Cool Chair

Continuing my series of images from the abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park in Black Canyon City, Arizona:

Decided to go with a black-and-white image for this evening’s post.  I was a little torn, because this chair is actually pink, but it’s pretty faded.  I decided that the monochrome gave a better “feel” of the shot:

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

This shot was taken where the old restaurant used to be.  I like the little details like the sink drain sitting in the windowsill, right next to that wicked shard of glass.  If you’re interested in seeing more shots from this location, check out my posts from the past four days!

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Reservations

Continuing my series of images from the abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park in Black Canyon City, Arizona:

When we were at the dog track this past weekend, we found several ladders inside the building.  They didn’t look to be that old, and it didn’t dawn on me why they might be there until my husband saw the photos that evening, and he ventured a guess–copper wiring in the light fixtures.

I’m not sure why there was a reservation booth at the dog track, and I’m also not sure why there’s a big furniture sign there, unless they held a fixtures sale when the place closed.

Put all these elements together, and you get more questions than answers, but it makes a pretty good HDR image.

Reservations
HDR created from seven bracketed photos processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust / DeNoise.

Normally I tend to increase the color saturation on my HDR shots, but in this case I actually reduced the saturation. I think the more subtle tones are more in keeping with the character of the place–bleak and desolate.

If you’re interested, I came across this video on YouTube that someone made while walking through the site.  It was uploaded to YouTube in January of this year, so it’s pretty close to what we saw when we were there.  It will give you a good idea of the sounds we heard–wind blowing, tile and glass crunching underfoot.  Check it out!

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Chair on Glass

Continuing my series of images from the abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park in Black Canyon City, Arizona:

After looking through all the images that I captured at the dog track, I have to say that UrbEx is not my favorite genre of photography.  Even though it provides some of the best opportunities for HDR processing, the environment itself is depressing, dark, dirty and possibly toxic.  Maybe that’s why my allergies are such a mess today.

But part of being a photographer is developing an “eye” to see beauty, or at least something interesting, where others see only the obvious.  Take this shot of a chair, for instance.

On the surface, it’s a broken, torn, rotten piece of furniture lying on a bed of broken glass and chipped floor tiles.

But my “eye” was drawn to the way the color of the chair coordinated almost perfectly with the color of the broken glass.  The pale greens have an almost soothing effect on the senses, helping soften the sharp points of the glass shards and the hard textures of the walls:

Chair on Glass
HDR created from five bracketed photos processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust / DeNoise.

Can you see it? Can you see the beauty in the mayhem? Maybe I should go out looking for wildflowers this weekend–it might be time for a change of scenery.

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Take Your Seat and Watch Your Step

I love using my 28-300mm zoom lens with my Nikon D700, but I sometimes forget to take advantage of the great depth-of-field opportunities it provides, especially when I’m concentrating on capturing brackets for HDR processing.

Yesterday at the abandoned dog track, I actually remembered to play around with the focal length on the lens.  I lowered the height of the tripod to about knee-level, and then aimed the camera down the front row of seats in the “yellow” section.  I focused on one of the seats about a third of the way down the row, letting the other seats go slightly out of focus.  I was using a focal length of 92mm, at F/10.

These seats were positioned right in front of what used to be the huge plate glass windows looking out on the dog track.  The glass has been shattered, and quite a bit of it was lying in pieces right in front of these seats.  The late afternoon sun was at the perfect angle to give the seats a nice glow.  And since I shot a five-bracket series, I was able to retain the detail of the interior as well as the exterior of the grandstand:

Take Your Seat and Watch Your Step

I find that HDR processing is complicated a bit by using these shallow depths of field, because the areas that are purposely left out of focus can actually turn out worse during the HDR process. For instance, in this shot, I wound up with some obvious chromatic aberration along the mountain tops in the background. Probably should have spent some time trying to fix it, but hey, I was tired.

I’m still going through the rest of the shots and trying to decide which one I want to work on next. So much to choose from!

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Watchmen – Black Canyon Greyhound Park

Urbex isn’t my favorite kind of photography, but there’s something eerily fun about going into an old abandoned space and documenting what’s been left behind.

Today I spent several hours with a couple of photographers who are also co-workers, exploring the abandoned greyhound racing track in Black Canyon City, Arizona.  Surprisingly, there are no fences and no warning signs to keep people out, so we had free run of the place.

First of all, let me just say that this is no place for kids, so don’t go dragging your children out here to play.  There’s broken glass–lots of it.  Huge shards of it.  And of course there’s lots of nasty bird and rodent droppings around.  But if you’re careful and you wear good thick-soled shoes, you get rewarded with some great urbex photography, especially if you’re into HDR.

The grandstands are still mostly intact, with brightly colored red, yellow and orange seats, which face toward the west making them very colorful as the sun sets.  The remainder of the facility is pretty much gutted, with quite a bit of broken floor tiles, graffiti, and some interesting bits of debris scattered around.  There’s even a metal staircase on the outside of the building that leads up to the roof to where the pressboxes are located.  There’s the abandoned restaurant as well as the “paddocks” for the dogs, and another building that has an old office with paperwork still scattered about.  Very cool.

I didn’t get home until after dark, and then the hubby and I went out for a light dinner, so I didn’t get to look at my shots until late tonight.  I think I got some good ones!  Some of them will definitely be candidates for color processing, but some are just perfect for a gritty black-and-white treatment–which brings us to the first posting from today’s photoshoot:

Watchmen

This was taken in what I believe was the restaurant or snack-bar area, judging by all the tables and chairs thrown about, as well as the adjoining kitchen area. It’s a five-exposure HDR processed in Photomatix, and then post-processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, with Topaz Adjust. I decided to go with black-and-white, and I actually added some grain to the shot to play up the gritty environment.

Can’t wait to start processing some of the other shots, and it will be interesting to see what my two cohorts come up with. Always fun to see different interpretations of the same scene. Stay tuned!

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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!

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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.

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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.

Exit – Scorpion Gulch

This morning’s post is another shot of the interior of the old homesite called Scorpion Gulch, located at the entrance to South Mountain Park in Phoenix, Arizona. This shot was taken right after a winter storm front had moved through, so the clouds were just starting to break up.

I love how the HDR process revealed the deep cracks in the walls to the right, along with the details in the floor.

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

Short post this morning, gotta head to work!