Mount Tamalpais – talking sunset and turkeys (18 new pics)

Yeah yeah – more sunsets! When you get bored go to pics 16 and 17 in this set

Tamalpais summit

Tamalpais Summit

What can I say – I only wanted to make up for a hard Sunday’s slaving at the keyboard with a quick outing and some wind up the nose, I race up the hill. Intent on frittering away the last minutes of the day at the top of ‘Tam’ I don’t expect much, But I wend my way round one of the last bends there is a veritable roadblock.

‘Strutting turkey’ in the middle of the road. Doing road maintenance, apparently. Sweeping it seems!

Well – not exactly part of a County transport program The racket produced by violently sandpapering an orchestra of wing feather quills on the tarmac is about as attractive to you and me as diamonds on glass, One assumes that it is a turn on for the ladies of the species.

Thank you human technology for enhancing an age old performance. But eventually –  sensing no interest from the row of idling vehicles – he moves away.

He may have been fabulous but at least he could ‘let go’. Not the pair of frisky ones I found hanging in the middle of the road a week or so ago. Somewhat akin to meeting elephant who wont let you pass on that remote road in Africa, these two saw my car as their deadly enemy and they ran head on at me , till I had to jam on the brakes and screech to a halt.

Eventually, having decided that pussy footing it was a bad idea I accelerated and passed them only to find them running at at least 25 mph next to the car for at least 50 yards, pecking at the door panels.

…Country ain’t going to the dogs no matter what they say  – it’s just those damned turkey town types undermining civilization as we know it.

Strutting Turkey

Strutting Turkey


Canis Lupus Familiaris – at the technological cutting edge



It is certainly a dog;s world .  (Similar images: click image for ‘narrative images’ gallery on

Just so you know – we are talking bokeh here now – not dogs or even baseball.

Breaking it’s tyranny – – bokeh, that beloved thing of both photographers and CGI artists alike. Of course there is almost always something mysterious in the vague mental impression which ‘out of focus’ presents. And it does truly add a sense of real life experience since we don’t routinely focus on everything we encounter in the visual world.

But you have to admit that including bokeh in everything is rather a cheap way of jazzing up ones images. After all the whole point of presenting a picture for others to look at is the implied statement that ‘this is something special’ and worth looking at’. How often can one suggest that an uncaring visual snippet of the day has special significance.  How often can one get away with suggesting that the most important part of the picture is the negative space occupied by “I can;t quite make out what it is – I will have to use my imagination and invent something”

Infinite depth of field is hard to achieve photographically and it does frequently look inelegant not to say present the viewer with the dilemma of deciding which part of the image should be the focus. We rarely look out on daily reality and see extreme depth of field – and when we do it is a construct which involves focusing the eyes close and far in quick succession and combining both views in the mind.

But a large part of photography is to present stuff that is out of the ordinary – and demonstrate ways of seeing which are uncommon. There may be a price to pay for the discomfort of an image with an extreme depth of field but hopefully there can be rewards  too. Bill Brandt thought so with his pinhole series.

Anyhow, whatever one says or chooses to think  – none of this should detract from the fact that it really is a dog’s world.


Seven new hyper detailed images of everyday objects

Burst baseball and detail - click image to see gallery

Burst baseball and detail  – constructed from almost 300 exposures – click image to see gallery

This small selection of banal images add to an existing personal project series of hyper detailed stacked pictures, which were created in the last few months. They were all created to be printed large and the overriding idea throughout has been to mess with one’s sense of scale.

The images were not shot to look dramatic or cosmetically perfect, as is the tradition in advertising. The very ordinariness of the backgrounds (and lighting) is crucial to contrasting the larger than life super detailed presentation.

It is not possible to convey the full effect adequately even on a high resolution monitor. I have included ‘detail’ close up images too  (such as the image above). This was a calculated strategy which I am aware does have its down sides. With such inclusions, the risk is that the galleries might give a sense that the whole project is no more than a dry technical exercise. Hopefully on the upside, it compensates somewhat  for viewing online rather than in a gallery and it sets the imagination free.

Here are blog entries and links to galleries of other work in this series.

Roadkill gallery

Familiar Objects 1 

Familiar Objects 2


14 Mixed recent snapshots – mostly snowy egret and stilts

Thanking the local population of wintering stilts and snowy egrets (among others) for their co-operation in posing for this set of mixed photos.

Snowy Egret alighting

Snowy Egret alighting


Out of the Storm – a photo/CGI hybrid illustration


Powering out of the storm in style in a Lamborghini Murcielago

The narrative:
After a score of miles, fighting your way through the worst storm you can remember – half deaf from the thunder of rain drops pummeling your vehicle (you were still straining to hear the radio all along) – the wipers finally begin to work again. You begin to take in the layout of the land. And there in front of you the clouds begin to break. You know the worst is over. Your transcontinental sojourn resumes though new light and new scenery. You are heading into the clear.

