Saturday, August 30, 2008

Canyon Lake

Suzanne and I drove out to Canyon Lake this afternoon. We thought it would be crowded on Labor Day weekend. It was almost deserted. It was kinda creepy. I took a few pictures of the lake. On the way back, we got pulled over for a sobriety check. Those guys are going to be pretty lonely tonight. I should have told them there's nobody out there. Click below to see the pictures.


A short stroll at the end of Idaho road

Suzanne was out running errands today and called to let me know that the clouds looked beautiful. So I drove out to the (north) end of Idaho Road to get some pictures. There were some nice clouds. I was not going to do any HDR pictures. I didn't even carry the tripod. I was afraid the clouds wouldn't look good, though, so I did take some exposure bracketed pictures. Fortunately, Photomatix is pretty good at correcting for camera movement between exposures. See if you can tell which pictures are HDR and which ones aren't.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Monsoon thunder

We had some rain last night. Lots of rain. Also, lots of lightening and thunder. During monsoon storms, there seems to be a lot of lightening between clouds. That was the case last night. The lightening was flashing continously, and the thunder was one unending rumble. You can't see much in this video, but be sure and turn the sound up.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


We've had some pretty clouds around this monsoon season. I never seem to have my camera with me at the right time, though. When I got home from work today, I decided to go right out and get some pictures of clouds. I wasn't going to spend a lot of time driving or hiking to the perfect spot, either. I just went a couple of miles over to Meridian Road and hiked partway up the freeway overpass. There I had an unobstructed view all around. There are houses and power lines and other crud in the pictures, but I got the clouds, too.

Clouds are not always easy to photograph. The camera could have the exposure set to get a good picture of the clouds, but then everything on the ground is black. Or if the ground is exposed, they clouds will just be white blobs with no definition. Or you could even have a picture with part of the clouds being black and part being white blobs. Cameras and computer monitors just don't have the dynamic range that the human eye does. So I use exposure bracketing to get a "properly" exposed picture, an underexposed picture (properly exposed for the bright areas), and an over exposed picture (properly exposed for the dark areas). Then I use Photomatix to combine the three into a picture that shows everything I want to see.

Sometimes it bothers me a little that these combined images look sort of artificial. Then I remember that my pictures are not just documentation of what's there; they are art. So I can do anything I want. I like the result, so that's all that matters. If somebody out there doesn't like my pictures, I'm going to make them look at them until they puke. Just kidding. If somebody doesn't like my pictures, they can just go away. Anyway, here are the pictures.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Random pictures

As usual, I didn't have my camera with me when I wanted to take a picture today. There were storms on the way home from work, and there were some interesting clouds around. Oh, well.

After I got my chores done, I went riding around. It was already pretty dark. With my S3 IS, I had almost always kept the ISO set on 80. Anything else looked grainy to me. That meant that getting pictures in low light was difficult.

So far, I have left the ISO on the Rebel set to "Auto". I think all of the pictures I took tonight are at ISO 800. Except for being dark and fairly colorless, they look pretty darn good to me. I don't detect any graininess, except in the sunset pictures that are almost completely black.

This picture is looking west from one of my favorite sunset taking spots. You get an idea how cloudy it is.

See the lights on the right side of that picture? I decided to go see what kind of picture I could get over there. On the way I noticed a burst of red in the west. Here's a picture of that.

I tried making some HDRI of the ballgame, but I didn't like the way that turned out. I was impressed with what I could see in the original pictures when I zoomed to 100%, so I decided to upload a picture at the highest quality I could. It looks very pixelated when you zoom in on the online version. Too bad for you guys. Here's the picture of the ball game.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

First pictures

I finally got the disk space issue resolved. Then I bought a new camera; a Canon Rebel XSi. It has some features I really like (12.2 Megapixels, RAW images, bulb shutter, etc). It has some drawbacks that have kept me from buying an SLR for a while. I bought a kit that came with a lens, but I still need to buy a telephoto lens. I'll probably get a macro lens, too. That's a bunch of stuff to tote around in the desert, and I'm worried about changing lenses out there. I'm afraid I'll get dust in the camera. Well, I just couldn't quite get the quality of pictures I wanted with the S3 IS. The S3 is a very nice camera, and I plan to continue to use it, but I hope to get some magazine quality pictures with the Rebel. I think the first thing I need to get is a polarizing filter.

