Graffiti in the Old Cabin

I have a love/hate relationship with graffiti.  On the one hand, when it’s done right it tells a story, paints a picture and rouses a range of emotions, and it cries out to be shared with others.  Beautiful, artistic, colorful graffiti is one of my favorite photography subjects, and I’ve captured some fine examples of it in the past:

But when graffiti is done badly, and for no apparent reason, then it just becomes an eyesore.  It’s especially irritating to me when the graffiti marks up a historic building or a natural site that can’t be cleaned without being damaged.  Recently a young guy from Canada was arrested at the Grand Canyon for spray-painting his name (or at least the first part of it) on the stone face of one of the more popular formations along the heavily visited tourist route.  In his affidavit:

…Chenier told Robinson he chose the popular Duck on a Rock geological formation because “it was so special that if he left his name, then his kids would be able to see it 20 years from now.”

So now, in 20 years, Chenier’s children will be able to visit Grand Canyon and point to the rock formation where their father was arrested for being, at best, an idiot, and at worst, an arrogant ass.

Graffiti is a problem at every site where people are allowed to visit, especially when the people are young and “in love”.  On last weekend’s visit to Tishomingo State Park, I shot some bracketed photos inside the old cabin in the park, where hundreds of people have found themselves, for whatever reason, motivated and inspired to write something onto or carve something into the walls, ceiling and floor of this old building.

Tishomingo State Park - Cabin Graffiti
HDR from five bracketed photos shot with my Nikon D700, 28-300mm Nikkor. Processed in Photomatix Pro 4, Paintshop Photo Pro X3, Topaz Adjust / DeNoise.

I’m not sure how we can ever make it stop, but if one of your kids is responsible, please take him/her to the woodshed tonight–without a magic marker.

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“I’m Going to Jackson”

On our recent trip to Vancouver we visited the Capilano Suspension Bridge, where we found this bluegrass trio performing in front of the gift shop. When we first heard them they were singing an old Johnny Cash/June Carter number, “(I’m Going to) Jackson”…

"I'm Going to Jackson"

We got married in a fever,
hotter than a pepper sprout.
We been talking ’bout Jackson,
ever since the fire went out,
I’m going to Jackson…

Seemed a little strange to be hearing good Southern US bluegrass in the far north country, but we didn’t hesitate to sing along!

I played with the sliders a little bit here to give it a more “old-timey” look (that’s how they talk down in Jackson). I processed this in Paint Shop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust. In Topaz, I used the Psychedelic preset, but adjusted the saturation and detail sliders somewhat.

Sorry for the long dry spells between posts lately, but we’ve been working on a major life change. I’ll be spilling the beans in a week or so, but there’s a good reason my photography has taken a back seat for the moment. I miss it and will get back to it as soon as possible, with a lot of new territory to cover (hint!).

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Siwash Rock in Triplicate

Tonight I was in the mood to play around with some of the Topaz Adjust presets to see what they could do with a rather blah photo.  Tonight’s subject is Siwash Rock, a landmark on the shore of Stanley Park in Vancouver.

I took this photo the first full day we were in the city.  It was overcast and breezy that morning, with the clouds breaking occasionally to let the sun shine through.  I had seen other photos of this landmark and wanted to try my hand at getting that “perfect” shot.

As it turned out, it wasn’t so perfect.  This would have been a prime time to have the tripod and shoot some brackets for HDR processing, but I was trying to travel light that day.  I like the composition of this shot, but the exposure variations between the bright clouds and the dark rock in the foreground didn’t give me a lot to work with.  So I decided to play around with Topaz to see what I could dig out of the raw file.

I tried three different presets.  Which one do you like best?  I have my opinion, but I’ll save it until later!

The first one is the “Clarity” preset–basically it just accentuates the details, and gives the color a little pop.  This one wasn’t too bad, but the clouds in the background are badly blown out.

Siwash Rock 01

The second one was something I just did on a whim. I used the “Night” preset to give the sky a little of its color back, while making the rock look almost haunted:

Siwash Rock 02

The last one is a black-and-white version that I created using a preset that I customized in Topaz. I started with the “Spicify” preset, and then used the sliders to totally desaturate the color and then bump up the contrast and the sharpness. I’ve used this custom preset before and it seems to work pretty well:

Siwash Rock 03

So before I tell you which one I like best, let me tell you about a couple of plaques that are posted at Siwash Rock.

