Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bring on the holidays

That time of the year once again getting near! The days are shorter, the temperatures are dropping and the end of the year deals are just around the corner! Ohhh and of course it couldn't possible be the holiday season without... Decorated coffee cups!!!

Holidays time

The cups and the seasonal flavors have been available since November the 2nd and I'm late in blogging about this mostly because I haven't had the need for a nice coffee fix until I decided to start taking sunrise pictures again =).. and somehow, in my caffeinated-sleep deprived state I looked at the cups and they seemed to be very appealing and just inviting me to take a pic and share it with the world =)

The harvest of the sunrise session? Well, I think it went very well considering I had a small window of time for shooting: 2 hrs travel time for aprox 30 mins of shooting (I had to travel 1 hr each way and afterwards I had to run to the office so) but I had a great time and at the end of the day, that's what matters.

My favorite pic of the day? A closeup I took at a shell with my macro lens. It's the first time I use my macro in the field (not to mention the first time I decided to change lenses right there on the beach). I usually find myself trying to take in the big picture with either wide angle or some far detail with a telephoto but... this opened a new world to me =)

Captiva-ting shells

So now I know that, while it's important to think in the big picture and being able to look far into the horizon... it can be just as good to pay attention to the little details that are around you =)

'Till next time,

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Water flow

Since last week, we've been experiencing water pressure issues on my apartment complex. They told us it was an issue with one of the pipes, but that it should be fixed soon. On Wednesday, we got a notice that they would be cutting the water entirely for a few hours to fix the issue and then it should be back to normal.

On Thursday I happend to wander a bit while checking the mail, and I thought to look down from the second level of the parking lot, and this is what I found:

Obviously, when I got home Thursday, there was a notice that the water would be out on Friday too to fix the issue.

I haven't had a chance to go see if the leak has been fixed, or if the ground has been covered back to normal. All I know is that, right now, water pressure is back to normal and I have water so... anything else is just.. petty details... although, I took the chance to snap some pics from the site and the gear the plumbers left behind =)

It's nice to know I can still have interesting pic opportunities... even from home.

'Till next time,

Thursday, October 28, 2010


The long days of summer are long gone, and with Daylight Savings Time ending soon, my chances for taking any more Florida sunsets are close to null. I shouldn't complaint, I had a great run. I started back in the Spring (March 23) walking to a little artificial lake near my hotel... and I got there late! I got out of the hotel just when the sun was starting to set, so by the time I got to my location the sun was gone but I took some twilight pics.

The photos themselves were nothing out of the ordinary, but it was an important milestone for me because on working up the resolve to get off my derrière and out to take some shots, it opened the door to many more photo-excursions over the next eight months. From that day, I tried to go out every time I had a chance to take some pics, near the hotel at first, later trying to convince whoever was driving to go further out into the beaches and piers nearby after work until I got to the point where I would go out by myself if needed with a more structured plan (having more experience at my side and some pretty nifty tools like google earth and TPE) to be precisely when and where I wanted to go shoot.

I’d like to think that after 8 months, I’ve grown as a photographer. I think I learned to deal with the lightning of sunsets, and I’ve learned to make more interesting compositions than just shooting 20 pics of the setting sun centered in all my photos. I’ve also learned important lessons regarding planning, gear selection, making it on time and learning to deal with the weather and other unexpected factors. And like most lessons in life, I learned most by messing up... but I think the good thing is at least I learned.

Selecting one favorite photo out of thousands shot over this past months wasn’t easy... and that’s why I picked two hehehe. Well, I picked two because my favorite pic is an HDR shot and I think that might make a difference so I picked one with just basic post processing as well:

I think I’ve definitively improved since I started... but that doesn’t mean these pics are “perfect shots” either. I’m well aware that it’s an improvement but I have still much to learn and nothing would make me happier than to be able to do another post in X months where I can compare these photos with some current ones and be able to say once again “I think these are definitively an improvement from last time”

Is this the end of my Florida sunset pics? Well... only time will tell. For the immediate future it’ll be, there’ll be not enough time to go out to shoot now. But they say that “where a door closes, a window opens” and that’s exactly what I think will happen. With the change in daylight savings time I’ll have time to brush up on my nighttime photography (well, I’ve already started that) and I might even have enough time to go shoot sunrises again for a couple weeks so it’ll be a time of changes and I only hope I can keep learning some more.

