To Color or Not

I really have a love affair with black and white photography, and I’m always looking for opportunities to drain all the color out of a shot and replace it with shades of gray.

But sometimes, I just can’t resist the blue of the sky against the green of the grass.

This was one of those times, so I just decided to have my cake and eat it, too.

Here’s a 9-bracket HDR of St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, processed both in color and in black and white.  The HDR processing was done in Photomatix Pro V4, and the further editing was done in Paintshop Photo Pro X5.  For the black and white image, I used the Topaz B&W plug-in.

It was a little windy that day, so there’s some ghosting in the clouds as they were skittering across the sky, but I actually kind of like it so I didn’t attempt to process it away.

So, which do you like best?

St. Paul's Methodist Church - Houston TX (Color)

St. Paul's Methodist Church - Houston TX (B&W)

Advertisements

Supermoon 2012

So, who DIDN’T go out last night to shoot the supermoon?

Since we don’t have any really high hills or mountains where I live, I decided to go for some moon-on-water reflection shots.  So I dragged the hubby along and we went to Lake Mohawk where my parents live, to grab not only some shots of the moon rising, but also of the sunset that would precede the big event.

The sky was mostly overcast with high, thin clouds all afternoon, but we decided to try for it anyway in hopes that the clouds would begin to break up in the late afternoon.  I decided to set up on a fishing pier about halfway between the east and west ends of the lake so that I could get water reflections from both the sunset in the west and the moonrise in the east.

We got there about 5:15 I think, which was way too early, so we wound up just hanging out for almost two hours before the sky got interesting, but it was pretty relaxing and gave us a chance to unwind a little bit from the week.  Just before sunset, I called my parents to let them know where we were, and they came down to the pier to join us for the festivities.

The clouds didn’t break up quite as much as I would have liked, and we were probably too close to the tree line to get the best angle on the rising moon.  But still I think I managed to come away with a few images that pleased me.

For the sunset shots, I used the Nikon D700 and shot brackets of five exposures for HDR processing.  I started off with the 14-24 wide angle lens, and finished up with the 28-300 telephoto zoom.  I’ve processed these as HDR’s using Photomatix v4, Paintshop Photo Pro X4, and Topaz DeNoise.  On a side note, since I used both lenses for the same basic shots, I’ve finally figured out that the spots that keep appearing in the photos in the upper left quadrant of the sky must be dust on my sensor.  Ugh.  I used the Object Remove tool in Paintshop Pro to get rid of as many as possible, but I may have to take the camera to have it cleaned.

Sunset Before SuperMoon 01

Sunset Before Supermoon 02

When the moon started rising, I used the zoom to try and get some of the detail.  Later I widened my zoom to capture the reflection of the moon on the water, which to me was a much more interesting composition than just the moon in the sky (which EVERYONE was shooting).  These are all single images processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X4 with Topaz DeNoise:

Supermoon Rising

Supermoon at Lake Mohawk 01

Supermoon at Lake Mohawk 02
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

Sedona Sunset from Airport Mesa

When I first visited Sedona almost twenty years ago, it was much smaller and less congested.  We always stayed at the Skyranch Lodge, located at the top of a high mesa overlooking downtown Sedona, right next to the small airport.  I would get up early in the morning and walk halfway down the side of the mesa to the smaller hill which is reputed to be a vortex, and I would climb to the top of that hill and watch the sunrise.  One evening we climbed the vortex hill and witnessed a Native American going through one of his sunset rituals–it was beautiful to watch.  Back in those days, there were hardly ever crowds to contend with at sunset.

But over the past twenty years, the word has gotten out, and now the airport mesa is “the place” to be at sunset.  They’ve even built a special parking lot to hold all the cars that drive up to the top of the mesa.  The edge of the overlook has now been roped off so you can no longer park there.  People bring their lawn chairs, blankets, and every imaginable kind of camera, lens and tripod, and jostle for the best viewing angle.

What used to be a quiet meditative area in the evening is now a major production….I guess you can’t stop progress, and I shouldn’t complain because I’m just one of the many tourists that contribute to the crowd.  But sometimes it makes me wish I had never told a soul how beautiful Sedona is.

Anyway, when we were there on Saturday evening, the clouds that had lingered all day were finally starting to break up, so the sun was able to peek through just before it dipped below the horizon.  It wasn’t the dramatic colorful sunset that everyone was hoping for, but with a little bracketing and some HDR processing, I was able to capture something of what we saw:

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

As crazy as Arizona is right now, this is one of the things that makes living here worth putting up with the foolishness. It’s nice to know I can leave my house and be in a place like this in two-hours time.

