Sunday, September 30, 2012

More than potatoes- IDAHO!

We began our western trip with wonderful friends in Pocatello.  Riding up from Salt Lake City, the smoke from wildfires was so dense it smelled like we were trapped in a fireplace that was barely extinguished.  You could look directly at the sun.  It's been a terrible summer in the west- drought and fires. 

Undaunted by the smoke, we went north to a scenic drive along the Henry's Fork River in the Snake River Valley. We should have been able to see the Teton Mountains from the first stop, but the smoke was too much.  Our next stop,  Lower Mesa Falls, is listed as 85 feet with a first major drop of 20 feet to a pool that runs over a 45 foot drop.  When I saw a kayak running the lower drop, I scrambled back to the car for a long lens to record any added boaters going over.  I was just set up when I saw what appeared to be a bright yellow raft. (Kayak groups often include a raft for support on big rivers.)

Looking closely, I could see that it was not a raft, but essentially a  large air mattress - not very rugged. There are two helmeted men behind the float, and a women below is beginning to go down the falls.

The two men scramble onto the float, not quite getting squared up for the drop.

Off they go down the chute!

There was seriously no way they would stay on the float without any sidewalls, and away they tumbled.

Well, this makes me glad they are not  my children.  I'd rather have one of them taking up something sane like rock climbing.  Really! I later learned that they had to hike down a trail from the Upper Mesa Falls to reach the put-in, and float another 6 miles to the intersection with the Warm River to take out.

We went on to see Upper Mesa Falls; it is 110 feet.   Looking it over, I surmised that no one could survive a drop over it.  It is quite beautiful.

So, our first day got off to a good start. The next day, with some hope for showers to wash the smoke out of the sky, we headed south to the City of Rocks National Reserve operated by the National Park Service.  In 1852, over 52,000 people traveled the emigrant trail to the California gold fields.  They branched off the Oregon Trail near here.  It is named for the soaring granitic rock formations that jut up through the sagebrush country.

 I believe this spire is called Chicken Rock with the idea that the top resembles the comb on a rooster. Well, it sort of does.

Today, the road carved by the wagons in 1852 can still be seen as it approaches the granite pillows. We went further into the park for lunch and a view of kids playing on top of one of the formations.

I soon wished we had more than a day to explore this.  Most of the campsites were occupied either with family campers or rock climbers.  There was so much to discover.  We soon found a nice granite arch.

And, there was a really cool couple of granite spires for the serious climbers to work up (and down again).


There is one climber about a third of the way up the center crack, and another sitting atop a smaller spire to the right (in red and yellow). Yes, I'd rather my child was doing this than dropping over a 45 foot falls on an air mattress.

I want to close with a rock formation that appeared like the huge gaping mouth of a Grouper fish.

The Grouper rests on the ocean floor and when its prey gets too close, its huge mouth snaps open to suck the meal in.  Well, that is what I see.  Maybe you see it differently.  The chicken rock was a stretch for me.

We left City of Rocks reluctantly because we needed to pick up our rental car.  We left our friends in Pocatello to continue our travel north to Yellowstone National Park.   Some spotty rain did come in as we left to everyone's relief.  

Yellowstone was wonderful, and I've got some excellent photos, mostly of elk, bison and moose with a few geothermal spots included.  I'll send them along in a day or so.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Creative Results with iPhone image editors

I've been preparing for another smartphone workshop and exploring the many photo editors on the market.  One of the most useful (and more challenging) editors is  the Iris Photo Suite.  It is $1.99 and provides a wide range of whole image manipulations-  exposure, white balance, shadows and highlight, sharpness, histograms, and noise.  There is also a wide range of filters that apply textures and color treatments to the complete image.  In addition, it has layers and selective masking so that a texture filter can be applied to a selective portion of the image.  All pretty powerful, but supported by pretty sketchy tutorials.

Here is one image that I first corrected for image wide settings, leveled and cropped, and finally added two masks to create greater texture on the wooden rail fence.

Overall, I am pleased with the result.  One very helpful feature is the ability to zoom in on a local area to achieve some precision in selecting the area on which to apply the mask effect.  The result matches how I felt about this little corner of the Herb Garden at Cornell Plantations.

Another more creative app is MobileMonet which allows you to select where in the image to show colors. I played with this using a photo of a brilliant orange Cana at Plantations.  First, the  image was optimized using Iris Photo Suite. Moving on to MobileMonet, a black and white line sketch is created, and using a stylus brush, I painted in the areas where I want the underlying color of the input image to show.

The result, far removed from the original image, appeals to me because it removes the competing background, and produces a stronger artistic interpretation of the subject without the background colors to confuse the eye.  It reminds me of some wonderful watercolor images done on pure white paper with no color beyond the subject plant.

As I've evaluated the many photo editing apps, I have come to realize the awkward mess we have where no one app has all the tools.  One app may only cost $1.99, but building a set of apps does accumulated a higher cost, and the different apps have so different approaches and icons that it becomes confusing. In addition, the small screen does create a poorer result than can be achieved when the image is brought into a desktop computer with much larger screen. As an example, I cannot imagine how you would see image noise on the small smartphone screen, nor how to correct for it.  That would best be left to the desktop.

Paul Schmitt