So, stay tuned... with a little luck I might crack the formula to time travel or time dilatation fields... I might learn to function with even less sleep than my average 5 hours... or I’ll just try to squeeze every second of the day I’m not working or asleep (like typing in an really awkward position in an Embraer RJ145 jet while flying home from Florida) to try and post more frequently.

Till next time, ZERO.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pictures... soooo many pictures

OK, so this doesn't necessarily needs to be a bad thing but... I kinda filled the hard drive on my computer with the photos of the last sunrise I took (with intention of making a stop-motion movie... it's not THE nicest sunrise I had but... I think the wind and the clouds really helped... here's a sneak peak:

Therefore pretty much all my efforts are concentrated in cleaning up my photo collection before shooting and posting more (which hope will be soon, or I might go out and shoot and then I'll really get in trouble when it's time to post-process).

As a reference, I decided to use the bucket system, featured at the Digital Photography School (a very good site to have in your bookmarks or RSS feed if you don't have it already) so it might not be to surprising that I might be reviewing some old pics and featuring them here in a future post (if I'm not to busy with more current pics). Also... I should consider rethinking the whole process I use to work with my photos after taking them (my workflow)... I'm guessing my process of "keep every single photo, even those that are out of focus or those that you will easily forget you took" might not be so ideal.....

'Till next time,

Monday, September 13, 2010

The right gear at the right time

I just spent Labor day weekend in Southwest Florida and had a chance to visit some of the beautiful beaches that the area has to offer. I was particularly captivated by Turner Beach in Captiva Island, a nice beach for shelling and fishing... and taking pics.

Most of the beaches in the area are nice and give a great chance to admire the sun setting, but after visiting and shooting many sunsets I’ve came to realize that I need more foreground elements in my pics to really make them stand out. There are a couple of beaches with piers and vegetation that help compose an image, but I think my favorite by far is the rock jetty at Turner Beach in Captiva Island. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most inaccessible for me to visit when I come to the area on business; particularly now that the summer is almost over and the day’s keep getting shorter.

At the tip of the reef... there's a fisherman in the splash zone

Captiva is about an hour an a half drive from the office, which means that in order to catch a sunset in Captiva now (at the time of writing, the sun sets around 7:30 pm) I would need to exit the office around 5:30 pm, drive straight to Captiva without stoping for dinner and hope that the weather is nice. Considering most times I’m sharing a ride with another co-worker that is not interested in skipping dinner just to catch the sun setting, it pretty much makes it impossible to get there in time.

But this time, I had the chance to go with a little more time during daylight just to realize that I didn’t planned it right at all. I arrived during the heavy heat and sun time of 1:00 pm hoping to shoot all day until sundown. Big mistake. The heat and the sun were harsh... not as bad as Houston though, and the fact that I could get my feet on the ocean helped. But then, I decided to go to the rock jetty... first wearing sandals... wet sandals... wet slippery sandals. Let’s just say it wasn’t my brightest moment. I almost slipped and crashed into the rocks (along with my camera!!) but fortunately managed to recover my balance and I was able to calmly go back to drop of the sandals... but I wanted to go to the tip of the jetty... so I manned up and took the task barefoot.

