Monday Image – Sunset Stroll

I took my big glass, my Nikkor 14-24mm wide angle lens, with my Nikon D700 down to the beach at sunset yesterday. Unfortunately there weren’t enough clouds to provide a lot of drama (darn those clear New Mexico skies! 🙂 ) but I had fun shooting anyway.

We weren’t the only ones on the beach. Caught this shot of a couple taking a stroll with their dog.

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Click on the photo to view larger on my Flickr site.

Processed this one in Paint Shop Pro X9, using the Topaz Adjust plug-in.

Have a great week, everyone!

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Friday Foto – Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico

Here’s another image I shot this week on the dry lake bed at Elephant Butte Lake State Park near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The exposed gray branches, lit by the midday sun, contrast nicely with the dark brown sand and work really well for black and white processing.

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Click on the photo to view larger on my Flickr site.

Feels good to be exploring the world with my Nikon 700 again. This was minimally processed in Paint Shop Pro X9.

I’m planning to post here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for as long as I’m inspired to do so. You can also see my earlier stuff on my Flickr page.

 

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.

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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!

Back To the Beginning

Every new year calls for new resolutions, and this year mine is to seriously get back into my photography. For many reasons (I can’t really go into all of them yet), this is going to be an epic year for me and the hubby, and I want to make sure my skills and my equipment are ready to capture the moments ahead.

I recently went through my camera gear and sold a few things that I wasn’t using. I got rid of my Nikon D5000 and a couple of lenses, as well as a little point-and-shoot Canon camera that I had. I still have my Nikon D700, another point-and-shoot, a new GoPro Hero 5 Black, and my iPhone 8 Plus. Plenty of equipment and no real excuses for not getting behind a viewfinder.

It has been so long since I was really shooting a lot, and I found that I needed to go back to the basics, just to remember how the settings worked on the camera. I decided to challenge myself to do one photo or video shoot every weekend until I can feel confident enough to just grab the camera and go, without having to refer to the manual or fumble around with the buttons and menus. In addition, I’ve almost forgotten how to use my editing software (especially Lightroom), so that’s also part of my resolution for this year, to get my mojo back in the computer darkroom.

So, even though it technically was not the new year yet, I took my Nikon D700 out for a photo walk last Saturday morning, December 30, before the bitterly cold arctic front moved in. I challenged myself to shoot 100 images, and that’s what I did, walking around downtown Tupelo. There weren’t many people around, and I was there for a couple of hours, wandering through alleys and skulking around houses and businesses.

And I had so much fun! I had forgotten how satisfying it is to look for the beauty and/or interest in the everyday scenery of life. I didn’t limit myself to any one subject, I just shot things that caught my eye.

I spent some time over the past two days going through the images and doing some editing, trying to remember how to use some of my favorite tools (Curves, anyone?). Some images I processed both in color and in black-and-white (I shot everything in raw to make it more challenging and rewarding to edit). And then I picked out my favorite five (so far) and uploaded them to my Flickr site which has been sorely neglected for too long.

Here are my top five:

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I’m really looking forward to more shooting this year! My plan is to take a different camera with me each weekend, including my video gear (GoPro, iPhone, and gimbals for each). Repetition and practice, shooting and editing, learning and exploring….that’s my plan for 2018!

Spring Cruise with the Nikon Coolpix P530

I’m finally getting around to taking a look at the pictures we took on our last cruise, more than two weeks later. I’m a little late since I started a new job the day after we got back, so I’ve been a little preoccupied, but today I finally got a chance to check out the images.

We took two cameras with us, both point-and-shoots. One was our Coolpix S3500, a small pocket camera that actually does a decent job for snapshots. The second camera was our new Coolpix P530, which I purchased two days before we left on our cruise.

I wanted a camera that was sort of a hybrid between a point-and-shoot and a DSLR, so that Andy could use it as well. I wanted good quality photos, with a minimum of fuss. This model seems to fit the bill.

Here are some of the major technical specs:

  • 16.1 MP Low-light CMOS Sensor
  • 42X Zoom NIKKOR Lens and 84x with Dynamic Fine Zoom
  • Full HD 1080p video
  • Target-finding AF
  • Full manual exposure control (also has aperture and shutter priority modes in addition to program modes)

When I’m on a cruise to someplace I’ve never been, I don’t like to spend a lot of time staring through a lens, since it’s easy to get too caught up in the photography and miss actually seeing the sights. So I only took a total of 133 images with this camera while we were on our trip. But I was very pleased with how they turned out. Here are a few examples, and you can view the entire album on Flickr by clicking here. All the photos are unedited JPG files, straight out of the camera.

