Misty Trees

Misty Trees

Tech Info: Nikon D300s | 50mm | ISO 200 | f/8 | 1/180 sec

Still digging from the archives as I haven’t been able to go out. This was taken last year at the great Yosemite National Park during a winter workshop from RadiantScape.

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Care for a drink?

Care for Drink?

Tech Info: HDR from 5 exposures using Nikon D300s on a gorilla pod with Tokinaa 12-24 @22mm, ISO 200 at f/10. Exposures ranging from 1/6 sec to 2 secs

Actually I would have if I had some company 😉

This shot was taken en route to Inida last year. Usually most of my friends prefer to have short layovers so that they can reach their destination faster. But due to my back problem, I prefer to have longer layovers. This gives me some time to give the back much needed rest and I pretty much stay in a hotel. Most of the airports have some kind of transit hotel and I’ve used Singapore airport hotel (Ambassador) for majority of my trips and recently during this trip it was the Dubai’s International Hotel in Terminal 3.
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Rings of Fire

Rings of Fire

Tech Info: Nikno D90 with 70-300 @70mm, ISO 250, f/4.5 for 1/10 of sec.

Digging this from the archives. This was shot during our visit to Hawai and at the Polynesian Cultural Festival. If you visit Oahu, Hawai, then you must include a visit to this place in your itinerary. Its really interesting to see all the different cultures of these islands. I don’t remember which one, but one of the islands main source of food is coconuts. Climbing a coconut tree, grating a coconut didn’t generate a ‘Aww’ from me as I’ve seen it multiple times in our village and even managed to climb on one, but the performance is simply awesome.
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Clipped Ear

Clipped Ear

Tech Info: Single exposure with Nikon D300s, 70-300 @210mm, ISO 200, f/5.3 for 1/320 of sec.

During my trip to India last year, I managed to go for a bird watching outing with my friends to Bannerghatta National Park just outside of Bangalore. We had a great time and in fact Karthik released a Wolf Snake there which I had mentioned it earlier (link).

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Up in the Air – 1

Up in the air - 1

Tech Info: Single shot with D300s; 50mm using f/8.0 with ISO 200 for 1/1250 sec.

This shot was taken somewhere en route to BLR from SFO, on an Emirates flight. I’ve quite a lot of shots taken through the window seat on flights, so this is going to be a new series that I want to get them all done.

My memory of the first flight ever is still fresh. It was a short one (compared to now) of BLR to Abu Dhabi, a palce where I was going to start my first international job back in 1999. I was assigned a window seat and the entire 3 hrs, I just kept looking out of the window. Due to my height and the cramped economy seats, I started requesting for an aisle seat. Its been over 10+ yrs that I now want to be seated on an emergency window seat…does work both ways; have enough leg room for a comfortable journey and I get to see the wonders through the tiny hole.

About this shot: Imagine a vantage point just above the clouds. That would be just enough to get one’s juices going as you can find a range of patterns. But I wanted to include part of my vantage point in the shot; could have been anything like the window of the seat, huge turbine or in this case, the wing of the plane itself. I hope this does give the viewer an idea of where the shot was taken from.

I’ve sat in seats that didn’t have any opportunity of including anything of the plane (with the exception of the window itself) and have taken some shots, which at that time was compelling enough, but I’m not sure whether I would process them now. Well, you’ll get to see if I do in this “Up in the Air” series.

Processing: I’m now becoming a huge fan of “Curves”; Its one tool that can do so many things, right from fixing the black & white points to color correction, control contrast and even toning. So I’m making a habit of using just that. Since I still can’t do “complete” toning in curves, had to use channel mixer for it. After the curves adjustments, resized the image and applied a slight “Smart Sharpen” for web display.

New York in Vegas

New York in Vegas

For best effect View Large

Tech Info: Single exposure taken with Nikon D90 using 18-105 @40mm, 5 sec at f/8 with ISO 160

This is a shot of the New York imitation found at the starting of the strip in Las Vegas. There were too many people moving and hence I had to compose the scene in such a way that there were no people in the shot. Couple of people did screw a shot as they came right in front of the lens and stood still for almost 5 seconds. So it took some time to make sure I got it right. While I was trying this, wife was busy looking at handsome hunks and Nidhi was happily dozing in the stroller

How was this shot processed? I usually use curves to get some contrast in the images, but this one had all pixel values in the entire luminosity range. So couldn’t use curves to compress the range anymore. The next option was to use levels. Also since the scene contains lots of lights, they pretty much tend to get blown out. While taking the shot, I had made sure that the amount of highlights that got blown out was almost nil. In post, all I had to use was a little bit of dodging and burning to recover details from those highlights and shadow areas and use layer masking to blend them together. After that it was the usual border and watermarking the image.

