How I Spent My Summer Vacation – Volume 4…

Olympic National Park – holy cow! What a fun and beautiful place. My lovely bride and I visited two of the three ecosystems: the Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

We arrived at the road to Hurricane Ridge in the late afternoon, and the skies were less than cooperative. The scenery going up to the Ridge, however, was spectacular.

We hit the roadside flowers seemingly at their peak. This is one of my favorite images.

We saw several Black Tail Deer. This buck was on the hillside above the road. One has to wonder what happened to his antlers.

Our obligatory self portrait at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor’s Center. More wild flowers in the meadow behind us!

And my feeble attempt at a panorama. Despite my poor attempt to capture it, the view was gorgeous!

We tried to visit the Hoh Rain Forest, but construction caused us to save it for another trip. We drove down the Pacific Coast instead.

This is the view from the Kalaloch Lodge dining patio. Great lunch there and the cabins looked interesting. During our trip planning, we tried to get a room there but they were full. Oh well…

This is a view from US 101.

We stopped at Beach 1 and walked down to the shore. We saw a pod of whales apparently feeding off shore – lots of fins, backs, and blows. Here’s our selfie watching whales.

The view up the shore line. It goes on for a long time…

There you have it – fun at Olympic National Park. The whale pictures weren’t very exciting, so I hope you like the scenery shots.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

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How I spent my summer vacation! Volume 1…

Now that my lovely bride has joined me in retirement, we repeatedly ask ourselves a couple questions. First, do we really need an alarm tomorrow? (The answer is generally a resounding no!) Second, if one is not taking time away from a job or other commitment, does one get to call it a ‘vacation’? (So far, we haven’t resolved this question.)

Since we haven’t resolved the second question, I decided to go ahead and call the coming series ‘How I spent my summer vacation!’ to help you all relate. In early July, my lovely bride and I venture north to see our grandson and celebrate his birthday (he turned 5 this year). We have been incorporating vacation-like activities into this annual trip, making it lots more fun. As part of our trip this year, we ventured into the Palouse Region in southeast Washington – a haven for photographers. Early July is not the best time to visit the Palouse for pictures, so we did the best we could and are planning to return during a more scenic time. (For more information on the Palouse Region and the photo opportunities there, visit the Pullman Chamber of Commerce website, http://www.pullmanchamber.com, or  facebook.com/PicturePerfectPalouse.)

We enjoyed our brief visit and only saw a small part of the region, but came away with a few fun pictures.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Located in the southwest corner of the Palouse Region, along the Snake River in Palouse Falls State Park, Palouse Falls offer a beautiful view.

This windmill was just over a ridge and has obviously seen better days.

The panoramic views are simply fantastic. The dust on the left of this image is actually a tractor preparing the land for the next crop.

Rolling along one of the many dirt roads in the area and marveling at the spring Wheat almost ready for harvest, we saw a couple dark spots. As we got closer, we recognized those ears. This doe was very accommodating as I parked and got out the camera.

Not one of the iconic barns in the region, but this one has character.

PS Challenge – June 26, 2017

Today’s PS Challenge image comes from the Virginia Range, north of Stagecoach NV. I made this image a few weeks ago when I was out with my old retired guy ATV group. We encountered several bands of wild horses on the ride. Three of these four were more concerned with the guys in the lead, but one kept his eye on me. Bracketed exposures combined in Adobe Camera Raw, cropped in PhotoShop with a filter from Nik Color Efex Pro.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Landscapes and details…

One of my favorite magazines is Outdoor Photographer. I enjoy the content and have been getting wonderful ideas and information for improving my photography. The April 2017 issue had a great article titled ‘Grand Landscapes, Intimate Details’ by Dave Welling. The focus (pun intended) of the article was summed up nicely by the subtitle, ‘Tell a deeper story of a place by adding close-up images to your location portfolios’ The concept is simple – while you’re shooting that grand landscape, take a look around your feet and find something that connects the audience more intimately to the location.

I had the opportunity to employ this technique just yesterday. My lovely bride and I ventured into the mountains during yesterday’s storm, specifically driving CA 89 south of Markleeville CA. The road was wet from the occasional rain and snow, and there were few travelers besides us and a couple government vehicles. The sun appeared and disappeared, the snow blew and stopped, the mountains were covered and uncovered during our visit. (All the images below were taken within an hour of each other. You know what they say – if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes!)

