Tombigbee Sweet Gum

This past Sunday we took an afternoon drive to Tombigbee State Park, just about twenty minutes from our house, to explore the countryside and look for a few photo-ops. The trees are still bare and most of the ground cover is still brown, but it was a beautiful day with bright blue skies, and we thoroughly enjoyed our day-trip.

Tombigbee State Park is small as far as parks go, but they have a beautiful lake, some nice campsites, recreational facilities (including an excellent Frisbee golf course that winds its way through the woods), and picnicking and boating facilities. They also have a number of rustic but well-equipped cabins for rent, and we will definitely be making reservations for a stay there in the near future.

I carried both my camera bodies with me. I had the Nikon D5000 with my 55-200mm lens attached, and I also had my Nikon D700 full-frame monster with the 14-24mm wide-angle lens mounted. It was nice to be able to switch back and forth between cameras while shooting the same scene, and to be able to compare results between the equipment.

The first shot I want to share is this image taken with the D5000 and the 55-200 zoom. I wanted to capture the hanging sweet gum ball while blurring the lake in the background, and the telephoto lens with a wide aperture was perfect.  I even managed to capture the wisps of spider web on the lower fork of the branch:

Tombigbee Sweet Gum

I’ll share more photos in the next few days. I’m still anxious for springtime to get here so things will start to green up a little. But it’s still possible to find beauty in the middle of winter time if we just take the time to look for it.

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
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My Official Website at http://zannwalker.com

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My Hubby, the Model

I’m pretty sure that if I ever hope to make any income as a photographer, it’s going to involve taking lots of pictures of people instead of deserted buildings and Arizona landscapes.  I’ve started putting together a plan for getting some volunteers to let me practice on them, and my first victim…er, subject, was my hubby, Andy.

Fortunately, Andy actually enjoys having his picture made, and he’s enough of a ham that he doesn’t mind posing in public while absolute strangers walk by.  This evening he agreed to let me take some shots of him as we were on our way to dinner.

I was using my Nikon D700 and the 28-300mm zoom lens.  By the time we got to the location, the sun was just slipping below the horizon so there wasn’t much light left.  I had to bump the ISO up to about 500 to get a shutter speed of about 1/50s with a wide-open aperture.  I didn’t bring my tripod, so this was all hand-held, and I was really afraid that the shots weren’t going to be as sharp as I would have liked.

I also took a few shots with my old Quantaray 35-82mm F4-5.6 that I re-discovered today still attached to my old Nikon 6006 35mm camera.  Whether it was the rapidly fading light or the poorer quality of the lens, the pictures I took with that lens were noticeably softer than the ones with the 28-300mm.

Here are a couple of shots that I’ve processed.  To see the entire set, visit my Flickr site here.

Taken with the 28-300mm:

20110212_023_AndyAtCitadel

Taken with the 35-82mm:

20110212_062_AndyAtCitadel

All the shots were processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

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.

The Arabian Library in Copper

Tonight’s post is another image of the Arabian Library in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Its exterior walls are a beautiful copper color which positively glows in the sun, especially against the bright blue of the desert sky:

Arabian Library in Copper

This is a single exposure shot handheld at 85mm, ISO 200, F/6.3, 1/640s. I processed it in PaintShop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust to bring out some of the details that were lost in the harsh sunlight.

I spent a few hours (and a few bucks) today establishing my new online domain, ZannWalker.com. Over time, I plan to get a website set up to display my best photography, and then eventually start some sort of business from what is now a very expensive hobby. But for now, I just wanted to make sure that I own the domain. It may never amount to anything, but one has to start somewhere.

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.

Copper Entryway

I took my camera to work with me today and at lunchtime I made a quick trip over to the Arabian Library in Scottsdale.  I’ve been there several times before and always thought that those copper walls would make some great photos, especially when contrasted with the deep blue sky.

I got several decent shots today with the 28-300mm zoom, even though the noontime sun was quite harsh.  This particular shot was made on the side of the building where there was an entryway cutout in the wall.  Just inside this entryway there are doors leading to the left and the right, although they aren’t visible here.  What caught my eye were the two pieces of red alarm equipment on the inner wall.

I just liked the geometry of the scene:

Copper Entryway

This is a single exposure shot handheld at 85mm, ISO 200, F/6.3, 1/640s. I processed it in PaintShop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust to bring out some of the details that were lost in the harsh sunlight. I love the texture and color variations in the copper sheeting, it would have been a shame to lose that!

