Things change, the world goes on. Even just a few minutes (and different capture and editing techniques) can make the same scene look and feel vastly different. Do you have a preference between these three?
Life keeps moving. A few blinks and it’s been 5 years in California. And just the same amount of time where I’ve seemingly stopped creating with the throughput and passion in making dramatic imagery to communicate the greatness, violence, and beauty of the natural world.
Maybe my creative side has been been dormant or otherwise engaged — enabling amazing imagery for others, versus myself.
Maybe the complexity of life has made my mind less available for creative exploration in the ways I had in the past.
No matter why I’ve slowed down the past couple of years in producing content, I still — perhaps more than ever — appreciate the experiences of physical life, and especially those within personally novel exploration of natural world. Producing an image to share my emotions and awe of the my surroundings has become less important for me than experiencing them fully with no noise.
However, naturally, I did return to creating some work to share. As the world has evolved, so perhaps am I. Videos may become more of a thing for me — or maybe not. I guess I’ll just have to figure out which way the wind — and my mind — takes me. Like always.
But dynamism persists. The world is moving, and so am I.
*note, if you have a display that can display HDR, like a recent Pixel, Android, iPhone, or recent model TV (especially one with a peak brightness of over 1k nit), view these videos directly on YouTube for better contrast and color, as I’ve graded it. Still working on making sure both SDR and HDR renditions look consistent. Stay tuned as I work out the kinks!
Check out the work here, on YouTube.
Cheers to 2019; On to 2020
It seems that every time I write a post, I lament about how little I have posted and how I intend to do more. But, these past few years — and 2019 specifically — have been super active, and have pulled me away from shooting and sharing as I had previously. I used to be quite active on social media, as a consumer and as a photographer. With the limited time I have left, I found that social is less of a priority for me. I hope I can check in more often, but in the meantime, you can know my passion for photography is ever strong, and my effort is unrelenting.
Though I haven’t spent as much time as I would have liked shooting, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing photography or having fun!
About 1 year ago, I started as a Product Manager in Google Research — driving computational photography across products including Pixel, Google Camera, and Google Photos. It’s been a wild ride, and I’m so happy and enthused about where I am and the work I have been able to do so far. 2020 looks even brighter.
For me, this job has been a perfect marriage of passion and experience. I have loved photography for more than a decade, and often dreamed about how I could do it to make a living. For a while, I flirted with the thought of becoming a professional fine art photographer. As a fine art photographer, I would shoot whatever I wanted and create art, with the hopes that it is commercially viable to support me and our family. What I found, however, was that I would have to make a lot of concessions to see that dream come true — sometimes shooting what I don’t enjoy but that sells, or that I would have to spend a large part of my time marketing and selling. Lastly, there is no guarantee that this type of job would be enough support for my family.
I had been an tech & strategy consultant for many years, and while I pursued the idea of becoming a fine art photographer, only some of those professional skills — e.g., business analysis, marketing, sales would come into play if I were to do fine art full time.
But as a product manager, I’m able to parlay nearly all of my professional skills from consulting and combine it with my knowledge and passion for photography to land new applications for nascent technology and enable users, at Google’s scale, to enjoy the art of photography. It’s like I dreamt this role into existence 🙂
It wasn’t easy to get to where I am, and there are tons of challenges ahead, but I remain incredibly excited. While my role is to continue to improve computational photography at large, my personal goal is to scale casual creativity to the world. I want to allow people who had never think of themselves as creative, to engage in the creative process, and find even a small degree of fulfillment and self-introspection because of it. If I can help others find just a bit of what I have found through photography, I think it will have profound positive impact.
Now, after that long digression, onto the goods 🙂 I shot an embarrassingly low amount of proper shoots with my SLR, and to date had two posts to show for the entire year. But, as I said, I have been busy — but shooting more with mobile.
