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Month: August 2012 (page 2 of 4)

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.


Another self portrait, using the camera’s timer.   She took this shot as a reference for her artwork.


Tiger and Callisto

Callisto wants to go outside at just about every opportunity.  She meows for us to wake up in the morning when her Aunt Minstrel comes to the door wanting to be fed.  Often, we let her out so that she can say hi to her Aunt.

But she also likes to go out on the balcony.  She has learned how to jump over the wall, get onto the roof and then make her way to the ground.  Today, she meowed and meowed at the door until I let her out.  Tiger let himself into my office – he knows how to open some types of latched doors – and joined Callisto on the roof.

Callisto had been to the same spot where Tiger is in the photo below, but she was too scared to jump from there.  She also had a hard time figuring out how to squeeze herself into the tight space necessary for perching on the pillar.

Tiger, even though he is larger, has no problem with squeezing into tight spaces.

Friday Fitness Hike

It was raining today as I drove out to the Friday Fitness Hike at McDowell Mountain Park.  It was still raining when I got there.  Linda had already arrived.  We rolled down our windows, said hello to each other and wondered whether anyone else would show up.  We didn’t have long to wait as Amy, Janet, and Bob all showed up within the next few minutes.   The rain wasn’t bad, just a light drizzle.

We hiked the Wagner Trail out to Granite, where we turned right.  Along the way, on Granite, I learned that the new trail which leads up to Granite Tank has been given a name; it’s now the “Delsie Trail.”  Apparently Delsie was one of the matrons of the old P-Bar Ranch.  Much, if not all of McDowell Mountain Park, and much of Fountain Hills too, was once part of the B-Bar Ranch.

According to the River of Time Museum,  the B-Bar ranch was operated by Henry Pemberton in the early 1900s.  Operation then passed to the Coles and then to Delsie’s husband Lee Barkdoll in 1935.  Lee died in a train accident a short while later.  Ranger Amy tells me that Delsie operated the ranch after Lee’s death, marrying Lee’s friend Dick Robbins in 1939.  She had a busy life, driving kids on the ranch and the nearby reservation into a school in Scottsdale.  She’d drop the kids off and then go to her job working at a cafeteria in Scottsdale.  Later in the day, she’d drive the kids home, and do whatever needed to be done for the ranch.  Delsie and Robbins ran the ranch until 1955.

We hiked the Delsie Trail today, taking it all the way to Granite Tank.  Along the way, Amy stopped to show us a plant known as The Queen of the Night.  It doesn’t look like much in the photos below, but Amy assures us that it has a very spectacular flower which only opens after dark.  In the photo below, Amy is telling us about this Night-blooming Cereus.

Here is a better view of this otherwise unremarkable plant with Four Peaks off to the left.

A bit further up the Delsie Trail, Amy turned around so that she could open the Nature Center on time.  It was still drizzling, but we stopped to take pictures before she turned back.

As we hiked further up the Delsie Trail, we noticed that some of the barrel cacti had bright red needles, perhaps due to the rain.

The Delsie Trail connects to the Pemberton Trail at Granite Tank.  We turned left and hiked a short way to where we could see this crested saguaro:

The rain brought out a lot of color that we don’t normally see when it’s dry – which is most of the time.  This photo is from a little ways further along the Pemberton.

A short while later, we came upon this “quadruple” saguaro.  It’s one plant that appears to have split into four very long arms when the plant was quite young.

Bob noticed the sun starting to make its presence known and suggested that I get a photo.  Bob is good at spotting these shots.

We saw this dead tree just as we came upon Stoneman Wash.  We decided to hike Stoneman Wash today.  If you’re going to hike this upper section of wash, the best time to do it is just after a rain because it firms up the sand.  It’s still a wash, but it’s not quite as loose as normal.  It can still be quite bad, however, if equestrians have been out with their horses.  Janet and Linda suggested this photo.

We came across this unusual Palo Verde tree as we were hiking Stoneman Wash.  I thought it odd that the tree had a dead looking spot above which were living branches.

