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Where to Go in the Grand Canyon?

The Grand Canyon National Park is a thing to behold. Upon arrival, you will be transported to a different world- a place where everything looks spectacular at every angle. If you are wondering where to start your adventure, plan ahead and list the top destinations of the Grand Canyon. Here are some of them:

  • South Rim

If you are looking to be in awe of nature, head to the South Rim and enjoy the spectacular panoramas as far as the eye can see. There are hikes that you can do at the South Rim starting at Flagstaff. Here are a few suggested trails at the South Rim:

  • Skeleton Point (6 miles)
  • Kaibab Trail to Cedar Ridge (3 miles)
  • Bright Trail to Plateau Point (12.2 miles)

  • History Programs

If you’re into geology, culture, and history, you will find Grand Canyon National Park a treat. There are numerous ranger-led programs on various points of the park that you can join in. There are also field guides that you can pick up from different locations across the park so you can have a field day of your own.

  • Mule Rides

The mules may smell unpleasant, but it’s just their nature. Ignoring this factor, mule rides are actually a great way to explore different parts of the Grand Canyon. This is the perfect activity for those who wish to enjoy the views without getting tired altogether.

  • Havasupai Indian Reservation

If you’re looking for an oasis in the middle of the desert, don’t forget to secure permits and make campground reservations at Havasupai Indian Reservation. This is one of the most remote destinations of the Grand Canyon, but is definitely worth the trip. The place features five stunning Grand Canyon Waterfalls that feature an iridescent blue green hue. If you’re looking to camp over night and explore the unspoiled beauty of Arizona, this is a perfect place for you to end your Grand Canyon journey.

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How Well Do You Know Your Car Insurance Quotes?

One thing we know about car insurance quotes is that they are just estimates of how much you would be paying in car insurance once you have it. This is because most websites that offer car insurance quotes merely reflect the information that an insurance company makes public by sending to the relevant authorities. If you want to get an accurate quote, make sure to talk to a representative of the car insurance company that you would like to do business with (and maybe get cheap car insurance rates).

In general, though, there are several factors that all car insurers take into consideration when determining the price of insuring a car. One of these factors is the make and model of the car. Sports cars and exotic cars cost more to insure because drivers of these cars are said to be more risky drivers and are more prone to speed on the road and do other things that soccer mom drivers will never do.

Size also matters when it comes to insurance. Small cars like Kia Morning are deemed riskier because they could literally get crushed in an accident with a bigger car, therefore, you will pay more in premiums.

The good thing about car insurance, though, is that there are many companies offer it. And while they offer more or less the same thing, you bet that if you look hard enough, you will find an insurance company that offers a better price than most other companies.

So, if you need to have your car insured, make sure to get quotes from at least three companies. No, you do not need to get a quote individually. There are comparison websites out there that pull out information from different insurers after you enter your car’s information, like its make and model.

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Recapping my second photography meetup with the West Coast Photo Group – Shooting the Madeira Beach Open Benefit Car Show

So lets talk about my second meetup with the West Coast Photo Group. The event attended was the Madeira Beach Open Benefit Car Show. This is basically a fundraiser for Metropolitan Ministries to help needy families during the holidays. Car Show participants were encouraged to bring canned goods so I swept the cabinet above the sink for candidates!
I met with Donald Wood, he was the event organizer, at the entrance. He was already shooting and I could tell by looking over his portfolio on the meetup site he has the same passion for shooting automobiles that I do.

We went over our gear and settings, he has one of those fancy vest to help him carry around spare lenses and stuff where as I just pick my lens choice of the day and leave my bag in the truck for the most part.
So we started down the first line of cars and I noticed some classics that I had not seen before as well as some of the car show regulars, (once you attend more than 4 car shows in this area you start to notice some of the same cars).
We discussed our shooting options and I reference to Donald about an instructional video by world famous HDR photographer Trey Ratcliff where he recommends to shoot f/8 if you are unsure of yourself and are shooting aperture priority. Since I was shooting aperture priority today due to the fact I was bracketing shots with 0.7 ev  steps (3 jpeg, 3 RAW) and did not want my focal plane to shift while the camera makes changes for the exposure. If you shoot in camera bracketed exposures the camera can either change shutter speed or aperture. In shutter priority the f-stop changes and you will have problems with the focal plane shifting. So the general consensus is to shoot Aperture priority. The video below is from Trey Ratcliff and is where I picked up this tip, some day I hope to actually buy his complete video course and really expand my knowledge!

