Thursday, December 19, 2019

Shadow Arch Area #2

These photos are from a hike I did late last year (11.28.18 to be exact) when searching for Shadow Arch. That shows you how far behind I am on my posts. But that's a good thing. I have lots of great adventures and photos to share with you!

The hike begins near this beautiful pristine wash. It's what I love about this area... you feel like you're seeing it for the first time. No people, not even footprints. I wonder how long it would take human footprints to disappear from this wash? Certainly a thunderstorm would erase everything, but those happen only very rarely in this part of Joshua Tree National Park, which is a designated wilderness area. This is the land of rocks, alcoves, arches, and big open sky. 

Alien Arch

 Let's go check out that alcove.

The lower alcove is shallow, but the upper alcove is quite large. 

View from inside the alcove, looking out.

Interestingly, there's a shallow wall of rocks lining part of the opening to the alcove. The rocks have weathered over the years, but it's obvious they have been placed in this location and they have been here a long time. Hikers from years ago? Miners? Native Americans? Another desert mystery. 

Heart rock!

Wave rock!

It's been a great hike, but as the sun sets, it's time to start heading back. We need to hike directly toward that center mountain peak. Somewhere over there is my car!

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Thanks for stopping by, and enjoy the holidays!!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Leaves of Gold

It was Sunday, and I was trying to think of something to keep Lilly busy. It was cloudy and raining off and on, but we decided to go over to the local park anyway. After checking out the sky, I grabbed my camera, and off we went.
Just a few sprinkles, nothing heavy. And the clouds make for a dramatic sky.

Lilly had a chance to play on the playground.

Then she saw this pretty tree and decided she wanted to stand under it and catch the leaves as they fall. It was a long wait!

This was a fun shot. I asked Lilly to ride her scooter in front of me as I held the shutter release down in "continuous shooting" mode.

After stopping for ice cream, we headed home. In Southern California, we don't get much in the way of fall colors, but the ginkgo trees on our street put on quite a show for a couple weeks every year.
This is Lilly's version of a "snow angel"!

Uh oh. This can't be good...
A direct hit!

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Thursday, December 5, 2019

Is That Sky Real or Fake??

Well, it's finally happened. The technology and algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) have gotten so good that, with the click of a mouse, you can turn a blah sky into a fantastic and vibrant sky. In the "old days" you could swap out skies in Photoshop, but it took lots of time and lots of practice to get it right. And if the background was busy with trees or other detail, it was darn near impossible. Not anymore!
Here's a photo from my last post. Granddaughter Lilly standing on a large flat boulder. The sky is kind of plain.

Same photo with a fake sky added, courtesy of a program called Luminar 4 and it's "AI Sky Replacement" function. The program comes with about 30 skies to choose from, or you can use your own sky photos. Can you tell the sky is fake? It looks pretty good to me. The program also has something called "Relight Scene", which tries to correct the lighting in the photo based on the sky chosen. That's a slider, not a mouse click, but still super easy. Here, it removes the blue cast and warms up the color to match the yellow in the sky.

Another example. Took this photo using my cell phone on a walk yesterday. This is a nice vantage point and makes for a good photo if the sky is dramatic. Yesterday it was pretty boring. No problem, let's just add a dramatic sky.

There we go, lots of drama. May be too much, as it looks a little fake to me, but quite beautiful. If I hadn't told you, would you have guessed this to be a fake sky?

How about this one? Another photo from yesterday's walk. Not a bad photo as is, with nice tree silhouettes. It would be IMPOSSIBLY HARD to replace the background sky in Photoshop. Let's see what Luminar 4 can do with it.

Wow, impressive! All the sky detail is filled in perfectly between the multitude of branches and leaves. Ya, good luck doing this manually in Photoshop.

One last example, just because it was the last photo from my walk. I like the sky as is, but just for kicks, let's see what Luminar 4 does with this one.

That's a big change. I like the golden light, and the more intense light on the ginko tree leaves. Not sure I like it better than the original, but certainly a different look!

So, is this a good thing? I must admit, it has me worried. Is it getting too easy to take the "perfect picture"? If your sky is boring, you change it to something else with a click of the mouse. Don't worry if your exposure is off, the AI algorithms will take care of that too! Lighten up the shadows, fix the over-exposed areas, etc. And how will we know if we are looking at an actual photo, or just something concocted by a sophisticated program?

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