On Understanding That You Are The Constant Variable

I’m still not sure where to begin with this week. Instead of just mindlessly gushing about the +Google+ Photographer’s Conference and all of the amazing people and experiences that go along with it, I’ll save those stories for more refined posts in the coming weeks.

For now, I want to share a concept that I wholeheartedly believe in, and that is to understand that you are always the one constant variable in your shot. For me, this trip marked my very first time visting San Francisco, and, to a larger extent, California itself. I was really excited to see the cable cars, the Embarcadero and, more than anything else, the Golden Gate Bridge.

Now, it may be easy to psych yourself out from trying to get “a good shot” of something that has already been photographed two trillion and forty two times already, but as a photographer (you are a photographer, right?), you owe it to yourself to get the shots for yourself and here is my reasoning for why:

Until it has been shot by you, it hasn’t been shot by you
You love the rhetoric, right? :)

But in all seriousness, ask yourself this one question:
What is the one most important variable brought to this exact scene?

Simply put, it’s YOU!

When I stood here at this very spot, in the vicinity of +Nicole S. Young, +Ricardo Lagos, and +Justin Kern, the one core variable was my artistic sensibilities. Did it matter that the three of them were shooting the exact same subject? Not at all. None of them were going to shoot or process the exact same way that I would and vice versa. We each ended up walking away with our own variations of the same thing and I can now turn back to my Lightroom catalog and see that I have put my own stamp on this iconic landmark. And you know what? It feels freaking awesome!

In terms of processing
This image has some fairly straightforward stylization. It is a two exposure blend using Perfect Layers 2 by +onOne Software. Both exposures were taken with my Canon 5D Mark III and the Canon 24-105mm lens with the Lee 3-stop 4×4 ND filter (to give the water and clouds a little bit of motion). The first exposure was for the foreground and the second was for the sky and bridge.

Just about all stylization was actually done in Lightroom 4.1RC2 for a chance. I didn’t want to add much except for a Hollywood Glow from Perfect Effects 3.


In album Pic Picks Over The Years (1 photo)

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  • edin chavez

    bad ass

  • Michael Preston

    Beautifully done, Brian!

  • Matt Veldey

    Very cool image Brian, with a nice write up. "Until is has been shot by you, it hasn't been shot by you." Classic! :)

  • David Mullin

    +Brian Matiash You're right. The bridge has been photographed a trillion times but you managed to capture a unique perspective. Nice shot!

  • Ken Ilio

    Very beautiful and very nice philosophy to share to everyone. A similar quote that I heard (from Neil and Susan Silverman) … "if you saw it, you missed it." Thank you!

  • Ricardo Lagos

    it was so worth it that you guys stayed down there to catch the latter part ofthe sunset

  • Ton Versteeg

    … like your story.

  • Matt Hernandez

    +Brian Matiash you made very valid points in this post. I was beating myself up a little for taking pictures of the bridges people have done a million times, but this makes me feel a little better. I wish I had the oportunity to meet you this week at the +Google+ Photographer's Conference , but really enjoyed your input in the session you were in… and I look forward to following you!

  • Juan Carlos Fuentes

    simply put it's you!!

  • Samir Osman

    You made her look beautiful, bud. I drive across that bridge every day and it NEVER gets old or loses its magic. Glad you got to have such a special moment with it. I know it's just a bridge but standing there in its presence changes people, photographer or not.

  • Michael Benton

    Thanks for sharing this +Brian Matiash…it is a great shot. I particularly like the glow of the far tower. You are right about finding what it is about your photos to make them uniquely yours. That was a common theme during the blind critiques that I noticed.

  • Angie Smith

    +Kimberly Tweed couldn't believe it was my first time in San Francisco. Now I know I was not alone. Wish I'd been able to get a shot of the bridge. There will be another time, another opportunity.

    Thanks for these words. I struggle with that. It's been done and over done, why bother. Yes, but I haven't captured it. I will remember that.

  • Harvey Abernathey

    Hey +Brian Matiash, it is so great that you were able to experience the SF Bay Area! I am fortunate to live here and never tire of the experiences here, and the GG Bridge is a place that I gravitate to quite often. It constantly changes with the fog and light.

    For me, the community of photography is a great experience when done with other photographers in a group. I am always intrigued by the fact that, as a group, we can all be shooting the same subject, but later find out that everyone has a different view when they share their images. The magic in the image comes from your own emotion and heart!

