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Author: Kevin (page 89 of 101)

Football Game / Band Performance Photos

Marie played with the Fountain HIlls HIgh School Band on Friday Evening during the game between the Falcons and the Trojans.  Below is a gallery with photos from the game.

Friday Fitness Hike

Cooler weather is bringing out more people.  On Friday, we had a total of nine on our hike, Dennis, Sharon, Sue, Janet, Amy, Bob, Nancy, Nick, and me.  This is also the order of the people in the photo below – except for me, I took the photo.

We hiked out Pemberton and explored a wash near the homestead of the old ranch.  It’s a deep wash with high vertical banks in many places.  Here, part of the group crouches in a small hollowed out space at the side of the wash.

The wash is fairly wide, though you do have to squeeze past vegetation from time to time.

As noted earlier, there are several areas where erosion has created high vertical banks.

One of our group found an antler, likely left by a mule deer.

Amy sent me this photo of holes in the ground.  Dennis and Sharon said that they were made by antlions.

Another section of the wash with particularly high banks.  It’s almost a canyon.

Below is another photo from Amy.  We encountered a section of wash where we needed to do bit of scrambling to proceed further.

Another couple of views of the wash:

After our wash exploration, Nick, Janet, Bob, and I hiked a loop consisting of Tonto Tank, Pemberton, the Bluff Trail Wash, Granite, Wagner, and the Tortoise Trail.  Our total distance for the day was 10.5 miles.

Sigma 50-500 Test Shots

These are test shots from my recently purchased Sigma 50-500mm f/4.6 – f6.3 Sony Alpha mount lens.  These were taken with my NEX-7 with an LA-EA2 adapter.  The LA-EA2 adapter converts Sony E-mount to Sony Alpha-mount and provides translucent mirror technology for faster and more accurate focusing.

The focusing does indeed work well and fast.  There are times when my 18-200 E-mount lens doesn’t want to focus, particuarly on distant low-contrast objects.  I didn’t have this problem at all with the Sigma Lens using the LA-EA2 adapter.

The focal length on each of these shots was 500mm, or an equivalent of 750mm on a 32mm camera.  Aperture on all shots was set to f/6.3, which is the widest aperture possible at that focal length.  All shots were hand-held with the optical stablizer turned on to position 1.  Sigma claims that OS provides up to four stops of stabilization.

I used UFRAW to process the RAW files from the camera and then used GIMP to do a minor amount of post-processing.  This consisted of adjusting contrast somewhat and then sharpening it using unsharp mask.

UPS Airplane.  1/500 sec, ISO 200, 100% crop:

Delta Airplane. 1/500 sec, ISO 200, 100% crop:

“Big Tom”.  1/80 sec, ISO 1600, cropped and scaled.

Moon. 1/500 sec, ISO 200, cropped and scaled only slightly.


Sunset at Sunrise

Marilyn and I hiked the Sunrise Trail on Saturday afternoon, hiking all the way up to Sunrise Peak.  As we were hiking down from the peak, I took this photo of the sunset.

I got this photo earlier in the hike.  Red Mountain is visible about a third of the way over from the right edge of the photo.  The very tip of Weaver’s Needle is also barely visible in this photo.

Here, Marilyn is hiking ahead of me on the Sunrise Trail.

As I was hiking up, I noticed a large rock pile ahead.   It took a while to get to it, but this is what it looks like as the trail passes it.

A closer view of a few of the rocks in the above photo:

A view looking back down the trail.

Marilyn, hiking up the trail.

A view of the fountain in Fountain Hills.

Looking south from just below Sunrise Peak:


Marie is a Regional Winner for the Lions Club Peace Poster Contest!

Marie told us, in her usual understated way, that she was a regional winner in the Lions Club Peace Poster Contest.  She did this by handing her Mom a permission slip for proceeding further into the contest.

Marie tells us that she will probably be ineligible to proceed much further in the contest due to being too old by about a month.

Here, below, is a photo of her contest entry.  It’s actually a fairly sizable poster that she drew using colored pencils.

Scottsdale, after Sunset, from the Sunrise Trail

I got this shot on Saturday while hiking back on the Sunset Trail with Marilyn.  We came to an overlook area and saw the lights of Scottsdale along with a colorful, post-sunset sky.  I rested my camera on a large metal toolbox that the city keeps out there.  Presumably it has shovels, picks, and the like for trail maintenance purposes.  Anyway, the first several tries didn’t work out because I still had to level the camera and I was trying to do so by supporting the camera and lens with my fingers.  I finally got two rocks that I positioned in between the top of that metal toolbox and the camera.  It wasn’t perfect, but it allowed me to hold the camera steady enough to get the photo below.

