Zen of the Day 2017-07-02

Shot with iPhone 8 Plus in my backyard.


Zann’s One Word Photo Challenge – Delicate

This has been an absolutely miserable week, weather-wise. It started off bitterly cold, with nothing but rain at our house but ice and snow to the north of us. On Wednesday it warmed up to the 60’s and rained, and then the temperatures took another dive and we got a tiny bit of icy sleet.

Since the theme for this week’s challenge was “delicate”, I kept hoping for some snowflakes or at least some ice crystals, but all I got were raindrops. So I did the best I could with the hand I was dealt.

When I think of “delicate”, I think “small”, so I decided to use my 24-85mm lens which has a macro setting. I took some handheld shots of some of the flowers and plants in the yard this morning when they were covered with a combination of dew and raindrops. I tried to concentrate on getting a good depth-of-field, so that the main subject in the frame would be sharp; but with my shaky hands, it wasn’t an easy thing to do.

I processed these as usual in Paintshop Pro X7, using various Topaz plug-ins (Clarity, DeNoise, StarEffects, Simplify). After working on a few of the images, I found a look that I liked, where the main subject was highlighted and the rest of the out-of-focus area was kept very dark. I accomplished this by using the Levels adjustment in PSP, sliding the mid-tones slider far to the right. I’ve never used that technique before, but I really like how it turned out here.

All of these images are cropped from the original size to improve the composition.

This first one is my personal favorite.


This one is my hubby’s favorite.


I like the color in this one.


Even though kale can be a tough leaf, the water drops and the cell structure are still delicate.


My Boston ferns are surviving the winter, so I’m not sure how “delicate” they are, but I think the rain-covered fronds fit the definition.


The challenge for this next week is the word “open”, so stay tuned to see how I go about interpreting that concept.

If you would like to play along, you can find the weekly list here.

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Wading Back In

I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I posted anything new.  In my last update, I was dealing with my first wedding shoot, a spur-of-the-moment project that I was happy to do, but which totally stressed me out.  The actually shooting wasn’t that bad, but when I started processing the photos, I wasn’t pleased with how the images were turning out when printed.  The difference between the way they looked on my monitor and the way they printed was so drastic that it just about killed my enthusiasm for the project.

It was probably time to step away from photography for a bit, at least the more technical aspects of it.  In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed just taking shots with my iPhone for the pure enjoyment of capturing everyday life, humor and tragedy included.  Instagram has been a fun way to share those spontaneous shots without worrying about getting the perfect white balance or the rule of thirds.  It’s been a catharsis of sorts.

But recently I’ve begun to miss my dSLR’s, and when we planned a quick weekend trip to Houston to visit old friends, I decided it was time to take the cameras out for a spin.  It helped that we were driving instead of flying to Houston, so I didn’t have to worry about dragging all my equipment through airport security.  I was able to take both cameras (D700 and D5000), all the lenses I wanted, as well as my tripod.

And I’m really glad I did!  The weather was gorgeous while we were there, so I spent several hours shooting both single images as well as brackets for HDR processing.  And it was nice to have a good camera on hand to get a shot of all our friends at our little reunion dinner.

So, without further ado, here’s the first shot that I processed from my recent foray back into the photography waters.  This was a quick shot that I took of some flowers blooming along the sidewalk as we strolled through the Medical Center area.  I used the Nikon D700 with the 28-300 lens, and I processed the shot in my old stand-by, Paintshop Photo Pro X5.

Houston in Bloom

I’m in the process of working on more of the images that I shot on our trip, and I’m excited about getting back into the groove of things. Springtime is coming (sooner or later!), and it will be the perfect time to brush up on my skills.

Glendale Historic Buildings and Other Cool Stuff

The closer it gets to Christmas, the less time I have to work on my photography projects.  But tonight I let everything else go, and went back to the digital darkroom to continue working on some of the shots that I took in downtown Glendale several weekends ago.  For this batch, I concentrated on a couple of the historical buildings in the downtown area.

This first shot is the First National Bank of Glendale building, which has been converted into law offices.  Banks…lawyers….kind of typical, don’t you think?  This is a three-image HDR (handheld brackets), processed in Photomatix, then post-processed in Topaz Adjust/DeNoise and Paintshop Pro X3.  I also corrected the perspective in the image since the original shots had the building “leaning backwards”, and I wanted more of a straight-forward shot:

First National Bank

This next shot is the old Sine Brothers Hardware building which is now a city municipal office building. Same sort of processing as before:

Sine Brothers Hardware 02

If you would like to see the entire series of shots from my afternoon in Glendale, check out the set Glendale AZ 12-4-2010 on my Flickr site.

And if you’re interested in finding out more about these and other historic structures in downtown Glendale, check on the website GoGlendaleAZ.com for more information.

