Shooting The Palace

When you see the Palace of Fine Arts, you’ll know you’re in San Francisco. One of SF’s most endearing landmarks, the Palace was completely rebuilt in the 60s and has withstood the test of time through all these decades. I had a great time shooting here notwithstanding the cloudy skies. SanFo will always be SanFo no matter the weather.

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The One That Got Away

A great 2019 ahead to everyone!!!! And to start the year off, we were able to get some vacay time at the beach right after New Year and I was finally able to get some shooting time with my camera. It’s been languishing in the dry box for almost 9 months and it sure felt good to be shooting again.

And sure enough, the Camera Gods gave me a lesson I won’t soon forget which BTW, is the reason for the title of this blog.

You see I pride myself in always preparing for a trip by arranging my camera bag/s, laptop, camera/s, lenses, tripod and accessories such as chargers, cables and other gadgets on my table and packing them accordingly using a setup I’ve been using all these years. It’s worked for me for almost 10 years except for this trip.

You see I have two kinds of Benro tripods. One is a lightweight Travel Angel which I use when I have to travel via air and uses this kind of camera quick release (QR) plate.

My other tripod which I usually bring to the beach is a big and heavy Benro A458 which is an old design but rock solid even in windy conditions. That uses this kind of QR plate.

You see where I’m headed with all of this? Yup, I didn’t check which QR plate was mounted om my camera when I packed for the beach. The end result? No tripod! And no tripod means no sunset afterglow pics which uses long exposures. And the sunsets on this trip were interesting with the one above being amazing! So what I ended up doing was using my camera bag as a flexible base to set up my camera. It meant really limited shooting locations with mediocre viewpoints like that of the shot above but better than nothing right? But nooo, it didn’t end there. I forget the cardinal rule of sunset photography. Wait for the light show AFTER the sunset no matter how shitty the sunset is because you’ll never know how the sun lights up those clouds when it dips below the horizon. And sure enough, after I packed my bag and started walking back after a so-so sunset scene, the sky explodes with this amazing afterglow the likes of which I haven’t seen in a while. I decided at the last minute to just take a quick 5-shot HDR (above) but I totally missed the best part. I really felt like a moron and will never forget that lesson for quite some time. Oh, and to add insult to injury, I also forgot to bring the charging brick of my laptop. But no big deal right?

My takeaway from this is that just like in any vocation, good photography demands that you stay sharp and always bring your A-game. My shooting eye also needed some prodding to assess the scene, study the lighting and look for the image. That’s one skill that for me at least needs to be exercised and honed while others (like my younger brother) just have a knack for seeing the picture right away.

So this trip ended up being really memorable for me in more ways than one which is a good thing actually. Makes you feel alive and kicking.

Stay sharp everyone and here’s to great photography in 2019.

Bokeh

One of my favorite lenses in my arsenal is the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II (what a mouthfull) which in plain English means a telephoto zoom lens. But this is no ordinary lens. It’s one of the hallmarks of Nikon’s Holy Trinity of Lenses which is a selection of three lenses from Nikon which Nikon fanboys swear by. You can watch more about it here.  The three lenses are the 14-24mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm zoom lenses, all with maximum openings of f2.8. The auto focus version of the 70-200 is on it’s 3rd version. What I have is the 2nd version. It cost me an arm-and-a-leg and some change in 2010 when I bought it in Hong Kong. It had just come out and I just knew I had to have it. It’s heavy as s*&^, takes up too much space in my camera bag and is a bitch to lug around when attached to my DSLR but man what a lens. I usually use it wide open when possible and it just absolutely works. Super fast autofocus acquisition, razor sharp images and beautiful bokeh in the out-of-focus areas. This is why it’s also a favorite of portrait photographers. Some of my best pictures were a result of this lens. Some may question the financial soundness of investing in this monster especially in this age of mirrorless, interchangeable lens cameras (MILC) which seems to be where the market is going. It really depends on
your purpose and your needs. I don’t like it when camera gear gets in the way of capturing great images. In my mind, it’s the same as having a great set of golf clubs in your hands. You just forget they’re there and just keep hitting great shots time after time. It’s the same with camera gear. Worrying about slow autofocus, sharpness  or water-resistance when the weather goes south on you can be a real killjoy and can sometimes force you to pause and miss the moment. Camera bodies and sensors change all the time but great optics is something you can and should invest in.

Sunbathers

On our drive down Highway 1, we stopped to stretch our legs along a nice section of the Pacific coastline. There were other cars parked in the parking lot and soon we saw why. There were hundreds of seals just lazing around on the beach enjoying the spring day. They seemed to be sleeping as they weren’t moving at all. Upon seeing this pic, a friend of mine just had to ask me “Are they dead?” What a life…

Greenery

Muir Woods was an interesting experience in park management. You have these raised, wooden walkways which meander through the forest floor. I guess they did this to protect the ecosystem and prevent damage and contamination from the thousands of visitors that go through here. As we were walking, I noticed these beautiful green plants which were sprouting from the forest floor. I tried capturing them in their graceful beauty but you can’t step off the pathways so this is the best I could manage.

The Zuellig

An impulse shot I took with my phone while negotiating the crazy traffic. This is one of the better looking buildings that recently came up in the past decade or so. I just liked the reflections of the clouds on the building that day. Oh BTW, I’m playing with this new WordPress editor called Gutenberg. It’s quite powerful and frankly offers too many doodads for me to appreciate just now. But, I love new toys and will be trying this out of course. Tell me what you think 🙂

Tears for Cali

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Seeing all the devastation and sadness wrought by that fire which is ongoing in California just gets to you. I was in awe with these majestic trees at Lake Tahoe which, fortunately, is far from SoCal but it still saddens me to think of all that forest cover going up in flames. I hope they contain that fire very soon and pray for the safety of all those firefighters who risk their lives every day.

SF

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What more can one say? Show some SF love. Saw this at Pier 39, one of the most popular places visited by tourists in San Francisco. Had some clam chowder while we were there and in general, had a good time with the kids. Tourist trap that it was, it’s still an iconic part of San Francisco and hopefully, remains that way.

CLOGS

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When in Denmark, do as the Danes do. And what could be more Danish than clogs. Compared to the abomination called Crocs, clogs IMHO can be quite sexy. I remember how girls in my youth (don’t ask when this was) used to wear these original Anita-brand clogs with tight shorts and make us boys go crazy. Nice to see that some good things just never change.

Solvang

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Okay so we have Denmark in California by way of a town called Solvang. So how did we end up here? Well, I had the bright idea of taking the scenic 14-HOUR (!) drive via Highway 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco. It was on my bucket list as one of the things I always wanted to do with the kids. I didn’t regret it as having a nice breakfast in Santa Barbara  and seeing Big Sur and the beautiful Pacific coastline is truly an amazing experience and I can just play it over and over again in my mind as one of those things I’ll never forget. My only regret is having to squeeze in the experience in one trip as against spending a couple of days and immersing oneself in the different towns along the way. Seeing and appreciating so much beauty gets to be a challenge when one is just plain bombed out from driving for 8 hours straight but it is what it is and I wouldn’t mind doing it over again. So we took a side trip to this town called Solvang as it was recommended by some of the travel sites and what can I say? It’s definitely unique and offers some decent food stops on the way but I would grade it as one inch short of being labeled as a tourist trap. Would I recommend it? Well why not? I was probably too tired to really appreciate it and maybe my perspective would have changed if I spent more time there.