San Simeon: Wrath and Wealth by Brenda Hartshorn

San Simeon

The different terrain and wildlife along California's coast has a lot to offer for exploration.  I stayed at San Simeon Creek Campground which has reasonable prices and clean faculties.  The campground itself has a variety of habitats of its own, ranging from being able to listen to the roaring ocean, croaking frogs, or the calls of many different types of fowl in the fields.  If you're a light sleeper, I would recommend the east end of the grounds as the frogs are quite loud and the waves crash all night.

Elephant Seals


These beasts are completely outrageous and I can't believe I had waited so long to see them.  This month the juvenile males are sparring by throwing their faces into each other's bodies and going in for the occasional bite.  They are getting ready for the big winter fight to become Beach Master or Alphas.  The sounds on the beach are completely ridiculous as they practice their battle roar.  All the while, the females and their pups are close by attempting to sleep.  They need to conserve as much energy as possible since they fast for months while molting their winter coat.  However, prime beach spots are hard to come by with all the commotion the sparring causes, so the females also get rather aggressive.  Not only towards each other but also any pups they see as getting in their way.  Taking children to see the ruckus during this season is a great for having a good laugh.

Architecture and Scientific Photography

When using photography for non destructive analytics of architecture, UV or thermal infrared are the methods that are normally used. UV can be utilized to show what parts of the building have been remodeled by showing different reflected amounts of the same material which changes over time from sun exposure.  Thermal infrared can be used to show many different problems, including water damage behind walls in civil engineering, finding buried structures in archaeology, verify temperature sensitive materials used for conservation of artifacts and artwork, and even in medicine to find abnormalities in circulation that can be caused by different health conditions or cancers.

After visiting Hearst Castle with my near infrared camera, I stumbled upon some interesting technical observations.

You can see in the image above of the front of the Castle with the detail of flowers on the stone barrel that reflect back a vibrant yellow.  I was perplexed as to what non-living things would reflect that high amount of near IR radiation.  In Optics, aluminum, silver, and gold are used to increase the transmission of a different wave lengths.  Gold reflects 96% of radiation from 750nm - 1500nm, which is perfect illustrated in the photo since near IR ranges from 750nm to 1400nm.

I had also finally pinned down the cause for the increased annoyance of flare while shooting in IR opposed to the visual spectrum. Scatter is the answer, and I only figured that out when reading more in depth about optics and gold.  In addition to vignetting, the center of the frame for some images has an even higher transmission of IR.  For scenes that had large amounts of foliage or natural uneven terrain, there does not appear to be an increased transmission of IR for the center of the lens.  However, in the landscapes with water or around buildings with large flat surfaces were acting like a reflector and bouncing larger amounts of IR back into the lens like lens flare even though the lens was shaded.

The estate of William Randolph Hearst is mind boggling.  His collection of artifacts and art make the "cottages" of the estate mini-museums.  What Hearst described as a cottage, is larger than most single family homes.  Hearst never finished building Casa Grande.  He was constantly buying, remodeling, and expanding on his estate for no apart reason other than he wanted it and had the means to get it (for a while.)  Eventually, Hearst hit some financial trouble and had to give up his polar bear and other zoo animals to get out of debt.  The estate is something worth witnessing as proof that it is important not to look for happiness in the wrong places (as it can lead to more dissatisfaction and possibly even trouble in the future.)


Yosemite in Winter with Infrared by Brenda Hartshorn

All images below were taken using my IR camera that was converted from a Canon 5D.

For the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir images, I used the methods of Straight Photography in respect to the early photographers who dedicated themselves to taking photos of the West.  These images provided evidence to help conserves our national parks today.  The most famous of these photographers was of course Ansel Adams, but there were many others apart of Group f/64.  Others included Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, John Paul Edwards, Sonya Noskowiak, Henry Swift, and Willard Van Dyke.  These photographers would pack 100 pounds of photography equipment in order to bring back images of these great landscapes.  In some cases, a mule was required to carry their large format 8x10 camera, lenses, tripod, film, and portable darkroom into the wilderness.