The brief did not preclude the inclusion of a very cool car, so the required sense of relief and optimism is tempered with a sense of exhilaration: powering towards the horizon ‘in real style’ for the occupants of the Lamborghini Murcielago.

The vehicle is a 3d CGI wire frame model. I shot the base highway storm photo using a regular rectilinear lens.

It is generally not possible to shoot multi exposure 360 HRDI VR environments on the hoof (or in a storm). It is always a challenge to work single image environments with CGI but we have worked out strategies which work in a lot of cases. These can work surprisingly well and produce accurate reflections from automotive style shiny CGI objects placed in a virtual scene.

Also, it is not trivial to photo-compose water droplets into a scene such as this as they refract the imagery behind them.


Robb Report Jan. 2015 Cover – Mercedes-AMG GT S

The very rare new Mercedes-AMG GT S super car for Luxury lifestyle magazine Robb Report.

180 degrees at variance to the average automotive brief:  “light and compose so the viewer is unsure as to the make the brand and model of the car (at first glance)”

Requirement: a touch of  ‘black panther crouching in the shadows’ with ‘uranium 235 glowing eyes.

Cover for Robb Report Jan.2015

Cover for Robb Report Jan.2015. 


112 new/old images in 3 galleries – recently digitized exhibition quality scans of early work

Zimbabwe gallery - 32 scans

Zimbabwe gallery – 33 scans

Digitizing and reinterpreting my early film based work is a long term project – but I used the holiday season to make a dent on the back catalog. The scans are extremely high resolution from 8×10″ or 4×5″ originals.

Gallery - 75 Scans (Europe)

Gallery – 75 Scans (Europe)

People who romanticize traditional film forget how time consuming it is dealing with dust and scuffs on negatives – especially those which had to be be loaded in primitive conditions far from a clean dark room.

Gallery -4 scans  (USA)

Gallery -4 scans (USA)

I don’t bother to keep count, but by the time one adds creative processing/tonal interpretation to the formula, a single image will routinely consume 4 hours of hands on attention.

Many of these images in the featured galleries are known by people who have followed my work, but a few are completely new. It was never possible to produce good traditional photo prints from some negatives. They languished in the reject pile.

I am pleased to have rescued some of them with careful digital processing . Some of the photos were taken in very remote places, and I always regretted not being able to use them.

Although a few of this set have already been featured on my fine art site, the jpegs were derived from photos of old finished exhibition silver prints, rather than directly from the negatives. Direct negative scans offer considerably enhanced quality and flexibility of interpretation. The scans in this new gallery are thus of better quality and incidentally, the full resolution versions are all good for very large highly detailed prints.

Europe (75 images)

Zimbabwe gallery (32 images)

USA gallery (4images)


Autumn leaves – 2 photo tapestries and detail photographs (8 images)

8 images in the following gallery:

Acer leaves

Acer leaves

High resolution sidewalk tapestry  image

High resolution sidewalk tapestry image (approx 8ft. print)

There is not much to say for about the ‘detail cropped images’, other than that, for centuries artists have appreciated and paid homage to leaf patterns in their work. The fractal arrays are as beautiful as they are hypnotic.

The  2 ‘tapestry’ images are stitched – shot, from cantilevered position above a walking path. They were seamlessly pieced together from many exposures, taken at intervals while moving down the sidewalk. The final image is an extremely high resolution record of 3+ meters of pavement. It would reproduce as an intimately detailed ‘wall print’ at approximately the same size (at 300 dpi).


Autumn Light ~ 26 Autumn Pictures

This is a mixed bag of images, mostly shot around the Bay during the last 2 weeks.

It includes a few images shot as part of my longer term suburban-scapes project.

I suppose technically it is winter, but ‘autring’ might be more appropriate. Most deciduous trees were still sporting their autumn leaves, while California poppies are blooming and the ubiquitous mimosas are budding, ready to explode with yellow blossom.

On ramp to the Bay Bridge with silvery autumn light

On-ramp on the Bay Bridge, with silvery autumn light

Frolicking in storm surf at Fort Cronkhite

Frolicking in storm surf at Fort Cronkhite

Bay Bridge with silvery autumn light

Bay Bridge with silvery autumn light

Dull suburban day

Dull suburban day

Alcatraz and the Golden Gate on a stormy day

Alcatraz and the Golden Gate on a stormy day



California storm – wet highway photos

It was quite an intense experience. I braved the drenching rain of our recent record setting storm to shoot some dusk pictures.

101 highway in the pouring rain. The photo does not reflect how much rain but it would not look the same had the downpour ceased.

101 highway in the pouring rain. The photo does not reflect how much rain but it would not look the same had the downpour ceased. Gallery or 7 images

High on the list – wet highways in heavy rain. We all have experience this from the comfort of our cars. Controlling a vehicle in such conditions can be a powerful and memorable experience but one which is particularly badly documented in photography terms. This is for a range of technical reasons, not least is that an exposed camera (even a waterproof one) would produce degraded images from water droplets settling on the lens. And also because it is hard to find a stable safe and legal place on a busy motorway to shoot thoughtful pictures from.

Wet roads are visually attractive especially at dusk in a downpour because a fresh layer of water on the road acts as a mirror. Vehicles’ headlamps play on the road surfaces and cars throw up spray which adds to the drama.

Roads and modern tyres are designed to shed water from driving surfaces. Even a short break in the intensity of the rain results in a rapid clearing of the mirror effect. So there is nothing for it – you need to shoot in the rain, the heavier the better. Then you need to shoot as it is getting dark – which is a stretch since the camera sensor produces best results when there is a lot of light around. And then you need to find a viewpoint which reflects the drama.

I found a good overpass on the 101 highway which permitted me an interesting vantage point. The umbrella I was using was not cutting it because the wind blew spray at me horizontally. I shot for a  few minutes till I was soaked a the camera had taken enough of a beating. I then retired, somewhat stunned to my car which was parked quite a distance away.

It takes me a while to digest images and thus far I cannot quite make up my mind which of them my favorite. So, here are 7 images, each which hopefully has a bit of that je ne sais pas.


Unfamiliar views – ‘Familiar Objects’ series: 6 new updates

A new gallery featuring 6 new larger than life banal images.

Broadly conceived as an extension to the Road Kill series from February, which  morphed into the Familiar Objects series, the common thread being ‘messing with the viewer’s sense of scale’.


A burned out oven bulb is full of sculptural detail


A grimy work worn lupe helps use see things larger, other than itself.

The way I have been addressing this is by producing extraordinarily high resolution images which have a powerful ‘larger than life’ quality when encountered as large prints. Not only that, the images are laboriously ‘stack processed’ from a huge number of capture files (sometimes 100+). What this means is that depth of field and are many times greater than is possible with any lens/aperture combination. The idea is to represent a small object as it would appear were we, the viewers to be shrunk to, say 2 centimeters tall.

It was technically impossible for anyone to produce images like these just a few years ago.  That said – it takes a deal of practical experience to get it to work. And even then, the time required to process a single image is considerable. But I am not doing this merely as a dry technical exercise.

In principle, there is definitely nothing new about the ‘scale thing’. Product photographers, tasked to make imagery of small objects, destined for giant repro on street posters (for example) have long sought to redefine scale using a number or cues. We are wholly familiar with slick scaleless images featuring jewelry, watches, cell phones and so on. A sense scale confusion leads to a sense of ‘larger that life’, which important to advertisers as it enhances the perceived  importance of their product. Scale confusion is possible with blemish free product renditions – which is also suits advertisers,  for obvious reasons.

Without visual cues such as fingerprints and scratches It is hard to get a really accurate sense of the size of an object.  We may know how large a given object is based on familiarity. But we frequently also concede that scaleless product renditions are ‘larger than life’ simply because we are primed to the intention of the people ‘who plastered the image across the side of a  building’ .

Coaxing idealized levels of perfection into advertising images to make them ‘scale free’ has long been the task of photographers and retouchers who have gone to extreme lengths to achieve this.

Then came CGI and product prototyping. You might think this presented the perfect solution. Unlimited depth of field bypasses one cue for judging scale in macro photos. Given that we are extremely utilitarian in way we look at small ‘hold in the hand objects’ (rarely scrutinizing them) some feared that CGI would replace photography completely because no one would cross reference what the thing really looks like in the hand.

But CGI proved ‘way too perfect’ by default – and way to time consuming to make ‘imperfect’ to just the right degree. We always need some grime and yuk for a credible proper sense of scale, even if it is a manipulated or warped one.

The cellphones and diamond rings we see on giant street posters are ‘larger than life’ in some senses but the sterility of the image limits things, We accept the intention in good faith, but we never ‘really’ believe the scale and perfection.

My images in this series are full of grime and imperfection on purpose. And yet I choose to feature and contrast objects which have been machined to high levels of precision, as demanded in our modern world. We used to seeing macro nature photos and being awe struck by their raw naturalness  – but we are not used to dwelling on images which give mixed signals about technical objects .

We are used to seeing ‘parts of objects’ in macro and micro images, but we are not used to getting a sense of the ‘whole thing’ at the same time. I try to achieve some of that here. We are used to seeing small objects enlarged but we normally view them from a distance. Here I want the viewer to go right up to the print too.

I accept it might be confusing to be presented with all these things in one package. While I accept that my intention in dabbling with scale might be just as bemusing. I hope that exposure to these images goes some way to provoke questions and provide answers.

I can’t say that my only intention in this project is to present a ‘more convincing sense of scale’ than that which we are used to –  but it is certainly a large part of it. For me the fascination of seeing the objects anew and as ‘more real’ is sufficient.

