2013—Day 365—Drawing To A Close

This is the last day of the third year of my blog, In Focus Daily. 2013 is drawing to a close and it has been one of the most interesting and exciting years in recent memory for me. Although I missed quite a few daily posts this year, I feel that in 2013, I came into my own as a photographer.

The opening (and sadly the all-too-soon closing) of Famous Mo’s Coffeehouse & Theater brought me out of retirement, dominated my life, and briefly made me a small businesswoman, an entrepreneur, and a house photographer. Band photography became my pastime most weekends for much of the year. As a result of those experiences, I learned a little about lighting and ISO in challenging circumstances. I even managed to capture a few decent shots of musicians on our stage.

2013 introduced me to landscape photography in a big way. Two separate week long adventures, one in February and one in October, with world renowned landscape and wildlife photographer Moose Peterson, brought me to the Grand Canyon for the first time and returned me to the Grand Tetons after a 46 year hiatus. Moose made me appreciate wide angle lenses, although I still want to zoom in on things; he made me realize that knowing the subject of the photograph, when you take the photograph, is critical; and he showed me that photography is not only all about the light (well, it’s almost all about the light) but it’s about patience, too. I learned to wait and to watch for the changes in the light but also to recognize that those changes are fleeting and I’d better be ready to do something as soon as I see it.

I photographed my first wedding under less than ideal conditions. I discovered that it is necessary to have a Plan B and maybe even a Plan C when a wedding is scheduled for outdoors and sudden and unexpected weather changes require a change in plans. In addition, the wedding experience made me realize that even though I am a digital photographer and no film is involved, I still need to develop my photographs. As a result, I am making an effort to improve my Photoshop and Lightroom editing skills and I think I have made incredible strides in that direction. Not bad for someone who only recently realized that my straight out of the camera photos were lacking.

During the past year, I had a couple of family portrait sessions and I even photographed my veterinarian’s office and tech staff for use on their website. I continue as the photographer for the California Foundation for Birds of Prey and, as a result, I have opportunities to photograph raptors in situations that I wouldn’t otherwise have. Of course, photographing birds in the wild remains a passion; my backyard hummingbirds provide endless hours of photographic opportunity and I seek out encounters with raptors and other birds when I am out and about.

I plan to continue my blog in 2014, but I have modified it a bit to give me more flexibility. It now reads: “One new photograph, almost every day of the year.” However, I still plan to carry a camera with me everywhere. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t.

Today’s photo is not a band, not a landscape, not a portrait, not a bird. I took it to represent something drawing to a close, which is a recent topic in my daily challenge group. It is the seed pods of the chive plant that has been featured on more than one occasion in this blog. And, like me, it will be back next year!

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2013—Day 364—Garden Grunge

I decided to do a little exploring of some new software today (Perfect Photo Suite 8) and added several layers to a shot I took in my garden an hour or so ago. The final layer is a grunge layer that I added on top of a texture layer and a frame layer. I do not have the knowledge or sophistication that my friend Melinda has when it comes to textures but I can see how she has come to love them so much. I was really taken with the end result of this otherwise mundane shot.

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2013—Day 360—Fly Like An Eagle

I decided to stay in Redding an extra day. My brother went fishing and Sue and I headed off to the Sundial Bridge for a walk. We didn’t get far when I espied the silhouette of what I suspected was an eagle but wasn’t 100% certain until I left the bridge and walked down the Sacramento River embankment directly under the tree where this juvenile bald eagle perched. I watched him and he watched me and finally he lifted off and soared away. I didn’t get him completely in the frame in the flying shots, but I got enough of him to be recognizable.

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My friend Susan sent me an e-mail that contained lots of spectacular photographs, many of them Photoshopped. One of the shots really intrigued me. It was taken in San Francisco and it was NOT photoshopped. When I had a chance to go to San Francisco earlier this week, I decided I had to visit this staircase in the Golden Gate Heights neighborhood in the Sunset district. We counted 168 steps on the tiled staircase but the staircase is actually part of a larger staircase that continues to the top of a small park called Grand View Park with grand 360° views of San Francisco. We climbed them all but didn’t count them all, although a person we encountered told us there were more than 350 steps and advised us to Google it to get the actual count! I haven’t done that yet.

The first shot shows almost the entire tiled staircase. The subsequent shots are more detail shots. It was a community project completed in 2005.

