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Friday Photography Hike

None of the fitness hike regulars could make it to last Friday’s hike, so I decided to bring my tripod and my NEX-7 with a heavy lens, a Sigma 18-35 f/1.8 which hasn’t gotten a lot of use (yet).  I arrived at the Tom’s Thumb Trailhead early – too early as it turned out because I had to wait about ten minutes for the gate to open. Once I parked, I hustled over to a location near Sven’s Slab that I had scouted for a sunrise shot a bit over a year ago.

It took me a long time to process and finish this sunrise photo.  I made several attempts to use Photoshop’s HDR Pro to merge some hand bracketed exposures, but I was not happy with the results.  I even gave Photomatix a try, but wasn’t happy with those results either. I finally selected one exposure for the sky and another for the foreground, processed those in Lightroom, and then blended them by hand in Photoshop.


Tom’s Thumb is the prominent pinnacle towards the center of this photo. Morrell’s Wall can be seen in sunlight near the left edge.


I took several photos of the tall “mushroom” rock featured in the sunrise photo. This one is taken from the east side, with the early morning sun on it.


This is Sven’s Slab.


Another shot of the tall mushroom rock and the boulder adjacent to it. Troon Mountain is lit up at the left. The brownish blob below it is the trailhead structure.


This was an interesting shot to process. Due to the fact that I was shooting towards the sun, even though it’s hidden behind one of these rocks, the sky was very bright and the rock in the photo was very dark. Also, I was unable to back up far enough to get the entire height of the mushroom rock in one frame. I took two sets of bracketed exposures, one of the upper part of the rock and an overlapping set for the bottom of the rock. When I shot this, I was careful to lock the exposure and focus prior to taking the shots. I processed each set of bracketed exposures in Photoshop’s HDR Pro, created a 32-bit TIFF file, and then processed that in Lightroom. I sync’d the edits between the image for the top part and the bottom part, so that they would (hopefully) match up. I then had photoshop blend these two pieces as a panorama. The result of the blending was somewhat misshapen, so I fixed it using Photoshop’s free transform tool, which is the first time I’ve used this particular photoshop facility.  That left some missing areas of sky and rock along the edges. I tried filling these in with content aware fill. It looked sort of okay if you didn’t look very close, but it looked awful otherwise.  I ended up using the clone stamp tool to make those areas look better.  At that point, I was finally able to begin my normal editing.


This is a shot looking through the “window” formed between the tall mushroom rock, the adjacent boulder, and the chockstone above. I couldn’t figure out how to use my tripod for this shot, which is a shame, because it would have been a good candidate for focus stacking.  Note that there’s a section of granite at the bottom right that’s not in focus. Likewise for the sky and mountains in the distance. Had I been able to use my tripod, I could have taken a shot to get the foreground section in focus and another to get the background in focus. These could have then been blended to produce one image that’s entirely in focus. That would have been interesting because I built this shot out of bracketed exposures as well.


I think that Amy Burnett once told me what these purple flowers are, but I’ve forgotten. It doesn’t seem to be in my wildflower book for the McDowells either. They were fairly low to the ground and somewhat less saturated than shown in this photo.


I think this is a large Goldeneye bush.


Another view of Morrell’s Wall, about a third of the way over from the left edge of the photo. The large slab in the foreground is the Girlie Man Area. There are at least seven easy to moderate routes on that slab ranging in difficulty from 5.2 to 5.9+.


This boulder pile is in Mesquite Canyon, not far from the Girlie Man Area.


Morrell’s Wall looks much more impressive from this angle. I took this photo from the junction of the Feldspar Trail and the climber’s access trail that eventually leads to Morrell’s Wall.


Another view of the dead tree in the photo above, this time looking east towards the Morrell Wall Parking Lot Area.  (At one time, there was nearby parking.)


I encountered a rattlesnake as I turned to continue up the Feldspar Trail after taking the above shots.  It rattled a lot for a moment and then slithered a short ways, stopping just short of a nearby bush. It felt like I had my camera three feet away from the snake in this photo, but it was probably at least four. The snake was very obliging in that it waited and gave me time to dig a different camera (with longer effective focal lengths) out of my pack.


I used my Nex-7 (and Sigma lens) at 35mm to get this shot just before I continued on…


Two more views from the Feldspar Trail:





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