Anyway a little bit later we were joined by two more meetup group members and chatted a bit more about our camera settings and software. This is the reason I felt the need to get a bit more social this year with my photography. Just a few minutes of conversation with fellow photography enthusiasts can lead to some great ideas for shooting or get you out the same old routine. So I soaked up as much information as I could before we went back to taking more pictures.
The shooting day ended around 12:30 pm for me as I had promised Deb a good Sunday lunch somewhere. So I spent about 2 hrs doing what I love to do – shoot cars!!

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Improving my watermark signature

Well the New Year is almost upon us and that means changes to my blog, workflow and attitude towards photography. Making improvements, looking for ways to change things up a bit always striving to reach “Pixel Nirvana”!

That is why I am readdressing the way I watermark my photos. I am dead set on watermarking everything in spite of the naysayers on the web. I think if implemented properly a signature/watermark can provide the viewer with additional information without detracting from the image. Great painters throughout history have signed their work and I don’t think anyone believes that detracts from the value of the art.
Using a brief tutorial from the internet on how a painter should sign his work as a guide I have updated my own signature/watermark.

So I spent some time looking for a handwritten script font that was both easy to read and yet conveyed an artistic quality. Typing “free font” into the Google search bar yields more results than one person can possibly comb through. I settled on one from “dafont.com” a free font source I have used in the past.
Its name is “Bart Handschrift“  and it is from a typography artist named Bart DeRuiter.

I started putting it on my photos earlier in the week and Deb noticed it right away and complimented me on it!

I see a lot of great implementations of signature/watermarks on the photo sharing site 500px.com where my current portfolio is located and now I think mine is on par with those.

Until next time, have fun with your photography!

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Dabbling with Color Efex Pro 4 and sharing some photography recipes!

How do recipes and photography go together? Stand by and I will tell you but first lets talk about how I am using a photograph from 2011 to help me explore my latest piece of post processing software from Nik – Color Efex Pro 4.
My basic photography workflow goes something like this-

  1. Shoot picture with camera, capture .jpeg and RAW files, bracketed 2/3 ev steps apart.
  2. Import files into Adobe Photoshop Elements Organizer, creating a new catalog for each shoot.
  3. Look over the files and selected one that looks interesting.
  4. Open the 3 bracketed .jpeg’s in Nik HDR Efex Pro and apply preset.
  5. Open in Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 and play around with filters and plugins.
  6. If result is “cool” and “acceptable” upload to 500px.com – OR –
  7. Create the same image using the RAW file instead, faux bracketing 4 more exposures using Adobe Camera RAW.

Color Efex Pro gets used during step 5 of the above process, along with Nik’s Silver Efex Pro, Topaz’s Remask, Adjust & Lens Effects plugins as well as Redfields Fractalius plugin.

Color Efex is one of the more creative plugins with not one thing in mind like a Black and White conversion or enhancing details or simulating different lenses. It has many options for affecting the look of your image.

So this morning I went on the hunt through 2012′s archives for my last photograph of the year  posted to 500px.com. As I scrolled down I ended up into 2011 and rediscovered one of my own favorite images, one taken at the highlands Hammock State Park on the Cypress Boardwalk. I consider it a pretty good photograph even to this day ( I find as I progress in photography that most of my older images no longer appeal to me as much!).

So I opened it in Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 and found Color Efex Pro on the filter menu and open the image inside the plugin’s window. One of the neat things with Color Efex is that you can stack presets to create compounded effects, once you put some together you can save the results as a – RECIPE !

Have fun with photography!

Adding Lens Flare to your Photographs using Adobe Photoshop Elements

So lets start!

First let me make one disclaimer that I am using Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 so if you are using something different your results may vary.

