Happy St. Patricks Day

Father and his Daughter watching the Parade

Monday is Saint Patricks day, where all Irish communities around the world celebrate one of the patron saints of Ireland. The San Francisco Bay area has a large Irish community and hence Saint Patricks Day has always been celebrated with fanfare.

Yesterday San Francisco kicked of the St. Patricks Day Celebration with a big parade. I took this chance and tried to capture the spirit of the day.

See some of yesterdays pictures in my St. Patricks Day in San Francisco Gallery.


The correct Exposure - a tutorial - Part 1: Shutter, Aperture and ISO

Exposure Degrees of FreedomDetermining the "correct" exposure for an image can be a challenging task. We could choose to simply let our camera decide for us, and use the fully automatic settings that are quite sophisticated and often do a reasonably good job. However, this also means to give away part of the creative process to your camera. I am writing this tutorial with the beginning photographer in mind. The principles outlined in this article should become a second nature to you. I encourage you to practice and to ask questions. In many ways, this is like riding a bike. Once you learned how, you can focus your attention on your surroundings.

I am not advocating using the manual settings of your camera at all times. Instead, I am a big fan of the creative zone settings such as aperture priority Mode, Shutter Priority Mode and Program mode. I use these automatic modes 95% of the time and I rarely resort to Manual Mode.

Aperture settings determine the Depth of Field (how much of your scene is in focus). Landscape photographers often strive for a very large Depth of Field while Portraits often require a shallow Depth of Field. Being in control of the aperture, the photographer can direct attention and guide the viewer through the image.

Shutter speed controls how motion of the subject or your camera will look like in your pictures. A slow shutter will blur fast moving subjects and a fast shutter will freeze them.

Fishermans Wharf

Fishermans Grotto - Fishermans Wharf - San Francisco

Yesterday I drove to San Francisco and took a stroll along Fishermans Wharf. Spring is the best time to visit California. I soaked in the sun and the bustling market, watched street performers and cable cars.

After an hour I drove to little italy to sit down at a local coffee shop and watch the busy life pass by, ending the day with a visit to the Legion of Honor.

After all these years living in the bay area, San Francisco still has an appeal that makes it my favorite city. Some neighborhoods still feel like a small town. People are friendly and welcoming and open to everyone.

Check out my San Francisco Street Photography Gallery for more images or my general San Francisco Gallery.

Arguments against the Megapixel Race

Canon Rebel XSi - 450DCanon Rebel XSi - 450DEvery year the photo industry whose aim is to make money just as the rest of us, is trying to seduce us into buying new gear and discarding the same equipment that was so hot just a year or two ago. Pumping out Megapixel monsters with features that rival those of pro cameras, they tell us that we have to have these wonderful new items. I admit, I am a sucker myself. Every time I open up a magazine and see the latest Megapixel monster staring back at me from glossy pages my heart beats faster. Of course, I read the testimonials from the "pros" (probably endorsed by the industry) who rave about the new technology. Looking at their fantastic images, we might think that we can only succeed with these tools. I am even thinking about upgrading my truly wonderful Canon. I am waiting for the 50D to hit the shelves and I might just buy the Rebel XSi in the meantime to have something new to play with, because I need toys to be happy.
On a more rational note, it is unnecessary to buy new equipment. Already the sensors of the last generation of digital cameras are pushing the limits of diffraction. The Rebel XSi will have a greater pixel density than any other camera with APS-C sensor size. This means that the maximum tolerable circle of confusion for this camera becomes smaller.

This means that we become more and more restricted to the minimum size of our aperture (largest f-stop). In order to boost Depth of Field, a small aperture is necessary.

What is the significance of this?

For once, the higher resolution is not going to make things worse. At the best case, we will get a picture that is 2 times better when the resolution of the sensor is 2 times higher, but in most practical situations, the lens or the optical resolution will limit us somewhat. I think at some point we will get to a point of diminishing returns in terms of resolution, but the camera industry will still taunt us with megapixel numbers for quite some time.

Another way to grow resolution is by growing sensor size (full frame). However, those are extremely expensive to manufacture are much more demanding on the lenses, since they require a larger image circle with the same perfection.

In the future, the industry should probably focus on more pressing issues like increasing the dynamic range of their sensors. If resolution is really all that counts, we can always resort to stitching.