But standing back and thinking about the following does make me laugh – the degree to which these images end up being  ‘not credible’ in some senses. A sloppy cell phone image would be believed as more genuine a rendition much of the time. What a shame that we have to factor in the disinterest of the viewer in the type of objects to give them credibility. “I don’t give a fig for ‘burned out bulbs’. I just throw them in the trash. If you want to convince me your photos are ‘real’ then don’t bother to be meticulous in your photography”. Taking as much care, the way I have with this series has certainly annoyed one or viewers thus far. Presumably the logic is that I am demonstrating seriously misplaced priorities.

Unfortunately, these images really beg to be seen as large photo prints. They don’t reveal their potential on a regular computer monitor. I have featuring some detail 100% views in the web gallery in the hope that this will compensate for the limitations. It would be interesting to shoot something along these lines for a poster campaign. Coupled with the right concept and seen on posters, it could turn heads and be memorable for one reason or another.



Photo-composing – the famous Hardly Strictly Bluegrass limited edition poster (2014).

First of all  – no, it is not merchandising and it is not for sale.

This large format (30″x 40″) limited edition poster has traditionally been printed solely for the benefit of the artists and others who made the free SF Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival happen.  Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (HSB) is the work of the late philanthropist Warren Hellman (1934-2011).

This thing came together – as usual – design, concept and photography driven by Claude Shade (Goodby Silverstein & Partners, whose participation in all the art for HSB – and beyond – has been crucial and is legendary) and Olivia Hellman.

I was happy to lend myself to the team again this year,  with their ‘as ever’ highly imaginative and ambitious  photo-composition and retouching brief.

Prior posters I worked on are here 2010   2011   2012

I have a reserved copy of the poster, for myself. Don’t ask  – It is not for sale.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Poster 2014

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Poster 2014 (click to enlarge)

Thanks to ‘smart layers’ I was able to work 16 bit, non destructively at extremely high resolution. The image comprised a frightening number of nested layers till the sun rose on us on deadline day.

Mouse detail - Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Poster 2014

Mouse detail – Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Poster 2014




Quasi-Turneresque treatment for Koenigsegg CCX hyper-car

The Koenigsegg CCX is a mid-engined hyper–sports car built by Swedish Koenigsegg Automotive AB.

The Koenigsegg CCR ruled as fastest production car in the world at 241.63 mph (388.87 km/h), till 2005  when Bugatti stole the title. The CCX is no slouch with a manufacturer estimate of 249 mph (400 km/h).  Hyper car owners can anguish about top speed but looks are what interest me.

Koenigsegg CCX

Koenigsegg CCX


24 lazy late summer ‘whiskey tinted’ images

Were it not for flocks of migrating birds making their presence felt here in the Bay Area in the last couple of weeks, it would be hard to think of it as ‘late summer’ already.

Smoke drifting in from fires inland produce an interesting whiskey colored light.

The following gallery contains mostly natural landscapes but it also contains a few images intended to supplement my ongoing ‘suburbscapes’ series.

Migrating swallows

Migrating swallows

Mount Diabolo sunset with Bay Area fog

Mount Diabolo sunset with Bay Area fog

Flock of Brown Pelicans- Marin coast

Flock of Brown Pelicans- Marin coast


Watch out if you work with many adjustment layers in Photoshop – tones can appear to change when you flatten the file

Photoshop tones change when flattening complex many layered files such as this

Photoshop tones change while zoomed out and flattening complex many layered fine detailed files such as this

I count myself among those who normally don’t even think that changes do or even should occur when routinely flattening a multi-layered file in Photoshop. Well too be 100% technically accurate – the tones in the file itself are unlikely to change in any perceptible way – but what you see on screen certainly can.

It can be disconcerting if you are not aware of what is going on and are taking measures to compensate for it.

Here is an instance where the difference was significant and worth sharing. I posted an animated interactive example. Click the colored square at the top see the before an after.

The images which were used to create were screen grabbed before and after pressing ‘flatten’. Note that I was viewing this image zoomed out to fit the screen. Photoshop caches images which it uses for screen display and therein lies the problem.

There are 2 strategies for dealing with this problem and they may provide some clues as to what the causes are.

  1. View the image at 100% and when you flatten the image there is no perceptible change.
  2. Set the image cache in Photoshop preferences to 1 and restart Photoshop and reopen the file. The zoom out and flatten the image and there is no longer a perceptible change. But having said that – the entire image now looks very different zoomed out than it did with a normal cache setting)

The people at Adobe know the cause – and meantime I can only guess – – but it is conceivable that this is a ‘detail/scaling/cache’ issue rather than a straightforward tonal accuracy issue (a ’rounding up’ or down of layer tonal values for fast interactivity – which, initially is all I thought was was happening).

The reason I say this is because  of the change in the appearance of those areas in the image which change tonally when I instituted the second strategy outlined above. Those sections of the image appeared way less anti aliased (i.e. more granular and gritty).

Whatever algorithm employed in creating and displaying the multi-cached images is smoothing and averaging those areas tonally.  Smoothing over the extreme fine high contrast detail contained in those areas may have resulted in a the tone change which was evidenced.

