Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Took a Walk

I had an errand to run in a nearby (nearby being relative in Texas) town and decided to explore a park that I haven't visited in a very long time.  There was a nature trail, but being by myself I chose to only go as far as the boardwalks (I had the entire park to myself).  I heard a few birds singing as well as a bullfrog, but otherwise I didn't see any wildlife.  I took a few photos of the landscape, which looked like bottomland hardwoods - typical of what can be found alongside bayous and creeks.  Since we've had some rain there was green - nice to see instead of everything brown & dying.

boardwalk over wetland/floodplain areas, 50mm lens
This is a processed photo - I adjusted the RAW exposure & fused them so that all the colors of the wet, weathered wood of the boardwalk would show.  As an experiment I adjusted the saturation & brightness in the RAW file for comparison & while the photo colors/tones were nearly identical - the detail of the colors in the wood just came out better in the fused version. 

blooming citrus, 105mm macro lens
This was about the only thing I saw blooming - a wild citrus bush.  I learned the story about these particular plants at another park - they were brought to the area in the late 1800s to use as root stock for growing more delicate citrus because they were so tough.  Obviously they are - even though they are not cultivated or used for growing crops - these bushes are still around (and have become naturalized).  They have very mean thorns which I thought was a nice contrast to their delicate white blooms.  This is SOOC - only cropped - no adjustments, nothing.

fern, 50mm lens
This bright green fern growing on the tree really caught my eye.  I believe it is resurrection fern and considering the foggy, rainy/misty day we've had I'm sure this was a happy plant.  It was truly bright green and always nice to find in the woods.  Another SOOC with only cropping - no adjustment. 

I've been carrying only 2 lenses since I'm trying to pack my camera everywhere I go, forcing me to get creative with what I have with me and improve with what I have.   I've also decided to try & discover more parks closer to home where I can take a few pictures, preferrably with some type of nature trail rather than a sports park.

But the best news of the day:  My 85mm lens came back from the shop - 5 weeks early - from getting that busted UV filter off - totally made my week.  Hope someone else had surprise/good news for the week, or at least was able to go outside and take a walk.  What did you see/photograph?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Focus 52 week 8 - Light

Yes - more horse pictures, but like I've mentioned - I spend a LOT of time here.  Took this one specifically for the Focus 52 prompt - Light.  I am not always able to make use of natural light or even a flash in the situation of taking lesson riding pictures at dusk.  Moving objects coming/going out of the light provided by overhead arena lights makes for quite the challenge.  I never expect these to be one of the photo-perfect images, but more of a representation of my daughter's (& my) dedication to what she loves - she's out there in the dark, cold, rain, extreme heat - whatever to ride those horses. 

For those who are curious - I used my 50mm f1.4 lens, hand held (tripod may have helped, but when helping tack up & lead horses to the arena, less gear is always better).  I cheated (although I love those pre-set settings) & used the "sports" setting on my camera, so it would give the single focus point & no chance of the flash popping up (not a fan of flash anyway).  This is straight out of the camera - no adjustments other than a bit of cropping - no brightening, straightening, fusing, nothing (although I did take a few other "landscape" type photos to play with - no moving objects - just fences, trees & the sky).

To see other Light photos - visit Two Scoopz Focus 52.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Sepia Phase

I feel like I'm going through a phase, a sepia-toned phase.  Every image that I have been taking/processing in the past week I have been putting through a bit of sepia toning (if that is even the correct term).  I'll be the first to admit that I'm still a learning beginner with the post processing. but I'm trying (I refused to even think of doing this 2 years ago).  Participating in a few photo challenges this year has me thinking more about the photos before I take them & slowed my usual amount of spitting out images in hopes of getitng 1 good/usable one.  I feel I am getting better control over the images coming into the camera. 