I’m in love with the blue hour shots and for some reason I just love long exposures during that time. I’ve way too many shots in the archives and hopefully someday I’ll get to process them. For now this one was done to take a break from my Yosemite series 🙂

Yosemite Tunnel View Panorama

Tunnel View Panorama, Yosemite.

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Tech Info: Five image panorama stitched manually. Each image was from a Nikon D300s with Nikkor 50mm, f/8 for 1/750 sec with ISO 200

The five images used to create this panorama was taken on the second day of the Yosemite visit. It was still drizzling and we had to shield the camera equipment with anything we could get from the rain. I was using a good old black umbrella (the one used by Grandpas..) and some of the wide angle shots here got the tip of the umbrella in them :-p

This is my first panorama and probably the last one that I’m going to stitch manually. Its way too time consuming and difficult to stitch. The auto stitching programs were cutting off most part of the stitched image, but since I didn’t want to loose them, went the manual way.

Stitching a panorama manually is very difficult as you have to take care of the alignment and the lens distortions that might be there. This particular one had both and I’m not sure how I managed to do it. I’m happy that its done and will appreciate the auto stitch programs a lot more now 😀

Half Dome from Sentinal Bridge

Half Dome from Sentinal Bridge

Tech Info: Nikon D300s with Tokina 12-24 @24mm, f/16, ISO 200 for 15s.
Filters: B+W Polarizer and Hoya NDX400

Its been pretty busy at work and haven’t got much time to work on photos, but today after witnessing a superb match win by Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) over Rajasthan Royals (RR) got some energy to work on a picture taken during the Yosemite trip.

Another very useful filter to have is a Polarizing Filter. This one helps to reduce the polarizing effect and can cut the reflections. This shot is an example where the filter is at its use. Usually when water is an element in your composition, the glare/reflection from the surface would be pretty high, thereby preventing the camera to see underneath the water. A polarizing filter will help in reducing those reflections and revealing details.

In this shot, I angled the filter just enough where the scene would contain some reflections and details on the river bed. To the bottom left, you see the river bed and as the polarizing effect is reduced, you can see the reflected light. Of course when you are trying to capture the reflection itself, you would avoid this filter. But here, I wanted both of them and hence the change in angle of the filter. The smoothness on the water surface was obtained by the use of NDX400 filter. As mentioned in the previous post, this one cuts the light and helps to get longer exposures during the day.

While taking this shot on the bridge, there was another guy with a medium format camera standing next to me. It was interesting to see the way he was composing; he took some test shots with a point and shoot and then used the medium format camera to compose the scene. I think its a great idea to go about composition this way, especially if you are having trouble visualizing the scene in a 4×5 format. Of course not necessarily with another camera, but even a small cardboard with a cutout in the middle should help. It’ll be interesting to try it out next time I’m out 🙂

Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite

Bridalviel Falls, Yosemite

Tech Info: Nikon D300s with Nikkor 50mm lens, f/8 at ISO 200 for 2s

This was the last shot taken during my recent visit to Yosemite. The view is from the parking lot. During my next visit, will take the short hike up to get a much closer view.

About this falls: Bridalveil is 188 metres (617 ft) tall and is the only waterfall that flows throughout the year in this park. All the other falls in the park peak during late spring when all the snow has melted away and taper down during the summer, coming close to non-existent. This is one though continues, but of course with varying speed. It is said to peak during late spring, but the view certainly didn’t seem like it wasn’t at its peak. I can only imagine how it would be during late spring when its in full flow.

About this shot: It was mid-day and the light was pretty harsh. Usually cloudy conditions give out a very diffused light, but sometimes the clouds open up and make way for the harsh light. This was one of those moments. In order to get motion for the water flow, I used a filter Hoya NDX400 which cuts down the light reaching the camera’s sensor by 9 stops. Since my filter thread size was for my wide angle lens (77mm), I had to hand-hold this for the smaller 50mm lens. Processing was the usual one too; some contrast adjustment using levels and then resized for the web use.

What are filters? In short they are like sun shades we use for our own eyes. They cut down the light, minimize polarization etc. There are quite a lot of filters available and each has its specific use. They come either in square/rectangular shape which needs some holder to place them in front of the lens, or circular shaped which directly screw-on to the lens. This particular filter (Hoya NDX400) is a dark circular shaped one. Its so dark that if you screw-it on the lens, you literally can’t see anything in the viewfinder. You have to compose the scene before and then screw this on.

How does this filter help here? In order to show any kind of motion in pictures, you would need a slow shutter speed. As the lighting conditions fade for the human eye, its very good to capture motion in waterfalls. My first experience was during the yellowstone trip and you can read about those 2 shots here and here. For those 2 shots, I didn’t have to use any filters to get the motion for water as the ambient light was good enough to give me a slow shutter speed. Here since it was pretty high during the day I had to put something which will cut down the light and hence this NDX400 filter usage. It cuts down by 9 stops and thats quite a lot in reduction thereby getting slow shutter speeds. I’m in love with this filter and I’m always looking for its usage 🙂

If you are buying filters, don’t go for the cheap ones. I do have some cheap ones and suffer from the loss of quality in the images. So it does help to get the best ones and they can cost a bit. But like most say “You get what you pay for” is very true in this case.

