Special Moments…

Wildlife photographers live for those special moments when they record something special. Those moments are few and very far between, and must be cherished when they occur.

Today, I had one of those special moments. I was out looking for eagles and not finding any, so I decided to head to the Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park. Many of my friends had been having success there. As I approached the house, I saw an eagle in the tree on the east end of the Park. I parked and quickly grabbed a few shots  – maybe 33 or 34 – of him sitting when he started to flex his wings. Thankfully I had my camera up and shooting when he took off. Even better, he flew straight toward me! When I downloaded the images, I saw he was looking right at me as he took flight.

I’ve probably used all my special moments for the year and should possibly retire from photography, but I won’t. Oh yeah, you can buy one of these prints.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

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Raptor Portraits

A couple months ago, I posted a close crop image of a Raptor on Facebook and got lots of positive feedback. I was motivated to look at my image library in search of other Raptor shots that could be close cropped, and I found quite a few. A new journey began!

Here’s the first batch I want to share. Some are old and some are new. I hope you like them.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

How I spent my summer vacation! Volume 2…

In my last post, I asked for discussion about the concept of vacations for people who are retired. One of my friends (thanks Tom!) suggested that for retirees, every day is Saturday and it’s not a vacation – it’s a lifestyle. Of course, my good friend has always been a profound individual. I like this idea very much and embrace it, but I’m not gonna change the title of this series. Sorry, my friend.

Volume 2 is sub-titled ‘the Mt. Rainier drive by.’ My lovely bride and I attended a very important birthday party that morning and didn’t get to Mt. Rainier National Park until very late in the afternoon. We didn’t stay very long, but will make more time on a future trip. We approached the Park from Yakima WA and saw some beautiful views.

Taken from a view point on WA 12.

This was a popular spot. We took some pictures for a family in a big RV and they reciprocated. Thanks for not cutting our feet off!

Our objective was the Ohanapecosh Visitor’s Center at the Stevens Canyon Entrance (on WA 123, the southeast corner of Mt. Rainier National Park). We arrived just before closing and got the stamp in our U.S. Parks Passport. The views on the road were beautiful.

We knew we had found the right place!

I couldn’t pass up a sunburst shot through the trees! I’m just happy it came out as I envisioned it.

We continued to our stop for the night. The next morning we loaded up and got onto U.S. 101 on the east side of the Olympic Peninsula. This section of Highway 101 parallels a portion of the Hood Canal and Dabob Bay. Again, stunning views and a bonus for us!

Low tide in the Canal made for lots of beach, but the flowers along the Highway were beautiful!

Bonus! Whose heart doesn’t race when they encounter a Bald Eagle in the wild? This one was a little far off, but I tried for the shot anyway.

The engineer in me made me stop and make an image of this bridge. We had passed several of these and I decided to stop for this one. I love the textures from the moss or mold on the concrete.

Always remember: The best scenic turnouts are clearly designated by highway signs reading NO STOPPING ANYTIME.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Breaking in a new kind of whet stone…

I can hardly believe that it’s already the first day in February!  Tomorrow, the Groundhog comes out and we’ll see just how much longer we’re going to have winter – at least according to folklore.  I’m betting we’re going to have more winter, partially because a big storm is coming into the Carson Valley tonight!  Speaking of folklore, many of you have spent the last month trying to sustain the new year’s resolutions you made.  I didn’t make any, nor did I set any specific goals for my photography.  As I’ve continued my photographic journey, I’ve found that my best goal is to look for and be ready to pursue knowledge as I find new things.

In my last post, I announced that I was taking a winter photography course.  The snow was deep and our outdoor shooting time was shorter than expected.  The instructor was excellent – we shifted the program indoors to study light and shadow and photo processing techniques, which brings me to the ‘new kind of whet stone.’  Us old Boy Scouts remember that a whet stone is used to sharpen knives and axes.  In the digital photography world, we use software as a ‘whet stone’ to sharpen our images.  During the workshop, we spent quite a bit of time on sharpening.  The most important thing I learned was that I’ve been doing it all wrong, and badly to boot.  I now have a specific goal – become proficient in using software to sharpen my images!

