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Sleeklens Presets – Put to the Test

A few months ago I received an email from a software company call Sleeklens.  They offered to give me a set of their Lightroom Presets (Through the Woods) for free in exchange for a product review.  At first I was skeptical because I had never heard of this company or so I thought!

I searched their internet page and contacted another photographer, Mike Moats (he was listed on their Facebook Page), he recalled their products, and said, “Why not give it try?”

I contacted Sleeklens and ideally they wanted a turn-around time of a couple of weeks.  I knew based on my schedule and other life happenings, it probably would not happen for a couple of months!

My opinion on presets is not a “Hip-Hip-Hooray” attitude.  My past experience with presets are “It’s a good start” then I have to tweak to get it to the stage I want it. With that being said, I think my review may come as a surprise!

I have other presets that I’ve received from other companies, either as a premium or something I’ve purchased. I opened the presets in Lightroom and noticed I had other presets from Sleeklens…I’m not quite sure where I had downloaded them from.  I played around with them a little; at least it was somewhat of an assurance this was a legit company.

I had just returned from Yellowstone National Park and was still playing around with my images when the email came with the “Through the Woods” presets.  The presets come with Develop and Adjustment Brush presets.  I had loaded some of my previous brush presets in the wrong folder and with the instructions I moved those to the correct location so I had a whole new game going!

Lets look at before and after images. Many of these I did reset to the original, some I added the preset after my initial adjustments were present.

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Original unedited image

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After making adjustments on my own I added the Break of Dawn preset and it gave the image warmth and opened the shadows.

I felt encouraged after I saw the results of this image so I tried another.

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Original image

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I used the Exposure-Brighten preset on this one.

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As Shot

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The humming bird was initially adjusted with the Heavenly Warmth preset then I used the Brighten Shadows adjustment brush to pull out the details.

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As shot

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I used the Calm Sunset preset and then made further adjustments with graduated filters, luminance, and temperature.

Since the color presets were working so well, I decided to do a monochrome image.

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I picked this image because in color the water was still brown and thought it may look better in black and white

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I used the Pressed in Time preset, then added Monochrome Fantasy, and darken shadows and less highlights.

By now I feel that using the Sleeklens presets is definitely a great start to any image, but also can stand alone!

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As shot

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I aded Warm Shadows preset; adjusted shadows and clarity…BOOM…that’s all I did!

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As shot

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Calm Sunset preset added and highlights adjusted.

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As shot

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I used Darken Shadows preset and Autumn Colors

To conclude, yes, the Sleeklens Through the Woods presets are a “winner, winner!” I went in feeling very skeptical about using a preset, but the more I played and worked with them, it became apparent that the presets could function on their own without much help or further adjustments. I give this a thumbs up! To purchase your set of presets and brushes you can go to  Sleeklens for Lightroom


Leaves

Until recently I did not realize how many different types of leaf photographs I had. Leaves are fascinating. They bud in the spring and are a lively green; then in the fall, they change to reds, yellows, and oranges. Structurally, leaves have veins, stems, and are textually interesting.  I love to bring that texture forward in my photographs.

I had posted the above before and after in my post “Creativity: Where Does it Start?” I had transformed the ordinary palm leave to be viewed “differently”.  I feel as a photographer it is my job to challenge our view of reality from time to time. The processing I chose for this image changed the color as well as the perspective of the image. It also highlighted the details in the leaf and stem.

On the left you see the original image of the green leaves. I liked how the light was hitting the leaves and felt there was a “photograph” somewhere in this image. I began using my crop tool and started dragging it around the image until I settled on a crop I thought was pleasing to the eye. There was so much going on in the original photograph that I needed to isolate a section.  I then converted it to black and white. The tonal range of the image worked well with that choice. I then finished my editing in On1 Effects to add texture and to bring out the details in the leaves.

The above sycamore leaf was taken with my Sigma 120 – 300 f/2.8 zoom. I removed the lower right stem with the patch tool in Photoshop, then edited the color and texture in On1 Effects. The transformation was just what I wanted.

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Maple Leaf

I was trying out my Tamron 28 – 300 f/3.5 – 5.6 and captured this leaf hanging off of my maple tree. I was exploring for things to photograph with the lens as I had just purchased it from KEH. I brought out the texture and details using On1 Effects. The sharpening tools in On1 Effects does a great job bringing out the details in images.

