Supermoon 2012

So, who DIDN’T go out last night to shoot the supermoon?

Since we don’t have any really high hills or mountains where I live, I decided to go for some moon-on-water reflection shots.  So I dragged the hubby along and we went to Lake Mohawk where my parents live, to grab not only some shots of the moon rising, but also of the sunset that would precede the big event.

The sky was mostly overcast with high, thin clouds all afternoon, but we decided to try for it anyway in hopes that the clouds would begin to break up in the late afternoon.  I decided to set up on a fishing pier about halfway between the east and west ends of the lake so that I could get water reflections from both the sunset in the west and the moonrise in the east.

We got there about 5:15 I think, which was way too early, so we wound up just hanging out for almost two hours before the sky got interesting, but it was pretty relaxing and gave us a chance to unwind a little bit from the week.  Just before sunset, I called my parents to let them know where we were, and they came down to the pier to join us for the festivities.

The clouds didn’t break up quite as much as I would have liked, and we were probably too close to the tree line to get the best angle on the rising moon.  But still I think I managed to come away with a few images that pleased me.

For the sunset shots, I used the Nikon D700 and shot brackets of five exposures for HDR processing.  I started off with the 14-24 wide angle lens, and finished up with the 28-300 telephoto zoom.  I’ve processed these as HDR’s using Photomatix v4, Paintshop Photo Pro X4, and Topaz DeNoise.  On a side note, since I used both lenses for the same basic shots, I’ve finally figured out that the spots that keep appearing in the photos in the upper left quadrant of the sky must be dust on my sensor.  Ugh.  I used the Object Remove tool in Paintshop Pro to get rid of as many as possible, but I may have to take the camera to have it cleaned.

Sunset Before SuperMoon 01

Sunset Before Supermoon 02

When the moon started rising, I used the zoom to try and get some of the detail.  Later I widened my zoom to capture the reflection of the moon on the water, which to me was a much more interesting composition than just the moon in the sky (which EVERYONE was shooting).  These are all single images processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X4 with Topaz DeNoise:

Supermoon Rising

Supermoon at Lake Mohawk 01

Supermoon at Lake Mohawk 02
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Meet Ti and JJ

Meet Ti and JJ.  These two goofballs are the grandsons of our next door neighbor, and they visit just about every weekend.  They are typical boys–always into mischief, full of energy, bound-and-determined to participate in whatever you might be doing in the yard.  One weekend Ti, the youngest, helped me wash my car (if you can call squirting the water hose in every imaginable direction “helping”).  JJ, the oldest, is always into something he shouldn’t be into….one day we watched him climb the fence in the backyard and then burst into tears when he realized he was too scared to get down.

Today we had the lawn sprinkler running in the front yard, and since the temperatures were in the 80’s, it was just too much for the boys to resist.  They spent a joyful half hour playing in the water, and were more than happy to pose for photos:

Ti and JJ 01

Ti and JJ 04

Ti and JJ 03

Ti and JJ 02

Ti and JJ 05

All images were shot with my Nikon D700 and the 28-300mm Nikkor zoom lens.  Processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X4, using Topaz Black & White Effects.

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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?

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BFF’s in the Christmas Parade

Yeah, I know I said I was wrapping up the series of images from the Tupelo Christmas parade, but there’s still a few that I just had to share.

I couldn’t resist this one.  These three little girls just looked so cute in their Santa hats and reindeer antlers, even as their facial expressions made it plain they were ready for the whole event to be over with!  They were just adorable!

Tupelo Christmas Parade 008

I’m really getting antsy to do some more shooting, but unfortunately it’s pretty difficult on my schedule.  There just isn’t enough daylight in my non-working hours during the week, and the weekends have been pretty hectic getting ready for the holidays.  I may have to resort to doing some creative things in the studio before long!

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Parades Are For Children (Mostly)

Continuing my series of images from the 2011 Christmas Parade in Tupelo, Mississippi:

I love taking candid shots of kids–their faces can’t lie.  You know when they’re happy or sad, tired or excited, bored or angry.

We had positioned ourselves on the sidewalk along Main Street toward the end of the parade route.  I wanted to be near the judges’ viewing stand because I knew that the marching bands and floats would be stopping to perform in front of the judges.  By the time the parade got to where we were located, the participants had been marching or riding for about an hour, not including the time they spent getting organized before the parade even started.

Little kids get tired and bored pretty quickly, and even though they’re in a parade, they haven’t yet learned that they’re supposed to “put on a happy face”.  And that’s when you get the really good shots!

This guy had been riding this toy pony for awhile, and I think he was ready to dismount:

Tupelo Christmas Parade 008

And this little girl was obviously bored with the whole thing and was ready to go “off the wagon”:

Tupelo Christmas Parade 007

I have so many more images from the parade, but they’re pretty standard stuff….snapshot quality, mostly. But we had a great time, met some really nice people, and I’ve had plenty of images to use while getting acquainted with the new versions of Paintshop Photo Pro X4 and Topaz Adjust 5.

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Observing the Observer

Continuing my series of images from the Tupelo Christmas Parade:

I love my 28-300mm zoom lens.  It gives me such flexibility when I’m in a situation where I can’t control the distance between myself and that interesting subject matter that presents itself.  Sometimes you just need that telephoto capability to capture that candid moment when your subject has no idea they’re being observed, much less photographed.