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2013—Front And Center

A recent Flickr challenge was ‘Front and Center.’ I visited San Francisco on Monday and captured this view from Grand View Park in the Sunset district of San Francisco. The fence is front and center and part of San Francisco’s skyline is visible beyond the fence. This park has 360° views of San Francisco. You can see the ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the SF skyline all from this lovely little hidden gem.

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Yesterday, I visited the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. I hadn’t been there for many, many years and it seemed much smaller than when I last visited, probably in the early 1970’s but it remains beautiful and serene. This sculpted crane stands sentinel in a reflecting pond there. I caught it just as the sun reflected behind it. The water is like glass and the tree next to the crane is merely a reflection.

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I was looking at some of the hummingbird photos that I took a few days before Thanksgiving and I was astonished to find three that I overlooked because I was intrigued by their bathing antics the day I took these shots so I ignored the flying shots. That is surprising to me because I try very hard to get shots of them in flight. I took these using the speed light with the shutter speed set to 1/800. Hyper-sync flash settings on my D7100 and D800 allow me to use shutter speeds faster than the camera’s stated limit of 1/250, perfect for stopping hummingbirds in flight. I had the 70-200mm lens attached to the Nikon D7100 and I had to keep changing the focal length to get the hummers in focus, the first at 70mm, second at 122mm, and the third at 145mm. I wasn’t completely successful in getting the wings stopped but I got pretty darned close. The azaleas behind the fountain are a riot of greens and yellows and despite the relatively shallow depth of field, they are distracting so I played with the hue/saturation/luminance sliders to fade the background colors. The first two shots are the male Anna’s Hummingbird and the third is the female.

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2013—Day 355—Contact

I was playing with my camera yesterday and trying to figure out how to get the cable release to automatically focus on my eyes when I am sitting in front of the camera, not standing behind it making sure the focus is right. It is somewhat magical in that much of the time it manages to focus on my pupils. The resulting shots emphasized my drooping left eye so I became obsessed with trying to get a photograph with reflections in both eyes. This is one of only a couple with reflections in both eyes and my left eye is still clearly drooping. But what also fascinated me is that the speed light and soft box emphasized my contact lenses floating on my eyeballs, especially the droopy left one. The rest of the shot was pretty horrifying to look at so I cropped it to just the eyes, changed it to black and white and changed my irises from ordinary blue to teal.

I never did figure out how to get focus where I wanted it.

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2013—Day 354—Xmas Song

As I grow older, I am not much of a fan of Christmas music primarily because it starts playing in stores and on some radio stations right after Halloween. To me it has reached the saturation point. I no longer enjoy the beautiful carols and other Christmas music that I used to love singing in choirs and listening to on TV specials and on the stereo. I find myself turning off radio stations and exiting stores with some Christmas classic embedded in my brain until another one takes its place at the next store. This is not particularly new to me. My late husband and I used to torture each other with the opening lines to, you guessed it, “Jingle Bell Rock,” just about any time of the year and for some reason, it is one of those annoying tunes that stays with you.

A recent daily challenge for my Flickr group is ‘a Christmas song’ and, for the record, Mel Tormé’s “The Christmas Song” is my favorite Christmas song of all time, not “Jingle Bell Rock.” However, it is pretty easy to depict “Jingle Bell Rock” in rebus form, not so, “The Christmas Song.” Where is Mel Tormé when you need him?

I realize this is a silly shot but it amuses me. I took it with the D7100 with the 70-200mm lens AND the 2x teleconverter already attached. I couldn’t set up the shot I wanted with my D800 and the 24-70mm lens so I brought out the big guns. I shot this at 155mm (probably 225mm on the D7100, double that with the teleconverter to about 450), f8, ISO 320 (!), left over from an outdoor hummingbird shoot, and 1/8 second on the tripod.

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2013—Day 252—Garden Gems

They’re baaaaack! I went out with the Nikon D7100, 70-200mm lens with the 2X teleconverter and the Speed Light when I saw three hummingbirds vying for a place at the feeders. I managed to capture only a few shots because they were very skittish today and the long lens with the teleconverter attached made it unwieldy and hard for me to anchor well despite this lens’s uncanny ability to focus sharply under adverse conditions. So I spent a few minutes trying to follow their antics and the colors I was seeing through the lens in the overcast light were breathtaking. Garden gems to be sure. I had never seen the orange and pink combination in the one shot. All these shots are of the same bird and he’s at two different feeders in my yard.

