Watchmen – Black Canyon Greyhound Park

Urbex isn’t my favorite kind of photography, but there’s something eerily fun about going into an old abandoned space and documenting what’s been left behind.

Today I spent several hours with a couple of photographers who are also co-workers, exploring the abandoned greyhound racing track in Black Canyon City, Arizona.  Surprisingly, there are no fences and no warning signs to keep people out, so we had free run of the place.

First of all, let me just say that this is no place for kids, so don’t go dragging your children out here to play.  There’s broken glass–lots of it.  Huge shards of it.  And of course there’s lots of nasty bird and rodent droppings around.  But if you’re careful and you wear good thick-soled shoes, you get rewarded with some great urbex photography, especially if you’re into HDR.

The grandstands are still mostly intact, with brightly colored red, yellow and orange seats, which face toward the west making them very colorful as the sun sets.  The remainder of the facility is pretty much gutted, with quite a bit of broken floor tiles, graffiti, and some interesting bits of debris scattered around.  There’s even a metal staircase on the outside of the building that leads up to the roof to where the pressboxes are located.  There’s the abandoned restaurant as well as the “paddocks” for the dogs, and another building that has an old office with paperwork still scattered about.  Very cool.

I didn’t get home until after dark, and then the hubby and I went out for a light dinner, so I didn’t get to look at my shots until late tonight.  I think I got some good ones!  Some of them will definitely be candidates for color processing, but some are just perfect for a gritty black-and-white treatment–which brings us to the first posting from today’s photoshoot:

Watchmen

This was taken in what I believe was the restaurant or snack-bar area, judging by all the tables and chairs thrown about, as well as the adjoining kitchen area. It’s a five-exposure HDR processed in Photomatix, and then post-processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, with Topaz Adjust. I decided to go with black-and-white, and I actually added some grain to the shot to play up the gritty environment.

Can’t wait to start processing some of the other shots, and it will be interesting to see what my two cohorts come up with. Always fun to see different interpretations of the same scene. Stay tuned!

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
Twitter @suzanne_hight
My Official Website at http://zannwalker.com

Advertisements

Midgley Bridge in Sedona

Continuing my series of images from our last visit to Sedona, Arizona:

If you leave Sedona heading north on Highway 89A, you travel through Oak Creek Canyon, some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.  This time of year the canyon has a more stark look, with the trees still sporting their bare winter branches.  But that just allows a more unobstructed view of the magnificent red rock canyon walls.  The Oak Creek area is worth visiting at any time of the year.

Just north of Sedona is the Midgley Bridge that spans part of the canyon.  Below the bridge you can see Oak Creek winding along the canyon floor.  The small parking lot on the north end of the bridge is the location of several popular hiking trails, one of which is the Huckaby Trail that leads you down to the creek from the bridge.

We wound up taking the Huckaby Trail all the way down to the creek where I got some great shots of the bridge from a different angle. I’ll be working on processing those, and maybe I’ll share a few of those if they turn out halfway decent.

This is a view of the bridge from the top of the Huckaby Trail.  In all the years we’ve been going to Sedona, I had never taken this particular shot…not sure why, but since I’ve started doing HDR, I knew I’d have to go back someday and get this image:

Midgley Bridge in Sedona

This HDR was created from five hand-held bracketed photos, taken with my Nikon D700 and the 28-300mm lens. I processed the raw files in Photomatix, and I loved the way that the bridge and the canyon walls turned out. But the sky was badly pixelated–not just noise, but actual square pixels. Topaz DeNoise did nothing to help it.

So I wound up playing around with layers and selections in PaintShop Photo Pro X3, and layered in the sky from one of the brackets. It was kind of tricky with the sky being exposed between the rafters under the bridge, and I probably should have spent more time refining my selections, but overall I don’t think it turned out too badly.

