First Impressions with Expired Kodak BW400CN Film at Princeton-By-The-Sea, CA

Hey, folks! I’m back with another non-technical review and this time I’m focusing on a particular type of Kodak film that never really found a true following and has since been discontinued as of their Aug 14, 2014 notice. I am referring to Kodak’s BW400CN, which stands for a B&W chromogenic 400 speed color negative. Black and white color negative, you ask? What kind of oxymoron is that?? Well, it was actually a very intelligent move on behalf of Kodak years ago as photo developing was taken over by fancy machines that could crank out color negatives in a matter of ten minutes.

Traditional black and white negatives were developed using a calculated method of temperature, developer and fixer to match each particular film for optimal results that a streamlined process was never made available. To date, most photo labs that process B&W films still do it by hand and is obviously more labor intensive. Yet, as color negative film was manufactured across all platforms and brand names to use the same developing process (C-41), a machine capable of streamlining the developing of the negatives was a godsend. So, what better way to satisfy a consumer market still in love with black and white images than by developing a black and white negative that can be developed in standard chemistry found in the available machinery that would allow for 1HR service for a quick turnaround even at a pharmacy developer? Bingo!

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BW400CN satisfied a market for photographers that wanted to shoot b&w but didn’t want to pay the price tag and potential human error factor of hand processing traditional b&w film OR didn’t want the hassle of developing their own traditional b&w film at home. And you would expect that this new fangled film would be mediocre at best, right?? Abso-freakin-lutely NOT!!!

Most of my adventures in film have all revolved around the excitement and sense of satisfaction of developing my own film in my bathroom-turned-darkroom with the aid of 3 yards of thick, black felt purchased at the local fabric store that gets pinned to the bathroom door to help seal out the light coming in around the door frame. It’s a ventilated bathroom free of windows, so other than the door frame, I don’t have to contend with any other light leaks. In fact, I only require complete darkness for the process of loading the film into the reels that are then loaded into the developing tanks. Once in the light proof tanks, the lights turn back on and everything happens in the light. Given my enjoyment, I really had no desire to go after a color process b&w film.

One of the golden rules that I heard over and over again was that only b&w was able to be home processed. “You can’t possible process your own C-41 at home!!”, I heard many times. Yet, when I would jump on YouTube or read the photo forums on related topics, I would see people successfully developing their own C-41 at home. There had to be something to it, right? I took the leap of faith with Freestyle Photographic (a huge website for anything and everything for film fanatics and more) and ordered one of the C-41 developing kits.

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Prior to taking the leap, I had come across a few great deals on both the Kodak and Ilford versions of C-41 b&w films and figured I would have to try this stuff out myself. I found a singular auction that was cheap enough for me to use some Ebay rewards points I had accumulated and used them to purchase an expired roll of Kodak BW400CN to test out. The film was expired by just a little over a decade, so I figured I would have to make some adjustment to compensate for the aging of the film and however it may or may not have been kept. Since this film is a 400 speed, I figured I would go with the recommended adjustment of 1 f-stop per decade to compensate for age and shot this roll at 200 speed.

I used my Pentax 6X7 with a 90mm f/2.8 lens while visiting the neighboring town of Princeton-By-The-Sea, CA. Just a few minutes north of Half Moon Bay, Princeton is a tiny little town with the biggest working fishing community south of San Francisco. Home to one of my favorite seafood restaurants, Barbara’s Fishtrap, Princeton is a frequent hangout for us when we want to get away just a bit and have some great seafood.

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On the weekends, the locals can be found hovering around the boats returning from their rounds ready to sell the fresh catch just as it comes off the boats. We happened to head down there this April just as the Dungeness crab season was coming to a close. The fishing industry is all too interesting to me and always a great subject for testing out a new roll of film, so I had at it!!

It wasn’t until months later that I took the leap to purchase the C-41 developing kit, and to be perfectly honest, I had almost forgotten all about the roll of BW400CN. What a pleasant surprise to see the beautiful images come to life as the negatives were drying. Just like standard color negatives, the roll of film came out looking murky and with a film on the entire length. I had read that as the film dries, the clarity comes in, so I remained patient. Within a few hours, the images appeared to be popping and my adjustment of the 1-f/stop to shoot the roll at 200 speed was proven accurate.

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It wasn’t until I scanned the negatives that I truly appreciated the film for what it was. Although I tend to favor the high contrast films, I found that I rather enjoyed the neutral tones and found the images to be incredibly sharp, yet smooth. The film has very good shadow detail and a low propensity to blow out on highlights. Kodak advertises the film to be the finest grained b&w they offered until its announced discontinuation date, but I don’t know about all that. I do admit that it looks great, but there was still plenty of apparent “grain” to the image. Could this be a result from the grossly expired film? Quite possibly, but after the discontinuation notice, I doubt I’ll be able to readily find the film at my local photo shop.

So, what’s the verdict, you ask? I say grab some BW400CN and go to town!! I will be actively looking for auction lots on EBay for both expired and current offering to continue to play with until all stock runs out everywhere!!!

Another one bites the dust…

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The Hasselblad X-Pan Is Pretty Cool – But I’m Not Running Out To Get One !!

Looking down Market St to the Ferry Bldg while crossing 2nd.

Looking down Market St to the Ferry Bldg while crossing 2nd.

What do you do if you’re Swedish camera manufacturer Hasselblad and want a panoramic 35mm camera? You go to Fuji and have them design and build it, of course!!!

The Hasselblad X-Pan is a fantastic 35mm film camera that can switch between standard 35mm frames  (24mm X 36mm) and panoramic frames equal to that of approximately two frames (24mm X 65mm) mid-roll. Yes, I said midroll. The film canister is loaded in the same manner as any 35mm camera, but the first thing you notice when working with this beast for the first time is an unusually long film winding process. What the camera is doing is winding the entire roll of film out into the take out spool. The idea is genius since the camera then continues to wind the film back into the spool as you shoot through the roll. Not only does this allow the camera to compensate mid-roll for the difference between standard and panoramic frames, but it has the added benefit of protecting any images already exposed within the film canister should the back door come open and the film be exposed to light. It would take quite a bit to make this mistake with this camera, but the redundancy gives you added comfort that the engineers really put some thought into this little baby.

The F streetcar line on Market St.

The F streetcar line on Market St.

Back in late Oct 2013, I found myself not knowing what I wanted to rent from my Friday afternoon go-to rental place, Adolf Gasser. I decided to try something different and the X-Pan happened to be there. Definitely a crowd favorite and rarely available for a weekend rental, I jumped on the opportunity and took it home with the 45mm f/4.0 lens option. The camera was manufactured with a removable lens and Hasselblad/Fiju manufactured three lenses for the system: a 30mm f/5.6, a 45mm f/4.0 and a 90mm f/4.0.

A row of old Victorian homes on Oak St in Oakland.

A row of old Victorian homes on Oak St in Oakland.

When previously researching this camera, I came across some information on the internet that basically said that the camera would have two different perspectives with any given lens choice because of the difference between the standard 35mm format and the panoramic format. Well, it must be true then because you can’t put anything on the internet that isn’t true. Where did I read that, you ask? The internet, of course. Ha!

The walkway to Embarcardero from the Portobello Complex in Oakland.

The walkway to Embarcardero from the Portobello Complex in Oakland.

That’s not true, folks. The only thing that changes between standard frames and panoramic frames is the film format, but a 45mm lens remains a 45mm perspective regardless of the format. If not, the 45mm lens in a panoramic format would have all sorts of distortion and curvature to the image. I picked the 45mm lens simply because it’s the closest option to a human field of view perspective, but I’d be interested to see how the camera feels with the 30mm wide angle and the 90mm short zoom.

Hills behind the valley in Pacifica while on a hike.

Hills behind the valley in Pacifica while on a hike.

Speaking of feel, the camera is a freakin’ brick and heavy at that. It’s rather ridiculous, but at 720g, this thing easily weighs a little more than two mainstream 35mm cameras without the lens. The lens is no joke either and the whole kit weighs in at a little over 1,100 g. Built like a tank, the X-Pan is built for whatever task you want to throw at it.

Entrance to a horse ranch in the back of the valley in Pacifica.

Entrance to a horse ranch in the back of the valley in Pacifica.