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Maple Leaf

This was another leaf I was practicing on with my Tamron 28 – 300 f/3.5 – 5.6. It was a single color leaf among the dry gray and brown leaves. It caught my attention while walking around my patio.

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Oak Leaf

I spotted the oak leaf while walking around William and Mary College’s Campus this fall. While the image itself is a little soft, I enhanced that softness by decreasing the clarity.  The colors are very vibrant. I added a soft white vignette to make the leaf stand out.

Above are a few of my other leaf images I have captured over the last year.  I hope you enjoyed exploring the world of leaves!  Effects 10 is available as a free download!

 

 

 


Lightroom Presets

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Direct Positive Preset in Lightroom

Lightroom presets are interesting. Most of the time I prefer to edit my own images. If I do decide to choose a preset, I end up making additional adjustments, so I figure I should start from scratch anyway.

I saw the frosty fog rising off of the river on Sunday morning and noticed how the trees became frost covered. I know the time frame to capture this is short and it was already 10:00 a.m. I knew I had to get moving!

I used a 0.6 ND filter, because the sun was so bright and it really separated the blue sky while maintaining the white snow. I photographed these images with my Tamron 24 – 75mm f/2.8 on my Nikon D800E at ISO 50. Shutter speeds and aperture varied depending on the light. Most of the time it was at f/8 – 11 and 1/100 – 1/200.

In post I decided to try the IR preset. Some of the images were very impressive using this preset. I do like a little more contrast, so I adjusted the blacks and contrast slightly to give me the look I wanted.

I hovered over some of the other presets and the Direct Positive really made the images pop with color!  The contrast between the blues and whites was beautiful! Direct positive is a process dating back to the 1800’s. Typically, the image was captured directly onto the paper and it was a black and white image.  In Lightroom, the direct positive setting increases the saturation, blacks, and highlights and produces a very high color image. The image can be easily converted to black and white after using the Direct Positive preset.

The images below demonstrate the use of 2 different presets in light room; Direct Positive on the left and infrared (IR) on the right.

While I do like my images to have a little more contrast (more pleasing to my eye), there is something about the subtleness of the image below that I like. Left is the original and right is IR. I did remove the boat from the image.

The vignette in the corners is from my ND filter on the camera. I do attempt to remove that with cropping or adding a reverse vignette.

I suggest you try some of the presets in Lightroom; what is nice, Lightroom gives you a preview of what it will look like. I use this as a starting point then make my own adjustments. I have also set up my own presets in the past if I’m editing a batch and making the same changes throughout.

Have fun experimenting in Lightroom!

 


Moon Rock

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Garnet in sand

I started playing around with this photograph because I liked the backlighting and shadow. I edited it in On1 Photo to add the effects and coloration to the photograph.

I called this moon rock because the texture in the sand gave a mysterious appearance. It also reminds me of a sunset on the beach.

Just a little fun with On1 tonight.


Focus Stacking

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Image Created Using Focus Stacking

I decided to try focus stacking. Focus stacking is when you take a series of images and you focus on one section of the image at a time, then save them as PSD images. The key is to have your camera on a tripod so you do not change position.

Open the images then go to File>Scripts>Load Files into Stacks. After you stack the files you go to Edit>Auto-Blend-Layers.

The image will be in focus throughout.

This was fun to try. I will have to try it again sometime.


Refraction of Light in Photography

I saw a Facebook post on group site I participate in about refraction of light.  The images were very interesting. I decided to put together a few items for our camera club to use at a future meeting.

If you google refraction of light you come back with a lot of scientific information. However when you google refraction of light in photography a lot of nice images appear!

With help from a friend of mine, I put together several backgrounds; some had color some were black and white. I purchased scrapbooking paper and used double stick tape and old scrap mats to mount the paper to so they would not bend.

Using a pole lamp with 3 lights to light my subject, I put up my backgrounds and filling glasses with water. I also laid some of the backgrounds flat and used them as a base; the patterns then reflected on top of the water.

My camera settings (Nikon D800E) ISO 640, f/14 – 16, shutter speed ranged from 1/5, 1/3, 1/13 sec depending on which background was being used.

This is a fun winter project as you do not need a lot of supplies, just clear glasses, vases, bowls, water (distilled is recommended because tap water bubbles), and paper or fabric with a design. You can make your own designs using Photoshop and printing the off of you printer.

Have fun experimenting!