Fresh Grapefruit

I decided to play around with the 50mm prime lens on the D700 late this afternoon just to see what I could find around the house. One of my friends at work brought in a cartload of fresh citrus fruit last week, so I had this big bowl of fresh pink grapefruit sitting on my dining room table. The late afternoon filtered light coming in through the windows gave it such a soft look that I really liked, especially with the bokeh of the wine bottle in the background:

Fresh Grapefruit

This one was shot at F/1.8, 1/160s at ISO 1250. I went with the large aperture to get a narrower depth of field, just to see how it would do.  The light to the front and right is natural coming through the window, and the light to the left is primarily florescent coming from the kitchen. I shot handheld in JPG (fine), and processed in PaintShop Photo Pro X3, using the Curves and Saturation adjustment tools, along with some selective sharpening.

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.

Hoop Dancers – Grand Entrance

I had a great time shooting at the Native American World Hoop Dancing Championship held yesterday (continuing today) at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ.  It was a perfect opportunity to get acquainted with the new camera (Nikon D700) and the new zoom lens (Nikon 28-300mm F/3.5-5.6G).

I was sitting about three rows back from the edge of the dance area, maybe 20 yards from the center of the ring.  The day’s festivities started with the Grand Entrance, when all the dancers lined up and paraded through the crowd and into the ring, led by three men carrying the Eagle Staff and the flags of the United States and Canada.  As they came into the ring, they formed a spiral of dancers, stirring up a small cloud of dust.  It was quite dramatic, colorful and a lot of fun to watch.

I tried to use that opportunity to practice selective focusing, selecting a specific subject in the crowd of dancers.  I set the camera to shutter-priority because I needed a fast shutter speed to capture the fast-moving dancers.  I was using a little higher ISO (320) to obtain the fast shutter speed, balanced with a little deeper depth of field.

Hoop Dancing - Grand Entrance
Single image JPG processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, Topaz Adjust / DeNoise

This shot is one of my favorite from the Grand Entrance. I was shooting in JPG mode only because I knew I was going to be shooting a LOT of images and I wasn’t sure how much memory the raw files would eat up…besides, this was just a practice run. The sun was behind me, shining directly in the face of the dancer, which caused a little loss of detail. I used Topaz Adjust selectively on the central figure to restore some of the detail back to his face and his clothing.  It still looks a little bit over-processed to me, but better than the original.

I’ll be posting a few more shots from the dancing over the next few days. I’ve posted a few straight-from-the-camera shots of the Tiny Tots division (ages 1-5) on my Facebook page which you can view here. Here’s a short video that I shot with my Blackberry so you can hear the drummers and singers who provided the Native American music for the dancers:

http://www.facebook.com/v/1876320986557

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.

Nigel Airborne

It’s been awhile since I’ve played with the telephoto zoom lens, and since it was such a sunny day, I decided to take advantage of the bright light to try and capture some action shots.  I headed to the local skatepark where I found about twenty-five or thirty guys (where were the girls?) of all ages, zipping around the skate basins.

Here in the desert, even in the wintertime, the midday sun creates some harsh shadows that can be difficult to handle when trying for the perfect exposure.  I tried to remember all the little things I needed to adjust in my settings…switching to continuous-servo AF, using a smaller aperture for greater depth of field, but bumping up the ISO just a bit to get a fast shutter speed.  I was also using a polarizer filter to deepen the colors.

I had only been there about five minutes when I was approached by one of the skaters who asked me to take some shots of him, so I obliged.  Here’s Nigel at his best!

Nigel Airborne
Taken with my Nikon D5000, using Nikkor AF-S 55-200mm 1:4.5-5.6 zoom with polarizer filter

Topaz Adjust came to the rescue on this shot, helping to expose the detail in the harsh shadows without blowing out the sky. I love Topaz!!

Bike Night – Developing an Eye for Detail

Here are a few more shots from last Thursday night’s Bike Night at Westgate in Glendale, AZ. Although I enjoy taking those wide-angle shots to get the “big picture”, I’m finding that I enjoy even more getting close to a subject and looking for the little interesting details.

Here are some examples, two in black-and-white and one in color. Be sure to click on them to view large on black..

