Zann’s One Word Photo Challenge – Delicate

This has been an absolutely miserable week, weather-wise. It started off bitterly cold, with nothing but rain at our house but ice and snow to the north of us. On Wednesday it warmed up to the 60’s and rained, and then the temperatures took another dive and we got a tiny bit of icy sleet.

Since the theme for this week’s challenge was “delicate”, I kept hoping for some snowflakes or at least some ice crystals, but all I got were raindrops. So I did the best I could with the hand I was dealt.

When I think of “delicate”, I think “small”, so I decided to use my 24-85mm lens which has a macro setting. I took some handheld shots of some of the flowers and plants in the yard this morning when they were covered with a combination of dew and raindrops. I tried to concentrate on getting a good depth-of-field, so that the main subject in the frame would be sharp; but with my shaky hands, it wasn’t an easy thing to do.

I processed these as usual in Paintshop Pro X7, using various Topaz plug-ins (Clarity, DeNoise, StarEffects, Simplify). After working on a few of the images, I found a look that I liked, where the main subject was highlighted and the rest of the out-of-focus area was kept very dark. I accomplished this by using the Levels adjustment in PSP, sliding the mid-tones slider far to the right. I’ve never used that technique before, but I really like how it turned out here.

All of these images are cropped from the original size to improve the composition.

This first one is my personal favorite.

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This one is my hubby’s favorite.

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I like the color in this one.

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Even though kale can be a tough leaf, the water drops and the cell structure are still delicate.

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My Boston ferns are surviving the winter, so I’m not sure how “delicate” they are, but I think the rain-covered fronds fit the definition.

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The challenge for this next week is the word “open”, so stay tuned to see how I go about interpreting that concept.

If you would like to play along, you can find the weekly list here.

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Images of a Rainy Sunday in the Neighborhood

True to the forecast, it has been a rainy, wet Sunday, which is just fine by me.  It washes the pollen out of the air, it cleans the dust off of everything, and it makes for some excellent sleeping conditions.

After spending the morning in my reading corner with my Kindle, catching up on a book that I’ve been pecking away at, I decided it was time to get out of the house for a little bit.  There was a break in the shower activity, so I picked up the Nikon, mounted the 75-200mm zoom lens, grabbed Andy who volunteered to carry the umbrella in case we needed it, and we  took off for a walk around the neighborhood.

It was still very overcast, so the lighting wasn’t the best for many of the shots, but what’s that got to do with anything when you have photo-editing software, right?  Anyway, I was concentrating on composition today, which led to me getting into some pretty awkward positions trying to capture shots of plants and flowers that were low to the ground.  Glad there weren’t that many people around!

The raindrops on the plants produced some really nice images, especially when viewed large.  The image above is a partially opened bloom on one of the large succulents that is growing by the sidewalk near the subdivision behind us. As we saw yesterday, so many of the plants are starting to bloom now, especially with all the rain that we’ve had.  The citrus trees have started to bloom this week–it’s one of the true pleasures of living in this area, getting to smell the lemon, orange, and grapefruit blooms each spring.  It’s heavenly!  The shot below if from a grapefruit tree in a neighbor’s yard.

I really enjoy walking outside after it rains, and having a camera along reminds you to pay attention to the details of things that you would normally overlook.  We were outside for about a half-hour, and just after we got back to the house the rain started again.  Sometime this summer, I’ll look back at this day longingly, I’m sure!

Andy reflects while being reflected.

I posted a dozen of my favorites to Flickr in the set titled “Rainy Sunday in the Neighborhood“.  Drop by and check them out and let me know which is your favorite!

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Desert Green Under Stormy Skies

Central Arizona has been blessed this winter with abundant rainfall, well above our yearly average.  Here in the Valley of the Sun, we don’t complain (well, hardly ever) when it rains, because we know that the summer heat and dryness are just around the corner.  The desert is a miraculous ecosystem.  Just the slightest bit of rain can bring the dried seeds and hidden vegetation to life, attracting the wildlife and birds at the same time.

Today was one of those rainy days when I could see the clouds hanging heavy over the McDowell Mountains from our office windows.  Most of the day it looked like a heavy Pacific coast fog, just absolutely stunning.  But just about 5:00 as I was wrapping up my workday, the clouds began to break in the west as the sun was beginning to set, and the mountains to the east just lit up like huge emerald monoliths against the backdrop of the remaining storm clouds.

When I got to my car on the top floor of the parking deck, I grabbed my camera and took a couple of shots with my normal lens, but wasn’t happy with having the rooftops of the adjoining office buildings in the shot.  By that time, the shadow of the clouds was moving further up the mountain.  So I quickly swapped lenses, mounted my old 75-300 telephoto lens, and zoomed it to the max, capturing the shot below:

I did a little adjusting and masking exercise in PaintShop Pro, but this is pretty much what it looked like.  Normally these mountains are dark brown, rocky slopes with just a smattering of brush, but you can see just how green they are right now.  Perhaps I’ll revisit this photo in August when I’ve forgotten what a little water can do to the desert.

Like the grasses showing tender faces to each other,
thus should we do,
for this was the wish of the Grandfathers of the World.

Black Elk

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Tripod Nirvana

I am so excited!  I finally have a decent tripod!  I went to Best Buy after work this evening and purchased the Sunpak Pro 523PX 64″ model with the pistol grip ball head.  It has a lot of features that I really like, including:

  • Pistol grip ball head with trigger control (no more levers!)
  • Quick release plate with a built in screwdriver (no more using a coin to tighten and loosen the screw)
  • 360 degree rotating ball head (no more taking the camera off the tripod and repositioning the not-so-quick release plate to change from landscape to portrait mode)
  • 2 bubble levels
  • Adjustable lift n’ lock center column (with an extra shorter column for tabletop configuration)
  • Neoprene leg grips
  • Center column accessory hook
  • Carbon fiber leg sections
  • Rubber feet with retractable spikes

I love the pistol grip trigger control.  It makes it possible to reposition the camera and have it locked into place for the next shot with just a squeeze.  I can’t wait to take this thing out this weekend and give it a test run!

The only photography that I got to do today was totally by accident.  We had a baby shower for a co-worker in the office today, and the person who was supposed to be taking pictures ran out of memory in their point-and-shoot camera after only a couple of shots.  I happened to have my camera at the office with me, so I grabbed it and started shooting.  I had the telephoto lens already attached, so I went ahead and used it.  All the better to get shots of the action from the far end of the conference room table.  It also gave me some depth-of-field variety:

Since these were just snapshots, I only published them to my Facebook page, but you’re welcome to view them (click here).  The conference room had a ton of natural light, so I only needed the flash when taking pictures of people who had their backs to the windows.  I had the camera on Auto the whole time, and I was pretty pleased with the way the pictures came out.  I haven’t edited any of them, just published them as is (except for some resizing, of course).

I’m hoping to get some good shots this weekend.  They’re predicting a 60% chance of rain tomorrow and 30% on Sunday, so it could be dicey.  But I’m determined to find that window of opportunity so I can get my dose of Zen–I need it!!

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