Sunday, April 17, 2016

Three Days in Los Angeles

A client recently asked me for an image of Los Angeles that could be enlarged to a 45 foot print. I didn't have anything that would work in my stock so I decided to run down there (I live in Northern California). The difficult part (besides having spent very little time in LA) was a 4 day shooting window, including a travel time of 7 hours, scouting, retouching very large files, uploading and client selection all before the deadline. On the evening of my arrival I showed up at the Santa Monica Pier to find gale force winds and 45 mph gusts (notice the apocalyptic bareness) but there were a few brave souls out for a good time.

I woke at 4am the following morning and drove from Santa Monica to shoot the downtown Los Angeles skyline from Griffith Park.

That afternoon I hiked to the Hollywood sign.

And from there I headed downtown to shoot the skyline again from a closer perspective.

 I spent the entire next day retouching what I'd shot. All these images are multi-hundred megapixel  resolution composites from 16-24 individual 42mp images. My poor laptop was maxed out. I also spent some time scouting Venice Beach and Malibu that day, but was unable to find anything that fit my needs. Finally I headed back to the Santa Monica Pier for some shots unhindered by gale force winds.

Here is an example of the detail/resolution:

 And I even got to sleep in my final morning!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Clementine Dam

Nice to see (and hear) the full force of water flowing over the Clementine Dam after all our needed winter storms. 

It's hard to judge size without a little perspective but even then, you need to be there in person to really feel the magnitude in your chest as the water falls 155 feet to the American River below. The top image is 475 megapixels.

It's fun to have a waterfall so close to home.

I'll add some more pictures of the dam as I take them.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Completed Mural

After months of work and staring at gigantic files on a tiny screen I finally had the opportunity to see the fruits of my labors in full scale when I visited my newly installed mural (described in this previous post here) at the Visit California headquarters in Sacramento. The size of the mural measures 10.5 feet by 25.5 feet but it is difficult to judge this scale in the image below due to the use of a very wide angle lens. Also, what you can't see is the stunning detail achieved through the use of multi-row panoramic stitching along with this insanely sharp lens. I am very pleased with how it turned out.

Here is the image by itself.

Here is a close-up to see the detail on top of Fannette Island.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

High Resolution Commission

I spent the beginning of my photographic career using just one camera and one lens. It was a Minolta srt101 with the standard 58mm F1.4 lens. I loved the camera and I loved the simplicity of just one lens. If I wanted the subject bigger in the frame I'd move in closer and when I wanted a wider scene I would take multiple images and "stitch" them together. In the beginning that meant 4x6 prints and tape, and eventually scanning the film and manually merging the shots in Photoshop. After a couple years at photography school I was finally ready to move up to a the Hasselblad 501 (a medium format camera), but I still kept just one lens... the standard 80mm 2.8 and the same method to create my wide angle panoramic. Scanned on a very high end drum scanner the image quality was pretty spectacular topping out at two rows of five images to capture the vast scene at Horseshoe Bend near Page Arizona. This took probably 40 hours of photoshop work and was my crowning achievement back in 2002. Since those days shooting panoramic images has become unbelievably easier. It comes standard on an iPhone and the stitching is usually better than I could do manually. 

Since those days, I’ve been able to update my photographic gear and have many lenses covering just about any angle of view I could need. Which is fine and necessary… if perhaps a little lazy sometimes where zoom lenses are concerned. But I still love the simplicity of one or two super sharp prime lenses and using stitching to increase the resolution of my panoramic images.

When driving around San Francisco you might see billboards advertising the quality of the Apple iPhone camera. Some are huge scenes with the words “shot on iPhone 6” and when viewed from the freeway look rather stunning. But if you were to walk up and look at the billboard from 5 or 15 feet away it would probably be a garbled mess of pixels. The current iPhone captures 8 megapixels. 

I was recently commissioned to create some imagery that would look spectacular at billboard distance but also from a mere 3 feet away. The final dimensions enlarged to 25.5 feet wide by 10.5 feet tall. My Sony A7II is 24 megapixels and with my brilliant 55mm 1.8 lens a single image would look spectacular from the freeway or even a bit closer. But to look good at 3 feet away would require many images stitched together.

I started testing and discovered that 60 images was too many for my computer to handle but 32, while demanding hours of processing time actually worked. This is great for landscapes in late afternoon. The problem is at sunset, when the light conditions are changing fast 32 exposures takes too long! And all the exposures need to be shot identically otherwise they wont stitch well. A nice dusk shot might need 20-30 seconds per image and after 32 images (taking over 15 minutes) I’ve lost 2 stops of light. Unacceptable. Now tie in moving clouds and water and wind and it’s nearly impossible. On top of all that one of the requested locations was the Golden Gate Bridge with it’s hundreds of cables and foggy microclimate.  I was able to put a few of these together with the right circumstances, but in the wrong elements it was just a waste of time. 

