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Christmas HDR

Photography Day, Living History Farms


Signs, West End Salvage, Des Moines

Recently, Living History Farms in Des Moines hosted their 5th annual photography day. Thousands of people from all over Iowa attended an informative day of lectures and workshops in various aspects of photography.

I was asked to do a lecture on HDR photography. I have included a link to the images that I shot for and used in my lecture. The images were captured at West End Salvage and Living History Farms. At the end of the photos are several additional HDR photos that I have recently completed.

HDR contininues to be of great interest to me as a mode of photographic expression.


Photos from Living History Farms HDR Lecture

Sapphire Beach Webcam


Mid October, I installed a webcam at Sapphire Beach. I made a proposal to the board of directors and it was accepted. Technology based projects on the island can be quite daunting. Bringing the camera online proved dificult. Nonetheless it was a fun project.

This picture was captured shortly after it became operational. I am standing in the picture. Below is a link to the webcam. It automatically refreshes every twenty seconds.

Sapphire Beach Webcam Link

Silent Film – Our 48 Hour Film Project Genre

Well, after weeks of anticipation, we drew our Genre.  SILENT FILM.  It is definitely restricted by having NO DIALOGUE, it is not restricted in that it can be comedy, horror, drama etc.  We are busy putting together the most ridiculous seven minutes of film ever.


The prop is coins, the character is Carl or Carla Ross (A Plumber).  The required line of dialogue is “Who came up with that?”

HDR Video Grays Lake

HDR for photography is fantastic.    With it you can get anything from a subtle enhancement of an already great photo to a hyped up surreal acid-trip version of the real world.   

Video is just moving photography.   I took the Grays lake video and changed it all to still photos in a directroy (45oo stills in fact) I then converted them to HDR in Mediachances’s software Dynamic Photo HDR.   I set up a batch to do the same thing to all 4500 pictures.  I then imported them back into my editing software and made them back into a movie.  I edited out some parts of the original video because it did not all take well to the process.  This post represents the effort.

My next step is to shoot a video from the beginning with the idea that I am going to make it HDR.   There are just some subjects and shooting styles that will work very well with this technique.

The music for this video is Mellissa Hyman’s “Let Me Keep You”.


HDR (Video) Second Trial

Ok, so I took a ten second video clip, exported it as 300 seperate images, made them all hdr in photoshop, and then imported them back into a video.  I will be doing more projects like this.


HDR (Video) First Attempt

This video was kind of funny anyway.  I used it to test a plan to make video into hdr video.  This was my first attempt!


Photos Photos Photos……..


Somebody, New Orleans, LA, Mardi Gras,

Over the last several years I have taken A LOT of photos. I have made many albums, usually realated to a certain trip, time, city, or event. They have been scattered far and wide.  Today, I made it a project to collect all of these into one spot. Over to the right of my site there is now a link to photography collections. People in the pictures have come and gone, but all have been part of my life.

Putting them all in one place has really made me reflect on the last year of my life.  It has been a transforming experience and like every year of my life it has gone by very quickly.  I will say that it is the first year in over ten years that I felt like I got a years’ worth of life out of the year that it cost me.

Feel free to look around…..


Zach’s Big Day


Zachary Miner, High School Graduation, 2010

Zach’s high school graduation was last night. It was a wonderful event. Zach has had a very illustrious high school career and it was a proud moment to watch him graduate. He is in National Honor Society and has many extra-curricular activities. He is very smart, and more importantly, he really likes working hard and keeping busy. I am a little biased, obviously, but I think that Zach is the one to watch…… :)

Space Shuttle Atlantis, Launch Day, Mission STS-132

Space Shuttle Atlantis, fueled and ready for its last voyage, May 14, 2010

Today was one of those days that are almost beyond description.  I have been dreaming of going to a shuttle launch for five years at least.  I was in Miami last year and missed one by just a few days.  Since then I have been trying with some earnest to see a launch.  As you may or may not know, the shuttle program is coming to an end after just two more launches.  The program has been very successful over the last 30 years, but the fleet of shuttles is aging and the program is drawing to its inevitable conclusion.  With that in mind, I decided a couple of months ago to attend this launch of the Shuttle Atlantis on its last voyage into space.


Atlantis, moments after lift-off, May 14, 2010

Tickets to see a launch have always been hard to come by.  The spots on the causeway frequently sell out within minutes of them going on sale.  This year it has been much harder due to the dwindling number of launches and subsequent increase in the popularity of the remaining missions.  About three weeks ago the tickets went on sale on the internet and I spent two hours trying to get tickets, unsuccessfully.  Evidently the ticketing program had a malfunction and after two hours they closed down the ticket website and said there would be an announcement for another day to buy tickets.  The makeup ticket sales day sold out all the tickets in 37 minutes and I was unable to buy tickets.    Myself and two friends were going to Cape Canaveral without any tickets to see the launch.  (we had heard that you can watch it from less prime spots that did not require tickets, and that was our plan).

Atlantis, Moments after lift-off, May 14, 2010, HDR

I have written in previous posts that I almost always couchsurf when I travel.  I love having a local person to stay with that knows the ropes and really understands where they live and what makes it special.  The accommodations for this trip was a wonderful person in Cape Canaveral named Kim.  We arrived at her place yesterday and within in a couple of minutes we were treated to the most wonderful surprise we could imagine.  Kim, our excellent couchsurfing host is an engineer for a company that is contracted by NASA.  She is an employee of the space center and as such has great access to the launch.  She took us out to get pictures last night and then took us to the causeway today for the main event.  (The causeway was the same spot that I had spent four hours trying to get tickets for.)  It was a wonderful day and it was very exciting to watch the Atlantis take-off.  Being with Kim was like having backstage passes to the best concert ever.  She was a wonderful host and it was an unbelievable day.  I took a lot of pictures, and these are my favorites so far……..

The launch was really spectacular.  The shuttle lept off the pad in a blaze of fire and smoke and a few minutes later the roar of the engines hit me in the middle of the chest and did not quit hitting.  The shuttle rose quickly into the sky.  It was easy to follow it until the separation of the solid rocket boosters and then it became a glowing dot in the sky that slowly disappeared, leaving an appreciative crowd (and Mark Miner) with a memory to last a lifetime.  Thanks, Kim for being so gracious and showing us such an incredible time.


Launch Day


This is our golden ticket.

Countdown to the launch. It is 9am here in Cape Canaveral. We have had breakfast and we are pumped for the launch. According to the news everything is a go at this point. We are going to head to the causeway around 10:30 for the 2:20 launch. Everyone is so excited here.


Mission Patch for STS-132

Every launch has a different logo or “Mission Patch”. this is the mission patch for this launch. (STS-132)

Night before the Launch……..


Night Before Shuttle Launch, May 2010


I am in Cape Canaveral. We have excellent tickets to the launch tomorrow courtesy of a wonderful couchsurfer here. It is the night before the launch. This photo was taken from approx 13 miles away, as close as we can get tonight. From this distance, the shuttle is just a small dot in the center of the frame. It has been greatly enlarged to make this picture. Tomorrow we will be on the causeway which is six miles from the shuttle. At that distance, the image will be four times larger in the camera than it is tonite.

Full Sapphire Beach Video

This is the video that is currently playing at Sapphire Beach on Channel six.  It is 90 minutes long.   It was shot over the last three years.


Barbacoa, excellent food, crock pot convenient.

Mexican food is one of my favorite cultural diversions. I love traditional Mexican cooking. The spices, textures, heat and aroma make for an intoxicating meal. This story would be much more fun if I could say that I got my recipe from some family in northern Mexico on an extended stay there. That is not the case. It is however adapted from a Rick Bayless recipe, and I can assure you, HE got it from some family in Northern Mexico on some extended stay there.

Barbacoa usually refers to meat including goat or sheep that are slowly cooked over fire. Rick Bayless is even more traditional and cooks the meat in a covered pit at low temperature for many hours. The result is tender meat that is well spiced and excellent as a base for many Mexican foods.

The recipe that I use for barbacoa uses the crock pot and a three pound beef or pork roast. The recipe that I use can be found here. It makes excellent barbacoa and is easy to prepare and serve.

I make fresh salsa as well. A couple of tomatoes diced, four cloves of garlic, eight sprigs of cilantro, a couple of green onions and the juice of one lime. Add salt and pepper to taste and WOW.

Serve with CORN tortillas, lime wedges, salsa, sour cream, optionally rice or beans. It is a great meal that makes great leftovers.


Zach’s Prom

My son Zach’s prom was this weekend. It is hard to believe that he is a senior in high school. He has always been the best child and now he is the best young adult a parent could have. He is active in many things including scouting, Taekwondo, and school. Currently his plan is to go to Iowa State for undergrad and the University of Iowa for medical school.

His graduation and 18th birthday are both coming up next month and I am writing a longer post with a lot more pictures…..


Zach Miner, Prom 2010

Coffee is the magic ingredient.

Coffee is is the heart of the productive part of my day. The posts on this blog are almost universally written after my daily java dose. Coffee will take me from lounging around with no real direction to being pumped up and looking for something to get done.

I use a French press to make coffee. It could not be any easier. Simply put ground coffee in the press, add hot water, wait four minutes, and then press the grounds to the bottom with a mesh filter and pour the coffee off the top. I make a huge serving of coffee, put ice in a carafe and pour the hot coffee in it. I have a huge cup and the rest goes in the refrigerator. I make coffee once every three days and keep it in the fridge and drink it over ice. YUMM.

Image Software including HDR

I have several pieces of software that I use when editing photos. First and foremost is photoshop. I have learned a great deal about this fine program over the last year. I still probably only use one third of its capability. There are a very large number of excellent tutorials on the web for using photoshop. I usually wait until I really need to do something with PS and then look on the web for a tutorial on how to do it.

For HDR, I use several programs. To truly do HDR, you need to take several photos in rapid succession with varying exposures and then combine them into one HDR photo. This does not work very well with human or other moving subjects. For this you make your HDR from a single exposure. (This is actually pseudo-HDR because it comes from just one exposure) Even with one exposure you can get some truly interesting HDR photographs. My single favorite HDR software that I use when I only have one exposure is Dynamic PhotoHDR by Mediachance. It does an excellent job of spicing up photos and if you play with it enough, it looks great. There is a lot of customizing that you can do within software, yet it is very simple to use.


White Bay, Jost Van Dyke, BVI (British Virgin Islands)

Almost all of the photographs that I take today end up getting at least a little HDR manipulation. It adds drama and extra “pop” to a photo. It takes a photo that I like anyway and makes me love it.

Interior Shots E5W

A friend recently asked if I could take a few interior shots of a property that she has for sale. (E5W in the East Village, Des Moines)  I decided that if I shot in HDR it would add drama to the photos. I am really pleased with how they turned out. Taking the photos in HDR probably adds fifty percent to the overall time spent processing each photo.

Link to all the photos


E5W in the East Village, Des Moines

Early Evening, Grays Lake, Des Moines

Last evening was beautiful and a great time to hit Grays lake. During the spring summer and fall Gray’s lake is busy with people enjoying the beautiful park in the heart of the city. I brought my camera and got a few photos that I like. Obviously I am a fan of HDR, although I usually do not like that grainy over-the-top-look of HDR done poorly. With that said, I really like one of the pictures of Ryan that I took while I was out and I like this photo with the over-the-top-look.


Grays Lake Des Moines, Early Evening



Ryan Carney, Des Moines, Grays Lake



Random Folks, Grays Lake Des Moines

Spring in Des Moines

Spring is here. It has been a wonderful two weeks in Des Moines. The weather has been warm and sunny. The days are getting longer with plenty of outdoor time to be had. I am learning the extensive bike trails around the city, a lot of these run along the riverbank. (A few stretches still have four inches of mud covering them from the flooding a couple of weeks ago making them nearly impassable.) The goal here is to be ready for RAGBRAI this summer. The Registers Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), is a week long bike ride that tracks across the state of Iowa in daily stages from east west to east. This year the seven day trek will cover 442 miles. RAGBRAI is a great way to see Iowa and rural Americana.

WordPress rocks, I am SO lazy, and a promise.

Ok, so, I wrote every day of my road trip and I looked forward to my daily post. I vowed ahead of time that I would and I did. Setting the goal of writing daily and then saying so on the blog made it more important for me to actually write a daily post. Now for the commitment. I am going to post daily for the next year. I really like writing, I really like photography and videography. The posts are going to be a bit of all of these things. If I don’t, I’m just lazy….

French Onion Soup in Des Moines

Tonight I braved the crazy cold and mind numbing boredom of a Monday night in wintertime Des Moines in search of a good bowl of French onion soup. Before I even left the house, I entertained the idea of making my OWN FOS by hitting up google to steer me towards a recipe that would make kick-ass food. I found one without difficulty, but the recipe called for over two hours of preparation before I would actually be tasting the goods. So, out I went. For some reason I had it in my head that River Mile would have good French onion soup, nope. I hit five or six other places on Court Ave, no luck. My big break came at Zen’s where I stopped to have Sake. The bartender, a helpful chap, said that Django would be the place to go. (Django is about fifty yards from my door at home. How was I to know?) So Django, and a very apt bartender named Elizabeth hooked me up with a FANTASTIC bowl of the good stuff with broiled cheese, bread crumbs and excellent onions. (Django is an upscale place and Elizabeth seemed right at home there) Great soup and two Newcastles later I was headed for home, happy. Now I know where to get the goods when it is crazy cold outside in Des Moines.


