Sometimes the Clients You Don’t Book Share with You the Highest Regards… San Francisco Bay Area Family Photography Surprises and Delights

How to flatter your would-be photographer… It’s been a while since I blogged a personal story, and this was one of those “have to write about this” opportunities.

A family from Texas found me through a Google search one month ago and reached out for a family photosession. They are a “family of 13 coming to visit the Bay Area…” many of whom are successful entrepreneurs, movers, shakers, hard to get in one room at the same time! I received the inquiry while vacationing on the magical island of Maui, but never leaving an interested client hanging, I gave them a quick ring and we had a lovely conversation about the goals for their session. I learned about what a wonderful group of individuals they all are, splitting time between the United States and many incredible overseas places, only all seeing each other maybe once a year. “This is going to be a special photoshoot” I think, the stakes are high to rock this one. We were both easily put at ease early on as our personalities just gelled, this was going to be one fun shoot!

There was only one problem that brought our booking to a screeching halt – the dates they needed were the dates that I would be in NY for a friend’s wedding… Literally the exact same opposite travel plans, almost to the hour 🙁 As disappointed as we both were, I was determined to make this happen for them, so we had two options: 1) It just so happens that I’m going to be in Texas for a long weekend this month, only 1 hour from where many of the family live; 2) There are a few other amazing family photographers in San Francisco to say the least, so let’s see who else they are interested in, and give them a good referral/recommendation and introduction to someone amazing to work with them in my place.

I reviewed the other photographers they were considering and gave them my honest feedback and opinion. I thought one they liked would really fit with their goals, and offered one other they hadn’t considered who I am a fan of their work.

Long story short, turns out the whole family won’t all be in Texas during the dates I’ll be there, bummer… one down, one to go, let’s get them a great shoot in SF. A week goes by and I send a follow up email just to make sure they’re taken care of and found someone they love to capture their trip, and this is from the response I receive, it made my day:

“We should be making another trip to Bay Area end of this year, we will try and attempt another family photo session this fall 🙂 I will keep you in mind and my contacts. Thank you again for all your help, we decided not to go with any of the other photographers, family only liked your work. We will try again this fall!!”

I’m honored to hear that of all the fine choices for photographers in San Francisco, they only wanted to work with me, truly flattered 😉 That one part of their reply “… we decided not to go with any of the other photographers, family only liked your work” really made my day. This is me smiling and having one of those “why I do this” moments.

Little happy gifts from the people you interact with come and surprise you each and every day. Stay open to the greatness.

The Bay Lights behind Cupid's Span at Rincon Park by the Bay Bridge in San Francisco | © 2013 Niall David Photography

The Bay Lights behind Cupid’s Span at Rincon Park by the Bay Bridge in San Francisco | © 2013 Niall David Photography

A Foggy San Francisco Sunset | View of the Golden Gate Bridge, the SF Bay and the City

This is our office, our place of business, our boardroom, our City.

Not bad for just looking out the window at sunset. I love this place.

A Foggy San Francisco Sunset | View of the Golden Gate Bridge and the City

😉

 (Niall David)

 

Instagram :: June 2012

Expression of daily life with Instagram and iPhoneography is a never ending adventure.  I’m happy to post the monthly update for June 2012.

Wine, camping, telescopes, palaces, concerts, the Golden Gate Bridge, rusty snails and nasty hospital food all caught my attention this past month…

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 

See the full gallery from June here.

 

June has 11 images.

You can find me on Instagram as nialldavid.

A few great ways to keep up on Instagram images is joining Instagram, posting your images and following your favorite photographers! There’s also my favorite: Statigram, as well as WebstagramFollowgram, and the Instadesk application for Mac OS X.

Happy 75th Anniversary Golden Gate Bridge! Fireworks Over the San Francisco Bay!

Sunday May 27, 2012 marked the 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. In celebration of this American icon, there was a whole day of celebration at key sites along the waterfront along the San Francisco Bay and plenty of revelry around the city. The most exciting of which, were the 75th anniversary fireworks show! It was super special as they organizers added a special dose of a fantastic light show to go along with the fireworks. We had a key vantage point from the top of Nob Hill, and of course my camera, tripod and I happily joined in the celebration. Here’s my ode to this amazing icon of San Francisco, America and human ingenuity! Happy Anniversary GGB!

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 

See the full gallery here.

Instagram :: April 2012

Expression of daily life with Instagram and iPhoneography continues. Though I’ve been less active than previous months lately, I’m happy to post the monthly update to recap April 2012.

Seattle, trains, mountains, views, record store day, a new facebook page, rooftops and art shows all caught my attention this past month…

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 

See the full gallery from April here.

 

April has 11 images.

You can find me on Instagram as nialldavid.

A few great ways to keep up on Instagram images is joining Instagram, posting your images and following your favorite photographers! There’s also my favorite: Statigram, as well as WebstagramFollowgram, and the Instadesk application for Mac OS X.

