Saturday, September 18, 2004

Baker Beach Photo Shoot

Those of you who know me are aware that I'm into photography as a hobby. This past week, I waited anxiously for the arrival of some new Cokin neutral density filters to arrive by UPS. They showed up yesterday, and I immediately packed up my gear for an expedition to Baker Beach in San Francisco for a shoot I've long wanted to do of the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset.

I called my friend Linda, who'd expressed interest in coming along, and told her I'd pick her up after work if she was still interested. She was all for it, so as soon as my work day ended, I headed straight toward the city, picking her up from where she works along the way.

We still had plenty of time before 'magic hour' hit the scene I wanted to shoot, and I knew we'd be out there until after dark, so we stopped off at Houston's for dinner first. It's sort of along the way, depending on the route you take to get to Baker Beach, and I usually like to take the scenic route along the waterfront. I had my usual, a wonderful filet mignon, and then we set off again on our little adventure.

As we wound our way around the North end of the peninsula, it was looking pretty foggy over by the bridge, and I wondered if I'd get the shots I was looking for. Either way, I'd get something, and fog is always to be expected when you're shooting around San Francisco anyway.

When we got to the beach, most of the fog had already dissipated, and the setting sun was absolutely golden, with the light working on the bridge just as I'd hoped for. We parked as far down toward the bridge as we could get, which is still quite a ways from where I wanted to shoot, and headed off into the sand, enjoying a cool ocean breeze as we made our way North toward the bridge.

I'd hoped that there'd be very few people there at that time, since I didn't want the blurs they'd cause in the long exposures I intended to shoot. I calculated that with temperatures cooling this time of year, and on a Friday evening when most people were winding down from a work week, Baker Beach would be the last thing on their minds. I was delighted to find exactly that. There was a photographer and a couple in wedding clothes that went down to the beach just ahead of us for the classic wedding/beach/sunset/bridge shot. They only went as far as they had to in order to get the shot, then hurried back up to the parking area before we even got to where they posed. Other than that, there were very few people out there. We were practically alone.

As we neared the rocky area at the North end of the beach, I stopped to get a few shots here and there, then moved on to get closer to my target shooting area: the rocks themselves. I had an idea that if I climbed up on the rocks and set up my tripod looking down a bit so that the top of the bridge was near the top of the frame, I'd get a lot of the water action I was looking for. My intent was to use the neutral density filters to get some long exposures, producing a more ethereal image than a normal exposure of the water's waves and splashing. I also wanted to experiment with a sunset filter to bring out more orange in the bridge, and a bottom-oriented graduated blue filter to keep the water the right color despite the sunset filter.

Over the next couple of hours, I shot about 100 photos from different perspectives, using a variety of shutter and aperture settings, and playing with the filters. Linda was very patient with the whole thing. I was afraid she'd be terribly bored just watching me stand there with my tripod-mounted camera, tweaking and pressing buttons and going in and out of my camera bag for various gadgets. She said she was enjoying it all anyway, and it was a beautiful place to take in a gorgeous sunset, so it all worked out great.

As the sun finally dipped below the horizon, the lights on the bridge slowly came on here and there, until it was all lit more by artificial light than by the natural light of the setting sun. Eventually, I'd had enough, and was eager to get home and have a look at the results, so I squeezed off one last shot, packed up my gear and called it a wrap.

By then, it was pretty dark, so Linda pulled out a handy flashlight she keeps in her bag (I've got to get one of those!), and we carefully climbed down from our rocky perch and headed back down the beach toward the parking area. We went back to my house, downloaded the photos onto my computer and had a look at them. I was very pleased with the results, and got at least a couple dozen 'keepers' out of the shoot. Here's a sample:

Here's the EXIF info for the shot above:

I hope you like it. I sure had fun shooting it!

Thursday, September 16, 2004


It's all the rage. Blogging, that is. So here I am, giving it a try. And what will I talk about? Well, I suppose I'll talk about my cancer, politics, religion... Basically anything I'm probably not supposed to talk about. And then there's all the other stuff that bumps around in my head, like photography, cartooning, music, and so on. We'll just have to see how it goes, I suppose.

I've actually been thinking about using blogging software for awhile now. See, I keep a journal online at my regular web site about what's going on with my cancer. It keeps friends and family updated, so I don't have to repeat it all over and over to each of them over the phone or in emails. All they have to do is click a couple of times, and they get all the latest news about how I'm doing.

The thing is, it's getting to be a pain to keep it up using HTML to make a new page each time, update the links, etc. It's basically just a cancer blog anyway, so it seemed the natural thing to switch to a blog program eventually to deal with it in a quick, easy way when I've got something to say.

Once I realized that would be a simple solution, I sniffed around on the net looking for some blogging software I could use on my site to make it easy on me. Most of what I found involved PHP, and I didn't really want to get into that for a couple of reasons that are pretty irrelevant here. Suffice it to say, I just put it off until I could find another way to deal with it. I'm thinking this will do the trick nicely. Leave it to Google...

So, here's the cancer update:

I went to see the doctor again this past Monday, September 13th, 2004. I got my blood drawn, as usual, and then he gave me the usual examination. He pronounced me fit as a fiddle and said, "Seeya in three months." That was pretty much what I expected, but it's always good to hear it. So, I'm good to go again. No worries. Back to living life. ;>)

Not much more to say about it than that. I feel great!