Women, Be True To Yourself

What is beauty?  Watch this Dove Video and revisit the question.

Ladies, when did you get duped into believing that you should look like Barbie?  Should we all really have to keep up with the Kardashians Joneses when it comes to waist size, fashion, and our overall look? (Really, who are those people from LA, and what is it they actually do besides flit around and waste time?)  Don’t we know that most of what we see in the form of advertisement is all BS?

I came across the link above the other day and thought I would share it – because it totally blew me away.  Not only is advertising and fashion creating false hopes for women, it’s doing the same thing for men.  This video is a perfect example.  The transformation is crazy, but the manipulation of something more important is even scarier; our self-esteem.  How can you ever hope to achieve looking like (or dating) something that doesn’t even exist?

As it’s Friday, some of us will head out this weekend for a good time.   Carry yourself high, and understand that we all look different for a reason, and they are all good reasons.

See you down the road.

-Todd

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Surfing Under the Red Giant

Surfing is a sport that allows you to disconnect.  When your mind is abuzz with thoughts and worries from the day, you can make your way to the nearest lineup, paddle out, and every distraction floats into the ether as you bob up and down with the pulse of the ocean.  You have so many things to worry about other than what’s going on in your life.  Is that an outside set over the horizon?  Am I drifting south with the current?  What was that swirling boil over there?  Why did the water just become so warm?

Paddling Out

Now your average surf spot is along a beach with sand and the whole nine yards; it’s a place to relax.  Occasionally you’ll want to ride next to a man made structure – a pier reaching out towards the south pacific or a jetty to destroy control the movement of the sand that shifts around with the currents – they offer different characteristics and create distinct waves.  It’s almost a little buffet for a surfer.

Do you want a hollow wave with power that’s relatively short?  You can head to a pumping little beachbreak.  Are you in the mood for a longer ride with a smooth and groomed face?  Drive to a pointbreak and reap the rewards of one flawless wave.  Each wave is singular in its qualities, flaws, looks, and feel.  Anyone who has spent time surfing a wave can isolate it from a pile of pictures and shout, “That’s Mundaka!”  To your surprise, they’ll be correct.

But in my years of surfing, I have never seen a surf spot quite like Fort Point.  In the heart of San Francisco, tucked back in the corner of the southern entrance is a point of land that just barely juts out.  With all the water moving from tidal action, sandbars naturally build up, and at Ft. Point, a nice little pointbreak has formed.  But having the correct bottom contour is only part of the equation.  Now you need swell and the proper swell angle for a break to come alive.

Inside the mouth of the entrance, Ft. Point requires a decent size swell for wave energy to wrap in and break.  Not only does the swell have to be powerful, but the angle of swell has to be right on the money (within a few degrees to break properly.)  As I pulled up last week, to my surprise, Ft. Point was going off.  I grabbed my camera gear and wished I had my 6’3” shortboard instead.  As I imagined myself with my board slung under my arm, I got to thinking, “Can a place this busy create a relaxing experience?”  Ft. Point definitely tests the threshold.

You want a man made structure to surf against?  This is the place.  It doesn’t get any bigger or grander than surfing next to and under the Golden Gate Bridge.  Its red arms reach across the opening of one of the world’s most amazing natural harbors.  In the meantime, China’s goods constantly stream forth via gigantic Maersk shipping liners three times the size of a football field, docking and dumping their goods, filling a local Wal-Mart near you.  The constant drone of cars and trucks whisking people to and fro is also audible through the girders and concrete holding the bridge together.  From the lineup, you can turn around and gaze upon the skyline of a concrete jungle.  Does this sound relaxing?

To top it off, Ft. Point isn’t exactly the most “friendly” of surf spots.  Localism does exist, but in my opinion it’s a dying trend.  Especially since the area is under federal jurisdiction, which means they prosecute to the full extent of the law.  A few years back one local learned first hand, as he picked a fight and punched another surfer.  When he was prosecuted, violence pretty much stopped altogether.

In this new age of technology, nothing is sacred.  With a few clicks of a mouse, you can find exactly when and where to go depending on the swell via excellent wave forecasting and real-time web cams.  Ft. Point is now just another spot for surfers to choose from, but it wasn’t always so.  Thus it was protected fiercely by those who called it home.

Snapping pictures for about an hour, the tide started to come in and the wave was losing its punch.  As I packed it in, I looked around.  I could hear a truck’s tires humming along the bridge above.  The wake of a huge tanker splashed against the shore.  Crowds of tourists were along the shoreline.  All of this was going on, and I thought, “This is still a damn fine place to surf.”

Next time I will bring my board.

See you down the road.

-Todd

Moving On Up…

Starting things anew is a real pain, but I have received a few comments about letting my photos shine a bit more on my blog.  Thus I have decided to set adrift my blogspot account for something a bit more customized. Adding to the mix a total website facelift, and I think this new format and theme matches well with what you find when opening up my site.

