Oktibbeha County Courthouse

I’m still having a love affair with black-and-white processing…..

Oktibbeha County Courthouse

This is the Oktibbeha County Courthouse located in downtown Starkville, Mississippi.

After World War II the Colonial Revival in Mississippi evolved into a style that emulated the great Greek Revival houses of the antebellum period.  The revival was so widespread that some pundits have referred to it as “Greek Survival.”  Most of Mississippi’s welcome centers and interstate rest stops are constructed in this style, as are many courthouses; for example, the courthouses in Noxubee and Oktibbeha counties, built in 1952 and 1963 respectively.

Architecture in Mississippi During the 20th Century

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

Advertisements

Main Street Vintage Guitars

One thing that I’m learning to love about downtown Tupelo is the emphasis on restoring and re-using old historical buildings for shops, restaurants, bars, and offices.

Today’s image definitely has an urbex feel, but there’s a great story behind the surface.  This is the Main Street Vintage Guitar shop, located at the corner of Main and Spring streets.  This is actually the side of the building, facing Spring Street, but I just had to shoot this side because of the great Coca-Cola mural painted on the wall which has been preserved along with the building.

Main Street Vintage Guitars

I found their website that has a ton of information about the building, including pictures from its past as well as the restoration process that turned it into its modern-day incarnation as a vintage guitar shop. I found out that this building was originally the First National Bank, and it was constructed in 1890.  The store is visited by musicians from everywhere, most recently by Keith Urban when he was in Tupelo for a recent concert.  Be sure to check out http://www.pwogs.com/msvg_history_building.html for the full story.

This image is a single image taken with my Nikon D700 and 50mm 1.8 prime lens, hand-held.  This was about 3:45 PM, and the setting sun was casting some pretty good shadows on this side of the building.  I used Paintshop Photo Pro X4 and Topaz Adjust to process the image and bring out the detail in the brick and morter, as well as the mural on the wall.

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

Dinner Interrupted

Finally! I finally got the Nikon out of the house for a few hours of shooting this afternoon. We spent some time exploring the alleys and side streets of downtown Tupelo, our new home. Today was the first day after daylight savings time ended, so I wasn’t exactly sure what the lighting would be like in the late afternoon in this part of the country. I decided to just shoot with the 50mm prime lens and concentrate on architectural and urbex details.

Downtown Tupelo has some wonderful old buildings with the original brick and mortar, some with old advertisements that were painted there years and years ago. We have been pleasantly surprised at the number of restaurants, bars and coffee shops that have been opened in these old buildings, preserving the architectural details of the brick and the wood. Lots of ambiance and good food to be had here in downtown Tupelo!

While exploring one of the alleys, we came across this table behind one of the newer restaurants, Nautical Whimsey, where it was apparent that one of the restaurant staff had been dining before he or she was interrupted. The pasta, salad and drink looked so good that we were enticed to check out their wine bar, and ended up spending two hours there.

Dinner Interrupted

The owners, Dave (bartender) and Amanda (chef and bartender) were friendly, generous and entertaining. We each ordered a beer, and then after checking the menu, decided to try their crab cakes and the bruchetta. We were not disappointed.  They get two thumbs up from us!

This shot was processed in the new version of Paintshop Photo Pro X4, using Topaz Adjust.  I was able to get the upgrade from X3 to X4 for $50, and I still think it’s a heck of a deal compared to Photoshop.  I’ve processed six shots so far from today’s excursion, and I’ll be sharing them over the next few days, so stay tuned!

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

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.

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

Reservations

Continuing my series of images from the abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park in Black Canyon City, Arizona:

When we were at the dog track this past weekend, we found several ladders inside the building.  They didn’t look to be that old, and it didn’t dawn on me why they might be there until my husband saw the photos that evening, and he ventured a guess–copper wiring in the light fixtures.

I’m not sure why there was a reservation booth at the dog track, and I’m also not sure why there’s a big furniture sign there, unless they held a fixtures sale when the place closed.

Put all these elements together, and you get more questions than answers, but it makes a pretty good HDR image.

Reservations
HDR created from seven bracketed photos processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust / DeNoise.

Normally I tend to increase the color saturation on my HDR shots, but in this case I actually reduced the saturation. I think the more subtle tones are more in keeping with the character of the place–bleak and desolate.

If you’re interested, I came across this video on YouTube that someone made while walking through the site.  It was uploaded to YouTube in January of this year, so it’s pretty close to what we saw when we were there.  It will give you a good idea of the sounds we heard–wind blowing, tile and glass crunching underfoot.  Check it out!

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/

Take Your Seat and Watch Your Step

I love using my 28-300mm zoom lens with my Nikon D700, but I sometimes forget to take advantage of the great depth-of-field opportunities it provides, especially when I’m concentrating on capturing brackets for HDR processing.

Yesterday at the abandoned dog track, I actually remembered to play around with the focal length on the lens.  I lowered the height of the tripod to about knee-level, and then aimed the camera down the front row of seats in the “yellow” section.  I focused on one of the seats about a third of the way down the row, letting the other seats go slightly out of focus.  I was using a focal length of 92mm, at F/10.

These seats were positioned right in front of what used to be the huge plate glass windows looking out on the dog track.  The glass has been shattered, and quite a bit of it was lying in pieces right in front of these seats.  The late afternoon sun was at the perfect angle to give the seats a nice glow.  And since I shot a five-bracket series, I was able to retain the detail of the interior as well as the exterior of the grandstand:

Take Your Seat and Watch Your Step

I find that HDR processing is complicated a bit by using these shallow depths of field, because the areas that are purposely left out of focus can actually turn out worse during the HDR process. For instance, in this shot, I wound up with some obvious chromatic aberration along the mountain tops in the background. Probably should have spent some time trying to fix it, but hey, I was tired.

I’m still going through the rest of the shots and trying to decide which one I want to work on next. So much to choose from!

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

Watchmen – Black Canyon Greyhound Park

Urbex isn’t my favorite kind of photography, but there’s something eerily fun about going into an old abandoned space and documenting what’s been left behind.

Today I spent several hours with a couple of photographers who are also co-workers, exploring the abandoned greyhound racing track in Black Canyon City, Arizona.  Surprisingly, there are no fences and no warning signs to keep people out, so we had free run of the place.

First of all, let me just say that this is no place for kids, so don’t go dragging your children out here to play.  There’s broken glass–lots of it.  Huge shards of it.  And of course there’s lots of nasty bird and rodent droppings around.  But if you’re careful and you wear good thick-soled shoes, you get rewarded with some great urbex photography, especially if you’re into HDR.

The grandstands are still mostly intact, with brightly colored red, yellow and orange seats, which face toward the west making them very colorful as the sun sets.  The remainder of the facility is pretty much gutted, with quite a bit of broken floor tiles, graffiti, and some interesting bits of debris scattered around.  There’s even a metal staircase on the outside of the building that leads up to the roof to where the pressboxes are located.  There’s the abandoned restaurant as well as the “paddocks” for the dogs, and another building that has an old office with paperwork still scattered about.  Very cool.

I didn’t get home until after dark, and then the hubby and I went out for a light dinner, so I didn’t get to look at my shots until late tonight.  I think I got some good ones!  Some of them will definitely be candidates for color processing, but some are just perfect for a gritty black-and-white treatment–which brings us to the first posting from today’s photoshoot:

Watchmen

This was taken in what I believe was the restaurant or snack-bar area, judging by all the tables and chairs thrown about, as well as the adjoining kitchen area. It’s a five-exposure HDR processed in Photomatix, and then post-processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, with Topaz Adjust. I decided to go with black-and-white, and I actually added some grain to the shot to play up the gritty environment.

Can’t wait to start processing some of the other shots, and it will be interesting to see what my two cohorts come up with. Always fun to see different interpretations of the same scene. Stay tuned!

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

Jerome Grand Hotel From the Outside

Continuing my series of images from our recent visit to Jerome, Arizona:

A few posts ago, I presented some images of the interior of the historic Grand Hotel in Jerome.   I’ve also shown you their still-operational Otis elevator.  As promised, tonight’s post presents a few images of the exterior of the hotel, with a few processing twists.

This first shot is taken from a vantage point slightly downhill from the hotel.  I really liked the bare branches in the foreground, but wanted to soften them up a bit.  So I used the Venetian Painting preset in Topaz Adjust, and then did some further softening in Paintshop Photo Pro X3:

Jerome Grand Hotel and Asylum Restaurant

This next image shows the Asylum Restaurant after they’ve closed for the night. Since this place is supposed to be haunted, I don’t think they get too concerned if some of the lights are not functioning properly–maybe it’s just part of the mystique. View it large to see what I mean:

Jerome Grand Hotel and Asylum Restaurant

And this last image is an HDR from five bracketed shots taken with the 14-24mm wide-angle zoom. The perspective is wonky, but I think it just adds to the “haunted”, mysterious look of the hotel. After all, any hotel with gigantic spiders hanging from the underside of the balconies has to be a little wonky (click to view it large!):

Jerome Grand Hotel and Asylum Restaurant

I still have lots of great shots from Jerome that I’ll probably play with in the coming weeks. But we’re heading to Sedona tomorrow where there are always great photo ops at every turn, so I’m sure my inventory of images will be overflowing by Sunday evening.

