Dramatic Skies in Black & White

I’m a big fan of the Topaz Labs family of filters and plug-ins. I’ve been using them for several years now, and Topaz continues to improve both the functionality of the product as well as the user-friendliness of the interface.

Another thing that I like about Topaz is that they offer free, live webinars where they demonstrate how to use their products to achieve specific results. The webinars are offered about twice a week–usually there’s a one-hour version on Tuesdays, and then there’s a “Quick Tip Thursday” edition that addresses a more specific task. The webinars are recorded and made available for free on YouTube afterwards.

Today’s Quick Tip Thursday edition dealt with using the Topaz Black & White Effects plug-in to add drama to skies and clouds, without darkening up the rest of the photo. The process uses the selective color sliders in the plug-in to darken up the blues and cyans, while leaving the other colors alone. This technique works great on images where there isn’t any other blue in the shot.

After watching the demonstration, I pulled out an old photo from February 2011 that I shot at South Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona. This image was shot with the Nikon D700, using my 14-28mm Nikkor glass (love that lens!!). I had never processed this particular image, but thought it would be fun to use for this technique.

The first thing I did was open the image in Lightroom and adjusted the exposure just slightly, and added a touch of clarity.

Here’s what I had at that point:

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I then exported to Photoshop and opened the Topaz B&W Effects filter. Using the techniques that Nichole demonstrated during the webinar, here’s where I wound up (click to view larger in Flickr):

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I think I probably overdid the sky just a little bit, but I was trying to push it to see how the technique worked. Overall, I like the results, though, especially since the foreground did not get darkened when the sky did. I do like the drama of the image, and how it highlights the feathering in the clouds!  This is something I look forward to practicing more in the future!

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Weekly One Word Challenge – OPEN

I’m starting to get a little more caught up on my weekly photo challenge work. I’ve just now completed processing the images that I shot for the February 23 challenge around the theme “Open”. As I mentioned, I was a week late shooting these images because of the bad weather that we had, but better late than never!

I decided to process all of these in black & white this week. I’m also using Lightroom and Photoshop for the very first time (after years of using Paintshop Pro in every version up through the current X7). I have to say that I really like Lightroom for its simple slider adjustments, although I’m not yet a fan of all the Collections, Catalogs and other nonsense. I like a simpler method of organizing.

Photoshop is another beast that I’ll need to get better acquainted with, although Paintshop Pro has many of the same features and has already given me a headstart on learning to use levels and masking.

My images for this week were all shot around downtown Tupelo on a sunny Saturday morning just after our most recent ice storm. Each of these has some interpretation of the word or concept “open”, at least in my own mind.

Enjoy!

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1word_open_031_2015-02-23_LR_desat

The next challenge I’ll be presenting is the word “Wet”. Stay tuned!

2015-photo-challenge-zannonewordphotochallenge

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Textures of Downtown Tupelo

About three weeks ago, I decided to spend Sunday afternoon playing with my new 24-85mm Nikkor lens, so the hubby and I took off on a photo walk in downtown Tupelo.  Like any Southern town, as soon as church is over, the downtown area is pretty much deserted, so I knew I’d be able to get some shots of some of the architecture without having to worry about having a lot of cars and trucks parked in front of the buildings.

We spent a little over an hour exploring some little nooks and crannies that I hadn’t shot before.  We were having a great time until I decided to try and get some HDR brackets out behind an abandoned ice house.  The vacant lot was full of weeds, so I was keeping a close eye out for snakes, and fortunately we didn’t see any.  However, as I was setting up my tripod and absentmindedly scratching my lower leg with my other foot, my hubby suddenly exclaimed, “Baby, your legs are covered with mosquitoes!”  And he was right!!  As they say here in the South, I got “eat up” by the little varmints.  I was so miserable, we cut the day short and went home to indulge in some Benadryl and ointment.

