Sunday, June 19, 2022

Week 1: Better Black & White Photography


Black and White photography harkens back to the old days before the advent of color film.  
Some say it has a more authentic feel, a certain nostalgia about it.
This summer, am teaching myself to be a better Black & White photographer. 

B&W does force one to concentrate on the composition of an image. Give more consideration to shapes, forms, lines, subject matter. and their interaction. Color can make a weak image with poor composition look decent. B&W will not let you get away with that.

Having researched multiple books on B&W, subscribing to the B&W photo magazine for several years, am now ready to give it a serious go. Even invested in a monchrome camera. 

Why would you buy a camera that only shoots black and white when you can shoot color photos then convert the color image to B&W on your computer?

Answer: sharpness and quality of image. 

A color camera takes a photo by splitting the light coming into the camera using a color filter, into red, blue and green, plus the light and dark (luminance). When converting a color image to B&W, you are only getting the luminance from the pixels that were not being used to capture color.

The B&W camera uses all of its pixels to capture luminance. None of the sensor's pixels are used to capture color. Thus giving you a sharper image with more shades of light and dark. 

Since the B&W camera can capture more light and dark information, it is more sensitive in capturing images in low light situations.

Enough talk, let shoot
First, trying a few macro shots while at my desk.




That was interesting, now something with architecture,

Sun Rays



The next night I walked around the local outlet mall, hoping to catch something interesting.  Being a week night, here were very few people in the mall. Was not able to take any street portraits as I would have liked.

 Next are a few images captured while learning the settings on the camera. Learning where to stand to eliminate reflections on glass...  or be aware of reflections and place them where you want.

I hope he doesn't think he is in the dressing room.



Clones...



As the sun was setting, the few remaining shoppers departed, as did I.




Well, that's concludes this week's first walk-about session.

We will see what next week brings. 

Ride safe my friends,

CCjon




Week 2: Black & White Night Photography

A few days later returned to the mall after sunset to learn different camera settings.

After many failed attempts at night shots, only kept two. The high contrast of interior lights and the dark outdoors made it extremely challenging to get a decent photo.  Am sure the camera is capable to taking quality photos is this setting, the weak link is the photographer. 

Will keep reading and experimenting until I learn what the proper settings are. 
As someone said, if it was easy everybody would be doing it. 


The food truck lady inside under a bright light allowed the camera to capture her image. The customers outside waiting have a heavy grainy texture. 

When there is a large contrast between light and dark, the camera can only handle so much range, then it has to or you have to decide:  Do you set for light or for dark.




Dippin' Dots break...

His iPad screen gave off just enough light to brighten his face.


Those were the two night shots I felt were good enough to keep.  
Am not using any flash, just the camera settings and holding steady.

Will be back in a few days to try again.

Ride safe, keep shooting.

CCjon

Saturday, June 11, 2022

How to: Editing a Decisive Moment Photo

Was asked for a basic walk thru on the steps I use to edit a photo. 
Let's use the photo of Alex sneaking away with his diploma, shown in the previous post. 

First, to give you an idea of how far away I was from the stage.



Using my SONY RX10 III camera with a telephoto lens, captured this color image at 105mm focal length; typical snapshots are shot at 35mm focal length. If I had used 35mm, we would not be able to pick out Alex at the distance. This is where a good telephoto lens comes in handy.

The long lens gave us a raw image with potential to work with.


Okay, we have a raw image, now what?

First step: we want to eliminate artifacts that do not add to the story: the body on the left, the little boy in the lower left, the bleachers, tops of heads. Need to cut away anything that distracts from the image. The cutting is done by cropping the image. If I cannot crop it out, I'll try erasing it.

I probably crop 100% of the photos I take. My preference is to shoot a larger field than I think I'll need as it gives me more leeway when it comes to trimming away the non-essential. 

Here is the crop I applied to this image.  Cutting it down to include the essential parts of the story in a scene. That head in the lower left cannot be cut out without taking away from the action. Maybe we can do something about it as we continue working.



Next I converted the color image to black and white. Why? 

In the color shot above, the teacher's blouse and the aides white pants are both brighter than Alex's blue shirt. That green background is a hot spot. Our eyes will always go to the brightest point. This story is about Alex, so we need draw attention away from those brighter areas. Converting to B&W will help us do that.