The small valleys were running with water from the rain and the snow melt. Occasionally, the weather made rather ominous scenes in the recently burned areas.

I converted to grey tones to show the desolation of the fire, but the promise of renewal with the snow and running water.

As I walked to a bridge to capture an image of the raging river, a Stellar Jay landed on a rock about 15 yards away. He proceeded to dance about on the rock, as if to say ‘Where’s your big camera? You can’t take my picture with that little camera in your hands!’ (I had grabbed the PowerShot for the river image.) I got my river shot…

East Fork of the Carson River…the Grand Landscape! The Jay was on a rock to the right of this image.

…and ran back to the PhotoRanger for the big camera. Amazingly, the Jay stayed put as I returned and grabbed a few shots, moved a few feet and grabbed a few more shots, moved a few more feet and grabbed a few more shots, and so on.

Stellar Jay…the intimate detail!

There you have it, an example of Grand Landscapes and Intimate Details.

I hope you are enjoying the PS Challenge – I sure am! The process of using the PowerShot – learning its capabilities and limitations – helps to reinforce the principles of photography and composition.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

The PS Challenge is Underway!

My apologies for the long break between posts. I’ve been busy shooting, but I took a little break when my friend and photo buddy, Richard Hawkins, lost his battle with cancer. Many of you are familiar with one of Rich’s best pictures.

Richard and I were out with the wild horses a couple years ago. I had just made a few images and turned around when he grabbed this shot of me. Shooting with him was always fun – he had a great eye for images and helped me look at things a little differently. Rich bought a 1964 Olds 442 just before he received his cancer diagnosis. He dated his wife in a car just like it many years ago. At his first car show, he won the ‘under construction’ category. He also asked me to take his picture in the same pose he was in when he had his original 442. I was very happy to do so. God Bless You, Rich – my cameras and I miss you.

On to the images from this month. I picked up a point and shoot camera, a Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II, to enhance my camera bag. I’m learning the capabilities and limitations of this tiny little camera (it’s only 3.75″ wide, 2.5″ tall, and a narrow 1.25″ thick), but it makes marvelous images. I’m getting very nice landscape images, as you can see, and there’s potential for close up and macro photography, once I learn the camera a lot better. The PS challenge can be either ‘point n shoot’ or PowerShot, depending on my feeling that day.

I made this image just south of Woodfords CA. That’s CA 89 on the left. I made this image with the PowerShot.

I’ve driven by this section of the East Fork of the Carson River several times, and finally stopped to make the image. Great sky and great light!

The beauty of the PowerShot is the ability to stop and jump out for the quick shot. This image was made from the side of CA 89 (the Carson River is just behind and downhill from these trees) in an area where a wildfire burned a couple years ago. The tree on the left was completely burned but the other two were only burned on the bottom half. I hope they survive.

The last PowerShot image for this post – the West Fork of the Carson River in the middle of the Carson Valley. The Town of Genoa is visible at the base of the mountains, and Duane Bliss Peak is reflected in the river.

As much as I love my PowerShot, it will never replace the big camera for many things. The PowerShot will bracket exposures and focal length, but the big camera does it much better.

This is an HDR combined from an exposure bracket of the West Fork of the Carson River, in the mountains. There’s lots of ice in the stream still, as this section of the river gets very little direct sunlight in the winter months.

Another HDR of a usually dry wash feeding the East Fork of the Carson River.

This is the Bower’s Mansion, an historic structure on the west side of Washoe Lake, just south of Reno.

The Eagles are long gone, except for the nesting pairs, and the other Raptors are slowly leaving the area as spring approaches. Smaller birds are returning, so we have subjects to shoot and new challenges in shooting. Small birds are more likely to move as you approach, so a long lens and quick reaction to spotting them is critical.

I found this Western Meadowlark on a fence post in the wildlife viewing area on the south end of Washoe Lake. Chilly morning, so it was trying to fluff up and stay warm.

This Western Meadowlark landed on a branch near me, and posed nicely.

