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Baker Beach, San Francisco, California, New Years Day

I have a lovely camera, and it seems a shame not to use it as often as possible, so use it I have been.  One of the great things about this little blog is that it gives me a place to chart my progress and contemplate my failings.  I have, I think, very modest goals when it comes to my photographs.  I just want to do better today than I did yesterday.  This means messing up.  A lot.

Today’s Lesson Born of Failure:  Wet Sand Does Not a Stable Tripod Base Make

The inimitable Yoda produced this gem of a quote: “If no mistake you have made, losing you are.”  Truer words, my friends, truer words. I am reminded of a camping-gear website I visited, back when I was laughably thinking I might get in on that camping stuff.  The reviewer mentioned in an offhand sort of way that he has so many suggestions for readers because he had made every mistake there was to make.  His example involved setting up his tent such that it flooded in the middle of the night.  If I were ever to camp more than fifteen feet from my car, I’m sure I would also find a way to flood my tent.  And it hardly ever rains here.  Anyway, I think of him every time I muck something up, which is just about every time I go out, and then I think of Yoda, and remind myself that damn it, I’m not losing.

So here’s something I learned on yesterday’s excursion: If you put your tripod in wet sand, there’s a good chance it may sink over the course of your long exposure, resulting in an ugly, blurry print, and two to five minutes you’re never going to get back again.  Lesson learned: Push that tripod into the sand until it won’t move any more before starting your exposure.

But wait, there’s more!  Addendum to yesterday’s lesson, gleaned from today’s excursion:  If you plant your tripod in the wet sand, even if you pushed it down to stabilize it, if your own foot is sinking into the sand near the tripod leg, water and sand will mush about, your tripod will move, and you will once again have an ugly picture.  Of greater concern, in this age of digital photography in which pictures are free, is the wasted time.  The husband will only stand in the wet and cold for so long.  Every exposure counts.

Here’s this evening’s effort:


ISO 100, f/4, 25 second exposure

And then I was concerned that it looked crooked, because the line of the water on the horizon slopes, so I…



…cropped it.  Now the coast line is even, but the bridge looks wonky.  Or does it?  Yeah, I’m pretty sure it looks wonky.  I think.  I’ve lost perspective.

Lesson Two: Aurora HDR Makes Everything Look Better

In other news, I’ve been using this program called Aurora HDR to tide me over until I have time to learn to use Lightroom properly.  Aurora HDR makes me look much more proficient than I am.  Aside from creating actual HDR images (if I am so inclined, that is – I wasn’t this time) it also has all of these nifty pre-sets.  So many pre-sets.  I am overwhelmed with options.  For example, this pre-set is called “Bright”:


I think this pre-set is self explanatory.

And this one is called – wait for it – “Taint Ed Loves”:


Ed’s Taint.  That doesn’t sound dirty at all.

You can also manipulate the images beyond the presets.  For example, here’s “Taint Ed Loves” with the exposure altered:


I’m calling this “Taint Dreams.”  You’re welcome, Aurora HDR.  I’m here all night.

Clearly, there’s a lot you can do with digital images if you know something.  I, however, like Jon Snow, know nothing.  You can tell that I know nothing because there are little people wielding cell phone cameras with flashes on the right side of the photo that haven’t been removed because, well, I don’t know how to do it yet.

Next time, WordPress, next time.


Addendum:  Here’s something else I’ve learned, through failure, cell phone users: your cell phone flash will not give you a better picture of the Golden Gate Bridge when it is several miles away.  You’re welcome.

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