Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Park Amusement Park | HDR Images

Spent a little time on the Santa Monica Pier while visiting some friends in Culver City in Los Angeles this summer. I love this pier because not only is a classic boardwalk with a great history, but it’s got the fantastic family amusement park, Pacific Park, right on the pier.

 (Niall David)

Since we hit the place in broad summertime 12-noon sunlight I decided to make 3-7 captures 1-stop apart for each photo I wanted to make as we wandered the pier. There’s so much character in the buildings, structures, art, and people on the pier, it’s hard not to want to photograph all kinds of things going on in front of you. We only had an hour out there, but it was an hour well spent.

 (Niall David)

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I came to really enjoy learning how to use Nik Software‘s HDR Efex Pro a few months ago, and this was the perfect place to make the scenes come alive in ways I otherwise couldn’t have done with traditional digital photography. HDR Efex Pro is my favorite HDR software due to it’s slick interface and ease of intuitive adjustments. I started out using one of the pretty awesome presets the software comes equipped with and then tweaking to my liking, but the more I got familiar with the interface (and HDR photography in general), the more I’d start from scratch and develop the scenes to my liking. My goal is usually realistic, but sometimes it’s really fun to go for vintage, black and white or surreal.

 (Niall David)

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See the full gallery here.

Northern California Coast | Humbolt Redwoods State Park | Avenue of the Giants

A little trip up the coast left us with some wonderful experiences in Humbolt Redwoods State Park

 ((C) NIALL DAVID (.COM)              N DP)

 

 ((C) NIALL DAVID (.COM)              N DP)

 ((C) NIALL DAVID (.COM)              N DP)

Big trees everywhere. It’s amazing.

See the full gallery here.

 

Ireland – Winter 2011

This past February, I traveled to Ireland with my mom. We visited 14 counties, had countless wonderful experiences, and sadly said goodbye to grandma. The winter trip to the Emerald Isle was filled with many emotions, from elated excitement of exploration to eyes bawling sadness. At the end of the two and a half-week adventure, I came home with countless amazing memories of a great road trip with my mom the likes I haven’t seen since I was 12; a trip I’ll never forget and always cherish.

Traveling to Ireland was always special to our family. When my brother and I were young, my mom and dad would bring us there every few years to spend the summers with grandma and grandpa. We’d explore around, tramp around the farms, climb the hills, lay low on Sunday, play games with local kids and our 65 cousins (lol), wade through streams and pick up frogs, that sort of thing. Looking back it was an incredible deep immersion in a different culture, one that was part of our history as a family. Of all the childhood memories that have become faded, these regular trips to Ireland remain vivid in my personal history. More than most of the many things I have experienced in my years, traveling overseas for months at a time to a particular place of familial heritage gave me a deep sense of belonging with the Irish half of my native culture.

On this most recent trip my mom and I were able to see many of these places and many of my family members again. I’d also never been there in winter to experience the unending rain (much like we get here during our dreary San Francisco winters). We saw grandma and grandpa’s house, the homes and farms of my aunt’s, uncles and cousins, the area where my mom grew up, the house she lived most of her childhood in, the schoolhouses where she went to school, the places she hung out as a teenager, and the town she was born in. It was a real treat to visit my family and see these places again.

I can’t explain the emotions that run through you in these situations. I was 17 the last time we traveled there and seeing them as a full-fledged adult gave me a deeper appreciation of where I’ve been and where I come from. The entire experience lent itself to showing me a whole other dimension of importance of paying attention to the here and now as well as respecting and never forgetting your past.Your never know when those lighthearted trips where you just go with the flow will suddenly turn into a two week long reflection of your entire existence.

Grandpa (who has now been gone almost 10 years) & Grandma’s house is now for sale on the real estate market, and the place in Celbridge we used to call home will now only be a place I’ll visit someday with my family. It won’t be grandma’s house, it’ll be someone else’s. We won’t spend 8 weeks basing our lives out of there traveling the land, we’ll have to stay somewhere else for only a week or two. I wasn’t expecting to be so sad to see that little bungalow listing online. Grandpa’s flower garden which still blooms so beautifully in my head, will likely only be a row of bushes against the road or someone else’s interpretation of what should be there. I will always have the countless memories that flurried back into my head the moment I arrived back there after 17 years of not seeing, smelling or tasting the life we used to have.

