Bartlett Lake

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You know, I live in Arizona, and it still astonishes me the delta in temperatures and climates in a mere 3 hours.  I do believe the delta is getting larger as time goes on.  It used to be 20F, now it borders on 30 – 40F difference between northern AZ and the Phx area.  When we left our home in the mountains it was snowing, 20F with 4 inches of snow on the ground.

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When we arrived at Bartlett Lake, outside of Carefree, AZ, just 3 hours south, it was 78F, and people were in shorts and t-shirts.  Crazy!

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We soaked up the sun before heading back to our cool climate.

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Buzzard Point

I have lived in Arizona most of my adult life.  While I was born in Phoenix, I have moved around quite a bit… but settled into AZ when I went to college, and never left.  I now live outside the big city, away from the traffic and the crazies.  The biggest drama I have these days is the elk eating my tulips… or the deer pooping in my drive way… Or where to go for our outings.

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We just got back from exploring some of the back roads outside of Flagstaff in the Woody Mountain Road (FR 213) region.  This area has some amazing overlooks that just continue to amaze me with their stunning beauty.  As long as I have lived in Arizona, I never tire of it’s wonderful vistas, stunning ridges, and deep canyons.

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This particular trip took us to Forest Road (FR) 792 outside of Flagstaff, and in particular Buzzard Ridge Point.  The end of the road yields this stunning overlook that just takes your breath away…. simply amazing.

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Focus Stack

Have you heard of Focus Stack.  My guess this isn’t the first time… or the last you’ll hear of it.  I have heard a lot about it… and have a lot to learn, but it is all the rage in photography.  It’s a method employed by professionals and amateurs alike.  It’s what wins contests today.  Forget about setting your camera on a small aperture, f22 and getting everything from foreground to background in focus.  Today, that method is passé, and yields softness or blurry portions in the photograph, dependent on where you focus.

There are a number of free Focus Stack softwares out there that will automatically analyze a series of photos and merge them together such that everything is tack sharp.  You take several photos, one focussing on foreground, one focussing on middle ground, and one on background… select them all and the software does the rest.  It’s magic… truly!

So I thought I’d give it a go using just Photoshop (without the Focus Stack software…. no doubt that will be a later experiment).   Matt Kloskowski demo’s this method in his terrific new Mt. Rainer landscape class            (http://www.mattk.com/my-new-mt-rainier-landscape-photography-class-is-live/).

So I pulled out a couple Barlett lake pix out of my archives.

The first has the cactus in focus, but the foreground flowers are out of focus.. (and mostly absent).

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The second photo has the cactus blurred, but the flowers are more prevalent and in focus:

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Using Photoshop I open both pix in one file creating 2 layers.  I then select both and Edit-Auto Align Layers to make sure both layers are directly on top of on another.  I then add a mask to the second photo (with blurred cactus and sharp flowers) and Command-I (inverse) to blacken out the whole photo.  Then using white, and the brush tool, I paint the sharp flowers (second photo – mask selected).  What happens is I paint the sharp plentiful flowers through to the 1st layer, painting over the blurred flowers of the first photo.

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I must admit, I’ve not done a lot of this sort of composite work in Photoshop… but seeing how powerful it is, I know why it is so popular.  Amazing!

Desert Flowers

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Spring is coming.  It’s still a bit chilly in our neck of the woods, but we took a trip down to Phoenix, and the flowers are all a bloom.

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We had hoped to see the fields of poppies, but the poppies were rather scarce.  I’m not sure whether we were too early or too late.  We won’t see the flower blooms up north for a couple more months.

We did see one cactus bloom.  The mass cactus bloom won’t be until May, but this little guy was an early flower.

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