The PS Challenge is Underway!

My apologies for the long break between posts. I’ve been busy shooting, but I took a little break when my friend and photo buddy, Richard Hawkins, lost his battle with cancer. Many of you are familiar with one of Rich’s best pictures.

Richard and I were out with the wild horses a couple years ago. I had just made a few images and turned around when he grabbed this shot of me. Shooting with him was always fun – he had a great eye for images and helped me look at things a little differently. Rich bought a 1964 Olds 442 just before he received his cancer diagnosis. He dated his wife in a car just like it many years ago. At his first car show, he won the ‘under construction’ category. He also asked me to take his picture in the same pose he was in when he had his original 442. I was very happy to do so. God Bless You, Rich – my cameras and I miss you.

On to the images from this month. I picked up a point and shoot camera, a Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II, to enhance my camera bag. I’m learning the capabilities and limitations of this tiny little camera (it’s only 3.75″ wide, 2.5″ tall, and a narrow 1.25″ thick), but it makes marvelous images. I’m getting very nice landscape images, as you can see, and there’s potential for close up and macro photography, once I learn the camera a lot better. The PS challenge can be either ‘point n shoot’ or PowerShot, depending on my feeling that day.

I made this image just south of Woodfords CA. That’s CA 89 on the left. I made this image with the PowerShot.

I’ve driven by this section of the East Fork of the Carson River several times, and finally stopped to make the image. Great sky and great light!

The beauty of the PowerShot is the ability to stop and jump out for the quick shot. This image was made from the side of CA 89 (the Carson River is just behind and downhill from these trees) in an area where a wildfire burned a couple years ago. The tree on the left was completely burned but the other two were only burned on the bottom half. I hope they survive.

The last PowerShot image for this post – the West Fork of the Carson River in the middle of the Carson Valley. The Town of Genoa is visible at the base of the mountains, and Duane Bliss Peak is reflected in the river.

As much as I love my PowerShot, it will never replace the big camera for many things. The PowerShot will bracket exposures and focal length, but the big camera does it much better.

This is an HDR combined from an exposure bracket of the West Fork of the Carson River, in the mountains. There’s lots of ice in the stream still, as this section of the river gets very little direct sunlight in the winter months.

Another HDR of a usually dry wash feeding the East Fork of the Carson River.

This is the Bower’s Mansion, an historic structure on the west side of Washoe Lake, just south of Reno.

The Eagles are long gone, except for the nesting pairs, and the other Raptors are slowly leaving the area as spring approaches. Smaller birds are returning, so we have subjects to shoot and new challenges in shooting. Small birds are more likely to move as you approach, so a long lens and quick reaction to spotting them is critical.

I found this Western Meadowlark on a fence post in the wildlife viewing area on the south end of Washoe Lake. Chilly morning, so it was trying to fluff up and stay warm.

This Western Meadowlark landed on a branch near me, and posed nicely.

These Black Tail Deer are part of the Town of Genoa herds, although these 4 can be found a couple miles north of town on Foothill Road.

I’m not sure they were more worried about me or something to the right, but they held still long enough for me to make this image.

I had the opportunity to try a new technique I saw in Outdoor Photographer magazine – the wildlife panorama. I usually try to get my wildlife images as close and detailed as possible, but I love the concept of combining wildlife and landscape photography. Watch for more images like this.

I found these 4 another day, but they moved into a grove of trees as I approached. New challenge to get a good shot through the trees. This one moved in and stopped, not exposing more head for me. Changing my position wouldn’t have helped, as other trees blocked the view.

Spring is here – evidenced by the blossoms on some of our fruit trees. These are from the Flowering Plum in the corner of the backyard.

First close up of the year – almost a macro. Each blossom is only 3/4″ in diameter. As more flowers bloom, I’ll shoot more macros. Hopefully, the wet winter will cause the desert to bloom, and not delay too much the mountain meadows blooming.

Welcome Spring and the changes it brings. Thanks for reading this blog!

