Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Focus 52 (2012) Week 12 - Minimal

Although the image qualities weren't exactly what I wanted - I think it is a representation of this week's prompt --  minimal. 

Cormorant on piling

This was taken near Galveston Bay.  Obviously a very windy day with large crashing whitecaps.  Our area was expecting a front that was bringing severe thunderstorms along for the ride (a few tornado/funnel clouds as well).  The pilings may be casualties from a hurricane - a  destroyed pier not yet rebuilt. 

Sometimes it is calming to look at images without a lot of clutter.  Joining in Two Scoopz Focus 52 - click here to see other images that represent minimal.

I messed around with the RAW file, making a few adjustments (even worked a little fusing/HDR - but I didn't like the result) and eventually settled on making it black & white (keeping the few RAW adjustments).  105mm macro lens (what I had with me at the time)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Weekend Rewind (3-19-12)

Weather-wise it was a beautiful weekend, great for fun activities and those that just needed to be done (mowing etc).  We did get the opportunity to visit Galveston for a day trip and as usual I wasn't disappointed in the beautiful flowers and landscaping around the island. 

The Colonel paddleboat docked at Moody Gardens
Post processing for the image - HDR - sorry - the clouds & water were just asking for more than the SOOC image showed.  But I did hold back on any "funky" processing & attempted to just enhance the details, shadows & highlights.  On to the flower pictures.

bottlebrush - attracts butterflies
Several of the plants/bushes were small - I imagine businesses are having to replant after the tremendous drought & heat we experienced last year.

Hibiscus -- or as my family says "Hi"-biscus (sometimes our humor is a bit off)

I did a little processing on the pink hibiscus image, trying to bring out the delicate petals and the tiny lines in each one.  I haven't jumped onto the texture plug-in fun yet, but thinking this one might be a good one to try.  Any suggestions on textures?  (free ones preferred)

Hibiscus - bright red against the cloudless sky
I posted this on Wonderland's Earth Wonders recent photo challenge for Favorite Color - realizing that the older I get, the more I am drawn to the color red. 

Meyer Lemons

FINALLY!!!! Those lemons came off the tree - dang drought - these were supposed to be off the tree around Christmas, but they just didn't finish juicing up until recently.  Actually I was taking them off - whether they were ready or not - there are flowers & the beginnings of new lemons already budding out - the tree needed the energy for the new growth.  Lemon Bars this week!!  (trivia - we picked 48 lemons)

weed-filled flower bed
And onto the monarch waystation project.  This is an existing bed in our yard that we haven't weeded in 2 years (obviously) - 107 degrees & the ground felt like concrete - just didn't encourage me to work in the dirt.  This is quite a bit smaller than our original waystation, but since we no longer have the time to devote to a large habitat - this (& other smaller beds) will be our new efforts towards helping out the monarchs.  I plan to move these pics to a "page" on my blog & post updates there - look for "My Backyard" page soon.  I'll dig up some old pics of the waystation in it's glory - it was beautiful.

The Duranta bush survived!! It is probably very happy to have some breathing room.
Not replanted yet (the reason for the "in progress") - just the weeding was an ordeal - and found a few surprises among the weeds, a living duranta bush (also great butterfly attractor) - he'll get to stay & live among the new plants.  My plan for this bed is zinnias (easy to grow, no maintenance, butterflies LOVE them) and milkweed all mixed together.  Probably not what a lot of gardeners agree as the best plan, but it provides nectar plants (zinnia) and host plants (milkweed) all in one convenient space.  The trellis in the background (not in the final position) will hold up morning glories - just because I like them. 

Hope everyone had a good weekend & didn't over-do it like we did.  We will enjoy the flowers later, but wow I'm sore in places I didn't know could get sore.  If anyone has suggestions on texture plug-ins - I'd like to hear them.  Did you notice something missing from my post?? no horse activities!! - actually we did make a trip to the barn so my daughter could ride, but it was a low-key visit - just an easy ride to stretch & exercise the horse, wash tails - barn chores - didn't take an entire afternoon - we (I) needed a break.

