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..
Boy do I have a crazy job.. I worked one hour last month, but stayed on call and made full wages. This month I have worked 1 hour, but basically not on call, just prepared to work within 48 hours of notification if things suddenly get real busy around here. So we have been taking a few trips to here and there and remodeling our house, mostly painting every square inch of it. Last week we did a little backpacking in the Black Hills and also took a trip to Bear Butte.
In the background is Bear Butte and that is Bear Butte Lake in the foreground. It is basically a few minutes out of Sturgis, SD. You should have seen the view 10 minutes before I took this shot when the sun was not behind the clouds! Oh well, still kind of pretty.
The rain follows me whenever I dare sleep in a tent, and the night we spent at the lake was no exception. Luckily, despite a terrible forecast, the weather held out for us to quick climb the Butte, mostly scouting the paragliding possibilities, which look to be beyond my abilities and I would guess not allowed anyways. Here is the view towards the Black Hills. It is a stitched pano and the grass and trees look kind of harsh and I cannot figure out why. Oh well.
And here is the view from the other side, which I think is looking towards the nothingness of North Dakota? I guess the butte is sacred for the local Indians, so they tie up a pinch of tobacco into a bit of cloth and hang them in trees, everywhere. I personally think it looks pretty trashy to see that hanging from the few trees that remain on the mountains, but it is still a neat spot to visit.
This shot was taken only a few minutes drive from my parents place in St. George, Utah. It is called Red Cliffs Recreational Area. The area is usually devoid of any type of crowds and has a great slot canyon hike with a flowing stream in the spring months. We hiked up out of the canyon and on top of a nearby mesa when I captured this shot.
Our first stop on our road trip from Idaho to Georgia was Teton National Park. We quick pitched our tent to secure a camping spot then took off down the road for a hike to Bradley Lake. We didn’t know it at the time, but this blue sky during the hike was the last we would see until we were almost in Georgia. The rain began a couple of minutes before we reached the car and then it turned into what felt like a full on monsoon. Breaking the tent down in the morning was fun using the break-down-the-tent-while-still-inside-of-it-leaving-the-rain-fly-for-last technique. This place is definitely needing further attention from me in the future.
Eight Shot Pano. Full size can be found HERE in all of its glory.
Yesterday was quite a blizzard here in Alliance. I think it is the most snow I have had at any place I have lived since I left Utah. I definitely enjoy the hell out of it too, I wish I had a snow mobile, a snow cat, or skis and a mountain, but it was fun enough driving around the last two days busting on through drifts in my truck. I headed out east for about 35 miles to explore a little bit and look for some shots. It was really, really, really cold with the wind chill! It was actually painful on exposed skin within seconds in the area I took the shot of the do not pass sign. Also got a better shot of the trains. They were parked up and down the tracks today with no one in them. I think they picked up everyone and sent them back home in a van for New Years.
Anyways, in the next day or two I have a haphazard tutorial on my HDR/DRI process that I should be able to post. I was going to post a write up on these shots as well, but my HDR and DRI versions sucked pretty bad. These are just regular shots. *Edit, figured out why my bracketed shots sucked.. Was shooting at 800 ISO all day.. Nikon needs to make an option that resets the ISO to 200 after cycling the camera on and off for tards like myself!
I have seen some wicked sunsets here in the Alliance area and thought it would be nice to get out of the house today and try and get a shot of a train while the colors were just right. I had seen a spot about 10 minutes out of town that I thought would be nice and saw this train leaving the yard as I was heading out. I was surprised at how little time I had to get my tripod set up and get the camera on a gimble, these things move faster than they look I guess. The clouds were not playing nice as they blocked the sun and left a very gray scene. The only shots that were okay were once it passed me and I turned the other direction facing towards the sun. This is actually the back of the train, the locomotive pushes on it.
I haven’t touched this blog in a while, but there is good reason for this. I took a conductor position with the BNSF railroad in Alliance, Nebraska. I am about to start into my 3rd week of training out of 15 weeks total before I shake baby noob status and become a regular full-time employee. I have been wanting to get out of working in an office and instead working outside and this position definitely offers this as well as the ability to work almost anywhere in the mid-west and western states.
Photography wise, Nebraska speaks to me a lot more than Georgia ever did. The sky is one of the few places in the country that has very little pollution in the sky, the sun starts to bake warm sunset tones onto the terra firma by about 1:30 pm, and there is a ton of interesting farm scenery and plenty of abandoned buildings sprinkled through out. The biggest problem I have will be finding time away from the volumes of books I need to study to pass all of my tests in between my OJT.
