Friday Foto – Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico

Here’s another image I shot this week on the dry lake bed at Elephant Butte Lake State Park near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The exposed gray branches, lit by the midday sun, contrast nicely with the dark brown sand and work really well for black and white processing.

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Click on the photo to view larger on my Flickr site.

Feels good to be exploring the world with my Nikon 700 again. This was minimally processed in Paint Shop Pro X9.

I’m planning to post here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for as long as I’m inspired to do so. You can also see my earlier stuff on my Flickr page.

 

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Hymns at Cafe Du Monde

I don’t care what diet you’re on, no visit to New Orleans is complete without a stop at Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter for some fresh, hot beignets and coffee.  And while they do have indoor seating, it’s almost sacrilegious to succumb to the lure of air conditioning when you could be sitting out on the patio, dripping sweat, while people-watching and listening to the ad-lib free entertainment that’s offered 24/7.

On our most recent trip, we were treated to some a capella hymn-singing by this enthusiastic gentleman.  He had a decent baritone and an infectious spirit, so we enjoyed his renditions of some old familiar church songs.

From a photography standpoint, this was a tricky shot given the wide range of lighting conditions from the shade of the patio to the bright sunlight on the street.  The Nikon D700 handled it nicely, shooting in RAW format gave me the data that I needed to recover the details in the shadows, and Topaz plug-ins provided some nice detail recovery.

I love this shot because there are so many stories going on at once….the couple buying tickets on the left, the singer, the older couple walking up the ramp, the younger couple lounging on the bench, and the crowd on the patio enjoying the show.  One of my favorite images from the day.

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Click the image to view large!!

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Blue Suede Cruise Continued

There were so many great automotive machines at the Blue Suede Cruise, and they all made great subjects for some black-and-white photography. The people-watching was pretty sweet, too!  Here are a few more shots that I processed.  Click through on the photos to see them large on black, as they should be viewed.  Enjoy!!

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These were all made with my Nikon D5000 using an 18-55mm zoom.  All shots were processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X4 using Topaz Black & White Effects plug-in.  You can see some of the earlier shots that I posted here.

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Blue Suede Cruise in Tupelo

In all the excitement around last weekend’s supermoon, I almost forgot about the other huge event taking place in Tupelo last weekend — the Blue Suede Cruise.  This annual event features classic cars from all around the area, gathered together for a weekend of “cruising” all the historic areas of Tupelo, especially those related to the King.

The central gathering place for the Cruise was at the BancorpSouth Arena, but we saw these classic cars being driven all over town over the three-day weekend.  The rules stated that the cars had to be at least 25 years old, but exceptions were made for certain models like Corvettes, Thunderbirds, Prowlers, etc.

I took my Nikon D5000 with my 18-55mm lens (for a little wide-angle viewing) to the festivities on Saturday morning.  We spent about an hour admiring the many different vehicles on display, listening to the music, and soaking up the atmosphere.  I took quite a few shots, all single-exposures.  When I started processing them, they just called out to be processed in black-and-white, so that’s what I did.

Here are a few of my favorites that I’ve processed so far…I still have more to work on, but gotta save some for those days when I need something to do! 🙂

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And then there’s this shot….I have no idea why the guy behind the car has his belly on display!

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These were all processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X4, using Topaz Black & White Effects (which i dearly love!).  I’ll share more later as the mood strikes me.

Since moving to Tupelo last September, we’ve come to love the many festivals and events that bring out all the colorful characters and the best of the South.  Take a look back at some shots that I took at the recent “Don’t Be Cruel BBQ Duel“. (Starting to feel that “Elvis” vibe?)

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After-Christmas Sale

I’m trying out another new plug-in from Topaz Labs–this one is called “Star Effects”, and its purpose is to give that little extra glow to points of light in your photos.

I pulled out this shot that I took in downtown Tupelo on a foggy night back in early February.  I found this window display that looked like it was left over from Christmas, but it was still beautifully lit.  I was using the tripod with my Nikon D700 and the 50mm lens, so I took three different exposures, not knowing how the glare of the lights on the window might affect the outcome of the shot.

