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:

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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.

Bike Night – Developing an Eye for Detail

Here are a few more shots from last Thursday night’s Bike Night at Westgate in Glendale, AZ. Although I enjoy taking those wide-angle shots to get the “big picture”, I’m finding that I enjoy even more getting close to a subject and looking for the little interesting details.

Here are some examples, two in black-and-white and one in color. Be sure to click on them to view large on black..

In this first shot, the detailed etching on the fender and the wheel of this bike caught my eye as I passed by. Yeah, I could have taken a shot of the entire bike, but then I would have had all kind of extemporaneous busyness in the frame that would have distracted from my real subject–the wheel:

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I processed this next image in color because I liked the way the red and blue lights reflected off the silver of this hood (fender?) ornament, especially since it was Veterans Day. Had a lot of fun playing with this one in Topaz DeNoise and Adjust.  I did have to crop a little off the top, but it was all empty space anyway:

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And finally, another black-and-white image. I was really torn on this one. The bike had blue lights under the gas tank that lit up the motor with an eerie neon glow, and I thought it would be really cool to process in color. However, what really caught my eye was the reflection of nearby bikes that showed up in the rear fender. I didn’t want the blue from the motor to detract from the reflection, so I chose to process this one in monochrome. Just an aesthetic preference on my part, I guess.  I also like the DOF on this one–having the rest of the bike a little blurry helped draw the eye to the reflection:

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Once again, all these were shot with a Nikon D5000 with the kit lens (18-55mm, f/3.5-5.6), handheld, ISO around 2000, and in aperture-priority mode with the aperture pretty much wide open.

I have several more shots from Bike Night that I may or may not get around to processing. A week from tonight I’ll be headed “home” to visit my family for Thanksgiving, and of course my camera bag and tripod will be traveling with me. I’ve got a lot to do between now and then–I do have a day job after all–so I’m not sure how much time I’ll get to spend in the digital darkroom.

Of course, if insomnia strikes……

Bike Night Grunge – Single Image HDR

I’m posting early today because I have these shots that I processed late last night that I truly love.

When we were at Bike Night on Thursday, we were surrounded by gorgeous, shiny, powerful machinery with lots of chrome and highly polished surfaces.  And in the middle of all that bling, we found THIS bike.  It looks like it might have been buried in someone’s barn or possibly under a sand dune for years…or maybe it belonged to Mad Max.

Anyway, the grunge bike looked like the perfect candidate for some HDR treatment, but since I was shooting in a low-light situation without a tripod, I was doing good to get a single exposure, much less a bracketed series.

So, I used Topaz software to create an HDR effect.  First I used Topaz DeNoise to clean up the digital noise speckles in the photo.  Then I used Topaz Adjust, playing with the presets and sliders to get just the right amount of detail and color saturation.  Finally, I used the Paintshop Pro X3 Curves tool to tweak the exposure, then the Sharpen tool to define the edges.

Be sure to click on the images to view them large on black…it’s worth the extra click!

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Bike Night in Color

I processed a few more of the images from Thursday night’s Bike Night photo shoot today, only this time I worked with the raw files and processed them in color.  (My last post showed some of the black-and-white shots SOOC.)

Because I was shooting at such a high ISO and wide open aperture, the raw files had quite a bit of noise, so I used Topaz DeNoise to clean them up a bit.  Then I used Topaz Adjust to sharpen and add contrast, and boost saturation where needed.  I did some final tweaking in Paintshop Pro X3 using Curves and Sharpen.  In some cases, I tried to keep the shot as close to  how we saw it as possible, but on some of these I played with the presets in Topaz Adjust to give them a little spice…almost an HDR effect.

It was definitely trickier working with the color images than the black-and-whites. The plaza where these shots were taken is surrounded by huge jumbotron billboards that are constantly shifting colors and light intensity. Additionally, the walls of the buildings on one side are a pistachio shade of green, which gave everything a greenish cast. Having all these different colors and lights reflecting off all that chrome made for some interesting processing challenges.

Hope you like the results!

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Bike Night on Veterans Day at Westgate

I got a tweet from my Westgate feed late this afternoon advertising Bike Night…tonight.  Wish they would give us a little more advance notice about these things, but that’s another subject.  Bike Night is a monthly family-friendly gathering of local motorcycle enthusiasts at the Westgate entertainment complex in Glendale.  I thought it would be a great opportunity to get a little practice shooting handheld shots under fairly low lighting conditions.

Since today is also Veterans Day, the gathering had quite a patriotic theme to it.  They had a live band, several speakers from the military and first responders, and a flag from Ground Zero on display.  There was the playing of the National Anthem, “America the Beautiful”, and of course, Lee Greenwood’s “I’m Proud To Be An American”.   There was a mini-parade of motorcycles carrying flags through the crowd which drew a big response from everyone as well.

Click on the images below to view LARGE on black:

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We wandered around through the crowd and the parked motorcycles and I took about fifty shots. I had the camera set to Monochrome and RAW+Fine, so I got a black-and-white JPG and a raw file with all the color information. Sometimes I just like the black-and-white shots better, especially since I was shooting at a fairly high ISO (around 2000 most of the time), with a wide open aperture. I really need to start saving up my money for a fast lens.

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These shots are SOOC (straight out of the camera) JPG’s. Honestly, I’m happy with these just the way they are. However, I’m going to be spending some time playing around with the entire set from tonight’s shoot over the weekend. I got some really nice close-up shots of the bikes with the colorful reflection of the lights that really need the color processing to do them justice. But I wanted to throw these out there just to give you an idea of what the evening was like.

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Wow, it’s almost 10:00PM already! Guess I’d better close up the darkroom before I’m tempted to start working on these shots!