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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Living Room

Continuing the tour of the Abandoned House on Hwy 278

Upon entering the door of the old house, this is the sight that greets you.  Even though it’s sad to see a house in such disrepair, one can’t help but try and imagine what happened in this room.  Who lived here?  Were they happy?  Did something awful happen here that caused this place to be abandoned, to slowly return to the elements?

The room is coming apart, layer by layer.  Wood paneling on the ceiling gives way to acoustic tile, which gives way to insulation and wood.  Wallpaper gives way to older wallpaper, which gives way to wood. Multiple layers of flooring are peeling away, and the underlying structure is rotting back into the ground.

Only the brick in the fireplace seems permanent, although it too will eventually dissolve.

If only the walls could talk….

Abandoned House on Hwy 278 - Living Room

Shot with the Nikon D700 and my 14-24mm glass.  Six-exposure HDR.  Click on the photo and view as large as possible.

 

Abandoned House on Hwy 278

Wow, it’s been a long time! I’ve really been struggling with my photography muse for awhile now, trying to resurrect my passion for shooting and processing photos. Now that I work from home full time, I spend all day at a computer in my home office. I find it very difficult to get excited about spending additional hours in that same little room at the end of the day, processing photos. And during the winter months, I never get outside during the daylight hours from Monday through Friday, and the weekends just seem to fly by.

But….enough of the excuses. My goal for this year (I refuse to use the word “resolution”) is to do one decent project a month. Surely I can handle that!!

So, my project for this month–I wanted to take a road trip from Tupelo to Clarksdale along what was supposedly part of the “Blues Trail”. The Mississippi Delta is well-known as the birthplace of the blues, and I was hoping to see some of the old juke joints and music hangouts of some of the blues legends.

Well, long story short, most of those places are long gone, bulldozed and burned down to make room for big agriculture. We did find some interesting things on our trip to Clarksdale, and I’ll share those in the next few posts. But the most interesting thing we found, photographically speaking, was an abandoned house just west of Tupelo on Highway 278. We just happened to come upon it at the right time of day for some fantastic lighting, and the weather was beautiful (too cold for snakes and bugs), and the door was open….who could resist?

I used my Nikon D700 and my 14-24 glass to take a series of bracketed photos of both the exterior and interior of the house. I’ve begun processing them, but I’ll dole them out slowly here on my blog. Can’t wait to share them all with you!!

So, to start things off, here’s the front of the house that we found. Funny, it took finding something that had been abandoned by someone else to help me recover something that I myself had almost abandoned–my creativity.

Abandoned House on Hwy 278

My First Wedding Shoot

My plans for this past weekend included attending the wedding of my niece, Bailey, and her fiance, Daniel on Saturday, May 26.  On Thursday evening of last week, those plans changed dramatically.  Their wedding photographer cancelled at the last minute (don’t even get me started!), and so they asked if I would be willing to take some pictures at the wedding.  Of course, I jumped at the chance….and only started to panic about twelve hours later as I started trying to figure out what the heck I was supposed to do.

I started out by going through all my equipment, charging batteries and cleaning lenses.  I realized that I really didn’t have the optimum lens for this type of shoot (a mid-range fast zoom, like a 28-70mm f/2.8, which is now on my Christmas list!), but I decided to make the best of what I had.  I attended the rehearsal on Friday night, and since my dad was the one officiating, I was already pretty familiar with how he conducts the ceremony.  I was able to get an idea of shooting angles and timing after we went through the ceremony a couple of times.

Saturday was a beautiful day, but it was pretty warm.  The ceremony started at 2:00, but I got there about 11:30 to start taking pictures of Bailey as she was getting ready.  I took a lot of the formal shots of the wedding party and the families prior to the ceremony, along with some shots of the bride and her party outside under some shade trees.

The wedding went off without a hitch, and then we headed to the reception for a full sit-down meal, all leading up to the decorating of the car and the big send-off.

By the time I got home, I was totally exhausted, and today I’m actually stiff and sore from all the bending, stooping, squatting, and carrying around that tank of a camera (the Nikon D700) with the 28-300mm lens.  Thank goodness I was able to use a tripod much of the time!  I’ve spent just about all day processing photos, and I’m about a third of the way through.  Now I know why photographers charge so much to shoot events like weddings….and this was a very simple, but beautiful, ceremony.  I can’t imaging shooting a large, hoity-toity event, even with an assistant or two!

Anyway, I’ll be posting some of the images later as I get through the processing.   I don’t want to post any of the “people” pictures until Bailey and Daniel get to see them first, but I’ll go ahead and share this one that I did of Bailey’s dress, processed in black and white.

The Dress

I feel so honored that Bailey and Daniel trusted me to shoot their wedding. They are such a sweet couple, and I wish them nothing but happiness and joy as they start their life together!  And a special thanks goes to my “assistant”, my wonderful hubby, Andy, who kept me calm and who carried all my equipment for me.  I love you, Sweetie!!

Blue Suede Cruise Continued

There were so many great automotive machines at the Blue Suede Cruise, and they all made great subjects for some black-and-white photography. The people-watching was pretty sweet, too!  Here are a few more shots that I processed.  Click through on the photos to see them large on black, as they should be viewed.  Enjoy!!

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These were all made with my Nikon D5000 using an 18-55mm zoom.  All shots were processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X4 using Topaz Black & White Effects plug-in.  You can see some of the earlier shots that I posted here.

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