These Black Tail Deer are part of the Town of Genoa herds, although these 4 can be found a couple miles north of town on Foothill Road.

I’m not sure they were more worried about me or something to the right, but they held still long enough for me to make this image.

I had the opportunity to try a new technique I saw in Outdoor Photographer magazine – the wildlife panorama. I usually try to get my wildlife images as close and detailed as possible, but I love the concept of combining wildlife and landscape photography. Watch for more images like this.

I found these 4 another day, but they moved into a grove of trees as I approached. New challenge to get a good shot through the trees. This one moved in and stopped, not exposing more head for me. Changing my position wouldn’t have helped, as other trees blocked the view.

Spring is here – evidenced by the blossoms on some of our fruit trees. These are from the Flowering Plum in the corner of the backyard.

First close up of the year – almost a macro. Each blossom is only 3/4″ in diameter. As more flowers bloom, I’ll shoot more macros. Hopefully, the wet winter will cause the desert to bloom, and not delay too much the mountain meadows blooming.

Welcome Spring and the changes it brings. Thanks for reading this blog!

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Sharpening continued…and other fun stuff!

In my last post, I introduced the sharpening process and described my first footsteps into its intricacies (yes, I had to look this one up to make sure).  The study is going well, but there’s an amazing amount of information to digest.  I am surprised by the number of tools available.  Unsharp Mask, for example, has its roots in film photography, where wet-darkroom magicians would use a duplicate negative to create a mask to increase the apparent sharpness of a photographic print by increasing contrast along edges.  From the descriptions I read, it was quite a process.  Other digital sharpening tools in Photoshop include Smart Sharpen and Shake Reduction.  Of course, the flip side of digital sharpening is the introduction of digital noise.  (Noise is the grainy appearance of a photograph, and is beyond the scope of this blog, so we’ll save it for another day.)  Lightroom and Camera Raw’s sharpening and noise reduction tools work the same way – very easy to use, and the Nik filters have Define (for noise reduction) and Sharpener (for sharpening).  My head is swimming.

In a feeble attempt to keep myself somewhat sane (those who know me will attest that it’s as good as we can expect) while I’m learning sharpening, I’m still out there looking for great subjects and trying new techniques.  Here’s a few pictures from the last couple weeks.

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Okay, this isn’t really a new technique for me, but it’s fun and worthy of continued exploration. For this image, I overlaid a picture of the Ward Charcoal Ovens onto a picture of a wood floor (beautiful texture). I’m looking for a little constructive critique (CC), please!

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This is a Merlin, and it’s the latest capture in my quest for new raptor species. (Recall that I also got a Northern Harrier and a Rough Legged Hawk this year.) Merlins are in the Falcon family, and only get to about 12″ tall with a 25″ wingspan – just a little bigger than a Kestrel. This little one was in a tree in my neighbor’s yard and, uncharacteristically, sat for me for several minutes.

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My lovely bride was with me the other day and she is an excellent spotter. She saw this Great Horned Owl in a tree as we drove by. Some of my friends thought it was a Long Eared Owl, but my resident expert on bird identification confirmed Great Horned (thanks Larry!).

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Because I like to explore with different filters during processing, I used a vintage colors filter in Nik Silver Efex for this interpretation. This filter is one of my favorites

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Okay, this is a new technique called focus stacking. I mounted the camera on a tripod and locked it down. I took 5 images of these crabapples on a tree in our backyard, each image using a different focal plane (focusing at different levels) and blended them in Photoshop to create this image with all the crabapples in focus. I’ll refine my focus stacking workflow and use it on flowers this summer!

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While I was making images for focus stacking, I made this image of an ‘about to drip’ from another crabapple tree in the backyard. When I downloaded these images to the computer, I noticed the inverted tree in pretty good focus. I tried to get closer, but I would have bumped the tree and dislodged the drip. I’ll take it for now, but will look for other drips to shoot.  Aren’t optics fun?

Well, that’s it for this blog.  Stay tuned for more info on sharpening, focus stacking, and macro.  Until next time – enjoy!

PHOTOROGR

Breaking in a new kind of whet stone…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…one of the Austrian Pines…

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

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

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

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

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…and pounced on his noon meal!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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His ‘pensive’ pose…

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

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

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR