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Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Tea Garden

During a trip to San Franciso in February 2010, we stopped at Golden Gate Park to visit the Japanese Tea Garden.  The weather was largely a dreary "white" overcast sky for much of the visit, and it was my typical luck that they had drained most of the ponds for cleaning.  I was determined to make the most of my time, however, and I decided to experiment with a series of bracketed exposures of different scenes that I could merge with high dynamic range (HDR) software later on.  All these photos are merged from three exposures:  one at correct exposure, one overexposed, and underexposed (0 EV, +2 EV, -2 EV).  Using Photomatrix, the results were quite pleasing to me.  In these photos, I was looking for an "artistic" dreamlike look.  While some of the contrast is sacrificed to obtain the full dynamic range of the photo, it allows you capture a greater level of detail throughout, which is much to my liking.  I took these photos on a tripod with my Canon 50D, using a wide angle lens.  During this photo, I got a break in the sky for some nice blue sky that nicely contrasted the vegetation and the beautiful wooden pagoda at the entrance to the garden (f16, ISO 100, 13 mm).      PLEASE CLICK ON THESE PHOTOS AND OPEN UP THE LARGER SCREEN VERSIONS...YOU WON'T BE DISAPPOINTED WITH THE AMAZING DETAIL!!!

Divine Meditation

(f9, ISO 100, 15 mm).

Trees, Pagodas, and Moss

Another garden view...

(f18, ISO 100, 20mm).

Serenity Tea

During our visit to the Tea Garden, we stopped and enjoyed some tea of course!  One section of the garden has a tea house where you can order a variety of teas and snacks.  I had some green tea, while Rhonda ordered a green tea latte.  I thought my cup and tea kettle sitting on the counter where we enjoyed our time sipping away and admiring the serene view would make for an interesting artistic photo.  My brother, Brad, is a painter in the Northwest, and his paintings often feature a peaceful setting where a nice cup of coffee can be enjoyed while enjoying nature.  I modeled these two tea house photos after his paintings, and went for the surreal artistic ambience.  Againg, make sure you click on the photos to really enjoy the background detail in the garden!

Green Tea Latte!!!

Here is the second tea house photo....featuring a wonderful green tea latte and a green tea jelly treat.  The tea latte was every bit as good as it sounds, and the treat was fun to eat with a set of chopsticks that were provided.  And the time was as peaceful and relaxing as the photo portrays!  

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy Holidays!

I hope you are having a great holiday season!  We spent the Christmas holiday in Suffolk, VA this year.  While we were there, it snowed over 14 inches on Christmas day.  Got to love a white Christmas!  I only had my Canon G10 point and shoot with me, but I tried to make the most of the opportunity.  This was the lamppost in the next door neighbor's driveway...I liked the old fashioned christmas lights surrounded by a fresh backdrop of new snow. 

Winter by the Creek

I walked down  to the creek behind the house.  The Christmas snow had transformed the place into a winter wonderland.  I decided to try shooting black and white, however, the overcast day did not lend itself to much contrast, but did provide a lot of diffuse light.  Here I did like the white snow shapes on the tree branches, against the "black ice" of the creek below, which had black and white designs encapsulated in the frozen water.

Snowy Creek

Another shot of the creek.

Dog Snow Day!

Samoyeds, who originated from Siberia, by nature love both cold weather and snow.  Angel is no exception.  Here she is in her element, and is covered in steadily falling snow, while lounging around in the front driveway.  The photo has more grain and noise than I prefer, due to my attempt at tonemapping this already noisy original, but I still liked the composition here of my dog covered in snow, with our Jeep and trees in the background.


Another Snowy Portrait...

Gardens of Snow

I always liked the look of garden statues covered in snow.  This photo is high dynamic range photo where three different exposures were merged and then tonemapped using a details enhancer set for black and white.  It was also shot in black and white.

Snow Birds

I liked the composition of the birdhouse covered in snow framed by snowy trees...just needed a bird peeking out!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Happy New Year! Welcome 2010

My wife and I along with friends were treated to street level seats at this year's Tournament of Roses Parade. Having grown up in Michigan, where as a kid we used to watch the parade on TV every year and then watch the Wolverines mix it up with the PAC 10 in the Rose Bowl, this was definitely a very exciting moment. All of the following parade photos were shot with the Canon G10 point and shoot.

Tournament of Roses Parade

The day started out very early. We left at 5:30 AM to get to the parade on time. The parade started on time at 8:00 Am with a somewhat chilly but beautiful sunny morning. With a parade as big as this one, with anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million spectators, you have to remain in your assigned seats during the parade, as a crowd control measure. Our seats were in the first turn of the parade route, across the from the official grandstand. You can also see the scaffolding in the background which was built for many of the media television cameras.
The first float to pass was this large toy soldier surrounded by a band, brass shining in the morning sun, and twirling red flags.

Tournament of Roses - Amazing Floats!

The main attraction of the parade is the very colorful floats. The floats are decorated with all natural materials, with flowers of all kinds, as well as other more exotic things, such as coconut husks, nut shells, seashells, etc. This particular float is made to be the likeness of the Rose Bowl stadium, filled to the top with Roses. The parade is held on the streets of Pasadena, with the Rose Bowl stadium not far away.

Tournament of Roses - Streetcar of Flowers

City of Alahambra's float of a trolley car. One thing you can see from this photo is that our seats were opposite the sun when viewing the parade. As a result, our side of the floats were very shaded. Since you can't move around, this meant shooting the floats while they were still a fair distance away from a front aspect. I used photoshop to lighten the shadows and darken the highlights, which brought the contrast of these photos into an acceptable range.

Tournament of Roses - Technocolor Dancers!

Many of the floats were accompanied by dancers in very colorful traditional ethnic costumes. I tried to capture several combination shots that showed both the float and the dancers. These scenes made very colorful scenes. I did not boost the saturation on any of these photos, as the colors were already so vibrant!

Tournament of Roses - Marching Bands

The parade had much more entertainment than just floats, including many excellent marching bands. Here is a neat shot of one of the LA-based bands. There were also a number of bands from around the US and the globe.

Tournament of Roses - China

This float was one of my favorites, and featured Terra Cotta Warriors from China, several pagodas, and colorful chinese dancers.

Tournament of Roses - Chinese Dancers

One thing I would have liked to have done is take more closeups of the amazing dancers in their colorful costumes. Their garb was often quite ornate and festive. Unfortunately, my camera battery was very low and actually died about three fourths through the parade. As such, I had to limit my shots mainly to the major floats. I did capture a nice shot of these lovely Chinese dancers as they walked by.