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!


Glen Alpine Falls.


Glen Alpine Falls.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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.


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.


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


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


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


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!


…in control for now…or am I???

For most of my life, no one has successfully accused me of being in control.  The whole concept of ‘in control’ is akin to other concepts, like growing up or being nice.  Yes, avoiding these labels is a source of great pride for me.  Thanks to all those out there who are vigorously nodding in the affirmative, and who would testify in support if needed.  Now that I’ve taken my bow, it’s time to get serious.

I brought the fire hose under control, but it’s still flowing fast.  I’m still in overdrive, but I’m learning to apply the brakes and control the skids more effectively.  I’m watching more tutorials for Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Bridge.  These are great software packages for managing and editing pictures.  My fear of the Camera Raw format is decreasing, and my memory cards will likely take a big hit as a result.  (I’ve already gone from filling up an 8GB SD card in 4-5 months to consuming a 16GB SD card in 2 months and, in January, I filled one-third of a 32GB SD card.  Now, before you get all impressed, please understand that it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality.  At this point in my development as a photographer, however, I need to experiment and learn the things that work and those that don’t.  As my knowledge improves, so will my memory management efficiency.  Note – my memory will not improve, but I will use the memory cards in my cameras more efficiently.  I had to say that to preclude the rude comments from many of my friends.)

Back to being serious.  As I explore these software packages, I’m trying new and fun editing techniques.  I have to be careful, though.  The teacher/moderator of my 52 Week Photography Challenge keeps reminding us that “just because you can do something doesn’t mean you have to.”  Having the ability to make an adjustment is vastly different that making that adjustment well.  Like photography techniques, editing requires a measure of experimentation as well.  And control.  As uncomfortable as I am being in control, I have to do it.  A little.

So, here’s a couple fun things I did this week.  The eagles have been hiding from everyone.  I found a few hawks and some wild horses.  New images, however, are not numerous, so I’ve had lots of time at the computer.  In addition to trying new editing techniques, I’ve also continued my experimentation with replacing backgrounds, specifically skies.


I made this image on a cloudy day last September. His belly is horribly underexposed and the sky can’t get any more blah.

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So, I turned it into this. I improved the color and detail in the bird and put him into a pretty sky. Yes, it’s a Nevada sky. I also used a ‘healing’ tool to clean up a spot in the bird’s wing. Photoshop is so cool!


I found this eagle a year ago, on a really cold and snowy day. He posed for me for quite a while. In fact, I was taking Susan to work and we blocked traffic for a short time.

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I did a little editing and inserted a pretty Nevada sky. In my mind, this image asks if I went too far with my editing? I’d love to hear your opinion.

And one last set of before and after pictures.  I tried some new camera settings when I was out in the Pinenut Mountains with the horses.  As you can see, the new settings did not work (insert Thomas Edison wisdom here).  Using new editing techniques, I was able to rescue the image.  I’ll be really happy when I can remember what I did and rescue the image again.


This is the original image. When I rolled up, I saw these two. The rest of the band was screened from view by the tree on the left.


I edited and cropped. I was happy with everything but the color of the horses. Hmmmm…what to do???


Those tutorials paid off. I tried a new color editing technique and voila, a really nice image from a very bad original. I was very happy with myself.

Well, that’s what I’ve been doing with my week.  You decide if I’m in control or not.  Let’s leave the growing up and being nice questions alone.  Thanks for reading and following my blog!