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!

Advertisements

Hermano’s Liquor & Market

Continuing my series of images from Grand Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona:

Not all the buildings on Grand Avenue have been turned into galleries or cafes or boutiques.  Some of them have been around for years, and they’re happy just the way they are, thank you very much.  Once such establishment is Hermano’s Liquor & Market.

In the 2005 Phoenix New Times “Best of…” poll, Hermano’s was voted “Best Drive Through Liquor Store If You Lost Big”.  I’ve never been a customer at Hermano’s, but I can imagine the typical clientele that probably frequent this business.  I think they probably come out more at night.

But since it was a beautiful, warm winter day, there was no one parked in front of the store so I got a great set of brackets from across the street, which I processed into this HDR:

Hermano's Liquor & Market
HDR created from three bracketed photos (-2.0/0.0/+2.0) processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Topaz Adjust / DeNoise with Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

On a different note, I *finally* got a wireless remote for my Nikon. I started out with a cable remote which works fine as long as you’re within cable-distance of the camera. But I got tired of getting all tangled up with the cord when trying to get a shot set up on the tripod. The dang thing was not expensive at all and I have no idea why I waited this long to get it. I’m looking forward to using it for this weekend’s planned photoshoot in Tempe.

Change of Focus – Shooting What You Live In

I’ve had my Nikon D5000 for almost a year now–the time has flown by!  And during the past year I concentrated on HDR photography and processing.  That required me to haul my tripod and remote release along with me whenever I went out to shoot, since I was shooting bracketed series for the HDR images. With the stability of the tripod, I never paid a lot of attention to the ISO settings, or much of anything else for that matter.  I just figured I could make adjustments to the images during the processing stage. With the bracketed raw images, I would have all the highlights, shadows and details to work with, without having to think about it that much.

But lately I’ve become bored with all that.  I’ve begun to realize that I don’t really know that much about how my camera really works, and what all it’s capable of doing.  I’ve also begun to get a little bored with the HDR “look” in my own work, although there are photographers out there who never cease to amaze me with what they can do.

So a couple of days ago, on a whim, I just picked up the camera and started shooting things around the house.  It was late in the afternoon, and the setting sun coming in through the patio door was creating some nice light patterns (and revealing how badly I needed to dust the furniture) in the living room–that light is what caught my eye and got me started.

20101108_011_B&WInTheHouse_psp_topaz

I set the camera on aperture-priority mode, but opened the aperture wide to get a fairly shallow DOF. I also bumped up the ISO setting to get a faster shutter speed, and didn’t worry so much about noise for once.

20101108_035_B&WInTheHouse

I set the camera to monochrome mode because I wanted to experiment with some B&W shots. I also had it set to shoot RAW+Fine. I didn’t think about it at the time, but those settings combined to yield me both a black-and-white JPG along with a raw file that had all the color information in it.  Black-and-white AND color in the same shot.  Score!!

20101108_026_B&WInTheHouse_spicify

I just wandered around the house and the patio for a few minutes, shooting things that I ordinarily overlook in our day-to-day lives. Then I processed each of the shots differently, trying out various presets, settings and sliders in Topaz Adjust and Paintshop Pro X3. For once, I wasn’t worried about over-processing something…it wasn’t about making it look natural, it was about making something that I enjoyed looking at.

Coffee Press

And these are a few of the images that I came away with. There was something freeing about having the camera in my hands instead of on the tripod. There was a sense of control in adjusting the settings between shots just to see what effect it would have on the image.

I’m going to spend a lot more time working on images like these for awhile.  I think it’s a lot more Zen-like than the HDR “process”.  And maybe I’ll remember to dust before I do this again! 🙂

Photomatix V4 – Mayhew Lodge in B&W

I had a great time this past weekend on a two-day photo shoot in northern Arizona. On Saturday we drove from Phoenix up to Flagstaff and spent several hours around the Snowbowl Ski Resort. The road that winds from the highway up to the ski resort is lined in many places with beautiful aspen trees that were in their full, golden fall color. The skies that day were mostly cloudy, so it was a bit of a waiting game sometimes, standing by the tripod-mounted camera, remote release in hand, waiting for the sun to peek through the clouds so that I could pull the trigger when the leaves were in their most dramatic sunlit glory. When we got up to the ski lodge, we found that they had a light dusting of snow which had accumulated the previous night. It gave the pine trees that nice “frosting” effect, and since there are aspens interspersed among the pines, it was even more lovely.

