Navajo Country – Monument Valley

In the spring of this year the Kingwood Photo Club sponsored a Navajo guided tour to the Monument Valley area.  We only had four participants, but the trip was well worth it.

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Iceland and Greenland

I’m finally getting around to editing and posting images from trips I’ve taken this year…not complaining, we’ve been very fortunate to take some amazing trips, but they’ve been back-to-back-to-back, so my pictures have been sitting there unloved for months.

This group is from a cruise we took to the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Iceland.  We ended the cruise with three days on Iceland being driven by the crazy norseman Ludwig (Luli) in his “super jeep”.  Great trip, and if you are from Houston, a great way to spend August.

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Cuba Again

I was in Cuba before..before Castro that is.  Does that say something about my age?  Yes, I remember as a child living in Barranquilla, Colombia, flying up to Miami…probably shopping for school.  We used to fly Super Constellations, and landed in Kingston, Jamaica and in Camaguey, Cuba. The flights were really long, and I can remember a lot of bumpy air.  On one trip, probably our final one through that route, we landed in Camaguey as usual, and stayed in the plan while they did whatever they were doing there.  Presumably loading and unloading passengers and probably refueling.  As always I had the window seat due to my propensity to motion sickness.  I can remember marveling at all the bearded military looking thugs outside the airplane, as it was surrounded on the tarmac.    Well I was in Cuba again!  A few weeks ago I spent two days in Havana as part of a cruise.  Cubans are very much like my Barranquillero/Consteño Colombians.  Happy, vibrant people who love good music and speak Spanish as it shot from a machine gun.  I actually felt pretty at home with my rough memory of Colombian Spanish.

This gallery shows Havana over two days.  Cars, being one of the things I love most in this world, are naturally a big part of the gallery.  You will notice for the most part that the cars appear beautifully maintained.  They are, but realize there have been no imports from the US since Kennedy imposed the embargo in the early 60’s.  There have also been no import of car parts, so these cars may look like mid-50’s vintage vehicles but who knows what is under the hood.  

As for processing, most are simply processed from raw files in Lightroom using most of my standard settings (secret sauce), however I did put the car pictures, in particular through Nik’s software to bring out the luster in the paint, then masked the effect off the rest of the image to avoid the whole picture looking overdone.

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Getting Ready for a Photo Trip

With a mid-winter photo trip to Yellowstone scheduled, I’ve been trying to get new gear ready, trying to figure out how to carry it, and making sure everything works along with backups…redundancy without getting silly. I’ve lived in the good warm south all my life, and this will be my first Winter shoot.  It’s probably not something I’ll do frequently, but I’m really looking forward to the experience, in spite of my warm blooded hate of cold weather. 

Most of my photography is landscape, or city/architectural. I do very little wildlife. You can’t go to Yellowstone in winter and not do wildlife.  Since my longest lens is a 70-200mm I bought a 2x teleconverter. I didn’t want to spring for another expensive lens that I may never use again.  I also didn’t really want a huge telephoto zoom that would be impractical for my landscape hiking. The teleconverter is small and light and fits in nicely in the backpack.  If I use that 70-200 lens with the teleconverter on a crop lens camera I figure I can get as much as 600mm (equivalent). 

Here’s a shot taken with that set up, using a monopod…essentially handheld  

My plan is to fit all this gear into my backpack, and carry a tripod separately. 

  • Nikon D810 
  • Nikon D7000 (backup)
  • Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8
  • Nikon 16-35mm f/4
  • Sigma 28-300 (my “do everything” lens), used primarily with the D7000
  • Nikon 2x teleconverter
  • two circular polorizers 
  • two 4 stop ND filters
  • a Yongnuo speed light 
  • iPad Pro – used for backup and field editing
  • WD wireless pro hard drive – backup drive
  • Two Remote shutter releases – one for each camera
  • two battery chargers, and four batteries. I’ll need to recharge several batteries each night in the cold weather. 

My wife is taking her own camera, as Sony A6000 with two lenses. Small but powerful (my wife)

Clothing is another whole story. Living in Houston I’m not used to even thinking of anything like -35f, which is what it was today.  Maybe by the time I go, it’ll be warmer..we can hope.  Well there is still time before the trip to think about this a little more. I’ve “test packed” and was able to get it all in one small roller board suitcase. Very full, but do-able.

Why we Post Process

From lousy weather, scaffolding, and dissappointment to something worthwhile.  I travel a lot and enjoy taking pictures on the road.  I don’t have the luxury of waiting for the perfect time of day, or weather, and it seems a standard joke that every time I get to some landmark location, there is almost certainly going to be scaffolding around my target.  I take pictures anyways, and try to turn those dogs into something at home.  This is a good example.

I was in Munich, Germany recently, and decided to get up early to beat the crowds.  I made my way out to the Marienplatz on a dull looking morning, hoping for the best….didn’t get it.  Scaffolding in front of the building, and some patches of blue peaking out around the clouds.  The plaza was a little smaller than I remembered, and my wide angle lense (10-24, on a cropped sensor Nikon D7000), couldn’t capture the entire building without tilting the camera up considerably. As I said…take the picture anyways.  I bracketed a number of shots to combate, what was now a bright sky behind the dark towers. The “before” image is one of those brackets, and illustrates well the leaning back building, due tot he camera tilt.

