Sour Diesel TrainWreck

When we were at Westgate a couple of weeks ago, I was concentrating more on shooting dials and gauges for the 60 Minute Photo Challenge. But while we were there, I stopped to get a few shots of the band that was playing outdoors in the plaza. The band is called Sour Diesel TrainWreck, and it was the first time I had heard of them. Since then I’ve seen them mentioned on a couple of other local websites. They put on a good show, so if you get a chance to hear them, check ’em out.

Here are a few shots I took while they were playing. It was right about sundown, and I didn’t have my flash with me, or a tripod either for that matter. So I bumped up the ISO on my Nikon D700 and grabbed a few hand-held shots with the 28-300mm zoom. These were processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust.

Sour Diesel TrainWreck 01

Sour Diesel TrainWreck 02

Sour Diesel TrainWreck 03

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Dials & Gauges – 60 Minute Photo Challenge

I enjoyed last week’s 60 Minute Photo Challenge (Shadows and Reflections) so much, I decided to try it again.  If you’re not familiar with the challenge, check out my previous blog post.

The challenge from Mark Wallace for this week was to shoot “Dials and Gauges” — as many as you can shoot in 60 minutes.  The challenge was issued last Friday, but it took me almost a week to find the time to get behind the camera, and to decide where I wanted to go shoot.  I finally remembered that Thursday night is Bike Night as Westgate in Glendale, and there would be plenty of gorgeous motorcycles parked on the street, out on display.  What better way to get some close-up shots of dials and gauges!!

The hubby went with me, so we made it a date night, starting with pizza at Mama Gina’s.  Then we spent the rest of the time just checking out the motorcycles parked around the fountains in front of arena, and getting some nice close-ups of all the dials and gauges on their dashboards (do motorcycles have dashboards??). All the shots were made right around sundown, so I had to open up the lens quite a bit, and bump up the ISO to be able to get these hand-held shots. It actually worked to my advantage because I wanted to get a really shallow depth of field so I could focus on the dials and gauges, and leave the backgrounds nice and blurry.

After getting my shots, we rushed home so I could start processing–that’s always the fun part, seeing what you got.  I did all my processing from the RAW images in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust and DeNoise where needed.  I went with black and white on some of them, and others I left in color, just for some variety.

I’ve uploaded seven shots so far to my Flickr in a new set called Dials & Gauges – 60 Min Photo Challenge.   I may have a few more to add later, but feel free to check out those that I’ve already uploaded.  Here’s a couple for you to sample:

Dials & Gauges 07

Dials & Gauges 04

I’m anxious to see what the next challenge will be. It’s nice to have some “assignments” that help keep me motivated to keep practicing my photography skills.

Hockey Fans in the Desert

We have a hockey team here in the desert….the Phoenix Coyotes.  You may have heard of them.  Until last year, they had to practically give tickets away to get anyone to come to their games.  But last year they made it to the playoffs, and since then they’ve had pretty good attendance at their games.

When I was at Westgate on Valentine’s Day, just wandering around with my Nikon, I came across these two wonderful ladies, both hockey fans, who were trying to take each other’s picture in front of the big inflatable hockey player.  They were using a little disposable point-and-shoot camera.  I volunteered to take a shot of them together, and after I did that, I asked them to pose for me to get a shot with my own camera.  They have such expressive faces, and beautiful smiles.  They happily obliged, and for that I’m grateful.

Hockey Fans

I’m having a great day, photography wise. I picked up my new business cards today, so at least I can quickly hand someone my contact information if I run across someone looking for a cheap photographer. I framed two of my 12×18 prints, and they came out very nicely. And I picked up a load of used studio lighting equipment from a guy who is moving back to Ohio–an Alien Bee 1600w light, a 48″ octobox, 4 small umbrellas, 3 stands, 1 boom, 3 background canvases, 1 stand to hold the canvases, and assorted cables and fittings. I have no idea what to do with this stuff right now, but I’m signed up for a couple of workshops over the next few weeks that should shed some light (ha!) on the subject of studio lighting. I always say, when the Universe offers you a deal, jump on it! Funny how things work out when you’re headed in a direction that is right for you.

I’ll be doing my second complimentary client shoot later this afternoon. This time there’s no dog involved, so maybe it will be easier to keep my subject in focus. Wish me luck!

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.

Heart Inflated

Since Valentine’s Day was on a Monday this year, Andy and I celebrated early by going out to dinner on the Saturday night before that.  So that meant I had time on Valentine’s Day to make a quick dash over to Westgate and snap a few shots of other celebrations of the day.

There were lots of balloons floating around, and I found this one tied to the doorway of a little perfume shop.  From the moment I saw it, I knew it would be color-popped:

Heart Inflated
Shot with my Nikon D700, 50mm lens, F/2.8, 1/1600s, ISO 200. Processed in PaintShop Photo Pro X3.

I love the little 50mm lens and the depth-of-field possibilities it provides.  I just need to practice with it more to be more selective with where I’m focusing.  Fortunately, this one turned out just like I wanted it.

I’m planning a day-long photoshoot for Monday since I have the day off. The hubby and I are planning to ride the light rail from one end to the other, getting off at different stops along the way to shoot some urban scenes and possibly indulge in some midday libations. Should be fun!

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.

Texting on a Stick

I caught this image yesterday when I did a quick photowalk around the Westgate entertainment district.  Somehow, I just don’t believe this was a comfortable seat:


I shot this in monochrome with the D700 and the 50mm prime, and I used one of the effects in PaintShop Photo Pro X3 — Time Machine — to give it a little different look. Not really trying to do anything spectacular here, just experimenting.

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.

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

Bike Night in Color

I processed a few more of the images from Thursday night’s Bike Night photo shoot today, only this time I worked with the raw files and processed them in color.  (My last post showed some of the black-and-white shots SOOC.)

Because I was shooting at such a high ISO and wide open aperture, the raw files had quite a bit of noise, so I used Topaz DeNoise to clean them up a bit.  Then I used Topaz Adjust to sharpen and add contrast, and boost saturation where needed.  I did some final tweaking in Paintshop Pro X3 using Curves and Sharpen.  In some cases, I tried to keep the shot as close to  how we saw it as possible, but on some of these I played with the presets in Topaz Adjust to give them a little spice…almost an HDR effect.

It was definitely trickier working with the color images than the black-and-whites. The plaza where these shots were taken is surrounded by huge jumbotron billboards that are constantly shifting colors and light intensity. Additionally, the walls of the buildings on one side are a pistachio shade of green, which gave everything a greenish cast. Having all these different colors and lights reflecting off all that chrome made for some interesting processing challenges.

Hope you like the results!

Bike Night on Veterans Day 004

Bike Night on Veterans Day 005

Bike Night on Veterans Day 006

Bike Night on Veterans Day 008

Bike Night on Veterans Day 007