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
Twitter @suzanne_hight
My Official Website at http://zannwalker.com

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:
Facebook at ZannWalker Photography
Twitter @suzanne_hight
My Official Website at http://zannwalker.com

Jerome Grand Hotel Balcony Room

Continuing my series of images from our recent visit to Jerome, Arizona:

As I’ve mentioned before, we elected to stay at the Jerome Grand Hotel on our last trip, for a couple of reasons.  First of all, the hotel is located at the top of the mountain-side town, so it has a great view of the town and the surrounding valley beyond.  But the hotel also has a lot of history and mystique about it, and we love a good story.

From their webpage:

This Spanish Mission style building, constructed in 1926, started out as the United Verde Hospital, opening January, 1927. In 1930, it was written up as the most modern and well equipped hospital in Arizona and possible the Western States. The Hospital was closed in 1950 as the mine operation was being phased out. The building stood unused for the next 44 years until the rehabilitation plans started in 1994.

The building is one of the highest public structures in the Verde Valley, (5240 Ft.). As the last major building constructed in Jerome, the building was not only to boost the pride of the town in its classic design, but was built fire proof and able to withstand the blasts of up to 260,000 pounds of dynamite set off by the mine and sometimes felt as far away as Camp Verde, a distance of 20 miles. How this 30,000 sq. ft., five level building of poured in place, reinforced concrete, was constructed on a 50 degree slope is an engineering marvel even by today’s standards!

Purchased by the Altherr Family in 1994, from the Phelps Dodge Mining Corp, the restoration and rehabilitation was started. Having been closed for 44 years, there had been no changes to the original building except for the enclosure of the roof top deck in 1929, The building has withstood the tests of blasting as well as the tests of time. This has to be one of the best preserved buildings in Arizona and extreme measures have been used to protect the interior and exterior integrity.

Our balcony room was beautifully decorated and very comfortable, with a few quaint touches like the old telephone with no dial (you just pick up the handset and you’re automatically connected to the front desk), the steam radiator, and the transoms over the doors to let the breeze blow through.  The bed was very comfortable, the bathroom facilities were modern and functioned perfectly, and the balcony was a delightful space to sit with a glass of wine and watch the sun go down (while shooting brackets, of course!).

Here’s a view of our guest room.  This is an HDR image from five bracketed photos shot without flash with only the light from the balcony doors. I used Photomatix to merge the images, and then Paintshop Photo Pro X3, with Topaz Adjust/DeNoise for post-processing:

Jerome Grand Hotel Balcony Room

The halls of the hotel are decorated with period antiques that make the Grand Hotel a unique place to visit. Here’s a slideshow of some of the hallway decor, as well as the lobby and gift shop area. All of these images were shot with the 14-24mm wide angle lens, tripod-mounted with no flash. I didn’t do any special processing on any of them, other than straightening some that were a little crooked:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We truly enjoyed our stay at the Grand Hotel, even though we didn’t get to meet any ghosts while we were there. The staff was friendly, the lodgings were comfortable, and the view was unbeatable.

On my next post, I’ll share some images of the exterior of the hotel…watch out for spiders!

Late Afternoon in Jerome

Continuing my series of images from our recent visit to Jerome, Arizona:

One of the reasons I wanted to stay at the Grand Hotel in Jerome is because they have a few rooms on the third floor with balconies that overlook the Verde Valley that lies between Jerome and Sedona. From our perch high on the mountainside we could watch as the glow from the setting sun ignited the red rocks on the far side of the valley, as the street lights in Jerome came on one by one.

I was hoping for a few more clouds to make the sunset a little more dramatic, but it’s Murphy’s Law….when you want clouds, the weather is absolutely beautiful.

I set up the camera on the tripod with the 14-24 wide-angle lens and my cable release, and as the sun went down we enjoyed a glass of wine and shot several five-bracket series of images.

Here’s my favorite of the evening:

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

I’ve decided to cut back on my posting frequency. Fortunately, I have a day job that finances my photography hobby, but the downside is that I don’t have enough hours in the day to work, shoot, process photos, and do some of the other things I’ve been neglecting lately like housework and exercise. It’s time to get a little more balance back in my life. My intention is to post maybe three times per week, but we’ll see how it goes.

