Cancer Survivors Plaza – Houston TX

After the little Elvis diversion, we’re back to photos from our recent trip to Houston, Texas. I love this little plaza in the Medical Center area of Houston (although it looks as though it could use a little TLC).

Cancer Survivors Plaza - Houston TX

This is an HDR image produced from nine brackets, shot with a Nikon D700 and the 28-300mm lens. Processed in Photomatix Pro V4 and Paintshop Photo Pro X5.

Houston Architecture in HDR

Wow, it’s good to be processing photos again!  I especially enjoy the HDR processing, and while we were in Houston I was able to get a few good brackets to bring back to the computer.  For most of them, I was using the tripod and shooting nine exposures (that’s one of the things I love about the Nikon D700, it allows a LOT of bracketing!).  But there were a few where I just shot hand-held exposures of five brackets.  I haven’t processed any of the latter yet, but I’m hoping that Photomatix will be able to align them without too much of a problem since there are a lot of straight line, architectural features in the shots.

So…here are a couple of images that I’ve processed so far.

This first one is the Museum of Fine Arts, which just happened to be hosting an exhibit of Picasso’s work, thus the banners on the front of the building.  The grounds were beautiful with the spring flowers in full bloom, and the partly cloudy skies gave plenty of shadows and light to enhance the HDR effect:

Houston Museum of Fine Arts

This next one is St. Luke’s Paul’s Methodist Church, located nearby the museum and medical center. I probably should have pulled out my really wide angle lens for this one, but I don’t think it came out too badly. I love all the detail in the facade of the building. It was a breezy day, so there’s a little bit of ghosting in the tree limbs that I wasn’t able to totally remove in Photomatix, but I don’t think it’s too distracting at all:

St. Luke's Methodist Church - Houston TX

There are more images to come, so stay tuned! It’s good to be back!

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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Tupelo Station

I pulled out the Nikon D700 and did a little shooting in the grungier part of downtown Tupelo this morning.  It was overcast and cool, with some good dark clouds for HDR processing.  Most of my shooting was done in 7-bracket sets, but there are some times when you just can’t shoot brackets because things are moving too fast.

This shot is just such an example.  I wanted to get a shot of the little Tupelo train station, so I drove over the tracks and parked at the farmers’ market pavilion next to the station.  I was just getting my camera and tripod out of the car when I heard the blast of the train horn (can’t really call them “whistles”), and saw that there was a train headed my way.

I made some quick adjustments to the camera settings, turning off the bracketing settings and changing the F/stop to get a wider depth of field,  I got the camera mounted on the tripod just as the camera came around the curve and headed for the station, and then I just started clicking.  I hadn’t even thought about how close to the tracks I was until the train was right beside me.  IT WAS LOUD!!  I could actually feel the ground shaking as the engines went by.  It was AWESOME!!

I processed one of the shots using Topaz Black & White Effects, with some vignetting added.  Since the sky was pretty much gray, I think this processing choice worked pretty well as far as conveying the atmosphere:

Tupelo Station

But then I decided to try some of the extreme settings in Topaz Adjust, just to see what they had to offer. I really liked this Solarization setting….it almost has a nighttime feel to it, but still keeps the bright colors of the train:

Tupelo Station Solarized

That’s one of the things I love about photography, and especially about digital processing–if you’re not working for a paying customer, there is really no right or wrong way to process an image.  And there are so many different ways to interpret your photos, you could spend hours or days just trying different effects.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and try something outrageous–if you like what you do, who’s to say it’s not perfect?

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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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

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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Puddle at Sunset

If you read yesterday’s blog post, then you remember how I spent some time yesterday chasing the perfect sunset.  When we stopped at the first location, I was really disappointed that the sky didn’t develop all the color that I was hoping for as the sun disappeared behind the heavy, hazy clouds in the west.

But I took my brackets anyway, and when you combine some HDR processing with some good effects software like Topaz Adjust, you get the sort of photo that you were hoping for all along:

Puddle at Sunset

Unless you’re a photo-journalist, don’t be afraid to turn your ho-hum photos into works of art, at least to your own eyes. This is what I wanted to see when I pulled off the road into that little field in the middle of nowhere, and by golly, I got it!

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Foggy Saturday Night in Tupelo

It rained all day today, which gave me a perfect excuse to stay indoors and work on our income taxes.  But by the end of the day I had a good dose of cabin fever and was ready to go outside, rain or not.  By about 6:00PM the rain had stopped and a light fog had settled in for the evening.  I decided it might be a good time to do a little night shooting in downtown Tupelo.

I was hoping to get some interesting photos of the lights glowing through the fog, but it wasn’t quite dense enough to provide the effect I was looking for.  In addition, there was more traffic downtown than I had expected due to a theatre production by the Tupelo Community Theatre that was going on at the Lyric.

Still, I did get quite a few images that I really liked.  I used the D700 and my 50mm prime lens, mounted on the tripod so I wouldn’t be at the mercy of the dim light.  Andy went with me and we walked around for about an hour before the fog turned to a light sprinkle and we headed back to the car to protect the equipment.

I processed sixteen of the images when we got home, and decided to do them all in black and white–it just seemed to fit the mood.  I used Paintshop Photo Pro X4 with Topaz Black & White Effects, and I’m pretty pleased with the results.  Let me know what you think!


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Back to Jerome

It’s been dreary, foggy, and rainy here in Tupelo, with little daylight for photography on these short winter days.  So I went back to the archives, pulled out some brackets from our March 2011 trip to Jerome, and churned out a little HDR love for you guys.  This was taken at the Gold King Mine ghost town, just north of downtown Jerome.  It’s a photographer’s paradise, especially if you’re into HDR.  Enjoy!

Jerome Ghost Town
(HDR from five bracketed images, combined in Photomatix V4. Post-processing in Paintshop Photo Pro X4, using Topaz Adjust 5.)

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From South Mountain to Ahwatukee

Tonight I decided to pull out some old brackets and do some HDR processing, using the new Topaz Adjust and Topaz  Black & White Effects plug-ins that I’ve recently acquired.

I found this set of brackets that I shot from the top of South Mountain Park in Phoenix, on a partly-cloudy afternoon just after a storm front had moved through. From the top of South Mountain, there was a clear view of the suburb of Ahwatukee, and the remaining clouds were still dramatic enough to really lend a sense of scale to the landscape. From the to of South Mountain, you can almost see forever!

From South Mountain to Ahwatukee

I shot these brackets with my 14-24mm Nikkor wide-angle lens, using my Nikon D700 camera mounted on a tripod. I processed the brackets in Photomatix 4, then edited the resulting TIFF in Paintshop Photo Pro X4. First I used Topaz Adjust to correct exposure and bump up the clarity slightly. I then added a layer using Topaz Black & White Effects, using the low-key preset which I adjusted slightly to add some detail. I lowered the opacity of this layer, as I just wanted to add a little drama to the clouds, especially where the sun was filtering through.

Today, we closed on the sale of our home in Arizona, so we no longer have any real estate ties to the Phoenix area. I guess this image is a little bit of nostalgia for a place that I really did enjoy living and photographing. I’ll still be returning there several times a year for work, so hopefully this won’t be the last time I see such a magnificent landscape as this through my viewfinder.

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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