Have a fantastic weekend, everyone!

Jerome Grand Hotel Balcony Room

Continuing my series of images from our recent visit to Jerome, Arizona:

As I’ve mentioned before, we elected to stay at the Jerome Grand Hotel on our last trip, for a couple of reasons.  First of all, the hotel is located at the top of the mountain-side town, so it has a great view of the town and the surrounding valley beyond.  But the hotel also has a lot of history and mystique about it, and we love a good story.

From their webpage:

This Spanish Mission style building, constructed in 1926, started out as the United Verde Hospital, opening January, 1927. In 1930, it was written up as the most modern and well equipped hospital in Arizona and possible the Western States. The Hospital was closed in 1950 as the mine operation was being phased out. The building stood unused for the next 44 years until the rehabilitation plans started in 1994.

The building is one of the highest public structures in the Verde Valley, (5240 Ft.). As the last major building constructed in Jerome, the building was not only to boost the pride of the town in its classic design, but was built fire proof and able to withstand the blasts of up to 260,000 pounds of dynamite set off by the mine and sometimes felt as far away as Camp Verde, a distance of 20 miles. How this 30,000 sq. ft., five level building of poured in place, reinforced concrete, was constructed on a 50 degree slope is an engineering marvel even by today’s standards!

Purchased by the Altherr Family in 1994, from the Phelps Dodge Mining Corp, the restoration and rehabilitation was started. Having been closed for 44 years, there had been no changes to the original building except for the enclosure of the roof top deck in 1929, The building has withstood the tests of blasting as well as the tests of time. This has to be one of the best preserved buildings in Arizona and extreme measures have been used to protect the interior and exterior integrity.

Our balcony room was beautifully decorated and very comfortable, with a few quaint touches like the old telephone with no dial (you just pick up the handset and you’re automatically connected to the front desk), the steam radiator, and the transoms over the doors to let the breeze blow through.  The bed was very comfortable, the bathroom facilities were modern and functioned perfectly, and the balcony was a delightful space to sit with a glass of wine and watch the sun go down (while shooting brackets, of course!).

Here’s a view of our guest room.  This is an HDR image from five bracketed photos shot without flash with only the light from the balcony doors. I used Photomatix to merge the images, and then Paintshop Photo Pro X3, with Topaz Adjust/DeNoise for post-processing:

Jerome Grand Hotel Balcony Room

The halls of the hotel are decorated with period antiques that make the Grand Hotel a unique place to visit. Here’s a slideshow of some of the hallway decor, as well as the lobby and gift shop area. All of these images were shot with the 14-24mm wide angle lens, tripod-mounted with no flash. I didn’t do any special processing on any of them, other than straightening some that were a little crooked:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We truly enjoyed our stay at the Grand Hotel, even though we didn’t get to meet any ghosts while we were there. The staff was friendly, the lodgings were comfortable, and the view was unbeatable.

On my next post, I’ll share some images of the exterior of the hotel…watch out for spiders!

Gallery Space

Continuing my series of images from our recent visit to Jerome, Arizona:

Many, if not most, of the structures in Jerome have been abandoned at one time or another, but they have been reoccupied by artists and gallery owners, as well as restaurant owners, bed-and-breakfast operators and souvenir hawkers.

While strolling around Jerome we came across the studio of a glass-blower which occupies a once-abandoned building.  I used a set of three brackets to produce this black-and-white HDR image.  At the upper left you can see the windows of the glass-blower’s studio–he has a beautiful view of the Verde Valley below that must be such an inspiration for his work.  Just outside his windows you can see the crumbled, abandoned part of the building which gives it such character.

While I like the colors in the original, I wanted to go with black-and-white to emphasize the textures of the brick, plaster, concrete, tin, sheet metal, and the mountainside in the background.  I also think that the black-and-white just fits the time period of the original building:

Gallery Space

And just for grins, here’s what the original photo looked like. This JPG was converted from the original raw file with no processing applied. This is the normal exposure bracket:

What do you think? Would the color version be more effective?  Should I re-do the HDR as a color version?

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