Image details:  50mm & 105mm macro -- the only lenses I've carried lately - in my attempts to "travel light" most images SOOC except where specified.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Focus 52 (2012) Week 11 - Green or Luck

Thankfully this week's prompt wasn't difficult to find a response - only because of all the rain we've been having.  We are overcoming our drought and some of the landscapes are looking closer to normal (although many trees and plants did not survive).  Saw this guy and a few of his friends hanging around an abundance of greenery - searching for the perfect spot to form their chrysalis and change to monarch butterflies. Here's my green & my luck - feeling lucky that we found them and they are a sign that things are slowly returning to normal (as long as the rain continues).

4th stage instar, monarch caterpillar - will be making his anchor thread soon
My kids were with me when we found these caterpillars; in a very public (tourist) place - sure hope they survive - the monarch population has been suffering as well (loss of habitat).  This image reminded us of our recent past - we had a monarch waystation in our backyard... we raised monarchs and tagged them at a certain time of year for tracking to their over-wintering habitat in Mexico.  Our waystation was destroyed in a hurricane several years ago, and got busy/caught up in daily activities and never recreated it.  We didn't realize how much we missed watching, feeding, monitoring them and other insects that found their way to our backyard, so we talked about replanting a small portion of our yard to attract the monarchs and others.  I will definitely keep everyone updated on our progress - we haven't dug in the dirt in a while and although I know I'm going to be extremely sore (that seems to be the story of my life lately), I can't wait to get started!!

The University of Kansas developed the Monarch Watch organization many years ago - their website contains very interesting information about tagging, creating habitats, biological information, and a shop where you can purchase books and other items that are monarch related or decorated.  I hope you'll check them out at Monarch Watch - and even better - plant a few nectar and/or host plants among your other flowers - it is very easy to help out these beautiful insects.

Linking up with Focus 52 at Two Scoopz  - click here to see other images of green or luck.

UPDATE:  Forgot to include camera/lens info in the original posting:  105mm macro lens, slight cropping otherwise SOOC

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Horse Activity Hangover

This week has flown by; mostly because we've been getting ready, attending, and unpacking/cleaning from a horse riding clinic my daughter attended.  My body is not moving very quickly - seriously feels like I've stayed up all night (for several nights), ran a marathon - even my thinking is slowed (hence the "hangover" reference).  Here's a quick shot:

British gold medalist Leslie Law watches my daughter ride.
A few details from this event:

- the clinic was held about 1-1/2  hours from our barn, which meant I got the pleasure (stress) of trailering her, the horse & another quite large horse to the location (not to mention the loading/unloading fun).  I've pulled a popup camper before, and a few ponies a short distance, but not these full-sized heavy horses in this particular trailer to a place I've never been, through a major city, all highways and a few tall/steep bridges thrown in just for added excitement.   In the end - we got there on time, and made it home all in one piece. (We didn't go alone - her trainer was already there, so we were essentially meeting others from our barn)

- the clinician was Leslie Law, British eventer who won an individual gold medal in the 2004 Summer Olympics, so needless to say this was a great opportunity for my daughter & not something we will/could do often.  He was very nice & she really enjoyed the lesson.

-although this is what we came for, he worked her & the horse for a solid hour - full out big, forward, fancy trot work - more than she's ever done with this horse and she handled it well (she & the horse were tired), but sometimes those "momma nerves" really get me.   (She doesn't jump - strictly a dressage rider, although she has jumped ponies in the past - not her favorite thing - yet)  My daughter's comment was:  The horse felt like he grew an entire hand & was in off-property "show" gear/mode, but she did enjoy it - guess it is like those adrenalin rushes.