After spending a few hours having lunch and hiking around the area with camera and tripod, we drove back down the mountain and went west on Highway 80 to the Chapel of the Holy Dove. I won’t reveal too much about this site, except to say that it is a perfect subject for HDR photography. I took a lot of shots of both the inside and outside of the chapel, and now we’ll just have to see if I can handle them correctly during processing.  I’ll be posting the best of them here and on Flickr.

I had an 8GB SD card in my camera, and I was carrying an extra 4GB card as a backup.  On Saturday night after taking over 400 photos around Flagstaff, the 8GB card was full.  I used my camera connector kit’s SD card reader to transfer the files (both JPG and raw NEF files) from my SD card to my iPad.   It worked like a charm, and left me with an empty 8GB card to start out with on Sunday.  So I can still say that the iPad is a great investment for photography buffs.

After spending the night in Flagstaff, we drove into Oak Creek Canyon on Sunday morning to the West Fork trailhead. After waiting at least a half-hour for a parking space, we hiked into some of the most beautiful and interesting scenery in Oak Creek Canyon. At the beginning of the trail are the remains of the Mayhew Lodge. According to the website “City of Sedona: Tourism“:

As early as 1895, Lou Thomas turned Bear Howard’s cabin into a two-story hunting fishing lodge. It was there that Zane Grey was inspired to write his book Call of the Canyon, which he turned into Sedona’s first movie. In 1925, the property was sold to Carl Mayhew who operated it as Mayhew’s Lodge. It became a favorite destination for prominent movie stars, politicians, and writers. Guests included Lord Halifax, President Herbert Hoover, Clark Gable, Susan Hayward, Cesar Romero, Jimmy Stewart, Walt Disney, and Maureen O’Hara. The U.S. Forest Service acquired the property and made plans to renovate the structure, but tragically the lodge burned to the ground in 1980.

I took a ton of pictures in this area without hiking any great distance into the canyon (we’ve hiked it many times before, and this time I was there to take pictures).  There was a lot of fall color, and even though the sky was mostly cloudy, I still managed to get some pretty decent shots.

When I got home, I transferred all my files to the computer, and then I upgraded my Photomatix V3 software to version 4.  I wasn’t quite ready to start the really intensive photo processing.  I was still exhausted from all the hiking, fresh air, and driving over the 36 hour period.  However, I couldn’t resist trying out some of the new features of V4 of Photomatix.  One thing that I really like are the presets that are now available as soon as the bracketed files are loaded.  And one of those presets is for a black-and-white image.  I had some shots that I took with the intention of converting to B&W, and this software made it so easy.

Here is one of the buildings from the ruins of Mayhew Lodge, done in Photomatix V4 with post-processing in Paintshop Pro:

Mayhew's Lodge in B&W

I just love the way that the HDR process brings out the details of the interior of the building, which was in some pretty deep shadow, as well as revealing the details in the surround trees and the roof of the building.  I did a little tweaking of the contrast in Paintshop Pro, and also did a slight bit of High Pass sharpening.  I’m very pleased with the way this photo turned out, and I’m really ready to start working on ALL the shots that I brought back with me.  Most will be in color, but I’ll probably do a little more experimenting with B&W where the subject matter is amenable.

Speaking of color, here’s a shot that I processed last night after we arrived home.  This is the footbridge from the parking lot at West Fork to the far side of Oak Creek.  Andy and I have been visiting West Fork since the year after we got married (1991).  Back then we would hardly see anyone there while we picnicked on “our” rock–a big flat stone that rested under a tree, high on the bank of the creek overlooking a small quiet pool of water.  When we wanted to cross the creek, we had to use the stepping stones that oftentimes were slippery and unstable.  Now there’s this bridge, and along with it, a LOT more people.

