Snag

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.

Zion-392

Zion-447

Snag

Snagggg

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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.

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Filtered

I had B&H send me the new 16-35 VR lens to my parents place in Utah. We were visiting for a week after Japan and Zion National Park was only 35 minutes drive away, so it would be an ideal place to see if this lens would perform well enough to replace my amazing 14-24. I am looking into using a square filter system in the future and also purchased an ND 8 filter and circular polarizer. Right now I can tell you that I cannot believe I waited this long to use a circular polarizer. It does a remarkable job of reigning in the entire dynamic range of a shot with a bright sky in it. Here is a quick two-shot panorama from Observation Point taken around mid-day.

Observation Point

I was nervous about this lens since I had seen some online examples taken with it that were pretty fuzzy in the corners, but this copy so far seems to be sharp enough for me (this shot has smearing in the lower right corner due to stretching for the pano). No lens currently matches the Nikon 14-24 in corner sharpness, but it just is not for filter use without an expensive custom filter system and no chance of using a CP.

And one more benefit from this new lens is that it uses 77mm filter threads, the same size used on both models of the 70-200 lens. Here is a shot using that polarizer on my 70-200 to bring out the blue sky and reduce reflections from the sandstone monoliths.

Decromascape

Indecisions

I have been working on the same shot to post to this blog for the past 3 nights in a row and sometimes spending as much as 2 hours on each attempt. Sometimes just staring at it wondering where to go from there. This is my 4th attempt.. I have never deleted more than 1 attempt before, but this time I just couldn’t figure out where to go with it.

The unique thing about this photo is the blue hue which is not HDR, DRI, or any color replace shenanigans. The problem is that I couldn’t decide if it had more potential than I was able to squeeze out of it. I tried HDR, DRI, converting those to B&W, straight B&W, B&W with selective coloring; then I finally decided on just some Lightroom adjustments off of the -1 exposure and a quick trip to Photoshop for some sharpening and cloning out of junk in the water. I am still largely unimpressed, but after all those hours, sometimes you just have to move on with your life!

This is the famous Itsukushima Shrine near Hiroshima on the island of Miyajima during high tide.

Itsukushima Shrine

Kumtaşı Formations

I was talking to one of the guys that was on the Cappadocia trip and he had mentioned that for some reason, the sky in his photos looked bluer than blue is allowed to look. I have the same results, this photo below is an HDR of the sandstone merged in with the actual 0 exposure sky straight from RAW to JPEG, no adjustments. It looks like we were using polarizers or cheating it in post, but for some reason, the sky just seem uncharacteristically blue here in Turkey lately. Today I looked up to see what was going on and sure enough, it looks like you can almost see the curvature of the upper layers where that ends and space begins.

Pointed Hat

Dokuz in Turkish mean 9. Doku without the z means “texture”… Çok kolay! This Turkish lesson is for my wife.. You need to study!

Doku

Look, But Don’t Touch

When we were in Beijing, we took a quick trip on the subway to see some of the more prominent Olympic venues. The buildings were definitely out of this world, especially at night, with all of the progressive designs that were implemented into these buildings and the amazing color they are lit at night, they were very photogenic. However, Every single building is blocked off with an unsightly fence. This is the best picture I could get of this building, and the closest as well. Maybe they open the gates up at certain days, but this is one of the few dissapointments I had on our trip. I really wanted to get some good up-close shots of some of these venues.. The Blue Cube, Beijing- Look, But Don't Touch

Jinx

Today we headed up to Okutama to explore the many side roads and we ended up on this extremely steep road and followed it for miles until became a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, and then we followed that until it was very much in the far end of nowhere. As we were backtracking on the dirt road, I commented on how I preferred off roading in our newer super-compact car as opposed to my wifeys old super-compact car that has been part of many off road adventures in austere parts of Turkey. I would call it a beater, but I don’t want to jinx myself again.

As soon as we hit pavement, we parked the car so I could take the photograph below. Not the most interesting photograph, but it has an interesting story. See, as soon as I went back to the car and tried to start it up, I heard a of-all-the-places-we-could-suddenly-have-mechanical-problems type of sound aka the starter sounded like it was dead and we have an automatic with power brakes. No jump starting or coasting down to the main road, plus we don’t speak Japanese, on top of all that.. the road was so steep in places that a tow truck would probably never attempt going out there.

I decided rolling the car off the hillside wasn’t a good long-term solution and we packed up our camera gear and started the trek to the town of Okutama for some help. Luckily we quickly stumbled on 3 locals foraging for leaves to be used in their favorite tempura recipe and we were able to play charades to see if we could get some help. We went back to the car and when they heard the starter, they immediately knew that only the battery was dead and it could be jumped. They were right and that was the biggest relief I have had in a long time!

Thank you 3 guys foraging for leaves to use for a tasty tempura meal! I dedicate this picture–that would have been a lot better had I tried to piece together a vertorama to capture the beautiful overlook–to you guys!

Okutama Overlook

Sea Paradise

On Sunday we visited the Yokohama Sea Paradise to pretend like we are marine biologists/photographers. I was highly impressed with this aquarium! They have a pretty big variety of sea life to watch including polar bears. They also had a pretty amazing show with not only the animals performing stunts, but the handlers were doing some pretty neat tricks with them as well.

Curvacious

We both shot a ton of pictures, but the lighting was very low as to not blind the sea life that is not always use to bright light; that coupled with the speed at which they like to swim around the massive aquariums made it very, very difficult to get any decent shots that are even half way sharp. The shot below is one of the many blurry shots I took, but I thought these tubes inside the aquarium were very interesting.

Ascent into the Abyss

Moar?

Oh yes, yet another photo of the Tokyo Tower masquerading in blue drag. I am barely half done going through my photos. Unfortunately, I have come across completely lackluster sky tones in a lot of my pictures that are usually out of my technical grasp of Photoshop doctoring expertise.

Blue Tokyo Tower 25

Lighter Than the Eiffel Tower

The Tokyo Tower is the tallest self-supporting steel structure in the world at 332.6 meters, 13 meters taller than the Eiffel Tower of which the design was based on. It also used advances in steel manufacturing and construction technology to weigh in at 4,000 tons, 3,300 tons less than the Eiffel. One-Third of the metal was scrap metal recycled from 90 US tanks damaged in the Korean War.

Tokyo Tower 3

Dust..

I have got loads of dust on my sensor at this point. The vacuum cleaner nozzle method is no longer doing any good… Luckily I have some sensor cleaning tools headed to me in the mail right now.

All of the photos I took of the tower were using a small aperture to keep as much in focus as possible. But it also magnifies my dust colony that thrives on the sensor. I am spending way too much time cleaning it up in Photoshop…

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Blue Tower

The weather turned out to be perfect for the blue lighting of the Tokyo Tower for World Diabetes Day. We had packed enough clothes for an arctic expedition and the weather was almost too warm for a light jacket when walking around. The clouds were perfect as they did not bring rain or obscure the tower, they only provided a stunning backdrop for the tower during the night.

I took a ton of photos of the tower, most were 3 exposures so I can hopefully get some neat HDR shots from it. I am sure I will be whoring a lot of those pictures on my blog for the next few days. Here is the first and only shot I have processed so far.

Blue Tokyo Tower