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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.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Turning my storm picture into a scary monster!

The other day I got an email that included a picture of a really menacing looking black cloud. It got me to thinking...I can make the one I took last week look that scary, so I got out my Photoshop and made a quick adjustment with the curves tool. I also masked the ground so it didn't get much darker than it was. It almost looks like a giant tornado now.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Where were you 40 years ago?

Forty years ago I was getting ready to start my senior year in high school. I grew up in the fairly upscale North Dallas neighborhood of Preston Hollow. My father was a well respected surgeon at Baylor Hospital. I was a captain of the Golf Team, a cheerleader, and class favorite. Life was good! Hillcrest High School Seniors 70!
I didn't know much about Woodstock until the movie was released March 26, 1970. I'm not sure when the Soundtrack (album) was released but I owned one and listened to it about a jillion times. It's still out in the garage with all my other records, but no way to play them right now. I also saw the movie a bunch of times and just programmed to record it tonight between 10pm and 2AM. I can't wait. Have you ever noticed how the music of a period brings back so many other memories from that time? If its good memories then its a good thing.
Soooooooo. What was your favorite performance at Woodstock? After seeing this I may have to go with Joe Cocker. http://www.elwp.com/Joe%20Cocker.html
It's dang funny if nothing else. Realistically though, I'm not sure I could just pick one. The Who, Hendrix, Santana's "Soul Sacrifice", Country Joe's "The Fish Cheer"? I probably have a soft spot for Ten Years Afters's "I'm Goin' Home" because I could lip sink and air guitar the whole thing to perfection.
Check this out also. http://bit.ly/4DZFQl After all, this is a photography blog.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A morning at Maroon Bells!

During my recent trip to Colorado I spent a morning at one of the most photographed locations in the country, Maroon Bells. It is not hard to see why this area just outside of Aspen is so popular. Majestic mountain peaks with a clear mountain lake to reflect a mirror image of the scene. This was my second time to spend a morning at MB. Both times the lake has been perfectly calm until about 15 minutes before sunrise then the wind came up and bye-bye reflection. I did create a pre-dawn HDR image of the scene before the wind came up. Once the reflections were gone I decided to move to the field on the north side of the lake and use some of the wildflowers as a foreground. The first two images were both made from a series of three exposures.
As the sun rose higher in the sky I hiked a short distance above Maroon Lake where I could use Maroon Creek in the foreground of the last image. As pretty as it is in August , it still doesn't compare with late September when the cool fall weather changes the Aspen trees to bright shades of yellow.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Something is eating my tomato plants!

I arrived back home from my Colorado trip on Tuesday afternoon. After unloading most of my stuff and sitting a spell I went out in the back yard to check on my three tomato plants. Only one of the three has produced anything but that particular plant has about 40 small tomatoes growing on it right now. I looked at it and thought "whats happened to all the leaves". I soon saw the answer...Tomato or Tobacco Horn worms. Five of them. Two of them were huge. One of them was in the process of eating one of the tomatoes. I decided to take some photographs before getting rid of them. After getting a few nice shots, I realized I might want to shoot a few more in the morning. Unfortunately, most of the eating so far had been on the productive plant. I set them over on the un-productive plants until morning. I figured that could be their punishment for not producing tomatoes.

I took the image below on the following morning. There was still a lot of leaves on this plant and the back-lighting even made the horn worm glow a little. Right after taking this one of the big worms became active. Through my 180mm macro lens I watched him eat a whole leaf. He ate it like you would eat corn on the cob, but much faster. In less than five minutes the leaf and stem were gone. But I still had to decide what to with these little eating machines. I couldn't help remembering a conversation with our Navajo Guide, Tom, years ago. He was taking us on a morning tour of Monument Valley. While we were talking he mentioned the bugs that were eating some of his small corn crop. I said "why don't you just spray and get rid of them?" He replied "they have a right to live, too". Hmmmmm. Well, I didn't kill the horn worms, but I did throw them over the fence into the neighbors yard! It's a rent house and there probably isn't much to eat over there except the dead grass and the dog poop.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

From Colorado back to Texas!

After a long drive from Colorado, I finally arrived home yesterday afternoon. Since then I have been trying to get caught up on things but did squeeze in some time to work on some of the images from the trip. These first two were taken about 20 miles south of Eagle, Colorado.

On the drive back to Texas we stopped a few times to photograph different things.The pink Cadillac and the Betty Boop waitress were found at a diner which had closed in Clayton, New Mexico. Betty would have been nothing but reflections if I had not used a polarizing filter.

The Cadillac Ranch is located about 8 miles west of Amarillo, Texas just off the south side of I40. We arrived shortly before sunset. People were everywhere, but finally about dark they all left. The shot below is two images that were combined. If my flash would re-charge itself a little quicker I probably could have created this with a single thirty second exposure.
Thirteen days earlier when we had driven through Electra, Texas we started to see lightning. Yesterday it happened again. As we approached Electra, we watched a small rain cloud up ahead of us grow into a mean looking storm within a period of about 10 minutes. Lightning appeared to strike a tower near Electra. We pulled over and photographed the storm which seemed to have low dark clouds which were rotating around the whole system. One of the neatest looking thunderstorms I have seen.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A few more days in Colorado!

Today was the first day of the Frisco Art Festival. Set up started at 5:00am and I have been up since 4:45am. Why I'm still awake is a mystery to me, but I did have a few images from this trip I wanted to post. The top one is from Maroon Bells near Aspen. We drove there on Wednesday morning for a shoot. Not many clouds but other than that it was pretty good conditions. On Thursday evening we went to the Shrine Mountain Pass where I shot the panoramic image below. It was one of those evenings where I set my camera in position and then waited for the light to do something neat. The sky clouded up and looked like nothing would happen at sunset. Suddenly, the sun hit the distant mountains. It only lasted for about a minute. I was shooting a series of six images to stitch together and created what you see below.
We stayed several days at the Gore Creek campground just outside of Vail. Lots of flowers and aspens nearby. The image below was created by zooming the lens and vertically panning the camera during a one second exposure.
After the show today my brother and I spent some time photographing two old trucks and a couple of old log cabins. And where were they were located? Behind the porta-potties. The trucks looked like they had been sitting and deteriorating for years. This license plate is a year older than I am. Wow!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A little fun with the foxes!

I have been spending the last few days camping in the mountains of Colorado. What better way to kill some time waiting for my next show in Frisco. On Monday, while driving through a small settlement near Ruedi Reservoir, we couldn't help but notice the signs which said "Slow Baby Fox". The next day we decided to ask where they were and if they could be photographed. We were told the den was just ahead in some rocks on the right, but they also like to climb around on the rocks and dirt on the opposite side of the road. As we parked the car, we caught a quick look at a red fox as it hid in the rocks. After about fifteen minutes we saw nothing else. I said "let's give them until 6pm" which would be an additional 15 minutes. Suddenly about 5:58 a fox walked across the street to my truck as if to check it out. We spent the next hour photographing several different foxes. They would move around and pose as if they had been trained by a professional modeling agency. Most of the time they were in shade or overcast but occasionally they would get in some good light. I would love to be at this same place in early winter when they have grown a little more and have on a full winter coat.
We haven't photographed much other wildlife but we have seen quite a variety of species.
1) A Moose that was about to go under I70 in Glenwood Canyon. A huge surprise!
2) Lots of deer.
3) We spooked a herd of Elk on one of our evening photo hunts.
4) We saw a Bear at 4:30am as we drove to Maroon Bells.
5) I got a lousy photograph of a Beaver.
6) Unidentified animal. Had the body shape of a Badger or Wolverine.
7) Raccoon.
8) A skunk roaming around the center of Basalt at 5am across the street from the Fly Shop.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Now I'm in Colorado!

Seems like I was just on South Padre Island watching the sun go down. I spent most of the day Monday driving home from South Texas. Late on Wednesday afternoon I picked up my brother and we were off to Colorado. We grabbed some dinner in Decatur and decided to shoot the Petrified Wood Station after it got dark. My brother had never been there but I had already shot it several times this year. I wondered what I could do different this time. When I saw the puddle on the side of the road, I had my answer.
I usually drive until about 11:30pm or so and then start looking for a room. While driving through (of all places) Electra, Texas we started to see quite a lightning show ahead of us. We stopped a little ways down the road and photographed some of the lightning. Soon we were in some heavy rain and decided we better just get a room in Vernon which is only about three hours driving from home. We spent all day Thursday driving the rest of the way to Colorado. Friday morning I was in Beaver Creek setting up my booth. Saturday, the show went fairly well and today looks quite promising. The last two afternoons we have taken a drive up into the mountains. The lower image was taken near Eagle, Colorado.