Barefoot there was virtually no slipping with the rocks, but there were occasional rocks that had been eroded into sharp shapes witch made it hard to put your weight on and there were also some rocks that, somehow, where hotter due to the sun than others. Still, I was having a blast... I stepped a few rocks, and I shoot some pics... in burst mode because the waves were crashing and I wanted to catch the water splashing... the rock jetty couldn’t have been more than a fifty feet long, but it took me almost 40 minutes to get to the tip where the waves were crashing and a guy was fishing... and just then, when a series of big waves were crashing against the rocks producing some great looking splashes it happened... my camera wouldn’t shoot anymore... I’ve filled my memory card and, in my confidence in myself, I’d left the camera bag (along with my memory cards) safely back on the beach.

That's all the way I had to go... barefoot

So... wrapping up the story... I head back to the beach, replace my memory card and went all the way back to the tip of the jetty (this time it only took me about 3 minutes since I didn’t stopped to take pics at every rock) but the waves were calmer then... and it was time for me to leave... so I just shot a couple of snapshots and... head back.

The lesson here? I lost a lot of time (and caused myself a lot of unnecessary pain and annoyance) because I didn’t planned it right. I already knew Captiva from before... I knew about the rock jetty... I knew that you should always keep an eye on how many pics you got left... I knew the time I wanted to shoot at Captiva was at sundown... and yet, at that time... I completely blanked.

Fortunately... you can always learn from your mistakes (isn’t that the whole point of making them?). Two days after that, I planned a second trip to Captiva. This time it was timed to arrive there about 30 minutes before the sunset, I was wearing sneakers, I got my tripod with me and a fresh memory card and a backup with me. Also, Izildur tagged along for the ride and I think I got better results:

Sunset on the jetty

In the end, I think I enjoyed both experiences. I learned from both and they were fun, but I do believe I got better pics the second day; but don’t take my word for it! Here are the links to the sets of the First and Second day, so you can be the judge.

So anyone reading this post has a similar story or tip on being prepared? Please, share in the comments.

‘Till next time,


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Keep and open mind

Lately I’ve been not so lucky with the weather when I have a chance to go out to take some pics. At first, it didn’t stopped me. Taking pics surrounded by thunderstorm clouds in the middle of the beach with my tripod seemed like a great idea as long as water wouldn’t touch my camera (as seen below):

Then I somehow started getting lectures from friends and family saying that it was extremely dangerous to be outside during a thunderstorm and I should stop it so, naturally, I didn't believed them and I conducted my own online search to prove them that it was ok. But I was wrong.

Turns out there’s a lot of things to consider with thunderstorms (like the fact that a lightning can even strike you if there are blue skies over you), I've added a few links at the end of this post in case you're interested in thunderstorms; but the point is... I decided to try and keep it down on going out while the thunderstorms surround me. So, what is a guy to do when the weather doesn’t like to cooperate but it’s shutter finger is itching for some action? Well, you find something else to shoot.

Here’s a pic I took last time I found myself stranded in the hotel because it was raining cats and dogs outside:


I originally set my mind to go out and shoot the rain (somehow) from within an area of the hotel that would allow me to shoot the outside while remaining dry and safe (relatively) but said area was nowhere to be found. While looking for it though, I went to the stairs in the 4th (and last) floor of the hotel and while looking down I said “Hey, this would make a nice pic” so... went for it.

It was a change for me because, well, I mostly shoot outdoors and the lightning in the stairs was a little faint. I had to increase my ISO speed to 800 and shoot with burst mode to get a decent picture but I think it was worth it.

After that, I opened my mind to the idea of “Hey, maybe there are more things in the hotel I could take a shoot at” so I spent the rest of the evening inside and I had actually a nice time and a couple of interesting pics. Here’s a link to the flick set for the rest of the day: Bored in the hotel - Set

The moral of the story? Keep your eyes and your mind open, there are great things to be shot that we usually ignore or just take for granted. Take the chance to shoot something that might seem common, and maybe try an unusual way to shoot at it or from a different angle and you might end up with a nice shot and a story of how you got there ;)

Further reading on thunderstorms and precautions you should take:

‘Till next time.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A new adventure begins

 Izildur here reporting :)

