
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Bamboo Understory

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Bamboo Understory
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
I find bright sunlight very challenging to shoot in.  Who doesn't, right?  When the sun is out, I look for areas of shade, or shadow patterns.

The rhythm of the stalks in this short stand of bamboo interest me.  I don't think I got the best shot possible here, however.  The leaves are large and distracting, and the stalks on the left are bunched in an overlapping line.  I'm going to go back and try again.

I do like the use of monochrome here, to focus the attention on the pattern of stalks.  I may go back and try some filters, to bring out the variation in the greens of the leaves and stalks.
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Balboa Park Towers

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Balboa Park Towers
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
I try hard to avoid photographing the typical places and structures in Balboa Park.  They've all been photographed thousands and thousands of times over the years.  But the view of these buildings from the San Diego Zoo Skyfari gondola was too good to pass up.  I love the colors, brought out by the dwindling afternoon sun.
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Left the Light On

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Left the Light On
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
The timers on these lights are, I'm guessing, somewhat confused.  They were all on throughout the morning.  But who am I to complain.  I like to contrast between the bright sunlight and artificial lamp, as well as the focal point the lamp and its aura provide.
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Arches and Stairs

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Arches and Stairs
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
November, 2010
Being able to spend a lot of time in Balboa Park is quite a blessing to a photographer.  The Spanish architecture is beautiful, and the park is filled with nooks and crannies one can explore almost endlessly.

I liked to way the afternoon sun cast strong shadows beneath these arches, and illuminated the ironwork and treads of the stairs.  I took three exposures of this scene, trying to get the composition right while waiting for other park patrons to pass through the scene.  I'm quite happy with the compositional balance of this one.
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Windmill

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Windmill
Friend's yard, San Diego, CA
October, 2010
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Tentacle Roots #3

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Tentacle Roots #3
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
October, 2010
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Tentacle Roots #2

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Tentacle Roots #2
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
October, 2010
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Tentacle Roots #1

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Tentacle Roots #1
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
October, 2010
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Squash

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Squash
Friend's yard, San Diego, CA
October, 2010
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Sunlit Tennies

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Sunlit Tennies
Friend's house, San Diego, CA
October, 2010
This image was impromptu.  I noticed the sunlight streaming through the window and across the feet of my nephew, flicked on the camera, composed and shot one exposure.  Moments later, he moved.  This kind of thing is why I've taken to carrying my camera almost everywhere.

The original image is below.  The composition is fair, but I found the visible seam line in the ottoman he's sitting on, as well as the open air gap on the left of the picture, a little distracting.  I cropped in tighter, and took the opportunity to balance the space to the left and right of his feet a bit better too.

Original Image
The result is shown below.  Much better.

Cropped Image
For every photo, I open up the Levels tool, to have a look at the histogram (side note: I use Paint.NET for all of my photo editing.  It's a very nice tool, and it's available for free.  Still...I'm considering an upgrade to PhotoShop or Lightroom when I move to an SLR.).

Levels Histogram
In this case, the histogram was already pegged at the extreme ends.  The highlights were a bit washed out, and the blacks were very nearly totally black.  I played with the controls a bit, but in the end decided the picture looked good the way it was.

I then used the Sharpen tool, to crisp up the edges and details.  In this case, the tool helped quite a bit, because I wanted to emphasize the lines in the flooring, the pattern in the jeans, the text on the shoes.  It takes some playing with to get right.  I find it easy to apply too much sharpening, especially when the image includes fine, strong patterns (e.g. screen doors, etc.).  The resulting image is below.  Hopefully you'll be able to see a difference (for the better).

Sharpened
Finally, I used Paint.NET's monochrome conversion to create a black and white image.  When choosing to keep a color image or a monochrome version, I consider the colors in the scene.  If they're a distraction, I prefer a monochrome photo.  If they're key to the composition, or add visual interest, I keep the color.  In this case, I found the difference in (perceived) color between the right and left pant legs, and the splash of blue on the left-most shoe distracting. And, I liked the emphasis the monochrome version put on the falling light.  The final image is below.

Monochrome
The last step, done for the purposes of publishing the web, was to add a copyright watermark.  This is done by adding a transparent layer to the picture, typing the watermark text into that layer, setting the color (I use white or black, depending on the tone of the background where the watermark will lie), and adjusting the transparency of the layer until the watermark is visible, but doesn't overly distract from the image.

Copyright Watermark added
I hope you found this an interesting look into the editing workflow that I use.  If you have any questions, and especially if you have suggestions for improving the flow, I'd love to hear them.
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Horseshoes

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Horseshoes
Friend's yard, San Diego, CA
October, 2010
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Fountain Waterline

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Fountain Waterline
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
October, 2010
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Outlier

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Outlier
Friend's yard, San Diego, CA
October, 2010
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Potted Flowers

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Potted Flowers
Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
October, 2010
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Wooded Path

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Wooded Path
Mount Palomar, CA
October, 2010
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Understory Debris

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Understory Debris
Mount Palomar, CA
October, 2010
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Burn Line in Clouds

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Burn Line in Clouds
Mount Palomar, CA
October, 2010
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Thistle Blossom

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Thistle Blossom
Mount Palomar, CA
October, 2010
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Roots

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Roots
Mount Palomar, CA
October, 2010
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Reeds

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Reeds
Mount Palomar, CA
October, 2010
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Moss and Stumps

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Moss and Stumps
Mount Palomar, CA
October, 2010
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Trees in Rhythm

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Trees in Rhytym
Mount Palomar, CA
October, 2010
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Dew on Leaves

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Dew on Leaves
Mount Palomar, CA
October, 2010
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