2014—Balancing The Big Dipper

We spent last Friday night at Balanced Rock in Arches taking photos of heavenly bodies with light painting by Moose. We spent at least a half hour setting up our cameras to capture heavenly bodies. It was a more difficult process than I thought it would be and I need to keep practicing it but I doubt I’ll be able to find gorgeous star studded night skies without light pollution around here. After we adjusted our settings to capture the Milky Way, we stumbled our way in the dark up to Balanced Rock. Moose ‘painted’ Balanced Rock with swaths of light ( you can read Moose’s comments about the experience here ) while we triggered our cameras on cue. My results are marginal at best but the potential for something fabulous is there. Here is my shot of the Big Dipper with Balanced Rock awash in light to the left.

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2014—Lesser Goldfinch

You’d think having just returned from a photography shoot with the goal of improving my photographic skills, I’d be a bit more attuned to making sure I set my camera up correctly. I forgot I was still set to aperture priority, a setting Moose Peterson almost always shoots in, when I went outside to photograph a pair of finches flitting around the yard, so I was mislead when the camera’s built in meter indicated proper exposure. I normally shoot in Manual mode and make exposure adjustments as I look at the image through the viewfinder. Because I forgot how the camera was set up, and because of the AP setting, the camera’s meter indicated proper exposure. The thing is, not only was I set to Aperture Priority but I also had Exposure Compensation set to minus one and 2/3 stops, settings left over from our last shoot in Utah on Sunday. However the lighting at midday when I took this shot didn’t require exposure compensation. And just now when I checked the capture time, I realized I haven’t returned either camera to its Pacific time settings. As a result of my incorrect settings, I had to increase exposure in Lightroom by slightly more than one full stop. Sigh.

I only got a couple of shots of the male lesser goldfinch before both birds disappeared but I kind of like the tilt of his head and the colorful background. It would be better if that twig weren’t directly in front of him but he flew off when I moved to get a better angle.


2014—Ruffled Feathers

This raven at Island in the Sky, Canyonlands (at least I think that’s where we were on our last sunset shoot) remained calm and unruffled while a bunch of photographers using various length lenses, surrounded it as it perched atop a juniper in the late afternoon sun waiting for someone to open the trash can so it could scavenge. Its feathers were ruffled only by the wind.

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I’m home from my Moab adventure. I’ve missed a few days of posts because our days were full and long and I didn’t have the time or the energy to post. The trip was a wonderful mix of photography, food, fiascos, fortitude, friendship, fissures, and few clouds (hey, I’m on a roll with the f-words!). With Moose Peterson, it’s all about the light and the light on this trip was not what we were all hoping for because there were few clouds to enhance our sunrises and sunsets and the light was bright and harsh on our midday excursions. So, we sought other types of photographic subjects that took advantage of the type of light we did have.

As we searched at midday of Day 4 for photo opportunities we encountered right next to the roadway, sheer cliffs from which rock climbers dangled. Spider-man doesn’t have a leg up on the guys and gals we watched. The first climber is rappelling down the rocks after finishing his climb; His shadow on the wall made me think of Spider-man. To show some scale to these rock walls, the second photo shows a climber ascending.

I had my 24-70mm lens on my D800 for these shots, using Aperture priority with the f/stop set to 7.1. The first shot is at 70mm, the second is 24mm. I first tried the 70-200mm lens but I didn’t like the results because it didn’t let me show the scale of the walls. What separated us from the climbers was a two lane road. Behind us was the Colorado River so we couldn’t back up too far.

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2014—Fish Eye

This morning, Kevin let me use his fisheye lens to take this shot at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park. It is my favorite shot of the morning and I had lots of help editing it. When complete frustration at my editing efforts became apparent, Richard stepped in to help; then he suggested I ask Moose for help, which I did. When Moose came to my rescue, he asked me what I didn’t like about the photo and I told him I didn’t like the brightness at the center of the shot. He first suggested cropping, then when I was still displeased, he suggested I reduce the brightness of the upper left blues and that I decrease the highlights and increase exposure. Wow! What a difference. I love this shot; the background reminds me of the background of the Mona Lisa. Hmmm. If I didn’t know that Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa in the early 1500’s, I would swear he came to Mesa Arch to paint it.

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2014—Arches Day 2—Soaring Heights

We left this morning at 5:45AM and returned to the lodge after 7PM. Tomorrow’s adventure starts at 5AM so I am not spending too much time editing photos tonight because I need sleep. We’ll have a Digital Darkroom session when we return from our morning shoot so I’ll work on them then.

These photos are from our morning visit to Arches National Park. We arrived at South Window Arch for sunrise. After last night’s incredible windstorm, the sky was bright and clear. We climbed up to the arch and after a brief time, I realized that I was the only one still on the west side of the arch. I climbed up into the arch and looked out at everyone perched on ledges on the other side. I gasped in horror until Moose shouted that I was in people’s shot so I either had to retreat or join them. Because I never ascend or descend anything more than one or two steps high, I didn’t think I could maneuver down that craggy slope but Richard came to my rescue and took my camera and tripod while I somehow managed to slip and slide my way down. I found a place to perch out of everyone’s way and set up. The first shot shows Robert, one of my fellow photographers, carrying his tripod through the arch and that’s the moon to his right. You can get a feel for the size of this arch. And see the craggy slope I descended. Yikes.

After South Window Arch, we walked over to Double Arch. I had another chance to learn rock climbing and decided to go for it. The last two shots are inside Double Arch. Bob loaned me his 16mm Fisheye lens for the first shot. I love this look. I was laying back against the rocks for this shot. However, I’m not used to having such a wide field of view. You can see a fellow photographer in the lower right of this shot. Now I understand why I so often and easily get into trouble by walking into someone’s shot here. I’m going to have to be more careful. We all have wide angle lenses but I’m just not used to their expansive field of view. The final photo is another shot of the double arches looking up at them from outside. I took the previous photo from up inside these arches, about midway up the shaded area at center right . I managed to get down off the rocks unscathed but did have to slide down on the seat of my pants for a few feet because I was afraid I might topple down if I didn’t. I haven’t checked my jeans yet to see if they have holes. I’m sure they’re red from the rocks, though. Dang this fear of heights!

I’ll save photos from the other shoots today for another blog post.

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2014—Arches Day 1—A Room With A View

We’re here! Red Cliffs Lodge is in a breathtaking setting, one we couldn’t resist running out to photograph as soon as we checked into our rooms. The red cliffs loom majestically over the slowly moving Colorado River with a backdrop of passing storm clouds. This area is stunningly beautiful. I hope I take photos over the next four days that will do it justice. And what a difference an hour makes. I took the first photo about 4:15 and as I was writing my blog to post it, I looked outside, saw the light breaking through and ran out to get another shot. I’m glad I did because the difference really does illustrate that it’s “all about the light” and now, a mere 15 minutes later, the view out my window looks just like the first shot again.

Moose, Kevin, and Sharon (Mrs. Moose) met us at the Grand Junction airport as the seven workshop participants arrived over the course of the morning and early afternoon from all parts of the country. It looks like we’ll have a fun group and I know most of them from previous trips! I know Kevin and Moose, of course, from my two trips with them last year; Eric, Bob, and Javier were on the Grand Canyon trip; and Richard was in the Grand Tetons. I know Sharon from many e-mails and phone calls but this was our first face to face meeting. The two new (to me) participants are Connie and Robert.

I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

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2014—All Zipped Up

I’m leaving tomorrow morning at the ungodly hour of 4AM for the airport to fly to Arches National Park in Utah for another photography workshop with Moose Peterson and Kevin Dobler. Most of my camera gear is packed into my ThinkTank camera bag and my suitcase is bulging to the point of bursting but I managed to get my tripod and hiking boots and a week’s worth of cold weather clothes into a carryon size suitcase AND zip it closed! I wasn’t going to take any photos today because I’ve been busy packing and getting ready but once everything was packed, I had some time so I checked out my Flickr group’s challenges and I thought my bulging suitcase would fit the “containers” challenge. With my tripod packed, I had to improvise with a stack of books on the step ladder and I decided to focus just on the zippers.

Oh, and I used my 24-70mm and my D800 for this shot. Although it’s a closeup, I didn’t feel the need to macro-ize it. (Is that even a word?)

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“The use of money is all the advantage there is in having money.”

