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

Don't Be Cruel BBQ Duel 03

Don't Be Cruel BBQ Duel 04

Don't Be Cruel BBQ Duel 05

Don't Be Cruel BBQ Duel 06

Don't Be Cruel BBQ Duel 07

Don't Be Cruel BBQ Duel 08

Don't Be Cruel BBQ Duel 09

That last one is probably my favorite! 🙂

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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:
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Foggy Saturday Night in Tupelo

It rained all day today, which gave me a perfect excuse to stay indoors and work on our income taxes.  But by the end of the day I had a good dose of cabin fever and was ready to go outside, rain or not.  By about 6:00PM the rain had stopped and a light fog had settled in for the evening.  I decided it might be a good time to do a little night shooting in downtown Tupelo.

I was hoping to get some interesting photos of the lights glowing through the fog, but it wasn’t quite dense enough to provide the effect I was looking for.  In addition, there was more traffic downtown than I had expected due to a theatre production by the Tupelo Community Theatre that was going on at the Lyric.

Still, I did get quite a few images that I really liked.  I used the D700 and my 50mm prime lens, mounted on the tripod so I wouldn’t be at the mercy of the dim light.  Andy went with me and we walked around for about an hour before the fog turned to a light sprinkle and we headed back to the car to protect the equipment.

I processed sixteen of the images when we got home, and decided to do them all in black and white–it just seemed to fit the mood.  I used Paintshop Photo Pro X4 with Topaz Black & White Effects, and I’m pretty pleased with the results.  Let me know what you think!


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Natural Zen in Sepia

Today was kind of strange.  It was Christmas Eve Eve, and a Friday at that, so it was a day that I really didn’t expect to get much work done.  But, adding to the weirdness of the day, my work laptop somehow acquired a virus, so it’s been out of commission since day before yesterday.  I spent hours on Skype with our helpdesk yesterday trying to get my system up and running, to no avail.  So today they’re shipping me a replacement laptop, which should arrive early next week.

There wasn’t much I could do today, other than check my email (using my own personal computer) and respond as necessary–and I only received two emails that required responses.  By lunchtime I was ready to get out of the house and away from the computer.  So even though it was a gray, overcast day, I decided to do a little shooting.  I’ve been wanting to take some Zen-inspired photos to have framed for my home office, and I thought today would be the perfect time to do that.

Andy went with me on the excursion, and we drove out to Elvis Presley Lake, just north of where we live.  We had not been there yet, so we weren’t sure what to expect in the way of photo ops.  We found a nice lake with camping spots, picnic tables, boat ramps and fishing piers, and very nice bath and shower facilities.

I wanted to get some shots using very shallow depth of field, so I used my 50mm prime lens.  We found a spot where there were some downed trees near the water’s edge, and I took a few shots before the cold wind literally drove us back to the car.  Here are three that I processed this afternoon, using Paintshop Photo Pro X4 and Topaz Black & White Effects using the Sepia presets.  I sized these to be 5 x 7’s, and I’m going to have them mounted in 8 x 10 or 8.5 x 11 frames to go in my office.  I used similar processing on each one as I want them to be displayed as  a set:

Pine Log in Sepia

Grass in Sepia

Pine Cone in Sepia

After warming up for just a minute, we walked over the hill where the wind was a little less biting, and took some shots of the boat docks and the fishing pier. There was a large sign on the pier that said “No Swimming”. Just a few yards from the entrance to the pier, I found this lying on the bed of pine needles, and couldn’t resist grabbing a quick photo to be processed in Topaz Adjust.  Needless to say, this image will NOT be joining the others on my office wall, but I did find the photo to be oddly compelling:

Goggles

 

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Observing the Observer

Continuing my series of images from the Tupelo Christmas Parade:

I love my 28-300mm zoom lens.  It gives me such flexibility when I’m in a situation where I can’t control the distance between myself and that interesting subject matter that presents itself.  Sometimes you just need that telephoto capability to capture that candid moment when your subject has no idea they’re being observed, much less photographed.

While we were watching the parade, I noticed several people across the street watching the scene from the upstairs windows.  Most of them had the windows open, leaning out to get a great view and hear the marching bands.  But this guy either could not open the window, or chose not to.  In fact, he looked a little bit put out that the parade was disturbing the routine of his Saturday morning.

Tupelo Christmas Parade 006

Nah, I’m sure the sun was just in his eyes and that’s why he was squinting like that.

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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Christmas Parades Need Motorcycles

Continuing my series from last weekend’s Tupelo Christmas Parade:

Motorcycles were a big thing in the Christmas parade, starting with the ones ridden by the officers from the Tupelo Police Department that escorted the parade marchers down Main Street.  Tupelo’s finest were looking pretty spiffy on their personalized bikes. Here’s Officer Alan Chavers, if the name on his bike is accurate:

Tupelo Christmas Parade 004

I used Paintshop Photo Pro X4 to process the shot, and Topaz Adjust 5 to accentuate the detail a little bit.

There were several groups of motorcycle enthusiasts who participated in the parade. This spirited couple was part of the Underground Ryderz Motorcycle Club, who absolutely had the LOUDEST bikes in the parade. I decided to do a little color popping in this shot:

Tupelo Christmas Parade 003

On this shot, I decided to go with black and white processing, using Topaz Black and White Effects, adding a little bit of grain but color-popping the two Santa hats. Kind of a fun effect, I think!

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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Magnolia at First Methodist

The more I process in black and white, the more I enjoy the way the images emphasize the textures and form of the subject rather than the color.  It’s so deceptively simple–shades of black, gray and white–but within those shades are shadows and highlights that help you feel the picture, rather than just see it.

I love this shot of the huge, spreading magnolia tree that sits on the lawn of the First Methodist Church in downtown Tupelo.  I started out trying to process the image in color, but I was so distracted by the red brick of the building that it was drawing my attention away from the tree.  So I decided to try the black and white approach, and voila!  It’s exactly what I wanted:

Magnolia at First Methodist

I used Paintshop Photo Pro X4, along with Topaz B&W Effects to process the image.  I wish the large window had not gotten blown out so much, but overall I’m still pleased with the shot.

I’m trying to build a collection of black and white photos to have mounted and hung in my home office, and I think this one will make the cut.  Very Zen.

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The Swinging Bridge

One of the most popular features of Tishomingo State Park is the swinging bridge, built in the 1930’s, that spans Bear Creek.  It’s a favorite with kids and adults alike, and it offers the perfect platform for capturing both candid shots of people as well as images of the beautiful fall colors that are just starting to appear in the park.

I’m still experimenting with the new Topaz product, Black & White Effects, but I used the tried-and-true Topaz Adjust on those beautiful fall colors.  Here are a few shots from the swinging bridge at Tishomingo State Park:

Tishomingo State Park Swinging Bridge 03

Tishomingo State Park Swinging Bridge 04

Tishomingo State Park Swinging Bridge 02

Tishomingo State Park Swinging Bridge 01

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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Topaz Labs B&W Effects

I just downloaded the latest offering from Topaz Labs, their new product called B&W Effects.  I sat through a webinar for this product last Sunday and was really impressed at how easily it converted color photographs to black and white images.  There are tons of presets, grouped into collections that make it easy to navigate from one look to another.  And there are plenty of sliders to allow you to fine-tune the results of the presets even further to your own liking.

I’ve been on the lookout for a good software product to use in black-and-white processing.  I tried to use Nik Silver Efex, but it’s not compatible with Paint Shop Photo Pro, and I’m still not ready to plunk down the dollars for Photoshop.  I’ve used the Topaz Labs bundle for almost two years now, and love the results that I get, especially from Topaz Adjust and DeNoise.  So I was really excited when I learned that they were coming out with their own black-and-white conversion product.

Here are a few images that I processed this evening by just picking a preset and then playing with the sliders.  If you always thought that black-and-white was boring, you should check out this product.  I never knew there were so many different tones of color in a “black-and-white” image.  The software makes it easy to add grain, vignettes, borders, and you can even dodge, burn, and selectively sharpen.  I can tell that I am really gonna LOVE this product!  Right now, you can get it for $29.99, a $30 savings.  (No, I’m not an affiliate of Topaz and I don’t get any money if you buy the product.)

Topaz BW Test 03

Topaz BW Test 02

Topaz BW Test 01

Topaz BW Test 04

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Lizard Head in Black and White

For those of you who may not know it yet, my hubby Andy and I are preparing to take our leave from Arizona.  We will be moving 1600 miles east to Tupelo, Mississippi, within the next three to four weeks.  This is a “going home” move for me, a chance to live closer to my parents as well as my four brothers, their wives and all my nieces and nephews.  For the past few months, we have spent the evenings and weekends on home improvement projects to get our house ready to put on the rental market (the prices are just too depressed to try and sell it right now).  We already have a contract on a house in Tupelo that should close within the next few weeks, so we’re starting the process of packing and decluttering in preparation for the big move.

With all these life changes, I haven’t concentrated too much on my photography for the past few months.  But as the time draws closer to leave Arizona, I’m already missing some of the places where I’ve spent quality time with the Nikons.  And there’s no place like Sedona when it comes to pure scenic spendor.

Tonight I went through some of my files from our trip to Sedona back in March, and I found some shots that I still hadn’t processed.  I couldn’t resist running a few brackets through Photomatix to produce this HDR of Lizard Head Rock, but this time I decided to go with the black-and-white version.  I love the red rocks of Sedona, but for this shot I wanted to allow the eye more of an opportunity to see the shape and texture of the rocks, rather than the color.  Look at the top of the mountain, and you’ll see how it got its name.

Lizard Rock in Black and White

I’m looking forward to getting moved out to Tupelo just in time for the beautiful fall colors to reach their peak in October. There are beautiful landscapes, distinctive Southern architecture, and amazing people just waiting to be photographed, and I can’t wait to expand my portfolio in a totally new direction.

Stay tuned to see where the Zen takes us!

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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My Official Website at http://zannwalker.com