Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More photos from Yosemite

The Moonbow picture (from the previous blog entry) made it onto the evening news tonight. That was fun to see. are some more pictures from my trip to Yosemite.

I took this picture of Half Dome from the ever popular Tunnel View vista. I used my 400mm lens to isolate this amazing formation. The pink color is from the sun which is about 5 minutes from setting to the West.

This is an HDR shot from the same vantage point.

I took this shot the following morning because I really liked the morning light coming off of the stem of the flower.

I was teaching one of the Canon students how to shoot macro shots and came across this really pretty blossom. There is something about the simplicity of the image and the curve of the stem that made me pick this particular flower. Believe it or not, I use my Canon 100-400 lens to shoot this. How did I get a macro shot out of that lens? I used the Canon 500D macro filter which converts this long telephoto lens into a macro. So cool!

After teaching students in the Yosemite Valley, we decided to take a drive out to Hetch Hetchy Dam to check it out. Along the way, we came across some great wildlife. This raven landed right by me and basically refused to leave. I kept getting closer and closer to him and he would stare me down as if it were a challenge.

I thought that this little "guy" was in a great position to be photographed (right on the edge of the water). When I got home and started editing the images, I noticed that this little critter was not a guy at all. The detail of the 21MP image let me see all the details, including the fact that she must be feeding little ones.

Curled up on the dam itself was this little snake. Again, using the 100-400 lens with the Canon 500D macro filter, I was able to get in nice and close to this guy. Cool red tongue, huh?

And to my amazement, right in the middle of the day, we came across this big black bear who was out eating in a field (probably around 3pm).

This last shot was taken at 6am. We woke up hoping for some great sunrise shots, but the clouds all but obscured the sun. So, I took 5 shots (all one stop apart) of the "Three Brothers" and created this HDR shot of the sky and reflection.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Yosemite Falls presents - The Moonbow!!!

I just returned from another quick trip to Yosemite Valley, where I was lucky enough to spend some times with my friends from Canon and also well-known outdoor photographer, Lewis Kemper. I was only able to stay there for two nights since I had other commitments back home, but it was not a wasted trip by any means. This happened to be one of the rare nights where one of the most elusive occurrences in Yosemite can happen. This is called a "Moonbow" and it only occurs when the following things happen:

1. The skies must be clear enough for the moon to shine through (which did not happen on the first night)
2. There must be enough water coming off the falls to create the right amount of mist at the base
3. A bright moon (preferably a full one)
4. The correct angle of the moon from the falls
5. The photographer needs to be at the right angle to capture the moonbow.

Even though we had started shooting at sunrise (5:30am) and had photographed and taught all day, we were determined to get to this shot. So, at 11:30pm we arrived at the meadow across from Yosemite Falls and set up for nature's one hour show.  I had an idea of how I would shoot this event, but two things caught me by surprise. The first was how tough it was to focus the camera in near darkness. At the beginning, I had set the lens to focus at infinity and hoped that it would be sharp. I ended up finding the right distance but I can tell you that the first ten images were useless. The second thing that surprised me was that the moonbow is not visible to the human eye, only to the camera. So...I was looking at the falls and waiting for the "event" to start when, in actuality, it already had. If it hadn't been for the hundreds of other photographers there, I might have missed this. Live and learn!

You can click on this image to see it a little larger the end I came up with a couple of images which really show off the Yosemite Falls Moonbow. This one is my favorites. Mother Nature is Awesome!!!!!

More Yosemite images to come (but none as memorable as this one).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Steve Wozniak (After Apple and before "Dancing With The Stars") introduces me to my first digital camera

Many people ask me how I got interested in digital photography and they are surprised when I tell them that it all started with Steve Wozniak, the founder of Apple Computer. Yes, the Woz himself!

I was fortunate to meet Steve more than 25 years ago, back when the Apple II was still in the Apple lineup and digital cameras were not available yet. We became friends back in the late 1980s. I think it was my love of technology and my "early adopter" mentality that formed that common bond between us. It clearly was not my level of intelligence or math skills!

On one of Steve's many trips to Tokyo, he came back with a couple of, at the time, cutting edge digital cameras, called the Ricoh RDC-1. This thing could take a digital picture at a whopping 640x480 resolution. That's right...not even one megapixel. :)

I think that the camera sold then for about $1500 and the LCD was an option. The camera used the old SmartMedia cards and I think I had about 5 of the 8MB (not GB) cards. Woz gave me one of these cameras and the rest is history. I was amazed at the immediacy of digital photography and used the camera often. After that, Woz and I would make numerous trips to Japan to shop for the latest and greatest digital cameras. Those trips were fun! is due to Woz's generosity and kindness that I got the photo bug.

A couple of years ago, my daughter had to do a school project on someone famous and she picked Steve Wozniak. What could be better than going directly to the source for a school project. While we were up at Steve's house, I shot off some images for her project board.

This was my favorite shot from that day, with Woz and his reflection.

Here is Ali taking copious notes for her school project while Steve patiently waited and answered her questions. He is every bit of the nice guy that you all saw on "Dancing With The Stars".

Not only do I credit Woz with my early interest in digital photography, he also ignited my interest in high-tech gadgets, cool cars and countless other fun stuff. Thanks Steve!

