Rome is finally available!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 17, 2011 by John Tynes

Well, it’s about time, but I’ve finally posted some shots from Rome. If things go as planned, I should have some shots from Venice up in the next few days.

New photos

Posted in Uncategorized on October 20, 2011 by John Tynes

There  are new photos from Florence, Italy on the main website today. Check them out and let me know what you think.

My biggest print

Posted in Photography with tags , , , on April 1, 2011 by John Tynes

I just finished a large commissioned piece for a new meeting room built at the Lucky Seven Casino in Smith River, California.  It was an interesting project and I got a chance to try out some techniques on a large scale. I was originally asked to generate a local photo which could be made into wallpaper to cover a large wall at the end of the large room (big enough to seat 500 people).  I sold them on the idea of something a little different…

First, I spent several days shooting panoramas around the “neighborhood” of the casino, which is on US 101 just south of the Oregon border.  It’s a beautiful section of the Pacific coast with a rugged shoreline and redwood forests. I gave them several options to pick from and they chose a dawn shot of the beach just a few hundred yards from the casino.  Here’s the RAW shot (this is not what I showed them)…

I always shoot RAW, but I hear frequently from beginning digital shooters about how disappointed they are when they pull up the results of a hard day’s shoot on the computer and see a washed-out, bland mess.  I always explain that this is exactly what they should expect.  A RAW file captures much more information than JPG but it’s not processed at all by the camera like a JPG file is.  This is a good thing…it gives all the control to you, the artist, even if it means you have do a little extra work yourself.  The shot above is NOT what I saw through the lens…all the subtle light and colors are not yet visible.  Here’s what it looked like after a little work in Lightroom and Photoshop…

(You can click HERE to see a much larger version.)

Now, obviously there was quite a bit of processing and manipulation involved, but the final result honestly is as close to reality as I could get it.  It’s just a matter of learning how to bring out all the data that is buried in the RAW file, and also a matter of remembering what you shot so that when you’re working in the digital darkroom (your computer), you know what you’re looking for.

This is a great shot…everything’s sharp right down to the smallest rocks on the beach, which is what I needed because I wanted the final piece to be really big…five feet tall and almost eighteen feet long.  However, a single print that size, while achievable, would be very expensive, and it would be incredibly difficult to ship and to handle.  So I decided to print the piece on five separate panels, to be displayed two inches apart, and I chose to print on aluminum because the process gives a hyper-realistic, sort of high definition effect, and the metal prints just seem to glow from within when they’re lit.  So my first step was to break my panorama back down into five even pieces, which I did by drawing some boxes in Photoshop…

…then just cropping each panel out one at a time.  I was left with five finished files.  Just for comparison again, here’s one of the panels as a RAW file…

…and here it is as a finished file…again just to reinforce how much data is in that RAW file and how you need to be prepared to pull it out…..

I then took my finished files and scaled them up to print size (40 x 60 inches) using Genuine Fractals, which actually just changed its name to Perfect Resize. It’s still the best and easiest plug-in that I’ve found for preparing files for really big prints. Then I uploaded the files to the lab (I use Bayphoto for my metal prints, they’ve done excellent work on everything I’ve sent them), placed my order, and waited for the delivery truck. A word of warning here…when you order prints this big, they get shipped in custom wooden crates for protection and those suckers are heavy.  My order required two separate crates and they weighed 130 lbs each (the Federal Express driver was not happy). Anyway, when I got the crates they were all screwed together and I didn’t really want to have to unpack them twice, so I hauled them out to the client’s site and unpacked them there.

Yes, that was a little nerve-racking, since I was seeing the finished result at the same time as the client.  Fortunately, they looked great and there was lots of oohing and aahing as we stood the pieces up against the wall.  Here’s how they look hanging in their designated spot (please forgive the reflections from other lights in the room, they’re not apparent in person)…

All in all, it was a complicated project, mostly from the production point of view, but it was very satisfying to see the results.  Best of all, the clients are so happy that they’re thinking of commissioning more work for other parts of the casino!


Less is sometimes more

Posted in Photography with tags , , on March 29, 2011 by John Tynes

I had lunch with a friend the other day…he’s not a serious photographer, but he travels quite a bit and recently he’s experienced some frustration with the vacation photos that he was able to capture with the small point-and-shoot that he carries on trips.  I gave him some advice about other cameras, warned him that once you start trying to achieve quality approaching professional levels you better be ready to get out the checkbook. I aimed him at some good mid-range DSLRs and I’m sure he’ll be able to find something affordable which will get him much better results.  But the conversation made me think about my own equipment and how I use it.

My main camera is a Canon 5D Mark II and I’ve got to say it’s an awesome piece of engineering.  I couldn’t be happier with it…I’ve been able to produce prints up to 40 x 60 inches with excellent detail…good enough to satisfy demanding clients.  But there are times when I don’t want to haul along the big gun and so I have a couple of smaller cameras that I use frequently and have been quite happy with.  The first one is an Olympus EP-1 which has a micro four-thirds sensor.  It’s a very small and low-key camera which looks like a simple point-and-shoot and never attracts attention, yet captures great quality.

On a trip to San Francisco, I made myself leave the 5D at home and took only the Olympus EP-1.  Furthermore, at the time I had only an 18mm prime lens for it (35 mm equivalent at full frame) so I was really trying to see what it could do.  Here’s a RAW image I shot at Fort Point Historic Site, under the Golden Gate bridge…

With just minor tweaking, I was able to generate a pretty cool shot…

Here’s another image that I took inside an Apple Store downtown the next day, after some minor adjustments in Lightroom…

There’s no question that the level of detail is reduced when compared to images out of my 5D, but instead of being disappointed, I took that as an opportunity to experiment with effects.  Here’s what I came up by using the Adjustment brush in Lightroom to desaturate most of the image….

Here’s another example, a geometric composition in a shopping mall just a block or two away from the Apple Store, again the RAW file…

I ran this image through the Topaz Adjust plugin with the Spicify setting and got this…

That was better but I kept playing around, this time running the RAW file through a different plug-in, Silver Efex Pro, using one of the antique presets with slight modification of the toning color..

So the Olympus EP-1 is a pretty good casual stand-in for my “pro” camera, but I have another, even lesser quality camera that I carry in my pocket almost all of the time “just in case”.  It’s an Olympus Stylus Tough 8000, built to handle being dropped from about 5 feet, and it’s completely waterproof down to 30 feet.  This is the camera that I use for family snapshots on trips, and I never have to worry about sitting on it or diving into a pool with it in my pocket.  But it’s also been the camera that has yielded some of my coolest shots, like this one shot in a swimming pool in Florida…

Again, I played around a bit in Lightroom and got this neat image…

Here’s another one, taken of my daughter in a pool in the Bahamas….

More tinkering in Lightroom and Photoshop yielded this joyous graphic….

And, for one more example, here’s a shot from the “Hurricane Deck” below Niagara Falls…

There was no way I was taking one of my “good” cameras into that maelstrom, but I was pretty happy with this shot.  Just goes to show that the old axiom is true…your best camera is the one you have with you.

Evolution of a buffalo

Posted in Photography with tags , on March 20, 2011 by John Tynes

(As always, you can click on the photos to see full-screen versions)

A few years ago, we were traveling through Grand Teton National Park, heading toward Yellowstone, when we say this lone buffalo walking across the grassy plain. I pulled over on the shoulder to grab a few frames.

He made for a dramatic composition but the lighting was flat and the sky was unremarkable (I worked on it a bit when I got home but this was the best I could do.) Fortunately, the buffalo kept walking and wound up crossing the road right in front of us.  Here was the shot I took as he crossed pavement, just the RAW shot right off the card.

Kind of cool to see a buffalo on the highway like this (some kind of statement in there about the decline of the buffalo and the domination of man…whatever…), but again the lighting was suboptimal, the background kind of blah.  Still, I felt there was some potential here, so the first thing I did was crop it to make it a better composition.

Next, I fired up Topaz Adjust, one of my favorite plugins (and it’s gotten better since I made this image), and tweaked the exposure to get this…

OK, so now we’re looking better, but it’s not exactly National Geographic material, so I decided to really play around.  I started trying effects in Color Efex Pro, another plug-in that I use a lot, and I stumbled across this effect….

This is one of my wife’s favorite images to this day…in fact we having it printed on metal and hanging in our kitchen.  Just another example of what some creative post-processing can do.  Let me know what you think!

Harbor blur

Posted in Photography with tags , on March 13, 2011 by John Tynes

Just about everyone in the world has heard how our local Crescent City harbor was demolished by the pale remnants of the tsunami generated by the massive Japanese earthquake.  There were fishermen who lost their boats and their livelihood, and it will be months before we have a working harbor again, but I guess we should be thankful that we didn’t get the destruction that we’re seeing on the incredible TV footage from Japan.

Anyway, the whole ordeal prompted me to go to my files and find some photos I took of the harbor a year or two ago.  Here’s one of some of the boats lined up in their slips on a sunny day.


Looking at it, and thinking about the tsunami, made me think about altering the focus a bit to make it look a bit more surreal, something of a metaphor, I suppose, for everything that happened down there the past few days.  I used the InFocus plug-in from On One Software.


I thought it added an interesting effect to the scene…a little eerie even.  What do you think?

Color, or not?

Posted in Uncategorized on March 4, 2011 by John Tynes

Maybe you can help settle a simple debate which my wife and I have been having.  Having been trained in the old film and darkroom days, I have a soft spot for black and white.  I love the way it forces you to deal with composition and exposure.  My wife, on the other hand, loves rich and vibrant colors.  For her, they evoke the emotion of the composition.  Here’s an example….

I shot this historic old adobe building in Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona on a rare cloudy day.  The lighting conditions helped smooth out the exposure and allowed me to really saturate the frame.

Adobe Doors, Petrified Forest National Park

Now that’s the version my wife likes, and I have to admit that it’s pretty vivid.  However, all the textures in the image, along with all the converging and intersecting lines of the walls, doors and steps, made me think of black and white.  So I converted the image using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro, and here’s what I got:

Adobe Doors, alternate view, Petrified Forest National Park

I love all the shading in this version, reminds of all my black-and-white photographer heroes, like Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.  But I can see my wife’s point of view, too, the intensity of the orange and brown in the color version is something special as well.  So…I dunno…what do you think?

Cozumel then toward home

Posted in Uncategorized on January 1, 2011 by John Tynes

Cozumel is purportedly the largest cruise ship destination in the world, and it certainly feels like it. We docked at the downtown pier, there was a big Carnival ship docked at another pier about a mile away. Even with 7 or 8 thousand cruisers disgorged on the island at once, the locals had no trouble absorbing all of them, in fact the shops didn’t even seem that busy.

We encountered this nice little composition just as we got to the landward end of the pier…

(It may be hard to read on the web, but the sign reads “DO NOT STEP ON THE BENCH”)

Our morning was occupied with an guided excursion which first took us on a short bus ride down to the south end of the island and out into the jungle, where we were assigned 2-man dune buggies (excitingly called “X-Rails”) and drove ourselves along the bumpiest and dustiest 4 miles of road I’ve ever experienced…it was a blast. At the end of the road we were led down a trail through thick trees to a cenote, which is a sinkhole filled with clear cool fresh water, where we swam under stalactites with small bats flitting overhead.

Unfortunately, we then had to drive back in the X-Rails over the same bumpy and dusty roads, now in wet bathing suits. We were filthy and bedraggled and exhausted when we got back to the cruise ship pier. Nevertheless, we ate lunch in town and did a little shopping before heading for the showers in our staterooms inboard.

Our last day on the Epic was New Year’s Eve, a sunny day at sea…the pool deck was mobbed…

We had saved the Blue Man Group show for the last night…it was every bit as much fun at sea as it was when we saw it a couple of years ago in Orlando.

New Year’s Day now and winging back toward a rainy and cold San Francisco, but spirits are refreshed…all of us looking forward to the challenges of 2011…

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

A touch of Central America

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2010 by John Tynes

Our southernmost stop on the cruise was the island of Roatan, where some of us took a bus tour and the rest went kayaking and snorkeling. Couldn’t take the big camera snorkeling, but got some shots around the port when we got back to the boat.

I liked the geometry and contrasting colors in this one, lots of cool geometry around these big ships and docks.

There was a group of locals performing traditional music and dance alongside the ship. They were kind enough to pose for me (after a 5 dollar tip).

Next port of call will be Cozumel…

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Roatan, Honduras

Caribbean days

Posted in Uncategorized on December 29, 2010 by John Tynes

Technical difficulties the first couple of days of the cruise…very limited Internet access, therefore unable to post…

First port of call was Costa Maya, where we toured the ruins of the Mayan city of Chachobben, just now being excavated from the Yucatan jungle.

Very informative guide led us through the ruins and gave us plenty of time to explore on our own.

Can’t imagine what it must felt like to realize these huge structures were lying there under the trees of the jungle…they have a great mysterious air about them.

Not much to say about the port of Costa Maya…built specifically as a cruise ship stop…just a bunch of cheesy shops and over-priced (though delicious) mexican food restaurants, all surrounded by vast, empty mangrove swamps.

Next stop…the island of Roatan…

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad