Working with some older files recently, this image struck me as one that I needed to convert to black & white. Even in subdued light, the natural contrast of the fungus against the pine bark had to be toned down slightly. This was taken in the forests of eastern Arizona.
There’s a local spot I like to go when I just want to get outdoors for a little fresh air and exercise. It’s a moderately steep hill with no real trail and pretty much nothing but sandstone and some small plants. Most of the rocks are typical sandstone, with minimal definition. Then there’s this little pocket along the route. Everything has a kind of animal print design where stripes tried to develop, but some disruptive force came along during the process. I had to bring a camera along on one of my hikes to capture this anomaly.
As I mentioned in my last post, we had an unusually nice run of cloudy days and rain this summer which is starting to feel like a distant memory. On one of those days, I headed out expecting to get wet. No, make that I was hoping to get thoroughly drenched. At least, that’s how it looked when I started. Mother Nature changed her mind as she often does, but this day turned out to be fantastic for hiking. The big storm lost its energy and in its wake left a couple hours of heavy overcast, light drizzle, and temps around 78 degrees. Technically, the subject in my photo could be called a waterfall, but that’s a stretch. There were tiny pools at the bottom, and several drops trickling down the wall, and that’s about all you might ever see here. The problem with this location is the lack of drainage to feed enough water over the top, unless of course, you were here getting thoroughly drenched by rain. I’ll keep trying. In the meantime, the contrast of the wet black streak against the sandstone and the soft light made for a nice image. Further up, wet plants and continued soft light made for lots of subjects later that day.
The monsoon season has been a good one this year, but for the most part, appears to be over. Sunny and hot dominates the upcoming forecast once again. We had almost a month straight with cloud cover, many small rains, and some downpours. Sadly, from a photographer’s standpoint, most of the big rains happened at night. There are a couple spots with normally dry waterfalls that have safe access no matter what the weather, and I’ve been wanting to capture those in full force. Two weeks ago, we had a daytime thunderstorm in the right part of town, and I headed out to see some waterfalls. As I got closer, I realized the rain had missed the area I hoped to see, so I kept driving. When I came upon this canyon, I could see a waterfall going. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get closer before the flow ceased, so I had a moderate telephoto lens along for that reason. Errant raindrops were still coming down as well as thunder rumbling from somewhere overhead, without seeing any lightning. Despite that, I could see blue skies about to take over. I took a photo from this same spot five minutes earlier that shows all the waterfalls because of the soft light. When I saw the sunlight coming through, I knew this was going to be a b&w. All those cliffs were still very wet, and in this shot you can still see one waterfall clearly. If you’re seeing this on a larger screen, you might see a couple of the other ones.
I’ll admit I haven’t been very motivated to take photos lately. I’ve been out hiking and had my camera along, but there haven’t been a lot of WOW moments. The thing that has captured my attention is new (to me) software. I demo’d a previous version of Topaz Labs software a couple years ago, but didn’t think enough of it to purchase. Advancements in their product made the decision different this time.
I have hundreds of photographs that I never considered printing because of slight flaws. I have now spent weeks testing the potential for many of these shots. The image above is one of several no longer going by way of the delete button. It was taken when I was still recovering from an injury, so I only had my camera with a smaller sensor and smaller megapixel size. Cropping of the original frame was further reducing its printing potential. Some images, mostly old film shots, are beyond recovering to the point I would like, but there are more than enough that have come through extremely well.
The top photo may not come across on screen like it does in a larger print. At first glance the rocks in the creek bed are the most obvious. Moving closer to the print, all those tiny branches capture the viewers attention, some clearly reflected off the water, some seemingly bonded to the stone. This is what I first saw when I pressed the shutter and am glad I was finally able to bring it out of the digital capture.
A couple weeks ago, I was driving through the desert of western Arizona. The clouds were quickly changing and various degrees of light and shade were trading places upon the landscape. I wish I could have set up a tripod for time-lapse video, but by the time I walked to this spot, all the good stuff was gone in about a minute.
I always liked this photo in color, and never really thought of it in black and white until I was playing around with some files last week. Some effects can be achieved in Photoshop, and sometimes you just have to wait for the right moment to press the shutter. I’m sure I’ve talked about it before. I call it Mother Nature’s dodge and burn. A storm was clearing over the Superstition Mountains just as it was getting late in the day. Shafts of light were sliding around here and there, then a large opening in the clouds allowed for the Saguaro cactus forest to be illuminated while the cliffs above were waiting their turn.
As we approach springtime, it’s becoming clear that we really haven’t had a winter here in the southwest. One big storm came through, but in a week’s time, that was already in the rearview mirror. There have been some years where spring has produced several good storms, and salvaged what was otherwise a dismal water season. I’m hoping this is one of those years, because we really need the water.
I like exploring nature to find the features that haven’t been posted on social media over and over again. If I sent this one out with a location tag, I’m afraid it might join that not so elite group. As with an image I posted a couple months ago, this one is loaded with color, but I’m more inclined to this rendition.
I’m truly amazed at what a digital camera can see versus what the human eye sees. Anybody who has taken night sky images can tell you that. The original of this shot is on medium format transparency film, and I don’t see any details in the middle ground. Just pure contrast.
Since I’ve started “scanning” old film, this shot has stood out as as the biggest surprise. Even with Photoshop, I was not able to pull out any detail from the shadows from the file created with an actual scanner. I could have tried exposure blending, but I only used one shot and a little bit of Photoshop to create the final product you see here.
As most of you know, when I’m outdoors taking photographs, I concentrate my efforts on the details of the landscape. In recent days, I have made trips with the primary purpose of capturing the animals and birds of the environment. This requires faster thinking and slower movement than with my traditional subjects, and has been an interesting change of pace.
As in photography, so goes life. While Covid still has prevented much of what I might have otherwise been doing, I have been making a point to not just sit around Netflix binging. I probably won’t be presenting the things which I have been learning on this site, but I have been using this newfound spare time to take on challenges which I never would have attempted years ago. As my recent birthday was one in which both digits changed, I’m glad to be pushing my limits at a time when many people stop doing that.
Additionally, I wanted to point out that while I have photographed more birds in the last few months than I have in the rest of my life, I really never knew which species most of them were. I tried identifying them via websites, but wasn’t getting results. Then I downloaded an app called Merlin Bird ID. The only downside to this app is if you don’t have memory space on your phone to download the databases for your region. This app has made life simple for someone like me who’s not a birder.
Finding running water around here is getting tougher, but there are some places that always come through. A normal water level here would be covering most of those rocks, and the algae has dried to leave a crusty white cap. I’m learning to make the best of cloudless skies, as that appears to be the trend this winter.
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