Tomorrow morning I’m attending a workshop in Mesa on how to use flash, but on- and off-camera. On Monday evening, I’m attending another workshop on how to create a low-cost studio set up using everyday materials. I’m hoping these workshops will give me some ideas that I can use to start taking some great shots of Andy’s handmade jewelry and lapidary work.

Have a great weekend everyone! Happy shooting!

387th Avenue

Continuing my series of images from last weekend’s trip to Jerome, Arizona:

We’ve been visiting Jerome off and on for about twenty years now, and we always enjoyed the shops and galleries, museums and quaint restaurants.  But we had always stayed on the main streets that switchback through the main part of town.  For some reason we had never really explored the little side roads.

This time we decided on a whim to venture north of Jerome to look for some good photo ops.  We wound up on the road that leads to Gold King Mine Ghost Town.  And if you’re into HDR photography, it’s a mother lode of high dynamic range rust, machinery, wood grain, dust, and just generally old stuff.  I could have spent the day there, but I was limited to just a couple of hours since we had to get back to the hotel in time for check out.  We WILL be going back!

My photo for tonight is an example of what’s to be found at Gold King Mine Ghost Town:

387th Avenue
HDR created from five bracketed photos processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Topaz Adjust / DeNoise with Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

The owner/operator of the site was very gracious and told us that we could go check out of the hotel and come back if we wanted to. She even said we could come back in a few days and continue our visit without having to pay another entry fee. They welcome photographers AND their tripods (imagine that!), so you don’t have to feel anxious about shooting anything in there.

I’ll be posting more photos from our visit to Gold King Mine here on this blog and also on my Flickr page in the set titled “Jerome Arizona – 2011.03.12“.

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
Twitter @suzanne_hight
My Official Website at http://zannwalker.com

The Pottery Shop

Continuing my series of images from last weekend’s overnight trip to Jerome, AZ:

Once we got to Jerome on Saturday, we drove to the hotel and parked the car, and then we walked everywhere we needed to go.  Jerome is built on the side of a steep mountain, and our hotel was at the top end of town.  Walking downhill to visit the shops and restaurants was a breeze, but walking back to the hotel was a workout!

As usual, the nice thing about walking while carrying a camera is that you naturally notice more details about your surroundings.  The image for today is a great example.  This little shop is located at the end of the street where there is a steep U-turn switchback in the road.  Normally while driving through Jerome you have to be extra cautious because of all the pedestrian traffic (especially on the weekends), and when you get to these steep turns you have to keep your eyes on the road.  For that reason, I had never noticed this charming little pottery shop with the bright red door.  But when we walked through town on foot, it was hard to miss the bright colors, especially with the late afternoon soon shining on the building’s facade:

The Pottery Shop
HDR created from three handheld bracketed photos (-1.0/0.0/+1.0) processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

I will be posting my shots from Jerome to a new set on Flickr–Jerome Arizona – 2011.03.12. Most of them won’t get their own blog post, but I encourage you to check out the set, especially if you have any interest in visiting the Jerome area.

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
Twitter @suzanne_hight
My Official Website at http://zannwalker.com

Otis Elevator at the Grand Hotel in Jerome

We just got back from our overnight trip to Jerome, Arizona, and I’ve transferred about 14GB of raw files to my computer from my three compact flash cards.  Needless to say, I have a lot of images to sort through, tag, process and post.  I’m going to try and be diligent about discarding images that are not worth processing, but you know how it is….

We stayed at the Grand Hotel in Jerome, a historic structure that at one time served as the hospital for the mining town.  After the town was all but abandoned when copper prices bottomed out, the hospital sat empty for about 44 years before it was purchased and opened as a hotel.  I won’t give you all the details of the hotel’s history, but it’s an interesting one.  Just Google “Jerome Grand Hotel” to get the scoop.