Since I had a few other things going on that weekend, I only managed to put a single roll through the camera over the entire weekend. I had a roll of Ilford Pan F Plus 35mm b&w film handy so that’s what I went with. Pan F is one of the slower film offerings from Ilford with medium contrast and HUGE resolution capacity and an excellent choice for outdoor shooting. I do, however, develop a little longer than recommended to boost the contrast up a bit and love the look. It’s got bright whites, and very black blacks. Like buttah…

Horse ranch. Too bad the camera can't capture smells as well...

Horse ranch. Too bad the camera can’t capture smells as well…

After shooting SLR cameras for the majority of my photographic journey, shooting a rangefinder for the first time took some getting used to. And what you can’t imagine is how much this can affect your ability to properly focus. I found after developing this roll that a number of my images were out of focus and it left me thinking “WTF?!?!?!”

Hiking trail in Pacifica.

Hiking trail in Pacifica.

What does it mean to shoot a rangefinder? Rather than looking through the viewfinder and seeing the image as it comes through the lens and up the pentaprism, with a rangefinder, you are looking through a viewfinder that is off-center and focusing relies on a “ghosting” effect where duplicate images of what you’re looking at come together as you manually focus until the meet. Once the two ghost images meet as one, your focal point has been reached.

Trees...I think.

Trees…I think.

So, what don’t a like about this little magical image maker? For starters, the camera takes a bit to get used to working with the exposure settings compared to other SLRs. In AUTO, the photographer gets to set the aperture, since it’s located on the lens itself, while the camera’s meter adjusts the shutter speed to compensate for the center weighted average it’s set up for. The camera can completely work in full manual, but with no meter reading in the viewfinder due to it being a rangefinder, it makes it a bit more challenging. The camera has quite a number of modern camera features, but the lack of autofocus is really apparent as something that is missing. But, at the same time, it was done by design since the camera was rather expensive  when new and still remains a little out of my price range on the used side may years later. I can only imagine that the conversation was had during the design phase of the project and autofocus had to be left off for weight consideration and consumer cost.

So, do I really not like the X-Pan? Nah..it’s pretty awesome! I can work around the slight inconveniences mentioned above in order to obtain beautiful panoramic images, but I’m still not running out to get one! Boom!

Look, Ma'!! You can hold the X-Pan vertically as well...

Look, Ma’!! You can hold the X-Pan vertically as well…

A Previous Excursion with the Mamiya 645 AF at the Ferry Bldg and Justin Herman Plaza

Hi folks! I’m back from the Chicagoland area where I was fortunate enough to listen to our San Francisco Giants clench our third trip to the World Series in the last five years. Yes, listen and not watch, to my dismay. Not only did my hotel not have a sufficient cable package to offer Fox 1, but the hotel bar’s TV sets were fixed on Thursday Night Football. I tried the MLB at Bat app, but the Wi-Fi service was crap and only had one bar of service on 3G that didn’t get me any closer. So, I had to go all MacGuyer and use the hotel alarm clock radio. Luckily, I was able to track down the ESPN radio station and rode the ups and downs of the game until victory.

For today’s post, I thought I would continue in the theme of the shots taken with the Mamiya 645 AF w/ 80mm f/2.8 lens. A few months earlier than our dinner party, I headed down to the Ferry Bldg area on a weekend. I was able to figure out that it was on January 24-25 of this year since the ice-skating rink was still out, which tells me I need to start keeping better track of my equipment rental dates. The only reason I was able to determine those dates were thanks to the record keeping habits of Gasser’s. After placing a quick call to my friends in the still rentals department, I was able to determine the rental dates. I have to say that having a date imbedded in digital file is extremely convenient…and the point goes to digital on that front.

I do recall having a bit of trouble figuring out the selector button on the body of the 645 AF that would allow the change between manual focus, single autofocus and continuous autofocus. The previous renter of the camera had placed the body in continuous focus, so as I focused and composed my shot, I noticed that the focus point would always shift to the center of the image. I only recall all of this because I had reached a stand in the artisan marketplace just in Justin Herman Plaza that sold handmade coffee mugs with very interesting and funny catch phrases. I managed to snap a picture of one of the mugs, that I included below, before I started playing with the buttons to figure out the focus issue. I happened to continue to pick his mugs as my focus test spot to his displeasure since he figured that I was taking “too many” pictures of his mugs. He was rather rude about it, so I was happy to hand the rudeness right back and mention that I would have bought one of his mugs, but his lousy attitude got in the way. He tried to take his foot out of his mouth when he realized that I had a film camera and had no intention to copy his mugs for profit, but we walked away.

The optics available on the autofocus lenses for the Mamiya 645 AF system are top notch. Although the body is more than happy to take the manual focus lenses as well, the autofocus lenses transmit data about the image to the camera that allow it to meter and expose the image properly, such as focal distance and aperture settings. Although I did find with this particular shoot that the small hood available on the 80mm f/2.8 is rather shallow, it did the job on most every shot. There was one shot that I put the hood to the test, and as you can see below, it appears as if it manages to block out the direct sunlight in only part of the image, while the rest of the image is blown out quite a bit.

Other than that, the camera is rather brilliant. It is very intuitive, quick to respond on the autofocus and appears to have its meter tender spot on exposure settings for awesome images time after time. The biggest perk of the camera is that the film back used with the cartridges is replaceable with the Mamiya and Leaf line of digital backs that make the camera completely digital with one simple (yet extremely expensive) accessory. The camera even with the film setup is on the pricey side, but photographers understand that most of the time you have to pay for quality.

Will I run out and spend nearly $1,000 for a body alone anytime soon? I seriously doubt it when I have the convenience factor of being able to rent it from Adolf Gasser’s nearly anytime I desire. But would it be a welcome part in my photographic arsenal? Oh, hell yeah!! For now, I’ll stick to my photographic guerilla tactics of taking the cheap route until someone chooses to start paying my ass for my imagery!! Ha!

Justin Herman Plaza Ice Rink

Justin Herman Plaza Ice Rink

Inside of the Ferry Bldg

Inside of the Ferry Bldg

Mexico City F-Line Street Car

Mexico City F-Line Street Car

Ferry Bldg clock tower

Ferry Bldg clock tower

F-line Street Car

F-line Street Car

Handmade clay coffee mugs. I do LOVE killin' me some zombies...

Handmade clay coffee mugs. I do LOVE killin’ me some zombies…

Ferry Bldg clock tower

Ferry Bldg clock tower

Justin Herman Plaza ice skating rink

Justin Herman Plaza ice skating rink

The 80mm lens hood could be a little longer...

The 80mm lens hood could be a little longer…

How about we stop in the middle of the street and take a picture...

How about we stop in the middle of the street and take a picture…

Buns of steel!! Or maybe just bronze...

Buns of steel!! Or maybe just bronze…

Clock tower

Clock tower

Justin Herman Plaza artisan kiosks.

Justin Herman Plaza artisan kiosks.

More kiosks...

More kiosks…

Part 3 of 4 of The 2012 San Francisco Giants World Series Championship Parade!! Coaches, Lou Seal, the Trophy and some weird shit that did not have anything to do with the parade!!

Hey folks!! I’m back yet again to share a few more images that I took from my vantage point along Market Street during the San Francisco Giant’s World Series Championship Parade. Last time I shared with you, I got through Muelens and Wotus. So, I will start off with the next guys up in the parade route, Roberto Kelly and Tim Flannery.

Tim Flannery is one hell of a third base coach! He is always animated, intense and knows this game of baseball like only the best of them do. Whether he’s just relaying signs or waving the Panda home on a tight call, Tim is hanging right there with the players and even runs alongside them all the way home. If you are lucky enough to get close enough seats, you can even hear Flannery scream out “DOWN!! DOWN!! DOWN!!!” as he’s running alongside the players when he needs them to slide home. Although Tim played almost all of his baseball career with the San Diego Padres, we are very pleased that Bochy was able to steal him away from the Padres when he was named Manager in 2007.

In 2008, when he joined the team, Roberto Kelly told all the starting pitchers that they would have no excuse for not being as good a base runner as any of the other position players. I’m sure that raised an eyebrow or two, but our pitchers have become some of the best base runners in the entire league. Roberto played a good deal of his baseball career here in the US after getting his start in his home country of Panama. Although he never played for the Giants, we are very happy to have him over as our first base coach. Earlier this year, Roberto was hospitalized for appendicitis and missed a number of games. The fans missed him and let him know with a huge round of applause when he was announced in the lineup for his first game back.

