Monday Image – Sunset Stroll

I took my big glass, my Nikkor 14-24mm wide angle lens, with my Nikon D700 down to the beach at sunset yesterday. Unfortunately there weren’t enough clouds to provide a lot of drama (darn those clear New Mexico skies! ūüôā ) but I had fun shooting anyway.

We weren’t the only ones on the beach. Caught this shot of a couple taking a stroll with their dog.

ElephantButteSP_20181028_053 tpz

Click on the photo to view larger on my Flickr site.

Processed this one in Paint Shop Pro X9, using the Topaz Adjust plug-in.

Have a great week, everyone!

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Soft Sunset in Biloxi

Sometimes when I’m shooting I’m just playing with exposures and buttons on the camera, trying to learn more about how they work, and at the time I’m not paying any real attention to composition or the scene that I’m capturing.

And sometimes, that just seems to work out fine.

Last month when we were in Biloxi, I took the camera out to the beach at sunset (doesn’t everybody?). I wanted to play around with the ISO settings to see how far I could push them with the 24-85mm f/1.8 Nikkor lens that I bought earlier this year. The sunset wasn’t as colorful as I had hoped it would be, but there were some nice pinks and purples as we slipped into the blue hour.

So, without thinking about it too much, I snapped a picture of a pier and some pilings from the beach. This one was shot at ISO 4000, at about 1/80s at f/7.1. It didn’t look like much when I first saw the raw NEF file, but with a little tweak of the Levels in Paintshop Pro X7 and just a little touch of Topaz De-Noise, I got the shot that I wanted.

It just makes me feel peaceful and content when I look at this. And that’s why I love photography…it’s a tool to provoke emotions and preserve memories.

Soft Sunset in Biloxi
Click on the image above to view large.

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Biloxi Beach at Sunset and the New Workflow

I’m on Day Nine of a ten-day vacation, and it has been relaxing as well as productive. ¬†Hubby and I traveled down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast for a four-day stay at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi. ¬†We’re not big gamblers at all, but we do enjoy the nice facilities that the casino/resorts offer. ¬†We enjoyed some time at the pool, got plenty of reading done, and then spent one day on a side trip to New Orleans by way of scenic highway US 90.

Just before we left on our trip, I made one last-ditch attempt to recover some of my old photo images from a dead Western Digital external hard drive. ¬†I Googled the error message I was getting from the hard drive, and found a forum where someone offered a suggestion to another user with the same problem. ¬†His suggestion was to use “chkdsk /F /R /X H:” where H: is the drive letter. I did just that, and about eight hours later, I was rewarded with 81GB of recovered files which I then copied to my computer hard drive.

While we were relaxing by the pool, I put together a new plan for both backups and archives of my image files. I already have backups running daily on Mozy, and I was doing periodic backups to two external Western Digital hard drives connected to my computer (alternating them), using the WD backup software. But the glaring problem is this–when files are accidentally deleted from your hard drive, they also get deleted from Mozy and the hard drives after 30 days if you don’t catch it before then.

I wanted an archive solution that would allow me to move my old files off my hard drive, leaving less for Mozy and WD to backup each day, but also having my old files accessible if I need them.

So I bought two more 1TB external drives. I also bought 100GB of space on Google Drive for $1.99/month (I already had 25 free). Then I spent this morning cleaning up my pre-2014 files–I deleted JPG’s where I also had raw files, I deleted TIFF files that I had created in Photomatix for HDR’s which had already been converted to JPG, and I deleted photos of random stuff where I testing lenses, etc. Then I copied all this old data, over 18,000 files from 1999-2013, to Google Drive and to both external drives.

One of the external drives has been locked away in the safe in the workshop while the other is here in my office. Once a month I’ll archive new stuff to all three drives, and will check the two physical drives to make sure they’re still sound. In the meantime, my backup system will be taking care of the current stuff that’s still on my hard drive.

After I finished that task, I then set to calibrating my monitor. I purchased a Spyder4 Pro from DataColor after reading numerous online reviews. I found it pretty easy to use, and once the calibration process was complete it presented a screen where you could toggle back and forth between the pre/post calibration settings so you could see the difference in the images on the display. And the difference was amazing! I’m hoping that the images that I have printed now will more closely match what I’m seeing on the display, because in the past I’ve been sorely disappointed in my print results.

Oh, and did I mention that I also downloaded the latest version of Paintshop Pro X7? It’s awesome!

So….

After all that, I finally got around to looking at the photos that I took while we were on the Coast last week. I’m excited to get started processing these shots. Some will be HDR’s and some are single images. I did a lot of experimenting with different settings while I was shooting, as I’m trying to learn to control some of the exposure issues that I’ve had in the past from just relying on the camera automation and dumb luck.

