I’m just about to burst…

I’m so excited about my photography right now that I’m just about to burst!  I know, it’s been 3 weeks since my last post and I’m sure you’re all asking, ‘if he’s so excited, why so long since his last post?”  The answer is simple – I’m having too much fun to make a post!  The problem with that, however, is the backlog of images to share.  I still have two posts worth of images from my trip home last month – stay tuned for them!

We’ll get to current pictures in a minute because there are fun things I want to share.  First, I’m waiting for my new lens, the Generation 2 Tamron 150-600, to arrive.  I’ve been shooting with the first generation 150-600 since it came out almost 3 years ago and have always loved the results.  The new lens has better optics, faster autofocus, and a shorter minimum focusing distance (by almost a foot!).  I found a nice home for my old lens (the new owner has already made some great images, and has nicknamed the lens ‘Godzilla’), so I’m without a super telezoom for the short term.  My withdrawal is almost as bad as when my camera body fried a circuit board last June and I was without my 7D for a time.  I’ll get through it – I promise.  With the raptors returning to the Carson Valley, I’m excited to try out the new lens!

Second, I’m launching my exploration into Shutter Priority (Tv) mode.  For the last couple years, I have shot primarily in Aperture Priority (Av) mode, which controls light using the aperture opening.  Aperture size impacts depth of field, or how much the image is in focus from the foreground to the background (large openings = shallow depth of field, small openings = deeper depth of field).  For wildlife shots, especially birds, I shoot wide open.  Large aperture openings also allow fast shutter speeds, capturing detail and freezing motion.  I don’t worry about the background being in focus because I want to highlight the bird or animal in the image.  For landscapes, I use smaller aperture openings to have more of the scene in focus.  I shoot my landscapes from a tripod, so shutter speed is not really a concern.  I use Manual mode for my landscapes, allowing me to control exposure with either shutter or aperture priority, looking for the best settings for the particular subject and conditions.

What prompted me to explore Tv mode?  Sports photography!  One of my son’s friends has two little boys who play flag football.  I took pictures at a game last Saturday (they won – it was very exciting), and asked a friend/mentor to critique my work.  His comments were very helpful, pushing me to explore the wild world of Shutter Priority.  Here’s a couple pictures from Saturday.

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He had just intercepted a pass and was running into the end zone for a touchdown!

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These little guys take the game seriously – look at the intensity (or maybe fear of getting hit) on their faces!

As you can see, the focus is just a little soft.  I shot these in Av mode, so a shift to Tv mode will give me a faster shutter speed to freeze the action better.  I’m excited to give it a try!

A couple weeks ago, I went to Mormon Station State Park in Genoa to take pictures of Treffen Lake Tahoe, the Porsche Club of America’s cruise around the Lake Tahoe area.  The tour made a lunch stop in Genoa.  Go to my Treffen Lake Tahoe page (https://photorogr.com/treffen-lake-tahoe-2016/) to see my pictures from the day.

My retired guy ATV group made the ride up Mt. Patterson the other day.  Here’s a few images from the trip!

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I took this on the drive up, with my mobile phone. Note the smoke low on the horizon.

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This is the view looking west from the top of Mt. Patterson. It was mid-day when we arrived and I wasn’t happy with the light. I made the image anyway and am pleased with the result.

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The view to the north. Lots of smoke low on the horizon. The signage going up the hill described Mt. Patterson as ‘Mars with vegetation.’ I love the colors in this mountain.

On the way to Mt. Patterson, we passed the turnoff to CA 120, the Sonora Pass Road, and I just had to go back and drive Sonora Pass.  The leaves are starting to turn, and the PHOTORANGER loved the drive.

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The PHOTORANGER at the summit of Sonora Pass.

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Fall colors, on the east side of the Pass.

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Hopefully a sign of a good fall color year.  I found a great book on fall color in the Sierras, with excellent information on where to go.  Fall color exploration, here I come!

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I was amazed at the amount of water still flowing.

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The mountains had a fresh dusting of snow.

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This panorama was stitched from 8 images, then processed using a couple Nik Color Efex Pro filters. Some of my mentors/friends think it’s a little overdone. I like it!

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The scenery was stunning, everywhere I looked.

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I made several images of this mountain. I like this one for the trees in the foreground.

I didn’t forget to make images of the yard.  Here are a few.

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Remember the discussion of Aperture Priority above? This flower was shot with a wide open aperture and close up filters. The foliage in the background becomes a pleasing blur, while preserving the detail in the petals, stamens, and pistils. When I master focus stacking, the petal at the top will also be in focus.

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I finally found a Daisy bloom that hadn’t been molested by the rabbits.

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I love these Roses, but they are proving very challenging for me. I am constantly fighting the monochrome of the petals and work to introduce meaningful shadows to separate the petals. I was drawn to this composition by the dead bloom at the bottom of the image, in contrast with the vibrant blooms above.

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The last image of this post. I took a quick trip into the Pine Nut Mountains, just a couple miles east of our house, one evening last week. The sun was going down and was shining through some clouds. I’ve never made an image like this, so I thought I’d give it a try. I’m not totally happy with the result, so I’ll be working to improve my image capture processes in these lighting conditions.

That’s a lot of fun for me.  I promise that I’ll get the images from my trip done and posted.  They’re worth the wait – I promise.

Thanks for reading my blog.  Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

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Photo Editing Software…and Rocky Mountain National Park!