Second look through your portfolio and find an image that has a bright light source. My reason for this posting is a recent photograph taken during a tour of the old YMCA building in downtown St. Pete. I plan to write a separate posting about this photowalk soon after processing more  of the photos I took. This photo has a brightly sunlit window that is blown out with little that I can do about it. Shooting inside an unlit old building with no flash I think I was lucky to get the shots I did. Any way I was looking for something like light beams to put into the shot but settled on lens flare.

So once you have selected a suitable image open it in APSE (short for Adobe Photoshop Elements).

Find the menu item Filter, then in the drop down find Render, then in the pop up menu find Lens Flare.

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Mouse click on Lens Flare to open the setting dialog box. I left everything on the defaults after trying each lens type out on the photograph I had selected.

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Mouse click the OK button and you will be rewarded with and image that now has “intentional” lens flare!

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Depending on where you stand lens flare can add an artistic element to a photograph, unintentional flare can also ruin a potentially good image.

Anyway this concludes my first brief tutorial on just one more effect lurking in the filter menu that you may have been unaware of.

Till next time – Have fun with photography!

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To sell… or not to sell… The store is now open!

One of my decisions for the new year was to make available for purchase the photographs in my portfolio on the website 500px.com. My attitude over the past year was to concentrate on my photography and not on being a business or someone who sells his photographs. I just found it distracting as a hobbyist to try and figure out ways of monetizing my photography early in this endeavour.

But 500px makes it easy to sell your images I just had to change the format and size that I was uploading to the site. Previously I had been putting smaller 2500px jpegs up now I am uploading the full size image ( around 5400px) to the site. The store will initially contain just my most recent uploads but I plan on trying to go back and reload older images into the new format so they can be sold. The store offers only two purchase options, one is a digital download file and second is a gallery wrap canvas print. The former has a purchase price of  $2.99 and is a 1920 x 1272 resolution great for a desktop wallpaper or such. The option to purchase from my 500px.com store will cost you $207.99 and will deliver a 24 x 36 inch gallery wrap canvas print to your front door in 7 to 10 business days.

There are actually no configurable options from the photographers standpoint as to pricing or sizes available this is all set by the people at 500px. The photographer basically has one option to sell or not to sell on each image. The people at 500px take care of the rest, from taking your payment info, to making the print, to delivering to your doorstep. Quite convenient I think.

Anyway maybe I will get a few orders this year and maybe not. But if someone does want a hard copy of one of my works at least now they have the option!

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A trip to Honeymoon Island State Park

One of my favorite nature walks in Florida is the Osprey Trail at Honeymoon Island state Park. The reason why I do not visit as often as I like is the fact that for most of the year mosquitoes rule the woods there. Now I am a person who in the past has plenty of experience with these flying bloodsuckers, i.e. boy scouts, camping, fishing, us army etc, but the breed of buzzing red blood cell bandits that inhabit these woods seem to be totally immune to even the most potent of insect repellent. This has in turn caused me and Deb to avoid this great walk for all but the times when we are assured that the trail would be free of these pest, like the colder months starting in Dec through March.

So after running through the list of potential photo walks this particular day in my head I concluded it was a good time to attempt the trail.

One of the reasons for choosing a more nature type walk was to buck my recent trend of photographing car shows, fortunately for me upon arrival what do you think was in the parking lot? A classic Cadillac, man this baby was hot, so I grabbed some shots and continued my car photography into one more weekend!

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Anyway it was a beautiful day and we were ready to soak up some sun and fresh air while exercising our legs. The trail was actually pretty busy with other people having the same intention but not in a crowded way. It is a beautiful walk too, as a bonus there are places to see nesting Osprey’s and if you are lucky some Eagles. We were lucky this day, and another bonus is that there is usually some bird enthusiast who offers a great view through a magnified scope to give you a better vantage of one of these magnificent birds of prey. One group even spotted a nesting owl and gave us a look through a scope that I am sure cost more than my whole dslr kit did.

So we had a great nature walk in a beautiful setting with the bonus classic car photo-op, who could ask for a better day!

Untill next time have fun with photography!