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

Sedona – Clouds and Red Rocks

We spent the weekend in Sedona, one of my all-time favorite places to be in the entire world. Call it a cliche, but there’s just something magical about the landscape around Sedona, the way the sun lights up the red rocks at certain times of the day, and especially when there are dark clouds in the background.

On Saturday, the skies were mostly cloudy, making it difficult to get shots of the red rocks with that “glow”. It was also very windy, so any bracketed shots were sure to have ghosting issues from the movement of the tree branches.

Fortunately, we weren’t in any rush that day, so I was able to set up the camera on the tripod and then just wait for a break in the clouds and the wind to get the shot that I wanted. We found this one on Dry Creek Road. I believe it’s called Lizard Head Rock:

Sedona - Clouds and Red Rocks
HDR created from five bracketed photos processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust / DeNoise.

I’ve just begun processing last weekend’s images, so I’m still not sure what all I came away with. Regardless, it was a fun weekend, doing some light hiking and lots of photography. We enjoyed our stay at Los Abrigados (although I’m still a little irritated that they didn’t provide the usual travel-size toiletries that most places do–they expect you to buy them in their gift shop or salon).

Stay tuned for more images from Sedona over the next week or so!

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

Scorpion Gulch – Room With a View

Tonight’s post wraps up my series from our last visit to South Mountain Park. This is another view of the interior of the old abandoned homesite called Scorpion Gulch, located just inside the entrance to the park.

Scorpion Gulch - Room With a View
Nikon D700, 14-24mm zoom. HDR created from seven bracketed photos processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Topaz Adjust / DeNoise with Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

This weekend we’re taking a road trip up to Jerome where I’m hoping to get some more practice with the 14-24mm wide angle lens. If you’re not familiar with Jerome, it’s an old copper mining town in central Arizona. From Wikipedia:

Jerome became a notorious “wild west” town, a hotbed of prostitution, gambling, and vice. On 5 February 1903, the New York Sun proclaimed Jerome to be “the wickedest town in the West”.

When the copper played out, the town was all but abandoned. However, in the past twenty years or so, it’s been reborn as an artists’ colony. Many of the old houses and businesses have been turned into galleries and studios. The old hospital has been turned into the Grand Hotel, and that’s where we’ll be staying (the rumor is that it’s haunted!).

I’m hoping to get not only some great landscape photography from the vantage point high on the mountain, but I’m also hoping to get some HDR’s of the interior of the hotel. Maybe even shoot a ghost or two!

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

Storm Clouds at Dobbins Lookout

It’s been too many days since I processed an HDR, so I couldn’t resist staying up late tonight to work on this one.  It’s been sitting in my computer for several weeks now, and I finally brought it out to play.

This shot was taken in South Mountain Park in Phoenix, just after a winter storm blew through.  The clouds had started to break up, but then they started blowing in from the east again, creating these dark thunderheads over Dobbins Lookout.

Storm Clouds at Dobbins Lookout

This is a seven-exposure HDR shot with my Nikon D700 and the 28-300mm zoom. Processed in Photomatix, Paintshop Photo Pro X3, and Topaz 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
On Twitter @suzanne_hight.
And now at my official gallery at ZannWalker.com

Cholla at Midday

Yesterday I grabbed a sandwich for lunch and then drove over to the Gateway Trailhead, a small park on the Thompson Peak Parkway near where I work. After I gobbled down my sandwich, I got down to the real business of why I was visiting the park, and that was to take a few practice shots of the desert scenery. There were some beautiful cloud formations about that time yesterday, so I was hoping that I could find a composition that incorporated both the cacti and the clouds.

It turns out that’s a little harder than it sounds when you’re shooting toward the sky on a sunny day, while trying to keep your foreground subject properly exposed. Here’s a case in point–one of my favorite desert cacti is the cholla, sometimes known as the “jumping cactus”. When the sun is just right, the cholla seems to “glow” around the edges from the sunlight captured in the nearly-white spines. In the golden hour, it’s a beautiful thing. In the high-noon sun–not so much.

I played around with this one to try and get as much detail back in to the scene as possible, but it’s still a little blown out. I’m posting it anyway, because I think it’s a good lesson for me to remember–don’t shoot the cholla at High Noon (sounds like a Western movie title, doesn’t it?).

