One thing about photography: it's turning me into a hypocrite.
I should explain that. See, I'm always chiding Juliette for being nosy. If we go to a restaurant, she looks around at people at other tables. If we go for a walk, she looks to see what she can see through people's windows. "Nosy Noserson," I'll say.
But, of course, if there's anything nosier than a street photographer, I don't know what it is. I'm constantly looking at other people these days, trying to see if they'll show me something I can photograph. That's got to be worse than just sneaking a peak through someone's open front door from the sidewalk.
These two kids were sitting behind us at Shamu's Christmas show when we were at SeaWorld on Saturday. (I didn't actually watch much of the show; first I was watching the crowd, then I was watching Jason.) I glanced back at them several times before the show started, and it reminded me so much of being that age and in love. They kept giggling and looking at each other, taking pictures of themselves together with his cameraphone. (OK, I guess we didn't have that last one when I was a teen.) And all I could think was "How nice."
There's a lot of doom and gloom out there these days. Terrorism, war, people losing their jobs, their homes. But, you know, there's a lot of tenderness, hope, joy, and love out there, too. I think it's worth taking the time to see it. I know it makes my life better.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in aperture priority exposure mode (matrix metering). Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/60 sec (-1 EV), ISO 1600. Post-processing in Aperture 3: maximum recovery adjustment; curves to bring up exposure a bit; cropped to 5x7 and to remove some extra space at the top and a distracting foreground element; light dodging over the couple's faces; burned over the background and the guy on the right.
Thoughts for improvement: The lights in the background are quite bright and are a little distracting. I cropped out most of the man in the right foreground, but if I could have excluded him as I was shooting that would have been better. I also wish I could have gotten a slightly more intimate moment--I like the way she's smiling at him, but he looks a little distracted, which wasn't really representative of how they were acting at the time.
There's no big story to this one. I just happened to look up as we were walking from one part of SeaWorld to another, and liked the look of the audience's silhouettes up in the bleachers above us.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200 mm VR DX lens, in aperture priority exposure mode (matrix metering). Focal length 200 mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/125 sec (+0 EV), ISO 360. Post-processing in Aperture 3: cropped to 5x7; red-filter BW preset; curve for contrast, black point, and white point.
Thoughts for improvement: The main thing I could do without here is the mass of palm fronds right in the middle. It might also be nice if I could have missed the head down near the bottom of the frame.
Step Right Up
We went to SeaWorld this weekend to see their Christmas stuff. Mainly this consisted of a big tree just inside the park, an ice skating rink, a lot of signs, and some holiday-themed animal shows. Jason particularly loved Shamu's Christmas show. Though, he also loved running back and forth on the (not very) bouncy mat in the toddler's play area, which is right next to the carnival games area, where I grabbed this shot.
I've now been to SeaWorld twice this year, and Juliette has been there three times, so our passes have more than paid for themselves. Which is especially nice because they don't expire until July of 2012.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/2.8, shutter 1/4000 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: maximum recovery adjustment; curves for further highlight recovery.
Thoughts for improvement: A different angle would probably help. If I moved to the right a bit more, I might have been able to get the penguins in a better-spaced line, plus I might have avoided having the distracting background stuff right behind the main penguin.
Lavese Las Manos
One of the things I'm enjoying most about photography is how easy it's become for me to find beauty in the ordinary. Just walking down the street, seeing the sunlight, plants, even the sound of traffic, it makes me happy to be alive and able to experience it. You wouldn't think that the bathroom of an AM/PM would be a very apt place to be looking for beauty. Maybe it's not; maybe I'm just strange. This photo makes me happy, though.
Technical info: Shot with an iPhone 3G. Post-processing in Photoshop CS5: automatic lens correction; curve for tone and contrast; burned over the highlight on the top right of the dispenser; increased red and yellow saturation.
Thoughts for improvement: The lines on the wall aren't very straight, which is partially due to them actually not being straight and partially due to the fact that I was holding the camera slightly askew from the plane of the wall. It's very difficult to gauge that when you're hand-holding the camera, though, especially with one as flat as an iPhone.
Yesterday the family accompanied me on a jaunt around San Diego's coastal areas as I did some location scouting for our family holiday photo shoot next weekend. We stopped in La Jolla for a short walk by the cove, and I grabbed a few pictures of the sea lions. Jason particularly liked their barking--all the way back to the car he shouted "Ar! Ar! I'm a sea lion!"
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200mm VR DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Focal length 200mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/250 sec, ISO 400. Post-processing in Aperture 3: orange filter BW preset; curve for highlight recovery and black point; second curve for tone and contrast; slight dodge in the lower right corner; burned over the highlights in the rock and sea lion; intensify contrast adjustment brushed in over the water.
Thoughts for improvement: I would have liked to see this one at f/8-1/125-400 or maybe f/11-1/125-800. I had a fair amount of trouble nailing the focus and in any case I'd prefer more depth of field. As far as timing, I'm a bit torn. I really like the texture of the water above the spray, but it might have been a bit more dramatic if I could have waited for a bigger wave.
