Fort Pike – Inside the Walls

On our recent trip to New Orleans by way of US Highway 90, we came across Fort Pike, an abandoned military facility from pre-Civil War days.  We could see it from the highway and thought it looked interesting, so we made an unscheduled stop to check it out.  And we were really glad we did, as it was both an interesting history lesson as well as a perfect setting for practicing shooting brackets for HDR processing.

The walls of the fort contain tunnels with portholes looking out toward the water where the cannons were mounted for defense.  The brick arches and floors were still beautiful, and the light coming through the portholes revealed the green moss as well as the not-so-welcome graffiti that decorated the walls.

I used my Nikon D700 and my 28-300mm Nikkor lens on this shoot. The brackets were made while shooting from a tripod (of course!).

I’ve started processing some of these HDR images and look forward to sharing them!  Here’s the first one that I did tonight.

Fort Pike - Inside the Walls

Biloxi Beach at Sunset and the New Workflow

I’m on Day Nine of a ten-day vacation, and it has been relaxing as well as productive.  Hubby and I traveled down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast for a four-day stay at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi.  We’re not big gamblers at all, but we do enjoy the nice facilities that the casino/resorts offer.  We enjoyed some time at the pool, got plenty of reading done, and then spent one day on a side trip to New Orleans by way of scenic highway US 90.

Just before we left on our trip, I made one last-ditch attempt to recover some of my old photo images from a dead Western Digital external hard drive.  I Googled the error message I was getting from the hard drive, and found a forum where someone offered a suggestion to another user with the same problem.  His suggestion was to use “chkdsk /F /R /X H:” where H: is the drive letter. I did just that, and about eight hours later, I was rewarded with 81GB of recovered files which I then copied to my computer hard drive.

While we were relaxing by the pool, I put together a new plan for both backups and archives of my image files. I already have backups running daily on Mozy, and I was doing periodic backups to two external Western Digital hard drives connected to my computer (alternating them), using the WD backup software. But the glaring problem is this–when files are accidentally deleted from your hard drive, they also get deleted from Mozy and the hard drives after 30 days if you don’t catch it before then.

I wanted an archive solution that would allow me to move my old files off my hard drive, leaving less for Mozy and WD to backup each day, but also having my old files accessible if I need them.

So I bought two more 1TB external drives. I also bought 100GB of space on Google Drive for $1.99/month (I already had 25 free). Then I spent this morning cleaning up my pre-2014 files–I deleted JPG’s where I also had raw files, I deleted TIFF files that I had created in Photomatix for HDR’s which had already been converted to JPG, and I deleted photos of random stuff where I testing lenses, etc. Then I copied all this old data, over 18,000 files from 1999-2013, to Google Drive and to both external drives.

One of the external drives has been locked away in the safe in the workshop while the other is here in my office. Once a month I’ll archive new stuff to all three drives, and will check the two physical drives to make sure they’re still sound. In the meantime, my backup system will be taking care of the current stuff that’s still on my hard drive.

After I finished that task, I then set to calibrating my monitor. I purchased a Spyder4 Pro from DataColor after reading numerous online reviews. I found it pretty easy to use, and once the calibration process was complete it presented a screen where you could toggle back and forth between the pre/post calibration settings so you could see the difference in the images on the display. And the difference was amazing! I’m hoping that the images that I have printed now will more closely match what I’m seeing on the display, because in the past I’ve been sorely disappointed in my print results.

Oh, and did I mention that I also downloaded the latest version of Paintshop Pro X7? It’s awesome!

So….

After all that, I finally got around to looking at the photos that I took while we were on the Coast last week. I’m excited to get started processing these shots. Some will be HDR’s and some are single images. I did a lot of experimenting with different settings while I was shooting, as I’m trying to learn to control some of the exposure issues that I’ve had in the past from just relying on the camera automation and dumb luck.

So here’s the first one that I processed today. This is an image from the beach in Biloxi near the Beau Rivage, taken at sunset. You can see the lighthouse in the background. I shot this hand-held at ISO 4000, something I’ve avoided in the past. I used Paintshop Pro X7 to adjust Levels and Curves, Topaz DeNoise to clean it up, and then back to PSP for some sharpening. I really like the way it came out.

BiloxiNOLA_030_20140831_printFullSize

Be sure to click through on the image to view it large on Flickr. Stay tuned for more!

Bayou Pierre Church

I was going back through my archives this evening, looking for something to play with, and I came across a folder of shots that I took back in June 2013 near Port Gibson, Mississippi.  We had driven down there to visit the Windsor Ruins, and we just happened across this little bit of history tucked into the trees just off the country road.

This is what remains of the Bayou Pierre Presbyterian Church, founded in 1807.  It’s a tiny little structure perched on a slight hill, surrounded by trees that are dripping with Spanish moss.  I had a great time shooting brackets there for HDR processing–that is, until I found myself standing in the middle of a mound of ants.  As I remember it, I was sick for several days afterwards from all the ant bites.  That’s probably why I never got around to processing these photos, but now seems like a good time.

All these shots were taken with my Nikon D700 and the 14-24mm lens.  Each one is an HDR processed from seven bracketed shots using Photomatix.  Post-processing done in Paint Shop Photo Pro using Topaz Adjust.

BayouPierreChurch 1-7 HDR

BayouPierreChurch 8-14 HDR

BayouPierreChurch 15-21 HDR

BayouPierreChurch 22-28 HDR

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.

TupeloDowntown_030_20140629_bw

TupeloDowntown_088_20140629_tpzadjust

TupeloDowntown_112_20140629_bw

Spider in the Roses

This morning I was dead-heading my knockout roses, a task that I actually enjoy as it gives me a chance to get out in nature instead of sitting in front of a computer all day. Just as I was reaching into the interior of one of my bushes to clip some old dead blooms, I spotted this beauty just hanging in its web right in front of my hand.  It’s an orb weaver spider, non-aggressive and not dangerous to humans, but I didn’t know that at the time.

I may have uttered an expletive at that point….I really don’t remember. But after I caught my breath, I was just kind of blown away by the beauty of this creature, hanging in its web in the middle of my rose bush. I had my iPhone in my back pocket, so I tried taking a couple of shots with it, but couldn’t get it to focus correctly in the low light.

So I finished up my yard work and then retrieved my Nikon D700 with my 28-300 Nikkor lens and went back to see if the spider was still there. Thankfully, it was right where I had left it (him? her?), and I was able to get a few good shots with some great depth of field. I had the ISO bumped up to 2500 so I could get a faster shutter speed since there was a slight breeze blowing the web back and forth, and with the narrow depth of field I wanted to make sure I stayed in focus.

I processed this in Paintshop Photo Pro V5 with Topaz Adjust.

Spider In the Roses

First Shoot With the 24-85mm Nikkor

I just finished going through all the photos that I shot yesterday at my nephew’s wedding in Flowood, Mississippi. And I have to say, I am in love with this new Nikkor 24-85mm lens!

Even though I still don’t have a real clue what I’m doing with the flash, the lens performed beautifully. I was able to get the group shots that I wanted, as well as close-up details of things like the flowers on the wedding cake.  The depth-of-field on the macro shots is amazing, and so is the bokeh that I was able to achieve on some of the shots.  I love that the lens did not add a lot of extra weight to my Nikon D700, which already feels like a tank, especially when it has the flash (Nikon SB-700) mounted on it.

Here are three examples of the shots I got yesterday that I uploaded to Flickr. I’m definitely looking forward to getting better acquainted with this little equipment set-up!

ColeWedding_009

ColeWedding_023

ColeWedding_020

Testing the New Glass

Testing the New Glass

It’s been awhile since I’ve been excited about shooting anything.  But my nephew is getting married this weekend, and I was asked to shoot some pictures at the reception.  I was happy to do it, but wasn’t happy with the equipment that I have for an occasion like this.  I’ve been wanting a 24-85mm, 2.8 lens for awhile now, and thought about renting one for the weekend.  But I recently got a little bonus at work, so I decided to splurge and get the lens that I’ve really had my heart set on.

