Sunday, April 11, 2010

Staycation

So here's a thought.

I'm not in the foreign service yet.  Rather, I'm sitting at home, looking at the little bruise on my right forearm that's mysteriously testing me for TB as I sleep, and wishing I was already somewhere exotic.  Of course, exotic is just, like, a frame of mind, man.

How many of you have ever been posted to Castle Rock, CO?  Not a one of you.  So, banal as it might seem to me, it's right up there with the wilds of Papua New Guinea and volcanic sea vents for all of you, dear readers.

So, in preparation for what will no doubt be a lifetime of dramatizing the routine and maintaining a healthy otherness to my surroundings, I've elected to treat Castle Rock, CO as if it were some strange new post.  And what do you always get with strange new posts?  Pictures.


Found this odd old machine after driving down the one and only North/South interstate coming home from an electronics store this afternoon.  I had to illegally park in an urgent care parking lot (empty) and climb trough some barbed-wire fence, but I think it was well worth it (largely because I suffered no repercussions).

Inspired by my find, I drove around and took some other pictures.  Having a car is terribly freeing.


Here's an odd abandoned building, very nearby.  Apparently it's currently run by the "Zootown Rasta Crew", who, Simba-like, rule all of the Savannah distantly visible in the background.  Presumably, their territory does not extend all the way to Wyoming, but no USGS maps of Zootown were at hand to verify.


With no tagging, I couldn't tell which crew laid claim to this section of the Rocky Mountains.  Every time I find myself at enough of an altitude to see more than just the Front Range, I'm reminded of what it must have felt like to arrive at these things in a Conestoga wagon laden with 800 pounds of bullets, 8 oxen, and a couple of "tongues" needed for repair. (Oregon Trail, anyone?).  It must have felt like "Oh Holy Hell.  Anyone feel like this right here is pretty good?"  Much as I love every Mormon I have ever met, I cannot even begin to understand what would compel someone to cross all of these mountains and then stop.  At the first available lake inhabited solely by gnats.

I grabbed another one of the tractor thing, for grins.  Since I always get raked over the coals by photo purists for the HDR pictures, I toned this one down.  So, welcome to Castle Rock, Colorado everyone.  Here's hoping this is a short post.

6 comments:

Rizz said...

You missed all the best parts of Castle Rock! There is a rock shaped like a castle and an outlet mall.

A Daring Adventure said...

Okay, I just have to say that these photos are ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS.

And I *love* the idea of looking at where you are as being a foreign post!

What amazing pictures. You simply must tell me more. What equipment are you using... what lenses... and what software? These are all just phenomenal.

Valdysses said...

@ A_Daring_Adventure:

Oh, K, you are far too kind. It will go straight to my head, and I will be positively unliveable. And to think, just this morning I was wholeheartedly admiring this shot.

http://web.me.com/jamesandkolbi/A_Daring_Adventure/A_Daring_Adventure/Entries/2010/1/9_Thank_you,_Stupid_Dumb_XBox_360_files/DSC_0008.jpg

I love your pictures, and your picture roundups, and they always inspire me to go out and shoot.

As to the gear, I'd be more than happy to divulge. Unsurprisingly, we have a lot of the same gear. I use a Nikon D90 and the same 50mm and 18-200 lenses you have. All of the above photos, however, were shot with a Tokina 11-16 f/2.8. I love that lens to death, more for what it can’t do than what it can. The huge background/foreground exaggeration you get with a super wide lens is tons of fun. I also frequently use a tripod, for a particular reason…

All of the above photos are examples of HDR (high dynamic range) photography. Every picture above started out as three identical pictures, save for their different exposures. Usually one is metered properly, one is -1.00, and one +1.00. Then I use a piece of software called Photomatix to blend the three exposures together and get them to look how I want. Finally I clean them up a little in Photoshop.

If it sounds hard, it isn’t. Just take three pictures instead of one. The tripod helps me get three perfectly identical shots, but I took a lot of HDR photos before I invested in the tripod. Just set the camera on something stable when you frame the shot. I think Photomatix has a free trial, and you should jump on that.

I'm glad you like the foreign post idea... I think I'll run with it. I already have a good idea for the next one, in fact…

Fun fun fun!

A Daring Adventure said...

You know, that is so very interesting - in terms of lenses, all I have are the three Nikon, but hearing you talk about your Tokina really sparks my interest.

I ran across a professional photographer a few weeks ago at my son's crew competition, and he said all he ever bought were the Tokina because they were just as good as Nikon but for better prices.

I had heard of the high dynamic range photos in the past and have never messed with it, but your photos show me just how amazing this kind of photography looks. And under no circumstances can I touch your photography skillz, but it's sweet of you to compliment me.

I do not have Photoshop - I have Aperture 3. I do not know if Aperture 3 does HDR photos, but the cart before the horse, etc., as my tripod died an epic death and I am now tripodless. It's a laziness issue, actually - the fact that it has not been replaced. All manner of photographic items need my attention, for your still life HDR shots are delicious.

I could write about this ALL. DAY. LONG but if I do not stop now, my RoundUp won't come out until Saturday! But thank you for the HDR lessons and for sharing what is in your photo bag!

Brian... said...

Cool idea, say "Hi" to Colorado for me, I miss her! Yes, even Castle Rock with the two cheap gas stations that are always packed to the brim.

stmemory said...

I love your photos and I especially love that you're from CO! I'm from Colorado Springs but have been in DC for a while now. Also, I passed the FSOA the same day as you did, but at the other location. I was over in Annex 1 and passed in the MGMT track. Needless to say, I will be following your blog. Good luck with clearances and your eventual move to DC. Enjoy the mountains and the gorgeous Front Range while you can!

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