Creating wall sized prints

Wall Sized PrintDefying conventional wisdom, we printed a wall-sized picture of the Golden Gate Bridge.

When Boris contacted me 3 months ago, he sounded desperate.  He had a special request and not much hope of getting it met. Boris wanted to have a wall-sized print of one of my pictures. He wanted to print one of the pictures he found on this website at 128x100 inches. At first, I was puzzled and I asked him to confirm his request. I guessed that he was German, so I translated his request into metric units for confirmation.

After confirmation, I suggested some of my large-scale stitched images as an alternative solution, but Boris knew exactly what he wanted and stayed firm in his request. I therefore discussed the potential outcome of resizing the desired image with him. We quickly dismissed the possibility of re-taking the shot, due to the cost and the unknown outcome. Atmospheric conditions in San Francisco are not predictable.

We focused on the more predictable issue of upsizing the original image and on print quality. After explaining that even an 8.2MP file of the Canon 20D is several times larger than the highest HDTV resolution, we concluded that it has to look better at those giant dimensions too. You need to see a 72” HDTV at full resolution to know how good these look at 2 Megapixels (1080p).

A good-looking result was also our goal. Boris had already found a specialist in large-scale printing and left it to them and me to figure out the potential of success. I suggested working with CCS Digital on a test print, a slice of the upsized image at full resolution.

After experimenting a bit with different upsizing methods, we settled on a result that Boris ordered from CCS for review. One week later, I had the order filled. Gaining a better understanding of the limits of printing, satisfying a customer and my own curiosity made it a worthwhile effort.

I asked Boris for a picture of the result and permission to write this article.


Ancient Bristlewood Pine Sanctuary

Bristlewood Pine Black and WhiteLast weekend we discovered a fantastic place right here in California. The Ancient Bristlewood Pine Forest is unlike any other place I have encountered.

High above the Owens Valley in the White Mountains lays this state park. Deprived of the usual loud visitor clouds, the park is a sanctuary for your nerves and an interesting locality for the nature photographer. Parts of the park are hard to get to, requiring a long drive on an unpaved road. Although at the time I did wish the park service had paved the road for me, I have to be grateful they have not, for I have never encountered an area of such tranquility. The high altitude and cold winds also made the park less appealing to birds and other animals.

In the absence of virtually all sources of noise, one could stop and listen to ones hard pound. And pound it did. After I saw all the fantastic subjects waiting to be photographed, I did not count on the high altitude when I was bouncing around the forest like rumpelstiltskin.

Unfortunately, the pounding headache did not permit me to stay longer, but I got what I came for. Check out the gallery to see for yourself. Later this week I will also add some more photos to my 395 gallery and the Mono Lake Gallery.

Santa Vision - Going Wide for Christmas

Boats and Coronado Island BridgeBoats photographed with the Tokina wide-angle lens

For quite some time I have been thinking about getting a wide-angle lens. I decided to start my Christmas season early by buying aTokina 12mm - 24mm f/4 PRO DX Autofocus Zoom Lens. The lens is suitable for Cameras with crop factor like the Canon Rebel and xxD series (e.g. 40D) and almost all Nikon Digital SLR.

Using a wide-angle glass on my camera brings many new possibilities to be creative. I can hardly wait for Thanksgiving, so I can put my new lens through its paces. I have already shot some pictures with it and feel comfortable enough to recommend the lens to my readers.  The picture of the beach and the boat picture demonstrate the impressive field of view that this lens offers.  Even more amazing than that is the low distortion. At 12mm, I had expected a lot of it, when there is hardly any. I did not correct the pictures with PTLens, so what you see here is pretty much what came out of my camera. I only ran a couple of scripts for color saturation and did not do anything else on these images.

The sharpness of this lens is just as impressive. It is comparable with other Canon Lenses I own and easily satisfies the needs of today’s Digital SLR lineup. The images are crisp and the color rendition is superb. I wish I had gotten this lens a bit earlier instead of missing the creative choices it offers me.

I did discover some vignetting on one of my shots but I believe it is due to the Tiffen Circular Polarizer Filter that I bought with the lens. I shot the photograph with an aperture of 7.1. I have shot other pictures with similar settings using the polarizing filter without seeing any vignetting. The effect was light enough so that I could fix it in post processing.

New Street Photography Gallery from Europe

Young Couple

View a new gallery of Street Photography from Europe.

On my recent trip to Germany, I did not feel quite as comfortable photographing people as I did in San Francisco. I was not sure how people would react, so I took a slightly different approach. I kept a little bit more distance between myself and my subjects, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible. Therefore, the style of the photos looks a little different than my previous street photography attempts.
Overall I mainly did landscape and cityscape photography. I am still working on the Galleries before I can release them.

Probably owing to the discouragement of people I was with, who would not understand why someone would be interested in photographing strangers, the material was rather thin. I still managed to put together a Gallery of 27 street photos for your enjoyment.

I am even happy with some of them, like the picture of the young couple featured in this article. The scene could be taken right out of an advertisement spot, probably for a phone company or a perfume.
As usual, people didn't take notice of me, although I was a lot more nervous.


Dads Bolivia Photos

Woman in BoliviaWe have now scanned and uploaded the first reel of my Dad's Bolivia Photos to the store. I am still working on streamlining the process. Now that we almost finished moving in to our new place and with the holiday season coming, I should find the time.

One day I went through my Dad's attic and ran across his collection of several thousand slides from years of business travel. I still remember vividly how he used to give presentations in my school, captivating my classmates with his stories. Back in his days, business travel used to be a real adventure. Our country was poor and travel restricted. Sometimes reaching a destination for him consisted of a week of hair-raising journeys, making for first-rate stories. Now his slides were collecting dust and fading away in the depth of time, eaten by acids and humidity.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we can now preserve his photos. Last year I purchased a Nikon Coolscan Slide Scanner , hoping he would be able to digitize his work. It turns out that the computer needed an upgrade as well. When I visited my parents this year, we worked on the scanning process a bit, but I will still have to put together a computer system.

Being separated by almost 10,000 miles does not make things easier for us, but we finally managed to scan some test cases. Eventually my Dad will have the tedious task of scanning a load of slides, while I just need to run some Photoshop actions on them, or so I thought. It turns out, that most pictures will need some individual attention as well, to fix some blemishes caused by the ravages of time.

I am looking forward to digitizing his photos and going on a journey through time, comparing the old and the new. I will visit some of the places and compare photographs. This should be a fun project.

You can find some of his Bolivia Slides in my Store. (Smugmug offers me unlimited storage)

Ignorant people wandering into your frame can improve the shot.

Inconsiderate TouristTourist who walked into my shotDani waited for the sun to peek through the clouds. She knew exactly what she wanted to photograph and set out to find a perfect point of view. Now all that was missing was a sunray that would put the sparkle into the picture. Finally, the sun started to peek through the clouds. Dani raised the camera to look through the viewfinder when a tourist came sauntering by. He looked her directly in the eye, stopped in front of her camera and pulled out his own camera to take a shot. Eventually he forced Dani to find a new vantage point, since he would not move on but instead started a conversation about the beauty of the place with his wife.
I already got all the photos I wanted from that scene, so I had plenty of time to study what was happening. Strangely, the tourist would look right at Dani, and he would certainly have recognized that she was waiting to take the photo when he positioned himself right in front of her to take his own photo. He would not show the courtesy to move aside after he was finished himself either. The place was Pillnitz Castle in Germany and the tourist was a German.

Incidents like this were common during our recent trip to Germany. We encountered many courteous people, but the overwhelming majority of our fellow men in Germany were completely oblivious to us photographing. Minding only their business, they constantly stumbled into our shots.

A person stumbling into your frame can be a good thing. Instead of getting angry with them, I now try to recompose the shot to include the people in the scene. This may even result in a better picture. I believe that there are a lot less pictures of a couple enjoying Yosemite Valley then there are of Yosemite Valley; the latter being a more static and boring subject, if that can ever be said about Yosemite.

Despite my efforts to make the best of the situation, a careless person walking into my photo really disturbs the scene most of the time. Nearly all subjects do not pose in a spot where you would like them. Some fellow men from India for instance, never position themselves where I prefer. Videotaping every blade of grass through their journeys in ever more head-spinning pans, they have a tendency to stumble into my picture and bounce around unpredictably. Sometimes I wonder if the family back home really enjoys all those pans or if they get as dizzy as I get watching the video action.

Ideally, a couple holding each other's hands and viewing the sunset walks through my frame. Capturing the silhouettes of the lovers creates a much stronger image than a shot of the sunset alone.
If people walking through your picture irritate you, simply try to include them in the scene. If that doesn't work, I recommend photographing the people directly and making sure that they will notice. After all, you were there and someone came to pose in front of your camera. It can't be more obvious that the person wants to be photographed. If they don't like it, I am sure they will move on and clear your picture again.
Courteous people, willing to wait for you to take your shot, are a mixed blessing. I often take multiple photos of each subject. Vertical and horizontal compositions are usually required. Slightly different compositions and exposure values can be other reasons. Unaware of this, most people wait until they hear my shutter and then start walking, pleased with their own good manners. As my own manners dictate, I usually thank them or at least give them a friendly nod before I have to wait for them to leave my scene again for me to continue capturing photos.
However, continuing is not always possible, since people who already waited for you to take your picture are more likely to stop in the middle of your scene. Why would anyone want to shoot the same picture twice, right?
Some of us do, and we have to wait even longer for those courteous people to exit the frame.
Photography requires a lot of patience and understanding for each other. Friendly people will always receive a friendly word or nod and I won't even mind as much if they park themselves in my frame. And people who stroll into my picture, knowingly disturbing my work, sometimes get "shot".

Germany 2007

Church of our Lady in Dresden

Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady)

 I am barely back from Germany,

and I have already been greeted with a traffic ticket from an overly eager sheriff.

After two long flights and several delays due to failures on the fuel gauge of the machine, we finally arrived in San Francisco early Tuesday morning.

Since we had been being awake for nearly 30 hours, we decided that it was time to find a late night snack. We hopped into my old Mitsubishi Eclipse but in the rush I forgot that I had all my papers, registration and insurance, taken out of the car before we went on vacation. As I was cruising down De Anza Blvd., I noticed a car behind me, just as I was about to switch lanes for a U-turn. I slowed down, but the car matched my speed. I decided to turn right instead, but the car followed me and after another right turn the cop revealed himself by turning on his lights. He seemed surprised to see a seemingly normal person behind the wheel, murmured something about speed although he had no reading on his radar and wrote me a ticket for not having my paperwork and for an allegedly not working brake light. He pointed out the dangers of speeding to me and let me go.


Being back in Germany for almost 3 weeks, my longest vacation ever, felt pretty good. Although we were visiting family, we found the time to visit some interesting places.

One of the most interesting sights was the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in Dresden that has finally been restored to its old glory. After being destroyed in the bombing raids of the final days of World War II, the privately financed reconstruction began in the early 1990's. The church is unique in its shape and form and is once again one of the landmarks of Dresden.

Lighthouse of August the StrongLighthouse of August the Strong with Summer Sky ;-)The weather in Dresden and other parts of the country was quite strange. The image of the Frauenkirche was shot on one of the few clear days. Most of the time the weather was overcast and rain and sun would take turns in a matter of minutes. Everyone was complaining about the rainy summer of 2007 but as far as I can remember not much has changed.

Some things however did change. One is the fact that they now charge you for every public restroom. I couldn't find a single restroom that was free, including those in public places such as airports and train stations. Many of them have turnstiles installed. The common charge for a pi** is 0.50 Euro, a very unpleasant experience.

Despite some unpleasantness and unforeseen expenses, Germany is a wonderful country to visit and other things such as food can be incredibly cheap. One of the most enjoyable experiences was the Autobahn. Being able to completely open up the car and shoot through the landscape at a mind numbing 130mph was worth the trip to me. Dani tends to strongly disagree, but from the back seat things always look worse. If you think that 130mph is fast, just wait for a Porsche or a newly designed Audi R8 to scream past you with 180mph. I can only recommend trying it out and finding out for yourself how relaxing this can be. And next time you are pulled over by a cop for speeding and he goes off into a tirade of how dangerous 80mph is, you can't help but grin.


Racing Stripes

Racing Stripes

Recently I have been taking a (well deserved?) hiatus from blogging. Meanwhile I have been working on some images, but I haven't really put much up on the site (yet?).

While I started writing on my next tutorial, I thought it would be good to bridge the gap with a short tip. Usually I can crank out a tutorial in a day, but as I said, I am still being somewhat lazy. Since I got a very long flight coming up anyways, I will probably find some time to write another one when I am on the plane. I have a head full of ideas for new material, I just need to find the time.

I love nightshots, partly because they are easy and partly because they are very effective. While the picture above isn't really outstanding, it's a fun picture to shoot. During that Night (in San Diego Downtown) traffic was really slow, but if you expose long enough you can get some very effective lights. I set up my camera at an angle (why not?) and waited for a car to take a left turn. I then shot a 30s exposure, capturing the entire turn creating a nice circular track of the blinkers. All you need is a tripod to impress your friends.

As I said, those pictures are relatively easy to take. All you need is a tripod and some traffic (or other moving lights, flashlight anyone? ;-) )

I have also been experimenting a little with my new Canon S3, partly because I wasn't in the mood for anything more serious. I guess I really need a vacation (due next week).