Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sam's No3

Across from where we stayed in Denver is a great restaurant called "Sam's No3".  It sits on the corner of 15th and Curtis.  Eileen and I ate breakfast there the first and last mornings of our trip.  I can't tell you how other meals are, but if they're anything like their breakfasts, you'll be impressed!  They had a wide variety of stuff and huge portions!  I'm not trying to shill for them, but we really enjoyed it.  I liked it so much that I thought I should at least get a shot of it, especially at night.  It has this old 50's era diner look to it which I think is cool.  What do you think?

Thru the Tundra of Rocky Mountain National Park

Around 12,000 feet lies the ecosystem known as the tundra.  It seems to be made up of various grasses and a few different species of animals including big horn sheep and marmots. Not much else. According to our guide, the tundra is so fragile that if it gets damaged, say from human interaction, it can take up to 150 years before the grasses fill back in and the damaged area returns back to it's original state.  That's why you are not allowed off the roads that go through there.  You can see in this shot that the road snakes through the tundra and moves along.  There are very few stops, but the ones that do exist are just small turnouts.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Siamese Twins

Hey, I didn't name it! ;-)  It may be politically incorrect, but who cares, right?  Anyway, this is one of the many different rock formations at the Garden of the Gods.  This one is kind of off the beaten path, but I think it is one of the more interesting formations to see there.  Also, just behind it lies Pike's Peak way off in the distance.  I should've tried to find an angle with both of them in the shot, but I'm happy with this one.

I have a couple more shots of the Twins from different perspectives that I'll have to put out some other time.   I'll probably save those for some time when I'm out of fresh material. ;-)

As always, I hope you enjoy the shot and come again!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Denver Center for the Performing Arts

This looks like a great place to see a show.  The complex has several different theaters to see Broadway-type shows as well as restaurants to dine in.  Also, the parking garage is situated right next to it and is covered so you don't have to brave the elements to get from your car to the theater.  You can see the stairways for the parking garage here on the right.  If we ever go back, we might have to see a show there.

Hope you enjoy the shot and thanks for stopping by!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Cloud Shadows on Mountain Chute

If you travel by car up to the top of Pike's Peak, the Parks Department recommends that you drive all the way to the top without stopping.  They say that if you want to look at the various scenic stops along the way up, that it is better to stop and enjoy them on the way down.  It's supposed to be easier on your vehicle because of the steep grades and the thin air.  If you continually stop on they way up, it is harder for your car to get going versus stopping and going on the way down.  Makes sense to me!  So that's what we did.  That's where this shot comes into play.  It's the view from the first turn-out or scenic overlook on the way back down from Pike's Peak.  It's a beautiful view of the mountains below and it kind of reminded me of a chute that you might see at a ski area as you look down.  There was even a little dusting of snow on some of the rocks at the top.

This is an HDR that I converted to a monochrome.  I tried to "Ansel Adams" it up a little even though I think he did mostly black and whites.  Something about shooting mountains and clouds that just calls for either.

 I hope you enjoy it and thanks for dropping by!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

View of Downtown from Millenium Bridge, Denver, CO

The Millennium Bridge is pedestrian bridge that allows people to walk above railroad tracks and connects the Central Platte Valley neighborhood with the Downtown Pedestrian Mall.  I took this shot the night of October 3d when there were so many thing to watch on TV.  However, those things didn't interest me on this day!  But the thing was, a cold front had blown thru Denver that day and the night was pretty cold and windy!  So, I didn't stay out too long!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sports Authority Field at Mile High

Another Sunday calls for another football shot!  This is the home of the Denver Broncos taken from row 6 in one of the end zones... obviously. ;-)  I took this just after the team was introduced to the crowd.  It was an awesome atmosphere! 

I must say that the camera rules for the Broncos' stadium is pretty good.  They don't really care what you bring in as long as is doesn't interfere with other fans' enjoyment of the game.  I actually emailed them about what I wanted to bring which was my Nikon D300s, my all-purpose 18-200mm and my 10.5mm fisheye lenses and they wrote back and said (I'm paraphrasing), "No worries".  I think if you even had the equivalent of an 18-300 for DX (APS-C sensors) cameras anyway, they wouldn't have any issues with that and you could get great shots from anywhere in the stadium.  Just don't bring a tripod or monopod.  Again if you aren't sure, just contact them.  They are good about getting back to you.  Also,  you can't use the shots for any commercial purposes.  You know, you need the "expressed written consent.." and all of that other stuff...