Three weeks of Life 3.0 – Driving the Pacific Northwest


I made it. Me and the mighty Pacific

Some pics from the trip.

Trying to boil this three week trip into a comprehensive synopsis may prove difficult. It was a trip that had been loosely on the drawing board all summer long  (since somewhere around the time of the southern US driving trip.)  My main goals of the trip were to visit Portland, drive the Pacific Coast Highway and visit my dad in Pahrump, Nevada. To that end I accomplished those goals. The wonderful bonuses of the trip were all the things that I did not anticipate going into the drive. First and foremost I LOVE the solitude of driving by myself. I am perfectly happy inside my own head driving with an audio book letting new vistas wash over my eyes through my windshield. It is a Zen-like experience for me. I tend to get bored easily, but not while I am driving. At no point was I weary of driving even with the 5500 miles of it on this trip. Also unexpected on the trip were the beautiful things along the way that I did not know existed. Twin falls in Idaho, part of the Snake River Canyon, was breathtaking. It was not really tourist season and the temperature was cool along my route. This actually made the trip better for me. There was a huge parking lot for visitors at Twin Falls and I was the only car there. It was as if the whole thing was just for me. Other unexpected natural wonders came during the last 45 miles into Portland, driving the Columbia River highway (US 84). The highway snakes along the Columbia River valley with mountains flanking both sides of the river. Numerous waterfalls emerge from the mountains along the route. I had no idea all of it was there.

Couchsurfing also played an integral part in the success of the trip and although I have surfed a lot before it never ceases to amaze me how wonderful people are everywhere. I met some very interesting people along the way and glimpsed into the lives of people who are very different than I in so many ways.    Equally unforeseen was how long it would take to get down the PCH with the sightseeing involved. Ultimately San Francisco and Los Angeles were culled from the trip. (It WILL be a separate trip). My original plan was to head from Las Vegas back up through Denver and cut across the middle of the United States to get back home. Due to some winter weather I detoured to a more southerly route that included Phoenix, Albuquerque and Tulsa. All unplanned, yet wonderful, stops in my journey. Thanks to this detour I met a couple of hitchhikers in Santa Rosa and took them to Henryetta, Oklahoma. They were fascinating people and the 500 miles that we rode together certainly flew by.

The things that I expected to be wonderful, were. Visiting Portland with Christine was delightful. She was a wonderful hostess and lives in a really kick-ass town. She promised me micro brews before I even arrived and instead delivered a frickn winter micro brew FESTIVAL that was fantastic!   It was downtown Portland and had a wonderful assortment of beers from all around the Pacific Northwest. She has a great little apartment in a suburb called Lake Oswego with a wonderful couch. We also hit Multnomah Falls (the picture with the bridge across the waterfall). Local bars in Lake Oswego had great beers on tap and were lively.

PCH, which I expected to be a cornerstone of the trip, certainly was. I drove it from Tillamook, Oregon to Eureka, California. It was beautiful every bit of the drive, and pulling over for the ‘scenic overlooks’ was practically mandatory. I shot close to an hour of video from various places on the coast during frequent view stops. Visiting my dad in Pahrump, Nevada was great as well. The atomic bomb museum in Vegas was fantastic and they had a stupendous collection of ‘ground zero’ artifacts. The south detour through Phoenix, and then New Mexico was uneventful and did not have a lot of scenery as compared to the rest of the drive although I did manage to get a sunset picture just outside of Albuquerque.

The cost of this trip was nominal considering the three weeks of entertainment and lifetime of memories involved. I averaged 27 miles per gallon for 5500 or so miles for a total of 203 gallons of gas. Approximate average per gallon rate during my trip was $2.60 for a total of $530 worth of gas. I couchsurfed or stayed with friends or family all but three of the nights. (Three nights were hotel nights, 35 dollar/night average for the hotels including a 33 dollar stay at the Excaliber in Vegas) so 105 for hotels. I ate peanut butter and honey on tortillas one or two meals a day and when I ate out it was inexpensive. I probably checked out of the three weeks for a total of less than $950 and had a spectacular time of it. 

I am not sure where my future plans will take me although I am thinking a one week stay in Washington, D.C. and a one week stay in Manhattan will be in the next trip, couchsurfing of course….

Thanks for reading

Mark Miner

My buddy for 5500 miles.

My buddy for 5500 miles.


The final route

Day 20, Branson to DSM! (HOME SWEET HOME)

Home today from the 5500 mile plus trip. It was Fantastic. I will write a synopsis soon….

Here are some pics… some are similar or the same as ones from the blog some are completely new.  All are redone.