I’m happy to be sharing a few images from this trip with the world. If you’re on a slow connection, sorry for the load time on the huge string of images, it was really hard to pick a small number of favorites, and I hope you enjoy a little slice of my Irish life…

(after the images, stay tuned for a little story I think you’ll enjoy)

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Quick little story before I go (OK not so quick, but I promise it’s worth it)…

Initially, when grandma passed, I wasn’t sure if I could make it to see my mom and dad over there to help out with everything. My mom set out to spend a month overseas, and my with my dad’s schedule, he could only take 2 weeks with her. Long story short, we decided it would be best that I would join my dad at the end of his two weeks so I could be with my mom for the second half of her trip. This way she wouldn’t have to be alone for a minute. Initially, there was very little overlap planned (only one day), and I was excited I could see both of them there again. Turned out that scheduling didn’t quite work out (with the threatened Aer Lingus strikes damn you!) and I couldn’t fly out and arrive until the day my father was set to leave; his flight was set to take off two hours after mine arrived actually 🙁 This meant that after not seeing my father for 6 months even in the United States, we’d be in an airport in Ireland at the same time, but we wouldn’t get to see each other. Knowing that we’d at least be in the same building made me feel a little better, but I was still really upset about missing seeing the two of them together there, especially considering the timing.

Then a funny thing happened. My flight arrived a little early, and since I had sat up front on the plane I was able to scoot right off and head to arrivals. The way the new international terminal at Dublin Airport is set up, the whole thing except for the floors is pretty much all glass, you can see across the entire concourse and out into the landscape. It’s really beautiful actually. On any other day this would be a minor seemingly unnecessary detail, but I stopped to grab a coat from my bag, use the restroom and then proceeded to walk back and forth a bit to set myself up for a cool picture of the “Welcome to Dublin” sign. I remember this because I took a shot quickly at first and kept walking, then I looked at it on my phone a few steps later and realized it wasn’t what I wanted and that I needed another, so I walked back to get it.

So, a few minutes later than expected I’m bummed I’m going to miss my dad, but happy I’m finally on my way to meet my mom in arrivals. It’s on the second floor and departures is down below. As I walk down the hall I see this crazy man in the distance waving and jumping up and down. My first thought’s were “who is this crazy idiot acting like a jackass (on an escalator no less) in the middle of this airport?!?” Then as I got closer it all came into focus – THAT CRAZY JUMPING IDIOT IS MY DAD!!!

In all of humanity’s history (OK, maybe it’s not that deep, but at least in my history), there was literally maybe a 5-10 second window where this could have happened. He’s going down the escalator at Dublin Airport at the exact same time I’m walking past it on the floor above?? Travel times, trade winds, the need to pee, my insatiable desire to get the right photograph, not to mention all the timing in my dad’s life, the fact that he even saw me, and millions of other incidental actions all combined into this moment have all come together. I run over to wave (like a crazy jumping idiot) back at him. The elation is profound; I might actually get to see and hug my dad on this trip after all!!! I head over to a security guard by the exit door and ask” “Is there any way to get to someone on the other side of this glass down there? That’s my dad and I haven’t seen him in… and we’re only in Ireland in the airport for… blahdee blahdee blah….?!?” And I receive a resounding: “Nope. Secure area. They don’t mix. You’ll just have to wave from here.” “Really, dammit! Do you have any idea what…?!?” Insert BUBBLE BURST here.

So I didn’t get to be close enough to my pops to give him a hug, but I did get to see him at the bottom of the escalator. We waved, we smiled, we made shruggy WTF gestures as we found out we weren’t able to convene. It was really funny actually. I took it for what it was worth – insanely amazing timing the likes of which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen. I was especially sensitive to it considering the circumstances of this trip. It was in this moment where I was reminded that everything happens for a reason; that we’re put here on this earth to make the very best out of our lives, and that sometimes, timing is everything.

