Route 66, January 2007
Subject descriptions may invoke creative licence.
Day 3: Dawn in Barstow, California, 28 January 2007. Next Photo >>
Giant Space Arm, Barstow, California.
This giant space arm was used as part of the early military space shuttle missions of the 1970s. It is now used for logistics in one of Barstow's large truck yards.
It is a honeycomb of exotic metals treated with uric acid. The uric acid creates the yellow color and adds strength to the still-secret alloy. The military used these materials because these girders have the same strength as steel, but the whole contraption only weighs a pound and a half (700g).
My 14mm lens expands its height. I'm always on the lookout for any way to show a yellow-blue contrast, and this is a great example. Remember that my work is all about color. It's not about detail or form. I see in color; I'm not particularly looking at the subjects except for their colors. Next Photo >>
Truck Mirror, Barstow, California.
This again is all about the yellow truck contrasting against the blue sky. My 14mm lens abstracts the forms. I'm less than a foot away from the mirror. Next Photo >>
Autocar, Barstow, California.
This is a photo about color and light. It's not about trucks or details. It's about yellow vs. blue and about morning light.
Dawn and dusk are perfect for my colors because the sky is a deep blue, while the direct rays of the sun become more yellow. Anything seen in sunlight against the sky exaggerates the blue-yellow contrast.
Fuji's Velvia 50 film had a unique ability to render warm colors warmer, while leaving blues alone. This is why Fuji Velvia 50 has been the standard film for landscape photography ever since its introduction in 1989. This shot is from my Canon 5D, not film.
Since my 5D isn't smart enough to set contrast automatically as my Nikons do, sometimes I forget to check it and make shots with the wrong setting. I accidentally had my 5D set for low contrast from a previous shot. ( Menu > Picture Style > (select User Defined 1, 2 or 3 with the big spinner knob) > (press Jump button) > Contrast: -4). I rectified this with Photoshop's Curves command. Ironically I illustrated my Curves article with photos from last year's Route 66 workshop, not to be confused with the shots from this year.
This is the only shot from this workshop I needed to tweak, and it was only because of my own inattentiveness. It's far better to shoot properly in the first place. If I had checked my camera settings first I could have gotten this result directly from my 5D and saved myself having to write about it later. Next Photo >>
Big Old Pile of Bombs, Barstow, California.
These aren't really bombs, but that makes a nice title as an homage to New Mexico's Big Old Pile of Bones.
These are Iraqi steel-cased 105mm artillery shells. These are unexploded shells that were collected by our Marines as war souvenirs after these were shot at them.
Our Marines are a tough lot. These shells are standing around in open dumpsters in a scrap yard by the side of the road, and they still have their fuses intact. Heaven only knows when some kid with a hammer will discover them.
I used my 14mm lens to exaggerate the depth and angles of this big old pile of bombs. It wouldn't have been as dynamic with an ordinary lens. Critical to good results with an ultra wide lens is to get close. I made this shot from 9 inches (23cm). Roll your mouse over the image to see the image I'd have gotten if I merely stood by the side of the dumpster with my 14mm. I had to brave almost certain death to get close enough to this unstable ammo to make the shot. No, I didn't dare move any of it around for composition.
The colors are awful in the more distant (mouse-over) shot because the highlights are overexposed. Next Photo >>
Palm Cafe, Barstow, California.
This sign was up on poles, so I couldn't get close enough to fill the frame of my 14mm lens.
I cheated and put it on the top left of the frame, and then cropped off the lower and right 3/4 of the image. Roll your mouse over the image to see the original from which I cropped. Since I was shopping this, I also performed wire removal.
I'm left with a weird image that greatly exaggerates the motion of the arrow. Here's how it looks with a normal lens:
Palm Cafe Sign, Normal lens. Next Photo >>
El Rancho Motel (1943), Barstow, California.
The historic El Rancho Motel has seen better days. I'm particularly amused by the NO TRESSPASSING sign in front of the touristy Route 66 sign that says: "Historic El Rancho, Route 66, Free Fresh Air and Sunshine."
My 14mm lens has ghosts, which I eliminated by standing so the sun went behind the pole. In retrospect, even though looking at the sun leads to blindness, ghosts would have added more irony to the photo. I tilted up to give an uplifting angle to the image. My 14mm lens greatly exaggerates this.
View camera shooters would have lifted the lens to keep the vertical lines vertical and parallel. I could have rectified this digital shot in Photoshop, but pointed my 5D up deliberately. I want the weird converging lines. Next Photo >>
Interior, Casa Del Desierto (1911), Barstow, California.
This shot is a bit of a stretch - ha ha!
This is a bit of a cliché, pointing my 14mm lens up to exaggerate the angles. Sorry!
I cropped out the top third of the image, which was all ceiling. Since I had a shorter, skinnier image after cropping, I chose to present it here wider than the others, 1,000 pixels wide.
All the crazy angles are as I saw through the finder as I composed with my ultra-ultra wide 14mm lens. Next Photo >>
Light Fixture, Casa Del Desierto (1911), Barstow, California.
You have to get close with an ultra wide lens. That last shot sucked. This shot is made from under the light fixture!
