It’s been too long…

…since my last post. I’m very aware of it. In my defense, I took a job supporting FEMA’s hurricane recovery operations and I’ve been away from home for a while. While on the road, I limited myself to my Canon PowerShot point and shoot camera. I challenged myself to push its limitations and make good images.

On October 1, I boarded a plane and headed to the National Emergency Training Center in Emmittsburg MD. The NETC is home to the Emergency Management Institute and the National Fire Academy. The campus was a girl’s school before it assumed its present duties. Many of the buildings are historical and they are all beautiful. The campus is also home to the National Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial.

This is one of my interpretations of the Firefighter’s Memorial. The view is from the right side and includes one of the stunning sunrises we experienced during the 2 weeks there.

I made this image of the Memorial with my mobile phone the first evening I was there. I had to check in and get my credentials late in the evening and was crossing campus when I saw this. I loved the light on the Memorial.

This is one of the administration buildings, typical of the architectural style on campus. I posted pictures of other buildings on campus in my ‘view from the office’ series on Facebook.

Some of my friends and I took a drive to Hershey PA and the Gettysburg National Battlefield on our one free weekend. Hershey was busy with the Antique Auto Club of America show, but we were able to tour the chocolate factory and take a bus tour around the town. I visited Gettysburg in 1982 when my father was on a tour of duty at the Pentagon. This visit was more rewarding after reading several books on the Civil War in recent years.

If you haven’t been to Gettysburg, you really should go. The locals started preserving the battlefield immediately after the battle, so unit locations and gun emplacements are accurately documented.

The Robert E. Lee Memorial. I pray that all these beautiful memorials and the history they represent are preserved forever.

This is my only fall color picture for this year. The trees in MD and PA had just started turning, but this scene, near the Wheat Field, gave me a little color for the year.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

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PS Challenge – August 26, 2017

It’s been too long since I posted, but I have an excuse. My lovely bride and I recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary and we took a trip to Yosemite National Park to celebrate. We timed the trip around a Night Photography Workshop I was taking. I hadn’t been to Yosemite since I was 2 years old, so that trip didn’t really count for me.

We had a wonderful trip and, except for the smoke from a fire at the south end of the Park, enjoyed the grandeur and beauty. Picture taking was a challenge, but I think I got some good stuff – I’m just beginning to process the images.

Today’s PS Challenge image comes from the Merced River and was taken at dawn, the last shooting of the workshop. The smoke gave the sky an orange cast, and I loved how it colored the water of the river.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

The Wonder of Night Skies…

In the many photography magazines and websites that I read, I see all manner of advertisements for photography tours around the United States and the world.  The tours range from a few hours for a seminar to a few weeks shooting with big names in the photography world, and can cost thousands of dollars.  The more expensive tours include all lodging, meals, and transportation around the chosen venue.  A couple months ago, I saw an ad for a night skies photography workshop with a couple locations within driving distance and at a very affordable price.  The tours were offered by National Park Trips Media (visit their website at nationalparktrips.com) teamed up with Tamron USA (http://www.tamron-usa.com).  I selected the tour in Sedona, Arizona.

Sedona is a community of around 11,000 people located in north central Arizona, about an hour’s drive south of Flagstaff.  (Visit http://www.sedonamonthly.com to learn more about Sedona.)  I arrived in the darkness of early evening and my Garmin took me on quite a tour before finding the hotel, the Andante Inn of Sedona (http://www.andanteinn.com).

The workshop started at 2 p.m., with a couple hours in the classroom.  Tamron’s award-winning photographers – Ken Hubbard, Andre Costantini, and Marc Morris – provided a review (for me, anyway) of the photography triangle (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO) and shooting in low light conditions.  After, we loaded up the equipment truck and the van and headed to the Crescent Moon Ranch to photograph Cathedral Rock with Oak Creek in the foreground.

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Cathedral Rock reflected in Oak Creek

Our group joined a pair of photographers who were after the same view on a small patch of dirt along the creek.  The pair of photographers were a bit overwhelmed by 16 people invading their shoot with tripods and cameras, but they offered their spot to the highest bidder when they were done shooting!  I got my shots and looked around the Crescent Moon Ranch for a different view and other subjects.

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Cathedral Rock from the Crescent Moon Ranch

As the sun went down and the light faded, we loaded back up and headed to Bell Rock Park off SR 179.  This is where the shoot got very interesting.  I’m used to shooting in ambient light and being able to look through the viewfinder on my camera or use Live View to set the exposure and compose the shot.  In the light of the half moon, we were literally shooting in the dark.  I set my ISO at 3200, a relatively high setting, my aperture wide open, and shutter speed at 30 seconds.  Hoping for the best, I manually set the focus at infinity and pushed the shutter release.  When the shutter closed, I was able to see the image for the first time and it wasn’t bad.  I made a few adjustments in the camera position and resumed shooting.  Over the next several hours, I made around 130 images.