What a start to an amazing journey.

 

See all of the galleries here:

Ireland | Winter 2011 | Gallery 1 of 5

Ireland | Winter 2011 | Gallery 2 of 5

Ireland | Winter 2011 | Gallery 3 of 5

Ireland | Winter 2011 | Gallery 4 of 5

Ireland | Winter 2011 | Gallery 5 of 5

 

The Great Highway Panoramas | Ocean Beach, San Francisco

I was on a recent real estate shoot in the Outer Sunset of SF and part of the assignment was to capture some of the surrounding area, landscape, city scenes, Golden Gate Park, etc. for the listing. Just in time to finish the exterior shots of the home, in typical not in the forecast but it happens out of nowhere San Francisco weather, it starts to rain. And not just a foggy drizzle, a full on big drop shower. Still determined to capture something to pull this one off, I hid under trees while I made a few neighborhood snaps and headed down to Ocean Beach to make some panos of the beach and the city from the top of the dunes. I came away with two pretty cool panoramic shots and confirmation of the desire to continue to incorporate this type of photography into every shoot going forward. Where there’s a expansive view, there’s a panorama to be made!

Click images for larger views.

Full gallery 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!

The 365 Project – A Retrospective

Originally posted on: nialldavid.wordpress.com/

This is me. This is me on top of a melting piece of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier at the mouth of the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon in Iceland. It’s probably one of the most incredible, jaw-dropping places I have ever been in my entire life. On a whirlwind trip around Iceland a few summer’s ago, I only got to spend only a few hours here, but it was an experience I will never forget. Right before I headed back to the car, I hopped up on what for all I knew was a piece of compressed glacial ice 5000 years my elder on it’s way to the ocean never to be seen again, and I snapped this image.

To this day, it still stands as my favorite self-portrait. I reached up and filled the frame with a photograph that tells the entire story of my Iceland trip in one image. In fact, I think it tells the entire story of my spirit in one image. I chose it months ago to serve as one of the last days of this blog, to celebrate finishing a year of daily images by putting myself out there.

All of the images on this blog mean something to me, and all of them represent pieces of me. Some are of loved ones. Some are from my travels. Some are of incredible rock shows I was center stage for. Some are completely random. And some are part of experimental work I never knew would even see the light of day, let along become part of what I now consider integral to my photographic style.

It has been an incredible year for me, and for my photography. I made 1000’s of photographs each month (sometimes 1000’s in a single day), started the foundation of a photo business, built a new website from the ground up, took educational classes (in person and online) with some of the most well-known experts today in photography, and all in all feel I have expanded my technical knowledge of this art more in this one year, than ever in all my born days.

As I put the finishing touches on the 365 project, I reflect on an amazing year of life behind the lens. Even though I’ve been shooting since I could hold a toy camera, I really feel like this past year was the year of getting super serious. It was the year of hours a day, every day, of focusing on getting better at the craft. I finally started making more images of people while continuing to learn more about landscapes, music photography, abstracts and long exposures at night – all of which have become the genres I focus my work on.

Today closes the year-long journey on this blog. I already decided a while back that I wouldn’t be continuing on past day 365 into another year. It’s seems simple, but posting one image a day is actually a lot of work and takes a decent time commitment I’m not sure I can afford right now. At this point I would like to take extra time to focus on shooting more, learning different techniques, studying lighting both natural and in studio, better methods of digital post processing, and other areas of photography critical to my growth as a photographer. I hope to build one of these projects again some year…

For now, you can keep up to date with my work and the occasional blog post on my website: http://nialldavid.com,

on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/nialldavidphotography,

and on Twitter @nialldavid

Thanks so much for tuning in.

365/365

All posts from the 365 project can be seen here: nialldavid.wordpress.com/

Archive here: nialldavid.wordpress.com/2011/