Saturday, May 31, 2008


Old fruit, sitting on the kitchen island.

Interesting, how close you can get to the subject with this lens.

And interesting, how the use of the "palette knife" filter changes the image. Hokey, yes . . . but interesting.

Photo: Fruit—Marin County, 2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

Fence & Grass—Marin County

Hali, Tuffy & I went for a ride and hike last Monday. The weather was windy and overcast—ideal for hiking.

I used my new (re)discovery on the photo—the Photoshop "watercolor" filter . . . maybe give the dry grass & hills that Andrew Wyeth look.

Photo: Fence & Grass—Marin County, 2008

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bus, Reflections

A lot of photorealist paintings have all kinds of reflections going on. So this photograph could possibly serve as a template for one, but . . . the interesting angle here is that I took it from inside the bus while it was stopped in traffic in front of the mirrored facade of this building.

So you still have the photographic concept of the moment, which I think is intrinsic to this particular photograph.

(The facade is actually reflecting the bus as well as the Fred French Building . . . I had to read the letters backwards and do a Google search. I would have liked to have visited Mr. French's building!)

Photo: Bus, Reflections—New York, 2003

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I applied a watercolor filter in Photoshop . . . brings out the photorealist nature of the shot a bit more, I think. (Clicking on the photo will enlarge it.)

Photo: Sausalito Visitor Center—Marin County, 2008


I was in Sausalito yesterday, walking around, when I saw this composition. The interesting thing is that I didn’t see it as any kind of great photograph, but I did see it as a typical photorealist subject.

The ever-reliable Wikipedia states: "Photorealism is the genre of painting based on making a painting of a photograph." But that doesn’t quite nail down the category. What I’ve noticed is that the artists who practice photorealism are not—definitely not—photographers. They may be taking photographs, certainly, but not in a way that an actual practicing photographer would. A photographer, even a landscape photographer, has as a primary concern "the decisive moment," that moment when all is revealed and the shutter is tripped.

When we view photographs we cannot help be struck by the notion of the moment. The photographer, whether photographing a pepper in a funnel or capturing a little boy with a loaf of bread, is, we feel, engaged in the evanescence of the moment—for him, the decisive moment.

The photorealist painter’s aesthetic object, however, is focused more on the ordering of objects on a flat surface. Nothing to do with the "moment." From a photographer’s standpoint, the arrangements you see in most such paintings would be just a little bit too static, the compositions undynamic and flat. (Big generalizations.) But fascinating nonetheless.

That may be exactly the point. I find photorealist paintings, and realist paintings in general, to be aesthetically valuable in many cases not only as exquisite objects in their own right, but also as points of reference when navigating the thorny issue of photography as art.

Photo: Sausalito Visitor Center—Marin County, 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 12-60mm Lens

I feel that I need to say something about my new lens. Not a review, of course, because you can find those here, and here. This is more impressionistic, if you will. I’ve used it so far on both of my recent field trips to Point Lobos and Yosemite.

I have mentioned before my experience with Sony’s DSC-R1 camera, here, and here. As I said, "What attracted me to it [the Sony R1] was the large lens—a zoom lens that was the 35mm equivalent of 24-120, and the rotating LCD."

So as soon as Olympus announced a 12-60mm (35mm equivalent of 24-120mm) zoom lens meant for their digital SLRs, I immediately put it on my greed list. As soon as I found out the price, I immediately took it off my greed list. But of course, once something goes on your greed list, it might as well be chiseled in granite. It wasn’t long before I had adduced all manner of rationales for actually purchasing the lens.

So, lens ordered (from B&H), lens received, lens installed on the E-510.

I have to admit, the first thing you notice is the weight. I used my earlier Olympus camera, the legendary C-8080, to take these product shots, so I took the opportunity to weigh all three combinations utilizing our handy digital kitchen scale: a) the C-8080, b) the E-510 with the 14-42mm "kit" lens and c) the E-510 with the new 12-60mm lens. The results:

C-8080: 1 pound, 12 ounces (28 ounces).
E-510 with 14-42mm lens: 1 pound, 13 ounces (29 ounces).
E-510 with (new) 12-60mm lens: 2 pounds, 11 ounces (43 ounces).