One of the most unique features of the hotel is the Otis elevator that services the guests.  The elevator “was installed in October 1926. It is fully operational and provides service to all five levels of the Hotel. Never having been modernized with automatic doors or any other upgrades available, this is the oldest original “self service” elevator in Arizona and possibly the United States. It has been out of order for a total of 4 hours and 15 minutes in the past 10 years, far exceeding the dependability of most modern elevators.” — From the hotel’s website

Each guest that checks in to the Hotel is provided with a key to the elevator along with a set of instructions for its operation. One of the most important things to remember is that you have open and close the doors yourself, they are not automatic. When you get off the elevator on your floor, you must shut the doors behind you, or the elevator will not respond to the call buttons on any other floor. When that happens, the front desk has to radio housekeeping and tell them to go shut the elevator doors. Yep, we saw it happen.

The elevator is still beautiful. This shot was taken with my 14-24mm wide angle zoom, tripod-mounted, in a five-bracket series which was processed as an HDR in Photomatix and Paintshop Photo Pro X3:

Otis Elevator at Grand Hotel - Jerome AZ

We had a great time on our quick road trip, and even though we had visited Jerome many times in the past, we made some new discoveries this time that I’ll be sharing on this blog in the days to come, so stay tuned!

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
Twitter @suzanne_hight
My Official Website at http://zannwalker.com

 

Scorpion Gulch – Room With a View

Tonight’s post wraps up my series from our last visit to South Mountain Park. This is another view of the interior of the old abandoned homesite called Scorpion Gulch, located just inside the entrance to the park.

Scorpion Gulch - Room With a View
Nikon D700, 14-24mm zoom. HDR created from seven bracketed photos processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Topaz Adjust / DeNoise with Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

This weekend we’re taking a road trip up to Jerome where I’m hoping to get some more practice with the 14-24mm wide angle lens. If you’re not familiar with Jerome, it’s an old copper mining town in central Arizona. From Wikipedia:

Jerome became a notorious “wild west” town, a hotbed of prostitution, gambling, and vice. On 5 February 1903, the New York Sun proclaimed Jerome to be “the wickedest town in the West”.

When the copper played out, the town was all but abandoned. However, in the past twenty years or so, it’s been reborn as an artists’ colony. Many of the old houses and businesses have been turned into galleries and studios. The old hospital has been turned into the Grand Hotel, and that’s where we’ll be staying (the rumor is that it’s haunted!).

I’m hoping to get not only some great landscape photography from the vantage point high on the mountain, but I’m also hoping to get some HDR’s of the interior of the hotel. Maybe even shoot a ghost or two!

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
Twitter @suzanne_hight
My Official Website at http://zannwalker.com

Take-out

Really late post tonight, but I wanted to get this one out there.

I took this shot a couple of weeks ago on our light rail photo crawl. It’s a candid that I took with my 28-300mm zoom lens at one of the train stops. I love the facial expressions, but I wasn’t all that excited about the background.

So tonight I ran it through my usual workflow…Topaz Adjust (popped the details), DeNoise, then back into Paintshop Photo Pro X3 for some adjustment layers (levels and saturation), until I got an image that I was almost satisfied with. Almost, but not quite. The more I looked at it, the more I decided that the color was actually distracting from the facial expressions. So I decided to desaturate it, and go with black and white.

Since I had already popped the details in Topaz and saturated the colors earlier, the black and white seemed to come out better than any that I’ve tried previously. Maybe a new wrinkle in the workflow?

Anyway, here’s “Take-out”:

Take-out
Shot with a Nikon D700, 28-300mm zoom @ 300mm, F/9, 1/320s, ISO 200

I went to the AZ Photographers Group happy hour and photo shoot at the Vintage Lounge in Tempe tonight. They had a small shooting area set up, and a couple of local models were available for us to photograph using a couple of strobe lights that were set up. I still don’t have a transceiver to trigger flashes and strobes remotely, so I was using my flash on-camera. I wasn’t real excited about any of the shots that I took, but it was fun and educational to see how it’s done and to compare notes on equipment.