Archive of Scott Loftesness

Scott Loftesness has lived in Menlo Park for over 15 years and is a big fan of most things Menlo. By day, he’s a payments strategy consultant at Glenbrook Partners (on Alma St. across from the Menlo Park Caltrain station). Most days, he frequents Cafe Borrone for either breakfast or lunch – and works out down the block at Axis when he can. During their morning walks together, Scott learned a tremendous amount about photography from the late Chris Gulker– especially about the power of black and white! You can find Scott's personal blog at and follow him on Twitter as @sjl.

Scott has written 142 article(s) for InMenlo.

Model: Rene Reyes

I’m just back from a weeklong workshop titled “The Language of Black and White” held at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. Taught by Cira Crowell, the week involved a deep dive into the key aspects of black and white photography — a genre that I’ve come to appreciate and enjoy very much. Cira (@ciracrowell) is a superb black and white photographer who I met last summer in a workshop taught by photographer Christopher Michel (@chris_michel)

Each day of the workshop had a theme: Who, What, Where, Why, How and When. After introductions on Sunday evening, Cira asked us each to share what black and white photography means to us. “I’ve come to appreciate the timeless quality of black and white photography,” was my comment. Others shared insights about the simplicity of black and white, how dropping away the color helps add clarity to a photo, and more.

We began each day with a short reading from a wonderful Georgia O’Keeffe book: Some Memories of Drawings to help us set a mood for the day. O’Keeffe comments on many of her early drawings describing what was in her mind as she moved from concept to drawing on the paper.

Cira is a lifelong student of light — and we reviewed the history of photography in the context of the language of light using examples of early photographic gear from her personal collection before moving out into the field to begin capturing our own images. Cira paid a tribute to photographer George DeWolfe — a long-time teacher of earlier versions of this course and himself a master of the editing and post-processing steps used to add depth (what DeWolfe calls “presence”) to a black and white image, leading to an almost 3D-look to the image.

Among techniques that DeWolfe used in his earlier workshops was processing a painting from one of the masters into a black and white image. He tried to show the effect of a default conversion versus what is possible through using a few additional techniques to enhance the presence in the image. An example below illustrates that point using “The Astronomer” from Vermeer. The default conversion is one the left — the enhanced conversion is on the right.

One of our field trips was to O’Keeffe’s White Place (Plaza Blanca) where we worked to photograph both the natural beauty of the rock formations along with two great models who worked with us to add a human dimension to our images of nature. Another field trip took us to a local home where we also worked with several models in a more domestic setting.

Both of these opportunities to work with models provided us with great portraiture opportunities — first attempting to capture our best color images which we converted to black and white in post-processing using both Lightroom and Photoshop. Cira has designed a custom workflow that first develops the best possible color version of the image that ensures good color separation before converting to black and white and making further refinements to tonality and luminance to ensure good separation of the grey tones in the image. A default conversion from color to black and white typically results in a flat, uninteresting image (such as the Vermeer example above), but using this workflow helps bring the black and white to life by adding additional tonality and depth to the image.

Thanks to the superb teaching from Cira and the collaboration among a great group of students, I came away from my week in Santa Fe with a much deeper appreciation for the importance of light and depth in black and white images — how to best capture the original color version of an image, enhance it further in post-processing and then complete the conversion to a powerful black and white image. I’m looking forward to further exercising my skills applying these techniques as I continue my photographic explorations! A few examples of my images from the week follow. You can find more of my work on my Instagram: @sjl

Photographer Scott Loftesness is an InMenlo co-founder.

Model: Rene Reyes

Model: Aubri Zamo

Models: Andrew Trujillo, Puja Gol – Home

Model: Mecca Riane

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Capturing street scenes of Japan with an iPhone

I recently traveled to Japan, visiting two of that countries great cities: Tokyo and Kyoto. As an avid street photographer, I was looking forward to hitting the streets with my usual camera gear — Fujifilm mirrorless cameras. Over the last five years, I’ve been fortunate to visit many cities with this gear and have come […]

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Pumpkin Time

It’s that time of the year when pumpkins start to show up everywhere. We’re still a ways away from Halloween but the orange cousin in the squash family provides an annual reminder of the trick or treats coming soon! This weekend the Palo Alto Arts Center held its annual Great Glass Pumpkin Patch festival. This […]

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Exploring San Francisco’s Embarcadero with my iPhone

I often meet up with my friend Doug Kaye for a couple of hours of street photography in San Francisco. We often meet  at San Francisco’s Ferry Building and head out from there along San Francisco’s Embarcadero towards Pier 24 (which is directly under where the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge heads out over the Bay). […]

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Capture winter scenes of Yosemite easily on an iPhone

On a visit to Yosemite last week, I had some good photography fun. While I had packed my “big” camera (a Fujifilm X-Pro2 with an 18-55 mm zoom lens), it stayed in my camera bag the whole time we were there. I opted instead to go “nimble” and to take photos exclusively with the camera in […]

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Everyone loves a parade – especially when it features a slew of old fire trucks

Earlier today, the Menlo Park Fire District celebrated its 100th anniversary with a parade down Menlo Park’s Santa Cruz Avenue. Under cloudy skies, families were out in force with their kids to watch and wave to the firemen as they paraded and drove a great assortment of both historical and current fire fighting equipment. I […]

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Wandering the cobblestone streets of Rome with camera in hand

In April, I was in Rome participating in a street photography workshop led by Valérie Jardin. It was a very special week with a great group of photographers from Australia, the UK, Canada and the US. The week in Rome was my third workshop with Valérie, having first joined her in the fall of 2014 in Paris and […]

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Walking the streets of downtown Menlo Park with camera in hand

Photographer Jay Maisel tells us to “go out empty” when we walk out to make pictures. Last Saturday morning I did just that as I grabbed my camera on a morning of intermittent showers/rain and sunshine. I was helping my spouse run an errand where I’d have an hour or so of downtime. I thought this would […]

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San Francisco Streets – An Evolution in Personal Style

My interest in photography was rekindled a number of years ago when I bought a Canon Digital SLR and a couple of lenses. That first DSLR was a Canon 30D and it served me well. As often happens with a new hobby, I went in “whole hog” – buying lots more gear along with taking […]

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Classic Color and Cars at the M-A Classic Car Show

I stopped by the Classic Car Show held Saturday at Menlo-Atherton High School, an annual benefit event for the high school’s baseball teams. Lots of beautiful old cars (and drivers!) in attendance again this year. I snapped a handful of photos while taking a walk through the display – shooting with my Fujifilm X100T rangefinder camera […]

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A storyteller with a camera, Cuban photographer Raúl Cañibano’s works are on display locally

Two years ago, I was fortunate to spend a week in Havana, Cuba as part of a photography-oriented people-to-people exchange. We spent seven wonderful days in the heart of Havana — Old Havana and Central Havana. The best part of my whole experience in Havana was watching and working with several great Cuban photographers who […]

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