photography

Little Jerusalem Chalk Bad Lands

Every year I take an annual trip to Estes Park Colorado with my friends Tim and Bryan. Usually, it’s in May, but we have added a September trip to the mix as well. The point of this road trip is to do some hiking, take photo’s, relax and enjoy, weather permitting. I say that because sometimes Mother Nature decides overcast is all she is going to give us and it doesn’t make for very dramatic images. This year was one of those years. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t try, and actually Tim and Bryan got some pretty decent images in Rocky Mountain National Park. Uninspired by the overcast and not feeling the photo love, I busted out the Moment Macro lens for the iPhone and tried a completely different approach to things with mixed results. The good news is, Kansas showed us the love.

Driving to Estes involves taking I-70 for 9 to 10 hours across the great expanse of Kansas, and while most people think of Kansas as a “fly-over” state, it’s probably because they have never taken the time to venture off the freeway or see the Tallgrass Prairie lush from spring rains. For the last few years, we have broken up the drive by stopping in Oakley and the following morning making an excursion to a couple of landmarks about 30 minutes Southwest of the city and the freeway. Last year it was Monument Rocks. This year we hit the “Little Jerusalem Chalk Bad Lands” which is now a state park and will open to the public in June. I’m glad we did because Mother Nature smiled on us with a brilliant clear spring morning that gave us perfect golden light.

The photos below don’t do the size of this chalk formation justice. The columns rise at least 30 to 40 feet in some areas and Little Jerusalem spreads out over a couple of square miles. We only explored a small section, and I need to go back for some night photography and to get a better feel for how large this place really is. If you have time to make the detour and stop I highly recommend it.

A couple of things to point out. Currently (May 2017) this place is gated and there are No Trespassing signs up. Before June enter at your own risk. If you spend the night in Oakley or arrive at the wrong time of the day, be prepared for an olfactory overload. There are a feed lot and a hog farm right off the main drag and the stink can be pretty overpowering if there is no breeze. It was so bad when we arrived I almost lost my lunch when I got out of the car. The good news is, both Monument rocks and Little Jerusalem are far enough away, you won’t smell it there. You will also want to go in some sort of SUV. The roads to both are dirt and gravel and can be a bit rough. My GTI would have had a hard time negotiating some of them.

All photos were shot in RAW on my Olympus OMD EM-1 with the 12-40mm and processed with Lightroom, Photoshop, and NIK Color FX Pro.

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The Indiana Dunes in January.

I’ve been doing some traveling for work over the last couple of weeks, and last week I found myself in New Buffalo Michigan right by the lake. Saturday morning I had some down time so I decided to drive over to Indiana Dunes State park to check it out. I’ve never been, and the overcast skies and fog seemed like it would lend itself to some fairly dramatic photos. In typical fashion… it did and it didn’t. The overcast sky wasn’t quite as dramatic as I expected, and the most interesting visuals came from the textures of the shelf ice right on the lake shore. By the way, did I mention it was freezing? The readout in the rental car said it was 32 degrees, but after 30 minutes my hands were aching from the cold, even though I was wearing heavy gloves. I managed to shoot 20 or so images before deciding to bail. I simply wasn’t dressed for Lake Michigan in January with a nice breeze rolling in off the frigid water.

By the way, did I mention it was freezing? The readout in the rental car said it was 32 degrees, but after 30 minutes my hands were aching from the cold, even though I was wearing heavy gloves. I managed to shoot 20 or so images before deciding to bail. I simply wasn’t dressed for Lake Michigan in January with a nice breeze rolling in off the frigid water.

When I got back to the hotel, I took a look at the results of my little excursion and decided that the decent shots definitely needed post processing so I turned to Photoshop, and Google’s NIK filter collection. If you haven’t grabbed these filters, you should. They’re free, they’re powerful, and you can spend hours playing with the settings and combinations to get some solid results. For my shots, I did a simple two-step process involving a total of four filters.

Pass one, involved NIK Color FX where I added a graduated Neutral Density filter, Detail extractor, Lens Vignette. All applied very slightly to the image. Pass Two, NIK Silver FX for black and white conversion. I used the Modern Presets for High Dynamic Smooth and then dialed everything way down. While the presets are fun, in typical fashion, they are usually cranked up for maximum effect and can seem really fake when used as is.

I did all the post work on the flight back to Kansas City. Everything was processed from RAW files that were shot on my Olympus OMD EM1 with the 12 to 40mm Pro lens in Low ISO mode.

stacked-1

stacked-2

 

My Annual Photo Weekend

Every year I take a five-day trip to Estes park Colorado to hang out with a couple of friends and just relax. The trip consists of staying at my friend’s house (Aspen Grove), hiking in the woods, taking photos, drinking beer, and eating too much red meat over the five days.

