I’ve been reviewing the photos I took in New York City in September and I keep finding gems that I’d forgotten. On our third day in NYC, Michael and Sonia took us to the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art located in Fort Tryon Park near the northern tip of Manhattan Island. The medieval artwork is housed in what was once a French monastery. On our way into the monastery, we spent some time enjoying the beautiful gardens. The flowers were stunning and the bees and butterflies that flitted about only enhanced their beauty.
This male Anna’s hummingbird may look like he’s resting but looks can be deceiving. He is laying in wait for a small lesser goldfinch that was trying to get some nectar from the feeders. The finch would land near or on a feeder and the hummer, about the same size as the finch, immediately zoomed over from his post to harass the other little bird until it finally flew out of the yard. I never was able to capture the drama. I had Big Bertha poked out the open door but I was too close to gain focus at one of the feeders and the action happened all too quickly so I never managed to get either bird in my viewfinder in time to take a shot. I gave up soon because it’s a nippy outside and I had on just a thin bathrobe and flip flops so after ten minutes of standing in the open door way, I was frozen solid.
The leaves on the little volunteer Japanese maple that I planted in a bonsai pot to keep it small are starting to show their fall colors.
I was looking at photos from my trip to NYC in September and ran across a shot I really liked from our first evening in New York. My nephew walked us to our rental apartment after dinner and we stopped at West Harlem Piers Park to look across the Hudson River at New Jersey.
I’m calling it the Smith Nebula because this shot makes me think of the Milky Way and other astral phenomena in the night sky. It is a mysterious shot and I’ve included two versions, one edited only slightly in Lightroom and the second, edited with Topaz Star Effects, creating even more of the illusion of an astral phenomenon. What is it, you ask?
Well, here’s a hint. I took the shot using my macro lens (ISO 800, f/22, 6/10 second shutter speed) in my garage as the late afternoon sun streamed through the open side door. Can you guess? Another hint. The major spot in the photo is less than 1/4 of an inch in diameter. It was such an odd thing to photograph, I had great difficulty getting sharp focus, even using my tiny tripod and I don’t think much of this is in focus.
Well, dear reader, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. This is a photograph of a tiny chip in the windshield of my car with the light refracting off the minuscule cracks emanating from the center of the chip. I had the chip filled Monday morning so hopefully I won’t have to worry about the entire windshield cracking.
The other day when I took photos of the persimmons, I took one shot with a single persimmon setting on a mirror. I took the photograph in a vertical format and the reflection was quite vivid but it seemed odd and not balanced so I didn’t use the shot. Later, I rotated the photograph 90° and liked it much better. It looks more like two persimmons perched side by side than one persimmon and its reflection.
When I was a little kid, I had only one favorite stuffed animal. It was a small panda bear I immediately dubbed “Freckles” because I thought he had freckles on his snout. Of course, the dots on his snout represented whiskers but the name stuck. The paint on his black nose has rubbed off (I think the snout is made of rubber or vinyl) and he looks a little wall-eyed, but Freckles is still quite dapper in his pale blue sweater. He didn’t come with a sweater. When I was six years old, I had a brand new pale blue wool sweater that I actually remember wearing once in the first grade. By mistake, my mother put it in the washing machine then into the dryer so it shrank to fit only Freckles after that. Freckles has worn that now moth eaten sweater for more than 60 years.
I brought Freckles home with me a few months ago. I found him while we were cleaning out my mother’s house. She’d saved all my dolls and all my stuffed animals. I rarely played with the dolls and I didn’t even name any of my other stuffed animals. My dad would bring stuffed animals home to me when he returned from a business trip so over the years, I accumulated quite a large menagerie. My personal zoo consisted of a snooty-looking French poodle with a blue sweater and a music box inside; a black rooster with a felt comb and a plastic face that looked a little like Betty Boop; a Smokey the Bear, complete with blue jeans, a badge and a yellow felt ranger hat; a bearded Steiff gnome who arrived with a name already sewn to his jacket (Pucki); a brown and white dog looking suspiciously like Zipper, the English Springer Spaniel my family had when I was about 3; a white cat; and others too numerous to describe. Except for Freckles, though, the entire menagerie went to the Santa Rosa Hospice Thrift Store, hopefully to find homes with some kids who might play with them.
