Arizona Faces with Topaz B&W Effects

I seem to have drifted away from my weekly challenge topics lately. Oh, well, at least I’m still working on my photography, and that’s the real point here.

I’ve been watching the webinars from Topaz Labs this month, and they’ve been concentrating on their B&W Effects product for the last couple of weeks. I love working in black and white, so this week I pulled out some old shots from when we lived in the Phoenix area, and tried using some of the techniques I’ve learned to these images.

Unfortunately, the photos themselves weren’t as sharp as I would have liked for them to be. When I took these, I was still pretty bad about checking my ISO, shutter speed and exposure before I pulled the trigger. But I still like the way these came out.

Note: Click the photos to view larger in Flickr.

This first one was taken on Grand Avenue. The older gentlemen was being pushed along the street in his wheelchair by his son. I used the B&W Effects filter to add highlights to the older man’s face and hands, while keeping the son’s face hidden under his cap. I wanted the focus of the observer to be drawn to the bottom of the image.

20110108_194_GrandAve

This next image was taken while we were riding the light rail. I used to love getting on the train at one end of the route with my camera, and riding it all the way to the other end and back, getting off at different stops along the way to shoot. Many times the most interesting faces were actually in the train car with us, right across the aisle. This lady was in her own little world, and I just loved the character lines in her face.

20110221_023_LightRailRide

This last image was also taken on the same light rail ride, as we were about to board. This guy reminded me of a NASCAR driver, at least from the waist up. Just check out those shades, and the rings on his left hand. A close look at his feet, though, make it clear that he’s not a well-to-do race car driver.

20110221_004_LightRailRide

We’re going back to Arizona next week on a work/vacation trip, and I’m looking forward to doing a lot of landscape shooting around Sedona. I’ll eventually get back to my weekly challenge, but as I said, the point is to be shooting and processing as much as possible, no matter what the subject matter!

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Shop Devious on Grand Avenue

Continuing my series of images from Grand Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona:

Since today is Sliders Sunday, it got me in the mood to do some HDR again.  Since I didn’t have a chance to shoot any brackets this weekend, I went back to my little treasure stash of images from our photowalk on Grand Avenue, and found this gem just waiting to be processed:

Shop Devious
HDR created from three bracketed photos (-2.0/0.0/+2.0) processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Topaz Adjust / DeNoise with Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

I love the bright purple color of the building and the various shades of grey on the sidewalk. Be sure to view the picture large on black, and check out the photos of the women in the window on the right.

And, you may be asking, what the heck is Sliders Sunday? If you really enjoy pushing the limits on your processing, take a look at this Flickr group, and then join in the fun!

This weekend I finally had to take a break from shooting and processing for a little while and get all my equipment organized. I went to The Container Store and bought several bins and boxes to hold my camera bodies, lenses, filters, memory cards, chargers, batteries, and all the other loose odds and ends that were getting scattered around. I feel much more organized now. Next step is to go through all my file folders on the computer for the past six months and start decluttering my digital life.

And we though photography was just about taking pictures!

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on Facebook at ZannWalker Photography.

Caboose – Rear End Only

Continuing my series of photos taken along Grand Avenue in Phoenix, AZ:

Got a late start tonight, but I went back to a familiar subject–the caboose on Grand Avenue.

Tonight, I went with a vertical shot of the rear end of the caboose.  I had a couple of shots that were cropped more tightly on the train car itself, but I liked this one better because it shows some of the railroad track.  In addition, it has the cell phone tower over the top of the car (really, I could have done without that, but I didn’t feel like taking time to clone it out).

Caboose - Rear End Only
HDR created from three bracketed photos (-2.0/0.0/+2.0) processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Topaz Adjust / DeNoise with Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

To see the other two views of the caboose that I posted earlier, follow this link to Flickr.

I checked the UPS tracking site, and my new camera gear has traveled from Philadelphia, PA to Manchester, NH, then to Louisville, KY, and then finally to Phoenix in the past 18 hours. Just think, right now it’s somewhere here in the city, just waiting to be delivered to me sometime tomorrow. Can’t wait!!!

Blue Art Deco on Grand Avenue

Just a short post tonight because I’ve been starting at the computer all day and I’m beat.  Here’s a shot that I took of a really cool house/business (sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference) on Grand Avenue near downtown Phoenix.  A lot of the houses have been turned into galleries, so I’m not really sure if someone was living here or not….but that didn’t stop me from setting up my tripod right outside the front door and getting this shot.  Processing the brackets in Photomatix was a little bit of a challenge because of the movement in the bougainvillea in the foreground, but I think I got most of the ghosting cleaned up.  Just didn’t have the patience to really stress over it tonight.

But I love the colors in this shot, along with the shapes of the door and windows.  I think the Christmas lights along the roofline are a nice touch as well!

Blue Art Deco House

I’m trying to make up my mind about a photoshoot for this weekend…indoors or outdoors? Color or black-and-white? People or places? Early or late? Too many decisions to make, so I think I’ll put my tired brain to bed now.

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on Facebook at ZannWalker Photography.

Get Your Kicks…

Continuing my series of images from along Grand Avenue in Phoenix, AZ:

I’ve driven Grand Avenue a lot, and I’ve always seen this car and this boat atop this trailer…but I could never figure out how to get to it.  Grand Avenue runs diagonally from northwest to southeast, while every other street is laid out in a grid of proper east-west and north-south roadways.  Therefore, every mile along Grand Avenue there is a three-way meeting of major roadways, usually with one of them elevated over the other.  The exits are tricky, and it’s hard to get your bearings when you have to make several turns just to get off of Grand…oh, and did I mention there’s a railroad track that runs parallel to Grand that must be crossed?

Anyway, on this trip I made it my mission to find this “art installation” and get a shot of it.  And here it is, rendered in all its HDR glory.  I found that the “installation” (I’m not even sure what to call it) is located right next to  a salvage/junkyard. Once we got up close, we could see there was actually a lot of detail in the painting on the trailer that isn’t visible when one is zooming by on Grand Avenue.  I had never noticed that it depicts Route 66, of which Grand Avenue is a part.  Very appropriate!!

So, enjoy!!  I know we enjoyed tracking this thing down!

Get Your Kicks

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on Facebook at ZannWalker Photography.

Bikini Cocktail Lounge in HDR

I’m posting a little early today since I was up until about 3AM this morning working on this shot.  We went to dinner last night at a great new (to us) restaurant, and I ordered decaf coffee with my dessert.  My hubby ordered regular coffee.  I’m pretty sure that they switched them up because I was wired all night long and he slept like a baby.  I even commented to the waiter about how rich and flavorful the coffee was, while Andy said his tasted a little weak.  Yep, they switched them all right.

Since I was wide awake, I decided to go ahead and post my shot for Sliders Sunday at 3AM.  So, what is “Sliders Sunday”?  I belong to a Flickr group called “Sliders Sunday” in which you are encouraged to post one photo per week, on Sunday, in which you used whatever processing tools you want, to whatever extreme suits your fancy.  All those sliders in Photomatix and Topaz get put to use in this group.

This is an HDR image from three bracketed photos that I took on our photowalk on Grand Avenue in Phoenix, AZ.  The challenge with this image was trying to deal with the flags in the upper left corner.  It was a windy day, and the flags were in a different position in each of the three bracketed photos.  I used the de-ghosting tool in Photomatix to clean up most of it, but it still didn’t work like I wanted it to.  It left some of the flag lines in disconnected pieces, and there was a lot of haloing that was unattractive.

So I finally bit the bullet and decided to try some masking and layering.

  • In Paintshop Pro, I opened the raw file of the single image that was shot at normal exposure and saved it as a JPG file (probably should have saved it as a TIFF file, but…)
  • I opened the HDR image in Paintshop Pro and duplicated the background layer.
  • I copied the JPG file and pasted it as a new layer in the HDR image.
  • I moved the JPG layer under the duplicated HDR layer (so it was sandwiched between the background and the duplicated layer).
  • On the duplicated HDR layer (the top layer), I used the Eraser tool to erase the top left area where the sky and flags were located, being careful to stop at the edge of the buildings.  This allowed the sky and flags from the JPG image to show through.
  • I then merged all the layers and proceeded with my normal processing.