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2013—Day 351—What A Pity, Basil

The extended sub-freezing temperatures last week killed off my basil plant although it had already gone to seed and I suspect would not have survived much longer.

After I posted this, my friend Melinda asked what the “what a pity, Basil” reference was. So, here is a link to The New Christie Minstrels singing the song that has the reference to pitying Basil. When I decide to plant nasturtiums, I’ll photograph them and call that post “stomping thought the nasties.” When I worked at Jackson Lake Lodge in the Grand Tetons in the mid 1960’s, we used to sing this song (and lots of others) to alleviate the boredom of working in a hotel laundry.

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2013—Day 350—Tintype

I visited my family in Santa Rosa over the weekend. While we were at Mom’s house, my brother and I looked at the huge family bible with a publishing date of 1873 and found a number of old unidentified photographs inserted into openings at the back of the bible. Someone (probably me at an early age) had removed many of them by tearing the openings to release the photos. The pages are now brittle and the paper breaks. One of the photos looked different from the others. When I slipped it out I realized it was an old tintype. Although none of the photos has any identifying information other than being from photographers in San Francisco, Art and I both felt that this is probably a photo of our grandfather, Robert Agnew, and perhaps our great grandfather, also Robert Agnew, who emigrated from Ireland in the 19th century. We suspect it’s our grandfather because the person on the left bears a striking resemblance to my cousin, Charlie Agnew, and to my nephew, Michael Agnew.

I used my iPhone to take a photo of the front and back of the old tintype. The tintype naturally has all of the special effects that my state of the art photographic editing programs offer to make present day shots look old, so I didn’t feel the need to edit it. I set the tintype on my thigh to take the photo so the bottom edge of the shot has a bit of my blue jeans. I didn’t crop that out because this month’s challenge at my camera club is “cell phone photos” and I think it’s kind of ironic to present a 130 year old photograph (I suspect it was taken in the mid 1880’s) using the latest technology.

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2013—Day 348—No Admittance

This morning as I enjoyed coffee and conversation with my brother at his house in Santa Rosa, I noticed the weathered door to his work shed had beautiful texture emphasized by the morning sunlight. When I went outside to take some shots, I realized the metal sign on the door, jammed haphazardly into one of the cross braces, was a familiar one—it used to be affixed to a door at the old Sunset Line and Twine Company in Petaluma, my family’s company for many years. I like this shot as a monochrome enhanced by some filters in Silver Effects but I decided to emphasize the original yellow of the metal sign which directed job applicants to the office and which I guess my brother now uses to keep the curious from invading his workspace.

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2013—Day 346—Heckle and Jeckle

The latest additions to my garden are Heckle and Jeckle, a pair of crows that spew water from their beaks. I took this shot using my Speed Light and 24-70mm lens. Although it was light out at mid morning, the flash darkened the background because I had the shutter speed set to a very fast speed.

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2013—Day 345—Colorful Bathing Beauty

As anyone who has read this blog knows, I never tire of photographing hummingbirds. Despite the sub-freezing temperatures we’ve had here the past few days (it’s 28° as I type) they enjoy bathing in the fountain and the rapidly bubbling fountain keeps it from freezing over. I looked up from my coffee and morning paper to see three of them cavorting around the fountain. By the time I got out with my D7100, 70-200mm lens, and Speed Light (the batteries in the Speed Light were dead so I had to change them) only one was perched on the edge, still dry but as he eyed me eying him, he took the plunge. I couldn’t decide which of these shots to use so I’m using all. As I said, I never tire of photographing, or looking at, these intriguing birds.

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2013—Day 343—Four Eyes

One day, when I was in the fifth grade, I came home from school and told my mother I couldn’t see the blackboard. I’ve worn corrective lenses ever since. My oldest brother (who also wears glasses) laughed and called me “Four Eyes” and told me I’d have to wear Coke bottle lenses. I was horrified and I suppose that contributed to my obsession to get contact lenses in high school. I’ve actually worn contact lenses for 50 years but I do have back-up glasses. One of my Flickr group’s challenges this week is “something I wear” and I realized my glasses would make a good photograph when I took them off this morning and threw them onto the kitchen table.

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