Chasing Fog in the San Francisco Bay Area

Enough folks have asked me how I chase fog shots that I’ve added useful tools / links I use to chase fog.

1) Is the government saying there will be morning fog? Check here first!

2) SFO Aviation data: If it’s good enough for our planes, then it’s good enough for you. Look for “Ceiling” in the forecast. If it’s 800 feet or below, then there’s a good chance of low fog. There might not be fog, but if there is it will be low. I got a shot with a 900 feet ceiling but that more had to do with extreme luck. A ceiling of 1500 feet is great for Mount Tamalpais.

Golden Gate Bridge at Night with Fog
Golden Gate Bridge at Night with Fog

3) The “weatherforyou.com” site is almost useful. I just wish I could zoom into the maps. It shows you fog cover for different blocks of time.

4) Also, it helps to consult a webcam.

5) There’s also the Escaype App but you gotta pay for it.

I hope this helps. Chasing fog is like hitting in baseball. If you get it 3 out of 10 times, then you’re a success. There’s nothing like seeing the fog roll in low into the San Francisco Bay during dusk or dawn.

Instagram Hubs Are Bad & Are Just Link Farms

You open up Instagram. You see that someone has posted a photo you took. They say stuff like, “Congratulations, you have been featured!”

Are they featuring you out of the goodness of their heart?

While I was running the @IgersSF account, I would notice that featuring photos more often benefitted the @IgersSF account than the folks I featured in terms of likes and follows.

How can you tell the difference between a hub and a real Instagram community?

  • Hubs never asked your permission to post your photograph. More in depth details on this at DIYPhotography.
  • Hubs hardly if ever communicate back after they featured you.
  • Hubs have owners that are elusive and are rarely seen in the real world. They might even be bots coded to auto-feature *cough* steal photos, and grow an account.
  • Hubs never give back to the community.

What’s the solution to hubs? Google came up with a solution a long time ago for link farms, and it’s about time that Instagram implement it.

“Search engines countered the link farm movement by identifying specific attributes associated with link farm pages and filtering those pages from indexing and search results.” (from the Wikipedia article on Link farms)

A similar thing can be done for Instagram hubs using a Bayesian filter.

World Wide Instameet 10 in Berkeley

On Sunday I went to one of the World Wide Instameets happening at Berkeley. The hosts were Cory Maryott (Cal class of 2014), and Instagram denizen, Milkstachio. I personally brought some dahlias and sunflowers as part of a hashtag project I’m working on. More on that later. I felt the photo walk was well-timed for catching the sunset and getting dinner later. Also, there were some spots with great light that were part of the walk.

Cory Maryott

The co-host volunteered to pose for my hashtag project, #dudesholdingflowers. But honestly, everybody gets flowers. See below.

Danielle McGuiness

I asked Danielle McGuinness to pretend to have a conversation with the flower.

Queena Li

The refection of the flower in Queena Li’s shades was too hard to resist.

Adventures on a Ledge

Some adventurous folk went out on a ledge.

For dinner, the group with to Pieology, a pizza place that only makes personal sized 10″ pizzas made to order. The conversations that interested me were from a guy who shoots great landscapes that recently moved here or one of the pro-photographers that showed up. “Can I be your second shooter (for a wedding)?” “How do you get a social media job?” “Where’s a good place to shoot in SF?” or questions about the iPhone 6 were bandied about.

After dinner, the group split up. Most of us went to Berkeley BART. One of the younger guys was eagerly taking street photos on the lamp-lit street of Telegraph Avenue. Of that, someone said, “That’s a real photographer.”

Who To Follow on Instagram

Don’t follow anybody in the top 100 if you want a follow back. This elite group with at least 2.2 million followers only follows back an average of 222. That means your odds of getting a follow back are less than one-thousandth of a percent.

Also, don’t follow anybody who recently became a suggested user. In typical “nouveau riche” fashion, most start unfollowing people once they’ve reached this coveted status. On average, they follow less than 500 and unfollow 2/3rds of their followers before their suggested user status.

Honestly, just follow people whose photos you really like and who engage with you back. Yes, both. You can already “follow” people whose photos you like in galleries and in books without the engagement, but Instagram is all about engagement.

My pal, @combustionchamber, asked me who to follow on Instagram. Here are three folks that aren’t IRL friends but whom I’ve admired from afar that I’d like to suggest. Here are folks on Instagram whose art I like but also have a high degree engagement.

Larry Nienkark, landscape photographer: This guy even gives discounts to his superb prints in the comments.

Melody Riffs, singer: She is singing 1000 songs for 1000 strangers. One of them might be you.

Ac Colvin, night-time and fashion photography: Ac really reaches out and chats with his audience. I really like his night time shots around San Francisco, especially the long exposure ones.

Finding Photographic Inspiration from Tree of Life

Terence Malick’s “Tree of Life” is one of the few films that dares to answer the question, “Why?” Kubrick’s 2001 also made such an attempt but it didn’t quite have as clear of an answer in the way that “Tree of Life” does.