Hats off to you, gentlemen!!

Next up on the parade route brought us Billy Hayes and Joe Lefebvre. If you are ever fortunate enough to get good seats over by the home bullpen section, you’ll get to know and see Billy Hayes in action up close and personal. You may not recognize him as an every day coach or assistant, but he’s always there behind the mask and protective gear warming up the bullpen that has become such a phenom in the last few years. Joe is a different story since he is more behind the scenes and isn’t so prominent in front of the fans as the other guys are. Does that make his role as assistant hitting coach any less? Hell no!!

As the 2012 season was shaping up leading up and through the All-Star break, the Giants were almost resting their fate solely on one doping fool that shall remain nameless. The majority of the commentators and speculators wrote us off for any significant push into the post season, let alone remain as the sole standing team at the end of a World Series sweep. Did the team and coaching staff lower their heads and call it quits? Nope!! The entire coaching staff of the 2012 San Francisco Giants collectively stood up and told the doubters and haters “FUCK YOU!!”

You guys are tops in the game!!!

Next up were some of the special assistant coaches that were instrumental during the season. Most of these guys are past players for the Giants that are still very loved and prominent in the Giants community. Not only are most of these guys doing good in the clubhouse as mentors to some of the younger guys that could use the guidance of a true and tested veteran, but they are also in the community with very worthwhile causes.

First up with J.T. Snow and Shawon Dunston. J.T. Snow, as many of you know, was one of the best first basemen that has ever worn the Giants uniform. He will eternally be known to Giants fans as the saviour to little Darren Baker, son of coach Dusty Baker, with a grab and run play at home plate as Darren was making his way over to the play to pick up the bat lying there. As he round third base, JT knew of the danger that little Darren faced and was able to scoop him up as he crossed home plate and avoided a potential collision that might have cause serious injury to the then 3-year-old bat boy. MLB changed the rules for batboys requiring a 14-year-old minimum because of that instance.

Although I’m not too sure what JT was all excited about when I snapped this image, I can almost guarantee you that it had nothing to do with me or my beast of a camera. Regardless, I found it fitting to use this image of JT simply because of how much fun he was having during the moment and the fact that he is one of the most loved Giants figures still around.

Next to JT is Shawon Dunston. During his illustrious baseball career, Shawon jumped all around the league, landing with the Giants a few times here and there, but ending his career in 2002 wearing the orange and black. Shawon has been instrumental in working with our infield players throughout his tenure and imparting his knowledge on the young guys.

I can’t believe you’re so happy to see me, JT!!!

Last up on the special assistant coaches is none other that the GREAT Will “The Thrill” Clark. Working with the Giants front office staff, Will still makes time to visit with the players and impart the knowledge about the game that he accumulated throughout a spectacular career. How much more spectacular can you get than hitting a home run off of Nolan Ryan at your first major league at bat?!?!? Will always seems very enthusiastic and appreciative for all the love that Giants fans continue to show him to this day. Will is on the forefront of a great number of charities and community service fronts with the Giants, most notably his Autism Awareness campaign.

He was very animated as his car rolled by, which made him difficult to photograph, but I managed to sneak off a few pictures. The first is just of him clapping up and acknowledging all the fans hanging from out of their building windows that lined Market St. The second image I wanted to include just cause it has a comical side to Will that fits with the persona that he is known for. I can’t imagine what had him all worked up, but I will gladly accept the credit for being such an awesome photographer that he felt he had to single me out in the crowd. 🙂 Love you too, Will!!

Will The Thrill giving love to the cheap seats!!

No!!! You are the greatest, Will!!

Next up on the parade route was none other than our fabulous Lou Seal. I was happy to hear that the person behind our beloved mascot received recognition during the 2010 season and received a WS ring. I hope they acknowledge the work that this person does yet again to add to the collection. As a photographer, I am always focused in on Lou and all his shenanigans. Anytime I can get both Lou and Pablo Sandoval in the same frame together, it is guaranteed to make for good images as they are both very playful with each other. Lou Seal is all about fun and getting the crowd into the game and keeping the kids entertained. I can’t imagine a ballgame without Lou present, so I think that the moment is very well deserved, Lou!!

Soak it all in, Lou!! Get yourself an extra few salmon for dinner on me!!

Next up on the parade route was some shit that I could have done without, but nonetheless made for some colorful images, so I shot off a few. First up was a Chinese dragon and lion in a Chinese New Year style of parade regalia with music and dancing. What this had to do with the Giants winning the World Series is beyond me, but here are a few images to share.

Then came a Carnaval parade thing that REALLY had nothing to do with the Giants in the World Series. Yes, I know that the Giants sponsor certain nights during the season for heritage nights, but keep it out of my parade, please. Anyway, here is a very attractive and relatively naked dancer for you to look at.

When the confetti started to rain down, it could only mean one thing. THE GOODS ARE ON THE WAY!! Sure enough, the next person down the route was our famed manager Bruce Bochy holding the World Series trophy up over his head for all to see. Everyone knows what an awesome coach Bruce is, so I don’t need to go into all the detail as to how he has managed to take a group of “misfits” yet again and come up with a winning team. The man lost his closer early on in the season, never got back the 2nd baseman that he thought he would have in Freddie Sanchez, had key players going in and out of the DL and had to close every game of the season by committee. And with all the calm and patience of Job from the Bible, he did it in such a fashion that never let out any signs of emotion until that final out was recorded in Detroit. Bruce, you are the man and you have brought to this city what countless other managers have tried to do and haven’t been able to: 2 FREAKIN’ WORLD SERIES TROPHIES!!!

So, now let’s talk about the bobo that decided to put Bruce in a Rolls Royce convertible and how horrible of a decision that was. If you haven’t noticed from my images or the parade footage that was aired in the days following, Lexus shelled out almost all the cars featured with the coaches and players in order to showcase their new 2012 Lexus IS C convertible coupe. There were a number of vintage cars early on in the parade throughout the staff, ownership and supporting roles and their families. But, the creme de la creme of the ball players, coaches and the like was saved for Lexus. As many of you notice, the figures were seated above and behind the rear passenger seating area where they were essentially sitting on where the retractable roof hides in the chassis. Someone decided to give Bochy something special, but must not have taken into consideration the fact that on a Rolls, the top doesn’t tuck down into the chassis, but rests on the body of the car. This made it impossible for Bruce and his wife to sit where he could prominently be seen, which looks ridiculous. Why would you stick the most important man on the team in a car that he has to sit in the back seat and prop the trophy waaaay over his head just to be seen?? Not only that, but why wouldn’t someone bother to check that the gas tank was full before the start of the parade route?? Luckily, I was early on in the route, so I didn’t have to see Bruce getting pushed along by staff after his Rolls run out of gas….Stupid!!!

Hold it high, Captain!!!!

I will leave everyone today on that note. Tomorrow I will be sharing the images from the starting lineup. I trust everyone had a delicious and safe Thanksgiving Day Holiday. So, what was I thankful for, you ask??? How about having the best team in all of baseball for two out of the last three years!!

The 2012 World Championship San Francisco Giants Parade Pt. 2 of 4

Hello all!! I’m back as promised to continue sharing some of my favorite shots taken from my stake out spot on Market St during the parade. So, let’s get right to it!!

First off for tonight, we have Bill Neukom, who up through 2011 was one of the team’s managing partners. Although his duties have now come to rest on the capable hands of Larry Baer, Neukom is still very visible in the Giants organization and will be remembered as a crucial element to that 2010 World Championship winning team.

We love you too, Bill!!

Next up on the parade route was no other than Gaylord Perry. Perry was with the Giants from 1962-71 and even threw a no-hitter in 1968. Famous for doctoring balls with Vaseline for his famous spit ball, he went on to do great things after released by the Giants, but still to this day is synonymous with all the greats that have worn the uniform. I was fortunate enough to catch Gaylord looking right over to me while he waved, so it made this image feel very personal.

Ol’ Spit Ballin’ Perry!!!

