Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sky Shadows!

Again, I'm going to talk about pictures from a long time ago. Tonight's sunset was just one of those 'orange' things. Plus, I'd spent the day in the attic running some new wires. I came down in time to check the sky, and decided I was too hot and tired to go out for new pictures.

As opposed to what I mentioned in my last post, I don't really remember this particular night, which was May 23, 2008. But, I do remember the photos because I look at them often. And, I really like the shadows in the sky that the clouds cast after the sun goes down behind them. This is an indication that there is a lot of 'stuff' in the air. The tags that I put in my pictures after I take them, told me that the night that I took these pictures followed about two days of winds and rain.

I think that in my last post I also said that I really like those pictures where the sun is partly hiding directly behind the clouds. And this series of shots shows this situation at its finest. Even in this first shot, you can already see that the sky-shadows are beginning to happen.

Here is wider shot. Even though there aren't very many clouds in the sky, they sure are positioned wonderfully.

Now, in this next shot, instead of being a wide shot, I've zoomed in a great deal, directly on the sun. I love shots like this where the circle of the sun is clearly visible behind the clouds. And, in this shot, I'm really pleased with the ground reference still being visible. By the way, this hill, which shows up in a lot of my photos, is Walker Butte, which is located West of Florence and North of Coolidge.

Next, the sun has gone down below the first set of clouds, and is beginning to go down behind the second set of clouds. And this causes the first set of clouds to begin casting sky-shadows.

Here is a closer look at those shadows. I think that this shot is just a great example of this kind of shadow.

And finally, here is a wide shot again.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Yup, More Dust!!

No, not from tonight. But, nearly a year ago.

I knew that I was going to have to do this. If you have been following any of my Picasa web albums, and especially the newest ones, you have surely noticed that I am nearly a year behind in uploading my photos. And, it's not that I haven't been taking more pictures. In fact, far from that. It's just that life is busy, and I do spent most of my free time taking these pictures and getting them organized on my computer. I try nearly every day to upload a few more shots to Picasaweb, but the more I try, the behinder I get.

So, after last nights foray into the dust, I looked at this evening's sky, and decided not to go out for pictures. Instead, I decided that I'd stay home and upload a few more shots to my web albums. I've been uploading my pictures chronologically, and I'm now just about done with May of 2008. Whew!

Well, anyway, the shots that were next in order for uploading were from May 21. Wouldn't you know it -- it was a dusty night, too. Here are a few shots from that night.

For the first three shots below, I'm probably still five miles away from home. But, as I was driving, I noticed that the sun was playing hide-and-seek behind the coulds. I love it when it does this. So, I pulled over and took some shots. You can see that the sky looks blue up higher, and that lower down, there is indeed a layer of dust blowing along. The mountains at the horizon are nearly obscurred.

This next shot shows the dust even better, and if you look closely, you can tell that the sun's rays are not only shining around the cloud, but also through it.

In this next shot, I found the cloud interresting enough that I zoomed in to better see the details of the sun's rays through the cloud. I don't take very many shots like this (without being able to see the ground), but sometimes the clouds are just good enough to merit it. And, I have a lot of other shots to go with this one, that DO show the ground - like the one above.

By the time I got home, I hustled out to get a few more shots. Like last night's shots, the sun is more or less just a bright fuzzy ball, and does not have sharp edges.

That is, until it goes down far enough. And, then it again has sharp edges. Also, notice in this last shot, that the sun is beginning to go down behind a dense cloud bank that you couldn't even tell was there until the sun started to disappear behind it. This happes, actually, quite often.

And, in case you are wondering, yes, I really do remember most of these photo shoots, even though they happened a year or more ago. This is probably because I run a slide show of my photos on a computer at work all day long. Every day or so, I pick a different set of photos to watch. So, in a way, I'm always reviewing them! Paint me crazy, but I always enjoy looking at them.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Oh Boy, Dust!!!

With my heartfelt apologies to those of you who suffer from dust allergies (I know all about it because I'm a serious allergy sufferer too, but, I take shots and they work good!!), I love a dusty night. The last several mornings have been real hazy, and that makes for some real interesting effects. But, then again, the sun is up before I am, so I haven't gotten any shots of that. But, today we have had a lot of wind. And here in the desert, wind means dust. And dust means nice sunsets!!!

This first shot is as I was hurrying out into the desert to find my favorite cactus. There were just a few clouds in the West, and I just love it when they partially obscure the sun. This usually means rays and shadows in the sky. You can also tell from this that there really was a lot of dust in the air.

And then there is my cactus. The sun just looked like a big bright spot in the sky, not a crisp circle like it does most of the time. Plus, in the following shot, it is still partly behind the little cloud.

Zooming out a quite a bit reveals the nice purple color in the sky. As you can see, the sun still just looks like a big bright blur. I love the shadows in the sky that the clouds cast.

In this next shot, I like the big yellow spot that the sun is. You can tell that it is still just a big blur, due to the dust.

But, in this final shot, taken just two minutes later, something in the layer of the atmosphere changed, and the sun was once again the fine, crisp circle that it is supposed to be.

