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Outside The Comfort Zone

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.

birds, egret, Salt River, Arizona
birds, Arizona, black phoebe
common snipe, black-necked Stilt, Salt River, Arizona
Common Gallinule, Salt River, Arizona
horses, Arizona, Salt River

Midweek Monochrome 01-06-21

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.

Season’s Greetings

With ridiculously warm temperatures and fires throughout the west, I’ve had little incentive to want to be out photographing this year. A couple hundred people got to live out my worst nightmare earlier this year when fast moving fires in California required them to be rescued in the forest. Las Vegas finally ended a string of 240 days without measurable rain last week. That should be a forever-standing record, and if it ends up being broken, we’re in deep trouble.

Despite so much negative news taking place, there have been some wonderful rare events this year. The Comet Neowise and this week’s Jupiter-Saturn conjunction have been a part of that. I bought a long telephoto lens a couple of years ago with the hopes of using it for wildlife and moonrise photos. I did research on telescopes vs. telephoto lenses before my purchase, and realized a telescope would have too many limitations. My lens has had a learning curve, and I have been pleasantly surprised to find that I can see Saturn’s rings in a photo taken with this lens. All this from the comfort of my backyard. I guess the lesson we should be taking from 2020 is that good things are still happening and we just need to keep our eyes and our minds open to them.

Midweek Monochrome 12-09-20

The Navajo Nation has imposed more restrictions on travel, so it might be another six months before anyone can visit here the way Covid cases are going. I’m glad I’ve had opportunities to see many places on the reservation, including some not available to most. This is one of those photos that I think most people would show in color (with the saturation boosted as well), but the details are perfectly suited to black and white.

Midweek Monochrome 11-25-20

Every once in a while, I’ve come across a place where the seasons didn’t seem to be in alignment with the rest of the world. Sycamore Canyon was one of those places for me. It was late in the year and I was expecting all the trees to be leafless and the general mood to be winterish. To my surprise, all the trees were still holding on to green leaves and the mood was very energetic. The original of this photo is on color film, but with a new “scan”, the details in black and white make it difficult to favor the original.

Old School Meets New

This year has provided an opportunity to edit my film collection with ample time that I would not have had otherwise. Once upon a time, I had a 36″ legal depth file cabinet which had the upper drawer fully devoted to film. In addition, I had a set of antique library index card cabinets with one section (15 drawers) containing nothing but mounted film. A few months ago, I wrote about going through the 35mm collection. Around August, I went through the rest of it. I shot a lot of 4×5 film, but the majority of it was 2 1/4 film. I learned early on that a lab duplicate could never match the quality of straight-out-of-camera, so when I had something good, I made sure I had at least one backup, often many more. Now that nothing goes out as film anymore, It was time to dispose of the shots that no longer serve a purpose. By the time I finished, I had eliminated about 80-100 pounds of film and mounts. My life’s work now takes up about two shoeboxes.

The only question remaining after the elimination process was what to do with the remaining film. I wasn’t really happy with the scanner I owned. It usually did well with the 4×5 film, sometimes did well with the 2 1/4, and never with the 35mm. Reviews into newer scanners didn’t provide a good feeling about upgrading, and everybody said the only way to scan 35mm was with a scanner dedicated to that format. 35mm was never my bread-and-butter. I only used it when time wouldn’t allow for a larger camera, or a telephoto lens was called for. Buying a new scanner for the sole purpose of digitizing these slides seemed like a waste. Devices for slide duplication which fit onto a lens are available, but I had already tried something along those lines. Now I had the time to perfect it.

I tried to modify the way the scanner worked, first by changing the height of the film trays off the bed of the scanner. No significant results. Then, I thought removing the glass between the optical sensor and the film might help. That pretty much destroyed the scanner. No loss there. Then I made a lightbox with completely dark surroundings and played with all kinds of variables until I got it right. I did save the film holders from the scanner, as they have become invaluable.

There were three major problems with the scanner that are no longer present by using a digital camera. Most notably was the presence of chromatic aberration that was in the scans, but not the original film. Often this was time consuming to eliminate, sometimes impossible without adverse effects. Secondly, areas of pure black always had noise. Thirdly, there were occasions when the scanned image had a band of red, green, and blue pixels running through it. None of these are issues anymore, and the sharpness can’t be matched.