In this first shot, the detailed etching on the fender and the wheel of this bike caught my eye as I passed by. Yeah, I could have taken a shot of the entire bike, but then I would have had all kind of extemporaneous busyness in the frame that would have distracted from my real subject–the wheel:

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I processed this next image in color because I liked the way the red and blue lights reflected off the silver of this hood (fender?) ornament, especially since it was Veterans Day. Had a lot of fun playing with this one in Topaz DeNoise and Adjust.  I did have to crop a little off the top, but it was all empty space anyway:

Bike Night on Veterans Day 013

And finally, another black-and-white image. I was really torn on this one. The bike had blue lights under the gas tank that lit up the motor with an eerie neon glow, and I thought it would be really cool to process in color. However, what really caught my eye was the reflection of nearby bikes that showed up in the rear fender. I didn’t want the blue from the motor to detract from the reflection, so I chose to process this one in monochrome. Just an aesthetic preference on my part, I guess.  I also like the DOF on this one–having the rest of the bike a little blurry helped draw the eye to the reflection:

Bike Night on Veterans Day 014

Once again, all these were shot with a Nikon D5000 with the kit lens (18-55mm, f/3.5-5.6), handheld, ISO around 2000, and in aperture-priority mode with the aperture pretty much wide open.

I have several more shots from Bike Night that I may or may not get around to processing. A week from tonight I’ll be headed “home” to visit my family for Thanksgiving, and of course my camera bag and tripod will be traveling with me. I’ve got a lot to do between now and then–I do have a day job after all–so I’m not sure how much time I’ll get to spend in the digital darkroom.

Of course, if insomnia strikes……

Bike Night in Color

I processed a few more of the images from Thursday night’s Bike Night photo shoot today, only this time I worked with the raw files and processed them in color.  (My last post showed some of the black-and-white shots SOOC.)

Because I was shooting at such a high ISO and wide open aperture, the raw files had quite a bit of noise, so I used Topaz DeNoise to clean them up a bit.  Then I used Topaz Adjust to sharpen and add contrast, and boost saturation where needed.  I did some final tweaking in Paintshop Pro X3 using Curves and Sharpen.  In some cases, I tried to keep the shot as close to  how we saw it as possible, but on some of these I played with the presets in Topaz Adjust to give them a little spice…almost an HDR effect.

It was definitely trickier working with the color images than the black-and-whites. The plaza where these shots were taken is surrounded by huge jumbotron billboards that are constantly shifting colors and light intensity. Additionally, the walls of the buildings on one side are a pistachio shade of green, which gave everything a greenish cast. Having all these different colors and lights reflecting off all that chrome made for some interesting processing challenges.

Hope you like the results!

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Bike Night on Veterans Day 005

Bike Night on Veterans Day 006

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Bike Night on Veterans Day 007

Bike Night on Veterans Day at Westgate

I got a tweet from my Westgate feed late this afternoon advertising Bike Night…tonight.  Wish they would give us a little more advance notice about these things, but that’s another subject.  Bike Night is a monthly family-friendly gathering of local motorcycle enthusiasts at the Westgate entertainment complex in Glendale.  I thought it would be a great opportunity to get a little practice shooting handheld shots under fairly low lighting conditions.

Since today is also Veterans Day, the gathering had quite a patriotic theme to it.  They had a live band, several speakers from the military and first responders, and a flag from Ground Zero on display.  There was the playing of the National Anthem, “America the Beautiful”, and of course, Lee Greenwood’s “I’m Proud To Be An American”.   There was a mini-parade of motorcycles carrying flags through the crowd which drew a big response from everyone as well.

Click on the images below to view LARGE on black:

Bike Night on Veterans Day 001

We wandered around through the crowd and the parked motorcycles and I took about fifty shots. I had the camera set to Monochrome and RAW+Fine, so I got a black-and-white JPG and a raw file with all the color information. Sometimes I just like the black-and-white shots better, especially since I was shooting at a fairly high ISO (around 2000 most of the time), with a wide open aperture. I really need to start saving up my money for a fast lens.

Bike Night on Veterans Day 002

These shots are SOOC (straight out of the camera) JPG’s. Honestly, I’m happy with these just the way they are. However, I’m going to be spending some time playing around with the entire set from tonight’s shoot over the weekend. I got some really nice close-up shots of the bikes with the colorful reflection of the lights that really need the color processing to do them justice. But I wanted to throw these out there just to give you an idea of what the evening was like.

Bike Night on Veterans Day 003

Wow, it’s almost 10:00PM already! Guess I’d better close up the darkroom before I’m tempted to start working on these shots!