A Foggy Evening at Fort Point and the Golden Gate Bridge | HDR Images

 

On a lonely foggy eve, I stumbled into Fort Point National Historic Site and the archway truss of the Golden Gate Bridge. From Fort Point you get an original view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay. It’s pretty unreal down there, and very easy to get to. I wish the building at the point was open, and it’d be cool to wander closer to the bridge, but it’s gated off pretty well (the first shot here is actually taken with the camera lens poking through the hole in the fence). I’ve seen some photogs get deeper access and I only wonder what their secrets are…

 (Niall David)

 

I definitely plan to go back and venture through the area beneath the bridge and the roadways there a bit more. It’s a cool industrial urban lattice of somewhat creepy proportion begging to be explored!

Instagram :: July 2011

Another stellar month with Instagram and my iPhone 4. Lots of travel all up and down the West coast had me swimming with excitement of new places and far away lands of the Western United States. I can say this for sure, if you ever get the chance to drive US Route 1 north of San Francisco to it’s end where it meets the 101, and then up into Oregon, do it!

You can catch up on part of our journey on my previous post here, and I’ve got a host of personal project images made on the July road trips coming your way in August. Stay tuned for more images from landscapes and cityscapes of California the Pacific Northwest.

A sampling of the Instagram gallery from July:

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 (Niall David)

 

July has 47 images.

You can find me on Instagram as nialldavid.

A great way to keep up on Instagram images is Webstagram.

See the full gallery from July here.

Instagram :: June 2011

June was a cool month for Instagramming…

I got revived with some true street inspiration this month, and went back to some of my urban/street photography roots. I joined Doctor Popular and Photojojo for an eventful instawalk in San Francisco (#instawalksf) where we rambled all over Chinatown for a few hours. The best part was picking up a fisheye lens for my iPhone and becoming instantly addicted to the thing! I think it’s going to be my new go to tool for keeping iPhone street walks interesting.

My new photo friend, Felix Lim (@fixelzero) and I decided to ramble onwards to downtown and after starting at 11am, ended up photowalking until around 9pm that night… It’s a real treat wandering around and shooting with Felix as we have about 33% overlap in our style and 66% difference on our vision, so we end up with really cool and often completely unique perspectives on the same city block. After covering miles and miles and dozens of those blocks on this instawalk, we came out with some cool complimentary images. Felix goes for people and gestures in place, and is a master of seeking and capturing these great black and white compositions with a person or two in them that just make the image. I tend to stick to grit, details, wide industrial views, and close focus tilt/shift type images of street scenes.

Hoping I can spend one day each month on a walk like this. I really like the idea of using a simple point n shoot camera like the iPhone, getting some snaps, processing them in the phone directly through the Instagram app or other iPhone software like Camera+ or Noir, and keeping it simple. I tend to process on the fly, usually right after shooting the image, and post directly to my feed. The beauty of all this to me is simplicity. The only time these images touch my computer is when they’re getting backed up onto a hard drive, and so I can post the processed images here on my website/blog. It’s refreshing to use such a simple process to deliver images, and anyone can do it. The more people you follow on instagram, the more interesting perspectives you gain from all over the world.

Happy Instagramming!

 

Felix doing his candid street thing:

 

June has 151 images.

You can find me on Instagram as nialldavid.

A great way to keep up on Instagram images is Webstagram.

See the full gallery from June here.

Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay Sunrise & Sunset Panoramic Photography

I’ve been seemingly obsessed with creating Panoramic images over the past year or so. I tried it out a couple of years ago, and to be honest I kinda sucked at it. Exposure was all off, and even the wonders of Photomerge in Photoshop couldn’t properly align and setup my images : ( Practice makes perfect, and though I’m far from that accolade, I have taken mentorship from a few pro photographers I admire as well as multiple attempts at it to heart, and I typically don’t make an image of a landscape these days without trying my hand at a pano during the shoot. The one thing that’s still a big pita, is that sometimes they take a lot more time on the computer than I’d like to complete a ‘single’ image. I didn’t quite get into photography to be a computer technician, and for an average shoot, most of my digital images take 1 minute or less to post process in Lightroom or Photoshop (sometimes none), but for some reason, I’m happy to spend an hour or more, often at midnight once I’ve gotten the rest of my work done, to finesse a group of images into a spread I can be proud of.

 

Sunrise view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco Bay and the City of San Francisco from Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA. 4 image panorama.