As if that wasn’t enough to keep me busy, I now had a reason to get some images sent out, so the process of rescanning my library has begun. After all this time of being on the computer, I had no motivation to be on a computer any longer than I already was, so that is why I have been absent from this site. I had a different perspective for saving film for scanning purposes versus what I would have considered the best shot going out as film. Many shots in the new collection have never been out in 30+ years. Here are some of my ‘salvaged’ images.

Arizona, Riparian zone, reflection, landscape photography, Steve Bruno
Zion, autumn, National Parks, Utah, Steve Bruno
flowers, macro, desert, Steve Bruno

Here is the first image I have taken outdoors in almost three months. This is from this morning using the same lens I use for ‘scanning’.

bees, pollinators, macro, Steve Bruno Photography

Midweek Monochrome 08-26-20

As with last week’s post, I’m sharing an image of some place cool and wet until summer goes away. The weather people have put some obscenely low numbers in the long-range forecast, but then they tried that a couple weeks ago. As the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…..not gonna happen.

Groundhog Day

Yes, we’re starting to feel like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day. Mother Nature has succeeded in issuing a stay at home order more potent than any Governor’s. The only time to be comfortable outdoors is first thing in the morning, but the smoke throughout the west has reached unhealthful conditions in many places, defeating the purpose of going out.

In case you missed this week’s news, record setting heat in Death Valley reached 130 degrees, a mark not seen there in over 100 years, or over one pandemic ago. The photo below is from the National Park Service Instagram page. Think of it like a bank thermometer, but the official reading is the third highest ever recorded on Earth. Phoenix has had a record number of 110+ days, as well as a record number of 115+ days. It could snow there this week, and it would still be the hottest summer on record. Las Vegas tried to end rainless streak of 89 days, but could only squeeze out a trace of rain. The people who study these things say we have been in a long term drought which historically last 30 years, and we are about 25 years into it. I hope in 5 years from now Californians are back to complaining about all the rain. It beats the hell out of all these fires.

Perhaps the most important news of the week comes from Greenland. Scientists now say that the ice cap there has reached the point of no return. People weren’t paying attention to Al Gore twenty years ago, so perhaps news like this will get people listening to scientists now. If you want to see how we’ve destroyed the polar ice cap, you can click on the link below.

Polar Ice Caps Melting

Midweek Monochrome 08-19-20

A few years back, I went to Colorado over Memorial Day Weekend. I awoke to fresh snowfall one morning near Wolf Creek Pass. I spent the entire morning wandering through the deep snow and taking lots of photos. I finished the day north of Durango with more of the same conditions, and it was a truly awesome day. I’m going to be thinking cool, wet thoughts to get me through the rest of this summer, as I’ve given up trying to go out in this heat.

Midweek Monochrome 08-12-20

On my last springtime hike into Red Rock Canyon, things had changed dramatically in just two to three weeks from the previous journey into the same canyon. The plants had taken over, making the trip more obstacle course-like than before, and water levels in the creek had dropped with even some pools completely gone. There was plenty of life around, including these butterflies feeling spring in the air. This shot was somewhat challenging, as I had to use my body and hat to shade sun hotspots that were dotting the frame otherwise, while autofocus was not seeing things as I did.

Midweek Monochrome 08-05-20

While driving through the desert a couple weeks ago, I departed under the same clear skies we’ve had for most of the summer. After a couple hours, I noticed a tiny cloud or two on the horizon. I was headed in that direction, but didn’t think the situation would be the same in two hours. When I arrived, there was an hour or more of daylight remaining, and to my surprise, the cloud cover appeared to be getting better. I stuck around until sunset before continuing on to my destination, glad I had my camera along.

Midweek Monochrome 07-29-20

All this hot weather has me reminiscing about a couple months ago. This photo was from behind one of the waterfalls in Red Rock Canyon. It was late into springtime, and the flow was diminished from earlier in the year, but refreshing nonetheless.

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