I don’t usually go into churches on my own free will, but I spied this abandoned beauty right off the side of the road the first time I was in the area for my hiring session a few months ago. I made a couple of mistakes to chalk up to my list of photography foibles.
- The D700 remembers what ISO you shot at last in RAW or JPEG rather than just using whatever ISO you dial in, at least this is what I think happened. The camera was at ISO 1250 in JPEG when I pulled it out of the bag and I knew enough to dial the ISO down to 200. Then I switched to RAW to shoot Like a Boss and ended up coming home to discover all my shots were set at ISO 1250. I assume the camera remembered what I was using the last time I shot RAW, but I will have to test this to be sure.
- When I went inside the church, I started walking around like a clown not being cautious with my steps. Sure enough I stepped right onto the only piece of wood with nails sticking straight up. Lucky for me, the nail was not long enough to make it through the sole of my tennis shoe. FACT- Anyone who has ever been in the military has 1/4 parts blood and 3/4 parts random inoculations running through their arteries and veins. I now deplore inoculations and anthrax filled up the last remaining space that tetanus would need to occupy my circulatory system. This is why they now mist the flu vaccine straight into my brain via my nasal cavities due to all of the empty space up there.
- I left my polarizer back in Georgia with my wife who will not be moving out here until she separates in February or March 😦
The interior shots are HDR’s that I could barely sharpen due to the higher ISO creating noise problems during the HDR processing and the outside shots are just that, outside shots. Had I not taken the shot of the church from the outside, knowing it was taken in the middle of the day when the sun is the strongest, I would have guessed it was DRI processed, but it is just the Nebraska 5-hours-long sunset at about 1:30 pm with the sun behind my back!
We took a trip to a swamp in Southern Georgia with a crazy sounding name, Okefenokee. The swamp is pretty massive and full of spiders, alligators, snakes, and godless killing machines, aka bears. Consequently, I am not about to go camping here anytime soon! I took this 4 vertical shot panorama from the top of a lookout tower that was about 50 feet high. AutoPano Pro is pretty amazing software for stitching. I had a tripod set up for these shots, but the wind was blowing and 3 people on top of a lookout had the top swaying quite a bit, yet it still seems to have stitched even the foliage without a hitch.
Not Dodge as in the auto maker, but dodge as in a little dodging here and a little burning there really helped make this picture have an almost three dimensional feel to it. The four exposures ran through Photomatix HDR process helps with bringing out a unique look to the textures as well. I must say I love the new version. It is stupid simple to get rid of ghosted objects and even has a bunch of presets to get you to a starting point for getting your shot to look how you would like it. Anyways, I found this truck a while ago and wanted to come back with a camera during a sunset or sunrise. Got lucky on a trip to Andersonville and hit this as the sun was setting on our way back.
On Thursday I had LASIK done on both of my eyes. My contact lenses were -7.00 for the left eye and -7.50 for the right, also known as way past legally blind. Eighteen hours later I was in for my post op and was reading half the letters from the 20/15 line, so things are going quite well. Still, I don’t quite feel like focusing on any pictures for very long, so I am posting up a picture of our kitten Mittens peering around her scratch post since my Mom thinks I do not post enough pictures of our two cats. I have a pile of shots that are either half completed or done and I just don’t quite know how I feel about posting them. I didn’t want to start posting too many cat pictures since there are already enough LOL cats that can has cheez burger on the web!
We are leaving for 2 nights in Savannah early tomorrow morning. That doesn’t allow us much time for exploring, but we’ll take what we can get! I give you a couple of snags taken on the East Rim Trail at Zion National Park. These are all single exposures taken in the middle of the day thanks to the polarizer I bought for the 16-35VR. I am not completely sold on using a polarizer on a wide angle, though. I think the sky looks just about as unnatural as your average HDR or DRI shot, but I also have a ton of shots where parts of the sky are so dark compared to the rest of the shot, that I cannot even figure out how to even it out and have it still look natural in post. I am tempted to stick with my 14-24 and sell off the 16-35, then just build my own filter holder for the 14-24 so I can at least use square graduated density filters.
One was taken in a shopping mall in Roppongi, the other in a desert canyon in Southern Utah. Can you guess which one?
After dropping down the east-side slope of the the Big Horn Basin, we eyed this scenic pullout off of I-90 near the town of Sheridan, Wy. I was blown away by the amount of green your eyes take in at this spot. I thought I had to shoot a pano to try and do this view some justice, but sadly, it does not even come close to how neat it was as the sun was setting. This is a series of 5 shots stitched together in Autopano Pro.
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.