It's always nice to start a new adventure, wether it's reading a book, playing a new video game or starting an exercise routine, investing your time in something you like is a great thing, at least that's what everybody says.
This time it was time to start something in the amazing world of Photography.  Like Zero I've always liked to take pictures but never tried anything out of the ordinary; of course if I was taking pictures of my family I tried to keep everyone inside the frame, avoid mutilating limbs or heads and keep the camera steady to avoid blurry photos, and that was as far as I would go. Sometimes the situation allowed for good pictures depending on the lighting and how well the Auto Mode selected the proper settings, Auto Mode was my good friend  it helped me get through tough times hehehe except for low light situations where the flash comes off and it usually produces some nasty results.

It turns out that in 2003 we lost our camera from that time during a trip to San Francisco (I don't remember the brand but it was an Advantix System), we went to have some very good Thai food downtown but when it was time to leave we left the tip and our camera there.. duh! I suffered the loss of that camera, not only because of the price but because before that I always used small 110mm consumer low end cameras that produced ok results.. sometimes :P
To make up for that lose we went digital and decided to invest some money on a nice camera that would also allow us to go a little beyond consumer grade cameras but not all the way to amateur or pro SLR so we found a nice deal on a camera released by Canon a year before on the "pro-sumer" level..   the Powershot G3.
At that time we thought we could take some photography lessons and learn a little more now that we had a 'better' camera and so we started taking pictures, lots of pictures using our good friend the Auto Mode; time went by and we never pursued the Photography lessons, we used this camera as anyone would use a regular point and shoot ( what a waste).

Fast forward to recent times.. 7 years later I find myself traveling constantly to Florida on business with a group of consultants and then my friend Zero joins the group and starts bringing his camera along; we accompanied with him a few times to the beach to take pictures and during those trips we had a few conversations about Photography where I asked about some basic concepts I remember reading in my camera's manual but never understood (exposure, shutter speed, aperture, etc..). So after finding my camera again (I guess I can write about that story later on) I found myself also taking it with me to FL and taking pictures on the beach targeting everything that moved.. well not exactly everything.

In at the end it was really Zero who helped me remember my interest in photography and he also helped me understand all those questions I had back in way back in 2003 when I was a proud owner of a brand new G3 with no idea of how to use it whatsoever.
I guess the phrase 'better late than never' fits well in this story, and so here we are  writing a blog about our Photographic adventures, trying to capture what we learn and what might work or not for us, in essence dreaming up about Photography.

Oh btw feel free to make comments about what you see here, honest and constructive criticism is a great tool to learn.

'till next time!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

First post


This is my first post in my first blog. I've always respected bloggers, and I've admired from afar the people that put their time to try to share their experiences with the world but I never thought I would be one... actually, I still have my doubts.

The idea of committing time to a blog it's still weird to me. I barely have time for anything. For so many years now I've always lost... I mean, invested =) all my mornings in either school or work (sometimes both) and after it's been an array of passive activities like watching TV, surfing the web or playing video games... until recently. Now I've got a new hobby to fill in the blanks between work and sleep time: Digital Photography.

I've always liked taking pictures... never did take it too seriously though... and it was mostly something I did while on vacation or just for important occasions. About a year ago I got a DSLR as a present... along with a suggestion from my family to try to do something more fulfilling with my afternoons than finding new ways to sit on the couch or memorizing all the dialogs from the same TV re-runs I kept watching so... I went for it and here I am; a year later, thinking I can squeeze in more time in my afternoons to also try to post in a blog to share some of the "interesting stories" that have come up from the photo excursions I've done.

This blog is not only about me. It's actually the idea of my good friend Izildur (obviously, not a real name) who was the one that talked me into thinking I could find enough time to post photo-stories online... only time will tell if he was right... this might be my only post for months or might be the beginning of a new addiction that will keep me wishing for 34 hr days so I can get more than 4 hours of sleep daily so... here goes nothing.

'till next time there's nothing on TV (or I've got a memorable photo-story and time to post it).