PS Challenge – June 15, 2017

Today’s PS Challenge comes from Lake Tahoe. My lovely bride and I took a drive to the Lake yesterday and hiked around the Taylor Creek Visitor’s Center. We didn’t do the Rainbow Trail – we took the Lake of the Sky Trail to the Kiva Beach area.

For those of you who don’t recognize her, this is my lovely bride. She looks very relaxed since she retired and is sporting a new hairdo!

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Behind the Scenes look at ‘A View From the Office’…

I don’t know when I started the ‘view from the office’ series on Facebook, but I do remember why!  I was trying to poke a little fun at my many friends who are still working, sitting at a desk or on a job site or somewhere every day.  More bluntly, I was rubbing their noses in it!!  I hope no one takes offense at this revelation – it’s all in good-natured fun and I love sharing my passion for photography with you.

One of my rules for the ‘view’ is that all the pictures and videos are taken with my mobile phone camera.  They are frequently taken from the same vantage point as pictures with my DSLR cameras, but not always.  I post them on Facebook at the earliest opportunity, since I am often in places with limited or no signal.

I must confess that I took a long time before embracing the multi-media device we all carry to do anything but transmit and receive voice communication.  I thought a mobile phone was for making phone calls and nothing else.  I started looking at mobile phones differently when I carried a PDA (don’t ask me what it stands for, something like personal assistant) in one of my last professional positions many, many years ago.  When I finally bought a smart phone and I worked my way through apps and having my email at my fingertips, I still resisted using the camera.  Then I began using the camera, but I avoided video.  Last February, I finally touched the little movie icon on the camera screen and recorded the snow falling in my back yard through my breakfast nook window.  Since then, I’ve been making lots of short videos with my mobile phone.  The next step is to engage the video function on my ‘big boy’ camera, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s get back to mobile phones.

The December 2016 issue of Shutterbug magazine has several articles on photokina 2016, the biannual event showcasing the future of imaging technology.  The future is apparently perplexing -Editor Dan Havlik says as much in the issue’s Editor’s Notes.  In addition to interesting developments by major photo equipment companies, Havlik laments that there were “…tons of – too many, actually – new Virtual Reality (VR) products at photokina…”  A friend of mine received a VR device for his birthday recently, and he tells me his mobile phone provides the operating system to bring the VR media to the device.  That’s a long way from making phone calls.

An article by Seth Shostak tells us what a camera of the future might look like, and how we might use and view the images it will make.

Joe Farace writes articles for Shutterbug’s ‘Geared Up’ column, which provides a discussion of new photo equipment.  In an article titled ‘9 Trends That Will Change Photography Next Year,’ Joe gives his take on photokina and the future.  Joe writes that cellphone photography is adversely impacting the point-and-shoot camera market, and that “…thanks to the smartphone boom the worldwide population of photographers has grown by a factor of eight over the past 10 years.”  He continues, “…while smartphones represent the primary camera for a growing number of people…the opportunity for users to step up to a digital camera grows with every new photographer this trend produces.”

I hope I haven’t lost any of you by now – I have a point – really!  I began taking pictures as a boy using the point-and-shoot technology of the time, my trusty Kodak 110 camera.  I graduated up to a single lens reflex (SLR) camera just before our first son was born and carried that camera for decades.  Almost 8 years ago, I bought an entry level digital SLR (DSLR) and have upgraded twice.  The mobile phone is a much more advanced version of the point-and-shoot film cameras that my generation grew up with (it makes phone calls and connects to the internet, too).

For now, we have to be content with the tools we have and put them to their best use.  For me, my mobile phone allows me to have the advantages of point-and-shoot technology.  Further, it allows me to quickly and easily share with my friends and rub my retirement fun in their noses!  Mostly, it allows me to quickly and easily share – that’s my story!  Whatever your equipment or skill set, I encourage you to take pictures and share them, but mostly have fun.

Here’s a few examples of a view from the office compared with the image from the big camera.

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I posted this image from Mormon Station State Park on November 29, 2016. I put my mobile phone on top of my DSLR camera for this picture.

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This is the same shot from the DSLR and enhanced on the computer.

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The Carson River on November 1, 2016.

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From the big camera – love the sky much better!

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Remember this image from October 27, 2016. The south shore of Lake Tahoe on a stormy day.

