White Goose in Late Afternoon

We stopped by Veterans Park in Tupelo on Sunday afternoon just about an hour before sundown.  We wanted to see if there were any geese on the lake, and we were fortunate enough to get there just when (1) the light was right and (2) a family was tossing pieces of bread into the water to attract the geese, ducks and other waterfowl.

I tried to practice something that I read recently about photographing birds and other wildlife–try to focus on the eyes.  It’s harder than it looks, as animals don’t exactly look into the camera and pose for you.  But just thinking about that little rule made me pay more attention to what I was shooting, and I did manage to capture a few shots where the eyes look pretty darn sharp!

White Goose in Late Afternoon

I used my Nikon D5000 with the 55-200mm lens for this shot, set at about 190mm. I used a fairly large aperture of F/6.3 to get a faster shutter speed and also to blur the background a little bit. I processed the raw file in Paintshop Photo Pro X4, using Topaz Adjust 5, as well as Topaz DeNoise to clean up the very slight bit of noise in the dark areas of the water.

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I’ve been terribly neglectful of posting, or even shooting photographs lately.  Guess I’ve been in a photography funk, just haven’t been that inspired for the past few months.

A couple of weeks ago, we flew out to Mississippi to visit my family, and while there I got to meet my Mom’s new litter of kittens.  There’s nothing cuter than a kitten, and nothing more photogenic.  So I did manage to get a few shots that I liked, even though most of the time it was too shady and cloudy to be able to capture their quick movements with the slow shutter speeds I was getting through the telephoto lens.  I had to wait until they were asleep, and then I got this one that I loved:


I shot this one in raw NEF format using my Nikon D700 and the 28-300mm lens, and processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X3. Since I was having to use such a large aperture opening (small F-stop) to get enough light to the sensor, I wound up with a very shallow depth-of-field, but in this case I think it totally works. I intentionally desaturated the color to add that little bit of innocence and wistfulness to the scene. Such cuties!

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on:
Facebook at ZannWalker Photography
Twitter @suzanne_hight
My Official Website at http://zannwalker.com

Thanksgiving in the Country

I spent last week at my parents’ house in North Mississippi. They are fortunate enough to live on a beautiful lake called Lake Mohawk, and I was glad to see that there was still a bit of fall color remaining when I arrived there last Monday.

The skies were overcast and rainy for most of my visit, however. I wasn’t able to get out and shoot as much as I had planned (my tripod never got used during my visit), and most of the shots I took outside were at a higher-than-normal ISO setting. But thanks to the Topaz suite of products and Paintshop Pro X3, I was able to restore some of the color to these shots that was lost in the flat light of the overcast daylight.

This first shot was made with my 75-200 zoom lens. There is an abundance of wildlife around the lake, including lots of squirrels who like to hang out at the bird feeders that my dad stocks around the house.  I used Topaz Adjust to sharpen it up and bring out the details of the tree bark and the squirrel’s fur:

I See You Up There

There’s no cable TV where my folks live…instead, everyone has dish antennas.   There are several dishes on the hill behind their house, most of which are the smaller ones, but there’s still this big dinosaur that’s gathering leaves from the surrounding trees. This is an HDR image created from three hand-held bracketed shots using Photomatix v4, Topaz Adjust, and Paintshop Pro X3:

Return to Nature

And finally, here’s a shot of some of the fall color that was still on the trees when I arrived. By the time I left on Saturday, the thunderstorms of the week had pretty much left the trees bare. This shot was processed in Topaz Clean 3, using the “Stylize Details” preset. In Paintshop Pro X3, I used the Curves tool to adjust the exposure, and then I used the Edge enhancement effect to sharpen the edges:

Last of the Fall Color

Big Bugs in Downtown Phoenix

Sunday was my birthday, and I was fortunate enough to get to spend several hours with my camera and tripod in downtown Phoenix.  The hubby went along with me, and he carried my backpack with extra lenses and assorted paraphernalia, leaving me free to climb stairs and low concrete walls to get the shots I wanted.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t choose to shoot downtown in the middle of the day since the shadows can be so harsh.  But I knew I was going to process these shots as HDR’s, so I decided to take advantage of a beautiful, if still warm, autumn day when downtown was pretty much deserted.

