This one is from my Nikon D7000. There were lots of these dust devils out on Soda Lake when we were there. It was surreal.
I used the new Topaz Clarity plugin on this one. I was really amazed at the clarity in the hills in the background compared to the original. I can see myself using this plugin quite a bit now. Go download the free trial here.
I went out on an adventure to the eastern part of the county a couple of days ago. I’ve never been out that way before, so I didn’t know what to expect. First, we drove to a wildflower hotspot in Santa Margarita where there was no trace of any wildflowers being there this year. I know the peak was a month or two ago, but I thought there might at least be a few flowers and some grass. Not this time. It was all brown. All I found was a couple of tiny flowers in a dry creek bed.
After that disappointing find, we headed to Soda Lake. Before we left, I googled the lake and saw some cool pictures. When we pulled up, we were greeted by a massive salt crust in the shape of a lake. It was cool, but not what I had envisioned. The white lake bed was so bright that the camera’s sensor couldn’t handle the dynamic range of the scene. The sky ended up being very dark.
We walked out on the dried up lake because we drove all that way. Some of it was powdery and some was crunchy. I felt like I was walking on the moon. If you stood still, you sank into the ground another inch or two. It was a funny feeling.
I got some cool shots with my Nikon too. Hopefully, I’ll find some time to share those soon. I was able to capture one of the white dust devils (twisters) out on the lake.
This image was shot with camera+ and edited with Snapseed. I included the before image below so you can see what I started with. I had to brighten it up and straighten the horizon. I chose to use the tilt shift filter on this one to bring the focus more to the dead bush in the foreground.
I went to on of the more hidden beaches around here recently. I’ve been here a few times before, but never remember seeing this stop sign in the surf. There’s a whole section of beach closed for some dang birds, the snowy plover. There were ropes and other trespassing signs, but this stop sign seemed out of place.
Shot with camera+. Edited with XnSketch.
I finally was able to catch a sunset at the beach last night. We’re getting our June gloom foggy weather already, which means sunsets are usually ruined. Lucky for me, last night the fog stayed off the coast just far enough.
This particular sunset wasn’t anything too amazing. I felt like I should use a few apps to make it look more beautiful in my eyes. First, I shot with TrueHDR. If you’re new to my blog, I use TrueHDR a lot because often times it makes for a more realistic image by combining two exposures. Next, I used Snapseed to brighten a little, add contrast, and bump up the saturation slightly. Then, I used TangledFX for the painterly/fibrous look. Finally, I used Snapseed again because I felt like the image needed more contrast and saturation.
So I downloaded a free app the other day called MasterFX. Its an app that allows you to add a lot of special effects to your image. I don’t think its an app I would use too often, but its very easy to use and does a very clean job of blending in different elements. There are a lot of freebies in the app, but also a lot of paid stuff. The stuff I used was all free.
I like all of the tools in the app that allow for greater control and creativity. You can resize elements, copy them, mask them, mirror/flip them, distort them, and you can even adjust the opacity.
In this image I added the sunburst and rays on the left, the white bokeh effect around the base of the palms, the hot air balloon, and the stars. It really only took a few minutes to complete the image. I have to admit it was fun to be creative again.
After playing in the desert again recently, we escaped the heat and headed to the coast. It was overcast and a little chilly in Santa Monica, which makes for dull photos. I tried to spice this one up with a number of apps, but it still doesn’t pop too much.
Shot with camera+. Edited with Snapseed at first to add saturation,contrast, and to crop. Then TouchRetouch was used to remove a distracting element. Aquarella was used for the conversion to a painterly image. Snapseed was used again to add more contrast and saturation.
While I was in the bay area this weekend, I decided to stop by the Winchester Mystery House to snap a photo for a friend. I lived in SJ for 21 years and I always end up making a few trips every year, but I’ve never been to the Winchester House. I didn’t take the tour this time because I was about to meet up with friends and it was more expensive than I expected.
This was a difficult shot to get because the lighting was so harsh. It was taken just before noon with the sun shining right into the lens. Using a regular camera app blew out the sky and lost part of the roof. In high contrast scenes you can use an HDR app to try and replicate what you see with your eyes. In this case, I used TrueHDR. I was pleasantly surprised with the result, save for the beam of light on the left.
The blended image from an HDR pretty much always needs to be edited in another app to add contrast so it looks more realistic again. I used Snapseed to do the trick. Then I decided I wanted more texture and drama in the image so I used SimplyHDR. Finally, I wanted to see what a ShockMyPic version would look like (below.)
I’m back from being on the road again. The engagement shoot was fun and effortless. The couple was awesome to work with and amazing in front of the camera. Unfortunately, I totally forgot to snap a few shots with my iPhone, so I can’t share any of those until I edit the Nikon images.
In the meantime, I found this one from Joshua Tree on my camera+ camera roll. Sometimes I totally forget about photos on that roll. I shot and edited with that app. With the lighting the way it was, I had black and white in mind from the moment I set up the shot. I was going for the same effect as this one from a while back.
