Category Archives: San Diego Bay

Timing Really Is Everything!

Timing is everything, really! This is especially true with photography. Sometimes it’s more about your timing than your equipment. Fortune not only favors the bold, but also the well prepared.

When you go somewhere to take some photos, a little planning can go a long way in creating interesting and unique images, vs. snapshots. So, how does one prepare? Scouting a location you’re interested in helps. You can also use Google Earth and Maps to get an idea of what to expect. And, since there’s an app for virtually anything including photography, you should take advantage of them. Personally, I use one for my Android phone call PlanIt For Photographers. This app (and others like it) can tell you which direction the sun will rise and set, but also when the best light will happen. PlanIt also has the ability to tell me when and where the Moon will rise/set, along with the Milky Way!

A quick note about gear. It’s nice to have a high end, high dollar camera and lens. However, it’s not an absolute requirement. My gear costs a fraction of what some of the high end stuff does, but I don’t let that stop me. Learn how to use what you have to maximize the results you can achieve. I’ve done some night shots of city lights using my Sony RX100 (technically a point and shoot camera). To maximize my results, I put it on a tripod and used the timer to get my shots. My point is that you don’t need to spend a ton of money on gear.  Use what you have to get started, and it may surprise you!

In addition to doing your homework and knowing when the best light is for a particular scene, you also need to bring some patience. There are times when the light may seem like it’s done and gone for the night, but it’s definitely worth it to wait. More than once I’ve been at a site, along with other photographers…the sun sets, and the others pack their bags and head for their cars. I waited, not long, maybe 10 or 15 minutes at the most. And – BAM! The magic happens! Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:


The shot above is the Imperial Beach Pier. You can see that the sun has just about set.

Compare this shot to the one above it. They were taken from just about the same spot, but about 15-20 minutes later. Quite a difference!

This next shot was taken when the sun was low in the sky. The light was very nice, and I could have called it good and packed up.

Now in this case, I waited more than 15 minutes. I wanted to get the San Diego Waterfront all lit up.

Personally, I like the second shot much better. While the first version is nice, and I wouldn’t have a problem sharing it with anyone, the second one is much more appealing. In order to make this shot work, I put my Panasonic FZ1000 on a tripod, and used a delayed timer for the shutter (to help minimize vibration).

To sum up this post, here are the main points:
Prepare – use Google Earth/Maps or get an app (PlanIt or something similar).
Timing – get to the location and set up before best light.
Patience – the show may not be over when the sun has set, give it another 10 or 15 minutes.
City Lights – you may need to stay a little longer to catch the city all lit up (bring a tripod).

That’s it for this post, until next time – Happy Shooting!

My New Pocket Rocket

Catchy title, isn’t it! I’m referring to my Sony RX100. Technically it’s a point and shoot camera, but that’s a good thing, really!

You may be wondering why I got myself a point and shoot (P&S) when I have so many other choices. That’s because I’m always on the the hunt for a small camera with excellent image quality.  After doing quite a bit of research, I picked the Sony RX100.  Yes, this is the original.  There are 2 revisions to this model on the market.  As nice as these newer versions are, they come with a hefty price tag and I decided that I really didn’t need the additional features.  Some of these features seem like gimmicks and marketing ploys, and I probably wouldn’t use them.  My primary “must haves” were excellent image quality, shoot in RAW, and it had to fit in my pocket.  The RX100 does all of this, and more.

Before I share a few examples let me say that this little P&S is not a DSLR replacement much less a M43 (micro 4/3rd’s) replacement.  As good as it is, it does have its limitations.  One of the things that makes it so good and also the reason it won’t replace my other cameras (like my Canon 60D or Olympus E-M5) is it’s sensor.  The little RX100 comes with a 1″ sensor.  This is much, much larger than what typically comes in a P&S camera.  The 1″ sensor is also much smaller than the sensor in either my 60D or E-M5.  The other thing that makes the RX100 so good is it’s Carl Zeiss lens.  It’s fast (f1.8 on the wide end) and provides excellent image quality with very little color fringing or chromatic aberration (so far).  It also has an image stabilizer and can shoot up to 10 frames per second.

I probably won’t try to use my RX100 at an air show for fast moving air planes.  The long end of the lenses zoom range is only 100mm, and while it can shoot 10 frames per second, it doesn’t have a view finder, either electronic or optical.  It would be very difficult to track and shoot the planes as they quickly pass by using just the screen on the back of the camera.  And if I did manage to grab a shot or 2 the planes would look like little dots.  I would however take it along for photos of the static displays of aircraft on the ground, or in an air museum.

