Having just returned from a trip, I’ve been delinquent in adding new posts to my website. Although I am working today in the photography studio at Studios on the Park in Paso Robles, California, I wanted to add a quick post with some recent images I shot at a special locale known as Chapel Hill in Shandon, California, about 15 miles east of Paso Robles off Highway 46 East, just off McMillan Canyon Road. Chapel Hill consists of a private church high on a vineyard-studded hill built by famous Shandon resident William P. Clark, Jr., former Deputy Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, and United States Secretary of the Interior. The chapel was built specifically for Clark’s daughter and is available for private ceremonies. Upon occasion, concerts and special events are held at the church.
Chapel Hill has spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and is located amongst the hills of Clark’s massive private ranch. Shandon is a small agricultural town with many vineyards, like its Paso Robles counterpart. Anyone can make the journey up the hill from the dirt parking lot below. The gate is usually open during daylight hours. Getting to the top of Chapel Hill is another matter, however, with a very steep climb. The incredible views from the top are well worth the climb with your camera equipment. There are beautiful grapevines along the path to the top.
The top image was taken just after sunset on McMillan Canyon Road just behind the chapel, and consists of HDR bracketed shots processed in Photomatix 4, Lightroom 3, Photoshop CS5, and with onOne Software’s Perfect Effects. The second image above of an abandoned and decaying farmhouse was taken further down McMillan Canyon Road. The image below shows the public access walking path up to the church facing the front, and was shot on another occasion during a thunderstorm. I overlaid a grungy texture to the image in order to give it the feeling of the approaching dark storm. I will add more images from this excursion as I process them.
Summer has truly been whizzing by this year, and it’s difficult to believe this is my first blog post for the month of July. Apologies. There have been many wonderful things happening here at Studios on the Park in Paso Robles, California, from new resident artists joining our family, to the Paso Robles Festival of the Arts, the Local Color Exhibition, the Phantom Project Art Show, tour groups from Germany and Australia, and much more. I am thrilled to announce that after many months (and years) of waiting, my new 36MP Nikon D800 digital SLR camera has finally arrived! As most of my friends know, I have put off upgrading to a DSLR with a full-frame sensor for many years, hoping Nikon would finally up the ante in terms of megapixels.
One of my photographic passions is night photography; however, using a camera with a smaller cropped sensor tends to introduce a lot of noise with longer exposures, and makes photographing star trails difficult. I have been a Nikon shooter all my life and own much great glass (lenses) from my legacy analog (film) days. But, of course, with a cropped sensor, the focal length of a lens becomes multiplied by a factor of 1.5x normal. Thus my prime wide-angle 20mm lens ends up with a 30mm field of view, a 50mm lens becomes a 75mm, and so on. Therefore, my love of wide-angle shots has been severely impacted. It’s still hard to believe that Nikon was charging $3-5K (yes, folks, that’s thousands of dollars) for a digital SLR with ‘only’ 12 MP, but that was the reality. Of course there are other factors to consider such as pixel size and noise, but I do make a lot of prints. So pixel counts and resolution matter to me. Thus my unanticipated lengthy wait for a camera that would allow me to make large prints and still use my legacy glass to shoot landscapes and architecture.
Now that this baby is finally in my hands, there is much to learn in terms of new features and camera operations. And, of course, I needed to ‘accessorize’ like all photographers must with new professional cameras. Very fast, high-capacity memory cards, a new cable release and intervalometer, an upgrade to Adobe Lightroom 4 to read my Camera RAW files, and much more has been necessary. Well, at least waiting enables you to save money. I will be taking a road trip soon to test out the Nikon D800 in all its 36MP glory, and look forward to posting on my website more often. I have always been the proverbial night owl type of person, and love the stillness and beauty of the darkness. Wrapped in the shroud of the night puts me into a meditative trance, almost like being rocked to sleep. Except I am awake and enjoying the special gifts of the darkest hours, from gorgeous stars and full moons, to abandoned structures and architecture under various sources of light. Everything looks different at night and very atmospheric.
