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

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Photo Fun in the Benson Sculpture Garden…

A couple months ago, my lovely bride and I loaded up and headed home to Wyoming to join family in celebrating my Dad’s 85th birthday!  While we were there, we also celebrated Mom and Dad’s 65th wedding anniversary.  (The anniversary actually happens in November, but we celebrated while we were all there!)  I just realized that I haven’t shared our family portrait from the party.

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The Van Alyne Family – August 2016

My lovely bride flew home the day after the party, so I was on my own for the drive home.  The first photo stop on my trip home was going to be Rocky Mountain National Park, so I reserved a hotel room in Loveland CO (just downhill from Estes Park, the Gateway to RMNP, and about 1/3 of the price of a room up the hill).  As I was driving to the hotel, I passed a brown road sign advertising the Benson Sculpture Gardens.  While I was eating dinner, I looked up the Benson Sculpture Garden on my phone (yes, I know a little about technology) and decided to check it out.  The Garden is a huge park full of huge sculptures.

I arrived at the Garden in late evening, so the light was a little dicey.  Although the sun was nearly down, the sky was a bright white and the sculptures were in various stages of shadow.  Knowing I was in trouble from a lighting perspective, I decided to experiment with a process called ‘light painting.’  In his book Night & Low Light Photography, David Taylor describes light painting as, “…the technique of lighting a subject during a long exposure. This can be achieved by using a handheld flash or with a suitably powerful flashlight.”

I chose handheld flash, and found myself popping the flash from different angles and sides to see what the result would be.  I had to work around all the people in the park – hundreds of them – all walking around looking at their phones.  The Pokemon craze had just hit and it seemed that Loveland’s populace had embraced it fully – at least those who were in the Benson Sculpture Garden that evening!

I’ve taken a very long time to finish these pictures.  Sometimes, we try things in camera that yield good results easily, but some of them take more work.  I look at this as a wonderful learning process.  I need to push the limits of my equipment, but I also need to push the limits of my knowledge of photography and image editing.  I succeeded in pushing the limits.  Using these images made in camera, I learned a lot about editing images using multiple software packages and filters.

A BIG THANKS to all the artists who created these fantastic sculptures and put them on display, and to the City of Loveland for assembling them in this beautiful setting.

I think you’ll like the results, so let’s get to the pictures!

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One of the first sculptures I saw – Shakespeare. I tried to frame the sculpture with the tree in the background, but the sky still made this a challenge. I introduced a light vignette to bring the sky down a little.

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Probably not the best angle of this Eagle, but it’s the one I chose. I used a little fill flash underneath to negate the shadows.

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This sculpture is called ‘The Potato Man.’ It is one of my favorite sculptures in the Benson Sculpture Garden. I combined three images to bring out the colors and the details.

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I made two images of this sculpture, using flash on both sides of the head. I then combined the two images in Photomatix to get this result.

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This is an HDR image, using 4 images with different exposures and flash placement.

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I applied a black and white filter and adjusted the contrast a little to make this version of the image. I like them both!

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This sculpture was in shadow as the sun was setting behind and to the left. A little fill flash made the image work.

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I loved this statue of a musical trio. There is so much going on that picking a spot to shoot was difficult. I explored the black and white presets in Nik Silver Efex, and liked this one.  I need to remove the car on the left side of the picture, but it’s a Mustang.  Hmmmmm…what a dilemma…

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This is a close up of the saxophone player. I combined three images in Photomatix to make this image.

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I applied a preset filter in Nik Silver Efex to make this image.

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Some people would say, ‘…make it stop!’ Filters can be overused, but I had to share one more using this preset from Nik Silver Efex. This is the drummer from the other side of the musical trio statue.

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Ah, the fun of being young! My Mom has a Christmas ornament based on this sculpture.

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And then there’s the really interesting sculptures. I tried to capture the setting sun in the background…

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This sculpture is in a beautiful and natural-looking setting. I removed the concrete pedestal to improve the natural look.

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Another of my favorites. I used a fill flash to make this side of the sculpture visible.

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A couple of bucks running through the woods! There are visual treasures at every turn!

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These kids were really enjoying the park. This is a composite of three exposures.

So, there you have it.  These are but a few of the sculptures in the Benson Sculpture Garden.  I’ll return another day, armed with better knowledge of photography, to make more images of this wonderful place.  If you’re planning a trip to this area, this is a must see.  If you’re on a journey in creative photography (like I am), this is a great place to learn your craft!

I hope you enjoyed these images.  Thanks for joining me on my journey!  Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Photo Editing Software…and Rocky Mountain National Park!

In previous blogs, I’ve talked about the ways photography has changed due to the transition from film to digital photography.  The basic principles of controlling and recording light have not changed, but editing processes have changed dramatically.  Like many photographers, I work to get the best possible image in camera but further processing on the computer is essential to my success as a photographer.  Thankfully, there are really smart people who have developed great software to make this part of photography easier.  I use Adobe’s Photoshop (PS) CC (Creative Cloud – yes, I pay my access fee every month!) and Camera RAW (ACR) as my primary software.  I also purchased Corel’s Paint Shop Pro X7 when it was cheap (PSP X8 had just come out) and work it every now and then, but PS and ACR remain my go to software.