Of course, I took a lot more shots that I am showing here. After the shot above, I zoomed in real tight on the sun, and sure enough it has a nice crisp outline. Go figure.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Water Is Wonderful!

I got home a little early tonight so that I could go for a walk with my son-in-lay Tommy, and two grandsons, Aizik and Lucas. I let them pick the direction to go, and wouldn't you know it, we ended up down by the community lake. And, wouldn't you know it, I just happened to have my Fujifilm camera with me. Here we are at the West end of the lake, with the setting sun to my back. Notice the nice clouds. Gee, almost seems like I might have planned it this way, huh?

Oh well -- Always be prepared. We continued our walk. Part way around the lake, here is a shot looking back at the setting sun. I tried to frame a couple of trees in the foreground to add some interest. The clouds were looking great.

If you look close in the shot above, there are a couple of decorative light towers in the middle of the lake. As you can see below, I like to position myself so as to line things up in unusual ways. Below, I placed the sun directly behind one of the towers. Not that you really tell from the small shot below, but it adds something to the shot anyway.

I also like to partially hide the sun behind trees and things like that. It also helps the reflection to show up a little better. In a wider shot like this one, the blue sky shows up better too.

Darn those street lights!!! Oh well. Big sigh.

Here is a shot with the sun back in the middle of the lake again. The sky is beautiful. And, I really like the reflection of the tree's silhouettes in the water.

After the sun finally goes down below the horizon, things slowly get a little darker, and the camera can increase the exposure somewhat. And, that allows the reflection of the sky and the clouds to show up better. In the shot below, I rotated the camera into portrait orientation because I wanted to be able to show the clouds higher up in the sky, to show that they were beginning to glow.

But, as below, I generally prefer landscape orientation. So, this next shot was taken right after the one above. Notice that it shows those great street lights again. Arrrggghhh.

And, finally, after a few more minutes, the direct sunlight is no longer shining on the overhead clouds. Even though I really love those extra bright clouds, I also am really fascinated when they take on the soft pink glow as seen below. These soft pink clouds almost form a frame around the shot.

Well, I think it was another worthwhile night. And, I got to go for a walk with the grand kids. Woo hoo!!!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Some Nights Are Pastel - Some Are Not

I don't think that I am every going to see every possible type of sunset. Oh sure, some of them seem to be just about like some other ones that I've already taken pictures of. But, just when I'm not expecting anything new ...

Mostly, I like to take my pictures looking in the direction of the sun - that means facing West for sunsets, and facing East for sunrises. But, sometimes the greater beauty is behind you, or beside you, where you may not be looking. The shot below is from last night. In this picture, I am shooting South. The light created a very wispy, pastel look in the clouds. Can you still call it a 'sunset' even though you are not looking at the sun??? Or is it just a 'cloud glow' or something like that?

Today, I had been watching the sky ever since about noon -- nothing but clear skys. Even as late as about 4pm -- nothing but clear skys. So, I figured that I could take the night off. But, a little after 6pm, I looked outside and saw basically what you see in the next shot. To the West were these great clouds already beginning to glow. So, I jumped into my boots and literaly took to running. And I'm glad I did.

In the next two shots, you can see that the sun is about to break beneath the clouds. I almost always shoot these at -1 EV, so that the brighter spots in the picture (like the sun!!!) are not totally too bright. And, this seems to greatly help bring out the colors, as well.

About the time that sun goes down below the horizon, it begins to light up the bottom of the clouds and can create that famous Arizona Orange, as you can see below.

And then, for only a couple of minutes, the sun is positioned just right to shine on the bottoms of the clouds that are overhead. I mean really, God has an amazing sense of the spectacular, doesn't He?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Surprisingly Fine Night

We had light clouds most of the day, today, and I was very hopeful for tonight. But, of course, by the time that sundown was approaching, most of them had disappeared. There were a few remaining off to the West, so I decided to go out to a place I hadn't been for a while. Boy, am I glad I did!!! God had some surprises in store for me.

It was hard to pick just a few shots to post tonight. But, without further ado, here they are...

What do you think? Was it worth going out tonight?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Trees Do Make Nice Silhouettes

I was late heading for home tonight, and the sky looked incredibly cloudless. We are setting high-temperature records for this time of year - near 90 deg. F. But, I could see that there was a lot of pollution (or just dirt) in the air, and this usually makes for great oranges. When I was about half way home, the sun was just about ready to go down. I could estimate that in about 10 minutes I'd reach this place, where I've taken photos before. So, I planned on making a stop.

There is this great big tree there that makes great silhouettes. I'd have liked to be able to get the sun directly behind the tree, but unfortunately, the tree is on the other side of the fence, and the fence is posted with No Trespassing signs. At this time of the year, the sun is still setting a little South of due West, which meant that I could not position the tree directly in front of the sun. It won't be too long from now, that the setting sun will be a little to the North, and I'll be able to line it up a little better with this tree. I just need to remember this as I am driving by!!!

