Building 50 – Tishomingo State Park

It’s been a long dry spell, but we finally have our move behind us and are now located in Tupelo, Mississippi.  We’re still deep in the process of unpacking, organizing, and getting settled, but we decided to take a day off today and do a little shooting.  This afternoon we drove about forty miles northeast on the Natchez Trace to Tishomingo State Park, located in the far northeast corner of the state.  I have many fond memories of visiting this park  in my younger days, and although things are never quite as you remember them, many things about the park have not changed at all.

I took the tripod with me so I could shoot some HDR’s, and here’s the first example of what we saw today.  This is a restored log cabin from the 1840’s that sits alongside a small creek that runs through the park.  I could have sworn that at one time there was a big mill wheel attached to the side of the cabin, but that’s probably just another case of memories playing tricks on us.  Anyway, this is an HDR image from five brackets that particularly liked, as it also captured the mid-afternoon sun coming through the trees that are just in the early stages of developing their fall color.  In the far background, you can just see a small bridge that crosses the top of a man-made waterfall or spillway where water overflows from a little lily-pad-covered pond.

Building 50 - Tishomingo State Park
HDR processed in Photomatix Pro 4 and PaintShop Photo Pro X3

It was such a beautiful day, with temperatures in the low 70’s and not a cloud in the sky. As we drove up the Natchez Trace we saw a lot of fall color, although it’s not nearly at its peak. It’s such a change from the drab brown and tan of the desert, and it has already given my creative urges a big boost. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this beautiful state through the lens of my Nikon!

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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Lizard Head in Black and White

For those of you who may not know it yet, my hubby Andy and I are preparing to take our leave from Arizona.  We will be moving 1600 miles east to Tupelo, Mississippi, within the next three to four weeks.  This is a “going home” move for me, a chance to live closer to my parents as well as my four brothers, their wives and all my nieces and nephews.  For the past few months, we have spent the evenings and weekends on home improvement projects to get our house ready to put on the rental market (the prices are just too depressed to try and sell it right now).  We already have a contract on a house in Tupelo that should close within the next few weeks, so we’re starting the process of packing and decluttering in preparation for the big move.

With all these life changes, I haven’t concentrated too much on my photography for the past few months.  But as the time draws closer to leave Arizona, I’m already missing some of the places where I’ve spent quality time with the Nikons.  And there’s no place like Sedona when it comes to pure scenic spendor.

Tonight I went through some of my files from our trip to Sedona back in March, and I found some shots that I still hadn’t processed.  I couldn’t resist running a few brackets through Photomatix to produce this HDR of Lizard Head Rock, but this time I decided to go with the black-and-white version.  I love the red rocks of Sedona, but for this shot I wanted to allow the eye more of an opportunity to see the shape and texture of the rocks, rather than the color.  Look at the top of the mountain, and you’ll see how it got its name.

Lizard Rock in Black and White

I’m looking forward to getting moved out to Tupelo just in time for the beautiful fall colors to reach their peak in October. There are beautiful landscapes, distinctive Southern architecture, and amazing people just waiting to be photographed, and I can’t wait to expand my portfolio in a totally new direction.

Stay tuned to see where the Zen takes us!

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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Siwash Rock in Triplicate

Tonight I was in the mood to play around with some of the Topaz Adjust presets to see what they could do with a rather blah photo.  Tonight’s subject is Siwash Rock, a landmark on the shore of Stanley Park in Vancouver.

I took this photo the first full day we were in the city.  It was overcast and breezy that morning, with the clouds breaking occasionally to let the sun shine through.  I had seen other photos of this landmark and wanted to try my hand at getting that “perfect” shot.

As it turned out, it wasn’t so perfect.  This would have been a prime time to have the tripod and shoot some brackets for HDR processing, but I was trying to travel light that day.  I like the composition of this shot, but the exposure variations between the bright clouds and the dark rock in the foreground didn’t give me a lot to work with.  So I decided to play around with Topaz to see what I could dig out of the raw file.

