Zann’s 2015 One Word Photo Challenge

I hate winter. If I lived somewhere where there were pretty snow-covered trees or sparkling icicles, I might be a little more inclined to get my camera out of its storage box. But where I live, it’s nothing but bare trees, dead grass, cloudy skies and damp/cold weather.

So, taking the advice of some great photography websites, I decided to develop a little challenge for myself. I created a weekly photo challenge, based on a one-word theme for each week. The idea is to find ways to interpret the theme visually and creatively, but to do it within a specified time frame to avoid procrastination and excuse-making. I know a lot of people do the “365” or “photo-a-day” challenge, but realistically I know that I would never stick to that kind of schedule. But a weekly project seems doable.

So here’s my list of weekly challenges for the remainder of this year, beginning with “Boxes” for this week. There’s no upper or lower limit to the number of photos that I need to produce for each week’s challenge, but the photos must be taken within the scheduled week (even if processed later).

I’ll be posting my weekly shots to this blog, and I invite you to participate as well if you would like to. If you decide to play along, feel free to post a link to your photos in the comments. You can upload your photos to any application–Flickr, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Google+–but just be sure to tag them #zannonewordphotochallenge to make them easy to find. I might even feature your work in a future blog post!

Weekly photo challenge

Weekly photo challenge

If you would like to see some other ways to jumpstart your creativity, check out these links:

25 Ways to Jumpstart Photography Inspiration – DIYPhotography.net
13 Tips for Staying Motivated in Photography – PetaPixel.com
Stuck in a photographic rut? Eight ways to get motivated! – SteveHuffPhoto.com

Oh, yeah, one other thing! I’ve secured the domain name “ZenOfZann”, so you can now reach this blog at http://zenofzann.com, rather than having to use the not-so-spiffy zenofzann.wordpress.com address. Please subscribe if you haven’t already, and help keep me inspired!

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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! 🙂

20120505_058_BlueSuedeCruise_bw

20120505_057_BlueSuedeCruise_bw

20120505_049_BlueSuedeCruise_bw

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

20120505_039_BlueSuedeCruise_bw

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?)

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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White Goose in Late Afternoon

We stopped by Veterans Park in Tupelo on Sunday afternoon just about an hour before sundown.  We wanted to see if there were any geese on the lake, and we were fortunate enough to get there just when (1) the light was right and (2) a family was tossing pieces of bread into the water to attract the geese, ducks and other waterfowl.

I tried to practice something that I read recently about photographing birds and other wildlife–try to focus on the eyes.  It’s harder than it looks, as animals don’t exactly look into the camera and pose for you.  But just thinking about that little rule made me pay more attention to what I was shooting, and I did manage to capture a few shots where the eyes look pretty darn sharp!

White Goose in Late Afternoon

I used my Nikon D5000 with the 55-200mm lens for this shot, set at about 190mm. I used a fairly large aperture of F/6.3 to get a faster shutter speed and also to blur the background a little bit. I processed the raw file in Paintshop Photo Pro X4, using Topaz Adjust 5, as well as Topaz DeNoise to clean up the very slight bit of noise in the dark areas of the water.

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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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:
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Meter in the Alley

Continuing my series from last Sunday’s photowalk around downtown Tupelo:

I love exploring alleyways in urban areas, because you never get to see these narrow passages from your car as you drive by, and there’s always something interesting hidden in the recessed doorways, utility hookups and shuttered (or not!) windows.

Today I have a pair of electric meters to share with you.  Each one was part of a visually interesting composition just the way I found them, and each one seemed to ask more questions than it answered.

Whose drink was this, and did they mean to come back and finish it?

Meter in the Alley No. 2

What were the missing letters, and what did they spell?

Meter in the Alley No. 1

Both of these were shot with my Nikon D700 and my 50mm 1.8 prime lens, and then processed in PaintShop Photo Pro X4, with Topaz Adjust for good measure.

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.

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

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:
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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.

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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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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