Tupelo Station

I pulled out the Nikon D700 and did a little shooting in the grungier part of downtown Tupelo this morning.  It was overcast and cool, with some good dark clouds for HDR processing.  Most of my shooting was done in 7-bracket sets, but there are some times when you just can’t shoot brackets because things are moving too fast.

This shot is just such an example.  I wanted to get a shot of the little Tupelo train station, so I drove over the tracks and parked at the farmers’ market pavilion next to the station.  I was just getting my camera and tripod out of the car when I heard the blast of the train horn (can’t really call them “whistles”), and saw that there was a train headed my way.

I made some quick adjustments to the camera settings, turning off the bracketing settings and changing the F/stop to get a wider depth of field,  I got the camera mounted on the tripod just as the camera came around the curve and headed for the station, and then I just started clicking.  I hadn’t even thought about how close to the tracks I was until the train was right beside me.  IT WAS LOUD!!  I could actually feel the ground shaking as the engines went by.  It was AWESOME!!

I processed one of the shots using Topaz Black & White Effects, with some vignetting added.  Since the sky was pretty much gray, I think this processing choice worked pretty well as far as conveying the atmosphere:

Tupelo Station

But then I decided to try some of the extreme settings in Topaz Adjust, just to see what they had to offer. I really liked this Solarization setting….it almost has a nighttime feel to it, but still keeps the bright colors of the train:

Tupelo Station Solarized

That’s one of the things I love about photography, and especially about digital processing–if you’re not working for a paying customer, there is really no right or wrong way to process an image.  And there are so many different ways to interpret your photos, you could spend hours or days just trying different effects.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and try something outrageous–if you like what you do, who’s to say it’s not perfect?

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After-Christmas Sale

I’m trying out another new plug-in from Topaz Labs–this one is called “Star Effects”, and its purpose is to give that little extra glow to points of light in your photos.

I pulled out this shot that I took in downtown Tupelo on a foggy night back in early February.  I found this window display that looked like it was left over from Christmas, but it was still beautifully lit.  I was using the tripod with my Nikon D700 and the 50mm lens, so I took three different exposures, not knowing how the glare of the lights on the window might affect the outcome of the shot.

So since I had the three different brackets, I decided that I would combine them into an HDR image using Photomatix, and then try the new Topaz Star Effects plug-in on the little points of light.  I downloaded the trial version of the software from Topaz Labs (regular price $29.99) and, as usual, installed it with no problem.

After using Photomatix to product the HDR, I then ran the combined image through Topaz Star Effects, trying each of the different presets to see what it did to the light points.  Most of the effects were far too extreme (this image already had some star points on the lights as a result of the HDR processing).  So I selected a very mild effect and then tweaked it a little bit using the sliders in the plug-in.  Afterwards I used Topaz DeNoise to clean up some of the artifacts in the darker areas of the image, and then I used Paintshop Pro to do just a bit of sharpening.

And that’s it..here’s the result:

After-Christmas Sale

 

I’ll need to play around with Star Effects a little more on some other types of images, some with less obvious “points of light”.  But, as with all the other Topaz products, I really like the design of the user interface, the ease of installation, the variety of presets, and the affordable price.  And, no, I’m not affiliated with Topaz and I don’t get paid to test or recommend their products.

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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Foggy Saturday Night in Tupelo

It rained all day today, which gave me a perfect excuse to stay indoors and work on our income taxes.  But by the end of the day I had a good dose of cabin fever and was ready to go outside, rain or not.  By about 6:00PM the rain had stopped and a light fog had settled in for the evening.  I decided it might be a good time to do a little night shooting in downtown Tupelo.

I was hoping to get some interesting photos of the lights glowing through the fog, but it wasn’t quite dense enough to provide the effect I was looking for.  In addition, there was more traffic downtown than I had expected due to a theatre production by the Tupelo Community Theatre that was going on at the Lyric.

Still, I did get quite a few images that I really liked.  I used the D700 and my 50mm prime lens, mounted on the tripod so I wouldn’t be at the mercy of the dim light.  Andy went with me and we walked around for about an hour before the fog turned to a light sprinkle and we headed back to the car to protect the equipment.

I processed sixteen of the images when we got home, and decided to do them all in black and white–it just seemed to fit the mood.  I used Paintshop Photo Pro X4 with Topaz Black & White Effects, and I’m pretty pleased with the results.  Let me know what you think!


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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.

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Natural Zen in Sepia

Today was kind of strange.  It was Christmas Eve Eve, and a Friday at that, so it was a day that I really didn’t expect to get much work done.  But, adding to the weirdness of the day, my work laptop somehow acquired a virus, so it’s been out of commission since day before yesterday.  I spent hours on Skype with our helpdesk yesterday trying to get my system up and running, to no avail.  So today they’re shipping me a replacement laptop, which should arrive early next week.

There wasn’t much I could do today, other than check my email (using my own personal computer) and respond as necessary–and I only received two emails that required responses.  By lunchtime I was ready to get out of the house and away from the computer.  So even though it was a gray, overcast day, I decided to do a little shooting.  I’ve been wanting to take some Zen-inspired photos to have framed for my home office, and I thought today would be the perfect time to do that.

Andy went with me on the excursion, and we drove out to Elvis Presley Lake, just north of where we live.  We had not been there yet, so we weren’t sure what to expect in the way of photo ops.  We found a nice lake with camping spots, picnic tables, boat ramps and fishing piers, and very nice bath and shower facilities.

I wanted to get some shots using very shallow depth of field, so I used my 50mm prime lens.  We found a spot where there were some downed trees near the water’s edge, and I took a few shots before the cold wind literally drove us back to the car.  Here are three that I processed this afternoon, using Paintshop Photo Pro X4 and Topaz Black & White Effects using the Sepia presets.  I sized these to be 5 x 7’s, and I’m going to have them mounted in 8 x 10 or 8.5 x 11 frames to go in my office.  I used similar processing on each one as I want them to be displayed as  a set:

Pine Log in Sepia

Grass in Sepia

Pine Cone in Sepia

After warming up for just a minute, we walked over the hill where the wind was a little less biting, and took some shots of the boat docks and the fishing pier. There was a large sign on the pier that said “No Swimming”. Just a few yards from the entrance to the pier, I found this lying on the bed of pine needles, and couldn’t resist grabbing a quick photo to be processed in Topaz Adjust.  Needless to say, this image will NOT be joining the others on my office wall, but I did find the photo to be oddly compelling:

Goggles

 

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BFF’s in the Christmas Parade

Yeah, I know I said I was wrapping up the series of images from the Tupelo Christmas parade, but there’s still a few that I just had to share.

I couldn’t resist this one.  These three little girls just looked so cute in their Santa hats and reindeer antlers, even as their facial expressions made it plain they were ready for the whole event to be over with!  They were just adorable!

Tupelo Christmas Parade 008

I’m really getting antsy to do some more shooting, but unfortunately it’s pretty difficult on my schedule.  There just isn’t enough daylight in my non-working hours during the week, and the weekends have been pretty hectic getting ready for the holidays.  I may have to resort to doing some creative things in the studio before long!

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Parades Are For Children (Mostly)

Continuing my series of images from the 2011 Christmas Parade in Tupelo, Mississippi:

I love taking candid shots of kids–their faces can’t lie.  You know when they’re happy or sad, tired or excited, bored or angry.

We had positioned ourselves on the sidewalk along Main Street toward the end of the parade route.  I wanted to be near the judges’ viewing stand because I knew that the marching bands and floats would be stopping to perform in front of the judges.  By the time the parade got to where we were located, the participants had been marching or riding for about an hour, not including the time they spent getting organized before the parade even started.

Little kids get tired and bored pretty quickly, and even though they’re in a parade, they haven’t yet learned that they’re supposed to “put on a happy face”.  And that’s when you get the really good shots!

This guy had been riding this toy pony for awhile, and I think he was ready to dismount:

Tupelo Christmas Parade 008

And this little girl was obviously bored with the whole thing and was ready to go “off the wagon”:

Tupelo Christmas Parade 007

I have so many more images from the parade, but they’re pretty standard stuff….snapshot quality, mostly. But we had a great time, met some really nice people, and I’ve had plenty of images to use while getting acquainted with the new versions of Paintshop Photo Pro X4 and Topaz Adjust 5.

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Observing the Observer

Continuing my series of images from the Tupelo Christmas Parade:

I love my 28-300mm zoom lens.  It gives me such flexibility when I’m in a situation where I can’t control the distance between myself and that interesting subject matter that presents itself.  Sometimes you just need that telephoto capability to capture that candid moment when your subject has no idea they’re being observed, much less photographed.

While we were watching the parade, I noticed several people across the street watching the scene from the upstairs windows.  Most of them had the windows open, leaning out to get a great view and hear the marching bands.  But this guy either could not open the window, or chose not to.  In fact, he looked a little bit put out that the parade was disturbing the routine of his Saturday morning.

Tupelo Christmas Parade 006

Nah, I’m sure the sun was just in his eyes and that’s why he was squinting like that.

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Christmas Parades Need Veterans

Continuing my series of images from last weekend’s Christmas parade in downtown Tupelo, Mississippi:

People in this part of the country are probably a little more unabashedly patriotic than people in other locales, but I don’t know of any town where the sight of grizzled old veterans of past wars doesn’t bring a lump to the throat.  There were several veterans and military groups marching or riding in this year’s parade, but this was my favorite–the Veterans of the Korean War, known as “The Forgotten War”.

Tupelo Christmas Parade 005

There’s just something about the evident camaraderie and shared life experience that appears in the lined faces of these guys that appeals to the heart of any American, young or old. I love them all, but my favorite is the guy in the back in the green fatigues and helmet, holding the American flag. Don’t you think he looks just like Leslie Neilsen?

Leslie Neilsen

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Christmas Parades Need Motorcycles

Continuing my series from last weekend’s Tupelo Christmas Parade:

Motorcycles were a big thing in the Christmas parade, starting with the ones ridden by the officers from the Tupelo Police Department that escorted the parade marchers down Main Street.  Tupelo’s finest were looking pretty spiffy on their personalized bikes. Here’s Officer Alan Chavers, if the name on his bike is accurate:

Tupelo Christmas Parade 004

I used Paintshop Photo Pro X4 to process the shot, and Topaz Adjust 5 to accentuate the detail a little bit.

There were several groups of motorcycle enthusiasts who participated in the parade. This spirited couple was part of the Underground Ryderz Motorcycle Club, who absolutely had the LOUDEST bikes in the parade. I decided to do a little color popping in this shot:

Tupelo Christmas Parade 003

On this shot, I decided to go with black and white processing, using Topaz Black and White Effects, adding a little bit of grain but color-popping the two Santa hats. Kind of a fun effect, I think!

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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