Footbridge to West Fork

Things change, I guess.  Gone are the days of quiet reflection on the West Fork trail….now it’s a mecca for wannabe photographers like myself.  There were lots of DSLR’s, tripods and long lenses seen on the trail on Sunday. I’m happy that people recognize the beauty of the place, but at the same time I’m sad because of how crowded and noisy the area is now. And I didn’t realize it until last night, but I spent more time worrying about finding and setting up the perfect photo that I didn’t take time to enjoy the scenery. I kept complaining about the wind blowing the leaves around (not good for HDR’s), instead of enjoying the cool breezes that I don’t feel very often in Phoenix.

So, I can’t really blame the lack of ambiance on the crowds or the modern bridge that brings them there. I need to remind myself to put the camera aside from time to time and enjoy my surroundings with all my senses. That’s what Zen is about.

My First Shots of Star Trails

We just got back from a four-night camping trip to the Mogollon Rim, northeast of Phoenix, Arizona.  We stayed at the Canyon Point Campground about twenty miles east of Payson, at about 7,000 feet altitude.  The temperatures are about 25-30 degrees cooler than they are here in Phoenix, which was our primary consideration when choosing a campsite (it was about 108° when we left town on Monday).  Of course, my camera equipment was my most important gear on this trip.  I knew that we were going to be out in the National Forest during the new moon, so we should be able to see tons of stars, and my goal was to make my first attempts at shooting star trails.

I have read Harold Davis’ book “Creative Night“, which has some great tips for shooting just about anything after dark.  However, my Nikon D5000 doesn’t have quite all the bells and whistles as a more expensive camera does–plus I’m still a novice at photography in general.  So, although I picked up some good information from his book as well as some other websites, I was pretty much winging it when it came to figuring out exposure times and settings.

Our first attempt (my hubby kept me company on the shoot) was on Wednesday night.  It had rained that day, but by about 9:00PM the clouds cleared out.  There were hardly any other campers in the campground that night, so we just set up the tripod on the road near our campsite and pointed the camera toward the north (I wanted to get a good circular pattern from the stars).  I had no idea of how long to leave the shutter open, so I started with ten minutes.  I have a wired remote, so I stood there with my thumb on the remote button for the entire ten minutes (not realizing that I could just slide it forward to “hold” it open).  I was using my kit lens (18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6) set on manual focus, 18mm, at F/4.  At the end of ten minutes, here’s what I had:

Star Trails 001

It was a little windy that night, so the trees aren’t all that sharp, but I liked the way I could see star trails after only ten minutes.  So I decided to try a 20-minute exposure:

Star Trails 002

Longer trails on that one, plus I started picking up more ambient light.  And finally, a 30-minute exposure:

Star Trails 003

I was very happy with this shot, as I thought it had a nice balance between the star trails and the ambient light which silhouetted the trees.  There was still quite a bit of noise in the photo, however, but I’m not sure how much can be removed without destroying the star trails.

The next night the skies were absolutely clear, but there were more campers in the area–cars driving by, flashlights, campfires– so we set up the tripod and our lawn chairs near the back boundary fence of the campground, as far as we could get from the other light sources.  It was a little spooky, to say the least, since we had to keep our flashlights turned off for the full duration of the exposures.  We knew there were skunks in the area, but we weren’t sure what else there might be scuttling around at night in the woods.  Once again I aimed the camera to the north, but this time I set the aperture at F/5.6.  The first shot was a 40-minute exposure:

Star Trails 004

It was during this shot that I got buzzed by a bat that came flying out of the darkness, barely visible in the starlight. By then, the temperatures had dropped into the mid-forties, and neither of us had packed our warmest jackets, so I decided to try just one more shot, this time for a full hour. And we almost made it–my battery died after 55 minutes–but I think it was the best shot of the series:

Star Trails 005

Each of these were shot in raw NEF format and processed in Paintshop Pro X3.  On each one, I tweaked the contrast and sharpened slightly.  On a couple of them, I used PSP’s noise reduction option, but didn’t get the results that I was looking for.

