Caboose – Rear End Only

Continuing my series of photos taken along Grand Avenue in Phoenix, AZ:

Got a late start tonight, but I went back to a familiar subject–the caboose on Grand Avenue.

Tonight, I went with a vertical shot of the rear end of the caboose.  I had a couple of shots that were cropped more tightly on the train car itself, but I liked this one better because it shows some of the railroad track.  In addition, it has the cell phone tower over the top of the car (really, I could have done without that, but I didn’t feel like taking time to clone it out).

Caboose - Rear End Only
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.

To see the other two views of the caboose that I posted earlier, follow this link to Flickr.

I checked the UPS tracking site, and my new camera gear has traveled from Philadelphia, PA to Manchester, NH, then to Louisville, KY, and then finally to Phoenix in the past 18 hours. Just think, right now it’s somewhere here in the city, just waiting to be delivered to me sometime tomorrow. Can’t wait!!!

Sign of Spring

Just a quick post tonight, then some exciting news (at least it’s exciting for me!):

Last Saturday I stopped by the Thunderbird Conservation Park’s viewing blinds on 59th Avenue to see what kind of wildlife might be around the water this time of year.  There were lots of ducks and geese, but they were all on the other end of the lake from the viewing blinds, so I didn’t get a lot of great shots.  However, there were plenty of bees buzzing around where I was sitting, so I decided to make lemonade out of lemons.  Using the 55-200mm zoom lens gave some great depth of field to this shot:

Sign of Spring

I used the Frame presets in Paintshop Pro to give it that little extra interest around the edges.  It’s a simple shot, but it has a Zen quality to it that I rather like.

And now for the news…

Last night I ordered a new camera body and two new lenses.  On Wednesday I should be receiving:

Did I go overboard?  Most definitely.  But over the past year my love for the art of digital photography has only gotten stronger, and I want to give myself every possible opportunity to produce the best images that I can reasonably afford to produce.

My biggest challenge this week will be forcing myself to go to my day job when I know there are thousands of photo-ops just waiting out there.  With any new equipment there comes a learning curve, and the sooner I can get comfortable with the new camera and lenses, the happier I’ll be.

We’re planning a trip to Vancouver, B.C. in July for our 20th anniversary, and I want to be somewhat proficient with this gear by the time we go.  I can’t wait to get started!!

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.

Life Among the Ancients

Several weeks ago I purchased a Groupon for admission to the Deer Valley Rock Art Center in Phoenix, AZ.  I’ve lived here in the Valley for over ten years and had no idea that this place existed.

The Deer Valley Rock Art Center was established to preserve the 1,500 ancient petroglyphs at the Hedgpeth Hills petroglyph site.  The center is operated by the Arizona State University’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

The petroglyphs at the site were made by people hundreds, even thousands, of years ago, and have continuing significance for Native American people of this region.  The Hedgpeth Hills petroglyph site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It is the second archaeological site to be listed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register.

So, that’s a little of the history of the site, and now to the photography–

The very first thing I can tell you is this: If you’re planning to shoot pictures of the ‘glyphs, go there in the morning.  All the petroglyphs face east, and when you’re trying to photograph them or even see them in the mid-afternoon sun as we were, it’s tough.  We found ourselves staring into the sun a lot.

I started out using my normal kit lens (18-55mm) with a polarizer, but since Nikon did not see fit to include a lens hood with this lens, I was getting tons of flare.  My able-bodied assistant (my hubby!) tried holding the Center’s brochure above the end of my lens and that helped some.

It finally dawned on me that I had my telephoto lens (55-200mm) in my camera bag–ON MY BACK–and it does have a lens hood.  So I quickly switched lenses and things improved from there.  It was a good thing that I did, because just around the bend in the path we reached the main site of the ‘glyphs, and they’re mostly higher up on the hillside facing east.  The zoom lens is essential for capturing the details of the rock art from a vantage point on the ground.

Here’s my favorite shot of the day, for two reasons.  First, it’s a great petroglyph, very clear and defined.  And secondly, there’s a lizard right at the feet of the ‘glyph that I didn’t even notice until I started processing.  Bonus!!

