Zann’s Weekly One Word Challenge – Wet

I’m finally getting caught up with my weekly challenges after a couple weeks of nasty weather. While the challenge for this week is shooting images for the word “Broken”, I’ve just finished processing images from last week’s challenge for the word “Wet”.

I shot these images around downtown Tupelo this past Sunday. We were still thawing out after an ice storm came through on Thursday, and there was still ice scattered around in shady places on the north side of buildings, in dirty piles where the plows had cleared the streets, and most impressively, in the fountain on the old Courthouse lawn. Because the ice was melting, it fit the description of “wet”!

All of these images were taken with my Nikon D700 and the 28-300mm Nikkor lens. They were all processed in Lightroom, and some have some slight nudges Photoshop and Topaz plug-ins like Clean or DeNoise. I’m still getting acquainted with the Adobe products, but so far I’m loving Lightroom!

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1word_wet_009_2015-03-02_LR_TpzRestyle

1word_wet_030_2015-03-02_LR_TpzClean

1word_wet_029_2015-03-02_LR

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Weekly One Word Challenge – OPEN

I’m starting to get a little more caught up on my weekly photo challenge work. I’ve just now completed processing the images that I shot for the February 23 challenge around the theme “Open”. As I mentioned, I was a week late shooting these images because of the bad weather that we had, but better late than never!

I decided to process all of these in black & white this week. I’m also using Lightroom and Photoshop for the very first time (after years of using Paintshop Pro in every version up through the current X7). I have to say that I really like Lightroom for its simple slider adjustments, although I’m not yet a fan of all the Collections, Catalogs and other nonsense. I like a simpler method of organizing.

Photoshop is another beast that I’ll need to get better acquainted with, although Paintshop Pro has many of the same features and has already given me a headstart on learning to use levels and masking.

My images for this week were all shot around downtown Tupelo on a sunny Saturday morning just after our most recent ice storm. Each of these has some interpretation of the word or concept “open”, at least in my own mind.

Enjoy!

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1word_open_001_2015-02-23_TpzBW

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1word_open_005_2015-02-23_tpzDetail

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1word_open_031_2015-02-23_LR_desat

The next challenge I’ll be presenting is the word “Wet”. Stay tuned!

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More HDR from Fort Pike

Things have been a little slow at work lately, so I’ve had some more time to work on processing the images from our recent discovery of Fort Pike in southern Louisiana.

Just like my previous post, these images are all HDR’s created from seven brackets in Photomatix V4 and edited in PaintShop Pro X7.

These first two are inside the outer walls of the fort. The only light in the interior was the natural light coming through the portholes where the cannons used to be mounted. Therefore, HDR was really the only way to capture the whole dynamic range of light that our eyes were experiencing.

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I always hate to see historical sites defaced with graffiti, but I have to admit that sometimes it makes for an interesting photograph. For this one, I went with a little more abstract processing using Topaz filters, something more “painterly” and less sharp.

BiloxiNOLA_127_20140831_HDR_300dpi_origsize

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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

Quinceañera in Hermann Park

While we were walking around the Hermann Park area near the Medical Center in Houston, we came across several different photographers who were working with clients, taking advantage of the beautiful weather, flowering shrubs and distinctive architecture in the area.  We saw one photographer doing a bridal shoot in front of Rice University, and another unloading his equipment in front of the glamorous Hotel Zaza for some sort of social event.

But my favorite was this young Hispanic girl dressed in her quinceañera finery, standing in front of the statue of General Sam Houston where a photographer was capturing the occasion for the proud family.  I was fortunate to capture this shot with my 28-300mm lens in a less formal moment.

When I started processing the image, it seemed like a pretty mundane shot.  Nothing very memorable there, but I still thought the story was worth telling.  So I used the Topaz Adjust plug-in and selected a painterly filter which I tweaked slightly, and finally came up with an image that looked much more romantic and less harsh:

Quinceañera

For comparison, here’s the original unedited image:

Original unedited version

Original unedited version

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.

To Color or Not

I really have a love affair with black and white photography, and I’m always looking for opportunities to drain all the color out of a shot and replace it with shades of gray.

But sometimes, I just can’t resist the blue of the sky against the green of the grass.

This was one of those times, so I just decided to have my cake and eat it, too.

Here’s a 9-bracket HDR of St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, processed both in color and in black and white.  The HDR processing was done in Photomatix Pro V4, and the further editing was done in Paintshop Photo Pro X5.  For the black and white image, I used the Topaz B&W plug-in.

It was a little windy that day, so there’s some ghosting in the clouds as they were skittering across the sky, but I actually kind of like it so I didn’t attempt to process it away.

So, which do you like best?

St. Paul's Methodist Church - Houston TX (Color)

St. Paul's Methodist Church - Houston TX (B&W)

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.

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.

My First Wedding Shoot

My plans for this past weekend included attending the wedding of my niece, Bailey, and her fiance, Daniel on Saturday, May 26.  On Thursday evening of last week, those plans changed dramatically.  Their wedding photographer cancelled at the last minute (don’t even get me started!), and so they asked if I would be willing to take some pictures at the wedding.  Of course, I jumped at the chance….and only started to panic about twelve hours later as I started trying to figure out what the heck I was supposed to do.

I started out by going through all my equipment, charging batteries and cleaning lenses.  I realized that I really didn’t have the optimum lens for this type of shoot (a mid-range fast zoom, like a 28-70mm f/2.8, which is now on my Christmas list!), but I decided to make the best of what I had.  I attended the rehearsal on Friday night, and since my dad was the one officiating, I was already pretty familiar with how he conducts the ceremony.  I was able to get an idea of shooting angles and timing after we went through the ceremony a couple of times.

Saturday was a beautiful day, but it was pretty warm.  The ceremony started at 2:00, but I got there about 11:30 to start taking pictures of Bailey as she was getting ready.  I took a lot of the formal shots of the wedding party and the families prior to the ceremony, along with some shots of the bride and her party outside under some shade trees.

The wedding went off without a hitch, and then we headed to the reception for a full sit-down meal, all leading up to the decorating of the car and the big send-off.

By the time I got home, I was totally exhausted, and today I’m actually stiff and sore from all the bending, stooping, squatting, and carrying around that tank of a camera (the Nikon D700) with the 28-300mm lens.  Thank goodness I was able to use a tripod much of the time!  I’ve spent just about all day processing photos, and I’m about a third of the way through.  Now I know why photographers charge so much to shoot events like weddings….and this was a very simple, but beautiful, ceremony.  I can’t imaging shooting a large, hoity-toity event, even with an assistant or two!

Anyway, I’ll be posting some of the images later as I get through the processing.   I don’t want to post any of the “people” pictures until Bailey and Daniel get to see them first, but I’ll go ahead and share this one that I did of Bailey’s dress, processed in black and white.

The Dress

I feel so honored that Bailey and Daniel trusted me to shoot their wedding. They are such a sweet couple, and I wish them nothing but happiness and joy as they start their life together!  And a special thanks goes to my “assistant”, my wonderful hubby, Andy, who kept me calm and who carried all my equipment for me.  I love you, Sweetie!!