California's Central Coast
Today we arose in San Luis Obispo, and went for a drive into the canyons at dawn.
Grass, Prefumo Canyon, San Luis Obispo, California, 7:31 AM.
Since the background was dark and the grass very thin, I had to add -0.7 stops of exposure compensation to keep it this dark. -1.0 stop probably would have been better.
Fence and Distant Fog, Prefumo Canyon, San Luis Obispo, California, 7:37 AM.
Prefumo Canyon, San Luis Obispo, California, 7:45 AM.
I snapped this out the van window, which was a bit green, so I used a curves layer to correct the colors.
Pole, Prefumo Canyon, San Luis Obispo, California, 7:52 AM.
I shifted the Pro mode to shoot wide-open to keep the background soft, which makes the pole pop out in 3-D. I also dialed-in -0.3 stops exposure compensation, since it was too light otherwise. No big deal; all I do is look at the LCD and season to taste until it looks right.
I used Photoshop's distortion filter to undo what little barrel distortion the 70-300mm VR has at 85mm.
Barn Wall, Prefumo Canyon, San Luis Obispo, California, 8:08 AM.
I used Photoshop's distortion filter to keep the vertical lines parallel (they diverged because I was pointed up), and I rectified the 70-300mm VR's pincushion distortion at 300mm.
After we had our fun in the canyons, we headed back to town to the motel.
Los Padres Inn, San Luis Obispo, California, 8:46 AM.
After we checked out, we walked next door for breakfast.
Window, San Luis Obispo, California, 9:14 AM.
I had to add -0.7 stops of exposure compensation to darken the image to look as it does here. Otherwise, my D3 was making it too light.
Environmental Falsehood, San Luis Obispo, California, 9:44 AM.
I added +0.7 stops of exposure compensation to keep the white trash white.
Back in the 1800s, everything was advertised as having medicinal and curative powers. Everything was an ointment, balm, snake oil or other magic salve. If it had no healthful effects, it didn't sell.
In the 1920s through 1940s, radio was the hot button. Everything was radio-this and radio-that. We still have Radio Flyer wagons and vestiges of RCA, the Radio Corporation of America. If it didn't invoke radio, it didn't sell.
In the 1950s through the 1970s, everything became Space-Age, from our TVs and cars to our toasters. If it wasn't Space-Age, it didn't sell.
Since the 1980s, everything technical has been Digital, from audio, and now cameras. Everything, even if it's completely passive, like tripods, cases and glass filters, has to be called "Digital," or it won't sell.
In consumer products, the buzzword has been "Green" and "Environmental" for a few years now, even if the product degrades the environment, as do all new cars and throw-away utensils and containers. The world would be much better off if people kept their old cars, and even better if they took their bikes and washed their dishes instead.
I had a small bowl of oatmeal and a glass of water for breakfast. The pseudo-environmentally conscious cafe used throw-away everything, from napkins to plates, bowls and utensils. If they actually cared, they'd use real China plates, glass glasses and stainless-steel flatware and condiment containers that simply would be washed in bulk and reused forever.
Instead, I was served in a ton of garbage to eat just a few ounces of oatmeal.
Look at all this trash: a plate, a plastic spoon, a styrofoam cup, three plastic containers for sugar, raisins and nuts, three covers for the containers, and la pièce de résistance, a throw-away bowl with environmental BS on it, as if printing green on a throw-away bowl makes less garbage than no bowl at all, which would be the case if we had visited a better class of establishment that washed their dishes.
They've got to be kidding. This is a very big pile of garbage for a little bowl of cereal.
T, San Luis Obispo, California, 9:44 AM.
Yellow and Blue, San Luis Obispo, California, 9:56 AM.
After breakfast we walked back to the motel, looked at stool samples at Home Depot, and went to visit Really Right Stuff, who make the world's best tripods, heads and quick-release plates right in San Luis Obispo.
