Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful

Please click on the photo to view it larger and more clearly!  Thanks!

The Shimmering Expanse

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”

by Norman Vincent Peale

Title: The Shimmering Expanse
Photographer: Ken Lee
Info: Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens, two Tiffen 0.9 neutral density filters, F/32, 10-second exposure, ISO 200, taken New Year’s Eve 2011.
Location: Goat Rock Beach, Sonoma County, California, USA

Adam and his son gazing out at the crescent-shaped bay at Goat Rock Beach, watching the sun set for the last time in 2011. This photo uses the same long exposure technique as described above.See all photos on my travel blog: to find out more about how this long exposure photo was achieved?

Equipment:  Nikon D7000, Tokina AT-X 116



The Timeless Sea: Tilt-Shift Miniaturization Effect on a Long Exposure Photo of My Friends on the Sonoma Coast

Who says I don’t listen to you?  Someone asked me to post the other photo I took of my friend and his two charming kids at the Sonoma Coast because this one utilizes a tilt-shift look.  This can create a sort of miniaturization effect, and quite frankly, this is usually more effective when done to cabins on a hillside or cars on the street rather than people, giving this miniature model toy effect, although that said, one of the best photos I’ve seen utilizing this effect was of masses of swimmers jumping into the ocean.

Sonoma, The Timeless Sea II (long exposure photo of the Pacific Ocean)

Title: Sonoma, The Timeless Sea II
Info: Nikon D90, 18-200mm Nikkor VR at 27mm, F/25 ISO 200 for 6 seconds, two Tiffen 0.9 neutral density filters, flat rock (forgot my tripod!).
Photography: Ken Lee
Location: Salt Point, Sonoma County, California, USA

I don’t have a tilt-shift lens, so I created this in Photoshop utilizing the Quick Mask function in Photoshop.

I began by using Gradient Tool (Cylindrical Gradient) to apply a gradually increasing blur from where I wanted the focus point to be (in this case, the my friends standing on the rocks), increasing the amount of blur further from that point.  You can use your mouse, holding the Shift Key, to draw the gradient from the focal point on up.  You’ll need to experiment with this a few times.  I then switched out of Quick Mask to Standard Mode again.

I then applied the Lens Blur Filter in Hexagon Mode, tweaking the Radius to adjust the amount of blur.  I began around 15 and started adjusting to see what looked good 15-20 is usually fine.  You can also mess with Specular Highlights and Brightness as you see fit.

Especially with toys or cabins on a hillside, you’ll want to jack up Saturation Mode to bring out this miniaturization effect.  You can lighten and add a little contrast if you want as well.  That’s what I did here.

The miniaturization effect with this tilt-shift technique is more a function of your photo and what you choose to photograph.

LONG EXPOSURE PHOTO:  This is also a long exposure photo in which my friends once again sat still for six seconds.  I used two neutral density filters stacked together to reduce the incoming light, resting the camera on a rock.

Our trip, including more photos:

Equipment:  Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens

Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve, Sonoma

I’ll go easy this time:  a photo of a beautiful flower.  This is probably an easier sell than star trails photos!  😀

North of Jenner, north of Salt Point, is the not-so-frequently visited Kruse Rhododenron State Reserve in northwest Sonoma County, just off Pacific Coast Highway, a good stop along the way, especially if you like clean air, beautiful flowers and redwood groves.  And if you don’t like those things, whaat, you got rocks in the head?

This reserve contains second-growth redwood, Douglas fir, grand firs, tanoaks, and a plethora of rhododendrons. In April and May the rhododendrons burst into bloom, their brilliant pink blooms offering a dramatic contrast to the deep green of the forest. Since we were there in the middle of June, we caught the last of the blooms. The large amount of is a direct result of normal plant succession patterns following a severe fire that once occurred here. Today, the regenerating forest is gradually overwhelming the rhododendrons.

We went in mid-June, but still got to see some blooms.

Equipment:  Nikon D90, 11-16mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens

Featured Photo: Sonoma Coast – Fun With Long Exposure Photography

Sonoma Coast – Fun With Long Exposure Photography

I just came back from a trip to Sonoma to welcome in Year 2012.  On New Year’s Eve, I took a few of the photos on my trip with a technique called long exposure, keeping the shutter open for long durations.  This technique keeps stationary objects sharp while blurring, smearing, or even obscuring elements that are moving.  In these photos, the moving waves of the Pacific  appear ethereal and otherworldly.

Sonoma Coast

The above photo is a long exposure shot of the rocks at Goat Rock Beach during the setting sun, captured by leaving the shutter open for five seconds to create the otherworldly misty look of the waves pounding the rocks. This is a technique that I used last year at Black Sand Beach near Shelter Cove in the Lost Coast region of Northern California.

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens, two Tiffen 0.9 neutral density filters, F/36, 5-second exposure, ISO 200.

Sonoma Coast with Adam and son

This is great fun!  Here, Adam and his son sat still for ten seconds in this unusual photo. The photo is a long exposure in which the shutter is held open for ten seconds, creating the otherworldly ethereal look with the surf in the rocks below.  You can see where Adam’s son checked up on me to see whether we were finished or not, blurring his photo.  Anything that moves will blur, appear as a ghostly image, or in some cases, actually disappear.  If I have my shutter open for several minutes or more, as I do with my night shots in Joshua Tree, I can wander through the frame without it appearing in the finished photo.

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens, two Tiffen 0.9 neutral density filters, F/32, 10-second exposure, ISO 200.

Shimmery Pacific Expanse

And in this ten-second long exposure photo, the Pacific is turned into a glowing ethereal expanse, with Adam and his son watching the sun set for the last time in 2011.

Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens, two Tiffen 0.9 neutral density filters, F/32, 10-second exposure, ISO 200.

I set my camera to have a very small aperture (opening).  This creates a larger depth of field, keeping more elements in the photo in focus.  And also, because the day was still bright, a small aperture allows less light to enter the camera, enabling me to keep the shutter open for longer periods of time without overexposing the shot.

But to allow the shutter to stay open for even longer, I also used two Tiffen neutral density filters.  Neutral density filters are colorless filters that reduce all the colors of light equally, allowing for greater exposure time and additional flexibility.  Two of these stacked together allowed me to keep the shutter open for five to ten seconds, even in relatively bright light.

Equipment:  Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens, two Tiffen neutral density 0.9 filters, Feisol tripod, Nikon MC-DC2 Remote Trigger Cable.