Last week we took what I thought would be a grand paragliding odyssey to Utah, Wyoming, and maybe Colorado. We first went to the Point of the Mountain and quickly became demoralized due to our lack of skills in high wind and having to learn around a huge amount of people while trying not to cause collisions between others. So failing that, we thought it would be nice to go up American Fork Canyon and hike Timp from the Timpanooke Trail. I’ve hiked from the Aspen Grove side more times than I can remember, but only once from the Timpanooke side, which is also the prettier, but longer trail.
Anyways, we were only able to make it just under 3/4′s of the way from the peak due to thin snow bridges with no alternate way around them. I’ve never been stopped by snow before on the Aspen Grove side, but I guess there are very limited spots to ascend on the Timpanooke side. I don’t even care about the peak, but I was super bummed as I really wanted to show Amber Emerald Lake and get some pictures from there; one of the prettiest spots on the planet if you ask me. Here is a shot near the end of the trail for us looking back towards the backside of Alta and Snowbird. Yeah, I grew up just a few minutes drive from here near Aspen Grove. This makes me miss it!
The full sized panorama’s can be found by clicking on the pictures and going to the larger sizes in flickr, these small sized shots really blow..
Last May we took a quick trip over to the Hakone area to go to this crazy onsen that has everything from a coffee bath, a wine bath, sake bath, and a pool you dip your feet into and let little fish nibble off your top layer of skin. We also were able to see another side of Fuji I had not seen before once we reached the Gotemba area. The city of Gotemba has got one hell of a view! I took these shots from their shrine, which was also nearby an awesome camp spot we found that was cheap and had a pretty amazing view of Fuji as well. I think I actually enjoyed the Gotemba area a bit more than Hakone, which is probably blasphemous to even say as so many people love Hakone, but that is the problem.. So many people in Hakone!
Of course, every time I go through my shots of Japan I miss it quite a bit, but it is easy to forget that during the spring time when I took these shots I had the worst allergies of my life! I could barely sleep at night for over a month during our last year there. I guess that is the price exacted by Mother Japan for so much amazing photography potential.
I am pretty sure this is in no way a unique shot as about 5 million people have probably stood beneath this sculpture with camera pointed towards the sky, but this is my take. I used a 7 shot DRI for the sky and HDR for the sculpture and building. I cheated a little bit and cloned out a small amount of some random building on the bottom left side of the shot.
My eyes are more than healed enough to process photos, but I am still going to just fish into my archive of photos I have already completed but have yet to post. I think that snow monkeys and Fuji must be my weakness, because after a couple of hours around either, I end up with way, way too many shots! I don’t remember if any of these shots were DRI’s or not, but I am pretty sure that at least one of the color ones was a DRI.
I have two friends travelling around in Thailand right now, one of them has a Flickr page and some great shots of Thailand found here. Naturally I am jealous, especially when I see shots of the Andaman Sea. I started going through my shots from our last trip to Thailand back in November/December of last year with the intent of putting together a tutorial on exactly how I throw together a lot of my DRI/HDR blended shots. I spent all morning on it, but I was not happy with the shot and scrapped the tutorial part. I cannot just delete the photo after all that work though! This first was taken in the city of Ayutthaya in one of the many, many shrines they have. The other is the 6 shot DRI that I worked on taken during the early morning sunrise at Railay Beach. If you could deport all of the tourists from the area except me and my wife, give me about 100 bags of sea salt and vinegar potato chips, a kayak and couple of years supply of sunscreen, it would be the ultimate beach paradise!
Along our drive through Wyoming we entered into a place I had never visited before, Big Horn Basin. It was quite a pleasant area with very green fields surrounded by strikingly orange rock, wide open ranges, lots of moose, and a couple of waterfalls. Since it is kind of in the middle of nowhere, there was not very much traffic, which makes you feel like you have the area all to yourself. I wouldn’t mind going back sometime as I am sure there is a lot to explore, I could even live in one of the surrounding towns!
When we landed in the States earlier this year, we went straight from the airport to an auto dealership and purchased a vehicle. From there we visited families in Utah and Idaho, the road tripped through the Tetons, Yellowstone, Wyoming, South Dakota, all the way down to Georgia. There was still a lot of snow in the Yellowstone area and a pass we wanted to use was closed about a mile and a half from the top. We ended up taking an impromptu trip on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. It is like a different world in this area after living in Japan. Completely desolate and vast, wide open spaces. Here is a 4-shot pano I snapped from a pull out.