The trip is in some ways creative renewal, but mostly it’s just letting everything go, and focusing on having fun and trying to get a few good images while we are out hiking around Rocky Mountain National Park. This year the three of us changed things up a bit and hit the park the first week of October instead of mid-May, and we still got snowed on. The weather wasn’t exactly cooperative, with almost the entire 5 days filled with off and on rain, snow hail, and overcast. It’s all good though. You make do with what you have and just keep shooting.

This is a baker’s dozen of images shot on my Olympus OMD EM1. Not all of the photos were taken in Colorado, and few were taken at Monument Rocks in Western Kansas about 20 miles from Oakley. And yes, every single image has had some form of post processing done to it, The original images were all shot in RAW format and processed in Lightroom and Photoshop using a number of tools and techniques. That is part of the fun.

aspen-trail

aspens-1

big-elk

bryan-on-the-bridge

elk-1

elk-2

millner-lake-1

monument-rocks-1

monument-rocks-2

rocky

sunrise

the-path

the-road

 

Creative Renewal

One of the great things about taking the annual photo weekend trip to Colorado is not just spending time with good friends, but also having the opportunity to focus on being creative for me. On the drive out to Estes we stopped at Monument Rocks about 20 miles from Oakley Kansas to get some sunrise shots of the rock formations that grow out of the Kansas Prairie unlike anything else in the state. These were shot with the Olympus OMD EM-1 Taking full advantage of the world-class image stabilization built into the camera. Tonight some experiments with “Live Composite” mode for night time shooting… provided the clouds hold off and we can see the night sky.

The Road to Colorado

cub-lakeIn 48 hours I’ll be heading to Colorado for 5 days of hiking and taking photos in Rocky Mountain National Park. This is an annual trip, but this year is a bit special since we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park system in the United States. While noodling around on the internet over lunch I did a search on “National Park Posters” and found that the park service has a site dedicated to the posters that have been created for each of our National Parks so I decided to have a look. What I found is series of new posters that have been produced in the famous WPA style of the 1930’s and 40’s but with an updated look. The posters capture the spirit of the originals, and have a specific style guide that has obviously been applied to each, help to create a consistent look across the grouping. The look of the imagery varies slightly from poster to poster, with some that are obviously manipulated photos, or a digital painting that used a photo as a guide layer, but I have to say they are well done and work. The Park Service is selling the posters to help fund the National Park system and what you get for the money is a 13 by 19 inch poster printed on recycled paper that is signed, numbered, and dated. Below is a small sampling of the collection.

 

yosemite

yellowstone

olympic

kings-canyon

 

grand-canyon

grand-tetons

 

dunes

cub-lake

capital-reef

black-canyon

arches

acadia

cub-lake

Fireworks, or Bombshells. You Choose.

Well, it’s Fourth of July weekend here in America and that means people are blowing up their hard earned money with fireworks. I like fireworks, well the professional ones that is. Don’t get me wrong if you want to blow shit up in your backyard to show the world how patriotic you are that’s fine. I’m not going to stop you. I just prefer to spend my money on things that aren’t going to go up in smoke, or run the risk of causing me pain and possible dismemberment. So you can celebrate the nation’s birthday with fireworks, or you can feast your eyes on pin-up girls sporting the red white and blue and in some cases holding fireworks. Frankly, I think I prefer looking at leggy gals sporting an outfit made from old glory and holding explosives. So here we have movie stars, models, and illustrations of just that. By the way, 1960’s bombshell Raquel Welch, and 1940’s Broadway star Anne Miller seem to have been very popular icons for the 4th.

4th-of-july-vintage-pinup

Nina Roman

Nina Roman

4th06 4thjulyAnnMiller

4thof-july-pinup

123

1234

12345

AB

ABC

ABCD

ABCDE

ABCDEF

ABCDEFG

ABCDEFGH

Ava-Gardner-american-flag

Dorothy Arnold

fca9001c3e2fbcbf70aecbf385cb96d3

Happy-4th-Of-July

myrna-dell-july-4th-1948-vintage-pinup

pin-up-worth_cultivating

Raquel-Welch-wearing-flag-shirt

vintage-hollywood-rita-hayworth-flag-IIHIH

xvsde

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IMG_0116

IMG_0119

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Focus Stacking in Oxford.

Focus stacking in photography is a technique used to get the greatest amount of depth of field in a single image by processing multiple images taken at different focus distances. Most of the time we are talking a handful of images. Probably less than 10 for most people. Now all of that changes when you start doing micro photography and use microscope lenses to get your final images.

The video below is about the groundbreaking photographic technique used by Levon Biss for the Oxford University of Natural Sciences. Biss focus stacks as many as 8000 images, moving his camera 10 microns at a time to get his end result. A human hair is about 75 microns, so Biss is moving his camera about an eighth of the width of a human hair to get enough shots to build a final image. The reason for this is because the depth of field on the lenses he is using is so shallow, it is the only way he can produce the results he wants. And those results are pretty damn amazing.

I don’t really get into insects, but I could look at this stuff all day long. Be sure and jump over to his site to see more of this amazing work.