Malick carved his vision for “Tree of Life” well before Instagram launched, so when I look at his film, as someone who came to Instagram first, I can’t help but notice how much it all looks like Instagram in its early days.

Here are some inspiring images from that movie.

canyon

stainglassspiral

sunflowers

trees

rain

saltflats

The Challenge of Sydney Summer Rain by Trent Parke

summer_rain

This photo taken by Trent Parke in 1998 screams of many contrasts: light and dark, wet and dry, soft and harsh, under-exposed and over-exposed. The last contrast seems quite intentional given Parke’s oeuvre. He was a sports photographer (Street Photography Now, p. 129) and this has given him the speed, reflexes and confidence needed to take some chances by not using traditional apertures and shutter speeds, and yet yield great results. For example, in the above photo, given the same composition a street photographer would go for 1/250th of a second and as much depth of field as possible. While still keeping the same depth of field, Parke intentionally goes for a longer exposure, despite having adequate light, and ends up creating the play of light with the rain.

The challenge behind this photo is that you should take photos even if the weather is far from ideal. The reward is taking a photo way better than photographs of breakfast or comfy interiors.

Aperture in a 50mm Lens

I volunteered to do a modeling shoot, and I got to learn a bit about how what apertures to use on a 50mm f/1.4 lens. In this case, I was using a Canon 50mm USM f/1.4 lens.

I don’t think you ever want to use it wide open since it gets really soft. At f/2.0 it is still soft but it has a nice blur. If you take a head shot at f/2.0, you get some really sharp eyes (if you focus there) and all the wrinkles blur away.

Do not use f/2.0 for a bust or full body shot. Bad idea. Everything is blurry.

When you get to f/5.0, that’s a great f-stop for a couple. You still aren’t tack sharp yet.

At f/5.6, you get tack sharp photos.

Beyond f/5.6 sharpness begins to fade, but just slightly.

5 Instagram Tips for Newbies: A very biased film photographer perspective

These are my tips for newbies on Instagram.

1. When you first sign up follow a few select friends that will follow you back.

The Instagram community has suffered from the onslaught of spammers that actually sell fake follows and likes online. Don’t make the mistake of following every one of your facebook contacts and appear like one.

A spammy looking account has more followings than followers.

spammy_looking

A non-spammy newbie account looks like this:

cyndies_profile

Sure she’s following more people than are following her, but with continued engagement via likes and photos, this user will eventually have better than less than a 1:1 ratio.

2. Straighten out landscapes unless you are going for dynamic tension.

Photographers trained in film were taught to straighten out landscapes. Ya, I know, it sounds lame from a “there are no rules in art” perspective, but there it is. Lucky there are so few of us.

3. Don’t cut people off at the feet.

This is another prejudice of those trained in photography. It has to do with the notion that photography is about capturing a “subject,” but we post-moderns don’t believe in that, right? If photography is about capturing the subject it must do so completely.

4. Don’t follow people, get a follow back and then unfollow.

This is pretty douchey behavior reminiscent of MySpace days. While we are at it. Don’t ask for a shout out.

5. Don’t steal someone’s photo.

Got any other tips? Add them in the comments.

Cheers,
Barce.

A Review of the Lubitel 166+

I’ve been shooting with the Lubitel 166+ and quite frankly it’s not as sharp as you’d get say shooting with an old SLR like a Minolta XE-7 or Pentax ME Super with a 50mm 1.4 lens.

The Lubitel 166+ is a Lomography remake of the Lubitel 166, which is a Twin Reflex Lens camera that was produced in the former Soviet Union. It’s made of plastic but has a glass lens. It takes 120 film. The operation is fully manual requiring you to figure out shutter speed and aperture. The guide in the back is crazy inaccurate unless, I’ve realized, you are shooting color film with the goal of cross-processing it – the so-called X-Pro effect.

xpro_sunset

It costs about $349 as of the publishing of this post at the Lomography Store. You can get the above mentioned SLRs with sharper photos and less hassle for a 1/3 of the price on eBay or Amazon.

Below is a landscape I shot using the Lubitel 166+. I feel that this didn’t have enough contrast.

lubitel_landscape

I feel the Lubitel 166+ does best in high contrast situations when you’re shooting directly into the sun. Check out the photos below.

lubitel_sun_trees

lubitel_write_suns_rays

For all its quirks, the Lubitel 166+ is a good camera. I wouldn’t use it for anything professional, but definitely for something artsy. It costs a bit too much, and I would recommend getting an older Lubitel 166 off of eBay for cheaper.

Pros:

  • artsy effects like vignetting, an interesting lens flare
  • glass lens
  • nice bokeh
  • fully manual experience great for training your eye in order to figure out exposure
  • It’s light weight.
  • You don’t need batteries.

Cons:

  • It’s pricy. You can get better quality cheaper on eBay or Amazon.
  • If you lose a part, you are SOL.
  • It’s not that sharp for something using 120 film. A Rolleiflex will give you way better quality.
  • Or for just $100 more you might be able to find a 120 film SLR camera on eBay.

Check out the Lubitel 166+ photo pool on Flickr to get a good idea of the shots you can take.

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