Life Among the Ancients

I’ll definitely go back to the Center, but in the morning hours, to try my shots again with some different lighting. If you’re interested in this kind of thing, be sure to check it out. The pathway to the rock art is only about a quarter-mile long, and it’s handicapped-accessible. You can learn more at

Nigel Airborne

It’s been awhile since I’ve played with the telephoto zoom lens, and since it was such a sunny day, I decided to take advantage of the bright light to try and capture some action shots.  I headed to the local skatepark where I found about twenty-five or thirty guys (where were the girls?) of all ages, zipping around the skate basins.

Here in the desert, even in the wintertime, the midday sun creates some harsh shadows that can be difficult to handle when trying for the perfect exposure.  I tried to remember all the little things I needed to adjust in my settings…switching to continuous-servo AF, using a smaller aperture for greater depth of field, but bumping up the ISO just a bit to get a fast shutter speed.  I was also using a polarizer filter to deepen the colors.

I had only been there about five minutes when I was approached by one of the skaters who asked me to take some shots of him, so I obliged.  Here’s Nigel at his best!

Nigel Airborne
Taken with my Nikon D5000, using Nikkor AF-S 55-200mm 1:4.5-5.6 zoom with polarizer filter

Topaz Adjust came to the rescue on this shot, helping to expose the detail in the harsh shadows without blowing out the sky. I love Topaz!!

Blue Art Deco on Grand Avenue

Just a short post tonight because I’ve been starting at the computer all day and I’m beat.  Here’s a shot that I took of a really cool house/business (sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference) on Grand Avenue near downtown Phoenix.  A lot of the houses have been turned into galleries, so I’m not really sure if someone was living here or not….but that didn’t stop me from setting up my tripod right outside the front door and getting this shot.  Processing the brackets in Photomatix was a little bit of a challenge because of the movement in the bougainvillea in the foreground, but I think I got most of the ghosting cleaned up.  Just didn’t have the patience to really stress over it tonight.

But I love the colors in this shot, along with the shapes of the door and windows.  I think the Christmas lights along the roofline are a nice touch as well!

Blue Art Deco House

I’m trying to make up my mind about a photoshoot for this weekend…indoors or outdoors? Color or black-and-white? People or places? Early or late? Too many decisions to make, so I think I’ll put my tired brain to bed now.

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.

Prime Real Estate

I’m still going through some of the shots from our photowalk in Tempe a few weekends ago.  There was such a variety of shots stored on my SD card that it’s been hard to pick an choose which ones to work on.

Tonight’s post is from Mill Avenue in downtown Tempe.  This area of Tempe is the main hangout for students from Arizona State University which is just a few blocks away, so nighttime is when all the action takes place.

However, we were there in the early morning hours, so it was fairly quiet and family-friendly, and we got some mostly unobstructed shots of the real estate along the avenue.

I found this property available for rent–right between an Irish pub and and Irish restaurant…now, that’s what I call prime real estate!

Prime Real Estate

This is an HDR from three bracketed photos, processed in Photomatix v4. I then used Topaz Adjust’s “Spicify” preset (which I normally avoid like the plague but it seemed to work here), and then Topaz DeNoise (just a little bit, really). I used Paintshop Photo Pro X3’s Curves tool to set the white and black points, and to sharpen it slightly. That’s it.

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.

Get Your Kicks…

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

I’ve driven Grand Avenue a lot, and I’ve always seen this car and this boat atop this trailer…but I could never figure out how to get to it.  Grand Avenue runs diagonally from northwest to southeast, while every other street is laid out in a grid of proper east-west and north-south roadways.  Therefore, every mile along Grand Avenue there is a three-way meeting of major roadways, usually with one of them elevated over the other.  The exits are tricky, and it’s hard to get your bearings when you have to make several turns just to get off of Grand…oh, and did I mention there’s a railroad track that runs parallel to Grand that must be crossed?

Anyway, on this trip I made it my mission to find this “art installation” and get a shot of it.  And here it is, rendered in all its HDR glory.  I found that the “installation” (I’m not even sure what to call it) is located right next to  a salvage/junkyard. Once we got up close, we could see there was actually a lot of detail in the painting on the trailer that isn’t visible when one is zooming by on Grand Avenue.  I had never noticed that it depicts Route 66, of which Grand Avenue is a part.  Very appropriate!!

So, enjoy!!  I know we enjoyed tracking this thing down!