Not a week goes by where I don’t sit at the desk in our home office, peer out the windows of the sunroom at sunset, run to the other room, grab my camera and snap one, two, or a hundred images of our vista during the fleeting hours of daylight. Not traditionally a morning person, but once in a while I’m awakened in the early am. It’s a habit of mine that whenever I get up, no matter what time it is, I go over to the window, pull down the blinds with my fingers and peer out into the Bay. It’s something I’ve come to know and love, and I know it’s part of the reason I stay sane living in the hecticness of city life. On this particular day, I was blessed to see this display of clouds and golden sunrise over the city. I’d be lying if I said my first instinct was to grab the camera. With an hour or two left before the alarm was set to go off, I was halfway back to bed when my mind finally kicked my body into shape with my conscious saying “grab the camera and make a few images of this dude!” 5 panned images and a photomerge later we have the image of the sunrise above. A few days later I went up on our roof to capture the sunset in the 9 image pano below.

 

 

Sunset view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco Bay and the City of San Francisco from Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA. 9 image panorama.

Of course, like the rest of us I’m enamored by the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay. Partly because it’s one of the most beautiful bays in America, and partly because over the past two years, I’ve been blessed with a ridiculous view of it while living in the city by the Bay. For two years I’ve studied the weather (including the fog, the clouds, the wind! and the occasional lightning storm), the sun patterns, the shadows, the container ships, the sailboats, the buildings, the homes, the city, the Marin Headlands, the bridge traffic, and the neighborhood around us. All of these things have become as near and dear to me as the places where I grew up. I’ve never been so in love with living in a place in my life, not since moving away from New York and trying out all the places I’ve been over the last 15 years. My not so April fool, was capturing the image of the Golden Gate at sunset on April 1 below.

 

 

View of the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco Bay and the City of San Francisco from Battery Spencer in the Marin Headlands of California. 5 image panorama.

If you’re interested in learning how to shoot panoramas, you can start with the ever present and often helpful Google search for something like “how to photograph panoramic images” or something of the like. Of course, once you have a basic understanding, I suggest getting out there with your camera and giving it a try! A few words of wisdom I can offer from my experience:

 

  • Use a digital camera. Though this can be done with film, it’s well outside the scope of my skillz and this brief commentary. There’s another one for the photography bucket list…
  • Shoot vertical, portrait oriented images. This allows you to capture a larger spread top to bottom for your panorama. You’ll undoubtedly have to crop a bit on the top or bottom once you merge the images, and shooting vertical allows a lot more leeway once you get ’em all together.
  • Shoot in manual everything. Choose an exposure by locking in the ISO, aperture and shutter speed that works for most of your scene. This means some of it may be darker or brighter than you like. That’s OK because if you shoot it in RAW format, you can typically recover up to 2 stops of light in either direction in post processing before the quality of your image breaks down. Often, I prefer to underexpose instead of blowing things in highlights out. Once you lose it on the top end, it’s gone. I often find it easier to recover dark parts and shadows of the image (assuming the minimum amount of light necessary to bring back detail in post was captured). Sunsets and sunrises are notoriously difficult as one side of the sky is significantly brighter than the other as you pan, and sometimes I shoot for highlight detail and lower the exposure in post… Experimentation.
    • Example settings, if you’re going for daytime long distance grand vista panos like the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset photograph from this post: ISO 100-200, f/11, 1/125th sec. I went against my own advice (rules are made to be broken) and lived with the lack of detail in the highlights on the right side of the image as the low angle sunset light on the bridge was most important for me to protect in this capture.
  • When shooting, overlap each consecutive image by 1/3 to 1/2 of each frame. This is really important and one of the top 3 keys to any panoramic image. In order for Photoshop to merge your images in Photomerge, it has to be able to reference enough data across the images to figure out the scene and line everything up. In practice, I have greater success with overlapping more during capture, and then combining more images in Photoshop. 3 is the minimum, and have used up to 11. Some big ballers use 100 or more images, HDR techniques, etc. If you’re heading to be a baller, start by Googling “how to photograph hdr panoramic images.”
  • Use Adobe Photoshop (along with Adobe Bridge) or equivalent program(s). My method is usually quite simple: 1) Select the images I want to merge in Bridge. 2) Go to Tools –> Photoshop –> Photomerge –> Choose the ‘Auto’ option. Viola, most of the time if you shot it well, PShop does a great job of putting it all together.
  • Crop and publish. Orrrrr (more likely), develop using camera RAW settings (exposure, highlights, recovery, fill light, brightness, contrast, vibrance, saturation, etc.) as necessary, tweak, tweak, tweak, dodge, burn, crop, publish.
  • As you develop your panorama aptitude you’ll find what works best for you as you define and refine your style. Give it a try!

 

View the full gallery and larger renditions of the images above here. Or to really experience the full breadth of the scenes, you can purchase the high resolution images using the Buy button above, or come visit us for a session at the studio and view ’em on the big screen!

View of San Francisco Bay from NDP

This is the view from my office/apt/sunroom/living room/whatever you like to call it. You’re going to see a lot of it on this site. Different days, different nights, different weather patterns; pretty much anything different I can capture. Lucky for me this is the San Francisco Bay, and there’s hardly a day alike out there. Ansel had Yosemite and the Sierra’s, right now I have my SF Bay view…

Yep, we are blessed over here.