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This is a rock formation in Bell Rock Park.

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Bell Rock is on the left. The bright light at the bottom of the saddle is from Sedona.

The Tamron guys helped us experiment with a technique called ‘light painting.’  During long exposures, we used flashlights to illuminate trees to bring out some of the detail and add a new element to the image.  Light painting is definitely an art, as controlling the light on the subject is critical.  It’s very easy to put too much light on the subject and ruin the shot.  The image below took several tries – still not perfect but acceptable.

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Light painted tree in the foreground.

Long time followers of my blog know that I love a good panorama, and I had to try for a panorama in the dark.  From the position of the light on the rock formations, you can see that this panorama is actually about a quarter of a circle – not just flat.

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The instructors used the star apps on their smartphones to get us in position to shoot Orion over the rock formation on the right side of this image. If only someone had a star app for my Windows phone (big sigh).

One of the members of the tour got separated in the dark and ended up a mile away from the group.  After an hour of searching, we got word that he had called 911 and local law enforcement had picked him up.  We got back to the hotel around 1 a.m. and got a few hours sleep before heading out the to local airport for an early morning shoot.

The morning was overcast, but we waited for a couple hours and finally got rewarded by good light.  Here’s a couple panoramas from the early morning shoot!

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The sky was overcast, but not very sexy.

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A little different position and shot.

After the morning shoot, we returned to the hotel for breakfast and some instruction on Lightroom software to process the night’s work.  The workshop was a fast 20 hours of exploration into a new photography technique.  I learned a lot and look forward to continued exploration into night photography.  I see that National Park Trips Media has a night skies workshop in Yosemite next August.  Hmmmm – might have to register for that one!

Thanks for being a part of my journey.  Until next time – enjoy!

PHOTOROGR

Panos and Monos and a Whole Lotta’ Fun!!!

In my last post (only 11 days ago for those of you who are counting), I introduced my exploration into panoramic images.  To me, a panorama (or pano) is an image that is much wider than it is longer.  Panos show the world in a little different way.  They can be made from any image – it’s just a matter of cropping to create the pano.  I prefer to make a number of overlapping images, and then use the magic of Photoshop to merge them together to create a pano.  A quick note on panos – they are best suited to stationary subjects!  I don’t think I can make a pano of a band of wild horses walking to the water tanks.  With that said, let’s see some new panos!

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This pano was made by combining 8 images together. The subject is a stretch of U.S. Highway 50 from Echo Summit (on the left) to Meyers CA (to the right), and was shot from a turnout on CA Highway 89. I love driving this piece of road towards Meyers because the view of Lake Tahoe is superb. My lovely bride, however, doesn’t like this road because of the dropoff. The text was an experiment, as my photo challenge last week was text overlay. After making the pano, I tried a new editing workflow to make the colors ‘pop’ more. I like the new workflow, and am adjusting it to my processing.

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This is the same stretch of highway, but I used 10 images to create this one. This pano has more content on the left side, and is the image I submitted for my challenge. I used the word ‘Journey’ in this image. Remember that I am on a ‘Journey in Creative Photography.’ It seemed appropriate.

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This view of Jobs Peak (on the left) and the Sierra Nevada Mountains was made from 10 images, and was shot from the Dangberg Home Ranch. The clouds and the sky cooperated – I can hardly wait for snow on the mountains!

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Our sunsets have been amazing this past week, so I got out the tripod and camera to see what I could do. I like the results! All the sunsets were made from my backyard, but I may have to see what other views of the mountains and sunsets I can find!

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Makes you want to live here – or at least come to visit!

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I made this pano to see how it would look in black and white (or monochrome – mono), but I kept it in color.

And so, we come to the ‘mono’ portion of the post.  After reading several articles on black and white images in one of the photo magazines recently, I thought I’d give it a try.

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This is a composite made from 6 images.  I was going to make a pano, but I would have lost too much texture from the clouds.  It was early for the sunset (the sunsets above were shot a few minutes later) and not much color, but I like the texture of the clouds. A little desaturation and other tweaking, and voila!

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Painted Hills, Central Oregon, last July.

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Same image in black and white. I need to work on my technique, but there’s definitely potential.

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Same location, different view.

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And still a fun technique. Of course, the colors in the Painted Hills just can’t be improved upon.

And if you think trying new shooting and editing techniques isn’t enough fun, you missed a great show at the Dangberg Home Ranch (www.dangberghomeranch.org) last Saturday.  The Nevada Gunfighters put on a great show.  Here’s a couple images – please go to my Nevada Gunfighters page for more pictures.

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As I recall, Miss Emma – she runs an escort service, of sorts…

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Miss Strawberry Tart. Former School Teacher and now escort, of sorts…

There you have it!  Panos and monos and a whole lotta’ fun!  The raptors are slowly coming back to the Carson Valley, and it’s just about bear time at Taylor Creek.  I won’t forget to visit the wild horses, too – I promise!  I hope you had as much fun looking at my pictures as I did making them.  Until next time – Enjoy!  PHOTOROGR

Happy 4th of July!

Can you believe that it’s July?  The calendar year is half over, but the business year is not.  Next month will be one year since I decided to become a full-time photographer.  Am I making lots of money?  No, but I’m having a lot of fun and my knowledge of photography and photo editing is growing by leaps and bounds.  You’ll see some of that growth in this post.  For the business year – It’s time for me to report my business assets to the County Assessor for tax purposes.  I think I can get everything together and look forward to the tax bill.

But first, an update on the wild horses.  Until last week, I have been photographing four bands in the area.  The studs are Blue, Blondie, Socks, and Shorty.  Please also recall that we have a group of bachelor studs, the ‘Boys’ Club,’ waiting for their turns to establish a band – Sampson, Jack, Little Socks, and Skip.  In a major power move, Shorty stole all of Socks’ mares so Socks is now a bachelor.  When I see him, he appears very lonely and forlorn.

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A very lonely Socks!

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He won’t even look at the camera.

I have a theory that Socks cut a deal with Shorty to look after the family while he took a little break.  I’m told that’s not a viable theory.

Here’s an image of Shorty’s band taken yesterday, with all of Socks’ mares and foals in the group.  Please don’t ask me which mares formerly belonged to Socks.

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They were enjoying a lazy day, just relaxing and not too concerned as I approached on foot.

And my buddy Blondie – remember the butt shot from my last post?  Well – late last week I found his band, parked, and approached on foot.  Blondie didn’t like that in the least!  For the first time, he ‘challenged’ my approach, actually running towards me.  He stopped when he could see me and I was never in any danger, but it made me a little more wary than usual of where he was while I made my images.

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Blondie keeping a very watchful eye on me!

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I only made a couple images due to Blondie’s obvious ‘discomfort’ with me being there. I like this one – I think it’s Little Scarlett and Mama.

Yesterday, Blondie’s band was across a small valley from Shorty’s band.  As I approached in the PHOTORANGER, Blondie gathered everyone up and off they went.  I’m not sure what I did to make him mad.

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Blondie’s band moving off. Horse butt pictures aren’t really exciting, but I like the pattern created by the numerous rears as they walked away.

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And Blondie, walking away – keeping himself between me and the band.

And what about the Boys’ Club?  Some of my friends have pictures of Socks with the Boys, but I don’t have any as yet.  I found the Boys close to some of the houses, just being boys.

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Our temperatures have been high the last couple weeks, with intermittent rain and thunderstorms.  We have a fire south of us that has burned 18 square miles.  Thankfully, the wind has blown the smoke away (and my power bill likes that!).  Since I melt at about 85 degrees (figuratively, not literally), my shooting time is short, leaving me lots of time to stay indoors and work on my editing skills.  A really BIG SHOUT OUT to my Photoshop mentors (you know who you are!!), who helped me over a giant hump in learning a couple techniques.  Here are a couple of images I edited this week – see if you can identify the changes I made!  Hint – they’re very subtle.

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This is Little Jo with Mom, Dad, and several other members of the band. The exposure is way off and there is the horse at the bottom of the shot who just doesn’t belong.

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Through the magic of Photoshop, I removed the horse at the bottom of the picture and rescued my poor shooting. The result is very pleasing, I think. Oh yeah, Blue is facing the camera behind the black horse. That’s not him on the left.

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During the winter months, the Raptors migrate through the Carson Valley. Photo opportunities are everywhere. I caught this juvenile Red Tailed Hawk last February at one of the local ranches. Exposure has been one of my greatest challenges, and lately I’m getting a better handle on it.

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I think the image works better with him facing right instead of left, and I fixed my poor exposure and got a little closer.

The night skies have also called to me.  The sunsets have been gorgeous and I’ve worked on my ‘low light’ shooting while I’m out there.  Temperatures are much better when the sun goes down, so why not?

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I made this image from my backyard while we still had a hint of smoke from the wildfire.

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Another from my backyard, through the trees. The smoke is gone, but the storm clouds made gorgeous light!

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Same evening – different vantage point.

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…and a little to the right…

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A look at the Pergola in our backyard. This is looking northeast, so the evening light is much different.

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One final night shot. This is looking southeast from my front yard. My neighbors very thoughtfully built this beautiful scene in the front corner of their yard. I photograph it often.

And I’ll close this post with a couple images of the PHOTORANGER in action.  This little truck has been a great addition to the stable, and I continue to be impressed with its performance in the field.  I took my father-in-law out to look for the wild horses yesterday.  He was impressed with the truck, but said he preferred the ‘softer’ ride of the other cars.  I understand completely.

