Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon

If I won the Powerball Lottery and could live anywhere in the United States that I desired, I would happily settle down near Sedona, Arizona, where I could have a view of the magnificent red rocks and hear the peaceful sounds of Oak Creek.

But you can’t win if you don’t play, and the lottery isn’t legal where I live, so I’ll have to be content with an occasional vacation trip and a collection of photographs to look at from time to time.

Hubby and I got to spend a few days in Sedona early this month on a combination work/vacation trip. Even though we were both sick with sinus and upper respiratory infections while we were there (I even wound up in Urgent Care), I still managed to spend some time outdoors getting some landscape shots with my Nikon D700 and my 14-24mm glass. It’s always a bit of a pain in the ass to haul all my camera equipment, including tripod, on a business trip, but since Andy was with me this time to help share the load, it wasn’t too bad.

My first round of shooting was done just north of Sedona at Midgely Bridge on Highway 89A. There’s a trailhead at the bridge, so a lot of people park here to hike off in several different directions, but it’s also a wonderful place just to sit and soak in the view. Because we were at the bridge in the middle of the day, there was a lot of contrast between dark and light areas. I chose to shoot brackets so I could use HDR processing to draw out the details in the shadows and highlights.

Click on the photos to view large!

Sedona2015_037_2015-04-05And4more_tonemapped

This next shot was taken from about the same spot, but with the camera turned about 45° to the left:

Sedona2015_047_2015-04-05And4more_tonemapped

A little further up Highway 89A, we found a place to get down to the creek. Unfortunately there was a good bit of natural debris along the edges of the water, and the trees had not completely leafed out yet, but it was still a beautiful day. This image is not HDR, but a single image.

Sedona2015_071_2015-04-05

Stay tuned for my next blog post where I’ll show you some images taken at Lizard Rock, one of my favorite formations in the Sedona area.

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Lizard Head in Black and White

For those of you who may not know it yet, my hubby Andy and I are preparing to take our leave from Arizona.  We will be moving 1600 miles east to Tupelo, Mississippi, within the next three to four weeks.  This is a “going home” move for me, a chance to live closer to my parents as well as my four brothers, their wives and all my nieces and nephews.  For the past few months, we have spent the evenings and weekends on home improvement projects to get our house ready to put on the rental market (the prices are just too depressed to try and sell it right now).  We already have a contract on a house in Tupelo that should close within the next few weeks, so we’re starting the process of packing and decluttering in preparation for the big move.

With all these life changes, I haven’t concentrated too much on my photography for the past few months.  But as the time draws closer to leave Arizona, I’m already missing some of the places where I’ve spent quality time with the Nikons.  And there’s no place like Sedona when it comes to pure scenic spendor.

Tonight I went through some of my files from our trip to Sedona back in March, and I found some shots that I still hadn’t processed.  I couldn’t resist running a few brackets through Photomatix to produce this HDR of Lizard Head Rock, but this time I decided to go with the black-and-white version.  I love the red rocks of Sedona, but for this shot I wanted to allow the eye more of an opportunity to see the shape and texture of the rocks, rather than the color.  Look at the top of the mountain, and you’ll see how it got its name.

Lizard Rock in Black and White

I’m looking forward to getting moved out to Tupelo just in time for the beautiful fall colors to reach their peak in October. There are beautiful landscapes, distinctive Southern architecture, and amazing people just waiting to be photographed, and I can’t wait to expand my portfolio in a totally new direction.

Stay tuned to see where the Zen takes us!

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Midgley Bridge Over Oak Creek

I’ve been a little distracted lately from my photography, but with a three-day weekend staring me in the face, I’m hoping to take the camera out for a spin in the next few days.

In the meantime, I went back through some shots from the past few months and found this one that I had already processed but had never posted.  This is another shot of the Midgley Bridge on Highway 89A north of Sedona, but this one was taken from the bottom of the canyon next to Oak Creek.

We had to hike down to the creek from the bridge, which wasn’t bad…it was the hike back UP to the bridge that was a challenge.  Actually it wasn’t that bad, and it was well worth the effort.

Midgley Bridge Over Oak Creek
HDR from 5 bracketed photos taken with the Nikon D700 and the 14-24mm 2.8 lens, processed in Photomatix and Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

Mid-March is not the prettiest time of year to photograph the creek. I much prefer it when the trees are green during summer, or even better, when they’re golden and red in the fall. But there’s really never a bad time to get a shot of the red rocks in Sedona.

We’ll be flying out to Mississippi in a couple of weeks to visit my family out there, and I’m already starting to mentally pack my camera gear for the trip. Do I take the tripod? Do I take both bodies and several lenses, or just my full-frame? Do I take the laptop so I can process photos while I’m there, or wait until I get back? I’m hoping for some great photos of the family while I’m there, along with some shots of the beautiful countryside. Can’t wait!!

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Midgley Bridge in Sedona

Continuing my series of images from our last visit to Sedona, Arizona:

If you leave Sedona heading north on Highway 89A, you travel through Oak Creek Canyon, some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.  This time of year the canyon has a more stark look, with the trees still sporting their bare winter branches.  But that just allows a more unobstructed view of the magnificent red rock canyon walls.  The Oak Creek area is worth visiting at any time of the year.

Just north of Sedona is the Midgley Bridge that spans part of the canyon.  Below the bridge you can see Oak Creek winding along the canyon floor.  The small parking lot on the north end of the bridge is the location of several popular hiking trails, one of which is the Huckaby Trail that leads you down to the creek from the bridge.

We wound up taking the Huckaby Trail all the way down to the creek where I got some great shots of the bridge from a different angle. I’ll be working on processing those, and maybe I’ll share a few of those if they turn out halfway decent.

This is a view of the bridge from the top of the Huckaby Trail.  In all the years we’ve been going to Sedona, I had never taken this particular shot…not sure why, but since I’ve started doing HDR, I knew I’d have to go back someday and get this image:

Midgley Bridge in Sedona

This HDR was created from five hand-held bracketed photos, taken with my Nikon D700 and the 28-300mm lens. I processed the raw files in Photomatix, and I loved the way that the bridge and the canyon walls turned out. But the sky was badly pixelated–not just noise, but actual square pixels. Topaz DeNoise did nothing to help it.

So I wound up playing around with layers and selections in PaintShop Photo Pro X3, and layered in the sky from one of the brackets. It was kind of tricky with the sky being exposed between the rafters under the bridge, and I probably should have spent more time refining my selections, but overall I don’t think it turned out too badly.

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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.

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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:
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Jerome Grand Hotel From the Outside

Continuing my series of images from our recent visit to Jerome, Arizona:

A few posts ago, I presented some images of the interior of the historic Grand Hotel in Jerome.   I’ve also shown you their still-operational Otis elevator.  As promised, tonight’s post presents a few images of the exterior of the hotel, with a few processing twists.

This first shot is taken from a vantage point slightly downhill from the hotel.  I really liked the bare branches in the foreground, but wanted to soften them up a bit.  So I used the Venetian Painting preset in Topaz Adjust, and then did some further softening in Paintshop Photo Pro X3:

Jerome Grand Hotel and Asylum Restaurant

This next image shows the Asylum Restaurant after they’ve closed for the night. Since this place is supposed to be haunted, I don’t think they get too concerned if some of the lights are not functioning properly–maybe it’s just part of the mystique. View it large to see what I mean:

Jerome Grand Hotel and Asylum Restaurant

And this last image is an HDR from five bracketed shots taken with the 14-24mm wide-angle zoom. The perspective is wonky, but I think it just adds to the “haunted”, mysterious look of the hotel. After all, any hotel with gigantic spiders hanging from the underside of the balconies has to be a little wonky (click to view it large!):

Jerome Grand Hotel and Asylum Restaurant

I still have lots of great shots from Jerome that I’ll probably play with in the coming weeks. But we’re heading to Sedona tomorrow where there are always great photo ops at every turn, so I’m sure my inventory of images will be overflowing by Sunday evening.

Have a fantastic weekend, everyone!

West Fork Revisited

I revisited some of my shots from West Fork tonight, to see what I could do with some of the single images in Topaz Adjust. Here are the results (I really should remember to make notes of the presets and sliders that I used).

Be sure to click on the image to view large on black:

West Fork Revisited 001

West Fork Revisited 002

However, this next one just cried out to be processed as an HDR, with the shadowy details of the rock wall and the sunny highlights of the gold leaves. I just couldn’t resist running the bracketed series through Photomatix to produce this:

West Fork Revisited 003

Next stop with the Nikon will be back in North Mississippi as I travel home for Thanksgiving. Hoping to get some great shots while I’m there, and also hoping I can get through airport security without being forced to baggage-check my gear. Have a great holiday everyone!

Autumn Stream at West Fork in Oak Creek Canyon

I only processed one image tonight, but I’m extremely happy with how it came out. Click on the small version below to view it larger in the lightbox:

West Fork in Oak Creek Canyon

This is an HDR created from three bracketed photos in Photomatix V4. Amazingly, I can find no obvious ghosting in this image, even though it was a breezy that day. This shot was taken deep in the canyon, which offered some protection from the wind….plus, I think I just got darned lucky.

After merging the photos and tonemapping them in Photmatix, I adjusted the image using the Curves tool in Paintshop Pro X3, and then bumped up the saturation and sharpened it slightly (Overlay).

I love this shot….it’s so peaceful and serene, and totally Zen.

Mayhew’s Lodge in Living HDR Color

Tonight I concentrated on processing my shots of the remnants of Mayhew’s Lodge.  I previously posted a black-and-white HDR of one of the structures, but tonight I processed everything in living color.

All of these images are HDR’s created from three bracketed photos (-2.0/0.0/+2.0) in Photomatix v4.  The new de-ghosting functionality came in particularly helpful on this batch of images because of the movement of the foliage in the wind.  It took a little extra time to examine each image, locate the ghosted areas and choose the appropriate exposure to use for the correction, but the results were definitely worth it.

After creating the .TIFF file in Photmatix, I then opened the image in Paintshop Pro X3 and used the Topaz Adjust plug-in.  The presets I used most often were Photo Pop and Clarity, but in most cases I tweaked the presets slightly after applying them.  I then finished up in Paintshop Pro by using the Curves tool to adjust exposure and applied sharpening.  In some cases I bumped up the Saturation slightly.

I’ve uploaded the images to my Flickr site, but here are links (click on the photo to see it large on black):

Mayhew's Lodge 001

Mayhew's Lodge 002

Mayhew's Lodge 003

Mayhew's Lodge 004

Mayhew's Lodge 005

Mayhew's Lodge 006

Mayhew's Lodge 007