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From the big boy camera and enhanced on the computer. Much better composition and drama.

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There are some images that are fun to make, but are not deserving of getting out the big camera. This is the Welcome sign in Vernal UT. Mobile phone all the way.

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Rocky Mountain National Park with the mobile phone, August 16, 2016.

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Same view with the big camera. I shot multiple images and stitched this panorama.

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Eden Vale Pond, October 3, 2016. One of the fun things about shooting with the mobile phone is that I can include the big camera in the image.

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Same pond, big camera.

While this was not a ‘view from the office’ post, I include it because of the comparison between my mobile phone camera and my DSLR.

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I haven’t mastered the art of the mobile phone selfie, hence I make very few and show even fewer.

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I vastly prefer the DSLR selfie – I can make a good one that I’m willing to share. Thanks to my lovely bride for being seen with me in public!

That’s the behind the scenes look at ‘A View from the Office.’  I hope you’ve enjoyed the view on Facebook and now see the difference between the view and the final image.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

…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

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

PHOTOFUNK…

Joan Didion, an American author best known for her novels and literary journalism, once described a ‘bankrupt morning’ as “…where you wake up, devoid of inspiration, for your creative projects.”  She also said, “Nothing is critic-proof.”

I saw her description of a bankrupt morning several months ago, wrote it down, and placed it in a prominent place on my computer desk.  I look at it every time I sit down to work on pictures, and I think about it every time I pick up a camera.  When I started this journey, there was so much to learn and I was so excited and I didn’t have a problem motivating myself to get out, find subjects, and take pictures.  Every now and then, I’d take a break and step away from my cameras for a day or two.  I’d do something else or go visit my photo mentors, and motivation would return.  This week was different.

In the early part of the week, I felt good.  One morning, I saw the clouds over the Sierras so I drove to my favorite pano spot and made this panorama.

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As a self-challenge, I’m going to make a pano from this spot at least once a week for the coming year. I hope that Mother Nature cooperates and gives me variety in the scene.

I headed for Taylor Creek to see if the Kokanee were running and attracting the bears.  I found that the Forest Service closed a major portion of Taylor Creek to protect the animals from the stupid people who don’t know how to behave.  I wasn’t in the mood to walk the trails by the Visitor’s Center, so I went to the Big Meadow trail head and hiked up the hill.  I found a little wildlife and tried some panos with trees in the foreground.

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In addition to working on my shooting technique, I am experimenting with different ratios. This one is 5:1. I wasn’t sure how much the trees would impact the view. I think it’s a good balance, but wish there was more fall color.

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This is a 3:1 ratio, and I was a little higher, so the trees are not as dominant in the scene. I like it, too.

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These guys don’t sit still often, unless they think you don’t see them and they can stay hidden.

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I tracked this little fella’ for a couple minutes, and he held still long enough for this image.

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And this small Chipmunk scurried a bit, and then stopped in this spot – the worst light in the world (bright background and sunny spot on the rock, with him in full shadow). But I got him anyway.

But then, things changed.  I would wake up motivated, but easily talked myself out of going out.  I sat at the computer and started to play with some older images – ones I hadn’t made time to edit, but ran out of emotional energy after a short time.  I was in a PHOTOFUNK!  I stepped away from photography, but found I wasn’t motivated elsewhere, either.  I turned to the books.  Trying to find a little motivation, I opened those expensive ‘how to take this or that picture’ and ‘learn your camera’ books.  I found a new tool in Camera Raw, and tried it out.  I’d been wrestling with an image I made a few weeks ago – great sky or great foreground, but not both at the same time.  This new tool allowed me to get both.  What do you think?

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I was in the Pine Nut Mountains, looking northwest. This is a pano made from 10 images, and I shot it for the sky, but I wanted a nice foreground, too. No, I’m never satisfied.  But I’m happy I found the tool that allowed me to get the sky and the foreground.

And I got a call from a customer who had ordered some large prints.  He was back from hunting and we arranged for delivery – he loved the prints.

In spite of these successes, I still have a little bit of PHOTOFUNK left.  I’ll get over it, I know.  I have a show in a couple weeks, and need to get some printing done.  The creative juices will flow – I know it.  And there are those horses and raptors waiting to have a picture taken.