Since I brought him home with me, Freckles has lived peeking out of a wooden box setting on a ledge at the top of the stairs. I will probably eventually get rid of him, but I was feeling a bit nostalgic Sunday afternoon so I decided to photograph him and make the photos look old. I edited them in Topaz Texture Effects, using the 1950’s Print texture and adding some additional scratches to the prints.
Jim and Shirley brought Hachiya persimmons from their tree to the Placer Camera Club meeting the other evening. I came home with a dozen persimmons that are now ripening on my kitchen counter. They’re mouth puckeringly tart until they’re ripe and then they become a luscious mouthwatering addition to breads and cookies. I edited the photos in Topaz Texture Effects and added the same “color burst” filter to both shots.
Friday morning, I was attracted to a flock of goats grooming a field behind the CVS Pharmacy on the way to the gym. Of course I pulled into the lot to take some photos. Immediately I heard a deep “woof!” then another. Advancing toward me with merely a nylon fence between us, was a pair of large white dogs, tails wagging, curious about my presence, but making sure I didn’t bother their charges. I had never seen dogs like these before. I didn’t think they were Great Pyrenees but didn’t know what they were. Google came up with one possibility: Anatolian Pyrenees, a hybrid of an Anatolian Shepherd and a Great Pyrenees.
I stopped by again on the way home from the gym and found someone had posted a sign “DANGER: Electric Fence. Keep off-Keep away” that wasn’t there earlier. I’m glad I didn’t touch the fence!
I took a few shots of the brilliant red leaves on a tree at the gym with the morning light behind but I didn’t come close to duplicating the effect I got in the burning leaves photo I took a couple of weeks ago. But, after I added a chiaroscuro filter in Topaz Impressions to play up the dark and light features of the shot, I got something I really liked. I love that word, chiaroscuro. I learned it in the first Art Appreciation class I took in my Freshman year at UC Davis. I still love the concept of light and shadow and how those opposites can impart such dramatic effect in photographs and paintings.
A little bit of Topaz Impressions magic. I don’t even remember what I did to this lonely looking gull on a stone wall at the San Francisco Marina.
Intentional Camera Movement, or ICM, is just that…movement of the camera, with purpose, to get an effect other than what is usually expected from a camera and lens, i.e., an in focus photograph of a subject. I have tried it on occasion and actually liked the results. One example is the shot I got in a local park and posted here in my blog. That was intentional. Sometimes, it is unintentional but it still can have an interesting result. Last Sunday while I was at Gibson Ranch photographing the Cyclocross, I took several photos unintentionally, as I dodged raindrops and watched for mud puddles. My gloved finger was depressing the shutter release without my feeling it. When I viewed those photographs of the muddy green and yellow grass with a few oak leaves strewn about, I decided the unintentional camera movement resulted in interesting abstract photographs. I edited them in one of the Topaz Impressions Cave Dweller filters.
I spent a couple of hours Sunday morning in the pouring rain at my first Cyclocross event. I was there to photograph my friend Hank, an avid cyclist. I was also practicing taking photographs in inclement weather as my trip to Haines, Alaska is coming up in less than three weeks although my guess is it will be snow, not rain, that I’ll be dealing with there. And, it was a real challenge for me in the pouring rain and blowing wind so I wonder what challenges the Alaska weather will bring me.
I used my D800 and my 70-200mm lens. I brought my 24-70mm lens but left it in the car because I couldn’t see myself changing lenses in that weather. I wore my waterproof hiking boots, my rain pants over my jeans, a long sleeved pull over, a down vest, a fleece sweater, a hooded rain jacket, gloves, and a knit cap. That all kept me relatively warm and dry except that the hood kept blowing off so my knit cap and what hair stuck out got drenched. I encased the camera in a plastic rain sleeve and managed to keep the camera pretty dry. I talked to another photographer at the event who had a similar rain sleeve but he also had his speed light to get some fill flash. I wanted to use my speed light too because of the light conditions there but didn’t have a rain sleeve that would accommodate the speed light so I upped the ISO to 800 and used shutter priority with the shutter set at 1/125. The plastic rain sleeve kept getting in the way of the view finder and it was a bit awkward changing focal lengths with my gloves and the rain sleeve between me and the lens. Then there was the issue of panning. These cyclists weren’t going very fast over the sloppy mud and spongey grass but I couldn’t always get and maintain good focus on my subject. And, many of my shots didn’t show much, if any, parts of the bicycle because I was so close to the action and was zoomed in too much with the lens. Since it is probably important when photographing cyclocross to include at least part of the bicycle in the shots, I didn’t really need that long a lens.
It was such a fun event, though, that I’d like to try this again. Hank was supposed to be in two races but the weather was very uncooperative and he scratched the second race. I was glad he did because I needed to get home to cook dinner for company Sunday evening.
Here are a few of my favorite shots from Sunday morning. I changed them to black and white and edited then in On 1 Effects 10 using a black and white preset, “machinist normal” for a more gritty look. You can spot Hank with his fat tire bicycle in the photos at upper right, lower right, lower left, and 3rd from the bottom on lower right. The concentration that shows on the faces of the cyclists is an indication of the intensity of this event.
The Dorothy L is a rusty, tired looking shrimp boat that was moored at the Texas City Dike last spring when my friend Connie and I visited to photograph shore birds there. I kept coming back to this shot of the boat and edited it in On 1 Effects to give it an aged look that seems to compliment the subject. There are gulls in the air and brown pelicans and cormorants on the pilings. There is even a great blue heron standing on the right rear gunwale.
Sacramento has reinvented itself as the “Farm to Fork” capital of the United States and, perhaps, the world. Fresh local food is available in this region 365 days a year. No major city in America is more centrally located amid such a vast agricultural area of high-quality farms, ranches and vineyards. Our Mediterranean climate produces some of the nation’s most diverse and high-quality crops and those crops are featured on the menus of local restaurants, in our local supermarkets, and sold at Farmer’s Markets all year.
When my personal trainer, Noelle, brought me ten beautiful brown eggs, laid by the hens she raises, I knew I had to take some photos of them. When I looked on-line for ideas for egg photos, something I don’t usually do, I saw a photograph of an egg perched atop a pair of interlocking forks. I knew I had to try to duplicate that shot. It amused me to literally depict “farm to fork” in a photograph. And, it gave me a chance to practice flash settings and use my shoot through umbrella.
Wednesday, I had lunch with two of my cousins who drove over from the Bay Area to join me at the Rio City Café in Old Sacramento on the Sacramento River. The day was a gorgeous sunny day, although a bit nippy out on the patio overlooking the river, but we enjoyed a delightful lunch with lively conversation. From our table, I could see the landing where I did the “save the date” engagement shoot a couple of weeks ago and in the background, the Tower Bridge. I featured the Tower Bridge, lit up at night here. While I was waiting for Penny and Lynda to arrive, I took a couple of shots of the bridge from that landing. Then, just before our lunch was served, the tall ship Hawaiian Chieftain embarked with a load of passengers on a sight seeing excursion. Because the Hawaiian Chieftain is a tall ship, the Tower Bridge, which is a vertical lift bridge, lifted up to allow the Chieftain to pass beneath it. The first shot shows the bridge in its usual position to allow vehicle traffic into Sacramento from Yolo County and out again. Capitol Mall connects the Tower Bridge with the State Capitol Building, ten blocks east. In the second shot, the bridge is elevated with the Hawaiian Chieftain approaching. The third shot is the Hawaiian Chieftain just before it passed under the bridge.
A couple of weeks ago, when I did the “Save The Date” shoot on and around the Tower Bridge in Old Sacramento, Katie, my able assistant, directed the group to an alley behind The Firehouse Restaurant in Old Sacramento. The alley was lined with brick walls and one brick wall had an old barn door that made a great background. Heidi blew rose petals as Cody looked on adoringly and they kissed while Katie and my friend Cindy showered them with red petals. The red rose petals popped after I turned the photographs to black and white at Cindy’s suggestion. The second shot is a composite so I could get the best of the rose petals without obscuring their faces. These are two of my favorite images from the evening.