Category Archives: Recent

The Mosso

The San Francisco’s ever insatiable need for more high-end housing seemingly knows no limits. As a result, housing is selling out before construction is even completed. I am often required to get imagery of what they have finished at the time with the hope of returning to complete the shoot. The Mosso was one such project. With the enviable address of Folsom and 5th, it was selling like hot cakes even before it broke ground on the adjacent building. I was called in to shoot a one bedroom and the amenities and then called back to get some roof shots. Hopefully, the Mosso will require more and more images and the building process continues.

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Hero Video of Russell Abraham

My colleague and studio mate hired me to make a hero video for his website update. We shot an interview in the studio and I employed his images as a pan and scan for imagery. We also added some footage that I got during one of our jobs together.

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Prague: Still One of the Best Preserved Medieval Cities

Both sides of the Bridge have towers. Prague Castle is in the background

Both sides of the Bridge have towers. Prague Castle is in the background

This was my second trip to the city. The first was in 1995, only six years after the Velvet Revolution. I was forewarned that the city was already over run with tourists and that I should see it as soon as possible. I came by the overnight train from Berlin and arrived at 5am on a weekday. At the time I wasn’t preplanning too much so I hadn’t made any reservations, figuring I’d do it like all the previous cities and make them at the train station visitor’s office. Much to my surprise there was nothing open and not a person within a mile that even spoke a word of English. I could read the sign on the station windows that they would open at 9am. With the help of a crude map I made my way down to the shores of the Vltava River where I caught up on some sleep on a park bench until the tourism office was open. I was first in the line when the visitor office opened up but the person working there spoke very little English and the lonely Planet book didn’t help much. Fortunately a passing stranger helped me to ask for accommodation. There were very few affordable hotels located in the Staré Město (Old City) in fact the only accommodation I could get was in a Soviet era bunker at the end of the metro line which was about an hour out of the city.

After settling in I took the metro in and explored to old city area on foot. To my surprise, other than the few overpriced restaurants in the main square, the city was not over run with tourists. In fact, I had to seek out an expat bar just to have a conversation that didn’t involve something like Charades. While it wasn’t empty, it wasn’t over run by any stretch. There were so few English speakers that I had to spend most of my time in and immediately around the tourist traps by the Astronomical Clock to make sure I got something like what I ordered.

This trip, I wasn’t going to be caught as off guard. We rented an apartment for the week in the Nové Město (New Town) area -easily within walking distance of the Staré Město and close access to the metro for further travels. It was much more crowded than in 1995 but the City seemed to be handling it. We were able to shop at a local grocery that only spoke a little English and after you left the mob scene in front of the Astronomical Clock, all awaiting the animated parade of the Apostles which only occurs every hour, you didn’t have to go far to leave them behind. Although most sites were within easy walking distance of the Staré Město, we did make use of their punctual public transit system.

The Municipal Building and Powder Tower

Prague is ranked fifth best European destination according to Tripadvisor and its old city is included in the Unesco list or World Heritage sites. The word “Bohemian” has its origin here as the region was settled by a Celtic tribe called the Boii around 200 BCE. It was once the seat of the Holy Roman Empire under Charles IV and was the site of one of the first Christian reformations led by Jan Hus nearly a century before Martin Luther. It is where the term “Defenestration” (the act of pushing someone or something out a very high window) was coined. In fact, they mark two seminal periods of their history by defenestrations: the first igniting the Hussite War and the second sparking the Thirty Years War in 1618. Its patronage of science and the arts include Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Albert Einstein , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonín Dvořák , Bedřich Smetana, Ludwig van Beethoven, Rainer Maria Rilke , Franz Kafka, Milan Kundera and Miloš Forman who filmed Amadeus there.

Night view of the old town square

 

Prague is one of the best preserved medieval cities primarily because it escaped two of the most destructive events in modern times. It escaped the carnage of World War Two because Hitler invaded and declared Bohemia and Moravia a German protectorate in 1939, unopposed -he even thought that one day he would retire in the city. The Soviet Union liberated Prague on May 5th 1945 forcing many Germans to flee the country. There was a popular uprising against the Soviet regime in 1968 but was quickly suppressed by their heavy military presence. In 1989, along with the crumbling of the Soviet Union, the Czechs peacefully overcame the Soviet grip on power with what became the Velvet Revolution. As a result, Prague has buildings (not just ruins) dating back to the 12th century, architecture spanning medieval through modern and a wealth of art and relics from its rich and influential history.

