Spending a Morning in San Francisco

In 2013 I made a much needed trip to San Francisco at the end of May. It was a crazy month for me so a morning being creative around the Golden Gate Bridge was just what I needed. As I was exploring my surroundings before the sun came up I noticed this great scene in front of me. The moon setting over the bay was a perfect way to start the day. This was a photo that I never really knew what to do with. I liked it, but something was just missing from it. Back then I pushed the clarity slider on everything no matter what it was. It really did not work much for this photo so it never saw the light of day. It was only about four years later that I realized that going the other way with the clarity slider was what I needed to do here. That made it just a little more like a painting which is what I thought that I was looking at on the scene that day.

Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

A photo like this one is a great example of why you need to get out of your comfort zone. I tend to edit my photos very much the same way. This past year I have started experimenting a bit. That does not always make for a great photo, but it does give me new ways to express myself. By getting out of my comfort zone here I was able to create something that I really like.


A Golden Morning at the Golden Gate Bridge

Still to this day one of the best morning shoots I have ever been on was my morning at the Golden Gate Bridge. Part of that reason is that on the West Coast you can look like a hero getting up super early when it is really like 8:00 in the morning your time. My mornings in Ocean City feel like they are early in the morning. This one did not. Another reason is the amazing views I had that morning. This view of the city of San Francisco with the Golden Gate bridge in the foreground is fantastic. I could just sit and watch this all day in person. At the time I was just happy to be using my Canon 60D with my brand new Canon 24-70mm lens. It just could not get much better than that morning.

Growing As A Photographer

When I made this image I was in my heavy HDR phase. No shadows or haze in my photos. At the time I loved it, but as most photographers do you grow and find a style that is yours. What makes the photo above is the fact that shadow and haze play a part in it. In a two dimensional medium the haze helps convert the depth of the photo. I like to visit new places and see new things, but occasionally I want to go back and visit old photos again. This is one I would love to revisit.

Photo of the Day

Today I would like to show another image that I made last year from the top of Hawk Hill overlooking San Francisco. I only had one morning to make an image of this iconic bridge, and you never know when the fog is going to roll in. In fact as I was making this image the fog was coming closer to the bridge. I knew that I wanted a high vantage point so that I would not be shut out. I knew that the sun would rise in the wrong location, but I banked on some color to help me make an interesting image. I really had a great morning that made me want to spend many more around this bridge. Once the sun had come up most of the crowd up on the hill left. I made some pictures behind the hill, and then on my way back around I made this one. When I am somewhere new I don’t want to rush the scene. One of my favorite images from the trip came about a half an hour after this image was made.

Technical Data

For this photo I started off with a crop. I did not like the foreground, and I thought that the panoramic crop would get me closer to what I wanted the viewer to see. I then used the graduated filter to make the sky a little darker and a little warmer. With that done I could then cool down the water a bit to give this image this unique look. I then spent the rest of the time working on the sky. For some reason I was shooting at f/23 according to the exif data, and the dust spots were everywhere. A rough morning on my lens really showed up here.

Photo Sale!

Over at my SmugMug site I have cut the price on all of my photos for the summer. If you visit my site at pinolaphotography.com you can order any item that I sell for 50% off from now until Labor Day. Just use the coupon code ‘summer’ at the checkout.

50% Off

Photo of the Day

Last year was filled with many great moments. Many dreams fulfilled for sure. One of those dreams was to see the sun rise over the Golden Gate Bridge. I only had one shot at making a picture during the only morning that we were in San Francisco so I played it safe and went up high in case fog rolled in. I didn’t want to be low, and have no picture. What I saw up in the Marin Headleads amazed me. People were out everywhere making their own mark on this photo. I made this photo though after many had left. For some reason once the sun rises people leave. What they must not see or care about is the tremendous color that can still happen when the sun is low. The same holds true for a sunset. Most of the time the best color in the sky is after the sun has gone down. I like how everything seems to work here for a simple picture. This is not a gallery image, but it is a great reminder of a super morning.

Technical Data

For this photo I used one RAW file to take into Lightroom. Inside of that program I made a couple of adjustments to the sliders to bring out the colors and the detail in the scene. I also used the HDR look preset in the program to get started. From there you just have to adjust a few sliders to make the image appear as it did that morning. Your eye can see a much larger dynamic range of light than your camera can. That is where software comes into play. You can make up for that range with the tools that we now have.

