Forest Zen

I love scenes like this–lots of natural texture and color, contrast of light and dark, a little water and a little stone…

This is another photo that I took in Tishomingo State Park yesterday.  It’s a single exposure that I processed in PaintShop Photo Pro X3, although I didn’t do anything really radical to it beyond tweaking the color balance slightly and applying some sharpening.  The shot was taken with the Nikon D700 and the 28-300mm Nikkor lens.

Tishomingo State Park 028

Such a calming, stress-relieving place…someday I’ll have to go back and just sit there for awhile without the camera.

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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!

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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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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“I’m Going to Jackson”

On our recent trip to Vancouver we visited the Capilano Suspension Bridge, where we found this bluegrass trio performing in front of the gift shop. When we first heard them they were singing an old Johnny Cash/June Carter number, “(I’m Going to) Jackson”…

"I'm Going to Jackson"

We got married in a fever,
hotter than a pepper sprout.
We been talking ’bout Jackson,
ever since the fire went out,
I’m going to Jackson…

Seemed a little strange to be hearing good Southern US bluegrass in the far north country, but we didn’t hesitate to sing along!

I played with the sliders a little bit here to give it a more “old-timey” look (that’s how they talk down in Jackson). I processed this in Paint Shop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust. In Topaz, I used the Psychedelic preset, but adjusted the saturation and detail sliders somewhat.

Sorry for the long dry spells between posts lately, but we’ve been working on a major life change. I’ll be spilling the beans in a week or so, but there’s a good reason my photography has taken a back seat for the moment. I miss it and will get back to it as soon as possible, with a lot of new territory to cover (hint!).

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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Siwash Rock in Triplicate

Tonight I was in the mood to play around with some of the Topaz Adjust presets to see what they could do with a rather blah photo.  Tonight’s subject is Siwash Rock, a landmark on the shore of Stanley Park in Vancouver.

I took this photo the first full day we were in the city.  It was overcast and breezy that morning, with the clouds breaking occasionally to let the sun shine through.  I had seen other photos of this landmark and wanted to try my hand at getting that “perfect” shot.

As it turned out, it wasn’t so perfect.  This would have been a prime time to have the tripod and shoot some brackets for HDR processing, but I was trying to travel light that day.  I like the composition of this shot, but the exposure variations between the bright clouds and the dark rock in the foreground didn’t give me a lot to work with.  So I decided to play around with Topaz to see what I could dig out of the raw file.

I tried three different presets.  Which one do you like best?  I have my opinion, but I’ll save it until later!

The first one is the “Clarity” preset–basically it just accentuates the details, and gives the color a little pop.  This one wasn’t too bad, but the clouds in the background are badly blown out.

Siwash Rock 01

The second one was something I just did on a whim. I used the “Night” preset to give the sky a little of its color back, while making the rock look almost haunted:

Siwash Rock 02

The last one is a black-and-white version that I created using a preset that I customized in Topaz. I started with the “Spicify” preset, and then used the sliders to totally desaturate the color and then bump up the contrast and the sharpness. I’ve used this custom preset before and it seems to work pretty well:

Siwash Rock 03

So before I tell you which one I like best, let me tell you about a couple of plaques that are posted at Siwash Rock.

The first one reads:

SIWASH ROCK – Indian legend tells us that this 50 foot high pinnacle of rock stands as an imperishable monument to “Skalsh the Unselfish”, who was turned into stone by “Q’uas the Transformer” as a reward for his unselfishness.”

The second one reads:

In memory of ROBERT DENNIS TRIBE, age 17, or North Vancouver, B.C. who at 3:15 P.M. Sunday, June 5, 1966 failed to notice it was low tide and dived to his death from Siwash Rock to the rocks below. This plaque erected by Bob’s friends as a reminder of the danger of diving from Siwash Rock.

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(I like the black-and-white one best! 🙂 )

A-Mazing Laughter

On our very first day in Vancouver, on our very first walk outside our hotel, we encountered this bronze sculpture in a small park between our hotel and the beach:

A-Mazing Laughter

The sculpture is called “A-Mazing Laughter”, and it was created by Yue Minjun of Beijing, China. I chose to process this particular shot in black-and-white to concentrate on the texture and seams in the bronze, rather than the color of the metal. It looks like a patchwork quilt, only welded together instead of sewn.  I also wanted to isolate just one of the figures, rather than the entire display.  Why?  I don’t know, except that it allowed me to see details that I would have missed by trying to capture the entire scene.

What was the entire scene, you may ask?  Here are a couple of snapshots that will give you an idea of the scale of the entire sculpture:

A-Mazing Laughter - Vancouver, BC Canada

Look at the size of those feet!

If you’re interested in learning more about the display, here’s a link to a website that talks about the artist, the design, and how it came to be located near the beach on English Bay in Vancouver.

