Quinceañera in Hermann Park

While we were walking around the Hermann Park area near the Medical Center in Houston, we came across several different photographers who were working with clients, taking advantage of the beautiful weather, flowering shrubs and distinctive architecture in the area.  We saw one photographer doing a bridal shoot in front of Rice University, and another unloading his equipment in front of the glamorous Hotel Zaza for some sort of social event.

But my favorite was this young Hispanic girl dressed in her quinceañera finery, standing in front of the statue of General Sam Houston where a photographer was capturing the occasion for the proud family.  I was fortunate to capture this shot with my 28-300mm lens in a less formal moment.

When I started processing the image, it seemed like a pretty mundane shot.  Nothing very memorable there, but I still thought the story was worth telling.  So I used the Topaz Adjust plug-in and selected a painterly filter which I tweaked slightly, and finally came up with an image that looked much more romantic and less harsh:

Quinceañera

For comparison, here’s the original unedited image:

Original unedited version

Original unedited version

Advertisements

Back in the Saddle

For the past few weeks I’ve been totally obsessed with my iPhone, playing with all the apps that are available for editing those photos that I’ve taken on the fly.  It’s a lot of fun, it’s quick and it’s easy.  But it’s not the same as the satisfaction I get from taking out the full-frame Nikon 700 with a 50mm prime lens to capture image in a way that the iPhone never will.

This evening I took my camera with me to the Women’s Hospital in hopes of getting some photos of my brand new great-niece, but there was a sign on the door that they weren’t taking visitors right then, so we just left them a note at the visitors’ desk and left.  On the way home, however, I decided to make a quick stop at Veterans Park as the sun was just slipping behind the trees.  I figured, I had the camera with me, might as well shoot a few frames.

I wasn’t sure what I would come away with since the golden hour was already past, but I upped the ISO to 500 and opened up the aperture and took a few shots of the welcoming committees of geese that came to greet us.  I processed a few of these when I got home, and was pretty pleased with the results.  I like the shallow depth of field that resulted from the wide open aperture, it seems to make the geese “pop” from the background.

Let me know what you think!  Better than Instagram? 🙂

Pretty Ducks All In A Row

Grungy Geese

Must Not Be Biting

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

White Goose in Late Afternoon

We stopped by Veterans Park in Tupelo on Sunday afternoon just about an hour before sundown.  We wanted to see if there were any geese on the lake, and we were fortunate enough to get there just when (1) the light was right and (2) a family was tossing pieces of bread into the water to attract the geese, ducks and other waterfowl.

I tried to practice something that I read recently about photographing birds and other wildlife–try to focus on the eyes.  It’s harder than it looks, as animals don’t exactly look into the camera and pose for you.  But just thinking about that little rule made me pay more attention to what I was shooting, and I did manage to capture a few shots where the eyes look pretty darn sharp!

White Goose in Late Afternoon

I used my Nikon D5000 with the 55-200mm lens for this shot, set at about 190mm. I used a fairly large aperture of F/6.3 to get a faster shutter speed and also to blur the background a little bit. I processed the raw file in Paintshop Photo Pro X4, using Topaz Adjust 5, as well as Topaz DeNoise to clean up the very slight bit of noise in the dark areas of the water.

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

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

From South Mountain to Ahwatukee

Tonight I decided to pull out some old brackets and do some HDR processing, using the new Topaz Adjust and Topaz  Black & White Effects plug-ins that I’ve recently acquired.

I found this set of brackets that I shot from the top of South Mountain Park in Phoenix, on a partly-cloudy afternoon just after a storm front had moved through. From the top of South Mountain, there was a clear view of the suburb of Ahwatukee, and the remaining clouds were still dramatic enough to really lend a sense of scale to the landscape. From the to of South Mountain, you can almost see forever!

From South Mountain to Ahwatukee

I shot these brackets with my 14-24mm Nikkor wide-angle lens, using my Nikon D700 camera mounted on a tripod. I processed the brackets in Photomatix 4, then edited the resulting TIFF in Paintshop Photo Pro X4. First I used Topaz Adjust to correct exposure and bump up the clarity slightly. I then added a layer using Topaz Black & White Effects, using the low-key preset which I adjusted slightly to add some detail. I lowered the opacity of this layer, as I just wanted to add a little drama to the clouds, especially where the sun was filtering through.

Today, we closed on the sale of our home in Arizona, so we no longer have any real estate ties to the Phoenix area. I guess this image is a little bit of nostalgia for a place that I really did enjoy living and photographing. I’ll still be returning there several times a year for work, so hopefully this won’t be the last time I see such a magnificent landscape as this through my viewfinder.

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

Graffiti in the Old Cabin

I have a love/hate relationship with graffiti.  On the one hand, when it’s done right it tells a story, paints a picture and rouses a range of emotions, and it cries out to be shared with others.  Beautiful, artistic, colorful graffiti is one of my favorite photography subjects, and I’ve captured some fine examples of it in the past:

But when graffiti is done badly, and for no apparent reason, then it just becomes an eyesore.  It’s especially irritating to me when the graffiti marks up a historic building or a natural site that can’t be cleaned without being damaged.  Recently a young guy from Canada was arrested at the Grand Canyon for spray-painting his name (or at least the first part of it) on the stone face of one of the more popular formations along the heavily visited tourist route.  In his affidavit:

…Chenier told Robinson he chose the popular Duck on a Rock geological formation because “it was so special that if he left his name, then his kids would be able to see it 20 years from now.”

So now, in 20 years, Chenier’s children will be able to visit Grand Canyon and point to the rock formation where their father was arrested for being, at best, an idiot, and at worst, an arrogant ass.

