Sherwood Forest Faire – A Day with the Faeries

Well, we finally made it to the Sherwood Forest Faire.  One wouldn’t think it would be that great of a feat being that it’s only about a three hour drive for me.  But alas,  my children often dictate my schedule more often than I would like.

I have been wanting/trying to get down to this renaissance festival for the last three years and i’m so glad we were finally able to make it.  I’m sure by now you have figured out that my love for renaissance festivals is almost as strong as my love for New Orleans and I assume that comes from the never ending supply of interesting people.  This faire was no exception.  It very much reminded me of Scarborough Faire twenty years ago.

Amongst the normal Renaissance Lords and ladies, shopkeepers and craft makers, Sherwood Forest is home to all things fairy tale and is inhabited by many such creatures.  On the day we visited we encountered many fae who made the whole experience so much fun for my son.  The two pictured below, Luna Nightwing and Akward MyStump presented glowing and sparkling treasures for Brady to take home and treasure forever. Or until he loses them.

Luna Nightwing & Akward MyStump at Sherwood Forest Faire

Luna Nightwing & Akward MyStump at Sherwood Forest Faire

Equipment: Nikon D700Nikon 70-300
Post Processing: LightroomNik Color Efex ProPhotoshop
Shot Info: 1/250 sec at f 5.6, ISO 560 

This little teaser of twelfth century life has left looking forward to another season of Scarborough Faire.

Posted in A Page In My Life, Event, McDade, Performing Arts, Photography, Renaissance Festival, Texas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Rainy New Orleans

After my grandfathers memorial my wife and I decided to head to New Orleans and share some culture with our children.  Maybe too much culture for the thirteen year old in the course of a day.  But none the less, one can’t become worldly if they don’t get out in the world.

My grandfather often talked of his adventures in New Orleans and as you probably know by now it is one of my favorite places to visit.  He and I only made one trip there together, but he spoke of the places he would hang out at.  We ended up taking the kids to Preservation Hall, Cafe Du Monde and Jackson Square and let them enjoy themselves while listening to street musicians, eating some great food and watching some of the local performing artists.

We managed to stay mostly dry as scattered thunderstorms continually passed over providing us the benefit of lowered temperature and lower humidity.  The cloud coverage and wet ground also provided some nice light for photographing the city as well as reflections.

A Rainy New Orleans

A Rainy New Orleans

Equipment: Nikon D700Nikon 24-70
Post Processing: ApertureNik Color Efex ProPhotoshop
Shot Info: 1/125 sec at f 2.8, ISO 360 

This door and fire hydrant were just begging me to a photo while we sat and waited for the naked bike parade.  Remember my comment about too worldly?  Yea, there aren’t too many places I know of that can get away with having a naked bike parade in the middle of the city during the middle of the day.  But that is just one of those things that makes New Orleans such a fun little city.

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Belay On

While camping with the kids this last weekend I took advantage of being at one of the closest rock climbing areas to the Dallas / Fort Worth area and made sure to bring my camera.  Being a rather mild winter where we are already seeing temperatures in the mid 60s and low 70s,  I was surprised the crag wasn’t just packed with people.  Probably a good thing it wasn’t as Brady was trying to be a bit more helpful than he needed to be.

My favorite image from the first set was of this guy belaying his partner.  I just loved his whole look in this environment.  As soon as he glanced over at me I grabbed this image.  And capturing him at an angle that  you can see the climber in the reflection of his glasses was just icing.

Belay On

Belay On

Equipment: Nikon D700Nikon 70-300
Post Processing: LightroomNik Color Efex ProPhotoshop
Shot Info: 1/80 sec at f 5.6, ISO 200 

I can’t wait to go back to the park, maybe in the spring and try and get some shots from above.  My gear is hidden away somewhere.  It would be nice to take it out, dust it off and put it to use again.

Posted in Mineral Wells, Outdoor, Photography, Portrait, Sports, Texas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Stars at Night – Are Big and Bright

For weeks now my oldest daughter has been bugging me to go camping.  And every morning on our way to school I would say to her, “Don’t you think it’s a bit cold to sleep in this weather?”.  She claimed it wasn’t so and we set a tentative date, pending weather, to do a quick over night trip.