While we were watching the parade, I noticed several people across the street watching the scene from the upstairs windows.  Most of them had the windows open, leaning out to get a great view and hear the marching bands.  But this guy either could not open the window, or chose not to.  In fact, he looked a little bit put out that the parade was disturbing the routine of his Saturday morning.

Tupelo Christmas Parade 006

Nah, I’m sure the sun was just in his eyes and that’s why he was squinting like that.

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Christmas Parades Need Veterans

Continuing my series of images from last weekend’s Christmas parade in downtown Tupelo, Mississippi:

People in this part of the country are probably a little more unabashedly patriotic than people in other locales, but I don’t know of any town where the sight of grizzled old veterans of past wars doesn’t bring a lump to the throat.  There were several veterans and military groups marching or riding in this year’s parade, but this was my favorite–the Veterans of the Korean War, known as “The Forgotten War”.

Tupelo Christmas Parade 005

There’s just something about the evident camaraderie and shared life experience that appears in the lined faces of these guys that appeals to the heart of any American, young or old. I love them all, but my favorite is the guy in the back in the green fatigues and helmet, holding the American flag. Don’t you think he looks just like Leslie Neilsen?

Leslie Neilsen

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Christmas Parades Need Motorcycles

Continuing my series from last weekend’s Tupelo Christmas Parade:

Motorcycles were a big thing in the Christmas parade, starting with the ones ridden by the officers from the Tupelo Police Department that escorted the parade marchers down Main Street.  Tupelo’s finest were looking pretty spiffy on their personalized bikes. Here’s Officer Alan Chavers, if the name on his bike is accurate:

Tupelo Christmas Parade 004

I used Paintshop Photo Pro X4 to process the shot, and Topaz Adjust 5 to accentuate the detail a little bit.

There were several groups of motorcycle enthusiasts who participated in the parade. This spirited couple was part of the Underground Ryderz Motorcycle Club, who absolutely had the LOUDEST bikes in the parade. I decided to do a little color popping in this shot:

Tupelo Christmas Parade 003

On this shot, I decided to go with black and white processing, using Topaz Black and White Effects, adding a little bit of grain but color-popping the two Santa hats. Kind of a fun effect, I think!

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Tupelo Christmas Parade 2011

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to any Christmas parade, and it’s been about forty years since I’ve been to the one in Tupelo.  The last time I went to the Tupelo Christmas parade, it was still a nighttime event, and my parents would park our car in front of the Firestone store on Main Street so we could see the Shriners drive their little cars around in circles–that was my favorite part, better even than Santa Claus!

There were no Shriners this year, and the parade was held at 10:00 in the morning, but it was a beautiful day and we thoroughly enjoyed soaking up some of the local flavor.  I carried my Nikon D700 and the 28-300mm lens.  I used a very wide aperture, not only to get a high shutter speed but also to practice some depth-of-field techniques.  I wanted to see if I could focus on particular faces in the crowd, or on certain features of the parade floats.

I wound up taking 447 frames, so I have a lot of images to go through.  Of course, most aren’t worth mentioning, but I did capture a few that I really like.  Here are the first two that I’ve spent some time on this evening.  I’m using Paintshop Photo Pro X4 and Topaz Adjust 5 for my processing:

Tupelo Christmas Parade 002

Tupelo Christmas Parade 001

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Graffiti in the Old Cabin

I have a love/hate relationship with graffiti.  On the one hand, when it’s done right it tells a story, paints a picture and rouses a range of emotions, and it cries out to be shared with others.  Beautiful, artistic, colorful graffiti is one of my favorite photography subjects, and I’ve captured some fine examples of it in the past:

But when graffiti is done badly, and for no apparent reason, then it just becomes an eyesore.  It’s especially irritating to me when the graffiti marks up a historic building or a natural site that can’t be cleaned without being damaged.  Recently a young guy from Canada was arrested at the Grand Canyon for spray-painting his name (or at least the first part of it) on the stone face of one of the more popular formations along the heavily visited tourist route.  In his affidavit:

…Chenier told Robinson he chose the popular Duck on a Rock geological formation because “it was so special that if he left his name, then his kids would be able to see it 20 years from now.”

So now, in 20 years, Chenier’s children will be able to visit Grand Canyon and point to the rock formation where their father was arrested for being, at best, an idiot, and at worst, an arrogant ass.

Graffiti is a problem at every site where people are allowed to visit, especially when the people are young and “in love”.  On last weekend’s visit to Tishomingo State Park, I shot some bracketed photos inside the old cabin in the park, where hundreds of people have found themselves, for whatever reason, motivated and inspired to write something onto or carve something into the walls, ceiling and floor of this old building.

Tishomingo State Park - Cabin Graffiti
HDR from five bracketed photos shot with my Nikon D700, 28-300mm Nikkor. Processed in Photomatix Pro 4, Paintshop Photo Pro X3, Topaz Adjust / DeNoise.

I’m not sure how we can ever make it stop, but if one of your kids is responsible, please take him/her to the woodshed tonight–without a magic marker.

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