In the book Real World Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop, Camera Raw, and Lightroom, authors Bruce Fraser and Jeff Schewe begin the discussion on sharpening with, “…one of the ways our brains try to make sense of the world as seen through our eyes is by breaking down the scene into edges (objects) and non-edges (surfaces). If the edges in an image appear too sharp or not sharp enough, our brains tell us that there’s something wrong, and in the case of a photograph, the image appears unconvincing.”  Bruce and Jeff tell us that, “Sharpening works by increasing the contrast around edges.”  (Contrast is the difference between light and dark tonal values.)  And so begins my journey into the wide world of sharpening!  Since I’m just beginning my venture into sharpening, I don’t have anything to show you.  I will soon – I promise.

What have I been doing besides reading about sharpening?  Let’s look at some pictures!

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From the winter photography workshop – this is the view across the road from Sorensen’s Resort in Hope Valley CA. As I said, the snow was deep. Sorensen’s got a foot of new snow the night before the workshop and several inches while we were there. They were expecting another three feet that night!

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Same picture, just a little bit different editing technique. Could be a nice Christmas card!

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I ventured into Diamond Valley looking for Eagles and found this tree covered in Pogonip (heavy frost). I made this image before the frost melted away.

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A recent storm dropped several inches of snow at my house. This is a Spruce tree in my backyard…

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…one of the Austrian Pines…

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…and one of the clumped Crab Apple trees in my backyard. The apples help feed the little birds all winter long.

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I found this Rough Legged Hawk near Genoa last week. As I was shooting, the Magpie flew into the shot.  How lucky for me!

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A couple days later, I found the Rough Legged Hawk again – this time on a fence post. He launched…

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…soared gracefully, close to the snow-covered ground…

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…and pounced on his noon meal!

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The Kestrels have been out in force. I came on this little fella’ just south of David Walley’s Hot Springs on Foothill Road…

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…and his friend north of Genoa. They always give me a good look before they take off!

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This Cooper’s Hawk was sitting on the snow pile when I first saw him. He launched as I was taking pictures.

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I added a new tool to my toolbox – a 2X teleconverter! My big lens now has a maximum focal length of 1200 mm! While this is wonderful, the longer focal length comes with a new set of challenges. Using a tripod is a must. Autofocus only works in Live View (not a bad thing on tripod anyway). The longer focal length exacerbates any movement or imperfections in focusing, and depth of field is very shallow at any aperture setting. It’s a tool, however, and only a matter of learning how to use it! This is the first image at 1200 mm. Not bad!

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This is my second attempt with the teleconverter. This Eagle was 173 yards away (I bought a rangefinder) and the background looks like heat waves, although it was near freezing when I made the image. A little soft, but he looks good nonetheless.

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The Eagles have been in town. I seemed to find this one hanging out at the Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park rather frequently.

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I think he’s in his final year of being a juvenile, based on the coloring in his head feathers.

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His ‘pensive’ pose…

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This is a different Bald Eagle (note the lack of dark feathers in his head), using his ‘regal’ pose!

One of the fun things for me was having one subject in the same spot on different days and different lighting conditions, then playing with the processing for a different interpretation of each image.  I hope you’ve enjoyed my images, and I promise to be sharper in the future!

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Night Skies – Before and After…

In my last post, I shared pictures from my recent trip to Sedona, Arizona, for a Night Skies Photography Workshop.  When one drives over 700 miles (one way) for something like this, one often plans little side trips to make the trip more worthwhile.  This post is about the drive down and back.  I hope you enjoy my trip as much as I did!

I left home on a nice Sunday morning and drove to Boulder City, Nevada.  My goal was to get past Las Vegas and avoid the traffic on Monday morning.  I got up early on Monday and drove south on US 95 to an ‘oasis in the desert’ named Nelson, Nevada.  Situated about 21 miles from Boulder City (10 miles on US 95 and another 11 miles on SR 165) in the Eldorado Canyon, Nelson (http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/nv/nelson.html) is the home of the notorious Techatticup Mine, where millions of dollars in gold, silver, copper and lead were mined from about 1858 until 1945.  The town is now host to cactus, snakes, tourists, and photographers wanting to see life in those times.