Now I have to be honest, the thought of getting back in a bag for a night was quite exciting for me as well.  As you may know, I was raised in the PNW and many of my fondest memories include camping, backpacking or some other form of outdoor activity.   And I had been recently complaining that many of the outdoor activities I enjoyed doing had become a thing of the past since Brady was born.

Secondly this trip was going to allow me to try my hand at some star photography.  Recently, someone posted a link on Google Plus for Dave Morrow who not only has a fabulous collection of work but also shares his methods for capturing and post processing star photography.  I picked up his training collection and I was eager to come up with a location far enough away from the city lights to try and capture more than the 5 stars I see from my backyard.

I finally came to the decision to take the kids to Lake Mineral Wells State Park and by complete chance the weekend we chose to go happened to be one in which the moon rise wasn’t going to occur until after midnight.  This provided me with about a 3 hour window for shooting.  However due to’s mis-forcast of the overnight low I was rustling children into sleeping bags long before that window expired.  But my kids did manage to allow me to grab a handful of shots before the evening chill was too much for them.  None of which I loved, but they did provide me something to work with.

Texas Stars

Texas Stars

Equipment: Nikon D700Nikon 24-70
Post Processing: LightroomNik Color Efex Pro, Nik DefinePhotoshop
Shot Info: 20 sec at f 2.8, ISO 2000 

This shot was taken maybe 15 feet from our campsite.  I was amazed at just how much information my camera picked up.  The warm glow on the trees to the left was the illumination from our fire.  The white illumination on the branch in the center is from a Coleman LED lantern that was in our tent.  The streak in the sky was a passing satellite.

Posted in A Page In My Life, Landscape, Mineral Wells, Night, Nik Color Efex Pro, Outdoor, Photography, Texas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nik Software + OneOne Software = One Suite Life

If you haven’t heard the news yet, OnOne Software has an absolutely fantastic deal going on right now.  If you own one of Nik’s powerful Plug-in applications, you can pick up a copy of Perfect Photo Suite 7 for 50% off.  This is an absolutely fantastic deal since these two programs compliment each other like a good wine and cheese.

Let me give you a quick example of how I use the two programs together.  I will often use Nik’s HDR Efex Pro to merge my brackets.  Then I will take that image and  see what it looks like after taking it through Color Efex Pro applying some selective Tonal Contrast to punch up the grunge and details.  Then I’ll use Perfect Photo Suite to add a texture or tone.  In this image I did both.

Texas UFO

A UFO in Texas

Equipment: Nikon D700Nikon 24-70
Post Processing: Lightroom, Nik HDR Efex ProNik Color Efex Pro, Perfect Photo Suite 7Photoshop

This is an image that I took while on a recent road trip with my family.  We were driving east of the DFW metroplex and this object was just sitting on the side of the road.  There was no way I wasn’t going to stop and grab a picture of it.  7 of them actually.  I processed my brackets with HDR Efex Pro.  Then I used Perfect Photo Suite 7 and threw Yellowed Paper Dark and Sunglow on it.  Finally I took that image into Photoshop and placed a mask on the OnOne layers and selectively toned them down.

So if you are currently using Nik for your post processing and don’t yet own the current version of OnOne’s Perfect Photo Suite now is an ideal time to upgrade.  The OnOne Suite has 7 different programs each offering you creative options for different types of photography.  They compliment each other well and each offer strengths for post processing.

OnOne Perfect Photo Suite 7

OnOne Perfect Photo Suite 7

Posted in HDR Efex Pro, Landscape, Nik Color Efex Pro, OnOne Perfect Photo Suite, Outdoor, Photography, Texas, Travel, Urbex | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

When Light Doesn’t Draw Your Eye

A couple of weeks ago Brady and I went out for a father son day.  We had no predetermined location in mind or activities planned.  I just wanted to try and give my wife a break from his normal everyday 3 year old behavior and give him a day of my time without the competition of his sisters.  The only restriction put on me by my wife was not to have too much fun or do something that she would be missing out on.