Time was a tickin for me. I had one more free day available to go into downtown Tokyo before I would be leaving Japan and I STILL had not shot the Roppongi clock. It is kind of easy to miss since it is behind the Mori Tower, but damnit, there is a Starbucks right across the street with an open air seating area. I could have been comfortably sitting across the street sniping people as they walk past the clock while sipping down my Grande Carmel Machiotto that is sized for a midget and priced for a baron!
I don’t know what the hell kind of time it is flashing, if it is even time at all. The numbers seem to be a bit more random and only change once every 10 seconds or so. Maybe it is a Mayan numerical countdown until the end of the world, I don’t know. I just know that you need to take a walk behind the Mori Tower and find this clock and feed your camera!
It is hard not to miss all of the exploring of ancient relics in Turkey such as Anavarza Kalesi. Me and a friend hit this one early in the morning and quickly climbed to the top to witness a vividly golden sunrise without a soul in sight. I am always fascinated at the thought of ancient times and how this place must have looked. It is hard to find information about reliable dating for this site because it is just so damn ancient and the area has changed hands so many times that it is difficult to ascertain the age. The amazing thing is that this castle has a sprawling city remains below that has yet to ever be excavated even to this day!
So I grew tired of paying WordPress an annual fee to edit my theme CSS, so I finally reverted to a free theme that allowed me to change the background and header. I have quickly put together my own haphazard header and background, but I think I am partial to a lighter background for viewing photos, so I will probably change that in the future. The only problem is that I cannot change the color of the text, so the background might have to remain dark so the text remains readable. I also do not understand why every theme they have leaves a huge amount of unused space on the edge of each column??? I want to display and view pictures as large as possible!
I finally bought an Arca-Swiss plate for my 70-200 tripod foot so I can start getting some landscape and architectural shots with this most excellent lens. I have really liked the results, although, if it gets very windy, I find that my carbon fiber tripod is a little bit too much on the travel size to be able to handle long exposure shots with the 70-200 mounted up there without getting a little blur. It was a bit windy this evening, so I had to hang my entire bag on the tripod to ensure all exposures would come out sharp.
This friendly local fly fisher saw me shooting pictures of the sunset on my tripod and tried to communicate with me, asking if it was okay to move to the area my camera was pointed. Above and beyond respectful and I would never expect anyone to stay out of the way of a photographer in a public area like this, but I was actually quite glad he was going to position himself close to the setting sun rays reflecting off of the water. I hurriedly moved my tripod into place for a better composition with my freezing cold wife in tow and snapped these off.
I have only a couple of weeks left here in Japan and kept realizing that there were quite a few shots that I did not have due to my short notice move to Turkey before last summer. Now that I am back, I now have only a few weekends left before leaving Japan for good. We basically only had this last weekend as our only time when we don’t have something planned and getting a good shot of Fuji was one of “those shots” I was missing out on. So we threw our sleeping bags into our small little Toyota Starlet to camp out on Friday night for a 4am viewing of Fuji across Lake Motosu as long as our luck way for clear viewing conditions.
Two people sleeping in a Toyota Starlet goes against the grain of the universe and I would never recommend anyone ever try that. On top of not being able to sleep in 3 cubic feet worth of space, I also omitted my allergy meds, and allergies in Japan kick my ass. Luckily the weather cooperated and we had our first clear skies in what seemed like weeks. Not only did we get an awesome viewing at Lake Motosu, but we were also able to get some nice warm light paint on Fuji across nearby Lake Saiko.
My weakness in Tokyo.. Architecture. I have to shoot it.
Since our international flights originated in Bangkok, we thought it would be interesting to head up to the city of Ayutthaya, which is about an hour away from the city center, maybe slightly longer if you get caught in the hellish traffic usually found in Bangkok. We flagged a taxi down in the morning and were able to get an all day tour from the most friendly cab driver I have ever met in my life–and only for 1,500 baht. His mother was born in the city, so he knew exactly where to take us. He knew of so many spots that we eventually became so wore out that we had to turn him around back to Bangkok… where he proceeded to take us to more places. So I have a lot of shots from that day since there is so much cool stuff to see. Thank you Mr. Bangkok cab driver.