Following Perry in the parade was Orlando “The Baby Bull” Cepeda. Orlando played with the Giants from 1958-66 at a time when a good number of the GREATS of all time in baseball were playing with the Giants. In a land full of talent, Cepeda managed to hold his own. Always with a hefty batting average throughout his career with the Giants, Cepeda will be synonymous with all the Giants greats for all time. His likeness is commemorated just outside of the 2nd and King St entrance to the ballpark, which happens to be one of our favorite gates for bobble head giveaway games!!

The Baby Bull

After playing with the Giants almost his entire career, it’s a shame that Juan Marichal only saw one World Series game during his career. Juan Marichal was known for his high leg kicks and pinpoint control with his pitches. A Giant all to his own, Marichal was one of the most feared pitchers of his time. His likeness will always be remembered in the bronze statue featuring his high leg kick windup over by the 3rd street China Basin entrance to AT&T near the 3rd street drawbridge.

Badass Juan Marichal

Of all the living legends that have worn the Giants uniform, who would you leave for last before bringing in the World Championship team? WILLIE MAYS, OF COURSE!!! There isn’t enough room on this blog to say all the accolades that has earned. He is and forever will be THE GIANT!! Today’s players are very fortunate to still have him around for knowledge sake and the fans young and old always scream for the Say Hey Kid!! We love you, Willie!!

SAY HEY, WILLIE!!

First up from the 2012 World Championship San Francisco Giants was the longest tenured General Manager in all of Major League Baseball. Obviously, Brian Sabean knows what he’s doing at the helm of the Giants roster and has weather the storm through many years where we didn’t even clinch the division. Apparently, Brian only had one finger working throughout the entire parade. Lucky for us, it was his fore finger letting us know who’s number one!!! Keep doing what you’re Sabes!!

Is that Sabean showing off a huge booger?!?!? Nope, he’s just letting the world know where we stand, baby!!!

Next up was a faux-cable car filled with a number of scouts that were instrumental in scouting the opponents throughout the 2012 season. The most familiar face in the bunch, and what I am constantly told to be one of the sexiest guys ever by my wife, was none other than Pat Burrell from the 2010 Worlds Series Championship team. Very much like he was during the 2010 parade, Pat was sporting his beer and cheering everyone in sight. While I couldn’t drink along with you, Pat, we’ve got nothing but love for you.

Pat the Bat!!

Next up in the parade line was the longest tenured staff member of the Giants, our awesome Clubhouse Manager, Mike Murphy. Mike has been with the Giants since their inaugural year in San Francisco 1958 as a bat boy. Obviously, Mike has moved passed that supporting role to another, but he is just as instrumental to the team as any of the other coaches. Don’t be fooled by the calm demeanor that Murph usually displays when sitting on the bench. My father-in-law played with Mike back in the day when they were both much younger, and Mike was just as unruly a player as the best of them today. To a man who clearly knows the game through and through, here’s to you Murph!!

The Murph and the Grandson. Live it up, kid!!

Here come the big guns, folks!! The first car with the 2012 coaching staff had none other than Mark Gardner and Dave Righetti. Mark played with the Giants from 1995-2001 and is currently our bullpen coach, which should come with a separate award all of its own with the class clowns that we have down there. Somehow Mark manages to get their “working hats” on and has the BEST bullpen in all of baseball, as is apparent with two WS rings in three years. Dave spent the majority of his career with the Yankees, but we won’t hold that against him today!! Dave has the arduous task of being the Giants starting rotation pitching coach, which can’t be easy at all. With responsibility over The Freak, Zeets, MadBum, Vogie and The Horse, you would start to wonder if you could actually walk out to the mound for a clutch out and talk those pitchers down from their emotions to focus on the task at hand. Dave, you are the man!!!

A Pair of Pitching Coaches…

Next up was Hensley Meulens and Ron Wotus in the parade lineup. Hensley came up to the Big Leagues after coaching the AAA Grizzlies in Fresno in 2010 and the departure of Carney Landsford. He must have made a difference, cause we won the whole damn thing in 2010 and again in 2012. Hensley keep doing your thing!!! Ron Wotus has been our bench coach since 1999, and doing a damn good job at it too, if you ask me. Luckily, Bochy isn’t a hot head, so he doesn’t see a lot of action as the backup manager, but is crucial for all the in-fielding coaching and scouting information. You guys are tops!!

That’s all you get for tonight folks!! I’ll be back again tomorrow to share some more coaches, leading up to the general manager, including a couple of crazy pictures of stuff that I didn’t think should have been part of our celebration parade and maybe even get to show a few players. Stay tuned and good night!!

The 2012 San Francisco Giants World Series Championship Parade on Market Street Was Nothing Short of Magical!!!… Pt.1 of 4

I’ve been a Giants fan a relatively short amount of time compared to most baseball fans that grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Whether you grew up in the city, on the Marin side or even down in the San Mateo Peninsula, chances are that your team from birth was the Giants. If you grew up in the East Bay, chances are you grew up an A’s fan, and there is nothing wrong with that folks!! I very much rooted for the A’s in their postseason run and would have loved to see another Bay Bridge Series hoping that this time it would end differently than it did in 1989. Unfortunately, the A’s season came to an end and they will have another shot at it come 2013. But the Giants, MY GIANTS, took it to the house yet again in an even more fantastic fashion than they did in 2010.

With a completely different roster as they did in 2010, the only constant in the groove as it was in 2010 was that every game was another player’s time to shine. When you have a team FULL of the game’s best, it’s only a matter of time before MLB Jesus looks down upon you and says “It’s your turn to shine, my son!!” There was nothing warm and fuzzy about the way the Giants made it to the big dance, but the team reminded everyone as each elimination game went on, “We will not go silently into the night!!” The 2010 season was the magic of making it to the World Series with a haphazard group of misfits that somehow managed to pull it through. The 2012 season was determined to go into the post season early on, and they Giants were amongst the first to reach their playoff berth. The fact that we pushed each series to the elimination point and never gave up is the story to take away from this 2012 season. But yet another reminder that Giants “TORTURE” is forever!!!

As I may have mentioned in a previous posting, I was born and raised in Miami, FL. As offspring of a Cuban household where even my dad was a feared left-handed pitcher in the high school leagues in Havana, having been born and raised in Miami meant that I was a Yankees fan. WTF, you say?!?!?!?! Very true!! I learnt early on in my childhood that not a whole lot made sense as far as what the Cuban community believed and the reasons behind it, but I can tell you that I would grow up expected to root for the Yankees and vote Republican. I did neither, folks!!

Just a few years ago I had the opportunity to visit some family in Havana over a long weekend. I was surprised that one of my little cousins that was big into baseball was very knowledgable of all the key players currently playing and of days past. Not only him, but a number of his friends were really into the Yankees as well. I think it astonished them more to hear that I didn’t really care for the Yankees in comparison with my shock of them being so up to date with the happenings of the ballclub.

The Florida Marlins, as they were called then, debuted when I was almost getting done with high school and girls had priority of my attention span during that time. I played baseball when I got the chance and was usually on the street playing stickball twice a week, but there really wasn’t a team that I was following. After doing a few years of college at the University of Miami, I moved up to Baltimore to finish up my Bachelors there. I was there in town as Cal Ripken was going for the record of most games played consecutively and could feel the electricity all around Camden Yards whenever it was game time. Still, I refrained and just watched from the outside.

In Baltimore I met my wife, and when it was obvious that we would be moving to San Francisco after the birth of our son, I never thought that the Giants would be a part of the equation. I came out and fell in love with the town. That was in 2000. In 2002, the Giants went to the World Series with the California Angels of Anaheim. The Giants lost, but as the family was huddled around the TV squirming with every bad play and ugly swing off Francisco Rodriguez’s off speed pitches, I was still an outsider looking in. It would take another few years for me to get fully vested and be able to call myself a real Giants fan through and through. By 2007, we were averaging about a dozen games a season. We haven’t looked back and made it to almost two dozen games this year. When not in attendance at beautiful AT&T Park, you can find us glued to either a TV or a radio listening to the play by-play.

It was a given that we would be in attendance for the 2010 Parade to celebrate with the rest of the city, but we opted the route of heading over to Civic Center and camp out in front of City Hall where the parade was slotted to end. It was awesome, but it was a mess. We had taken our 10-year-old out of school that day and headed down to a crazy mob of pot smokers where it was impossible to get away from it. I don’t have a problem with people’s habits and am certainly not one to tell anyone else how to live their lives. But when I can’t seem to get away from it and I’m afraid that my kid is going to get a contact high, I get pissed. So, when it was time to go down to the 2012 Parade, I was skeptical about how it would all unfold.

