My ‘Creative Spirit’ is alive and well!

As promised, I’ve been trying new techniques and subjects this week, and I’ve been having a blast.  I haven’t forgotten my familiar subjects, however, and you’ll still see plenty of them.  Before we get to this week’s highlights, I’m very excited to announce that I am offering for sale 4.25″ x 5.5″ glossy note cards.  I printed a set of prototype cards and sold out immediately.  Take a look at the ‘Buy My Images’ page for prices.

Let’s start with my image for last week’s photo challenge – Shutter Zoom.  This technique uses a long shutter speed combined with changing the focal length (or zooming) the lens to create an interesting image.

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This is one of our apple trees. They are leafing early this year and provided a wonderful subject. The only editing I did was a little cropping and ‘vignetting’ (the light color in the colors).

The challenge for this week is a ‘re-do,’ to make another try at a previous challenge.  I didn’t have a plan for this challenge, waiting for the creative spirit to strike.  While shooting at Glen Alpine Falls yesterday (more on that later), I made an image that begged to be black and white.  Here’s my submission for this week’s challenge, a re-do of the black and white challenge.

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Glen Alpine Falls in black and white.

Since I already introduced yesterday’s shoot, here are additional images from Glen Alpine Falls.  The falls are usually much more dramatic this time of year, but the drought and resultant lack of snow pack have really impacted the falls.  They are still beautiful, but this is more typical of water flows in late summer or fall.  I worked on shooting in manual mode, selecting aperture, ISO, and shutter speed, and exploring how changing one impacts the other two.  I normally shoot in aperture priority, as depth of field is my primary concern for birds of prey.  My next go round with landscapes will include different filters.  So much fun to be had!

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Glen Alpine Falls.

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Glen Alpine Falls.

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These rocks are not part of the falls – they are downstream. They have their own water source and create a different kind of waterfall. I noticed the intricate shadows caused by the rock surface, which created a very pleasing pattern. The old and large tree on the left enhances the composition.

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Speaking of great trees growing in an unusual environment, on my way to Glen Alpine Falls I saw this tree growing at the top of a rock cut. The road was built about 60 years ago, and the solid rock slope has eroded away during that time. I am amazed that this tree is growing considering the lack of soil and water supply, and exposed root system. It grows, though, and has for years. Nature is truly wonderful!

The wild horse bands have been great this week, too.  Blue now has three babies, and Blondie has one.  Here are the little ones.

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This is the newest little one – Sydney – one of Blue’s babies.

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My special buddy, Little Jo. She put on quite a show for me the other day.

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And Little Jonah, Blondie’s daughter. She was feeling quiet when I saw her the other day.

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I found Hope having quite a fun time. She was bucking and jumping and roiling in this dirt patch. I kept thinking she found an anthill, but she kept going back and eventually lost interest.

And I found some owls.

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I’ve been trying to make a good image of these two for several months. I finally figured out the right combination of aperture, shutter, ISO, and shooting technique to get an image that I could edit. The light was not nearly this good when I made the image. And the bird on the right took off right after I made this image.

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I found this Horned Owl by accident. She had her head up at the right time. I’ve been back a couple more times, but she keeps her head down more often than not. There will be more of this one in the future.

 

I will close with a couple fun images.  The Manzanita is blooming in the Sierras, so I took this picture.  By chance this morning.  I saw this balloon in the sky over Gardnerville and pulled over in time to catch him descending and landing.  And so, my Creative Spirit is truly alive and well.  New subjects, a number of new shooting techniques, and an eye looking for different opportunities – expect lots of fun in the coming weeks!  Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

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Manzanita is beautiful year round, but these pink flowers make it more so.

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Gotta love a hot air balloon in the sky, with the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the background.

 

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Hi Ho Silver, Away!!!

For those of you who are counting, this is my 25th post (hence the ‘Silver’ reference)!  I’m very excited about my journey, as you saw in last week’s blog.  This week was especially fun, as I converted our breakfast table into a studio for several days and, for the first time, built a composition for my weekly photo challenge.  Before I get into that, however, I had a very exciting day yesterday.  For the first time in several days, I went out looking for nature pictures.  The raptors are scarce right now, with most of the birds who live in the Carson Valley sitting on their nests and only a few transients flying through.  So I drove into the Pine Nut Mountains to see if the wild horses were available for a few images and to see if I could get glass on the new filly in Blue’s band, Hope.

The day was overcast and the light was a challenge – gotta’ love a lighting challenge.  As I came into the Pine Nuts, I found a couple bachelor studs grazing (you can see one of them getting up from his siesta in the wild horses page).  They allowed a few pictures and I went on, finding Shorty’s band on a hillside.  They were close to the road and weren’t too worried about me, so I took my pictures from the Expedition.  As I topped a low rise, I saw two bands on the hillside in front of me.  Hmmmm — could I be that lucky?  I made my way towards them, parked at the bottom of the hill, and got ready to engage shank’s mare (taking a walk, for those of you not familiar with the term).  I made a few images, moved up the hill a bit, stopped and made a few more.  Then I realized that I was that lucky – one of the bands was Blue, and I could make out Hope.  I pressed on.  In his normal nonchalant fashion, Blue began moving his band farther up the hill, using Socks’ band as cover for their escape.  I stopped and made a few images of Socks’ band, but my sights were on Blue and I didn’t want them to get away.

I continued up the hill – Blue’s band disappeared over the ridge.  Fearful that I would miss my opportunity, I moved more quickly.  As I neared the top of the ridge, Blue and his band were to my left and close by.  I quickly set up the tripod and hit the shutter release.  I located Hope – click click.  I looked around and there’s another little one – smaller than Hope and a beautiful brown color, and not getting too far from Mama.  I adjusted position and made a few images.  My heart was racing – who was this new baby?  I wondered about the name, so I sent a quick email to those responsible for keeping track of the Pine Nut Horses, the Pine Nut Wild Horse Advocates.  (I love technology most of the time – this time it worked for me, so I loved it!)   The response was quick and extremely exciting for me!  They didn’t know that Blue had a second baby born this year, and I was the first to report in.  Because of that, I had the honor of naming her.  Oh yeah, she’s a filly!  When I wasn’t sure of the gender, I decided to use Joe for a boy and Jo for a girl.  She is officially ‘Little Jo’ until she outgrows her name, and she will become Jo.

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Little Jo and her Mama.

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Hope and some elder members of Blue’s band.

My weekly photo challenge was Board Game (Harmony/Unity).  The challenge uses a board game to illustrate the design concepts of harmony and unity by grouping, overlapping, and/or repetition.  I got into our game cabinet to see what we had and generate ideas.  For those of you who have known me for a while, you recognize that this level of creativity can often yield very questionable results.  I assure you, no one was hurt and nothing was destroyed in completing this challenge.

I decided to use two board games, Risk and Hunt for Red October.  When I pulled them out, I realized that we never actually got around to playing Hunt for Red October, but we had put the playing pieces together.  Both games have a worldwide conflict theme, so I thought they could work together.  My initial concept was to overlap the two game boards, then use a combination of playing pieces to create a grouping and repetition.

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First try. Okay – kind of fun. I used selective focus (in focus in the middle and blurry front and back). I didn’t like the background and the boards weren’t prominent in the image. On to concept two =>

In the second concept, I put the camera higher to see more of the boards, and raised one end of the HFRO board to create better background.  I also used a little off camera flash to inject drama by controlling the shadows.

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Flash from the camera angle: not bad, but not enough drama for me.

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Flash from the right: I liked the general effect of the shadows, but wasn’t pleased with the way many of the vertical playing pieces were shaded by other pieces; also, the boards were still not as prominent as I wanted them to be.

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Flash on the left: I really liked this image – the shadows made the drama for which I was looking and the boards were good, but I wasn’t happy with the almost reflective light from the vertical pieces.

I played with this concept a little more, trying to overcome the things I didn’t like.  I was limited by the type of flash and quickly became frustrated by my inability to control the light better.  Challenges to be met down the road!  So I created a more simple concept.

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Using only the Risk game, I created a series of concentric rings around the compass at the top of the game board. I used indirect natural sunlight for primary lighting, a hand held/fired flash for shadows, and a longer exposure to help with focus. I liked the overall effect and called the challenge complete.

The challenge for this week is Shutter Zoom – I can hardly wait to get started on that!  And I can’t make a post without a couple of Raptor images:

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One of the few Hawks I’ve seen on a fence post lately. He looks pretty serious.

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And this Hawk is working on its nest. The eggs must be in, because all we see is a head on the nest now. More to follow.

Well, that’s it for my 25th post.  I’m still excited to share my photographic journey with you, and I hope you are enjoying the ride!

PHOTOROGR

Shooting the West…and a little reflection…

I had the most wonderful experience this week – I attended ‘Shooting the West: The Nevada Photography Experience’ (www.shootingthewest.org).  Mere words can not adequately describe this event, and I don’t have the photographic skill to do it justice, either.  I attended a couple classes, met several people that I ‘knew’ through Facebook, made many new friends, and saw some amazing pictures.

My experience started Wednesday evening, with a class called ‘Winnemucca @ Night.’  Instructor Craig Moore led our group into the chilly Winnemucca evening and gave us great information and ideas for taking pictures in low light conditions.  Here are a few of my ‘experiments.’

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We started with ‘flash techniques’ for taking pictures of bright lights (such as casino lights) with a person in the foreground. Craig taught us a technique that allows the lights to shine but the person to be seen in the image. I have an image in mind – stay tuned. Then we played with long exposures, capturing lights from cars and nearby signage. I only took a few shots, but I enjoyed the technique. Visit my Shooting the West page and look at the image with the Winners Casino sign and the traffic signal – I got all the lights in the traffic signal.

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We stopped by a local night spot. The patrons were very accommodating and allowed us to take lots of pictures. I saw this great image in the mirror.

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Experimenting with long exposures again, we learned how to make ‘ghost images’ on the court house steps. Can you see the mere shadow of myself? This was very fun.

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The local Catholic Church has this beautiful display outside. I made several images using different settings. This was the best image out of the camera, but still took a little work to bring out the colors on the walls.

It took most of the night to warm up from the ‘chilly’ evening, but my camera and I were ready for the Composition class on Thursday.  M.D. Welch taught us the basic elements of composition, and then cut us loose to practice.  I traveled to Winnemucca often when I worked for the Nevada Department of Transportation, but I looked at the community with different eyes on this trip.  Here are a few of my images from Thursday.

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This is an image that I made for my weekly photo challenge – mirrored images. Winnemucca has these beautiful light poles, but they only have the light, flag, and Chief Winnemucca gusset on one side. I copied and flipped the original image to create this interpretation of their street lights.

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The Martin Hotel is one of the best Basque restaurants in which I’ve had a meal. We were near the end of the class when Michelle, one of my new friends, pointed out this beautiful reflection. Thanks Michelle for sharing. I have to start looking around more…

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I went back to my architectural roots with this building. This beautiful Art Deco style is home to Winnemucca’s Volunteer Fire Department. The blue tint to the picture was quite accidental, as I had the white balance on my camera set for the previous evening’s light. Sometimes those accidents work, but most of the time they don’t – at least for me. Take a look at the ‘not blue’ image on the Shooting the West page to appreciate the building in more natural light. I kind of like this one.

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As with many cities in the western U.S., the rail road is a big part of Winnemucca’s history. Amtrak still stops here, but the train station is more of a covered waiting area than a traditional train station. In my mind, the architect successfully integrated traditional elements of railroad stations into the design. In this image, two diesel engines on a siding are seen from inside the station. On the left, the sign identifies this stop as Winnemucca.

And then came two days of presentations by world class photographers, with subjects that included the California Missions, aerial photography, landscapes, time lapse, and trail camera photography.  Using images submitted by attendees, one presenter showed how to use Photoshop to edit and repair images.  As part of STW, participants can enter a picture in a competition titled ‘Give It Your Best Shot.’  The presenters and participants choose their favorite pictures and the images were breathtaking.  No matter your interest, experience, or skill in photography, Shooting the West is a ‘must do’ for anyone with an interest in photography.  I encourage you to go to http://www.shootingthewest.org to experience this great event for yourself, and consider attending next year, April 25 to May 1, 2016.

Oh yeah, during my R&R time, I bumped into a Hawk on a snowy morning.  I just can’t make a post without including a Raptor picture or two.

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Yes, it was a cold morning and, amazingly, we had snow on the ground and in the trees.

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Same Hawk, different tree. I’m not sure if he was making sure I saw the liftoff or if that was his way of telling me to leave him alone.

 

As you can see, I was blown away by my STW experience.  On the 3 hour drive home, I reflected on the things I’d seen, the information I received, the people I met and talked to.  I found myself thinking about the possibilities and direction I want to take my photography.  I haven’t yet decided what direction I will take as I continue this journey.  I guarantee that you will continue to see images from the Carson Valley and surrounding area – the raptors, wild horses, and beautiful scenery.  But you will also see me try new techniques and new subjects.  I have an image in my mind outside a local casino, and I have a starting point to begin the exploration of that image.

Hang on, because this ride is only going to get more interesting from here.  Enjoy – PHOTOROGR