Meanwhile, I wanted to post a couple of images taken at night here in San Luis Obispo County. The top image was taken in Morro Bay in front of an abandoned art deco building. For whatever reason, the lights inside the glass blocks still light up at night, leaving you with an eerie feeling of being watched. For those of you who are true pixel peepers, please know that the column of glass block does indeed lean slightly to the left. It’s not that I neglected to straighten the lines in Photoshop. This classic building is near the intersection of Highways 1 and 41, and makes for great photographic fodder. I processed this image to give it the look and feel of an old Holga camera. The second image was taken in San Miguel at the historic Elkhorn Bar, and at a deliberately crooked angle to make it appear that the photographer was a bit tipsy. That is why I named it “Someone Call a Cab.” If you are ever passing through San Miguel, perhaps to visit the very historic Mission San Miguel, I highly recommend stopping by the old Elkhorn for a drink. Both images are comprised of HDR bracketed shots processed in Photomatix, Lightroom, Photoshop, and with Nik and onOne Software plug-ins. Not too shabby for an older Nikon DSLR with a cropped sensor. But not enough for a very large metal print. So welcome to my new Nikon D800.
As I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite places to visit and photograph is the great state of Arizona, which is ripe with photographic pickings. Perhaps it’s because I feel deeply connected to Native American art and culture and love to visit the ancient ruins, or that I am addicted to roaming old ghost mining towns, which are plentiful throughout the state. Whatever the reason, there is simply something very alluring about this beautiful region of the Southwest, from the redrock country surrounding Sedona, to the pine-clad forests of the Mogollon Rim high country and the great deserts beyond. In recent years I took an extended trip to the Prescott region in northcentral Arizona and ended up with hundreds of Camera Raw files to process, as is typical in such scenic areas.
Although I have post-processed many images from this wonderful excursion, I have only recently gotten around to working on many others. Even though I’m working today in our photography studio at Studios on Park in Paso Robles, California, I wanted to post two more images I worked up from my ‘stormy’ visit to the Verde Valley region. For more detailed information and photographs, please see my prior posts Ruins of the Arizona Verde Valley, Storm Over Arizona’s Verde Valley and The Historic Ghost Town of Jerome.
Many people are familiar with ancient Native American ruins such as Mesa Verde in Colorado; Chaco Canyon in New Mexico; and Canyon de Chelly in northeast Arizona. However, few are aware of several wonderful ancient sites near the towns of Jerome, Clarkdale, Sedona and Camp Verde: Tuzigoot National Monument, Montezuma Castle National Monument, Montezuma Well, and Palatki Ruins. These images were two of many taken during a wet and wild thunderstorm from atop Tuzigoot National Monument, just east of the charming small town of Clarkdale, Arizona, home of the historic and highly-recommended Verde Canyon Railroad.
The Tuzigoot ruins sit proudly on a hilltop overlooking the spectacular Verde Valley in the high desert not far from the historic ghost mining town of Jerome. In the image above, you can see the town of Clarkdale in the distance as storm clouds loom overhead. I was very fortunate that a huge storm rolled in while visiting Tuzigoot, as the cloud formations and lighting that afternoon were spectacular. The views from atop the hill were simply stunning. I highly recommend visiting Arizona’s Verde Valley if you are in the Jerome or Sedona areas. All images are HDR (high dynamic range) images processed in Photomatix, Lightroom, Photoshop, and with onOne Software’s Perfect Effects.
Although I’m working today in the photography studio at Studios on the Park in Paso Robles, California, I wanted to add a post on a texture-blended image I often receive many questions about by gallery patrons. They often ask how the composite was created and the vintage look achieved. The image, Wish You Were Here, was taken at dawn at Harford Pier, Port San Luis Harbor, in Avila Beach, California, and is comprised of multiple HDR bracketed Camera Raw shots processed in Photomatix, Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. At a later time, I blended a vintage postcard texture with an angel into the pier photograph.