In many photos I have used color to focus a viewer's attention. Today we'll use light and dark (levels of luminance) to do the job since color is not pertinent to the story.


With Alex's shirt a more equal tone in the image, we can continue massaging.

Next step is adding a vignette (that's the darkening of the edges) to keep the viewer's eyes 
from wandering off the page. The vignette darkened the green background, and blended the head shape into a shadow making it less noticeable. The vignette also changed the scene from three actors to two main characters with a supporting figure.

See the teacher's arm pointing off the stage. That strong line wants to lead the viewer's eye away from Alex.  That we'll fix in the final step.


First though a bit of sharpening...  a nudge of structure. 
Like grandma's recipes, a pinch of this, a dap of that is how its done.
Every photo editing software app has sliders to affect changes to the scene. A common mistake is in pushing the sliders too far. What is nice is you can always move the slider back if you go too far.

The final step was an ever so slight change. Can you spot it?


When everything in an image is a similar tone, it will look flat, lacking depth.

A smidgen of brightening was added on Alex's face and shirt to make him move forward, away from the teacher. Light moves an object forward. Darkening makes it recede. Adding or taking away light creates depth.

Most dramatic change is in comparing Alex in the final image with the teacher's aide on the right. In the color photo the aide was a prominent feature. Now we have three distinct layers: Alex in front moving forward, the teacher in the middle ground and the aide playing third fiddle backup. 

If the last two photos look exactly the same to you, look again at the tonality change in Alex's shirt sleeve against the teacher's arm in the two photos. The shirt is now slightly brighter giving a sharper edge/contrast, separating the distance between the two persons. 

Those were the adjustments made to arrive at the final image.

**********************

Henri Cartier Bresson the French photographer coined the term decisive moment. In reviewing images of the top ten black and white photographers, you will see their most memorable images were all decisive moments. Each one was in the right place at the right time with the right equipment.  Decisive moment images can not be created in a studio or planned, they just happen... everyday. They are happening all around us, everywhere. Those fleeting moments are the hardest to capture as they are gone in an instant. Success is being prepared for when the opportunity presents itself. 

******************

Thanks for following along, hope this gives you an insight into my editing thought process.  Yours will be different are we each see the world differently. That's okay, we need variety in life.

Ride safe my friends,

CCjon




Thursday, June 9, 2022

Alex's Pre-K Graduation

Our youngest grandson, Alex Daub graduated from Pre-K in May.  
Of course Tita and I would not miss these family moments.


Alex, the proud Pr-K Graduate



Captured this moment after he hugged his teachers. With diploma in hand, he turned to escape, 
the wrong direction

Love the expression on Alex's face. 

" I Got it!"



Alex with his proud parents, Lily and Alan.


CONGRATULATIONS ALEX

SUPER JOB DAUB

******************

Alex is the youngest of our five grandsons, 
soon to be bumped up to second youngest when Ronin arrives in July.


Ride safe my friends,

CCjon


Friday, May 27, 2022

Portraits from Baja - B&W

One of my objectives during the February ride down Baja California was to capture street portraits using the iPhone camera. These are all in black and white, with the background erased by using one of the settings in the camera. Of the dozens of portraits taken, here are the ones I like best.


Paco in Ensenada
Paco was on a bench selling plaster curios painted gold.
Had cans of gold spray paint in a canvas bag.





Juan in Ensenada
Juan is the parking lot security for a popular restaurant there.





Manuel in San Felipe
He works as an electrical contractor


Jaime, a fisherman in Bahia de Los Angeles.
Bahia was one of the poorest towns we witnessed in Baja. A local business employer closed, now fishing is more for feeding your family than commercial. 




Juan, at a crossroads of Highway 1 and Highway 5,
sells gasoline from the trunk of his car. The sun was very bright mid-day.





Billie only has one leg, uses a crutch and a walker to get around Tecate.
His smile and happy mood is contagious.





"No name" shy beggar in Tecate. 
He saw Billie (above) and I talking, laughing. Approached us slowly and just stood there, saying nothing.
The only person I gave money to after talking their photo.

Enrique in El Triunfo
He is a lifelong rancher, town historian, storyteller. 
His jokes were long and winding, with great punch lines.

Amazing little camera in the iPhone. Because mobile phones are common place today, using them to take candid street photos offers great opportunities to capture images of people relaxed, unassuming. It does not cause people to change how they are acting. With a large format professional type camera, people freeze up, frown, cover their faces with their hands, turn away, leave you, etc. 

