Bay Area Photo Blog
I recently spent a bit short of a week in northern California – the Bay area, although mostly San Jose. Although I was working hard during this time, I did get a few chances to take pictures…
Of course, the first thing I have to tell you is that I met Frans Lanting. He was a guest lecturer at a presentation series I attended in San Jose. His latest work is LIFE - A Journey Through Time. In this (which has a great online presentation, by the way) he portays the journey of life from the Big Bang to the present day, all through photographs. I won’t tell you much more than that, but there are some great images in there.
Oddly enough, I was quite embarrased to get up and take a picture of Frans. It was a very surreal thing for me. The auditorium was fairly full and many of the attendees were fellow photographers. And for some reason, I just felt that it would be too audacious to get up and take pictures. I wasn’t using a flash or anything, so I don’t know what my problem was. Towards the end, I realized that I wouldn’t get a shot at all if I didn’t get off my butt and just take it, so I did. And it ended after the third frame. Whew.
On April Fool’s day, there was a snarky company newsletter. One of the things it talked about was a new supply of bottled water from the Guadalupe river. This is what they were talking about.
This section of the river is in downtown San Jose, near McEnery Park. If you can call it a river. Hey, at least there is still water flowing. There are a lot of dry months ahead for the Guadalupe. Still, with flowing water, there were a lot of birds around and these ducks seemed pretty acclimated to humans.
Now, the left bank of the river looks really odd because it is covered with mud and other precipitate from the receding river. When I look at these in Lightroom, I realize that this condition is deceptively helpful. I took this photo after lunch (early afternoon). The sun was bright and high in the sky. Clear. Normally these conditions would produce too broad a dynamic range to capture on a digital camera without losing either the highlights or the shadows. But in this case, the mud acts as a big absorbsion/diffusion device. Think about it – normally, this would be concrete and that is full of tiny shiny things that look really bright. To catch detail in the highlights and also in the dark background was a very pleasant surprise.
As was this next pictures, because there are very, very few places, especially in the United States, where you can take a picture like this.
Thankfully, my bosses bosses office is just such a place. And with a green light to hang there, well, I brought a tripod in. I took this through the glass leading to some undesirable impacts in the photo. Still, it’s really not something you get a chance to do very often and it turns out there are some things to be careful of, particularly in this case. Most importantly, always, is to turn off all the lights you can and then find a place where your camera doesn’t reflect back through the windows. If you have a polarizer, slap it on – it may solve your problems. There are also two active runways here. It’s easy to focus on the plane that is landing and miss another one taxiing out to the runway and such. You also want to avoid leaving rubber marks or scratches on the desktop from the legs of the tripod. Not that that happened, because it didn’t, OK? Besides, my bosses boss is a photographer too, so I’m sure he’s already put a tripod on his desk.
Anyway, I took the CalTrain from San Jose to the city (San Francisco) a number of times and that gave me the opportunity to take some nice train pictures. I actually take a lot of train pictures anyway, I just don’t post them very often. Since Alex loves trains, I often wind up at a train station between Katherine’s drop-off and Alex’s. I have some really nice shots of the Downeaster and other local trains and that prepared me well for shooting CalTrain. Specifically, in this the first shot, I had taken a number of photographs from the platform on the left, but I decided to try the other side to see if it would frame better. It did.
It’s maybe a bit deceiving about how large this train is. You have to notice the double rows of windows on the side – it’s a double-decker train. More on that later, but first, a classic California scene.
As my regular readers know, I rarely post a license plate number. Alas, in this case, the number has to be there. I think it’s safe to say that California still has a significant car culture. This is a beauty.
Just to describe the setup. I was walking along a street somewhere when I noticed the car in this setting. It’s one of those things where you are watching the perspective change as you approach the subject thinking, “that’s not all going to line up plumb, is it?”
And it does. And that’s when you find me crawling around in the street trying to find the centerpoint of the shot so I can compose a head-on perspective.
Which brings us back to CalTrain. I knew, sooner or later, a train would approach from the other direction and I’d be able to snap a good shot of it approaching. I honed this skill in Boston shooting commuter trains. The idea is that you follow the incoming train with fairly wide aperture (at least �5.6) focusing on the front of the train. The foreground will go out of focus (I’m using a mid-range telephoto here, 70-200mm) as will the background. If you are shooting really wide, you can sometimes introduce the perspective and feeling of miniaturization. It works in the same way as a view camera or Lensbaby, just with a parallel plane of focus. But anyway.
What a nice touch that some passengers happened to be sitting in the front so we can get an idea of the size of this beast.