Graffiti is a problem at every site where people are allowed to visit, especially when the people are young and “in love”.  On last weekend’s visit to Tishomingo State Park, I shot some bracketed photos inside the old cabin in the park, where hundreds of people have found themselves, for whatever reason, motivated and inspired to write something onto or carve something into the walls, ceiling and floor of this old building.

Tishomingo State Park - Cabin Graffiti
HDR from five bracketed photos shot with my Nikon D700, 28-300mm Nikkor. Processed in Photomatix Pro 4, Paintshop Photo Pro X3, Topaz Adjust / DeNoise.

I’m not sure how we can ever make it stop, but if one of your kids is responsible, please take him/her to the woodshed tonight–without a magic marker.

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

The Swinging Bridge

One of the most popular features of Tishomingo State Park is the swinging bridge, built in the 1930’s, that spans Bear Creek.  It’s a favorite with kids and adults alike, and it offers the perfect platform for capturing both candid shots of people as well as images of the beautiful fall colors that are just starting to appear in the park.

I’m still experimenting with the new Topaz product, Black & White Effects, but I used the tried-and-true Topaz Adjust on those beautiful fall colors.  Here are a few shots from the swinging bridge at Tishomingo State Park:

Tishomingo State Park Swinging Bridge 03

Tishomingo State Park Swinging Bridge 04

Tishomingo State Park Swinging Bridge 02

Tishomingo State Park Swinging Bridge 01

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

Forest Zen

I love scenes like this–lots of natural texture and color, contrast of light and dark, a little water and a little stone…

This is another photo that I took in Tishomingo State Park yesterday.  It’s a single exposure that I processed in PaintShop Photo Pro X3, although I didn’t do anything really radical to it beyond tweaking the color balance slightly and applying some sharpening.  The shot was taken with the Nikon D700 and the 28-300mm Nikkor lens.

Tishomingo State Park 028

Such a calming, stress-relieving place…someday I’ll have to go back and just sit there for awhile without the camera.

Building 50 – Tishomingo State Park

It’s been a long dry spell, but we finally have our move behind us and are now located in Tupelo, Mississippi.  We’re still deep in the process of unpacking, organizing, and getting settled, but we decided to take a day off today and do a little shooting.  This afternoon we drove about forty miles northeast on the Natchez Trace to Tishomingo State Park, located in the far northeast corner of the state.  I have many fond memories of visiting this park  in my younger days, and although things are never quite as you remember them, many things about the park have not changed at all.

I took the tripod with me so I could shoot some HDR’s, and here’s the first example of what we saw today.  This is a restored log cabin from the 1840’s that sits alongside a small creek that runs through the park.  I could have sworn that at one time there was a big mill wheel attached to the side of the cabin, but that’s probably just another case of memories playing tricks on us.  Anyway, this is an HDR image from five brackets that particularly liked, as it also captured the mid-afternoon sun coming through the trees that are just in the early stages of developing their fall color.  In the far background, you can just see a small bridge that crosses the top of a man-made waterfall or spillway where water overflows from a little lily-pad-covered pond.

Building 50 - Tishomingo State Park
HDR processed in Photomatix Pro 4 and PaintShop Photo Pro X3

It was such a beautiful day, with temperatures in the low 70’s and not a cloud in the sky. As we drove up the Natchez Trace we saw a lot of fall color, although it’s not nearly at its peak. It’s such a change from the drab brown and tan of the desert, and it has already given my creative urges a big boost. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this beautiful state through the lens of my Nikon!

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

Dangerous Signs, Chair With Personality, and Modern Maturity

Wrapping up my series of images from the abandoned Black Canyon Greyhound Park in Black Canyon City, Arizona:

Although I still have quite a few images as yet unprocessed from last weekend’s adventure, I’ve quickly grown tired of the grungy, dirty chaos of the abandoned dog track.  Yes, it’s the perfect venue for getting some great HDR’s, but I can only stand so much depressing deterioration before I need to move on to something more uplifting.  So tonight, I give you three for the price of one:

Dangerous Signs

This shot was taken in the old restaurant location. The sun was just at the right angle through the window to create some nice shadows on the old shag carpet. The graffiti on the walls was a little intimidating, especially since part of it appears to have the markings of flame or smoke on the wall. I don’t think I would care to spend any time with whoever left their mark on the wall.

Dangerous Signs
HDR created from five bracketed photos processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust / DeNoise.

Chair With Personality

This chair was sitting all alone on the old dirt race track, like someone had maybe used it to sit there in the evenings and watch the sun go down over the mountains to the west. I liked the way the chair’s design reminded me of the smiley face icon. 🙂

Chair with Personality
Single image processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X3 using Topaz Adjust / DeNoise.

Modern Maturity Circa 1991

We found these old magazines lying on the floor in the kitchen area of the old restaurant. If you look at the photo enlarged, you can see that the issue of Modern Maturity is from December 1990-January 1991. That would be after the facility was used as a racetrack, and maybe even after it was used for the swap meets. I heard that there was a caretaker that lived on the property for awhile after it was shut down. Maybe these magazines belonged to him.

Modern Maturity Circa 1991
HDR created from five bracketed photos processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Paintshop Photo Pro X3, using Topaz Adjust / DeNoise.

I encourage anyone with an adventurous spirit to visit the dog track for some great photo ops (once again, don’t take the kiddos because it’s not a safe environment for them). But I’m feeling the need to look for some beautiful sunsets, some spring wildflowers, or some orderly graphic design.

After watching a series of how-to videos last weekend, the hubby and I have put together a small, inexpensive home lighting setup for photographing his handmade jewelry and lapidary work. Since the forecast calls for lots of rain tomorrow, I think it will be the perfect day for testing it out and hopefully learning a lot more about shooting close-ups with studio lighting.