On that note, the Google Pixel is an incredible photographic tool. We ship best-in-class casual modes in Google Camera (built with cutting-edge computational photography): default (HDR+ that fuses up to 9 images for increased dynamic range and reduced noise), Portrait mode (now with stereo cameras for better & further depth rendering, and SLR-like bokeh), Night Sight (now with astrophotography, that will take up to 15 captures over 4 minutes to render a beautiful night sky). We also ship Super Res Zoom, which uses computational techniques to increase detail and sharpness without needing optical zoom. We also produce what we call a “merged DNG”, that takes the outputs of the fused exposures and provides a 16 bit RAW file that is great for editing. I captured several amazing shots this past year using the Pixel and often used the default JPEG out of the camera. Google Pixels (Pixel 3 and 4) were objectively my go-to cameras for 2019, though I did enjoy some of the motion photo outputs from the iPhone.
On Pixel, this past year, I was involved in several notable launches, including Astrophotography on Pixel 4 + “Astro” filter in Google Photos, and Portrait blur on Google Photos.
Here are some shots from the year and how they relate to our launches on Pixel.
Our astrophotography mode is a remarkable innovation. It allows a user to capture the glory of the night sky with a single tap. The images that come from this mode are truly amazing. Here are some of my own shots, totally unedited and straight of out camera:
As you can see, these shots look great straight out of camera. However, we know that people do like to edit their shots, and editing pictures of the night sky can be very challenging. So, we launched the Astro filter in Google Photos. It helps to bright brightness and contrast into the image. This filter, which I tuned with our engineers & photographers, works best on very dark images with foregrounds in deep silhouette. It only triggers for images taken in Astro mode from the Pixel Camera. Here are the last two shots with the Astro filter applied:
Of course, we don’t want to disappoint power users (like myself). So, we also produce super high quality merged DNGs so a user can edit for her/himself. Here is my own take on those two images:
In December, we launched Portrait blur in Google Photos on Pixel, which allows a Pixel user to apply a portrait mode like effect on older images. Portrait bokeh is one of those effects that can really add a professional touch to everyday photos.
I’ve been shooting a lot more portraiture in the last several years, in large part because of the beautiful additions to our family (our two daughters). I’ve found that Portrait blur in Google Photos can really help to add that pro quality in older images (ones from years past where you didn’t have portrait mode), when you forget to use Portrait mode, or lastly in combination with other desired modes like Night Sight.
If you’re a Pixel user, you can use the feature as a suggested action that pops up for certain images; you can also trigger the feature for images of up to 4 people by tapping the editor.
Here’s an image where Portrait blur really helped to bring richness to this old photo of my dad, enhancing its sentimental value (for me):
Here, I combined Portrait blur with Night Sight to get a portrait mode like shot in very low light (Congrats to Vik & Subi!)
Now the rest of the post will feature some more traditional shots you are used to seeing from me 🙂 A mix of mobile phone, SLR and drone shots edited in Photoshop. For the full album of my favs from the year, see here.
For the full album of my favs from the year, see here.
I shouldn’t have left you
Shooting & sharing has certainly decreased since I moved to California, but I sense that will be changing soon. I will have more to share shortly 🙂 In the meantime, a teaser from Davenport, CA, a location I like to go to as it’s only an hour from where I live.
Martin’s Beach Sunset
A few days into the new year, I ventured back to the coast for sunset. It did not disappoint! As the light faded away, I found the right composition for the water levels and view to the start.
I also captured some drone footage of the amazing sunset that directly preceded this beautiful twilight. I’m still working out the kinks of how to capture and process…some jerkiness but bear with me. But hopefully you get the jist 🙂
Scouting in Yosemite
Since we moved to California in April of 2017, I hadn’t had a chance to visit the world renowned park which is nearly in my backyard (if you consider 4 hours drive your backyard 🙂 ).