  • Michael Benton

    Hey +Angie Smith ….that would have to be a LONG lens to get that shot from San Diego. ;-)

  • Angie Smith

    Haha. Man, I'm still exhausted from our trip to San Francisco, +Michael Benton. I think I'll go edit.

  • Chris Smith

    Gorgeous image. Love the reflection and the color of them. I also like how the highest point of the bridge is fading into the fog/clouds. Also, the lights on the bridge are perfect.

  • Michael Stuart

    Great post to go with a great shot!

  • Brad Sloan

    You mean you had time to take some pictures too? This is a great look at a great landmark. Love the wispy exposure on the water.

  • Grant Meyer

    Great post +Brian Matiash! You really have given me more confidence in my work the past couple of days. I will never forget when you said "the only bad photo is the one that is never shared" in the video "10 things to help photographers on Google+" from the conference. Thanks again!

  • Joe Ercoli

    This is one of the things that I like best about going out to shoot with others: everyone has a different perspective and will see the same subject in a different light. Shooting together and sharing later helps us learn from others and appreciate another view point. Great post +Brian Matiash !

  • Giraldo Hierro

    Awesome post, +Brian Matiash. And you proved your own point – I've never seen the bridge shot this way. Congrats!

  • Jaime Nolan

    This is a great shot +Brian Matiash! I love how the towers of the bridge are illuminated and the fog really tops it off (pun intentended). Now as for my experience shooting in San Francisco, it was extremely chilly when I was trying to get some great shots at Twins Peak, The Embarcadero and Treasure Island at night with the wind. I just hope you didn't have to stand in that water!! But you did make a great point. Everyone has their own intrinsic perspective, even when the subject has been captured hundreds of thousands of times(or millions). And that makes every shot unique.

  • Justin Kern

    Love it duder. Want to shoot again!

  • Nicole S. Young

    This is so awesome, +Brian Matiash! I haven't taken a close look at mine yet, but it will be neat to put them side-by-side to compare the differences. The shot from this spot was my personal favorite of the night … I'm glad we were able to get a nice photo of the bridge while in San Fran :)

  • Lotus Carroll

    Dang, are we really actually far away from one another again? So blows. I didn't get enough time with +Nicole S. Young, btw. Dammit.

  • Robert Johnson

    This is beautiful! Thank you for sharing the photo and your post along with it. Leaves some great things to think about :-)

  • Nicole S. Young

    +Lotus Carroll I know! Sadness :( It was such a hectic couple of days, and I started to get sick half-way through it so was too exhausted and sniffly to go out with y'all. I'm sure we'll have the chance to hang out again :)

  • Suzanne Haggerty

    +Brian Matiash So pretty! I had so much fun meeting you and +Nicole S. Young . I agree, the joy of photography is taking YOUR shot … even if it's been shot a zillion times before. I've got to watch some One on One tutorials so I can make the most of the software … I've had it for quite awhile and under utilize it!

  • Steve Kalman

    I love the shot and the attitude. I'm going to be on that same beach in 2 weeks and assuming decent weather will get my own variation on that same shot.

    One of the many reasons I follow some photographers is to start my scouting process. Of course, when Nicole posted the coordinates, it made that a lot easier.

    Thanks for the post processing info, too. I wouldn't have thought about mixing two focus points.

  • Peter Lavender

    Great words +Brian Matiash it really shouldn't be about how many images of the same thing exist, its all about your slice of time being recorded. Not only the photographer but the environment is also a huge variable.

    There's also the fact that not everyone has seen what you are shooting and it may well be your image they see for their first time.

  • Juan Pedro Corica

    Strong. Great shot

  • holger feroudj

    The picturesque feeling of this one is amazing… almost looks like being done in watercolors, with the red in the clouds and the long exposure in the water… one of the nicest and most unique photos I've seen of the bridge, congrats :)

  • Toni Vaughan

    Brain- great capture and processing, love the perspective!

  • Cynthia Pyun

    Well +Brian Matiash, you let her beauty shine here :)

  • Joe Barranco

    +Brian Matiash . Beautiful shot with your obvious style. When starting photography I was embarrassed to shot some of the obvious "post card" shots. Then I said "Hey, I want MY shot of it ". It's not your shot until you take it for yourself. I like my shots too.

  • Stacie Day

    Fabulous Shot! If you stare at it long enough it almost looks like the water is moving. Kinda’ eerie, yet extremely cool!