Sonoma Ruins

I have had a problem with not being able to travel to the places I’d like to because I have, what’s it called? Oh, no money. So I’ve been making due with a 60 mile radius which has been fine for a few months but all that scenery starts to dry up and tedium sets in when trying to discover a new subject. Living in Sonoma County means no shortage of beautiful scenery, but I don’t feel like shooting the same beautiful hills to grab the sunset. So it’s more my problem than there being a lack of worthwhile landscapes. I tried to break the mood up with photoshop trickery. For instance:
Hey, look! I made it look like a painting. But alas, aside from clashing with my oeuvre, it still reminds me of at least two other published shots of mine. So, while I was driving around looking for something, already resigned to not finding anything, I saw an old, partially collapsed building hidden behind some trees and tall grass. After navigating along a fence with several signs saying something about trespassing, I found an opening that revealed a way into the structure. It was an abandoned winery, graffitied to hell and strong gust away from crushing anyone within it. This was gold to me . It looked like some abandoned civilization who discovered colorful, long-lasting pigments and was wiped out by a massive earthquake. This is the main hall but there are two other buildings with amazing visual interest, (one of which is currently the site background). I can’t find any history of this place. It’s known to a few others on flickr, but it appears that why it’s abandoned, wrecked and left for adventurous folks to illicitly wander it is known to a select and quiet few.
If anyone knows, please leave a comment.  Here’s the link to it on Google Maps.

The Eyelid

I used to go to school in Petaluma and was in the band. Every year, we would be a part of the marching band for the town’s “Butter and Eggs Day’ parade. It was usually when the weather got hot. We would have to wear skin tight polyester costumes while walking the hot streets of crowded downtown. Butter and eggs was the last thing I wanted to think about. Dairy was a bad choice. This is a view of the bridge over the Petaluma river in downtown Petaluma, CA. I was desperately trying to make a shot on the bridge work when I noticed that the bridge itself was pretty spectacular. Like the saying goes, if you look around and can’t find the subject of your photo, you are probably standing on it. The people on the bridge must have known what I was trying to do because they held pretty still for at least 15 seconds while I shot the brackets for this.

Tip: Histograms

When you take pictures you probably do what I do and hope that your smart camera has done all the legwork for you. Most of the time it does but sometimes, especially for those tricky lighting compositions, a little insurance is wanted so you aren’t cursing a shot that turned out too dark or too bright after you brought it home and loaded it in your computer. If you have something like photoshop and shoot in RAW, you don’t have to really worry as exposure can be manipulated pretty much how you want it without photo degradation. For you JPEG shooters who don’t want to spend a ton of time in post here is what you do to optimize your lighting experience: Check the histogram. Now I won’t go into a detailed explanation of this graph but to say that it is an indicator that tells you how much visible light is in your picture. Visible light is the range from so dark no detail is present to so bright that details are pure white. Here’s a visual sample of the effects different exposures have on a histogram:

As you can see, the darker picture shows the histogram detail shifted to the left (the darker range) while the lightest picture is shooting off the right side of the graph area (the lighter range) As you move from left to right along the graph the details of your picture will appear darker to brighter. Your sweet spot for the most detail is generally in the center of the graph.

Most DSLR cameras have the ability to show a histogram preview of your picture. So if you are shooting a scene like the one above and want to get the most detail out of it, you may want to manually adjust your camera’s exposure so that your histogram has as much detail (peaks) toward the center of the graph. Now, it’s not necessary to always get your histogram centered. Below is an HDR image. This wouldn’t be possible right out of your camera, but it’s to illustrate what a detailed picture looks like in a histogram.

This tip  is mostly helpful for landscapes or well-lit people shots. Sometimes you want darker, like a night shot of a candle, or brighter, like an artful sun-flare behind a tree.