For the photos taken at Mirror Lake, I also did some alternative processing using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to help pull out the difference in luminosity of the areas reflecting the IR spectrum.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

Yosemite has a few different entrances into the park, most of which lead to the well known Valley Floor.  However, the North end of the park also has an access point to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

It is said that before the reservoir was filled, it was an area that was just as beautiful as the rest of the park.  And, to some, it has been considered a great loss to have filled this area with another reservoir. After hearing this commentary over the years, I had always assumed that this area of the park was off limits.  I was wrong.  Not only is this area open to the public, it has fairly well maintained trails, is very beautiful, and has no entrance fee for day use.

This area of the park is less developed than the greater Yosemite.  There are no camp grounds, stores, or hotels here.  However overnight backpacking is allowed with a wilderness permit.

With the recent rains, the waterfalls and cascades in Yosemite were looking very impressive.  There was so much water that small streams had formed, taking over sections of the trail by running across and even along them.  Waterproof boots required.  The water increased difficulty of the hike, but it was still manageable and I would recommend checking out this area of the park.  I do not see this reservoir as a tragic mistake of lost tourism opportunities.  It is in fact still beautiful.

With the recent drought that California has been going through, we need all the reserves we can get without further damaging the environment.  Dams for the purpose of creating energy, are not very effective when compared to other methods and should not be driving reason for construction anymore.  They are also not good for the ecosystem as a whole, since they trap the needed sediment that our shorelines use for protecting us from the ocean's powerful force of erosion.  However, dams are not a great evil.  California does not have the same luxury that Washington state has in terms of the abundant supply of rain water.  There is no one fix-all solution for being able to provide resources to the people.  We must look at what we have locally to best decide how we can provide what is needed.  Northern California would benefit from its reservoirs and water treatment plants to recycle waste water during its cycles of drought.  I would like to point out that this area of California is not a desert.  It has  rich areas of soil provided by the erosion of the Sierra Nevada's that is carried downstream to the Northern and Central part of the state.  In these rich areas of Central Valley, it provides 1/4 of the nations produce.  If the rest of the country is only capable of producing in large quantities wheat, corn, livestock, and energy- the country, and the world, will continue to hear about California's drought concerns every 5 to 10 years.

Desalinization for this part of California would not be a good idea for economic and environmental reasons.  To produce water through desalinization, it is double the cost in comparison to obtaining it from reservoirs and it has proven to be very destructive for our marshy shorelines.  However, desalinization could be beneficial to other areas.  As a response to the recent drought, Southern California has started a project to create 15 desalinization plants.  For them, this may serve as a better source of obtaining water than piping it all the way down the state as they have better areas for disposing the unused salt down there.

Mirror Lake

The lake was more full thanks to the help of the snow this season and one busy beaver family.  There was a lot evidence of their work from the half chewed tree trunks along the perimeter of the lake and the pile of limbs at one end of the river.  It was only last spring, that a person could walk across the meadow-like area to reach the other side of the trail. We estimate that the water depths now range between 2'-10' based on the known heights of boulders that were accessible for climbing on before.

Although beavers can be very destructive in changing the landscape, we may be able to thank these little structural engineers for helping restore this area back to its name and historical environment.  Mirror Lake had been slowly disappearing due to the natural build up of sediment flowing into the lake bed.  Although beavers are not native to the Sierras, the park at this time has not published if they will be removing the rodents from their new home.