I took about 55-60 bracketed series, and I’ve just started going through them, but these three images are going to be some of my favorites, I can already tell.  These bronze sculptures are located on the plaza of the newly expanded Phoenix Convention Center.  According to their official website, the sculptures were created by Tom Otterness and they include:

Three large, whimsical bronze sculptures of desert creatures, enlarged to human scale. The creatures include a millipede with a hat and shoes; a walking stick in high heels, and a scorpion holding two small men in top hats tugging at a bag of money. Accompanying sculptural elements of people, scaled down to Lilliputian dimensions, interact with the creatures. The sculptures are set in a unique water-harvesting garden at the public plaza located near the southeast entrance of the North Building.

Each of these images was created from a bracketed series of three photos (-2.0/0.0/+2.0) taken with my Nikon D5000 and the kit lens (18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6) at F/13.  I used Photomatix Pro v3 to produce the HDR image, and then post-processed in Paintshop Pro X3 to tweak the brightness and contrast, and I used the Curves tool to modify the color balance slightly.  I like the way that the HDR process accentuates the variations in the shades of bronze on the sculptures, especially on the millipede.  My biggest disappointment was on the scorpion–once again I have a little flare spot in the middle of the picture.  I need to figure out where that’s coming from so I can get rid of it.

Downtown Phoenix 001

Downtown Phoenix 002

Downtown Phoenix 003

The majority of the other images that i took are architectural in nature, and I’ll be posting them in the next few days and weeks.

This coming weekend we’re planning a trip into Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona to check out the fall color (if there is any yet).  I’m looking forward to getting my camera out in some cooler weather–it was over 90° in downtown Phoenix when these shots were taken yesterday.  Way too hot for late October!!


More Campsite Critters

Tonight’s post presents a few more of the critters that shared our campsite with us last week.  I wish I could tell you the exact name of each of these guys, but I’m not very familiar with the species names–I just know them as “squirrel”, “lizard”, and “bird”.

So, here they are!


Campsite Critter 01


Campsite Critter 02


Campsite Critter 03

Hey, I’m a photographer, not a biologist. 🙂

Anyway, hope you enjoy the shots. These guys were all kind enough to let us get reasonably close to them, probably because the hubby was eating sunflower seeds and almonds. This is one of the reasons that I love to go camping, just to get up close and personal with cute critters like this!

All of these were shot with the Nikon D5000 in raw NEF format, using a 75-200mm zoom lens. Since it was shady, I was using a fairly large aperture, so getting the proper depth of field was a little bit of a challenge. The shots were all processed in Paintshop Pro X3, where I tweaked the brightness and contrast, added a little Local Tone Mapping, and sharpened somewhat. I cropped the shot of the bird just a little from the top because the top wasn’t very interesting. However, I left the squirrel uncropped because I wanted to illustrate how he was sitting out in the open rather than hiding from us. The lizard….well, he is what he is.


Hey, Alvin!

Ok, I just can’t resist the “cute animal” shot.  When we were camping at Canyon Point last week, we were visited by a variety of wildlife during our stay, including squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, horned toads, and an assortment of birds and insects.  The chipmunks are my favorite.  They are a little more shy than the squirrels, but they are inquisitive enough to sneak up under your chair if you’re eating something that they think you might share with them.

Hey, Alvin!

This guy had found a safe burrow under a tree stump that had been burned during the last wildfire that came through the area two or three years ago. He let me get close enough to get a few shots with the telephoto zoom, but he was definitely keeping a close eye on me!

The photo was shot in raw NEF format, then processed to JPG in Paintshop Pro X3. I bumped up the contrast, used some Local Tone Mapping, and saturated the colors a little bit, as the raw file was just a bit washed out.


