The Digital Photo Guy

Flexibility is the Key

by on Apr.03, 2011, under gear, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photoshop Elements

Desert Spring Wildflower Season

San Felipe ValleyThe desert spring wildflower season was weak this year. To top it off, the wind blew at about 25 mph the whole weekend. Even tiny flowers just 1/4″ off the ground were bent at 90 degrees. I’ve learned over the years that a good flower season doesn’t always mean a good flower season for photography. If you were willing to hike 2-4 miles into the canyons, there were some nice blooms but, there, the venturi effect increased the wind speed even more.

Sometimes, PDL (pure dumb luck) intervenes like this field of desert marigolds along San Felipe Valley Road on the way home. I got down low with my Canon 7D and Sigma 10-20 ultra-wide angle lens at f/22 and 20mm on a Gitzo 1228 tripod. I knew if I focused about 20 feet away (the second fence post,) my depth of field would be from about 2.5 ft to infinity.

At home, using DP-HDR by Mediachance, I confirmed what I suspected. There was too much wind for the usual 3-frame HDR. The flowers were just a mass of yellow. Opening it in Photoshop Elements, I added “pop” to the sky and mountains with Topaz Adjust. Popping the background did funky things to the marigolds in the foreground so I added a layer mask and revealed the original foreground in the layer beneath. Voila, instant fake, single frame HDR.

Back at Borrego Springs, in the name of flexibility, I went off to photograph abandoned buildings and practice HDR. I found a sad, decrepit abandoned motel and a deserted gas station.

I found this flag painted on the old gas station. I was impressed it wasn’t covered with grafitti. They must have a higher class of vandals in BS (Hey, that’s what the locals call Borrego Springs!) The station office had been turned into a real estate office which was also now abandoned (see next photo.)


This was an interesting shot because I had to step to the side for each frame to avoid seeing my reflection in the window.

I titled this “Reality” because this is the reality of the times in places like Borrego Springs where real estate speculation was rampant.

Both were made with my Canon 40D and Canon 24-105/4.  The 24-105 replaced the venerable 28-135 as my “go to” lens. It’s with me in virtually every situation.

Ready for Check-In

This last HDR was from the abandoned motel. It was truly a sad place. This is titled “Ready for Check-In.” It appears the place was adandoned in the middle of re-roofing. I don’t know much about construction but I think priorities may have been mixed up here.

Learn HDR Tps, Tricks and Techniques from Rob Sheppard, a National Geographic writer/photographer and the author of more than 30 books on photography. Rob will help you get the most out of your HDR tools in a 3-hour webinar on Saturday, May 7, 2011. Register HERE.

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4 Comments for this entry

  • Dick

    If you have a 7D in the bag, why did you chose the 40D?
    We were up in Santa Rosa last week and there were lots of wildflowers coming back down I-5.


    • Lee

      Hi Dick,
      The flowers must have wintered in Santa Rosa because they sure never made it down to Anza-Borrego!
      The 40D had the 10-20 on it and was already mounted on the Gitzo 1228 tripod. I’m all about PLR (path of least resistance.) It was easier to grab the 40D than change lenses or tripods. 😉

  • Gloria Hendren

    The reality shot was eye stopper for thoughts relating to the times. I really enjoyed looking at the details as well.

    Good Job.

    Gloria Hendren

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