So since I had the three different brackets, I decided that I would combine them into an HDR image using Photomatix, and then try the new Topaz Star Effects plug-in on the little points of light.  I downloaded the trial version of the software from Topaz Labs (regular price $29.99) and, as usual, installed it with no problem.

After using Photomatix to product the HDR, I then ran the combined image through Topaz Star Effects, trying each of the different presets to see what it did to the light points.  Most of the effects were far too extreme (this image already had some star points on the lights as a result of the HDR processing).  So I selected a very mild effect and then tweaked it a little bit using the sliders in the plug-in.  Afterwards I used Topaz DeNoise to clean up some of the artifacts in the darker areas of the image, and then I used Paintshop Pro to do just a bit of sharpening.

And that’s it..here’s the result:

After-Christmas Sale

 

I’ll need to play around with Star Effects a little more on some other types of images, some with less obvious “points of light”.  But, as with all the other Topaz products, I really like the design of the user interface, the ease of installation, the variety of presets, and the affordable price.  And, no, I’m not affiliated with Topaz and I don’t get paid to test or recommend their products.

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on:
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Oktibbeha County Courthouse

I’m still having a love affair with black-and-white processing…..

Oktibbeha County Courthouse

This is the Oktibbeha County Courthouse located in downtown Starkville, Mississippi.

After World War II the Colonial Revival in Mississippi evolved into a style that emulated the great Greek Revival houses of the antebellum period.  The revival was so widespread that some pundits have referred to it as “Greek Survival.”  Most of Mississippi’s welcome centers and interstate rest stops are constructed in this style, as are many courthouses; for example, the courthouses in Noxubee and Oktibbeha counties, built in 1952 and 1963 respectively.

Architecture in Mississippi During the 20th Century

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Topaz Lens Effects – Tilt Shift in Jerome

You know how I love the Topaz suite of plug-ins. Topaz Adjust is my go-to plug-in for making my images pop, and Topaz DeNoise does an excellent job of getting rid of those ugly pixels from low-light images. Just recently I added Topaz Black & White effects to my toolbox, and I love the wide choice of presets and sliders that give the user total control of the resulting image.

So when I got the latest email from Topaz announcing a major upgrade to their Lens Effects plug-in, I jumped at it. I did not have this plug-in already, but through a special offer that’s good from now through Christmas Eve, I was able to purchase it new at the upgrade prices of $29.99.

The main reason I wanted to have this particular tool was to try my hand at the effect known as tilt/shift. I don’t have a tilt/shift lens in my gear collection, but this plug-in does a pretty decent job of mimicking the effect through some judicious blurring of parts of the image.

If you’re not familiar with tilt/shift, the effect is meant to take an image from the real world and make it look like it’s a toy or a model. Ideally, the image is shot from an overhead vantage point (visualize looking down at a model train on a table). The idea is to have some small part of the image be in sharp focus while the rest of the image is blurred, making it look like a small toy model of what it really is.

Here’s my first attempt at the tilt/shift effect, using Topaz Lens Effects. This photo was made in Jerome, Arizona, from the balcony of the Grand Hotel looking down upon the town in the early morning sunrise. This is the original unedited version:

Unedited original image - Jerome, Arizona

Now here is the edited version, using the tilt/shift preset in Topaz Lens Effects:

Edited with Tilt/Shift preset in Topaz Lens Effects

Notice how the pickup truck in the middle of the image begins to look like a toy model with the blurred foreground and background? Pretty cool, huh?

I can’t wait to try out some more images using this effect, as well as the other presets that are included with this plug-in! If you’re interested in trying it for yourself, here’s the link to the Topaz product page, and be sure to use the coupon code “simplefocus” that’s good through 12/24/2011. (And no, I’m not affiliated with Topaz and don’t get a cut!)

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Topaz Adjust 5

Topaz Adjust 5 was released today, and I downloaded it as soon as I got the email regarding the release.  I had just a little bit of time to take it for a spin tonight, and I’m already liking what I see.

