Living on the gorgeous California Central Coast brings many blessings, especially for wine lovers who are fortunate enough to reside in the North County area. In recent years Paso Robles and the so-called Templeton Gap region have become renowned for their abundance, variety, and quality of superb wines. The area is a haven for budding and experienced winemakers alike from all over the world, amply demonstrated by the numerous award-winning wines produced. This winter has brought us some much-needed rain along with several severe storms – a photographer’s delight.
During an excursion along rural Highway 46 West in Paso Robles, I waited for a storm to clear over some vineyards near Peachy Canyon. The late afternoon cloud formations were stunning, and formed a large thick swath of dark puffy clouds over the grapevines. This image is an HDR photograph generated by combining multiple RAW files taken at different shutter speeds, then merged and tonemapped in Photomatix software. The composite image was further processed in Lightroom 4 and onOne Software’s Perfect Effects, a favorite of mine. Hope you enjoy viewing the image as much as I did experiencing the scene.
Just a quick post this evening of an image taken with my new Nikon D800 during a private nighttime photo shoot of historic Chapel Hill in Shandon, California, with fellow photographer Kevin L. Cole and his wife Anne. Kevin is an expert night photographer who was gracious enough to assist me in my first attempt at shooting stars and star trails. Until my recent purchase of a high-end DSLR with a full-frame sensor, I did not have the capability to capture night shots of the stars due to noise issues and sensor overheating. To say this wonderful camera is an upgrade to my older Nikon with a cropped sensor is an understatement. With a full-frame sensor and 36MP to work with, it is a joy and I look forward to making very large prints for my studio.
This image is a single Camera RAW shot taken at ISO 200 with a 24mm lens at f4 with an exposure time of 150 seconds. There are both star points and star trails visible in the photograph. A bit of light painting was used on the chapel due to the foreground darkness. However, there was a waxing crescent moon directly behind us, which helped light the chapel until it turned orange and set over the surrounding hills. The image was processed in Lightroom 4, Photoshop CS5 (I don’t have CS6 yet), and with onOne Software’s Perfect Effects 6.1.
For more information on Chapel Hill, see my prior post Chapel Hill. I am currently working on the timed sequence of shots I took using an intervalometer to capture circular star trails, which will require running a stacking script in Photoshop. I will post more images as I process them. We aimed our cameras at Polaris in order to render circular star trails. A compass is essential when planning these excursions, as well as the wonderful app TPE – The Photographer’s Ephemeris. Check the iTunes app store to purchase this indispensable utility.
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.
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.
Although I am preparing new work today to hang in our photography studio at Studios on the Park in downtown Paso Robles, I wanted to post an image taken on a Sunday drive in the beautiful West Paso Robles wine country. Like many people, I appreciate the plethora of fabulous wineries this area has to offer. But as a photographer, I am most drawn to the stunning views along Paso’s backroads. If you are visiting the area, I highly recommend exploring Adelaida and Peachy Canyon Roads and Vineyard Drive on the west side. The vistas are simply spectacular.
As I was driving along I noticed a lovely stand of oak trees in an open field, so I pulled over to take some shots. This oak tree was very majestic and quite likely very old. The image is comprised of three HDR bracketed shots processed in Photomatix 4, Lightroom 3, Photoshop CS5, and with Nik Software. I named it Field of Dreams. Hope you enjoy it. I will post more images as I have time and work them up.