Regardless, I had a great time hanging out in the dark, experimenting with a type of photography that I haven’t done before.  Since we can hardly see the stars at all here in the city, it was a treat just to be able to sit under the night sky and marvel at the vastness of the Universe.  But seeing the star trails in these photos reveals what a wondrous marvel of celestial engineering exists up there!  We lost track of the number of shooting stars that we saw, including one huge, really bright one that left a sparkling gold trail behind it.  I can’t wait to go back and try these again.

I’m hoping that some of my blog readers can offer some tips and suggestions on ways that I can improve my star trail photography.  What equipment do you use for this type of shot? What post-processing steps could I use to make them better?

Share

Estrella Star Tower at Night – with Ghosties!

Through a fortunate turn of events, the rain we were having yesterday morning moved out of the area during the afternoon and left us with just enough clouds to make a beautiful sunset.  I decided to take advantage of the break in the weather and head over to the Estrella Star Tower to see what it looks like at night when it’s all lit up.  I dragged my husband and sister-in-law along with me, but I don’t think they minded! 🙂

I was using my Nikon D5000 with my Nikkor kit lens (18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 AF), mounted on my Sunpak tripod.  I shot everything in aperture-priority mode using a cable release, letting the camera control the shutter speed. I had the aperture wide open to allow as much light in as possible.

Shooting at night is an entirely different animal, especially if you haven’t done it a lot and don’t have the users manual with you for reference.  The first few shots I took were pretty good, but then I noticed that I still had the exposure compensation set at -1.3 from my previous shoot.  So on the fourth or fifth shot, I got that little problem adjusted and was rewarded with a little more balance of light in the shots between the tower, the sky and the foreground.  A great example is below (all photos shown here are JPG’s straight from the camera with no processing):

Estrella Star Tower

I like the way I was able to capture the reflection of the lights in the water to the left as well as the lights of Phoenix reflecting off the clouds.  The clouds were really not that bright to the naked eye, but with the long exposure time, they really popped in the photo.  If you look closely at the base of the mountains, you can see a white light trail from the passing cars.

We then climbed the tower, which has a spiral staircase running around the outside of it.  About halfway up, I paused to take some shots of the mountains to the east.  The only problem was that it was too dark for my auto-focus lens to work, and for the life of me, I could not remember how to get everything set for manual focus.  I finally remembered how to change the setting in the camera menu, but I completely forgot about flipping the A/M switch on the lens itself.  So, I just pointed the camera at the mountains and crossed my fingers, and got this as a result:

Not too bad–I like the light trails from the traffic and the airplanes–but I would have liked to have had more control over the shot.  And now that I’ve screwed it up once, I know what NOT to do next time.

After taking a few shots from the top of the tower, we came back down and I decided to get a few more shots on our way out of the park.  By then the sky was darker, so I knew I’d get some different colors in the clouds.  Did I ever!  I didn’t notice it at the time I was shooting, but when I got home, I found that the clouds were full of sparkly “ghosties”:

Ghosties

I blame this one on my very first photography instructor who told us to always have a 1A (or “skylight”) filter on our lens to protect it from dust and scratches.  But I’m finding that it’s not such a good idea to use the filter at night when shooting scenes where there are bright points of light, because the filter creates reflections of the light points that get redirected to inappropriate areas of the shot….like the ghosties in the sky on the shot above.  If it weren’t for the ghosties, I’d really like this photo, but as it is, I guess I’m just gonna have to go back out there and try it again–not that I mind!

I really enjoyed this shoot, and I do honestly look forward to going back out there again in the near future–but this time I’ll be armed with more knowledge and better technique!  If you would like to see the entire set of 21 images from this shoot, head on over to Flickriver for a look-see!

Share

Encanto Park in HDR

Wow, feels good to be back in the digital darkroom!  I’ve been going through the shots that I took at Encanto Park in Phoenix this past Friday on my day off.  I had taken my tripod with me with the intention of getting some bracketed shots for HDR processing.  Unfortunately, as I was moving equipment from my travel backback to my daypack, I forgot to get the remote cable release out of the inner pocket of the backpack.  I decided to go ahead and shoot the bracketed shots anyway, just doing them handheld, trying my best not to move too much from side to side.  I was hoping that Photomatix could line them up for me.