Ranger Amy, who in turn double checked with Ranger Kevin Smith at Spur Cross, tells me that the colorful plant in front of the Palo Verde is a Turpentine Bush.  We saw many of them on the hike.  The rain seems to have brought out the color in them.  Amy tells me that they have yellow flowers when they bloom.

Here is my attempt at photographing water droplets on a Palo Verde branch.

Linda had the idea for this shot.  She took the photo too.  I think it turned out very well.

Bob and I walked right past this snake, a Western Diamondback, and had trouble seeing it even when Linda and Janet were pointing right at it.  I had a hard time photographing it too as I took one shot where I missed the snake completely!  This shot, however, came out fairly well.  Notice though how well the snake blends in with the gravel of the wash.

Here’s a 1:1 crop showing more detail:

We ended up hiking Stoneman Wash all the way to the Bluff Trail.  Once we got to Bluff, we turned left and headed back on the Wagner Trail.

Large black ants were out in force today.  I guess they like the moisture too.  Bob had been bitten by some black ants earlier in the hike.

I got this photo just after taking a few shots of the ants.  I really like the clouds in this shot.

We hiked a little over nine and half miles today in only a little over three hours.




Joe and Molly


Mom and Dad

Aunt Betty sent us two photos of Mom and Dad.  I liked them so much that I asked her to send them to me electronically so that I could post them here too.  She figured out how to send them via email and… here they are!  Thanks again, Aunt Betty!


New 7.5lb Clubs!

I got this pair of 7.5lb clubs last week from Revolution Clubs. I have been swinging five pound clubs as part of my workout, usually just one at a time, and noticed that it became easier to swing the three pound clubs. So I concluded that it might get easier to swing the fives if I had seven and a half pound clubs.

I’m doing inward and outward mills with just one of the 7.5lb clubs right now. I haven’t tried swinging them both at once yet. I am able to do alternating outward mills with the fives; I’ve been working on alternating inward mills with the fives too, but I don’t have much proficiency with that movement yet. It’s significantly more difficult for me to swing the 7.5lb clubs; I was surprised at just how big a difference it was.

One of the clubs appears to be slightly taller than the other, but I don’t notice that when holding them in my hands.

Here is a close-up of the center of one of the clubs.  They’re made in the USA!

I weighed them and found the weights to be identical, at least to the resolution of my postal scale. I found this surprising because I don’t think any of my other clubs of the same nominal weight actually weigh the same according to my scale.

Below are the three, five, and seven and a half pound clubs from Revolution Clubs. Each is made of white oak and finished with a clear polyurethane finish. The handles on the 7.5lb clubs feel slightly skinnier than those on the fives. It’s only a slight difference though, 1.02 inches on the 7.5lb clubs versus 1.08 inches on the fives.

Here are the clubs from Revolution Clubs next to one and two pound Motion Rx clubs and a 20kg (44lb) Lifeline USA kettlebell:

The one pound club is the recommended weight for someone starting out.  And, in all truthfulness, it’s still the club that I use the most as I use it for all of my warm ups even if I’m not doing any additional club swinging that day.  I.e. I start with club swinging when doing a kettlebell workout or some other type of weight training.  It helps warm the shoulder joint and get it ready for other kinds of lifting.

There is a good, but expensive, DVD and book combo by Gray Cook, Brett Jones, and Dr Ed Thomas named Club Swinging Essentials. In this video, they show five movements which they call movements one through five. I have found out from other sources that movement one, when performed with both clubs is a double outward mill. When performed with just one club it’s an outward mill. Movement two is a (double) inward mill. Movement three is called a parallel mill.  Movements four and five are outward and inward alternating mills.

Below is a promotional video for the above DVD.  At the beginning, while Gray Cook is speaking, Brett Jones begins by performing an outward mill and then switches to an inward mill.

Here is a cool video from the Teutonic Lifting Club.  In it, Andreas Schmidt demonstrates a number of mill variations in addition to some other movements too in one fluid routine.  He discusses club swinging at the end but, unfortunately, I don’t understand German.  There are English subtitles for some of it though.


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