The above were taken on Galveston Island with the purpose of practicing some post processing.  I had taken similar pictures in the past, but saw a few things I wanted to do differently (angle, amount of main subject in frame, & where did that bush come from?).  For these images I used my 50mm f1.4 lens, adjusted the RAW file to create +2 & -2 exposure JPEG images to fuse with the out of the camera pic.  In the fusing software, I chose black & white (a previous phase that I will definitely return to), with a saturation of 30% or 50% (wanted just a hint of color back in).  Back to photoshop for a tad bit of straightening & the sepia filter tone at 50% or 80% (just a touch of to add texture to the fence), then maybe a tiny crop to balance it all out.  I have to laugh at myself - this process would take forever at first, but now I can go through these steps rather quickly which makes going through several images a lot less time consuming (thank goodness - my computer time was taking over my day). 

My last thought on these -- at least they aren't horse pictures!!!  But don't worry more horses are in my future... show season starting back up.  Do you also get stuck in a phase when learning a new processing trick?  Do you find it helps your overall photography or hinders you in that you only see how you can process a photo rather than appreciate the skill used to capture the original image?  Personally I'm hoping for a happy medium at some point.

For comparison - here are the original, straight out of the camera, no processing (other than to lower the resolution for web upload) images. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Exploring With a Camera - Silhouettes

For those who read my blog - I'm sorry for yet another horse photo, but I do spend a lot of time at this place, in this arena, watching this scene - a lot.  However I needed something for the silhouette prompt at Exploring with a Camera (Kat Eye Studio).  This wasn't taken at the usual sunrise/sunset time, but in the middle of the afternoon on a bright sunny day.  I sat in the middle of the covered arena (in the shade) and looked outward (toward the sun) at her riding, and the silhouette was created.  Thought I would add a touch of sepia to change it up a bit.  For those who are curious (or horse savvy) - this is a working trot rising, allowing the horse to deeply round/stretch - she was also working on her stretchy circles - good thing to let your horse stretch.

To look at other wonderful silhouettes (that aren't all horses) - check out Kat Eye Studio's Silhouettes.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Galveston Mardi Gras & Street Photography

After a week of off/on rainy, cloudy, and cool weather - but we decided to venture down to Galveston to check out a little of Mardi Gras.  Visiting during the day we hoped to see some interesting sights, but not the shocking/interesting sights that "might" be around at night.  This (I thought) would also be a great opportunity for me to really step outside of my comfort zone & attempt some street photography.  At least this post will be entertaining & include more pictures than usual (and these are all straight out of the camera - maybe straightened & cropped - but no crazy HDR or adjustments - just photos).

View looking down the Strand (street)

We drove to the Strand/Historic district & found out that admission to just walk on the streets was $17/person - so we ended up people watching from behind the fence - for free.  Luckily we caught a parade & they threw us beads too - even though we were behind the "designated" area.  We didn't find out if kids were free - the $17/adult was more than our budget would allow (we planned to eat out too - not to mention the $10 to pay for event parking). 

The parade was short, but we still caught enough beads.
Police horses were decked out in Mardi Gras beads too.
We were looking for interesting people as well (my entire family enjoys people watching), here's a few who caught our eye - there were some more elaborately dressed, but my introvert self just couldn't point the camera directly at them for a picture.  I cheated & used a longer lens for most of these, then cropped to get closer.  Street photography is such a giant step outside of my comfort zone - I easily took pictures of the people as they were walking away from me & sometimes that accidently worked for the best. 

Not sure where this guy got those huge beads - they didn't look very comfortable to wear.
Some parties were throwing beads from the balconies of historic buildings - some of the buildings now have loft apts.

Here's my comfort view for street photography - taking pictures of people as they walk away -- interesting head piece - sometimes what people have on the backside is more interesting than their frontside.

Beautiful Mardi Gras head piece
And one of my attempts at straight-on street photography (from my safe distance, using my long lens) - but I figure it is a step forward.  I still think the guy knew I was taking his picture.. not sure if he liked it or not (maybe he was just cold - it is February after all).

Unknown man walking away from the party - but he was still "inside" the fence.
And finally - my other attempt at real street photography & I used a 50mm for this one, so I was relatively close.  The guy's shoes were very interesting - they were platform, but with holes - like they were made for comfort.  This was outside of a Starbucks right outside of the Strand area, so not sure if he came from the party or was a Starbucks employee.  You can't see the shoes as well as I wanted to - but the anxiety this picture caused me was ridiculous. 