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A couple of the buildings and vehicles.

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The water tower…not sure if it’s still functional.

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This water truck under the water tower is definitely not functional, but the controlled decay makes for a fun picture.

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Another of the wonderful photographic subjects around the town.

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Colors and textures abound…with some very fun antiques.

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This is not a very impressive subject – I would never try to sell this image. The process for making the image is worth discussing, however. Getting a single exposure that shows the shaded subjects inside the structure while viewing the sunlit mountains through the window is impossible. This image becomes possible by using a tripod to hold the camera in position and then making multiple images at different exposures, then combining the images in a high dynamic range (HDR) software. I recently saw a new technique that does not require HDR software. Using the underexposed image (for the mountains in the window), I made a copy of the mountains in the window and overlaid it onto the normal exposed image (covering the overexposed mountains) to create this image. Well, I did a little creative editing after the merge.  A fun technique and worth the time to explore!

After spending some time taking pictures in Nelson, I continued south on US 95 to Laughlin, Nevada, where I made a quick stop at the Big Bend of the Colorado River State Park and stamped my Nevada State Parks Passport.  Big Bend is at the southern tip of Nevada and I don’t expect to get back there anytime soon.  From there, I headed for Grand Canyon National Park.  I drove on I-40 to Williams, Arizona, and headed north on AZ Highway 64 to Mather Point on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

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A Grand Canyon panorama…

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Another Grand Canyon panorama…note the tourists on the lookout on the left…

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This is not a panorama, it is a single image cropped to near panorama proportions. I’ve talked about the ongoing ‘to pano or not to pano’ question before. Still a pretty shot!

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I couldn’t resist including my ‘selfie’ from the Grand Canyon. It’s my new profile picture on Facebook, so many of you have seen it before. One of my friends told me it’s not a real selfie, but I disagree.

As I headed south from the Grand Canyon, I saw a band of Pronghorn Antelope hanging out by the side of the road.  I pulled over and snapped a few pictures.

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I processed this image in warm tones just for fun!

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I’m very familiar with Pronghorn, as they are very prolific in my home state of Wyoming. I was excited that these animals were so unconcerned about my presence. The Pronghorn back home don’t tolerate people and most of my images from home are Pronghorn butt as they run away.

I arrived in Sedona in the dark of late evening, so I didn’t see the landscape until the next morning.

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I grabbed this picture with my cell phone on my way to breakfast. As you saw in my last blog, this doesn’t do Sedona justice in any way!

Since the Night Skies Workshop didn’t start until Tuesday afternoon, I made a quick trip to Clarkdale, Arizona, to visit the Tuzigoot National Monument.  Tuzigoot is an Anasazi ruin, and was definitely worth the trip.

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From the ruins near the top, I made this panorama. I wish I had increased the height of the tripod to minimize the wall in the foreground.

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I liked how the ruins in the foreground followed the lines of the mountains in the background. This image was taken in the morning with the wall in shadow. I might have had better light in the afternoon, but then I would have lost the helpful impact from the shadows.

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This is the Visitor’s Center. It’s a beautiful structure and fits the environment well.

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This is the view from the very top of the ruins, looking to the southeast and down the mountain. Can you imagine living in this community, climbing ladders to reach your living space?

When the workshop was over mid-morning on Wednesday, I began my trip home.  I had been fighting a cold or some type of crud from the time I left home, so my goal of getting to Las Vegas was fairly modest – only 250 miles or so.  When I crossed the Tillman-O’Callahan Bridge into Nevada, I was feeling a little better and decided to drive up the west side of Lake Mead.  I stopped in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area Visitor Center, stamped my National Parks Passport, and headed north towards Overton, Nevada.  I made a couple stops on the way to take some pictures, but the water level in Lake Mead is so low that I didn’t get near the water.

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You can see the ‘bathtub ring’ in this panorama of Lake Mead. I saw a few wild horses in the desert, but did not see any Desert Bighorns (darn it all).

