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!

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Chasing the light is not zen-like

I was able to telecommute today, and as I was working from home, I was also keeping an eye on the weather outside my home office window.  From my upstairs room, I could see the sun trying to peek through the dark clouds throughout the day as the wind blew the tree branches back and forth.  At about 4:30 PM, I decided to log off the computer, and I gathered up my camera and tripod and headed toward the west in hopes that there would be a sunset worth capturing.

Today it wasn’t to be.  As I drove west in rush hour traffic, the sun completely disappeared behind the cloud cover, so it was obvious there wasn’t going to be any “glow” in the sunset.  Instead, it began to get dark even quicker, and what little dramatic lighting there had been was just about gone.  I came to a roadblock where Olive Avenue had been closed due to flooding from the past two days’ rain, so I turned around and headed back east.  In the distance I could see the silver dome of the UOP stadium shining against the dark clouds, so I headed in that direction back over to Westgate to see if I could find anything interesting in the area.  As I drove west, I spotted the Zanjero development, and decided there might be just enough light to get a couple of shots. Zanjero is (was) a beautiful development that started construction just as the economy took a dive.  It has never been occupied, but it’s still a beautiful structure, surrounded by dilapidated construction fencing and fields of sagegrass.

I set up the camera on my tripod and took several bracketed series of shots, but I felt rushed the entire time I was there.  I was in such a hurry to catch the light that I overlooked several important things:

  1. I walked away from the car with my camera and tripod, leaving my wallet and keys in my unlocked vehicle sitting on the side of the road.  Granted I wasn’t that far away, but it was far enough that I wasn’t comfortable about it.
  2. I forgot to take my new cable release with me….I left it in my camera bag back in the car.  I was afraid that I would lose the light by the time I walked back to the car to get it, so I just tripped the shutter without it.
  3. I set the camera on aperture-priority, but I didn’t even look at the f-stop that I was using, so the depth of field could have been anything.

I was just in a hurry to get the shots before the light was gone, my car was stolen, or the police arrested me for trespassing on private property.  Overall, it was way more stressful than it should have been, and not at all zen-like.

I was fairly pleased, however, with the shots that I got, considering the light that was available.  Here’s an HDR rendering of one of them that I cropped somewhat:

And here’s one that I took from a little further away:

So, my lesson learned today is that I need to plan my shooting a little better.  Until I’m more proficient with my equipment, I need to plan my shooting sessions a little more in advance, allowing myself plenty of time to set up my equipment so that I can look at the results of each shot.  I need to adjust the settings, and try the shots again and again, so that I can learn how the different settings change the way the image is captured.  I need time to enjoy the experience of taking photos, otherwise this is going to become more of a chore than a pleasure.  Zen is all about being happy and present in the moment.  My goal for tomorrow is to spend at least a couple hours just taking my time and enjoying whatever I shoot.