Mill Avenue Bridge in Pastel

This is another shot from our photowalk last Saturday morning.  Just after the blue hour faded away, the pastel colors bloomed.  I love the quiet, peaceful Zen of this shot.  Fortunately the lights on the bridge were still on, so I got some nice reflections in the water.

Mill Avenue Bridge in Pastel

This is an HDR from three bracketed images.  I cropped a little off the bottom to balance the composition a little better.  I used Topaz Adjust to add just a little bit of detail to the bridge, and I used Topaz DeNoise at the max setting to smooth everything out to look a little closer to what I saw that morning.  I’ll admit I did juice up the saturation a little…okay, a lot…but the colors had to have been there in order to be juiced up, right??

I wonder just how many ways there are to shoot pictures of the Mill Avenue Bridge??

I have a new Facebook page, ZannWalker Photography, that I hope you’ll visit and “Like”.  I’ll be using that page to post links and tidbits of all kinds of photography-related stuff that I personally find interesting.  Hopefully you will to.  So come on over and see me on Facebook!

Nature Calls at Sunrise

On the last morning of our camping trip, temperatures had dropped into the high 30’s.  We were snug in our sleeping bags with the flannel inserts, inside our dome  tent, where it was nice and toasty.  But when Nature calls, you just have to get out of that warm sleeping bag, put on your shoes, and leave the tent to answer the call.

So, that’s how I happened to be outside the tent just as the sun was rising through the trees at the back of our campsite. I was able to grab the camera and get a few handheld shots from several different angles, trying to capture the glow of the early morning sunlight on the tiny flowers  in the foreground.

Sunrise in the Forest

I took this shot in raw NEF format, and processed it to JPG in Paintshop Pro X3. I used Local Tone Mapping to bring out a little more detail in the bark of the trees, and I adjusted the brightness and contrast slightly.

Sometimes the call of Nature can be a beautiful thing!

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Lake Mohawk at Sunrise

On the first morning I was at Lake Mohawk (last Friday), I got up fairly early and walked down the road “a piece”, as they say, to the south end of the levee where I set up my tripod to get some shots of the lake at sunrise.  I was hoping that there would be a good bit of fog on the lake, but I think I got out there just a little bit too late, so there was just a hint of mist left.  I took several series of bracketed shots, intending to process them as HDR images, but as it turned out, the breeze was blowing pretty good that morning, so the foilage produced a lot of ghosting on the HDR’s.

So I went through the individual shots and pulled out some to process on their own, and I don’t think they turned out too bad:

These were all processed in PaintShop Pro X3 from the raw NEF files.  The larger versions look better, and can be seen on my Flickr page in the Lake Mohawk set.  Hope you’ll visit there and let me know how you like these shots as well as the ones I posted earlier.

Also, just want to remind you that I have a separate project in the works at 365Project.org.  That’s where I’m posting one photograph every day, taken with my Blackberry Tour.  It’s actually a fun little project, and I’d encourage everyone to join in and post those candid shots taken with your cell phone!  Or, if you don’t want to post your own shots, feel free to follow me on my project!

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Arcosanti – Experiment in the Desert

I’m still going through photographs from our weekend excursion to the Verde Valley area of Arizona on March 20-21, 2010.  I’ve already shared photos from Montezuma Castle and Sedona, and now I’m starting to go through the shots from Arcosanti.  Arcosanti is kind of hard to explain, so if you’re really interested, I’ll just point you to their website at Arcosanti.org.

The series of photos that I took at Arcosanti were not meant to be arty or beautiful–instead, they were meant to try and document the architecture, the landscape, and the eclectic soul of this experiment in the desert.  They were all shot as single exposures, handheld without a tripod.  None of these shots would be suitable for framing, but I hope that they help convey what we saw and experienced during our stay there.  I’m processing the images in Paintshop Pro X3, using the raw NEF files.  I’ll be posting the photos a few at a time on my Flickr site in the set titled “Arcosanti – March 2010“, so I hope you’ll check out the entire collection.

Here’s an example of the type of photos in the series.  This is one of the first structures that was built at Arcosanti.  It houses the cafeteria, gallery, bakery, administrative offices, and a couple of residences.  This shot was taken early in the morning as I hiked around the grounds at sunrise.

I can’t begin to go into all the details about Arcosanti, but I hope the series of photos will pique your interest, and that you’ll make plans to visit there, if just for a daytrip if you’re in the Phoenix area.

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Glendale Main Library at Sunrise

I got my HDR’s of the library uploaded this morning.  Once again, all of these HDR’s were created from series of three bracketed images shot at -2.0/0/+2.0, at ISO 100, aperture-priority.  They were processed in Photmatix, and I did a little bit of tweaking on each one in PaintShop Pro, but nothing major–a little cropping here, a little sharpening there.

For some reason I enjoy the symmetry of architecture, especially when the light creates interesting shadows and splotches of bright color.  My brain likes order, and the 90-degree angles of this building just appeal to that sense of order.  The roof is partially made of copper which has developed that wonderful green patina which complements the reddish glow of the brick when the morning sun hit the building from the east.