The first one reads:

SIWASH ROCK – Indian legend tells us that this 50 foot high pinnacle of rock stands as an imperishable monument to “Skalsh the Unselfish”, who was turned into stone by “Q’uas the Transformer” as a reward for his unselfishness.”

The second one reads:

In memory of ROBERT DENNIS TRIBE, age 17, or North Vancouver, B.C. who at 3:15 P.M. Sunday, June 5, 1966 failed to notice it was low tide and dived to his death from Siwash Rock to the rocks below. This plaque erected by Bob’s friends as a reminder of the danger of diving from Siwash Rock.

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(I like the black-and-white one best! 🙂 )

A-Mazing Laughter

On our very first day in Vancouver, on our very first walk outside our hotel, we encountered this bronze sculpture in a small park between our hotel and the beach:

A-Mazing Laughter

The sculpture is called “A-Mazing Laughter”, and it was created by Yue Minjun of Beijing, China. I chose to process this particular shot in black-and-white to concentrate on the texture and seams in the bronze, rather than the color of the metal. It looks like a patchwork quilt, only welded together instead of sewn.  I also wanted to isolate just one of the figures, rather than the entire display.  Why?  I don’t know, except that it allowed me to see details that I would have missed by trying to capture the entire scene.

What was the entire scene, you may ask?  Here are a couple of snapshots that will give you an idea of the scale of the entire sculpture:

A-Mazing Laughter - Vancouver, BC Canada

Look at the size of those feet!

If you’re interested in learning more about the display, here’s a link to a website that talks about the artist, the design, and how it came to be located near the beach on English Bay in Vancouver.

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on:

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Sunset Over English Bay, Vancouver

My hubby and I just got back from a week in beautiful Vancouver, BC, Canada, where we celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary.

I had a devil of a time trying to make up my mind which camera to take with me on this trip.  I was *this* close to taking the Nikon D5000 because of its smaller size and lighter weight.  But everyone I asked advised me to take the D700–full frame, big glass, and built like a tank.

So in the end I gave in and took the Big Guy, the D700, along with my best glass and my tripod.  But to be on the safe side, I also took our little Coolpix point-and-shoot for those times when it was just not possible to get the shot with the Big Guy.

We didn’t rent a car while we were there, so we spent a lot of time walking, riding bikes, or riding the bus.  I managed to take the Big Guy along with me for several of our excursions, but there were some days when I just couldn’t bring myself to carry all that weight around with me.  I didn’t want this trip to be all about trying to get the perfect photograph.  I wanted to enjoy myself, relax, see the sights in a place I had never been, instead of constantly worrying about exposures, shutter speed, or someone ripping off my equipment.

So I did get some interesting shots with the Big Guy, but I also took quite a few with the Coolpix, and those are just as precious to me as the full-frame beauties from the D700.  Because in the end, these shots are all about preserving the memories of a fabulous week in a beautiful city, with someone that I love dearly.

I posted a lot of the Coolpix shots straight to Facebook each evening when we got back to the hotel.  But I’m just now starting to process the ones from the D700.

This first one is an HDR (yes, I even used the tripod one evening) from five exposures taken at sunset in Stanley Park.  This is English Bay, and the sun was setting about 9:35 PM.  It was kind of weird getting used to the days being so long up there, but it gave us plenty of time to enjoy the sights before it got dark.

Sunset on English Bay, Vancouver BC
Nikon D700, 14-24mm 2.8, 5 exposures processed in Photomatix, Paintshop Photo Pro, Topaz Adjust/DeNoise

I’m going to take my time about processing the rest of the shots. I’ve got some street shots that are really cool, as well as some shots from the Granville Island public market that I really like. Since it will probably be a long time, if ever, before I get to visit Vancouver again, I might as well make the memories last as long as possible!

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Ancient

Tonight, I’m just fooling around with some old shots that I hadn’t processed yet. I found this one that I took in Jerome, Arizona back in March. I was standing on the balcony of our hotel room in the early morning, looking down the hill at the old houses and shops, when this old man came out of his house and started shuffling down his steps. The way his shoulders were hunched against the cool morning air, he sort of resembled all the old buildings hunched against the side of that mountain, hanging on for dear life, trying to stay out of the wind long enough to get a little older.

Ancient

I intentionally desaturated this image somewhat, and I used Topaz Adjust to tease out the detail in the shadows.  I played around with some of the presets in Paintshop Photo Pro to rough up the edges and add a border. Probably should have just left it alone, but that’s how you learn, right?

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60 Minute Photo Challenge

Lately I’ve been a little short on inspiration and ideas for doing any shooting.  I was starting to lose the excitement of just going out with the camera and looking for interesting subjects to photograph.  Instead, I was all caught up in the trap of trying to get the “perfect” shot, and getting all hung up on the technical details of F-stops and exposure metering and depth of field.  I just wasn’t having fun with it any more.

I’m a subscriber to the AdoramaTV channel on YouTube.  They post some excellent instructional videos for photographers, both amateur and professional.  The guy who presents the videos, Mark Wallace, works here in the Valley, so it’s kind of cool to see the places here in the Phoenix area where he’s filming his videos.  Not only are the photography tips great, but I get free location tips just by watching where he’s shooting.

Last week, Mark posted a video about his “60 Minute Photo Challenge“.  He talked about the importance of just getting out there and shooting in order to develop your skills, and he recommended giving yourself some sort of general subject (he used “round” and “red”), and then give yourself 60 minutes to shoot everything you see that fits that subject.  No time to worry about tripods, lighting, props….just take the camera and shoot.

I thought that was a great idea, and I actually made a list of subjects that I plan to use in the coming months when I need a kick in the pants.

Now Mark is posting a weekly challenge on Fridays (just follow his Twitter feed at @jmarkwallace to join in!), and this weekend’s challenge was “Shadows and Reflections”.  Since we got an early release from work today for the Memorial Day weekend, I picked up my camera with my 50mm prime lens, and headed to downtown Glendale to see what I could capture.

I had a blast!  I set my watch to make sure I stayed within the 60-minute time frame, and then I just started walking down the sidewalk, looking for shadows and reflections that looked interesting.  It was about 3PM when I got started, and normally that’s a horrible time of day to shoot here in Arizona because of the harsh shadows cast by the glaring sun.  But given the subject of today’s challenge, it was a perfect fit.

I haven’t used the 50mm prime very much, but I really enjoyed playing with it today.  I did put a polarizer on the lens to give me a little more flexibility with shutter speeds (it was REALLY bright out there), but I didn’t fiddle with it very much.

Street Reflections on Antiques

I got some great reflections on the shop windows around the square. I like the one above with the antiques in the shop window, and the traffic from the street being reflected on top of it. Kind of a juxtaposition of old and new that I thought was cool.

I found lots of shadows from the mid-afternoon sun, and the ones cast by the park benches and the overhead gazebo by the police station were among my favorites:

Shadows in Squares

When I returned to the parking garage, I noticed all the cool reflections in the windows of the building next-door. I climbed the stairs on the outside of the parking garage and got shots from several different angles. This one became a self-portrait, and I think it looks even better in black-and-white:

Self-Portrait in Building Reflection

I took about 75 photos in the 60 minutes I was out there, and of course there were quite a few duds. I didn’t spend a huge amount of time processing any of them, but I did find nine (including the three above) that I wound up submitting to the challenge. You can see the entire set on my Flickr page–the set is named “Shadows and Reflections – 60MinPhotoChallenge“.  I used Paint Shop Photo Pro X3, along with Topaz Adjust, for all my processing.

So, in only one hour (plus processing time), I got a little of my mojo back–and it feels great. Can’t wait for the next challenge!

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on:
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Dangerous Signs, Chair With Personality, and Modern Maturity

Wrapping up my series of images from the abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park in Black Canyon City, Arizona:

Although I still have quite a few images as yet unprocessed from last weekend’s adventure, I’ve quickly grown tired of the grungy, dirty chaos of the abandoned dog track.  Yes, it’s the perfect venue for getting some great HDR’s, but I can only stand so much depressing deterioration before I need to move on to something more uplifting.  So tonight, I give you three for the price of one:

Dangerous Signs

This shot was taken in the old restaurant location. The sun was just at the right angle through the window to create some nice shadows on the old shag carpet. The graffiti on the walls was a little intimidating, especially since part of it appears to have the markings of flame or smoke on the wall. I don’t think I would care to spend any time with whoever left their mark on the wall.

Dangerous Signs
HDR created from five bracketed photos processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust / DeNoise.

Chair With Personality

This chair was sitting all alone on the old dirt race track, like someone had maybe used it to sit there in the evenings and watch the sun go down over the mountains to the west. I liked the way the chair’s design reminded me of the smiley face icon. 🙂

Chair with Personality
Single image processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X3 using Topaz Adjust / DeNoise.

Modern Maturity Circa 1991

We found these old magazines lying on the floor in the kitchen area of the old restaurant. If you look at the photo enlarged, you can see that the issue of Modern Maturity is from December 1990-January 1991. That would be after the facility was used as a racetrack, and maybe even after it was used for the swap meets. I heard that there was a caretaker that lived on the property for awhile after it was shut down. Maybe these magazines belonged to him.

Modern Maturity Circa 1991
HDR created from five bracketed photos processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust / DeNoise.

I encourage anyone with an adventurous spirit to visit the dog track for some great photo ops (once again, don’t take the kiddos because it’s not a safe environment for them). But I’m feeling the need to look for some beautiful sunsets, some spring wildflowers, or some orderly graphic design.

After watching a series of how-to videos last weekend, the hubby and I have put together a small, inexpensive home lighting setup for photographing his handmade jewelry and lapidary work. Since the forecast calls for lots of rain tomorrow, I think it will be the perfect day for testing it out and hopefully learning a lot more about shooting close-ups with studio lighting.

Chair on Glass

Continuing my series of images from the abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park in Black Canyon City, Arizona:

After looking through all the images that I captured at the dog track, I have to say that UrbEx is not my favorite genre of photography.  Even though it provides some of the best opportunities for HDR processing, the environment itself is depressing, dark, dirty and possibly toxic.  Maybe that’s why my allergies are such a mess today.

But part of being a photographer is developing an “eye” to see beauty, or at least something interesting, where others see only the obvious.  Take this shot of a chair, for instance.

On the surface, it’s a broken, torn, rotten piece of furniture lying on a bed of broken glass and chipped floor tiles.

But my “eye” was drawn to the way the color of the chair coordinated almost perfectly with the color of the broken glass.  The pale greens have an almost soothing effect on the senses, helping soften the sharp points of the glass shards and the hard textures of the walls:

Chair on Glass
HDR created from five bracketed photos processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust / DeNoise.

Can you see it? Can you see the beauty in the mayhem? Maybe I should go out looking for wildflowers this weekend–it might be time for a change of scenery.

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on:
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Sedona Sunset from Airport Mesa

When I first visited Sedona almost twenty years ago, it was much smaller and less congested.  We always stayed at the Skyranch Lodge, located at the top of a high mesa overlooking downtown Sedona, right next to the small airport.  I would get up early in the morning and walk halfway down the side of the mesa to the smaller hill which is reputed to be a vortex, and I would climb to the top of that hill and watch the sunrise.  One evening we climbed the vortex hill and witnessed a Native American going through one of his sunset rituals–it was beautiful to watch.  Back in those days, there were hardly ever crowds to contend with at sunset.

But over the past twenty years, the word has gotten out, and now the airport mesa is “the place” to be at sunset.  They’ve even built a special parking lot to hold all the cars that drive up to the top of the mesa.  The edge of the overlook has now been roped off so you can no longer park there.  People bring their lawn chairs, blankets, and every imaginable kind of camera, lens and tripod, and jostle for the best viewing angle.

What used to be a quiet meditative area in the evening is now a major production….I guess you can’t stop progress, and I shouldn’t complain because I’m just one of the many tourists that contribute to the crowd.  But sometimes it makes me wish I had never told a soul how beautiful Sedona is.

Anyway, when we were there on Saturday evening, the clouds that had lingered all day were finally starting to break up, so the sun was able to peek through just before it dipped below the horizon.  It wasn’t the dramatic colorful sunset that everyone was hoping for, but with a little bracketing and some HDR processing, I was able to capture something of what we saw:

Sedona Sunset from Airport Mesa
HDR created from five bracketed photos processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust / DeNoise.

As crazy as Arizona is right now, this is one of the things that makes living here worth putting up with the foolishness. It’s nice to know I can leave my house and be in a place like this in two-hours time.

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on:
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