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Author: Kevin (page 86 of 93)

Callisto and Molly

Joe took Callisto and Molly (whom he usually calls “Kitten” or “Squirrel”) out to the balcony.  They (briefly) spent some time together on the same platform.  Callisto later jumped down to the roof.  We don’t have to worry about Molly wanting to explore the roof; she kept escaping back into my office each time I opened the door to take a photo.

McGonagall, Enjoying the Outdoors

McGonagall rarely goes outside, but today I managed to catch her and bring her out to the balcony where I placed her on the piece of cat furniture that Joe and I built.  She was a good cat and stayed on top of the furniture.  All of the other cats want to go out on the roof when I bring them out to the balcony.  Tiger figured out that I had the balcony door open and let himself into my office while McGonagall was out there.  I had to shoo him out and then lock the door.

At the Intersection of Pemberton & Boulder…

Below is a photo taken during last Friday’s Fitness Hike.  It had been a while since I had been on that section of the Pemberton and that was the first time I saw this sign.  The Boulder Trail isn’t really new; people have been using it for years.  It’s even been on the Park’s master plan for some time, but up until about a month or so ago, was not an official park trail.  It leads up to the Marcus Landslide Trail in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Happy Birthday Pat!

Here’s a photo sent by his Mom on this, his 19th, birthday.

Mara’s New Mandolin

Mara says, “I had been wanting one for about 18 months and finally the `right one’ came up for sale.”

Friday Fitness Hike

Today’s hike started at the Trailhead Staging Area in McDowell Mountain Park.  We had a small group today consisting of Bob, Janet, and myself.  It was humid and partly cloudy when we started.  We had cloud cover off and on during the hike.

We started by hiking clockwise on the Pemberton Trail.  We made a brief stop to look at the old homestead site and walked around the watering hole.  The water level was lower than I remember it being in the past.

Below is a view from the Pemberton, shortly after passing the intersection with the service road leading to the competitive track area.

I think this is a group of Hedgehog cacti just a short ways further on along the Pemberton.

Bob and Janet beside a healthy looking saguaro:

A scared bunny.

Me, looking through a stand of buckhorn cholla:

Another healthy looking saguaro, with the McDowells off to the left:

Bob and Janet, with Rock Knob behind and to the right.  We’ll be going to Rock Knob next week!

A baby saguaro arm:

At this point we had reached the Bluff Trail and proceeded to go down it.  Here’s a view looking back up the Bluff Trail.  Part of Rock Knob is visible just to the left of the big saguaro in front.

We turned right when we got to the Granite Trail.  Along the way, we saw another saguaro that’s growing a bunch of new arms, even more than are shown in the photo below.

Right next to that saguaro was this ocotillo:

Granite took us back to Pemberton, which took us back to the Trailhead Staging Area.  We covered eleven miles total today!

 

 

Fountain Park Photos

On Saturday afternoon, Marie, Marilyn, and I visited the Fountain Park.  I went with the intent of scouting a good location to set up the tripod for taking a nighttime photo of the fountain.  I wasn’t sure whether I would get a chance to do it on Saturday, but I brought along my NEX-7 and the tripod just in case.  I brought a small point and shoot camera, the Sony RX100 for my scouting.  All but the last two photos shown here were taken with the RX100.

We got there shortly after 5:00pm, but before 5:15.  The fountain was not running.  It normally starts on the hour and runs for fifteen minutes.  It does not run, however, if it’s excessively windy.  It was fairly windy when we got there, so perhaps that’s why it wasn’t running.  You can see the wind blowing her hair in these photos of Marilyn:

I took photos of the fountain lake for a while and of some of the plants along the Overlook Trail.  When I got back down to the car, it was 6:00pm.  So I hiked back up the trail and took some more photos.  Here’s one of the fountain.

When I got to this cactus, I knew I had found a spot from which I wanted to try to get a photo of the fountain at some point.  The sun was mostly behind the clouds, but was still pretty bright.  My Sony RX100 was in auto-HDR mode for this shot.  The HDR images that it produces are often fairly bland, but they often contain enough detail for what would normally be either overexposed or underexposed areas for me to be able to do something with the image later on.  That was the case here.

As I walked back down the Overlook Trail, I got this shot where it appears that the sun is trying to split the clouds.

When I got back down to the grassy area near the lake, I found that Marie had found a tree to play on.

When I was done taking these photos, it was starting to get dark.  We were only about twenty minutes away from the seven o’clock fountain.  The sky still looked cool, so I grabbed my NEX-7 and the tripod and headed back up the Overlook Trail to the spot next to the saguaro that I had identified earlier.  I took a bunch of bracketed exposures of the fountain.  I messed up on the first few sets because I had forgotten to take the camera off of auto-ISO.  Fortunately, I still had some time left, so I set the camera on ISO 100, and was able to take the exposures which formed this photo, below.  I took eleven exposures total, ranging from +5EV to -5EV in one stop steps.  I only ended up using seven of them because I didn’t see anything useful in the top two and bottom two.  I describe more about how I created this image in an earlier post.  (Note: I’ve since re-edited the image and have put a new one here in place of the original.  The original is still available in that earlier post.)

Here’s another HDR shot of the fountain.  This was from one of the sequences shot using auto ISO.

I’m still going through the images that I took that day.  If I find anything else worth showing, I’ll add it to this entry.

Fountain After Sunset

I wasn’t very happy with the Fattal tone mapping on my HDR Fountain photo.  I experimented with different tone mapping algorithms and parameters to those operations and eventually settled on Durand.  According to Parameters for tone mapping operators, Durand “produces the most realistic pictures. No extreme effects, but very nice output with lots of details in the picture.”  I used the following parameters with Durand:

  • Base Contrast: 4.4
  • Spatial Kernel Sigma: 7.0
  • Range Kernel Sigma: 5.1
  • Result Size: 6000×4000
  • Pre-gamma: 0.52

I didn’t change any of the levels or gamma in Luminance HDR.  Instead, I used GIMP and treated the HDR result as if it were an image that came out of my camera.  I employed the usual techniques of making layers, creating layer masks, and setting the layer modes to achieve the effects that I’m after for certain portions of the image.

Here’s the result:

Fountain after Sunset, tonemapped using Fattal

The parameters for the Fattal tone mapping in the photo below are as follows:

  • Result Size: 1536×1024
  • Pre-gamma: 1.00
  • Alpha: 0.10
  • Beta: 0.94
  • Color Saturation: 0.90
  • Noise Reduction: 0.00
I didn’t change either gamma or the levels after the tone mapping operation.  Instead, I edited the image with GIMP, duplicated the layer and set the layer mode to multiply.  This worked fairly well, but for the upper half of the image ending up darker than I would have liked.  So I created a graduated selection which ran from mostly invisible at the top to fully opaque about a third of the way from the bottom.  I set this as the layer mask on the “multiply” layer.  The image looked much better.
There was a large halo around the big saguaro in the foreground just along and slightly above the horizon.  I found the exposure from the original seven used to create the HDR image, scaled it to the correct size and then copied it over as a new layer.  I created a layer mask with the halo area and then adjusted the transparency until it looked right.  The color wasn’t quite right along the horizon (and still isn’t, but it’s better), so I used curves to increase the amount of red in that area and decrease the amount of green.
I discovered that, when using Fattal, choosing the result size makes a big difference.  I had been choosing a result size of 6000×4000 which was the size of the exposures that came out of the camera.  But doing this resulted in an image that looked over-sharpened when viewed at a scaled resolution.  I tried for a long time, but failed to come up with a set of parameters which looked really good with that large result size scaled down to something smaller.  If you view the 6000×4000 result unscaled, it looks pretty good.
The image below will look best if viewed at its native resolution of 1536×1024.  It will probably not look too good if the device upon which you’re viewing it scales it to some other size.

Another Snake!

Marilyn, Marie, and I went to the Fountain Park late in the day today.  I had hiked up the trail overlooking the fountain to try some more HDR photos.  The sun had set and it was getting dark.  Marilyn and Marie came up to meet me and, as we were nearing the bottom, we saw this rattlesnake slithering across the trail.  I got my camera out and after fumbling the first few photos – I still had the ISO set at 100 and the exposure compensation set to -5.0 EV – I finally got a couple of shots that weren’t all black.  This is the better of the two.  I used the flash for this photo; I think it turned out okay anyway.

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