Big Changes, New Content – Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico

Wow, how long has it been since I’ve posted anything that I’ve shot with my Nikon?

Way, way too long!

But that’s about to change. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve retired from work, and the hubby and I recently sold our house and almost everything we owned and we’re now living full-time in our 24′ Class C RV, traveling the country. We left our home in Tupelo, Mississippi on August 31, 2018, and we’re currently in New Mexico, making our way westward for the winter.

We’ve finally started to get into somewhat of a groove or a routine, and so I *finally* got my Nikon 700 out of my camera bag today and did some shooting. This was primarily a day for getting reacquainted with my camera, trying to remember the very basics of aperture, shutter speed and ISO. I used my 28-300mm zoom lens since we were exploring and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

We’re currently staying at Elephant Butte Lake State Park near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The lake is actually a reservoir, but due to the ongoing drought it is currently at about 4% of its capacity. Therefore there is almost a Mad Max desolate feeling about the beach, although there is a lot of wildlife and the park is very popular with RVers and campers.

We were hiking and shooting in the early afternoon when the sunlight was most severe, so after I looked at the results I decided to convert the shots to black and white. I have a real preference for B&W photography, especially for high-contrast images when there is no real interesting color in the shot anyway.

ElephantButteSP_20181024_037 bw

This is one of my favorite shots from today. The ripples in the stone remind us that these rocks are supposed to be under water, but as long as the drought continues, they will be exposed to wind and rain instead.

I’m looking forward to having much, much more time to spend on my photography, now that I am retired and living on the road. I love the Southwest USA, and look forward to capturing much of it through the lenses of my Nikon.

I do still shoot a lot with my iPhone8+, and I post a curated series of those shots to Instagram at Instagram.com/zen_of_zann. I also post iPhone shots related to our RV travels to Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads. Feel free to follow both those feeds if you’re interested!

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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

Tombigbee Sweet Gum

This past Sunday we took an afternoon drive to Tombigbee State Park, just about twenty minutes from our house, to explore the countryside and look for a few photo-ops. The trees are still bare and most of the ground cover is still brown, but it was a beautiful day with bright blue skies, and we thoroughly enjoyed our day-trip.

Tombigbee State Park is small as far as parks go, but they have a beautiful lake, some nice campsites, recreational facilities (including an excellent Frisbee golf course that winds its way through the woods), and picnicking and boating facilities. They also have a number of rustic but well-equipped cabins for rent, and we will definitely be making reservations for a stay there in the near future.

I carried both my camera bodies with me. I had the Nikon D5000 with my 55-200mm lens attached, and I also had my Nikon D700 full-frame monster with the 14-24mm wide-angle lens mounted. It was nice to be able to switch back and forth between cameras while shooting the same scene, and to be able to compare results between the equipment.

The first shot I want to share is this image taken with the D5000 and the 55-200 zoom. I wanted to capture the hanging sweet gum ball while blurring the lake in the background, and the telephoto lens with a wide aperture was perfect.  I even managed to capture the wisps of spider web on the lower fork of the branch:

Tombigbee Sweet Gum

I’ll share more photos in the next few days. I’m still anxious for springtime to get here so things will start to green up a little. But it’s still possible to find beauty in the middle of winter time if we just take the time to look for it.

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
Twitter @suzanne_hight
My Official Website at http://zannwalker.com

Natural Zen in Sepia

Today was kind of strange.  It was Christmas Eve Eve, and a Friday at that, so it was a day that I really didn’t expect to get much work done.  But, adding to the weirdness of the day, my work laptop somehow acquired a virus, so it’s been out of commission since day before yesterday.  I spent hours on Skype with our helpdesk yesterday trying to get my system up and running, to no avail.  So today they’re shipping me a replacement laptop, which should arrive early next week.

There wasn’t much I could do today, other than check my email (using my own personal computer) and respond as necessary–and I only received two emails that required responses.  By lunchtime I was ready to get out of the house and away from the computer.  So even though it was a gray, overcast day, I decided to do a little shooting.  I’ve been wanting to take some Zen-inspired photos to have framed for my home office, and I thought today would be the perfect time to do that.

Andy went with me on the excursion, and we drove out to Elvis Presley Lake, just north of where we live.  We had not been there yet, so we weren’t sure what to expect in the way of photo ops.  We found a nice lake with camping spots, picnic tables, boat ramps and fishing piers, and very nice bath and shower facilities.

