Just don’t forget the basics…

In the last several blogs, I’ve talked about new shooting and editing techniques and all the fun I’ve been having.  These past few weeks have been truly amazing for me, up until a couple nights ago.  I was reading one of my books on High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography – the chapter on tripods – and a I came on a little ‘Tip’ sidebar that said, “Rather counterintuitively, using a tripod in conjunction with image stabilization can result in unsharp images, so it is advisable to turn stabilization off whenever your camera is tripod-mounted.”

For a little quick background, many lens manufacturers build their lenses to correct for small movements and shakes, resulting in sharper pictures.  Each manufacturer calls it something different (Canon says image stabilization and Tamron uses vibration control, for example), but they all accomplish the same thing.  The problem is that when a camera is mounted on a tripod (versus handheld), these small movements and shakes don’t occur, so the lens panics (figuratively, not literally) and introduces some shake so the image stabilization system has something to do.  It’s kind of like those overprotective parents in movies and TV shows that obsess over their children’s first date or outing with friends – inventing problems that aren’t occurring.  It makes for a humorous story line, but it doesn’t make good pictures.  The lesson: turn off the image stabilization (if the lens has it) when using a tripod!

Is this new information to me?  No!  It’s a basic action in photography, the same as turning on the charging the battery, turning on the camera, taking the lens cap off, or putting a memory card in the camera.  Have I been doing it?  Well, no.  I have been concentrating so hard on the neutral density filters and camera settings, getting a good composition, and remembering the cable release to reduce camera shake on the tripod.  I haven’t been turning off the image stabilization on my lenses! Silly me!  The biggest problem has been blending the different exposures in HDR software, where I was seeing lots of ‘ghosting’ or blurred portions in the final image.  I attributed it to wind blowing the tree branches or the differences in water flow, never thinking about that dadburned image stabilization.  So, lesson learned and reminder to take care of the basics!  Will I forget again?  Yes!  After all, I’m still learning.

For this week’s images, I’ll start with my recent trip to Glen Alpine Falls, on Taylor Creek upstream from Fallen Leaf Lake which feeds into Lake Tahoe.  With all the snow the Sierras received this year, the Falls are running strong and are very beautiful.  If you want to go see them, take CA 89 along the west shore of Lake Tahoe, a few miles south of Emerald Bay, and turn west on the road to Fallen Leaf Lake.  The Falls are on the far west end of the Lake.  I had to park at the fire station and hike about a quarter mile up a hill – an easy hike and well worth it!  I had rented a Canon 10-22 Wide Angle Lens from Gordon’s Photo Service (gordonsphotoservice.com), to try something different from my lenses.  It was fun to use that lens – with the short focal length and the natural distortion on the edges of the images, I had to adjust my shooting style – especially to create the panoramas.

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Glen Alpine Falls – 5 exposures, HDR processed in Photomatix and Photoshop.

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For this image of the Falls, I stitched together 4 images to create a panorama. I used the wide angle lens turned 90 degrees (long axis vertical), with a 4 stop neutral density filter to slow the water for the picture, merging in Photoshop.

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This is Taylor Creek, downstream of the Falls. I made 5 exposures and blended them in Photomatix to bring out the beautiful colors in the rocks.

With Spring, our trees are flowering!

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A macro of the flowers on a Perfect Purple tree in our backyard!

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These flowers are on our Pear tree – hopefully, the bees will come and we will have Pears this year!

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With all the moisture we’ve had this Winter, the desert is full of color. I’ve never noticed these desert plants before, but they are blooming all over the Carson Valley! This one is just up the road from our house!

I haven’t forgotten the wildlife in our area, although the Raptors are mostly gone.  Here’s a few:

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My education in bird identification continues. I was very excited to see this, thinking I had something exotic like a female Canvasback Duck. Turns out, it’s just a Mutt Duck. Apparently, Mallards aren’t very selective when they mate, giving us birds like this. It is, however, very pretty – for a Mutt!

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I drove past a Western Meadowlark a couple months ago, so when I saw this one I was determined to get the picture. I posted this to the ‘Yep I’m from Wyoming’ page on Facebook and, at last count, I was well over 130 likes! For those of you unfamiliar with my home state – the Western Meadowlark is the Wyoming State Bird!

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These Owlets live in the Carson Valley, and share the nest with Mom, Dad, and two siblings.

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This Great Horned Owl was on a branch over the nest, with 2-3 Owlets in the nest. Not sure if it was just the wind, or if the kids were acting up that day, but I love the look on its face.

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This Quail was running around my backyard, but stopped long enough for me to get this picture!