I came up with three options. 1) Buy an 8x10 view camera (scanning would be a pain and give me less than desirable results). 2) Rent a $50,000 medium format digital camera or 3) Sony that very week had released a new camera capable of capturing 42 megapixels, the A7RII and I already had the lenses. Sounds like a no-brainer in retrospect. With nearly double the resolution of my current camera I was able to take my numbers down to 16 images to create similar quality files and 16 was definitely doable; the final resolution being between 200 and 800 megapixels depending on the scene. 

Here are some low resolution examples from the project:

And here are some crops to show how much detail are in the full resolution files:

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Placer County Courthouse

Despite growing up in Auburn, the grandeur of the Placer County Courthouse has never been lost on me... It's always been an icon that represents the history and beauty of the town. I've made it a personal goal to capture the amazing exterior of this structure in a way that portrays the sense of awe I feel whenever I see it, including it's proximity to Old Town and it's imposing character that can be felt by anyone driving east on interstate 80. This panoramic is the closest I've come... yet.

Click on image to see larger

Monday, March 23, 2015

The New Set-Up...

I'm not a gear fanatic, but I do like to have the right tools for the job. It was time to upgrade my system and the idea of a lighter, more compact camera bag was just too desirable to pass up. I'll still use the aging Canon gear that's been working for me for years, but after some significant testing I purchased a Sony a7II and a few lenses. It worked brilliantly on a recent commercial shoot for Visit California, but alas this post will not be about the camera or the assignment... for now I thought I'd share a fun upgrade I added to the camera.

I use Really Right Stuff heads and L-plates with my tripod. And they are great. But this camera was so new and for whatever other reason, RRS did not have an L-plate available for my new a7II. With an important job coming up I needed an option, so I got creative. My first attempt at making my own L-plate was with Black Walnut, but I found that the RRS quick-release clamp would compress the wood and get stuck. Maybe I'll try Oak? A few years ago I found a still-standing-yet-dead Live Oak tree on our property. I cut it down for fire-wood, but used my Alaskan Chainsaw Mill to slab up the lower section of the tree. It's been drying since then. So I ripped out a quarter-sawn section and sized it to find that it worked perfectly! No compression or sticking. So I created my envisioned piece complete with finger-joints, arca-swiss style quick-release groove, a battery opening and extra grip for the lower part of the hand and finished it with my proprietary all natural oil/wax blend. It has worked flawlessly so far! And people seem to appreciate the hand-made look.

 Testing in the field:

Friday, March 13, 2015

Sonoma Food!

I had the opportunity to photograph a few select dining establishments in the Sonoma area back in July of 2014 for a AAA Via Magazine article titled "Sonoma County Foodie Road Trip". It doesn't get much better than shooting and tasting beautiful food in a beautiful location, and Sonoma definitely has the best of both. Here is an excerpt: 

"Some road trips require quick refueling with no time to linger over a sumptuous repast. But when you venture to Sonoma County for wineries, spas, and bucolic Northern California landscapes, the 36-mile drive from the city of Sonoma to the town of Healdsburg demands that you brake for good eats, not for tossing out burger wrappers. Here, slow food sets the speed limit, and the closest you'll get to a combo meal is the region's trademark mix of big-city culinary sophistication with ingredients fresh from small farms and orchards." - Kristina Malsberger

I had a wonderful time in Sonoma and met some fantastic people. I especially loved the town of Glen Ellen, where I spent my nights. I feel so fortunate to have had this opportunity and I can't wait to return. If you are going, I definitely recommend a lodging at the beautiful and relaxing Olea Hotel.

This story made the cover of the magazine featuring this beautiful spread I photographed at St Francis Winery, created by the amazing Chef Bryan Jones: 

Here are some outtakes from the assignment that may or may not have been in the printed article:

Outside Glen Ellen Star Restaurant

Brussel Sprouts from the wood-fire oven

Brussel Sprouts from the wood-fire oven

Whole Fish from the wood-fire oven

Homemade Ice Cream

Chef Ari Weiswasser and crew in the kitchen

Chef Ari Weiswasser and crew in the kitchen

Chef Ari Weiswasser talking to customers

Kale Salad at Spinster Sisters

Ham and Cheese French Toast sandwich at Spinster Sisters

Egg Scramble with lots of goodies at Spinster Sisters

Wine, Cheese & Charcuterie Pairing at St Francis Winery

Wine, Cheese & Charcuterie Pairing at St Francis Winery

Wine, Cheese & Charcuterie Pairing at St Francis Winery

Wine, Cheese & Charcuterie Pairing at St Francis Winery

Wine & Food Pairing and Estate Dinners at St Francis Winery

The Fremont Diner

The Fremont Diner

The Fremont Diner

The Fremont Diner

The Fremont Diner

Drake's Bay oyster po'boy at the Fremont Diner

Patio Family Dining at Aventine Glen Ellen

Octopus Salad at Aventine Glen Ellen

Aventine Glen Ellen

Aventine Glen Ellen

Aventine Glen Ellen

Aventine Glen Ellen