I will still hang on to my blogspot site for about a month, and then I will most likely let the address drift in the ether that is the internet.  (Should the internet be capitalized?  It seems like a pronoun.)  Anywho, I digress…I want to thank all who have come and taken a visit thus far, and ask that you to continue to come along for the ride and see where the path takes us.

See you down the road.

-Todd

HDR

Sow what exactly is HDR?  I spoke about it in the previous post, and I thought I would bring it to life, just to show you what a neat tool it can be.  Now like anything, HDR, which stands for High Dynamic Range (thanks Chris!) can be too much of a good thing, but it can also be a crucial tool if one forgot their Neutral Density (ND) Filters and the exposure differences are too great to overcome.  Sometimes a fine-art picture with blown out whites just won’t do.  Thank goodness for software and digital cameras.

Here we can see the typical snapshot of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Washed out, because the camera just can’t cover the lighting extremes.  It’s not quite what our eye sees, but it’s close.  Dramatic?  I think not.

Now if I had my ND filters, I would put them in front of my lens to balance the sky vs foreground better.  Oh, I forgot to describe what they even are.  An ND filter is a rectangular shaped piece of acrylic or glass that has half the material shaded darker, and then transitions to completely clear.  The transition can be hard or soft, meaning an almost solid line of gradation, or a bit more drawn out.  They are color neutral, so they don’t cast a weird blue or any other color into your image.

If I were using one on this image, I would probably use a soft graduated ND and put it at a bit of an angle to match tower and the line of mountains where it intersects.  But that might give you a funny shadow line, so maybe even drop it down to the water line.  It’s all about experimenting and finding out what works best.

But alas, what if you didn’t have them?  Well, use a tripod, a bench, a concrete piling, a car hood – whatever you can find to keep your camera absolutely still.  Then you have to set the camera to bracket a series of shots.  This means you’re taking the same image at different f-stops or speeds to create a different rendering of light.  I bracketed five different shots to have a broad range of light, but you can easily get away with three.  It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s not.  Know your camera and get this done in seconds.

So here are two other of the five images I bracketed.  You can see the different values of light.

Now what is the final result?  Well, take your images home, download them to your computer, and run them through a program such as Photomatix or Photoshop.  The latter does a better job and allows more control, because it’s specific to HDR merging.  If you are into it, it’s worth purchasing due to the ease of use and results.  As you can see, they’re pretty dramatic.

But remember when I said too much of a good thing can be, well, too much?  This is probably it.  I over-pumped the image to give you a dramatic intro into what HDR can do.  But here is a more subtle version of the same images rendered a bit more cautiously.  Now go up to the top of the post and compare this image to what the camera would have captured by itself.  You can see the differences are subtle, but noticeable.

This is probably closer to what your eyes see.  Which one is better?  That’s the great thing about art.  It’s up to you!  Salt to taste.

And yes, they go great with black and whites as well.

Now these are quick and dirty, but I am having fun with these images, and I think you’ll be seeing some more of them as this year progresses.  Until then…

See you down the road.

-Todd

Mt Tamalpais

Just out of the city and over the Golden Gate Bridge lies one of the best things about San Francisco –  wide open spaces that provide the proverbial breath of fresh air.  The fact that one can make the trek over the entrance to one of the most amazing natural harbors in the world, and find peace and quiet amid the hustle and bustle is a godsend to many urbanites.  Thus when a suburbanite gets the hankering, you know it’s a bad case of stir-crazy.

So it was, that I huffed into the hills after all these storms were a brewin’.  Driving up, I kept wanting to pull over and start photographing.  Sometimes having patience is the hardest part.  But remembering a wedding I photographed some months back, I couldn’t help wander back up to such a wonderful spot.  Heck, it was a place where two people, completely in love with each other, bonded for life.  Now that if that’s not beautiful, I don’t know what is.

So here are a few images that drifted by as I held the shutter down.

With the image above, I used 2 Neutral Density Graduated Filters to offset the brightness of the sun.  A .6 and .9 stacked together on top of each other compensated for the bright sun, and hand holding them against the front of the lens, I offset the amount of light by 5 stops ( a ton!).  No HDR here (High Dynamic Range – a blending of three photographs with varying light values).  This was just good old in-camera work being done.

I’ve also just purchased a new program that converts images to Black and White.  Yes, photoshop can do this, but Nik Silver Efex is different.  The company has scanned and profiled many images from different film types, and their program replicates those findings to produce life-like representations on screen that produce quality reproductions in print.

Open the program, upload your photo, and apply an action.  If you loved shooting with Kodak TMax, you can finally go digital, and have your results equal what would have been produced in the darkroom.

Things I wish I had:  Picnic basket filled with figs wrapped in prosciutto, some crackers, and freshly made fruit compote, a big blanket, a bottle of wine, and my wife next to me.

Here’s a few longer exposures of the clouds just moving about.  The colors were just so gorgeous, I just wanted to stop shooting and admire.  Such is life.

A different take on it.

See you down the road.

-Todd