One can fiddle with the iPhone while talking, then casually snap a photo without putting people on guard. Immediately share the photo you just took with them. They will smile. Worked for me.

Ride safe my friends, am heading to Hotchkiss, Colorado 
the first week of July for the USCA National Sidecar Rally. 

CCjon








Friday, April 29, 2022

Road Trip: Goldwing gets a Russell Day-Long seat

While the Honda seat on the Goldwing is okay, there is a small company in Northern California that makes the best motorcycle saddles for long distance riders. If you are the kind of person who spend hours and hours riding across the continent and demand comfort while doing so, you want the best motorcycle seat available. Russell Cycle Products has earned the reputation for making the most comfortable motorcycle seat, called a Day Long Touring Saddle, for Iron Butt riders. 

Normally one takes photos of themselves sitting on their motorcycle, call Russell and make an appointment for when to ship the seat pan in for a rework. The usual wait is a few months before sending your seat in. Then expect a few more weeks wait to get your new seat back.

 On the other hand, you can reserve a one day ride-in service. Russell takes one bike per day and will build a custom seat for that bike while you wait. I made my reservation for the one day service in the Fall of 2021, for April 20, 2022. Yes, there was a bit of a wait as their seats are in high demand. 

Originally my thinking was to ride the Wing to northern California for the new seat, then Amparo decided she was ready for a road trip. So we trailered the bike.

Of course, between the Gulf Coast of Texas and northern California, we had to cross a few mountains still with snow in April.


Did you notice that the photo does not show the trailer the rig is riding on? 
Deceptive imagery... eh?


After Colorado, we crossed Utah and Nevada with its dry desert mountains.



Finally arriving in Shasta Lake, California, near Redding, home of Russell Cycle Products.



Was surprised at the number of seats already in house waiting to be reworked. These are seats that had a reservation for mail in service. Many had been waiting for months to send in their seat. Once here, the seat will be completely reworked and shipped back out in a few weeks. The flow of seats coming in and going out keeps the local UPS drivers hopping.



The base of a Russell seat is foam formed in special heated aluminum molds, which are then set aside to cure.



Seat forms are made in various sizes and shapes depending on the size of the rider, the type of riding they do and the bike it's going on.. Here the cured foam bases are lined up for the next assembly step.



With the riders height and weight in mind, calculations are made before the seat is built up and shaped. Experienced seat builders work the shape based on the shop's formula for maximum comfort.



The seat cradles the riders bottom, spreading support across a larger area, eliminating hot spots of discomfort. Various densities of foam are used, each with its own support purpose. Some areas of the seat are made firmer than other areas. 

For heavy duty (interpret that as overweight riders), a stronger support structure is inserted in the seat.



Once the seat is shaped and molded, the seamstress takes her measurements. She then cuts, sews the covering using the type and color of fabric selected by the customer.


From here all the pieces go to the work stations for final fitting, forming and stapling. 



Finished seats are packed and shipped back to the customers within a few weeks. Since I had reserved a one day service, was able to leave that same afternoon with a new Russell Day Long Saddle with a back rest.



Once you go with a Russell saddle, there is no going back to your old seat. The Russell saddle is build on your old seat pan. To do that, the old fabric and foam has to be cut away for the new seat. 

*******************

For putting up with my passion of long distance motorcycle riding, I took Amparo to the Lost Whale Inn Bed and Breakfast in Trinidad, on the northern California coast. This was a return visit as we had stayed here back in 2009. They have a a dozen intimate rooms, happy hour every afternoon and a delicious fresh baked breakfast. Best of all they are on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, where sea lions and elephant seals lounge on the nearby rocks. Whales migrating along the coast are frequently spotted from the deck.

The sea lions barked all night long, but the cool sea air was refreshing. 
Of course a warm campfire and a glass of fine wine will relax anyone.



Leaving the resort, it was five more days on the road before arriving back home in Texas. Exhausted!

Now to break in the Russell seat by putting a few thousand miles on it. 

Ride safe, ride far my friends

CCjon

Monday, April 11, 2022

SOLD: 2015 BMW R1200 GSA with EZS sidecar

And the BMW-EZS sidecar rig has left 

the building... 


heading out to its new home in New Jersey.