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Enjoy – and have a wonderful 4th of July!  God Bless America!  PHOTOROGR

Shooting the West…and a little reflection…

I had the most wonderful experience this week – I attended ‘Shooting the West: The Nevada Photography Experience’ (www.shootingthewest.org).  Mere words can not adequately describe this event, and I don’t have the photographic skill to do it justice, either.  I attended a couple classes, met several people that I ‘knew’ through Facebook, made many new friends, and saw some amazing pictures.

My experience started Wednesday evening, with a class called ‘Winnemucca @ Night.’  Instructor Craig Moore led our group into the chilly Winnemucca evening and gave us great information and ideas for taking pictures in low light conditions.  Here are a few of my ‘experiments.’

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We started with ‘flash techniques’ for taking pictures of bright lights (such as casino lights) with a person in the foreground. Craig taught us a technique that allows the lights to shine but the person to be seen in the image. I have an image in mind – stay tuned. Then we played with long exposures, capturing lights from cars and nearby signage. I only took a few shots, but I enjoyed the technique. Visit my Shooting the West page and look at the image with the Winners Casino sign and the traffic signal – I got all the lights in the traffic signal.

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We stopped by a local night spot. The patrons were very accommodating and allowed us to take lots of pictures. I saw this great image in the mirror.

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Experimenting with long exposures again, we learned how to make ‘ghost images’ on the court house steps. Can you see the mere shadow of myself? This was very fun.

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The local Catholic Church has this beautiful display outside. I made several images using different settings. This was the best image out of the camera, but still took a little work to bring out the colors on the walls.

It took most of the night to warm up from the ‘chilly’ evening, but my camera and I were ready for the Composition class on Thursday.  M.D. Welch taught us the basic elements of composition, and then cut us loose to practice.  I traveled to Winnemucca often when I worked for the Nevada Department of Transportation, but I looked at the community with different eyes on this trip.  Here are a few of my images from Thursday.

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This is an image that I made for my weekly photo challenge – mirrored images. Winnemucca has these beautiful light poles, but they only have the light, flag, and Chief Winnemucca gusset on one side. I copied and flipped the original image to create this interpretation of their street lights.

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The Martin Hotel is one of the best Basque restaurants in which I’ve had a meal. We were near the end of the class when Michelle, one of my new friends, pointed out this beautiful reflection. Thanks Michelle for sharing. I have to start looking around more…

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I went back to my architectural roots with this building. This beautiful Art Deco style is home to Winnemucca’s Volunteer Fire Department. The blue tint to the picture was quite accidental, as I had the white balance on my camera set for the previous evening’s light. Sometimes those accidents work, but most of the time they don’t – at least for me. Take a look at the ‘not blue’ image on the Shooting the West page to appreciate the building in more natural light. I kind of like this one.

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As with many cities in the western U.S., the rail road is a big part of Winnemucca’s history. Amtrak still stops here, but the train station is more of a covered waiting area than a traditional train station. In my mind, the architect successfully integrated traditional elements of railroad stations into the design. In this image, two diesel engines on a siding are seen from inside the station. On the left, the sign identifies this stop as Winnemucca.

And then came two days of presentations by world class photographers, with subjects that included the California Missions, aerial photography, landscapes, time lapse, and trail camera photography.  Using images submitted by attendees, one presenter showed how to use Photoshop to edit and repair images.  As part of STW, participants can enter a picture in a competition titled ‘Give It Your Best Shot.’  The presenters and participants choose their favorite pictures and the images were breathtaking.  No matter your interest, experience, or skill in photography, Shooting the West is a ‘must do’ for anyone with an interest in photography.  I encourage you to go to http://www.shootingthewest.org to experience this great event for yourself, and consider attending next year, April 25 to May 1, 2016.

Oh yeah, during my R&R time, I bumped into a Hawk on a snowy morning.  I just can’t make a post without including a Raptor picture or two.

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Yes, it was a cold morning and, amazingly, we had snow on the ground and in the trees.

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Same Hawk, different tree. I’m not sure if he was making sure I saw the liftoff or if that was his way of telling me to leave him alone.

 

As you can see, I was blown away by my STW experience.  On the 3 hour drive home, I reflected on the things I’d seen, the information I received, the people I met and talked to.  I found myself thinking about the possibilities and direction I want to take my photography.  I haven’t yet decided what direction I will take as I continue this journey.  I guarantee that you will continue to see images from the Carson Valley and surrounding area – the raptors, wild horses, and beautiful scenery.  But you will also see me try new techniques and new subjects.  I have an image in my mind outside a local casino, and I have a starting point to begin the exploration of that image.

Hang on, because this ride is only going to get more interesting from here.  Enjoy – PHOTOROGR