Images & Observations

Night Scene

The Dog House

Roadside Americana

Nikon D7000 18-200mm @ 27mm ISO 800 3-bkts f/8 Lr4, Tpz Sim; PsCS6

Hungry, but a hamburger from In-N-Out does not appeal to you, just head next door to Big Daddy’s Fire Grill Pasadena, California  in for wood fired burgers, dogs and sausages.  I recommend the chili dog, a quarter pound hot dog slathered with a full bodied, lightly spiced chile.

To view in high resolution or to purchase this or similar prints please click here:

Burger Queue

Roadside Americana

Nikon D7000 18-200mm @ 27mm ISO 800 1/100 f/8 Lr4, TpzSim; PsCS6

The always present line up of cars waiting their turn at the In-N-Out drive thru in Pasadena, California.  I recommend the “Double Double”, hold the spread and add mustard and ketchup.

To view in high resolution or to purchase this or similar prints please click here:

A Better Burger Joint

Nikon D7000 18-200mm @ 18mm ISO 1600 1/40 f/8 Lr4, TpzSim; PsCS6

In-N-Out, which is a small chain with its origins in Southern California and has near cult status when it comes to fast food burgers.  People either seem to love them or hate them.  They produce a a very distinctive fast food burger that comes off of a flat top (griddle), instead of the usual shredded lettuce and chopped onions the burgers are garnished with fresh whole lettuce leaves, fresh sliced tomato and a fresh sliced disc of onion.   They should not be  compared to char-broiled (grilled) burgers, totally different animal.  I like their Double-Double, double meat and double American cheese; while I take mine with usual onion, tomato and lettuce, I have them hold the “spread” and hold the cheese, to lower the fat, and add mustard and ketchup.  Now that is a very satisfying burger when you have a hankering for that genre of burger.

Prints available here:

The Hat At Dusk

Nikon D7000 18-200mm @ 18mm ISO 1250 1/100 f/16 Lr4

Here is another outpost of The Hat (my last Hat post), this one is located on old Route 66 in Glendora, California.  I was out in the parking lot and on the sidewalk capturing images while Judy was inside, getting us a grilled cheese sandwich.  The folks inside were apparently mystified why some guy would be outside taking photos of their restaurant.  Easy answer: The Hat is an iconic roadside eatery with great graphics, and we dig their menu of foods that our medical practioners would tell us to avoid.


Temple of the Underclothes Sect

Nikon D7000 10-24mm @ 10mm ISO 1600 3-bkts f/22 Lr3, HEP1, TpzSim; PsCS5

There it looms, radiating mystical colors in the dark night, the temple of the underclothes sect.  Legend has it that when the moon is overhead, scantily clad maidens with wings of angeles will appear on the second level of the temple, beckoning men with fat wallets and wakened libidos and matrons with aspirations of pulchritudinous physiques and unfulfilled dreams of romance in to the inner chamber of the temple.  Once inside, and under the spell of the priestess of the temple, the men and women will make offerings of their treasures and be rewarded with the sacred garments.  The men and women will leave the temple with their sacred garments and dreams of rapturous moments to come, but no certainty of fulfillment.  And the angels  will deliver the collected treasure to the coffers of the deities in the great temple known as New York Stock Exchange, and then return to the Third World where they will trade acorns for more sacred garments before the next new moon.

Please click on the image to view it in high resolution.

Dark Alley, Bright Light

Nikon D7000 18-135mm @ 18mm ISO 2500 1/20 f/3.5 Lr3, TpzSim; PsCS5

The light might bring brightness and a sense of warmth to an alley on the back side of a block of buildings, but the light only radiates so far, and as you walk beyond the light, your eyes do not adapt immediately, and you enter the surrounding shadows with an enhanced sense of foreboding, not sure what demons lurk in the darkness beyond, and then you begin to approach the next pool of light.

The Fountain At Library Park

Nikon D7000 10-24mm @ 17mm ISO 800 3-bkts f/14 Lr3, HEP1; PsCS5

Continuing our visit to Myrtle Avenue in Monrovia, California on a recent evening I discovered a gem of a park that I had really never noticed in all the years when I used to drive and would drive by without really noticing it.  You see and appreciate so much more when you are on foot, or in a power chair that won’t get up to more than five miles an hour.