Thumperchief made a fly-n-ride trip down to Texas.

Next morning he headed over to the Natchez Trace Parkway for a scenic ride back to the northeast.



Safe riding, enjoy your new machine. They don't get much better.


From the old AD ----


For the sidecar enthusiast who knows and appreciates European design, engineering and build, you can now acquire a top of the line quality sidecar rig that is capable of going most anywhere.


A 2015 BMW R1200 GSA LC mated with a 2015 EZS Dual Sport sidecar. 


A blend of German and Dutch engineering with a touch of American attitude blended into a machine whose performance will exceed your expectations.


Wednesday, March 9, 2022

A Hindu Wedding in Pearland, Texas

Our very dear friend and family doctor, Dr. Parul Patel's son Ryan is getting married in a Hindu ceremony. We were invited. Being our first time to attend a Hindu weeding, we are excited.

A typical Hindu wedding ceremony can last for days, but being near Houston, Texas where everything is rush, rush, rush, this affair was condensed to a day and half wedding. Starting Friday night with a Henna for the groom's family and friends. Well for the family's female friends, the men mainly stood around and enjoyed the cocktails and food.

What is Henna, other than a dye made from the henna tree? Today, Henna is applied in celebration of special occasions such as weddings and birthdays in the joyous gathering of people. The Henna paste symbolizes good health and prosperity in marriage, in some cultures, the darker the henna stain, the deeper the love between two individuals. 

A henna artist is hired to apply the designs for the ladies. 

Though the henna ink may look black in this photo, the ink dries quickly and flakes off, 
leaving a light brown stain design on the skin. The intricate design will darken on its own over the next few days, then fade away within a week. So the patterns applied Friday night will be very evident for the ceremony the next afternoon.


The Henna artist created beautiful designs on the ladies hands. Some wanted a simple motif, 
others desired something quite elaborate. A few brought design ideas with them on their iPhones, asking the artist to recreate them.


As the ink is applied wet, one must be very careful not to touch anything until it has dried, or it will smear. As it dries, it turns to a crusty dust and falls off, leaving the ink design on the skin. Over the next several days, the design will darken with a wonderful warm tone, only to disappear completely within a week. In the photo above, one can see the intricate henna designs mirrors the intricate designs on this lady's clothing and jewelry. All very much a part of the Indian culture.

Below:  Meena had both sides of her hands done, so she cannot touch anything until it completely dries. She tries to maneuver a straw with her mouth to take a sip of water without touching the straw or the cup.


***********

The following afternoon, Saturday, was the three hour wedding ceremony in the Sri Meenakshi Temple in Pearland, Texas. Said to be the first Hindu temple built in the Unites States. Palatial in structure with architecture common in southern India, the Sri Meenakshi temple is the only one of its kind outside of India dedicated to Meenakshi, the goddess of marriage. 



Though a long drive to reach the temple, it only makes sense to have this important event here. Many do not realize that it can be a hundred mile drive from one side of the Houston metroplex to the other side. 



Actually four Hindu Gods are honored here at Sri Mannakshi.  Stepping inside the main temple which is centered within a large walled compound, you will see homages to Shiva, Meenakshi, Vishnu and Lakshmi.



The white structures are part of the inner buildings while the beige facade is the outer wall. 

Set apart from the main temple area, is a smaller venue reserved for intimate weddings. 
Here we will enter to participate.



Shoes are forbidden inside the temple. Hats are okay. 
Note the pair of cowboy boots in the shoe rack... only in Texas.


The stage is set, guests are gathering, let's go in. 

*******************

 Will attempt to relate an understanding of the various steps and traditions of a Hindu wedding, which are quite elaborate to say the least.

The principal activities of the wedding ceremony will take place under the yellow and red canopy (Mandap) lead by the local swamis (priest).

The slightly elevated, draped Mandap (wedding dais) is erected in front of the invitees so all may witness the ceremony. The groom Ryan, proceeds to the front with his family and friends where it all begins...

The elder walking towards us in the aisle is a close family relative. Ryan its standing just to the left of the Mandap.


Swagatam - Welcoming of the groom with a Puja (worship ceremony), 
then Ryan is to step on an earthen pot, breaking it, symbolizing he will not allow any obstacle to come between him and his bride.
(Note: the bride is still not present for this portion of the ceremony)

Now under the Mandap, Ryan is further welcomed by family (Var Puja) by paying their respects as the groom is believed to take the symbolic form of Vishnu, the Hindu God of Preservation. 


