Sunday, January 31, 2010

Photo Challenge #23

I made myself a small lightbox so I could do photo shoots like this. My box is small and I need another light, but I have something that is somewhat usable now. I'll probably look back on this photo in a year and think, "good gravy, what was I thinking?" but for now, ignorance is bliss, and I had fun playing with it!

So, this picture is for another mini challenge on the photography forum. The challenge was "letters". These are little plastic tiles Miss Mac uses for phonics. I thought they would make a cute, whimsical photo with the bright colors.

Photo Challenge # 22

If you were to lay on the entry floor and look out my front door, this is how the snow would look at midnight.

Believe it or not, this picture had a purpose. I am currently working on Unit 2 for my Professional Photography course at the New York Institute of Photography. One of my assignments for this unit is framing. This picture is a practice shot. And, I learned, not a good framing shot either. While the snow and the side pillars do frame my neighbor's house, the trees are in the way.

I also wanted to practice lighting. Taking a picture at night is different from taking a picture at night when the ground is covered in snow. Snow works as a reflector of light. So, the snow in front of me is too bright while the house across the street is shadowed.

I have to continuously remind myself that I learn from my failures. Rejoice in the successes, learn from the failures.

Photo Challenge #21

This was one of my first attempts to do photo shoot with this kind of set up. This was taken for a mini challenge on a photography forum. The challenge was "glass". What I tried to achieve was the look when using a lightbox.

One problem. I didn't have a lightbox.

So, I made my own little set up using white paper, and the spotlight above our fireplace. Several shots and adjustments later, this is the result.

Photo Challenge #20

This is another picture from the day I stopped at the cattle feed lot. A couple of things to point out:
  • It's FLAT here. No, like really FLAT.

  • Yes, those are all cows and this is just one of a gazillion feed lots here.

  • Cows are stupid. Funny, but stupid.

  • The one steer is not supposed to be on that side of the fence! Why didn't he escape? See comment above.

We actually try to eat as little beef as possible at our home, and when we do, I try to use organic, grass-fed beef. But, I thought the caption I added was funny. So, there ya go!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Photo Challenge #19

(Click for larger image)

Tonight's full moon was the biggest and brightest of the year. There is a wonderful article about it on that explains why it is bigger and brighter.

I had hoped the clouds from the snow storm would pass and I'd have a chance to photograph it. That opportunity came about 1am. I grabbed my camera and tripod, explained to my husband what I was doing, endured looks of "you're crazy!" and headed to the garage. I figured that the moon had past far enough that I'd be able to shoot from the pseudo-warmth of the garage. Nope. Not wanting to waste time going in to change, I trudge through the almost foot of snow in my: tshirt, jacket, pajama pants, socks crocs. Yes, I am that stubborn (read:stupid).

Several minutes later, I'm soaked from the mid-calf down, my fingers and hands are numb, but I have pictures. I trudge back through the snow, into the garage where I leave my tripod and camera because I can't feel my fingers to take the camera off the tripod, and go inside to take everything wet off. I load the pictures onto the computer settings were off. So, I have about 10 pictures of white blobs. Great! Take two...

Now that I know that I can't shoot from the comfort of the garage, I opt to go to the front yard this time, because at least half of the sidewalk got shoveled and I can set up the camera there. And I put regular clothes and shoes on. Oh, and I fix my camera settings inside the house where it's warm. Of course, the moon is directly overhead and the tripod won't tilt far enough so I have to trudge into the snow again but at least this time I have real shoes on!

I played with the settings a little while outside shooting, and this was my best shot. I used the settings of: ISO 200, f/11 @1/1000th sec. with a focal length of 250 mm. I cropped in post to position and zoom a bit.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Photo Challenge #18

(click to view larger image)
Today, it snowed. And snowed. And then, it snowed some more.

I will say, people prepared well. They bought every loaf of bread in town. Not sure why because there were still knuckleheads that ignored every warning issued by the media, police agencies all over the Texas panhandle, TX Department of Transportation, etc. that specifically stated DO NOT DRIVE! and went out driving anyway.

This is why my husband is the cop, not me. If I were the one who had to freeze my backside off rescuing idiots who were too stubborn to head warnings and stay home, then got stuck in a snow drift, I'd let them sit there awhile so they had time to think about what a stupid decision that was. Perhaps that is the mom in me? You live with the consequences of your actions. I'm not risking my life to save your ass. :) OK, maybe for my kids, I would.

Anyway, this is a picture I took during the snow storm. The photo is of my neighbor's house across the street. Why her house and not my own? Because it was too stinkin' cold to leave my front porch, which is where I took the picture. Because it was so cloudy, snowy, and just grey outside, I did clean up, brighten and sharpen the image in post-processing more than I usually do.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Photography Challenge #17

This is where I spend far too much time. The keyboard on my laptop.

Normally, I don't go around photographing my keyboard. I know there are far more interesting things. However, the members of a photography forum that I belong to do random challenges intended to inspire and motivate us. This photo was for a challenge involving "Letters". Initially, I had another project in mind that involved using small plastic letters that Miss Mac used for phonics. They are small, and brightly colored. But, they seem to have been misplaced. So, I opted for the keyboard. A quick but simple task.

I thought wrong!

Ten photos and thirty minutes later I realized some important points. First, my living room has terrible lighting at night. Second, my keyboard on the laptop is black and glossy and reflects in an odd manner. Trial and error. Adjust and re shoot. And this is what I ended up with finally. Not great. Definitely not too interesting. Vast improvement over the initial photo on a project I thought would be simple.

Thankfully, nothing is ever simple and we are given ample opportunities to learn from our challenges.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Photo Challenge #16

Down in front!!

Texas is known for cattle and rightfully so. I know of four rather large feed lots within ten miles of our house. My husband would probably correct me and tell me there are more but then he spends his time driving around our county so he would know. A feed lot is where cattle go before they're taken to slaughter; it's for a final "fattening". Feed lots are smelly, and enough to make any meat-eater consider a vegan lifestyle - at least temporarily.

But cows can be kind of cute.

After an afternoon of driving around taking pictures, I decided since the wind was blowing away from the feed lot that I would stop and take some pictures. I never knew cows were so funny! We stopped the truck between two lots, and every cow in each lot pushed up against the railings to see. The ones in the back would push forward, causing the ones in front to have to scoot over. And they all just looked at me standing there with my camera, taking pictures. I couldn't decide if they were trying to figure out what I was doing, or if it was more of a "me next!" kind of thing! Then these two in the photo jumped up to see over!

I never thought when I decided to stop for a cow photo shoot that it would be half as entertaining.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Photo Challenge 15

Yesterday, my son commanded his Jr. ROTC Color Guard at a special memorial ceremony. He did a fantastic job. About one hundred people turned out to show respect for fallen soldiers. This picture is one of many I took. While the photo looked nice in color, I did change it to black and white to give it emphasis in post-processing with Corel.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Photo Challenge

Since I have fallen so far behind with posting pictures for the photo challenge, and it would be silly to post 4-5 pictures just for the purpose of catching up, I'm just starting over. After all, it is my blog and I can do that! It's part of the reason I didn't go with a structured group for the challenge. I knew at some point I would slack, and while a group can sometimes be helpful by holding a person accountable, it can also be a deterrent. Once you "fail" at the task, it is far too easy to convince yourself there isn't any point to starting over. It depends on the personality of the group, whether rigid or flexible.

Now that I've babbled on about that long I start. Again.

Our family is blessed to live where we do. Our neighborhood is nice (mostly - you gotta have a few bad eggs to keep things interesting, right?) and our street in particular is small and pretty social. The children all play together and we look out for each other. One of my neighbors, a lovely woman, turned 70 yesterday. A friend she has known since school sent her these for her birthday. She invited me over to see them and I offered to take photos for her - after all a picture will last longer than flowers. The entire bouquet was 70 yellow roses and it was just stunning!

Friends are the glue that holds us together. I hope I live to be 70 and if I do, I hope I'm blessed to not only have friends like that but more importantly, to be a friend like that.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

#13 of photo challenge

This is a "cheat". I didn't take any photos for this day so I'm cheating. The photo is actually from last summer during our family vacation to Denver, Colorado. During the trip, we visited the Downtown Aquarium. My son is reflected in the aquarium glass and I think that lends a nice look to the photo.
The Downtown Aqurium in Denver is a neat place, although a bit expensive. However, the exibits are interesting and well-maintained. I highly recommend visiting if you have children. Both our youngest (5 at the time) and our son (15 at the time) enjoyed it.

#12 of Photo Challenge

This is Miss Mac. I intentially tried to give this an "aged" look without the use of post-processing. My goal was to have the photo look like a typical snapshot taken in the 1970's. I used a high ISO and set the white balance to "shade" in order to achieve a grainy look.

Days 9-11 of Photo Challenge

Between family chaos, mandatory vacation time for the husband, and trying to organize a police wives conference, it has been a crazy kind of week (or more). I did manage to take pictures most days, but even when I was able to take pictures, I didn't have the time to upload and blog. I also seem to have issues every time I try to upload photos to my blog. are photos for days 9, 10, and 11.

Number 9 is the reflection of a house in a water droplet. I decided to water our lawn and noticed the water drops hanging on to the bare branches of our willow tree. I grabbed the camera to practice some micro shots. Only after I loaded the photos onto the computer to crop/edit did I notice the reflection of the house.

Number 10 is another picture of our cat. She's laying on the Christmas candy that Miss Mac had dumped onto the floor. This cat will lay on anything and everything. Including candy.

Number 11 is a photo of a local church. The original picture is in color but I converted to black and white in post-processing.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Day #8 - photo challenge

Today's photo comes from assignment #54 from The Daily Shoot:
Glasses help many folks bring the world into focus each day. Make a photo of a pair of any kind of glasses today.
I love this book, but the cover freaks me out. The entire time I read it I had to leave to dust jacket off, and turned upside down! When this assignment on the Daily Shoot posted, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Day #7 - photo challenge

I love my husband. I don't always like him, or the things he does, or the way he behaves. I'm fairly, I'm positive he could say the same about me!
Love isn't about always getting along. It isn't about the good times. And it isn't always easy.
Love is being able to look back on almost 15 years and saying we have really made it through a LOT of crap without killing each other! Love is still wanting to spend time together. Maybe not that 24/7 obsessive stuff when you first get married, but still able to enjoy each other's company.
I love my husband. He does so much for me, and our family. And...he puts up with me!

Day #6 - photo challenge

I took this photo yesterday. It just didn't get blogged about until now because the wind, clouds and general yuckiness moved in and caused periodic internet losses.

Yesterday afternoon, around 3 p.m., I went to this location to practice some panning and action shots with passing trains. I sat for forty-five minutes without a single train passing by. Now, this railroad track is about a mile from my house. I hear the trains. ALL THE TIME. But, apparently they do not run between 3-4 p.m. yesterday. Of course, I heard one about 10 minutes of arriving back home but the cold front had arrived. It gets better. As I sit here typing now, I hear another train. I believe I'm being mocked now.

About the picture. This is what yesterday's "Blue Northern" looked like as it entered the Texas Panhandle. It took this front about 5 minutes to go from what you see in the picture to a completely black and grey sky, winds gusting around 30 m.p.h. and the temperature to drop from 53 to 36.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Day #5 of 365 Challenge

This is our cat. As you can see, she is praying to her god, the heater vent. She doesn't like being cold, and she has figured out that heat comes out right here.

I have had a pet of some kind in my life ever since I was little. I've had dogs, cats, even gerbils. I've had dogs hang their heads out windows, cats hat snuggle under blankets. But this cat does two things that are just odd. Even for a cat.

She knows when the heater comes on, too. Usually about 2-3 minutes after it turns on, she will run up the stairs and jump up on the banister. And sit there. Face into the heat.

When we have a fire burning in the fireplace, she will lay, either on the hearth or on the floor in front of the hearth, on her back belly-up like dogs do.

My lack of sleep the past two night is the reason for a really boring picture tonight. That, and my original attempt bombed. I tried to take some night shots of our little solar snowmen lights that we still have in the front yard. But, it is cold. Couple that with being tired and having no patience to mess with apertures, f-stops, etc. and you end up with pictures of your cat staring at the air vent.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Day #4 of 365 Challenge

A little about today's photo. It was an experiment on several levels. The cars are four model cars that my husband received for Christmas. They're replicas of police cars from different eras. From top left, clockwise: 1949 Mercury; 1964 Ford Galaxie; 1940 Ford Deluxe Business Coupe; 1958 Ford Fairlane 500.

First, I've never, ever tried to do any kind of staged photography. The kind of photo where you set up the entire shot from lighting to positioning. It was interesting to say the very least. Being fairly new to this, my equipment list is short. Very short. A camera, a few lenses, some filters. That's it. No backgrounds, no lights, no softboxes. In fact, until about 4 months ago, I'd never even heard of a softbox! So, my setup was very basic. For a background, I put a black silk shirt over a barstool. I used the other barstool to balance the camera. Big mistake. I should have taken the time to use the tripod, but it's in the garage and it is C.O.L.D. in there! I also should have used additional lighting. Lesson learned.

Next came creating the collage. Another adventure into unchartered territory. I think it took longer to create the collage than to actually take the pictures. I use Corel PSP X. It's what I have used for years and while I'm not an expert, I am familiar with it, and it's cheap. I managed to get the four photos collaged, but as you can tell, there is some distortion. I cannot seem to resize without this problem. Trial, error and practice, I guess.

I learned a lot from this experiment. First, I need A LOT of practice! Second, I'd rather spend 30 minutes setting up a shot properly than spend 30 minutes fixing a photo with editing. And finally, I have so much to learn but I'm having a blast in the process and that is what matters. And, when I lack the "correct" equipment, I can make do with items I already have - it pushes me to be creative.

Oh, and always use a tripod...even if it's in the very cold garage.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Day #3 of 365 Photo Challenge

Since I focused on macro shots yesterday, today I went out to the edge of the city limits to work on some hyperfocus shots.

This is a West Texas sunset. I took this about 6 p.m. this evening, just as the sun passed below the horizon. The dark strip along the bottom of the photo is the horizon, the flat land around the panhandle of Texas.

There are many photography groups doing variations of the 365 Photo Challenge. For personal reasons, I have opted to do my own thing versus participating in a structured format. Mainly, I like to do my own thing and for my own reasons. Plus, I can set my own guidelines. For this challenge, my rules are fairly simple. I will only post pictures that I take that day. No cheating and posting pictures I took a year ago. While I do have some really great pictures I'd love to show, the purpose of this challenge is to watch my progress as I work through the Professional Photography course during the upcoming year. Also, the only way to improve is practice. My only other rule is to keep the post-processing to the absolute minimum. I will do some editing as needed, but I'm not going to totally change a picture. What you see is pretty much what I photographed.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Day #2 of 365 Photo Challenge

This is the types of picture I usually enjoy taking - nature or macro and this is both.
The great thing about photographing nature is nature doesn't care how the picture turns out. This branch never asked me if the snow made her look fat. The branch didn't fidget or fuss as I took several minutes to take several different photos, testing out different apertures, lenses, and filters.
A little bit about this photo. The branch is from one of the Bradford pear trees in our front yard. Last night, dense fog rolled in and this morning everything was covered in a frosty glaze. Just beautiful!! I cropped the photo to what you see here, and brightened it just a bit in PSP X, then added the border and signature. I prefer to do the least amount of post-production editing I can get away's not as enjoyable to fix a picture as it is to take a picture.

Nature accepts itself for what it made by God. Wouldn't it be a great place if we all could learn to see the beauty in our own uniqueness?

One thing I would like to eventually do is combine photographs with inspirational quotes and Bible verses. Just playing around with ideas...

Finally, if you didn't already know, you can click the pictures to see them in "full view".

Friday, January 1, 2010

Day #1 of 365 Photo Challenge

I would love to think that I am off to a great start with this photo challenge. However, it is only day one, and I do have a slight tendency to lack follow-through. The heart is willing to go the full 365. The mind is sometimes lazy, and I hope I last longer than one week! Encouragement is always welcome.

So, here it one. Thanks to a bored 15 yr. old who was so desperate to just get out of the house he suggested, "let's just go drive around", we loaded up the car, drove to Sonic for drink treats (a reward for the 6 yr. old who went along somewhat willingly), and drove around town. Our first stop was our newly rebuilt church. The old one burned down a couple of years ago, and the new one is just amazing. The outside brick work, and the inside detail of the sanctuary are just gorgeous.

After taking a few pictures of our church, we headed downtown to look at some of the older, more historical churches in town. This is a Presbyterian church - I should have written down the year it was built - and as usual, my picture doesn't do it justice.

I am working my way through a professional photography course and I have SO much to learn. But, I have found that after a few months and the beginning lessons, my knowledge and output have increased substantially! My goals for completing the 365 Challenge are:

  • Follow a project through to the end
  • Practice both writing and photography
  • Be able to look back a year from now and hopefully see marked improvement in both my writing and photography

Thank you for following along!