Since Brady’s current interests include Planes, Trains and Firetrucks (you thought I was going to say something else there didn’t you?), we headed to downtown Fort Worth for a day of spontaneous adventure with our first stop being Fire Station #2.  Our tour wasn’t overly exciting and rather short.  I think I had a better time chatting up some old Fort Worth history and discussing Niles City than Brady did playing on the trucks.

Our adventure continued with a short trip to the park followed by a quick drive over to the Fort Worth Stockyards.  This is a place I never get tired of shooting and it usually provides enough entertainment and visual stimulation to keep even the children entertained.

Fort Worth Cowboy

Fort Worth Cowboy

Equipment: Nikon D700Nikon 70-300mm
Post Processing: LightroomNik Silver Efex Pro, Nik Color Efex Pro,  Photoshop

While Brady and I were making our way back through Stockyard Station I spotted this Cowboy and couldn’t resist making this image.  While I was working with it in post I realized that my eye was drawn immediately towards the jacket and hat.  I found this fascinating because normally ones eye is first drawn to the brightest portion of an image followed closely by that of flesh tones.  I can only assume that since the majority of this image is light in nature that the stark contrast of the black jacket pulls the eye.

Posted in B&W, Fort Worth, Photography, Stockyards, Street, Texas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drive By Shooting

The shots I don’t get occur all the time. Most of the time it’s due to circumstances beyond my control. But to be fair there are a good many that I miss because I don’t have my camera with me. Or because I wasn’t prepared enough to take the shot as it unfolded in front of me. And I’ll even go as far as to blame my children for not letting me get the shot. Though the truth of the matter is I will always be willing to not get a picture and provide for my family.

North Texas doesn’t get a whole lot of fog. And it seems when we do it burns off rather quickly. So when our weather mimics the likes of Seattle with low laying clouds, a light misty rain and patchy fog I can just about kick myself when my job prevents me from spending the day running around with a camera.

Hiding Ft. Worth

Hiding Ft. Worth

Equipment: iPhone
Post Processing: Snapseed

On this beautiful day my curse was just that. I was plucking away at my day job missing out on beautiful scenes like the one above.  Fortunately for me I had to travel from one office building to the other mid afternoon and spotted this building being engulfed in the sky.  Now i’m sure shooting out the car window while cruising along at 60 mph in traffic is about as safe as texting.  But this scene was just too good to pass up and I didn’t have the time to pull over.

I love the shot I got and only wish I would have had the time to work it.  The images I am able to get out of my phone these days just amazes me.  It also makes me realize that using the excuse that I don’t have my camera just doesn’t fly.  Additionally I did all the post processing on this image on the phone using Nik Software’s Snapseed.  This is a must have photo editing app for anyone on a mobile device and as of this writing it is a free application for both iOS and Android.

Posted in Fort Worth, iPhoneography, Landscape, Photography, Texas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finding Photographic Inspiration

The continual search for inspiration.  It occurs in each of us constantly.  Sometimes we are aware that we are in need of it, but most the time we are just absorbing it without any conscience decision of doing so.  And occasionally we are receptive enough to realize that when it is pointed out to you and you have the means of absorbing it your should do just that.

I believe it was back in December, while perusing Google Plus, I came across some street photography by Frank Doorhof.  Posted somewhere amongst the comments of the pictures Frank made mention of Jay Maisel being a source of inspiration for him in street photography.  I had seen Jay’s name before and knew that he had classes on Kelby training so over my winter break I spent some time watching his courses.  I use the term watching here very loosely.  In fact I was completely engrossed in what he was doing and saying.

Time and time again we hear photographers tell you the key to becoming a better photographer is to practice.  Spend less on gear and more on the art.  And we all know this to be true.  But when these words of wisdom come from those who are sporting the best gear it makes it a bit hard to imagine that having better gear wouldn’t benefit the art.  So while watching “A Day with Jay Maisel” and seeing him utilizing a 70 – 300 variable aperture lens.  In fact the very same lens I use.  I was completely willing to put forth a level of trust that I could really obtain some good information from this class.

