Scorpion Gulch After the Storm

The Valley of the Sun actually got some rain this weekend.  While other parts of the country might complain about such weather, here in the desert we welcome it and celebrate it by going out in full force with all our camera gear.

It rained all morning today, but about noon the clouds started breaking up, so we drove down to South Mountain Park in hopes of getting some good shots of the dark clouds against the mountains.  This was the first time I’ve been able to spend any quality time with my new 14-24mm wide angle lens, and I was anxious to see how it performed.

At the entrance to the park, there are a couple of old historic structures which, in the early 1930’s were an old store and a home.  Here’s a little bit of history from Wikipedia:

Located in South Mountain Park in Phoenix, Arizona, Scorpion Gulch was built as a home and store by William Lunsford. Lunsford’s store sold curios, Indian-made items, sodas, and candy. It was still in operation in 1966, when Lunsford was 75. In the 1970s, it became a bar. According to the Phoenix Historic Property Register, Scorpion Gulch was built in 1936, and was first listed on the historic preservation register in October of 1990. Historical Photographs show a sign on the original building entitled, “South Mountain Trading Post”, under which jewelry, Indian Curios, and Leather Goods are advertised.

The old homesite is the larger of the two structures, and also the most interesting architecturally.  The roof is mostly gone, so it was a great subject for HDR photography today, with the dark clouds outside and the interesting features on the inside of the structure.  The wide angle lens let me capture everything brilliantly, and the D700 allowed me to FINALLY be able to shoot more than three brackets at a time.  In this case, I shot seven brackets:

Scorpion Gulch at South Mountain 01
HDR created from seven bracketed photos (at 1.0 intervals) processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

This type of shot is what makes HDR photography so special.  Using the seven brackets, I was able to capture the details in the wooden roof with the high exposure shots, while keeping the details of the outdoors showing through the windows.  Gotta love HDR for situations like this!

I’ll be processing the shots from today over the next week or so, and I’ll be posting them to the “South Mountain 2011.02.20” set on Flickr.

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on Facebook at ZannWalker Photography, and you can follow me on Twitter @suzanne_hight.

Thirsty (in Macro)

This evening I was playing around with my macro filters, trying to get some decent shots to submit to the photography group that I just joined (more about that in a moment).  I set up my lightbox with my poor excuse for lighting and props, mounted the camera on the tripod and spent about an hour getting totally frustrated.  Macro photography is totally different from what I normally shoot.  Trying to manage the depth of field, adjusting the aperture and trying to balance DOF to shutter speed, was driving me nuts.  The plane of focus was so small!  Finally I just grabbed the camera and started wandering around the house looking for things to shoot hand-held.  I even resorted to using the pop-up flash.

The cat wound up in my path while he was trying to get a drink of water from the bathroom sink (his favorite place to drink).  I got right in his face with the camera and the flash, and wound up with this shot:

Thirsty
Photo taken with a Nikon D700, 50mm lens with 10X macro filter, processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

Yeah, I know it’s a little (ok, a lot) blown out on the bottom right, but I still like the way the flash stopped the water droplets right on the tip of Macho’s tongue. It made me laugh, and sometimes that’s a good thing!

Now, back to the photography group. I attended my first meetup last night of the AZPhotographersGroup. The meeting was an open forum where you could ask any question you wanted about photography. I learned so much just from the discussions around each of the questions. Then Nick, the organizer of the group, presented some tips on how to photograph people, which is what I’m starting to concentrate on now, and once again I picked up some great information. The people were all friendly and willing to share information with newbies such as myself.

The group is very active, with several organized events and photowalks each month. They also do monthly photo challenges where they present a theme and members submit photos relative to that theme. This month, it’s macro photography…which explains why I was playing with the 10x filter this evening. If you’re in the Phoenix/Tempe area, I recommend that you check them out. I’ve already signed up for a workshop next month on how to use an off-camera flash. Now all I have to do is get my hands on a flash unit before then!

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

Zanjero at Sunset

This evening I made a quick dash over to Westgate to get a little better acquainted with my 50mm prime lens on the D700. My hubby got me this lens for Christmas, but at the time I was still using the D5000, and this lens will not auto-focus on the D5000. Now that I have the D700, it’s a little more enjoyable to shoot in dimmer light without having to manually focus.

I spent about 30 minutes just walking around Westgate as the crowds were coming to the arena for tonight’s hockey game. I took about thirty shots of people and random architectural features, but just wasn’t feeling inspired. About this time the sun was going down and it looked like there might be a cool sunset, so I decided to leave Westgate and get out into the open so I could get a better view of the sky.