This was shot hand-held, the three brackets at 1/50, 1/10 and 1/3.  Very minimal tweaking in Lightrooom and Nik’s HDR Efex Pro.

Please follow me on Google+ and I will add you to my Photo Friends circle.  If you have not checked out Google+ I recommend you do, the Circles function gives you great control over managing your social networking contacts, the Hangout feature for instant voice and video conferencing is awesome; Trey Ratcliff has been hosting Hangouts for photographers almost daily, and quite a community of photographers is growing over there. If you are a photographer do not get scared off by the TOS if you wish to load photos up there, there seems to be a lot of misinformed fear mongering going on about this.  I am hosting some of my galleries there and like the presentation, if you load images there and you have EXIF data in your image files it will be displayed in the photo album, together with the histogram, which should be a great tool if you want to study other photographers’ work.

Last Call

Street Life

Nikon D7000 18-135mm @ 50mm ISO 2500 1/13 f/4.8 Lr3; SEP2

The last customer of the evening at closing time at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Old Town, Pasadena, California.  I debated with myself about whether I would publish this or not.  This final image is about a 20% slice of a full DX frame from the camera, that I should have cropped in camera by using a longer focal length (and with the camera in a vertical orientation), so the detail quality of this rendering would have been up to my standards.  I liked the possible stories that this image conjures up so much that I decided to share it.  Next time I will be more deliberate, and think my shot through, before just clicking the shutter in reaction to the moment.

The shot was through a window and there is some reflection from some exterior lights that interferes with the image.  I did alter the tones in the man’s face because it was distorted by the reflected light (possibly some neon tubing across the street) but left a remnant of the neon tube in his hair (I did not want to manipulate this street life image more than necessary).  You can also discern some banding of the image from the reflected light. I have been thinking about distractive light reflections a lot recently while capturing more shop window images and I have come to the conclusion that while my primary interet is what is behind a shop window, that in real life as you look through a window unwanted reflections are usually present to one degree or another, so if I can’t cleanly eliminate them, I might as well accept them as part of the reality of the scene as we live it.

Chill’n At The Equator

Street Life

Nikon D7000 18-135mm @ 26mm ISO 2500 1/6 f/3.8 Lr3; SEP2

The Equator was originally a stable in the 19th century, and since the revitalization of Old Town, Pasadena, California that began in the late 20th century the building has hosted various hospitality based businesses.  They bill themselves from what I can gather from their web site as a restaurant/club featuring Asian fusion food and of course a full bar.  Equator is located on Mills Place which is nearly just an alley in Old Town, adjacent to Mills Alley, which is a real alley.  This short street is much more typical of the North End in Boston, than of some Disneyfied  entertainment venue typical of the greater Los Angeles area.

No special post processing here, just some selective tone adjustments to bring out more clarity of all the human images, particularly of the fellow actually inside the building.  I was intrigued by the elaborate chandeliers that are visible through the windows and I like the image of the hairless guy leaning against the wall.

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

Shop Windows

Nikon D7000 18-135mm @ 18mm ISO 2500 3-bkts f/3.5 Lr3, HEP1; CEP3

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at the corner of Mercantile Place and Fair Oaks Avenue in Old Town, Pasadena, California is our bivouac for hot and cold coffee drinks when we are doing a photo walk in Old Town.  This shot was captured just after closing time on a recent weekday evening.

Marylinn’s Bridal Collection

Shop Windows

Nikon D7000 18-135mm @ 21mm ISO 2500 3-Bkts f/4.5 Lr3, HEP1; SEP2

This was at the end of a recent photo walk Judy and did through Old Town, Pasadena, California.  The shop is Marylinn’s Bridal Collection and it occupies the northwest corner of the Castle Green complex in Old Town.   The buildings that comprise the Castle Green complex were originally constructed during the last twenty years of the 19th century, when Pasadena become known as a major winter resort location for people seeking the health benefits of the Southern California climate.

Place Vendome: Attraction To Shiny Objects

Shop Windows

Nikon D7000 18-135 mm @ 26mm ISO 2500 1/80 f/7.1 Lr3

This is the window at the rear of the Place Vendome shop on the alley way between Miller’s Alley and Smith Alley in Old Town, Pasadena, California.  Just a straight forward image, no application of post processing filters, just minimal exposure and contrast adjustments.

Cache: Two Moody Interpretations

Shop Windows

Continuing the visit to Paseo Pasadena in Pasadena, California here are two interpretations of the image I captured of the Cache shop:

Nikon D80 18-135mm @ 18mm ISO 1250 1/20 f/4.8 Lr3; SEP2

I was trying to give some mystery and intrigue to the stairway and kept it dark during post processing.  For some reason my mind imagined pirates coming down the stairway looking for the cache of treasure.

Nikon D80 18-135mm @ 18mm ISO 1250 1/20 f/4.8 Lr3, SEP2; CEP3

In this version I experimented with the fog effect available as one of the Nik Color Efex Pro filters, imagining Cache as a warm, inviting grog shop on the end of a foggy pier.

I would really like to know which image resonates more with you, so please leave a comment indicating your preference.

Brighton Shop Window

Nikon D80 18-135mm @ 22mm ISO 1250 3-bkts (+/- 2EV) f/4.8 Lr3, HEP1; SEP2

Today formally begins my periodic series of shop windows.   Since I first published the Patterson Hardware shop window I have begun to see more shop windows and the stories they tell as subjects worthy of capture in my camera, so as of today one of my official categories for this blog will be “Shop Windows”.  Which at times I find much more interesting than slick print or web advertisements for stores or products.  One could argue that window dressing in some venues has achieved the status of being considered high art.  Whether you accept that or not, I believe that you may agree with me that the way that individual shop keepers display their shop windows to the world can be a clever, whimsical, engaging exercise in the art of catching a passerby’s eye.

This is the Brighton store at Paseo Pasadena, Pasadena, California.  That is my daughter on the right side, keeping an eye on her mother who is bargain hunting in the store.  The contents of this store  for sale had zero interest for me, but my eye was attracted to the iron work, the chandelier in the store and the light reflecting off of the tiles on the walkway.  As with the majority of my images in this blog, this shot was hand-held.

Al Fresco On Colorado

Street Life

Nikon D7000 18-135mm @ 32mm ISO 2500 3-bkts f/6.3 Lr3, HEP1; SEP2

This is the scene in front of Bar Celona on Colorado Boulevard in Old Town, Pasadena, California.  Just a few doors down the street from the 35er, which is in the background.  Old Town is the place with the most concentrated night life activity in Pasadena, what I like about it, is that unlike many contemporary venues (such as Universal City Walk, The Grove, Victoria Gardens, etc.) the charm and ambience are not manufactured or replicated, all of the buildings in the area are original, period structures, rehabilitated and restored for contemporary use, but reminiscent of previous eras.

I tried this image out as full color at first, but I think it has more impact and tells a better story in the black and white and toned version.

Brick Alley #3: Turning Daylight In To Night


Nikon D7000 18-135mm @ 28mm ISO 1250 3-bkts f/8 Lr3; HDR Efex Pro

This image was actually captured at 5:28 P.M. on March 5, a day when the sun set at 5:52 P.M.  and the ambient light conditions were quite different

Nikon D7000 18-135mm @ 28mm ISO 1250 1/15 f/8 Lr3

than depicted in this rendering.  The scene is an alley off of Mercantile Place in Old Town, Pasadena, California.  The original center exposure is on the right.  I achieved the final image by converting the camera raw file in to .DNG using Lightroom, then processed the three brackets through HDR Efex Pro, tweaking overall exposure, contrast structure, saturation, white and black point, and then used Nik control points to further tweak the left foreground, the human figures, and the sky using some of the same adjustments.  Sharpening, noise reduction and  vignetting then occurred in Lightroom.

Some might consider this over processing in terms of the saturation and artificially changing the perceived time of day, but I really wanted to feature the brick work and set a mood, so I exercised my creative license.  I really like my final rendering.

