We had planned to be somewhere in New Mexico, settled in an RV park with good Internet connections so we could live-stream our “What Does This Button Do?” show on Sunday (4/16) but the RV had other plans. The fan broke in the engine compartment with a loud BANG, then proceeded to punch holes in the radiator, shroud, and hoses. Coolant drained out and the engine shut down, leaving us on the side of I-40 waiting for a tow. Luckily a repair facility was not far away. Unluckily, parts would need to come from far away, and it was a holiday (Easter) weekend, nothing could be done for 3 days.
With all these lemons thrown at us, we had the opportunity to make some pretty delicious lemonade. You see, the repair facility is in a town called Seligman, Arizona, just about 40 miles from Williams where the train leaves to take you to the Grand Canyon. We have been to the Grand Canyon before, but it’s been on our bucket list to take that train and stay overnight in the Canyon at the El Tovar hotel. Most people make reservations for the El Tovar up to a year in advance. We called on Friday and they had a room for us on Saturday! Our towed vehicle was just fine, so getting to Williams was not a problem.
There was actually enough Verizon signal at the rim (barely), that we were able to do a few minutes of live streaming from Youtube.
Photo and Video Opportunities
Having SO many beautiful sights gave us opportunities to exercise everything we know about taking photos and videos! Four things stand out:
- Dawn and Dusk are the Best!
- HDR almost makes the picture as awesome as reality
- Smartphones have some amazing settings and modes
- Taking pictures is one thing, Making pictures is even better
Dawn and Dusk are the best!
We would not want to visit the canyon without being there at dawn and dusk. We even got up at 5:30 am to get our shots! That’s ok, the restaurant had no line for breakfast at 6:30 – any other time there was at least a 30 minute wait.
|Photo taken mid-day||Same scene at dawn|
HDR almost makes the picture as awesome as reality.
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and it’s been in the professional photographer’s toolbox for a long time. But they had to take several pictures of the same scene then put them together with post-processing tools in order to create a composite photo that combines all the individual photos and exposures. With smartphones today, all that processing can be done right in camera app on your phone!
The 3 photos above were taken with my Canon T3i digital SLR camera using the Auto Exposure bracketing feature. I hold down on the shutter and it takes 1. over exposed, 2. normal exposure and 3. underexposed. I don’t like any of those three photos, they’re so bland. After uploading to Google photos, it notices these 3 shots in a row and automatically combines them into an HDR like that below. If you are a Geeks on Tour member, here is a tutorial video on making HDRs using 3 separate exposures.
Here is an HDR photo just as it was snapped from my phone, using the Pro HDR app.
Play with all the different options on your phone’s camera app.
Example, if you have a mode called “Virtual Tour” or “Photosphere” give it a shot. For Geeks on Tour members, here is a tutorial video on making photospheres. Try clicking on this picture and moving it around – there’s a lot more to it!
“Taking” pictures and “Making” pictures
Of course, you want to take the best pictures you can, but with today’s editing tools, you will be amazed at the pictures you can “Make” afterwards. We now consider our original photo as a starting point! Using Google Photos, and the companion Snapseed app, you can have so much fun just improving the photos with a couple taps on your phone.
|Take this photo||to Make this photo|
|Google Photos: crop, auto, pop
|Snapseed: HDR Scape
|Snapseed: crop, HDR Scape, Text
Smartphones are great video cameras! Just take 20 seconds of video occasionally and you’ll be glad you did. Then you can put together cool little movies with just a couple clicks using Google Photos.
- Select the photos and video clips you want included in your movie
- Click the + in the upper right and choose Movie
- Google Photos will automatically add music
If you are a Geeks on Tour member, here is a tutorial video about options for making movies with Google Photos on Android.
To see more of our photos, check out our personal blog and the Our Photo Albums page. The Grand Canyon photos will be in April 2017.