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Photo a Day Challenge: Day 24

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 24 - Hills in Orange County on Ilford Delta 100 filmHills - Santiago Oaks Regional Park, CA
Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 8:39am
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Day 24 of my photo a day challenge and I was out mountain biking again, this time in the morning. I was at my usual stomping ground in Santiago Oaks Regional Park. The temperatures were already soaring. Or maybe it was just the weight of the camera gear. Every minute on the trail feels hotter with a medium format camera in your backpack.

Trudging up the hillside, I kept my eyes open for a good composition. Nothing was really jumping out at me. It was a cloudless morning and the hills were bone dry. I'm not a fan of cloudless days when it comes to photography because it just leaves the sky a boring single tone of color. I need some puffy white clouds in there to break it up! But alas, you gotta do what you can with what you got.

Eventually I found myself in a position where a series of hillsides receded off into the distance in front of me. They looked like layered construction paper cutouts on account of the harsh backlighting. Most of all, the diagonals are what really jumped out at me. Desaturated into black and white, I hoped that these backlit ridges would flatten out into an interesting mosaic of lines and textures. I'd need to work hard to enhance the contrast, though. Without sufficient contrast, the hills would blend together too much. That's why I used a red #23a filter to help lighten the sunlit areas and darken the shadowed areas. I also used a total of 5 stops of split ND filters to darken the sky above.

The best news of it all: my sweaty bike ride proved productive on more level than one!

Read the backstory on this Photo A Day Challenge here. See previous days here.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 23

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 23 - Palm Trees in Laguna Beach on Ilford Delta 100 filmPalm Trees 1 - Laguna Beach, CA
Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 5:37pm
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Day 23 of my photo a day challenge brought me to Laguna Beach for a private photography lesson in Orange County with one of my long-time students. It was a beautiful day - classic southern California summer. The offshore breeze cooled my skin to the perfect temperature. I decided to seize the opportunity of being in Laguna Beach for my photo of the day. I brought my gear and showed up early to see what I could find.

Up on a cliff in Heisler Park, I found a great vantage point on these three palm trees perched along the Pacific Coast. These three trees were just too perfect to pass up. They were simple, picturesque, the light was hitting them perfectly, and there were three of them. Everything looks great in threes. And look at them, even their heights are staggered perfectly. It's like these trees were designed to be photographed.

Although the breeze was relatively mild down at my level, the palm tree fronds suspended high in the air seemed to be taking a bit of a pounding. I think the trees would have had a little bit better shape to them if the wind hadn't been so strong - it would have had more of a relaxed, calm, postcard-esque summer day feel rather than an offshore typhoon feel. But oh well. Details, details.

I moved around quite a bit left and right trying to get a hand railing out of the shot and trying to get a good balance between the three trees and the rock in the background. I opted for a Red #23A filter here to help darken the blue sky and water. I knew this would work to create some separation between the sunlit sides of the palm trees and the bright sky and water behind. My exposure was 1/125 at f/14.

And then I tried a similar composition, but horizontal. Because why not? I can't decide which one I like better.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 23 - Palm Trees and sky on Ilford Delta 100 filmPalm Trees 2 - Laguna Beach, CA
Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 5:49pm
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Read the backstory on this Photo A Day Challenge here. See previous days here.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 21

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 21 - Boy in Canoe on Ilford Delta 100 filmBoy in Canoe - Woodbridge Lake, Irvine, CA
Monday, September 2, 2013 at 2:32pm
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It was Labor Day on Day 21 of my Photo a Day Challenge and I was walking around Woodbridge Lake in Irvine in search of my shot for the day. There was a lot of activity going on at this artificial lake on account of the holiday and the energy there was very enjoyable. I really love some good ol' community fun and recreation. Everyone is having a good time, we're all taking a break from the bustle of daily work for a change, the smell of barbecues fill the air...classic Americana.

With my Mamiya RZ67 camera in hand loaded up with my usual Ilford Delta 100 film, I took a stroll around the lake with my eyes peeled for a good photo. I walked and walked and walked, attempted some photos, failed, then walked some more. I had nearly circumnavigated the entire lake and was on my way back to the car feeling quite defeated. A full hour searching this big lake and I just couldn't find a thing. I was itching to photograph some people, and there were tons there, but I couldn't make anything work.

Then I made it to the top of a pedestrian bridge spanning the lake and spotted a couple of kids out navigating the waters. They were clearly friends - one in a canoe and the other on a paddle bike. I immediately liked these kids. In a world of iPhones and Xbox's, they were doing what kids should be doing on a beautiful day like this: getting away from their parents and enjoying the weather. I loved the role they were playing in the larger scene of Americana surrounding this lake. The perfect weather, the barbecues, the calm waters, the energy of everything...it was all punctuated perfectly with these two kids operating their respective water craft. They were the bow on the present that was this scene.

The intensity with which I appreciated these kids engaging in such a simple activity may seem strange to some people. But it was so reminiscent of that certain type of picturesque childhood you saw in the movie Stand By Me or The Sandlot. These kids reminded me of a time and place when red-tape, regulations, and iPads didn't rob kids of their desire to explore and get into trouble. These kids are exploring as much as the rules will allow. It may not be the same as finding a dead body or trying to recover a prized Babe Ruth-signed baseball from "The Beast," but they're doing as much as they can with what they got. I have a lot of respect for that.

But back to the picture-taking. From my vantage point high up on the bridge, I visualized a shot from directly above the canoeist as he paddled slowly under the gangway. Lucky for me, he decided to stop right below me, allowing me to fire off a frame of him and his friend without ever giving away my position. Both shots were exposed at f/10 at 1/250 of a second.

Photo a Day Challenge: Day 21 - Boy on Paddle Bike on Ilford Delta 100 filmBoy on Paddle Bike - Woodbridge Lake, Irvine, CA
Monday, September 2, 2013 at 2:31pm
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Read the backstory on this Photo A Day Challenge here. See previous days here.