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Craigslist is awesome…

As reported last week, Marilyn used Craigslist to help find homes for four kittens.  Today, she used it to sell the kids’ old bunk bed.  She started getting calls within five minutes of posting!

The bed sold to the first caller, a woman from Mesa who had four kids, two of whom were sleeping on the floor.  She got a good deal; we had checked Craigslist and found bunk beds selling from $75 to over several hundred.  (I think some of them were unrealistic in their expectations.)  Anyway, we listed our bunk bed for $75.  I’m sure we could’ve gotten more for it, but Marilyn just wanted it out of the house.

Here are the photos, edited by Marie, that Marilyn posted to Craigslist:

After the Storm in McDowell Mountain Park

A monsoon storm came through the area yesterday afternoon.  Just before sunset, Marilyn and I drove to McDowell Mountain Park and walked to the top of the Hilltop Trail to get some photos.

A buckhorn cholla silhouette:

Low clouds (or smoke?) lying low on one of the lower mountains; shiny wet rocks:

Fantastical clouds:

More clouds:

Red Mountain off in the distance:

A saguaro silhouette:


Moab Rim Trail

On Wednesday during our week’s stay in the Moab area during June of 2012, we hiked the Moab Rim Trail.  Known locally as “Moab’s Stairmaster”, it climbs over eight hundred feet within the first mile.  The trail description at the bottom exaggerates a bit, claiming an elevation gain of one thousand feet in a mile.  It is popular with some of the locals though because it’s close to town and provides a heck of a workout just hiking up to the rim and back, about two miles total.

The Moab Rim Trail is actually a jeep trail and a very difficult one at that.   Here is how the sign at the bottom describes it:

The Moab Rim Route follow the Kayenta sandstone ledge from here to the rim above the town of Moab.  The route is used by hikers, bikers, motorcyclists, and jeepers.  It gains 1,000 feet in elevation in about a mile.  The ledges make it particularly challenging to motorized vehicles.  The Moab Rim Route is rated as a “4+” route by the Moab Red Rock Four-Wheelers Jeep Club – its most difficult rating.  (4+ trails are not suitable for stock vehicles, and over 10% of modified vehicles can expect “major mechanical difficulties”.)

Hopefully, this shot will help to convey a sense of how steep the first section is.  Even though it’s steep, the footing is excellent.

Marie took this photo of her Mom along the way:

Marie took this photo of herself standing on the rim.  The town of Moab is in the background.

When I got up to the rim, I saw a plant standing alone with these yellow flowers:

Marilyn and Marie amidst the sandstone:

Marilyn took this photo of Marie hiking along side large potholes in the sandstone.

Marie took this photo of the trail wending its way into a valley.

Marie, admiring the view just shortly before she and her Mom turned around:

I continued on and saw, from afar, this pass through the wall of rock.  I don’t know if there is a trail which goes through that pass or not.  I’d like to hike closer sometime to find out.

Another view from a bit further on down the trail.  At this point, I was perhaps halfway around the loop that would bring back to the girls.

Another shot from the same location:

A shot looking back in the direction from where I had come.  I didn’t hike either of those roads visible off in the distance though.  But I would like to walk them sometime though.

I eventually met up again with Marilyn and Marie and we hiked back to the rim together.  Here’s Marilyn somewhere near the rim:

A view of Arches National Park from the Moab Rim.  The arch visible in this photo is the South Window, I think.

Marilyn took this photo of Moab, below, and the La Sals in the distance.

A view of the Colorado River while descending the Moab Rim Trail:

Aarchway Inn Murals

The Aarchway Inn has two nice murals too, but they’re quite a lot more tranquil than a scene of a giant spider chasing a pack of mountain bikers.

With the right optics, you can sort of see these murals all the way from the Moab Rim.  This shot, below, was taken with my NEX-7 with the lens all the way out at 200mm.  I had to crop it a lot too to get a photo of the motel.  That busy highway in this photo is US 191.  The area behind the hotel is pretty nice though.  There’s an exercise area, a cabana with grill, and some flowerbeds.  If you look closely, you can see two murals on the back walls of the north and south wings of the motel.

Here’s the mural on the northernmost wall:

This is the mural on the wall to the south:

A few of the flowers not far from these murals:

Poison Spider Bicycles Mural

Poison Spider Bicycles, in Moab, Utah, has a great mural painted on the side of one of their walls. My daughter used to be scared of the spider when she was little, but enjoyed looking at the scene anyway. My son, of course, was delighted that his sister was scared of the spider, but he enjoyed looking at the mural too. They would sit outside and look at the mural while daddy was in the shop looking around.

I got a photo of the mural this year just as we were leaving town to go home…

This crop shows the interesting part of the scene:

The artist is Terry Klaaren.

Island in the Sky, part II

In part II, we’ll look at some photos taken by Marilyn and Marie from the Island in the Sky in Canyonlands National Park.  (Part I consisted of only my photos.)

Marie took this photo of sunrise from the parking lot of the Grand Viewpoint:

Marilyn set up her tripod and took several photos from the Grand Viewpoint.

Monument Basin, using a telephoto lens:

Another shot of Monument Basin:

A chipmunk of some kind, maybe.

Me and Marie at another viewpoint not far away from the Grand Viewpoint.  If you go to part I, you’ll see two photos that I took from that vantage point.