Update: Here is a shot of the same view without the Hoya NDX400 filter where the water of the falls doesn’t depict any motion, but rather frozen in time due to the fast shutter speed.

Stormy start to Yosemite

Storm headed towards Yosemite

Tech Info:D300s with Nikkor 50mm prime, f/16, 1/3 of a sec with a EV bias of -2. ISO 100

Please view large.

Its been just over 3 years in the bay area and I can’t believe that I hadn’t been to Yosemite. Its another paradise (though Yellowstone is my all time fav). This place has so many opportunities for pictures, you can just spend an entire day sitting at one location and play with the changing light. No amount of adjectives can truly describe it and you have to make a visit to experience it first hand. If you ever visit bay area, time it in a way that you can spend some days to experience the winter magic at Yosemite. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

I was supposed to carpool with 2 more folks starting from San Jose. Since I stay a good 20-30 miles away, I decided to take the Caltrain. I’ve always wanted to experience this train ride and I was thrilled at this opportunity. At the same time I was scared to death. The reasons are pretty weird (at least that’s what my wife says). For many folks it just a train ride taking me from northern part to the southern side. Its as simple it can be. But for me it isin’t. I’ve been known to make a mess of simple things. As it turns out, I finally did make a mess out of this one too.

My wife did all the checking of train timings and instructed me with everything I need to know to make this short train journey. Another friend of mine drove me to the station which is pretty close to my house. Looking at my state, she even wanted to stay there till I board the train. But I insisted on her leaving as I was pretty confident of making it myself…comeon..I’m old enough to figure may out.

I head to the booth to buy my tickets. You insert your credit card or cash into the machine and select some buttons and get your ticket. But I got stuck in the first step; the machine wasn’t recognizing my credit card. I kept trying and trying and finally it read the damm thing and gave me my ticket. Being little frustrated at the booth for behaving like that, I made my way to the platform and waited for the train to arrive. It was supposed to make the stop at 10:06 AM and they keep it pretty punctual. I see a train arriving and I’m all set to board it. As the train came near by, I realized that the train had 3821 as its number and the one I’m supposed to take should be 236. Just to make sure, I saw a guy with the Caltrain jacket get down and I asked him, politely, as to what was the train’s number. Again, not sure why he was so pissed with that question, he just pointed his index finger to the big board which said 3821 (to his fairness it probably was a dumb question to ask). I mustered some courage and asked another guy who immediately responded “I don’t know”. But seeing the disappointment on my face, he went to a nearby board and started checking something. About 40s later, he says “its 236”. On hearing that, I started to run towards the door, but wasn’t quick enough to make it and the doors got shut. Initial instinct was to whistle (yeah, I can whistle quite loud) to the driver to open the doors, then realized that those things hardly matter here. The only train in the morning going towards San Jose left the platform with me standing with my luggage on the platform and yeah, having bought the ticket for it too 😦

All my friends tell me that I should have just got on it…irrespective of the train number. How am I supposed to know that the train number doesn’t matter here. Its like you want to take a train to Delhi and you are standing on the platform waiting for it eagerly and the train that comes by (at the same time) has got a board of Nagpur or some city in the same northern direction. Would you take it? Of course not. You would wait for the train with the right board to arrive and thats exactly what I was going to do. But now I learnt a thing about Caltrains; numbers don’t matter. So next time I’m going to board the train and then ask questions 🙂

Since I didn’t make it to the carpool, I had to drive all the way to Yosemite, alone in my car. It was fun in its own way, but I would prefer to avoid it anytime 🙂

The weekend’s weather was pretty bad…snow storms and rains throughout saturday. As per the prediction, it was supposed to start on Friday at 4pm. So my wife made sure I understood that if I’ve to avoid driving in wet conditions, I had to reach the place before 4pm. I started pretty late, but eventually made it to the destination at 3:30pm. I guess thats why my wife was pretty scared of me driving alone. All iz Well in the end.

About this shot: En route, you could literally see the storm clouds getting formed. I stopped at a pullout and decided to do an HDR of the scene as there was so much amount of drama unfolding in the sky. Used my umbrella to protect the camera gear and took some shots. The movement in the clouds was so fast that I couldn’t avoid it with having a gap of 1s between the shots. That’s the least amount my remote cord can function at. So I chucked the idea of HDR and used a single exposure to process. It isin’t that bad as it does give you an idea of how the weather was going to be. Bad weather sure does give you some interesting shots 🙂