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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Parking Lot at Gold King Mine

For tonight’s post, I’m pulled out some more unprocessed raw files from our last trip to Jerome.

There are a lot of abandoned vehicles on display at the Gold King Mine ghost town. Some look like they probably still run, others are obviously junkers.  They all probably have some great stories hidden beneath the rust and buried in the upholstery. This shot is a small sample of the collection of old trucks, cars, buses, vans, motorcycles and heavy machinery they have scattered around the property.

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

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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Evidence of Cat

For tonight’s post, I’m pulled out some unprocessed raw files from our last trip to Jerome.

Here’s a shot of one of the old abandoned cars that they have on display at the Gold King Mine ghost town.  I wish I could tell you what model year this Studebaker is, but I’ve never really been that good at identifying automobile models.  I was more interested in the paw prints in the dust on the windshield.

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

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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Midgley Bridge Over Oak Creek

I’ve been a little distracted lately from my photography, but with a three-day weekend staring me in the face, I’m hoping to take the camera out for a spin in the next few days.

In the meantime, I went back through some shots from the past few months and found this one that I had already processed but had never posted.  This is another shot of the Midgley Bridge on Highway 89A north of Sedona, but this one was taken from the bottom of the canyon next to Oak Creek.

We had to hike down to the creek from the bridge, which wasn’t bad…it was the hike back UP to the bridge that was a challenge.  Actually it wasn’t that bad, and it was well worth the effort.

Midgley Bridge Over Oak Creek
HDR from 5 bracketed photos taken with the Nikon D700 and the 14-24mm 2.8 lens, processed in Photomatix and Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

Mid-March is not the prettiest time of year to photograph the creek. I much prefer it when the trees are green during summer, or even better, when they’re golden and red in the fall. But there’s really never a bad time to get a shot of the red rocks in Sedona.

We’ll be flying out to Mississippi in a couple of weeks to visit my family out there, and I’m already starting to mentally pack my camera gear for the trip. Do I take the tripod? Do I take both bodies and several lenses, or just my full-frame? Do I take the laptop so I can process photos while I’m there, or wait until I get back? I’m hoping for some great photos of the family while I’m there, along with some shots of the beautiful countryside. Can’t wait!!

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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A Little Something Different – Studio Shots

My hubby has been waiting patiently for me to spend some time taking photos of the handmade silver jewelry and lapidary work that he sells on his Etsy site (http://andyhight.etsy.com). So last weekend, we watched a few YouTube videos on how to set up an inexpensive home studio and we put something together on the dining room table.

We bought a florescent light fixture that had a square white acrylic cover, and Andy wired it to take a wall plug. We bought two inexpensive shop light fixtures on clamps, and Andy rigged up some wooden stands to attach lights to, so we could move them up, down and around. We bought some white foamboard, some white fabric to use as diffusers, and we put together a little bracket strung with fishing line to hang earrings on.

Of course we mounted the camera on the tripod and used a cable release.  I shot all the jewelry with the Nikon D5000 and the 18-55mm kit lens.  I don’t own a macro lens, but I’m strongly considering renting one for the next time we shoot jewelry. (Note: The photos of the studio setup were taken with my Blackberry–not too bad, really!).

We spent about five hours experimenting and shooting, and I’ve started processing some of the shots for website already.  The trickiest part is getting the color corrected so that the color of the stones is as accurate as possible.  When these things are listed as sale items, we can’t afford to get all creative with the color–they need to match the real thing.

We found a lot of things that we’ll change–in fact, we’ve already purchased a couple sheets of acrylic (translucent white and opaque black) to replace the light fixture acrylic which wasn’t opaque enough. But all in all, we got some images that are much better than the ones he had been using on his site.

Here are a few examples–note that they are not in the highest resolution since they had to fit the size requirements of his website:

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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.

Cool Chair

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

Decided to go with a black-and-white image for this evening’s post.  I was a little torn, because this chair is actually pink, but it’s pretty faded.  I decided that the monochrome gave a better “feel” of the shot:

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

This shot was taken where the old restaurant used to be.  I like the little details like the sink drain sitting in the windowsill, right next to that wicked shard of glass.  If you’re interested in seeing more shots from this location, check out my posts from the past four days!

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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Reservations

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

When we were at the dog track this past weekend, we found several ladders inside the building.  They didn’t look to be that old, and it didn’t dawn on me why they might be there until my husband saw the photos that evening, and he ventured a guess–copper wiring in the light fixtures.

I’m not sure why there was a reservation booth at the dog track, and I’m also not sure why there’s a big furniture sign there, unless they held a fixtures sale when the place closed.

Put all these elements together, and you get more questions than answers, but it makes a pretty good HDR image.

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

Normally I tend to increase the color saturation on my HDR shots, but in this case I actually reduced the saturation. I think the more subtle tones are more in keeping with the character of the place–bleak and desolate.

If you’re interested, I came across this video on YouTube that someone made while walking through the site.  It was uploaded to YouTube in January of this year, so it’s pretty close to what we saw when we were there.  It will give you a good idea of the sounds we heard–wind blowing, tile and glass crunching underfoot.  Check it out!

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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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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Take Your Seat and Watch Your Step

I love using my 28-300mm zoom lens with my Nikon D700, but I sometimes forget to take advantage of the great depth-of-field opportunities it provides, especially when I’m concentrating on capturing brackets for HDR processing.

Yesterday at the abandoned dog track, I actually remembered to play around with the focal length on the lens.  I lowered the height of the tripod to about knee-level, and then aimed the camera down the front row of seats in the “yellow” section.  I focused on one of the seats about a third of the way down the row, letting the other seats go slightly out of focus.  I was using a focal length of 92mm, at F/10.

These seats were positioned right in front of what used to be the huge plate glass windows looking out on the dog track.  The glass has been shattered, and quite a bit of it was lying in pieces right in front of these seats.  The late afternoon sun was at the perfect angle to give the seats a nice glow.  And since I shot a five-bracket series, I was able to retain the detail of the interior as well as the exterior of the grandstand:

Take Your Seat and Watch Your Step

I find that HDR processing is complicated a bit by using these shallow depths of field, because the areas that are purposely left out of focus can actually turn out worse during the HDR process. For instance, in this shot, I wound up with some obvious chromatic aberration along the mountain tops in the background. Probably should have spent some time trying to fix it, but hey, I was tired.

I’m still going through the rest of the shots and trying to decide which one I want to work on next. So much to choose from!

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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My Official Website at http://zannwalker.com