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Month: September 2013 (page 3 of 4)

Friday Fitness Hike

Friday’s hike started at the Wagner Trailhead.  Ranger Amy introduced regulars Bob, Linda, Janet, and me to Bill and Kathy who recently moved here from Wisconsin.  Also joining us was Jerry, who had been on one of our hikes in the past.  Amy had to work at the visitor center and was unable to join us for the hike.

We hiked the Wagner Trail to Granite, turning right.  We followed the Granite Trail until we got to the wash below the Bluff Trail.  We hiked up the wash until we got to the Pemberton Trail, seeing two snakes along the way.  From there we hiked a short ways on Pemberton, turned onto Bluff and followed the Bluff trail to the bottom where it intersects with the Granite Trail.  From there we took Granite back to Wagner, which lead us back to the trailhead.  Total distance was a little over seven miles.

A view of the McDowells from the Granite Trail.

2013-09-13-DSC08361-mediumRecent rainstorms have caused some flowers to bloom.  I think these are Senna, but Jerry knew them by a different name (which I’ve now forgotten).

Bob and Sarge lead the way to the gap in the rocks where an easy scramble allowed us to continue on up the wash.  Sarge tried to make it up the rocks on the own, but he needed a boost.  He was a very good dog when I picked him up.

2013-09-13-DSC08388-mediumEasy scrambling was required further up the wash too.


We stopped for a group photo at a small wall built in the wash.  We don’t know who built this wall or the purpose of it, save that it may prevent erosion to some degree.  Perhaps it was a small dam at one time which filled in over time?

From left to right, and top to bottom, are Bill, Jerry, Bob, Sarge, Kathy, Janet, Kevin, and Linda.


Boulder-strewn hills form the banks of the wash.

2013-09-13-DSC08411-medium This rattlesnake was well away from where we were walking, but made itself known to us by employing its rattle.  It was kind of dark and difficult to see this snake.  This is the best photo I got of it.


The upper parts of the McDowells can be seen from the wash.


More bouldery outcroppings…

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Just before reaching Pemberton, we saw coachwhip snake, also known as a red racer.  I tried to get close to it while it was still on the ground, but it raced away, disappearing into some brush.  Moments later, Jerry noticed it slithering up into a tree.  It took me a long time to see it because, to me, it looked like just another branch.  Once I finally did see it, I was able to take the photo, below:

2013-09-13-DSC08497-cropped-mediumHere’s the uncropped version of the photo above.  I like this one too because you can see the sky through the leaves and branches of the tree.


This is the palo verde (tree) at the top of the hill near the intersection of Bluff and Pemberton.  There is a small bench, just barely visible, to the left of the tree.

2013-09-13-DSC08507-mediumSarge and Bob pose for a picture.


Snake in a Tree? How can that be?

We saw this snake during our hike today.  It started out on the ground, but then raced off, climbing into the tree.  Bob identified it as a red racer.

2013-09-13-DSC08497-cropped-medium 2013-09-13-DSC08497-medium


The Great Arrow

This work, The Great Arrow by sculptor Michael Jones, is just outside of the Community Center, which is the building to the left.  The Fountain Hills Library is the well lit building off in the distance.  The Great Arrow was donated in 2004 by Mayor Wally and Sheila Nichols.


This is my second edit of this photo.  I had inadvertently used too much noise reduction on the first edit, leading to a lack of sharpness.  In the second edit, shown above, I chose to deemphasize areas of the photos that are less important.  The scene shown in these two edits appears to be differently lit, even though I used the same set of RAW files.  The scene was lit by ambient light only.

In this new edit, there’s an exhibit that appears to be lit much better in front of the library. The sculpture depicts a mother cat carrying her kitten.  I have edited the photo to make it appear that there is a spotlight on this exhibit.  In my opinion, nearly all of the exhibits in the area would benefit from additional lighting.

In The Great Arrow exhibit, the end of the arrow with the fletching is very dark when viewed at night.  The exhibit would be much more appealing, in my opinion, if it were lit in a manner similar to that depicted in the photo.

Monday Night Sunset

I took this photo from the Horse Staging Area at McDowell Mountain Park.


Cutillo Plaza Sculpture

This work, titled “Fusion” by sculptor Shannon Owen, can be seen to the right immediately after driving into Cutillo Civic Plaza via the entrance nearest to the Town Hall.

I tried to get this shot on Sunday night.  When I got home and processed it, I really liked the colors, but the focus was really off.  I returned on Monday night and took greater care to get the focus right.  I also used a grey card to ensure that the colors were accurate within the immediate vicinity of the sculpture.  I think there are other light sources with different color temperatures nearby, however.

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“Ceremonial Dance”, by Alan Hochman is next to the Town Hall.  Water can be heard bubbling in this exhibit.  When I looked closely, I could see the barest sheen of water running down the lowest panel to the left.  There may have been water running down the other ones too, but I could not tell in the dark.

