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.

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

Lizard Head in Black and White

For those of you who may not know it yet, my hubby Andy and I are preparing to take our leave from Arizona.  We will be moving 1600 miles east to Tupelo, Mississippi, within the next three to four weeks.  This is a “going home” move for me, a chance to live closer to my parents as well as my four brothers, their wives and all my nieces and nephews.  For the past few months, we have spent the evenings and weekends on home improvement projects to get our house ready to put on the rental market (the prices are just too depressed to try and sell it right now).  We already have a contract on a house in Tupelo that should close within the next few weeks, so we’re starting the process of packing and decluttering in preparation for the big move.

With all these life changes, I haven’t concentrated too much on my photography for the past few months.  But as the time draws closer to leave Arizona, I’m already missing some of the places where I’ve spent quality time with the Nikons.  And there’s no place like Sedona when it comes to pure scenic spendor.

Tonight I went through some of my files from our trip to Sedona back in March, and I found some shots that I still hadn’t processed.  I couldn’t resist running a few brackets through Photomatix to produce this HDR of Lizard Head Rock, but this time I decided to go with the black-and-white version.  I love the red rocks of Sedona, but for this shot I wanted to allow the eye more of an opportunity to see the shape and texture of the rocks, rather than the color.  Look at the top of the mountain, and you’ll see how it got its name.

Lizard Rock in Black and White

I’m looking forward to getting moved out to Tupelo just in time for the beautiful fall colors to reach their peak in October. There are beautiful landscapes, distinctive Southern architecture, and amazing people just waiting to be photographed, and I can’t wait to expand my portfolio in a totally new direction.

Stay tuned to see where the Zen takes us!

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

Sour Diesel TrainWreck

When we were at Westgate a couple of weeks ago, I was concentrating more on shooting dials and gauges for the 60 Minute Photo Challenge. But while we were there, I stopped to get a few shots of the band that was playing outdoors in the plaza. The band is called Sour Diesel TrainWreck, and it was the first time I had heard of them. Since then I’ve seen them mentioned on a couple of other local websites. They put on a good show, so if you get a chance to hear them, check ’em out.

Here are a few shots I took while they were playing. It was right about sundown, and I didn’t have my flash with me, or a tripod either for that matter. So I bumped up the ISO on my Nikon D700 and grabbed a few hand-held shots with the 28-300mm zoom. These were processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust.

Sour Diesel TrainWreck 01

Sour Diesel TrainWreck 02

Sour Diesel TrainWreck 03

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

Dials & Gauges – 60 Minute Photo Challenge

I enjoyed last week’s 60 Minute Photo Challenge (Shadows and Reflections) so much, I decided to try it again.  If you’re not familiar with the challenge, check out my previous blog post.

The challenge from Mark Wallace for this week was to shoot “Dials and Gauges” — as many as you can shoot in 60 minutes.  The challenge was issued last Friday, but it took me almost a week to find the time to get behind the camera, and to decide where I wanted to go shoot.  I finally remembered that Thursday night is Bike Night as Westgate in Glendale, and there would be plenty of gorgeous motorcycles parked on the street, out on display.  What better way to get some close-up shots of dials and gauges!!

The hubby went with me, so we made it a date night, starting with pizza at Mama Gina’s.  Then we spent the rest of the time just checking out the motorcycles parked around the fountains in front of Jobing.com arena, and getting some nice close-ups of all the dials and gauges on their dashboards (do motorcycles have dashboards??). All the shots were made right around sundown, so I had to open up the lens quite a bit, and bump up the ISO to be able to get these hand-held shots. It actually worked to my advantage because I wanted to get a really shallow depth of field so I could focus on the dials and gauges, and leave the backgrounds nice and blurry.

After getting my shots, we rushed home so I could start processing–that’s always the fun part, seeing what you got.  I did all my processing from the RAW images in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust and DeNoise where needed.  I went with black and white on some of them, and others I left in color, just for some variety.

I’ve uploaded seven shots so far to my Flickr in a new set called Dials & Gauges – 60 Min Photo Challenge.   I may have a few more to add later, but feel free to check out those that I’ve already uploaded.  Here’s a couple for you to sample:

Dials & Gauges 07

Dials & Gauges 04

I’m anxious to see what the next challenge will be. It’s nice to have some “assignments” that help keep me motivated to keep practicing my photography skills.

Assay Office

I haven’t done an HDR image in a little while, so I pulled out some brackets from our last trip to Jerome.  This is the old Assay Office from the Gold King Mine ghost town in Jerome.  When I took the shot, it was almost high noon, and the lighting situation was getting pretty harsh.  I took a series of five brackets, and needed all five of them to get all the detail in this shot.  The items on the desk in the foreground were sitting in a patch of bright sunlight, while the back of the little office was almost completely shaded.  For situations like this, HDR rocks!

Assay Office
HDR created from five bracketed photos (-2.0 thru +2.0) processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Topaz Adjust / DeNoise with Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

I really intended to get out and do some shooting this weekend, but somehow time has slipped away (again). The weather is starting to warm up now here in the Valley of the Sun, and it’s so much easier to just sleep late in the air-conditioned house than to get up early enough to get some quality camera time. However, we’re looking forward to our trip to Vancouver the first week in July for our 20th anniversary, and I’m planning to fill up every memory card I have with images from the Pacific Northwest. 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:
Facebook at ZannWalker Photography
Twitter @suzanne_hight
My Official Website at http://zannwalker.com

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?

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

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

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

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

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