Regardless of when you get to it, Prague is one of the must see locations of Europe!

 

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Rome [sic] if you want to..and I do

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My apologies to the B-52s but the [mis]use of their lyric was too tempting. Although I’ve been to the Eternal City twice before in the 70s and 90s, I don’t think I gave it the attention that it deserves. In doing my research for this trip I was stunned with the number of innovations that are due to Rome and it’s empire. So much so, that this jam packed, week-long trip could have easily been another three without retracing any steps. Here are but a few Roman innovations that have shaped the western world.

The Romans invented concrete which allowed them to make formed, permanent structures. The Pantheon is the premiere example of this technology. For more than a thousand years it was the largest unsupported dome in the world and it still stands after nearly two thousand years. The ingenious coffering of the inside of the dome helped keep the weight down as well as choosing lighter aggregate in the concrete mix as the dome approaches the oculus. Romans even invented concrete that would set underwater. Regretfully, the recipe for concrete was lost after the sack of Rome and very rarely used until the technology was re-invented in the mid-18th century. Concrete is the most widely used man-made building material in contemporary times.

The city was probably the first in antiquity with an ability to support a large dense population. They were able to do this by building extensive aqueducts to get water into and sewage out of the city. This is the primary reason that the Centro Storico is navigated by piazzas and at the heart of those piazzas are fountains. They are more than elaborate, decorative elements for tourists; they were the primary source of water and represent the ability of city to support their population, thereby becoming the first modern metropolis.

The thousands of miles of aqueducts, each precisely slanted to give a regular direction of flow, were an impressive engineering feat in themselves but were made possible with Roman widespread use of the arch. This building technique has the capability to distribute the structures weight through the side columns allowing for a much larger, unsupported opening. Although this is not their invention, the Romans made the most extensive use of this technique in antiquity and well after.

Beyond those and many more innovations, Rome is a vibrant, clean, colorful and even a very walk able city. The sheer volume of art and history is staggering but coupled with the aromas and tastes, Rome deserves a visit or three.

Piazza della Rotonda

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Duh?!? It’s the View!

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There are many reasons to rent a penthouse in Mission Bay: its great location for downtown, its great amenities and a permanent parking spot in the city. But the main reason, the selling reason, is for the view. Channel Mission Bay hired me to shoot specifically for that.

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They had two units that had this high value view: the penthouse and the Sky Vue lounge. They both have remarkable views of downtown and the ballpark. Although they are naturally gifted with this view it’s a bit difficult to capture it photographically. For one thing, windows have a reflectivity problem. Any lighting used in the space will be reflected back in the glass obscuring the view. Often times, the glass is tinted which renders the view both darker and with a weird color balance. There are essentially two techniques to render the view photographically.

As a through back to the film days, the first is a multiple exposure. With the camera sitting on a tripod take one exposure for the foreground and turn out all the lighting within the space and take another exposure for the external view. Then load then as layers and do a mask for pass through of the windows. The second is to take a separate photo of the view from one of the widows or outside and again at approximately the same angle and again loading them as layers, Again, do the masking of the windows and bring the background view in and change the perspective to fit the original view to look natural in size and perspective. This second technique gives you the ability to have a completely clear view and modify the perspective a bit for best impact. Of course there is the issue of verisimilitude but I’ve rarely run into anybody in marketing that wasn’t willing to sacrifice that for a little more pizzazz

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Booming Mission Bay

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For those of you who don’t live in San Francisco, the extent of the housing boom magnitude is probably not fully grasped. I was hired to do some pick ups by a new client who has one of the more finished buildings in Mission Bay. It was a real challenge to get shots of and from their building without the massive construction projects becoming the focus -in some cases, it was just impossible. Fortunately, I’ll be returning there when more of the surrounding construction is completed.