Thanks for listening and ENJOY!  PHOTOROGR

Energize and revitalize!

A little over a year ago, I retired and started a journey to become a photographer.  Every time I try to sit back and take stock of my progress, there’s a new subject begging to be photographed.  The best part is that I feel like I actually have a starting point to make the image.  I’m not always right in my decisions, but I feel like I can make the adjustments and have a successful shoot.  I’m still loving my journey and have no regrets about taking that first step.

I have great friends, old and new, and family who have been supportive through it all.  Thanks to everyone for helping me along the path, from encouraging words to buying my images to telling me about photo opportunities.  It’s not much fun without you.  Please stay with me as the journey continues, because there’s lots more to come!

Every now and then, I am unhappy with my images and myself.  Sometimes it’s the subjects or the challenges of light and shadow, and sometimes it’s my lack of knowledge in editing.  When I get down, I give myself a break, clear my head, and then jump back in.  This week, the grind of editing for the Boy Scout car show got to me.  I took some horse pictures, and wasn’t happy with the results.  Last night, I went on a photo walk with a couple of my mentors and a few new friends.  I made images of subjects I don’t normally shoot and cleared my head.  The people were fun and the pictures are coming out great.  I’m doing a little experimenting with the editing, but I’m renewed and re-energized.

In my last post, I promised more car pictures from the Boy Scout car show.  As noted above, it’s become more work than I had originally thought (but it’s providing a great opportunity for learning the business side of photography), and those images aren’t ready yet.  I’ve also been distracted by other subjects in the last couple weeks.  Here are the images from my distractions.

Lake Tahoe ATV ride: we rode a trail on the east side of the lake, with fantastic views.  There are a couple more pictures in the Landscapes and Scenery page.

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And the USAF Thunderbirds came to the Carson Valley.  See the THUNDERBIRDS! page for more images!

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The Thunderbirds were here as part of the Aviation Roundup, with static displays and other flying demonstrations.  This is a Beechcraft Twin Beech 18 doing some acrobatics.

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Which brings us to the Photo Walk and its non-routine subjects.  This is only a sample – there are more to come!

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This stained glass piece is in a local antique shop. It was nicely backlit and easy to shoot.

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I was intrigued by this street light against the west wall of the original Warren Engine Company fire station. I added the vignetting in the corners, but I’m not sure I am completely pleased with the result.

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The sunset was beautiful, and the church steeple made an excellent foreground!

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I’m trying several new techniques with this image. I made multiple images from this location, including several bracketed exposures. I’ll let you know how the experiments come out.

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I caught the moon over the roof of the Nevada Supreme Court Building. I kept hoping the wind would come up and extend the flag, but it was not to be. I like this image, though.

As you can see, sometimes the distractions are very hard to overcome.  They are, however, very necessary to maintain the creative juices.  This crusty old engineer needs all the creative juices he can get, because they are sometimes hard to come by.  Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

All RAW — All the Time!

It’s a quiet Saturday morning and I’m not heading out for an hour or so.  My friend, Rich, and I are going to Reno to see the Restomods in Reno Car Show.  Assuming they come out, you’ll see pictures in my next post.  I’m astounded that it’s been almost 3 weeks since my last post.  Time really flies when you’re having so much fun!

I’ve made a couple changes in my shooting and editing process since my last post.  First, I’m shooting in RAW format exclusively (All RAW – All the Time).  I resisted going to RAW for a very long time because I wasn’t comfortable editing in RAW, it consumes massive amounts of memory, and the images can not be used right out of the camera – they must be edited.  In the last few months, I made learning to edit in RAW a priority and have gained enough comfort factor to shoot in that format exclusively.  Of course, my editing time has increased and I fill up SD cards quickly.  The tradeoff is worth it, however, as I was becoming increasingly less happy with the JPEG images coming out of the camera.  The second change is my ‘backup’ process.  Like many photographers, I have triple redundancy for storing my images.  Until recently, I used the SD card from the camera, my computer, and an external hard drive.  Since I’m filling up memory cards so quickly these days (a 32 GB card every 3-4 weeks – yikes!), my lovely bride convinced me that buying more and more SD cards was not the most cost effective method for storage.  Plus, SD cards can fail and they are not recommended for long term storage anyway.  So I purchased another external hard drive and spent some time backing up all my images on it.  Fortunately, memory (data storage, not my feeble mind, darn it) is getting better and cheaper all the time.

