Around the Town in Castle Pines

Tom T. Hall did a great song, a classic, titled “I Like Beer” … and I do!  🙂  My current favorite is a local beer, Fat Tire Amber Ale, brewed by New Belgium Brewing Co. up in Ft. Collins, Colorado.  However, I do occasionally drink some Bud Light … once in a blue moon.  Actually the Blue Moon beer is quite good, too.

We’ve cut back to just one car, so when my wife is using the car I end up going for walks around our small community.  What surprises me is how different things can look from one day to the other.  Something that I walked by without even seeing a few days ago might make an interesting photo today, at least for me.  And, of course, with the change in the weather from winter to summer (overnight, it seems), there are some things like the blue umbrellas that weren’t even there a day or two ago.  I guess that’s one thing that keeps photography so interesting, the endless variety and continually changing landscape.

Inside one of the local automated car washes, done in HDR with the Sony NEX-6.  (Three exposures with ± 3.0 EV. )  This was not done with the Auto HDR, but I took the three shots and processed them in Nik HDR Efex Pro and Lightroom 4.

The top and bottom two shots in this post were all with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Olympus 14-150mm lens.

I headed over to the Circle K to get a cold drink refill and saw they were also refilling the gas tanks.  It was such a colorful truck I couldn’t resist.
I liked the quote that you can see just above the umbrella:  “Take these words, like seeds, and sow them that they may grow your mind.”

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Auto HDR with the Sony NEX-7

Sony’s newer cameras have been offering an in-camera HDR (high dynamic range) function.

When you select this “auto HDR” mode, you can also set the EV (exposure value) range from 1 to 6. This is a total range and not the spacing between each of the 3 images it will shoot. So far, I’ve just been using the 6 EV range and been quite happy with the results.

When this mode is selected, the camera takes 3 quick images with the proper over/under exposure values and then combines them, automatically, to produce an HDR image. One nice thing it also does is to save the normal exposed image in addition to the HDR. This allows you to have at least the normal exposure in  case you’re not pleased with the HDR.

At first, I was skeptical and then not particularly impressed with the output. The images had a flat look that seemed to lack contrast and color saturation. However, as I began to work with the HDR images, I found that just a bit of post processing could correct that. And, in retrospect, it actually makes sense. The HDR image was doing what it was supposed to do … i.e. save the highlights and shadows for you, such that the detail information was preserved.

In this sunrise image, the auto HDR worked great. It preserved the detail in the brighter clouds, didn’t allow the sun to be completely blown out, and also saved the shadow detail in the trees.

It seems, the more I use it … well, the more I use it. 🙂 What I mean by that is that as I become more adept at working with the HDR image it produces, I find I am more likely to use that feature. There’s really not much to lose – if the auto HDR doesn’t produce for me, I always have the normally exposed image to work with.

So, if you have an NEX-7, give it a whirl – I think you’ll like what you see!

Sony NEX-7 w/Sony 18-200mm OSS; auto HDR
Lightroom 4 (beta)

Luck

There’s a common saying that “Luck equals preparation plus opportunity.” I believe that.

Monument Valley in Arizona has some spectacular monolithic rock outcroppings and it’s best to be there at first light. I was there at dawn that day and got some nice photos of those big rocks they call “The Mittens”, but they were much like those taken by so many other photographers – nothing new.

A bit later in the morning after the sun was well up, I was driving through the park looking for more photo possibilities. I felt very lucky when I saw this hot air balloon just filling and getting ready for lift off.

I skidded to a stop, jumped out of my car and managed to fire off several shots as that colorful balloon slowly and majestically ascended right next to those huge rock formations. Wow, what a sight, but I’m sure the view was even better from inside the gondola as it soared over the valley.

Yes, I was lucky because I had a good camera that I knew how to use and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time (opportunity).

Many fine images are created by dedicated photographers who see a good location, have a creative idea, and then go there time after time until conditions enable them to execute that idea. But, many great images are a result of happenstance…just being there when it happens.

So prepare yourself, get out there, and get lucky!