It’s clear that the 12-60mm represents a major (to me, at least) upscaling in weight (almost a pound more). Mr. Wrotniak, the Olympus guru, states that "I was worried how [the 12-60 lens] will do on the smaller and lighter E-510. Surprise: I like it even more on that camera. Because the lens is heavier than the E-510 body, I would rather handle the whole ensemble holding the lens itself, but either way this does not seem a problem." (Italics added.) Hm. Well, no, it’s not a problem, as such. I mean, the camera, although weighing more than it did before, is still more comfortable to use than the Sony R1. (A change in neck strap, from elastic to inelastic, has helped.) But still, I think that I’m now approaching that mystical "use a camera that’s as heavy as you can carry" point. Possibly my interest in backpacking and the attendant obsession with weight is influencing me here. It remains to be seen if I actually take it backpacking instead of the much lighter and easier to handle 14-42mm. (And you know that in fact, this combo would be, I’m sure, considered as extremely lightweight when compared to other entries from the Nikon and Canon companies.)

Then, the second thing you notice is the range: 24-120mm! (35mm equivalent.) Wow! Now that’s really useful, and it’s something that comes into play on a daily basis. No real examples to show here, but check out the prior Point Lobos / Yosemite images. In fact, although this paragraph is shorter, the range advantage completely blows away the piddley weight objections in the preceding paragraph.

The third thing, and I think that this is interesting, is something you don’t notice. As far as I’m concerned, there’s been no appreciable improvement in image quality. Again, that’s as far as I can see. This may speak more to the actual high quality of the 14-42mm "kit" lens as much as anything else.

Other things: I have not noticed any wobbles of the front part or non-smooth zooming action mentioned by Wrotniak. And since I’ve recently been taking mostly landscape shots, I haven’t been concerned by any of the barrel distortion issues, etcetera.

So it seems as if the only great thing is the extended range. But that’s why I got it! Well, it’s on the camera now! And it’s gonna stay there.


OK. Most likely unimportant, but I should probably mention this. An interesting fourth thing is . . . well, I don’t know exactly how to describe it. But the weight and heft of the new camera/lens combo does have a kind of psychological effect, bespeaking a complete seriousness of intent. You know, it’s just somehow way more professional, I guess, and this may resonate throughout the whole photographic process. Maybe this fourth factor is important, after all.

We’ll see.

Photos: E-510 with 14-42mm lens—Marin County, 2008; E-510 with 12-60mm lens—Marin County, 2008

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dogwood, Vertical

I had taken some horizontal shots of this dogwood/boulder combo in the evening light, but upon reviewing my shots during the next day realized that I should have also taken some vertical pix. So I clomped on back . . .

The advantages of digital!

Photo: Dogwood & Boulder—Yosemite, 2008

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tree Trunks—Merced River

My campsite was conveniently located on the banks of the Merced River. The campground itself was bounded on one side by the Merced River, and on the other by Tenaya Creek. So it was easy enough to head out to Happy Isles in the morning, then return in the afternoon to see how the light had changed.

Photos: Tree Trunks (AM)—Yosemite, 2008; Tree Trunks (PM)—Yosemite, 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008

How To Take Yosemite "Swirled Water" Photos

#1: Walk up and down the banks of Tenaya Creek and the Merced River.

#2: Locate branches, dogwood, etc. framed by rushing torrents.

#3: Wait until the surrounding cliffs are being struck by the rising/setting sun, reflecting into the water.

#4: Use a tripod for a slow shutter speed to get that "swirled water" effect.

#5: Do that Photoshop thing.

#6: Post pix on your blog.

(OK, so the dogwood photo was hand-held. I used the "live view" feature of my camera to be able to hold the camera at the correct angle.)

Photos: Dogwood, Tenaya Creek—Yosemite, 2008; Branches, Merced River—Yosemite, 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Glacier Point

An hour from your campground in the valley, you finally arrive at Glacier Point. Early morning, the road just opened, Half Dome directly in front of you shining in the slanting light of sunrise.

You walk to the edge of the precipice, lean over and look directly down at the trees surrounding your campground.

Back in camp, you look directly up at the granite walls of Glacier Point.

Photos: Half Dome from Glacier Point—Yosemite, 2008; Yosemite Valley Floor from Glacier Point—Yosemite, 2008; Campground, Glacier Point—Yosemite, 2008

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

In Search of the Elusive Dogwood

Not that they’re that elusive. They’re there, even as you enter the park—mysterious white dots deep in the woods, and then, up close, creamy, perfectly-formed blossoms festooning otherwise anonymous little trees.