Old Country Store, Jackson, Tennessee

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Ice Cream Parlor at the Old Country Store in Jackson, Tennessee

Every so often I browse through my images and something catches my eye. I look at it and think, “What can I do with this?”  Images like this have so much detail and I like converting that detail into an HDR-like image. I started out by making a few adjustments to the shadows and highlights in Lightroom. I then moved the image over to On1 Effects to do the rest. I used the Amazing Detail Finder, Clarity, I lightened the shadows, Exaggerated the tones and edges, and added a subtle HDR look to the image. I moved it back into Lightroom to adjust the contrast slightly for my finished product.

See the before and after side by side:

Never give up on images you may have in your files. I hear people all of the time say they delete pictures. While I have many, many images I will never process, occasionally I find one that surprises me!

After posting this blog, it was suggested to me to see what the image looked like in black and white. Here is the result:

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Black and White Version of the Ice Cream Parlor


Nature’s Imperfections

When photographing nature we encounter imperfect subjects.  It takes a little patience and imagination to make corrections to an image after it’s captured.

While looking through images that were photographed this summer, this one was intriguing. The bug on the coneflower was lost in the shadows and was very much in focus.

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Bug lost in the shadows

The shadow slider in Lightroom opened the area and other adjustments were made to the image. Then the gap on the left kept screaming! Cropping did not help, so the image was edited in Photoshop (Photoshop is used as a plug-in to Lightroom). The magic brush tool was used to capture a piece of the adjacent area and a layer was created of that selection. The petal was turned and transformed, then a layer mask was applied so the petal could be blended in with the rest of the flower.

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A petal was added to the left to fill the gap

Then the space on the right was an attention grabber. The same technique was applied. After the second petal was added the image was saved in Lightroom and the radial filter and adjustment brush was used to make sure the bug was the central focus of the image.

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The gap on the right was filled with data captured from the adjacent area

Nature is imperfect and as the old margarine commercial says, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!” there are those who believe that you capture the image “as is” and make no changes. Making changes to an image that is imperfect has it’s merit. The photographer has to make the decision if the risk of “fooling Mother Nature” is worth taking!


Creativity: Where does it start?

We are all familiar with the chicken and egg concept…which came first?  In photography we are faced with a similar dilemma, do our creative ideas come when the photograph is taken or afterwards in post-processing?

There are times when an image is photographed with an end result in mind. Then there are times during post-processing when an idea emerges on how to create a special image.

Take this palm leaf for example:

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Palm leaf as shot

It is a nice image, but it is not “special”.  How about if the perspective is changed?

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Changing the perspective of an image can give more interest

A diagonal line forces the eye to move up through the photograph. While it is an acceptable image, what else can be done to make it more interesting?

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Colorization and the addition of textures

By changing the color and adding textures to the image it changed the look all the way around. A tilt-shift was added on a diagonal to give a soft blur to the edges. On1 Effects is an easy way to make these changes. After the changes were made and tweaked, the images were then saved back into Lightroom.

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After a few changes in Lightroom

Once the image was imported back into Lightroom, the Trey Ratcliff HDR Romance Soft  pre-set was applied and the image was cropped.

Using Lightroom and On1 together is simple. If On1 is set up as a plug-in program to Lightroom, you right click on your image and choose <Edit in> and select the module you need.  It will save a copy in Lightroom with your initial edits and then when you are finished in On1 it will save those changes in Lightroom so you can make additional edits if necessary.

Enjoy being creative!

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My Favorite Images of 2015: Macro/Close-up

Happy New Year to all! Each new year brings hope and the prospect of new opportunities for us to pursue.

On April 23, I will host my first Spring Flower Workshop. You will notice that I do not always use a macro lens to capture a nice sharp close-up.  A good zoom lens (like the one your received if you purchased a kit) will give you the range you need to create wonderful close-up images. If your zoom says “macro” on it, you will be able to get a little closer than you would with a regular zoom lens. It is not a 1:1 macro, but you should be able to get close enough to capture many of the small details in your image. I wanted to share some of my macro/close-up images from 2015 to inspire you to get out and explore your surroundings!

This first group of images was taken in Colorado at Garden of the Gods. I saw this as the life span of a thistle. Through the series you can see how it changes over time. These were taken with my Tamron 24 – 75mm f/2.8. I often use it as a carry around lens and it has great close-up capabilities. I love how it blurs the background, but keeps the main image sharp.