I spent 3 nights in and around Yosemite mostly scouting an area I have never been to. Much more to see and photograph, but here are a few to start. Aerials coming soon 🙂
Escape to Maui
Last month we went back to Hawaii – this time the island of Maui. A relaxing trip for sure. But since I was still on Pacific time, I was waking up around 5a every morning. So I spent my time exploring and photographing nearby. A few shots to keep me going, but I hope to have more time to devote to photography…
Return to Shark Fin Cove
Last week, I took a trip back to Shark Fin Cove which has been an early favorite for me along the Norcal coast. I find myself returning again and again to the coast for my evening shoots – an hour drive away from the suburban bustle of Silicon Valley.
This time though, I got a chance to experiment with a new toy, a DJI Mavic Air. I wasn’t convinced that videography is for me for so long, but I am happy I finally made the leap. The technology itself is worth the experience. It’s really crazy how much smarts are packed into this small device, as well as ability to capture a compelling image. I have some ideas in mind to experiement with different types of photography/videography with the Mavic… hope you’ll stay tuned.
In the meantime, I’ll give you the clip from my maiden shoot. A little rough on the edges, but still a lot of fun. Oh, and also some still images I had to capture at lands end.
Sunset over Pacifica
Last week, I shot sunset over Pacifica and Mori Point. The sea stacks of Sharp Park beach are awesome, and this vantage point would especially be nice during wildflower season. After the cloudless sunset, Venus and early evening stars began shining brightly — mimicking the formation of the 3 large sea stacks in the ocean.
We visited Monterey and Big Sur over the weekend, and finally traveled down to Bixby bridge and McWay Falls! Just before sunset, dappled light hit the cliffs and made for a very peaceful scene
Sunset at Shark Fin Cove
Things have been super busy since we moved to California in April of last year. But now, we are finally settling into our new home and I was able to spend some time continuing to explore the coast. I know I promised I would move away from coastal photography, but I couldn’t resist.
Another coastal shot! Made it out to natural bridges state park just north of Santa Cruz. Cold water but I quickly got acclimated to it as I stood waist deep to get some good wave action…with another earth, sea, sky shot — maybe time to explore a little inland.
In the 6+ months we have lived in the Bay Area, shooting opportunities have been very few. Recently though we took a trip to Lake Tahoe and I had a business trip to San Diego. I did my best to get back out there and in the elements.
Finally I feel like I’m starting to explore this beautiful state we live in!
Finally… SF Sunrise
It’s been so long but getting back to the swing of things. My first trip up to SF for sunrise. No clouds – all good. 2 hour commute back to South bay – all bad
A Trip to Paradise
We have been living in the bay area for almost 6 months now… crazy how time flies! In the months since we have been here, we have been busy getting settled. After several months of the grind, we finally got a chance to get away to Hawaii for our 5 year anniversary and my wife’s bday. One of the advantages of living in the west coast is that 5 hours later, we can plop down at a gorgeous beach like we did at Waikiki.
While I really have not spent much time at all in the last 6 months on photography, I had to get a sunrise shoot squeezed into our relaxing time on Oahu. This is my take on the sunrise from Lanai Lookout, just near Hanauma Bay. The sun rose through the haze and highlighted sparkles through the crashing water coming to the lava rock shores.
I hope that in the coming months I can spend more time exploring California through photography. But for this vacation, it was nice to just get back in the swing of things.
Solar Eclipse 2017 in Walnut Creek, CA
I took a few hours to check out an amazing celestial display in the solar eclipse. The experience was really amazing even as I did not witness “totality”. Maybe in 2024 🙂
Peak Color Peak Bloom
Last evening, storm clouds caught some nice color at sunset. A long exposure streaked the clouds and calmed the water over the Jefferson memorial and still peaking blossoms
Peak Bloom Cherry Blossoms in Washington DC 2017
Over the weekend, we hit peak of cherry blossoms. After a warm winter followed by a cold spell while the blossoms were partially exposed, many were worried if we would see Cherry Blossoms as we are accustomed to. I think the bloom is actually really nice! I personally can’t tell a difference between this and previous years. This morning was a beautiful calm fog over the scene, which allowed some beautiful blue tones in the clouds with the pink of the blossoms and allowed for a peaceful mood.
