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.)

Georgia on My Mind

comments 35
Abstract / Floral Photography / Impressionism / Inspiration / Photography / Tulip

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I don’t recall when I first saw Georgia O’Keeffe’s work. It just seems like she was always there.

She decided to be an artist when she was ten, and then for almost nine decades she kept herself and her art intensely alive through constant evolution — but she was always unmistakably herself and her art was always unmistakably her own.

I don’t know if Ms. O’Keeffe ever visited the amazing and seemingly endless gardens at an estate called Filoli, a few miles north of Woodside, California; but if she had, I’m sure she would have seen these gardens as I do — not as a destination but as a launching pad.

At the moment, Filoli is exploding with tulips.

This began as a tulip. Then I was visited by a muse . . .

(Nikon D850; Nikon 28-300 f/3.5-5.6G Zoom. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.2; Editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

Highway 1, Sonoma County, Heading South — Addendum

comments 26
California / Inspiration / Landscape / Photo Log / Photography / Seascapes

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It’s True Confession time.

On Monday, April 1, I put up the original post of this shot, with the rather cryptic commentary: California Highway 1 is one of the most beautiful — and thrilling — roads in the world. I also said that there was no editing in Photoshop.

I received a fair number of comments complimenting me on the shot and agreeing that it is a spectacular road. I should have felt great. I didn’t. I felt a bit like a fraud.

It was intended to be an April Fools joke, but nobody called me on it.

It started like this: in 2013, a friend joined us for a weekend on the Sonoma coast. She had never driven that stretch of Highway 1 before and she found it more than just a little unsettling. There are parts where if looks for a moment like you’ll go right off the edge before a curve saves your life by appearing at the last second. It goes on like this for miles. For the uninitiated it does wonders for the digestion.

I made a number of tries to get a shot of that perspective but was unable to due to lack of turnouts for parking and the risk of getting flattened or run off the cliff by a truck. So, in 2014 I go the best shot I could and Photoshopped it the rest of the way as a gag for my friend. There are two versions. A subtle one, as above and in the original post on April 1, and this not-so-subtle one. Maybe I should have posted it instead:

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Here’s the original shot:

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And so, as the late Paul Harvey used to say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”

(Sony RX100. RAW processing in DxO Pro; Lots of editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

Concentrated Essence of Poppy

comments 30
California / California Poppy / Floral Photography / Flower / Nature / Photography

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For an all-too-brief period in the spring, California poppies proliferate. They’re just starting to appear here in the Bay Area. In a few weeks — maybe just a few days — there will be more patches, fields, entire hillsides of intense golden blooms shimmering in the breeze. There will be more in this space too. Here’s a preview of this year’s bounty.

(Nikon D850; AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2.2; final editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

Betterists

comments 29
Inspiration / Landscape / Nature / New Zealand / Photo Log / Photography

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I started this blog only a short while ago — November 2018 — in answer to requests from friends to put my “other” photography on the Web. “Other” photography would be defined as images that go beyond the self-imposed limits of what I put on my formal website. I also intended this blog to be a way of making all my photography more widely known. That was my original purpose and that remains my purpose.

When I wrote yesterday’s post, it an exception to the rule. It was my way of pushing back against the horrible manifest insanity that has resulted in the violent deaths of fifty people (as of this writing) and many injured in Christchurch, New Zealand. I couldn’t stand it. I had to do something. I felt that my words might serve as a a tiny antidote to the racial, religious, and cultural hatred that had now infested New Zealand, of all places. I felt that a tiny antidote was better than nothing at all. I thought that it would go to my friends, relatives, and followers and that would be it.

That did not turn out to be the case. To my surprise, my post went all over the world. It was re-blogged and linked several times. I couldn’t believe my eyes as my blog stats shot up. And the post was met with 100% positive response, which proved my central point: the vast majority of people in this world are good and decent and have a desire to be positive, even in the worst of circumstances. And everyone who responded expressed a desire to be positive, in spite of it all.

The terrorists and criminals are in the minority. Really a very small minority. The media — be it mainstream, alternative, or social — works hard to make this minority seem larger to satisfy its bloodlust. But the good, decent people who are just trying to get along in life are still the vast majority.

We’re the good guys. We outnumber the bad guys. True, the whole WordPress community — if you will — is still a tiny fraction of the entire world, and the people who responded to my post are the tiniest fraction of that. But still, where there are some good people, there are more.

So here’s my idea:

There are terrorists in the world. They are insane. They want the worst for people and for the world. They are a minority.

There are good, decent, helpful people in the world. We want the best for people and the world. That’s us. We are sane. We’re the majority.

The bad ones are terrorists. They practice terrorism. They try to make things worse.

We are betterists. We practice betterism. We make things better. We don’t “try.” We just do it.

So let’s do it.

How? Help people. Support organizations that work to make the world a better place. Be kind in your dealings with others. Smile. Make others smile. Clean up your community. Help those in need to be able to stand up and help themselves. When someone says as a broad unsupported generality, “It’s all bad,” ask them, “Who says?” And shun the person who says so. Use your talents to make the world a better place…

And while you’re at it, make yourself better: Continuing education. Self betterment. Learn a language. Hone your art and writing skills. Improve your diet. Work on your physical fitness…

Let’s do it and have a great time while we’re at it.

