Quietly making noise

I just noticed that a bunch of my recent shots include water in them.  Am I boring anyone?  I guess I am drawn to all those wonderful qualities that water can bring to a photograph, or maybe I am just not thinking about it.  Probably the latter.  Anyways, I noticed this little pattern and thought I would mention it.  Not even sure why.

This shot comes from Laguna Beach, CA, where I was able to recently spend a couple of hours shooting some fun HDR stuff.  I love HDR, it just totally rocks.  Have I mentioned that before?  I may have.  Anyways, I walked and climbed my way around the beach, getting my shoes wet and trying to find beautiful and interesting things to shoot, which isn't really hard at all there.  At one point I saw this little grotto-ish sort of area and figured I needed to get in there.  It wasn't too hard, though it did involve clambering over slippery wet rocks while wearing inappropriate footwear, but you do what you have to do.  I slipped a bit but I kept the camera safe and dry, which is the primary goal.  Once I got in there, it was like being in a little private spot that is all your own, and all the intruding sounds of the world are eliminated.  I backed up as far as I could against the rear rock wall, and just stood there for a few moments listening to the quiet, repetitive sounds of the waves splashing in front of me.  It was pretty awesome.

This is a 5 exposure HDR taken at f/9 while the sun was setting off to the far right (you can tell that by the color in the sky).  The exposures range from -3 to +1 and were created as an HDR in Photomatix.  That was then adjusted in PSE for Curves, Contrast, and Unsharp Mask.  The final touch was in Topaz Adjust.

Changing tides

I had to go to Orange County, CA this week for work, which isn't really a bad thing.  I do love Austin, and it is definitely home, but I enjoy what I have seen of SoCal.  Last time I was there, I went to Laguna Beach and got a lot of shots, a few of which have already been posted.  The forecast this week was for rain, and boy did it rain out there.  I thought that place was all sunshine, all the time, but no they aren't.  There was even a tornado reported.  This ain't Kansas!  Well, I arrived late on Monday afternoon, and with little time to spare, I hurried straight to Laguna Beach again in hopes of a dramatic sunset.  Fortunately there was a break in the rain that afternoon - in fact I believe it rained just about the rest of the time I was in town.  Unfortunately, I wasn't exactly wearing the proper footwear for traversing wet, slippery rocks and hiking around on a wet sandy beach.  In this shot, I had been out there only a few minutes and had been heading the other direction, toward the sunset.  I looked back and decided the view was pretty behind me, too.  That is something I keep trying to remember - look at things from all angles, and don't forget to turn around.  So, I got off the rocks and down into the sand, set up my shot, and started shooting.  At that time, the water came in and I realized I was in its path.  Needless to say, I wasn't giving up my shot, so I tried to hurry but still wound up with wet feet and jeans, with sand everywhere too.  That's fun.  I squished around for about an hour out there but it was awesome.  Next time though, I am bringing better shoes!

This is a 7 exposure HDR, shot at f/13 as the sun was setting behind me.  The exposures range from +2 to -4. I merged them in Photomatix to create the HDR, then made my typical adjustments in PSE (Curves, Contrast, Unsharp Mask) and then a final flourish in Topaz Adjust. 

A break in the storm

Laguna Beach, CA is gorgeous.  It really is - at least the beach is.  I quickly passed through the town, so I can't speak for it, though I hear it is an artist colony of sorts so it can't be all bad.  Places like that are usually pretty cool in my opinion, like Santa Fe.  I had been out in Orange County on business and luckily found some time to go chase the light.  Unluckily, it was raining like crazy.  Well, the tides turned my direction (no pun intended) and the storm broke for a bit.  I made a mad dash to the public beach there in Laguna Beach and got after it.  It was windy as hell, I was not dressed appropriately, and several times I nearly took a header off these slippery rocks into the drink - but I got some good shots.  So basically, it was awesome.  I love this stuff.  It is so fun to go hunting for photographs, and especially when you are in an unfamiliar place, shooting things you can't see at home (not many beaches in Austin), and having to man up and brave the wind and rain in the pursuit of it all - just plain fun.  If you don't believe me, ask any photographer.

This shot is a 5 exposure HDR shot at f/11 with exposures bracketed from -2 to +2, which is pretty standard for a 5 shot HDR.  I created the HDR in Photomatix, then made adjustments in PSE (Curves, Contrast, Unsharp Mask) and then a few minor adjustments in Aperture.