Oh - and Ali got an "A" on her report. :)

ADDED JULY 2, 2010-  RESPONSE FROM THE EVER HUMBLE WOZ: "Way too much credit. You did much more to get me into 'good' cameras and the like. And the skill is in yourself. The right thing is to thank friends for being along as you went in certain directions. "

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Photographing animals at the San Francisco Zoo

Yesterday I made another trip to the San Francisco Zoo; this time to shoot images for an article I am writing for Lexar's Digital Photography web site. The article will give tips on how to better photograph zoo animals. I was hoping for some of that good ole' San Francisco fog to give me nice even light, but even though I showed up right at 10am (the opening of the zoo), it wasn't to be. The sunlight was pretty intense. But, I made the best of the situation and set out to capture some "good images" and some "what not to do" images. Here are some of my favorites.

I was the only one hanging out by this guy and I swear that he was staring me down.

I walked by the lion pen at least 4 times, and each time they were laying down in the back, out of site. Finally, on my last attempt, they had made their way back towards the front of the exhibit. This guy had his head down and, as I stood there waiting to see if he would look up, he seemed content to wait me out. I remembered a trick that I had used a couple of years ago. I pulled out my car keys and rattled them, thus simulating the noise that they associate with their keeper (and therefore food). That worked! He looked up at me numerous times and even got up and meandered around for a while.

Look - a three headed giraffe!

I used this image in my article to demonstrate the importance of focusing on the animal's eyes. I shot this at f2.8 to diffuse the background and draw the viewers attention to the bird.

This Mandrill, Jake, was my favorite subject at the zoo. He had great colors in his face and on his back side. I must have stood by his area for 45 minutes trying to get a decent shot of him. The bad lighting wasn't helping me in this quest. He must have paced around his pen at least 25 times before I left. I can not tell you how many times I heard kids walk by and say "hey - has a funny looking butt!". Too funny.

For the article, check out in a week or so.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A demonstration of Lexar high speed memory cards

Lexar just posted this video demonstration of me comparing the speeds of the 80x, 300x and 600x memory cards, while shooting sports. I asked my daughter's good friend, Jamie, if she could come by and juggle a soccer ball for this and she did a great job.

See for yourself.
You can also see the HD version of this video at:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Same location - totally different light!

When I was in San Diego scouting locations for a video shoot, I just so happened to be 5 minutes away from my nephew's workout spot. He is an amazing athlete who just might be in the Olympics someday. We rigged him up with a HD waterproof video camera (strapped to chest in the image) and sent him back out for his daily practice.

It was late in the day and with the sun to my right, I figured that the only good shots of him would be to my left, facing away from the sun. So I shot the following couple of images when the opportunity arose.

And then...when I was shielding my eyes and trying to look to see if he was coming back towards me, I saw another interesting shot. I knew that this would look totally different from the other pictures, but I also figured that it could be interesting with the silhouettes. So...I fired off some shots and came up with the image below.

We don't get to see his face in this shot, but the feel is totally different in this photo. This was my favorite image of the day. Taken within minutes of each other - but using the sunlight in a totally different way. This is why it is always a good idea to look in all directions when shooting pictures. You just never know what you are going to capture. And, of course, with high capacity Lexar memory cards in my camera, why not take some risks and see what comes up?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Two Stanley Cup Winners from the Chicago Blackhawks - Brad Aldrich and Patrick Kane

The Chicago Blackhawks just won the Stanley Cup. I am so happy for my friends over there. Here are two guys who have now hoisted the cup and celebrated the ultimate trophy. I shot this image of Brad Aldrich (video coach) and Patrick Kane (game winning goal scorer) at the Team USA party at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Congratulations guys - you did it!

(Photo removed for privacy reasons)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Bar Mitzvah in Salinas, CA? Yep - Really!

Yesterday was another first for me. I shot a Bar Mitzvah in a small Temple located in Salinas, CA. It was the smallest Temple that I have shot in, but very nice looking and really cozy. The only problem is that the front of the Temple faces right into the morning sun, so it was much better to do all the family photos inside. Luckily, they had this great backdrop at the back of the synagogue. I loved that!

Not only did Mitchell do a great job, but the family was awesome to work with. All smiles and having a great time all day.

These kids cracked me up. The DJ crew (Alan Waltz Entertainment) kept dressing these two in more and more stuff and I couldn't help myself. I shot a ton of images of these two, but when they were peeking out the front door of the venue (in San Juan Batista, CA) I grabbed this shot, which is one of my favorites.

Always looking for a new and creative way to shoot images during a party. I asked this young lady to shoot one more picture of her friends and I made sure to focus on her camera (at f4.0) to give a new look to the "kids table" shot. She looked at the back of my camera and exclaimed "That is the coolest picture I have ever seen!" I love kids.

This is one of my favorite images from the evening. I saw the kids dancing in a circle and wanted to get a unique shot of this. I ran to my camera bad, changed to a 16-35mm wide lens, popped on my flash diffuser and ran back to insert myself into the middle of the dancing. Laying on the ground, I focused on their faces and blasted off 3 or 4 shots. So cool! This is what I love about photography - endless options and trying new things.

Gotta do the kids group shot!

And then as the night crept in, I went back out side where a bunch of the kids were playing with their glow ropes. I set up my camera on my tripod, set my flash for TTL, set the exposure for 1/2 second and asked the kids to swing the ropes around.

I am not sure who was having more fun with these images, me or them. :)

And then as the party was winding down, I tried the old "spinning the camera while firing" trick and got some cool shots of the last remaining guests. Why do I shoot events? This is why!