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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Sunset Over English Bay, Vancouver

My hubby and I just got back from a week in beautiful Vancouver, BC, Canada, where we celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary.

I had a devil of a time trying to make up my mind which camera to take with me on this trip.  I was *this* close to taking the Nikon D5000 because of its smaller size and lighter weight.  But everyone I asked advised me to take the D700–full frame, big glass, and built like a tank.

So in the end I gave in and took the Big Guy, the D700, along with my best glass and my tripod.  But to be on the safe side, I also took our little Coolpix point-and-shoot for those times when it was just not possible to get the shot with the Big Guy.

We didn’t rent a car while we were there, so we spent a lot of time walking, riding bikes, or riding the bus.  I managed to take the Big Guy along with me for several of our excursions, but there were some days when I just couldn’t bring myself to carry all that weight around with me.  I didn’t want this trip to be all about trying to get the perfect photograph.  I wanted to enjoy myself, relax, see the sights in a place I had never been, instead of constantly worrying about exposures, shutter speed, or someone ripping off my equipment.

So I did get some interesting shots with the Big Guy, but I also took quite a few with the Coolpix, and those are just as precious to me as the full-frame beauties from the D700.  Because in the end, these shots are all about preserving the memories of a fabulous week in a beautiful city, with someone that I love dearly.

I posted a lot of the Coolpix shots straight to Facebook each evening when we got back to the hotel.  But I’m just now starting to process the ones from the D700.

This first one is an HDR (yes, I even used the tripod one evening) from five exposures taken at sunset in Stanley Park.  This is English Bay, and the sun was setting about 9:35 PM.  It was kind of weird getting used to the days being so long up there, but it gave us plenty of time to enjoy the sights before it got dark.

Sunset on English Bay, Vancouver BC
Nikon D700, 14-24mm 2.8, 5 exposures processed in Photomatix, Paintshop Photo Pro, Topaz Adjust/DeNoise

I’m going to take my time about processing the rest of the shots. I’ve got some street shots that are really cool, as well as some shots from the Granville Island public market that I really like. Since it will probably be a long time, if ever, before I get to visit Vancouver again, I might as well make the memories last as long as possible!

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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Sour Diesel TrainWreck

When we were at Westgate a couple of weeks ago, I was concentrating more on shooting dials and gauges for the 60 Minute Photo Challenge. But while we were there, I stopped to get a few shots of the band that was playing outdoors in the plaza. The band is called Sour Diesel TrainWreck, and it was the first time I had heard of them. Since then I’ve seen them mentioned on a couple of other local websites. They put on a good show, so if you get a chance to hear them, check ’em out.

Here are a few shots I took while they were playing. It was right about sundown, and I didn’t have my flash with me, or a tripod either for that matter. So I bumped up the ISO on my Nikon D700 and grabbed a few hand-held shots with the 28-300mm zoom. These were processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust.

Sour Diesel TrainWreck 01

Sour Diesel TrainWreck 02

Sour Diesel TrainWreck 03

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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Dials & Gauges – 60 Minute Photo Challenge

I enjoyed last week’s 60 Minute Photo Challenge (Shadows and Reflections) so much, I decided to try it again.  If you’re not familiar with the challenge, check out my previous blog post.

The challenge from Mark Wallace for this week was to shoot “Dials and Gauges” — as many as you can shoot in 60 minutes.  The challenge was issued last Friday, but it took me almost a week to find the time to get behind the camera, and to decide where I wanted to go shoot.  I finally remembered that Thursday night is Bike Night as Westgate in Glendale, and there would be plenty of gorgeous motorcycles parked on the street, out on display.  What better way to get some close-up shots of dials and gauges!!

The hubby went with me, so we made it a date night, starting with pizza at Mama Gina’s.  Then we spent the rest of the time just checking out the motorcycles parked around the fountains in front of Jobing.com arena, and getting some nice close-ups of all the dials and gauges on their dashboards (do motorcycles have dashboards??). All the shots were made right around sundown, so I had to open up the lens quite a bit, and bump up the ISO to be able to get these hand-held shots. It actually worked to my advantage because I wanted to get a really shallow depth of field so I could focus on the dials and gauges, and leave the backgrounds nice and blurry.

After getting my shots, we rushed home so I could start processing–that’s always the fun part, seeing what you got.  I did all my processing from the RAW images in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust and DeNoise where needed.  I went with black and white on some of them, and others I left in color, just for some variety.

I’ve uploaded seven shots so far to my Flickr in a new set called Dials & Gauges – 60 Min Photo Challenge.   I may have a few more to add later, but feel free to check out those that I’ve already uploaded.  Here’s a couple for you to sample:

Dials & Gauges 07

Dials & Gauges 04

I’m anxious to see what the next challenge will be. It’s nice to have some “assignments” that help keep me motivated to keep practicing my photography skills.

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!

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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