Get Your Kicks

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.

BFF’s in B&W

One of the great things about telecommuting twice a week is that I get to go outside several times a day and just walk around the block to get some fresh air and exercise.  Today I made a point of carrying my camera with me each time I went outside.  My neighborhood is not at all photogenic, but you never know what you might come across.

On my last stroll of the day, I came across these kids playing in the street (it’s not a busy street, mind you).  And I heard:

“Hey, I’ve seen her before!”

“She’s got a camera!”

“She’s a photo-graffer.” (She said this as two separate words, “photo” and “graffer”.)

“Hey, you can take our picture!!”

So, I did.  Normally I hesitant about taking pictures of kids, because in today’s society one’s intentions can be completely misinterpreted.  But with the parents close by and no objections, I got the shot.  And it’s a rather good one, I think!

Friends 01

Tomorrow, it’s back to the HDR stuff…I promise!

Bikini Cocktail Lounge in HDR

I’m posting a little early today since I was up until about 3AM this morning working on this shot.  We went to dinner last night at a great new (to us) restaurant, and I ordered decaf coffee with my dessert.  My hubby ordered regular coffee.  I’m pretty sure that they switched them up because I was wired all night long and he slept like a baby.  I even commented to the waiter about how rich and flavorful the coffee was, while Andy said his tasted a little weak.  Yep, they switched them all right.

Since I was wide awake, I decided to go ahead and post my shot for Sliders Sunday at 3AM.  So, what is “Sliders Sunday”?  I belong to a Flickr group called “Sliders Sunday” in which you are encouraged to post one photo per week, on Sunday, in which you used whatever processing tools you want, to whatever extreme suits your fancy.  All those sliders in Photomatix and Topaz get put to use in this group.

This is an HDR image from three bracketed photos that I took on our photowalk on Grand Avenue in Phoenix, AZ.  The challenge with this image was trying to deal with the flags in the upper left corner.  It was a windy day, and the flags were in a different position in each of the three bracketed photos.  I used the de-ghosting tool in Photomatix to clean up most of it, but it still didn’t work like I wanted it to.  It left some of the flag lines in disconnected pieces, and there was a lot of haloing that was unattractive.

So I finally bit the bullet and decided to try some masking and layering.

  • In Paintshop Pro, I opened the raw file of the single image that was shot at normal exposure and saved it as a JPG file (probably should have saved it as a TIFF file, but…)
  • I opened the HDR image in Paintshop Pro and duplicated the background layer.
  • I copied the JPG file and pasted it as a new layer in the HDR image.
  • I moved the JPG layer under the duplicated HDR layer (so it was sandwiched between the background and the duplicated layer).
  • On the duplicated HDR layer (the top layer), I used the Eraser tool to erase the top left area where the sky and flags were located, being careful to stop at the edge of the buildings.  This allowed the sky and flags from the JPG image to show through.
  • I then merged all the layers and proceeded with my normal processing.

I’m sure others could do a much better job with this HDR and masking/layering exercise, but I don’t think it turned out too badly for a newbie.

So, here is the Bikini Cocktail Lounge, a landmark on Grand Avenue:

Bikini Cocktail Lounge

And, oh yeah, Happy Sliders Sunday!!  Now I think I’ll take a nap.

The Photographer In The Window

I seem to have a thing for windows and doors.  There’s something about the geometry, the right angles, the textures….not exactly sure, but windows and doors are one of my favorite subjects for photography.

Today’s image is a case in point.  These are the windows in the front of Monti’s La Casa Vieja restaurant in Tempe, Arizona.  Monti’s has the distinction of being the “oldest continuously occupied structure in the Phoenix metropolitan area“.  The architecture and character of these old buildings just lend themselves to making great photographs, and especially to HDR work.

Monti’s is located right across from the old Hayden Flour Mill (check out this shot), another historic structure in Tempe. On our recent photowalk, the three of us stopped in front of Monti’s to shoot the flour mill which was lit up by the reflections of the morning sun bouncing off a large office building across the street. It was only by chance that I turned around and saw the wall behind me with these two beautiful windows. The window on the left shows the reflection of the flour mill, and the one on the right has a reflection of one of my fellow photographers.

The Photographer In the Window
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.

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.