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:
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My Official Website at http://zannwalker.com

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Sign of Spring

Just a quick post tonight, then some exciting news (at least it’s exciting for me!):

Last Saturday I stopped by the Thunderbird Conservation Park’s viewing blinds on 59th Avenue to see what kind of wildlife might be around the water this time of year.  There were lots of ducks and geese, but they were all on the other end of the lake from the viewing blinds, so I didn’t get a lot of great shots.  However, there were plenty of bees buzzing around where I was sitting, so I decided to make lemonade out of lemons.  Using the 55-200mm zoom lens gave some great depth of field to this shot:

Sign of Spring

I used the Frame presets in Paintshop Pro to give it that little extra interest around the edges.  It’s a simple shot, but it has a Zen quality to it that I rather like.

And now for the news…

Last night I ordered a new camera body and two new lenses.  On Wednesday I should be receiving:

Did I go overboard?  Most definitely.  But over the past year my love for the art of digital photography has only gotten stronger, and I want to give myself every possible opportunity to produce the best images that I can reasonably afford to produce.

My biggest challenge this week will be forcing myself to go to my day job when I know there are thousands of photo-ops just waiting out there.  With any new equipment there comes a learning curve, and the sooner I can get comfortable with the new camera and lenses, the happier I’ll be.

We’re planning a trip to Vancouver, B.C. in July for our 20th anniversary, and I want to be somewhat proficient with this gear by the time we go.  I can’t wait to get started!!

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.

Thanksgiving in the Country

I spent last week at my parents’ house in North Mississippi. They are fortunate enough to live on a beautiful lake called Lake Mohawk, and I was glad to see that there was still a bit of fall color remaining when I arrived there last Monday.

The skies were overcast and rainy for most of my visit, however. I wasn’t able to get out and shoot as much as I had planned (my tripod never got used during my visit), and most of the shots I took outside were at a higher-than-normal ISO setting. But thanks to the Topaz suite of products and Paintshop Pro X3, I was able to restore some of the color to these shots that was lost in the flat light of the overcast daylight.

This first shot was made with my 75-200 zoom lens. There is an abundance of wildlife around the lake, including lots of squirrels who like to hang out at the bird feeders that my dad stocks around the house.  I used Topaz Adjust to sharpen it up and bring out the details of the tree bark and the squirrel’s fur:

I See You Up There

There’s no cable TV where my folks live…instead, everyone has dish antennas.   There are several dishes on the hill behind their house, most of which are the smaller ones, but there’s still this big dinosaur that’s gathering leaves from the surrounding trees. This is an HDR image created from three hand-held bracketed shots using Photomatix v4, Topaz Adjust, and Paintshop Pro X3:

Return to Nature

And finally, here’s a shot of some of the fall color that was still on the trees when I arrived. By the time I left on Saturday, the thunderstorms of the week had pretty much left the trees bare. This shot was processed in Topaz Clean 3, using the “Stylize Details” preset. In Paintshop Pro X3, I used the Curves tool to adjust the exposure, and then I used the Edge enhancement effect to sharpen the edges:

Last of the Fall Color

Another Cute Critter Candid

I’m still running across photographs that I’ve taken in the past and never processed, including the ones from our last camping trip.  I came across this shot of a little squirrel at Woods Canyon Lake (I kept calling them chipmunks, but I’ve since learned they are a species of squirrel).  Anyway, I liked the way the depth of field worked out on this one, especially after I played around with it in Paintshop Pro X3.  I was able to make some adjustments using Levels to really enhance the 3D effect.  He’s a cute little fellow, don’t you think?

And I have a special announcement–I’m self-publishing a calendar for 2011, featuring thirteen of my favorite nature photographs from the past year.  I’ll be posting details soon on how you can order your copy, so stay tuned!

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More Campsite Critters

Tonight’s post presents a few more of the critters that shared our campsite with us last week.  I wish I could tell you the exact name of each of these guys, but I’m not very familiar with the species names–I just know them as “squirrel”, “lizard”, and “bird”.

So, here they are!

Squirrel:

Campsite Critter 01

Lizard:

Campsite Critter 02

Bird:

Campsite Critter 03

Hey, I’m a photographer, not a biologist. 🙂

Anyway, hope you enjoy the shots. These guys were all kind enough to let us get reasonably close to them, probably because the hubby was eating sunflower seeds and almonds. This is one of the reasons that I love to go camping, just to get up close and personal with cute critters like this!

All of these were shot with the Nikon D5000 in raw NEF format, using a 75-200mm zoom lens. Since it was shady, I was using a fairly large aperture, so getting the proper depth of field was a little bit of a challenge. The shots were all processed in Paintshop Pro X3, where I tweaked the brightness and contrast, added a little Local Tone Mapping, and sharpened somewhat. I cropped the shot of the bird just a little from the top because the top wasn’t very interesting. However, I left the squirrel uncropped because I wanted to illustrate how he was sitting out in the open rather than hiding from us. The lizard….well, he is what he is.

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Hey, Alvin!

