Thursday, December 8, 2016

HDR Photography....A Few Thoughts

Pillar Point Harbor, California!
High Dynamic Range HDR photography uses multiple exposures at a wider range F stop to extract more information from a photo scene!  This is not a new technique some early examples are evident around 1850 by Gustave  Le Gray who combined two B&W images to capture detail in a sky and sea image! 
Today there are HDR stand alone programs, HDR filters for Photoshop plus many cameras now process and generate HDR within the camera. I use a stand alone program called Photomatrix which I'm pleased with. Once you get certain parameters set, it delivers good results.

Here is my rudimentary understanding of HDR and why I find it useful under certain circumstances! Our eyes take in a lot of photographic information, more so than a camera. To relate HDR and our eyes you can equate F stops in a camera. If you consider the human eye is equivalent to about 24 F stops, whereas an ordinary digital camera maybe 10-14 F stops, some think 5-9 F stops is more realistic. So it makes sense if you can shoot multiple photos with a range of exposures say +1, 0, -1 you have more data or information that can be combined into 1 photo!

HDR is not without criticism as some people tend to over process their photos that results in unnatural elements in the photo. It should be noted that HDR does not add or subtract anything from a photo, everything contained in the photo was present at the scene and time of the shot! Any out door scene has continually changing light dependent on the earths rotation, the sun and cloud position! A photo taken at 3 pm will be different than the same photo shot at 3:05 pm as lighting is constantly changing for the reasons given above! Most photographers post process their work, whether a simple crop or adjustments of color and lighting.

I've done a lot of backpacking in the past and always carried a decent camera and lens. However I was usually disappointed at the final results, because the camera was not capturing correctly all the information present with one shot. Not being a professional photographer I was unaware of multiple shots and dark room skills. One of my first experiences with HDR happened on a trip to Sierra Valley in California when a thunder storm appeared and presented wonderful lighting and dramatic clouds!
I was very pleased with the results but when I showed my wife the photo, she said it did not look real. I then showed the photo to one of my friends who was on the trip with me and experienced the same scene, he immediately said that's exactly how I remember the scene!

Another aspect of HDR I'm experimenting with is taking photos directly into the sun! All photographers know taking photos directly into the sun is a bad practice and results in poor back-lit photographs. I've found you can take photos directly into the sun as the group of photos show below. The sun is just above the top frame of the photos, I cropped to make sure the sun itself was not in the photo.  The one major drawback is this technique generates lots of digital noise and extreme noise reduction post processing is necesary.

HDR Example Shooting directly into Sun

HDR 1of 3 0 Exposure Adjust

HDR 2of 3 -1 Exposure Adjust

HDR 3of 3 +1 Exposure Adjust

HDR Final Version

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Pacifica Explorations

View From Mussel Rock
Pacifica is a very unique and cool little city just sitting south of it's big sister San Francisco! It's not your typical suburban town with uncontrolled sprawl endless malls and no personality! It's a treasure for wildlife, including birds, and it's a whale magnet!

Some of my favorite spots to visit are Mussel Rock, Esplanade Avenue, Mori Point, Linda Mar, Rockaway Beach, Pacifica Pier and all of the rugged spectacular coast line. Pacifica is totally bordered by the ocean along it's entire western side. Most of the land hugging the coast is crumbling sandstone cliffs in a constant state of retreat.

Pacifica Pier
Pacifica is world famous for dramatic landslides, massive surf and destructive waves.  Pacifica Pier is the big attraction when the big swells move in. When the wave action fueled by storms, high tide and King Tides, one wonders how long the pier and the facing houses will last before they are scooped up by the ocean!

A group of large apartments located on Esplanade Street in Pacifica has made national news this year and in the past due to erosion threatening the entire buildings. The apartment complex was constructed sometime before 1972 and the land in front of the buildings has been retreating steadily over the years. In 2010 2 Esplanade buildings were red-tagged and the tenants evacuated. Recently 3/16/16 a 3rd building was yellow-tagged and the tenants ordered out. At the same time the two buildings condemned in 2010 were demolished by the city of Pacifica.

