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The final gasp

Taken last week when I snapped my previous sunset photo that I did in HDR, I loved this shot with the darkened trees and the final gasp of the sun exploding through the clouds in front of it.

Just another one of those gorgeous sunsets you see all the time during the summer months in Phoenix.

Just another Arizona sunset

At first glance I would expect most people to see this photo and NOT choose Phoenix, Arizona as the location it was taken. You have some farm fields, tall trees, wildflowers and some hay protected by the sun. Definitely not something people naturally picture when it comes to Arizona and our deserts. Ah, but it is.

I photographed this last night about 1.5 miles from my house down in Chandler, which is basically on the southeastern corner of the metropolitan Phoenix area. We’re moving soon to downtown Phoenix and I’m going to miss sights like these on a few miles away. But out here, amidst the new home developments, shopping areas and industrial construction, you still have pockets of farms and agriculture thriving and hanging around. I love it.

The monsoon season hasn’t really nailed Phoenix yet, but the debris clouds have been spectacular and last night’s sunset was full of rays shining through clouds, stretching across the sky. The sunset photo I posted a few days ago ironically also had sunflowers in them, but they are really all over the place right now. I saw them here earlier in the week and knew I wanted to head back for a sunset shot whenever I got the chance.

Technically, this is a hand-held, 3-bracket HDR from Photomatix, CS5, Imagenomic and some Topaz. I Actually processed two HDRs for this, one to get the sky right, one to get the flowers and foreground a little more colorful, and then masked them together in CS5.

I also used a new lens that I purchased off Craigslist…a simple Tamron 17-35 f2.8-4 Di LP SD. The price was cheap and I’ve been wanting to get a nice wide angle for portrait shooting, and one with a decently wide aperture. All the reviews of this lens, plus the sample shots, were fantastic. If anything, it’s an amazing upgrade from my 18-55mm Canon kit lens. I loved the way this shot turned out.

Sunsets, Sunflowers and Cactus

After bailing on the storms, I saw a giant monolith of a mountain jutting from the land way east of Florence. I knew I couldn’t get there, so I tried to get as close as I could…so I took off down a dirt road named East Price. Well, I never got to the mountains as the sun just set too quickly, but it didn’t stop me from pulling the car over on a few occasions and lining up a couple of shots.

A typical Arizona summer sunset right here, with debris clouds from the monsoons creating some spectacular lighting. The special part of this shot I think was the sunflowers in the foreground with the cactus and sky. Interesting all the wild sunflowers growing all over the deserts.

The dark line across the shot are some train tracks that appeared to be too old to carry a train until one came by just before this shot was taken.

And on another note, this earned me an Approver’s Choice over on Wunderground, so very awesome!

Two more sunsets from downtown Tempe

I posted a shot on Monday of the Hayden Flour Mill at sunset, which you can see here again in the above panoramic view of the town of Tempe, Arizona. The sky was cooperative that night and it made for a nice sunset from the slopes of A-Mountain. Click on the photo for a larger, more detailed view.

The shot below is looking north-northwest towards the Tempe Town Lake, also from A-Mountain. I love how it was just dark enough to see the string of lights running across the Mill Avenue bridges, plus a few street lights here and there. The reflection off the building is what makes the shot for me.

Dusk over the Wasatch National Park (HDR)

This is an HDR photo of the Wasatch National Park at sunset. I had been sitting on the side of this mountain watching the sun go down, watching a little weather blow through Salt Lake City…and just waited to see how the sun would light up these mountains.

The sky proved fairly awesome with the clouds and some color, but a couple of airplanes decided to cross overhead at the same time, which really gave it a cool look.

Sunset on the Four Peaks

My plan on Wednesday was to drive out and get some photos of the snow on the Four Peaks mountain range northeast of Phoenix. You can get a nice view by heading up the Beeline Highway and turning off on the appropriately named Four Peaks Road.

I’ve always wanted to take a great picture of the Four Peaks covered in snow. It happens out here once a year if you’re lucky and the snow disappears quickly.

On this day it was already stormy and rainy out. Jina told me it might be better to wait until Thursday for a clearer day. She was right for a bit, because when I got out there around 3:30, the peaks were entirely covered in clouds. And it didn’t look like it would clear up.