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White Trillium

This image will always be special to me. It was taken at the Shoot the Hills weekend photography competition. You are not able to edit your images and you have to choose your best image in each category (approximately 6 images) and turn those in to the judges.  The white trillium was taken with my Sigma 105mm Macro lens using the ring flash. This was my first time participating in the competition; the image won an honorable mention in the Flora Category.

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Here Kitty!

While not a flower; this cat is a nice example of a close-up image. Eyes are in focus and looking straight into the camera!  I had put my camera on the ground and “hoped” it would focus on the right area.  Again, this was taken with my Tamron 24 – 75mm f/2.8.

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Intersecting Lines

I enjoy experimenting with textures and other processing techniques. I try to look for interesting forms and shapes in my surroundings.  This was taken at the Huntington Museum of Art Conservatory. It is a wonderful place to take photographs. Most of the time is is not crowded and it is great to go to on a cold day. The palm branch was processed using the On1 Photo system.

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Follow the Line

I also look for leading lines. The vine entwined itself along the branch of this plant. There is a nice curve for the eye to follow.

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Young Coneflower

Young Coneflower was an image I enjoyed experimenting with. I had photographed the coneflower in front as it developed over several days. I wanted a nice linen texture and painterly feel. I used a combination of Oil Paint filter in Photoshop and did texture layering using On1 Photo. I had it printed on metallic paper with a linen texture. It does have the look and feel of a painting.

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All Alone

This was taken in North Carolina at Thanksgiving. I saw the “lone” leaf sticking up off of a branch in the woods.  This was photographed with my Sigma 120 – 300mm f2.8.  The image was processed in Lightroom.

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Purple Basil

In my opinion, I saved the best for last!  My image, Purple Basil, was captured with the LensBaby Spark.  The Spark comes with multiple disks that you can insert to create interesting shapes out of light.  I did very little processing to this image; just basic adjustments using Lightroom. The morning sun was hitting the leaf just right. I had only a couple of minutes to photograph the leaf and the light was gone!  I print this image on metallic paper and also have had a metal print created. The highly saturated colors pop on the metallic mediums. It won an Honorable Mention at the Foothills Competition in the fall.

I hope you have enjoyed the 2015 recap of my favorite images!  I look forward to sharing more information in 2016!

Watch for notices of my classes and workshops for the upcoming year!


My Favorite Images of 2015: People

A second installment of my favorite images of 2015 has to do with people. I love to photograph people in their natural settings or as a portrait shoot environment.  People can be very expressive and interesting.

A couple of my favorite photographs came from my 98 year-old uncle’s life-long companion, Lela’s 100th birthday!  Lela and Thelma were being interviewed by a local television station on their “secrets to a long life.” They were wonderful to listen to.

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Jules In Motion

A friend of mine has a daughter who is a ballerina and I had been wanting to try out a few new flash techniques.  This image was taken using stroboscopic flash technique.  The flash strobes while the individual continues movement.  The result is a sequence captured in one singular image.

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Pasta Lady at Fil0mena’s in Georgetown (Washington DC)

During a trip to Washington DC we dined at Filomena’s Italian Restaurant.  I stood in the entry way and watched as this lady kneaded dough making gnocchi for the customers. She looked up and smiled just as I touched the shutter on my iPhone.  I did add texturing with On1 Photo and converted the image to sepia for a competition. It won first place in that competition.

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Wedding party goes to the dogs!

While taking photographs at a friend’s wedding reception, I saw this group leave the reception hall with the dogs. Since it was early, I decided to follow them to see what the layout of the property was. The husky was pulling the groom, and almost went into the water. After taking this photograph I studied the dynamics of it. The main photographer is trying to set the scene while one of the groomsman directs. The groomsman is trying to take a shot with his phone. The second shooter is “chimping”. You have one of the bridesmaids coming in to check things out. Meanwhile the bulldog is trying to eat the bouquet!  Such a fun image!

Two of my favorite wedding photographs of the year were from Ben and Elisha’s reception and Stephanie and Andy’s wedding. Ben and Elisha got married in Australia where they live and came to Cincinnati for their reception.  I went outside to check on the sunset and asked them to come out for a few photographs.  I took this using a flash so I could retain the colors in the sunset, also so I could have them visible in the image.

