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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