The remainder of the set can be seen on my Flickr site in the set “Glendale Main Library“.  I hope you’ll visit and let me know what you think of the set or individual images.

I love the Glendale Main Library.  I’ve done some volunteer work there over the past year or so, and made some good friends who still work there.  I believe libraries are very special places, and deserve to be preserved and supported, so I hope these photos will encourage someone who sees them to visit their local library and see what they have to offer.

I have a few more HDR’s from my shoot, as well as some single-image photos taken while I chased the pigeons and peacocks around the library lawn (very undignified, I assure you!).  I’ll post those later this week.

Please feel free to subscribe to this blog either by RSS feed or by email–comments are welcome (although spam will be deleted!).

Namaste!

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Glendale Veterans Memorial at Sunrise

I was sort of bummed that the forecast for today called for a 60% chance of rain.  I really wanted to try out my new tripod.  When I woke up at 5:30 this morning (hubby had to get up to go to work), I looked out the window and as far as I could tell it was completely overcast.  I went ahead and had a cup of coffee and some toast and resigned myself to getting an early start on the tax returns.

Then, about 6:30 I looked outside and saw that there were some breaks in the clouds just as dawn was breaking.  I got dressed, grabbed my camera and tripod and headed over to the Glendale library, which is just about five minutes from my house.  I had been planning this shoot for some time, and had just been waiting for a morning with a good sunrise.

In front of the Glendale library there is a memorial to U.S. Veterans and to those lost on the USS Arizona during WWII.  It’s a beautiful sculptural piece of copper, bronze, steel, sandstone and concrete, shaped into four trees surrounding an obelisk that contains actual salvaged pieces of the USS Arizona.

I drive past this memorial every day and noticed how the morning sun creates a beautiful golden glow on the copper leaves of the trees. So this was the morning to finally capture it.  I did all my shots in bracketed series of three shots at -2.0/0/+2.0, and shot at ISO 100, aperture-priority.  The new tripod worked like a champ.  I didn’t realize just how much easier it would be to shoot with a decent tripod, but quickly fell in love with my new Sunpak as I discovered just how simple it was to switch from landscape to portrait orientation on the fly.  The pistol grip with the squeeze trigger has me spoiled already.

I took quite a few shots of the memorial and processed them tonight in Photomatix into HDR images.  I’ve already uploaded them to Flikr in a new set called “Glendale Veterans Memorial“, so be sure to check them out.

I also got some great shots of the library, a neighboring church, and some of the plant species in the botanical gardens around the library.  I’ve already processed these in Photomatix as well, but haven’t yet uploaded them to Flickr.  I may want to tweak some of them in Paintshop Pro just to see how much they can be improved.  I should have them uploaded early next week.

It was a great hour of early morning shooting….no crowds, no security guards hassling me….just the beauty of the sunrise and the surroundings.  It was a very zen-like way to start my weekend, and it proved to be short-lived–about ten minutes after I got home it started raining, and it didn’t stop until late this afternoon.  It’s all about the timing!

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When you can’t sleep, shoot!

I haven’t been sleeping all that well lately, and so when I woke up at 4:30 this morning I decided to just go ahead and get out of the bed and see what the sunrise might look like.  After showering and getting dressed for work, I gathered up my little camera kit and headed east toward Scottsdale while it was still dark.  I had checked the weather forecast before I left the house, and it didn’t sound promising (cloudy with a 30% chance of rain), but I was hoping I would get lucky and there might be a break in the clouds when the sun came up.

I staked out a spot in the same park where I shot on Tuesday evening.  As the eastern sky began to lighten, I could see that there wasn’t going to be much color this morning, but I thought I might still get some interesting photos with the street lights, car lights (in streaks), and the patterns of the dark clouds.  There’s a pedestrian bridge that crosses over the street, and I got a few shots of that as well, and then a few of the field house near the soccer fields. The clouds were heavy and low this morning, almost like fog, so some of these shots may work better as black-and-whites.

I checked the results in the LCD screen of the camera and I think I got some pretty good stuff, but I won’t know for sure until I get home tonight and start playing around with them.  I shot everything in bracketed series of three so that I can use HDR on them if I want.  I used aperture-priority mode, mostly F/16 so I could get long shutter speeds for the car lights, and ISO 200.

Even though the weather wasn’t what I was hoping for, it was still a great way to start the day.  It was relatively peaceful in the park with just a little traffic noise and a few joggers breathing heavily when they passed.  The cool air was invigorating, and I was able to slow down and play around with each shot, while at the same time enjoying the bird song and subtle changes in the clouds and sky over the mountains as dawn came.

Now, I’m in the office, enjoying my coffee, wishing I could start processing my shots.  I’m sure I’m going to be really sleepy this afternoon, but guess who’s going to be sitting in front of the laptop for awhile tonight??

Update:

I’ve had a chance to go through the shots I took this morning.  Some of them turned out quite well, some were disappointing….par for the course.  The gray, gloomy skies didn’t give me much to work with after the sun came up, but with a little HDR processing, I did come up with a couple of things that I was happy with:

The shot above is an HDR of three bracketed shots, the first three shots that I took after getting set up.  I like how the trail of the car taillights was captured, as well as the spiky halo on the streetlight.  At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted the streetlight in the photo, but since there wasn’t a good angle of the bridge without including the light, I just accepted it (very zen-like!), and it grew on me.