Andy is my cousin. He and Stephanie were married in March behind the Smithsonian Castle. While we were taking a few photographs we were asked to leave by security agents. We were told the reason we had to leave was because we could not have an “organized photoshoot” on federal property.  Because I was using professional equipment (my flash was on a monopod and I was using it for fill) I guess they thought we were having an “organized photoshoot.”  We got what we needed plus a great story to tell! I do like this photograph; the cherry blossoms were added in post processing.

A couple of fun photographs from 2015 were on my trip to Ossabaw Island in Georgia. The domesticated donkeys were a first for me.

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Edward Warren as Maleficent

One of my fun photoshoots this year was with RJ Haddy and his assistant Edward Warren. I used a flash with a green filter then added the special effects to the orb using Photoshop.

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This was taken at the Fire and Ice Festival in Medina, Ohio. The lighting of the ice tower.

I became aware of the Fire and Ice Festival in 2014; when it was already over. I put it on my calendar for 2015; what a fun event it was…COLD! They light wood in a tower made of ice and allow it to burn until the ice melts and the fire goes out.

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Taking aim!

Another fun photoshoot I had this year was a good friend of mine’s grandson, Nelson Craycraft’s senior photographs.  I had an idea in my mind for this but due to equipment not cooperating with me at the time, I had to switch gears.  A compound bow is very heavy and his arms were getting fatigued. I definitely wanted to get the eye in the site.

I hope you have enjoyed my people pictures for 2o15!


My Favorite Images of 2015: Landscapes

As 2015 comes to a close, I have decided to share my favorite images of 2015 and why they are special to me. I hope you enjoy these images as much as I do!

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Arlington National Cemetery

My first image was taken this fall at Arlington National Cemetery. I was fortunate enough to be witness to the funeral of 3 Star General Frank E. Petersen, Jr. He was the first African American Aviator in the United States Marine Corps. He was also the first African American Marine General. The photograph holds a special memory for me and also marks an event in history.

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New River Gorge, West Virginia

My next landscape is of New River Gorge in West Virginia. The photograph displays the vastness of this region and the beauty of the fall colors. This was my first trip there; I do plan on going back.

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Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

As I was walking around the Great Sand Dunes National Park area, I saw this couple walking toward me.  I used the trees to frame them and to demonstrate the size of the area. The woman was dressed in a white desert type outfit, like the kind you would see Katharine Hepburn wear in African Queen. They looked like they had been on safari.

The two images above are from the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. I had taken a trip out west in 2013 and passed this area without knowing what it was until after the fact.  I knew we were going to be going past here again so I made sure we stopped. The bold, highly saturated colors stand out against the cloudless blue sky. My daughter enjoyed the fact she could “legally” paint graffiti onto an object and not be arrested. Her initials EM were boldly painted in yellow and I’m sure were gone by days end. What a great experience though!

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Abandoned Corral, Roy, New Mexico

It was great to travel some of the back roads through Colorado and New Mexico. To see the sunset over the mountains was breathtaking. I saw all of the wooden structures in the field and pulled off the road to capture a few shots of the beautiful sunset.

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Cabin in the Woods, Adams County, Ohio

This cabin is in a very private area of Adams County, Ohio. I was hiking one day in early spring and stopped at the top of an incline to look around. When I looked behind me I saw the cabin’s red tin roof. It stood out from all of the branches and trees. This image is currently on loan to the Ohio Governor’s Office from 2015 – 2017.

Enhanced Landscapes

The next 3 images are ones that I did special processing on to give the images an aged feeling or to enhance specific details in the photograph.

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Sleigh Ride, Maryland

I had taken a winter workshop in Oakland, Maryland and one of our stops was an Amish farm that gave sleigh rides. I processed this image with the On1 Photo suite. As I worked on it the scene became that of a Currier and Ives style “painting.” I used this as my Christmas Card this year.

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Old Mill of Guilford, North Carolina

I photographed this old grist mill in Oak Ridge, North Carolina over Thanksgiving. While the original photograph was nice, I decided to add a little texture to the image and give it an aged feel. I used the On1 Photo processing system to bring out the details and to add texture to the photograph.

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Tabby Shack dating from the 1700’s on Ossabaw Island.

My final favorite landscape image from 2015 is that of a Tabby Shack on Ossabaw Island along the coast of Savannah, Georgia. The leading lines of the road allows the eye to travel along these historical structures. This image was also processed with On1 Photo to give it an aged appearance.