Camera position is critical, and I was a little off. A little off with an ultra wide is a mile off, so I corrected the shot to look as I intended with Photoshop CS2's Lens Correction filter set to -42 for horizontal perspective. This corrects the camera having been pointed a little too far to the right. Of course I had to crop the result, otherwise some edges would be missing after the filter moved things around.
Run your mouse over the image to see the original before correction. Next Photo >>
Casa Del Desierto (1911), Barstow, California.
Another ultra wide cliché (tough - it's been a long weekend) is to point up at a building. The results are always dramatic, if you're close enough.
If I had shot more casually I'd get a crappier image with a small building in the middle of nothing. I was only a few feet from this building, critical to getting this look.
Pay attention to the corners. I deliberately composed the column to the lower right, the text to the upper right and the foot of the building to the lower left corners.
With normal lenses, the direction in which you point the camera is usually more important than camera position (location). With ultra wide lenses, your position is usually more important than the direction in which you point the camera. Next Photo >>
Barstow Train Station, Barstow, California.
I was playing. I was seeing how well my 14mm controlled distortion. It looked fine, even with this deliberately devious test putting numerous horizontal lines across the image. Zoom lenses will bow out, with the lines curving out at the sides.
Of course this, like all the other shots, was run through DxO Optics Pro software to clear up any residual unintended distortion, but even without it, had the bottom line of bricks running even a little straighter along the bottom of the frame. These optics are better than the almost 100-year-old bricklaying. The twisted look of the rail cars at the sides is an intended use of the natural geometrical mutilation performed by ultra wide lenses.
I was too lazy to use the perspective realignment tools (horizontal perspective slider) in Photoshop CS2's Lens Correction filter to correct the slight clockwise tilt of the tracks at the top, caused by my sloppy technique in hand-holding my 5D. My micro-adjustable Bogen Manfrotto 3275 / 410 geared tripod head would have helped, but I was too lazy to use a tripod and don't have a grid on my 5D's focus screen anyway. The best place for a tripod when shooting is in your trunk, so you aren't dragged down having to carry it around. Next Photo >>
Vigas and Latillas, Barstow Train Station, Barstow, California.
This is another abuse of my 14mm lens. I pointed it up about 30 degrees.
The latillas are a little wiggly; it's not the lens. A wide zoom lens, regardless of manufacturer, would tend to bow out the horizontal lines. Of course any lens run through DxO would come out straight. Next Photo >>
Santa Fe Logo, Barstow, California.
As all these photos, these colors are straight out of my 5D, set to +3 (or maybe +4) for saturation.
It took a while to position myself to get the composition I wanted. Each half-inch (1cm) changed everything about the image.
I was only a foot away from the train car. It takes discipline to get close enough for tight compositions with an ultra-ultra wide lens. If I was any further away I would have gotten a sucky shot like this:
From 3 feet away, not one foot as the large image above.
Including half the parking lot does not add to the image. This is what you get if you misuse a wide lens to "get it all in." You don't want to get it all in - photography is about showing one idea clearly. This shot is all about color. Details get in the way: I want the biggest blocks of pure color I can get.
The hexagons in the lower left of the sucky image are color-matched to the Santa Fe logo, but they are ghosts in my 14mm lens and are always that color. If I was paying attention I would have shielded the sun with my free hand to prevent them. Next Photo >>
Barstow Train Museum, Barstow, California.
I was only a few inches away from the car and looking up 45 degrees.
Bottle Tree Farm, Elmer Long, Oro Grande, California.
The bottles on the right don't really point towards the center. I made them do that with the edge-sucking effect of my 14mm lens. Next Photo >>
Bottle Tree Farm, Elmer Long, Oro Grande, California.
Ultra wides are fun. Tilt up and everything angles strongly towards Heaven. Next Photo >>
Bottle Tree Farm Outhouse, Oro Grande, California.
This is the same trick as above, except I've found the outhouse. I dig the texture. Next Photo >>
Baja Fresh, Victorville, California.
People are funny. Like everything else, I took dozens of shots out of inertia from shooting all weekend as we ordered lunch.
In sunny México, everyone has a good time, and they love photos. I've had indigenous people lined up for blocks in Chichicastenango, Guatemala when I whipped a Polaroid SLR-690 from my pocket and started handing out snapshots to mothers with their babies. They loved getting photos of themselves!
You'd figure Méxican-themed restaurants would embrace this same sprit.
The funny part is how Güeros (fair-skinned people of European descent, like me) are far more afraid of cameras than any of the Indígenas of whose traditional religions the Hueros poke fun. Hueros are funny - many are more afraid of a camera than they are of a 45 caliber handgun pointed at them! My wife is one of them.
After I'd made a few dozen shots, a guy comes up to me and asks "no more pictures, please." I laugh quietly inside myself - the Hueros are afraid that my camera is stealing all the delicious salsa! Of course I always put away my camera when asked.
I also laughed inside myself when I saw that they charged eight bucks for the quesadilla I was ordering. For you folks who can't even begin to pronounce "quesadilla," a quesadilla is a Latin American version of a grilled cheese sandwich. My humor was rebutted when I ate the Baja Fresh quesadilla with steak - it was the best I'd ever had! Not only that, but it was huge. I was full for most of the next week.
In spite of their fear of cameras, I'm going back! Their steak quesadillas are awesome!