And I think they actually came out pretty well!  Here are few samples:

All of these images were processed in Photomatix Pro from three bracketed photos (-2.0/0.0/+2.0), and then post-processed in Paintshop Pro.  Because these photos were all handheld, I used a setting in Photomatix that I don’t normally bother with, “Attempt to reduce ghosting artifacts > Moving objects/people > High”.  I also used the usual setting “Align source images > By correcting horizontal and vertical shifts”.  It did a great job of handling moving objects like ducks and maintenance vehicles that wouldn’t sit still for my photoshoot.  The fullsize versions (which look much better!) are available for viewing, along with more images from the series, on my Flickr site in the Encanto Park set.  I hope you’ll take a could of minutes to check them out and let me know what you think!

I’m just about finished with the bracketed shots, and will start working on the rest of the photos that I took.  Most of them are shots of the typical swans, ducks, geese and other such critters that you find in water features of parks such as this.  We’ll see how they turn out!

Share

More Gateway Trailhead and Less HDR Nirvana

I finished up the HDR processing on the remaining 63 photos (21 series of 3 bracketed shots each), and I came away with 17 more photos that were usable.  As the sun set while I was shooting yesterday, I evidently was pushing the camera to the max of its capabilities to capture what I was imagining in my head.  The low angle of the sun created some deep shadows, but at the same time the areas that were sunlit were extremely bright.  So I ran into some real challenges when trying to get some decent HDR’s tonight.

This first shot didn’t turn out that badly, I don’t think.  I was trying to capture the way the sunlight lit up the dense needles of the cholla almost like a halo.  I didn’t want the sun itself to be in the picture because it would have overexposed it, so I think it works well with the light source just barely appearing on the right.

Gateway Trailhead 037

After this shot, I got a little greedy and started trying to actually capture the setting sun between the arms of the cholla.  And sure enough, when I started trying to process those shots in Photomatix, they were almost impossible to tone-map in a way that satisfied me.  And then I happened to set the Saturation slider to zero (primarily out of frustration), and I came up with this shot:

Gateway Trailhead 058

It almost looks like it was taken at night by moonlight.  While it wasn’t the shot that I had set out to capture, I decided that I kind of liked this treatment, so I kept this one.  Not everything has to have 100% color saturation, right?

The shots after this were a hodge-podge of hits and misses.  Many of them had such intense contrasts between the highlight and shadow areas that they were unusable–the amount of noise in the HDR version was tremendous.  At some point I may invest in some noise-reduction software and go back and see if I can get something usable out of those files, but for now they go to the archive.

Gateway Trailhead 067

The shot above, for instance, was taken inside the visitor’s center where the setting sun was shining through an opening in the wall.  I loved the way it made the wall glow in the deep cedar tones, and the saguaro growing through the opening in the roof was a great touch as well.  After I took this shot, I repositioned my camera so that I could actually see the sun going down….and that turned out to be a mistake.  I took about three bracketed series looking straight at the sun, and when I processed them in HDR, they turned out miserably.  They were just excessively noisy.  But like I said, I may go back to them at some point and see what I can do with them.  Also, I haven’t done anything with any of these photos beyond tone-mapping them in Photomatix.  I may go back to some of them in Paintshop Pro to see what improvments, if any, might be made.

So, what did I get from this hour of shooting, followed by about five hours of processing? I got some good lessons in late afternoon shooting:

  • Be conscious of where your shadow is–several of my photos show my shadow very distinctly.  Several times I remembered and tried to either duck down or move out of the way, but a wired cable release will only let you step away so far.
  • Remember to use a lower ISO setting.  I have my camera set to ISO 200 by default and didn’t even think about changing it.  But as one of my blog readers pointed out (thanks, Martin!), I should use a lower ISO when I’m using a tripod…why not?
  • HDR is good at capturing details in highlights and shadows, but it’s not a miracle worker.  Shots that have very intense, colorful sunlight can be tough to work with when they also contain very dark shadow or silouette.

