Editing and All That Jazz

It’s Saturday night, and all the SEC football games were blow-outs, so I decided that rather than watching football, my time would be better spent getting a little editing practice.

I shot this image in New Orleans last week, down in the French Quarter. I shot this with my Nikon D700 using my 24-85mm Nikkor lens at ISO 250, 1/100 sec at f/13.0. This is the raw, unedited version (resized to 800px wide at 100dpi):


I’m using Paint Shop Pro X7, along with the Topaz bundle of plug-ins to do my editing. To be honest, I don’t even remember what all I did to this image.  I started off by cropping it to get rid of the uninteresting top area. I then just experimented with levels, curves, saturation, and clarity. I used the Topaz DeNoise plug-in to clean up a few artifacts. I also played with some masking to add in some blue sky in the top left corner where it had been blown out in the original image.  It was clumsy at best, but I’m finally starting to understand the whole “paint white on black” and vice-versa thing.

It’s not gallery-quality by any means, but it was fun to play with, and I learned a little more about the tools at my disposal in the software that I’m using.

And I learned that I need a LOT more practice and patience.

Here’s my edited version, also resized to 800px wide at 100dpi.


Oh, and I’ve changed the theme of this blog (obviously) from the old, dated black background with small fonts to this cleaner looking version.  I’m still too cheap to pay for a WordPress theme so I continue to use the free versions with limited customization options.  But it gets my point across.

Thanks for following along, and let me know what suggestions you might have to improve my work!

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Getting Back in the Groove!

The past month has been extremely busy, what with the holidays to be celebrated and projects at work to be completed.  I haven’t had a chance to shoot as much as I would like, and now the weather has turned dark and cold.  Here’s hoping that the next few weeks will offer lots of opportunities to get back into the groove with the Nikon.

Santa brought me a new 50mm F/1.8 lens prime lens for Christmas.  It’s an auto-focus lens, but it doesn’t have a built-in motor.  Since my D5000 doesn’t have the auto-focus motor built-in, I’m having to learn to manually focus again.  Very frustrating when trying to capture pictures of the cat, but I think it will be okay when shooting landscapes.

On the processing front, I’m still learning my way around the Topaz suite of software, and still loving it.  Tonight, just for grins, I went back through some photos from last year and pulled this one out of the archives.  I think it’s a great shot of “getting back in the groove”!

This shot was taken at last year’s Glendale Jazz and Blue’s Festival.  I took the JPG and ran it through Topaz Adjust and pulled out a lot of detail in the fabric stage backdrop as well as the musician’s jeans and braids.

To all my fellow photogs, Happy Shooting!! Have a great 2011, and I’m looking forward to seeing all those great shots that give me so much inspiration!

Check out my Flickr feed at http://www.flickr.com/photos/suzannehight/ to see more of the shots that I’ve posted.

Glendale AZ Jazz & Blues Festival – Free and Funky

This weekend Glendale is presenting their annual Jazz & Blues Festival in and around downtown’s Murphy Park.  It’s one of the best entertainment deals you’ll ever find.  There’s no charge for admission, and you can even bring your own food in.  There are two stages, one for blues and one for jazz.  Andy and I packed up our lawn chairs and the Nikon last evening and had a great time relaxing in front of the Jazz stage, listening to some great artists perform while doing some serious people-watching.

We arrived about 4:30PM, just as Dennis Rowland was wrapping up his set.  I had hoped to get there in time to see Dennis perform but just didn’t make it.  I did get a great shot of his T-shirt, though.

Dennis Rowland, Spirtual Gangster

The act that followed was probably our favorite of the evening, Dominic Amato.  He’s a great young jazz musician that’s local to the Valley, and he had a fantastic group of musicians backing him up:

Dominic Amato

The next act was Vicki McDermitt and her trio.  Vicki is a jazz vocalist who is local to the Valley, and she performed a set of jazz standards interspersed with her favorite quotes from jazz singers and entertainers.  My personal favorite from her set was “Grandma’s Hands”:

Vicki McDermitt

Vicki was followed by the Larry Coryell trio.  If I had ever heard of Larry Coryell, I don’t remember it, but I will not forget him and trio after last night’s performance.  This guy absolutely owns the jazz guitar.  His rendition of Ravel’s “Bolero” brought many in the crowd to their feet (not too shabby considering most were sitting on blankets and had had a few beers by that time).  I will definitely be looking for some of Larry’s work from my usual download sites:

Larry Coryell Trio

Of course, one of the best parts of festival-going is the people-watching.  From our vantage point in our lawn chairs, we had a great view of the stage, but between us and the stage was the sidewalk which was being kept clear as one of the main arteries for people to come and go.  Therefore, we got to see a lot of different people walk by.  I had about 30-35 degrees of free sight-line in front of me to shoot pictures, and so I used the opportunity to practice quickly focusing on a subject as they walked into my line of sight and getting the shot off before they passed behind the person blocking my view to the other side.  I came away with some “interesting” shots, at least in my mind.  And many of the people were kind enough to stop within my line of sight and do some impromptu dancing, which is always fun to watch:

We were at the festival until it ended about 10:30.  After the sun went down I didn’t take so many photos as I didn’t want to use flash, plus it was starting to get more crowded.  All of my shots were taken with the 55-200mm zoom lens at ISO 200, except for the last few of Vicki McDermitt and Larry Corywell for which I used the normal 18-55mm lens at a higher ISO for the after-dark stage lighting.  I shot everything in “fine” JPG (no RAW format), and I haven’t done any post-processing on them.

I’ve uploaded quite a few shots to Flickr in the set titled “Glendale Jazz Fest 2010“.  There are some great photos of other members of Dominic Amato’s band, and lots of shots of the fans.  I hope you’ll zip over there and take a look at them and let me know which ones you like (or hate!).  Here’s my personal favorite:

Now, that’s what it looks like when the music is great!!