-back to the barn the day after (we unloaded at 9:00pm - too dark to do anything even if we had the energy) to clean out the trailer (was a poop-fest; big horses leave big poop), wash it out, put all the tack away, just general clean up/out - not hard work, but messy & has to be done.  I will say this for my daughter - she jumps in there & just takes care of it, without complaining or fussing and she gives her best effort - she realizes this is part of the "going off-property" experience

Discussing leg & heel placement
My funny stories of the day (from my daughter):

- during this one-on-one discussion of leg & heel placement, he asked her if she always rode in all this "pink"? (her saddle pad is white & pink edged with her initial in pink & some rhinestones (it was a gift from a friend), the fleecy is also pink - my daughter's favorite color, but the combination of the thickness/thinness of those 2 pads are what makes the horse comfortable/happy)  Her reply:  "it's what he likes" - he refers to the horse, Leslie Law just said "oh okay"

- during the lesson, the horse had a lot of lipstick - seriously it was dripping out, flying around, etc... my daughter said some of it flew into her mouth and it tasted like grain/grass.... okay... my first question -- why are you riding with your mouth open (actually she was probably smiling so big - she was so excited about this), and my 2nd question - how do you know what grain tastes like?  Not sure I want to hear that answer. 

This little "event" has totally thrown off my weekly schedule as well as my sleep, energy, etc.  Trying to get back on track has been difficult, especially when I see all the things I haven't even thought about tackling (laundry, photos for prompts/challenges, not to mention my family might like to see food in the refrigerator). 

Sure hope everyone who has spring break this week is having a great time.  We are still planning a few things that require much less effort - trying for more of the "break" this week.  Please pass the aleve (again). 

Photo details:  50mm, SOOC - only slight cropping
(I haven't had time to think about processing lately - my sister would be happy about that - she doesn't like my learning/playing with post-processing)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Weekend Rewind (3-12-12)

We had a relatively low-key weekend because of the rain - so much rain.  I've blogged about the drought in this area and posted pictures of its effects, but Mother Nature -- it really wasn't necessary for us to receive our entire month's worth of rain in 3 days.  I borrowed this image from the Weather Channel online (love that site), this is not the final total for the month - they still have to add in rainfall totals since midnight Monday, so I expect us to be over our average (and further down the drought classification - we are definitely making progress).

graphic from www.weather.com
Saturday we stopped at an art walk in a nearby community - it was their first one and the weather definitely affected visitor attendance and vendors/artist participation.  However with the smaller crowd we were able to talk with the artists and watch a few work without being bumped into (my family doesn't care for crowds).  Those who braved the threatening weather presented some very interesting pieces - beautiful wood carvings, decoratively painted palm fronds, kitchen utensils hand-carved from reclaimed food-safe wood. 

hand carved serving spoons - reclaimed/salvaged woods
The painted palm fronds were mostly fish themed, but my daughter managed to find and purchase one that had been painted and slighted cut (for mouth) into a horse (no surprise there).  This was her first art purchase - hope she keeps it for a long time and remembers how her & her brother initially tried to complain about making this quick sidetrip - only to really find all the booths (and the artists) very interesting. (side story:  my daughter didn't bring any money with her - her brother just happened to have some spare cash on him - so he offered it up - they even hugged each other in public without me prompting them & she said thank-you!!  I've done something right!!)   Some of the artists hadn't quit their "day jobs" yet - they were local and somewhat getting their start.
brightly painted palm fronds become fish - a lot of salt water varieties
The rain - Sunday brought even heavier rains - and the one catastrophe from it all -- my wax myrtle tree.  Although I know the drought had a hand in weakening it; all the rain made it's feet soggy -it just couldn't hold on.  Hurricane Ike really started the tree's decline - it was never the same after losing one of the major branches.

at least it fell AWAY from the house & roof
When it dries up a bit, we'll dig out what is left and replace it - probably with a crepe myrtle - they do well in this area and will add some color with the blooms (and won't take out the house in case of a bad storm/hurricane).  I was a bit surprised the wax myrtle didn't make it - it is a native tree and thought it would have been tougher/adjusted to changing conditions better - guess the drought was too much even for our natives. 

Image details:  50mm lens, SOOC, other than minimal cropping (I know I've used that 50mm a lot lately - it is just what has been on the camera body & it doesn't weigh a ton).