Friday Fitness Hike

Four of us met for the fitness hike today in McDowell Mountain Park: Bob, Linda, Janet, and me.  Starting at the Wagner Trailhead, we hiked Wagner to Granite where we turned right.  We then hiked to the large wash that must be crossed three quarters of a mile or so before coming to the Bluff Trail.  This wash feeds into Stoneman Wash, but we turned “upstream” and hiked up the wash until we came to the Pemberton.  We then took Pemberton over to Bluff and Bluff back to Granite.  From there, we hiked back to the Wagner Trail which took us back to our vehicles.  Total distance hiked was a little over seven miles.

We had cloud cover today which kept the temperatures down.  A light breeze also helped to keep us cool.  The clouds highlighted rays emanating from the sun, producing interesting colors too.

Here is a photo of the wash that we hiked just after leaving the Granite Trail.  The colors are kind of funky due to the mode set on the camera.

Here is a photo of Bob, Janet, and Linda:

Here’s another photo of the sky.  Four Peaks can be seen at the right in this photo.

Sony NEX-7 in-camera HDR Example

My Sony NEX-7 does in-camera HDR.  I used this feature extensively while taking photos during my recent vacation.

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.  HDR photos are intended to show you portions of the scene that might not otherwise be easily visible when photographed with just a single exposure.  The way it normally works is that several – usually three or more – exposures are taken of a scene, usually using a tripod.  The exposure settings are changed each time so that portions of the scene that aren’t well lit in one exposure will, hopefully, be better lit in some other one.  The photographer then takes these various exposures and edits them together to make a single photo that better shows the scene.  Software exists which helps with this process.  I haven’t used any of this software, so I can’t say how well it works nor how easy it is to use.

On many of Sony’s recent camera offerings, you can put the camera in HDR mode.  When in this mode, a single press of the shutter release button causes three exposures to be made – i.e. three different shots will be taken at differing metering levels.  The camera saves the middle exposure unaltered to the flash card, then goes to work on processing the three photos it took into one single photo which may or may not be “better” than the shot taken using the middle exposure.  This middle exposure is what the camera would have recorded had you simply taken the photo in some other (non-HDR) mode.

You can, if you wish, tell the camera how to bracket the shots.  I tried this on my first day of using it, but some of the results were quite horrible, so I put it into auto-HDR bracketing for the remainder of my shots.

Even so, some of the HDR shots in auto-HDR mode aren’t that good; many times I like the non-HDR version better and am glad that the camera recorded that version.

Other times, I can see only minor differences between the HDR version of the photo and the non-HDR version.  It can provide good results, however, when there are areas of shade or shadow in the scene.  This happened quite frequently when taking photos of arches and fins in the Moab area.

Here is a non-HDR exposure taken at the Grand Viewpoint in the Island in the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park.  Note that the foreground is difficult to see because it’s quite underexposed.

Here is the HDR version that the camera composed of the same scene.  No editing of my own, aside from scaling, has been performed on either this photo or the one above.  Note that it is now possible to see some details of the foliage in the foreground.  I should note too that I did not use a tripod for this shot.  I tried to hold the camera as steady as possible.  Even so, there’s some camera movement.  Sony’s HDR in-camera HDR processing somehow manages to correct for small movements of the camera between exposures.

Finally, here is an edit that I did of that last photo.  I made the foreground somewhat easier to see while still conveying the fact that it’s in the shade.

Castle Valley

Marilyn took this photo of Castle Valley.

Although I really like this photo, I’m am not quite satisfied with my editing of it.  I split the photo up into four layers, the sky, the towers in the background, the tower closer to the foreground, and the foliage in the immediate foreground.

It’s those trees in the immediate foreground that gave me the most trouble.  The original photo had some haze or something that I was able to de-emphasize for portions of some of the layers.  But when I used the Curves tool on the foreground foliage, that mist or haze near the edges of the leaves ended up getting lit up and looked really bad.  I ended up making a fairly large selection around the trees and feathered it.  When I was done, I still had a bunch of mist around the trees, but it faded into the layer underneath.  I still didn’t like the look of it though, so I used one of the “Circle Fuzzy” brushes with the opacity set to 30% to remove some of that haze by painting black into the layer mask.

The tree on the right and left still have a sort of nimbus around them, but when I look closely, I can see that in the original photo too.

Here is the original photo.  The only modification performed on it was that it was scaled for uploading to this site.  (The site software performs additional scaling of its own.)

Colette has a new home!

(And it’s not with us!)

Below is a photo of Colette, the last of the four kittens we were taking care of.  Colette’s siblings had been found homes about a week ago.  Yesterday, a nice lady with two young daughters came to look at Colette.  Colette was very playful, batting at the nose of one of the girls without using her claws.  They were delighted with Colette and took her home a short while later.

Below is a photo from about a week earlier, showing Colette with her siblings.  Colette is at the upper right in this photo.

Colette and the rest of the litter came to us from our neighbor’s garage.  Their mom, Ginger, had disappeared after moving her litter to the garage.  The kittens had gotten very hungry and started mewing.  The neighbor’s dogs became alarmed and started barking.  Our neighbor knew of our fondness for cats and brought them to us.  We took care of them for several weeks, but eventually found them homes via ads in Craigslist and the local newspaper.

We were becoming fond of Colette and were kind of sad to see her go, but our other cats are much happier without her around.


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