I hope you enjoyed these images! Photographs capture our moments in time and bring back the memories connected to those moments.

Look for my other favorites of 2015!


Photographing Americana: Signs and Structures of our Past: Chapter 3

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The Anna Plaza Motel sign in Anna, Illinois is very much a “blast from the past”.  The actual age of the sign is unknown but based on the style and shape it is likely late 1940’s or early 1950’s.

Take note of the conveniences listed: Modern Electrically Heated (I assume that means the rooms) and TV.  Then as the times changed a sign was added at the bottom to include Cable TV with remote, water beds, and direct dial phones.

Think about what we consider modern conveniences today. Free wifi probably tops the list for most people. I remember traveling with my parents, we looked for places that had a pool; a heated pool was a bonus. We stayed in Ithaca, New York one summer and it was unseasonably cold. The motel said they had a heated outdoor pool, but after an evening swim I was as blue from the cold water as the guy in Big Fat Liar after his swim in the blue dye!

Think about having “direct dial phones” when the majority of the nation has cell phones. How times change. I found an article written in 2005 by someone who also photographed this sign. They said in their article that this sign probably would be gone soon. Here it is 10 years later and it still stands.

As for staying at the Anna Plaza Motel; no thanks! I am sure in the early days it was a very fine establishment. The town of Anna has many old structures and other interesting signs. I look forward to sharing those with you in the future.


Gallery

Image Enhancement

I am re-posting this. Since the original posting I have received approval to be an On1 Affiliate and have attached the link to their website at the bottom of this article. Through the end of the year, ON1 Photo 10 FULL version is on sale for $89.99, plus you receive a special Holiday Bundle loaded with extra presets for Effects 10.

Pam DeCamp Photography

Since posting my blog on using On1 10, I have received approval to be an On1 Affiliate. You can click the link at the bottom of my post to learn more about the On 1 software.

On1 10 was released in November. I have been an On1 user since about version 6.  I received a free version of Perfect Effects for attending a Kelby Photoshop Workshop. I thought it was odd they had another company promoting their products at the workshop, but I took the time to watch the demo during our lunch break.

What I found out was On1 can be used as a plug-in or as a stand alone software. I have used it both ways.  I make my adjustments in Lightroom then move my image over to On1 Effects to further process my image.

For me On1 is a very simple way to enhance my images using…

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Image Enhancement

Since posting my blog on using On1 10, I have received approval to be an On1 Affiliate. You can click the link at the bottom of my post to learn more about the On 1 software.

On1 10 was released in November. I have been an On1 user since about version 6.  I received a free version of Perfect Effects for attending a Kelby Photoshop Workshop. I thought it was odd they had another company promoting their products at the workshop, but I took the time to watch the demo during our lunch break.

What I found out was On1 can be used as a plug-in or as a stand alone software. I have used it both ways.  I make my adjustments in Lightroom then move my image over to On1 Effects to further process my image.

For me On1 is a very simple way to enhance my images using the filters they have built into the program.  I am able to layer and mask my images to bring out the details I want or to add in textures or other color enhancements to make my images stand out. And as an O1 user, I receive several preset packages throughout the year. Most of the time I create my own images, but I also try the others out.

My favorite adjustments in On1 Effects are the Amazing Detail Finder located under the sharpening tab and clarity under the tone enhancement tab.  I find that these two adjustments bring out details in my images that I may have not noticed.

I use a Nikon D800E DSLR and shoot in RAW. The image above was taken with a Tamron 28 -75mm f/2.8 lens. My settings were ISO 320, f/11, 28mm, 1/160 sec. The light was behind me and it was about 4:00 in the afternoon. While I was happy with my original image I decided to work with it in On1 Effects.  I used the adjustments I mentioned above and then worked on the highlights and shadows. On1 works similar to Photoshop in that you can make adjustments in different layers and if you are not happy with the change you can always go back and change or delete the layer.  I also added a leather texture to the image which created a warm feel. When I photograph a landscape with an older structure, such as this grist mill, I prefer to age the photograph to give it character.

The image on the left is what was captured out of the camera. On the right I used the On1 Effects to pull out the detail in the bricks and to give the image a more surreal look.  The time of day I captured my images made the reds pop. My settings were the same as in the images above. After I adjust in O1, it saves it back into my Lightroom catalog and I can

This is a collection of bottles in a potting shed. I thought this made a nice grouping. I did not move anything, just photographed it “as is”. My settings were ISO 800, f/4.0, 1/125, at 38mm with a Tamron 28 – 300mm.  I like how the coarse detail in the wood was revealed using the Amazing Detail Finder. I also used a subtle HDR look in this image. I like photographs with lots of texture.