This morning, I was hoping for a little more photogenic and more snow than what we got. But I made the most of it while touring the Tidal Basin. The blossoms were covered in ice while still delicately blooming. Here’s hoping they will last…
Return to Iceland
Last week I returned to Iceland after an amazing trip in October left me wanting more. For this trip, my goal was to capture winter scenes, in particular ice caves and hopefully some aurora. As it turns out, the rainy weather I witnessed in October stayed for the months I was away, and Iceland is continuing to go through a wet and warm winter. There was no snow on the ground when I arrived and in fact the ice caves were in jeopardy of melting due to intense rainfall. We were not even sure if we could visit as we had hoped. Ultimately, we lucked out on one day where we had no rain and less wind which allowed us to hike 10 miles up and down the glacier, capturing photos and flying the drone all the way! Thanks to my new friend Stephan Mantler, who leads amazing small group hikes here. My short trip was highlighted by that arduous and sometimes intimidating trek — where a slip here or there could mean real trouble and a possible slide all the way down the glacier. My friend Bernard Chen, a very good photographer and videographer, documented our hike below. Besides that hike, I also visited Gulfoss, Vik, and some mountain scenes near Pingvellir. Another nice, short trip to Iceland and I appreciate your thoughts on my work!
Here on we started our trip up the glacier! Here’s the documentary our trip up via Bernard Chen and his DJI Mavic Pro.
Call of the North from Bernard Chen on Vimeo.
The next day after our hike, we headed back east towards Vik. While in Reynisfjara, I finally was able to scamper over the rocks during low tide and get a full-on view of the impressive sea stacks (the second shot in these two):
On our way to Pingvellir, I noticed these massive mountains that were partially reflected in a frozen lake. It was an impressive show of size even in grand Iceland:
Sunrise at the Vietnam Memorial and Lincoln Memorial
This morning I led a very cold workshop at the Vietnam and Lincoln Memorials. Not a cloud in the sky and 20-ish degrees, but still a beautiful sight!
Top Shots of 2016
Another year in review! I’m actually surprised at the amount of shots I captured this year, given that next year’s resolution is to shoot more. Here are my fav 10…Which one is your favorite?
Cold Sunset in DC
Last night I spent some time down by the memorials. I wanted to get a shot of the wreaths against the Vietnam memorial, but the beautiful clouds started gathering more westward. I did a few long exposures facing the Lincoln Memorial before turning back east to the Washington Monument where the sky had turned a deep pink. A pretty nice and unique sunset despite the cold!
Fall Foliage in the Washington DC Area
As we finally are seeing cold weather we regularly expect in late November, the autumn leaves — several weeks later than normal, are finally falling off of the trees. This past Saturday was a particularly amazing day. It started at 70 degrees on an afternoon we decided to take our baby to the zoo. By 3pm, a cold front arrived with 40 degree weather and crazy wind! Leaves of all shapes and colors flew across the sky. We may have a week or so left to witness the fall color. I’ll perhaps have a little more to share, but here are a few from the past two weeks:
Supermoon over Washington DC
This evening, we saw an amazing supermoon rise over Washington DC. We chose the Constitution Gardens to allow us a view eastward to the rising moon while also seeing the peaking fall foliage. Enjoy!
Happy Veterans Day
Happy Veterans Day on this beautiful fall morning… As shown by some amazing color at the Air Force Memorial this week
Adventure in Iceland
I was lucky to spend 3 amazing nights in Iceland. Though there was a lot of rain, I made the best of the situation and had a great time. I will be updating this page with details of my trip!
Blackwater Falls Autumn 2016
This past weekend, the family and I went to check out the fall foliage at Blackwater Falls State Park. It has become a little tradition for us! Some locales were past peak, and others hadn’t quite reached peak. An interesting year for sure as leaves are usually fully peak by the end of September. Here are the few images I captured from this year
Air Force Memorial’s 10 Year Anniversary
Last week, the Air Force Memorial celebrated its 10 year anniversary and I had the honor of photographing the event. The event included an amazing performance by the Air Force Memorial Band, a former American Idol contestant, speeches by distinguished guests, two flyovers, and a video presentation by former President George Bush. Also, Deborah James, the Secretary of the Air Force, was named an honorary Tuskeegee Airman for her role in supporting the group’s objectives. It was a really good time, and I was glad I was there to capture it for this important memorial.
Full Moon over the National Museum of African American History and Culture
On Sunday night, I captured the rising full moon as it rose beautifully over the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I used the lit path to lead the viewer into the image and used two exposures to capture the foreground and moon.
Sunset at the Memorials with IGDC
Last night I met up with the IGDC crew for the first time! Nice to finally meet some of the photogs I had been following on Instagram. The sunset wasn’t too bad either. I tried some new angles and some other more traditional ones… hope you enjoy!
Yesterday’s Sunset may not have been much compared to the previous days, but still was beautiful and serene as seen from great falls
We recently returned from a family trip to Seattle! This makes two years in a row that we have traveled for my mom’s bday! We had a blast and have this takeaway from a late afternoon visit to Kerry Park. A gorgeous view to Mt. Rainer, surreal like the mountain is superimposed over a picture of the city! The park was kind of small, but sissy and I had fun pretending we were kids. Till next time…
Washington DC Union Station Photography
Last week, I met up with friend and photographer Angela Pan and two new photog friends Dave an Zack at Union Station! After checking out the sunset from the parking rooftop, after Dave asked for it, we were granted access to a cool perspective from behind the statues that adorn the elegant and historic transportation depot. I captured a straight on view to the U.S. Capitol and toyed with the intersection of lines in the ceiling of Union Station. Hope you enjoy em…
Lightning Storms in Washington DC
Last night I went shooting with my friend Angela Pan to capture storm photography near the city.The storms arrived right around sunset, which allowed for some nice light and color as the bolts struck. After the sun set, continuous bolts highlighted clouds behind the Air Force Memorial. While I would have loved to see some fork-like bolts, it still was a nice sight to see.
Summer Sunset at the Washington Monument
Tonight I met up with my friend and photographer/workshop extraordinaire, Michael Chinnici of Photo Workshop Adventures. After hanging for a bit, we headed to shoot sunset at the White House and Washington Monument. Just past sunset, some interesting clouds rolled in while subtle pinks took towards the horizon. A center comp seemed to be in order.
Enjoy the rest of summer!
Sunset at the Vietnam Memorial
I had planned this shot for a while and finally went out to capture it. Usually this is a spot for sunrise but I was looking for the monument to be basked in light and looked to use the crowd to add mood. Might try this one again still.
In Living Memory
Landscape Photography of Santorini
In June, we went on vacation to Greece. This was a leisurely trip to Greek Islands Mykonos and Santorini and a stop over in Athens before flying home. Through 8 nights, the trip proved to be a fair amount of time spent traveling. If I were to do it again, I’d maybe cut out Athens or spend more time overall.
During vacations, I don’t usually spend much time photographing. I like to keep photography trips and vacations with family as separate as possible. They have such different daily routines and sights to see, that I find it to be hard to concentrate on both. But, I bring my camera along nonetheless and see if there are opportunities to add to the portfolio.
During this trip, I took mostly portraits of us having fun. I mixed that in with a little shooting in Santorini –sunrise and midnight shoots in Oia, where we were lucky enough to stay, and some shots from the boat tour of the Aegean Sea from Santorini. Ultimately, I only have landscape shots from Santorini – and more than I thought I would come away with! Hope you enjoy them and my views from a beautiful island destination.
Preview from Greece
A preview from Greece… more to come 🙂
#fbf to a more attractive Capitol dome under post sunset pinks and reds. Restoration should be finishing soon, thank God. Definitely less nice than the monument scaffolding froma few years ago. I right now I avoid shooting the Capitol like the plague
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