Forbidden – Beijing, China

Paul & I just touched down in Seattle from a week long trip up the California Coast starting in Los Angeles on to Big Sur, and then San Francisco. The weather was nothing less than great. I’ve  never seen 6 perfect sunrises and sunsets in a row up until this point, add some amazing Milky Way action to the equation and you can call the trip a success.

Along the way we stopped at some really cool spots including Griffith Observatory, McWay Falls, Pfeiffer Beach, Garrapata State Park and one of my favorites Point Lobos Reserve. Our home base in Carmel / Big Sur was Carmel Mission Inn which is a great setup for photographers or anyone wanting to explore the near by beaches of Big Sur. They also have a hot tub and all your can eat breakfast buffet, so you really can’t go wrong there!

Here are a few of the Behind the Scenes shots I took with my Google Nexus 5 while out exploring. I like the camera included with the phone, but I find it to give some pictures a strange green tint once in a while. Not sure what that’s about, but hopefully there is a white balance setting I can change some where or another. Anyone else having this issue?

Paul Weeks / shooting sunset at McWay Falls in Big Sur, CA
Paul Shooting Sunset @ McWay Falls in Big Sur // Nikon D800
Sunrise in Big Sur // Google Nexus 5

After taking some Milky Way shots in Big Sur we drove through the night to San Francisco and stumbled upon an amazing sunrise overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge where the fog was perfection and the crescent moon was just starting to rise.

Foggy Sunrise at the Golden Gate Bridge under the Crescent Moon // Google Nexus 5

From there we checked into the La Luna Inn which I would also highly recommend to photographers staying in the area. It has great access to lots of awesome locations and comes with a cheap price. This isn’t a fancy hotel, but it is clean and provides some really comfortable beds with in walking distance lots of food and shooting locations + free wi fi.

I hope to post a few D800 shots from the trip in the coming weeks!

The Shot
After living in China for 3 months back in 2010, I was really excited to return with my camera and capture as much as the country as possible in a 10 day time frame. We started out in Beijing and stayed for 3 days getting up for at 4:30AM each morning to make the walk to which ever location we decided to shoot.

The Forbidden City, where this shot was taken, is located about 1.5 miles from our room at the Days Inn. We arrived an hour before sunrise to get some nice blue hour action and plan out the best spot to watch the sun come over the smoggy horizon. Here is one of the shots I took after the sun came up. There were some nice clouds in the sky but I added a bit of texture blending on my own! Enjoy.

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The Painted Valley – Yosemite National Park, CA

Although most of the processing that takes place on my computer these days is digital blending involving one or two RAW files using Lightroom 4 and PhotoShop CS6, I do revert to Photomatix here and there for some HDR Processing. Why you ask? Well there is just something about dynamic situations such as the one below that really beg to be processed this way, or at least I think so. All the skills used here are covered in my Free HDR Video Tutorial and the video included below. There are a bunch of other fun and free videos on my YouTube Channel.

I still continue to buy and watch other photographers tutorials as much as possible. Even if you get a few tips here and there it’s worth the time and money. Chip Philips has a really good one by the way, so check that out!


The Shot
While wandering around Yosemite Valley you have a few things going for you, first, the “nice soft light” seems to last forever before the sun finally peaks over Half Dome and illuminates the valley in the early morning. Two, there are beautiful sights, sounds and smells coming from all directions, especially in the Autumn months of the year. Third, they have awesome coffee in the little lodge that sits quietly at the foot of El Capitan, but it doesn’t open til 7-8AM, which is a bit late for us photographers so bring a backup. We stayed in the park for 3-4 days doing some “car camping” and scouting out different locations to shoot. Sleeping in your car with minimal comfort levels is good for one thing, you’re ready to get up at 5AM and get the hell out of the vehicle.While scouting the day before I took a mental note of this location, “Come back when the sun is rising through the trees in the early morning”, and so I did… ha!


Post Processing Info ( Grab some discount codes to the programs below at bottom of About Me Page )
Processing Time: 40 Minutes
Music: Old School Tiesto Live Set ( YES!! )
Lightroom 4 
  • 5 Exposures from -2EV to +2 EV.
  • Adjust RAW files for white balance, contrast and clarity.
  • Export to JPEG
Photoshop CS6
  • Digitally blend PhotoMatix JPEG with the (5) JPEGS exported from Lightroom.
  • Mid Tones, Lights and Darks adjustments using Tony’s Presets.
  • Apply selective saturation and vibrance masks.
  • Add texture to the sky. ( I created 200 or so textures I will eventually release to everyone as a digital download. )
  • Nik Color Efex Pro Contrast.
  • Nik Output Sharpener
  • Noiseware Professional for noise reduction.
  • Slight global vignette application using Nik Software.
  • Save to JPEG.

Night Falls on the Crater – Crater Lake, OR

WOW these star workshops are selling faster than I thought possible, thanks for your support everyone, we are going to have a blast out there this summer:) Half the spots are gone, the other half are for anyone that grabs one. More info at the link below:

I might be working on a package of textures that I will eventually provide to the general public:) I thought it would be easy to do such a project but it ended up taking a lot more time than I had planned. None the less they are coming along nicely, I have 200ish so far. You can see one of them in the following picture & get your hands on them in the following months.

The Shot
My first trip to Crater Lake was a random trip down the Oregon Coast, while down there I was to close (within 5 hours) not to visit this awesome landmark.
Night Falls on the Crater - Crater Lake, ORfrom