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The Scary Tree By the Bank

This month, the NAPP Photo Rally had "Trees" as one of their categories. There's so many things you can do with that category, it's not even funny. My initial thought was to take a shot of a lone tree in a field, and have the tree composed on the left side, showing all the empty space on the right, and convert it to black and white.  I even had seen the tree I wanted to take last week, and was headed off to shoot it, but decided to stop at the bank first.  On my way out of the bank, I noticed a fence separating the bank from a trail/pond/office building area, and noticed a few freaky looking trees.  I think most trees like this look pretty freaky int he winter without any leaves, but I figured it was a good shot to take.  

In case you think I went onto private property (ie. crossed the fence) to take the shot, I'll note that I could only cross the fence, if they actually...well...finished the fence.  There was a fence next to the bank, but if you took 2 steps away from the bank, they neglected to actually put another side of the fence up.  Way down by the pond I did see a "private property" sign, so I just stood where the fence would've been had the rest of it been there, so technically I was still on bank property.

The picture looked pretty normal once I took it, but then I decided to convert it to black and white, and then I noticed the tree looked kind of scary once I did that.  Either that, or I've been watching too many movies lately.  I'm not a huge fan of black and white normally, but in this case, I think it works.

Tree by the bank

Also this serves to note that you never know what photo opportunities you can find close to your house, until you look for them.

Sunrise in the Backyard

It's rare that I'm up early enough to see the sunrise. Well, it's rare that I'm up early enough to be dressed and ready to go outside to see the sunrise is a better way of putting it. The other day though, Peter and the dogs both started fidgeting around 7, and Leif had an early morning meeting, so up we went. Leif went to take the dogs outside while I was getting dressed. He came running into the bedroom about a minute later telling me I had to get my butt outside to photograph the sunrise. I love my husband since he supports my photography habit. :)  I grabbed my gear, went into the backyard, set up the tripod, shooed the dogs away from the tripod, and took a bunch of snaps.  I like this one the best. I could've lightened up the photo to get more detail in the house, but I kind of like the silhouette on it. 

And yes, there was some post processing on it, just to bring out the colors more.


The Worst Shot is the One You Don't Take (or: Morning Landscapes)

Somebody at Photoshop World, and forgive me since I don't remember who it was, said to their class that the worst photo is the one you don't take.  I've been trying to remember that whenever I mentally try to talk myself out of taking a shot.  One that's not perfectly set up, one where I think the lighting sucks, one where I have to go out of my way.  I've been trying to just take them all since it doesn't matter if it's perfect or not, as long as I'm taking photos.

Yesterday morning I was driving home from the morning karate instructor academy workout.  I hit a nice clear view area on my drive, looked off to my left in the distance, and saw a snow-capped mountain top sitting right next to just a plain old brown mountain top.  The plain brown one was obviously a much closer distance, and a much lower altitude, but I thought that was really cool. I didn't stop and take a photo at that time for 2 reasons. 1) I didn't have my camera (and if I had, I wouldn't have had my zoom lens on it most likely), and 2) I really didn't have time since I had to run home and eat lunch before going to my private lesson.  I put in my back of my head to go grab a photo this morning after dropping Peter off at daycare.

I set up the camera last night, and almost didn't grab it this morning since it was 45 degrees outside, but then I remembered that cool view, and tossed it in my car. After dropping Peter off, I honestly wasn't sure exactly where to stop to take it, so I headed back towards the dojo and figured I'd turn around at some point, and find a good spot.  Nothing looked good until I drove past the Majestic View Nature Center. Nothing in the way of the view, just clear grass, a pond, some trees off in the distance, and some distant houses.  A perfect venue.

I snapped off a few, trying to follow the tips I had picked up from the Composition Digital Field Guide by Alan Hess, and then decided to try a few HDR shots.  That seemed to go well. The funny thing is, in my mind I had a view of the shot I wanted.  When I got out there, I did take that shot, but took a bunch of others, and got one similar to my mental image, but better:


Processed in Photomatix Pro, enhanced with PhotoTools.