Barbeque Denied; Photographers’ Rights

Nikon D80 20-24mm @ 23mm ISO 200 f/8 3-bkts Lr3 HDR Efex Pro Color Efex Pro

Looks can be deceiving.  This looks like a barbeque restaurant on a typical street corner, anywhere, U.S.A.   As I was capturing the brackets I was also thinking that Judy and I would pay a visit to Lucille’s afterwards (we enjoy their ribs and chicken).  After I captured the brackets for this image we moved down the street (on the sidewalk that is off the left edge of this image) where, after capturing some more brackets I was accosted by a security guard.  It was then that I learned this was not a typical street corner in the United States (at least not yet being typical).

This branch of Lucille’s is located at the “out door shopping mall” known as Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga, California.  The security guard who is apparently employed (either directly or through a subsidiary) by Forest City who developed and manages the venue, was telling me what I may and what I may not photograph at the venue from my vantage point on the sidewalk.   I tried to use the rationale that I was on a public sidewalk, and thus could photograph anything I wanted, it was then that I was informed that I was on private property.  I was told that I may photograph my companion for a “snapshot” but that I was not permitted to photograph anything or anyone else on the property.   This just did not sit very well with me and I was getting quite worked up about it, but Judy more or less dragged me away, packed me in the van and we left the venue.

Not happy with how all that went I then did some research with the city of Rancho Cucamonga and learned that the streets and sidewalks that comprise Victoria Gardens, although inter-connected to the surrounding public streets and public sidewalks, and even though not equipped with any physical barriers or other restriction to access, are still private property and there is no implied or mandatory public easement.  So despite the fact that the venue looks like just another commercial district within a given municipality, with streets, sidewalks, blocks of free standing commercial structures and adjacent parking lots (including “street parking”) this is not a typical American neighborhood and the “rules” are quite different from my own, home neighborhood.

Still unhappy about this apparent “policy” of the property managers I sent the following email to Forest City this past January 13:

You really should reconsider one of your policies that impacts guests on your premises.

I was made to feel very unwelcome at Victoria Gardens this past Tuesday evening.  I was sitting (in my power chair, I am disabled) on one side of a street on your property, photographing a business across the street (the building was replicating early to mid 20th century architecture, and they had a retro-looking neon light that had caught my eye).  I was approached by a security person (who maintained his professionalism throughout the entire contact) who told me I could take a personal photograph of my wife standing in front of the building, but that I was not permitted to take any pictures that did not have someone I knew in them.

You can’t call a policy like that as being about homeland security, it is all about a commercial enterprise claiming the right to control use of their image, whether the image captured identifies the owning entity or not, no matter what the context of the image captured might be.  I understand that a commercial enterprise has the right to protect its assets, but one of the primary assets of a shopping mall is the good will of the public who would chose to do business with you.  It is ironic that as the developers and management of this property you do everything you can think of to entice the public to visit your facility, which includes public spaces that encourage lingering, and then you run off a member of the public who has responded to your efforts.

As noted previously, the security officer behaved professionally and I commend him for his patience and professional handling of the situation.  When I challenged his authority to restrict my photography on a “public street” he confirmed with his supervisor that we were on private property, as the street is your property, which may be true but I am wondering what implications, if any, there are surrounding an easement for the passage of the public through the property.  I knew then that your company was asserting its rights, but It still did not sit very well with me and I informed him that he should tell his management that I had previously been happy shopping and dining on the property and probably would have done so again in the future, but that youe company’s asinine policy had changed all that.

Sometimes a corporation’s right to totally control how their assets are used should be tempered with some common sense and human kindness.  What was lost on the conscience of your company was that this all started out because I enjoyed the ambiance of your venue and wanted to capture a small fragment of that to share with others.  Now you have gone and spoiled that.

I also emailed a general inquiry about photography policies to about a half dozen other specific venues or management companies, trying to ascertain if I would be welcome to capture photographic images and use a tripod.  One responded no, altogether on all of their managed properties, one responded with some restriction and the others have not responded.  In contrast to all of this,  The Huntington, in San Marino, California, where I have captured images before, actually has a very welcoming and reasonable photography policy.

