Alouette Lake - Blue Skies and Mountains

Alouette Lake in Golden Ears Provincial Park, east of Vancouver, is one of my favorite places to run. In fact, there’s a race held that annually that’s one of my favorites. But this lake is amazing! It narrows to a strip in the distance, then widens a little bit after that. I like to think of it as a portal to the mountains beyond.

Shot on the Fuji X-H1 and 90mm f/2 lens. I had everything mounted on my Three Legged Thing Tripod just for additional stability.

ISO200 — 90mm f/2 lens — f/16 — 1/240sec

ISO200 — 90mm f/2 lens — f/16 — 1/240sec

An Unexpected Visitor

How often do you get this lucky?

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 140mm   f/2.8   1/680sec

I don't remember what I was doing at the time, but I just happened to look out the back window of my apartment and outside was this massive bird, a Great Blue Heron.  It just stood there, looking at something.  I'm not sure what it was looking at.  It could have been a gopher, but if there was one, I didn't see it.

I quickly grabbed my X-T2 and mounted the XF 50-140mm f/2.8 lens, which has the equivalent field of view of a 70-200mm on a full frame camera.

The bird stood still for me for several minutes while I snapped its photo.  Have a look at the detail of the above image, now cropped.

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 140mm   f/2.8   1/680sec

Amazing detail, eh?  I'm continually impressed by the sharpness of the Fuji glass.  The beauty of the heron’s feathers — especially the lines — are amazing!

Here's one more, just before my friend took off into the sky...

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 140mm   f/2.8   1/1250sec

I'm not sure if this is a fighting stance or what...  But the heron wasn't looking directly at anyone in particular that I could tell.  There was no one directly in front of it, but something got it to ruffle its feathers!

Hopefully this heron will come back once in a while for more shots!

Undone in Sorrow at the Cadillac Hotel

We're back at the Cadillac Hotel, this time with a very special performance!  For as long as I've been taking photos there, Max Lopez has always been the sound-man, but it wasn't until recently that I found out that he was also part of a bluegrass band known as Undone In Sorrow.  They're a fairly new band, consisting of Max (vocals, guitar, mandolin), Katelyn Kimmons (vocals, banjo), and Susan Sullivan (fiddle, guitar).

Let's take a look at some opening shots.

ISO 200   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/125sec

It's bluegrass so we have to use sepia, right?

ISO 200   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/125sec

I used the 90mm prime lens for the above shots as I didn't want to get too close because they were warming up.

Now we switch to a little black and white for the band members themselves.  First is Katelyn.  She does most of the vocals for the group.

ISO 320   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/60sec

Next is Susan.  When she plays that fiddle, it comes alive!

ISO 320   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/60sec

And here's Max Lopez.  As I mentioned before, I would always see Max at the soundboard, making sure everything sounded just right, but it wasn't until about a month before this performance when I saw the flyer that I realized that Max was himself a musician!

ISO 200   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/60sec

And now, here are a few artistic shots.

ISO 800   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/125sec

I normally don't tilt the camera, but decided to experiment it more, based on a recommendation from a fellow photographer.  I can see the benefits to doing so because it changes the perspective while also framing things better -- if you're too close -- and also balances out the lines.

For this next photo, I lined things up and realized that Susan's bow looks like it is splitting the frame in half, which provided a neat balance to the photo.

ISO 640   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/125sec

My only regret was that I didn't get as many photos of Max.  There was a column in the way -- you can see it in the next shot -- so it was hard to get a good angle of him head on.  But the ones I did get, I still made sure to frame and balance the image.

ISO 200   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.6   1/125sec

And finally, here's the entire band together.

ISO 200   23mm f/1.4 lens   f/2.5   1/125sec

Keep an eye and an ear out for the name "Undone In Sorrow".  They're an amazing group and the emotion of their music filled up the lobby of the Cadillac Hotel that day, and people left the lobby enlivened and enriched.

Grant Levin Trio at the Cadillac Hotel

We’re back to the Cadillac Hotel again, this time with the Grant Levin Trio!   

As always, I like to set up the piece with the tools of the trade... 

ISO 500   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/125sec

ISO 800   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/125sec

And here’s Grant Levin himself!  I wasn't sure who he was at first because when I looked at his website, prior to the concert date, he had longer hair and a much thicker beard.