As those smart guys at Adobe make their products better and easier to use, and I learn how to use the features I have along with the new stuff, I try to produce better images.  Recently, the Adobe CC guys announced a new feature in Lightroom (LR), a sister software to PS.  As background, I prefer PS to LR because I can use layers in PS.  ACR and LR use similar menus and controls for processing, so I’m not missing out on those features.  LR manages files which PS does not do, however, I use Adobe Bridge for my file management.

Back to the cool new tool in LR – Boundary Warp.  If I create a panorama in LR, Boundary Warp allows me to adjust the image without having to crop and lose content.  Regardless of how well I shoot a series of images to merge into a panorama, there is always inconsistency in the edges requiring cropping and/or filling.  Boundary Warp minimizes data loss and is very cool, from my perspective.  I processed several panoramas using both PS and LR to determine if one is preferable to the other, but I’ll let you be the judge in the images below.

Oh yeah, LR now has a High Dynamic Range (HDR) feature in PhotoMerge, but I prefer PhotoMatix Pro for my HDR images.

Today’s images come from the day I spent in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), located in north central Colorado, last month.  I entered RMNP from the east side (US Highway 36 from Estes Park CO).  After a quick stop in the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center for some shopping and a stamp in my national parks passport book, I proceeded into RMNP and that portion of US 34 known as Trail Ridge Road.  Trail Ridge Road is only open in the summer months, as its 12,000 foot (+/-) elevation makes for a very snowy road in the winter months.

I came across a flock of turkeys, but failed to get a decent image of them.  I drove by this beautiful vista.

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I believe the peaks to be (left to right) Mt. Wuh, Stones Peak, and Terra Tomah Mtn, with Tombstone Ridge in the middle ground.  This panorama was created and edited in Lightroom, using the Boundary Warp feature.

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Here’s the same view processed in Photoshop.

The differences in brightness, contrast, and color are my adjustments and experimentation.  I manually cropped the LR version to a standard 5:1 ratio panorama, the same as the PS version.  What’s important to note is that there doesn’t appear to be geometric distortion from the Boundary Warp, however, there is more foreground in the PS version (check the tree line) which indicates a larger availability of data in the LR image.  Based on my totally non-scientific experiment, I opine that the use of PS versus LR for panoramas is a matter of personal preference at the moment.

Back to pictures.

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I believe these peaks to be Mt. Chiquita (l) and Mt. Chapin. This is a panorama merged in PS.

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For comparison, I shot this image using a wide angle lens. For this view, either shooting method works fine.

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This is a panorama of Sundance Mtn. While I was at this location, I visited with a very nice young lady who was shooting with her Canon T2i and a Canon 100-400 zoom lens. We had a nice discussion about lenses and photography.

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One of my favorite shots on the day. This is an HDR. When I shot this, the flowers in the foreground were in deep shadow and HDR allowed me to bring them into the light, so to speak. The wind was blowing at 12,000 feet, as you might imagine, so there is a touch of movement in the flowers. A few minutes later, the clouds moved off but the wind came up. The flowers in the full light images were blurry due to the wind.

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If you’re an Elk in the mountains on a hot summer day, how do you keep cool? They’re on a snow bank enjoying the cool. They were probably 1/2-3/4 mile away.

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And these Elk were using the trees to keep cool, again, 1/2-3/4 mile away.

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I believe these peaks to be (l-r) Stones Peak (the sharp pointed one), Sprague Mtn, Nakai Peak, Mt Julian, and Terra Tomah Mtn. This is a panorama merged in PS.

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I came around a corner with lots of people looking up a hill, watching this Bear. He was a couple hundred feet away and cared less about the crowd at the bottom of the hill. I parked and came back for this shot, the best of what he gave us before disappearing behind the trees.

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When he disappeared, the crowd dissipated. I hung around to see if he would make another appearance, and made a few images of the flowers and landscape.

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Beautiful mountain flowers.

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I made this image with my trusty mobile phone. Every now and then, it makes a nice image. Note the wildlife.

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I believe the center mountain to be Terra Tomah Mtn, with Jackstraw Mtn on the immediate right. This is another panorama merged in LR using Boundary Warp.

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Same view from a PS merge.  I see a subtle difference in the foreground, especially on the right side, but not enough to conclusively say one is better than the other.  Both images are stunning!  oh yeah, the LR image is cropped to 5:1 ratio and the PS is at 3:1.

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I was making a series of images for a panorama when I caught movement out of the bottom corner of my eye. This Marmot, also called a Rock Chuck, was very busy and unfazed by all the people just 30 feet away.

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The rocks were alive with these North American Pika. About the size of a Guinea Pig, these little fuzzballs were busy working on nests for the coming winter.

I have established a page dedicated to Rocky Mountain National Park.  Visit the page to see more images from this part of my trip.

Since I got home, I’ve spent some time in the yard with my flowers, so I’ll close with them.  Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

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One of the Rose blooms in the backyard.

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My favorite Candy Tuft. The sun was going down and lighting up the side of the bloom.