I wanted to get some shots using very shallow depth of field, so I used my 50mm prime lens.  We found a spot where there were some downed trees near the water’s edge, and I took a few shots before the cold wind literally drove us back to the car.  Here are three that I processed this afternoon, using Paintshop Photo Pro X4 and Topaz Black & White Effects using the Sepia presets.  I sized these to be 5 x 7’s, and I’m going to have them mounted in 8 x 10 or 8.5 x 11 frames to go in my office.  I used similar processing on each one as I want them to be displayed as  a set:

Pine Log in Sepia

Grass in Sepia

Pine Cone in Sepia

After warming up for just a minute, we walked over the hill where the wind was a little less biting, and took some shots of the boat docks and the fishing pier. There was a large sign on the pier that said “No Swimming”. Just a few yards from the entrance to the pier, I found this lying on the bed of pine needles, and couldn’t resist grabbing a quick photo to be processed in Topaz Adjust.  Needless to say, this image will NOT be joining the others on my office wall, but I did find the photo to be oddly compelling:

Goggles

 

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
Twitter @suzanne_hight
My Official Website at http://zannwalker.com

West Fork Revisited

I revisited some of my shots from West Fork tonight, to see what I could do with some of the single images in Topaz Adjust. Here are the results (I really should remember to make notes of the presets and sliders that I used).

Be sure to click on the image to view large on black:

West Fork Revisited 001

West Fork Revisited 002

However, this next one just cried out to be processed as an HDR, with the shadowy details of the rock wall and the sunny highlights of the gold leaves. I just couldn’t resist running the bracketed series through Photomatix to produce this:

West Fork Revisited 003

Next stop with the Nikon will be back in North Mississippi as I travel home for Thanksgiving. Hoping to get some great shots while I’m there, and also hoping I can get through airport security without being forced to baggage-check my gear. Have a great holiday everyone!

Nature Calls at Sunrise

On the last morning of our camping trip, temperatures had dropped into the high 30’s.  We were snug in our sleeping bags with the flannel inserts, inside our dome  tent, where it was nice and toasty.  But when Nature calls, you just have to get out of that warm sleeping bag, put on your shoes, and leave the tent to answer the call.

So, that’s how I happened to be outside the tent just as the sun was rising through the trees at the back of our campsite. I was able to grab the camera and get a few handheld shots from several different angles, trying to capture the glow of the early morning sunlight on the tiny flowers  in the foreground.

Sunrise in the Forest

I took this shot in raw NEF format, and processed it to JPG in Paintshop Pro X3. I used Local Tone Mapping to bring out a little more detail in the bark of the trees, and I adjusted the brightness and contrast slightly.

Sometimes the call of Nature can be a beautiful thing!

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Branching Out

Just couldn’t resist working on one more shot from Lake Mohawk.  While I was out walking one morning, I came across this tree, and I loved the way its branches stretched so far, but in only one direction.  It’s almost as if the tree were reaching for something–maybe the sunlight? I’m just thinking that it could cast some really scary shadows around Halloween time!

This shot was a composite of three bracketed exposures (-2.0/0.0/+2.0), processed as HDR through Photomatix using Tone Compression, and then a little bit of post-processing in PaintShop Pro X3.

As the desert temperatures reach the 110’s and everything in my world turns brown and dusty, I love looking back at the photos that I took at Lake Mohawk, just to remember what a truly green landscape looks like.

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The Zen of the Bare Branch

Winter is almost over here in Arizona, at least below the Mogollon Rim.  All around us, plants are in bloom and pollen is in the air.  Trees are beginning to leaf out, and soon they will be green and the ground will be brown and parched–the way nature intended here in the desert.

But before all the trees become covered with their canopy of green, let me pay homage to the simple beauty of the bare branch.  When we were visiting Montezuma Castle two weeks ago, I was struck by the beauty of the stark white sycamore and ash trees against the azure blue sky, as seen in this single exposure processed in Paintshop Pro X3:

The white branches blended so beautifully with the chalky white limestone cliffs where the Native Americans built their cliff dwellings.  The trunks of the sycamore trees have the most gorgeous bark–it looks like a jigsaw puzzle of various shades of olive, tan, beige, pistachio, khaki, especially when processed as an HDR image from three bracketed exposures:

When we drove into Sedona later that afternoon, I spent a lot of time shooting pictures of the red rocks aglow in the light of the setting sun.  But as the sun was just about to slip below the horizon, I turned to face it and captured this shot of the bare branches of the oak trees:

It was such a lovely, peaceful silhouette that I did very little processing of the raw file.

Nature can be beautiful even when dormant and while hibernating.  It reminds us that we all need time to rest and recuperate so that we can bloom afresh and anew in the spring.

Happy Easter, everyone!

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