 

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The Newest National Park: Pinnacles National Park

Bear Gulch Resevoir

Pinnacles had been on my radar at least a couple of years before becoming America’s newest National Park.  It’s rhynolitic lava spires, talus caves, condors and remarkable proximity had been singing their Siren song for quite a while.  But now that it had become part of the National Park system, it was time to act upon it before it became too popular and inevitably too crowded.  The National Park status is important because they are set apart by Congress for the use of the people of the United States as opposed to National Monument status which are areas reserved by the National Government because they contain objects of historic, prehistoric, or scientific interest.

The park is known for its astonishing geology. About 23 million years ago a massive volcano spewed lava in massive molten chunks in what is now the Los Angeles County. It was then transported to its current location (just 80 miles south of San Jose) via the San Andreas fault on a geologic time line. The lava cooled and years of erosion created tall pink spires while allowing huge boulders to fall and wedge themselves into the narrow canyons forming tenuous roofs for the talus caves.

Last April, a friend and I finally heeded that Siren call and set out for an over nighter in the park. It didn’t disappoint; we hiked the caves at Bear Gulch the afternoon of the day we arrived and did the climbs of the High Peaks Trail in the coolness of the next morning.  Although the camping areas are a little exposed, they are quite reasonable for a stay of a couple of nights. Although we never saw the much vaunted condors, the magnificent scenery of the hikes more than made up for it.

Gallery

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The New Green Screen

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I had shot on green screen years ago and had a very negative experience.  The process of removing or matte background is called Keying and the earlier versions of this function in Premiere Pro were less than flawless. I had a terrible time cleaning up the matte and had an almost impossible task of cleaning up the Spill. The Spill is those parts of your image that reflect the color of the background and although green is a very good background to remove, it’s not a flattering color on people. I did manage to get it done but not without a great deal of work. From that point on I shied away from green screen processing.

I recently had a client that was very interested in a hero video that we could shoot in a short time period, in the limited confines of my small studio.  He stressed the importance that although the content was just him talking, that he didn’t want it to be just another boring talking head video against a static background.

I discovered that the team for Premiere Pro had added a new tool to the keying suite called Ultra Keying.  It does as it is named and created pretty flawless mattes. The new tools that are included in this function includes a Spill Suppression slider which is what was missing from previous editions. This enabled me to finally render a motion background that I had possessed for year and though I may never use.

Both the client and I were very impressed with the results and I’ll not shy away from the green screen again.

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Mexico City

Pyramid of the Sun with the lesser pyramids

I’ve heard all the reasons not to go to Mexico City: the overpopulation, the noise, the smog, the crime, etc. but we were on our way to another Mexican Riviera resort vacation and I felt the need for something more cultural along the way. In my research I found an amazing amount of interesting sites and attractions in and around the city. Although we only spent four days there it would have easily filled seven days of attractions and adventures.  Mexico City is a world class metropolis and deserves more credit than it gets.

We stayed right on the Zocalo (city center) and there were many things to see within walking distance -which was good because the inner city traffic rivals a Bangkok rush hour. We stayed at a very posh, French Style hotel called the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico for a mere $70 a night. There was never a time that we felt as if we may be assaulted and everyone was very warm and friendly. We did take a tour excursion to the Pyramids and although we did stop at a few curio shops along the way, it was still good. The culture is ever present in the city from the unbelievably stunning modern art to the ballet and symphonies. There was even a book fair that occupied the complete main square the entire time we were there.

Detail of the Dream of a Sunday afternoon in the Alameda, Diego Rivera

Highlights were the Temple Mayor museum, the Diego Rivera museum, the Palace of Fine Arts, La Casa Azul and of course the pyramids at Teotihuacán. If you are traveling through for any reason and can do so, spend some time in Mexico’s capitol -it just may surprise you.

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Fall Colors in the Eastern Sierra

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For more than two decades, I was hoping to go up to the Eastern Sierra to photograph the fall foliage. Either I was too busy or I just missed the narrow 2-3 week window out of neglect. This season, a photo buddy and I just marked it in the calendar and preplanned the trip –novel idea. The weather and the advance of Winter cooperated and we spent 3 full days traveling the Highway 395 corridor for all the great colors.

We stayed in Mammoth Lakes because it offered the most choice in accommodations and was about central to the travels. We used the guide provided by the Mono County Tourism board and talked with locals to find what was most turned at the time.

I brought along my dedicated IR point and shoot which rendered some interesting images especially in Bodie.

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The complete gallery can be seen here:

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