Thank You Jacinda

comments 29
Landscapes / New Zealand / Photography / Seascapes / Sunrise

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I had been saving this image — taken from the end of the pier in Akaroa, New Zealand just after sunrise on an unbelievable July morning — to mark the anniversary of the trip to NZ that my wife and I took last year. I moved it up a few weeks because it is a fitting complement to a short message of thanks to New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

Lots of people talk about “doing the right thing.” I have no idea how much talk preceded it, but in my view, Ms. Ardern has done the right thing. She has initiated the Christchurch Call to Action, which presents a voluntary non-binding agreement among national governments and tech companies to work toward curbing the use of the Internet to broadcast hate speech, acts of violence, and the incitation of violence. The Call is co-sponsored by French President Emmanuel Marcon.

At this writing it has been signed by eighteen countries and eight online service providers.

It will be (and has been) criticized by some as an affront to free speech — and ensuring that it won’t block free expression will be an extremely challenging job. Others will probably say it doesn’t go far enough. Still others will (and do) say that it’s impractical — and it might be.

But it’s a start. And nothing happens without a start.

So, thank you, Prime Minister.

(Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.2; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

For people who are new to my blog, please take a look at my March 15 and March 17 posts:

https://amagablog.com/2019/03/15/now-more-than-ever/

https://amagablog.com/2019/03/17/betterists/

Another Day

comments 28
California / Photo Log / Photography / Seascapes / Ships

How Big Is a Big Ship Blog

April 4, 2014. Marin County Headlands. My seascape horizon photographs are devoid of any vestige of land, for the most part; and they show no man-made objects at all. So this image will never be part of my Horizons collections.

But this scene intrigued me in 2014 and it still intrigues me today. The first draw was and is the subtlety of color on the water. And the sky. But then there’s the ship.

Container ships can be more than 1,200 feet (365 meters) long. That’s almost a quarter of a mile. Take a walk past one at the dock and you’ll be walking for about five minutes. To my mind, that qualifies as large. But (with apologies to Douglas Adams) that’s peanuts compared to the Pacific Ocean. All things are relative.

This ship is headed for somewhere in Asia — some exotic far-away foreign land. Many might think it would be romantic to crew on such a ship and travel to such places. But from those I’ve talked with, it’s a sometimes back-breaking, sometimes dangerous, and often boring job. It’s work. And heading out to sea is just another day at the office.

All things are relative.

(Sony RX100. RAW processing in DxO Pro; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

Throwback Thursday: Through the Mists of Time

comments 33
Landscape / Photo Log / Photography / Throwback Thursday / Waterfall

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November 22, 2007, 2:03 p.m. Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon. We were visiting our sister-in-law’s sister in Portland for Thanksgiving. In that household’s tradition, complementing the turkey was a board of barbeque so nuanced that only years of practice can produce such a fine result. The feast lasted for hours. That plus a welcoming group of people would have been more than adequate, But I had more.

In addition to the customary seasonal gratitude, I was thankful for a brand-new Canon EOS 40D and the opportunity to visit the Columbia River Gorge and the waterfalls that line its southern cliffs. It’s the greatest concentration of falls in North America — more than twenty within a few miles. Chief among them is Multnomah falls: all 620 feet of it.

Multnomah has two cascades connected by a pool and short stream. A picturesque bridge crosses the stream and affords a view of the pool at the bottom of the upper falls. In the pool is an ever-changing array of rocks. I’ve been back to the falls several times over the years and the rocks are always different. Old rocks are gone or moved or broken and new rocks are always there.

(Next time you play rock-paper-scissors, add water — symbolized by holding your hand out and wiggling your fingers. It won’t be fair, though. You’ll always win. Water moves and eventually dissolves everything.)

At the base of the falls, wafting cascades of water make constantly changing patterns on the rocks, providing hours of entertainment (or frustration) for a photographer who is holding out for just the right look. Finally it came. And here is the reward.

But that exact moment is not the throwback I’m talking about this Thursday. No. We’re looking back at the innocent times when I allowed the camera to make important decisions on my behalf.

In 2007 I didn’t understand the freedom that a RAW file provides in its flexible bits and bytes, so I didn’t set the camera to save a RAW file. That means that the camera gave me an image determined to be acceptable by a consensus of the computer programmers at Canon’s headquarters and not a lot of post-processing by the photographer was possible. Nor did I understand the fine points of color balance and color management and the effect they can have on the final image. So the blue cast that — in my eye — makes this image work was the luck of the digital draw. And I did get lucky. What you see is what I got.