With the year winding down it is a good time to reflect on the year that was. I was fortunate enough to visit some pretty great places in the past year. Most of my travel was near the beginning of the year this year. Here are a few photos that I like that remind me how fortunate I was in 2013.

13.) The first picture on the countdown was taken from my hotel windows in Sacramento this past May. The Tower Bridge is an interesting structure, and the sun setting behind it makes for an even more interesting structure. The boat went through the frame at just the right time. This was one of those photos where everything seemed to fall into place. 

Sand Mountain in the morning

12.) Here is the first of a few photos from my Colorado trip last year. I really love the landscape out there, and I think that I could have filled up this countdown with a photos from the trip. This photo was taken on my last full day out there as I was eating breakfast. I kept seeing this scene out the window while I was eating. I excused myself from the table, grabbed my camera, and then walked out to make the picture. I then went back to my breakfast. I am sure that most people on the outside think that my behavior was pretty weird. I just saw it as a time to capture the scene while it was there.

11.) This is the first of three pictures taken in one morning at the Marin Headlands. I had a great time photographing the Golden Gate Bridge at sunrise. I decided to see what was on the backside of the hill that I was shooting from. You have to walk through an old bunker to get there. Once through though a small clearing appeared. I thought this was a nice little scene. Something about what man has done to a great landscape. The beauty combined with the ugliness made this one of my favorite pictures from the trip.

10.) This picture was made just for the family that we were staying with in Colorado. I thought that the street sign in the middle of nowhere was pretty neat. Something about the picture spoke to me though, and it is one of my favorites from the trip.

9.) Here is another picture from my morning at the Golden Gate Bridge. After the sun had come up I moved over to the battery to make this image of the bridge. It is an iconic shot of the bridge so I used a little processing to make it more by own. This really is a beautiful structure, and the pictures just take themselves.

8.) Every trip to Steamboat, Colorado had to have this iconic barn in it while I was a kid. I was very excited to see the barn now as an adult with my current camera gear. The roof of the barn does not show it, but the snow was very deep that day. I was sinking in up to my hips with every step, but I made my way out to where I wanted to be to get this shot of the barn with the ski resort in the background.

7.) In February we went to Milwaukee to see some roller derby. To start our trip though we went to the Milwaukee art museum. This bridge connects the two buildings, and it is very photogenic. When the building is ‘open’ it is even more so, but I never saw that while I was there.

6.) This is the most recent photo in this countdown. I helped my brother move into his new house this past August, and decided to stop by Cataract Falls on my way home. The sky was very high, and I didn’t think that I would get any good pictures out of the trip, but at least I could scout the location. I ended up making some nice pictures that I was proud of. I really need to get back here again.

5.) This shot may not really be in my best 50 shots of the year as far as landscapes go. It was taken by me just after getting married though so the emotion of the picture vaults it into the list here. I was on a bridge in downtown Columbus, Ohio viewing art of all kinds. I saw the skyline reflecting off of the water, and I wanted to make a picture. I moved in between two photo tents to do so. It is a nice memory of a great weekend.

4.) While on our yearly trip to Ocean City this year I woke up early a couple of days to try and capture the sunrise on the famous pier. My first day I was shut out, but I made some interesting long exposures of the water. The next day though I was rewarded with a glorious sunrise. The interesting fact about this picture is that it was made with my point and shoot camera. While my main camera was taking a bracketed series on a tripod I went down to the water with the point and shoot to see how that view looked. This ‘test shot’ ended up being my favorite.

3.) This photo happened more by accident than anything else. I was out trying to capture the Milky Way with a camera that I had rented. I drove away from the city to have a better chance. The only problem with that is the fact that I didn’t know any of the ground I was now surrounded by. I had a few decent pictures, but nothing that I would publish. I decided to try a different way home, and that is when I came across this barn. The fact that you could see through it seemed to make it the perfect object to place in the foreground. I made my exposure, and I was thrilled with what I accomplished.

2.) Watching the stars out in Colorado is really something. I had never really tried an extremely long exposure photography before. The above picture was a half hour long exposure. I love the way that the stars circle my favorite mountain in Colorado. The cabin we stayed in also looks great off to the side. This was a trip to remember, and I would love to give it a try again.

