Thursday, April 29, 2010

It Bloomed!

I am not much of a gardener so I have no idea why this rose bush finally bloomed after being planted 10 years ago.  When Mike's mother passed away, he and his brothers dug some rose bushes from her garden in Ohio.  At the time we didn't really have a place to plant ours in the ground so I potted it.  After several years of not blooming, Mike decided to make a place for it in a flower bed.  While it seemed to grow well, only once did it produce a single bloom and then never did again.   It never had pests, was getting adequate sunlight, fertilizer, etc.   Maybe I pruned it back at the wrong time of the year, usually late winter when I thought it was dormant, and this year I never got around to it.  His brothers' roses have been blooming all along, one is near Austin so it isn't really a climate issue. I thought it was one of those "antique" or "old roses" that pretty much survived on their own. I was so surprised to see about 20 blooms on it this year! 

Monday, April 26, 2010


Maggie May will be 11 years old soon, and her hip sockets are pretty much gone.  I had not been to our lakehouse for 2 years and one of the reasons is because it sits high on a ridge with many stone steps down to the water and then when the lake level is so low as it has been from the drought, the rock ledges are another obstacle course for her to negotiate. Buchanan is the top lake in the chain of lakes near Austin and while the other lakes have been overflowing from the Spring rains, Buchanan only fills when the rain falls in the watershed out near Abilene and San Angelo.   But Maggie lives for fetching sticks from the lake so I had to throw a few for her.  The night we arrived was unusual in that there was no breeze so the water was as still as glass and while taking some shots of her, I wondered if I could get some low key images.  I am not sure if a true low key shot must have flash that illuminates the subject since I think the term originated with studio images, but I like how the setting sun edges the water ripples.  Maggie has such a strong will and along with the strength in her front legs, she does not give up as long as the sticks are thrown but I am afraid it will not be long before we have to make a decision about surgery. 

 First we have to go down the wooden deck stairs, then the steep rock steps.  I have been glad of that handrail more than one time when going back up.

Then these are the rock ledges which are normally under water. Even the ledge to the left of where Maggie is standing (I had forgotten how much she blends into those rocks!) should be under water.  The lake still needs to rise at least 10 feet.  I do like having the rock to sit on and to swim in and out of rather than muddy and weedy water.  But several years ago our dock did not survive the winds and pounding waves they get during the winter so we no longer have any way to tie up the boat or Skidoo.

We can walk along the ledges to the point several lots over from us, and it has a much more gradual slope of rock ledges for Maggie to swim from but it is not our property.

And here you can see another reason I have not been back to the lake for 2 years --- the boat traffic is horrendous.  Well, not exactly, and not even during the summer months ... but believe it or not, that solitude can get old after several days!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Green Door

Nikon D700, 28-70mm 2.8 lens at f4.8, 1/180th, 
ISO 400, -.5 exposure compensation

Shot recently in Bertram, Texas.  I have just realized how many towns I go through in the hill country that start with the letter B --- Brenham, Burton, Bertram, Burnet...try saying that quickly 3 times in a row. The front of this building has stenciling that identifies it as once having been a mohair factory but now has an architect's sign and information which ruined the shot for me.  This door is at the back and had soft light falling on it from an overcast day.

update: Here is a shot from an angle to the back of the building.  You can see a dirt drive that runs along the back, and I stood in the side yard of a house to take the straight on shot.  This shot was taken the day before, on a sunny day, and the quality of light is definitely different.


Saturday, April 24, 2010


Nikon D700, 60mm macro lens at f5.6, 1/6000th, ISO 800, -.5 exposure compensation

This purple thistle was much bigger than the cream thistles I have seen around the Friendswood area.  A camera just cannot show how bulbous and textured and SHARP these plants are, but I did my best.  The top image is a composite of 2 images for more depth of field.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Room With a View

We found this old house in Burton Texas, near Brenham, while looking for wildflowers recently.  The view from here was very nice and this little house is literally just one room.  It makes me wonder who lived here, how long ago, and what will happen to it now that a new entrance is going in to the left of this house and it looks like another home will be built nearby.  It would make a nice guest house...or child's play house...or photographer's studio.  It just needs a little remodel.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Long Exposures for Minimalism

 Nikon D700, 28 - 70mm lens at f22, 18 seconds at ISO 200 with 3 ND filters (#s 152, 153, and 154 for a total of 6 stops)