Next to gear I would have to say one of the most talked about subject matters in photography is light.  Good light.  Bad light.  Light modifiers.  How to make bad light good.  It goes on and on.  And yes, the best light may be in the morning and evening, unless it is overcast, but then it becomes flat light, unless you are on a sidewalk or near a light colored building that is reflecting light…  I could go on and on about this.  The truth of the matter is that really the only people who notice the light in an image are other artists.  I’m not saying that everyone else doesn’t notice the difference between an image with nice lighting vs one that isn’t.  But most people are taken in by the image subject.  And a badly lit image is better than no image.

Jay speaks about this also in his video and basically just says who cares, just go shoot.  I have tried to re-incorporate this motto back into my life.  I still look for the good light, but I am not going to stop taking shots now because of it.  Let’s face it, even if the light is horrible you can still learn from every shot you take.  Composition, focal length, exposure, etc.

Street Photography

Street Photography

Equipment: Nikon D700Nikon 70-300mm
Post Processing: Lightroom, OnOne Perfect Photo SuitePhotoshop

In Short Jay and Frank provided me with a huge sense of inspiration  One that I can go out and work with immediately without having to purchase a thing.  They re-affirmed that photographic art subjects are all around us.  We simply need to open our eyes to them.  Street photography is a never ending opportunity to create some great captures and I look forward to experimenting with more of this genre this year.

If you know of other inspiration speakers, teachers and sources please list them in the comments for others.

Posted in Inspirational, Outdoor, Photography, Street | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Carnage

It’s a few days after New Years and the holiday season is winding down. Lights and lawn decorations are slowly disappearing from the neighborhood, while totes and storage containers are getting filled with seasonal dishes, towels, garland, and lights. Everything is slowly being prepared for the long hibernation of attic living.

This year my Honey-Do responsibilities include the privilege of being a triage nurse and surgeon to the onslaught of tree decorations. Oh yes, this Christmas season my son, who is now three, had his way with a multitude of ornaments leaving them in various assortments of mutilation and disarray. Who can really blame him. In fact, the problem stems from us buying ornaments that resemble his room decor.

The most punished of the season was the 100 Acre Express. I believe initially the smoke stack was knocked off followed by the disengagement of the wheels, though they remained connected for a few days with the assistance of the now missing grill. Pooh lost his hat one evening at Hobby Lobby while we were in search of photo props for our Holiday shoot. I can’t remember at what point Piglet lost his head, but I do recall my wife texting to tell me of the tragedy.

Christmas Carnage

Christmas Carnage

Equipment: Nikon D700, Nikon 50mm
Post Processing: Lightroom, Nik Color Efex Pro, Photoshop

I am hoping that model glue will work in my attempts to restore life to these so we can continue to hang them next year. Though the year after that, my suggestion will be to put only boring non-breakables on as our daughter will be at this same playful and intrigued stage of her life.

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Gift Ideas for Photographers – 2012

I know it’s getting a little close to crunch time for gift giving ideas, but my daughter asked me today what I wanted for Christmas and all I could think in my head was “Please don’t buy me something useless that will just sit on a shelf”.  I know that might seem a bit harsh, but with the addition of our third child this year, space is becoming something of a commodity around here.  So as I was trying to come up with ideas  that could fit into her budget I decided I would post a list here for others who might also be in a similar situation.

Of course everyone’s budget is different, but my goal here was to try and pick things that are in a child’s price range.  Both those who should already have left the nest all the way down to those who still need mom and dad’s help with the buying, wrapping, and even filling out the card.  Of course most of these items can be obtained in different sizes and configurations, but maybe this will help those of you who are just stumped for ideas.