1.) The Golden Gate Bridge at sunrise was probably the highlight of my year as far as shooting a landscape was concerned. In just a short period of time I was able to capture many images of this iconic bridge. This image though taken just after I arrived is by far my favorite. All of the colors seemed to blend together in a really fantastic way. When I thought of this list I immediately thought of this photo as #1.

Photo of the Day

Today I thought that I would post another picture from one of my favorite places in the world. I really enjoyed my time in San Francisco. A lot of the fun was up on Hawk Hill watching the sunrise. I think that I would get up here everyday I could because each sunrise would be different. After the sun was up I decided to try a couple of other angles on the famous bridge. While driving I noticed that I was passing up a famous angle of the bridge. If you stop on a certain part of the road you can frame the Transamerica Building in one of the towers. This is a photograph done very often, but I wanted to give it a try as well. Earlier that morning I saw a photo on a cell phone taken the night before of the very large full moon just in between the top of this tower as well. That was a very different take on the bridge that I really liked. Being a visitor though sometimes I just have to take the tourist photos.

Technical Data

This was a three shot HDR bracketed at -2, 0, and +2. I took the three images into Lightroom to process them there. I sent the 32 bit file back into Lightroom to use the sliders there to see what kind of a result I could get. I like the power of the Lightroom sliders much more than the sliders inside of Photomatix. Once inside of Lightroom it was a case of better or worse for many of the sliders. I wanted to bring out all of the dynamic light that was present early that morning. That is not easy to do while keeping the photo realistic. I think that in the end I captured the scene just as I saw it.

Photo of the Day

Today I thought I would share this photo that I took on the backside of Hawk Hill in May. Hawk Hill is a magical place. On one side of the hill you have a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city of San Francisco. On this side you look out into the bay with a view of the Point Bonita Lighthouse as your reward. I loved how the early morning color was reflecting off of the fog that was moving in. I liked the idea of a lone bike rider with this road all to himself riding towards the lighthouse with the full moon setting in the background. I would love to spend more time on this hill, and the areas around it.

Technical Data

This is a three shot HDR that was processed in Photomatix. The 32 bit tif file was then sent back into Lightroom so that I could use the sliders there to their full capabilities. This is where things have improved over the last year. When fully processed in Photomatix this picture looked very fake. Using the sliders in Lightroom I was able to make a realistic image that shows all of the dynamic range of light that was present that day.

Photo of the Day

A few weeks ago I published a picture from a similar vantage point of this bridge. It was actually this same point, but just processed a little differently. My morning at the Golden Gate was one that I will never forget. The clouds were not there to give me a brilliant sunrise, but it was still great. At the end of the day any picture of the Golden Gate looks good. The conditions can turn the good picture into great. I will just have to visit the bridge again to make my great picture.

Technical Data

As I said above I decided to process this photo two different ways. I normally would never show another version of it, but I really like this one. It has a dreamy quality to it that I think makes this view look much better. I processed the picture in Photomatix using my three exposures from -2, 0, and +2. I took the 32 bit image that the program gave me, and sent it back to Lightroom. From there I applied a medium HDR Look preset that I downloaded for free from Matt Kloskowski. It really gave the photo a nice feel to it. I did mess around with the temperature in Lightroom to get the sky to look similar to how it did that morning. Sometimes I like to have a little fun with the scene, and this was a fun one to edit.

Photo of the Day

Here is another picture that I made of the Golden Gate Bridge. I only had one shot at getting some sunrise pictures so I had to make the most of my time there. Right before I left I walked to the top of the Spencer Battery. This is a classic view of the bridge, but I thought that maybe the sun was too harsh to make a nice picture. At this point I had gotten rid of the tripod, and I was shooting handheld. I tried a few shots with the 24-70mm lens, but I wanted to be out a bit more. I quickly switched to my 10-20mm lens to get the shot that I had in mind. As with most of the bridge shots on this trip a boat came along at just the right time to add some interest in a blank portion of the photo. I really seemed blessed that way during the trip.

Technical Data

This is a three shot HDR that was processed in Photomatix. I normally don’t try HDR with a clear sky, but here it seemed like it might work out. I knew that the shot had to be processed gently so instead of using the sliders in Photomatix I used the sliders inside of Lightroom. This way I could control things a bit more, and cut down on the halo effect. It was a fine line to walk, but in the end I think that the extra detail that the HDR process gave me made this a much better photo.