Hymns at Cafe Du Monde

I don’t care what diet you’re on, no visit to New Orleans is complete without a stop at Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter for some fresh, hot beignets and coffee.  And while they do have indoor seating, it’s almost sacrilegious to succumb to the lure of air conditioning when you could be sitting out on the patio, dripping sweat, while people-watching and listening to the ad-lib free entertainment that’s offered 24/7.

On our most recent trip, we were treated to some a capella hymn-singing by this enthusiastic gentleman.  He had a decent baritone and an infectious spirit, so we enjoyed his renditions of some old familiar church songs.

From a photography standpoint, this was a tricky shot given the wide range of lighting conditions from the shade of the patio to the bright sunlight on the street.  The Nikon D700 handled it nicely, shooting in RAW format gave me the data that I needed to recover the details in the shadows, and Topaz plug-ins provided some nice detail recovery.

I love this shot because there are so many stories going on at once….the couple buying tickets on the left, the singer, the older couple walking up the ramp, the younger couple lounging on the bench, and the crowd on the patio enjoying the show.  One of my favorite images from the day.

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Click the image to view large!!

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More HDR from Fort Pike

Things have been a little slow at work lately, so I’ve had some more time to work on processing the images from our recent discovery of Fort Pike in southern Louisiana.

Just like my previous post, these images are all HDR’s created from seven brackets in Photomatix V4 and edited in PaintShop Pro X7.

These first two are inside the outer walls of the fort. The only light in the interior was the natural light coming through the portholes where the cannons used to be mounted. Therefore, HDR was really the only way to capture the whole dynamic range of light that our eyes were experiencing.

BiloxiNOLA_089_20140831_HDR_300dpi_origsize

BiloxiNOLA_068_20140831_HDR_300dpi_origsize

I always hate to see historical sites defaced with graffiti, but I have to admit that sometimes it makes for an interesting photograph. For this one, I went with a little more abstract processing using Topaz filters, something more “painterly” and less sharp.

BiloxiNOLA_127_20140831_HDR_300dpi_origsize

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Capt Johnny in Biloxi

I’m still going through the photos that I took on our recent trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

This one is really a cliche photo, but I still enjoyed processing it.  Everyone who goes to the coast gets a picture of shrimp boats with the fishermen mending their nets in the evening.  I liked the color version of it, but I was drawn more to the black-and-white image.  I wanted the focus to be more on the lines and shapes of the boats, rigging and the people than on the blue and white of the boat.

Capt Johnny

This image was shot with the Nikon D700 and the 24-85mm Nikkor lens.  It was processed in PaintShop Pro X7, using Topaz DeNoise for a little cleanup.  I had to also clean up the sky in the image because I still haven’t had the sensor cleaned in my camera.  That’s my next DIY project.

 I’m going to my second meeting of the Southern Light Photography Club tomorrow night.  They’ve asked us to bring a few photos on flash drives to do a show-and-tell for critique.  This should be fun!  I’m taking this one, this one and this one.

Just want to say “Welcome” to my new followers!  Hope you enjoy the images, and I appreciate your interest!

Editing and All That Jazz

It’s Saturday night, and all the SEC football games were blow-outs, so I decided that rather than watching football, my time would be better spent getting a little editing practice.

I shot this image in New Orleans last week, down in the French Quarter. I shot this with my Nikon D700 using my 24-85mm Nikkor lens at ISO 250, 1/100 sec at f/13.0. This is the raw, unedited version (resized to 800px wide at 100dpi):

BiloxiNOLA_177_20140831_unedited_800px

I’m using Paint Shop Pro X7, along with the Topaz bundle of plug-ins to do my editing. To be honest, I don’t even remember what all I did to this image.  I started off by cropping it to get rid of the uninteresting top area. I then just experimented with levels, curves, saturation, and clarity. I used the Topaz DeNoise plug-in to clean up a few artifacts. I also played with some masking to add in some blue sky in the top left corner where it had been blown out in the original image.  It was clumsy at best, but I’m finally starting to understand the whole “paint white on black” and vice-versa thing.

It’s not gallery-quality by any means, but it was fun to play with, and I learned a little more about the tools at my disposal in the software that I’m using.

And I learned that I need a LOT more practice and patience.

Here’s my edited version, also resized to 800px wide at 100dpi.

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Oh, and I’ve changed the theme of this blog (obviously) from the old, dated black background with small fonts to this cleaner looking version.  I’m still too cheap to pay for a WordPress theme so I continue to use the free versions with limited customization options.  But it gets my point across.

Thanks for following along, and let me know what suggestions you might have to improve my work!

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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!

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.

BayouPierreChurch 1-7 HDR

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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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

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