So here’s the first one that I processed today. This is an image from the beach in Biloxi near the Beau Rivage, taken at sunset. You can see the lighthouse in the background. I shot this hand-held at ISO 4000, something I’ve avoided in the past. I used Paintshop Pro X7 to adjust Levels and Curves, Topaz DeNoise to clean it up, and then back to PSP for some sharpening. I really like the way it came out.

BiloxiNOLA_030_20140831_printFullSize

Be sure to click through on the image to view it large on Flickr. Stay tuned for more!

Supermoon 2012

So, who DIDN’T go out last night to shoot the supermoon?

Since we don’t have any really high hills or mountains where I live, I decided to go for some moon-on-water reflection shots. ¬†So I dragged the hubby along and we went to Lake Mohawk where my parents live, to grab not only some shots of the moon rising, but also of the sunset that would¬†precede¬†the big event.

The sky was mostly overcast with high, thin clouds all afternoon, but we decided to try for it anyway in hopes that the clouds would begin to break up in the late afternoon.  I decided to set up on a fishing pier about halfway between the east and west ends of the lake so that I could get water reflections from both the sunset in the west and the moonrise in the east.

We got there about 5:15 I think, which was way too early, so we wound up just hanging out for almost two hours before the sky got interesting, but it was pretty relaxing and gave us a chance to unwind a little bit from the week.  Just before sunset, I called my parents to let them know where we were, and they came down to the pier to join us for the festivities.

The clouds didn’t break up quite as much as I would have liked, and we were probably too close to the tree line to get the best angle on the rising moon. ¬†But still I think I managed to come away with a few images that pleased me.

For the sunset shots, I used the Nikon D700 and shot brackets of five exposures for HDR processing. ¬†I started off with the 14-24 wide angle lens, and finished up with the 28-300 telephoto zoom. ¬†I’ve processed these as HDR’s using Photomatix v4, Paintshop Photo Pro X4, and Topaz DeNoise. ¬†On a side note, since I used both lenses for the same basic shots, I’ve finally figured out that the spots that keep appearing in the photos in the upper left quadrant of the sky must be dust on my sensor. ¬†Ugh. ¬†I used the Object Remove tool in Paintshop Pro to get rid of as many as possible, but I may have to take the camera to have it cleaned.

Sunset Before SuperMoon 01

Sunset Before Supermoon 02

When the moon started rising, I used the zoom to try and get some of the detail.  Later I widened my zoom to capture the reflection of the moon on the water, which to me was a much more interesting composition than just the moon in the sky (which EVERYONE was shooting).  These are all single images processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X4 with Topaz DeNoise:

Supermoon Rising

Supermoon at Lake Mohawk 01

Supermoon at Lake Mohawk 02
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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.

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 Balcony Room

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

As I’ve mentioned before, we elected to stay at the Jerome Grand Hotel on our last trip, for a couple of reasons. ¬†First of all, the hotel is located at the top of the mountain-side town, so it has a great view of the town and the surrounding valley beyond. ¬†But the hotel also has a lot of history and mystique about it, and we love a good story.

From their webpage:

This Spanish Mission style building, constructed in 1926, started out as the United Verde Hospital, opening January, 1927. In 1930, it was written up as the most modern and well equipped hospital in Arizona and possible the Western States. The Hospital was closed in 1950 as the mine operation was being phased out. The building stood unused for the next 44 years until the rehabilitation plans started in 1994.

The building is one of the highest public structures in the Verde Valley, (5240 Ft.). As the last major building constructed in Jerome, the building was not only to boost the pride of the town in its classic design, but was built fire proof and able to withstand the blasts of up to 260,000 pounds of dynamite set off by the mine and sometimes felt as far away as Camp Verde, a distance of 20 miles. How this 30,000 sq. ft., five level building of poured in place, reinforced concrete, was constructed on a 50 degree slope is an engineering marvel even by today’s standards!

Purchased by the Altherr Family in 1994, from the Phelps Dodge Mining Corp, the restoration and rehabilitation was started. Having been closed for 44 years, there had been no changes to the original building except for the enclosure of the roof top deck in 1929, The building has withstood the tests of blasting as well as the tests of time. This has to be one of the best preserved buildings in Arizona and extreme measures have been used to protect the interior and exterior integrity.

Our balcony room was beautifully decorated and very comfortable, with a few quaint touches like the old telephone with no dial (you just pick up the handset and you’re automatically connected to the front desk), the steam radiator, and the transoms over the doors to let the breeze blow through. ¬†The bed was very comfortable, the bathroom facilities were modern and functioned perfectly, and the balcony was a delightful space to sit with a glass of wine and watch the sun go down (while shooting brackets, of course!).