But before all that happened, I did manage to get some shots that I enjoyed working with later.  Here are three images that I processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X5, using Topaz Adjust and Topaz Black & White Effects.

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TupeloDowntown_088_20140629_tpzadjust

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To Color or Not

I really have a love affair with black and white photography, and I’m always looking for opportunities to drain all the color out of a shot and replace it with shades of gray.

But sometimes, I just can’t resist the blue of the sky against the green of the grass.

This was one of those times, so I just decided to have my cake and eat it, too.

Here’s a 9-bracket HDR of St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Houston, Texas, processed both in color and in black and white.  The HDR processing was done in Photomatix Pro V4, and the further editing was done in Paintshop Photo Pro X5.  For the black and white image, I used the Topaz B&W plug-in.

It was a little windy that day, so there’s some ghosting in the clouds as they were skittering across the sky, but I actually kind of like it so I didn’t attempt to process it away.

So, which do you like best?

St. Paul's Methodist Church - Houston TX (Color)

St. Paul's Methodist Church - Houston TX (B&W)

My First Wedding Shoot

My plans for this past weekend included attending the wedding of my niece, Bailey, and her fiance, Daniel on Saturday, May 26.  On Thursday evening of last week, those plans changed dramatically.  Their wedding photographer cancelled at the last minute (don’t even get me started!), and so they asked if I would be willing to take some pictures at the wedding.  Of course, I jumped at the chance….and only started to panic about twelve hours later as I started trying to figure out what the heck I was supposed to do.

I started out by going through all my equipment, charging batteries and cleaning lenses.  I realized that I really didn’t have the optimum lens for this type of shoot (a mid-range fast zoom, like a 28-70mm f/2.8, which is now on my Christmas list!), but I decided to make the best of what I had.  I attended the rehearsal on Friday night, and since my dad was the one officiating, I was already pretty familiar with how he conducts the ceremony.  I was able to get an idea of shooting angles and timing after we went through the ceremony a couple of times.

Saturday was a beautiful day, but it was pretty warm.  The ceremony started at 2:00, but I got there about 11:30 to start taking pictures of Bailey as she was getting ready.  I took a lot of the formal shots of the wedding party and the families prior to the ceremony, along with some shots of the bride and her party outside under some shade trees.

The wedding went off without a hitch, and then we headed to the reception for a full sit-down meal, all leading up to the decorating of the car and the big send-off.

By the time I got home, I was totally exhausted, and today I’m actually stiff and sore from all the bending, stooping, squatting, and carrying around that tank of a camera (the Nikon D700) with the 28-300mm lens.  Thank goodness I was able to use a tripod much of the time!  I’ve spent just about all day processing photos, and I’m about a third of the way through.  Now I know why photographers charge so much to shoot events like weddings….and this was a very simple, but beautiful, ceremony.  I can’t imaging shooting a large, hoity-toity event, even with an assistant or two!

Anyway, I’ll be posting some of the images later as I get through the processing.   I don’t want to post any of the “people” pictures until Bailey and Daniel get to see them first, but I’ll go ahead and share this one that I did of Bailey’s dress, processed in black and white.

The Dress

I feel so honored that Bailey and Daniel trusted me to shoot their wedding. They are such a sweet couple, and I wish them nothing but happiness and joy as they start their life together!  And a special thanks goes to my “assistant”, my wonderful hubby, Andy, who kept me calm and who carried all my equipment for me.  I love you, Sweetie!!

Blue Suede Cruise Continued

There were so many great automotive machines at the Blue Suede Cruise, and they all made great subjects for some black-and-white photography. The people-watching was pretty sweet, too!  Here are a few more shots that I processed.  Click through on the photos to see them large on black, as they should be viewed.  Enjoy!!

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These were all made with my Nikon D5000 using an 18-55mm zoom.  All shots were processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X4 using Topaz Black & White Effects plug-in.  You can see some of the earlier shots that I posted here.

