Spider in the Roses

This morning I was dead-heading my knockout roses, a task that I actually enjoy as it gives me a chance to get out in nature instead of sitting in front of a computer all day. Just as I was reaching into the interior of one of my bushes to clip some old dead blooms, I spotted this beauty just hanging in its web right in front of my hand.  It’s an orb weaver spider, non-aggressive and not dangerous to humans, but I didn’t know that at the time.

I may have uttered an expletive at that point….I really don’t remember. But after I caught my breath, I was just kind of blown away by the beauty of this creature, hanging in its web in the middle of my rose bush. I had my iPhone in my back pocket, so I tried taking a couple of shots with it, but couldn’t get it to focus correctly in the low light.

So I finished up my yard work and then retrieved my Nikon D700 with my 28-300 Nikkor lens and went back to see if the spider was still there. Thankfully, it was right where I had left it (him? her?), and I was able to get a few good shots with some great depth of field. I had the ISO bumped up to 2500 so I could get a faster shutter speed since there was a slight breeze blowing the web back and forth, and with the narrow depth of field I wanted to make sure I stayed in focus.

I processed this in Paintshop Photo Pro V5 with Topaz Adjust.

Spider In the Roses

A Valentine From the Abandoned House

Continuing my series of images from the abandoned house we found on Highway 278 west of Tupelo, Mississippi:

I’ve been holding on to this image ever since I started processing this series, just waiting for Valentine’s Day to share it with everyone.  I found this abandoned dirt daubers’ colony in the middle of a blank wall in the front room of the house.  The heart-shaped sculpture created by those peaceful little creatures on this cracked and peeling surface just struck me as beautiful!

I used my tripod to capture a series of brackets and then processed this as an HDR in order get all the texture in the dauber nest as well as the wall itself.

This image is best viewed large, and I can’t wait to have it printed on canvas and hung on my wall!

Abandoned House - Valentine

Shot with my Nikon D700 with my 14-24mm Nikkor glass. Processed in Photomatix, Paint Shop Photo Pro, and Topaz Adjust.

The Kitchen Has Seen Better Days

Continuing my series of images from the abandoned house we discovered on Highway 278 west of Tupelo, Mississippi:

The heart of any home is the kitchen, and I’m sure this house was no different.  Upon entering this room, we were struck by the layers of wall covering that were visible–some fabric, some wood.  The fabric looked like it could have even been old bed sheets, tacked to the wall.  The colors were preserved or faded in broad swaths, depending on what, if anything, had covered them in the past.  The linoleum floor showed the faint outlines of a pink floral pattern that must have been all the rage at one time.  It probably even matched the wall covering when it was new.

Along the far wall was a row of large nails that had been hammered into the wood at odd angles.  What were they for?  Did they hang pots and pans there, maybe their coffee mugs?  And what were the two faucets sticking up from the floor used for?

So much to see, so few answers.  But old houses like these leave so much to the imagination!

Abandoned House - The Kitchen

HDR image created from brackets taken with my Nikon D700 and my 14-24mm glass. Processed in Photomatix, Paint Shop Photo Pro, and Topaz Adjust.

Check out the other rooms we visited before:

The Living Room

The Back Room

The Back Room

Continuing my series of images from the abandoned house that we discovered west of Tupelo, Mississippi…

After entering the door of the house and walking through the living room, you enter a back bedroom.  But don’t go in there too quickly, or you could find yourself standing on the ground.  The floorboards in the middle of the room have rotted to the point that there’s a huge, gaping hole, partially filled with the remains of carpet padding, where you can see the ground under the house.

I love the old windows with the triple panes at the top, through which the sunlight poured to illuminate the mess in front of us.  An open closet contained a few old coat hangers, one with the paper advertisement of the local dry cleaners still attached, telling us that this place must have been inhabited in the not-too-distant past.

We walked through here very gingerly, staying close to the walls to set up the tripod and camera to get this shot.  Enjoy!

Abandoned House - Back Room


Shot with my Nikon D700 and 14-24mm Nikkor glass.  Processed in Photomatix and Paint Shop Photo Pro, using Topaz Adjust filters.

Abandoned House on Hwy 278

Wow, it’s been a long time! I’ve really been struggling with my photography muse for awhile now, trying to resurrect my passion for shooting and processing photos. Now that I work from home full time, I spend all day at a computer in my home office. I find it very difficult to get excited about spending additional hours in that same little room at the end of the day, processing photos. And during the winter months, I never get outside during the daylight hours from Monday through Friday, and the weekends just seem to fly by.

But….enough of the excuses. My goal for this year (I refuse to use the word “resolution”) is to do one decent project a month. Surely I can handle that!!

So, my project for this month–I wanted to take a road trip from Tupelo to Clarksdale along what was supposedly part of the “Blues Trail”. The Mississippi Delta is well-known as the birthplace of the blues, and I was hoping to see some of the old juke joints and music hangouts of some of the blues legends.

Well, long story short, most of those places are long gone, bulldozed and burned down to make room for big agriculture. We did find some interesting things on our trip to Clarksdale, and I’ll share those in the next few posts. But the most interesting thing we found, photographically speaking, was an abandoned house just west of Tupelo on Highway 278. We just happened to come upon it at the right time of day for some fantastic lighting, and the weather was beautiful (too cold for snakes and bugs), and the door was open….who could resist?

I used my Nikon D700 and my 14-24 glass to take a series of bracketed photos of both the exterior and interior of the house. I’ve begun processing them, but I’ll dole them out slowly here on my blog. Can’t wait to share them all with you!!

So, to start things off, here’s the front of the house that we found. Funny, it took finding something that had been abandoned by someone else to help me recover something that I myself had almost abandoned–my creativity.

Abandoned House on Hwy 278

Houston Museum of Fine Arts in HDR

A few days ago I posted a shot of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas.  Today I’m offering another view of the same building from a different, closer angle.

It’s such a magnificent building, and the grounds are meticulously groomed, making it a magnet for photographers and sight-seers alike.  I really wish we had had time to visit the Picasso exhibit that was on display there…next time we’ll have to plan our trip a little better!

Houston Museum of Fine Arts - Picasso Exhibit

This is another HDR image, composed of nine bracketed photos shot with my Nikon D700 and the 28-300mm lens. I processed the brackets in Photomatix Pro V4, and then did final editing in Paintshop Photo Pro X5.

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.

Texting God?

I love candid shots, and I love black-and-white photography.  And when I can combine the two, it makes my day!

While I was in the process of shooting brackets for HDR processing at St. Luke’s Methodist Church in Houston, I noticed this guy sitting on the steps in front of the huge wooden doors.  I’m not sure if he noticed me as I pointed the camera toward him, but if he did, he didn’t really care.  He was much more interested in his smartphone. 🙂

Texting God?

I processed this in Paintshop Photo Pro X5, using the Topaz Black & White plug-in. It’s one of my favorite shots from the trip.

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!

Wading Back In

I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I posted anything new.  In my last update, I was dealing with my first wedding shoot, a spur-of-the-moment project that I was happy to do, but which totally stressed me out.  The actually shooting wasn’t that bad, but when I started processing the photos, I wasn’t pleased with how the images were turning out when printed.  The difference between the way they looked on my monitor and the way they printed was so drastic that it just about killed my enthusiasm for the project.

It was probably time to step away from photography for a bit, at least the more technical aspects of it.  In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed just taking shots with my iPhone for the pure enjoyment of capturing everyday life, humor and tragedy included.  Instagram has been a fun way to share those spontaneous shots without worrying about getting the perfect white balance or the rule of thirds.  It’s been a catharsis of sorts.

But recently I’ve begun to miss my dSLR’s, and when we planned a quick weekend trip to Houston to visit old friends, I decided it was time to take the cameras out for a spin.  It helped that we were driving instead of flying to Houston, so I didn’t have to worry about dragging all my equipment through airport security.  I was able to take both cameras (D700 and D5000), all the lenses I wanted, as well as my tripod.

And I’m really glad I did!  The weather was gorgeous while we were there, so I spent several hours shooting both single images as well as brackets for HDR processing.  And it was nice to have a good camera on hand to get a shot of all our friends at our little reunion dinner.

So, without further ado, here’s the first shot that I processed from my recent foray back into the photography waters.  This was a quick shot that I took of some flowers blooming along the sidewalk as we strolled through the Medical Center area.  I used the Nikon D700 with the 28-300 lens, and I processed the shot in my old stand-by, Paintshop Photo Pro X5.

Houston in Bloom

I’m in the process of working on more of the images that I shot on our trip, and I’m excited about getting back into the groove of things. Springtime is coming (sooner or later!), and it will be the perfect time to brush up on my skills.