Here’s a view of our guest room. ¬†This is an HDR image from five bracketed photos shot without flash with only the light from the balcony doors. I used Photomatix to merge the images, and then Paintshop Photo Pro X3, with Topaz Adjust/DeNoise for post-processing:

Jerome Grand Hotel Balcony Room

The halls of the hotel are decorated with period antiques that make the Grand Hotel a unique place to visit. Here’s a slideshow of some of the hallway decor, as well as the lobby and gift shop area. All of these images were shot with the 14-24mm wide angle lens, tripod-mounted with no flash. I didn’t do any special processing on any of them, other than straightening some that were a little crooked:

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We truly enjoyed our stay at the Grand Hotel, even though we didn’t get to meet any ghosts while we were there. The staff was friendly, the lodgings were comfortable, and the view was unbeatable.

On my next post, I’ll share some images of the exterior of the hotel…watch out for spiders!

Late Afternoon in Jerome

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

One of the reasons I wanted to stay at the Grand Hotel in Jerome is because they have a few rooms on the third floor with balconies that overlook the Verde Valley that lies between Jerome and Sedona. From our perch high on the mountainside we could watch as the glow from the setting sun ignited the red rocks on the far side of the valley, as the street lights in Jerome came on one by one.

I was hoping for a few more clouds to make the sunset a little more dramatic, but it’s Murphy’s Law….when you want clouds, the weather is absolutely beautiful.

I set up the camera on the tripod with the 14-24 wide-angle lens and my cable release, and as the sun went down we enjoyed a glass of wine and shot several five-bracket series of images.

Here’s my favorite of the evening:

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

I’ve decided to cut back on my posting frequency. Fortunately, I have a day job that finances my photography hobby, but the downside is that I don’t have enough hours in the day to work, shoot, process photos, and do some of the other things I’ve been neglecting lately like housework and exercise. It’s time to get a little more balance back in my life. My intention is to post maybe three times per week, but we’ll see how it goes.

Tomorrow morning I’m attending a workshop in Mesa on how to use flash, but on- and off-camera. On Monday evening, I’m attending another workshop on how to create a low-cost studio set up using everyday materials. I’m hoping these workshops will give me some ideas that I can use to start taking some great shots of Andy’s handmade jewelry and lapidary work.

Have a great weekend everyone! Happy shooting!

End of the Workday

Today’s post is a shot I took at Westgate on Valentine’s Day. ¬†I just imagined that the guy who operated this machine left it parked there at the end of the workday and walked toward the sunset, straight into Gordon Biersch for a beer. ¬†Sounds like a great way to end the workday.

End of the Workday
HDR created from five hand-held bracketed photos processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Topaz Adjust / DeNoise with Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

And since it’s the end of a long workday, that’s the end of my post for today.

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.

Zanjero at Sunset

This evening I made a quick dash over to Westgate to get a little better acquainted with my 50mm prime lens on the D700. My hubby got me this lens for Christmas, but at the time I was still using the D5000, and this lens will not auto-focus on the D5000. Now that I have the D700, it’s a little more enjoyable to shoot in dimmer light without having to manually focus.

I spent about 30 minutes just walking around Westgate as the crowds were coming to the arena for tonight’s hockey game. I took about thirty shots of people and random architectural features, but just wasn’t feeling inspired. About this time the sun was going down and it looked like there might be a cool sunset, so I decided to leave Westgate and get out into the open so I could get a better view of the sky.

As I drove away from Westgate, I decided to swing by Zanjero, an office complex that was completed just as the recession hit about three years ago, so it has never been occupied. It’s a beautiful structure, but it’s surrounded by chain link fence. The driveways are usually blocked off by yellow tape, but tonight I saw that the tape at one driveway had been removed. An open invitation!

I quickly drove into the parking lot and shot a couple of 7-bracket series, hand-held (first brackets I’ve shot with this camera). I processed them in Photomatix, and was immediately impressed by the difference a few extra brackets make. I’d been shooting only three brackets with my D5000 (that’s the limit with that camera). I think I’m going to have some fun with this one!!

Zanjero at Sunset

After tone-mapping in Photomatix, I used PaintShop Photo Pro X3 and Topaz to bring out some of the details, add a little bit of saturation (didn’t need much), and I also cropped a little off the bottom.

Not too bad for a hand-held, 7-bracket HDR!

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.

Happy Halloween – The Spooky Tree

Happy Halloween, everyone! I’m still playing around with Topaz Adjust, and I pulled out this old JPG file from last March. ¬†This picture was taken in Sedona, Arizona, just as the sun was setting behind to trees that were lined up almost perfectly in front of the sunset. ¬†I really liked the silhouette it created against the dusky sky.

I opened this shot in Topaz Adjust and played around with the different presets, just to get an idea of what effects they would have on the image. ¬†When I clicked on the “Dark – Night” preset, I knew I had found my perfect Halloween shot. Now it looks more like moonlight than sunset! ¬†Here’s the Spooky Tree, a la Topaz Adjust–click on the photo to view it large on black (as it should be!):

Be safe everyone, and enjoy this beginning of the fall/winter holiday season!