Blue Art Deco on Grand Avenue

Just a short post tonight because I’ve been starting at the computer all day and I’m beat.  Here’s a shot that I took of a really cool house/business (sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference) on Grand Avenue near downtown Phoenix.  A lot of the houses have been turned into galleries, so I’m not really sure if someone was living here or not….but that didn’t stop me from setting up my tripod right outside the front door and getting this shot.  Processing the brackets in Photomatix was a little bit of a challenge because of the movement in the bougainvillea in the foreground, but I think I got most of the ghosting cleaned up.  Just didn’t have the patience to really stress over it tonight.

But I love the colors in this shot, along with the shapes of the door and windows.  I think the Christmas lights along the roofline are a nice touch as well!

Blue Art Deco House

I’m trying to make up my mind about a photoshoot for this weekend…indoors or outdoors? Color or black-and-white? People or places? Early or late? Too many decisions to make, so I think I’ll put my tired brain to bed now.

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Hermano’s Liquor & Market

Continuing my series of images from Grand Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona:

Not all the buildings on Grand Avenue have been turned into galleries or cafes or boutiques.  Some of them have been around for years, and they’re happy just the way they are, thank you very much.  Once such establishment is Hermano’s Liquor & Market.

In the 2005 Phoenix New Times “Best of…” poll, Hermano’s was voted “Best Drive Through Liquor Store If You Lost Big”.  I’ve never been a customer at Hermano’s, but I can imagine the typical clientele that probably frequent this business.  I think they probably come out more at night.

But since it was a beautiful, warm winter day, there was no one parked in front of the store so I got a great set of brackets from across the street, which I processed into this HDR:

Hermano's Liquor & Market
HDR created from three bracketed photos (-2.0/0.0/+2.0) processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Topaz Adjust / DeNoise with Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

On a different note, I *finally* got a wireless remote for my Nikon. I started out with a cable remote which works fine as long as you’re within cable-distance of the camera. But I got tired of getting all tangled up with the cord when trying to get a shot set up on the tripod. The dang thing was not expensive at all and I have no idea why I waited this long to get it. I’m looking forward to using it for this weekend’s planned photoshoot in Tempe.

The Light of the World – Under Construction

Continuing my series of images captured on last week’s photowalk along Grand Avenue in Phoenix AZ:

One of the most talked-about sites along Grand Avenue for the past year has been the construction project at the Light of the World church.   This Christian non-denominational church is building a new sanctuary with a domed roof to accommodate the larger crowds at their services.  The structure is clearly visible from Interstate 10, and people who were unfamiliar with the church were starting to get concerned that someone was building a mosque.  The church members, who are providing the volunteer labor to build the new sanctuary, were concerned about a possible backlash.  They had to erect signs on the side of the building, visible from the freeway, assuring the passers-by that they were, indeed, a Christian organization.  So sad that it has to be that way.

Anyway, when were were on our photowalk, I stopped to take some shots of the exterior of the building.  As I was trying to get a good angle to capture the golden flame scupture on top of the bell tower, we were approached by one of the young construction workers who asked if we would like to take some pictures.  I assumed that he was going to help me get a better angle on the flame, but instead he led us right back into the interior of the construction site.  I was really surprised that we were allowed to go inside, but I didn’t waste any time in shooting a series of bracketed photos from five or six different positions around the inside of the structure.

As I was shooting, I saw several other construction workers talking to Andy, and when I got back around to them I found that, sure enough, we really weren’t supposed to be in there.  I sure hope the young guy didn’t get into any trouble for bringing us in!  They were all very polite and informative, and they invited us to come back when the construction is done to see the results.  And I’m sure we will!

So, sometimes it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time….and here’s what I saw inside the unfinished dome:

Under Construction
Shot with my Nikon D5000, kit lens (18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6), tripod-mounted. HDR processed from three bracketed images in Photomatix, Paintshop Photo Pro X3 and Topaz Adjust/DeNoise. The orange “ghosting” on the stairs would be the project foreman coming down to talk to Andy about how we really shouldn’t be in there.  I decided to leave it in as a reminder!

The Trunk Space

Continuing my series of images taken on Grand Avenue in Phoenix:

Ok, this shot just makes me smile, and sometimes that’s what we all need. We had just started our photowalk on Saturday and were having lunch at Mel’s Diner when we started getting tweets about the horrific shooting that took place in Tucson. Needless to say, I lost my appetite for lunch and left the diner in a pissed-off but sad mood.

My mood improved somewhat when the early news reports that indicated that Congresswoman Gifford had died were proven false, but I was still reeling as we began our stroll down Grand Avenue. So many people killed and wounded–it was heartbreaking. We both kept checking our Blackberries for the latest information.

Gradually the beautiful sunshine, the companionship of a great hubby/photo assistant, and this mural brightened my mood. I’m still sick about what happened in Tucson, but I’m heartened that the events, horrific as they are, have sparked national conversation about civility and finding ways to end violence. We’re a long way from solving our problems, but if we all get together and laugh more often, that might help, don’t you think?

The Trunk Space

The Trunk Space – for more information click here! It’s too weird for me to try and describe!

Graffiti on the Caboose

I had a fantastic time today shooting up and down Grand Avenue between downtown and about Glendale Avenue. I’ve driven along this road many, many times, and it’s without a doubt one of the ugliest stretches of roadway in the Phoenix area. It runs parallel to the railroad, so there’s a lot of industry in the area, along with scrap metal dealers, auto-repair shops, strip clubs, and welding shops. But once you get out of your car and start to walk around, looking at the area with fresh eyes, you find a bounty of great photography subjects. Plus, the closer you get to downtown, the more you find little shops and galleries that have been opened in once-abandoned buildings…quirky for sure, but ripe for the camera.

I came home with so many great shots, that it’s tempting to just sit at the computer and process them all at one time. But I’m going to try to stick to my new resolve to take my time processing my shots, and share them slowly.

So here is my first offering from today’s shoot. I’ve seen this caboose sitting near Grand Avenue for months (years?), but today I finally drove around until I found a way to get to it (off of Camelback Road, if you’re interested.) I was using a new polarizing filter, and unfortunately it had some debris on it that I didn’t notice while shooting, but I still think this came out amazingly well. This is an HDR processed from three bracketed exposures (-2.0/0.0/+2.0) using Photomatix v4, and then post-processed using Topaz Adjust/DeNoise and Paintshop Photo Pro X3. I finally got back into the habit of using my tripod, and it made a big difference on the sharpness of the final product.


And, oh yeah, I’ve got lots more like this!!

Yes, It Snows in Arizona

Last week we had a pretty powerful winter storm come sweeping through Arizona just in time for New Years.  There were even reports of snow here in the Phoenix area, although the weather gurus said that most of it was sleet or tiny hail.  Whatever.  Anyway, about 90 minutes and 4000 feet in altitude away, there was quite a bit of snow in Prescott.  I had to work over the weekend, and didn’t get a chance to go check it out until today.

I finished my “work” work about 2:00PM, and then we figured we still had about three good hours of daylight left so we packed the camera gear and some gloves in the car and headed north.  When we left Phoenix the skies were partly cloudy, but it was obvious that it was becoming more overcast as the day went on.  And sure enough, by the time we reached Prescott about 3:30, the skies were completely cloudy.

That didn’t stop us from trying to get some interesting photos, however.  Our first stop was at the Yavapai County courthouse in downtown Prescott.  We parked the car on the square and then had a great time walking around in the snow with all the other tourists who had probably driven up from the Valley.

I didn’t bother getting the tripod out because there was still a lot of ice in places, and I was doing good to keep myself upright without having my hands full.  I shot everything hand-held, including some bracketed series that I intended to use for HDR’s, relying on Photomatix to line up the shots.  Even though I had the VR turned on, I was shivering enough that it was hard to keep the camera steady, so I really hope Photomatix comes through for me.

We didn’t get home until 8PM, and I have to go back to work tomorrow, so I only processed one shot tonight, just to get a feel for what I got.  I’ll be sharing more shots later this week, including some that we took in the Prescott National Forest that are pretty cool.

Here’s a shot of one of the sculptures on the lawn of the courthouse.  It was tough to get a good exposure reading with the dark bronze sculpture against the white snow and the overcast sky.  I think that’s where HDR really shines.  I took a bracketed series so that I was able to capture the detail of the sculpture in one exposure, but get the detail of the snow in another, and then combine them so that it’s all visible.  Then I couldn’t resist applying a little Topaz treatment to really make the colors pop (it was such a drab day, why not liven things up a little?), and I really liked the results.

Hope you do too! Be sure to view it large!!

Bronze in Snow

Glendale Public Safety Memorial – in HDR

From my postings of the past few days, you might get the idea that downtown Glendale is a hell-hole of urban blight, and nothing could be further from the truth.  It’s actually a quite pleasant, quaint little downtown area with a family-friendly vibe, lots of character, and an abundance of community activities and festivals that draw crowds from all over the Valley.

In the past year, this memorial was erected in downtown near the Civic Center to pay tribute to the firefighters and police officers from Glendale who lost their lives in the line of duty.  It’s a striking sculpture depicting the men and women captured in a flame while performing their duties.  I shot some hand-held brackets to use for HDR processing.  Probably would have been better with a tripod, but here’s what I got.  These were processed using Photomatix v4, Topaz Adjust/DeNoise, and Paintshop Pro X3:

Glendale Public Safety Memorial 001

Glendale Public Safety Memorial 002

Glendale Public Safety Memorial 003

Thanksgiving in the Country

I spent last week at my parents’ house in North Mississippi. They are fortunate enough to live on a beautiful lake called Lake Mohawk, and I was glad to see that there was still a bit of fall color remaining when I arrived there last Monday.

The skies were overcast and rainy for most of my visit, however. I wasn’t able to get out and shoot as much as I had planned (my tripod never got used during my visit), and most of the shots I took outside were at a higher-than-normal ISO setting. But thanks to the Topaz suite of products and Paintshop Pro X3, I was able to restore some of the color to these shots that was lost in the flat light of the overcast daylight.

This first shot was made with my 75-200 zoom lens. There is an abundance of wildlife around the lake, including lots of squirrels who like to hang out at the bird feeders that my dad stocks around the house.  I used Topaz Adjust to sharpen it up and bring out the details of the tree bark and the squirrel’s fur:

I See You Up There

There’s no cable TV where my folks live…instead, everyone has dish antennas.   There are several dishes on the hill behind their house, most of which are the smaller ones, but there’s still this big dinosaur that’s gathering leaves from the surrounding trees. This is an HDR image created from three hand-held bracketed shots using Photomatix v4, Topaz Adjust, and Paintshop Pro X3:

Return to Nature

And finally, here’s a shot of some of the fall color that was still on the trees when I arrived. By the time I left on Saturday, the thunderstorms of the week had pretty much left the trees bare. This shot was processed in Topaz Clean 3, using the “Stylize Details” preset. In Paintshop Pro X3, I used the Curves tool to adjust the exposure, and then I used the Edge enhancement effect to sharpen the edges:

Last of the Fall Color

Bike Night – Developing an Eye for Detail

Here are a few more shots from last Thursday night’s Bike Night at Westgate in Glendale, AZ. Although I enjoy taking those wide-angle shots to get the “big picture”, I’m finding that I enjoy even more getting close to a subject and looking for the little interesting details.

Here are some examples, two in black-and-white and one in color. Be sure to click on them to view large on black..

In this first shot, the detailed etching on the fender and the wheel of this bike caught my eye as I passed by. Yeah, I could have taken a shot of the entire bike, but then I would have had all kind of extemporaneous busyness in the frame that would have distracted from my real subject–the wheel:

Bike Night on Veterans Day 012

I processed this next image in color because I liked the way the red and blue lights reflected off the silver of this hood (fender?) ornament, especially since it was Veterans Day. Had a lot of fun playing with this one in Topaz DeNoise and Adjust.  I did have to crop a little off the top, but it was all empty space anyway:

Bike Night on Veterans Day 013

And finally, another black-and-white image. I was really torn on this one. The bike had blue lights under the gas tank that lit up the motor with an eerie neon glow, and I thought it would be really cool to process in color. However, what really caught my eye was the reflection of nearby bikes that showed up in the rear fender. I didn’t want the blue from the motor to detract from the reflection, so I chose to process this one in monochrome. Just an aesthetic preference on my part, I guess.  I also like the DOF on this one–having the rest of the bike a little blurry helped draw the eye to the reflection:

Bike Night on Veterans Day 014

Once again, all these were shot with a Nikon D5000 with the kit lens (18-55mm, f/3.5-5.6), handheld, ISO around 2000, and in aperture-priority mode with the aperture pretty much wide open.

I have several more shots from Bike Night that I may or may not get around to processing. A week from tonight I’ll be headed “home” to visit my family for Thanksgiving, and of course my camera bag and tripod will be traveling with me. I’ve got a lot to do between now and then–I do have a day job after all–so I’m not sure how much time I’ll get to spend in the digital darkroom.

Of course, if insomnia strikes……

Bike Night Grunge – Single Image HDR

I’m posting early today because I have these shots that I processed late last night that I truly love.

When we were at Bike Night on Thursday, we were surrounded by gorgeous, shiny, powerful machinery with lots of chrome and highly polished surfaces.  And in the middle of all that bling, we found THIS bike.  It looks like it might have been buried in someone’s barn or possibly under a sand dune for years…or maybe it belonged to Mad Max.

Anyway, the grunge bike looked like the perfect candidate for some HDR treatment, but since I was shooting in a low-light situation without a tripod, I was doing good to get a single exposure, much less a bracketed series.

So, I used Topaz software to create an HDR effect.  First I used Topaz DeNoise to clean up the digital noise speckles in the photo.  Then I used Topaz Adjust, playing with the presets and sliders to get just the right amount of detail and color saturation.  Finally, I used the Paintshop Pro X3 Curves tool to tweak the exposure, then the Sharpen tool to define the edges.

Be sure to click on the images to view them large on black…it’s worth the extra click!

Bike Night on Veterans Day 009

Bike Night on Veterans Day 011

Bike Night on Veterans Day 010