This photo was created using three exposures at ISO 200, f/4.0, with exposure times of 1/2 second, 2 seconds, and 6 seconds.  I first blended the exposures together by hand.  From this, I created a color layer.  I interposed a tone layer set at 50% opacity above the original three layers that I had blended earlier and below the color layer.

The tone layer was created by running the Mantiuk ’06 contrast equalization algorithm on the RAW file from the lightest (longest) exposure.  Ideally, you’d use all three exposures to create the tone layer.  I had tried this, but did not get good results due to a slight misalignment of the three images.  I mainly wanted the tone layer to explicate foreground detail, so I used that exposure to create the tone layer.

I have been asked about that big barren space is between the lights near the horizon and the lights nearer to the camera.  This is what I’ve figured out…

First, it’s important to know that we’re looking south and somewhat west in this photo. You can see that the sky is brighter at the far right in the photo. That’s where the sun had set perhaps 20-30 minutes before the photo was taken. (It got quite dark perhaps another 20 minutes after taking that photo – dark enough that we got out our headlamps so that we could be more certain of our footing on the way back. We thought we were locked in at the parking lot too, but luckily the gate senses vehicles that are trying to get out and automatically opens.)

Shea Blvd is the big, well lit road in the photo. If you start at the left edge of the photo, it starts a little over half way up and extends across most of the photo, angling slightly upward as you follow it to the right. The hill to the right in the immediate foreground eventually blocks our view of Shea Blvd. If you follow Shea Blvd from the left of the photo, you’ll see the lower slope of a small mountain just above the road – to the south. There is a small road which intersects Shea that’s visible in the photo. It goes south (and north) of Shea and runs between that small mountain and a hill to the west. That small road is 136th Street.

The big cluster of lights in the center of the photo, just to the north of Shea Blvd is Mayo Clinic. There are some residential areas which are part of Scottsdale just south of Shea in that photo, but they don’t extend very far south. Once I found these landmarks, I was able to look at a map to figure out the rest. Here’s a link to a map showing Shea and 136th St. You’ll have to zoom out a bit to see more of the surrounding area.

There is a big empty looking area south of those residential areas which are, in turn, south of Shea.  This sizable tract land used mostly for agricultural purposes.  There are some homes there too, but it’s much less densely populated than the cities which surround it. It belongs to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. To the south of that – i.e. the lights further on up the photo towards the horizon – are the cities of Mesa and Tempe. Mesa is more to the left and Tempe is more to the right. I can’t say for certain where one ends and the other begins – it may even be that Tempe isn’t visible at all in the photo. I think too that some of the southern portions of Scottsdale are visible off to the right. If you look to the far right, you can see a small portion of Camelback Mountain at the edge of the photo.

Here is another photo looking in the same direction, but taken from a different overlook.  I don’t like this shot as well, but it does show what the area looks like in the daylight.

Friday Fitness Hike

Today’s hike went up and down Lousley Hill.  At the bottom of the hill, we hiked down Lousley Wash and made our way over to the Verde Trail.  We then picked up the North Trail and took the Chuparosa out to Pemberton.  We completed our loop by taking Lousley Wash back to the Lousley Hill trailhead.    Total distance covered was almost seven miles.

There were eight of us on the hike today: Me, Marilyn, Linda, Janet, Bob, Sue, Sharon, and Amy.

A view from Lousley Hill:

Hiking up Lousley Hill:

At the top.  From right to left are Sharon, Linda, Marilyn, Janet, Amy, Bob, and Sue:

Another photo from the top, but this time Amy is taking the photo and I’m standing between Bob and Sue:

A view of Tom’s Thumb from the Verde Trail:

A view from the North Trail:

An eroded hillside along Lousley Wash:



Little Saddle Mountain Trail, after the Fire

Back in mid-May, Joe, Bob, Nancy, and I hiked the Little Saddle Mountain Trail.  On that very same morning, a man from Mesa shot an incendiary shotgun round into some brush probably not more than a mile from where we were hiking.  This turned into a massive fire, known as the Sunflower Fire, that would eventually burn 17,446 acres in the area.

Joe, Marilyn, and I attempted to hike some of the Little Saddle Mountain Trail on Sunday afternoon.

We could see that some of the hills had been burned from where we parked, but the initial quarter mile or so of trail hasn’t been much affected.

