Tuesday, September 18, 2007

How dry I am?

It's interesting how things can change so fast. So Cal had one of the wettest winters on record with storms dropping rain measured in feet not inches in the San Gabriel Mountains during January, February and early March 2005. 2006 was near normal, this last year ended with it being the driest winter since record keeping began in the area. (We measure our year for rain from July to June hence 3 years being referenced).

The San Gabriel River went from rushing torrents, to steady river to finally being turned off this spring. It is so dry that the land has become dust inches deep. Kind of scary, but the western states have been in a very persistent drought the last 9 or so years so we were lucky to get what we got I suppose.

Walking the river yesterday I noticed for the first time how bad it has actually gotten in terms of dryness. Cacti, in particular the "beaver tail" are drying up. Dessication isn't pretty. Once plump and green they are slowly withering and yellowing. Wrinkling like some old prune.

Fortunately these are very drought resistant and even if the mother plant dies there are ample seeds and rootlets to bring the area back once water returns. It may take years to repopulate the washes and ravines but the historical cycle for the area is very wet followed by many years of drought. They adapted to it. Just sad to see it all drying up and dying off when it was so green a few years ago.

Enjoy the pics. Shot raw, 3 files bracketed 2 stops. Post processed with HDR and Tone mapped with the Photomatix programs. After that its dumbed back down to jpeg for final processing in virtual photographer and resized for here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Fall is coming....and we're getting some color

Before I forget there is another Artist Meet and Greet to go along with the extended run at California Wine and Cheese. What better way to spend a nice end of summer evening than with a nice glass of wine, some cheese, conversation and art?

The details: The details Friday Sept 21, 2007 5:30PM to 8:30PM. California Wine and Cheese, 115 W Foothill Blvd, Monrovia CA 91016. They are located ½ block west of Myrtle Avenue on the north side of the street.

Today I took off late morning for some walking and shooting along the San Gabriel River. (Yes, folks we really do walk in LA). This time of year the color of light starts shifting to the yellow end of the spectrum and the shadows start to lengthen.

I like shooting on the bridge this time of year as the plant material and the bridge make an interesting series of contrasts. First is the man vs nature, precise versus feathery edges, textural differences and the hard cool colors vs the warming fall colors of nature. All good and plenty to keep the eye entertained. The bridge is also a great way to work on composition using large graphic elements to work with the natural elements framing each other while violating each others space. It's all good.

I shot this short series RAW bracketing +/- 2 stops from center average metering knowing I would post process with Photomatix HDR generation and tone mapping. After that process was done they were converted back down to 8 bit jpeg with minimal compression and run through virtual photographer. I like the way these turn out as the process of preserving shadow and highlight detail allows the other elements in contrast to stand out more.

Anyway enjoy the 3 versions of Encanto Park Foot Bridge.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Urban Art in the wild

Living at the edge of the LA Metro area I do have a lot of wilderness close by. I'm not the only who ventures a few blocks from home to enjoy the outdoors.

In Duarte at their Encanto Park there is an old railroad bridge that connects it with the San Gabriel River Trail that you can use to bike all the way to Long Beach if you desire. The bridge is all nicely paved and now that the river has been off for nearly a year (not sure who or why they did it, but its LA Baby and you roll with nature being shut off) so its possible to walk under it. For years even when the river ran the Duarte East Side Gang and some other groups have been decorating and putting their own mark on the undersides of the bridge. I think DESG is gone as the incredible murals are painted and tagged over. Sad to see their art go as the tagging usually doesn't bode well.

I do have to admit that this is my favorite time of year to shoot. Now through the end of October the sun isn't as high and the resulting color shifts to the redder side of the spectrum really accentuate the warm tones of a scene. Add in the natural fading of greens as fall approaches things really warm up a bit. Late afternoon and early morning this is most noticeable and is the reason I do so much shooting at those times of day.

I shot these bracketed with 2 stops over/under exposure using the EOS 20d with an ultra wide angle to capture as much of the scene as possible and add some linear distortion. I used the 3 RAW files to generate HDR files that were tonemapped and run through Virtual Photographer to get to the final images seen here.

