Fireworks in Steamboat Springs, Colorado

This past weekend, our family was able to spend a few days (including July 4th) in Steamboat Springs — always a treat and source of plenty of photographic opportunities to boot.  This is the first time, though, that I had the opportunity to photograph the town’s fireworks.  So since there’s not a whole lot of information about the show online, I thought I should do a quick write-up to help future visiting photographers.

July bouquet

At least when we visited, the fireworks were shot off from three locations on the sides of Howelsen Hill — centered roughly on the ski jump, south and west of downtown. This means that many spots downtown will give you a partial view of the fireworks, but they seem to be fired to a low altitude — so unless you’ve got rooftop access, you’re likely to have an obstructed view. Continue reading

Notice of notice

So I noticed this notice on a recent business trip to Florida — apparently it’s now a required feature on vending machines there, but I can’t for the life of me tell what purpose it serves:

Notice of notice

It doesn’t have any inspection certification, or license information, or any obviously useful data like that.  But somehow this thing struck me as being oddly familiar.  Then in Steamboat Springs this past weekend, I noticed a sign from a distance that may have been the source of my dim recollection…

2014.07.04 Steamboat fireworks 023

Coincidence?  I think not!

The Olympus 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ lens — a user experience review

I recently picked up Olympus‘ new pancake kit zoom lens (formally, the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ lens) and its automatic lens cap. Rather than boring you with test charts and such, I thought taking it out on a walk would be more interesting (and help give everybody a better idea of its benefits and limitations).

OM-D compared

For starters, the lens’ big benefit is size (naturally, for a pancake) — at least for the time being, it’s the shortest pancake zoom for the micro-4/3 system, extending just 22.5mm from its mounting flange. Above, you see my E-M1 with an Oly 12-40mm f/2.8 lens mounted, next to my E-M5 hosting the 14-42mm EZ lens.  Even with the grip attached, the E-M5 is pocketable (well, in a decent-sized coat pocket) in this configuration.  The automatic lens cap isn’t exactly cheap, but that extra $30 buys you an impressive bit of engineering in a small slice of plastic — and makes this combo a potent and quick-to-use street shooter.

But on to the walk…

Continue reading

House of the Cenote, revisited

A straight-on frontal shot of the House of the Cenote, in the ancient Maya ruins of Tulum in Quintana Roo, Mexico:

House of the Cenote

No, it’s not the most artistic angle on this structure, but it does give you a good feeling for its size and design.  This photo was shot from roughly the southeast (from the point of view of the sea, basically) and shows the face of the original part of the structure.

Some years later, a small shrine was added to the back of this building, directly over a small cenote that gives the whole construction its modern nickname.

Drama over Seven Dolls

With a bit of help from some HDR software (NIK HDR Efex Pro), here’s a scene of building storm clouds behind the Temple of the Seven Dolls at the ancient Maya ruins of Dzibilchaltún:

Drama over Seven Dolls

As I mentioned in a previous post, you can’t climb the steps of this structure any more.  Still, there’s plenty of cleared and accessible space available around it — so it’s not too tough to make a good photo of it.  Here, one of the structures called “Adjoining Rooms” blocks your view of the fencing around the Temple’s base.

I made this photo from just west of Structure 12 (which is also now fenced off).  On spring and autumn equinoxes, the Sun rises in the temple’s door, directly in line with the stela that frames the left side of this image.  As you might imagine, that means those dates are quite crowded ones at this (normally sparsely visited) site.

Frosty mirror

A few nights ago, we took advantage of a warmer night to check out the “Blossoms of Light” display at the Denver Botanic Gardens.  They put on a nice show, as always, and it hasn’t been as warm since — so, fortunate timing.

Frosty mirror

I took this shot toward the north end of the gardens; with the lens closed down to f/22, a nice long exposure erased the slow parade of other viewers along the path…

Plein air

On our recent trip to Chicago, we did our usual tour of the local botanic gardens (one of the benefits of being married to a garden-loving woman).  While wandering through the Chicago Botanic Garden, I spotted an in-progress plein air watercolor:

Plein air

Sadly, the artist was nowhere to be found, so I couldn’t chat with them.  Just the same, I liked this composition…

Coming to a point

Interesting things, flowering cacti — they give a photographer such a list of contrasts to work with.  Bright vs. muted colors.

Coming to a point

Spiky vs. soft shapes.

Nipple cactus, redux

Angular vs. rounded shapes.

Nipple cactus close-up

These are all shots of a “Nipple cactus” (Coryphantha sulcata, a.k.a. Pineapple cactus), seen at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas. At least, that’s how it was labeled — but all the online information on this species shows it to be both smaller and bearing yellow flowers.  Not sure what’s going on there…

A flower grows in Rock City

Kansas — definitely not the first place that comes to mind when it comes to photogenic geology. But it does have some gems tucked away here and there.

Rock City is a small park about a half-hour’s drive north of Salina, run by a non-profit corporation, and home to hundreds of spherical limestone boulders:

A flower grows in Rock City

Admission costs a mere $3 (cash only), and it’s also got some beautiful local plants and birds — so a great quick side-trip if you’re ever heading through Kansas on I-70.