So I came away with a total of 27 shots that I actually liked, some more than others, and they can all be seen on my Flickr page.  Take a look at the portfolio and let me know what you think!

Share

Digital Darkroom – Swans and a Sunset

Yes, I know I said that I wasn’t going to take any more photos this week and concentrate instead on improving my skills in the editing software, but nature took its course this evening.  As I was driving home from work toward the west, I could see the sun setting in the southwest, but there was an intensely dark cloud gathering in the northwest–the perfect formula for a dramatic sunset.  Since I just happened to have my camera kit with me, I started looking for a good spot to exit the freeway and setup for some photos.

It took me about fifteen minutes and a couple of “dry runs” before I found a little park/trailhead just off Cave Creek Road and the 101 Loop.  I parked my car and grabbed the camera and started shooting hand-held shots as the sky turned all kinds of shades of gold, yellow, orange and red as the sun set behind the hills.  And then behind me, a rainbow appeared in the dark clouds as it started to sprinkle rain.

I tried to do some hand-held bracketed shots, but I was starting to get a few raindrops on my lens, so I had to stop and wipe it dry.  Fortunately the sprinkles didn’t last long, and I was able to get my tripod out and get some decent bracketed shots using the cable release.  As with any sunset, it’s all in the timing, so I just shot as much as I could and hoped for the best.

So when I got home, I was really torn between working on the zoo pictures from last weekend, or processing some of the sunset pictures.  I started with the sunset shots, first of all because I wanted to see just what I had captured (I already know what I have from the zoo), and secondly because I wanted to see if I could get some decent HDR’s out of them.

I processed five HDR’s using Photomatix.  Two of them use the same series of shots, but I used detail enhancement on one and exposure fusion on the other (the latter turned out better!).  Here’s a sample of what I was able to capture:

I’ve uploaded the others to my photostream on Flickr if you’d care to take look.

So then it was time to get back to the zoo pictures and test out some of the new features of Paintshop Photo Pro X3.  For today I selected one of my favorite shots of the day, these two swans who seemed to be overseeing things at the lagoon.  I took this shot as the sun was starting to set, and I used auto exposure and my telephoto lens.  The original settings were ISO 200, F4.5, 1/60 second, 99mm, no flash.

I loved the composition of the shot, but it looked a little bland and washed out to me.  I loaded the RAW file into PSP (wasn’t able to do that in the older version), and did some tweaking with the color balance, luminescence, and some local tone mapping.  Here’s the result:

I like this so much better!  It captures the glow of the setting sun while still keeping the detail of the swan feathers, the puddle of water at their feet, and the thatched roof of the the sunshade in the background right.  It’s a warmer picture, which I think instills a feeling that the swans are lovingly watching over their flock (which may or may not be the case, but it sounds good, huh?).

Anyway, let me know what you think!  Feel free to subscribe to this blog and offer tips and suggestions as I learn more about using both my camera and the digital darkroom software!

HDR Sunset in the Park

Ever notice that you find the best things in life when you’re looking for something else?  When I left work today, I was on my way to north Hayden Road to look for a place to set up for some possible shots of the sunset.  I was headed west on Princess, and before I got to Hayden Road, I spotted a park where there was a cool pedestrian bridge that looked like it might make a good foreground for a sunset picture.  I whipped the car into the parking lot, got out and explored for a few minutes.  I found that there was a little overlook that had a perfect view of the sun setting over the mountains (although it was a bit too cloudy in the west for a lot of great color).

I got my camera out of the car, and for once I had plenty of time to set everything up and think about what I was doing.  I used the tripod and the cable release with the camera set on aperture-priority mode at F/6.3, and took a series of bracketed shots at +/- 2.0.  Once I was sure that the sunset was pretty much over as far as dramatics, I turned around and took some shots toward the east where the “blue hour” was beginning.  For these shots, I changed the aperture to F/16 to increase the depth of field.  My ISO setting on everything was 200 in an attempt to reduce the noise.

I processed the shots in Photomatix, and I was fairly pleased with the results.  Let me know what you think!