—Poor Richard’s Almanack

Benjamin Franklin’s words work for me. They help me justify my photography-related purchases including my most recent, the 105mm macro lens. And today’s Flickr challenge is “details” and what better way to put my continuing macro obsession to good use than a nice detail shot!

I happened to have one of the new “counterfeit proof” hundred dollar bills in my wallet. I thought of taking shots of some of the new additions to the bill but Ben’s eyes drew me in.

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2014—Anatomy of Butternut Squash Soup

As I cut open the butternut squash to make a pot of one of my favorite soups, the look of the fibers with the seeds brought to mind an anatomical closeup of arteries. I thought my shots using my newest obsession, my macro lens, might gross out my scant few blog followers because they really did look like arteries so I decided to use the anatomy analogy for the soup and took closeups of some of the main ingredients:

Butternut squash, carrots, sage, garlic, leek.

Anatomy of Butternut Squash Soup


I am fascinated by the close ups I can take with my new macro lens.

ISO 100, f/14, 1/2 second shutter. I made only very minor adjustments in clarity, vibrance, blacks, shadows; no cropping. The light was fading; it was 4:45 PM when I took it in the deeply shaded backyard.

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2014—It’s A Small World After all

I’m am starting to focus on assembling my camera equipment and my clothes and especially my now-huge collection of warm gloves for my trip to Arches next week. It doesn’t look like the weather will be the bone-chilling 0° we had at the Grand Canyon last year at this time but the lows will be below freezing and in addition to Arches National Park sights, we’re going to be photographing star trails and other heavenly bodies so we’ll be outside at night. Despite my need to get ready, though, I am so fascinated by my new macro lens that I keep looking around for small things to photograph.

My boxes of shells from Port Aransas seem to hold the most promise right now. I sorted through the box and found the smallest shells. The conch shaped shell is the largest at about 7/8 of an inch and the tiny auger shell is just slightly over 5/8″ in length. The sand dollar is about 5/8″ and is the one shell that has been setting on my bathroom shower ledge for at past two years and, with the naked eye, I did not notice the tiny little black fibers that are so clear in this photograph. I would have thought they might be part of the sand dollar if it weren’t for the one teal colored fiber that must be from one of my teal colored tops. I don’t think that color is natural to a sand dollar, dead or alive. I guess I need to dust more often.

And, as I said in an earlier post, “Stop me before I photograph everything smaller than a nickel!!” Oh, maybe I need to photograph a nickel!

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2014—Fire Rainbow

When I arrived at the gym about 8:30 this morning the sun was up and midway between the sun and a huge ascending bank of clouds was a bright spot displaying all the colors of the spectrum. Of course I grabbed my camera and jumped out of the car to photograph it. I’ve featured this phenomenon in my blog in a past post called Rainbow Clouds a couple of years ago but I took that shot was near sunset up in Redding.

This is sometimes called Fire Rainbow because when it appears in cirrus clouds, those wispy horsetail like clouds, the colors look like flames. This happens when the light reflects off ice crystals in the atmosphere in an optical phenomenon called circumhorizontal arc—I love Google! This shot shows only a tiny bit of the arc which was never entirely visible this morning.

In an effort to get true rainbow colors in the photograph, I had to make some significant exposure adjustments. I took this at ISO 100, f/16 and 1/1250 second shutter speed. Even at that, I should have further increased the shutter speed or the f-stop because when I downloaded the shots, the rainbow colors were dim and the sky and clouds were dark and dull. For this photo, I added a little clarity, vibrance, and tonal curve in Lightroom and then decreased the luminance for all the colors.

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2014—Focus Ring

Stop me before I photograph everything smaller than a nickel!! This is a sundial shell I picked up on one of the Gulf beaches at Port Aransas a couple of years ago. It measures less than 3/4 of an inch.

While I’m loving my new macro lens, I’m still working on focus. I’m not used to manually focusing things so after watching Bill Fortney’s video on Kelby Training, I am trying very hard to follow his advice: start with the subject out of focus then turn the focus ring slightly past and back to focus. Don’t fiddle. It’s hard not to fiddle.

I took this in natural window light and processed it in black and white because the sundial shell had almost no color after exposure to the hot Texas sun for who knows how many years before I snatched it up. This is one of the Silver Efex Pro presets, “high structure, smooth” and I adjusted the contrast and structure a little.