Hope everyone had better weather than we did & able to get outside to do something really fun.  Ironically - many of my past postings have involved our barn/horse activities - the weather was too bad to go to the barn this weekend -- so a horse-free post.  I'd like to hear what you did, so I can be jealous!!  Have a great week everyone!!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Focus 52 (2012) Week 10 - Words

Another challenging week (for me) in finding a suitable image for the "words" prompt.  I'm not trying to not make any political statement, but the words in this image seem to reflect the current times.  The small town/general region where I live wasn't affected nearly as much as others across the US, but it is still sad to see vacant, abandoned businesses.

This business/small strip center's exterior was recently remodeled, but still no new tennants.  This is part of an old, small neighborhood grocery store before there were gas stations/convenience stores on every corner.  It is a small miracle that the main business has survived (it was thriving when I was a kid) for nearly nearly 50 years (not same owner or store name - but still there). 

Although by far not one of my better photos, I think it is appropriate for the prompt.  It was also one of those stand in the parking lot in front of people to take it image (although I cheated & sat in my car - reason why it is taken from angle - too chicken to get out -- I'm working on being more comfortable with that - think I could do better in a different town where no one knows me).

Picture details:  50mm lens, fused to show more of the grunge on the windows, a little tonal adjustment and very minimal cropping

To see other's representation of "words" visit Two Scoopz.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Weekend Rewind (3-5-12)

It was one of those very fast, long, exhausting weekends - mainly a horse show weekend for us (well my daughter & me).  She rode well - first show she has cantered this horse - so that was the big hurdle, but she did great.  Here are a few shots from the weekend.

Did I mention she LOVES pink?  A barn friend gave her the pink/white saddle pad (has rhinestones on it too) for Christmas, matches her pink/black gloves & the pink peackock bands on the stirrups.  Although black and white is the preferred tack/clothes colors - this horse (not ours) loves the weight of this pad combined with the fleecy pad (also pink), so we do what makes the horse happy - if she loses a point or 2 overall, oh well.  If it was a really big important show, we would definitely try to find another saddle pad that exact thickness.  For some education/background - the white stuff in his mouth is spit - called lipstick - sometimes it gets thick & drips - but that is a good thing - means he is comfortable, connected, etc with the bit - things are going well. 

diamond pattern mane braid
My daughter (12 yrs old)  also had a chance to try her hand at mane braiding.  Again, not our horse - but a friend's who kindly let my daughter "have at it."  She has a braiding book & has been reading up on the different styles - this is an acceptable style for arabians (this is horse is arabian) and he was also going be ridden in the show - so perfect timing.  She did a really good job for her first try & it stayed in all day until she took it out that evening.  She has a few finishing touches to fine tune, but she's got the idea.

straight pin her her jacket seam
Here comes the bad mom part -- I had to alter her show coat a little so it wouldn"t be so boxy and accidently left a straight pin attached to the inside of the lining.  I didn't realize it until she was warming up just before her ride - it glistened in the sunshine - can I you how she felt about that?  I tried to bend it a bit so at least it wouldn't come loose, move around & stick her (or the horse) during her ride, but she really wasn't happy with me about this (can't blame her).  The only funny thing I could tell her was - sit up tall & straight & you won't get stuck.... this is kind of a joke, since that is one thing she is working on - sitting up taller than tall in the saddle. 

replaced the plain black buttons with a little more flashy silver toned button

Note about the jacket & my tip of the day --- I can't & won't buy an expensive dressage show coat for $175 & up - especially for a growing girl, so I buy a suit jacket from the boy's dept at Target.  This one I took in at the waist just a bit so it was a bit more fitted - when the pin incident happened.  I also buy the fancy/pretty buttons at JoAnns (fabric store) & replace all the buttons on the coat.  This jacket only had 2 front buttons & dressage coats are supposed to have 3 buttons... so I added a fake button towards the top & put a heavy duty snap to close the front - didn't do velcro closure since the horse doesn't like that sound (just in case it came undone during her ride).  So, my $29.99 purchase - (actually $19.99 since I had 2 - $5.00 gift cards) was turned into a dressage coat - buttons cost about $10.00, and a little of my time/effort.

Although she didn't place first (came in 2nd) - it was still a successful show - she rode well & performed some of the movements better than she had during her lessons (and didn't get stuck with that pin).  These events take up most of our weekends, but we do get to share it with good friends from our barn and meet others who come & show. 

I also tooks pics of all of our riders, and it will take days to go through them.  I can tell I've improved in a few aspects of (horse) photography - I didn't take 50 pictures of each rider, hoping to get 10 good ones - I averaged 20-25 of each rider & know that I will be able to get several good shots from that amount.  This time I also shot in RAW in addition to JPEG Fine - so I'll be able to adjust some things - it is really a challenge to shoot into shade - I can't enter the show arena, but stand outside (in the sun) & shoot into the shade of the covered arena - not to mention those horses aren't standing still.  My other job(s) of the weekend, besides photographer, mom, etc.. grounds crew, gatekeeper for the show -- nothing like multitasking -- now where's my aleve??

Other details:  all photos SOOC - only slight cropping, 85mm lens and 50mm lens; button pic - Droid phone (older model) camera

Hope everyone had a good weekend - our weather was perfect for spending time outside.  Hope no one over-worked themselves where they are feeling as sore (& exhausted)  as I am.

UPDATE:  I have also added the 1st image (daughter on horse with pink/white tack) to the weekly challenge found on Mom Tried It: Shoot.Edit,Submit.  Click here. to see other great submissions.  This is my first time to participate in this group.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Focus 52 (2012) Week 9 - J

Took me a few days to figure out what I could photograph for the letter J, and when I finally made my decision time started running out - so here's mine under the wire entry (almost).

Alto Sax & "Got Blues" sheet music
JAZZ  --- my word/photo for this week's prompt.  Sheet music ("Got Blues") & (my) alto saxophone, also representing one of my interests - playing my sax for a couple of groups.  This is the sax my parents bought for me (getting ready to age myself here) in 1976 & it is the one I still play.  The tune is one the student jazz band at our local community college is working on & it is one I really like.  Here's a link to a high school performing Got Blues - (this recording is not any group I know personally - searched for them on youtube on the chance anyone was curious about this kind of blues style of jazz).  The student jazz band at the college is a for-credit class where students learn how to play & understand the many facets of jazz music (many high school jazz bands no longer exist thanks to budget cuts).  I often sit in, along with a few other more experienced players, to help the students get the feel of the different styles of jazz (really helps keep my chops & my sight-reading skills in shape too - bonus).

As a funny side note:  I ended doing a still life (the one type of photography I'm really not good at - but felt I did a better job this time than I did for that week's prompt).  Loving the way the weekly prompts are making me work/think about my photos more.

Happy Birthday Jan!!  (mine is today!!) -- for other "J" photos - visit Two Scoopz

Friday, March 2, 2012

Photo-Heart Connection February 2012

Yes more horses, but not my daughter (this time).  I have to admit I've been waiting for this month's photo-heart connection to finally get here because as soon as I saw this image - I knew this was the one. 

Depicting real life at a horse farm, amidst all the fencing, standards, poles, & other farm stuff - owner/rider joins her horse in the paddock to bond before riding.  This is a barn friend of ours who lets her horse run in the outdoor arena before she rides her.  Although the horses are turned out daily (for most of the day), they usually hang out in the sun & enjoy the winter rye grass - so no need to really run & play & get rid of some energy - excess energy you don't want or need under saddle.  I was (obviously) standing a ways away & joked that I was her stalker photographer, but it was really nice to see them bond after the running around.  Together they walked back to the barn, horse totally locked onto her owner - no lead line needed (until you get out of that paddock) - horse willingly/respectfully following the owner (herd leader).  I enjoy watching the horses interact with each other and with their humans - you can tell a lot about the dynamics of their relationships.

To see other photo heart connections, visit Kat Eye Studio website.