Butterfly with Tattered Wing

Here’s a shot of a butterfly that I chased for several minutes through the campground last week.  There were storm clouds moving in, and I was trying to get a decent shot of this guy before the rain started.  He finally settled on this patch of flowers and stayed put long enough for me to get several shots with my telephoto lens.

It wasn’t until later when I was viewing the shots on my computer screen that I noticed that his right wing was torn.  Poor guy!  Anyway, I was thankful that he offered to pose for me for a few seconds just before the rain started.

Butterfly with Tattered Wing

This was shot in raw NEF format, converted to JPG and processed in Paintshop Pro X3.


Swans Up Close and Personal

Tonight I returned to the photos that I took at Encanto Park a couple of weeks ago. I got quite a few of the swans and ducks that play around in the water throughout the park, and while they are pretty mundane shots (who doesn’t have photos of these ducks and swans??), they are giving me the opportunity to just play around with some of the features of Paintshop Pro that I haven’t used very much.

While I like to shoot bracketed images and process them as HDR’s, it’s not always possible to do that with moving targets, so I have to adjust my expectations when processing single-image photos, and try to tease out all the detail possible.  This shot of a swan was a bit of a challenge.  The white feathers under the almost-midday sun were almost blown out on the swan’s back, although the neck area retained a good bit of detail.  I like how the water droplets on the neck area show up as well:

I played around with dodging and burning on this one, as well as some of the Level functionality.  I lost count of the number of times I hit “undo”, but it was all about experimentation tonight.  I’d like for these photos to be more than just snapshots–we’ll see how well I succeed.


The Zen Dragonfly

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve taken the camera out for a spin.  I decided to take a PTO day today, making it a four-day weekend, and on my first morning off work, I took the trusty Nikon over t0 Encanto Park in Phoenix.  I’ve lived in the Valley for over ten years now, but had never visited this park.  It’s actually a nice little oasis in the middle of the older section of town, although it’s starting to show its age (and the impact of the city budget cuts).  There’s a golf course, a small lake, and little streams feeding off the lake in a loop through the park.  There are plenty of swans, ducks, pigeons and geese roaming the grounds and swimming in the water, providing an abundance of photo ops.  The skyline of downtown Phoenix can be seen to the south over the palm trees, providing an interesting backdrop.

I just got home a short while ago and transferred my shots to the computer and started browsing through them.  This one has to be one of my favorites.  I love the delicate look of the dragonfly’s wings, as well as the gentle colors created from the shallow depth of field.

Zen Dragonfly, Encanto Park, Phoenix, AZ

I took this shot using my telephoto lens, which gave me a nice blurry background from the pinkish sand.  There was actually more greenery in this shot, but I cropped it down to what I felt were the essential elements.  I didn’t do a lot of processing, just a little contrast adjustment and local tone-mapping in Paintshop Pro.

I was in the park from about 9:30 to 10:30AM, and it was already 104°, on its way to 115°.  There’s not a huge amount of shade out there, so I was pretty drained after only an hour…plus the midday light isn’t the best for shooting.  I definitely plan to go back either early in the morning or late in the evening to try my luck again.

I think I got a lot of great shots and can’t wait to start processing them, but couldn’t wait to share this one!



Gulls over Ensenada

Finally got a few hours to spend processing  more of the photos that we took while we were on our cruise back in April.  On the third day of the cruise we were docked in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.  In the late afternoon we went out on deck to watch the sunset, and we found that there was a very stiff breeze blowing, with sustained winds around 20-25 mph.  We noticed that the seagulls, which always accompanied the ship while in port, were flying into the wind as they came close to the ship, and for the most part they were simply hovering in the air with their wings widespread.

I had the telephoto lens on my camera, and managed to get some great shots of these beautiful birds in the late afternoon sun as they circled around us.

The full-size version of these photos can be seen on my Flickr site in the set titled Gulls in Flight. They were all shot as JPG files and processed in PaintShop Pro X3.

I haven’t been able to get out with the camera lately, and now it’s beginning to get really hot here in the Valley.  I have a four-day weekend coming up for the Fourth of July, so I’m hoping to spend some quality camera-time then.  I miss it!