  1. The Nifty Fifty (Nikon Canon– Hovering right at the $100 price range this is one of the best pieces of glass you can buy for the price.  It is fast, sharp, quick on the focus and can make butter out of your backgrounds.  On a crop sensor camera this is a nice portrait lens.
  2. Gorilla Pod Focus – This is just one of those devices that I have been wanting for years but haven’t managed to buy for myself yet.  This model comes in at $80 and would make a nice addition to the camera bag of those who use a heavy DSLR.  Other than allowing you to mount your camera to all sorts of places I have been told that you can get away with using it in situations where traditional tripods aren’t allowed.   The smaller versions are also great for allowing you to mount flashes on trees, poles, and other irregular places.  Just make sure you get the right one to support the weight of the device you plan on using it with.
  3. Digital Picture Frame – Yes, there are still those out there who don’t own one of these yet.  The one I linked to runs $70, but I have seen them across the gamut from Black Friday Cheap to over the top expensive.  I have one that sits on my desk at work and manages to distract me for too often from what I should be doing.
  4. Digital Card Readers – The never ending advances in technology keep us in check by forcing us to always upgrade our peripherals as well.  New cameras and larger memory cards keep getting cheeper and cheeper.  Unfortunately this little beauty weighs in at $50 but that just may be worth it in order to continue to be efficient with all that data we need to ingest it into our computers.  The Hoodman card reader supports USB3 and UDMA that allows up to 5 Gbps data transfers of CompactFlash or SD cards.
  5. Memory Cards (SD / CF) – I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use more or larger memory cards.  I’m still rolling old school with my largest cards being 8GB.  But you know what they say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.  That sure doesn’t mean that if I were gifted some 16 or 32 GB ones they wouldn’t immediately be welcomed into my camera.  I personally use the San Disk models and have never had a problem with them.  Of course these guys vary in price based on size and speed the 16GB versions linked run about $20 and $40 respectively.
  6. Sand Bags – This one made the list because of a small accident that occurred in my home studio not too long back.  Having small children will always lead to the destruction of stuff, so why not take some precautions that might prevent those that could possibly be expensive?  My son accidentally knocked over one of my strobes and bent the metal reflector.  Thankfully both my son and strobe were fine, but I now have sand bags on my gear for both of their safety.  The price of sand bags varies greatly depending on where you buy them, quality and the amount of weight they will support.  The one linked is a good bag for most uses at about $20.  These are also great gift ideas for those who like to work outdoors and fight windy conditions.
  7. Sticky Grams – These are just cool.  With Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram everyone is publishing their works of art and creativity to the social media circles.  But getting these square little gems printed is where the treasure really lies.  Art just looks better once it takes a tangible form.  You can get 9 of your images printed as magnets for $15 and then start placing them all over the place.  I was very impressed with the sets that I received from them.
  8. The Lens Pen – This is one of the best little accessories I carry in my bag.  For right at $15 this little guy has been a lifesaver.  I’m not exactly sure how the magnetic forces between my 3 year olds fingers and the end of my lens became so strong, but I can say with certainty that being able to use this little beauty in a pitch black theater saved shots.  I use it constantly to keep my dust and smudges off my glass.
  9. iTunes Gift Cards – Now how can you go wrong with this one?  Music, apps, movies, they have it all.  There are a plethora of photography apps available for all of Apple’s little iDevices.  Camera apps, editing apps, training apps, and apps that just let you enjoy viewing beautiful images.  Honestly you just can’t go wrong gifting most people an iTunes Gift Card.
  10. Training – Photography is a never ending journey of knowledge.  I love all aspects of photography and thrive to know as much about all of it that I can.  I may never incorporate it into what I shoot, but at least having some of that knowledge tucked away may some day help.  There are endless possibilities for training.  Lynda and Kelby both offer great video tutorials from a vast collection of great artists.  Craft & Vision offers ebooks I believe starting at $5 each.  I have purchased a dozen or so of these and they are a great for both learning and inspiring.

I hope this short list of ideas is able to help those of you who might be in need some gift ideas for the photographer in your life.  If you have any questions concerning this list or any other ideas hit me up and I will try and assist in any way possible.

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