D700, 28 - 70 mm lens at f22 and 30 seconds, ISO 200, 3 ND filters

I have tried long exposures of water before but never got the smoothness I wanted so I finally got around to ordering some Cokin ND filters, not the graduated ones but the solid. Then I went back near sunset to an area in San Leon that has remnants of piers and tried again.  I could not get down to the water level like I wanted because there were huge chunks of rock covering the slope to stop erosion and they were too jagged to walk on, especially while carrying a camera and tripod.  I put the camera on Manual exposure, the shutter on bulb, set my aperture to f22 which was the smallest that lens would stop down to and began to expose some images starting at about 20 seconds up until over 1 minute while holding the 3 stacked filters in front of the lens.  I triggered the camera with a remote to prevent camera shake and even used Mirror Lock Up but I held the filters against the front of the lens and found out (after I got home and looked more closely at the images) that caused the piers to be less than sharpI always pressed the filters to the lens before triggering the shutter and I held them against the camera because I thought I was getting light leaking around the edge of the front of the lens from the space between it and the filters but now I know that is not a good technique...So I have ordered the holder and will try again. 
It is hard to believe that at one point there were probably 50 pelicans flying into this scene, landing, diving, flying by --- it looked like a pelican party but due to the long exposure they do not show up.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Down to Bare Bones

This was my other submission for our Less is More assignment.  Again, I was trying to get down to the basic element of my subject...but according to the judges that night this image has too much detail to be Minimalism.  I disagree.  My searches online showed pretty detailed paintings of graphic lines with color too, so even though the skull has detail I still think this is a minimalistic shot.  I tried several versions, using 2 flashes at one time and I ended up using only one SB800 in a softbox on the upper right because I liked the shadow giving the skull form.  At first I had the skull sitting directly on the background and played with hard shadows that I really liked but ended up lifting the skull up by balancing it on two clear glasses that could not be seen from above which let some light go through to the far sideThe skull is on white posterboard but I added a texture at low opacity in Photoshop.
Below are two more versions I tried with shadows.     

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chelsea's Eye

This was one of my submissions for our Less is More assignment.  I struggled with what is Minimalism in a photograph and decided to try to get down to the basic elements of a subject.  When thinking about a portrait of a person, I thought an eye would be just about the most basic part of a human being and so during a recent model shoot in Galveston I asked one of the girls to let me shoot this image.  Although I did get a Gold award for it, one of the critiques was the hair in the lower left corner drew the viewer's eye away from the main subject of the model's eye.  I knew it was doing that, but when I tried to crop out her hair, her arm looked HUGE.  So, I darkened it, thinking it would balance the image better --- wrong, the hair needed to be lightened. Also, the judge thought maybe it could be blurred. Below is that version, and maybe it needs even more blurring and lightening, but I think it is an improvement.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Drive By Shooting

Since it would be suicide to stop along this road to our lakehouse with no shoulder, with curves, and with a 55 mph speed limit I decided to shoot the slopes of wildflowers from the car window.  I put my ISO at L 1.0 (on the D700 that makes it 100),  stopped my aperture down to f32 which got my shutter speed down to 1/10th and 1/8th of a second and shot whenever a large patch of flowers went by.  It is addicting! I was surprised the Bluebonnets do not show up as well as the Indian Paintbrush (the orange blurs) and the pink and yellow flowers. I processed these in ACR by adding a little exposure if needed and increasing the blacks, vibrance and saturation slightly, then added a curves layer in normal mode in PS.  
I am wondering if these images would work for the Less is More assignment, or as examples of Minimalism since color is the only element in them.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Little Slice of Heaven

While shooting the stone house in Marble Falls, I turned around and saw the clouds building behind me with Godbeams shining down on a ridge, and some beams were pointing right to a group of separated trees.  I don't think I did this shot justice as I keep getting artifacts along the ridge of the horizon. After trying to burn in the sky in Overlay mode I tried HDR versions and combined one shot exposed twice in ACR, once for the sky and once for the ground...but I don't really know how to combine those correctly, where they meet at the horizon.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It's Kind of Famous

This stone house is in Marble Falls and probably thousands of people every year come to shoot it and to have portraits taken in the field in front of it (outside the barbed wire).  I have seen it on calendars and notecards.  I have a cousin who lives in Indiana and is a photographer and she came down one spring and shot it.   This year the Bluebonnets are not nearly as plentiful as they have been in the past, which was surprising to me since the area has had so much rain.  Rain must not be the only factor that affects the flowers, or maybe they just were not at peak yet last week.  But the road that leads to our lakehouse is covered in Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, yellow flowers, and even pink and lavender ones, so the conditions were great a few miles away. However, it is a two lane road with no shoulders so not safe to stop and photograph.  Every year the Marble Falls house gets a little more decrepit and I hope that soon it is saved before it is too far gone. It would make a great bed and breakfast or restaurant.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Weird Wildflowers

The bulb-shaped flowers (posted on March 24th) have bloomed --- into this!  I cannot find the name of this wildflower anywhere in my searches online.  It grows near the woods along Clear Creek in my subdivision but I also saw the same bulbs, but not blooming yet, in the Marble Falls area this past week.  Never noticed them before.  Kind of a bad-hair-day flower, isn't it? The middle image is a composite of 5 separate shots for more depth of field.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Chelsea by Mike

Today's posts were shot by Mike with the D200 and the 70 - 200mm lens.  While I love Chelsea's smile and upper body, her left leg looks awkward to me.  There are so many elements to consider when shooting portraiture and posing is something we are both still learning.  However, the next pose works so much better, don't you think?

She looks much more comfortable in the second position and I think it flatters her body more too.