I had to go back into my extremely neglected archives so that I can vary my recently posted photos a bit instead of nothing but Turkey, I need to get away from work and go on a trip! That will be Thailand to meet my wife leaving in exactly in one week. This will be a second attempt at getting good pictures in that country as my first one was what prompted me to get a DSLR after my P&S became full of dust particles that ruined almost every picture I took the first time I was there. Anyways, here is another one of my favorite buildings–if not my favorite–in Tokyo, the Tokyo International Forum. The first batch I had processed I went really heavy on the orange hues for some reason. I have quite a few that I shot with a fluorescent white balance under these incandescent lights which gave a very blueish result.
Here is the main “tourist” entrance for the Sultan Ahmed, aka Blue Mosque in Istanbul. I am not sure why there are 2 entrances since they both deliver you to the same massive room with towering dome ceiling, circular light fixtures hanging on strands strung up to the underside of the dome accentuated with the musty smell of tens of thousands of sweaty tourist feet. I was glad that a few birds made it into this shot. It almost looks infrared to me, but it is just a 3 exposure DRI converted to black and white.
I had a three-day weekend and headed up to Istanbul for the 1st time in over three years. The first time I went with a good friend and my wife whom I was just beginning to date at the time. We had an amazing time and I would easily say that Istanbul is only 2nd to Prague when it comes to big cities. If I was offered a job there that could support me and my wife, I would take it in a second and I am sure my wife would probably back me up on that statement as well.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque), completed in 1616… Not even the coolest mosque in Istanbul. I should have a few acceptable shots of the coolest that I will post on the blog sooner than later.
And this is inside of the Sultan Ahmed. I didn’t bring a tripod so I had to hand hold and crank up the ISO to 4000 for this 5XP DRI shot @ f2.8. The corners are out of focus, but usually high ISO shots will turn out extremely noisy as the HDR and DRI process seems to amplify every little spec of noise. I was highly impressed with the results this D700 is turning out at such high ISO though.
Here I am trying to trying to venture out and take shots with human subjects in them for a change. Of course, Istanbul has all types of people since it is the gateway to Europe. I really dig the Middle Eastern dress that you find, but I am typically most shy about taking pictures of those who are wearing that kind of traditional dress for some reason. I’ll have to steal a few from behind I guess.
And 2 guards that were stationed at the entrance of the Topkapı Palace. I knew they wouldn’t care if I took their picture because they were unflinching statues until they were called out of their pose. I didn’t see them blink, instead they had a guy go up to their faces with a tissue to wipe away what was most likely crumbling stone out of the eyelids that were a result from such seriousness.
These two were good. I have never seen such an intense pose held so well that you wouldn’t be able to tell if they were wax figures or not.
Lots more to come. I am excited to go through and start processing the rest of my shots!
On the weekend me and a buddy (whom I just turned onto the Darkside with a Nikon D90) rented a car for a day to visit some nearby sights. The Sabancı Mosque is probably the largest attraction to be found in Adana. It is the largest mosque in Turkey and can accommodate 28,500 people at one time!
The accompanying park has got to be about 3 km long and is very ornately decorated with all kinds of statues, fountains, gardens, playground equipment, and plenty of places for a picnic.
There were a lot of people out when we first arrived, and let me tell you about being a foreigner rolling up to a park in Southern Turkey… You become the center of that world. Everyone wants to look at you or talk to you to practice their English or just find out what in the hell these 2 white boys are doing in Southern Turkey. I was a little apprehensive about rolling up with all of my photo equipment because I already knew what to expect, but I was totally surprised to find that when they see all the equipment, especially the 70-200 hand cannon, they immediately want you to take their pictures.
Almost none of them even wanted to ask if they could see the picture, instead they were totally surprised when I offered to show it to them on the camera LCD. They didn’t even try and ask me to email them a copy of the shot. So basically this is like free practice for someone timid about asking to take portraits.
Hell yeah! This kid below was so excited that he literally wet himself. Well, maybe he did it before he saw me, but I didn’t even notice until I got home and looked through my shots. I had to cut out about half the picture and clone some extra shirt to spare the poor kid some embarrassment.
This last shot isn’t the most interesting shot in the world, but what is interesting is that this was taken at ISO 4 million (4,000 for non-sarcastic types) and still looks pretty damn acceptable and let me take this at 1/60 hand held in the middle of the night @ 105mm! I did run this through Noise Ninja, another great little program.
Anyways, I need to keep going back to practice portraits because I have learned it is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be, especially when using my external flash. I have figured out that the exposure meter is basically worthless and trial and error or experience is what you really need to just get the exposure right.
Wow, I have been without Internet for a little over a week since I just moved from one location to another. I don’t even know what to do with myself if I cannot read about photography or go through blogs or Flickr. I actually started playing games or processing photos when I had free time. I thought I would quick post up a 360 degree panorama of Snake Castle (Yilankale Kalesi) comprised of 7 frames and made up of 34 shots spaced @ 1 EV and then merged together using Photomatix’s DRI function. You have to view this one at max size to really appreciate it.
The sunsets in this area are amazing, probably due to the plethora of burning fields present during the later parts of the year. Anyways, I was driving back home from Snake Castle last evening while the sun was disappearing behind the horizon and thought I had finally found an interesting shot a little too late of this creepy looking gas station. The HDR really pulled out the colors on this shot even though the sun was only casting indirect rays on the horizon by then.
There were some other abandoned buildings that I had spied nearby that I will have to visit again. I sure am glad I have my big-bad-evil tripod Demonicus when I am in these seedier areas. It was definitely a little bit spooky since my past experiences in Turkey is that there is always someone in the bushes, behind the trees, or in an old building even if it is out in the middle of nowhere.
Last Friday I found myself with a day off and thought it would be nice to go revisit scenic Anavarsa castle which is situated atop what must be a 1,000+ foot cliff. The first time we saw it we were on an awesome rock climbing trip at the base of the cliff, saw the amazing castle, and headed back the following weekend to explore the ruins. In the photo below, the little dots in the field below the cliff are actually sheep and cows if that helps give you a sense of scale.
It was humid as hell out and I felt like I was dying of aids for some reason, so you’ll have to bare with me since I wasn’t exactly in my happy photo place. Anyways, Anavarsa dates back longer than our recorded history from the area and from what I have been told, the ruins have yet to be excavated by the Turkish government. The history can be read on the Anazarbus Wiki, but the jest of it is that the castle and settlement below pre-date the Roman Empire and if you lived there prior to our times, you would most likely die in a battle or in an earthquake while being confused with multiple name changes to the settlement; all seemed to happen constantly to this site and it is absolutely remarkable to me that anything remains at all.
I will go back and take better photos to prove to you that a lot more remains than what my pictures present, but there is quite a bit of ruined structures from aqueducts, to arch-type gates, walls, and of course the remains of a very spread-out castle. I did play a bit with my new 70-200 bokeh cannon, but I am figuring out that zoomed in above 130′ish and above and wide open pretty much obliterates the background so much that I need to actually stop up to bring in some soft details to create a more interesting background.
Okay, this feels good. I haven’t touched any of my photos for a very long time. I completely forgot how fun it was to go through and process each shot and go back into time when each shot was taken. I need to do at least one or two each day, there isn’t really any excuse. Tonight I kind of went all out compared to what I usually process, although, I felt kind of rusty in achieving what I wanted and just did everything really quick.
Last weekend I joined a group of local photo enthusiasts on a Cappadocia tour trip specifically geared towards photography. I kind of had my doubts since I have taken a tour once before and thought it was absolute crap, plus I have been to Cappadocia many times and kind of prefer to do things on my own. This tour surprised me though. We saw everything. It was relentlessly good!
Cappadocia kind of reminds me of back home around the the Southern Utah area. Southern Utah has some of the most unique scenery that you can possibly fathom, so that is a good thing. The biggest difference is that there is deep history associated with this area. The convoluted sandstone scenery is full of ancient dwellings carved out by hand and can be found everywhere in this region. I have quite a few shots of these dwellings, but why not just show you a modern, hand-carved representation taken by my new friend The Bokeh Maker?