ISO 500   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/160sec

The above shot was actually taken as Grant was warming up before the concert.  I always like to do shots like the above while the musicians are warming up because it helps me get the lighting and color temperature right.  The lighting configuration at the Cadillac Hotel tends to shift around each time based on how many musicians and singers are performing, so it's always good to do several tests because some of your performers could end up in areas of too much light or too many shadows.

ISO 800   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/160sec

As you can see as well, I'm once again shooting at a fixed shutter speed of higher than 1/125th sec in order to freeze motion and prevent camera shake.  Those shutter speeds seem to work the best for me, regardless of which prime lens I use.  And then in post-processing, I'll adjust the exposure so that all photos will match.  If you compare the above two photos -- it's very subtle -- you can actually see the light fall-off / differential between the 56mm and the 90mm, thus necessitating the need for a little exposure compensation during post-processing.

(Side note:  I am so tempted right now to get the Fuji X-H1 because of its IBIS capabilities, but we'll see if the budget and common sense will overrule the G.A.S. (aka Gear Acquisition Syndrome))

Next,  we have the drummer whose name I actually didn't get.  I was amazed at how quickly he set up his drum set and started playing.  Thankfully he had a nice, even pool of light around him so that my X-T2 didn't have to hunt too hard for focus

ISO 800   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/125sec

A view from the top!  I've found that whenever I try to get a shot from up above, the colors don't always turn out the way I want.  Hence, the need for the black and white conversion.  

ISO 800   23mm f/1.4 lens   f/1.8   1/125sec

Next we have the third member of the group for the day: Effervescence.  He rolled in a little late, but immediately lit up the room with his voice.

ISO 200   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/125sec

Here's the final shot I took before having to leave.  There was definitely some foot-tapping going on!

ISO 500   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/125sec

All three of these performers -- I've been told -- live within or near the Tenderloin neighborhood.  And while the Tenderloin has a bad reputation, there's also a lot of good going on there, from rescue missions to soup kitchens to men like these who can sing and play.  And I may have failed to mention it in the past, but all of these performers donate their time; they do it for free.

That's it for now from the Cadillac Hotel, but in the coming weeks we'll have a few more blog postings on the unique musical styles that are heard there!  In fact, in a few weeks, it'll be bluegrass music from the band "Undone in Sorrow".

Perrish Sings Sinatra

I suppose the subtitle for this blog posting should also be "Experimenting with Bounce Flash Photography" because I did it 100% of the time during this shoot.  I'd heard about the concept of bouncing the flash from a fellow photographer who directed me to some blog postings by pro photographer Neil van Niekirk.

It was a Sunday late afternoon, and I found myself at a wonderful little Italian restaurant called the Villa D'Este.  I'm rather familiar with it because I hired them to provide the meal that was served after my mother's memorial service last year.  The musician for that night's performance was a gentleman named Perrish, who sings in the style of the legendary Frank Sinatra.  I've heard Ol' Blue Eyes sing before and have to admit that Perrish sounds almost exactly like him.

What follows are a whole bunch of photos from the evening, also with my camera settings.  The restaurant's ceiling was a rust-color, so bouncing the light off that was difficult because even at full power from my Nissin i40, the bounced light really came back a dull red.  So I really had only the walls to bounce off of.

My i40 was mounted with something that pro photographer Neil van Niekirk calls a "black foamy thing".  Except my foam was wrapped all the way around the flash, like it was almost a snoot.  This allowed me to bounce the light spread from the bare flash somewhat contained.  The last thing I wanted were dinner guests getting flashed in the face.

First up is Perrish's sound board.  I bounced the light off the wall to my left.

ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 42.7mm   f/2.8   1/125 sec

Next are the table settings.  You'll notice that I used the 16-55mm f/2.8 lens in the beginning, but later on in the night I switched over to prime lenses.

ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 24.9mm   f/2.8   1/125 sec

ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 40.1mm   f/2.8   1/125 sec

Here you see the dining area of the restaurant itself.  I bounced the light off the wall about 25 feet to the right.  As you can see, it was a full house that night.  All tables were reserved.

ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 18.2mm   f/2.8   1/125 sec

And here's Perrish!  I bounced the light off the wall and a window behind me.  The distance from the wall to Perrish might have been 30 feet.  The flash was at full power and I'm surprised at how distinct his shadow is on the wall in the photo, but my guess is that the window acted like a mirror and didn't diffuse the light at all.  You can see that the shadows are all very distinct.

ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm   f/2.8   1/125 sec

For the next shot, I bounced the light off the wall just to my left.  It was maybe ten feet from Perrish, so you can see the difference in the light's power from his hand to his face.

ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 25.7mm   f/2.8   1/125 sec

Here, I bounced the light from the wall to my upper right.  Full power on the flash because I was about 30 feet away.

ISO 800   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/125 sec

I love the tender moment in this next photo.  It's a shot of father and daughter dancing.  Yes, people got up to dance!  Again, the flash bounced off the wall to my upper right.

ISO 800   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/125 sec

This next shot, I was leaning against a wall and bounced the light right off the part of the wall next to my right shoulder.  I didn't think it would work, but it did!

ISO 800   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/125 sec

The final shot is my favorite.  It was actually taken of Perrish just a few moments before he started singing.  The light was bounced off the wall to my right.

ISO 800   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/125 sec

I learned a lot that night.  Bouncing the flash was something I'd always heard about, but never experimented with.  In the next few weeks, I'll be back there again to photograph a gentleman named Matt Helm, who'll be singing Dean Martin songs.

Super Blue Blood Moon

This turned out to be a spur of the moment thing.  I heard about it the night before -- yeah, I don't watch the news that much these days -- and so the morning of the event, I grabbed my camera and the one lens that I figured would be best: the Fuji 90mm F/2.

I headed out to San Francisco City Hall.  Normally, I can see the full moon because it's this big massive thing in the sky, kinda like the Death Star.  But this time around, I couldn't see a thing in the sky.  At first anyway.  And then I saw it.  This dim image out there.  The way it looked, I thought the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were going to ride out of it!

I set up at Civic Center Plaza and decided to use City Hall as a frame.

ISO 800   90mm F/2 Lens   F/2.0   1/60sec

At first I thought that framing the moon with the flag pole might work, but the moon is still too small to see some of the details.  In retrospect, I should have used the 50-140mm f/2.8 Fuji lens because that has OIS and I could have used a much lower shutter speed -- maybe 1/30sec -- and perhaps a lower ISO.

Cropping the image a little closer does help.

ISO 800   90mm F/2 Lens   F/2.0   1/60sec

The picture doesn't really match when I saw on the way to Civic Center, probably because it was slightly higher in the sky when I saw it with my naked eye.  By the time I took this shot, it was maybe 20 minutes later and the moon was lower.  With the naked eye, it had more of a yellow-ish tint.

Still, it's one of those odd occurrences that one will have to wait another generation to experience, so I'm glad I captured it!

Of Fog and Angels

I took this shot yesterday on Angel Island while awaiting the ferry to take me back to the mainland.  A mysterious smoke or fog.  Not a fire, but something else.

Thankfully not a fire or something out of Stephen King's nightmares; it was the Blue Angels!  Here they are doing coordinated loops over the SF Bay.

I was taking REI's Oru Kayaking class on Angel Island and before our ferry arrived, the Blue Angels buzzed the island on their way to their airshow over San Francisco for Fleet Week.

The above image shows just how low they were and how the smoke trail could have possibly settled down onto the island.

Since I was taking a class and out on the water, I had to travel light, so all I had was my Fuji X-T2 and 35mm f/2 compact prime lens.  This thing is sharp!  Have a look at the regular image, and below it the cropped image.

Pretty sharp, eh?

All of the above images were shot at f/4.5 because I need to be able to capture the entire plane in focus.  I also widened my focus area so that as long as I aimed in the general direction of one of the planes, that plane would be in focus.

Here's one more image just for fun.

Perhaps Captain Jack Sparrow is on that boat?

Red, White, and Blue

It's a long holiday weekend for most of the United States.  I caught a fireworks display at the San Francisco Olympic Club a few days before 4th of July.  I tried to photograph this fireworks show last year, but the fog was so thick!  All anyone could see was the glow of the fireworks in the clouds.  This year though, the fog layer was a lot higher

I achieved the below shot using the Fuji X-T2 with 16mm f/1.4 lens set to f/11 and with manual focus.  I used a Fuji remote trigger and set the camera to bulb mode.  This shot was a 6 second exposure.

Early Happy 4th of July!!!!