And then there was the issue of the flash.  I have a Speedlight SB-700, but I’ve never taken the time to really learn how to use it.  This seems like the perfect time to get better acquainted with that piece of equipment.

So, the new lens arrived yesterday, and for the past two evenings I’ve been prowling around the house, shooting anything that doesn’t hide from me.  And I’m LOVING this lens.  Not only does it give me beautiful DOF, it also has a macro setting that lets me get up really close to things–I’m thinking the wedding cake–for some nice detailed shots.  And I’m finally getting comfortable with the flash, although I still have a long way to go to learn all about lighting.  I’m not trying any fancy off-camera flash–just the hot-shoe mount with the head tilted up to the ceiling.

So, here are some of the test shots that I’ve taken.  These are all straight out of the camera, shot in “fine” JPG mode.  I used aperture-priority with shutter speed of 1/60, and let the camera figure out the ISO.  The D700 is a great low-light camera, so I’m not worried about ISO with this setup.

Now, I’m really excited about shooting again!!  Hopefully this will be the start of a renaissance!!

TestFlash24-85_069

TestFlash24-85_085

TestFlash24-85_070

 

 

 

A Valentine From the Abandoned House

Continuing my series of images from the abandoned house we found on Highway 278 west of Tupelo, Mississippi:

I’ve been holding on to this image ever since I started processing this series, just waiting for Valentine’s Day to share it with everyone.  I found this abandoned dirt daubers’ colony in the middle of a blank wall in the front room of the house.  The heart-shaped sculpture created by those peaceful little creatures on this cracked and peeling surface just struck me as beautiful!

I used my tripod to capture a series of brackets and then processed this as an HDR in order get all the texture in the dauber nest as well as the wall itself.

This image is best viewed large, and I can’t wait to have it printed on canvas and hung on my wall!

Abandoned House - Valentine

Shot with my Nikon D700 with my 14-24mm Nikkor glass. Processed in Photomatix, Paint Shop Photo Pro, and Topaz Adjust.

The Kitchen Has Seen Better Days

Continuing my series of images from the abandoned house we discovered on Highway 278 west of Tupelo, Mississippi:

The heart of any home is the kitchen, and I’m sure this house was no different.  Upon entering this room, we were struck by the layers of wall covering that were visible–some fabric, some wood.  The fabric looked like it could have even been old bed sheets, tacked to the wall.  The colors were preserved or faded in broad swaths, depending on what, if anything, had covered them in the past.  The linoleum floor showed the faint outlines of a pink floral pattern that must have been all the rage at one time.  It probably even matched the wall covering when it was new.

Along the far wall was a row of large nails that had been hammered into the wood at odd angles.  What were they for?  Did they hang pots and pans there, maybe their coffee mugs?  And what were the two faucets sticking up from the floor used for?

So much to see, so few answers.  But old houses like these leave so much to the imagination!

Abandoned House - The Kitchen

HDR image created from brackets taken with my Nikon D700 and my 14-24mm glass. Processed in Photomatix, Paint Shop Photo Pro, and Topaz Adjust.

Check out the other rooms we visited before:

The Living Room

The Back Room

The Back Room

Continuing my series of images from the abandoned house that we discovered west of Tupelo, Mississippi…

After entering the door of the house and walking through the living room, you enter a back bedroom.  But don’t go in there too quickly, or you could find yourself standing on the ground.  The floorboards in the middle of the room have rotted to the point that there’s a huge, gaping hole, partially filled with the remains of carpet padding, where you can see the ground under the house.

I love the old windows with the triple panes at the top, through which the sunlight poured to illuminate the mess in front of us.  An open closet contained a few old coat hangers, one with the paper advertisement of the local dry cleaners still attached, telling us that this place must have been inhabited in the not-too-distant past.

We walked through here very gingerly, staying close to the walls to set up the tripod and camera to get this shot.  Enjoy!

Abandoned House - Back Room

 

Shot with my Nikon D700 and 14-24mm Nikkor glass.  Processed in Photomatix and Paint Shop Photo Pro, using Topaz Adjust filters.