Luckily, an uncle had headed down first thing in the morning and had landed a great spot on Market St with only one person between himself and the barricades. We headed down to meet him and took the camera along for the ride. Lucky for me, I had a rather short man in front of me, so I was able to shoot over his head almost the entire parade without being a nuisance to anyone. Some of these images are great. My camera gear tends to get me noticed, and this occasion was no exception. In certain images, I managed to even lock lens-to-eye contact with a few players and coaches, which was great. I’ve got to get myself some media credentials…

As the parade started coming down Market Street, the first to appear was the Mounted Officers from the San Francisco Police Department. I loved how all the horses were sporting their baseball caps under their head-gear and even had spray on “SF” decals on their hind legs. Here they are in formation.

The Horses

Horse said “wazzzuuuppp”, Camera said “wazzzzuuup” back…

We are a very fortunate fan base to have the best TV and radio announcers in the entire sport. On the TV side, we have Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper who work their magic every day. These guys are funny!! They compliment each other in every way and are a joy to listen to. On the radio side, we have the highly awarded John Miller and the new kid on the block, Dave Fleming. John loves giving the listener all the detail of everything that is happening along with colorful historical commentary and makes it a joy to listen to him. Dave will forever be tied to Giants history with his cracked voice call of Edgar Renteria’s home run in game 5 in Texas.

In this image I was able to capture Dave Fleming and Duane Kuiper as they were on my side of the double-decker bus. Although we didn’t get to see John and Mike, I’ll throw a shout out to them as well. Shout!!!

Dave and Kuip!! As an announcer, Kuip ‘hits it high…hits it deep…IT’S OUTTA HERE!!!!”

Had I been a fan of any other ball club prior to moving to San Francisco and becoming one of the Giants faithful, perhaps I would have found it odd to have a female announcer at the ballpark. Lucky for me, I wasn’t. Renel Brooks-Moon IS the voice of the San Francisco Giants. She brings the level of excitement that the fans feel at each and every home game. I feel sorry for all the other ball parks out there when I visit and listen to the morose sounding announcers calling the next batter to the plate.

Renel, I am sure that I speak for the entire GIANTS NATION when I say  “WE LOVE YOU!!!”

Do the FIST PUMP!!

On the Comcast end of the ballpark coverage, you can usually spot Amy Gutierrez walking around the ballpark getting all sorts of screams and shots by all the fans. Definitely a favorite with the ball players alike, Amy is in the dugout trying not to get Romo-bombed during interviews.

AMY!!!

For fear of going on and on, I will cut the post here tonight and come back tomorrow with some more images of ownership, coaches and past players that are still very prominent in the Giants community. Look forward to continue sharing this awesome event with everyone, especially if you were unable to attend. Good night all!!

A Backlit Photo Shoot at Ocean Beach in San Francisco w/ Brittany Stinson

Hello everyone!! I’m back from a seriously long hiatus with new work to share with everyone!! Were you all patiently waiting?? Of course you weren’t, but I appreciate the fib to help make me feel better. So sweet…

Let’s get right down to it, cause I have a lot to write about and share. But where to start? Let’s start with the events leading up to the photo shoot and we’ll go from there. I have only recently grown interested in having my photographic subject be a model that was aware of the camera. For the longest, I focused all of my attention on landscapes, architecture and inanimate objects that sat perfectly still for me as I moved around and composed the shot that I wanted. Working with a model can be as simple as that, I have since learned, but it felt like a daunting task. So, I stayed away.

When I say that the model is aware of the camera, I mean non-candid shots where the subject is holding a pose for the intended purpose of the image being recorded. Do I work with models when I photograph the Giants at the ballpark? Absolutely!! A model is just a fancy name for a subject that is willing to let you photograph them. So, does Angel Pagan swing the bat in hopes of landing a triple cause he knows that I’m pointing my camera at him? I sure hope not!! He’s unaware that I am present, so I would categorize any sports shot that I take as a candid shot. I would say the same as with the shots that I took back a few months ago at my son’s end of the little league season party when the kids were all running around and didn’t know that I was photographing them while goofing around.

But point a camera at someone who is aware that their picture is going to be taken, and EVERYTHING CHANGES!! So, the thought of having to direct the subject to the vision that I have in my head was something that was holding me back. Well, no longer, my friends!!

I joined ModelMayhem.com a few months back with the intention to change just that and befriend a few models that would allow me to photograph them with the hopes of working on my “people” skills and get more comfortable with the idea of directing a shoot. It is free to join, and with only minimal requirements to prove that you are one of a few set categories, it is fairly easy to join. As a photographer, you are asked to submit a minimum of 5 shots of different models or looks on the same model in order to be considered. As a model, you would also need to fork over a few images that show you as the model. The website has proven in a very short amount of time to be a great resource and forum for the collaborative effort between all parts of the photography industry. It gives you the ability to reach out to models, photographers, makeup artist, hair stylists, wardrobe stylists, image retouchers and any other part of the industry you can think of on a global scale.

Starting out as a photographer has its particular challenges, especially if you don’t have a working portfolio, you if you dedicate yourself and have good intentions, you too can make it work in your favor. As you gain experience and post more work, more and more models in need of a portfolio will reach out or be more receptive to you reaching out for a collaborative effort. Once established, it is a great marketing tool for anyone in the trade looking for your particular skill. You can find all walks of life and all collaborative efforts from the trade of services to the established folks that have a going rate for their particular skill.

Somewhere in that mess, I messaged a lovely model who had a great look and was on the new side to the site, just like me. Brittany has been a pleasure to work with from the very first email, and I am very pleased that she decided to write back about the possibility of working together. You’ll be meeting her very shortly…

After going back and forth via email in regard to possible concepts, we settled on a backlit photo shoot and felt that it would be beneficial to both our portfolios to give a different look. The backlit photo concept is not anything new by a long shot. It usually goes hand in hand with trying to shoot for sun glare as a photographic effect, but not always. Anyway, I had been fascinated by a few wedding themed shots on Flickr that used this technique, so I had started to do all sorts of research on the internet to see how others achieved this very desired look in contemporary wedding photography.

Don’t get me wrong, I want NOTHING to do with the wedding photography industry. Waaaaay too much pressure as a photographer, and I’m here to have fun. If it’s not fun for me, I don’t care how much you want to pay me, I’m not doing it!!  But the look of that type of photography is something cool to have in your back pocket as an option when something different is just what the doctor calls for in your images. The funny part is that after many nights of searching on the internet, I found that there is no right or wrong way to get the job done!! And that, folks, is why I love photography!!!

Are there any rules or requirements that do need to be met? Yuuup, but it’s as simple as having the sun out, having a camera and a subject to photograph that gets in between the line of sight between the sun and your camera lens. I took notes while I surfed the internet, and I would love to be able to give everyone credit where credit is due. Unfortunately, I didn’t jot down any of the websites, so I will have to apologize if I can’t credit the author of the techniques that I used. Just please be aware that I did not come up with anything new, and any techniques mentioned were learned through extensive searches on the topics of “sun glares in photo” and “backlit photo” in Google searches.

One of my favorite parts of this backlit photo concept is that there is usually a soft dreamy look to the images that goes along with it that gives them an added comfort feel if taken correctly. The way I see it, it adds another dimension to the image that doesn’t always get transmitted to the viewer with a properly exposed shot. So how did I do it? Well, I first set the camera to Manual mode, cause without this, you aren’t going very far. Why is this? Well, every camera, regardless of its complexity or skill level required to operate it, has an internal light meter that is relaying information to the processing system in order to take a “proper exposure”. When you are pointing the camera into the sun, the sensor gets blasted by all that light coming through the camera lens and wants to make an adjustment. What results in Auto mode is a silhouette of a model with a complete lack of detail. Maybe this is what you’re going for, so don’t think that I’m knocking on you. But in order to capture any kind of detail in your model, you have to override the camera’s auto settings.