ISO 100
3 seconds shutter

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I’ve wanted a macro lens for years but whenever I went to buy a new lens, some other aspect of photography was motivating me so I never bought one. My upcoming trip to Moab, Utah and Arches National Park with Moose Peterson does not seem a very likely reason to buy a macro lens but the combination of Nikon’s lens rebate combined with Moose’s intriguing comment about macro lenses in his “what to bring” message to participants and an encouraging visit to the CPA about taxes this morning was enough to make me spring for one this afternoon.

I bought a Nikkor 105mm 2.8 lens and I discovered I have much to learn about macro photography. My friend Melinda’s coaching (use a tripod, use manual focus, and set a deeper depth of field that you’d think) coupled with some Kelby On-line Training videos, helped me with my first shots. This is a closeup of my favorite lens, my Nikkor 24-70mm 2.8 lens which I keep on my D800 at all times and which I carry with me in my Lowepro camera bag/purse at all times. It is apparent by the nicks and scratches on the surface of the lens body, clearly shown in this macro shot, that this is a well-used lens. Will my Nikkor 105mm 2.8 replace it? Only time will tell.

Focal Length 105mm
ISO 100
1.6 seconds

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2014—Waxing Nostalgic

My husband and I used to play chess. I haven’t played in years and I was never very good at it but I always enjoyed the challenge. One of my Flickr challenges from a day or so ago was “pieces” and today when I thought about that theme, chess pieces came to mind. What I wasn’t expecting was what I found in an old box of chessmen that belonged to my late husband and that I’d never opened before. We used to play with a different set. The original box with wooden chessmen in it, its price marked in blue ink as $1.25, did not contain a completely original set. One of the pawns was made entirely of wax. It is an almost perfect replica of the other pawns except that some of the wax is pink instead of black.

Seeing this pawn made me wax nostalgic for Ron’s creativity and his ability to do just about anything. My guess is that a pawn fell to the floor and one of his dogs (probably Michael, as almost all of his dogs were named Michael) chewed it up. Knowing Ron, he would have created a mold, poured candle wax into it and made a new pawn instead of buying a new set even though $1.25 in the late 50’s or early 60’s would not have been too expensive.

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2014—It Was 50 Years Ago Today

No, not when Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play (we’re getting close to 100 years on that one, aren’t we?) but it was 50 years ago today that The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan’s show for the first time. There has been endless hype about this landmark event and I must admit I’m looking forward to watching the retrospective about it tonight on CBS. I remember that day well. I was so excited that my stomach was churning and I was happy to get a call from my friend Suzanne who decided we should spend the day distracting ourselves until the show started by roller skating around Santa Rosa. As a senior in high school, I hadn’t roller skated in years so I had to find my old clamp-on keyed skates that my mom had stored in the garage. I had long before given up wearing oxfords and I remember my Keds didn’t hold the skates on too well. I don’t recall who else joined us on our skate around town that day but it was a fun distraction until we heard Ed Sullivan announce, “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Beatles!”

I read somewhere that photos from the Ed Sullivan show were used for the cover for The Beatles’ Second US Album. I didn’t know it then but in looking at the photos on that album, I can believe they were from that day. What a perfect subject for my photo today because I still have all of my well worn Beatles albums.

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2014—Learning Curve

I’m practicing making lattes and want to be able to make cappuccinos as well but I can’t quite master the frothing technique nor the skill of pouring the espresso shot into the frothed milk properly so that I can create a lovely design. I have a long way to go to become proficient in these skills. This shot literally represents my learning curve. A couple of recent Flickr challenges inspired my creation this morning. One is “seen from above” and the other is “swirl or swirling.” I think this shot meets both challenges.


2014—Is It Soup Yet?

It’s soup weather! Winter has finally arrived in Northern California and we are thrilled to have a few days of much-needed rain, however sparse it may be. It’s been cool and overcast today—perfect weather for a pot of soup. I saw an interesting recipe on Food Network for pasta e fagioli so I made a pot this afternoon. I think there’s more pasta than fagioli in it but it has kale, the latest “super food,” so that makes it healthier, I guess. In any event, it’s a delicious comfort food for a rainy evening.

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