Saturday, February 27, 2010

Recommended Reading List

My home library is full of good books, on photography, wine country and the financial markets. I must say books and my cameras are my most treasured possessions. Not sure if I will ever go the Kindle way, I just much prefer to have a book in my hand, mark the page with my favorite bookmark before putting it down at the end of the day only to continue reading the day after. I am always in the hunt for good reads, whether it is online on Amazon or eBay or at the weekend flea markets, the same way I love seeking out old cameras and anything related to art and wine to add to my collection.

Since I have so many books I love, I thought I put together this simple page with six books I feel an aspiring photographer should not pass up.

read more on my Home Page

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Livermore Wine Country and Altamont Pass Wind Farm

The weather was wintry, forecaster had called for a partly cloudy day. I wanted to take a drive and get some fresh air away from the city and thought I should venture out to Livermore to see how the grapevines are shaping up thus far. Northern California has had a whole year's worth of rain already - could it wreck havocs to the year's vintage? I wonder...Anyhow, my excuse for driving 50 minutes northeast to the pretty rolling hills countryside despite the menacing rain clouds hovering over my head most of the journey. .
I was not too optimistic about getting decent shots. Well, the sky did clear (long enough for me to take a couple of nice shots of the wind generators towering on the hills along Altamont Pass). I did not really mind the cloudy sky, to me it just added to the mood. The intermittent sun and dark clouds and its shadows falling on the rolling pastures made for beautiful landscape. There is always photo ops I reminded myself. The real reason for my little escape today was that I had acquired a nice (well used) Mamiya RB67 Pro SD with 90mm f/3.5 KL/L lens and a 120 film back last Sat all for a mere $280 and I have been dying to use it. I had a roll of 120 Velvia in hand and thought I should take it out for a "test drive". The RB67 Pro SD is soooo heavy, weighs a good 6+ lbs not counting my tripod :(. I weigh a mere 110 lbs and have a 5 ft frame!! This is going to be fun.....My shoulder will probably hurt tonight but what did they say about chasing your hobby (my passionate pursuit of something called photography). I had just the right backpack for it though....a new backpack I got last Xmas (it even has a touch of champagne pink fabric on the front) See pictures below. It is pretty large but not overly large for me, with straps on both sides so I could strap a tripod on it (barely though) (the main selling point of the backpack). I was able to pack my RB67 ProSD body with the 90mm lens and 120 film back, my Pentax digital spotmeter, Canon 10D with a wide angle lens and even a Holga which I had a couple of frames left that I wanted to finish. I quickly loaded everything in my car, and drove north on 680 and then 84 in the direction of Livermore at 7:30am.

A few comments from the trip:

First of all I love the RB67 ProSD...I am all smitten by it. The waist level viewfinder is so very bright, what a world apart from the viewfinder of 35mm SLR. Second, there are a few safety locks so one will never accidentally click that shutter without cocking the level and winding the film forward. Third, multi exposure on same frame is a breeze, just set it and adjust for stops and shoot away. Fourth, I don't have to rotate the entire camera to change from vertical to horizontal shot or vice versa, just rotate the film back, WOW!! (that is such a brilliant idea). Finally, it is all mechanical, no worries of camera battery dying on me just when that perfect moment presents itself!!

It is HEAVY!!! but it is such a joy to use....The only way for me to use it is to shoot on a tripod (a good habit anyway)

The images posted above were from my Canon 10D, as I need to finish the roll of 120 Velvia and as soon as I have it develop, I will update with some images...can't wait.

Finally, this is the day I decided to leave all my Canon DSLR lenses at home except for the wide angle because it would simply be way too heavy. I wish I had them expecially the 70-210 f/4. Anyhow, I had also inadvertently set the image size on the Canon 10D to small (uugh)!!! I was so grateful I had shot a roll of Velvia on the RB67, I never have to worry about accidentally setting the wrong image size with film camera. I was reminded of how pros used polaroid to do test shots before the advent of digital camera. Well mine sure look like polaroid samples now, good for web use:(. So much for agonizing over whether to leave my other lenses at home. On a good note, I did find a couple of spots that would be awesome for black and white photography and as soon as my films arrive from Adorama this week, I shall head out there to shoot more!!

"my beloved new backpack" It has a rather large top camera compartment where I put the medium format camera and a second bottom compartment for a second camera, seen here in the picture. Here is a link to Amazon's Cuscus Amazon store I can't seem to find the same backpack on their store anymore, I remember reading that it was out of stock. They have some really nice hiking backpacks tho :)

Find Camera Backpackson Amazon

Looks like dust spots have found their way into my Canon 10D again, time to cough out some money to get the sensor cleaned again!! With film cameras, one never have to worry about sensor dust spots.

A footnote about the wind farm, these towering wind generators do make a constant swirling (humming) noise (sort of like sound of a quiet engine running constantly). It is very audible indeed at the foothills some 400 ft down and I understand now why some farmers in the midwest objected to their neighbors starting a wind farm as a way to subsidize their farm income

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Forces of Nature at Work at the Mavericks at Half Moon Bay

This is my second weekend in San Jose, I had initially planned to drive to the coast yesterday, Capitola or Half Moon Bay, my two favorite NO CA beach towns but in the end settled on more pressing task at hand - that of clearing my stuffs out of storage. Yesterday was the day of the famous Mavericks Surf competition with top surfers from around the world. Local evening news were reporting moderate size waves Friday and they were not sure if there would be good wave actions for the competition. The organizers were optimistic though. When I got back to the house, I saw the competition had made news nationwide, the giant 40-50 foot waves and two rogue waves that had swept onto the beach where the breakwaters and the organizer's tents were set up and swept a group of spectators off their feet, seriously injuring quite a number of them. The location of the bay explained how that could happen, ridges underneath the ocean a few miles out meant that given the right element the waves could build and become much larger as they approach the shoreline. I learned later that the waves were the largest waves ever, 40-50 ft high and adrenaline rush for even the most accomplished surfers. If I had gone to watch the competition, I probably would have ventured out to the beach to get a close shot of the surfers riding the giant waves, instead of shooting from the cliffs above...I could easily have been one of those injured....Scary thought.

Link to the story in San Jose Mercury News
Heavy surfs at Mavericks injured at least 15 spectators

An article I wrote awhile back about Half Moon Bay

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Santana Row, Silicon Valley's answer to Rodeo Drive

In the Bay area for a project again, more specifically in San Jose. Was fortunate enough to find a place to stay near Santana Row and so I took the opportunity to take a morning stroll to Santana Row today, my very first weekend in town. There was light drizzle and intermittent sun. I enjoyed a nice cuppa of latte at Starbucks, read the morning paper and proceeded to do a bit of photography.

If you have never been to Santana Row, you must plan a visit soon. It is the most trendy place in town, with chic stores, restaurants, wine bars, and luxury apartments atop the fashionable boulevards. A place where the young and fashionable would want to be seen and hang out with friends. It is easy to get to on 280 exiting at Winchester, a quick drive from Silicon Valley. Starbucks and Peet's coffee complete both ends of the two large city blocks. I mustn't forget to mention the weekly Sunday farmers market there that is popular with local folks adn visitors alike. See links below for listings of Farmers markets in the area.

Santana Row was built to rival Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and it is as charming and upscale as the famed Rodeo streets. Sidewalks lined with flowers and wooden lazy chairs to relax in next to the many gardens and fountains that make the area a city oasis. For all you jazz fans out there, the San Jose Summer Jazz festivals kicks off late August so mark your calendar.

San Jose Mercury News Farmers market listing

An alternate listing of farmers market in the Bay Area listing.