Interior of the ship, the Carnival Elation, looking down into the main lobby from a couple of decks up in the atrium:

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The ship in port in Cozumel, Mexico on a beautiful sunny day:

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Took this shot from the Lido Deck looking down at one of the crew waiting to cast us off from Cozumel. The zoom lens on the camera is very steady and sharp!

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Caught this image of a large iguana at the Uxmal Mayan Ruins in Yucatan, Mexico. Once again, the zoom lens did a great job, and this was in full program mode.

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And here’s a wide-angle view of the ancient city:

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So, after my first test run, I’m very pleased with this little camera! It will never replace my DSLR’s, but when I need a lightweight point-and-shoot to capture moments on the fly, this will be my go-to Nikon.

Look for me here!

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Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon

If I won the Powerball Lottery and could live anywhere in the United States that I desired, I would happily settle down near Sedona, Arizona, where I could have a view of the magnificent red rocks and hear the peaceful sounds of Oak Creek.

But you can’t win if you don’t play, and the lottery isn’t legal where I live, so I’ll have to be content with an occasional vacation trip and a collection of photographs to look at from time to time.

Hubby and I got to spend a few days in Sedona early this month on a combination work/vacation trip. Even though we were both sick with sinus and upper respiratory infections while we were there (I even wound up in Urgent Care), I still managed to spend some time outdoors getting some landscape shots with my Nikon D700 and my 14-24mm glass. It’s always a bit of a pain in the ass to haul all my camera equipment, including tripod, on a business trip, but since Andy was with me this time to help share the load, it wasn’t too bad.

My first round of shooting was done just north of Sedona at Midgely Bridge on Highway 89A. There’s a trailhead at the bridge, so a lot of people park here to hike off in several different directions, but it’s also a wonderful place just to sit and soak in the view. Because we were at the bridge in the middle of the day, there was a lot of contrast between dark and light areas. I chose to shoot brackets so I could use HDR processing to draw out the details in the shadows and highlights.

Click on the photos to view large!

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This next shot was taken from about the same spot, but with the camera turned about 45° to the left:

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A little further up Highway 89A, we found a place to get down to the creek. Unfortunately there was a good bit of natural debris along the edges of the water, and the trees had not completely leafed out yet, but it was still a beautiful day. This image is not HDR, but a single image.

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Stay tuned for my next blog post where I’ll show you some images taken at Lizard Rock, one of my favorite formations in the Sedona area.

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Dramatic Skies in Black & White

I’m a big fan of the Topaz Labs family of filters and plug-ins. I’ve been using them for several years now, and Topaz continues to improve both the functionality of the product as well as the user-friendliness of the interface.

Another thing that I like about Topaz is that they offer free, live webinars where they demonstrate how to use their products to achieve specific results. The webinars are offered about twice a week–usually there’s a one-hour version on Tuesdays, and then there’s a “Quick Tip Thursday” edition that addresses a more specific task. The webinars are recorded and made available for free on YouTube afterwards.

Today’s Quick Tip Thursday edition dealt with using the Topaz Black & White Effects plug-in to add drama to skies and clouds, without darkening up the rest of the photo. The process uses the selective color sliders in the plug-in to darken up the blues and cyans, while leaving the other colors alone. This technique works great on images where there isn’t any other blue in the shot.

After watching the demonstration, I pulled out an old photo from February 2011 that I shot at South Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona. This image was shot with the Nikon D700, using my 14-28mm Nikkor glass (love that lens!!). I had never processed this particular image, but thought it would be fun to use for this technique.

The first thing I did was open the image in Lightroom and adjusted the exposure just slightly, and added a touch of clarity.

Here’s what I had at that point:

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I then exported to Photoshop and opened the Topaz B&W Effects filter. Using the techniques that Nichole demonstrated during the webinar, here’s where I wound up (click to view larger in Flickr):

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I think I probably overdid the sky just a little bit, but I was trying to push it to see how the technique worked. Overall, I like the results, though, especially since the foreground did not get darkened when the sky did. I do like the drama of the image, and how it highlights the feathering in the clouds!  This is something I look forward to practicing more in the future!

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Weekly One-Word Challenge – Broken

Hooray, I am officially caught up with my weekly one-word challenges! The word for the week of March 9, 2015 was “broken”. And after several days of rain, the sun finally came out today, just in time for me to meet the deadline to get some shooting done for this challenge.