We’ve all seen Ansel Adams’s photographs, of course. (Here, and here.) And somehow it’s come to pass that we’ve all become compelled to take our own dogwood pix.

The problem is that the dogwoods are scattered here and there . . . the taking of dogwood pix comes to take on the characteristics of a treasure hunt, with the pefect dogwood photograph symbolizing, um, symbolizing . . .

Well anyway. First: up to Mirror Lake alongside Tenaya Creek. Second: over to Camp Curry to wander throughout the cabins. Third: check out the vicinity of the Ahwanee Hotel. Humph. Nothing there. Fourth: the Yosemite Lodge area. Plenty there. Even a shot of dogwood with Yosemite Falls in the background. Fifth: Walk over to the Happy Isles in hope of dogwood happiness. Sixth: when hiking or driving throughout the park, be ready at any moment to drop all planned activities to concentrate on dogwoods.

Only in this way will you become enlightened.

Photos: Dogwood & Forest—Yosemite, 2008; Dogwood Blossoms—Yosemite, 2008; Dogwood & Yosemite Falls—Yosemite, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Yosemite Falls II

My earlier post on Yosemite Falls can be found here.

Back in 1990 there was a very large parking lot close by the falls. That’s gone now, so early in the morning of May 14, 2008 (Wednesday) I parked in the Yosemite Lodge parking lot and walked across the street towards the falls. There was only one other person at the falls: a photographer (with tripod). Why was I not surprised? The path is directly in front of the falls, revealing sheets and cascades of falling water. So the only choice to be made was one of framing the subject.

For this picture I used a tripod, of course, with the camera set at 1/15th second shutter speed, F8 aperture.

What was the old photographic maxim? "F8, and be there."

Photo: Yosemite Falls—Yosemite, 2008

Monday, May 19, 2008

Yosemite & Digital Photography

I’ve backpacked and dayhiked in the Sierra before with digital cameras, but this is the first time I’ve been to Yosemite Valley with one. I took my Olympus E-510 10mp SLR with my new 12-60 (24-120 35mm equivalent) lens. Digital cameras are fun!

First, there’s the ability to get instant feedback, via the little "instant replay" image that pops-up once you’ve taken the picture. Then there’s the ability to review the day’s photos late at night in the tent. Both of these review functions are—to someone from the film era—mind-boggling.

Further, there’s the comfort factor in realizing that you’re taking grain-free images, enlargeable up to 16x20 inches. And that you’re taking these images with a light-weight camera. I’ve used a view camera before in the Yosemite gloom, and there’s just no comparison in the flexibility that the lighter-weight camera give you. Yes, maybe the 4x5 negatives would yield prints larger than 16x20, but I’ve never made such prints.

My technique still needs considerable refining. In avoiding the dreaded highlight "blowouts," I fear that I went too far in the opposite direction, resulting in too-dark images. (Which, of course, means greater "noise." Jeez.)

Photo: Tenaya Creek—Yosemite, 2008

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mike in Yosemite

Top pix is Mike in Yosemite in 1973, with his nimble, powerful Chevrolet Vega. He still has the "Vega Consumer Information" booklet provided by GM when he bought the car.

Bottom pix is Mike in Yosemite in 2008, with his nimble, powerful Infiniti G35. During his stay the car became covered with a thick coat of yellow pollen . . . produced by some unknown plant. Everything became covered with a thick coat of yellow pollen.

Photos: Mike & Vega—Yosemite, 1973; Mike & Infiniti—Yosemite, 2008

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Scenes on the Road to Yosemite

In this case, the road to Yosemite is California State Highway 120, reached from the Bay Area by scooting over to Manteca and picking it up there.

We always stop for gas at the Arco station in Oakdale ("The Cowboy Capital of the World").

After the Sonora-Yosemite junction, you pass by an almost-abandoned railroad station. It’s labeled "Chinese." I guess, because it’s near the town of China Camp.

And we mustn’t forget the supreme ugliness of Lake Don Pedro.

Once up in the mountains, there’s a nice little resort area called Buck Meadows. Once when we drove by someone had used green spray paint to make the sign say "Fuck Me."