I’m sure others could do a much better job with this HDR and masking/layering exercise, but I don’t think it turned out too badly for a newbie.

So, here is the Bikini Cocktail Lounge, a landmark on Grand Avenue:

Bikini Cocktail Lounge

And, oh yeah, Happy Sliders Sunday!!  Now I think I’ll take a nap.

Cornered

Continuing my series of images taken along Grand Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona:

After the nice pastoral scenes of my last couple of posts, I felt like getting back to some grunge tonight.  It’s been a tough week!

This shot was one of the last ones I took when we did our photowalk on Grand Avenue a couple of weeks ago.  I shot three bracketed photos through an opening in the chainlink fence to capture this hidden corner between two seemingly-abandoned buildings.  The sun was just behind the building on the left, so it posed some exposure challenges.  I purposely left a little grain in the image because I think it fits the mood:

Cornered
HDR created from three hand-held bracketed photos (-2.0/0.0/+2.0) processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Topaz Adjust / DeNoise with Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

So many more images from that day that I would love to share….

Industrial Color

Continuing my series of photos taken along Grand Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona:

When we were driving southeast along Grand Avenue towards downtown, we saw some interesting industrial spaces off to the right, so we exited on Bethany Home Road and meandered for a bit through the warehouses and distribution centers.  The place was a beehive of activity, as there was a business located there that was distributing roofing shingles to contractors who are swamped with work right now, repairing all the roofs damaged in the hailstorm we had several months ago.

In the midst of all the activity we spotted this cluster of buildings that were so colorful and attractive that I just had to get a shot of them.  Fortunately for me, they must not have been in the shingle business because there was nobody around to get in my way or ask me to leave.

Industrial Color
HDR created from three bracketed photos (-2.0/0.0/+2.0) processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Topaz Adjust / DeNoise with Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on Facebook at ZannWalker Photography.

Paisley Violin Cafe Patio Bar

Continuing my series of images from Grand Avenue in Phoenix AZ:

Just a short post tonight because I agreed to meet two photographer buddies from work at an ungodly hour in the morning to do a photowalk in Tempe–

Today’s post is a shot of the patio bar outside the Paisley Violin Cafe.  We stopped there on our photowalk last Saturday to grab something cold to drink.  So much of what’s interesting in the area is BEHIND what you see from the street.  The front of the Paisley certainly catches your eye from the street, but the really interesting stuff is in the back–a group of small artists studios in various colors, a patio bar, a fountain, big shady trees, and outdoor art installations.  If you don’t get out of your car and use your feet to carry your eyes around, you miss a lot of really cool stuff!

I love this shot, even if the composition isn’t the greatest.  This HDR was created from three hand-held brackets, and I just love the little details that make up the image–the empty Coke machine, the movie poster, the leftover fast food wrappers on the bar, and especially the mirror over the sink that reflects the house across the street with the wooden shingles.

Paisley Violin Cafe

Hermano’s Liquor & Market

Continuing my series of images from Grand Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona:

Not all the buildings on Grand Avenue have been turned into galleries or cafes or boutiques.  Some of them have been around for years, and they’re happy just the way they are, thank you very much.  Once such establishment is Hermano’s Liquor & Market.

In the 2005 Phoenix New Times “Best of…” poll, Hermano’s was voted “Best Drive Through Liquor Store If You Lost Big”.  I’ve never been a customer at Hermano’s, but I can imagine the typical clientele that probably frequent this business.  I think they probably come out more at night.

But since it was a beautiful, warm winter day, there was no one parked in front of the store so I got a great set of brackets from across the street, which I processed into this HDR:

Hermano's Liquor & Market
HDR created from three bracketed photos (-2.0/0.0/+2.0) processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Topaz Adjust / DeNoise with Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

On a different note, I *finally* got a wireless remote for my Nikon. I started out with a cable remote which works fine as long as you’re within cable-distance of the camera. But I got tired of getting all tangled up with the cord when trying to get a shot set up on the tripod. The dang thing was not expensive at all and I have no idea why I waited this long to get it. I’m looking forward to using it for this weekend’s planned photoshoot in Tempe.