The shot below was taken at the field house after the sun came up somewhere behind all those low-hanging clouds. I liked the way the reflection in the windows mirrored the view of the soccer fields off to the left of the camera.  This was my favorite shot of the day.  It’s also an HDR of three different bracketed photos.

Hoping for a little more sunshine this weekend, maybe a trip to Sedona to do some shooting!

Sunrise in the White Tanks

It’s Saturday morning, and I’ve been up since about 4:40AM.  Since I was awake anyway, I decided to take a chance that there would be a great sunrise, so I loaded up my little collection of equipment, got in the car and headed west on Olive Avenue toward the White Tanks.  It was still pitch dark when I left the house, but I had no idea of where I might setup to shoot, so I wanted to give myself time to find a good area where I could get a wide view of the Valley.  I thought that the White Tanks Regional Park might be a good bet, but I wasn’t sure what time the gates opened.

Sure enough, when I got there about 5:45, the gates were closed and it was still pitch dark.  I turned my car around and pulled over to the side of the road, thinking that I would just wait for sunrise, but after about 20 minutes I decided that that probably wasn’t the safest course of action…me, all alone, sitting in my car in the dark on the side of a desert road.  So I started the car up and drove back east toward civilization, taking a quick side trip north on Citrus Road to see if there was anything interesting there (there wasn’t).  By then, I decided that I needed some coffee since the sun was taking its sweet time coming up, so I drove back to Litchfield Road and picked up a breakfast sandwich to go, along with a large cup of joe at Burger King.

By then, I figured that the gates would be open at the park, so I headed back west, paid my $6.00 entrance, and got some tips on the best places to setup from the retired couple that were working the booth.  I drove into the park just as the sky was beginning to turn orange in the east, found the spot that they had suggested and parked my car.

White Tanks sunrise

After that, it was a comedy of errors as I tried to get my camera mounted on the tripod in the dark.

  • Lesson #1 – Always carry a flashlight with you on early morning or late evening photo shoots.

The D5000 has a flip-down view screen on the back that’s pretty nifty….you flip it down, turn it around, then flip it back up to see the controls.  Problem is, you can’t do this once the tripod mount is attached to the camera, and I forget this every time.  So I had to remove the tripod mount, flip the screen, and then re-mount the camera (while the sky is getting more and more beautiful…).

Then I start moving the tripod around to the get the best angle, and in the dark I almost took a tumble down the side of the mountain when I didn’t watch where I was stepping.

  • Lesson #2 – Watch where you’re stepping when you’re all alone on a photo shoot.

I finally got the camera setup and started taking some shots, trying to play with the different settings.  When I tried to view the shots I had taken, I found that the display was in calendar mode, which on the D5000, shows you an actual calendar of the month with a teeny-tiny view of the last shot that you took on each day.  So I was frantically trying to remember how to change the display back to the full-screen view, and I kept hitting the wrong buttons on the camera, partly because it was dark, and partly because I didn’t remember which one to hit.  I finally got out my Blackberry and used it as a flashlight and found the right button (it’s the zoom button, just for future reference) so that I could see my shots as I took them.

  • Lesson #3 – Check all the settings before you put the camera away each time, so that it’s as close to ready as possible when you go out the next time.

The first few shots that I took looked blurry to me, so I finally put the camera on Sunset mode (an automatic setting), setup the interval timing to shoot automatically, and then just drank my coffee while the camera did its work.  Without a cable release (which still hasn’t arrived), it was the best I could do.  It was a wonderful moment of zen, just listening to the camera click every 15 seconds while I enjoyed the beauty of the sunrise, the crisp morning air, my coffee, and the peaceful surroundings.  I was so thankful that I have the means and the physical ability to have an experience like that, when so many others do not….and I do not intend to take these opportunities for granted.

Sunrise

After the best part of the sunrise was over, I got in the car and drove around the park to reacquaint myself with the area since it’s been several years since I’ve been there.  I stopped and took a few more shots of desert stuff, including one of the Phoenix skyline with the Cardinals stadium in the foreground.  I left the park then, but on the way home I stopped when I saw some beautiful flowers growing wild on the side of the road, and I got a few shots of them that turned out pretty well.

After I got home, I transferred all the photos to my computer to see how I did.  I had set the camera to take pictures in both raw (.NEF) and JPG format, so I had a lot of megabytes to transfer.  In all, I took 130 shots, and after I weeded out the ones that were obviously bad (blurred or dark), I was left with 84 usable shots.  Some are much better than others, of course, but using the interval timer really helped on the sunrise shots.  I got a great progression of shots showing the gradual change in the color of the sky and the movement of the clouds, so I was very pleased with the project.

One of my next big projects will be to start organizing my photo files, as well as archiving some of the old stuff.  My laptop won’t be able to handle my new hobby if I don’t clean off some space.

My next project will be the Glendale Glitter and Glow festival this evening.  I’ve gotten some great tips from members of the Flickr D5000 group, so we’ll see how it goes.