We have had some interesting ones lately.
Vonn Scott Bair
You can’t get much further west in San Francisco than the wall at Land’s End, unless you want to get really, really wet.
Interesting discovery: my iPhone 6 Plus did a better job of handing the weak light of sunset than the DSLR. But that DSLR is almost a decade old; the time might have come for an honorable retirement. Incidentally, can you spot the second wall in the pictures?
You can see it right at the horizon; a solidly impenetrable fogbank.
Meanwhile, something new, different and rather odd has appeared at Land’s End.
I call it Mini-Henge.
Someone has had a lot of fun lately, stacking stones upon each other in tiny foot-high monoliths (mini-monoliths). The next big wind will blow them all over, but until then, we can ponder the mystery of what mysterious civilization created these mysterious monuments, and with what mysterious motivations.
Vonn Scott Bair
I would have guessed Idaho (all shots taken with my iPhone 6).
If you had shown me these pictures of the clouds over Oakland and San Francisco this afternoon, and asked me to guess in which state they were taken, I would have guessed Idaho. The Bay Area is home to massive, complex, interacting cloud formations, but the clouds tend to flatness and the colors almost always tend toward softer pastels. Idaho is home to massive, complex, interacting cloud formations, but the clouds themselves tend to cumulus and stratocumulus formations, tall with fluffy white tops and flat grey bottoms.
But we had a sun shower today and the sky looks different when those occur.
It happens. An otherwise bright sky with a flock of bright fluffy clouds sometimes includes one glowering fellow who feels like dumping his grouchiness upon the humans underneath. That’s a light shower streaming almost straight down from the great grey grump.
I took dozens of pictures of the sky from the Fruitvale BART station, including the above pair. Here are some more from a surprisingly decent batch.
Back in San Francisco, the sun had lowered to about 15 degrees above the western horizon, producing some striking lighting conditions at the intersection of Masonic & Geary.
After doing my grocery shopping, the sun had set. Those gosh-darned human things called buildings obstructed much of the view, but this one should give an idea of how the entire sky appeared.
A stunning day up there. So stunning I almost forgot what happened down here.
Vonn Scott Bair
Oh, this must be why they assembled:
Grand View/Turtle Hill became quite popular at sunset over the weekend. I came here after attending the Georgia O’Keeffe retrospective at the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. I didn’t know that much about her work, but the similarities between some of her paintings and some of my photographs astounded me–can I sue her for plagiarism 90 years before the fact?
Here are two shots of the same scene, the first using the Nikon Landscape Mode, the second using the Dusk/Dawn Mode.
Finally, the reason we stayed and shivered:
Vonn Scott Bair
The biggest lumps at Seal Rocks (just offshore from the ruins of the old Sutro Baths) happen to number three, so they seemed a most suitable location for experimenting with this week’s Challenge. I had never heard of this idea of using “threes” in photography to tell a story, and figured that something had to present itself almost as soon as I arrived.
I ran into considerable difficulties for many reasons, but perhaps that was a good thing; how can we learn anything if we don’t run into difficulties first? Sunset at the beach on a cloudy day when the fog starts rolling in makes for really weird light that freaks out digital cameras and makes them question both their own sanity and the sanity of their photographers. I refused to blame my camera–’tis a poor carpenter who blames his tools–and tried my best anyway.
Another problem lay in–well, lay in nature itself. Turns out that nature does not conveniently arrange itself in such fashion as to make long, medium, and closeup shots of the same subject, take from the same angle and with the same object in the middle of each shot, yield fabulously perfect compositions every single time. Of the batches of three where I tried to pull this off, this set turned out comparatively best.
Notice that as the camera zooms in, the quintet at the bottom right becomes more important. Incidentally, the so-called “king tides” of January (when the tide comes in very high and the surf slams the baths hard) have receded, but this remains a risky place to visit. Of the roughly 200 people attending this grey windy sunset, about a dozen consisted of photographers of varying skill levels ignoring warning signs and getting very close to the pounding sea. Me? High and dry and very safe.
Most of the time, better results came from tilting the camera up or down, creating the best composition possible given what I saw in the view finder. The next three are completely unedited.
This time, The Cliff House, the object in the back, not the front, becomes more important as the camera zooms in.
Despite all of the challenges, I had a great time, especially about halfway through my half-hour session, when my “Masterpieces of Rock and Soul” playlist randomly launched the absolutely most perfect song for the occasion: “California Suite: Grey Day,” by Jesse Colin Young, from the Light Shine album. Because serendipity is a life skill that can be mastered. A song like that, during a sunset like that, will make me wanna (Shout!), kick my heels up and (Shout!), throw my hands up and (Shout!)–from “Shout, Pts. 1 & 2” by the Isley Brothers. In other words, the next song played.
Yeah, today was a good day.
Three more random shots, pictures that I believe prove I’m more lucky than good. Incidentally, the specks are birds; I stuck with a 1/13 speed for most of the afternoon.
Seems that I did better when not trying to capture threes, but with enough practice and perhaps reading the manual, I might yet become a real photographer some day.
Vonn Scott Bair
Who needs another gorgeous sunset? Fluffy pink gossamer clouds in a dark sapphire sky as a perfectly round sun turns orange red and lights up the sea with its reflections?
After 30+ years on the Pacific Coast, I have learned how to appreciate the normal San Francisco sunset, when fog and/or clouds roll in along with just the right brisk breeze–OK, howling near-gale-force wind–to instill in oneself the proper level of appreciation for hot chocolate, spiked or unspiked. Since so many of these Challenges seem custom-designed to drive me to the ruins of the Sutro Baths, yesterday’s Magic Hour was perfect.
In a sort of dark grey, gloomy, ghosts and goblins sort of perfect.
For all of these shots, I pulled out my Nikon D40 DSLR, but I left the polarizing filter on, despite the gathering darkness. I still don’t know why, but something about the American West seems to require some kind of filter to prevent pictures from coming out too brightly. Although the filter technically changes the light, the resulting pictures displayed what I actually saw (1/30th second exposures). No filter would have made the shots too light.
Two of the shots don’t qualify for my Grey Series, but they still have some interest.
That bottom picture looks like something from a computer game of the adventure genre (e.g., Myst) where you need to find a message engraved on the far side of the boulder. Just two more for tonight, but truly grey shots, even if shot in full color.
Vonn Scott Bair
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