When I took this shot, I had no idea that the panels were that colorful.  It’s possible, of course, that I didn’t account for the color temperature of all of the light sources and that some of the colors are off.  I have not yet seen this sculpture during the daytime.  The colors of the rocks, tree leaves, and agave plant all look reasonable though.


Community Center, after Dark

After leaving the Fountain Park on Sunday night, I parked near the Fountain Hills Community Center and took a photo of this building as well as some other nearby buildings too.

Community Center:


Approaching the Post Office:

2013-09-08-DSC08053-mediumFord Fusion:

2013-09-08-DSC08056-mediumAs I was walking around taking photos, I noticed that the colors were off when reviewing the images.  As I was walking back to the car to go home, I thought that taking a photo of the white car might work for obtaining a white setting.  I think it sort of worked for the area around the car, but I don’t think it helped for some of the trees.  I ended up white balancing off a patch of the sidewalk in most of these shots.  Usually, that result didn’t look all that good, so I’d tweak it by hand afterward.  I really need to get in the habit of bringing a grey card with me.



“First Love”, by Carol Cunningham

The sculpture in the photo below, titled “First Love”, was created by artist Carol Cunningham.  I happened to notice it as I was walking back from taking photos of the fountain.  I didn’t much like the photos I got of the fountain, but I do like this photo of Carol’s sculpture.


Friday Fitness Hike

Friday’s hike started at the trailhead for the North Trail.  Linda, Janet, Bob, and I joined Ranger Amy for a 7.2 mile hike that utilized the North Trail, Chuparosa, and part of the Pemberton Trail.  We focused on hiking, mostly.  I took few photos on this hike than usual.

I took this photo before the hike begin, shortly after sunrise:

2013-09-06-DSC07892-mediumLinda took this photo of Bob and Amy at Cedar Tank.  The tank has water in it and Amy saw swimming shrimp.  There were also mosquitoes there, so we didn’t stay long.

2013-09-06-From_Linda-015We stopped to take a group photo near an old water tank no longer capable of holding water due to many bullet holes.

2013-09-06-DSC07941-mediumWe saw these large saguaros as we were nearing the Chuparosa Trail on our way back.





Photos from the Pine Creek Loop Trail

I took these photos on Sunday, Sept 1 from the Pine Creek Loop Trail.  I went out late in the afternoon and stayed out until well after sunset when I took the photo of the Beeline Highway Traffic.  All photos were taken using a tripod and, in some instances, I used focus stacking to try to get both near and far subjects all in focus.

This photo was taken from the parking area for the Ballantine Trailhead.  (The Pine Creek Loop starts from the Ballantine Trailhead.  The Ballantine Trail doesn’t actually start until you’re about 1.5 miles in on the Pine Creek Loop.

2013-09-01-DSC07349-medium This photo, below, was taken from a short way up the trail.


The photo below is the only one in this group where focus stacking really paid off.  I used the technique on several others too, but did not see as much of a benefit with those photos. Note that both the saguaros and the cacti and rocks in the foreground are all sharp.  I composed this photo from three different shots where different elements were in focus.

One of the issues with employing this technique is that the magnification changes slightly as the focal point changes, causing the various exposures to be slightly misaligned.  There is a technique called image registration which can be used to align several similar images. It turns out that there’s a GIMP Image Registration Plug-in that works very well.  When I first tried it though, it didn’t appear to give good results at all.  The trick to making it work for my photos were to change the Transformation Model from Shift and Rotate to Affine Transformation.

Once I had the three layers aligned, I then masked two of the layers to show only the in-focus elements from that layer.

2013-09-01-DSC07397-medium 2013-09-01-DSC07457-medium Sunset:

2013-09-01-DSC07621-medium These last three were all taken after sunset.2013-09-01-DSC07694-medium 2013-09-01-DSC07712-medium 2013-09-01-DSC07799-medium


Beeline Highway on Sunday Night of Labor Day Weekend

Beeline Highway (AZ State Route 87) gets a lot of traffic at the end of the day each weekend, but it probably sees even more traffic on holiday weekends.  Below is a photo that I took from a location near the Ballantine Trailhead on the Pine Creek Loop Trail.

The blue lights in the photo below were made by two police cars that drove by during the three minutes that the shutter was open.  I’m guessing that the was an accident of some kind because shortly thereafter, the southbound lane (with the white lights) had no traffic for seven or eight minutes.  Then, after that hiatus, there was even more traffic than before, probably due to the police lifting the roadblock.

I used the Zeiss 24mm lens on a NEX-7 for this shot.  Exposure parameters are f/6.3, ISO 100, for 179 seconds.  I used an IR remote to open and close the shutter in bulb mode.  I did a short test shot at f/1.8 and used that to guess at the time needed to make a longer exposure at f/6.3.


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