The shot below is a one shot HDR that was processed using Nik's HDR Efex 2. It really brought out the detail in everything.  Even the flames shooting up from above the scoreboard at the other end of the stadium came out pretty well!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Garden of the Gods #2

The National Natural Landmark known as "Garden of the Gods" is a must see on any visit you may make to Colorado.  It's full of beautiful sandstone outcroppings and there are plenty of hiking paths and roads to see everything the park has to offer.  Located in Manitou Springs just outside of Colorado Springs, its a wonderful place to see nature at its best!

Th shot below shows what you can do with HDR...  The light was terrible.  I was shooting into the sun and the sky was very hazy at the time.  But, with 7 brackets, a little processing with Photomatix and some tweaking with Nik's Color Efex and Viveza, I was able to bring out some of the detail from the haze and the shadows to present something a little more interesting than just the original snapshot.  Do you think it was worth it?  I would love to hear your thoughts if this looks good, if it looks over done, or if it looks OK.  Either way, I can take it! ;-)

I hope you enjoy the photo and thanks for dropping by!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tigers Go to World Series!!!!

The Detroit Tigers just clinched the American League Pennant with a sweep of the storied New York Yankees!  With a combination of great pitching as well great hitting, the Tigers were just too much for the Bronx Bombers.  I must say that after the up and down regular season the Tigers had, I wasn't sure they would even make the playoffs.  Boy was I wrong!  Can't wait for Wednesday!  As they used to say when the Tigers won the series in 1984, "Bless you boys!"

The pictures below are of the two best players in baseball right now.  Justin Verlander, the guy throwing, is last year's AL Cy Young winner (for the best pitcher in the league), Most Valuable Player, and won the AL pitching triple crown; lowest ERA at 2.40, 24 wins and 250 strikeouts!  Awesome!  This year he's in line to win his second AL Cy Young award.  He has a ton of other awards including the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year, the ERA title in 2007 and many others.  He also has two no-hitters to his credit!  The Tigers need to keep him forever!

The other guy pictured is Miguel Cabrera.  He is this year's batting triple crown winner and will probably be the AL Most Valuable Player!  No one has won the batting triple crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.  There were only 13 others to win it including Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig.  Pretty good company wouldn't you say?

These are two great players and it's hard to imagine they are on the same team, plus it's my favorite team to boot!  Let's just hope they can win the World Series!  Detroit Lions, are you watching?

About the pictures... I took these prior to the Tigers v Texas Rangers game on August 11th at Rangers Stadium in Arlington, TX.  Unfortunately, the Tigers lost 2-1 in the bottom of the 9th, but Verlander pitched a great game even though they lost.  Anyway, who's in the series now, Texas? ;-)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Running a Red Light at Larimer Square

Larimer Square (which  I think is really a street, but called a square) is a stretch of road that lasts for about a block on the west side of Denver and is packed with lots of cool restaurants and markets.  The thing that really caught my eye were the flags and lights strung across the street.  I tried to capture those as well as I could and I was also able to catch a taxi running the red light while crossing 15th St.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel is located in Estes Park, CO and served as the inspiration for Stephen King's book, "The Shining."  I never read the book, but I did see the the first movie with Jack Nicholson and it scared the bejesus out of me!  I loved some of those lines he had and how he delivered them... "Little pig, little pig, let me in..." or "Heerrrre's Johnny!"  Of course they used a different hotel in that movie than this one, but it's kind of cool to know that this was the inspiration.

Here's a little more about the hotel from their website:

"When precisely the strange events began happening at the Stanley Hotel has never been documented, but interesting occurrences are a part of the history of this beautiful hotel.

Miss Elizabeth Wilson was the chief housekeeper at the Stanley Hotel in its very early days. On the evening of June 25, 1911, during a storm, she was involved in an explosion that took place as she was lighting the acetylene lanterns that were the back-up system for the hotel’s electricity. Miss Wilson was shot down in the explosion from what is now Room 217 to the floor of the MacGregor Room. She was not killed, but her ankles were broken. From the 1950’s on, it has been reported that she might take special care of people that stay in 217. Sometimes guests staying that room encounter extra housekeeping services, including having their things put away or unpacked.

All of the rooms in the hotel have had out-of-the-ordinary experiences reported, including having items moved from place to place, as well as lights turning on and off. If you stay on the fourth floor, you just might get to hear the children of long ago running up and down the halls, laughing and giggling. Sometimes guest will be tucked-in at night, as that was the duty for the nannies to perform for the young children.