I put in B&W like I've seen other street pictures.
I really wanted to take a picture of an elderly man inside Starbucks - reading his book, listening to everyone's conversation (he would smile from time to time & look up), but he was too close to us & I just couldn't muster up that kind of courage (but I did think about it). My husband is so encouraging - he said "just do it" -- yeah easy for him to say - he would only wear 1 bead necklace -- so yeah he's really the show-off kind of guy (not).

I'm happy I at least tried to capture more of the street happenings, even if at a safe distance.  We had a good time on the Island; watching crazy people surf (had decent waves - for Galveston), people starting to really party, ate somewhere we've never been to before, and wrapped it by taking night pictures along the seawall - lighted fishing piers, seawall traffic, etc.  It was good to get out - even if the weather wasn't perfect.   What adventure have you taken lately - a spur of the moment one?  And how do you get the courage take strangers' pictures that close up?


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Black & White + Something

Just wanted to quickly share what I've recently started enjoying.  Black and white photos with just a hint of color added in - all over color/tint, not just a selected item.  This looks reminds me of the old black & white photos that were hand colored - watercolor (I have a set of Johnson Brothers dishes from my grandmother that use this effect - although it is more sepia - but I won't split hairs).  Anyway this is another HDR/fused photo that I slid the saturation bar all the way to 0, then just so slightly slid it back to add just that of touch in.  I can't wait to use this with other situations/images.  My other alternative reason for posting quickly -- I couldn't stand looking at my attempt at still life & wanted to move that posting down just a bit so it wouldn't look at me everytime I got onto my blog.  For those who were kind/encouraging - I really do thank you - but obviously I do much better with living horses out in the real world.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Focus 52 (2012) Week 6 - Still Life

Although something I've never done before, I was excited about this week's prompt.  I originally had in mind those darned lemons from my tree, but they aren't cooperating & are still clinging tightly to the branches.. (side note:  can't make lemon bars yet either).  So with the week nearly over & still no photo or even a thought about how/what to photograph I seriously checked out everyone else's submitted photos to get ideas. 

What I came up with was one of my daughter's Breyer horses with a silver sparkly halter, her show bow (with silver adornments) and one of her high point ribbons to add a bit of color.  I noticed that in many photos the background was very important, but I just did the best I could (thought about sticking this horse in the yard/grass - but we are having a rainy day), and draped black material under & behind the objects.  With this look I could go for black & white with a shot of color.  Obviously I need to work on my lighting.  I hardly ever use a flash - I LOVE natural lighting & have bought f1.4 lenses so I could use as much natural light as possible.... but when there is no natural light (really rainy day), I resorted to a lamp... regular desk lamp at that.  I think this will be one of those areas of photography that I will just enjoy everyone else's wonderful images... I can honestly say I compose other types of scenes/photos better (& easier/less frustration).

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Paperwork Day

I admit it; I purposely didn't focus this scene - didn't want anyone to see how there isn't one thing checked off my task list; not to mention the growing mound of paper that needs attention.  So, today will be devoted to paperwork - just those little things like paying the bills (for some reason people/businesses want their money), filing, cutting coupons, updating calendar, making lists and just generally finding the top of this workspace.  It is seriously not one of my funner days, but I can't be outside or taking pictures all the time. 

This year we are working on our clutter, and I'm trying to get into a better routine for myself, which includes setting aside 1 day/week for this activity.  Also I'm planning 1 day/week to do nothing but take pictures - whether in my backyard or elsewhere.  That way I won't be trying to squeeze in my photography around everyone else's activities, while the house continues to function & not implode (I'm hoping).