Arriving in Yosemite Park itself, I had to wait 30 minutes due to road construction at the junction of Highways 140 and 120. Many of the one-way roads in the valley have been changed to two-way roads.

Photos: Arco Station—Oakdale, 2008; Railroad Station—China Camp, 2008; Reservoir Rings—Don Pedro, 2008; Highway Sign—Buck Meadows, 2008; Road Construction—Yosemite, 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

. . . from the archives #13: Rocks & Trees, Merced River—Yosemite, 1992

Taken in late summer, off the highway that runs from Yosemite Valley to El Portal. (This area is quite unreachable during spring flooding.) I used a 4x5 view camera.

Photo: Rocks & Trees, Merced River—Yosemite, 1992

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


We’re helping my in-laws move. Here’s a photograph of the dock attached to their current property—during low tide it sits on the mud flats, at high tide it floats on the water as seen.

Photo: Dock—Marin County, 2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Open Til’ Late

How late, is the question.

Note the use of the apostrophe.

Photo: Open Til’ Late—San Francisco, 2008

Monday, May 12, 2008

Body Oil!

I used to work in San Francisco in an office building on Market Street. At least once a day—sometimes twice—one would hear, cutting through the clamor of clanging streetcars and cacophonous crowds, the unmistakable cry of:

"Body Oil!"


The gentleman seen above (in the red hoody) is the Body Oil salesman . . . he’s resting his wares on the short concrete pillar next to him, and is busily trying to interest passersby in his Body Oil products.

Whenever we heard the Body Oil cry, Willis (my co-worker) and I would pause, glance at one another, and nod. I was never able to convince him to run downstairs and buy some body oil, but he’s probably bought a lot by now, I betcha.

Photo: Body Oil—San Francisco, 2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ferry Building Tableau

Not sure if this works. I tried it out using black and white, but that for sure didn’t work. I think that the only thing holding the picture together is the convergence of the bay and evening sky.

Photo: Late Evening, Ferry Building—San Francisco, 2008

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Wake Up

Yesterday in San Francisco for a birthday dinner. Took the opportunity to drop by Gasser's for a replacement battery and a new strap for the camera. Wind was whistling through this passageway between Mission and Market Streets . . . nobody was using the benches.

Photo: Wake Up—San Francisco, 2008

Friday, May 9, 2008

. . . from the archives #12: Mannequin, Standing—Santa Monica, 1994

I have a number of mannequin photos. I’m trying to think of how I could use these images in one of my "projects" (the Glen Drive Productions publications).

Inspiration will surely strike any day now.

Photo: Mannequin, Standing—Santa Monica, 1994

Thursday, May 8, 2008

More Turkeys

When I left the house yesterday there were around five or six turkeys in our front yard. They were not in any hurry to leave, either.

Photos: Bicyclist & Turkey—Marin County, 2008; Two Turkeys—Marin County, 2008

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Point Lobos—Future Ideas

—The park doesn’t open until 9 AM. For photographic purposes, this is very late . . . mid-morning. By then, especially in summer, the sun is fairly high up.

Maybe a winter visit would be in order . . . 9 AM would look very different then.

—My experience was that early AM and late PM are best times for pix. That leaves the middle of the day open for . . . a dayhike? Lots of possibilities in the Big Sur area.

—Check the tide charts before arrival. Would be interesting to see the same spots at high and low tides.

Photo: Surf, Sunset—Point Lobos, 2008

Yosemite Valley

How long has it been since I’ve camped in Yosemite Valley? I think, the mid-80’s. That’s at least 20 years ago.

I’ve stayed in Yosemite Lodge, of course, and visited the valley floor several times from campgrounds high up on Tioga Road. But no camping in the valley. There was a period of time when my brother Joe was living in El Portal, just outside the park entrance, while he was working for the U.S. Forest Service as an archeologist. I was able to utilize his trailer and his expertise as elements for my photographic trips for a number of years. Later, I used the Forest Service campground in El Portal and drove the few miles up to the valley. Joe lives in Los Alamos now, and the El Portal campground was destroyed by the great flood of 1997 (jeez, how long has it been since I’ve been to El Portal?)