All this is neither here nor there, but one practical take-away: If the image changes on flattening – undo and then check the tones first at 100% or reduce cache settings to be sure you have the tonal values you need before flatten button is depressed.



Marin County Fair 2014

A new gallery of 39 new street style images here.

Marin County Fair 2014

Marin County Fair 2014

Marin County Fair 2014

Marin County Fair 2014

Marin County Fair 2014

Marin County Fair 2014

Marin County Fair 2014

Marin County Fair 2014


Blather in a tea cup – shooting a new stacked image for the ‘familiar objects’ series and figuring out ‘where’s the beef’

Still life series 'familiar objects' - cup of water

Still life series ‘familiar objects’ – blowing a lot of wind into a tea cup









This is a familiar view I see daily on my kitchen counter. I always like what I see and now I finally got the the heavy equipment into position to stack-capture it in high fidelity.

Producing still life of stuff like this is normally a voyage of discovery. It is initiated by the requirement to photo-capture a designated object. Interpreting it begins when it is placed in front of the camera in the studio. Only then does one start figuring out how to position and light it.

That is opposed to setting out to document a familiar sight – as was the case in this time.

The reason I make the distinction is firstly because there is always a difference between how the eye perceives an object and photography. The head and the eye are rarely static, there is always a change of viewpoint as well as a change of focus (mental as well as optically) . This results in a disconnect between the real thing and the photo image/print which never really changes from wherever in the room one might view it.

The disconnect is only ever greater when contemplating an object as close as arms length scale, not only because the slightest movement of the head gives one a dramatically different perspective, but these differences are compounded by the fact that the view on the scene is significantly different from each eye.

We certainly get a strong sense of 3D stereoscopic depth when we look at things at this distance, but we also tend to retain less iconic visual memory of such scenes.

Since we generally have the power to manipulate objects at that distance we probably don’t have the psychological need to retain single image or macro viewpoint memories relating to them. These are not landmark objects such a city squares and bridges, which we have no choice but to orient ourselves to, to navigate around or map.

The still life product photographer tries to tune the brain to look differently at this scale, with the hope of creating iconic memorable images. Most people can read and identify with such iconic images but never actually see the featured objects themselves in remotely the same way, on a daily basis.

Strange is it not – our culture has been flooded with giant high fidelity mouth watering food photos or blemish free larger-than-life product images, such that we now use these representations – rather than the daily evidence of our eyes – when we think of the objects themselves.

Advertisers have so confused our sense of scale such that these hand-holdable items (which we can always identify by brand and name) are of a such significance we now tend hold them in our visual memories in the same category as as immovable architectural sized landmarks which we have no choice but to navigate around.

On this occasion I was only motivated by little more than by what I saw (sorry) .

The satisfaction for me is to have captured the flavor fairly accurately of  a scene which I often notice, even when I am not trying to use my eyes in photographer mode.

You just have to trust me that this image of a mug of water looks the way I routinely see it on my counter.



Lemons on Market

Another riff on a San Francisco theme – another photo/CGI hybrid image. The second hand car market sucks these days.

Driving Lemons at dusk on Mission St. in downtown San Francisco

Driving Lemons at dusk on Mission St. in downtown San Francisco


Spacing out – a retro science fiction image of downtown San Francisco

Out of this World Travel- science fiction photo/CGI illustration by Philip Chudy

Out of this World Travel- science fiction photo/CGI illustration by Philip Chudy

This picture is a slight tip of the hat stylistically to Perry Rhodan among other early science fiction illustrators. And a rather liberal interpretation of the  Sutter and Kearny junction in downtown San Francisco. Check it the difference out on Google streets.

The added spaciousness of the image is mostly down to the spherical panoramic projection produced from a series of images shot from street level. Everything else in the image (store, phone magazine windows and neon displays) are all CGI.

As with most highly contrived images, the result is far from perfect and there are many things one would like to do again, But I think we achieved a generally satisfying look and feel.

In terms of the creative process, sometimes it is more important to get the ‘general idea’ than it is to fulfill to the nth degree. Indeed sometimes there is more poignancy in presenting an barely adequately executed image which  merely reaches out and reveals no more than a basic potential to reach that ‘general idea’. But without some sort of ‘general idea’  lurking somewhere in the background, no image of this sort will fly.

Share website updated – David Chudy (1916-1967)

David Chudy

David Chudy

The website I hastily threw together some years back, to feature some of the paintings and sculpture of my father has finally received a bit of a face lift. I hope to expand the scope of the content as well as the quality of some of the repro,  in due course.



David Chudy portrait of Sri Purani

David Chudy portrait of Sri Purani

David Chudy bronze sculpture of Premalya Singh

David Chudy bronze sculpture of Premalya Singh

David Chudy portrait of Ellen Chudy

David Chudy portrait of Ellen Chudy

David Chudy clown painting

David Chudy clown painting





Topless in the City – 3 new Aston Martin pictures -Vanquish Volante, DB9 and Rapide S

Well, only one of them is actually ‘topless’, the Vanquish Volante. The ‘Topless in the City ‘ number is the subject line in a recent email promo campaign (see sample here).