Fading light

It had been an interesting afternoon for me.  I arrived in Southern California early enough to spend a while hunting for images, only to be greeted by a rainstorm that lasted the entire afternoon.  I went to shoot at a local resort, hoping to capture some great shots, but instead spent 2+ hours in the lobby working and waiting for the storm to pass.  I finally gave up, figuring it wasn't meant to be.  I was driving to my hotel, and passing through Laguna Beach, when the rain finally let up.  I was about to take the road toward the highway, and decided I would try and get a shot or two before the rain started again.  I plugged some quarters in a meter and ran to the public beach there in downtown Laguna Beach.  What a great town, by the way.  The wind was blowing like crazy, and the sun was quickly disappearing, so I literally ran around the beach and tried to thoughtfully compose a few shots before it rained again.  It turns out that it started raining again, about the time I returned to my car, 30 minutes later.  Thought I didn't get all the time I wanted, at least I got to see this place and experience the sunset.  It was beautiful.

This shot is a single exposure, shot at f/5 for 1/200 of a second.  Although I tend to favor HDR, I want to also experiment and test myself with standard shooting techniques in the interest of expanding my range and more importantly my experience and knowledge base.  This shot was sort of a compositional test and I tend to like how it came out.  I liked the big pile of seaweed, and of course the clouds.  I processed this in PSE (curves) and then added a little pop to it in Topaz Adjust, which is a new product for me and one I am pretty satisfied with.

What do you think about this shot, the composition, etc?  Would you have positioned yourself differently for this shot?  Are there things you would change?  Any feedback is appreciated.

Warm and sunny

Since it is nearing Christmas, and folks are bundled up against the cold, I thought I would share a little slice of warmth with you today.  This was taken in Orange County, CA near the end of the Balboa Peninsula.  A misty fog sort of thing had rolled by (you can see it in the distance) and the seas were peaceful and calm.  The temperature was around 70 degrees and the sun was slowly setting.  In other words, it was perfect.

The fallen

Just sort of experimenting with DoF and bokeh in this shot.  I have really developed a taste for macro shots.  I find them interesting, in that these little things that are literally under your feet can provide you with some cool colors, excellent detail and make for interesting shots.  For me the trick is getting the focus right.  In this shot I intentionally focused on the center of the leaf with the hope of bringing out the detail in the veins and moisture.  I think I mostly succeeded.  What do you think?  What would you do different?

Laguna Beach sunset

As I mentioned previously, I spent the first part of this week in Southern CA on a business trip.  My plan was to arrive early enough to get a few hours of shooting in on Monday afternoon, but the weather had other plans.  The nice thing about storms is that once they clear, you have a good chance of getting some great cloud shots.  This was no exception.  Once the rain let up, I dashed out here and snapped off all I could, assuming the storm would return at any minute.  Fortunately it did not, and more fortunately it was nearing sunset which nearly always produces some excellent light to work with.  If forced to choose between mountains and beaches, I would choose mountains nearly every time.  But after spending some time out here, I can see the hold that this part of the US has on so many people.  It is beautiful, especially when the sun is descending on a stormy sea.

Stormy seas and strong winds

It was stormy on Monday this week in Southern California.  I always thought of that area as The Land of Eternal Sunshine, but when I arrived it was raining hard.  Nonetheless, I went out in search of something to photograph all the while clinging to a thin hope that the storms would pass.  I literally sat around and waited in a hotel lobby in Laguna Beach (where I was NOT staying, unfortunately) for a couple of hours, doing some work and thinking it would clear so I could go shoot.  Finally I gave it up and decided to head back to my hotel.  I didn't drive but 5 minutes or so and noticed that my windshield was no longer getting splashed.  So I did the obvious thing and pulled over immediately, grabbed my gear and ran for the beach.  I ended up along a beautiful stretch of public beach, smack in the middle of the town.  The winds were crazy, it was cold and there was still some rain falling, but I had a blast.  Sometimes things work out in your favor!

A night at the concert hall


This beautiful building sits in Costa Mesa, CA and is probably bustling several nights a week.  I happened to be here on business and was wondering around, looking for something to catch my eye.  It was obviously not a busy night at the concert hall so I had the good fortune to have the place all to myself (well, the outside at least).  Orange County has a really nice arts district, where they have this Concert Hall along with a couple of other buildings all sort of tossed in together, but it seems comfortable and not the least bit crowded.  The architecture of all the structures has a nice modern twist and the entire area is interesting.  Oh, and if you have the time, head around the corner and grab a pizza at Pizzeria Ortica - you will not be disappointed!


Weather reports indicate that we may receive some snow in Central Texas tomorrow.  That was not a misprint.  We may actually receive snow.  I know many of you are in much colder climates and that is no big deal, but it is strange down here.  So, in honor of the harsh reality of winter, I offer a picture that is its polar opposite.  I think everyone likes the beach in some form or fashion.  Not everyone likes to sit there and suntan themselves but I think somewhere deep inside at the very least they enjoy the refreshing consistency and subtle music of a thousand waves crashing, over and over, again and again.