Sometimes, if a photo doesn’t work, its because you need to be closer to your subject so it fills the frame. In the photo above, I was most interested in the clover at the bottom with balls of water on it. Unfortunately, I didn’t move in closer for the better shot. I don’t even know how much closer I could have gone with my iPhone. What I ended up with was a lot of extra space that doesn’t add to the image in this case.
To improve the image, I cropped very tight with Snapseed. Then, I used Tangled FX for the painterly edit.
On another note, I’ll be heading out of town again tomorrow. This time, I’m going to the bay area for an engagement session. Hopefully, I’ll remember to take some photos with the iPhone during it.
Bixby Bridge is a spot that almost everyone stops to take a picture of when they go to Big Sur. Shooting popular spots can be a challenge these days because so many people have already been there with their phone or digital camera and shared the image online. I think after we’ve all seen the same shot a number of times it gets ingrained in our brain and we end up recreating it without even realizing it.
There are also times where there are only one or two vantage points to shoot something from. How are we supposed to be creative with so few options??? Try shooting at night
This was shot with my Nikon D7000 on a tripod. I only took 3 photos because it was cold and we were tired. The first shot was very out of focus. Its a challenge to compose and focus at night, so I was very surprised to get this photo so quickly. I used plugins from Topaz and Nik to clean the image up in PS CS6.
In a funny coincidence, I have a photo featured on photobotos today. The one featured was actually shot up on top of the rock in this photo here.
This cave/arch thing is just a short drive from where I live. I didn’t even know about it until I saw another photographer post a photo of it recently. All I had to do was walk down a mountain of stairs to get to it. Maybe thats why I didn’t find it sooner.
The great thing about this beach is its at a hotel, so the crowds don’t know about it. I had the beach to myself most of the time until a couple came down to watch the sunset. I’m happy to have found another secret beach that the tourists don’t know about
This time out, I was mostly just scouting the location and observing the light at sunset. I don’t think the sun will ever rise or set through the arch, which is too bad. I’m still trying to figure out what time of day will give me the best lighting. I guess I’ll just have to do sunrise, sunset, and stormy. My guess is storm clouds will make the best scene.
Shot with ProHDR because TrueHDR was making the sky grey. Edited with Snapseed.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to take a photo with your iPhone after the sun has gone down, but it’s a challenge to get a shot like this. You absolutely have to use an HDR app that takes multiple exposures and merges them. If you try to use a regular camera app, you’ll end up with either a nicely exposed sky and a very dark foreground, or a white sky and a properly exposed foreground. Sadly, neither one is like what you were seeing in person.
For this shot, I used TrueHDR. Ideally, you’d set your phone up on a tripod for HDR, especially at this time of day. It’s very important to keep the camera as still as possible so the HDR app can merge the images more cleanly. If you click on the image to view it larger, you’ll notice the the trees in the middle of the image are slightly off, as well as the hill on the right. Luckily, its not too noticeable if you’re just sharing a smaller version with your friends. You may not have even noticed it if I hadn’t pointed it out.
I edited this one with Snapseed. The image straight from TrueHDR was very flat, meaning it needed more contrast and some pop.
After an awful hotel experience the night before in Redlands, complete with screaming children bouncing around the room next door beyond 1am, we splurged on a boutique hotel, called Tuscan Springs, that we randomly drove up to in Desert Hot Springs.
I quickly took this photo while we toured the place. We originally were just looking to pay for day use of the hot mineral water spa’s and pool, but it was so relaxing and inviting that we had to stay. Everything about this place said vacation. Each courtyard had chairs, big comfy couches, and even beds. But, I think, when we were told it was adults only (not clothing optional,) we were already sold.
This particular spa was the size of a small pool.
Shot with camera+ and edited with Snapseed
I feel like I’m rising from the grave. I had a nice getaway to southern California this weekend where it was in the 90s in Palm Springs, only to get food poisoning the night we returned home.
The point of this trip was to document the BLM’s mustang and burro adoption that was supposed to be going on. I say “supposed to” because nobody was there. This was my first time going to an adoption and seeing “wild” mustangs and burros. The burros were total sweethearts and I never would have guessed they were wild animals. One of the mustangs even let me groom it with my hand for 5-10 minutes. These poor animals all looked like they needed to be brushed.
Did you know you could adopt one of these guys for just $125? I don’t know what anyone needs a burro for, but for that price, how can you not have one?
I went for a lovely horseback ride on the beach and through some dunes last weekend. While we were cruising along the beach, having our picture taken by lots of random tourists, we saw about a dozen ducks playing in the waves. I’ve lived near the ocean for almost 8 years now and I’ve never seen ducks at the beach before.
Not only were they at the beach, but they appeared to be on dates. They were all paired up male-female like the two pictured above. It was pretty funny watching one duck follow the other around.
Taking photos from a moving horse is really hard, but I was happy enough with this one.
Shot with the default camera app and edited with Snapseed.