Aston Martin Vanquish Volante: Featured on my mailer - downtown San Francisco

Aston Martin Vanquish Volante: Featured on my mailer – downtown San Francisco








Aston Martin DB9

Aston Martin DB9

Topless in the City: Aston Martin Rapide-S.

Topless in the City: Aston Martin Rapide-S.


Blackhawk Automotive Museum – a few personal images of extraordinary vehicles

The amazing Blackhawk Automotive Museum in Danville, CA. I took a few minutes before an assignment to shoot a few detail images of vehicles in the exhibition hall.

Here is a small gallery of 11 snapshots.

Chudy_Z4A0300-Edit chudy_Z4A0264-Edit


An accidental long exposure shot of migrating Fosters Terns


A lucky long exposure grab shot of a flock of Fosters terns blurred as they flocked in the dusk

A lucky long exposure grab shot of a flock of Fosters terns blurred as they flocked in the dusk

A tight flock of perhaps 50 migrating Fosters Terns stopped over in Marin for a couple of days.

As dusk turned to night we were privileged to witness some extraordinary aerial acrobatics as a flock formed momentarily and then dispersed in a stunningly explosive manner – – again and again. Perhaps the group was preparing to continue their migration north, or to proceed to a roost for the night. But each time they formed a tight formation something told them they should peel off and continue feeding in the random scattered way they normally do. It looked like so much fun.

I grabbed the camera and fired the first shot without checking exposure only to realize that the camera  was set to ISO 50 and the exposure dragged. But this elaborate abstract pattern was the result. I went back the next day hoping to shoot better versions of this effect but the flock was gone. Not a single Fosters Tern seen since at that location. And suddenly it is summer!




Sky High Eye Care – new tongue in cheek photo illustration

Sky High Eye-Care - the affordable solution

Sky High Eye-Care – the affordable solution

Gut busting humor is pretty hard to achieve with photography – and harder still to do good ‘tongue in cheek’. Somehow the medium is always so damned ‘po-faced’ serious. Perhaps it is all the heavy duty technology which primes one to be impressed rather than amused.

On the occasions when seems to work somewhat, the image is usually a lucky chance documentary snapshot of something goofy ‘going on’ (as they say). But I always feel there is something derisory ‘going on’ in the mind of the viewer presented with such images. Like “dumb dog got his head stuck in a paint pot – what an idiot”, kind’a thing.

Although we are prepared to live with the fact of post production and retouching, and even stretch that to tasteless or even grotesque ‘furrowed brow’ interpretations of reality, we don’t want to admit that any but neutral or ‘harmless’ filters ever came between the reality of life out there and that little print we just bought.  Somehow ‘photo humor’ seems to shoe horn something into the mix and that seems ‘a ‘bridge, way too far’.

This is a hybrid photo/CGI image. CGI elements are the airplane and the banner. They don’t exist in photographic ‘out there’ reality. Does that make a difference?

I don’t really know, But I tend to the view that any joke which can be told becomes redundant when it is illustrated visually. And any illustration which can be achieved with a few strokes of a pen is redundant when presented with ‘full photographic detail’. Most jokes are conceptual, but once in a blue moon an important part of the jape is to have a real tactile sense of ‘being there’. Partly because of the uncommonness of such scenarios, I am always pleased to have been the photo illustrator dude, and even more pleased if I hear anyone chuckle on seeing the image.

See this image bigger in the site gallery 



Another small super detailed series of images – familiar household items, as you probably have never seen them.

Familiar household object in super high resolution for extreme large prints.

Familiar household object in super high resolution for extreme large prints.

Upsetting the viewer’s regular sense of scale was the primary objective in producing this series of super high resolution stacked images. These qualities would be obvious when seen as large prints but are hard to get across on the web. As such this gallery, as with the preceding ‘Roadkill’ gallery features some detail sectional images in the hope of stimulating a facsimile of the sensation of seeing the full size prints.

Check out the set:

Nowadays we are used to seeing awe inspiring images, revealing extreme macro or microscopic features, which are well beyond the range of human vision. But there is a disconnect, because what we see in these  are sectional crops only, or objects which are too small to see, or experience in a tactile way. This series features entire discrete objects and yet the viewer can drill down to the macro/micro without loosing touch with the full familiar portable form.

The series borrows from an ethos long extant in advertising but these are grubby and realistic, All of us are familiar with heroic images of small consumer products such has watches, cellphones and such like. Whereas advertisers have an interest in making their products ‘larger than life’, ‘perfection’ usually trumps the object as hero element.

Imperfections may sometimes be welcomed as visual cues which useful and powerful in defining scale. But most of us, most of the time don’t want to see too much.