(The founders) F.O. and Flora Stanley are said to still spend time at the hotel. It is not unusual for guests and staff to catch a glimpse of F.O. walking the lobby, or hear Flora still playing her beloved piano in the Music Room. Remember, they loved and took pleasure from the hotel, and maybe they still do!"

Saturday, October 13, 2012

High Kickin'

Two weeks ago, we were lucky enough to see the Broncos beat the Raiders 37 - 6!  It was an awesome game!  And part of the game between TV timeouts are the NFL cheerleaders!  I'm not sure what most people think about cheerleaders in the NFL, but I think I can tell you that most red-blooded male fans don't mind. Red-blooded female fans of the NFL may be another question! :-)

So, as I was saying, part of the NFL pageantry includes the cheerleaders.  Most teams have them.  The most famous are probably the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. However, there are some NFL teams that don't have cheerleaders, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Greenbay Packers (boo!!) and my very own Detroit Lions.  I don't think there's anything wrong with having professional cheerleaders, but there's also something kind of special about not having them.  What I mean by that is technically the Lions don't have "Lions" cheerleaders per se, but they usually have local high school cheerleaders come out to support the team.  That has a nice hometown feel to it, don't you think?  So I guess the Lions really do have cheerleaders, but it's so much more innocent and special. On the other hand, I kind of wish they had regular cheerleaders, because in some weird way I think that that would make them more a part of the NFL and maybe they would get better.  Yes, that doesn't make sense, especially when you look at the Pittsburgh Steelers - the team with the most NFL championships and yet still have no cheerleaders - along with the hated Packers with their storied history.

Well anyway, you have to admit, pro cheerleaders add a certain "glamor" to the teams as you can see here.  The Broncos Cheerleaders are certainly glamorous and can put on a show!  I think I just got pretty lucky in the fact that I was able to catch them at the apex of one of their high-kicks!  Can't beat it, can you?!

Friday, October 12, 2012

View from Atop Pike's Peak

Pike's Peak is one of the larger and well known mountains in Colorado going up to 14,115 feet above sea-level. It is even designated a National Historic Landmark.  It was named after Zebulon Pike, Jr., an explorer who led an expedition to the mountain. 

We were very lucky to be able to drive up to Pike's Peak.  We tried to go up in mid-morning or so, but when we got to the base, they had the road to the top closed due to fog and ice.  So, we went over to the Garden of the Gods and spent some time there while we waited for the peak to clear up.  Luckily from the Garden, you can see Pike's Peak.  Around 1:00pm or so, it cleared and we were able to drive up. The drive up is a little scary, but fun at the same time.  Great views, but if you suffer from a little vertigo, it could be a little nerve racking.  Many places have no guard rails and there really are no shoulders once you are up beyond the tree-lines.  The drop-offs are steep so it can make your stomach quiver a little.  However, if you just keep your eye on the road, it's not too big of a deal, at least for the driver.  The passenger on the other hand gets the curbside view! 

This shot was taken behind the gift shop looking down towards Manitou Springs.  As I said, it has great views, but as you can see from the snow on the ground, it was a bit nippy.  Bring a jacket if you decide to go!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Getting Perfect White Balance

A lot of you may already know this, but it's something I don't do as much as I should.  I'm gonna try and do it more.  I think the reason I don't do it is because it takes a little more time to get the shot, plus I have that, "I can always fix it in Photoshop" mentality.  What "that" is is getting the right white balance.  (ADD moment: can one use "is" twice in a row in one sentence?)

It turns out that it's pretty easy.  A fellow photographer that I meant while taking pictures at the San Jose Mission in San Antonio a few months back showed my how he does it.  I wish I got his name, but I didn't.  Anyway, here's what you do (this is mainly for Nikons, but I bet Canons can do something similar if you check out your manual):

1. Make sure you have a gray card or a gray piece of material, something that you can take a picture of that's gray. Whatever it is, as long as it's gray, you're golden (bad pun intended). Currently I have a gray microfiber cloth that came with my Ray Ban sunglasses that works quite well.

2.  Set your white balance to "PRE" on your camera.  Hold the WB button down until "PRE" starts flashing.  When flashing, take a picture of your gray card or whatever you have that's gray.  Make sure it fills the frame.

3. If the camera gets a good shot of the card (it doesn't have to be in focus), the display will flash "Good".  If it flashes "no Gd", try step 2 again until you get a "good" result.

4. Change your WB setting to "d-0" and you should be good to go.  Now you have a perfect WB setting for the light you will be shooting!

