Photo from February 28, 2015

I had just written an article mentioning my old high school, when a classmate of mine messaged me on Twitter when he realized why he friended me. It turned out he was in Mountain View on business, so I drove down to visit him. The last time I saw him was 25 years ago!

We picked him up at his hotel and I suggested Clarke’s because it’s one of the best burger joints around. While waiting for food, I snapped this photo.

Clarkes Charcoal Broiler
Mountain View, California

Leica M8, Cosina-Voigtländer NOKTON 35mm F1.2
1/350sec, iso 160, 35mm (47mm)

I keep forgetting the razor-thin depth-of-field, so though one eye was in focus, the other one wasn’t. As I mentioned, I prefer monochrome images when I shoot with my Leica, so I used nik Silver Efex Pro. Control points helped me separate his hair from the background and add some sharpening in the blurry eye.

Continue reading another story after the jump

Top Gun

Photo from May 18, 2008

My friend Andrei called me and said that today was Bay to Breakers. A friend of ours, Kara, invited us to Orange Photography which back then was on the race route and would set up a free photo booth. But by the time we got there the race was long gone.

Kara introduced me to Gene Hwang, one of the co-founders, and after helping them clean up, we drove to the panhandle to see if we could catch the tail end of Bay to Breakers.

One of the great things about this event is that every stranger enjoyed their photo taken. Thus, armed with my Leica and Nikon, I started snapping away. At one point, this pilot in a sick costume started to salute me until I snapped her photo.

My only criticism is that it looks like she’s piloting an F4, but the mirrorshade aviators really are a great touch.

At that point her commander, Lt. Thurston, noticed me too and they allowed me to take a portrait of them.

Top Gun
Bay to Breakers
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

Nikon D3, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G
1/1250sec @ ƒ2.8, iso 200, 24mm

Now I didn’t realize the Navy flew any F-117s and I’m not sure why a lieutenant is sporting captain’s bars, but from the naked people I saw, I’m sure everything is okay on Bay to Breakers day.

Continue reading about how this photo was processed after the jump

Xmas at SFO

Photo from December 20, 2014

Sometimes there not much to a photo, because it’s just a snapshot:

Xmas at SFO
San Francisco International Airport, San Mateo County, California

iPhone 6
1/17 sec @ f/2.2, iso 250, 4.15mm (35mm)

When dropping my friend off at SFO, I noticed the Christmas lighting and Golden Gate Bridge decorations at the airport and snapped this.

It’s impressive how good the cameras in mobile phones are nowadays. The only issue is JPEG processing means that Lightroom noise reduction + sharpening posterizes the image somewhat (look at the embankment to the right).

I wonder what SFO looks like now that the Super Bowl is in town.

Starry Night at Yosemite

Photo from June 24, 2005

We arrived at Camp 6 late in the evening and without a reservation, but Mark found someone kind enough to allow us to pitch tents at the edge of their campground. I stayed up late, set up my tripod, and took 30 second bulb exposures of the night sky in Yosemite. I had never seen a night sky so bright, even when I drove 40 min from Champaign to see Comet Hyakutake.

I had no trouble picking out the Milky Way and you can even see part of it in this photo.

Starry Night at Yosemite
Camp 4, Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California

Nikon D70, 50mm f/1.8D
30 sec at f/1.8, iso 800, 50mm (75mm)

To get a wide field of view and maximize light coming into the camera, I used my 50mm f/1.8D wide open and the sensor gained to iso 800. IIRC 30 seconds is the longest exposure in the Nikon D70, which, because it is a CCD and heats up isn’t the best astrophotography camera around. An earlier photo of the star field told me that I needed to have something in the foreground for the photo to seem other than noise.

Even just 30 seconds, you can see the earth rotates so fast that the star streak is clearly noticeable.

If you look at this version of the same image, you can see that processing and noise-reduction has improved a lot in the last 10 years. However I did like that the colors of the bark and leaves of the evergreen were visible in the gained up version I made back then, so I masked that part back in, even though I’ve long since lost the photoshop file I had of it.

It’d be nice to take photos with a wider angle lens and a more modern sensor that can be gained even higher. I’d probably also use a flashlight to light the tree a bit in the future as it turns out you can’t do an HDR of the night sky if you have foreground interest.

Doorway to the secret beach

Photo from January 28, 2003

There were so many great photos taken this weekend even though it was a 2.5 megapixel camera purchased in the previous century! Little did I know these would be among the last exposures ever taken with this camera.

I’ll definitely have to stitch and post some more photos fro this trip.

Sighting the doorway to the secret beach
Sculptured Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, California
Olympus C-2500L
(8 exposures, 1/1000-1/10000 sec @ f/2.8), iso 100, 9.2mm (36mm)

It was the morning of the second day of a hike along the Pt. Reyes National Seashore. From our campsite we took a short hike down to the Sculptured Beach and walked along to the south end where we sighted the arch doorway to the Secret Beach.

It was not yet negative low tide so we were going to have to prep a bit to get down to the beach before sprinting through the doorway. That was a lot of fun. Getting almost stranded (again!)… not so much.

On the next day, a wave would smash me against the rocks and destroy the camera that took this photo.

Because I knew it’s nearly impossible then to stitch a panorama with moving waves, this was actually intended to be two separate panoramic stitches. Unfortunately, my overlap wasn’t as good as when I started using dSLRs and there’s no optical distortion formula for such an old camera so PTGui couldn’t fix the horizon correctly. It’s especially bad around my friend Sean (I kept the exposure of him looking at the arch doorway).

I tried fixing the mask as much as I could in Photoshop and then added a crop, color saturation, sharpness, and noise reduction in Lightroom CC, in addition to some last minute cloning out of some ghosts. The noise reduction is pretty strong and smooths out some of the rock detail that’s actually there in the photo because Olympus CCD cameras of the era were notoriously bad with blue channel noise.

Here’s a crazy thought. The stitch ends up being 8.7 megapixel. Today I could get the whole scene in a single wide angle photo on my camera and still have better resolution. I should revisit these beaches, even though some are now inaccessible.

My South Bay Uniform

Photo from August 27, 2007

In the fall of 2007, my friend Megan McCarthy wrote an amusing article on valleywag on the wardrobe of Silcon Valley: a blue oxford button down dress shirt and khaki pants. It’s basically a safe bet at tech meet ups that you’ll see more white guys in blue button downs than anything else.

Later that month, I hadn’t ironed my clothing in a while so all that was usable in my closet were those aforementioned blue button downs. So this particular day, as I was wearing “the uniform,” I took a self-portrait to show I’m as original as all the west. Granted, it’s a little bit different, but that’s because San Francisco is a bit colder than valley 40 miles to the south.

My South Bay Uniform
North Beach, San Francisco, California

Panasonic DMC-LX1
1/4 sec at f/4.9, iso 200, 23.2mm (103mm)

I actually took and processed this image a long time ago for a blog post I never did.
Continue reading about how this photo was taken and processed after the jump


Photo from October 7, 2011

I think I had just gotten a close-up filter to replace the on-loan Canon 400D. We went to some Thai restaurant in nearby whose name I’ve since forgotten. When Marie’s sake order game, after staging it onto my side of the table, I used it as an opportunity to test out the new filter on my camera.

The Richmond, San Francisco, California

Nikon D3, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G, Hoya Pro1 Digital MC Close-up +3
1/50sec @ ƒ2.8, iso 800, 29mm

Continue reading about how this photo was processed after the jump