It was a great Thanksgiving.

(Canon EOS 40D, Canon 24-105mm f/4 L lens; Final crop in Adobe Photoshop.)

Georgia’s Back (Or Someone Like Her)

comments 33
California / Flower / Inspiration / Photo Log / Photography / Tulip

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May 4, 2019. Crystal Hermitage Gardens, outside of Nevada City, California. When we went to visit our friends in the Sierra foothills, we were prepared for some landscapes. Alas, the sky was blue. From horizon to horizon it was utterly devoid of texture. Not the best for landscapes. But little did we know that our friends had something else in mind anyway.

Two weeks ago, they were exploring Highway 49 and stopped in Nevada City. By chance, someone asked them if they were there for the tulips. Tulips? Oh, yes — at Crystal Hermitage Gardens about twelve miles out of town. They went. They saw. Two weeks later, we all went and saw.

Georgia, or someone like her, tagged along. And me without my macro lens. Did pretty well anyway.

PS — After a stroll through the gardens, which was like a warm spiritual shower, we went back through Nevada City and stopped at Three Forks Bakery and Brewing Company. Best pizza in my life. And one of the best IPAs. So in case you’re in the area, you have two places to visit.

(Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.2; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

Point Reyes 3: Silence

comments 25
California / Inspiration / Photography / Point Reyes / Seascapes

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All you can hear is the breeze, the waves, the birds.

Silence promotes calm. Calm brings about refection and realization.

Recognized many times before but confirmed through repetition: Although there are those who try to create chaos in the world, it’s up to me to decide whether I want to respond in kind or to disagree with an automatic knee jerk and maintain my own conviction that the basic good in the majority of people can prevail.

Not doing anything but commenting.

(Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.2; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

Point Reyes 1: Some Creatures Great and Small

comments 40
California / Nature / Photo Log / Photography / Wildlife

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Friday, April 26, 2019. Point Reyes Peninsula. One of the best things about living in the San Francisco Bay Area is that no matter where you are, you’re not far from nature. This is a place where you can finish your morning chores and still make it to Point Reyes for an afternoon of hiking and photography, have supper at the Inverness Park Tap Room, and be home at a reasonable hour.

We went for the wildflowers — having sent a fellow blogger there a couple weeks earlier — and ended up with more than we expected. The wildflowers were bountiful, but more subtle and intimate than at the Carrizo Plain. My wife had a heyday — and not too much hay fever — shooting them.

I found myself more drawn to critters.

Why did the coyote cross the road?

To give me a better angle, of course. Pierce Point Road crests just before you get to Pierce Ranch on the northern end of the peninsula. After the crest is a spectacular panorama of the Pacific, the northern peninsula, Tule elk, the ranch, and right in the middle of the road, a very handsome coyote. I stopped to get a photo. He sauntered off the road into the meadow overlooking the ranch, leapt over the taller flowers until he was framed by the barn, and stopped and tuned and posed with a smile. Then wandered off to sniff the flowers.

Swallows are very difficult.

They’re fast. They’re agile. They change direction at the whim of the insects they’re chasing. And they’re small. Tiny. 600mm (equivalent) lens? Ha! What’s that blurry speck at the edge of the frame? A swallow? Might be. It’s hard to tell. Shoot. Swallow equals black smudge. Again and again and again. Until Friday. There must’ve been a convention. A small flock of four barn swallow conventioneers were taking turns bombarding a flower for its tasty contents, and as they approached their buffet, they slowed down and hovered. The four shots below of one of them were all taken within seven seconds. Although it may not look like it, they are in sequence. They kept at it — and I kept shooting — until a turkey vulture glided down from a ridge, altitude six feet, and sailed right across the swallows’ food fest, gave me the evil eye, and flew off. The swallows scattered. Wouldn’t you? But I got my shots and they got their goodies.

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Crows are easy.

But no less impressive because of it. Pierce Point Ranch is only about ten miles as the crow flies from Bodega Bay, where Hitchcock’s The Birds was filmed. This one was not making any effort to intimidate, however. This one was making repeated straight-line passes parallel to the trail so I could get a perfect shot. Why else?

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More to come.

