Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas !

For anyone who might come across this blog, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I'm writing this following an ample Christmas dinner held with three generations of family. This includes the first and second cousins of the extended family! The new fiance is fitting right in.

The pleasant elements of the meal, the conversation, and the family fun are the warming offset to the chill winds outside. We are visiting my mother at my childhood home on the high plains of Nebraska. Today's weather is temperatures in the single digits with winds gusting into the 30 mph range. Truly a bitter day out for man and beast, which makes the warmth of the celebration inside all the more precious.

No photography to share today (unless you want snaps of the cousins watching movies in the family room). I went out early this morning to try to capture some winter scenes, but the day has been flat and gray. The wind only let you stay out in the open for a few minutes, so I quickly gave up. The timing of my decision to give up for the day was good, as the wind increased and new snow began mid-morning. It has been a near white-out most of the day. I want to take those captures I did make and see what can be done with black and white or duotones.

May your home be filled with warmth and joy! May you travel safely whether across town or around the world.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

First Day of Winter

After a warm fall, we are seeing a rather cold and gray December.  We are not anticipating a White Christmas, but many areas west of Kansas City will see a major winter snowstorm starting tonight and running through Christmas day.

I drove up to Squaw Creek NWR yesterday.  The winter has truly arrived.  There was quite a bit of snow remaining on the ground.  The marshes are frozen and the migrating geese and ducks have moved on south.  The only waterfowl we encountered were two pair of swans that we saw fly by a couple of times.

The eagle was the first one that we encountered on the refuge. It was sheltering in a tree near the entrance to the refuge. There were only a few eagles left of the 150-200 that were there a few weeks ago. The covered lane is a connecting road between two portions of the refuge.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sports Shooting - Basketball Updated

It was a gray and gloomy weekend in Kansas City. No good photo light. I took the opportunity to wrap-up my Christmas shopping and some other year-end tasks.

A week-ago I posted some basketball photos from the McPherson - Ottawa games.  Those images were quick grabs after some initial post-processing.  I took the time this weekend to do some more processing, primarily color- and better exposure correction and cropping.  They can now be viewed through the original blog post.  Follow the link to see them.

The men have done well since last week.  They went 2-0 for the week, and go into the break 10-2.  The ladies dropped their two games and are now 4-7.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sports Shooting: McPherson - Ottawa Basketball

Our weekend schedule this winter does not line up nearly as well with basketball as it did with the football season this fall. We took advantage of an alignment of the stars to spend the weekend with our daughter and younger son. This gave us the opportunity to see the Neil Simon play "Rumors" put on by the McPherson College theatre department, and the McPherson mens and womens Basketball teams play Ottawa University.

Shooting indoor sports is a challenge. The light in high school and small college gyms is dim and spotty by photographic standards. In the McPherson Sports Center the baseline of the court is darker by a full stop (or more) than the mid-court area between the two free throw lines. I've shot in this gym before and I knew the challenges that I would face. Even when you start with a good f/2.8 lens the compromise you often have to make is tp underexpose or shoot at high ISO settings in order to freeze action. This results in noisy (grainy) photos.

The womens team opened the evening with a 69-61 victory over the Lady Braves. This was one of the Lady Bulldog's better efforts from the field and on defense this season. The Lady Bulldogs are 4-5 overall and 1-1 in conference.

The McPherson mens team has a good season underway. They earned a 69-56 victory over the Ottawa men. They are now 8-2 overall and 2-0 in the KCAC.

I had done some research into changes that I could attempt to make my images better. The change in process that made these images come out as well as they did was a change to my post-processing workflow. The originals were underexposed as mentioned above. The raw files were processed through a software package called DXO to raise the exposure and remove the noise. DXO has recently come out with a new version (6.0) that I used for the first time.

Update 12/14: the images you see on this post now have been further processed.  I started with the DXO processed images I originally posted.  One or two of the originals were re-processed using DXO 6.1 to raise the exposure a little more.  Then all were cropped, black- and white-point adjusted, and sharpened in Capture NX2

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Photo of the Week - Smoky Hills of Kansas

Many people perceive Kansas as having a flat and unremarkable landscape. The reality is that the state has many hills and valleys. The Flint Hills are probably most famous, but the Smoky Hills of the North Central part of the state can present equally dramatic views.

These photos were taken at sunrise. We are setting at the top of the southernmost hill of the ridge that helps define the Smoky Hills. These hilltops rise 300 feet above the valley floor.