The main reason I got the RX100 was for those times when I don’t want to bring anything that wouldn’t fit in my pocket.  There are times when even my trusty Olympus E-P3 or E-M5 can be bulky (in comparison the RX100).  I’ve been on a quest to shrink my photo gear footprint for a while now.  Since I got the RX100 and used it alongside my E-M5 I think I’m pretty close to where I want to be.  So much so that I’m even thinking of selling a couple of my other cameras.  I’ll keep the Canon 60D and big lenses mostly for air shows, the E-M5 for just about anything else, and now the RX100 as a backup or primary camera when I want to go very fast and light.

There are a lot of P&S cameras on the market.  Some are ok, like the Canon S90 to S120.  Nikon and Fuji also have some very good P&S cameras.  I’m sold on the RX100 mainly because of the image quality and other reasons I already mentioned above.  This obviously isn’t a scientific review, just my thoughts and reasoning for picking up this great little camera.  Here are some examples:

The images above with the exception of RAW conversion and resizing were not “enhanced” in any other way.

That’s it for now, there will be more to follow in future posts as I’m able to spend more time with the RX100. Until next time, Happy Shooting!

The San Diego Waterfront

It’s been a little more than a week since my last post.  My wife,  2 Cairn Terriers and I spent the Thanksgiving holiday at the Chula Vista RV Resort on San Diego Bay (if you have an RV I highly recommend staying there).  We had a wonderful time together, and I was able to do a little shooting!

In addition to the photography, I also need to mention a resource that photographers should note when in San Diego – Georges Camera & Video.  There are so few real camera stores around anymore that it’s a real treat to find one.  I love George’s Camera, it’s packed full of all things photography, and they have a friendly and very knowledgable staff.  I was able to find a Lowepro slinger bag that is working perfectly!  If you’re in the North Park area of San Diego, be sure to visit George’s Camera!

Back to the photography!   One of the things I’ve been wanting to do while in San Diego was to take a night/evening shot of the San Diego waterfront.  I’ve seen so many great shots by other photographers online, and have always wanted to try it for myself.

One of my challenges was finding a suitable location.  Although I’ve been to the Chula Vista and Coronado areas many times, I just couldn’t seem to find the right spot.  That is until my morning bike ride around the Bay.  The San Diego Bay Bike Trail goes right past the RV Resort and dumps you out near the Coronado Golf Course.  I continued to follow it around and ended up going under the Coronado Bridge and found Coronado Ferry Landing.

Coronado Ferry Landing was the perfect place for my night shot of the San Diego waterfront!  I was directly across the Bay from Seaport Village, the large hotels and convention center.  Another important consideration was that this area looked very safe for a guy walking around alone with camera gear.  I planned on using my Canon 60D on a tripod and there’s nothing stealthy about it.  Unfortunately, it’s large and can attract attention.

I actually made 2 visits to the Coronado Ferry Landing.  My 1st visit was just ok, meaning my images were not bad, but not exactly what I was working for.  The fog started to roll in early and gave the image below  a hazy, grainy look.  See for yourself:

Above – Canon 60D, RAW, Auto ISO (3200), 0.8 seconds, 50mm Canon F2.5 lens.

My 1st visit was not a complete waste of time, as I did learn a couple of things.  One of the things I learned was to do a better job of keeping an eye on the weather.  Fog can add some interest and mystery to an image, but I didn’t want it for this shot.  Another thing I learned was to pay attention to the settings on the camera!  I forgot to check the ISO, and didn’t notice until I was done, that it was set to Auto.  Sometimes that’s ok, but not this time.  I wanted to control the ISO setting, not let the camera decide.  I also didn’t do any bracketing of exposures with HDR in mind.

I waited a couple of days to try again.  This time the weather would cooperate and the fog would not be a factor.  I checked all of my cameras settings and configured it to shoot 3 bracketed exposures, +1 and -1 f-stop from the original exposure.  Here’s the result:

Above – Canon 60D, F8, 0.8 seconds, ISO 400, Canon 18-55mm EFS IS Lens.  This is an HDR image.

The shot above was taken with the sun just starting to set.  There was a beautiful twilight glow and the lights were just starting to come on.

This next image was taken when it was much darker and is a single RAW file, no HDR.

Above – Canon 60D, F16, 15 seconds, ISO 400, Canon 18-55 EFS IS Lens.  Singe RAW image.

I was very pleased with the image above.  This was an experiment with a longer, slower shutter speed.  I did this purposely to see if it would have a smoothing effect on the water.  I think it did, and as an added bonus, brought a little more detail to the sky by making the clouds visible.  They would have otherwise been lost in the darkness with a shorter exposure.

That’s it for now.  I have more photos to go through and edit.  Maybe it’s time to go into more detail on the HDR process I follow.  I’ll give it some thought and see what I can do.  In the meantime, go out there and experiment.  You’ll never know what can happen unless you try.  Who knows, maybe you’ll surprise yourself with a photo that really pops!

If you have some advice for evening/night shooting, don’t be bashful!  Share your thoughts and images and I’ll post them here!

Until next time – Happy Shooting!