Once the camera was in Manual mode, I opted to set a few fixed parameters that would allow me to make easier decisions and adjustments. So, I decided that I would shoot the entire photo shoot with ISO 100 and at f/4.0. ISO 100 is probably the best setting for my Canon 1D Mark II N for image quality and lack of noise throughout the entire image. The aperture value of f/4.0 was decided upon since I was using my Tokina 100-300mm f/4.0 lens, and that aperture setting is the lens at its widest setting along a flood of light in. If I was using a lens with a max aperture of f/2.8, I probably would have opted for that. The point is that you want as much light flooding into the camera as possible with this type of concept.

Having these set parameters, the only variable would be shutter speed, which is easy to work with on the fly. Now, had I not set fixed parameters I would have been second guessing myself with not only one setting, but a number of them at ALL TIMES!!! So, I’m glad that I did it that way. I decided to start with a shutter speed of 1/180th of a second and made adjustments as needed. The point of trying to properly expose for a shot like this is having to over-expose the image in order to keep the shutter open longer so that enough light bouncing off your subject can reach the sensor and be recorded.

Another technique that I read about and used to my advantage was trying to expose your subject while the light source (the sun in this instance) was being complete blocked by their head. I would hold down the exposure set feature and then recompose the shot with the sun just peeking out from behind her, and the exposure was just right. In the event that I released the exposure lock, the camera’s internal light meter would begin to go all over the place. Another trick that I read and employed was using the image histogram as a guide. If you set your histogram to flash the areas where there is an absence of color, you can see all the parts of the image that have been overexposed to the point of losing detail. If I kept the model’s face from blinking at my in the histogram, I knew that I had a good exposure.

The point is that this has to be practiced. Don’t expect to get it right the first time. I still suck at it. But I will keep practicing it until I feel comfortable with the consistent results. If you take any advice from me at all regarding this post, please listen carefully. Pointing the camera at such a bright light source such as the sun can be very dangerous for your vision. Even with a UV filter or ND filters, you are essentially looking right at the sun through a very tight and intense beam of light coming into your camera. Do not look directly into the sun and please stop if you start seeing sun spots all over. I found myself blocking out the sun with my model’s head most of the time to obtain the proper exposure, but would close my eye looking through the camera as I gradually moved around slightly and taking multiple shots while doing this. Did I take a bunch of images that were crap?? Hell yeah, but I still have my eyesight, baby!!!

Now that I’ve written nearly a novel just on how I got to hook up with Brittany and the techniques I used, it’s on to the fun stuff. We met up at Ocean Beach in San Francisco just off of Taraval St and The Great Highway at about 6pm a number of weekends ago. We had tried to get together the weekend before, but the beach backlit photo concept would only work if the sun was actually out!! For those of you that know just how socked in with fog San Francisco can get understand this comment completely. For those of you that don’t, we can usually get a very thick band of fog that just sits right on the coast line for days and days at a time that provides the coastline with wonderful air conditioning, but not so conducive for the type of photo shoot we were going after. Luckily, the following weekend was great, so it was ON LIKE DONKEY KONG!!!

The sun was bright, the wind was steady (which is great for all the shots with the long hair whipping around) and the fog was way off in the distance. The down part to the wind situation was that it usually is cold in the Bay Area this time of year, so there was that to contend with. But, Brittany muscled through, and coupled with a coffee break at the local java spot on the beach while we waited for the sun to set a little further, we made it through the shoot just fine without any frostbite and all our limbs intact.

So, here are my favorite images from that shoot. I still have a few points that I’d like to share about the shoot, but for the sake of not having this posting read on until tomorrow, I’ll just leave you with the goods. Tomorrow, I’ll share with everyone what I learnt in the experience of shooting with a model for the first time, my list of DO’s and DONT’s with working with a model and how to get the most out of your experience. Stay tuned, folks!!!

A Night With The Golden Gate Bridge and a Manfrotto Carbon Fiber Tripod

Hello everyone!!

I’ve been here and there, but not nearly everywhere. But, I have something new to share with you all, so let’s get to it!!!

Sometime last month (or perhaps the previous), I headed out to the Marin Headlands to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge with a nice wide-angle lens for a few long exposure nighttime shots. I shared a few of the better ones here in the blog, but truth be told that I wasn’t too pleased with any of them. Why, you ask? Well, the tripod that I own is a cheaply made tripod under that was purchased in a big box electronics store. It was the right price for my pocketbook at the time, so I’m not ripping on the thing for being less than what I currently need. As far as tripods for a lightweight digital camera or point and shoot go, the thing is solid. But, strap a 1D mark II N along with a badass Tokina 100-300mm that both weight approximately 7-8 lbs combined and add a little Marin Headland crosswind coming in from the ocean, and you have a shaky platform that does not yield a steady shot.

I tried a few things, like standing in front of the tripod to try to block the strength of the crosswind, but that didn’t work. I tried timing the cross winds along with my 20 to 30 second long exposures, but that worked even less as the wind refused to cooperate. Naughty wind!!! I even tried pushing in a downward motion on the base of the tripod thinking that this may aid in keeping it steady. Wrong again, ol’ chap!!!

What’s the cure to the ailment? Get a freakin’ good tripod!! There’s quite a few names out there that are really good, but it is more than apparent that the Italians have the market cornered on good tripods. Maybe it has something to do with the stereotype of them having a large third appendage earning them the nickname of “tripod” that put them as the frontrunner in the industry. However, it is clear that their dedication to produce quality merchandise on which professionals rest their equipment worth into the several thousands every day is not up for debate, although the same can’t be said about the stereotype…

Manfrotto happens to be one of the names that is usually at the top of every pro photographers short list for their tripods, so when Gasser Photo had one of their Manfrotto carbon fiber tripods still sitting in the rental department this last friday afternoon, I couldn’t resist taking it out with the Bridge in mind for a re-shoot. I believe the combination that I rented consisted of the Manfrotto 055CX3 carbon fiber tripod and the 498RC2 ballhead. Paying full retail price for this combination would put you easily in the $550 range. If you shopped around a bit, you might be able to get closer to the $450-$500 range, but still you are putting out a pretty penny for this setup.

Is it worth it? As Tim Lincecum from the San Francisco Giants said in the 2010 season leading up to the World Series win, “FUCK YEAH!!!!” But, please keep in mind that this enthusiastic response is based on the criteria of requiring a steady tripod at the top of the Marin Headlands while dealing with 20 to 30 mph gusts of wind while trying to keep camera equipment weighing around 8 lbs steady for a 30 second exposure shot. Given all these conditions, the Manfrotto was worth the rental price of $20 for the weekend and the inconvenience of going out of my way on Monday morning to get it back to them before the noon deadline for the rental period.

Although I loved the tripod, am I going to run out and shell out the $500 for the combination right away? FUCK NO!!!! The reality is that I usually don’t have a need for that level equipment in the type of shooting I do. Most of everything that I shoot (or try to shoot) is handheld. Obviously, there was no way around hand holding the camera for these shots, and that is why the camera equipment rental industry is thriving!! They fill a niche of having the investment made in the inventory that most amateur and semi-pro photographers require in order to break into this field with a decent portfolio without having to shell out tons of cash. Without them, I’d be more lost than Clint Eastwood was while rambling off to an empty chair during his speech at the RNC.

So, the night started out with a killer Giants game that netted us a win. The game was over at about 10:30pm, and that was a perfect time to head out. I geared up with the Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod/head combination, a Canon 24mm L series lens that I also rented from Gasser only to not use, my new Sigma 50mm f/1.4 and my Tokina 100-300mm f/4.0. I dressed in layers just to be sure I wouldn’t either freeze my ass off or get uncomfortably hot, and headed out.

On the way across the bridge, I noticed that there wasn’t much traffic at the lookout point on the Marin County side just as you cross over the bridge, so I decided to make a pit stop. Although I was there for almost an hour taking many 30 second exposures with various lens combinations, there were very few tourists that came around at that hour. I shared the space with two other photo enthusiasts such as myself and even engaged in conversation with one regarding equipment choices. I found that I enjoyed the Tokina and the tight point of view that 100mm was offering best, so I went with it!! Here is one of my favorite resulting images…

Canon 1D Mark II N, Tokina 100-300 ATX f/4.0 shot in Manual at f/5.6, ISO 100 at 120mm for a 6 sec exposure in AWB

With the northbound traffic being the predominant traffic pattern occurring at that time of night, I was at a real disadvantage trying to properly expose the shot without washing out the bright white of the headlights and maintaining the bridge itself properly exposed.