To date, my email to Forest City has not been responded to.  I can only surmise that Forest City, if they know I exist at all, they perceive me as just a pesky gnat, and I have no impact on their bottom line.  I also know that I could have handled myself differently, and I know from reading other photographers’ postings that probably the best course of action in these circumstances is to try and get your shots unnoticed in these quasi-public venues, and if noticed, be gracious and don’t “rock the boat”, which will be my tactic in the future.

Having recounted all of the above, it still does not sit well with me at all, that corporations do have so much power over the public, that they might, through their asset holdings capture more power and influence over us as individual Americans.  The Supreme Court decision last year that essentially gave corporations rights equal to the rights given to individual human citizens could actually portend the beginning of the end of freedom and liberty for American citizens.

I will carry on with  my life, and while I may never choose to visit Victoria Gardens ever again, I will continue to enjoy the  beef ribs and chicken at the Lucille’s Barbeque in Chino, California, where I won’t be accosted if I am using my camera outside.

In To The Grinder

Nikon D80 28-300mm @ 90mm ISO 1000 1/125 f/5.3 Lr3

A typical Thursday evening on I-210 in southern California, something that many of us have had to face for decades on end.  I am happy to say that I made it through the grinder for about 40 years and now do not have to submit to it, unless I choose.  I was in the power chair in the van, positioned just behind the front seats,  happily snapping away, while Judy was at the wheel, toughing it out for the trip home.

It was the first time I used my new AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-VR since I had acquired it. As we were rolling through stop-and-go traffic on the freeway I realized that we were missing the Golden Hour lights and shadows expressed across the San Gabriel Mountain Range which parallels I-210.  I pulled the camera out of the bag and mounted the big lens and began snapping away, at the distant mountains, and at the cars on the freeway.  The light was fading fast, and the jerky traffic movements were not helping me get my shots, this was the best of the lot.

I have a feeling I am going to enjoy using this lens more.

View Through The Barrel Vault; Never Forget To Look Behind You

Nikon D80 10-24mm @ 10mm ISO 200 f/11 7 Bkts 5.0 sec to 20.0 sec LR3 HDR Efex Pro

This image looking through the barrel vaulted lobby area of the Pasadena City Hall was captured the same evening as the image in my previous post.  Prior to making the image above, I had been positioned about midway between the foreground and the archway you see from this vantage point, facing in the opposite direction as this.  I was trying to capture a similar archway with pediments that was framing the atrium beyond.  The image that I captured in that attempt, when rendered on the LCD on the back of the camera was not as successful as I had hoped, it was then that I moved forward (toward the back arch I had been targeting) and turned around that I realized the better composition was the image that presented itself behind me.

In this scene we are looking through the barrel vaulted, tiled outdoor lobby area of the city hall, looking west in to the evening sky just after sundown.  This is a very interesting location for photography, for some reason this image seems very film noir-ish to me, making me think of the movie “Chinatown” that starred Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston.  You sort of wonder who will step out from the shadows next to the building columns.

This and the previous image captured at this location have, in my opinion, been my best HDR images created to date.

Out In The Cold

Nikon D80 18-135mm @ 18mm ISO 1250 f/6.7 3 Bkts Lr3 HDR Efex Pro

The weather in Southern California has been unusually cool recently and when we came upon Starbucks last Saturday evening every available seat inside was taken up with bodies staying nice and toasty.  The temperature  outside was probably in the low forties or high thirties when this image was captured, making the very hot, large non-fat mocha latte that Judy brought out to me that much better.

The exposures were 1/20, 1/6 and .7 second, using the monopod.  A couple of hot spots were dodged, and one area was cooled down using Control Points in HDR Efex Pro and Nik Sharpener Pro 3 was used for final sharpening.

Ready For Holiday Shoppers


Nikon D80 18-135mm @ 18mm ISO 1250 3 Bkts f/6.7 Lr3 HDR Efex Pro

Victoria’s Secret anchoring (or providing the foundation for) the stores at the corner of Main Street and City Center Drive at The Shoppes, Chino Hills, California.  Killing some time while waiting, and then deciding not to take in a movie, we took a few shots of the stores, people and decorative lighting at The Shoppes at Chino Hills, which is the baby brother of Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga.  There is more to see and photograph at Victoria Gardens, but neither of us was feeling like a 20 minute drive to get there.