I gave up and drove further up the Beeline, in hopes of finding some other snowy peaks. I found A LOT of good stuff up there, some of which I’ll post tomorrow.

But on my way back, I realized it was clearing a bit. I rushed to the spot I found earlier on Four Peaks Road and setup. The clouds were lifting off the peaks and the sun was starting to set.

I knew if I could get a shot of the peaks lit up orange from the setting sun, it might be the photo of a lifetime for this Arizona native. But the sun was behind clouds and the horizon was barely visible.

I sat there waiting for almost an hour, but the sun finally did peak out from below the clouds and slowly it lit up the hills below the peaks, up the peaks and then finally the peaks themselves and the clouds above.

It only lasted about 5 minutes, but it was the pinnacle of my short photography career up until this point. I don’t know how you get a better chance than this. High clouds over the peaks, lit up from the setting sun. The very tippy tops of the peaks shadowed slightly from the clouds. The snow…the orange-purple light…the clear day…it all added up to something I wont ever forget.

Oh yeah, it’s available to hang on your wall somewhere! Check out the new price guide I posted the other night.

Chandler Park Sunset

The same park I took some other shots at in a previous blog post also provided some amazing sunsets the day before.

The park is high, around three stories, so you get an amazing view.

Some more cement pipes that have been turned into art. This is one that set up perfectly for a setting sun.

I’ve gotten a lot of good feed back on this one. I call it “Ocotillo Sunset” because of the ocotillo cactus in the foreground. Got me an AC on Wunderground (Approver’s Choice)!

Sunset from November 4th

We had an insanely gorgeous sunset last Wednesday. In fact, while I was out taking pictures, a friend from work called to make sure I was out taking pictures! Even he knew I wouldn’t want to miss what was going on out there.

Here are the best four below, the last one being an HDR photo from the park down the street. The skies look extra-creepy in it because of the HDR method, but it’s pretty cool.

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My first HDR photo

Most of you are probably asking what HDR means. I actually asked myself that when writing this blog, because while I know what an HDR photo looks like, I always forget what it stands for:

High Dynamic Range Imaging…or HDR (the “i” gets dropped) Read more here if you want to learn the details.

The simple explanation is a merging of multiple images of one scene shot at different lighting levels. Some cameras can take many photos in a row and do something called “bracketing” where it will alternate between lightning levels. You then take those images and combine them using software and tone mapping.

I’ll explain it below by showing first the three images I took in rapid succession, followed up by the completed product.

The key to HDR images is to make sure you scene has enough contrast to really take advantage of what HDR gives you. When I was in Springfield taking sunset photos, I realized that coupled with the clouds, this might be a great HDR photo.

I hit the nail on the head with this one.

So here are the first three images, taken at different levels (+2, 0, -2 EV):

IMG_1557

IMG_1555

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Apart, all three are pretty boring and don’t show much detail. The purpose of taking three shots (or more depending) is to capture all the possible lighting details in a scene or subject. Sometimes there are so many details that one photo wont see, so doing an HDR opens up a whole new world.

The result tends to be a photo that looks other-worldly or almost fantasy-like. Some HDR photos can be very subtle, others can be insane.

So here is the finished product after I combined all three photos using Photomatix and tweaking the look a bit:

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Pretty cool huh? I’m so proud of this photo…I can’t even tell you how long I’ve been wanting to create one of these.

If you want to check out more HDR photos, just Google it, or check out the links below.

HDR 1

HDR 2

HDR 3 (this one is pretty friggin’ amazing)

Springfield rain and sunset photos

I spent an incredibly long time in the Springfield airport this past Friday. We finished up a bit early and so I arrived at the airport around noon for a 4:20 flight. That flight turned into 5:20 and then 6:30, meaning I would miss my connection to Phoenix in Memphis. I ended up having to book on Allegiant for a 9:35pm departure and arrival late Friday night.

But sometimes there are blessings when you least expect them, and this was also the case Friday night. While booking my Allegiant ticket, I looked outside the small airport and noticed a glorious sunset going on, so I rushed outside.

Two of the sunset pictures appear below, but first is a rain shot I took on Thursday night during a major downpour. A storm had been soaking the entire Midwest, dumped tons of snow in Colorado and was responsible for my delays on Friday night.

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