In previous blogs, I’ve talked about the ways photography has changed due to the transition from film to digital photography.  The basic principles of controlling and recording light have not changed, but editing processes have changed dramatically.  Like many photographers, I work to get the best possible image in camera but further processing on the computer is essential to my success as a photographer.  Thankfully, there are really smart people who have developed great software to make this part of photography easier.  I use Adobe’s Photoshop (PS) CC (Creative Cloud – yes, I pay my access fee every month!) and Camera RAW (ACR) as my primary software.  I also purchased Corel’s Paint Shop Pro X7 when it was cheap (PSP X8 had just come out) and work it every now and then, but PS and ACR remain my go to software.

As those smart guys at Adobe make their products better and easier to use, and I learn how to use the features I have along with the new stuff, I try to produce better images.  Recently, the Adobe CC guys announced a new feature in Lightroom (LR), a sister software to PS.  As background, I prefer PS to LR because I can use layers in PS.  ACR and LR use similar menus and controls for processing, so I’m not missing out on those features.  LR manages files which PS does not do, however, I use Adobe Bridge for my file management.

Back to the cool new tool in LR – Boundary Warp.  If I create a panorama in LR, Boundary Warp allows me to adjust the image without having to crop and lose content.  Regardless of how well I shoot a series of images to merge into a panorama, there is always inconsistency in the edges requiring cropping and/or filling.  Boundary Warp minimizes data loss and is very cool, from my perspective.  I processed several panoramas using both PS and LR to determine if one is preferable to the other, but I’ll let you be the judge in the images below.

Oh yeah, LR now has a High Dynamic Range (HDR) feature in PhotoMerge, but I prefer PhotoMatix Pro for my HDR images.

Today’s images come from the day I spent in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), located in north central Colorado, last month.  I entered RMNP from the east side (US Highway 36 from Estes Park CO).  After a quick stop in the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center for some shopping and a stamp in my national parks passport book, I proceeded into RMNP and that portion of US 34 known as Trail Ridge Road.  Trail Ridge Road is only open in the summer months, as its 12,000 foot (+/-) elevation makes for a very snowy road in the winter months.

I came across a flock of turkeys, but failed to get a decent image of them.  I drove by this beautiful vista.

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I believe the peaks to be (left to right) Mt. Wuh, Stones Peak, and Terra Tomah Mtn, with Tombstone Ridge in the middle ground.  This panorama was created and edited in Lightroom, using the Boundary Warp feature.

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Here’s the same view processed in Photoshop.

The differences in brightness, contrast, and color are my adjustments and experimentation.  I manually cropped the LR version to a standard 5:1 ratio panorama, the same as the PS version.  What’s important to note is that there doesn’t appear to be geometric distortion from the Boundary Warp, however, there is more foreground in the PS version (check the tree line) which indicates a larger availability of data in the LR image.  Based on my totally non-scientific experiment, I opine that the use of PS versus LR for panoramas is a matter of personal preference at the moment.

Back to pictures.

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I believe these peaks to be Mt. Chiquita (l) and Mt. Chapin. This is a panorama merged in PS.

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For comparison, I shot this image using a wide angle lens. For this view, either shooting method works fine.

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This is a panorama of Sundance Mtn. While I was at this location, I visited with a very nice young lady who was shooting with her Canon T2i and a Canon 100-400 zoom lens. We had a nice discussion about lenses and photography.

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One of my favorite shots on the day. This is an HDR. When I shot this, the flowers in the foreground were in deep shadow and HDR allowed me to bring them into the light, so to speak. The wind was blowing at 12,000 feet, as you might imagine, so there is a touch of movement in the flowers. A few minutes later, the clouds moved off but the wind came up. The flowers in the full light images were blurry due to the wind.

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If you’re an Elk in the mountains on a hot summer day, how do you keep cool? They’re on a snow bank enjoying the cool. They were probably 1/2-3/4 mile away.

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And these Elk were using the trees to keep cool, again, 1/2-3/4 mile away.

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I believe these peaks to be (l-r) Stones Peak (the sharp pointed one), Sprague Mtn, Nakai Peak, Mt Julian, and Terra Tomah Mtn. This is a panorama merged in PS.

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I came around a corner with lots of people looking up a hill, watching this Bear. He was a couple hundred feet away and cared less about the crowd at the bottom of the hill. I parked and came back for this shot, the best of what he gave us before disappearing behind the trees.

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When he disappeared, the crowd dissipated. I hung around to see if he would make another appearance, and made a few images of the flowers and landscape.

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Beautiful mountain flowers.

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I made this image with my trusty mobile phone. Every now and then, it makes a nice image. Note the wildlife.

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I believe the center mountain to be Terra Tomah Mtn, with Jackstraw Mtn on the immediate right. This is another panorama merged in LR using Boundary Warp.

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Same view from a PS merge.  I see a subtle difference in the foreground, especially on the right side, but not enough to conclusively say one is better than the other.  Both images are stunning!  oh yeah, the LR image is cropped to 5:1 ratio and the PS is at 3:1.

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I was making a series of images for a panorama when I caught movement out of the bottom corner of my eye. This Marmot, also called a Rock Chuck, was very busy and unfazed by all the people just 30 feet away.

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The rocks were alive with these North American Pika. About the size of a Guinea Pig, these little fuzzballs were busy working on nests for the coming winter.

I have established a page dedicated to Rocky Mountain National Park.  Visit the page to see more images from this part of my trip.

Since I got home, I’ve spent some time in the yard with my flowers, so I’ll close with them.  Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

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One of the Rose blooms in the backyard.

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My favorite Candy Tuft. The sun was going down and lighting up the side of the bloom.