I saw a bee pollinating some flowers…

…and some more flowers growing amidst some prickly pear:

Marilyn took this picture of an Agave.  You can see some burned trees on the hillside to the right.

Marilyn also took this photo of me and Joe hiking past some burned trees.  There’s some new growth in the middle of the remnants of the shrub on the far left – I think it might be a Manzanita plant that had burned there.  My guess is that the new growth is Manzanita too.

Burned trees:

More burned trees:

We encountered a blooming Agave or Century Plant:

Here’s a close-up shot of the blooms…

…and another crop showing the very top of the plant.  I don’t think I had ever seen one in bloom before.  As I was editing it, I noticed some bees on these blooms.

The creek had only a little bit of water in it.  We ended up hiking in the creek for a while because the trail became very difficult to find and follow.  Either new growth has sprouted up where the trail is or rain has washed parts of it away.  This is not uncommon in areas that have been ravaged by fires.  We made it just slightly less than two miles along the trail before turning back.  We could have gone further, but I was outvoted.

A roll of rusty barbed wire hung up on a burned out tree.  I think I noticed this wire on a previous hike, but of course, the tree wasn’t burned then.

A view as we were hiking back through the creek:

A ridged and pocked rock perched on the bank of the creek near some burned trees.  Their proximity to the creek did not protect these trees.

Joe, hiking up a hill on the way back:

Another interesting looking boulder:

Fallen Prickly Pear fruit below a ridge line of burned trees.  Most of the Prickly Pear that we saw looked to be in reasonable condition.  Most of the Barrel Cacti that we saw though seemed to have been burned on the inside leaving only a yellow husk.


Friday Fitness Hike

Bob, Linda, Janet, Amy, and I started our Friday hike at the Wagner Trailhead.  We hiked a 9.35 mile route utilizing the Wagner, Granite, Delsie, Pemberton, and Stoneman Wash trails.

It had rained Thursday night into Friday Morning.  The trails were damp, but no rain fell on us during the hike.  The sky was full of interesting clouds and I think those clouds made for some interesting photos.

Amy is holding the rib of a dead saguaro in both of the group pictures.  The McDowells are visible behind us.

Below, Amy is taking her own photo of the McDowells and the highly textured clouds above.  Red Mountain is visible off in the distance.

Textured clouds:

The edges of the two cloud layers direct the viewer’s attention to the McDowells in this photo.

A pair of saguaros.

A view from the Pemberton.  This shot was taken near the Granite Tank as we were ascending the nearby hill.  At the top of the hill is a crested saguaro off to the right.  (It’s not shown in this photo.)

The damp conditions made sand in the washes firmer than usual.  I noticed, however, that the Wagner and Granite Trails felt somewhat soft and squishy when we first started hiking.  It’s interesting that the rain can make a normally firm trail soft and a normally soft trail firm.

We saw this tree just as we entered Stoneman Wash.

Boulders in Stoneman Wash:

A large multi-armed saguaro visible from Stoneman Wash:

Another edit of the above photo.  The sky has somewhat less contrast in this one.  Marie likes this one better, but Joe likes the original edit, above, better.

Yellow flowers.  Anyone know what kind of plant this is?

We heard helicopters flying overhead around the time when I was trying to photograph the yellow flowers.  (My camera didn’t want to focus for close-up shots.)

I’m hoping that Amy will be able to tell me the name of this reddish plant.  There’s a lot of it growing in the washes.  Several weeks ago, we saw similar plants that were light pink in color at the bottom of the Tonto Tank Trail.






Views from the Pine Creek Loop

Marilyn and I hiked the Pine Creek Loop late on Sunday.  It’s a three mile loop that starts from a parking area just off the Beeline Highway.  It connects with the Ballantine Trail about half way around, though we did not hike the Ballantine Trail on Sunday.

The trail starts off steep; elevation is gained quickly.  This is a view from perhaps half way up.

A view looking off to the west.  Beeline Highway (AZ 87) is visible in this photo as is Red Mountain.

We had descended from the top of the hill and were making our way around the loop here.  The terrain is very hilly here.

The trail is cut into the hill forming a steep bank and this location.  The sun had not quite set yet and was peeking through a bush.  I thought it made for an interesting shot.  I was shooting in RAW mode with exposure bracketing.  I used the brightest and darkest exposures (which are a stop and third apart) along with a bit of tone mapping to create the image below.

We’re perhaps half a mile away from the parking area in this photo.

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