A tripod was not used, instead all images were captured using my new monopod.  Tripod legs always interfere with the power chair, and if using a tripod I can’t get myself close enough to the camera mounted on the tripod to see through the view finder, the monopod fits between my knees, right in front of the chair.  Exposure times were 1/8, .7 and 3 seconds for this HDR image.  Look closely and you will see a hint of ghosting on the street right in front of Victoria’s Secret, a car was passing through the T-intersection.  I did try to out wait the motor vehicles passing by, and the pedestrians to avoid as much ghosting as possible.

As noted above, Nik HDR Efex Pro was used for the HDR processing and tone mapping, exposure and contrast adjustments were made using the Nik Control Point tool in selected areas of the image (sky, palm trees, Victoria store front, various other store facades).

Dusk At The Stockyard

Nikon D80 18-135mm 18mm ISO 320 1/8 f/11 3 Bkts Lr3 HDR Efex Pro

Judy and I were out scouting possible photo locations at dusk yesterday and came across the Euclid Stockyard in Chino, California, the parking lot empty except for the eighteen wheeler parked in front of the auction shed, its engine idling.  Despite the seeming wall to wall housing tracts, shopping centers and warehouse/distribution centers proliferating in the local area, there is still enough of a dairy industry and horse farms to sustain the stockyard.  But for how much longer is debatable, and the scene last evening probably portends the sunset of this type of life in our local area as occurring sooner, rather than later.

SCVCC Fall Corvette Show – Part 2

Today’s post showcases images of the more contemporary Vette’s on display last week-end:

Nikon D80 18-135mm 18mm ISO 640 1/2 f/4.8 Lr3 Viveza2

“The Line-up”

“Corvette Sunset”

Nikon D80 18-135mm 50mm ISO 320 1/8 f/8 Lr3 HDR Efex Pro

“The Eye Catcher”

Nikon D80 18-135mm 32mm ISO 320 1/10 f/8 Lr3 Viveza2


“Red Love”

Nikon D80 18-135mm 18mm ISO 640 1/8 f/4,8 Lr3 Viveza2

“Evening Inspection”

Nikon D80 18-135mm 35mm ISO 320 1/8 f/11 Lr3 Silver Efex

“The Money Pit”

All images were captured hand-held, no effort was made to eliminate  the ghosting of the people in the frames.  Exposure, color brightness and saturation and contrast were manipulated using Lightroom 3, and NIK’s: Color Exfex Pro and Silver Efex Pro.  Noise reduction, sharpening and HDR processing were accomplished with NIK’s Dfine, Sharpening Pro and HDR Efex Pro.

HDR & Tone Mapping Exploration

After looking at more photographers’ examples of HDR in their portfolios and viewing some more tutorials I tried out some more of my newly acquired skills and got some more practice bringing it all together.

Nikon D80 18mm ISO 320 1/20 f/11 PSE8 PMXPro

These images were all captured at Paseo Pasadena, Pasadena, California.  Judy likes the building across the street, I do to, and I like the palm tree motif in the fence playing against the real palm trees behind it.  My goal in this picture and the next was to express a strong “architectural” feeling.

Nikon D80 18mm ISO 320 1/20 f/11 PSE8 PMXPro

The tone mapping is a bit more intense on this one, which captures the west end of Paseo Pasadena  I like the differences in textures between the glass, bricks and pavers, and still going for an “architectural rendering” style.

All of the photos were brought over to the computer from the camera as Nikon NEF raw files, converted to DNG raw files, HDR processed, tone mapped, then raw processed again and adjusted, then one of them was corrected for perspective and cropped.

Nikon D80 26mm ISO 1250 1/4 F/4.8 PSE8 PMXPro

The first two images were shot at approximately 6:00 P.M. in early September, the last of the Archlight Cinema was shot on the same day at approximately  7:45 P.M.  All were from hand held positions (in the wheel chair, which helped keep me steady).  The blurred image in front of the kiosk in the foreground is people moving, I did not try “freezing” any images of the people, my primary interest was to capture the colors and texture of the scene, and I wanted to deliberately let some of the people move during exposure to create an idea of movement.