Swans Up Close and Personal

Tonight I returned to the photos that I took at Encanto Park a couple of weeks ago. I got quite a few of the swans and ducks that play around in the water throughout the park, and while they are pretty mundane shots (who doesn’t have photos of these ducks and swans??), they are giving me the opportunity to just play around with some of the features of Paintshop Pro that I haven’t used very much.

While I like to shoot bracketed images and process them as HDR’s, it’s not always possible to do that with moving targets, so I have to adjust my expectations when processing single-image photos, and try to tease out all the detail possible.  This shot of a swan was a bit of a challenge.  The white feathers under the almost-midday sun were almost blown out on the swan’s back, although the neck area retained a good bit of detail.  I like how the water droplets on the neck area show up as well:

I played around with dodging and burning on this one, as well as some of the Level functionality.  I lost count of the number of times I hit “undo”, but it was all about experimentation tonight.  I’d like for these photos to be more than just snapshots–we’ll see how well I succeed.


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!


The Zen Dragonfly

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve taken the camera out for a spin.  I decided to take a PTO day today, making it a four-day weekend, and on my first morning off work, I took the trusty Nikon over t0 Encanto Park in Phoenix.  I’ve lived in the Valley for over ten years now, but had never visited this park.  It’s actually a nice little oasis in the middle of the older section of town, although it’s starting to show its age (and the impact of the city budget cuts).  There’s a golf course, a small lake, and little streams feeding off the lake in a loop through the park.  There are plenty of swans, ducks, pigeons and geese roaming the grounds and swimming in the water, providing an abundance of photo ops.  The skyline of downtown Phoenix can be seen to the south over the palm trees, providing an interesting backdrop.

I just got home a short while ago and transferred my shots to the computer and started browsing through them.  This one has to be one of my favorites.  I love the delicate look of the dragonfly’s wings, as well as the gentle colors created from the shallow depth of field.

Zen Dragonfly, Encanto Park, Phoenix, AZ

I took this shot using my telephoto lens, which gave me a nice blurry background from the pinkish sand.  There was actually more greenery in this shot, but I cropped it down to what I felt were the essential elements.  I didn’t do a lot of processing, just a little contrast adjustment and local tone-mapping in Paintshop Pro.

I was in the park from about 9:30 to 10:30AM, and it was already 104°, on its way to 115°.  There’s not a huge amount of shade out there, so I was pretty drained after only an hour…plus the midday light isn’t the best for shooting.  I definitely plan to go back either early in the morning or late in the evening to try my luck again.

I think I got a lot of great shots and can’t wait to start processing them, but couldn’t wait to share this one!