(Nikon D500, Tamron 100–400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.2; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

No Tears Were Shed

comments 25
California / Landscape / Monochrome / Photo Log / Photography

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April 11, 2019. Mojave Desert west of Lancaster, California. Cause of death of this once proud (okay, probably never proud) shed was most likely neglect. But it might have been electrocution. We’ll never know. It is a little too close to some menacing power lines as it sits forlornly by the road that leads to the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve. So there’s that. This photo is possibly the first time in a long time that anyone paid any attention to it.

I rarely venture into the world of monochrome. I leave that to the experts. But monochrome seemed appropriate here for a couple of reasons, one of which is that this is the obvious genre to prove that not all decrepit buildings are on the High Plains of Texas.

Which leads me to the following: If you want to see some really excellent monochrome photography, you’ll enjoy exploring the work of Melinda Green Harvey of Lubbock, Texas.

She has two different photography blogs. Check them both:

https://melindagreenharvey.com

https://thepoetryofphotography.wordpress.com

Let me — and her — know what you think.

(Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.2; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

Yardbirds

comments 64
California / Hummingbirds / Nature / Photography / Wildlife

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Not one of the most influential rock bands of the ’60s. Not a denizen of a prison yard — after whom the band was named. No.

These birds visited my yard on Saturday morning.

Ever vigilant, I was there. I was particularly on the lookout for Anna’s hummingbirds, but the Hutton’s Vireo (I believe) above posed for me so nicely had to include him/her.

But for the rest, I refer to — and alter — the Book of Simon:

Was an April day
Hummingbirds were there for all to see
And they did hover long
Putting on a show for me

This guy sat on a branch surveying the realm. He seemed to have all the time in the world.

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Then he saw me pointing this big black tubular thing at him. He apparently didn’t like it and proved his displeasure by posturing in a defensive / aggressive show. Ducks do it. Geese do it. Even agitated swans do it. But hummingbirds? He’s soooo bad. He kept at it for quite some time, but finally gave up and flew away when he realized I was not going to be intimdated.

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But he was at his best while hovering. He came back after a few minutes, forgave me for existing, and put on his one-bird show.

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Was an April day . . .

Technical note: His iridescent red head almost certainly goes outside the visible spectrum. It sure plays havoc with a camera sensor. I carefully checked the camera’s RGB histogram as I was shooting and sure enough: the red channel was extremely blown out in the first few shots. I had to underexpose between two-thirds of a stop to two stops to not over-expose the red channel. Even then, in RAW processing I had to bring the overall exposure down another half-stop and dial the highligets down twenty to fifty percent to get the red to look like what I saw. I have no idea what the red feather’s pigment is — but whatever it is, it’s powerful stuff.

(Nikon D500, Tamron 100–400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.2; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

Day Three — Poppy Paradise

comments 45
California / California Poppy / Floral Photography / Flower / Landscape / Nature / Photo Log / Photography

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And on the third day, The Land of Oz. Or was it The Sound of Music?

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In the southwest corner of the Mojave Desert is a hill that for about a month every spring turns retina-burning orange. The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve and the surrounding countryside.

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No wizard. No Julie Andrews. But lots of poppies. Other wildflowers, too. But mostly poppies. (And thirty mile-per-hour winds, so no florascapes.)

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And an occasional cloud.

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(Nikon D500, Tamron 100–400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD. Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.2; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

Carrizo Plain: Day One

comments 44
California / Carrizo Plian / Floral Photography / Flower / Landscape / Nature / Photography

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On the first day, clouds marked the sky. And it was good.

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And we were wet with rain and frozen by wind and pelted by hail and splattered in mud, and we did not care.

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For the Earth was carpeted with yellow and red and purple and blue and we were soar amazed.

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Tomorrow: Poppy Paradise.

(Nikon D500, Tamron 100–400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD. Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24–70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.2; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

Carrizo Plain: Day Two

comments 29
California / Carrizo Plian / Floral Photography / Landscape / Nature / Photography

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Day Two? What happened to Day One?

Day One has been postponed in order to save the best for last.

The Carrizo Plain is known for many things. In the Spring, it’s known for wildflowers — especially this year, when it is the site of a super bloom. Super blooms happen in years that have had a far greater that average rainfall, and we certainly had that in California this year.

When we arrived on Tuesday afternoon, the sky was dark and dramatic: horizon-to-horizon silver-rimmed wet clouds with shafts of sunbeams drawing ever-changing patterns on the plain and hillsides. A photographer’s dream. Day Two? With apologies to John Lennon:

Carrizo

We came back to play

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On our second day

The sun was out

The sky was blue

The light was flat

So boo hoo hoo

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Even still you made us smile.