I went out this afternoon to try the camera out for the first time (I was determined that the first pictures taken with this camera would NOT be of cats). As I left the house, I saw thunderstorm clouds far to the north (probably near Payson). I decided to find a nice spot in Bulldog Canyon and get some pictures of the clouds from there. I was going to hike up to the shadow on the side of this mountain and take pictures from there.

I was on the other side of the ridge in that picture a few days ago. Anyway, I parked the truck and took a look at the thermometer. 109. That couldn't be right. It was only 107 on the freeway on the way out there. Must be heat from the engine getting up to the thermometer. The operating temperature range of the camera only goes up to 105. Heck, my operating temperature range only goes up to 105. That reminds me, I was reading the owner's manual this morning and read that high temperatures can cause pictures to look grainy. Maybe that's why I've been disappointed with how some pictures turned out this summer.

I parked near a wash and walked along it for a while to where I would start climbing. It was there that I realized I had not locked the truck. I do that now and then, and usually I don't worry about it, but today I had left the S3 in the truck, so I went back to lock it. On the way back, I was trying to keep the Rebel out of the sun so it wouldn't fry. At the truck I got an umbrella to help keep the sun off the camera. I also used it to keep the sun off me.

By the time I got back to the spot to start uphill, I was sweating. Yep, it's really hot today. I'm walking on level ground and there's sweat running down my face. I started uphill and also started to really warm up. The umbrella just wasn't big enough. I always wear denim jeans when I hike, because they hold up well to things like cat claw acacia. Have you ever gotten a pair of jeans out of the dryer in the summer time and put them on and immediately thought, "That's just too hot", and taken them right off again? That's how my jeans felt in the sun. I wasn't about to take them off, though, not with all those sharp things around me. I trudged on up, trying to keep the stinging sweat out of my eyes, hiding in the shade of palo verdes and saguaros.

It isn't a very long hike to that shady spot on the side of the ridge. I'd been up there before on a day when I didn't feel like walking much. When I was about halfway there, I sat in the shade to cool off a little. My water was half gone, and I was just getting to the steep part. I still had my backup water, but it had been in the truck all day and was probably too hot to drink. I noticed that the part of the camera that was against my side was cool compared to the rest of the camera. I was being careful to keep it out of the sun, too. When I'm a heat sink for the camera, it's too darn hot. I decided to take pictures of the storm clouds from the shade of a palo verde. I turned to the north and saw scads of puffy little clouds blocking the view of the storm clouds. Rats. So I sat there for a few minutes taking pictures of the scenery.

After about 20 minutes of sitting there taking pictures, my water was getting very low. Time to head back. By the time I got back to the truck, the water was too hot to drink. A couple of flies got in the truck with me. You know how flies will fly away if you get within about 8 inches of them? I had the A/C going. I opened the window and had to physically push the flies out. I think they liked the cooler air in the truck.

I checked the thermometer. 102. That couldn't be right. It felt way hotter than that out there. Maybe some cooled air got to the sensor while I had the window open pushing flies out.

I didn't have a decent tripod with me (left it in the truck, dangit), and it was too hot to mess with figuring out how to store images in RAW format. I was able to hold the camera still enough (the fact that it takes successive pictures very quickly helps with that) to take some exposure bracketed pictures that I used to make some HDRI's. So all but one of the pictures in this album are highly processed. I didn't upload them at full resolution, either, because they aren't that great. Hopefully I'll have some good pictures soon, though. Click below to see the pictures.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wandering around Bulldog Canyon

I wanted to go someplace I haven't been in Bulldog Canyon today, so I parked in a convenient spot and headed up to a place I couldn't remember going before. I headed in this direction.

Part way up, I found this trail. I don't know what made it. It seems too wide for a rabbit trail. Maybe it's a javelina trail. I followed it for quite a ways.

Here's a ridge that I climbed several years ago. It was so beautiful up there. That was when I "fell in love" with Bulldog Canyon. It was so pretty all around me, and so quiet, and I had it all to my self. That was also the day that I learned that it is not a good idea to return to your truck using a different route than you used on the way out.