When I exited Lake Mead’s north entrance, I came on the Valley of Fire State Park East Entrance.  The sun was going down, but I paid my entry fee, stamped my State Parks Passport, and ventured into the Park.  The light was fading and my sinuses were regretting my decision to make this side trip, but I found some pretty rocks and stopped for a couple sets of pictures.

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The setting sun was behind me as I shot this panorama. I love the sky behind these rocks.

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I cranked the tripod head 180 degrees and shot into the sunset. Yes, it’s a very over-processed image, and I won’t get into the details of what I did. Pretty sunset, and not a bad foreground.

I got a good night’s rest that night, and made it home safe and sound.  The trip was fast (5 days) and I put about 1,800 miles on my Expedition.  I picked up 3 stamps in my National Parks Passport, 2 stamps in my State Parks Passport and, of course, lots of images of Nevada and Arizona.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve been in the field a couple times checking out the local Raptor scene.  The Bald Eagles are starting to return to the area.  I leave you with this image from Diamond Valley, south of the Carson Valley just over the California line, from a couple days ago.  Thanks for reading my blog.  Merry Christmas!

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

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…I’m at a creative crossroads…

When people embark on a journey, they plan their itinerary in great detail.  Hotels, fuel stops, meals, sightseeing and other tourist stops are set with a timetable and destination in  mind.  If one is on a journey of discovery, however, there is minimal planning – because it’s all about the journey.  A couple years (and lots of posts, don’t forget!!) ago, I started a journey in creative photography.  My only plan was to learn how to make better images.  This blog has been my vehicle to document and share my journey.

In the last few weeks, I realized that I was approaching a creative crossroads.  There are two roads for me; the first continues on the path to making purely photographic images, while the other heads toward more artistic images.  I never thought about the differences until I visited one of my photo mentors to learn about his workflow to process landscape images.  He opened my eyes to editing techniques that I never imagined, so I’ve been experimenting with new and old images.  When an artist takes a new direction or pushes the creative envelope, there is always a period when the work may be considered ‘overdone’ as the artist tries to find a balance – it’s just part of the journey.

I won’t get into detail about the editing for the following images.  I think I’ll let them speak for themselves.  Let’s start with a few landscapes.

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I made this image at the Eden Vale Inn near Placerville CA (a wonderful ‘b n b’ – we highly recommend it!).  I’m not satisfied with the sky, but I love the rest of the image.

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These fall colors can be found along SR 207, Kingsbury Grade, between the Carson Valley and the Lake Tahoe Basin.

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After I made the above image, I turned and saw this view into the Carson Valley. It was a beautiful stormy day, as you can see.

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I made this image yesterday morning. The Carson River as it approaches SR 88, just south of Minden. The sun was just coming up behind the clouds.

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This is the south shore of Lake Tahoe. I visited the lake last week, on a stormy day. I’ve never seen the weather cover the mountains so completely. I stitched together 10 images to make this panorama.

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The recent storms gave us wonderful skies and light. This a Jobs Peak (the snow covered peak partially hidden by clouds on the left) on a wonderfully stormy day!

Here’s some new Raptor images.

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I just love this Great Horned Owl!

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I used the same filter on this Hawk image.

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It was raining when I made this image. This Hawk was focused on a potential meal.  This image was selected as the ‘image of the week’ by one of the photography froups on Facebook.

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I got a little aggressive with this image. The dark streak in the background is actually a branch.

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Same picture, but with an added twist in editing. A little more detail in the chest feathers.  I love this, but it doesn’t look like a photograph to me.

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This Hawk was hunting along an irrigation ditch.

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A little extra during processing, and the image has a completely different feel.

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I made this image last February. I struggled with the background.

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New editing knowledge – new look for the image.

I hope you understand better my dilemma at the creative crossroads.  I think my best direction is to assess each image independently and make the edits that bring out the best in every one.  The journey continues – as does the fun for me!  Using the digital medium, sometimes I will be a photographer and sometimes I will be a ‘cutting edge’ artist.

There’s much more on the way for this exploration.  Enjoy – PHOTOROGR