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!

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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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Building 50 – Tishomingo State Park

It’s been a long dry spell, but we finally have our move behind us and are now located in Tupelo, Mississippi.  We’re still deep in the process of unpacking, organizing, and getting settled, but we decided to take a day off today and do a little shooting.  This afternoon we drove about forty miles northeast on the Natchez Trace to Tishomingo State Park, located in the far northeast corner of the state.  I have many fond memories of visiting this park  in my younger days, and although things are never quite as you remember them, many things about the park have not changed at all.

I took the tripod with me so I could shoot some HDR’s, and here’s the first example of what we saw today.  This is a restored log cabin from the 1840’s that sits alongside a small creek that runs through the park.  I could have sworn that at one time there was a big mill wheel attached to the side of the cabin, but that’s probably just another case of memories playing tricks on us.  Anyway, this is an HDR image from five brackets that particularly liked, as it also captured the mid-afternoon sun coming through the trees that are just in the early stages of developing their fall color.  In the far background, you can just see a small bridge that crosses the top of a man-made waterfall or spillway where water overflows from a little lily-pad-covered pond.

Building 50 - Tishomingo State Park
HDR processed in Photomatix Pro 4 and PaintShop Photo Pro X3

It was such a beautiful day, with temperatures in the low 70’s and not a cloud in the sky. As we drove up the Natchez Trace we saw a lot of fall color, although it’s not nearly at its peak. It’s such a change from the drab brown and tan of the desert, and it has already given my creative urges a big boost. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this beautiful state through the lens of my Nikon!

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Assay Office

I haven’t done an HDR image in a little while, so I pulled out some brackets from our last trip to Jerome.  This is the old Assay Office from the Gold King Mine ghost town in Jerome.  When I took the shot, it was almost high noon, and the lighting situation was getting pretty harsh.  I took a series of five brackets, and needed all five of them to get all the detail in this shot.  The items on the desk in the foreground were sitting in a patch of bright sunlight, while the back of the little office was almost completely shaded.  For situations like this, HDR rocks!

Assay Office
HDR created from five bracketed photos (-2.0 thru +2.0) processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Topaz Adjust / DeNoise with Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

I really intended to get out and do some shooting this weekend, but somehow time has slipped away (again). The weather is starting to warm up now here in the Valley of the Sun, and it’s so much easier to just sleep late in the air-conditioned house than to get up early enough to get some quality camera time. However, we’re looking forward to our trip to Vancouver the first week in July for our 20th anniversary, and I’m planning to fill up every memory card I have with images from the Pacific Northwest. Can’t wait!

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Ancient

Tonight, I’m just fooling around with some old shots that I hadn’t processed yet. I found this one that I took in Jerome, Arizona back in March. I was standing on the balcony of our hotel room in the early morning, looking down the hill at the old houses and shops, when this old man came out of his house and started shuffling down his steps. The way his shoulders were hunched against the cool morning air, he sort of resembled all the old buildings hunched against the side of that mountain, hanging on for dear life, trying to stay out of the wind long enough to get a little older.

Ancient

I intentionally desaturated this image somewhat, and I used Topaz Adjust to tease out the detail in the shadows.  I played around with some of the presets in Paintshop Photo Pro to rough up the edges and add a border. Probably should have just left it alone, but that’s how you learn, right?

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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!

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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!

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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!

The Toolshed – Gold King Mine

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

Yeah, I know I said my next post would include images of the exterior of the Grand Hotel in Jerome, but I just had to sneak this one in first. I just processed it last night, and I really like how it came out.

This is one of the many “collections” (i.e. “piles”) of old equipment from the Gold King Mine ghost town in Jerome. All the various textures, colors, rust, and light angles just cry out for an HDR treatment. I love all the little details, even the incongruous ones like the empty plastic water bottle…I don’t think that came from the miners.

The Toolshed - Gold King Mine, Jerome AZ
HDR created from five bracketed photos processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust / DeNoise.

Have a great day, everyone!

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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:

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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!