Sunset Cliffs at Sunset, 2/13/13

Sunset Cliffs at Sunset 21313 © Michael Klayman-002

From a new favorite perch on a cliff, I can drink my gongfu tea and watch surfers. This particular cliff is a bit doughnut shaped, with a huge sinkhole set back from the edge. It’s a constant reminder that even though these rocks may be hundreds of millions of years old, that is no guarantee that they won’t collapse in the next few minutes.

The surfer has a special relationship with the wave, catching it at the end of its long journey from the sea as it stumbles across the rising sea floor and tumbles headfirst into the coast. Once the wave is over, the surfer turns around to hitch a ride on the next one, but I’m more interested in what happens at the very end of the wave’s life as it crashes into the rocks the residue dissipates. One on top of the other, these foamy corpses create their own shapes in the water and sometimes it feels like I’m the only one who can see the ghosts.

Sunset Cliffs at Sunset 21313 © Michael Klayman-001

In certain cases, the longer the exposure the less ghosting. 8 minutes and the water turns glassy. Not even ghosts live forever.

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All Images Copyright © Michael Klayman 2013, All Rights Reserved.
Please ask for permission before downloading or linking to them.

Swim Party at Soda Bar, 2/9/13

Swim Party at Soda Bar 20913 © Michael Klayman-001

Swim Party reunited for one show, their first in 2 years now that a couple members have moved away.

Swim Party at Soda Bar 20913 © Michael Klayman-008

Swim Party at Soda Bar 20913 © Michael Klayman-006

It was nice seeing familiar faces and catching up.

Swim Party at Soda Bar 20913 © Michael Klayman-003

Swim Party at Soda Bar 20913 © Michael Klayman-005

Swim Party at Soda Bar 20913 © Michael Klayman-007

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All Images Copyright © Michael Klayman 2013, All Rights Reserved.
Please ask for permission before downloading or linking to them.

Along Came a Spider at 98 Bottles, 2/7/13

Along Came a Spider at 98 Bottles 20713 © Michael Klayman-016

With all the varied groups that Nathan Hubbard plays in, this band should have been called “Along Came a Chameleon”. Check out Robert Bush’s review if you want to read good words.

Along Came a Spider at 98 Bottles 20713 © Michael Klayman-005

This was my first time hearing Dave Borgo up close and personal. Great player, really nice guy, and he has a talented wife too.

Along Came a Spider at 98 Bottles 20713 © Michael Klayman-017

Ian fired up his new soprano sax for the gig, thus completing his Wayne Shorter arsenal. He almost didn’t make it on time with his golf game ran late and he didn’t have a chance to change.

Along Came a Spider at 98 Bottles 20713 © Michael Klayman-014

Really, let’s look at these pants. They didn’t need a microphone because they were loud enough as it was.

Along Came a Spider at 98 Bottles 20713 © Michael Klayman-012

Nathan brought in some old and new compositions for this group. Unlike some of his minimalistic efforts lately, this was a frolic through free-bop. Twisty tunes and lots of space for everyone to shine on their instruments of choice.

Along Came a Spider at 98 Bottles 20713 © Michael Klayman-006

Rob Thorsen is usually called on for rock steady support, but in this group he can really stretch out. Some of his solo bass and duet interludes shed a whole new light on his talents.

Along Came a Spider at 98 Bottles 20713 © Michael Klayman-008

Along Came a Spider at 98 Bottles 20713 © Michael Klayman-007

The hard truth is that this music is not for everyone, evidenced by the pitifully small but appreciative crowd. As a photographer, I love having all the couches to myself. It was like the most luxurious photo pit ever. As a music fan, it’s yet another sad lesson that quality of performance has nothing to do with quantity of listeners. It requires attention and probably repeated listenings to really pick up everything that’s going on, but the effort would be worth it.

Along Came a Spider at 98 Bottles 20713 © Michael Klayman-002

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All Images Copyright © Michael Klayman 2013, All Rights Reserved.
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The “Rule of Thirds” does not mean what you think it means- Sunset Cliffs at Sunset, 2/7/13

The “Rule of Thirds” does not mean what you think it means.

Sunset Cliffs at Sunset 20713 © Michael Klayman-001

One of the first things every photographer is taught is that placing a subject off-center in the frame makes for a stronger composition than placing the subject smack-dab in the middle of the frame. We call it the “Rule of Thirds”, and if we follow this rule we have a good chance to introduce some dynamics to the image.

This may be a good practice most of the time, but it’s a misreading of the phrase “Rule of Thirds”. There is no rule that we are obliged to follow. It’s an unfortunate, accidental pun in our language that gave it this particular meaning. “Rule” in this case isn’t synonymous with “law”, it’s a shorter version of the word “ruler”, as in that thing on your desk you use to measure length. If you’ve ever heard of a slide rule, it’s the same word.

Your ruler it has a bunch of evenly spaced lines on it to mark length, probably in inches or centimeters. Instead of measuring inches, what if the ruler measured divisions of itself? What if it only had two marks on it, dividing itself into three equal length portions? This is a ruler divided in thirds, or to say it even shorter, a rule of thirds. 

Using this definition, the Rule of Thirds isn’t prescribing a law that a photographer can choose to either follow or break. It’s the mental overlay of a ruler which defines three zones of the image. Applied in both the horizontal and vertical directions, the intersections of the lines locate points where, if the subject were placed at one of those points, would make a stronger image.

Even if you think this is just semantic fussiness, the simple fact is that dividing an image into thirds (1:1.67) is a simplification of the Golden Ratio (1:1.618). That’s the real position for maximum impact. So as a rule or a ruler, dividing in thirds is just an approximation, so no need to be all that exact.

A popular application of the rule in landscape photography is to put the horizon line a third of the way into an image, yielding 1/3 sky and 2/3 ground, or 2/3 sky and 1/3 ground. Placing the horizon line right in the middle is considered amateurish- you decide whether to emphasize the sky or the ground, but don’t give them equal time- choose which one deserved more visual weight.

In these two images, I deliberately placed the horizon in the middle to try and show that bisecting the image can still be interesting. In the image at the top of this post, I am attempting to draw a comparison between the texture of the clouds and the texture of the water. With a 90 second exposure time, they start to look a bit like each other. I even flipped the photo upside down, and it takes a second see it as “wrong” because of the lack of visual cues to orientation. In this case, I am weighing them both and finding them to be equal in visual weight.

Sunset Cliffs at Sunset 20713 © Michael Klayman-002

In this image, I threw out both rulers. Not only is the horizon line in the middle, but the cliff can’t decide if it takes up half the width or 2/3 of it. That lighter outcropping to the right of the tunnel is placed right in the center. Once again, I’m trying to include some interesting sky and water in the frame, and the only way to do that is to place the horizon through the center. As for the cliff, I tried to make the lighter outcropping the most stable part of the image and balance the boulders against the empty water. Cropping out the water on the right would have produced a more square format, and I wanted to preserve the horizontal shape of the frame to show the cliff in its environment.

Could I have done a more traditional treatment of these images? Of course. But I’m not breaking rules or rulers out of ignorance, I’m breaking them intentionally in order to reach something deeper. You can decide for yourself if I succeeded.

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All Images Copyright © Michael Klayman 2013, All Rights Reserved.
Please ask for permission before downloading or linking to them.

Balboa Park Bridge, 2/1/13

Balboa Park 20113 © Michael Klayman-001

I arrived nice and early to stake out my spot for what promised to be a glorious sunset. Alas, the sun ducked behind a cloud before it could light up the sky with color. This shot was one of my earlier shots, getting things dialed in before the sunset that never was. If you look really hard, you might be able to find the homeless guy shooting up down there.

With no interesting light to play with, I tried to bring out as much detail from the foliage and sky as I could. This was a long exposure since I was trying to remove the cars and pedestrians from the roads. I paid special attention to the tonal contrast between the various elements in the scene- making the bridges the subject while trying to keep the layers of green leaves separate from each other.

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All Images Copyright © Michael Klayman 2013, All Rights Reserved.
Please ask for permission before downloading or linking to them.