This process was done by utilizing Photoshop scripts created by the highly respected photographer, author, and instructor Uwe Steinmueller, Editor and Owner of Digital Outback Photo. Mr. Steinmueller has created many useful plug-ins and scripts for digital post-processing which I highly recommend. The scripts used in the above image are his DOP Texture-Blending scripts, which allow the photographer many choices in achieving the final artistic look desired. I must credit the amazingly talented Jerry Jones of Shadowhouse Creations for his huge array of outstanding textures. The postcard with the angel was sourced from Shadowhouse. I highly recommend his textures if you are interested in this technique. And don’t forget to make a donation!
I would also like to dedicate this post to my elderly father, Rudolph Besta, who is currently hospitalized after taking a fall. The morning I took this photograph, I had just driven Dad to the airport for a return visit to our hometown in the St. Louis metropolitan area, where he is now in the hospital. So this image is now all the more poignant for me. Please get well Dad. I do “wish you were here” and I love you very much.
Things have been extremely busy here at Studios on the Park in Paso Robles, with the major Paso Robles Wine Festival last weekend and the upcoming Paso Robles Festival of the Arts this Memorial Day weekend. I hope many of you can stop by the studio, as there are many wonderful events, classes, lectures, and exhibits both in the Paso Robles City Park and at Studios (located on Pine Street directly across from the park). We have special extended hours and are also open on Memorial Day. These two weekends are the biggest of the year for foot traffic through Studios, and therefore the sale of our artwork, so I have been busy post-processing more work, printing, mounting, matting, and framing. In addition, I submitted photography work for the Local Color Exhibition that will hang through July 1st in the Studios atrium gallery.
That said, we are very honored to have renowned painter Stephen Doherty from New York City attend the Festival, as well as judge the work submitted for the Local Color show. Mr. Doherty is the Editor of PleinAir Magazine and will also be lecturing. He will announce the awards for the Local Color show at a special Premiere Party and Keynote address tomorrow night, so we are very excited. The Paso Robles Festival of the Arts was born of a need to raise awareness of the Salinas River Corridor Project at the same time that Studios on the Park was preparing to open its doors to the public for the first time in May 2009. After the resounding success of the inaugural Festival, its mission was written to reflect the intention to continue to support the arts and the environment in Paso Robles. A portion of proceeds raised through the Festival go to support the Salinas River Corridor Project and Studios on the Park.
I am pleased to announce that one of my photographs printed on aluminum, Moon Over Piedras Blancas Bluffs, was accepted into the Local Color exhibition (see the first image at the top). The competition was stiff, with much great artwork submitted. Only about one in five pieces made the final cut. This image was taken at twilight north of San Simeon near the historic Piedras Blancas Lightstation, just along the coastal bluffs. The moon was gorgeous that night, which so happened to be my birthday. What a great gift it was to be presented with the opportunity to take this photograph. I also submitted a canvas gallery wrap print of the image above, Path to Grace, which was taken on William Clark’s Ranch at a place called Chapel Hill in Shandon, California. This image was not accepted into the show, but I love it anyway. It is an HDR texture-blended image taken just prior to a thunderstorm.
Moon Over Piedras Blancas Bluffs is also an HDR photograph, which means it is a composite of multiple exposures of the same scene taken at different shutter speeds with the camera mounted on a tripod, then blended together using special software so that both the highlights and shadow areas can be seen in great detail. For more information on HDR photography and fine art printing, please see the links on the top right of the sidebar to the three tutorials I wrote for Breathing Color’s Art of Printmaking blog.
I have also been experimenting with some of my classic color HDR images, converting them to black and white. The image above shows an abandoned vintage Chevy truck I photographed along old Route 66 in the Arizona desert, one of my favorite places to shoot. Apologies I have not posted more blogs this month, but all the activities have kept me busy. I recently photographed an abandoned mercury mine and will be doing a post with those images when the festivals are over. Hope to see some of you over the weekend here in Paso. And don’t forget that the Phantom Project Art show is still up at the vacant A&R furniture building just across the street from Studios. I also have two pieces in that show – one of an abandoned sugar mill, and one of a minus tide at sunset in Shell Beach.