Easy-perfect white balance! That's what I like! Something to remember though; anytime you want to measure a new WB setting using the steps outlined above, it will always save to d-0.  So any previous setting in d-0 will get overwritten.  If you want to save what's in d-0, in the WB menu, go to "Preset Manual" and press the right arrow.  Then, select a destination between d-1 and d-4, highlight "Copy d-0" and press "OK". Now to use the the WB that you saved, change the setting to d-1 or d-2, etc.. wherever you saved it.

Why I don't do this more is beyond me.  Well, maybe not.  Either I'm in too much of a hurry or I'm lazy.  I like to think it's the previous, but it's really probably the latter.

That should do it. Try it!  Take a picture with your camera set to "Auto" WB and then take a picture using this trick.  It really made a difference for me. If you do, would you mind letting me know if it helped you?

Hope this helps and thanks for visiting!

Garden of the Gods

In Manitou Springs, CO there's a place called the "Garden of the Gods".  It's a wonderful place filled with sandstone outcroppings that formed thousands of years ago.  It got it's name from a Denver surveyor named M. S. Beach who thought it would be a "capital place for a beer garden."  His companion on the trip named Rufus Cable said, "Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods."  Hence, the name!  It was also a place that local Indian tribes would settle during the winter months due to the shelter that the rock formations provided.  Check it out if you ever get out that way.  It's near Colorado Springs.  Thanks for visiting!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Peyton Manning (Oakland v Denver, Sept. 30th, 2012)

Here he is! Peyton Manning!  He's one of the big reasons we went to Denver this past week.  He's a great quarterback and ever since he's had problems with his neck in recent years, we never really knew if we'd get a chance to see him play.  So, when the opportunity arose, we jumped on it.  We were even able to score some pretty decent seats... 6th row in one of the end zones!  Nice place to see a game and to take a few shots.  This one here is one of the better ones I was able to get.

According to things I've read about getting football shots, if you get a face and the ball in the shot, then it should be good.  Well most of the shots I got didn't have either.  I realized it's not easy to shoot football games, especially from the seats.  However, this is one of the few shots that had both a face and the ball in it.  It's not the greatest shot in the world because I would've preferred to see Peyton's number 18 as well, but overall it's not too bad.  Here, Peyton's throwing the ball to the running back, Lance Ball, number 35, for a touchdown.

The game was an awesome one!  Denver won 37 - 6!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Panorama View from Alpine Visitors Center, Rocky Mountains National Park, CO

Last week, Eileen and I took a trip to Denver, CO!  The two main reasons we went were to check another stadium off of our NFL bucket list (Sports Authority Field at Mile High) and to see our good friends, Eugene and Mary!  (Sorry we didn't have more time guys!)

While we were there we went out to Estes Park and grabbed a sightseeing tour on the "Top of the World Tour" through a company called "Rocky Mountain Rush".  It was unbelievable!  We drove up Fall River Road - in a 16 passenger Toyota Landcruiser - which is a one way gravel road that takes you from the bottom of the park up to 11,796 ft to the Alpine Visitors Center.  The road on the way up was a little scary as there were no guard rails protecting you from falling off the side of the road thousands of feet straight down and there were times you thought maybe the back wheels may slip off the side while turning through the switchbacks.  However, we had total confidence in our guide, John, who was just the right guy for the job. He got us up the mountain and was a wealth of information when it comes to the local habitat and how it all works together.

We stopped at the Alpine Visitors Center and took in the gorgeous view of which you see here.  The terrain we were in was called the "tundra".  I didn't really know this, but according to John, tundra is the name of a type of fragile ecosystem that resides above the treeline and it is made up of grasses and a variety of wildlife.  So, the more barren grassy portions you see here is the tundra.  Then below where the trees are is an ecosystem called "alpine".  And, the further down you go in the treeline, you hit another ecosystem called the "sub-alpine".  I always thought those names were more descriptions than actual names of ecosystems.  You learn something new all the time!

Anyway, back to this shot.  As nice as this turned out, it doesn't do justice to what we saw.  It was just an amazing view.  As far as the shot goes, this is made up of 8 separate shots taken in portrait orientation with my Nikon D300s with my Nikkor 18-200 lens at 18mm and then merged together in Photoshop CS6 to make up this panorama.  I then did a single image tone-mapping using the Graduated 1 landscape setting in Nik's HDR Efex 2.  After that I just did a little bit of noise reduction on the sky and some sharpening on the rest.  I also put a little Darken/Lighten Center filter in from Nik Color Efex 3.  Really not much to it.  I hope you enjoy it.  Speaking of which, the next several shots I'll be posting here will be from our trip to CO, so stay tuned!  Thanks for dropping by!

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