The image was taken with a 105mm (macro) - it's what I had with me at the time; post processing  - desaturating, & a touch of sepia.  Some of the colors of the standards, poles were bright and distracted from what was going on behind the fence.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Took Another Walk

I enjoyed my walk so much the other day I decided to heck with everything; packed my lunch, drove to Brazos Bend State Park & spent several hours walking around and visiting with the volunteers.  The morning started out very overcast, a little foggy/sprinkle, but it warmed up fast and at times the sun shone brightly (welcome back 70 degree temps!!).  This park was hit hard by the drought, but  received nearly 7 inches of rain (according to Weather Channel) in February. Brazos Bend is known for the alligators and I wasn't disappointed. 

I talked to a young man from out of state who had never been there & he was a little freaked out by the experience of walking within feet of an alligator - he was worried about the children who visit.  My reply.... everyone must be careful... this isn't a zoo.  They do keep baby alligators in the nature center for touching/petting and up close examination - but visitors need to remember this park belonged to the alligators first.  One of the signs (don't know if it is new) said - don't enter the water - leave the water for the alligators.  With that message in mind, there is no swimming or boating at this park (for good reason).  Hope you enjoy a few pictures from my latest walk. 

40 acre lake - nice to see all the water

bull alligator - missing front right foot
This poor guy - missing his front right foot, but it didn't stop him from running off a smaller alligator who got too close.  He seemed to be getting around fine & it looked to be an older, healed injury.  I'm assuming a boy/bull alligator - they are the ones who fight over territory & the women.

40 acre lake trail
My dilemma of the day:  do I pass these guys (the one was really really big - long & around - one of the biggest I've seen) or just turn around?  There was another alligator on the other side of the path just out of the frame.  The park volunteer in the background cruised through the alligators and no one moved an inch, so I took a deep breath & cruised through too.  The park said that the large (bull/boy) alligator wasn't from this lake - he was there to claim territory & females (all around him) - let the mating season begin.  I've seen a few large alligators at this lake, but usually they are further away.  I don't usually get freaked out walking this path, but this big guy did make me have second thoughts (maybe I looked too old & tough to eat).
a nice little patch of false garlic wildflowers already in bloom

Yikes!! Don't pick those flowers!!
I thought it was very nice of this alligator to lay his head in a patch of wildflowers.  Funny how a change in angle & focus reveals something totally different.  Although it wasn't like I was trying to totally hide him in the first picture.  I actually did this on purpose just for a little humor. 

This guy wouldn't move - Creekfield Lake
This nice park volunteer was there to assure visitors it was okay to walk past this guy.  He wasn't as big as the other one, but big enough.  He was especially menancing because he was laying in the sun with his mouth open (he was hot - they cool off by opening their mouth).  This is the Creekfield Lake path, right before the bridge - this is a heavily traveled path - also leads to the George Observatory.  There was a group of homeschoolers there & the adults were worried about the kids walking by (they were figuring out a clever way to keep the kids in single file & silent/quiet as they pass). 

another fallen tree
Sadly it looks as if another old-growth tree has fallen in the park.  I didn't ask if it was a result of the drought or old age, but it is sad to see.

white tailed deer
And towards the end of my last trail, walked up on 5 deer who were grazing in the woods.  The dirt trail was damp, so I was able to walk fairly quietly - they were startled, but stopped in this little clearing to look at me.  Wonder what he was thinking? 

With warmer & sunnier weather approaching, hope everyone gets a chance to go outside - it does wonders for calming your nerves.  For those who are interested - these were all SOOC, used my longest reaching lens (70-200) - of course - who would get those close to those gators?  Also curious - when you go out on a nature walk, do you carry 1 zoom lens or multiple lenses? What about a tripod?  Since I'm able to visit this park fairly often, I've decided to dedicate each walk to a certain type of photography - zoom, macro, landscape, etc. then carry only that lens (although most of the time I do carry a another short lens in a small bag - just in case).  I don't carry a tripod either - another thing on my list to master (right now it just frustrates me).