On the second day we got up early to catch the morning light. We should have gotten up earlier. By the time we traversed the hour and a half from San Luis Obispo to the Plain, the early morning clouds had dispersed, leaving a clear blue utterly boring sky. Ten- to thirty-mile-per-hour winds made macro photography out of the question.

We decided to explore and let photography be our second priority.

Still we got some good stuff.

The shot above was taken with a telephoto looking at the crest of a small rise with the Temblor Range in the distance. (The mountains are well named: the San Andreas Fault runs along their western slope.)

We headed our exploration in a southerly direction in mid-afternoon — traveling the length of the Plain with an eye toward being in Lancaster in time for a late dinner and Poppies the next day. (Stay tuned.)

It’s mostly dirt road going south — slow going in a VW GTI, which has a fairly stiff suspension. For a long while we were the only people as far as we could see, leaving us all the time in the world to stop in the middle of the road and leisurely take pictures. We crawled along. Then, way off to the left, we saw a strip of bright purple. Bright. Purple. A mirage? Couldn’t be flowers. Could it? We’d never know.

It was miles away and there was seemingly no way to get to it. We drove bumpily along, admiring from afar. After we were thoroughly resigned to a forever unsolved mystery, a side road appeared. Left turn, half-mile drive to a parking loop. And a mile-long trail. As we walked along the narrow track we were slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, immersed in a purple ocean. It was delightful. The vista was amazing. The aroma was almost overpowering. No sound but the breeze. Is this still Earth? You decide. Inside looking out.

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This is the pick of the first cull of Day Two.

Tomorrow: Day One.

(Nikon D500, Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD. Nikon D850, Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.2; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

Notre Dame

comments 18
Photo Log / Photography

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I cannot let this day pass without a word about Notre Dame. Built in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, this cathedral has survived wars and natural disasters beyond count. It is a sacred symbol of Catholicism and beyond religion it is deeply entwined in the heart and soul of Paris and France and our broader culture. Its partial destruction today is a tragic loss for the entire world.

But it is only a partial destruction. The shell of the building and the towers remain. For all of Christianity, this is Holy Week. Sunday is Easter, the day of Resurrection. And as Christ arose, so shall Notre Dame.

(June 29, 2011. Canon S95. Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

Is This Even a Place?

comments 35
California / Impressionism / Inspiration / Photography / Seascapes

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Yes, it is. As a matter of fact, it’s a view from about five hundred feet above sea level off the side of southbound California Highway 1 in Sonoma County.

Originally shot in December 2013, this image sat in my archives for years. It didn’t sit there because I particularly wanted it to. It sat there because there’s evidence of a nasty lens aberration in the RAW file that several previous attempts at RAW processing and Photoshop editing couldn’t get rid of.

The vaunted Sony RX100 — first generation — is wonderful camera in most ways, but in some circumstances it can distort colors at the edge of the frame. As much as I loved the shot, I couldn’t show it. Then last week I visited this image again. A combination of a different creative approach on my part and some wizardry from the brilliant creators of the latest version of DxO PhotoLab gave me the results I wanted. Viola. (It is French software, after all.)

But it didn’t really look that way, did it? Actually this is close to what the camera saw. In my mind’s eye I saw something more pure so I did soften it a bit for a more impressionist look and removed some floating kelp from the foreground — but this is still pretty much how it looked.

Another technical note. Anyone who has spent any time on my fine-art website knows I love horizons. However, horizons are not always cooperative. Sometimes they’re obscured by clouds or fogbanks. Or rain squalls. Or mist. Or some combination of all of the above that makes one wonder, just what is the horizon in some images? Most of my shots are hand-held so there’s almost always going to be some straightening. If a fog bank or rain squall runs a bit diagonal to the true horizon but both are in the shot, it’s a challenge: the fog bank’s apparent horizon and the “true” horizon are in disagreement. In many cases, leveling the true horizon can be, to quote Fargo, kinda funny-looking. But lining up the fog bank won’t work either, because it’s often inconsistent — so what do I level to? Best I can do is adjust till it looks right — whatever that is — and hope the viewer agrees.

This seascape horizon has true horizon going through more than half the width of the shot, so it was easy. Except that it needed another tenth of a degree tweak when I double-checked it as I was writing, because visual weight of the rain squall toward the left was still messing with me.

(Sony RX100. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.2; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)