Considerable post processing, corrected the leaning building, worked the dynamic range issue, and got rid of the scaffolding.  In order to fix the front main entry, partially hidden by scaffolding, I had to take a separate picture of it, and blend it into the final image,  the hidden arches were copied from those on the right side, flipped horizontally, and paste/blended.

image image

I’m including a few more heavily edited before-and-afters. I make no excuses for the heavy edits. I’m not a professional, don’t have someone paying me to stay and wait for the perfect moment. I get what I get, while I’m there. I do make an effort to get out early before crowds, or if I can, stay through the golden hour. Even with that, on occasion, such as the picture I took at 6am in a Munich square…the day way drizzly, and it must have been garbage day, since there were garbage containers everywhere!

Garbage day on the platz.. I straightened, removed the cans, and made the street look wet, as it was when I was there. Ok, I also turned on the street light, and made the window lights brighter. Getting rid of the cans here was actually tough. 

People will always stand around…don’t blame them really, so this was all I could do. At times there were entire tour groups standing in front of me. I waited, and waited…and waited, then removed the stragglers in post. I did add a little sun beam coming from the top right…subtle, I didn’t want it to look ridiculous. 


My New Lens

I’ve been shooting a Nikon DX format camera (D7000) for a long time now, as most folks into DSLRs have…that’s what was available.  I shoot mostly landscapes and have been eying FX (full frame) cameras for a while.  I finally made the plunge with a D810 in January.  I only had one DX lens at the time (70-200), so when I went on an extended trip to Myanmar I used a DX lens on the 810 as my travel lens (Sigma 28-300).  Not by any means optimal, but one thing at a time.  I was lucky enough recently to be asked to update a commercial web site I support…lucky enough, because it isn’t updated as often as it should be (what web site is?) but it has bought me a few lenses over the years.  My latest update afforded my a wide angle zoom (Nikon 16-35 F4 vr).  I love wide angle shooting. My DX wide angle is a Tamron 10-24 that I’ve owned for a good while.  This new lens results in the same angle of view when the DX is converted to full frame equivalent.

I did some side by side comparisons between the old Tamron and new Nikon lens.  There is no comparison…obviously a much better lens, and with the 810 body compared to the 7000, there is a huge difference.  That doesn’t mean I won’t use the 7000 with the tamron.  In fact thats exactly what I used in Myanmar for month as my second camera, and it worked great.  Its just nice to have the better lens and body.

My new travel set up now will be the 810 with two lenses; the 70-200 and 16-36.  I don’t mind the “gap” in coverage as I find the middle ground sort of boring.  Some day I may fill that middle ground in with a fixed focal length 50mm 1.8….no rush.  My D7000 will still come along with whatever lens is not on the 810, since I really don’t like switching lenses when I’m shooting.  It destroys the rhythm, and creates dust problems.  I must say, I’m really happy now with the set up.

Now I just need to get out and exercise the lenses.

Tough Decisions

Plan “A” Loaded

When you enjoy traveling and travel photography as much as I do the decision as to what to take with you on a trip becomes difficult.  I get constantly torn between traveling light, and enjoying the trip, sights, and people, and taking everything I own, so I don’t miss that maybe shot.  I’ve spend several hours thinking about the next journey and have so far two “loaded” plans and one light plan.  Here is one of my “loaded” plans.  Plan A, Loaded: Two camera bodies, three lenses, a tripod, plus of course the batteries, chargers, cables, filters and memory cards…oh, and of course a laptop and hard drive for back up.  It amazingly all fits in my backpack.  A little heavy, but it fits.  The tripod is a super light Sirui.  Not very stable, but it works and fits inside this backpack.  My problem with this set up is that there is not way to carry all this except with the backpack, and I don’t want to be lugging a backpack around every day on the trip.   I guess each day when I go out I could decide what kind of shooting I’ll be doing and select the equipment I need.  Trouble with that is that I want the two camera bodies so that I can have a wide angle on one and a telephoto on the other.  Mainly to minimize the changing of lenses since where I am going is hot and dry, and probably dusty.


Plan “B” Loaded

Plan B, Loaded, it another backpack, but in this one I can insert the two camera bodies inside their own camera bags, so that each day when I go out I can carry each camera with its appropriate lens in its own bag…not too bad.  I would carry the tripod outside the bag, strapped to the site while traveling.  This is a larger tripod and a bit sturdier.  The problem with this arrangement is that this backpack doesn’t have a place for the laptop, so that would have to go in my suitcase (checked luggage)…not smart.


Plan C, Super Light, Would be simply one camera body (my D810), with one lens 28-300 zoom, with of course the requisite cables, batteries, chargers and memory cards.  this set up would fit in a small camera bag.  The lens is not great glass, but it functions and covers a tremendous range.  The problem with this is that I love my wide angle lens (10-24mm), and I just know I’ll want it.  The other problem is that the D810 is my new full frame camera and the 28-300 is a DX lens, so I won’t be taking full advantage of the full frame sensor.  I don’t want to spring for another lens right now.


Plan D, Medium Light:  two camera bodies (the D810, and D7000), two lenses, the 70-200 for the 810 and the 10-24 for the 7000.  Avoids the dust specs from changing lenses.  Gives me a full frame camera and lens (D810 plus the 70-200 2.8), and a wide angle with the combination of D7000 and 10-24 lens.  There is a gap in coverage with the lenses.  the 10-24 (cropped to 15-32), then the jump to 70-200.  that middle range of 32-70 is such a nice middle range!  ARRRGGGG!


Plan E, Light: Writing this has helped.  Maybe this is my plan.  Two cameras, each with its own lens.  The D810 with the 28-300, and the D7000 with the 10-24.  This way I’ve got the range, the avoidance of dust, and remain relatively light.  I give up my great 70-200 2.8 FX lens, but its heavy and complicates things.