Massive Waves Crash Beach Homes
The most visual and exciting place to see high surf in action is right down at the Pacifica Pier located on Beach Boulevard in Pacifica California!  The pier has been famous for years as many people flock to it during high surf conditions and it often makes the evening news with
Fog Edge at Lina Mar
spectacular waves. This year has been one of the more spectacular for wave action and destruction. Beach Boulevard and the adjacent houses have been pounded and damaged this year and the future of Pacifica Pier is in question.  A little further south is the Rockaway Beach area, another pocket type beach with spectacular surf and potential for major damage and erosion.

There is still more exploring I intend to do in the more remote and rugged terrain, I've been somewhat limited by some chronic physical conditions such as Peripheral Neuropathy which in my case is foot numbness and resultant balance problems. I've decided to put my old mountain bike back in action to give me more mobility and hopefully no accidents this time around.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Warning From History Israel Election 1996

Right wing hate speech and Hamas terror attacks, turned a 20 point lead by Shimon Perez over Benjamin Netanyahu into a last minute victory for Netanyahu!

Here is a recap of the events leading up to that election:

1993:     Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signed the Oslo Accords signed by Prime Minister Yitzahak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.  Rabin, despite his extensive service in the Israeli military, was disparaged personally by right-wing conservatives and Likud leaders who perceived the Oslo peace process as an attempt to forfeit the occupied territories
November 4, 1995 Minister Yitzahak Rabin was assassinated by an ultra nationalist radically opposed to Rabin’s peace initiative and the Oslo Accords.  Netanyahu was the head of the right-wing Likud party and leader of the parliamentary opposition in 1995. In a film by Amos Gitai “Rabin, the Last Day”, we see Netanyahu speaking at rallies where his supporters held up posters calling for the deaths of Rabin, Peres and Arafat and the extermination or expulsion of all Arabs on Israeli-held land. He surely saw the homemade images of Rabin in a keffiyeh, or Palestinian-style headscarf, and the other images, the ones depicting Rabin wearing an SS officer’s uniform. He saw people staging a mock funeral for Rabin, carrying a coffin through the streets. He saw all those things and said nothing about any of them. Indeed, he embraced that situation as a political opportunity.

1996: After Rabin’s assassination Netanyahu’s popularity plummeted as he was seen by many Israelis as being at least partially responsible thru his hate rhetoric. Shimon Perez the Israeli Prime Minister called for early elections and was ahead of Netanyahu by 20 points early in the election cycle. 

However, the country was hit by a spate of suicide attacks by Hamas including the Jerusalem bus 18 massacres and other attacks in Ashkelon and the Dizengoff Center, which killed 59 people, severely damaged Peres' election chances. Polls taken in mid-May showed Peres ahead by just 4-6%, whilst two days before the election his lead was down to 2%. On election day Netanyahu won by 1%.

For people who feel comforted by Trumps drop in the polls, be aware of past history; let’s hope it is not repeated! Remember a few days ago there was near panic at the NY airport caused by people making lots of noise celebrating Usain Bolt’s Olympic achievements. Fear makes people irrational! 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Harmony Ridge Music

Music being one of my passions I started an on-line music business in about 1995 at the very beginning of the World Wide Web (WWW) called Harmony Ridge Music (HRM) Harmony Ridge Music Archive. I was discovering some wonderful music back then and enjoyed sharing it with family, friends and acquaintances. In particular I was intrigued by women artists especially female singer songwriters. At that time before a lot of exposure on the internet I noticed many of these talented artist were virtually unknown or had a small cult following. In starting HRM I intended to gather as much information on artist and present a complete expose on their music and life. In the early days I did a complete discography and biography on each artist including many longish sound clips. I dedicated the site to female artist and and was a pioneer in promoting independent artists thru the internet.
Danielle Dax
Danielle Dax from the UK was in particularly fascinating to me and she had a large cult following world wide, but still was virtually unknown. I was able to contact Danielle's manager in England and worked out an agreement to sell her music and other items thru HRM. Soon I had an extensive layout on Danielle including all her music for sale thru the site. At that time and for many years HRM was the Danielle Dax site and the orders started to roll in. Following after Danielle was Tanita Tikaram also from England, Joan Armatrading, Sheila Chandra, Happy Rhodes, Ani Difranco, Iris Dement, Nancy Griffith, Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams and Dar Williams. In the end I had over 500 artist listed including an extensive World Artists array from Ofra Haza and Chava Alberstein (Israel), Haris Alexiou (Greece), Kari Bremnes (Norway), Lila Downs (Mexico) and  Aziza Mustafa Zadeh(Azerbaijan) to name a few of the many. Harmony Ridge Music was a pioneer and set the bench mark for how independent artists were presented on the WWW.
Iris Dement 1994
Fat Fry Santa Cruz, CA
The business thrived fairly well in the early days on a very low budget and grew modestly for about 5 years. In the early 2000's the first crack in the armor started to become apparent and that was the emergence of Amazon and downloaded music. Frankly this blindsided me as my love was for the music and not technology. I had no interest in bogging myself deeper into web programming and I did not have the resources to hire my way out of it. As these new technologies changed the music industry many of my business partners bit the dust and Harmony Ridge Music faded into history.
When I look back on this time, I realize I probably let a golden opportunity slip thru my fingers, the mistake I made was not asking for or seeking help. Although I do have some regrets, I'm so thankful I did this because the benefits were wonderful, fantastic music, attended many performances and met great people and artist. Although it was not the success I expected, I cant imagine the regret I would have if I had not tried it!    