As I drove away from Westgate, I decided to swing by Zanjero, an office complex that was completed just as the recession hit about three years ago, so it has never been occupied. It’s a beautiful structure, but it’s surrounded by chain link fence. The driveways are usually blocked off by yellow tape, but tonight I saw that the tape at one driveway had been removed. An open invitation!

I quickly drove into the parking lot and shot a couple of 7-bracket series, hand-held (first brackets I’ve shot with this camera). I processed them in Photomatix, and was immediately impressed by the difference a few extra brackets make. I’d been shooting only three brackets with my D5000 (that’s the limit with that camera). I think I’m going to have some fun with this one!!

Zanjero at Sunset

After tone-mapping in Photomatix, I used PaintShop Photo Pro X3 and Topaz to bring out some of the details, add a little bit of saturation (didn’t need much), and I also cropped a little off the bottom.

Not too bad for a hand-held, 7-bracket HDR!

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

Shop Devious on Grand Avenue

Continuing my series of images from Grand Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona:

Since today is Sliders Sunday, it got me in the mood to do some HDR again.  Since I didn’t have a chance to shoot any brackets this weekend, I went back to my little treasure stash of images from our photowalk on Grand Avenue, and found this gem just waiting to be processed:

Shop Devious
HDR created from three bracketed photos (-2.0/0.0/+2.0) processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Topaz Adjust / DeNoise with Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

I love the bright purple color of the building and the various shades of grey on the sidewalk. Be sure to view the picture large on black, and check out the photos of the women in the window on the right.

And, you may be asking, what the heck is Sliders Sunday? If you really enjoy pushing the limits on your processing, take a look at this Flickr group, and then join in the fun!

This weekend I finally had to take a break from shooting and processing for a little while and get all my equipment organized. I went to The Container Store and bought several bins and boxes to hold my camera bodies, lenses, filters, memory cards, chargers, batteries, and all the other loose odds and ends that were getting scattered around. I feel much more organized now. Next step is to go through all my file folders on the computer for the past six months and start decluttering my digital life.

And we though photography was just about taking pictures!

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

My Hubby, the Model

I’m pretty sure that if I ever hope to make any income as a photographer, it’s going to involve taking lots of pictures of people instead of deserted buildings and Arizona landscapes.  I’ve started putting together a plan for getting some volunteers to let me practice on them, and my first victim…er, subject, was my hubby, Andy.

Fortunately, Andy actually enjoys having his picture made, and he’s enough of a ham that he doesn’t mind posing in public while absolute strangers walk by.  This evening he agreed to let me take some shots of him as we were on our way to dinner.

I was using my Nikon D700 and the 28-300mm zoom lens.  By the time we got to the location, the sun was just slipping below the horizon so there wasn’t much light left.  I had to bump the ISO up to about 500 to get a shutter speed of about 1/50s with a wide-open aperture.  I didn’t bring my tripod, so this was all hand-held, and I was really afraid that the shots weren’t going to be as sharp as I would have liked.

I also took a few shots with my old Quantaray 35-82mm F4-5.6 that I re-discovered today still attached to my old Nikon 6006 35mm camera.  Whether it was the rapidly fading light or the poorer quality of the lens, the pictures I took with that lens were noticeably softer than the ones with the 28-300mm.

Here are a couple of shots that I’ve processed.  To see the entire set, visit my Flickr site here.

Taken with the 28-300mm:

20110212_023_AndyAtCitadel

Taken with the 35-82mm:

20110212_062_AndyAtCitadel

All the shots were processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

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

Copper Entryway

I took my camera to work with me today and at lunchtime I made a quick trip over to the Arabian Library in Scottsdale.  I’ve been there several times before and always thought that those copper walls would make some great photos, especially when contrasted with the deep blue sky.

I got several decent shots today with the 28-300mm zoom, even though the noontime sun was quite harsh.  This particular shot was made on the side of the building where there was an entryway cutout in the wall.  Just inside this entryway there are doors leading to the left and the right, although they aren’t visible here.  What caught my eye were the two pieces of red alarm equipment on the inner wall.

I just liked the geometry of the scene:

Copper Entryway

This is a single exposure shot handheld at 85mm, ISO 200, F/6.3, 1/640s. I processed it in PaintShop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust to bring out some of the details that were lost in the harsh sunlight. I love the texture and color variations in the copper sheeting, it would have been a shame to lose that!

Fresh Grapefruit

I decided to play around with the 50mm prime lens on the D700 late this afternoon just to see what I could find around the house. One of my friends at work brought in a cartload of fresh citrus fruit last week, so I had this big bowl of fresh pink grapefruit sitting on my dining room table. The late afternoon filtered light coming in through the windows gave it such a soft look that I really liked, especially with the bokeh of the wine bottle in the background:

Fresh Grapefruit

This one was shot at F/1.8, 1/160s at ISO 1250. I went with the large aperture to get a narrower depth of field, just to see how it would do.  The light to the front and right is natural coming through the window, and the light to the left is primarily florescent coming from the kitchen. I shot handheld in JPG (fine), and processed in PaintShop Photo Pro X3, using the Curves and Saturation adjustment tools, along with some selective sharpening.

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

Hoop Dancers – Grand Entrance

I had a great time shooting at the Native American World Hoop Dancing Championship held yesterday (continuing today) at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ.  It was a perfect opportunity to get acquainted with the new camera (Nikon D700) and the new zoom lens (Nikon 28-300mm F/3.5-5.6G).

I was sitting about three rows back from the edge of the dance area, maybe 20 yards from the center of the ring.  The day’s festivities started with the Grand Entrance, when all the dancers lined up and paraded through the crowd and into the ring, led by three men carrying the Eagle Staff and the flags of the United States and Canada.  As they came into the ring, they formed a spiral of dancers, stirring up a small cloud of dust.  It was quite dramatic, colorful and a lot of fun to watch.

I tried to use that opportunity to practice selective focusing, selecting a specific subject in the crowd of dancers.  I set the camera to shutter-priority because I needed a fast shutter speed to capture the fast-moving dancers.  I was using a little higher ISO (320) to obtain the fast shutter speed, balanced with a little deeper depth of field.

Hoop Dancing - Grand Entrance
Single image JPG processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, Topaz Adjust / DeNoise

This shot is one of my favorite from the Grand Entrance. I was shooting in JPG mode only because I knew I was going to be shooting a LOT of images and I wasn’t sure how much memory the raw files would eat up…besides, this was just a practice run. The sun was behind me, shining directly in the face of the dancer, which caused a little loss of detail. I used Topaz Adjust selectively on the central figure to restore some of the detail back to his face and his clothing.  It still looks a little bit over-processed to me, but better than the original.

I’ll be posting a few more shots from the dancing over the next few days. I’ve posted a few straight-from-the-camera shots of the Tiny Tots division (ages 1-5) on my Facebook page which you can view here. Here’s a short video that I shot with my Blackberry so you can hear the drummers and singers who provided the Native American music for the dancers:

http://www.facebook.com/v/1876320986557

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

The Hat – and the new Nikon

I finally got some time (and some daylight, and some warmer weather) to go out for my first shoot with the new Nikon D700.  I wanted to try out the 28-300 zoom, so I went to the Heard Museum here in Phoenix where they are hosting the Native American Hoop Dancing World Championship this weekend.

It’s the first time I’ve ever attended this event, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  You never know where they will or will not allow cameras and tripods these days.  I shouldn’t have worried.  There were more DSLRs there than I’ve ever seen in one place, most with zoom lenses, and a lot of them mounted on tripods or monopods.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a large number of women photographers my own age out there with gear similar to mine.  Suddenly I don’t feel so alone in a sea of male photographers!  I knew those ladies must be out there somewhere!

I got there early enough to get a great spot for my lawn chair with only a couple of people in front of me.  We were instructed by the event organizer that some of the dancers objected to having their picture taken, and that announcements would be made before they performed.  We were also instructed that we could only use our photos for personal use unless we got permission from the dancers.

I was there from about 9:00AM until about 2:00PM, so I got to see the Grand Entrance, along with performances by the Tiny Tot, Youth, and Teen divisions.  I took a total of 575 photos, and by that time my left arm was getting really tired.  The D700 is about twice as heavy as my D5000, and I was using a heavier lens than I’ve been using.  Guess I need to start lifting weights or shooting more photos!

All through the performance there was a lady sitting down front to the left of us who was wearing a huge hat to shade herself from the sun.  Fortunately she wasn’t in my direct line of sight for my photos, but I could still see that hat out the corner of my eye.  As I was getting ready to leave, I decided to get a shot of it.  The sun was creating some beautiful patterns on the straw, and I think it wound up being my best shot of the day:

The Hat

This shot is straight out of the camera with no processing. After looking at this and the other 574 shots, I think I’m truly going to enjoy this camera and lens!