The swamis, partially seen here dressed in orange will lead the prayers and chants through out the ceremony. 

Ganesh Puja - Every auspicious celebration begins with a Ganesh Puja. Ganesh, the Lord of Prosperity and Achievements, is invited to grace the occasion and bless the families to carry out all the rituals without any obstacles. 

Arrival of the Bride - Victoria
The bride is brought into the room, but not seated in the Mandap just yet.  She and her attendants patiently await to be invited in.

A veil (Antarpat) is held by family in front of Ryan, blocking his view while the bride is being escorted into the Mandap.  After more instruction and prayers from the swamis, the veil is brushed aside with great fanfare for the two may now view each other. The bride and groom exchange garlands. 

Note: I wonder if in times past when marriages were arranged, was this moment the first time the couple might actually see each other?




Kanyadan - Giving away the Bride
Victoria's hand is placed in Ryan's hand. The joining of hands symbolizes their joining as husband and wife. The groom's scarf and the wife's veil are tied together, symbolizing everlasting unity.



Agni Stapan and Manpal Phera - Fire ceremony and Circling the sacred fire.

The sacred fire, representing Agni - the god of fire - is lit to symbolize purity and to act as a witness to the union. The bride and groom circle the fire four times. Twice with the groom leading, then twice with the bride leading - offering rice grains to the fire each time.  Each circle represents one of the four aspects of married life: 
Djarma - Spiritual Duties, 
Artha - Personal Development, 
Karma - Positive Work and Actions believed to bring goodness to Life, 
Moksha - Liberation from Cycle of Death, Life and Re-birth.



Saptapadi - Seven Sacred Steps

The married couple then stand in front of the Mandap, where they will take seven steps in their new lives together. With each step taken in unison, the couple take vows before God and their community.

1rst Step: Together we shall share responsibility of our home and life.

2nd Step - Together we shall have trust and respect for each other, and live in harmony.


3rd Step - Together we shall fill our hearts with strength and courage.

4th Step - Together we shall acquire knowledge and wisdom.

5th Step - Together we shall love and care for our children, 
and keep our family happy, healthy and strong.

6th Step - Together we shall cherish and support each other in sickness 
and in health; in joy and sorrow.

7th Step - Together we shall remain lifelong partners and grow spiritually.


Mangal Sutra and Sindoor Dharan - Symbols of marriage. Ryan now adorns Victoria with the symbols of a married woman. He puts red vermillion powder (sindoor) on her forehead and ties a Mangal Sutra (wedding necklace) around her neck.

Akhand Saubhagyavati - Blessings from married women. Married females, relatives or friends whisper blessings in the bride's ears, offering advice and wishing the couple a long and happy married life. This is an important step in the ceremony as the groom's mother specifically requested multiple photos of this moment, which the main photographer took.

Aashirvad - Blessings from the family. The swamis prays for blessings from the Supreme Lord for the well-being of the newlyweds and for those assembled.


The swamis now proceeds to take the couple outdoors for additional teachings of spiritual direction and a life of worship.


A large portion of the ceremony is the swamis chanting, praying to the gods, asking for blessings on the couple, the attendees, teaching the couple about life, living together, accepting change, acknowledging higher spirits while honoring each other. 

The ceremony included many symbolic references fire, food, water, plants and life.
A great way to start a new life as husband and wife, honoring all living things and each other.



The attending audience are welcome to stand, walk around, talk, enjoy the food and drink in the adjoining room all the while the long ceremony is happening. 

The colorful sari's make for a happy joyous occasion. By the way, the colors black and white will not be seen at a Hindu wedding as they are associated with death. 



Before all departed for the reception, Amparo and I were able to have our photo taken with the newlyweds, Ryan and Victoria. We wish the bride and groom many, many years of happiness and joy as they now journey along life's path, hand in hand.



The party then continued at Ashai Indian restaurant/reception hall until the late hours of the evening.  Most likely it might have been me, the photographer, but those reception photos are all fuzzy...  and got fuzzzzzzzier as the night went on.

We greatly appreciated being invited to this family's joyous event, 
a new learning experience for us. 
One we will never forget. 

Ride safe, experience something new,  my friends.

CCjon