The layout of the user interface and the tool set is almost exactly like the recently-released Topaz Black & White Effects, which was light years ahead of their previous releases in terms of features and flexibility.  Topaz Adjust 5 comes with about 100 presets, neatly organized into collections.  One of the collections contains only the presets that existed in version 4, for those who don’t like to rush into exploring anything new.

The workspace can now be viewed in split-screen mode so you can see your original image along-side the version that you’re working on.  And tools that are now available on the right side of the workspace are the meat-and-potatoes of this release.  There are many new sliders brushes that can be used for global as well as local adjustments.  Your changes can be applied sequentially without closing the image, allowing you to “stack” your effects.

I pulled out an old photo from last February that I had never processed, just to see what the new version of Topaz could do with a slightly-out-of focus, slightly-over-exposed image that was poorly composed.  I tried all the different presets, some with mild effects, and some with really “out-there” results, but here’s the one I liked the best.

Original, unretouched image:

No processing

 

Same image with only Topaz Adjust 5, and slight tweak with Topaz DeNoise, and application of the Unsharp Mask:

Processed with Topaz Adjust 5

 

I love how the colors and the detail just POP, especially in the little boy in the stroller.  The brick sidewalk also becomes much more detailed, lending texture to the photograph.

I’m really excited about this new release, and am really tempted to go back into my library and re-process some images from past photo shoots.  And best of all, this upgrade was free!

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Main Street Vintage Guitars

One thing that I’m learning to love about downtown Tupelo is the emphasis on restoring and re-using old historical buildings for shops, restaurants, bars, and offices.

Today’s image definitely has an urbex feel, but there’s a great story behind the surface.  This is the Main Street Vintage Guitar shop, located at the corner of Main and Spring streets.  This is actually the side of the building, facing Spring Street, but I just had to shoot this side because of the great Coca-Cola mural painted on the wall which has been preserved along with the building.

Main Street Vintage Guitars

I found their website that has a ton of information about the building, including pictures from its past as well as the restoration process that turned it into its modern-day incarnation as a vintage guitar shop. I found out that this building was originally the First National Bank, and it was constructed in 1890.  The store is visited by musicians from everywhere, most recently by Keith Urban when he was in Tupelo for a recent concert.  Be sure to check out http://www.pwogs.com/msvg_history_building.html for the full story.

This image is a single image taken with my Nikon D700 and 50mm 1.8 prime lens, hand-held.  This was about 3:45 PM, and the setting sun was casting some pretty good shadows on this side of the building.  I used Paintshop Photo Pro X4 and Topaz Adjust to process the image and bring out the detail in the brick and morter, as well as the mural on the wall.

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Dinner Interrupted

Finally! I finally got the Nikon out of the house for a few hours of shooting this afternoon. We spent some time exploring the alleys and side streets of downtown Tupelo, our new home. Today was the first day after daylight savings time ended, so I wasn’t exactly sure what the lighting would be like in the late afternoon in this part of the country. I decided to just shoot with the 50mm prime lens and concentrate on architectural and urbex details.

Downtown Tupelo has some wonderful old buildings with the original brick and mortar, some with old advertisements that were painted there years and years ago. We have been pleasantly surprised at the number of restaurants, bars and coffee shops that have been opened in these old buildings, preserving the architectural details of the brick and the wood. Lots of ambiance and good food to be had here in downtown Tupelo!

While exploring one of the alleys, we came across this table behind one of the newer restaurants, Nautical Whimsey, where it was apparent that one of the restaurant staff had been dining before he or she was interrupted. The pasta, salad and drink looked so good that we were enticed to check out their wine bar, and ended up spending two hours there.

Dinner Interrupted

The owners, Dave (bartender) and Amanda (chef and bartender) were friendly, generous and entertaining. We each ordered a beer, and then after checking the menu, decided to try their crab cakes and the bruchetta. We were not disappointed.  They get two thumbs up from us!

This shot was processed in the new version of Paintshop Photo Pro X4, using Topaz Adjust.  I was able to get the upgrade from X3 to X4 for $50, and I still think it’s a heck of a deal compared to Photoshop.  I’ve processed six shots so far from today’s excursion, and I’ll be sharing them over the next few days, so stay tuned!

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on:
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