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

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“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

So, there I was, reading the March/April 2017 issue of Popular Photography magazine (specifically an article by Glen Van Slooten on ‘seeing the trees for the forest’) which included this quote from Henry David Thoreau.  The words resonated deep inside me.  A few days later, I was reading about the cover shot for the March 2017 issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine.  In his own words to describe the picture and his process for making it, the photographer, Robert Glenn Ketchum, said this, “…As you look at this image, I want to call your attention to an “old school” idea about taking pictures: The camera doesn’t matter; it’s what you see that’s important…”  My technically oriented engineer’s brain almost exploded.  I called one of my photo mentors to discuss this interesting concept.  He laughed and said something like, ‘why yes, and that’s the subject of a presentation I’m making next week.’  (Though I didn’t hear it specifically, I’m sure that he covered the telephone and said something like ‘he FINALLY gets it!!’)

As I thought about the quotes and my mentor and his presentation, I realized that I have been subconsciously wrestling with the concept for some time.  When I look at something, what am I actually seeing?  I had always wondered why people making images from the same place and time that I was were making better images.  In many instances, they could see an image that I didn’t.

What does it mean?  Simply, there’s one more item on my list of things to learn about photography.  This one, however, is not a setting on the camera – it’s consciously looking at an item, animal, or scene and visualizing the image it could be, or taking an idea and making it into a reality.  We’ll all see if I can actually do it – the challenge is there.

I had the opportunity to go inside the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City before it re-opened last weekend.  The Museum suffered damage from flooding last January and has been closed for repairs and cleanup.  I’m happy to report that the Museum staff and volunteers did an excellent job and the displays and exhibits are in excellent shape.  Here are some images from my visit.

This is the Glenbrook. I made this image from three exposures processed in Photomatix, a High Dynamic Range (HDR) software, and finished as a monochrome image.  HDR utilizes multiple images made at different exposures to bring out the best highlights and details in the shadows.  (I discuss HDR in more detail in this post, https://photorogr.com/2016/03/29/an-amazing-week-for-me/ – go take a look!)

Same image as above, but rendered in color.

The drive wheels on the Inyo. Note the reflection in the floors – Museum staff thinks the floors look better than ever and I agree!

If you think the names on cars are obtrusive, take a look at this! We can clearly see that the Inyo was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia. This decoration/advertisement is displayed between the drive wheels and can be seen in the previous image.

I’ve got to learn the names of the things that make these beautiful machines run.  This is an HDR image.

The firebox and surrounding area of the Glenbrook, processed as an HDR image.

As you can see, I worked on my HDR skills.  I also tried a new technique that I’ve been exploring – focus stacking.  In focus stacking, images are made at different focal planes and then blended together to achieve deep focus in subjects.  The Museum was probably not the best place to work this technique as many of the subjects have curved surfaces, making focus stacking a challenge.  I did it, however, and learned lots about the technique and its challenges.

One of the drive wheels on an engine. I focused on the face of the bolt (at left center), the washer, the face of the drive shaft, the bolt heads on top of the drive shaft, the wheel spokes, and the machinery behind the wheel. The light was at the top of the drive shaft, so everything below was in shadow. I liked the composition.

Inside the cab of one of the engines, a focus stacked image (8 focal planes).

Same image as above, rendered in monochrome.

I was intrigued by this control lever, and made a focus stack using 8 focal planes along the length of the lever. This wouldn’t be possible in a single image, even at a small aperture maximizing depth of field.

The spherical object on the right presented the greatest focus stack challenge, as the gauges were all on the same focal plane.

This is the entire apparatus, 7 focal planes. I worked the image to bring out the patina of the brass as well as the deep focus.

This is a shot from inside the passenger car. I loved how the old glass caused the somewhat rippled appearance of the Inyo cab, against the straight and in focus wood paneling. This was made from two exposures and focal planes, one for the interior and one for the Inyo.

This is the ceiling of the passenger car. The artwork is amazing and the lamps are just gorgeous. I used 8 focal planes to make the image in focus from the front lamp to the wooden header behind the far lamp. As I refine my focus stacking technique, I will use more focal planes for better quality images.

I love focus stacking, and am happy to add it to my photography toolbox.  Just like everything else in my toolbox, its best use is a work in progress.  I hope you enjoyed my revelation and my trip to the Railroad Museum.  A big thanks to the staff for allowing me to visit.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR