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!

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Magnolia at First Methodist

The more I process in black and white, the more I enjoy the way the images emphasize the textures and form of the subject rather than the color.  It’s so deceptively simple–shades of black, gray and white–but within those shades are shadows and highlights that help you feel the picture, rather than just see it.

I love this shot of the huge, spreading magnolia tree that sits on the lawn of the First Methodist Church in downtown Tupelo.  I started out trying to process the image in color, but I was so distracted by the red brick of the building that it was drawing my attention away from the tree.  So I decided to try the black and white approach, and voila!  It’s exactly what I wanted:

Magnolia at First Methodist

I used Paintshop Photo Pro X4, along with Topaz B&W Effects to process the image.  I wish the large window had not gotten blown out so much, but overall I’m still pleased with the shot.

I’m trying to build a collection of black and white photos to have mounted and hung in my home office, and I think this one will make the cut.  Very Zen.

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on:
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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.

Siwash Rock in Triplicate

Tonight I was in the mood to play around with some of the Topaz Adjust presets to see what they could do with a rather blah photo.  Tonight’s subject is Siwash Rock, a landmark on the shore of Stanley Park in Vancouver.

I took this photo the first full day we were in the city.  It was overcast and breezy that morning, with the clouds breaking occasionally to let the sun shine through.  I had seen other photos of this landmark and wanted to try my hand at getting that “perfect” shot.

As it turned out, it wasn’t so perfect.  This would have been a prime time to have the tripod and shoot some brackets for HDR processing, but I was trying to travel light that day.  I like the composition of this shot, but the exposure variations between the bright clouds and the dark rock in the foreground didn’t give me a lot to work with.  So I decided to play around with Topaz to see what I could dig out of the raw file.

I tried three different presets.  Which one do you like best?  I have my opinion, but I’ll save it until later!

The first one is the “Clarity” preset–basically it just accentuates the details, and gives the color a little pop.  This one wasn’t too bad, but the clouds in the background are badly blown out.

Siwash Rock 01

The second one was something I just did on a whim. I used the “Night” preset to give the sky a little of its color back, while making the rock look almost haunted:

Siwash Rock 02

The last one is a black-and-white version that I created using a preset that I customized in Topaz. I started with the “Spicify” preset, and then used the sliders to totally desaturate the color and then bump up the contrast and the sharpness. I’ve used this custom preset before and it seems to work pretty well:

Siwash Rock 03

So before I tell you which one I like best, let me tell you about a couple of plaques that are posted at Siwash Rock.

The first one reads:

SIWASH ROCK – Indian legend tells us that this 50 foot high pinnacle of rock stands as an imperishable monument to “Skalsh the Unselfish”, who was turned into stone by “Q’uas the Transformer” as a reward for his unselfishness.”

The second one reads:

In memory of ROBERT DENNIS TRIBE, age 17, or North Vancouver, B.C. who at 3:15 P.M. Sunday, June 5, 1966 failed to notice it was low tide and dived to his death from Siwash Rock to the rocks below. This plaque erected by Bob’s friends as a reminder of the danger of diving from Siwash Rock.

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
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My Official Website at http://zannwalker.com

(I like the black-and-white one best! 🙂 )

A Different Perspective on Trees

Living here in the desert Southwest, one of the things that I miss most are the green trees and forests of my native Mississippi.  A few weeks ago when I went home for a visit, it rained almost every day we were there, but I didn’t mind a bit.  It just made all the foliage that much fresher and the greens more vibrant.

Tall Tree with Vine 1Tall Tree with Vine 2

As I took a stroll down the lakeside road with my camera, I drank in the beauty of the tall trees that shaded the road and the lakeside homes.  I laughed at the squirrels that played in the branches, and whistled back at the birds that were building nests in the treetops.

I wanted to try and capture the beauty of the bark and the leaves, but I didn’t want the typical wide-angle view of a tree. When I came upon this specimen with a vine embedded in its trunk, I knew immediately how I wanted to frame it. The vine just naturally leads the eye from the bottom of the tree to the top, and so I positioned the camera near the bottom of the tree and pointed it upwards, focusing on the vine about six feet up and letting the bokeh do what it does best.

A slight repositioning of the camera to the right and left allowed the late afternoon sun to highlight different textures in the bark and the vine. Not the way I normally photograph trees, but in this case I captured exactly what I saw and loved.

A true Zen moment.

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

Blue Art Deco on Grand Avenue

Just a short post tonight because I’ve been starting at the computer all day and I’m beat.  Here’s a shot that I took of a really cool house/business (sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference) on Grand Avenue near downtown Phoenix.  A lot of the houses have been turned into galleries, so I’m not really sure if someone was living here or not….but that didn’t stop me from setting up my tripod right outside the front door and getting this shot.  Processing the brackets in Photomatix was a little bit of a challenge because of the movement in the bougainvillea in the foreground, but I think I got most of the ghosting cleaned up.  Just didn’t have the patience to really stress over it tonight.

But I love the colors in this shot, along with the shapes of the door and windows.  I think the Christmas lights along the roofline are a nice touch as well!

Blue Art Deco House

I’m trying to make up my mind about a photoshoot for this weekend…indoors or outdoors? Color or black-and-white? People or places? Early or late? Too many decisions to make, so I think I’ll put my tired brain to bed now.

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.

Hermano’s Liquor & Market

Continuing my series of images from Grand Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona:

Not all the buildings on Grand Avenue have been turned into galleries or cafes or boutiques.  Some of them have been around for years, and they’re happy just the way they are, thank you very much.  Once such establishment is Hermano’s Liquor & Market.

In the 2005 Phoenix New Times “Best of…” poll, Hermano’s was voted “Best Drive Through Liquor Store If You Lost Big”.  I’ve never been a customer at Hermano’s, but I can imagine the typical clientele that probably frequent this business.  I think they probably come out more at night.

But since it was a beautiful, warm winter day, there was no one parked in front of the store so I got a great set of brackets from across the street, which I processed into this HDR:

Hermano's Liquor & Market
HDR created from three bracketed photos (-2.0/0.0/+2.0) processed in Photomatix v4. Post-processing in Topaz Adjust / DeNoise with Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

On a different note, I *finally* got a wireless remote for my Nikon. I started out with a cable remote which works fine as long as you’re within cable-distance of the camera. But I got tired of getting all tangled up with the cord when trying to get a shot set up on the tripod. The dang thing was not expensive at all and I have no idea why I waited this long to get it. I’m looking forward to using it for this weekend’s planned photoshoot in Tempe.

Snowy Rough Rider

The Yavapai County Courthouse in Prescott, Arizona has several Western-themed sculptures on the grounds.  A couple of days ago I posted a shot of one of them, and today I’ve processed another one.  This is the Buckey O’Neill Monument dedicated to the Rough Riders.  Buckey O’Neill was the true archetype of the American cowboy.  There’s a nice article about him on Wikipedia, where you’ll find, for instance, that he was played by Sam Elliot in the TNT movie Rough Riders.

The statue is not Buckey, but Buckey was a member of the Rough Riders and was killed in action in 1898 in the war against the Spanish.  Teddy Roosevelt wrote about the death of O’Neill: “The most serious loss that I and the regiment could have suffered befell just before we charged”.

The statue, designed and created by Solon Borglum, was erected in Prescott in 1907.  It was seen in the movie Billy Jack in the Korean martial art scene.

The HDR image below was created from three hand-held bracketed photos.  I used Photomatix to merge the photos, and then used Paintshop Photo Pro X3 and Topaz Adjust / DeNoise to post-process.  It’s challenging to work with the dark sculpture against the lighter sky and snow, but hopefully I didn’t butcher this one too badly….I like it anyway!

Snowy Rough Rider

No Entry

This shot was taken on Highway 89 south of Prescott, Arizona late last Sunday afternoon.  Arizona was hit by a sizeable winter storm just before New Years Day, and there was still plenty of snow on the ground around Prescott, enough to entice us to drive up from Phoenix (about 90 miles away) for a quick photo shoot.

This is a HDR image from three bracketed photos.  I tweaked it quite a bit using Photomatix, Topaz Adjust/DeNoise, and Paintshop Photo Pro X3. I even added the sunburst since the day was actually quite overcast…it just seemed to need a little bit of light.  Click the photo to view large on black:

No Entry

Even though the sign says “No Entry”, it’s obvious from the tracks in the snow that the sign was being ignored. Here in Arizona, snow is a big event, and people of all ages get out to play in it at every opportunity, no matter what the sign says. I know I did!!

The Flag, the Tree and the Snow

I’m working through the shots that I took on Sunday afternoon in Prescott after the big New Year’s snowstorm.  There was still a lot of snow around on Sunday, but there wasn’t much sun, so the shots that I took were mostly dull and flat.  Thank goodness for the digital darkroom and the power of software!

I’m finding that there are all kinds of possibilities for working with such high-contrast subjects as snow, an overcast sky, and the darker objects in the foreground.  Here’s a shot that I especially like.  This is the flagpole in front of the Yavapai County courthouse in downtown Prescott.  By aiming my camera up at the flag, I caught the dark, snow-covered branches of the trees, with the overcast sky in the background.  The shot was kind of dull out of the camera, but by boosting the contrast and doing some edge enhancement, it improved quite dramatically (click to view large on black).  It almost looks like a black and white photo with some color-popping applied, but it’s not:

Flag Trees and Snow

While the photo above was processed from a single image, I’m also getting some good HDR results, even though my shots were hand-held and I was shivering from the cold (thanks, Photomatix V4, for your great image alignment functionality!). Here’s a shot of one of the municipal buildings across from the courthouse, with a beautiful snow-covered spruce tree giving it a fairy-tale appearance. After combining three bracketed images to create the HDR image, I then used the Vibrance preset in Topaz Adjust to bring out the colors that had been washed out by the overcast skies. A little bit of Topaz DeNoise, and a little tweaking of the Curves in Paintshop Pro X3 yielded this result:

Snow Icing

More snow shots to follow, so stay tuned!