I tried three different presets.  Which one do you like best?  I have my opinion, but I’ll save it until later!

The first one is the “Clarity” preset–basically it just accentuates the details, and gives the color a little pop.  This one wasn’t too bad, but the clouds in the background are badly blown out.

Siwash Rock 01

The second one was something I just did on a whim. I used the “Night” preset to give the sky a little of its color back, while making the rock look almost haunted:

Siwash Rock 02

The last one is a black-and-white version that I created using a preset that I customized in Topaz. I started with the “Spicify” preset, and then used the sliders to totally desaturate the color and then bump up the contrast and the sharpness. I’ve used this custom preset before and it seems to work pretty well:

Siwash Rock 03

So before I tell you which one I like best, let me tell you about a couple of plaques that are posted at Siwash Rock.

The first one reads:

SIWASH ROCK – Indian legend tells us that this 50 foot high pinnacle of rock stands as an imperishable monument to “Skalsh the Unselfish”, who was turned into stone by “Q’uas the Transformer” as a reward for his unselfishness.”

The second one reads:

In memory of ROBERT DENNIS TRIBE, age 17, or North Vancouver, B.C. who at 3:15 P.M. Sunday, June 5, 1966 failed to notice it was low tide and dived to his death from Siwash Rock to the rocks below. This plaque erected by Bob’s friends as a reminder of the danger of diving from Siwash Rock.

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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(I like the black-and-white one best! 🙂 )

A-Mazing Laughter

On our very first day in Vancouver, on our very first walk outside our hotel, we encountered this bronze sculpture in a small park between our hotel and the beach:

A-Mazing Laughter

The sculpture is called “A-Mazing Laughter”, and it was created by Yue Minjun of Beijing, China. I chose to process this particular shot in black-and-white to concentrate on the texture and seams in the bronze, rather than the color of the metal. It looks like a patchwork quilt, only welded together instead of sewn.  I also wanted to isolate just one of the figures, rather than the entire display.  Why?  I don’t know, except that it allowed me to see details that I would have missed by trying to capture the entire scene.

What was the entire scene, you may ask?  Here are a couple of snapshots that will give you an idea of the scale of the entire sculpture:

A-Mazing Laughter - Vancouver, BC Canada

Look at the size of those feet!

If you’re interested in learning more about the display, here’s a link to a website that talks about the artist, the design, and how it came to be located near the beach on English Bay in Vancouver.

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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Dials & Gauges – 60 Minute Photo Challenge

I enjoyed last week’s 60 Minute Photo Challenge (Shadows and Reflections) so much, I decided to try it again.  If you’re not familiar with the challenge, check out my previous blog post.

The challenge from Mark Wallace for this week was to shoot “Dials and Gauges” — as many as you can shoot in 60 minutes.  The challenge was issued last Friday, but it took me almost a week to find the time to get behind the camera, and to decide where I wanted to go shoot.  I finally remembered that Thursday night is Bike Night as Westgate in Glendale, and there would be plenty of gorgeous motorcycles parked on the street, out on display.  What better way to get some close-up shots of dials and gauges!!

The hubby went with me, so we made it a date night, starting with pizza at Mama Gina’s.  Then we spent the rest of the time just checking out the motorcycles parked around the fountains in front of Jobing.com arena, and getting some nice close-ups of all the dials and gauges on their dashboards (do motorcycles have dashboards??). All the shots were made right around sundown, so I had to open up the lens quite a bit, and bump up the ISO to be able to get these hand-held shots. It actually worked to my advantage because I wanted to get a really shallow depth of field so I could focus on the dials and gauges, and leave the backgrounds nice and blurry.

After getting my shots, we rushed home so I could start processing–that’s always the fun part, seeing what you got.  I did all my processing from the RAW images in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust and DeNoise where needed.  I went with black and white on some of them, and others I left in color, just for some variety.

I’ve uploaded seven shots so far to my Flickr in a new set called Dials & Gauges – 60 Min Photo Challenge.   I may have a few more to add later, but feel free to check out those that I’ve already uploaded.  Here’s a couple for you to sample:

Dials & Gauges 07

Dials & Gauges 04

I’m anxious to see what the next challenge will be. It’s nice to have some “assignments” that help keep me motivated to keep practicing my photography skills.

60 Minute Photo Challenge

Lately I’ve been a little short on inspiration and ideas for doing any shooting.  I was starting to lose the excitement of just going out with the camera and looking for interesting subjects to photograph.  Instead, I was all caught up in the trap of trying to get the “perfect” shot, and getting all hung up on the technical details of F-stops and exposure metering and depth of field.  I just wasn’t having fun with it any more.

I’m a subscriber to the AdoramaTV channel on YouTube.  They post some excellent instructional videos for photographers, both amateur and professional.  The guy who presents the videos, Mark Wallace, works here in the Valley, so it’s kind of cool to see the places here in the Phoenix area where he’s filming his videos.  Not only are the photography tips great, but I get free location tips just by watching where he’s shooting.

Last week, Mark posted a video about his “60 Minute Photo Challenge“.  He talked about the importance of just getting out there and shooting in order to develop your skills, and he recommended giving yourself some sort of general subject (he used “round” and “red”), and then give yourself 60 minutes to shoot everything you see that fits that subject.  No time to worry about tripods, lighting, props….just take the camera and shoot.

I thought that was a great idea, and I actually made a list of subjects that I plan to use in the coming months when I need a kick in the pants.

Now Mark is posting a weekly challenge on Fridays (just follow his Twitter feed at @jmarkwallace to join in!), and this weekend’s challenge was “Shadows and Reflections”.  Since we got an early release from work today for the Memorial Day weekend, I picked up my camera with my 50mm prime lens, and headed to downtown Glendale to see what I could capture.

I had a blast!  I set my watch to make sure I stayed within the 60-minute time frame, and then I just started walking down the sidewalk, looking for shadows and reflections that looked interesting.  It was about 3PM when I got started, and normally that’s a horrible time of day to shoot here in Arizona because of the harsh shadows cast by the glaring sun.  But given the subject of today’s challenge, it was a perfect fit.

I haven’t used the 50mm prime very much, but I really enjoyed playing with it today.  I did put a polarizer on the lens to give me a little more flexibility with shutter speeds (it was REALLY bright out there), but I didn’t fiddle with it very much.

Street Reflections on Antiques

I got some great reflections on the shop windows around the square. I like the one above with the antiques in the shop window, and the traffic from the street being reflected on top of it. Kind of a juxtaposition of old and new that I thought was cool.

I found lots of shadows from the mid-afternoon sun, and the ones cast by the park benches and the overhead gazebo by the police station were among my favorites:

Shadows in Squares

When I returned to the parking garage, I noticed all the cool reflections in the windows of the building next-door. I climbed the stairs on the outside of the parking garage and got shots from several different angles. This one became a self-portrait, and I think it looks even better in black-and-white:

Self-Portrait in Building Reflection

I took about 75 photos in the 60 minutes I was out there, and of course there were quite a few duds. I didn’t spend a huge amount of time processing any of them, but I did find nine (including the three above) that I wound up submitting to the challenge. You can see the entire set on my Flickr page–the set is named “Shadows and Reflections – 60MinPhotoChallenge“.  I used Paint Shop Photo Pro X3, along with Topaz Adjust, for all my processing.

So, in only one hour (plus processing time), I got a little of my mojo back–and it feels great. Can’t wait for the next challenge!

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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Cool Chair

Continuing my series of images from the abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park in Black Canyon City, Arizona:

Decided to go with a black-and-white image for this evening’s post.  I was a little torn, because this chair is actually pink, but it’s pretty faded.  I decided that the monochrome gave a better “feel” of the shot:

Cool Chair
HDR created from five bracketed photos processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust / DeNoise.

This shot was taken where the old restaurant used to be.  I like the little details like the sink drain sitting in the windowsill, right next to that wicked shard of glass.  If you’re interested in seeing more shots from this location, check out my posts from the past four days!

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Unobstructed View

Continuing my series of images from the abandoned dog track in Black Canyon City, Arizona:

We arrived at the dog track around 2:30PM last Saturday while there was still a lot of daylight left, so we got a lot of natural light in the main building where the grandstands are located. However, it wasn’t until a couple of hours later when the sun moved lower in the western sky that we got the really nice late afternoon sunlight shining directly onto those brightly colored red, yellow and orange plastic grandstand seats.

Even though the site is an abandoned wreck, those colored seats provide a sort of fun carnival effect, the perfect foil to the dark black and grey area behind them.

The seats, of course, face what used to be the dog track, but now they simply face the beautiful mountain range and the daily sunsets, with only a few shards of glass still clinging to the window frames to obstruct the view.

Unobstructed View
HDR created from five bracketed photos processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust / DeNoise.

After I posted yesterday’s photo, I did a little more research and found out a little more history of the place. I found the following information on a fellow photographer’s website:

The Black Canyon Dog Track was opened in 1967 by the Funk family. With the newly built I-17, Phoenicians had easy access to the greyhound races in the nearby town of Black Canyon, located 40 miles north of present day Phoenix. Working with Western Racing Inc. from Delaware, the Funk family continued to run the track until it was closed in 1982. A few years later the track would play host to a variety of Swap Meet events, and eventually became abandoned in the late 1980s. Today the demolition of the buildings remains in question, due to possible interest in making the property an RV Park.

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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Reservations

Continuing my series of images from the abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park in Black Canyon City, Arizona:

When we were at the dog track this past weekend, we found several ladders inside the building.  They didn’t look to be that old, and it didn’t dawn on me why they might be there until my husband saw the photos that evening, and he ventured a guess–copper wiring in the light fixtures.

I’m not sure why there was a reservation booth at the dog track, and I’m also not sure why there’s a big furniture sign there, unless they held a fixtures sale when the place closed.

Put all these elements together, and you get more questions than answers, but it makes a pretty good HDR image.

Reservations
HDR created from seven bracketed photos processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust / DeNoise.

Normally I tend to increase the color saturation on my HDR shots, but in this case I actually reduced the saturation. I think the more subtle tones are more in keeping with the character of the place–bleak and desolate.

If you’re interested, I came across this video on YouTube that someone made while walking through the site.  It was uploaded to YouTube in January of this year, so it’s pretty close to what we saw when we were there.  It will give you a good idea of the sounds we heard–wind blowing, tile and glass crunching underfoot.  Check it out!

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Take Your Seat and Watch Your Step

I love using my 28-300mm zoom lens with my Nikon D700, but I sometimes forget to take advantage of the great depth-of-field opportunities it provides, especially when I’m concentrating on capturing brackets for HDR processing.

Yesterday at the abandoned dog track, I actually remembered to play around with the focal length on the lens.  I lowered the height of the tripod to about knee-level, and then aimed the camera down the front row of seats in the “yellow” section.  I focused on one of the seats about a third of the way down the row, letting the other seats go slightly out of focus.  I was using a focal length of 92mm, at F/10.

These seats were positioned right in front of what used to be the huge plate glass windows looking out on the dog track.  The glass has been shattered, and quite a bit of it was lying in pieces right in front of these seats.  The late afternoon sun was at the perfect angle to give the seats a nice glow.  And since I shot a five-bracket series, I was able to retain the detail of the interior as well as the exterior of the grandstand:

Take Your Seat and Watch Your Step

I find that HDR processing is complicated a bit by using these shallow depths of field, because the areas that are purposely left out of focus can actually turn out worse during the HDR process. For instance, in this shot, I wound up with some obvious chromatic aberration along the mountain tops in the background. Probably should have spent some time trying to fix it, but hey, I was tired.

I’m still going through the rest of the shots and trying to decide which one I want to work on next. So much to choose from!

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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