Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon

If I won the Powerball Lottery and could live anywhere in the United States that I desired, I would happily settle down near Sedona, Arizona, where I could have a view of the magnificent red rocks and hear the peaceful sounds of Oak Creek.

But you can’t win if you don’t play, and the lottery isn’t legal where I live, so I’ll have to be content with an occasional vacation trip and a collection of photographs to look at from time to time.

Hubby and I got to spend a few days in Sedona early this month on a combination work/vacation trip. Even though we were both sick with sinus and upper respiratory infections while we were there (I even wound up in Urgent Care), I still managed to spend some time outdoors getting some landscape shots with my Nikon D700 and my 14-24mm glass. It’s always a bit of a pain in the ass to haul all my camera equipment, including tripod, on a business trip, but since Andy was with me this time to help share the load, it wasn’t too bad.

My first round of shooting was done just north of Sedona at Midgely Bridge on Highway 89A. There’s a trailhead at the bridge, so a lot of people park here to hike off in several different directions, but it’s also a wonderful place just to sit and soak in the view. Because we were at the bridge in the middle of the day, there was a lot of contrast between dark and light areas. I chose to shoot brackets so I could use HDR processing to draw out the details in the shadows and highlights.

Click on the photos to view large!

Sedona2015_037_2015-04-05And4more_tonemapped

This next shot was taken from about the same spot, but with the camera turned about 45° to the left:

Sedona2015_047_2015-04-05And4more_tonemapped

A little further up Highway 89A, we found a place to get down to the creek. Unfortunately there was a good bit of natural debris along the edges of the water, and the trees had not completely leafed out yet, but it was still a beautiful day. This image is not HDR, but a single image.

Sedona2015_071_2015-04-05

Stay tuned for my next blog post where I’ll show you some images taken at Lizard Rock, one of my favorite formations in the Sedona area.

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The Kitchen Has Seen Better Days

Continuing my series of images from the abandoned house we discovered on Highway 278 west of Tupelo, Mississippi:

The heart of any home is the kitchen, and I’m sure this house was no different.  Upon entering this room, we were struck by the layers of wall covering that were visible–some fabric, some wood.  The fabric looked like it could have even been old bed sheets, tacked to the wall.  The colors were preserved or faded in broad swaths, depending on what, if anything, had covered them in the past.  The linoleum floor showed the faint outlines of a pink floral pattern that must have been all the rage at one time.  It probably even matched the wall covering when it was new.

Along the far wall was a row of large nails that had been hammered into the wood at odd angles.  What were they for?  Did they hang pots and pans there, maybe their coffee mugs?  And what were the two faucets sticking up from the floor used for?

So much to see, so few answers.  But old houses like these leave so much to the imagination!

Abandoned House - The Kitchen

HDR image created from brackets taken with my Nikon D700 and my 14-24mm glass. Processed in Photomatix, Paint Shop Photo Pro, and Topaz Adjust.

Check out the other rooms we visited before:

The Living Room

The Back Room

From South Mountain to Ahwatukee

Tonight I decided to pull out some old brackets and do some HDR processing, using the new Topaz Adjust and Topaz  Black & White Effects plug-ins that I’ve recently acquired.

I found this set of brackets that I shot from the top of South Mountain Park in Phoenix, on a partly-cloudy afternoon just after a storm front had moved through. From the top of South Mountain, there was a clear view of the suburb of Ahwatukee, and the remaining clouds were still dramatic enough to really lend a sense of scale to the landscape. From the to of South Mountain, you can almost see forever!

From South Mountain to Ahwatukee

I shot these brackets with my 14-24mm Nikkor wide-angle lens, using my Nikon D700 camera mounted on a tripod. I processed the brackets in Photomatix 4, then edited the resulting TIFF in Paintshop Photo Pro X4. First I used Topaz Adjust to correct exposure and bump up the clarity slightly. I then added a layer using Topaz Black & White Effects, using the low-key preset which I adjusted slightly to add some detail. I lowered the opacity of this layer, as I just wanted to add a little drama to the clouds, especially where the sun was filtering through.

Today, we closed on the sale of our home in Arizona, so we no longer have any real estate ties to the Phoenix area. I guess this image is a little bit of nostalgia for a place that I really did enjoy living and photographing. I’ll still be returning there several times a year for work, so hopefully this won’t be the last time I see such a magnificent landscape as this through my viewfinder.

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Big Sky from South Mountain

Tonight’s post is an HDR image from South Mountain, taken last Sunday afternoon just after the last winter storm had moved out of the area.  The clouds had started to break up and the bright blue sky provided a beautiful contrast to the white and gray of the clouds that remained.

This was my first day out with the 14-24mm F/2.8 wide-angle lens, and it certainly didn’t disappoint, especially on the full-frame sensor of the Nikon D700.  The lens was not only perfect for the interior shots at Scorpion Gulch, it also provided some beautiful wide-angle vista shots of the Phoenix metropolitan area from the mountainside vantage point.

I used the tripod and set the camera to shoot 7-bracket series, using increments of +/- 1 (from -3.0 to +3.0).  I used my new cable release to trip the shutter because I still haven’t completely figured out how to get the camera to shoot the set using the self-timer.  I set the focal length to F/14 to take full advantage of the wide angle.

Here’s an example of what I was able to capture with the new equipment:

Big Sky from South Mountain
HDR created from five bracketed photos (-2.0/-1.0/0.0/+1.0/+2.0) processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

For this shot I actually wound up using only five of the brackets, discarding the most under-exposed and over-exposed. There’s a little bit of flare from where the sun was just starting to peek through the clouds, but I kinda liked it so I didn’t try to get rid of it. Make sure you click on the photo to view it large.

On a different note, I got my new flash in the mail today, a Nikon SB-700 Speedlight. I have an appointment on Saturday morning to do a lifestyle portrait shoot with a friend I worked with at the library. She’s just adopted a new dog, so this will be people/pet photography practice. I’m hoping to get a little practice with the new flash as well, even though the shoot will take place outdoors.

Have I mentioned that I love photography? 🙂

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.

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.