Cholla at Midday
Single image shot with my Nikon D700, 24-300mm zoom @ 28mm, F/16, 1/80s, ISO 100

Oh, and one more lesson–don’t go walking around in the desert in your thin-soled Mootsies Tootsies that you wore to work. The cactus spines will go right through them. Speaking from experience.

Phoenix from South Mountain

Phoenix from South Mountain
HDR created from seven bracketed photos processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Topaz Adjust / DeNoise with Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

There was a bit of haze that showed up when I used the telephoto, so I took a few liberties with Topaz and PaintShop Photo Pro X3 to selectively sharpen a few things…gives it a little pop on the city skyline.

Also, there’s just a bit of snow on the mountaintops in the background. We don’t see that very often here in the Valley of the Sun, so I thought it was really cool to be able to capture it in this shot.

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 – Part 2

First, I just want to say thanks to everyone for the positive feedback this week on the images I’ve posted.  I’m not sure if it’s a result of the new equipment, the locations I shot, or (hopefully) my processing is improving–but whatever it is, the response has been great.  Thanks, all!

Tonight I’m presenting another view of  Scorpion Gulch at South Mountain.  You might remember that I posted an interior shot a couple of days ago. Today’s image is a look at the outside of the old homesite taken from the side.  Behind and to the left, you can see the top of the mountain where all the radio, television and cell phone towers are posted to provide communication services to the Phoenix area.  Quite a contrast between the old and the new:

Scorpion Gulch After the Storm

This image was taken with the Nikon D700 and the 14-24mm wide angle zoom lens that I acquired recently. Some wise person told me that I should go full-frame, and for this type of shot, I have to agree. It would be hard to imagine getting this much area into a single shot with the D5000 DX format, even with the wide angle lens. The sharpness of the images produced from this equipment still blows me away.

This HDR was created from seven bracketed exposures in Photomatix, with post-processing in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust (Photo Pop) and Topaz DeNoise.

The forecast is calling for another winter storm front to be moving through the Valley this weekend. I’m scheduled to do my first client shoot (gratis) tomorrow morning, so I’m hoping that the rain holds off at least for a few hours. If not, maybe I’ll get some more storm shots!

Saguaro and Big Sky – and Guns

For tonight’s post I’ve returned to South Mountain and the great outdoors.  When we visited there last Sunday just after the storm front moved through, I was expecting it to be totally overcast, but in true Arizona fashion, the sun began to burn through the clouds by early afternoon.

I used my 14-24mm wide angle zoom to capture this shot of the saguaro in seven brackets for HDR processing.  It was pretty windy that day, but fortunately on this side of the hill there was only a slight breeze, so I got just a faint amount of ghosting from the ocotillo branches on the right.

Saguaro and Big Sky

Interesting story on this shot: When we got out of the car with the camera and tripod and started to hike up the hill, we suddenly heard gunshots. There were multiple shots, and they were very close by. If you know anything about Arizona, you know that (1) we have very liberal gun laws, and (2) we have a lot of people who carry guns openly. Andy and I just froze in place for a moment or two until we heard laughter close by. We decided to hike on up the hill, and then the shots started again. Call us crazy, but we kept walking but kept our heads down. Finally we got to where we could see three people at the bottom of the hill doing some kind of target shooting with a handgun. The kid that was shooting the gun didn’t look all that old, and his two companions appeared to be possibly his parents.

We tried to avoid eye contact from our position up on the hill. I certainly didn’t want to point the camera in that direction and have them misinterpret our intentions. They finally packed up and left about the same time that we did, after firing off at least 40-50 rounds while we were there. I don’t know what the regulations are in South Mountain Park, but I can’t imagine this is legal. In fact, I tweeted about it that afternoon, and I included the hashtag #guns in my tweet. And wouldn’t you know it, now I’m getting all these new followers (from bots, I’m sure), all telling me about the fantastic guns they’ve bought/sold/discovered. I’m blocking them all.

Oh, well, I’m really enjoying having more brackets to play with on these HDR’s. My Nikon D5000 would only shoot three brackets (auto-bracketed) at a time, but my D700 will shoot up to nine brackets. Not sure I need that many, but it’s nice to have options. Only problem is that the additional shots eat up space on my memory card as well as my hard drive. I’ll have to be much more disciplined about deleting those shots that I know I’m never going to use.

Looks like there’s another weather front moving this way for the weekend, so there’s a distinct possibility I’ll be out shooting clouds again. I love this time of the year here in Arizona!

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.