  Here are some personal photos of a few artists I was able to photograph in concert:
Alison Krauss 2001
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Ani Difranco
1995 High Sierra
Music Festival

Hazel Dickens
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Michelle Shocked
Bear Valley

Victoria Williams
Bear Valley

Gillian Welsh
Strawberry Festival

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

San Francisco's Fog Back For Now

Fog Rolls into Pillar Point Harbor
We are now into the 5th year of drought for the Central California coast from Monterey to Point Reyes. Climate change and drought have significantly changed the normal weather patterns that have be entrenched in our area for as long as records have been kept. Last year in July ocean temperatures soared to near record highs in the entire Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuaries hovering around 64F for many months. This resulted in higher humidity, reduced fog and increased temperatures throughout the bay area and in particular the coastal areas. The predicted monster El Niño helped but did not make a significant dent in the drought at least not in central California!

Buoy 46012 San Francisco
Water Temp July 2016 55F
Water Temp July 2015 63F
     So far May, June, July and into August the water temperatures are cool and the normal SF Bay fog pattern has returned to normal. Recently there was a typical summer heat wave in the Bay Area which created a near 47F temperature differential, temperatures in Livermore 105F temperatures in Moss Beach 58F. Pretty amazing when you consider Moss Beach and Livermore are only about 30 miles apart!

Cooler water, up-welling and other global mechanisms have conspired to attract wildlife especially humpback whales in great numbers along the coast. In the last several days, I spotted humpbacks ~3 from Mussel Rock, about 3 more at Linda Mar and about 7 from Devils Slide in Pacifica. On almost any day, whales can be spotted along the coast lunge feeding and frolicking to the delight of spectators but to the dismay of the local sheriff trying to keep traffic from blocking and clogging the roads!

Humpbacks Lunge Feeding
Near Surfers Beach

From Devils Slide
Not seen this Behavior Before

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Images of Devils Slide

Power Spot
Devils Slide Comes Alive with
Clouds and Fog
Devils Slide is a stretch of rugged coastal terrain about 10 miles north of Half Moon Bay and about 10 miles south of San Francisco. It's a highly unstable formation with many slides and transportation disruptions. Sometime after 1906 the Ocean Shore Railroad was completed from San Francisco to El Granada. The railroad operated at a loss but major slides along Devils Slide sealed the doom of the railroad and in 1921 operations ceased. Highway #1 replaced the railroad but it as well was plagued by frequent land slides that closed the road for months at a time. Finally a new modern tunnel was completed in 2013 and it solved the major slide problems for now!

The old section of highway #1 that was bypassed by the tunnel is now a part featuring the 1.3 mile trail called Devils Slide Trail.

Fog and Clouds Collide at Devils Slide
Devils Slide is about 3 miles from my house and I visit frequently especially when there are interesting cloud, fog and storms that attract my photographic interest. However there are many attractions for lovers of wildlife and nature to satisfy ones sense of adventure and wonder! For example bird lovers will enjoy the Peregrine Falcon pair that reside on the highest part of the promontory, or nesting Common Murres, Cormorants, Surf Scoters, Shearwaters, terns, gulls, pelicans, hawks and other birds.

Sometimes whales can be spotted feeding and traveling close by on their migration. Humpbacks, Grey Whales, and Blue Whales, plus Bottle-nose Dolphins are some commonly sighted.