Ok, I just can’t resist the “cute animal” shot.  When we were camping at Canyon Point last week, we were visited by a variety of wildlife during our stay, including squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, horned toads, and an assortment of birds and insects.  The chipmunks are my favorite.  They are a little more shy than the squirrels, but they are inquisitive enough to sneak up under your chair if you’re eating something that they think you might share with them.

Hey, Alvin!

This guy had found a safe burrow under a tree stump that had been burned during the last wildfire that came through the area two or three years ago. He let me get close enough to get a few shots with the telephoto zoom, but he was definitely keeping a close eye on me!

The photo was shot in raw NEF format, then processed to JPG in Paintshop Pro X3. I bumped up the contrast, used some Local Tone Mapping, and saturated the colors a little bit, as the raw file was just a bit washed out.

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Butterfly with Tattered Wing

Here’s a shot of a butterfly that I chased for several minutes through the campground last week.  There were storm clouds moving in, and I was trying to get a decent shot of this guy before the rain started.  He finally settled on this patch of flowers and stayed put long enough for me to get several shots with my telephoto lens.

It wasn’t until later when I was viewing the shots on my computer screen that I noticed that his right wing was torn.  Poor guy!  Anyway, I was thankful that he offered to pose for me for a few seconds just before the rain started.

Butterfly with Tattered Wing

This was shot in raw NEF format, converted to JPG and processed in Paintshop Pro X3.

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The Zen Dragonfly

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve taken the camera out for a spin.  I decided to take a PTO day today, making it a four-day weekend, and on my first morning off work, I took the trusty Nikon over t0 Encanto Park in Phoenix.  I’ve lived in the Valley for over ten years now, but had never visited this park.  It’s actually a nice little oasis in the middle of the older section of town, although it’s starting to show its age (and the impact of the city budget cuts).  There’s a golf course, a small lake, and little streams feeding off the lake in a loop through the park.  There are plenty of swans, ducks, pigeons and geese roaming the grounds and swimming in the water, providing an abundance of photo ops.  The skyline of downtown Phoenix can be seen to the south over the palm trees, providing an interesting backdrop.

I just got home a short while ago and transferred my shots to the computer and started browsing through them.  This one has to be one of my favorites.  I love the delicate look of the dragonfly’s wings, as well as the gentle colors created from the shallow depth of field.

Zen Dragonfly, Encanto Park, Phoenix, AZ

I took this shot using my telephoto lens, which gave me a nice blurry background from the pinkish sand.  There was actually more greenery in this shot, but I cropped it down to what I felt were the essential elements.  I didn’t do a lot of processing, just a little contrast adjustment and local tone-mapping in Paintshop Pro.

I was in the park from about 9:30 to 10:30AM, and it was already 104°, on its way to 115°.  There’s not a huge amount of shade out there, so I was pretty drained after only an hour…plus the midday light isn’t the best for shooting.  I definitely plan to go back either early in the morning or late in the evening to try my luck again.

I think I got a lot of great shots and can’t wait to start processing them, but couldn’t wait to share this one!

Namaste.

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Gulls over Ensenada

Finally got a few hours to spend processing  more of the photos that we took while we were on our cruise back in April.  On the third day of the cruise we were docked in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.  In the late afternoon we went out on deck to watch the sunset, and we found that there was a very stiff breeze blowing, with sustained winds around 20-25 mph.  We noticed that the seagulls, which always accompanied the ship while in port, were flying into the wind as they came close to the ship, and for the most part they were simply hovering in the air with their wings widespread.

I had the telephoto lens on my camera, and managed to get some great shots of these beautiful birds in the late afternoon sun as they circled around us.

The full-size version of these photos can be seen on my Flickr site in the set titled Gulls in Flight. They were all shot as JPG files and processed in PaintShop Pro X3.

I haven’t been able to get out with the camera lately, and now it’s beginning to get really hot here in the Valley.  I have a four-day weekend coming up for the Fourth of July, so I’m hoping to spend some quality camera-time then.  I miss it!

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Easter, Springtime, Butterflies and Renewal

Springtime reminds us that, in the cycle of life and death, there’s renewal and regeneration after the long, dark winter.  One of my favorite symbols and reminders of springtime is the butterfly.  On this Easter weekend, as we celebrate resurrection and renewal, I offer you this image of a butterfly that I captured at Arcosanti a couple of weeks ago.  I believe he was on the payroll at Arcosanti, because he was an excellent model, pausing on each flower and spreading his wings wide for those of us who were lucky enough to be standing close by with a camera.  Not much processing here, I just added a rough frame to the JPG in Paintshop Pro X3 to soften the edges a little.

Today, Andy and I spent several hours at Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.  Of course, I have a ton of pictures to sort through and process (156 to be exact), and I’ll be sharing some of those later.  Part of our tour was through the Butterfly Pavilion, where we were able to see around twelve species of butterflies and moths up close, including the luna moth.  However, none of the butterfly shots that I got in the pavilion were even close to the one from Arcosanti, which was a little disappointing, but I did capture some great images of some of the desert flora that’s blooming right now.  If you have never visited Desert Botanical Garden, I highly recommend it.  This was our first time there, and I will definitely go back–I especially want to visit there at night with my tripod.

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