I’m refining my workflow for editing in RAW, but it’s getting easier and I’m getting more proficient.  A REALLY BIG THANKS to all my PHOTOSHOP mentors who cheerfully (at least when I call) answer my sometimes silly questions.  We’re usually on the phone, so I don’t see their eyes rolling and their voices don’t betray them.  Occasionally, my questions trigger a learning moment for them, too, so I think it’s beneficial all around.

Enough about that part of my creative journey, though.  Now I have to remember what I’ve been shooting for the last couple weeks.  Because my feeble memory doesn’t feel like it’s getting any better as time goes by, I keep a shooting log to help me remember where I’ve been, when I was there, and what I was shooting – that’s a big help.

A day or so after my last post, a friend texted that a local rancher was moving some cows and it would be a great photo opportunity.  I grabbed the camera and ran out the door – well, I did say bye to my lovely bride.  As usual, the appointed time was ‘flexible,’ so I looked for interesting shots while I was waiting.

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I found this breeding adult American White Pelican in an irrigation ditch.

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This is a great shot of Jobs Peak, the Carson Valley’s most recognizable mountain peak.

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Oh yeah, I was there for the cattle drive. George Strait sang ‘How ’bout them Cowgirls?’ I always thought the song was for the Wyoming Cowgirl basketball team – turns out it wasn’t. This was an all female crew and they did a great job!

A couple days later, I made a trip to the Pine Nut Mountains and found Blue’s band.  The sly devil moved them from open ground and into high brush, but I still managed a few nice images.

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I’m not a big fan of horse butt pictures, although I have quite a few. I liked how this little one was just visible above the brush.

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Several of the mares and babies. Our bands look very healthy.

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Little Jo – my favorite!

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And this is Blue. He’s the stud!

In the last couple weeks, I’ve made several trips to Mottsville Lane here in Douglas County.  With the rivers flowing well (for now anyway), there’s lots of water for the migrating waterfowl.

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My bird book has been getting quite a workout. This is a Wilson’s Phalarope.

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In the same pond, a Cinnamon Teal.

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This Great Egret posed and pranced for me, then ‘floofed’ itself and flew away. As my followers know, I love it when a bird does something a little unusual for the camera.

The mountains called a couple times, so I made trips up Monitor Pass in California and took a hike at Lake Tahoe with my son.

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I took a drive up Monitor Pass for some scenic shots. After driving by it many times in the past, I finally noticed this tree. I have several images to edit, as I photographed the tree from all angles. I liked this shot and edited it first.

 

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This is Lake Tahoe from Castle Rock, just off the Tahoe Rim Trail near Daggett Pass.

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This is a California Snow Flower – some call it a California Snow Plant. They are starting to grow in the Sierras and we saw several on our hike.

Sometimes, one finds interesting shots on the side of the road and in the backyard!

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Driving in from the Pine Nut Mountains the other day, I saw these Hawks in a tree next to the road. A baby was visible, when I pulled up, but dropped out of sight when I started shooting.

 

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Okay, this wasn’t on a public road, but I shot this from a vehicle. A friend took me on a tour of a highway construction project and this well-fed little guy, along with several friends, make the project home. I’ve never made images of a Marmot (aka Rock Chuck) like this before.

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This Robin sat on a rock in my backyard long enough for me to see him, get my camera, sneak out a door on the far side of the house, and make several images.

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Another patient little fella’. This Goldfinch sat in one of my Austrian Pine trees long enough for me to see him, go get my camera, and make several images. Although he sat on the branch for a while, he did not sit still. I have several shots of him in motion.

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Many of you have seen my night shots of my neighbor’s trees and the moon (one of those is my cover photo on Facebook). The moon was in position the other night, so I made a few more of those shots. While I was out there, I also made some images of the pergola in our backyard. My lovely bride designed the trees and lights very well. While I was shooting the pergola, a playful spirit found his way into the shot! Silly playful spirit.

 

I’m finishing this on Sunday night, after a busy day yesterday at the car show and a trip to Reno today for a friend’s retirement ceremony.  My apologies for the further delay.  The car show images are worth the wait until the next post – I promise.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR