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Friday, December 25, 2009

White Christmas in Garland, Texas!

I've lived in the Dallas area for 57 years and it finally happened...snow on the ground on December 25th. It wasn't very much snow. We never get very much around here. It started Christmas Eve right after lunchtime. For several hours it came down quite hard but the temperature was above freezing and it was melting as soon as it hit the ground. Around 4:30 the temperature had dropped and the snow finally started sticking. It continued for another three hours but was light. We only ended up with a little over an inch at my house, but enough to call it a White Christmas. First one here since 1926, and I missed that one.

I just had to go out Christmas morning and take some pictures in my back yard because I knew the snow would start melting as soon as the sun got up good. We also had to be at my mother in laws around noon. Several critters had left tracks in the fresh snow. Something had crossed the fence and gone over to the edge of the pond and then left the way it came. Probably a cat. The picture above is an interesting set of tracks which came from the back fence and then vanished under the deck through a small opening. If you look close you can see a line down the middle of the tracks. I'm guessing this was a rat or a very large mouse. Looks like I will be going to the hardware store tomorrow and getting a present for this rodent.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A few more images from Death Valley!

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

I've added a few images from my recent trip to Death Valley. Next time I need to spend a little more time in Death Valley because I actually spent less than 24 hours of my trip there. If you recall a previous blog about the trip, there were a lot of plans that were changed.

 Badwater Reflections

I camped out near Stovepipe Wells. That put me close to the Mesquite Flat Dunes which I photographed at sunset. The next morning I drove to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the U.S. at 282 feet below sea level. There actually was a little water in one area and I was able to get some reflections of the distant mountains. Right before sunrise I photographed the salt flats. The salt flat was much rougher than I expected it to be.

Badwater Salt Flats
The last image was taken at Zabriski Point, a very popular photo location.

Zabriski Point

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Some black and white and a touch of color!

The other day I purchased myself a new computer with the 64 bit version of Windows 7 installed. This is my main Photoshop machine where I do all the processing of my images. I seem to replace computers about every 2 years because the old computer becomes too slow, the hard drive is full, and its just not capable of doing things that I need it to do. The latest version of Photoshop, CS4 seems to need more Ram, a better graphics card, and of course a faster processor always helps.

Lately, in big Garland, Texas where I live we have had some cold and wet days. This morning it is 23 degrees. I know that is nothing to you Minnesota folks out there, but its cold for here. This has given me a chance to look at some of the work I shot earlier this year and test out this new computer.

So where were these images taken? Starting from the top...
  1. An old house near Sherman, Texas.
  2. Dick's Classic Garage.
  3. Sign on the side of a building in Sapulpa, Oklahoma.
  4. Dick's Classic Garage.
  5. Gauges on an old fire truck in the Texas hill country.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Funny Christmas Email!

I got a funny email today and thought I would share it!

Read the story before looking at the picture below!!

Well, there is good news and bad news about my Christmas decorations this year
Good news is that I truly out did myself this year with my Christmas decorations.The bad news is that I had to take him down after 2 days. I had people come screaming up to my house. Great stories. But two things made me take it down. 

First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost wrecked when they drove by.
Second, a 55 year old lady grabbed the 75 pound ladder and almost killed herself putting it against my house; she didn't realize it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy).
By the way, she was one of many people who attempted to do that. My yard couldn't take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up into my yard.
I think I made him too real this time...
Oh well,  it was fun while it lasted!  See what you think.........look below......

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Once again I ate way too much and am sitting here feeling like a stuffed pig. I did want to mention that I have some of my work hanging at the Garden Cafe. If you live in the Dallas area you might want to go by and check out my work. It will be on display until the first of the year. Several of my new images are hanging. The Garden Cafe serves breakfast and lunch everyday except Monday.
I also wanted to show some of the images I took at the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge last week while in Kansas. Processing raw images that were shot under such foggy conditions is a little different than processing images created under stronger lighting conditions. There was very little contrast in the images and they look quite dull  until you make some big adjustments to the contrast. In the shot of the three elk these adjustments made the color of the grass a little too red and saturated but the elk still needed some contrast in their faces to bring out the details. I used Topaz Adjust to bring out the features and details of the elk. Unlike the examples on the Topaz web site, I use a pretty light touch with my adjustments because I don't want my work to look like an illustration. I also desaturated the grass a little to keep the scene looking the way I remembered it.
The image below of the bison was processed a little differently. I created a color version which I liked but then made a second layer which was converted to a black and white. I then made the layer about 40 percent transparent in order to let a little of the color show. It almost looks like a brown toned photograph, but not quite.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Could I just stay at home for awhile?

 It seems like I have been constantly on the move for the last four weeks. I arrived back home from a week out west only to leave town again less than 48 hrs later. After completing my last two shows of the year I then spent all day Monday driving back home. Early Thursday morning I was off again driving to Kansas with my brother. I got back home about midnight last night.

So... just where did this variety of pictures come from? The top image was taken at Orange Beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama. It was taken on November 11th, the day after the remnants of Hurricane Ira passed through the area. The next image was created in northern Oklahoma while driving to Kansas. Great clouds that day. On Friday we went to the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge just north of Canton, Kansas. The refuge has a lot of Bison and Elk which can be photographed. It was very foggy that day. Notice how quickly the background fades to gray in the image below of a mother Bison and her calf. Later that day we drove to nearby Lindsborg, Kansas to see the gallery of National Geographic Photographer, Jim Richardson. Great work!  On Saturday we attended a program put on by the Great Plains Nature Photographers. It was held at the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita, Kansas. The main Speaker at the program was photographer, Boyd Norton. He was also photographing with us at the refuge the day before. It was great getting to know him and hear his program on Saturday. Back in the early 90's when I started getting serious about my photography, the first photography book I bought was written by him. The Art Of Outdoor Photography


After the program was over we jumped in the car and headed back to Texas. It had been a short but fun trip. I had made some great new friends in Boyd and Barb Norton, Jim and Cindy Griggs, and Duane and Eddy Graham. Special thanks to the Griggs and Grahams for all their hospitality.Check out Jim's blog post about the weekend.
The last image was taken at a gas station in Perry,Oklahoma, one of the small towns that we passed through on our drive back home. It was a very old gas station located right off the square and it did appear to still be selling gas. The pumps were fairly modern and I chose not to include them.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Waiting for Covington!

I'm sitting in the McDonald's in Fairhope, Alabama watching it rain. I'm glad it didn't do this yesterday at the show in Pensacola. It would have been every artist's worst nightmare. What's left of Hurricane Ida is going to go right over this area tonight. Thank God it is supposed to clear back up by this weekend where I will be at the Covington Three Rivers Art Festival. Sales have been tough enough this year without getting drowned at the same time. Come out and see me if you are in the New Orleans area.
I've added a couple of images from my recent trip. The top one was shot at Bryce Canyon. The next two were shot about 15 miles away at Red Canyon. Its really weird how Bryce failed to get an accumulation of snow, but it gave me a good excuse to stomp around in the snow for an afternoon and explore the Red Canyon area. I need to go back and explore it some more.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sometimes you just have to be flexible!

Red Canyon
Monday night I landed at Dallas Love Field after spending the week photographing in Utah, Arizona, and California. In some ways the trip was like many I have made...fly to Las Vegas, rent a car and then drive to some location to photograph. What made this trip different was all the changing of plans I made. I usually schedule what I will do and what days I will do it. I then make the necessary reservations at campgrounds or motels. The day I arrived in Las Vegas the TV weather guy said there would be 60 mph wind gusts. 60?????????? I decided it may not be a good time to spend two nights camping out in nearby Death Valley. Soooooo...I headed to Zion National Park but ended up driving all the way to Bryce Canyon. No camping out either! The next day was cold and windy with blowing snow. It was probably the most brutal conditions I have ever tried to photograph in. That afternoon at Rainbow Point it was 18 degrees with 50 mph gusts. The snow and clouds finally started to go away on what was now the third day of my trip. Bryce Canyon didn't really have much of an accumulation of snow but nearby Red Canyon had about 4 inches of fresh snow. I spent that afternoon hiking through the snow and getting some of the best photographs of the trip.
Left Fork of North Creek
Day number four was spent hiking in Zion National Park. While driving back from my hike in North Creek I decided to drive out to the LaVerkin Overlook before it got too dark. The sun had been down about 10 or 15 minutes but a long exposure gave me a good image of this viewpoint which looks back towards Zion.

LaVerkin Overlook

The following day was Halloween. It was kinda ironic that I ended up camping at Little Finland a place that is also known as Hobgoblin's Playground. It is way out in the middle of nowhere, about an hours drive east of Mesquite, Nevada. There you will find some of the strangest rock formations you will ever see.

The Head of the Beast

The last night of my trip was spent camping at Death Valley. The temperature that afternoon was about 83 degrees and the winds were now completely calm. Quite a switch from what I got at Bryce Canyon. Before heading to the airport the next day I spent the morning photographing the salt flats near Badwater, the lowest point in the United States, 282 feet below sea level. The salt flat was different than I expected. The crystallized salt has cracked much like mud will crack as it dries in the hot sun, but on a larger scale. The round area in the bottom of the photo is about 4 or 5 feet across. The edges of the cracked areas are knee high in many places.

Badwater Salt Flats

Overall, I think I got some usable images despite all the changing of plans that I made. It is interesting to note that the images taken in Red Canyon were probably the best of the trip and I didn't really have Red Canyon on my radar when I planned the trip. Oh well. Sometimes you just have to be flexible with your plans!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Honors and awards!

City Garage

This weekend is the Huffhines Art Trails and yours truly is going to be the Featured Artist. It's quite an honor to have one of your images put on the posters, the t-shirts, the web site, and most of the advertising. Several photographs of mine were given consideration but City Garage got the call. City Garage was shot several months ago while on my way to the Rockport Art Festival. The t-shirts were printed yesterday so I drove over to the City of Richardson's Community Events office this afternoon and picked up a poster and t-shirt. I think I look good in black!
The bottom picture was taken at last weekends Frisco Arts Festival. I am with Frisco Association for the Arts' President of the Board, Larry Hansard. They had just presented me with first place for photography. This first year show went about the way many first year shows go. Attendance and sales were not what everyone was hoping for. They did put on a great event for the community. Hopefully it will grow and get better in the coming years. The Frisco area has a lot of potential as an art market...a growing community with lots of big houses and a lot of wall space to fill with art.
Photo by Susan Bellson

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bought myself some slide show creating software!

I spent yesterday afternoon creating a slide show of Red Rock Country. I purchased Pro Show Gold yesterday, picked out some music, and its now here for you to enjoy.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

A successful show at Hidden Glen!

I just spent the weekend making my first appearance at the Hidden Glen Arts Festival in Olathe, Kansas. This small show in the Kansas City area proved to be a success. I also did do some photography on the trip. After setting up my booth on Friday, I drove to nearby Overland Park to photograph the Rio Theater at sunset. The top two images were from that evening. The entrance to the theater was created from five different exposures. I wasn't satisfied with the results from using Photomatix so I manually combined the exposures. Each exposure was put on a separate layer. I then masked out the part of each layer that I didn't want to include.
I made several stops while driving home today from Kansas. I found several locations that I need to go shoot again at a later date and time it so I can be there when the light is better. The bottom image was shot at Peggy Sue's 50's Diner. The exterior I will save for another day, but I did like the light coming through the blinds which was falling on the interior booths.

Friday, September 11, 2009

What to do with my Friday!

Yesterday I set up my booth for the Atlanta Arts Festival. Since the show doesn't start until Saturday morning that left me figuring out what to do with myself today. I really needed a day to take it easy so most of it was spent at my hotel watching tv, taking a nap, and spending a little time looking back at some of the images I took on our trip to Utah back in April.
The top image was shot in Arches National Park outside of Moab, Utah. I cropped it square. It would be nice to say that it was shot with my new Hasselblad with the 40 megapixel back but the truth is this...my big fat shadow had to be cropped out of the right side. I also had to clone out my car which was parked near the exact center of this image. I had scouted the area out the afternoon before. My primary shot was a puddle about 10 yards from here and looking in a different direction. I guess I should have considered this composition as a possibility too.
The lower two images were taken in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Most of the more interesting features in this area are located at the end of a long hike or by making a rough four-wheel drive trip. I was able to drive fairly close to this location.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Those Dang Pine Beetles!

Seems like I just got back from a pair of shows in Colorado, but on Aug 26th I went to the airport and jumped on a plane to Denver. My wife had a week off so we had quickly planned a week of camping in the cool mountains of Colorado. I had heard about the damage that Pine Beetles were causing and had seen quite a few dead trees on the mountains near Frisco and Vail two weeks earlier but I got a good look at just how bad it was on this trip. The first three campgrounds we headed to had all been clear cut because the beetles had killed all the trees. Around the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park (Lake Granby and Grand Lake) about 90% of the pine trees are dead. We were planning to camp a couple of nights just inside the west entrance to the park at the Timber Creek Campground. When I saw it had been clear cut and had numerous piles of trees scattered about, my frustrations hit their limit. We went back to the town of Hot Sulphur Springs and got a room. I hadn't showered in three days so it was probably a good idea to get a room anyway. It was quite depressing to see the number of trees that had died in that area.
The next day we drove through the park and found a campsite at the Glacier Basin Campground. Most of the trees were still alive where we camped but one large loop of the campground was closed and they had cut most of the trees down. The top two pictures are of that area.

The eastern section of the park didn't have near the damage as the western side. Only about 10 or 15% of the trees were lost. The two images above were from a mornings shoot at Sprague Lake. You can see a few of the dead rust colored trees on the opposite shoreline.

These last two images were actually from the first day of our trip. We rented a car in Denver and drove to the top of 14,240 foot Mount Evans. The first was from Summit Lake which is not actually at the summit but it is well above timberline. We continued on and right after reaching the top of Mount Evans it began to sleet... and kept sleeting. The temperature was 38 degrees so it was melting. We started down from the mountain but quickly had to pull over to photograph the last scene. I may have created a better image of this scene if the darn sleet hadn't gotten the front of the lens wet.
Our trip was soon over and as we drove back to Denver on Monday evening I thought...why is it so dark already. Sunset is around 7:35PM and its only 7:00PM. While watching TV later in our room I got the answer. The fires in California! When we flew back home the next day we could really see the layer of smoke that was in the area. We had a stop in Amarillo and it also appeared pretty hazy there. I haven't officially heard this on the news but it seemed quite hazy in the Dallas area today also.

Friday, August 21, 2009

That's Why They Call it Art!

The three images today are actually three versions of the same digital file. I shoot all my images digitally and have my camera set to create a RAW file of the scene. A perfectly exposed RAW file doesn't necessarily give you an accurate representation of what you were looking at but it does give you most of the information to re-create it accurately. Then again, what law says you have to re-create it accurately and besides, you only have your memory of what it looked like to go by now. More than ever, the final image has become your interpretation of what you want it to be. The new version of Camera Raw has an abundance of adjustments that can be made before you even open an image up in Photoshop. Color balance, color saturation, contrast, shadow detail, and many others are all under your control.
These images were made during a 30 second exposure where I gave each car a pop of a flash with a red gel in front of it. The top image is close to the way it opened up in Photoshop without many changes in Camera Raw. On the second one, I adjusted the color balance in CR to neutralize the red cast from the flash. This added blue to the sky, which I liked. I did want some of the warm cast back in the cars, but at the same time I didn't want to lose the blue in the sky. The bottom image was created by combing the first two images. Image one was added as a layer in front of image two. I decreased the opacity to about 58% in order to allow some of the neutral color of the bottom layered cars to come through. I then masked the sky so it was about 85% the rich blue of the bottom layer.
This is a great example of why photography is art! I controlled every aspect of the creation of this image from the time of day, the composition, the light, and the final color. The camera only did what I told it to do, and nothing more.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

From Texas to Colorado!

I will probably spend weeks editing and processing images from my trip to Colorado. I'm also a big believer that you should look back at your images a year or two later when you have a clear mind and can take a fresh new look at the images you created. Your memories and preconceived ideas you had have all but faded away. You can now connect with them the way everyone else connects or does not connect to them.
The first image is a little different view of the Petrified Wood Station in Decatur. I know I've shown pics of it before but they have all been HDR images. This is from one exposure. The adjustments you can make in camera raw are quite amazing these days. The adjustment brush and the fill light slider really helped get the most out of this one.
The next two images were shot at sunset up in the high country of Colorado. I just wish the clouds would have pinked up the way they did this evening at my home in Texas. It would have kicked up their appeal a couple of notches. We came across the mule deer buck while on an evening drive from Reudi Reservoir. The bottom photo of aspens was created by vertically moving the camera during a one second exposure.