An AMAZING Week for Me!

I have had an absolutely amazing week since my last post.  First, I won both categories of the Eagles & Agriculture Photo Contest this year!

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This Eagle eating a rabbit won ‘Best Birding’ photo. I made this image in December, when my lovely bride and I drove up on this scene just a few blocks from our home.

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Last May, I was invited to join other photographers to record this group of cowgirls moving a herd along Genoa Lane.  This image won the ‘Best Agriculture/Wildlife’ category.

I am both honored and humbled to win.  I stopped by the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce offices to see the other images.  Holy Cow!!!  What a great group of submissions this year.

My exploration into long exposures of water expanded a little, with the addition of some new software called Photomatix Pro.  This software uses bracketed exposures to produce High Dynamic Range (HDR) images.  In my last blog, I discussed exposure (controlling the light striking the sensor in the camera body).  ‘Bracketing exposure’ means finding the right exposure for a given image and making additional images of the same scene by overexposing and underexposing.  HDR software then combines the different exposures by selecting the best parts of each to create an exciting photograph.  For example, in a landscape, the underexposed images give the best skies but renders the shadow areas black and without detail.  Conversely, the overexposed images give great detail in the shadows but loses detail in the highlights.  HDR allows the pixelist (see how I got my title in here!!!) to use the best light to make a great image.  Some cameras will make the HDR image for you, or you can combine them using HDR software on the computer.

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Here’s a landscape that I shot a couple years ago near Kernville CA. I used three images at different exposures to make this one. Set exposure to capture the sky and you don’t see the rich color in the rocks. Set exposure for the rocks and you see a bright white sky with no detail in the clouds.

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Another HDR near Kernville. Yes, it was chilly and we got wet a couple times that day!

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A waterfall on the Kern River in HDR.

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This image of the Church at Bodie CA was made from two exposures, merged in Photomatix.  I need to go back to Bodie so I can get  shot that doesn’t cut off the steeple, and to make other images, too.

Learning this new software has been a lot of fun.  As you might imagine, I can get a little crazy in the processing.

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I made this image of a wagon on one of the local ranches in January. I’ve been trying to process the image to fit my vision for a couple months. This is nice, but it doesn’t convey the feeling I wanted to share.

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When I processed the image in Photomatix, I found what I was looking for. One of my photo mentors thinks it’s over done, and I respect that. My lovely bride thinks I should crop it differently. Bottom line – there’s no right or wrong. What’s that old saying? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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Please recall this image from last Fall. I photographed this bird condo in Walker CA.

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I revisited the image to explore the boundaries and capabilities of Photomatix. The result is over done, but kind of fun. Again – the eye of the beholder.

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West Fork of the Carson River in Hope Valley. This HDR image was made from 5 exposures, and is a traditional processing.

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The same HDR image, with a little fun. I went here because I was struggling with ‘ghosting,’ a problem when the images don’t align exactly (like the wind blowing the tree branches). The processing I chose here masks the ghosting a little. It’s a fun interpretation of the scene.

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Simple HDR from 3 exposures. With this image, I was more about the flowing water. I gotta say, however, that I hope there’s still water flowing when the vegetation leafs out to add a little color.

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I processed this image in HDR, then decided to play with monochrome. Absent color from the vegetation, I like the effect.

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The HDR in this image is right on the edge of going too far, but I like it.

And I haven’t been on the edge all week.  We had a nice sunny day, and the birds and bees were visiting the yard.

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This Lesser Goldfinch Hen challenged my very limited identification skills.

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I was in the backyard enjoying the warm when I spied this butterfly on our Flowering Plum tree. I got the camera and made a few shots, but couldn’t help noticing the buzzing sounds…

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…and several of these guys were working their magic. They’re harder to take pictures of than I thought.

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My favorite image from the day. A large aperture opening gave a very shallow depth of field (the flowers in the foreground are blurry as are those in the background). The black and yellow against the vivid pink just hit the spot for me!

Well, that’s it for this week.  As you can see, it really was an amazing week!  Until next time – Enjoy!  PHOTOROGR

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I’m having lots of fun again!!

My apologies for taking so long to post a new blog, but when one is having as much fun as I am, one loses track of time!  I’ve spent a lot of time along the East and West Forks of the Carson River in the last couple weeks, followed by a lot of time on the computer.  The learning curve has been steep, but the results have been extremely rewarding.  I am truly having fun again.  My focus (pun intended) has been to make images of flowing water, specifically tack sharp images with silky smooth water.

For background, let’s talk about exposure for a couple paragraphs.  In The Complete Guide to Nature Photography, Sean Arbabi begins his chapter on exposure this way, “The primary function of a camera is to collect and record light.  Exposure, in photographic terms, is recognized as the total amount of light permitted to enter a camera and received by the image sensor (or film plane) through the course of capturing an image.” Most of us don’t worry about exposure.  Our mobile phones/cameras don’t allow us to control exposure settings, and the ‘Auto’ function in cameras is adequate for most of the pictures we take.  I worry about exposure in every image I make, and much of my journey is learning how to achieve good exposure given the different light situations under which I shoot.

So, how do we control the amount of light permitted to enter a camera?  There are two ways: aperture and shutter speed.  Aperture is the opening created by the lens to allow light into the camera, and the size of the opening is measured in ‘stops’.  A smaller aperture refers to a larger opening – I’m not going to explain why, but there is a real reason out there.  Shutter speed is the time the shutter is open, and is measured in seconds.  When combined with ISO (the sensitivity of a digital sensor or film), aperture and shutter speed determine the exposure.  But enough technical stuff – let’s talk about my time on the Carson River!

The keys to creating beautiful flowing water pictures are: long shutter speeds (to the camera, even 1/6 of a second can be a long time) for the silky water; a stable camera position for sharp images; and good depth of field (how much of the picture is in focus).  I use a sturdy tripod to hold everything in place (handheld just won’t do!) and a remote shutter release to minimize camera shake.  I also use a function called ‘Live View’ which allows me to use the LED screen on the back of the camera to compose the image and check exposure, and also reduces camera shake because the mirror is already up.  Live view is a killer for battery life, so it must be used judiciously!  To control the light entering the camera and maintain flexibility with depth of field, I use Neutral Density (ND) filters.  ND filters are dark, like sunglasses, and are rated by how many stops of light they reduce (like the size of the aperture).  For the following images, I use multiple ND filters totaling 7 stops of light to get the long shutter speeds.

In addition to learning photography, I’m also learning Photoshop software to process the RAW images (see my blog All RAW – All the Time, June 8, 2015), and wanted to explore exposure bracketing (making multiple copies of the same image at different exposures) to try new processes in Photoshop.  To make things easy for all of us, I’ll briefly discuss editing techniques with each picture.  WF = West Fork Carson River; EF = East Fork Carson River.

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EF: when I first looked at this image, I thought it was going to be a great texture and not much else. I may still use it for a texture sometime but, after a little editing, I determined that it’s a pretty good image after all. This doesn’t show the silky smooth water that many of the other images do, but I still like it.

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WF: I stacked three exposures and used layer masks to bring out the detail in the dark foreground while maintaining the nice exposure in the bright background. I love this water.

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WF: also three exposures and layer masks, but this is my first successful use of the Burn tool, which allowed me to darken specific areas of the image.

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WF: more layer masks, three exposures.

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WF: one exposure, standard editing.

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WF: one exposure, standard editing.

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WF: for this image, I used a single exposure to create two images, one color and one black and white. I stacked the two images and used a Gaussian Blur on the color image. Then I used a Blend Mode to combine the two images and used standard editing techniques. It’s still a little dark in a couple places, but I’ll figure that out as I become more proficient in Photoshop.

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WF: this image is a combination of three exposures using the High Dynamic Resolution (HDR) software in Adobe Camera Raw. It’s the same view as the above image, just zoomed in closer in camera. I have a little more work to do, as I have a white spot to deal with (thanks for the critique Katie!).

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WF: this is another single exposure edited as a color image and a black and white image, then layered. This editing process worked a little better here, but I still have some dark spots to correct.

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EF: This is a single exposure with standard editing. I have a little vignetting in the upper right corner, a byproduct of my filter stack.

So, that’s it for this blog.  As you can see, I am enjoying my current effort and am hiving fun.  I need more practice with creating bracketed exposures and much more practice with my editing.  I just finished a book on landscape photography, so I can start my book on HDR.  Who knows?  I may have to get some new software to really get into HDR.  My birthday is coming up – could be a great time for new software!

Thanks for reading my blog.  Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Getting back on the path…

I started this Journey in Creative Photography at the end of the summer in 2014, and built this blog in September.  In the ‘About’ page, I said that I wanted to make better photos and learn new techniques.  I think I held true to that goal for most of my journey, but I had a couple experiences this week that caused me to pause and evaluate my journey and the path I was taking.  There’s no need to get into details about these experiences, because they are in the past.  The resultant evaluation process is what’s important.

As I thought about my photographic journey this week, I realized that, while I was making much better images than at any time in my life, there were times when it wasn’t fun as it used to be.  I found that I was taking pictures for the wrong reasons.  When I bumped into a photographer friend out by the wild horses and he talked about being so busy with his photo business and how he missed just going out and shooting, my thoughts came together and I realized that I wasn’t on the path on which I started.  I am still thinking about the direction I am going and the future of my photography, but I know that I am committed to having fun with photography again.

Consistent with this re-commitment to my original goal, I drove the PHOTORANGER in a different direction (literally) than I’ve gone in a while to look for fresh subjects and found myself on the West Carson River playing with neutral density filters and long exposures, specifically to make images of water flowing smoothly with tack sharp rocks and vegetation.  Many of those shots will never be seen off my computer, but I managed to get one that I will share and, when the weather settles later this week, I will go out and try again.

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This is a fun composition with the ‘driftwood’ in the corner. I will time my next visit for better natural light, and maybe some new snow!

I also ventured out with my new friend, Dwayne Hicks (dwaynesworld.com).  Dwayne has been a landscape photographer for decades, and has tremendous knowledge.  He wants to transition to nature and wildlife photography, so we shared lots of information and had a great time.  At one of our stops, we had the opportunity to make images of kids (baby goats) and a ‘future farmer’ taking care of the herd.

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Kids are very cute and they put on quite a show!

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Yup, that’s a future farmer feeding the herd!

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After feeding the herd, the future farmer and his sidekick took a walk, under the watchful eye of the ranch dog.

With the emphasis on getting back on path, you’ll see fewer images in my blog – only the best of the mix.  And you’ll see different subjects and techniques, too.  Stay tuned!

Enjoy – Roger aka PHOTOROGR

Shifting gears…

Well, Eagles and Agriculture is in the books for another year.  It was another successful event for the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and for me.  I didn’t sell as many pictures as I did last year, but I still count this year as a personal success.  Of course, it’s not really over – I still have to submit pictures for the Eagles & Ag Photo Contest.  The contest gives a cash award for best birding image and best agricultural/wildlife image.  I’m building my submission from images made between March 2015 and February 2016.  I have some good stuff, so I’m hoping to compete well.

There’s only two months until Shooting the West (www.shootingthewest.org).  It’s only a 15 minute presentation, but I have a lot of work to do to get ready (remember my discussion about selecting pictures for editing and printing – this is worse!).  And there’s only two months to go…

The transient Eagles have pretty much left the Carson Valley, so my attention has shifted to the Pine Nut Mountains and our local wild horse bands.  We have four new foals – one colt and three fillies.  They are all growing like weeds and doing well.

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This is Hardy practicing his watchful gaze – a critical skill for a stud. Of course, he doesn’t get too far from Lady, his Mama.

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Hardy struts his stuff well – in horse terms, great conformation!

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This is Skye, the first new horse born in the Pine Nuts this year.

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Sassy Girl – little sister to Skye. Her Mom is Bossy Betty, and she’s a cutie.

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Allow me to introduce Honey, with her Mom, Wilma. Honey is the newest foal, only a few days old.

Like all little ones, these guys need their rest, too.

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Hardy taking a nap…

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…and taking another nap…you should have heard the bellow when he got up and Mom had moved a little distance away.

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I don’t think he’s sleeping, but we can’t tell…

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Sassy had laid down and Honey joined her. Silly girls…

Besides shifting gears from raptors to horses, I’ve decided to slow down my shooting and focus on my editing skills for a little while.  As I mentioned a couple months ago, Santa brought me a membership in an online software tutorial series.  I’ve already improved my editing skills in just a couple months, but it’s amazing how much we find we don’t know, the more we start learning.  For the future – fewer pictures, but better pictures!

I’ll close this post with images of other subjects.

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This Chipmunk crossed a desert road in front of me, and he climbed a tree on the side of the road, allowing me to make this image. Remember that part about better pictures? I used an editing technique called ‘blending mode’ to create what you see. What do you think?

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This Horned Lark sat on a branch for me while I made my images.

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Another Horned Lark. A little better light, and a great pose.

That’s it for this time.  I hope you enjoy the images.  Watch for more fun stuff.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR