Zann’s One Word Photo Challenge – Fresh

Week Two of my year-long photo challenge was more “challenging” than I imagined it would be. The theme for last week was the word “fresh”, and it can be a pretty daunting task in the dead of winter.

I did a Google search of the word “fresh” and looked at the images returned, and they were far-and-away the usual cliches–mostly fruits and vegetables with the obligatory droplets of water shimmering in the studio lights. I really wanted to avoid doing anything like that.

I was pretty much stymied all week. Finally on Sunday I got in the car with the hubby and we took off driving in the country, just looking for something “fresh” to shoot. Nothing. Nada. It was totally depressing.

So I wound up with just some throw-away stuff. I used the week to play around with some of the Topaz plug-ins that I haven’t used before, and did some creative tweaking of a few of these images.

Overall it was pretty disappointing, but here are the results:

A few “fresh” flowers that are actually blooming in pots on my front porch, arranged in a small liqueur stem, shot in natural light:

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The same “fresh” flowers, but edited with Topaz filters in Paint Shop Pro. I desaturated, and then increased the hue to the magenta side:

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We still have a few winter greens growing in our raised bed garden, and they’re putting on some new “fresh” growth. I was playing with some depth of field experimentation here:

Fresh_1word_018_2015-02-06_psp

And here I just decided to get a little crazy. Most days we have a “fresh” salad for lunch, so I took the photo to a little extreme using the Simplify plug-in from Topaz. I do actually like this one:

Fresh_1word_027_2015-02-06_psp

So, that’s enough for the “fresh” topic.

This week, the word is “UP”. I think I should be able to find a little more inspiration for my photos this week. Things are looking up (haha, see what I did here?).

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Zann’s One Word Photo Challenge – Boxes

Last week I created a list of weekly challenges for myself to get me back in the mood to do some shooting. The challenge for the week of January 26 was the word “boxes”.

I decided to use my smaller camera, the Nikon D5000, so I could carry it with me every time I go out. Since I work from home I don’t get out of the neighborhood much, but at least this week I had something besides my iPhone with me when I went anywhere.

I found this challenge to be harder than I had anticipated. There are lots of boxes out there, but trying to tell a story with them or make them interesting is another thing altogether. I thought of some ideas for posed shots that I would have liked to have done, but just didn’t have the time to put that kind of shoot together. But I’ll make note of the ideas and maybe revisit them later.

Here are some of the shots that I took this week. All were processed in Paint Shop Pro X7, some with Topaz plug-ins.

A collection of wooden boxes that I own:

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Compressed boxes lying behind the local Sears store at the mall:

Boxes_1word_011_20150201_psp

The box office at the Lyric theatre in Tupelo:

Boxes_1word_016_20150201_psp

Mailbox 308 on an abandoned building in downtown Tupelo:

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Box on the railroad tracks in Tupelo:

Boxes_1word_026_20150201_psp

New storm shelter box installed after the tornado of April 2014 came through our neighborhood:

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The challenge for the week of February 2 is the word “fresh”. This should be interesting! Join me and play along! Just post links to your “fresh” photos in the comments below. All photos for the challenge must have been shot between 2/8/14 and 2/8/15, although they could have been processed later.

Weekly photo challenge

Weekly photo challenge

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Zann’s 2015 One Word Photo Challenge

I hate winter. If I lived somewhere where there were pretty snow-covered trees or sparkling icicles, I might be a little more inclined to get my camera out of its storage box. But where I live, it’s nothing but bare trees, dead grass, cloudy skies and damp/cold weather.

So, taking the advice of some great photography websites, I decided to develop a little challenge for myself. I created a weekly photo challenge, based on a one-word theme for each week. The idea is to find ways to interpret the theme visually and creatively, but to do it within a specified time frame to avoid procrastination and excuse-making. I know a lot of people do the “365” or “photo-a-day” challenge, but realistically I know that I would never stick to that kind of schedule. But a weekly project seems doable.

So here’s my list of weekly challenges for the remainder of this year, beginning with “Boxes” for this week. There’s no upper or lower limit to the number of photos that I need to produce for each week’s challenge, but the photos must be taken within the scheduled week (even if processed later).

I’ll be posting my weekly shots to this blog, and I invite you to participate as well if you would like to. If you decide to play along, feel free to post a link to your photos in the comments. You can upload your photos to any application–Flickr, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Google+–but just be sure to tag them #zannonewordphotochallenge to make them easy to find. I might even feature your work in a future blog post!

Weekly photo challenge

Weekly photo challenge

If you would like to see some other ways to jumpstart your creativity, check out these links:

25 Ways to Jumpstart Photography Inspiration – DIYPhotography.net
13 Tips for Staying Motivated in Photography – PetaPixel.com
Stuck in a photographic rut? Eight ways to get motivated! – SteveHuffPhoto.com

Oh, yeah, one other thing! I’ve secured the domain name “ZenOfZann”, so you can now reach this blog at http://zenofzann.com, rather than having to use the not-so-spiffy zenofzann.wordpress.com address. Please subscribe if you haven’t already, and help keep me inspired!

Downtown Tupelo From a Huey

A couple of weeks ago we had the opportunity to take a flight in a Vietnam-era Huey helicopter as part of a fund-raising event held at the nearby Veterans Memorial Park. They are trying to raise money to install a replica of the Vietnam Memorial wall in the park. There was an outfit there called Sky Soldiers who are made up of veterans who used to fly these helicopters in combat in Vietnam. The Huey that we flew on had been used for medical evacuations, and the guys flying them that day were veterans who had flown these machines in the 60’s and 70’s. They’ve still got it!

We had a blast! We got to sit in the gunner’s well, which meant we were seated on the side of the helicopter facing outward, with nothing but the wind in our faces. It was a sobering reminder of the dangers that soldiers face, being so exposed to gunfire.

Instead of a gun, I had my Nikon, and I was able to just fire off shot after shot as we buzzed around above the city. While they aren’t the most technically perfect photos and they’re not artsy-fartsy, they are a wonderful reminder of an awesome experience.

Here’s one of my favorite shots of downtown Tupelo, looking toward the southwest. Click to view it large for detail!

Downtown Tupelo from a Huey

Shot with the Nikon D700 and the Nikkor 24-85mm. Processed in Paintshop Pro X7.

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Soft Sunset in Biloxi

Sometimes when I’m shooting I’m just playing with exposures and buttons on the camera, trying to learn more about how they work, and at the time I’m not paying any real attention to composition or the scene that I’m capturing.

And sometimes, that just seems to work out fine.

Last month when we were in Biloxi, I took the camera out to the beach at sunset (doesn’t everybody?). I wanted to play around with the ISO settings to see how far I could push them with the 24-85mm f/1.8 Nikkor lens that I bought earlier this year. The sunset wasn’t as colorful as I had hoped it would be, but there were some nice pinks and purples as we slipped into the blue hour.

So, without thinking about it too much, I snapped a picture of a pier and some pilings from the beach. This one was shot at ISO 4000, at about 1/80s at f/7.1. It didn’t look like much when I first saw the raw NEF file, but with a little tweak of the Levels in Paintshop Pro X7 and just a little touch of Topaz De-Noise, I got the shot that I wanted.

It just makes me feel peaceful and content when I look at this. And that’s why I love photography…it’s a tool to provoke emotions and preserve memories.

Soft Sunset in Biloxi
Click on the image above to view large.

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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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Capt Johnny in Biloxi

I’m still going through the photos that I took on our recent trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

This one is really a cliche photo, but I still enjoyed processing it.  Everyone who goes to the coast gets a picture of shrimp boats with the fishermen mending their nets in the evening.  I liked the color version of it, but I was drawn more to the black-and-white image.  I wanted the focus to be more on the lines and shapes of the boats, rigging and the people than on the blue and white of the boat.

Capt Johnny

This image was shot with the Nikon D700 and the 24-85mm Nikkor lens.  It was processed in PaintShop Pro X7, using Topaz DeNoise for a little cleanup.  I had to also clean up the sky in the image because I still haven’t had the sensor cleaned in my camera.  That’s my next DIY project.

 I’m going to my second meeting of the Southern Light Photography Club tomorrow night.  They’ve asked us to bring a few photos on flash drives to do a show-and-tell for critique.  This should be fun!  I’m taking this one, this one and this one.

Just want to say “Welcome” to my new followers!  Hope you enjoy the images, and I appreciate your interest!

Fort Pike – Inside the Walls

On our recent trip to New Orleans by way of US Highway 90, we came across Fort Pike, an abandoned military facility from pre-Civil War days.  We could see it from the highway and thought it looked interesting, so we made an unscheduled stop to check it out.  And we were really glad we did, as it was both an interesting history lesson as well as a perfect setting for practicing shooting brackets for HDR processing.

The walls of the fort contain tunnels with portholes looking out toward the water where the cannons were mounted for defense.  The brick arches and floors were still beautiful, and the light coming through the portholes revealed the green moss as well as the not-so-welcome graffiti that decorated the walls.

I used my Nikon D700 and my 28-300mm Nikkor lens on this shoot. The brackets were made while shooting from a tripod (of course!).

I’ve started processing some of these HDR images and look forward to sharing them!  Here’s the first one that I did tonight.

Fort Pike - Inside the Walls

Bayou Pierre Church

I was going back through my archives this evening, looking for something to play with, and I came across a folder of shots that I took back in June 2013 near Port Gibson, Mississippi.  We had driven down there to visit the Windsor Ruins, and we just happened across this little bit of history tucked into the trees just off the country road.

This is what remains of the Bayou Pierre Presbyterian Church, founded in 1807.  It’s a tiny little structure perched on a slight hill, surrounded by trees that are dripping with Spanish moss.  I had a great time shooting brackets there for HDR processing–that is, until I found myself standing in the middle of a mound of ants.  As I remember it, I was sick for several days afterwards from all the ant bites.  That’s probably why I never got around to processing these photos, but now seems like a good time.

All these shots were taken with my Nikon D700 and the 14-24mm lens.  Each one is an HDR processed from seven bracketed shots using Photomatix.  Post-processing done in Paint Shop Photo Pro using Topaz Adjust.

BayouPierreChurch 1-7 HDR

BayouPierreChurch 8-14 HDR

BayouPierreChurch 15-21 HDR

BayouPierreChurch 22-28 HDR

Textures of Downtown Tupelo

About three weeks ago, I decided to spend Sunday afternoon playing with my new 24-85mm Nikkor lens, so the hubby and I took off on a photo walk in downtown Tupelo.  Like any Southern town, as soon as church is over, the downtown area is pretty much deserted, so I knew I’d be able to get some shots of some of the architecture without having to worry about having a lot of cars and trucks parked in front of the buildings.

We spent a little over an hour exploring some little nooks and crannies that I hadn’t shot before.  We were having a great time until I decided to try and get some HDR brackets out behind an abandoned ice house.  The vacant lot was full of weeds, so I was keeping a close eye out for snakes, and fortunately we didn’t see any.  However, as I was setting up my tripod and absentmindedly scratching my lower leg with my other foot, my hubby suddenly exclaimed, “Baby, your legs are covered with mosquitoes!”  And he was right!!  As they say here in the South, I got “eat up” by the little varmints.  I was so miserable, we cut the day short and went home to indulge in some Benadryl and ointment.

But before all that happened, I did manage to get some shots that I enjoyed working with later.  Here are three images that I processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X5, using Topaz Adjust and Topaz Black & White Effects.

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