Saturday, July 20, 2013

Mirror, mirror...

Tempe Town Lake and Mill Avenue Bridge

Inspired by Michael Shainblum's brilliant time lapse video, "Mirror City," I've been going through some old images trying to find ones worth of this kaleidoscope treatment. My first effort was a blue-hour morning shot of the Mill Avenue bridges. The technique is pretty simple in Photoshop, but the best things usually are.

The Railroad Bridge over Tempe Town Lake

Here's the old railroad bridge at sunset from a couple years ago. The lake was refilling after the rubber retaining dam failed and sent the entire lake and it's contents downstream. This is a really fun technique and one I'll have to keep in the back of my mind for the future.

Hayden Landing

This mirror image was also taken from a panorama at Tempe Town Lake. All this development is fairly new... within the last 10 years or so. 

Light rail and railroad bridges

A variation on the bridge theme at Tempe Town Lake. The light rail bridge is to the left with the 1912 railroad bridge to the right. It's an interesting contrast of old and new building techniques.

San Diego Skyline

I took this shot many years ago while on assignment for a travel magazine. The last rays of the setting sun set the skyline on fire with yellows and golds. This was a natural shot to convert to the mirror-image effect and one of my favorites.

Westgate Shopping Center

The Westgate Shopping Center in Glendale, Arizona was a fun one to do. It's interesting how this treatment tends to abstract the subject matter into symmetrical patterns of form and color, but still retains a realism.

The James Agency

I did the interior shots for this thriving advertising and marketing firm in Scottsdale a few months ago. The final photographic piece of the puzzle was this photograph of their newly installed sign. This mirror-image treatment is a departure from my previous ones as I used the images over and over, stacking them to make several mirror images. The red lines are passing cars captured with a slow shutter speed to blur the tail lights.

See my Fine Art America gallery for a variety of high-quality products from individual prints and canvas wraps to metal prints and frame and matted works of photographic art.

© 2013 G. Reid Helms / Arizona Panorama
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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Grand Canyon Splendor

The Grand Canyon from Yavapai Point

It had been years and years since I'd been to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Wading through large crowds of people and having to wait for access to the views were the biggest reasons. And people tend to follow you when you step out on a overlook or the edge. This trip was no exception. As soon as people saw me below the railed overlook, they came in droves.

But it was okay, I knew what I was getting into. I did my own thing, used the cameras tourists handed me and took their photographs. People were all smiles and very friendly. It seemed like everyone was from somewhere other than the USA and was great sport trying to figure out all the languages being spoken as people would pass by.

Monsoon action

The weather was fantastic. The forecast before I left Phoenix was for 90 degrees and a 20% chance of rain. But the monsoon was in full swing and it rained on and off the entire afternoon. If it ever got above 70, I would be surprised. My rain shell kept me mostly dry but at one point I actually got cold. What a treat in the middle of July in Arizona especially in light of the triple digit temperatures I'd left behind in Phoenix.

After a hike and the biggest soaking of the day at Yavapai Point, it was on down the road to Grand View. I sat in the truck for a while as the rain came down hard. But it wasn't long before it eased up. I wandered down to the rail to see what the canyon looked like. A couple previous spots to pull over yielded a canyon completely veiled in clouds. It was like the canyon wasn't even there.

Grand View Point

The deep cut of the canyon from Grand View was really nice. The canyon itself was very colorful even on this overcast day.

Lipan Point

On down the road a bit more, the view from Lipan Point was stunning. I took this long telephoto panorama of the atmospherics of the various distant ridges. This kind of stacking was the big draw on the east side of the canyon and one I saw over and over. I spent some time here sitting on a rock and enjoying the scene. It was quiet and peaceful. 

The Watchtower

The last stop was the Desert View overlook. This is the big stop as you come in the park from the east gate. It was crawling with people squeezing up to the railing to look out over the canyon. The Watchtower is another feature of this vista. I could see a steady stream of people climbing the stairs to the top and peering out. 

I found the atmospherics here to be top notch. A long telephoto shot of the distant canyon produced one of my favorite shots of the trip. The sun's rays fanned out below the monsoon clouds. It was a pretty special site. But there would be one more surprise. I packed up and decided to go back to Yavapai Point for the sunset. 

Yavapai Point Sun Drop

The large crowd of people assembled at Yavapai Point to witness this sunset actually broke into applause when the sun final went out of sight. I had goosebumps. We were all amazed when the sun dipped below the clouds and produced this scene. Even though I'd avoided the south rim and the crowds, that's what made this so special. The shared experience of seeing such a beautiful sight with so many adoring fans was a perfect way to end the day in this most iconic of America's national parks.

Sun Drop, Yavapai Point

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© 2013 G. Reid Helms / Arizona Panorama
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Friday, July 5, 2013

2013 Independence Day Fireworks Celebration

Fireworks and the pedestrian bridge over Tempe Town Lake.

Tempe Town Lake was the location for my fireworks photography again this year. I decided to try another spot on the lake though. Right away, I broke the first rule on everybody's list of how best to shoot fireworks: Show up early. I had a nice Mexican food dinner at a nearby restaurant that took a little longer than planned. As a result, I practically ran to the spot I hoped to shoot from. The newly constructed pedestrian bridge over the west side of the lake seemed like a good spot. 

As I was hurrying to my spot, the fireworks started going off behind me. I got to the bridge and frantically scrambled to set up. I had already set up the camera at home before I left which was the smartest thing I did all night. 

Almost immediately, private security guards working the bridge were insisting everyone keep moving and stopping was not allowed. This was going to be interesting... Almost no one was listening though. The people that did listen would shuffle a few feet and stop. I did the same as they approached just to keep them happy. After a while, the guards gave up in disgust, but were not very happy about being ignored. There was a lot of grumbling going on from both the guards and all the people that walked by.

Straight out of the camera. The fireworks did not disappoint at Tempe Town Lake again this year. And what was supposed to be a very windy night, was not that bad. A little breeze was a big help to moderate a fairly warm evening in the desert.

A 3-frame composite of the fireworks.

All in all, things worked out pretty good. I could have been closer to the action and the bridge was not the most stable platform to shoot from. There was a bit of bounce as people walked past behind me, but it didn't really show in the photos. Thankfully.

I doubt I'll shoot on this exact spot again next year though. The vantage point was okay. I liked the long reflections of the fireworks on the lake, but I may choose an entirely different venue next year. The crowds in Tempe are very large and a bit much. Last year it was a wall-to-wall, zombie slow shuffle back to the light rail line and the 45-minute trip home. This year I spent an hour sipping a beer near the train station waiting for the crowds to thin out and was the best strategy yet.

See my Fine Art America gallery for a variety of high-quality products from individual prints and canvas wraps to metal prints and frame and matted works of photographic art.

© 2013 G. Reid Helms / Arizona Panorama
All reproduction rights reserved