Finishing up this little series on Legoland's Minitown is this charming little scene I spotted on the back side of a wharf in the Lego San Francisco. I just love how expressive these bricks can be.
In case you were wondering about the little discs lying around, those are pennies. The wharf display is the middle of a little pond, so of course there were coins all over the place.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200mm VR DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Focal length 200mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/125 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: straightened horizon; curve to bring up overall exposure, drop shadows, and add contrast; slightly desaturated reds and yellows.
Thoughts for improvement: The big thing here is that I slightly missed the focus. I would love to say that that's on purpose, and soft focus can be used creatively to give a dreamy quality to a photo, but that's not what happened here. Compositionally, I think this would also be improved by bringing the subjects off center--I think a wider shot with more of the buildings and the subjects close to or at the lower-right "rule of thirds" point would be better. It might also change the lighting behind the man's head, which is a little problematic there because the lack of contrast in that area makes it a little hard to distinguish the subject from the background.
What Happens In Vegas
I mentioned yesterday how impressive the detail was in the Legoland Minitown displays. I also love the sense of humor you see from the designers. This image is from the pool scene at the Mirage, in Minitown's tiny Las Vegas. It's neat that the Lego architect here thought to include a bit of human connection in the scene, the exact kind of thing you might expect to see by a Las Vegas pool. And it's impressive that he or she was able to convey it with just a few Lego bricks. But the fact that the little Lego woman is grabbing the little Lego man's little Lego butt? That, my friends, is just wonderful.
Technical information: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200mm VR DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Focal length 85mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/125 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: curve to lower shadows, increase midtones, and hold highlights; slightly reduced overall saturation; reduced saturation and increased luminance in yellows; added slight vignette.
Thoughts for improvement: There's a "man" in the background that would be better if he were a bit more to the right. I also think a wider angle with more room to the right would be a bit more interesting.
We took Jason to Legoland for their "Brick-or-Treat" event this weekend. We actually ended up skipping the event due to an extremely long line, but Jason was totally wowed by the park. He liked the rides a lot, but I think his favorite thing was actually Minitown, which is full of intricate Lego dioramas of cities around America. I was also pretty impressed by the models--they really invite you to look closely, as there is a ton of detail that you'd miss on a casual look. I could have shot for hours just in that one part of the park.
Technical information: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200mm VR DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Focal length 200mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/125 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: curve to hold shadows and bring up midtones, added vignetting.
Thoughts for improvement: Would have been nice if there were a little Lego farmer feeding the little Lego cows, but I'm pretty happy with how this turned out.
No Wonder Jason Didn't Like the Air Show
Saturday morning, Jason was very excited to go to the air show. We had told him all about it the night before, and that evening and the next morning he kept repeating "Airplane show! Airplane show!" Still, we weren't sure how he'd react to the loud noises, especially since we weren't sure we'd be able to get him to keep his hearing protection earmuffs on. But when we got there he was enthralled by the initial aerobatic displays and, contrary to what I had expected, it was actually hard to get him to take the earmuffs off.
Unfortunately, things changed once the jets came out, and even more during the MAGTF combat simulation. Every time a plane roared by or one of the explosives went off, he grabbed frantically for whichever of us was holding him, burying his head into our chests. Juliette and I tried to reassure him that everything was OK, that it was just a loud noise and wouldn't hurt him, but it became obvious pretty quickly that he wasn't having a good time at all, so we left.
Of course, as soon as he woke up from his (extremely short) nap, he asked to go back to the "airplane show." So at least he doesn't seem to have been scarred by the experience. We'll try again in a few years.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200mm VR DX lens, in aperture priority exposure mode, center-weighted average metering. Focal length 200mm, aperture f/8, shutter 1/800, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: Curves for highlight recovery and contrast, Increase Contrast brush over the flames, burned the bottom left corner of the flames and smoke.
Thoughts for improvement: Well, you certainly get an impression of action and drama with this shot, but I think there should be something more going on around the flames besides some trucks just sitting on the runway. Plus, the trucks are a little dark--I probably should have slowed down the shutter a bit.
This End Up
Here's another from the Miramar Air Show this past weekend. This was the only shot I came to the show planning to take, and it turned out more or less exactly as I envisioned it. Now if only I had thought to note what kind of plane it was.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 18-55mm DX lens, in aperture priority exposure mode. Focal length 18mm, aperture f/3.5, shutter 1/640, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: curve to recover highlights and add contrast, burned over the sky.
Thoughts for improvement: It's kind of a clichéd shot, but it still works pretty well. A more interesting sky, or some other element (perhaps a plane flying by in the background) would definitely improve things. Another thing that would have possibly been nice is to use an even wider-angle lens--at 10mm this might have been pretty cool.