The more we see, the more dissatisfied we would become with our cleaning produces and cleaning routines. We choose to live a fantasy life with fantasy hygiene standards. There is not much more to it: simply put, if you don’t look too hard you don’t see the dirt.

Our culture values extreme  macro and micro images but it does not care for the intermediate scale addressed by this set. As such, photographers tend to take their interests elsewhere. The roadkill series which precedes this set were closer to these limits on the lower end. This set probably demonstrates the upper limit.

Borderline macro imagery looses out because it brings the viewer dangerously close to the ‘yuk’ factor, but it can also be powerful in story telling terms, by stimulating a sense of wonder at seeing the familiar anew.

Advertisers are not always constrained by having to feature ‘perfect’ consumer products or palatable food ingredients but they often are tempted to use all the potential of large poster prints. Once in a while there an interesting advertising or editorial application which can capitalize on the techniques used in this series and the story telling offered by the ‘unreal’ scale and detail,. That said, the corporate world will always demand exactly the right balance of grime.

On a technical level, as with the Roadkill series, all the images in this set were created by by laboriously combined from between 60-290, high resolution digital images. Although the images look deceptively simple (intentional for aesthetic reasons), extreme state of the art, professional high end cameras could not get close to match the depth of field and detail of any of these images with a single shot.


‘Drinking out of jam jars’ – 290 photos combined to make this larger than life image

Was it jam or was it pickle?

Was it jam or was it pickle?  I don’t remember, but I wont forget how much work went into producing this image. Areas in the rectangles are show in high resolution in the gallery.

Hard to believe, this this bland image required the combining of 290 shots to complete. The ‘larger than life’ effect could not have been achieved by normal photography. Sure, what you are looking at could be captured in a single shot but the sharpness would not be adequate to give the same impression on a gigantic print. To achieve a comparable depth of field (focus depth) the lens would need to be stopped down to the point where diffraction would significantly degrade the detail.  

This image was focus stacked (which bypasses the diffraction problem) as well as shot in stitch sections to be combined later. A real labor of love – the final detail is incredible and all is sharp from the top of the jar to the paper in the far background.

I wanted the image to work as as a large print, somewhat as per the recent roadkill series. As alluded to above, It is not easy to give a sense of scale on a web page. The final image is approx 240  megapixels or roughly 16,000 pixels square – which equates to 10 ft @ 150 DPI (although I have around 4-5ft. in mind) when I print it).

A ‘retina’ sized jpeg and detailed clips (represented by the red rectangles) are featured in the small gallery

…..not a lot to do with this image but : ‘drinking out of jam jars’ is a British expression usually rolled out to taunt someone who is perceived as trying to gain sympathy for having suffered extreme poverty in childhood.




Unseasonal post ~ seasonal photo

Marin County seasonal decorations

Marin County seasonal decorations

This year this is the only Christmas lights photo I took. Normally I would force myself to drive around and try to shoot new stuff. Marin County has the most extravagant offerings but I prefer this modest and simple design – and I like the hills in the background.

Now, January 10 and spring is already in the air (mimosas and apple trees starting to bloom) so everything is unseasonal – not just this post.



A road kill gallery -tiny crushed inanimate objects shot in the studio for very large impossibly detailed prints

A few of the road kill photo images. Click image to view gallery

A few of the road kill photo images. Click image to view gallery

Uncharacteristically for me – ‘road kill’ is a new set of images of ‘found objects’.

It all started when I found the ‘Giants‘ key abandoned and crushed on the street and I decided to make a mega resolution macro image of it. I decided to make a small set of similar crushed objects and only became aware how clean Marin Counties’ roads, and private thoroughfares are after having to drive miles to collect this small handful of street trash. These images are destined to be printed large to demonstrate an extra ordinary level of detail and many of the images will be 50x or more larger than the objects themselves.

‘Larger than life’ has been part of the advertising product photographer’s brief since it all began. The object as ‘hero’ even when in fact it is small an insignificant has been a persistent object. From watches to bottles of booze, jewelry and phones – all need to be larger and life and ‘perfect’. What perfect means is tons of retouching since nothing that small is uncontaminated with ‘yuk’. Even when the engineering is astonishing there are fingerprints, dust grease and grime. CGI offers to an alternative way to present form ‘in perfect form’ free from bacteria scratches.

Naturally it is possible to make big things ‘larger than life’ but in advertising it becomes more important with small objects. Photography of small objects has always been tricky not just from the ‘yuk’ point of view. Diffraction, depth of field limitation and being able to light the objects effectively when the lens to object distance is so cramped are big problems. Not least is that it is hard to create a ‘Mount Rushmore larger than life’ view on a small object when the camera itself dwarfs the object in question.

CGI frees one from these constraints to some degree, but what is often forgotten is that the brain also needs detail and texture to construct effective larger than life mental images. In the real world scale is usually defined by natural objects and their textures. In advertising, just about the only permissible natural thing is pure water. Water droplets and sometimes ice crystals decorate objects giving them atmosphere at the same time as defining scale. Whereas product photographers spend most of their time trying to clean off or hide the ‘yuk’ CGI operators struggle to create wholly convincing textures and revel in their ability to create new and more effective dirt filters.

I had no compunction to clean any of these objects but was aware that the dirt on them was something which would surprise the viewer. The dirt distinguishes and contrasts these images from their advertising equivalents. Crushed aged and broken is another kind of ethos which is popular in the fine art world. Some of these objects are not as earthy and folksy as I would prefer but I am prepared to live with that. New manufactured relatively pristine objects fall onto the street all the time. The transition from being run over once or twice to being obliterated by car tires.

Being dirty does not make these  into Art. But nor will I maintain an obsession with doing these things endlessly. Being seen by others as being obsessed is often an important cue to being recognized as an artist. Perhaps I will try that with another project.

The images in this set were focus stacked and stitched to produce files of between 14000 and 18000 pixels in size. A few of these were constructed from more than 100  exposures.

Because it is hard to get a sense of scale with these images (even with retina type screens), the gallery has a few ‘details’ images which show a sample swatch at full resolution, which the sampled region designated.


The camera rig used for this macro series

The camera rig used for this macro series





Portrait : Bud Lingo – former F101 pilot

Bud Lingo - Novato, CA

Bud Lingo – Novato, CA

Byron (Bud) Ernest Lingo June 28, 1933 –  July 12, 2014

Ex USAF pilot, Bud Lingo related of an extraordinary experience he had while in charge of his McDonnell_F-101_Voodoo. Flying in formation at about 35,000 ft. at around Mach 1 (750mph) over western US airspace, suddenly the entire front of his aircraft — forward of the pilot seat — disintegrated. Like a scene from a horror movie, he found himself at the absolute leading edge of the aircraft, bodily exposed to the full force of the wind.

Bud explained that the pilot of the aircraft below and forward of him decided to push his stick forward, to lose altitude. Rather than drop the front of a plane, using the stick in this manner initially causes the tail of the plane to lift. The forward plane’s tail-plane had impacted Bud’s aircraft removing everything forward of the pilot seat.

Fortunately he was not hit by debris and was still able to breathe, his face and lungs protected from the wind pressure by a breathing mask. But that was as far as it went  –  it blinded him by it being blown up against his eyes. His arms were blown above his head and he was pinned thus. The force of the wind at that extreme speed made it impossible for him to bring them down to his waist and pull the ejector lever. Eventually he figured a way of sliding them in contact with his body and the seat so the wind would not blow them back, and he was finally able to eject.

Now out of the aircraft but suffering oxygen loss and spinning uncontrollably and fearing he would lose consciousness, he opened his chute at a higher than ideal altitude. As such he drifted from where the plane crashed in the desert. Steerable parachutes were not government issue. Finally he landed in a dry river on soft sand but he hit his head on a lonely large rock, breaking his helmet in the process.  As luck would have it, he shook himself down and found his skull was undamaged at least.

Eventually he made contact with a farmer and Air Force helicopters flew in for the rescue. His navigator had ejected earlier and was found by his parachute, exactly where he had landed some miles away. He did not dare walk to  the road in the distance. He must have seen it as he descended from the sky. He was afraid of snakes.

The leading aircraft which had caused this catastrophe was not too badly damaged and made it to base. Months of investigations ensued. ‘Government property was damaged’ – that was the only thing which mattered and someone would have to pay. Fortunately for Bud, it was not him.

Bud was born in Kansas and raised in rural Nebraska. He joined the Air Force in 1953. I photographed him shortly after his 80th birthday in 2013. Bud passed less than a year later in 2014.




Police Navidad – season’s best – our illustration


'Police Navidad; season's best from yours truly

‘Police Navidad; season’s best from yours truly

According to Larry Silverberg, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University Santa would have to be real speed freak to get around to every stocking in the world in one evening. Indeed, to cover the required distance in 24 hours he would need to travel at a average speed of 5,083,000 mph. Not surprising that Santa ends up getting cited by the police every now and again.

Reporting of such busts has been seriously repressed and stories abound of payoffs in the media and in city halls to keep photos out of the papers. Not surprisingly police and others lie in wait every year hoping to capitalize on their unique ability to ‘stop and search’.

Meanwhile, with the proliferation of smart phones and dash cams, things have got harder to cover up. People are snapping images everywhere. We were able to capture this image with the latest in miniaturized digital capture technology.

Although on the face of it this photo gets close to recording a moment in the life of the ‘great man’ things are moving fast. We can’t reveal our sources but we learn that the entire operation is degenerating into what some describe is a ‘sordid and fragmented franchise’. Sightings of what we can only describe as proxy Santas of questionable integrity a being seen all over the country. Skepticism is necessary even in every instance including this one.

Megyn Kelly’s recent factual revelations on Fox News go a long way to help the man in the street try to resolve the genuine article from low wage official stand in surrogates, let alone foreigners or out and out counterfeits.