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Author: Kevin (page 89 of 97)

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.

Friday Fitness Hike

Bob and I met at the Wagner Trailhead today for the Fitness Hike. Ranger Amy showed up briefly to tell us that she had a sore throat.

Textured clouds made for a brilliant sky just prior to sunrise.  I’ll admit to enhancing the sky in the photo below; the real thing was colorful too, but perhaps not quite as saturated.  I could easily dial it back a bit, but I happen to like this edit.  Marie is usually quite critical of such things, but she likes it too.

The sun rose while we were talking to Amy.  She pointed it out, so I turned around and snapped a few more photos.  Here’s one of them:

Our plan was to hike out to Rock Knob.  We took Wagner to Granite and the started up the wash that parallels Bluff.  Just after that first little scramble up some rocks, I encountered a Western Diamondback who promptly slithered into a nearby hole.  Bob and I could easily see into the hole though.  Here is one of Bob’s photos of the snake:

I wasn’t very quick on the draw as I had reassigned the button for setting the flash, but for me, being able to set the metering mode quickly is more important than the flash.  But I finally found the menu option for turning it on and managed to get this shot:

Bob climbed up and around the snake, avoiding its hole.  We proceeded on up the wash.  We crossed Pemberton, staying in the wash leading up to Rock Knob.  Below is a view of Rock Knob from that wash.

As we made our way northward to go around Rock Knob, we came upon a very impressive looking saguaro.  Bob and I spent perhaps ten minutes in the area taking photos of it from various angles.  Here’s one with Bob standing next to it.  You can get a good feel for the size of this saguaro from this shot.  Note, too, that each of the large arms have arms of their own!

One of the hazards of walking in an area with lots of Teddy Bear Cholla is that, sometimes, one will stick to your shoe.  I got this one out with the aid of a stick.  One of the past rangers who worked at the park, Crash, told me that a pocket comb works great for removing cholla.

The blue and white gaiter I’m wearing helps to keep sand and other detritus out of my shoes.  Even so, a few grains of sand managed to work it’s way into my left shoe and found it’s way down between the first and second metatarsals.  I now have a small blister there.

Here is a view looking up the saguaro.  If you look closely, you can see a large nest off to the left.

Here’s a view of that same saguaro with Rock Knob behind and off to the right.  I think we’re looking roughly southward here.

When we got to the Preserve side of the fence, we saw a very bleached bone sitting on a rock.  Here, Bob is taking a photo of it.

Here is a closer view of the bone:

An interesting looking rock…

Bob noticed this tortoise along the way.  I would’ve walked by it without noticing it.  Bob said that he gave it some water and it perked right up.

Some flowers, thanks to the recent rain that we’ve gotten.


Hedgehog Cacti:

A view of Rock Knob from a vantage point to the west.  We’re looking east, towards the park (from the Preserve) here.

There used to be a pretty good road in the Preserve which lead back to the Rock Knob Trail.  The preserve managers churned it up so that it’s impassable by most vehicles now.  It was even hard walking on it.  It was easier to walk in nearby washes.

Once we got back to the park boundary and crossed the fence, we took the Rock Knob Trail to Pemberton.  We took the Bluff, Granite, and Wagner trails back to our vehicles.  We hiked exactly ten miles today.


Sunset over the McDowells

I got this photo earlier tonight from the top of my roof.

Young Callisto and her Mom

The photo below is from June of 2010.  Callisto still lived outside then.  Her mom, Calico, tried to ditch that recent litter of kittens as best as she could, but Callisto was persistent and followed mom around, even sleeping with her at times on the patio.

We managed to coax her inside a couple of months later.  She made loud and very nervous yowling noises when I shut the door and she realized that she couldn’t get out.  Marie felt bad for her and insisted that we open the door so that she could leave again.  But we tried again several days or perhaps a week later and kept her in to stay.

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.

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