Improving The Visual Record

This blog provides a resource to record what I learn about photography as I practice and read about it.

Curious Personal Tastes in Photography

Should my tastes in photography align with those of other photographers? Apparently, no. Here are my 3 most favorited photos on

Why does everyone love night shots? I would not consider these my "best" photos by any measure other than that they might be the most visually appealing night shots I have taken.

Here is an example of a photo I tend to favor. And the best part is that I didn't edit it! That's rare.

Paris and Crater Lake

There is no connection. Paris is not at all like Crater Lake in Oregon. Although, both places do contain a deeply pure concentration of substance. At Crater Lake, that substance is water. In Paris, it's [food, elitism, French].

My connection is vacation. I visited Paris from April 29 to May 8 and Crater Lake (and Ashland, OR) this past Memorial Day weekend.

Paris photos

Oregon photos

Steps to the Perfect Photo

Of course there is no perfect photo. But if my experience with is any indication, the steps to make one might read something like this: 

  1. Open Lightroom.
  2. Increase Clarity to between 50 and 75%.
  3. Decrease Contrast to between 10 and 50%.
  4. Increase Vibrance to between 10 and 50%.

Optional tweaks are to:

  • Set white balance (WB) to Auto.
  • Check the Enable Profile Corrections box.
  • Check the Remove Chromatic Aberration box.
  • Check the Constrain Crop box and select the Auto button.
  • Sharpen between 10 and 30%.
  • Set Luminance to between 10 and 75%.

Making these tweaks have produced my most popular photos on and taken formerly so-so shots to saturated stardom!

That said, now that I see the pattern, I'm bored. My most popular photo, of a turbine engine in a field in downtown Prattville, AL, feels, if you will, kind of like eating cotton candy or Jelly Belly's because the levels of HDR-like Clarity and Vibrance/Saturation leave a saccharine taste in my mouth. Looking at it feels like eating a piece of chocolate that has just more sugar than it needs, preventing me from enjoying the delicious cocoa. I'm obviously hungry, but the point remains that this formula, while great fun implementing, is old hat to me now and I can't wait to try out some new tweaks!

2013: My Year of Photography

Nikon D5100, shown with 55-300mm lens (taken with Nikon 1 J1 18.5mm f/1.8)

2013 was my Year of Photography. After seeing that my iPhone 4S couldn't see very well in the dark and realizing that having a camera around might make realistic painting a lot easier to capture reference photos, I went to Best Buy and bought a Nikon 1 J1. Granted that I had never before then taken a serious interest in photography, I was amazed at the pictures powered by this point-and-shoot pretender.

Then, Nikon unveiled their 18.5mm f/1.8 prime! It may still be my favorite lens. Portraits with this lens amaze right out of the mechanical box. It f-stopped my heart, you might say if you were as cheesy as I seem to be at the moment.

Snap, snap, snap. My right pointer finger couldn't snap photos fast enough. But, soon, I found myself wanting a true DSLR with even more processing power and a bigger selection of lenses. After researching and finding that I might want in-camera HDR capability (I don't), I got a Nikon D5100, on sale, again, at Best Buy. I sound impulsive.

I love this camera, too. And unless it breaks, I won't buy another for some time. I need to master the camera tech before I, for example, go full frame.

I'm reading like crazy right now and my next step is to complete the challenges provided in the book, Nikon D5100: From Snapshots to Great Shots. I just finished the book but skipped the challenges in a frenzy to grasp the concepts. Now it's time to play.

Photographing San Francisco

Living close to a big city like San Francisco provides with so many creative possibilities for photographers. From its distinctive architecture to its constant tourist activity, one will never lack for visual inspiration.

I have lived in the Bay Area since late 2002 but have only been taking advantage of San Francisco's visual wonders since 2008, with the iPhone 3G. Now I take at least a photo a week, just because it's really hard to miss the opportunities that hit you without warning as you, for example, go out for lunch.

Below is a link to some of the photos of San Francisco I have taken more recently with Nikon cameras. I started with a Nikon 1 J1 and then got a D5100. As you can see, I tend to snap photos of architecture and people. I try not to bother anyone, though, which is hard because people can be so interesting!

Photos of San Francisco