Posts tagged “national park

Afternoon Desert Panorama, Big Bend National Park

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/5887974744/

Desert Panorama, Big Bend National Park 45mm, f/22, 1/180s, ISO 100

This shot was cropped from a 19-shot panorama in the desert of Big Bend National Park.  It was taken late in the afternoon — horrible light — but I still like the view and the subtle rays from the sun shining from behind the clouds.  A neutral density filter would have been handy to balance out the exposure of land an sky but I don’t one so I picked the exposure I liked best.  HDR would have been an option but I’ve never been happy with my HDR pano attempts.

Processing consisted of the pano merge in Photoshop, 3 curves layers (and associated masks), exposure tweaks in a few spots, and noise reduction in the sky areas.

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Chisos Mountains At Sunset, Big Bend National Park

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/5809606995/in/photostream

65mm, f/5.6, 1/180s, ISO 100

This is a high-resolution panorama — stitched from 12 individual frames — of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park at sunset. The sharp V-shape on the left is called the Window as it is the only gap in the mountains which allows a view out when you’re in the mountain basin.  It turned out that I had one chance to get this right before the mountains were in shadow. I put the camera in manual mode, metered the side of the mountains using partial metering, and quickly shot the frames at about 60% overlap. I’ve found the large overlap to be helpful in eliminating any distortion. You can get by with only 20% but I occasionally get burned by that. When I completed my first group of frames I double-checked my settings and prepared to shoot another set. I always do this until the light’s gone because (1) it’s insurance against having messed up the other images and (2) as the light changes I may end up liking the light at one point in time versus the other. Just as I was about to shoot my second set of frames a ranger showed up. He stopped to chat and then asked if I could take a couple of pictures of him standing in front of this view with his iPhone and point-and-shoot camera. I thought to myself, “People are more important than pictures”, and obliged. We chatted a minute more before he left and the mountains were in full shadow by that point. Fortunately, I’m quite happy with the pano I ended up with.

The brush in the foreground is annoying but this was as high as I could get unless I was in the bed of my truck. I’ve tried that before and the suspension moves around too much and the frames don’t turn out very sharp.

View the original size on flickr for some amazing detail. I didn’t sharpen the image with the large size in mind but it’s still pretty cool.


Sotol Vista Overlook, Big Bend National Park

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/5813729402/in/photostream

Sotol Vista Overlook, Big Bend National Park 24mm, f/22, (bracketed shutter speed), ISO 100

Photographers wish they could take all their pictures during the golden light of sunrise and sunset but for those of us far south of the polar circle (in the northern hemisphere of course) those are very brief moments in time.  During my recent trip I wanted to make the most of my available time so I photographed what interested me regardless of the quality of light.  Even the “poor” pictures make for good memories.  Adding to the problem of harsh sunlight was a very thick haze.  I don’t know if was related to the heat or possibly due to smoke from wildfires, but it was a problem for pictures.

One afternoon we stopped at the Sotol Vista Overlook to take some pictures.  This desert overlook is roughly halfway between the Chisos Mountains and the Rio Grande along Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.  The small gap in the horizon is Santa Elena Canyon — 14 miles as the crow flies according to a sign posted here.  Looks tiny but the canyon walls rise up to 1500′ above the river per the park service’s website.  I bracketed a bunch of scenes and hoped for the best.  I came up with this 6-exposure HDR (the first HDR I’ve done in quite a while) and I rather like it, especially considering the harsh light and haze.  I made attempts at processing single frames but the dynamic range was way too large (I don’t own an ND graduated filter — yet — else I would have made use of it here).

Processing consisted of tonemapping in Photomatix, an s-curve, sharpening, noise reduction, and a slight color tweak with the channel mixer in Photoshop.  I didn’t do any blending with the original exposures.


Big Bend Night Sky

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Stars and Clouds at Night, Big Bend National Park 24mm, f/2.8, 40s, ISO1600

I spent an enjoyable weekend with my oldest son in Big Bend National Park.  It was hotter than blazes in the desert (110 in the shade the first day) but this was our only available weekend for many months.  Frankly the heat wasn’t a big problem.

On past trips we’ve backpacked into the high Chisos Mountains but so far this summer all the mountain backcountry sites are closed due to extreme fire danger. So, we camped out in the Chisos Basin campground — enjoyed it very much actually.  It was nice not having to lug a 50# pack full of water up into the mountains.

Before heading to bed one night I experimented with long exposures of the skies.  I never did seem to find the “right” settings but got some fun shots nonetheless. The above shot of the mountain known as Casa Grande gives a sense of what the sky was like.  That night there were clouds moving across the sky which annoyed me at first but they do add another dimension to the shot.  This photo needs a frame to make it stand out from the page background…maybe later.


The Mighty B-1

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/4819569609/

The Mighty B-1

I remember the first and only time I saw a B-1 bomber (actually it was two of them) in flight.  My son and I were driving south on US 385 headed from Marathon to Big Bend National Park in the fall of 2004.  Cruising happily along, two B-1s buzzed diagonally across our path, a few hundred feet off the ground.  It was every bit as cool as any flyover I’d seen before.

I thought about that pass here and there over the years and didn’t quite know what to make of it.  Why were they flying so low?  Why were they flying in that vicinity?  I learned the answers at an airshow I recently attended in Kingsville, TX.  A pilot informed me that the jets were most likely out of Dyess AFB near Abilene, TX and were doing exercises using the below-the-radar flying capabilities of the planes.  The semi-mountainous terrain in that area is perfect for that type of flying — stretches of flat land with mountains jutting from the landscape here and there.

The B-1 fleet is (potentially) slated for retirement due to budget constraints and the changing nature of air warfare.  I really don’t have enough knowledge to have any comments on that but I’m glad I got to see a couple of them fly while they were still in service.  Some of the history and technical info on wikipedia and other sites is a fascinating read if you like that sort of thing.

The image above is a single exposure, no tonemapping…just some curves/levels/sharpness adjustments.  I think it gives a good feel for the size and sleekness of this awesome plane.  You can view an HDR of the underside of a B-1 bomber on flickr here.