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Author: Kevin (page 87 of 95)

Sleeping Kittens

Minstrel and her kittens came by last night somewhat before it started to rain.  They played vigorously for a while and then three of them climbed one of the pillars on the patio to get up out of the wet and away from predators too.

It’s amazing that three of them fit on that pillar.  Tiger and Callisto take up pretty much the entire space by themselves.

This shot was taken from inside, through the glass of the patio door, manually focused, using only the patio lights.  I ended up setting my NEX-7 at ISO 6400 and had the lens all the way out at 200mm.  The aperture was f/6.3 and the shutter speed was 1/20s.  It took me several tries at processing the RAW file to get an acceptable result.  The out-of-camera JPEG file was actually pretty good.  For a while, I was considering using it, but persevered until I found some RAW file processing settings that looked somewhat better.

Palo Verde Tree and Four Peaks

I’ve taken several photos of this tree on recent fitness hikes where we’ve hiked the Bluff Trail.  It’s right at the top of Bluff sitting atop a small hill by itself.  I hadn’t gotten a shot that I liked until yesterday when I took a photo of it during my bike ride.

I had my camera set up for exposure bracketing; I processed two raw files three times – one of them twice and the other one only once – to provide three layers that I blended together to form this picture.

If you look closely, you can see part of the bench that’s also atop that small hill.

Sunday Bike Ride on the Pemberton

It was a cool day for September – only 85 degrees – so I went out for a bike ride on Sunday afternoon.

The trails were in remarkably good condition after the monsoon rain that we got on Friday. The rain washed away some of the dirt surrounding the rock on some parts of the trail, making it even more fun than usual.  I did encounter this big rut.  I started to go down the left side of the rut – or right in this photo – but realized that I’d end up in the rut towards the bottom. I was able to stop before getting into trouble.  I decided to put my bike in a deep section of it and take this photo.

I had different plans for this photo while editing it, but I clicked “Auto” in the Levels tool.  I thought, “Wow, look at that color.”  I dialed it back just a bit and saved it.  I might redo it to bring it more in line with how it really looked at that time of day.  The sky was actually a darker blue with just a hint of red and purple in some places.

Another shot of my bike just a short ways away from where the photo above was taken.

Minstrel, Molly, and Marie

Minstrel came by for food a short while ago.  I got a photo of her as she was leaving.  One of her ginger kittens came with her, but ran off as soon as I unbolted the door.

When I went back inside, Marie held Minstrel’s daughter Molly for a photo.  Molly didn’t want to sit still for the photo.  Even so, you can see the resemblance between mother and daughter.

Friday Fitness Hike, Monsoon Edition

Today’s hike started at the Wagner Trailhead.  Bob, Janet, Linda, Amy, and I hiked the Wagner to the Granite, and turned onto a trail unofficially known as the “Cowboy” trail.  Ranger Amy hiked out perhaps halfway with us on the Cowboy Trail before turning back to open the visitor center.

Bob took this photo of the four of us just prior to Amy turning back.  (The colors are a bit off today.  I haven’t quite gotten the knack of getting the white balance right when converting RAW files.  The skies often ended up more purple than I wanted them to be.)

Here’s another version of the above photo with possibly more accurate colors.  (I might be starting to figure out some of the problems I was having with the RAW conversion.)  Marie tells me it’s better, but Marilyn likes the one above.  So I’m leaving them both here for those who’ve already looked at the one above and have decided they like it.

The Cowboy Trail eventually runs into the Pemberton at the north end of the park.  Linda mentioned that she had not seen that part of the Pemberton yet.  Below is a view of the McDowells from the portion of Pemberton that’s also a service road.

This photo was taken from the Pemberton perhaps less than a mile from the intersection with the Delsie Trail.

We saw this large buckhorn cholla at or around the time that we turned onto the Delsie Trail.

As we hiked the Delsie Trail, we saw interesting looking clouds off in the distance.  We had already been hearing distant thunder for much of the hike.  We could see rain off in the distance.

Linda took this photo of some yellow flowers and me taking pictures of the storms far off in the distance.

Linda also took this photo of Bob and Janet.  Tom’s Thumb is visible in the distance above and slightly to the (viewer’s) right of Bob’s hat.

I didn’t think we’d be hiking in the rain today, but I was wrong.  Here’s a photo of Bob, Linda, and Janet hiking fast once it became clear that heavy rain was on the way.

When it started to rain hard, I put my camera under my rain jacket that I had stuffed in the outer compartment of my pack.  Strong winds made the rain come down sideways.  My clothing was soaked in under than a minute.  We were hiking into the wind – I put my sunglasses on for a while in an attempt to keep the rain from getting in my eyes.

After a while of trudging through the rain, my eyes began to sting.  I think the rain dissolved the salt accumulated in my hat and was washing it into my eyes.  Eventually, the rain starting coming merely down instead of coming at us sideways too.  I was able to see again.