Lytro Illum: Getting in-depth about depth by Brenda Hartshorn

The most interesting thing about what the Lytro Illum can do that has an advantage over traditional photography, is that you can play with the depth in the scene.  This feature has the effect of allowing the viewer to feel more immersed in the scene by having the added 3D information of experiencing the illusion of depth off a 2D screen.  For the most part, the Illum's software is able to detect the depth of objects in the scene correctly.  However, there are a few conditions that confuse the processing which will result in some artifacts that will need to be manually corrected by pulling the depth map into Photoshop (or any other image editing software.)  In this post, I will discuss some challenging situations that the software has trouble with and cover how to correct the depth maps for processing.

Note: In the images shown below, areas shaded in blue are what the software is choosing as the near depth and the orange tinted areas are what is being interpreted as the far depth.

Texture & Patterns

Main Street, Chinese Camp, CA

Main Street, Chinese Camp, CA

As you can see from the depth map above, the software had a hard time choosing the correct depths for this busy scene.  The part of the wall that had been stuccoed over is so much smoother and brighter than the surrounding that this area became processed as being a different depth than the bricks.

Contrast: Low & High

Stalactites in the Black Chasm Cavern National Landmark.

Stalactites in the Black Chasm Cavern National Landmark.

Since the texture and tone of the stalactites are very similar to each other, it had trouble processing the correct depth in the upper left corner of the image for part of the far stalactite that borders the near one.  You can also see that the edge detection for this object type is a bit poor since the tip and edges of the formations are being mapped as part of the far depth.  The bottom right corner of the image is also not creating the correct depth map either but for different reasons.  If there are parts of the image that lack detail and either reach near pure black or pure white, the software is unable to estimate the depth correctly.  This area will become a depth artifact when processing and will either appear to be part of your foreground or background.

Blue marble rock formation near Volcano, CA.

Blue marble rock formation near Volcano, CA.

At the moment there does not appear to be a contestant rule for which the software chooses.  In the stalactite image, it incorrectly made part of the blackness of the cave a near depth.  While in contrast the image to the right, the software chose to make the mossy rock part of the far depth.

The software also has trouble with areas that are near white. The image below is a good example, as the bright parts of the clouds are being interpreted as being near.

Hatch Creek near Don Pedro Reservoir.

Hatch Creek near Don Pedro Reservoir.

Fixing the Depth Map

For users that have image editing software, Lytro has enabled a feature that allows them to easily correct the depth map.

  1. After selecting the image that you would like to fix, go to File>Export and select Depth Map from the drop down menu.  Select where you would like your file to be exported, and click Export.  You can then open the files in an image editor that allows you to manually paint the correct depth tone, like Photoshop.
  2. Open both of the files that are created in your image editor and use the color image as a layer on top of the gray scale depth image.  Photoshop may pop-up with an warning saying "The target document has a different depth than the source document.  This may result in lower than expected quality.  Are you sure you want to proceed?"  Just ignore this and click Yes as you are just using the image as a reference layer so you can better see what you are editing.  
  3. In your Layers pallet, drag the opacity of your reference layer down to about 20% or to a percent where you can see both layers.  For the depth map, the lighter tone represents the far depth and darker tone represents the near depth.  
  4. Select the Depth Map (Background layer) and the Eye dropper tool.  Set the Eye dropper tool to only sample the Current Layer from the drop down menu.  Use the Eye dropper to select an area with the same depth of the area that you would like to fix. 
  5. Now switch to the Paint Brush to correct the desired area.  You can resample depth area colors by holding Alt/Option to temporarily switch back and forth between the Eye dropper and Paint brush.  If you have large areas that need to be corrected, it can be easier to use the selection tools on the Reference layer image and then switch back to the Depth layer to paint in the desired area more precisely.  For this, you will want to turn the opacity of the Reference layer image back up to 100% temporarily while making the selection.
  6. Once you have addressed all problem areas, you can then delete the Reference image layer and save.
  7. You may now go back to the Lytro Desktop app.  Navigate to File>Import.  Under the Import drop down menu choose Selected Depth Maps, click Browse to find the file you would like to update, and then click Import.  After that it will just take a couple minutes to update the processing on your lightfield.