Is it just me, or does this shot make it look a little like the tree is trying to reach out and grab either the sun, or that approaching airplane?

Zooming in a little more shows of the mountains in the distance. Too bad about the power poles though.

And, since the power poles are not going to go away, how about making the sun look like it is balanced on the power lines?

In this last shot, I aimed the camera a bit down so that it would lighten up the overall image a little. I wanted to show the road and the nearby terrain. Even with that, I had to use Picasa to lighten the shot some more so that the road was actually visible.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Not Too Many Clouds - Just Another Orange Sunset

But, add something interesting in the foreground, like a tree, and things turn out quite nice.

When I looked at the setting sun tonight, I could see that there weren't very many clouds. But there were several contrails. I usually like the contrails, even though they are obviously not natural - we all know just what they are. I find them to add a very nice little detail. And, the sky was turning nice and orange. So, I decided to give it a go. I settled on a couple of trees, and spent my time working around them.

These three shots show that even for just a plain orange sunset, with a little help from a tree, the results are pretty nice. A like these a quite a bit. They show that you can get quite a different look to things just by positioning the foreground objects a little differently.

You know, it always seems to amaze me that even when shooting directly at the full sun, there can be enough detail in the shot to make it interesting. I always like the big orange (or is it just white??) ball.

And in this shot, there is enough sky showing to reveal that it really is blue up higher, and that the orange is quite low. There is just enough of hint of the sun to create the nice bright spot.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Railroad Bridge at Sundown!!

Sounds like a Western movie title, huh?

Tonight I thought I'd try a new subject - one that I've been intending to shoot for a quite a while now. It wasn't a super-splendid sunset, but as I was checking the sky as sundown was approaching, I did notice some wispy clouds off to the West. So, I headed for this bridge which is located just North of Coolidge, AZ.

The following shot was taken with the Canon EOS Rebel xsi. To help enhance the red's and orange's of the sunset, I set the white balance for 'shade.'

After it started getting dark, I thought I'd try for some more 'star' shots. I don't know how well these next two are going look, being so small here, but I hope that you can see the stars. (Try clicking on the picture to make it a little bigger.) I'm located toward the North end of the bridge for this shot, looking South. The glow at the horizon is from the lights of Coolidge, which by the way, I had to hide behind that bush so they wouldn't be too bright.

And finally, I really like this next shot. I'm looking up a hill at the cactus. The orange glow is from the lights of Phoenix (about 30 miles away) shining on those wispy little clouds I mentioned earlier.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Change What To Focus On & Zoom In

Today, Friday, was just another 'orange' sunrise and another 'orange' sunset. So, I didn't shoot anything today. But, yesterday provided a couple of opportunities. As I was leaving for work, I thought that it was going to be just a plain old 'orange' sunrise, but I decided to drive into one of the cul-de-sacs and take a look. And, lo and behold, there were a few clouds. So, I jumped out of the car to take the shots below.

It may be a little hard for you to tell from these small images, but I decided to change what the camera was focused on. (If you click on the images, you can see them a little bigger.) With the camera (this was using my Fujifilm) set for its automatic 'sunset' mode, it automatically focuses on what it wants to focus on. After taking the shot, I could tell that it had focused on the branches, leaving the clouds a little out of focus.

But, what if you wanted the clouds to be more in focus, and the branches to be softer. One of the tricks you can do if the overall lighting of your subject is uniform, is to point the camera at the something else that you want it to focus on, press the shutter button halfway down and hold it there, and then re-frame the picture to position your desired objects into the frame. Then, press the shutter button the rest of the way. But, when shooting something kinda bright (like the sun!!!), if you aim at something else to get the camera to focus, in this case, at infinity, it will also lock in the exposure based upon what you currently have in the frame. And, then when you reposition so as to bring the sun back into the picture, it will end up being badly over exposed. So, for the following shot, all I did was to step to the side so that the tree limbs were no longer in the center of the frame, kept the sun centered, and let the camera focus and adjust the exposure, and then stepped back to the side to reposition the tree limbs where I wanted them. So, in this shot, the limbs are out of focus, and the clouds are sharp. Notice that the two exposures are the same.

And, that brings me to last night. I was still in town as the sun went down, instead of arriving back at home. I have pulled over at this same spot several times, and each time I have gotten completely different results. As you can see from the shot below, it looked like just another 'orange' sunset. The colors aren't too bad - I like the darker sky up high.

But, just zoom in and the world looks completely different! The difference here is that the above image was shot fully zoomed out, and the one below, fully zoomed in. Again, my Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd sports an 18x optical zoom. You can see what an awesome difference this makes. And, I really do like Palm Tree silhouettes.

And, one final issue -- image stabilization is a must when zoomed in this much. Otherwise you can't possibly hold the camera still enough (without stopping to set up a tripod - and did I mention that I had just pulled over to the side of the road?) to keep the image from getting all blurred. I have found the image stabilization of the FinePix to be outstanding. I'm just standing there, teetering back and forth, taking shots, and they all come out looking like the camera was on a tripod.