Since I had the zoom on the camera, I zoomed in and out just to mess around and stumbled upon the next image in passing. As the focal range got tighter, I noticed that I got closer to the towers, but the fascinating part was the orange glow that was coming up from all the bridge lighting in the image. As you can tell from the previous shot, the lights that line the bridge on either side and illuminate the two towers are nowhere near the cool spectrum of white light, but go to the warm extreme of being almost orange. I am sure that this helps the color that the bridge is painted achieve its golden look. Here is the resulting image when zooming in on the north tower with the south tower in the background.

Canon 1D Mark II N, Tokina 100-300mm ATX f/4.0 shot in Manual at f/8.0, ISO 100, 225mm focal range for a 20 sec exposure in AWB

Next, I took off from the lookout point on the Bay side of the bridge and headed over to the Marin Headland side near the ocean. Coming northbound from the City, you would take the Alexander Exit and follow the signs to the Marin Headlands. It will take you under the bridge and over to the other side. Also, keep an eye out so that you don’t miss out on the right turn that comes up right before you get back on the bridge to head into San Francisco.

I decided to only go out to the second lookout point on the road. I keep meaning to head over there during the day so that I can hike all over the place in daylight and find the perfect spot where the hillside won’t be obstructing any of the bridge, as I’ve seen in other photographer’s work. But, pitch black at almost midnight with strong winds and plenty of camera equipment on you isn’t the best time to be hiking around looking for the best shot. I’ll do my homework some other time and revisit this shoot yet again. This bridge is soooo beautiful that I can’t imaging ever tiring of photographing it….

Since I already had the Tokina mounted on the camera, I decided to stick with the tight shots and zoomed images prior to going back to something that would provide more of a wide-angle view. The first image that immediately came to mind was to focus on the top of the north tower and capture the tower standing tall. Although I tried this next shot several times with a smaller aperture setting in order to obtain the star shape around the red light, I found that there wasn’t enough light for a proper exposure with the camera’s limitation of a 30 second exposure. Unfortunately, most of the Canon lineup comes with a max setting of 30 seconds for the shutter being open. There is a way around it though, which involves a shutter timer that allows you to program in any time that you desire to keep the shutter open. This is how very long exposures for nightscapes and star tracking is done. I don’t have one of these just yet, so I dealt with the 30 second exposure limitation and shot this image at f/4.0. I could have shot all the way down to f/8.0, but anything lower than f/4.0 would require a lot of brightening in Photoshop, and it just wasn’t worth it. Here is the resulting image.

Canon 1D Mark II N, Tokina 100-300mm ATX f/4.0 shot in Manual mode at f/4.0, ISO 100 at 300mm for a 30 second exposure

Next, I wanted to take an image that would involve the background lights of the city. In order to do this, I figured I would shoot through one of the spans in the bridge. Although the point was to blur out the background, I was surprised at how much the city was in focus while still maintaining the Tokina wide open at f/4.0. Here is the resulting image.

Canon 1D Mark II N, Tokina 100-300mm ATX f/4.0 shot in Manual mode at f/4.0, ISO 100 at 300mm with a 5 second exposure in AWB

Finally, I switched out the Tokina and decided to go with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 to see what would happen. Although I did eventually switch over to the Canon 24mm, I found that the extreme wide-angle was resulting in a very small image of the bridge relative to the background it was recording in the image. So, the 50mm fit the bill, but there was no chance in hell I would be able to get the entire bridge in a single image. So, I decided to switch the AWB setting to a custom white balance with a color temperature of K 5200. Yes, it was a little warm for what I was doing, but I knew I would be able to adjust the color temperature in camera RAW in Photoshop and all I needed was to have the white balance in a level plane for when I used my image stitching software to join the three images together.

Just as expected, I turned down the warmth of the K 5200 white balance setting and am fairly pleased with the resulting image that includes a portion of the Seacliff and Richmond Districts lights.

Canon 1D Mark II N, Sigma 50mm f/1.4 shot in Manual Mode at f/4.0, ISO 100 at 50mm for a 20 second exposure at K 5200

That’s what I have for you for tonight, folks. Overall, I had a blast shooting these images regardless of how close I got to frostbite and losing my ears. I spent about an hour at each location and made it back home by 1:45am. A worthwhile outing with a worthwhile tripod that did the job fantastically. If you have the money and want the best for your equipment, please give Manfrotto a real serious look. If you’ll only need every once in a while like I do, you can rest easy in knowing that camera equipment rental houses like Adolf Gasser will have them in stock for you to rent any time.

Good night to all!!!

The San Francisco Giants Go For The Sweep In Houston on 8/30/12

Hello everyone!! I’m back!!!

I’ve been fairly busy with even a business trip that took me to Houston, TX to visit with one of our suppliers from Mexico who is entertaining a joint venture with one of my US customers. Whereas at any other moment, I would shrug at the idea of going to Houston for any period of time, this trip ended up being one of the few exceptions where I would actually be looking forward to heading out. It wasn’t until a few days before my trip that I was thinking about the trip on the commute ride home as I was listening to KNBR sports radio and the hosts were talking about the upcoming Giants road trip that would take them to Houston for three evening games. All of the sudden, the lightbulb went off over my head, and just like that, I turned that frown upside down!! It turned out that I would be free of any plans for the Thursday night game, so I hopped on the internet to secure a ticket.

What does $50 buy you? Well, at AT&T park in San Francisco, $50 can buy you a field level ticket in the outfield down either baseline, an outfield club level seat in the waaay outfield or possible a real nice view reserve box seat in the infield, but you’d still be in the third deck. What does $50 buy you at Minute Maid Park in Houston? Well, being that the Astros are quite possibly MLB’s worst team yet again this year, I was able to secure a second row seat on field level one section over from right behind home plate!! I was right in front of the visitor’s on-deck circle and just off from the visitor’s dugout. It was awesome!!!

Quite a number of players are actually pretty friendly and will acknowledge fans calling out to them. Obviously, they seem to perfectly deaf to all hecklers, but if you are encouraging them, you might even get a wave. Hunter Pence was among the few that actually made eye contact with fans and genuinely greeted them. I got a wave from Hunter and a nod of the head by Sandoval, Pagan and Blanco.

The Giants pulled out the win after falling behind early on. Minute Maid park is a beautiful place to see a game. The roof was closed, so the temperature was just right. The food options were great!! Parking was easy and I was in and out without any problems. I look forward to the next opportunity to head down to Houston during baseball season to see another game, even if it doesn’t involve my beloved Giants.

Anyway, I took the camera along and was able to get into the ballpark with my Tokina 100-300mm lens, even though the website listing for maximum camera lens length stated 4.5 inches. At four and a half inches, I think I would have only been able to bring along a Canon 135mm fixed prime lens, and hopefully sneak in an extender to get me some additional length. Luckily, I decided to call the media relations department and ended up speaking with someone that said that I wouldn’t have any problems as long as I wasn’t entering the ballpark with either a tripod or monopod. Like the man said, I showed up to the front door and had my back inspected and the young lady waved me through. I wasn’t going to stop and ask questions, so I went on through.

After getting to my seat and pulling out the camera, the Astros fans sitting next to me asked if I was with the Giants. After finding out that only in my wildest dreams would that be the case, he went on to mention how he had been given nothing but grief when he tried to bring in something much smaller, but over the 4.5 inch rule. Well, I didn’t want to attract too much attention to myself as the ushers walked up and down the aisles, so I made sure to only have the camera up to my face just as I was about to shoot a couple of pictures. It worked out just fine and no one said a word to me.

Here are a few of my favorite images from that game. I hope you enjoy them. Good night all!!

A Foggy Day at Muir Woods National Monument Near Mill Valley, CA

Yes, I know I made you wait a while for this next post, but believe me, it’s a good one. Well, the content is always subject to interpretation, but I think I came back with a few really good images from my latest outing that even left me asking myself “did I take that?”