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Blue Suede Cruise in Tupelo

In all the excitement around last weekend’s supermoon, I almost forgot about the other huge event taking place in Tupelo last weekend — the Blue Suede Cruise.  This annual event features classic cars from all around the area, gathered together for a weekend of “cruising” all the historic areas of Tupelo, especially those related to the King.

The central gathering place for the Cruise was at the BancorpSouth Arena, but we saw these classic cars being driven all over town over the three-day weekend.  The rules stated that the cars had to be at least 25 years old, but exceptions were made for certain models like Corvettes, Thunderbirds, Prowlers, etc.

I took my Nikon D5000 with my 18-55mm lens (for a little wide-angle viewing) to the festivities on Saturday morning.  We spent about an hour admiring the many different vehicles on display, listening to the music, and soaking up the atmosphere.  I took quite a few shots, all single-exposures.  When I started processing them, they just called out to be processed in black-and-white, so that’s what I did.

Here are a few of my favorites that I’ve processed so far…I still have more to work on, but gotta save some for those days when I need something to do! 🙂

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And then there’s this shot….I have no idea why the guy behind the car has his belly on display!

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These were all processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X4, using Topaz Black & White Effects (which i dearly love!).  I’ll share more later as the mood strikes me.

Since moving to Tupelo last September, we’ve come to love the many festivals and events that bring out all the colorful characters and the best of the South.  Take a look back at some shots that I took at the recent “Don’t Be Cruel BBQ Duel“. (Starting to feel that “Elvis” vibe?)

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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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Back in the Saddle

For the past few weeks I’ve been totally obsessed with my iPhone, playing with all the apps that are available for editing those photos that I’ve taken on the fly.  It’s a lot of fun, it’s quick and it’s easy.  But it’s not the same as the satisfaction I get from taking out the full-frame Nikon 700 with a 50mm prime lens to capture image in a way that the iPhone never will.

This evening I took my camera with me to the Women’s Hospital in hopes of getting some photos of my brand new great-niece, but there was a sign on the door that they weren’t taking visitors right then, so we just left them a note at the visitors’ desk and left.  On the way home, however, I decided to make a quick stop at Veterans Park as the sun was just slipping behind the trees.  I figured, I had the camera with me, might as well shoot a few frames.

I wasn’t sure what I would come away with since the golden hour was already past, but I upped the ISO to 500 and opened up the aperture and took a few shots of the welcoming committees of geese that came to greet us.  I processed a few of these when I got home, and was pretty pleased with the results.  I like the shallow depth of field that resulted from the wide open aperture, it seems to make the geese “pop” from the background.

Let me know what you think!  Better than Instagram? 🙂

Pretty Ducks All In A Row

Grungy Geese

Must Not Be Biting

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Don’t Be Cruel BBQ Duel

This past Saturday was St. Paddy’s Day, that’s true, but here in Tupelo, it was also the weekend for the “Don’t Be Cruel BBQ Duel”. The two-day event featured almost 100 BBQ cook-off teams from around the country who came to Tupelo to battle it out for bragging rights and a pretty decent cash prize. And to up the ante, the crew from the TV show “Pitmasters” was on site to film an episode from here in the heart of BBQ country.

We spent a couple of hours checking out the grills and the grill-masters. I took my smaller Nikon D5000 with the 18-55mm lens mounted. I also got to use my new Lowes Passport Sling camera bag which I dearly love.  I’ve processed a few of the shots in black and white, and love how they came out.  I used Paintshop Photo Pro X4, with Topaz Black & White Effects.  Easy-peasy!

Don't Be Cruel BBQ Duel 01

Don't Be Cruel BBQ Duel 02

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Don't Be Cruel BBQ Duel 05

Don't Be Cruel BBQ Duel 06

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Don't Be Cruel BBQ Duel 08

Don't Be Cruel BBQ Duel 09

That last one is probably my favorite! 🙂

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on:
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