If you agree, spread it around any way you can. Blog. Social media. Word-of-mouth. By example. Any way you can. Just don’t make it a secret.

My Best Wishes to All.

Michael

PS: The photo is of Aoraki/Mt. Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand. It was taken from Peter’s Lookout on the western shore of Lake Pukaki on the Southern Island of New Zealand, in June 2018. New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. New Zealanders are — hands down in my experience — the nicest, smartest, most helpful, hard-working, fun-loving people I’ve met anywhere. May they continue to be so.

(Nikon D850; Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 G2. RAW processing in DxO Pro; final editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

Now More Than Ever. . .

comments 60
Inspiration / Landscape / Photo Log / Photography

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Yesterday, forty-nine fellow inhabitants of our world were murdered while they were worshiping in Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The madness of this act is unfathomable. The fact that it happened in New Zealand is deeply saddening. New Zealand ranks number two in the Global Peace Index.

At times like this our hearts can get very dark and the darkness can be infectious. While we mourn the loss, we must not succumb to a hopeless apathy for the state of our world.

Regardless of what the media would like us to beleive, the vast majority of people in the world are good. They have their hopes and dreams. They have family and friends whom they love. They have jobs and projects and passions and beliefs and art. They are trying to live their lives as well as they can. They are the ones — and we count ourselves among them — who deserve attention and help and love and support.

Please, now more than ever, spread this word in whatever way you can.

My Best Wishes to All.

Michael

(Photo was shot on the South Island of New Zealand in June, 2018. Nikon D850; Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 VR zoom. RAW processing in DxO Pro; final editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

Sunrise, Smoke, Spots

comments 21
Landscape / Nature / Photo Log / Photography / Sunrise

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September 12, 2015, 6:52 a.m.; West Shore, Lake Tahoe. When we arrived for our annual reunion of friends on September 11, the 2015 Butte fire had been burning for two days. It was about seventy miles (as the crow flies) to the southeast of us—the same direction as the prevailing wind. The smoke was ominous. No stars that night. When we woke up early the next morning the omen had fully manifested. A thick pall hung over the lake.

It was especially dense on the other side, to the east. We arose for the sunrise, as was our habit, but the sunrise was more like a full moonrise. There was no filter on the lens but there was a miles-thick atmospheric filter in front of me. I shot straight into the sun. 230mm, 1/320 second, f/5.6, ISO 100. The smoke was so impenetrable that I could make an exposure like that.

You see pretty much what I saw. Well, actually you see more than what I saw when I made the shot. I didn’t notice the sunspots until I got the image into DxO Pro later that morning. At first I thought it was dirt on the camera sensor — but no. I checked sunspot activity on the Internet: those are indeed sunspots.

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The crop above is at 100%. You’ll see them in the upper-right quadrant. It takes a hell of a fire to provide such a filter.

(Nikon D750; Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR zoom. RAW processing in DxO Pro; final editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

And Then. . .

comments 22
Landscape / Nature / Photo Log / Photography / Seascapes / Wildlife

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June 20, 2018; Doubtful Sound, South Island, New Zealand. It was a beautiful day. First day of winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Bright sun. Not a cloud in the sky. Gorgeous. The air was crisp. Clean. Cold.

Except this was our one and only day to photograph one of the most dramatic fjords in New Zealand. We wanted clouds. Mist. Fog. Dark dusky drama. Rain squalls. Rainbows. We got none of it. Mother Nature served up sunshine. What was she thinking?

She did provide the makings of one good sea/landscape — appropriately deep blue. See my last blog post.

And now here’s the rest of the story:

Not more than a few minutes later exploded a dolphin, the low sun adding a tiny touch of gold to each lens droplet of the water burst. Up. Click. Gone.

And then it was quiet again.

(Nikon D500; Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 ED VR zoom. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab; final editing in Adobe Photoshop.)

What Trader Joe’s Taught Me About a Plum Blossom Photo

comments 26
Floral Photography / Inspiration / Photography

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February 2019. My back yard and my computer. Every year there are plum blossoms in my yard. Every year — in homage to Japanese art — I photograph them, searching for The One. Over the past few weeks, many gigabytes died on this search.

This blossom? That one? One blossom? Many? High-key? Low-key? Simple background? Mottled background? High contrast? Low contrast? Saturated? Muted? On and on and on and on. . .

Images fell like so many petals.

And then a couple weeks ago while running errands on a Saturday afternoon I got caught up in a story on the radio about the unconventional success of Trader Joe’s. Turns out that one of the many reasons for their success is that while they may seem to offer a lot of choice, they don’t. Too much choice leads to indecision and that leads to no sale. Hmmmm. . .

Back to the blossoms. KISS. Keep it simple, Scandling. All the rain we’ve been having means there are no perfect specimens. Get over it. But every single image in past years has been horizontal and this very-good-but-not-perfect one is vertical. Good. Tradition is over-rated. Everything else just fell into place.

And there you are.

(Nikon D500. Tamron 100-400 F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD. RAW processing in DxO PhotoLab 2. Final editing in Photoshop.)

More fine-art photography: www.amagaphoto.com