Finally I turned to head back to the car. At the last second before opening the door, I looked up past the car, and saw a house with a bunch of colorful trees around it.  Even though our weather had been weird lately (cold, really windy, then warm again, then cold at night, etc...), the leaves on these trees decided to hang on for awhile longer. I re-set up the tripod, and came away with this bonus shot:

The last of the fall foliage

This HDR I processed in Photoshop, but again enhanced it in PhotoTools.

Both of these photos I took within 5 miles of my house. 

Waterfall at Various Shutter Speeds

Now granted, I didn't get the idea to show these photos together until AFTER I took them, so I'll be the first to admit I probably could've gotten a more interesting sample, but oh well.

Last Friday I was over at a fellow karate instructor's house for an instructor gathering. I decided to show up slightly early because he had been telling me how awesome his backyard was, and he had a great waterfall to photograph. As I've learned from various sources, the best times to photograph a waterfall are at sunrise and sunset since there's not as much extraneous light, so you can control the shutter speed better. Why would you want to do that? So you can control what the flow of the water looks like. Taking photos at a really fast shutter speed will basically freeze the action, which is great for sports photography. However a flowing waterfall frozen in time doesn't look the most exciting, so slowing down the shutter speed will give you a sense of motion.

Here's the same photo, taken at 3 different shutter speeds, one right after the other. Like I said, I *should've* taken one much faster too, but well, I didn't.

1 second:
1 second shutter
.3 seconds:
.3 second shutter
1/8 second:
1/8 second shutter

Even with just that tiny sample, you can still see the difference in the water flow. I think I actually like the 1/8 second one the best though.

In any case, here's my favorite photo from the evening, and one which I just ordered as a canvas from APC.

John and Dorothy Waterfall

My First Foray into onOne Software's PhotoTools

While at Photoshop World a few weeks ago, I sat through several demos of the onOne Software Plugin Suite 5. Honestly, I had no intention of buying the entire suite, but after watching demos from Brian Matiash, Dave Cross, and a few of the onOne Software guys, I was sold. At some point it just gets more cost effective to buy the suite. And with the NAPP/secret show special discount, it was a really good price, so I couldn't pass it up.

I got it home, and still wasn't sure exactly what to do with it. I mean, kudos to the demo guys for making it look so easy, but in reality, as a newbie sitting down with it for the first time, it was overwhelming. Fortunately I caught the Scott Stulberg webinar on Creating Images with Impact which cleared a bunch of my questions up. I was ready to at least make some attempt at trying to use it, and decided to tackle each plugin one at a time. First up, PhotoTools!

It just so happened, that evening I had taken a photo of a double rainbow (all the way!) from the deck. Here's the out of the camera RAW photo:

Original photo

Typical rainy day, cloudy, dreary looking, photo. It's not bad, but I figured it could use some touchups. Normally I'd just pull it into Lightroom and do the best I could with it, but today I had PhotoTools, so wanted to see what it could do.

This is the point where I'd mention exactly what presets I applied to the photo, however I can't seem to figure out how to see the history of what you did in PhotoTools. I'm sure it's there, and I have a support email into onOne, and I'll update this when I know how to do it, but for now, just take my word for it, that I did a bunch of stuff. :)

After editing in PhotoTools, I did very minimal edits in Lightroom. More vibrance, more clarity, a little extra luminence smoothing, and here's the final result:

Double Rainbow!

I kind of like it honestly. The house is a tiny bit yellow, but I'm leaving it as is because you have the sun shining on it, which is what the color is from, I think. In the original photo, you can barely see the second rainbow, and even the first one is a little dull.

Granted I'm still extremely new at PhotoTools, but I'm sold on using it. It's actually surprisingly easy to use, and as long as you have the patience to go through the various presets, you can easily touch up your photo almost any way you want to.


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