Since my last post, I haven’t been totally away from the digital darkroom….I did work on a few older photos in Topaz, just continuing to familiarize myself with the software’s capabilities.  Here are a couple of shots that I thought came out pretty well:

Catalina Island
Catalina Island

From Mom’s Garden
From Mom's Garden

The iPad and Revisiting Old Work

I finally got my new iPad this week, and I’m in love.  I ordered the 64GB, wi-fi+3g version…figured I might as well go all the way if I was going to drink the Kool-Aid.  I’ve spent the last 48 hours getting it configured, downloading apps, movies, music, videos, and surfing the net to my heart’s content.  The last bit of content that I had to add was photos.

I had decided that I just want to keep my best work (or at least my favorite work) on the iPad, along with any recent photos of special events or vacations, so I started going back through all the work that I’ve done since the first of the year when I got my new Nikon D5000.  The very first photo shoot that I did was at a local historical park called Saguaro Ranch, back in January of this year.  The park consists of orchards, old farm buildings and houses, a rose garden, lots of chickens and peacocks, and farm equipment scattered around.  I was just learning to use the camera that day, and took a lot of shots, but they were all pretty so-so.  I probably did just about everything wrong that was humanly possible that day–I was shooting at in the harshest sunlight of the day, using the camera’s automatic settings, and it was before I found out anything about HDR.  I was a pure neophyte (not that I’m “experienced” now), and didn’t have a clue about what I was doing…I just knew it was fun.

Since then, I’ve had a lot more experience using my editing software–Photomatix and Paint Shop Pro X3.  As I was going through my old photos tonight to select the ones to go on the iPad, I came across the shots from Saguaro Ranch and decided that I was play around with a few of them to see what I could do with them in Paint Shop Pro.  Here are the results:

Before editing:

After editing:


Before editing:

After editing:


Before editing:

After editing:


Before editing:

After editing:

These are all just basic edits in PaintShop Pro X3–adjustments for brightness and contrast, some local tone mapping, level adjustments, and some sharpening.  But what a difference a few little adjustments make, right?

So, after I got sidetracked playing with these images from Saguaro Ranch, I got back to the task at hand and selected the photos to go on my iPad.  The problem with the iPad’s photo sync is that it is folder-based and it doesn’t allow any granularity in individual file selection.  You have to select a folder on your computer, and then that entire folder is copied to your iPad (same with the iPod Touch, by the way).  So in order to get a selection of my best/favorite shots onto my iPad, I had to first copy the files that I wanted into a folder on my hard drive, and then sync up the iPad.

The photos look great on the iPad’s large display.  However, I found that the “child” folders I had used were not supported when the sync took place.  The iPad creates “albums” from your folders, and it only recognizes the “parent” folder as an album, and then it puts all the photos in the “child” folders into the “parent” album (have I confused you yet?).  So the photos are all there, but I don’t like having them all in one album…so I’m probably going to split up my folders again.  I promise you, I WILL figure this out!


Yes, there is color in the desert

Tonight I got a good start on processing my photos from last Saturday’s excursion to Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.  There was such a variety of plant specimens on display there, and I photographed so many different types of subjects, from closeups to landscapes, that it was hard to know where to start processing.  So I finally just started at the beginning.

So many people who have never lived in the Sonoran desert have the mistaken idea that the area is just brown and sandy.  True enough, there is a lot of brown, especially after the winter rains are gone and before the monsoon rains begin.  But in the spring, especially after an unusually we winter like we’ve just had, the desert blooms in the most amazing colors.  The Desert Botanical Garden showcases specimens not only from our Sonoran desert, but from desert environments around the world, and their displays are artfully designed and impeccably maintained.

Upon entering the garden, one of the first things that catches everyone’s attention is the glass sculpture created by Dale Chihuly that stands at the front gate.  I didn’t see one single person pass by this exhibit without either taking a photograph of it or posing in front of it for someone else’s shot.

While this photo only shows two of the sculptures, there are actually three of them.  To see more photos of this beautiful exhibit, check out my new set on Flickr, “Desert Botanical Garden – Phoenix“.

My processing workflow for these shots was pretty simple:  I used the JPG files, and processed them in Paintshop Pro X3.  For each one, I adjusted the Brightness/Contrast, applied Local Tone Mapping, adjusted the Saturation, and then sharpened.  Here are a few of the shots that I worked on tonight:

All of these are best viewed large and on black, so scurry on over to my Flickr set and check out the entire collection.  So far I’ve posted twenty-four, but more will be added as I get them processed this week.

On a technical note, I had been having problems for the past couple of weeks using the Flickr Uploadr (the utility that allows multiple images to be uploaded and edited more efficiently in batch).  Seems like every time I tried to upload a batch, I would lose my Internet connection after a couple of files had uploaded.  I would have to reset my modem and router to get the connection back.  After consulting with my ISP, Cox Communications, I determined that I most likely needed a new router.  Cox recently boosted the speed of their broadband service, and my router was only “wireless-G”.  I bought a new “wireless-N” router and set it up yesterday.  Tonight I was able to upload all 24 files in one batch (each is between 12MB and 17MB), and my connection never went down.  Needless to say, I’m a happy camper!!