I did all my shooting between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m., hoping to catch some good light. My morning started off with a slight hiccup. I drove about five minutes from my house, parked my car, got out and fired up my camera, just to find that my battery was depleted. I could have kicked myself for not checking it before I left home. Fortunately, I had a second battery completely charged and ready to go, so I drove home, swapped them out, and then headed back downtown. Not that far to drive, but it did waste a little bit of that early morning golden hour.

Today I used my Nikon D700 with the 24-84mm Nikkor lens. I’m learning to be more cognizant of my f-stops, ISO, shutter speeds and depth-of-field, rather than just concentrating on composition.

I took quite a few images, processed them in Lightroom and Photoshop, using Topaz filters. I’ve uploaded the ones I liked best to my Flickr account. Here are my favorites from this morning, with a little commentary:

These first three are a little urbex from a partially abandoned warehouse near the railroad tracks. The broken windows fit the theme perfectly. I had to do some perspective adjustments to account for the camera tilt, but all in all, I’m happy with these:

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These next two are from an alley in downtown. If you’ve been following along, you’ll recognize the vase from an earlier challenge when I shot it for the word “Open”. In keeping with the rules of the challenge (photos must be shot in the appropriate week timeframe), I re-shot it and processed it differently today to represent “broken”. The photo of the toilet is self-explanatory.

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This next image is a whiskey and wine bar in downtown Tupelo. No, the bar is not broken, but the old original lettering at the top of the building seems to be missing something.

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The next image is a statue on the lawn of the Lee County Courthouse, erected in 1908 by the Tupelo Woman’s Christian Temperance Union to commemorate the statewide prohibition of alcohol. Not sure when the angel lost her hand, but Prohibition was definitely broken.

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Next is a bicycle frame lying in a neighbor’s yard. Those boys are tough on their toys.

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Finally, a little something different. Almost a year ago, on April 28, 2014, Tupelo was hit by an E3 tornado, which left a wide path of damage and destruction (but fortunately only slight injuries to people). While the recovery still continues, these bare trees are stark reminders of what happened that day. The trunks are starting to push out new twigs and branches, so even though they were “broken” last year, their recovery mirrors the spirit of Tupelo as businesses, churches and homeowners rebuild for the future.

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While I was out shooting this morning, I did take some other shots that were not related to the weekly challenge. I’ll be sharing those separately.

So now, I’m ready for next week’s challenge, which is the word “Ice”. So ironic that we had the ice storm week before last, and now the weather is starting to warm up. Not sure what I’ll shoot for “ice”, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something!

Zann’s Weekly One Word Challenge – Wet

I’m finally getting caught up with my weekly challenges after a couple weeks of nasty weather. While the challenge for this week is shooting images for the word “Broken”, I’ve just finished processing images from last week’s challenge for the word “Wet”.

I shot these images around downtown Tupelo this past Sunday. We were still thawing out after an ice storm came through on Thursday, and there was still ice scattered around in shady places on the north side of buildings, in dirty piles where the plows had cleared the streets, and most impressively, in the fountain on the old Courthouse lawn. Because the ice was melting, it fit the description of “wet”!

All of these images were taken with my Nikon D700 and the 28-300mm Nikkor lens. They were all processed in Lightroom, and some have some slight nudges Photoshop and Topaz plug-ins like Clean or DeNoise. I’m still getting acquainted with the Adobe products, but so far I’m loving Lightroom!

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Weekly One Word Challenge – OPEN

I’m starting to get a little more caught up on my weekly photo challenge work. I’ve just now completed processing the images that I shot for the February 23 challenge around the theme “Open”. As I mentioned, I was a week late shooting these images because of the bad weather that we had, but better late than never!

I decided to process all of these in black & white this week. I’m also using Lightroom and Photoshop for the very first time (after years of using Paintshop Pro in every version up through the current X7). I have to say that I really like Lightroom for its simple slider adjustments, although I’m not yet a fan of all the Collections, Catalogs and other nonsense. I like a simpler method of organizing.

Photoshop is another beast that I’ll need to get better acquainted with, although Paintshop Pro has many of the same features and has already given me a headstart on learning to use levels and masking.

My images for this week were all shot around downtown Tupelo on a sunny Saturday morning just after our most recent ice storm. Each of these has some interpretation of the word or concept “open”, at least in my own mind.

Enjoy!

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The next challenge I’ll be presenting is the word “Wet”. Stay tuned!

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