Every once in a while I surprise myself, but it isn’t very often, folks. So, I’m excited to share today’s post with everyone in the hopes that I can break the monotony of my constant writing with only the spam commentary coming back telling me what a great site I have and don’t forget to visit my incredible sex-all-the-time website!! I mean, commentary from my readers is all I have, so when I get a notice that I have a comment, I jump for joy. When all I get is spam, it feels pretty lame, so go ahead and click the comment button and send me your thoughts. Stop by and say “hey, that was awesome” or “man, you suck!!” It doesn’t matter, as I’ll probably get excited to have someone’s feedback, although I probably won’t post the real bad ones. However, if you find a way to insult me while still making me smile, I’ll surely add it to the commentary for comic relief, just don’t mention your fabulous sex website, please…

So, back to the meat and potatoes of the post. We had some friends of the family that came out to the Bay Area to visit, so of course I want to play tour guide for them. Unfortunately for me, our friend lived in the Bay Area for many years before returning back home to the midwest. However, she was making the rounds with her niece that had never been out, so they had planned to hit a good number of the touristy spots in the area. On the list was our famed Muir Woods National Monument, so I offered to drive them over and come along for the ride. They took me up on the offer, so I made sure to make a pit stop by my friendly neighborhood Gasser’s photo rental spot and picked up a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L lens that was sitting there pretty for me to take home under the 40% discount program.

Now, I don’t know much about the history of Muir Woods, but I did take a quick gander at Wikipedia to have something to mention. Muir Woods is the result of major efforts of Congressman William Kent who took notice of the speed at which the logging community was cutting down the old growth redwood trees that had stood tall all along the northern California coastline all the way up to Oregon. Mainly due to its inaccessibility, a good portion of the land where Muir Woods now sits, was spared. President Roosevelt declared the area a national monument in 1908, making sure that future generations would have this incredibly beautiful place for all to enjoy.

Although Kent’s favorite tree was a douglas fir and not a redwood, it proceeded to lean at an alarming rate due to its height and weight. After a storm in 2003, the tree fell but still sits where it fell as a reminder of Kent’s love. Muir Woods is named after naturalist John Muir, who was instrumental in establishing the national park system. That’s all for the lesson today, so let’s get to the pictures.

The first one I’d like to share with you is just a testament to the fact that photography can be an accidental art form. In this image, which was one of the first I took as I was getting my settings down, was a result of not realizing that the previous renter of the lens I was using had left it in Manual Focus and my shutter button went off as I was waiting for the auto focus to kick in. You can barely make out the tree I had only two feet in front of me, but the soft haze on the entire image left me intrigued. Maybe you like it as I do, maybe you don’t. The point is that it spoke to me and this is my blog, so, damn it, I’m putting it in!!!

Turn on the auto focus, dummy!!

In this next one, I photographed the front entry signage, as I had a number of groups of people stand underneath the sign to get their picture taken. The one observation I made was that Americans as a group simply just don’t make use of the “peace sign” nearly enough as other nationalities do. Why is that? I don’t know. I have plenty of friends in Mexico that do that each and every time they have a camera pointed at them, yet when I ask them why they do it, all they can seem to say is that it’s almost a necessity when taking a picture. I vow to start a movement to get all Americans giving the peace sign in portrait shots along with bringing back most of the dance moves that the New Kids On The Block used in their videos. Awesome!!!

Winning!!!

For those visiting Muir Woods for the first time, here are a few pointers after having visited a few times. First pointer is to try to go during the week. Chances are that you’ll be able to find parking in one of their three parking lots that are at the entrance gate. If not, you won’t have trouble finding a spot on the road that leads to the Woods and parallel park there. If you must go on the weekends, be prepared to either arrive very early in order to get a parking spot, or use the website to find out which parking lot on the outskirts is most convenient for you and park there. The shuttle service is quick and easy, but will cost you $3 a person for adults and $1 for kids, and you must bring CASH AND EXACT CHANGE. They head out every twenty minutes and found it great getting in and out on Saturday.

The next tip I can offer is to dress in layers. That seems to be the recurring theme in all my suggestions in visiting sites in the Bay Area, but it’s true. You can never plan when the fog will decide to come in and lay a thick, cold blanket over everything and when the sun will come out. You can always point out the tourists since they usually show up freezing their asses off in shorts and a t-shirt.

The last tip I will offer is to remember that you’ll be doing some hiking when visiting Muir Woods. The main trail is a wooden boardwalk that will let you see just about everything the woods has to offer while never having to get your pretty little Prada shoes dirty. But, if you are a little more adventuresome and don’t have the babystroller with you, there are a number of very long trails that can be quite challenging. These are not boardwalks, but occasionally have wooden rails or stairs in the tedious areas. By no means is this a crack at folks that want to bring their babies or don’t plan on doing much walking. Heaven knows that my fat ass doesn’t do a lot of hiking, but I rather enjoyed the long walk we went on when taking the ocean side trail. The boardwalk takes about 45 minutes to walk all the way around. The ocean side trail would have taken a good part of about two and a half hours to make the roundtrip. That’s some good walking, folks!!!

A walk on the boardwalk

When I wasn’t getting my camera and lens setup checked out by every photo junkie that was walking by, I was trying to find the artistic view on things. One of my favorite things to try is to lay on my back on the floor to get an interesting perspective. If anything, I do this for the passerby that has the interesting perspective of looking at my ass crack as I’m trying to get back up from off the floor!!!

I think I farted trying to get back up from this shot…

At some point in time, there was a fire in Muir Woods. Some of the trees got burnt, but managed to survive because they are badass. There were a few that still had their burn marks like a tattoo or scar, so I took a few pictures. The texture of the burnt bark next to the living tree captured my attention. This one I took fairly up close and personal to get all that detail in the image and used a shallow depth of field to have the rest of the tree fall out of focus as it rose. Although I like the image, I probably think I should have gotten a little closer now that I think about it. Oh well, I’ll have to go back…

Look, mom, that’s a badass tree!!!

This next image worked for me because of the pattern in the image. Mating this with a shallow depth of field that goes out of focus off to your right gives the eye the illusion that it continues on forever. Sure, this behemoth went on for a good ten to twenty feet on the ground, but the person looking at the image can’t tell that. This kind of shot works well for me, but it’s real easy to go overboard and try this technique out on everything. So, give it a shot and maybe include it in with other types of shots without turning yourself into a one-trick pony.

Ribbed for her pleasure…

Not all the images I took when on manual mode came out properly exposed. I did my best, but I’m still trying to get all that stuff figured out on my own as well. This next image in particular came out a little on the dark side and trying to lighten in Photoshop netted a gross image. So, do I discard? Nope, go black and white!! I went B/W and punched up the structure and intensity of the image to give it a high impact look. I like it!!

Black and white badassery!!

Here is another using the same type of high impact black and white styling…

Whoa, I did it again!!

In this next image, my back was killing me and I was ready to toss the Tokina 100-300mm that I was lugging around off to the creek side, but I hung in there. I bumped up the shallow depth of field in order to get this singular tree amongst the woods surrounding it in a blur. I had to move around to compose the image just right, but it ended up working out in the end. Just like a portrait shot of a model, the tree is sitting pretty in the center of the frame with all the focus on itself. But, unlike a model, the tree won’t be asking you for any money for posing.

Sitting pretty

This next image almost gives the impression that I was using a fish eye lens of sorts, but this was taken at 24mm with the Canon 24-70mm I had on the whole time. Where I think this perspective is giving is in the fact that I am on the trail with the hillside to my right and it’s pretty steep.

In this next image, I purposefully underexposed the image to expose for the softbox being created by the thick fog over head and the bright sunlight coming through in a diffused fashion. This gave the image a black and white feel without being that way. As if they were silhouettes, I left them that way in post-processing.

silhouettes of the trees

These next two images were the main two that left me amazed that I had actually exposed them properly. Don’t give me too much praise, or it will go to my head…

Love that fog

Although we were only ten minutes from reaching the ocean side view, we decided as a group to cut down the Lost Trail back towards Muir Woods and the entrance. We were all pretty exhausted, as none of us had really planned properly on being out that long or going for that long of a walk. But, on the way back, I stumbled on this tree that re-affirmed the fact that Mother Nature is a female.

So, Mother Nature IS a female!!

Here are a few last images that I wanted to share and worked up. I greatly enjoyed my time at Muir Woods and is definitely a spot worth checking out with some frequency. With the annual pass only being $20 a person, you can pay for the pass with only your third trip to the woods. If you are a Bay Area local and haven’t been to Muir Woods yet, you are truly missing out on a great treasure. If you happen to not be a local, but will be visiting us sometime soon, don’t forget to add Muir Woods to the list of MUST DOs.

Thanks everyone!!