27 November 2010

Not Quite Winter's Bone

Penstemon, Kelly, NM, Nov. 2010
We awoke to snow up here in the mountains of New Mexico on Thanksgiving morning, and while it's not unheard of, it was still a bit of a surprise. The (relatively) bitter cold kept me mostly inside the past few days, but today was sunny and calm and my whole self yearned for a hike. Ten minutes later, I was up at the Kelly Mine area which, getting full southern exposure, seems to be very hikable on a mild winter day. A bit of snow left in the shadows made for some nice contrast, without which I might not have even noticed this delicate, soon-to-be-dust Penstemon along the trail past Juanita Mine #2. I'm hoping for a mild winter so that I can keep hiking, especially since I have finally found boots that fit properly. And an early spring... well, I can always hope.

20 November 2010

Still. Life.

Mom's heart in my window, Nov. 2010

Yesterday, I felt the urge to photograph something but have felt my photo mojo waver recently, so I stayed close to home and spent some time studying the still life. The photo above is of a glass and copper ornament I gave my mom several years ago; when she passed away this summer, I brought back some treasures from her and my dad's house in Philly, and this one is now in my "office/studio" (really the dining room).

Why the low mojo? I've had some discouraging photography outings recently and am trying to regroup rather than just throw in the towel. Of course, it's something I love to do -- feel compelled to do, really -- but I don't take discouragement very well. The first disappointment, a photo trip last week to the Bosque del Apache, was really about me not understanding the limits of my 75-200mm zoom lens at sunset with flying subjects -- it is hardly a fast lens at f4.5/5.6, but it was all I could afford, and I haven't figured out yet how far I can push it. I would have used a tripod but, um, it was stolen out of my car (along with my Metallica S&M CD set) during the interminable 5-week repair after my accident in October. So, lessons learned. The second disappointment, a photo shoot of a local cheerleading competition, revealed the same limitations of my smaller zoom lens and also helped me realize that, very poor lighting aside, I am just not interested in "event" photography, particularly indoors.

One of my favorite things about photography is that it gives me an easy excuse to get outside and ramble. See, I'm not wandering aimlessly and using up time and fuel; I'm going on a photo trip.... And sometimes, like yesterday, I look up and see something especially beautiful, and I just want to capture the moment. With winter close on our heels I'm hiking less, but I can always do a still life while I'm waiting for the day to warm up....

Indian pony, Nov. 2010

16 November 2010

Morning Sun

Max, Nov. 2010

Over the summer the kitties got used to going outside to hunt, play, and loll in the grass every morning, and we all miss the entertainment. They do get plenty of sunshine indoors thanks to large sliding doors and a picture window. Max seems to enjoy it; Rocky does, too, but still can't believe how cold the air is outside. When we let him out, he seems startled, then looks up and sometimes meows plaintively as if to tell us, "Make it WARM!" They still get outdoors time during our frequent warmish (50 or so) afternoons, but spring won't come a moment too soon for any of us.

Rocky, Nov. 2010

13 November 2010

The Quiet Season

Icicles near Kelly Mine, NM, Nov. 2010
Well, it's not winter yet; in fact, even after numerous very cold nights my flowers haven't quite kicked off yet. And we get some wonderful days in the 50s, which is definitely warm enough to hike without a jacket, even up the mountain a bit. Today my dad, his friend Marilyn, and I hiked up to and then beyond Kelly Mine, and on the way down we came across this weird and amazing sight, created by a perpetually leaky water line that sprays into the air and collects on a nearby tree to create these icicles. Since the line will probably freeze solid in another month or so, I'm glad to have gotten this picture while I could. Lucy, of course, was thrilled for the water and even chomped on a few icicles. We're slated for more good weather, and I'm just itching for a good long hike, so I might try to take the Copper Canyon Trail all the way up to North Baldy. First, though, I need new hiking boots. I bought a pair last year but they kill my toes and the balls of my feet -- they're women's boots, which I usually know better than to buy, but they're such a pretty blue leather... Nope, gotta get the wider men's boots, even if they're not nearly so aesthetically pleasing, so I can actually hike in them.

11 November 2010

Post-Processing Experiments

Sandhill cranes, Bosque del Apache NWR, Feb. 2007/Nov. 2010 (postprocessing), (c) Anne C. Lear

I'm not sure why I've been so quiet (well, entirely absent) here lately, though I must admit that coursework is kicking my butt this quarter, with assignments (as well as the usual discussion posts) due every week. And the cooler weather has slowed down my hiking, hence my photography.... But I'm getting back into the swing of things now that I have Photoshop CS5 and Photomatix (thanks to huge student discounts... so I guess I should stop kvetching about coursework) and am learning new ways to process my photos.

The shots above, from the 2010 Magdalena Old Timers Parade, have both been Photoshopped, but I used a cool technique I just learned on the Digital Photography School web site to enhance the photo on the right, then ran it through Photomatix for tone-mapping (which means something but I'm not sure what; I just know it does something that Photoshop doesn't). VERY nice. I can get really fancy and add all kinds of artistic effects (I especially like the "painterly" setting, which I used in to top image of the dancing cranes) but I do prefer realistic images.... So that's it for now; tomorrow I hope to go to the Bosque del Apache around dusk for some cool bird shots that I'll have fun with in post-processing.

Here's another set... you know, I've wanted a Palomino since I was 6 years old. This one will do.... Anyhoo, again, the left image has been Photoshopped, and the right one is that same image, put through Photomatix.

I spent about 15 minutes playing around with the slider thingies (yes, I'm such a techie) and resetting the image and playing some more, and am very pleased with how much more texture comes out in the second image. So, yes, I'm sold. And I haven't even tried the software's HDR features yet; HDR stands for high dynamic range and refers to a process that combines images to select the best features from each level of exposure and provide good detail in both highlights and shadows. Or something like that. It requires bracketing -- taking multiple exposures of the same shot (underexposed, proper exposure, and overexposed) -- which really requires a tripod, which I don't have right now because it's in the back of my car that is STILL at an Albuquerque repair shop one month after a minor accident. So, yeah, HDR will have to wait. I'd love to see how the crane shot above might turn out with HDR processing, but this version, put through the Photomatix "painterly" tone-mapping process and then Photoshopped with the technique mentioned above, is still pretty cool.