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that I’ve been wanting to take some spring photos in Yosemite Valley for some time now. The main issue here is the season. Spring means that all of the campgrounds along Tioga Road are still closed, hence my former use of El Portal. Plus I had assumed that campgrounds in the valley itself would be entirely booked up . . . the waterfall season, the dogwood season etc etc.

Well, we know what they say about the word "assume." Through a circuitous internet route I found myself at the government’s reservation site making a reservation for next week for the North Pines campground! Feels odd . . . making a reservation for a campground. We’ll see.

Photo: Trees, Vernal Falls Trail—Yosemite, 1961

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

False Hellebore, Kings River 2007

False Hellebore, Kings River - Sierra Nevada  2007

Mike had hiked over Bishop Pass, camped overnight in Dusy Basin, and then hiked down, down, down the formidable LeConte Canyon, finally, exhaustingly, arriving at Little Pete Meadow. This is such a great spot! The Kings River rippling by, a late-season Sierra meadow, and the thin dusty track of the John Muir Trail. What he should have done, of course, was to hang out there for a layover day. Instead, he used his free day to do a day hike heading south towards (but not coming remotely close to) Muir Pass.

By the time he got back to camp the sun was already dangerously close to setting. In fact, by the time he'd wandered down to the river’s edge, the sun had disappeared behind the canyon walls. The false hellebores in the meadow were fading fast: it was the end of the brief Sierra growing season. He took several photos of these photogenic plants (utilized also by Edward Weston); this one is his favorite.

Photo: False Hellebore & Kings River—Little Pete Meadow, 2007

Update: The photo was taken with an Olympus E-510 using the standard 14-42 lens that came with the camera. I’ve had a 16x20 inch print made from it that is amazingly detailed.

The Way of the Geezer: Campsite—Little Pete Meadow

Meadow, river and hikers in background.

Photo: Campsite—Little Pete Meadow, 2007

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cinco de Mayo

Uh-oh. No Tecate in the fridge!

Photo: Foto—Mazatlan, 2002

Update: Just got back from the grocery store with a six-pack of Modelo Especial.

Seagulls & Truck

Another in the blog's series of seagull pix.

Photo: Seagulls & Truck—Point Reyes, 2008

Sunday, May 4, 2008

San Francisco Presidio

I remember when there was a full-fledged military presence in the presidio. It's now a National Park.

I’ve been to parts of the Presidio before, but I’ve unaccountably not visited the Crissy Field / Fort Point area. Typical, I’m sure, of locals who never visit the most renowned sights in their area. Since I had some business in Sausalito yesterday I decided, in advance, to venture over the bridge and do some research concerning the parking, etc, situation.

The day turned out to be incredibly hazy (wouldn’t want to use the sm-g word). So hazy that you couldn’t even see the East Bay from San Francisco. I decided, driving over, that this would be a good opportunity for black and white images.

Well, there was plenty of parking, including spots right in front of a mournfully deserted Stilwell Hall. I walked from there to the Fort Point area, directly under the Golden Gate Bridge. Lots of pictorial possibilities! If it weren’t so . . . um, hazy.

Photos: Golden Gate Bridge—San Franciso, 2008; Stilwell Hall—San Francisco, 2008

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Cooper-Molera Adobe

An afternoon spent walking around Monterey.

Photo: Doorway, Cooper-Molera Adobe—Monterey, 2008

Friday, May 2, 2008

. . . from the archives #11: Dogwood, Tenaya Creek—Yosemite, 1991

Springtime in Yosemite Valley: snowmelt filled Tenaya Creek from edge to edge and the rushing torrent gave out a deafening roar. I used a 4x5 view camera on a very sturdy tripod, one leg of which was in the water. A slow shutter speed produced the "blurred water" effect.

Photo: Dogwood, Tenaya Creek—Yosemite, 1991

Thursday, May 1, 2008

. . . from the archives #10: Valkyrie—Marin County, 1999

I took this photograph in a parking lot in Corte Madera. I started using color negative film in 1998, due to the obvious trend towards digital processing and printing. But without access to either adequate scanners or printers I decided to try for a graphic arts look with some of my photos.

In this instance I used the posterization tool in Photoshop to create a silkscreen-type image because my printer wouldn’t handle subtle gradations. I remember wondering at the time when real photorealistic inkjet printers would finally become available.

Photo: Valkyrie—Marin County, 1999