Really Right Stuff Tripod and Head, San Luis Obispo, California, 11:00 AM.
This is a prototype of an upcoming new tripod from Really Right Stuff.
Really Right Stuff Tripod Feet, San Luis Obispo, California, 11:00 AM.
Really Right Stuff Owner Joe Johnson and Tripod, San Luis Obispo, California, 11:01 AM.
We even got to meet the owner, the founder's daughter, and the mechanical designer. Not bad!
I dodged (lightened) the right side of his face and the tripod in Photoshop with a curves adjustment layer mask, without which these parts would be too dark.
Orange, San Luis Obispo, California, 11:46 AM.
I shifted the program by clicking the rear dial a couple of clicks to give me f/32, so everything is in focus from near to far. With the VR of the 70-300mm, it's trivial to get perfect results at 1/60 of a second at 110mm, no tripod needed.
This would have been easier with a 4x5 camera or a shift lens, since you'd simply tilt the lens forward just a hair and everything would spring into perfect focus.
I added -0.7 stops of exposure compensation because, with the insanely high saturation I set, the bright colors would overexpose and wash-out towards white. I set this by looking at the LCD.
I got this shot because I was very careful to exclude anything that wasn't relevant. Most folks would be happy with a loser shot, and never quite know why their images lack grab. To see a wider shot, made with a 50mm lens, roll your mouse over the image. It's the same picture, but a zillion times less interesting. FARTing teaches us to include only what's strictly relevant to our point.
Rows of Orange, San Luis Obispo, California, 11:57 AM.
We continued north from San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay to visit the sea otters.
Otter, Morro Bay, California, 12:55 PM.
I borrowed Dave's old Tokina 400mm, which is manual focus. No problem; I coded my D3 to it and got auto exposure, color matrix metering and full EXIF data and finder readout of set aperture. The D3's precise three manual-focus lights ( > o < ) made focus a snap, compared to the sloppy single dots of many of Nikon's lesser cameras.
I cropped this from just a small central area, just 22% the width of the original image, thus this shot sees the equivalent of if I had used an 1,800mm lens.
After Morro Bay, we headed north to San Simeon, where we finally met the rest of the group. The tour hasn't even started yet!
We met everyone, and I gave a talk and we had a catered dinner at the hotel. Afterwards, we went down to old San Simeon for last light.
Hearst Castle behind the Schoolhouse, San Simeon, California, 7:45 PM.
I used a Hoya HD Polarizer to darken the sky, otherwise it was bright and distracting. A great thing about the Hoya HD Polarizers is that they pass about a stop more light than lesser polarizers. As you can see, I made great use of the VR of the 70-300mm to let me shoot at 1/30 of a second, with no need for film-era tripods. With a normal polarizer, I'd have needed to increase the ISO to 400, or shoot at 1/15, or open to f/5.6, or bring a tripod.
Pier, San Simeon, California, 8:07 PM.
This, like all these, is a straight shot, however I removed some minor barrel distortion with Photoshop's Lens Filter.
Pier, San Simeon, California, 8:16 PM.
First, I removed some minor barrel distortion with Photoshop's Lens Filter.
As shot, the light was dull, The sun had set, the party was over. But was it?
I bumped up the saturation, which brought back some orange in the poles. This is all easy.
As shot, it was a dark pier with a distracting bright sky behind it. I used adjustment layer masks in Photoshop to dodge (lighten) the underpier, and another to burn (darken) the sky and edges of the print. Want to see how much of a difference it made? Roll your mouse over the print to see it after I fixed some of the distortion, but before I optimized the colors and did my burning and dodging.
The improved saturation helps, but what really turns this from dull to Wow! is the burning and dodging that adds impact to the now-vivid poles in the middle.
Here is a small layered Photoshop file for you to download and see what I'm doing.
Of course this was all shot at BASIC JPG; there's no need ever to shoot raw or NEF to edit images as I did here.
That's it for today. The tour really doesn't start until tomorrow!