Did I mention that my friend The Bokeh Maker is sharp as a sword even when wide open?
There are 2 fortresses that you can climb in the area. They are massive sandstone formations jutting up out of the ground like mother natures skyscraper. Thousands of years ago people decided to carve out room and pathways within the skyscraper up to the very top. Here are 2 HDRs taken from the largest one during an amazing sunset.
Here are some cool cats I found at the top of another “fortress”. They thought it would be helpful to hold my tripod legs to steady it while I was taking shots, thus transferring every movement of their body into my shots. It was fun explaining to them how this plan was not going to work… I did let each one take turns with my camera. They thought that was çok mükemmel!
If you are into pottery, or patterns of pottery to feed your camera.. I recommend a visit to Cappadocia.
And lastly, I promised a shot of me for my sweet, sweet wife. Turkey sucks honey! I cannot stand it here.. Don’t be jealous that you cannot be here yet. It was hot in Cappadocia and I got some dust on my sensor!!!
So I just realized it has been about 3 weeks since I have taken a picture or worked on any. I am being bad, I know. I am still living out of a hotel, getting over my initial sickness that most people get when they first get to Turkey, looking for a vehicle armed with very basic knowledge of the local language, and trying to stay in touch with my wife so neither of us end up going crazy being apart for so long.
Hopefully in the next few weeks I can start finding some time and motivation at the end of the day to get back into it. Until then, here is the last shot I posted to Flickr over 3 weeks ago. This is the Kintai-kyo bridge located in Iwakuni. Definitely worth the trip if you happen to be near the Hiroshima area!
So here I am in Germany and I finally had some free time this weekend to cruise around the countryside and shoot the amazing rolling fields with such vivid yellow colors and wicked clouds contrasted by deep blue sky. Perfect shooting conditions. Today I have been sitting here showing one of my friends the process that I use with merging different HDR versions of the same shot with a DRI and then layering them together in Photoshop and this is the result.
Since I am leaving Japan a lot sooner than I thought, we have been trying to get out and see as many of the things we had planned on seeing during the last year we were here. This week we did a 3 day 2 night Shinkansen trip from Tokyo to Kyoto and Hiroshima. Quite honestly, it was nice to see all of this, but it is borderline work to jump off the trains, check your baggage at the hotel, and run from place to place trying to be as efficient as possible with so little time! Of course it will all be worth it once we process the photos, but it was a shame to not have more time to enjoy the sites along the way. We rode on the most modern Shinkansen, the N700, but I still think this E4 model pictured below is the coolest looking of them all.
Kyoto was our first destination along the worlds busiest hi-speed rail line, the Tōkaidō line. This line has a top speed of 270 km/h, but the N700 actually moves at 300 km/h (186 mph) on the adjacent Sanyō line. They look fast from the outside as they snake their way along the rails of Japan, but on the inside it is super smooth, and it doesn’t seem like you are really moving all that fast with the lack of noise and eardrum-busting pressure changes that I experienced with the German ICE trains when they enter tunnels. I read that the N700 is pressure sealed and when I was sitting next to the window, my leg could feel the frame of the train expand as it entered the middle of the tunnel and contract back into place as it exited the tunnel. I figure their must be a great deal of negative air pressure as it rushes through the tunnels, but I am no engineer, so that is just my theory..
Kyoto is a breeze to navigate. For only ¥500 (about $5) you can get an unlimited all day city buss pass, and on top of that, they give you a great map with all of the routes and nearby sites. The most difficult part is deciding which shrines to see, and with barely 24 hours to spend in Kyoto and a lot of shrines being closed at night, this made it difficult to see everything that we wanted, but that was our fault. We definitely were able to hit the most famous sites though. I would say the Golden Pavilion is easily one of the most popular sites I see on Flickr. I always thought this was the tackiest shrine I have ever seen, and in person, it still looked tacky, maybe I am just a jerk, but I really wanted to create a different take on this popular site. I think the gold looks perfect when paired with black and white.
The only beef I really had with Kyoto is that you are not allowed to use a tripod at most of the sites. Demonicus, my beloved tripod, was none too happy to hear about this. The bastards that made those rules are lucky they avoided confrontation with him as he pretty much hurts anyone he touches.