P.S.: Don't worry if this discussion was a bit too technical to understand. I will soon elaborate these things in greater depth.

Titan 2 Missile Silo Photographs

Titan 2 Missile

During our Christmas Trip of last year we came through a place in Arizona that was once home to the largest and deadliest weapons system ever built by the United States.

The Titan 2 Missile System in Arizona is the only of its kind left. It has been turned into a Museum where one can be stunned by the reality of what was once the cold war of two of the most powerful countries on earth. It serves as a reminder to a time not so long ago.

After seeing all this madness and talking about blast radius and destruction I am surprised that we are still not much smarter then we were during this time.

Enjoy the grisly-beautiful Gallery: Titan 2 Missile Silo and Pima Air Museum


Ghost Towns of the Sierra Nevada

GallowsOne of my favorite places in California is the Sierra Nevada. Unspoiled Nature and left alone by tourist crowds it is a photographer's heaven. During the hot summer months, I usually try to avoid those places, but spring and autumn are wonderful for exploring Eastern California.

I have recently added a new gallery entitled Ghost Towns of the Sierra Nevada. These pictures used to be part of my Highway 395 Gallery, but this gallery is growing too large already. There are still a few ghost towns left for exploring. I added some pictures of Silver City. The city is a collection of old stuff and old buildings brought together from other real cities. I guess they are doing a good thing, claiming to have saved all this stuff from decay. The attention to detail is fantastic. I would not mind paying again for another tour. Remind the person at the entrance to show you his "ghost pictures."

The only mistake I will not be making again is to stay in Ridgecrest. I think officer B. will have to find another victim to stick his traffic tickets to. If you drive through any city in the area, you should be very aware of the cops, as tourist traffic is a major income source for these cities and the cops down their pride themselves in how many tickets they hand out year. They are so proud that they even announce this on big billboards.

New Site Design and White Sands Gallery

White Sands National Monument New Mexico

Last week I spent an enormous amount of time updating this Website. It is the part of being present online that I like the least as it involves hours of work without much of a visible result. I finally updated the underlying CMS framework to a newer version, and since I had made many customizations, I had to spend some time changing the programming of the new version to suit my needs. The gallery system I use works completely different now, so I had to do some patching there too. I am usually a lazy updater and a later adapter, since I use so many functions that are not always available on the bleeding edge. If anyone really cares what it takes to run a site, I can add a few pointers later.

The main reason to go through with this now was actually the fact that I need to organize the data better. Finding articles has become harder as this website grew, so I have added all those tutorial links to the front page, in an effort to improve access, and I have added some auto discovery links at the bottom of many pages. It is just the first step, but I am making great progress now that I finished the programming work.

I even found time to upload a new gallery yesterday. I still have a long backlog from recent trips. I did upload some pictures of White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. I hope you enjoy the new gallery and that you come back next week for more.

I will also start to write a few new tutorials soon. As always I am open to suggestions on what to write.

Entry Level Cameras rivaling pro models - a preview

Just a few years ago, I was following the online debate between advocates of the Digital SLR revolution and followers of film. At this time, I had already made up my mind with the purchase of my first Digital SLR, the newly released Canon 300D. A true marvel and ahead of its time, it was said to rival the quality of 35mm film cameras. Back then, the Canon 1Ds used to be the nonplus ultra of Digital Imaging technology. At 11 Megapixels and equipped with the world’s first full frame CMOS sensor it was the dream of many wannabe photographers (including yours truly) and a must for pros. Many agencies just started to accept digital pictures and required “at least” 11 Megapixels. At the time of its introduction, the 1Ds did cost around $8,000.

Canon Rebel XSi - 450DCanon Rebel XSi - 450D Soon, Canons new entry level SLR, the Rebel XSi will debut at around $800. It will offer 12 Megapixels. Granted the Camera does not offer the weather seals and Full Frame Sensor of the “old” 1Ds, but crop sensors have many advantages. The new features like liveview really make the XSi stand out. With the smaller image circle of a crop sensor, lens design becomes easier making lenses cheaper and lighter. Regardless of feature counting, pixel peeping and rich playboy coolness factor, the XSi is the best camera available to amateur photographers with features exceeding those of previous professional models. Its lightweight design, quiet and inconspicuous shutter operation, and general tourist appeal is a real advantage during street photography sessions. The loud clonk of my 20D’s shutter resulted in stinkeye on more than just one occasion.