I’ll close with a few scenery shots.

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This is an abandoned ranch house in Hope Valley, just across the border in California.

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This waterfall is on CA 89, on the west end of Emerald Bay.

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The Carson Valley is one of the ‘go to’ places for soaring. These two gliders were in the sky over my house. They weren’t as close as it appears in this image.

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My lovely bride asked for a short drive last Sunday, and we happened on this scene along Waterloo Lane in the Carson Valley.

Shooting the West (shootingthewest.org) is only a couple weeks away!  I’m putting the finishing touches on my presentation and am very excited to be a part of this great event this year.  If you’re near Winnemucca in a couple weeks – stop by the Convention Center and see the pictures!  This Sunday is April 17, the day the Ford Mustang was introduced at the New York World’s Fair in 1964.  It’s National Mustang Day, so I’ll be driving the Bullitt to celebrate.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

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My ‘Creative Spirit’ is alive and well!

As promised, I’ve been trying new techniques and subjects this week, and I’ve been having a blast.  I haven’t forgotten my familiar subjects, however, and you’ll still see plenty of them.  Before we get to this week’s highlights, I’m very excited to announce that I am offering for sale 4.25″ x 5.5″ glossy note cards.  I printed a set of prototype cards and sold out immediately.  Take a look at the ‘Buy My Images’ page for prices.

Let’s start with my image for last week’s photo challenge – Shutter Zoom.  This technique uses a long shutter speed combined with changing the focal length (or zooming) the lens to create an interesting image.

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This is one of our apple trees. They are leafing early this year and provided a wonderful subject. The only editing I did was a little cropping and ‘vignetting’ (the light color in the colors).

The challenge for this week is a ‘re-do,’ to make another try at a previous challenge.  I didn’t have a plan for this challenge, waiting for the creative spirit to strike.  While shooting at Glen Alpine Falls yesterday (more on that later), I made an image that begged to be black and white.  Here’s my submission for this week’s challenge, a re-do of the black and white challenge.

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Glen Alpine Falls in black and white.

Since I already introduced yesterday’s shoot, here are additional images from Glen Alpine Falls.  The falls are usually much more dramatic this time of year, but the drought and resultant lack of snow pack have really impacted the falls.  They are still beautiful, but this is more typical of water flows in late summer or fall.  I worked on shooting in manual mode, selecting aperture, ISO, and shutter speed, and exploring how changing one impacts the other two.  I normally shoot in aperture priority, as depth of field is my primary concern for birds of prey.  My next go round with landscapes will include different filters.  So much fun to be had!

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Glen Alpine Falls.

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Glen Alpine Falls.

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These rocks are not part of the falls – they are downstream. They have their own water source and create a different kind of waterfall. I noticed the intricate shadows caused by the rock surface, which created a very pleasing pattern. The old and large tree on the left enhances the composition.

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Speaking of great trees growing in an unusual environment, on my way to Glen Alpine Falls I saw this tree growing at the top of a rock cut. The road was built about 60 years ago, and the solid rock slope has eroded away during that time. I am amazed that this tree is growing considering the lack of soil and water supply, and exposed root system. It grows, though, and has for years. Nature is truly wonderful!

The wild horse bands have been great this week, too.  Blue now has three babies, and Blondie has one.  Here are the little ones.

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This is the newest little one – Sydney – one of Blue’s babies.

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My special buddy, Little Jo. She put on quite a show for me the other day.

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And Little Jonah, Blondie’s daughter. She was feeling quiet when I saw her the other day.

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I found Hope having quite a fun time. She was bucking and jumping and roiling in this dirt patch. I kept thinking she found an anthill, but she kept going back and eventually lost interest.

And I found some owls.

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I’ve been trying to make a good image of these two for several months. I finally figured out the right combination of aperture, shutter, ISO, and shooting technique to get an image that I could edit. The light was not nearly this good when I made the image. And the bird on the right took off right after I made this image.

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I found this Horned Owl by accident. She had her head up at the right time. I’ve been back a couple more times, but she keeps her head down more often than not. There will be more of this one in the future.

 

I will close with a couple fun images.  The Manzanita is blooming in the Sierras, so I took this picture.  By chance this morning.  I saw this balloon in the sky over Gardnerville and pulled over in time to catch him descending and landing.  And so, my Creative Spirit is truly alive and well.  New subjects, a number of new shooting techniques, and an eye looking for different opportunities – expect lots of fun in the coming weeks!  Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

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Manzanita is beautiful year round, but these pink flowers make it more so.

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Gotta love a hot air balloon in the sky, with the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the background.