Thursday, December 02, 2010

Driving The Baja, Drive By Shootings, and More

Good Morning Everybody,

We got pretty well settled into our home away from home yesterday. The weather is perfect as usual and the feeling all around is pretty darn relaxed.

Work Crew on ComputerOnly one MAJOR hiccup yesterday and still even today is the fact that my computer won't connect to the internet. No matter how many combinations of connections from wired to wireless, no matter that I've run the diagnostic check 5 times, nothing seemed to work yesterday - I'm still not connected - RATS!!

The funny thing is that our iPads connect just fine. His Dell connects just fine. My brand new Sony is, unfortunately, not so fine. Kent and I will give it a go a bit more today, but in the mean time, I'm using his computer to get the posts up till we get the problem resolved.

Hey gang, I thought what I would do today I'd share with you a few of my impressions of the trip, cover a bit of my shooting routine for all the images posted, and feature a few more images from the trip. Here we go...

The Most Beautiful Drive On Earth

This is my first and most lasting impression of the drive down through the Baja. It is just simply stated the most magnificent driving experience I have had in my life to date. The variety of geography, scenery, and landscape is just eye popping beautiful.

Seaside Baja

As I mentioned yesterday, the drive is, in some places, not for the faint of heart. You have to keep your "wits" about you ALL the time never taking your eyes off the road for even a second when driving through the mountains.

The long stretches are much more tame. That is, of course till you the road starts to disintegrate under the tires making the ride more like a bucking bronco especially in a jacked up Jeep with stiffened suspension. For the most part though, the narrow two lane road is well maintained for about 85% of the drive. It's the other 15% you got to be especially careful about.

Passing Through The Small Towns

Small TownTo me this was a fascinating part of the journey. Many of these small towns are just  cobbled together buildings always showing where you can get your next meal or cold Cerveza. A few of the towns we passed were just slightly bigger.

I remember one such town we passed - it must have been the end of the school day, because there was Kids Crossingcrossing guard stopping traffic so the children could cross the highway safely. As we passed Ciudad Constitucion, many people were lining up for a parade. There seemed to be a big celebration happening in that town as their was a lot of activity happening everywhere. Unfortunately, we flew by so fast we missed it.

The impression was that in spite of living circumstances totally dissimilar to what most of us in the US are used to, especially in these very small towns, life goes on as usual, school, work, play.

Drive By Shootings - Getting The Shots From The Road

Nearly every image we took during the 1,100 mile drive was made with, what I like to call my "drive by shooting" technique. OK, you're thinking anybody can hand hold a camera out a window and shoot the shot. Well, maybe. But I still take a slightly different approach during my "drive by shootings".

Eliminating The Motion Blur

Here are a few issues you are faced with when shooting out a car window. As you are flying down the road at 60-70 mph and see a great shot to your right, you point you camera in that direction and shoot away, right? What happens - usually the "stuff" in the foreground of the shot is badly "motion" blurred because of your travel speed as you shoot perpendicularly into the landscape.

Drive by 1Things closer to the camera are just moving much faster than things in the distance. Most folks will have their cameras set to P for program mode and shoot away and get the same result every time. I prefer to set my camera to a much higher ISO, like ISO 800, yes, even in the daylight, so I'm assured of a fast enough shutter speed to reduce or eliminate the foreground motion blur.

Another strategy is to set the camera on "shutter priority" and set the camera to the desired shutter speed for all my "drive by shooting" images. I like to be up around 1/2000 second to really be sure I've got my foreground "motion blur" issue under control

Bug Control Or How To Handle The Squished "Bug On Windshield" Problem

This is a BIGGEY for me. So many of the great "drive by shooting" shots are out the front window. That means keeping the dash clear of anything that could obstruct your shot - ball caps, sun glass cases, maps, etc. Remember, you are going to see a shot, quickly frame it up, and fire at that perfect moment. You don't want the perfect moment to have a ball cap in the shot as you track it at 70 mph.

BugsThe bigger problem after driving a few hundred miles is the "bug splatter" on the windshield. Rule number one for "drive by shooting" - always thoroughly clean ALL windows at EVERY gas stop. Then clean them again being sure that the windshield is streak free. I hate it when I want to take a shot and the bright sun is streaked badly across the windshield.

OK, what happens down the road a few hundred miles when the martyred bugs once again are an issue and the next gas stop is two hours away? Here's what happens for most folks. They see the shot out the front windshield, their camera is in P mode, and they shoot away.

Yuck, what are all those spots is the shots? It’s the bugs of course. Why, because Program mode gave you a aperture setting that was just too small and, that of course, brought the bugs into a blurry and very noticeable focus in your shot.

Baja FarmingThe solution is real simple – use a wider aperture and get closer to the windshield when shooting. Here is my strategy. I set the camera to Aperture Priority mode and try to keep the aperture set to no smaller than F 5.6. Getting closer to the window will also help in keeping the bugs well out of focus. And one last thing, zoom your lens out a bit. The longer focal length will also help to keep the bugs out of focus.

You'll be surprised how well this works. There is a downside though. Because you are shooting through a dirty windshield with the bugs still out of focus, you'll notice the "black level" of your images affected. That means the blacks will not be as black as they should be. Also sharpness will also be affected because now your expensive optic on your camera is now only as good as the clarity of the windshield.

Baja RocksSo what's the fix? Lightroom 3 of course. A simple, subtle move of the black slide to the right will solve the "black level" problem. Now finish the image tweaking with the Clarity and Sharpness sliders and you are good to go. Hey, it's not as good as stopping the car, getting out and setting up the shot, but whose got time for that when you are trying to lay down 600 miles in one day of diving ;~)


Hey gang, that's it for me today. Hope you enjoyed traveling with us these last 3,400 miles and especially the last 1,100 through the Baja. Like I said, we'll get back on the normal DPT schedule next week.

I'll see everybody tomorrow - same time, same place.

Be cool, be happy, and keep your pixels smilin'. Adios-David

p.s. After more checking, we found it was a Win 7 issue and found the solution on-line.  Hopefully, all well – at least for the time being. –David

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