Clouds, Mountains, Flowers and Ocean
If you want to get you eye knocked out
If you want to get your fill
If you want to get your head cut off
Just go to bunker hill
When a physical place calls to you, quiets your mind, and stops the world, some times is called a Power Spot - a physical location which brings an individual into balance with the earth, the non-local web of all information, and with herself. A location which enables us to focus or meditate, where we are in our most impeccable balance. Don't know where this definition comes from but loosely it can be contributed to Carlos Castaneda! A lot of my photographs comes from such a spot, which is actually a turnout off of highway #1. Bunker Hill, part of the Devils Slide promontory features an old WWII military bunker and is called Bunker Hill.  A funny and unexplained situation along highway #1 is many of the turn outs and pull-offs are off-limits, especially Bunker Hill,  to motorist and well as hikers, and the San Mateo's  Sheriffs do patrol and chase people from these spots. Why they are so concerned with this is beyond my comprehension but I've had cops several times give me the circling finger to move on....which I do! 


Saturday, April 23, 2016

It's a Beautiful Day; Climate Change Has Arrived!

Figure 1.
Winter temperatures in coastal Southern California have been
far above any other year in living memory prior to 2014.
As the cool coastal fog and Mediterranean climate fade into distant memories it's very disturbing to hear the most ubiquitous phrase uttered by unaware people whenever the sun makes an appearance "What a Beautiful Day"! Such beautiful days are usually accompanied by dirty air, unnatural heat, high humidity, spare the air days, and cars-full of people spewing CO2 in a frantic effort to seek some relief from the heat (at their Peninsula homes) by traveling to the coast!  In the past heat waves inland usually generated wonderful fog banks on the coast that served as a deterrent to large crowds seeking sun by traveling to the coast. This has all changed Climate Change has arrived and the population at Half Moon Bay and surrounding areas are getting a first hand experience of how Climate Change is adversely affecting their very way and quality of life. Increased traffic is just the beginning, consider the warming ocean, with many warm water species, birds, fish and turtles appearing in cooler northern latitudes, many species are seeing a diminished food supply as sardines and anchovies to name a couple are getting re-distributed and species that depend on this food supply are dying in droves, California Seal Lions and Common Murres come to mind! Sea levels are rising and the surf is pounding the coast causing much damage and emergency repairs, Surfers Beach, Miramar, and Pacifica are being particularly hard hit. Reduced fog on the coast will adversely effect the remaining redwood trees as their moisture comes from the fog.

Figure 2
If you take the pulse of local people thru conversations and web sites such as Nextdoor the prevalent concern is increased traffic on the coast.  People speculate, oh it's the tunnel or we need roundabouts, more traffic lights, more lanes, more roads, but Climate Change, you must be kidding? As a long term coastal resident, there is no question Climate Change is adversely affecting our traffic and has been for several years. In the past warm clear weather brings people in droves driving highway 92 from the hot peninsula to the coast to seek relief from the heat and enjoy beautiful days in cool comfort. This is especially true in the summer on weekend days. We have been in a drought now for 4 years and even after finally getting average rain this year the drought persist and and the temperatures climb. In the past coastal residents got breaks from the gridlock traffic thanks to large beautiful fog banks that would envelop the coast for days on end in summer and winter. In winter time rains would dampen the the desires of visitors to clog our streets. That's gone, our wonderful cool Mediterranean climate has changed, and the once cool coast is heating up in disturbing fashion!  The chart below (figure 1) by NOAA shows the average coastal temperatures from January-March for coastal Southern California from 1900 to present day.   Winter temperatures in coastal Southern California have been far above any other year in living memory prior to 2014. Figure 2 shows the mean temperatures for February thru March 2016 and the deviation from the 1981-2010 normal distribution. Consider this it took a strong El Niño to produce just average rain, the next El Niño may be 18 years away, a long time to wait for drought relief!

Meanwhile climate deniers sit at their computers, google scientific nonsense and spin it to fit their uninformed beliefs. I have a suggestion for such folks, get acquainted with your very own habitat, peek outside, take a walk, look at the trees and clouds, they have a message for you, our planet is stressed, mankind is exploiting and raping it's very own support system, the planet will survive, mankind, it's doubtful!