See the cliff at the lower center of this picture? I got to the top of that on my way back to the truck from the top of that ridge. There was no way I could get down that cliff. I couldn't even bring myself to look over the edge of it. I had to retrace my steps for quite a ways. That's also the day that I decided to carry spare water, no matter how heavy it is. I didn't get dehydrated that day, but it could have been bad.

I found a place that some people had camped a few months ago, before the winter rains. It's just a few feet from the road. I may go camp there when the weather cools off. Oh, I just remembered that that's when all the beer drinking, gun shooting, enormous bonfire building yahoos go camping out there. Well, maybe if I go on a Tuesday night I'll have the place to myself. Click below to see all of the pictures.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

The end of Meridian Road

I've been really lazy lately. Once excuse I'm using is that I don't like hiking if I can't take pictures, and I can't take pictures unless I have someplace to download them. My hard drive is *full*. I ordered another one. It should be here in a couple of days. In the mean time, I made room to squeeze a few more pictures on the old drive.

Since I can't stand being away from the desert for too long, I went out to the end of Meridian road late today. I was just going to wander around a little, but I wound up climbing a hill to try to get sunset pictures. The last time I was on that hill was in winter. The sun sets further south then. Today it set behind some some other hills. No good sunset pictures. It was quite a struggle getting up there before the sun set, too. Here's a picture I snapped from the hill I was on, looking down at the hill I should have been on. I was in the shade; it's in the sun.

Here's the sun disappearing behind some hills just as I got down to that other hill top.

Then some fighter jets flew over in a loose formation. Here's a bad picture of them.

At least that didn't take up much disk space. Here are all of the pictures. Nothing spectacular tonight.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cottonwood campground

I've felt too lazy to go hiking in the heat lately, so today Kyle and I drove out Four Peaks road to Cottonwood Campground. It was overcast and pretty blah looking, so I only took one picture. It's a picture of magnetite in the bottom of Cottonwood Creek. I can't seem to convince Kyle that there is gold in that dirt and that he needs to be panning.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 10, 2008

House lizard

On several occasions, while taking out the trash, I've caught a glimpse of a sizable lizard on the side of the house. It always runs under a bougainvillea, so I never got a good look at it, until today. I saw it go through a drainage hole in the fence to the front yard. I sneaked around there with the camera and got a few pictures before it r-u-n-o-f-t; runoft (that's one of my favorite parts of "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou"). Here are some pictures.


Friday, August 08, 2008

A little cooler

It was a little cooler today; low hundreds. Of course, there is a price to be paid. It was pretty muggy. Not like on the Texas coast, but still uncomfortable. Fortunately, Kyle was agreeable to an easy hike. We went on the First Water Overlook trail near Canyon Lake. The scenery is beautiful there.

There have been several times that I've taken pictures on that trail, and either the clouds were correctly exposed, or the mountains in sunshine, or the creek in the shadows, but never all three. Well, now that I have Photomatix, I was able to produce some pictures that have everything.

It's millipede season. I saw 3 on my last hike, but only one this time. There's a picture of today's. Kyle also spotted a tarantula. Here's a video.

Click below to see all of the pictures.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Random hike near Canyon Lake

Lindsey and Kyle went to see the new Batman movie today (they both said it was good). I went for a hike. I climbed another random hill (370 feet altitude gain) near Canyon Lake. The scenery was fantastic up there. I remembered to bring my tripod, too.

It was very steep near the top. My legs were wobbly by the time I got down. I think they are still tired from Monday's hike. When I was almost back to the truck, I was getting a little careless. I bumped into a cholla. Then I was even more careless and tried to shake it off. Cholla doesn't shake off. It digs in deeper. The spines are covered with microscopic scales that ratchet into your skin. I tried to get a picture, but it didn't turn out very good. Not surprising under the circumstances. Then I got my pliers out and pulled out spines for a couple of minutes.

I think I got some nice pictures. I like them. Click below to see them.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The rest of the photos

Not much to add to what I said yesterday. Here are all of the pictures.


Monday, August 04, 2008

Return to hiking

Wow, it's been almost a month. The last time I went on a hike was July 10. Today, Kyle and I hiked the Massacre Grounds trail. That's a challenging trail for a return to hiking. Especially since I got us lost and the route we took for part of the way back was very steep. We had lots of fun and saw lots of pretty things. Anyway, it's late, and yes, I'm tired. Here are a few pictures you can look at for now.