Bob and Janet got well ahead of us while I was hiking somewhat more slowly due to not being able to see very well.  Linda hiked with me.  We talked about the lightning and thunder we were seeing and hearing.

After what seemed like a very long time, we got to the Granite Trail and then the Wagner Trail.  During that time the rain abated, but did not completely stop.

We frequently hike across washes and sometimes even through them on our hikes, but we almost never see them with any significant amount of water.  Today was different; there was enough water running in them that we nervous about fording them.

The photo below shows the last significant wash that we had to cross on the Wagner trail prior to getting back to our vehicles.

When we got back to the Trailhead, we were met by Ranger Amy and Mark, another park employee.  They had been concerned about us because we were out hiking during a monsoon.  We assured them we were okay and, after chatting a while, we got in our cars and drove home.

But driving home wasn’t as easy as normal.  As we were leaving the park, we saw that Sheriff’s deputies had stopped traffic on the road leading to Rio Verde.  Linda decided to return home by way of Fountain HIlls, but that proved to be a problem too because there’s a good sized wash between the park entrance and Fountain Hills.  Linda took this photo of me studying the wash to see if I could cross it.  A truck is crossing it there.  After seeing that truck and several other vehicles cross, I decided that I could cross too.  (And I did.)

Linda decided to turn around and wait for the deputies to reopen the section of road leading to Rio Verde.  She took this photo while she was waiting.



Bird of Paradise Flower

While coming back in from feeding Minstrel today, I noticed that the Bird of Paradise plant is flowering in our backyard.  Here’s a photo:

The raw file from my RX100 was processed by UFRAW.  The only edits I did in GIMP were to sharpen it, crop it (slightly), and resize it for posting here.

Here’s a crop showing the detail for the flower that’s most in focus.

In going through the images later on, I noticed one with a moth that I thought was interesting.

The Fountain at Night

The photo below is of the Fountain Hills fountain and environs as it appeared last Sunday just after 8:00pm.

The image below was blended in GIMP using three of the ten exposures that I took using my Sony NEX-7.  One of the problems I had with tone mapping the image using HDR software is that there’s a lot of noise in the immediate foreground.  Tone mapping it with Fattal made that noise even more evident.  Most of the other tone mapping algorithms had difficulty with the dynamic range.

For the GIMP blending, I ended up using RawTherapee on the second lightest exposure to lighten up the foreground just enough so that it’s not completely dark.  (The brightest exposure was shot at a higher ISO and had even more noise.)  If you look very closely, you can see some detail there.  It’s very dark though, but it was that way in real life too.  I had to shine my headlamp up at the saguaro off to the far right to make sure that it was in the frame.  That sequence of ten shots took most of the fifteen minutes that I had to get the various exposures of this scene.  (The fountain only runs for fifteen minutes beginning on the hour.)

Below is another result that I got using Mantiuk ’08 with some additional GIMP edits afterwards.  This image is not as sharp and the town lights are too bright, in my opinion.


Sunrise from the Balcony

I’ve been experimenting with RAW files recently.  For the shot below, I used the NEX-7’s exposure bracketing to get three exposures.  Then, using the brightest and darkest exposures, I adjusted the exposure compensation for each so that there were no clipped highlights for the dark exposure and very few clipped shadows for the bright exposure.  There was a 4.5 stop difference between the two exposures  I saved the results and fed those files into Luminance HDR using Fattal to do the tone mapping.  I got an interesting result almost immediately.  While I do wish the sky was a bit more muted, I do like how the foreground details turned out.

I got some reasonable looking results using Ashikhmin too.

And, finally, here is a quick edit where I blended the two layers together in GIMP:


Minstrel and her Grey Kitten

Minstrel’s latest litter of kittens are starting to visit.  They’re very skittish – it’s difficult to even catch a glimpse of them.  I managed to get this photo from my balcony earlier today with the lens at 200mm (maximum zoom).  Even though I was a good ways off, it was still suspicious of me.

Marie tells me that she’s seen four kittens.  Two are ginger colored, one is grey, and I think she said the other was black and white or perhaps dark grey and white.

Minstrel is also Molly‘s mom and Callisto‘s aunt.


I set up the tripod today to make sure that the new PalmGrip that I put on my NEX-7 would work with the clamp on our tripod.  (It does.)  I got this photo of Freckles during my testing.

One gripe that I have about the NEX-7 – and I do think that it’s an NEX-7 problem and not a problem with the tripod plates that I’ve tried – is that it sags a bit after adjusting the tripod ball head.  I believe that this is due to flex between the mount plate and the body of the NEX-7.  I think it’s less of a problem when you use a shorter and/or lighter weight lens or use a lens with its own mount plate.

So, for example, when focusing on Freckles, I had to frame the shot slightly higher than what I see in the viewfinder because as soon as I take my hands off the camera, the weight of the lens will pull it down somewhat.

This does not happen with Marilyn’s A77.

In the photo below, Freckles is watching one of Marie’s shoes that I’m waving around above my head.

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