Friday, September 07, 2007

See me in a few locations this weekend:

My run at the California Wine and Cheese has been extended for another couple of weeks as the artist who was scheduled to install after me has run into difficulties. Good for me as I get to have my stuff hanging and being viewed instead of packed up and warehoused until the next big show I do in October.

Added bonus and a complete surprise is that I have been sponsored sight-unseen by a merchant in nearby Claremont to show at tonight's Art Walk. My sponsor information:
Tattle Tales, 309 Yale Avenue, Claremont, CA 91711, 909/621-4192.

Tattle Tales is a kids clothing store but my stuff is pretty inoffensive. It's a nice start as I have heard good things about the Claremont Art Walk. Their Art Walk is different in that you don't have to be a member of an artists association, jurying is pretty liberal and there is no fee for the artist. Yes, no fee. Turns out their Art Walk is driven by the merchants association and they see it as a way to attract traffic into their downtown. This should be interesting. I may toss something up on Blogging.la after I tonight if it turns out to be something that could interest the whole Metro area.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Salvage isn't always a dirty word!

Today I continued working with the Photomatix Tone Mapping plug-in for Photoshop CS. When I first made the ditch to all digital I did a lot of my work in jpeg only mostly out of the fear of RAW shooting and wanting to get a handle on one variable at a time with the digital SLR.

Going into the process I knew that JPEG was a "losey" way to shoot as details are lost during the compression process even if you do minimal compression. I knew as well that adjusting the contrast could only do so much in terms of capturing details across the grey scale. I did a lot of bracketing only to find the contrast range of the sensor wound up leaving me with shadows absent a lot of detail when I got the mid-tones and highlights right. Just a devil in the process you have to know and learn to work with. I knew too that cold also affected how a sensor reacts to light which affects your final image.

Why I chose a place like Yosemite to experiment with the variables leaving a lot at risk, I don't know. (Probably has something to do with my habit of tossing caution to the wind and running with scissors more often than not).

Sadly, at the bottom of the learning curve I lost a lot of images learning how the sensor and camera worked together as many of my images had too many extremes to really capture the essence and spirit of the place I was trying to show.

Those frames are completely workable with the help of Photomatix Tone_mapping. I can maintain my highlights and mid-tones and still bring in all the richness of the shadows. It's this sort of salvage that makes it possible to bring back the images you shot with all the detail and emotion you wanted with the help of technology. Of course in hindsight if I had shot it all RAW in the beginning I would have had even more pixel-by-pixel data to work with, but that's part of the early learning curve with a new tool.

Of course when I shot this set along the Merced River in the meadows in the heart of Yosemite Valley I got the added bonus of warm sunlight as the sun was lowering on the horizon. The natural color shifts were "warming" up of moving towards the yellow/red end of the spectrum contrasted nicely with the gray/blue granite cliffs that were picking up the blue from the open sky above.

End result I got great contrast between warm living trees and cold granite. This played nicely as well with the softer, rounded forms of the trees contrasting with the jagged edges of the mountains too. Lots of visual interest to draw you into the photo and feel Yosemite later afternoon during the winter.

Enjoy my two view of the Merced River in the Yosemite Valley!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Eastern Sierra's....our California Fall Color Central

No secret most of my neighbors are transplants from "back east" and bemoan and grudge about the lack of seasons and "fall color". They just don't know where too look. LA as plenty of color. The Eastern Sierra's especially around Bishop up to Mammoth will rival anything you can find elsewhere in the country and of course you get the Sierra's as a back drop to it all. I enjoy the color and contrast between the vegetation and mountains. Can't wait to get back up there again at the end of September to soak it all in and shoot to my hearts content.

Spent a little time working some images from 2 years ago with tonemapping. I took jpeg files and converted them to 32 bit and then ran them through the photomatix tonemapping plug-in. That brought back all the detail in the shadows without the whole picture going flat. I opted this route as the CS2 filters for shadow/highlight tend to flatten too much.

After that was done I converted them back to 8bit, ran them through virtual photographer to clean up the skies and give them that old timey kodachrome look with the accentuated warm tones. I like this step as the final punch in the process as it brings back some of life in the final image that tonemapping can't do alone.

On a final note, am working on getting a spot at the Claremont CA "First Friday" Art Walk. If I can pull it of I will put all the details up here.