I dread today so much - I'm already procrastinating (I'm blogging for goodness sakes).  Does anyone else have a set schedule or any ideas on time management that works for them?  Sometimes I feel like the older women who back in the day had a specific "washing day," but I'm all for it if it works.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Weekend Rewind (feb 6 2012)

This weekend was so busy I think I missed it - I know I missed sitting in my chair doing nothing for a little while.  We had the usual sports game to attend of course, but I also squeezed in a trip to the beach.  I had some specific shots in mind (actually re-taking some that I thought I could do better with - loved the components, but operator error/judgement).  These gulls looked like they were talking to each other - can only imagine what was being said. I think over the course of the weekend we also experienced all four seasons - it happens every winter & we still wonder why we are all sick. 

This morning I've been working on catching up the laundry, making my never-ending lists (to-do, grocery) and can't forget going through some of the pictures from the weekend (I could easily waste all day messing with them), drinking my hot tea with honey to help with the junk in my throat, eating a snack (so I can take aleve for my sorenss - getting older is not always fun), and listening to movie soundtracks while I work (not the pop-tune soundtracks - but the musical scores) on the computer.  I may need an intervention afterwards - some of the music created for movies is very emotional (especially when you've seen the movies several times -- Harry Potter - specifically #7, part 1 & 2), and the music sometimes really affects my mood - but I can't help it - I love it (and no one is around to tell me turn it off or even turn it down). 

Hope everyone had a great weekend.  I'll let you know how successful I was in prying that filter off my camera - that's on my list today too.

How could I forget -- our usual weekend trip to the barn.  Couldn't resist a little HDR - clouds were cooperating - just asking me to take their picture.

My daughter stretches before riding - the horse wanted to watch.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


This is NOT what you want to see when you take off the lens cap.  Obviously I bumped it at some point - and the good news - I had already taken the pictures I wanted with that lens.  Also good news - this is the UV filter, I'm pretty sure the lens itself is fine.  Bad news -- the filter rim is bent & won't come off - going to try to gently pry it off since I need this lens -- can't wait for weeks for it to come back from the shop with warranty repair & I really don't want to pay to have it done quickly.  So, boys & girls, our lesson learned today -- ALWAYS put some kind of filter on your lens - if nothing else it helps protect the expensive lens in many ways (this is my 85mm f1.4 lens that I had to wait months for to be in stock last year).

UPDATE:  In the shop & waiting... 6-8 weeks....

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Focus 52 (2012) Week 5 - Cold

This week's prompt of "Cold" truly gave me fits.  Following was a few of my thoughts while trying to figure out what I could photograph to represent that prompt:
Weather - it has been in the mid 70s around here, so definitely no snow & not even chilly (in some areas I've seen wildflowers starting to bloom)
Object - yes ice and even a cold glass of water are cold, but I did obvious with another prompt.  I would however save this idea just in case nothing came to mind (maybe some different lighting behind the glass? - just thoughts)
Animals - I did think about the many red breasted robins who were gathering in my backyard.  We only see them in the winter (when it is supposed to be cold).  They must have heard my thoughts, as soon as I went to get my camera - they all flew away & didn't return until 2 days later - seriously.
People - I don't know anyone right now who has a cold (did think the picture with the cold medicines was great - thinking out of the box - which is obviously something I was having difficulty with).  You can see that photo here
Feelings - I drew a blank here too - our family really gets along & enjoys each other's company. I don't think my goofy kids could even fake a cold shoulder to each other. 

Friday morning I was walking out of my front door to pick up a friend - looked up - & immediately knew what my "cold" photo was going to be.... an abandoned bird's nest.  Usually birds line their nests with softness (feathers, animal hair, moss, etc) and the mothers sit to keep the eggs all snuggly & warm.  This nest was falling apart, never to be used again - so it felt cold (and sad).  Not sure if I did the right post-processing on it - may need to calm down some of my experimentation, but I think everyone gets the idea.  (thinking I really needed this to be as stark as possible with no hint of color in the background, & maybe a bit of cropping would have gotten more of the focus on the nest?  - I'll eventually get all this figured out - at least better).

Is anyone else approaching these weekly prompts like a school project?  brainstorming, outlining, laying out?  or is just my analytical self?

Although I did seriously struggle with this week's prompt - I am really enjoying this process.  I've never commited to a photo project like this & I am loving it.