Many times On1 offers the On1 Effects module as a trial; that’s how I started. In the full suite they had enhance, portrait, resize, and B&W modules, too. I have used all of these at one time or another. What I like about On1 is it’s ease of use. I have produced several images with On1 that have been in exhibits, competitions, and have won awards.

Thanks for reading!  Photography provides infinite opportunities for learning!


Fisheye Lens: Pros and Cons

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Yorktown Beach captured with a fisheye lens; you can see the slight curve in the foreground from lens distortion

The 8mm Rokinon fisheye lens is a great lens to capture landscapes and to create surreal images. There are definite advantages and disadvantages to using a fisheye lens.  The photographer has to decide what adds to or takes away from the image.

Pros of using a fisheye:

 

Using the fisheye to creatively “bend” the subject is a pro of this fine lens. The clarity throughout remains intact. It creates a snow globe effect when used close-up.

When shooting with a fisheye lens it is possible to capture sweeping landscapes with a greater depth of field. The image quality and sharpness throughout the image is a definite pro.  The photographer can also create surreal images with a fisheye lens.

Getting low to the ground will provide for interesting foreground in the image.

Cons of using a fisheye:

While the pros listed above are very positive uses, they can turn into cons if you do not want your subject to bend or curve. Even in the best case scenario you may end up with a slight curve on the edges. When looking  through the viewfinder, move the camera up and down and watch for the bend.  The image can be exaggerated or will look fairly normal as the camera is moved.

Photoshop and Lightroom have excellent lens correction features; with practice, lens distortion can be corrected or enhanced depending on the final vision of the photographer.

In the sunrise photos above you can see how the clouds curve, but the horizon is fairly level. It does make for a nice effect with the arching clouds.  In the photograph of the boat, the horizon is curved and the foreground is bubbled toward the viewer.  While this may not be a desirable outcome, the photographer has to decide if that is what the end result should be.

The fisheye lens definitely has its place in the photographer’s bag and there are many creative uses for it.  Adding a slight curve to a photograph can enhance the image or provide an unwanted distraction to the viewer. It is up to the photographer to decide how to use the lens. If given the opportunity to try one; see what kind of images can be made!

Photography is a skill with infinite learning opportunities!

 


Photographing Americana: Signs and Structures of Our Past: Chapter 2

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Standard Oil Service Station, Vienna, Illinois

Having grown up in a small rural community, I remember an old castle gas station in the center of town. It is long gone and I so wish I had taken a photograph of it to preserve its heritage. Vienna, Illinois has a beautiful gem that has fallen victim to vandals and decay.

The station was built in 1930 by the Standard Oil Company. It is one of several that was built across the country to fit the space available. Many of these old stations have been converted into private residences and other businesses.  I spoke to a resident of Vienna and he said, “Many people have expressed interest in the building, but there it sits, decaying each day.”

My imagination wandered to the days of “full service” stations. I could visualize the service man rushing out to gas the car, clean the windscreen and “take a look under the hood!”

As you can see from the above photographs, the torch (in photographs of other stations, it was a beautiful gold and red torch) has been chiseled away. It also appears that someone has tried to removed the entire “service” emblem!  The lettering on the crown has also been removed leaving behind a skeleton of the past.

Other views of the building show the decay that is occurring. It is just a matter of time this beautiful landmark will be a memory just as the castle in my hometown is a memory for me.

I could only see inside the bay area; there were broken panes of glass that I could aim my camera through.  I read other articles lamenting the sadness people have for this wonderful icon on the corner of Routes 146 and 45. It is a shame that someone will not step up and take charge of the restoration. I’m sure the expense is a hinderance.  The red tiled roof, the yellow brick; a wonderful contrast of color!

Take the time to notice the images around you; pause and reflect on the past.


Photographing Americana: Signs and Structures of Our Past Chapter 1

 

When you take the roads less traveled there are gems to be found!

While driving through Carbondale, Illinois this sign caught my attention.  I stopped and took as many photographs as I could.

The sign says closed for the season, but according to research this Dairy Queen on 508 South Illinois Avenue is a busy place!  The building is the original structure that was built in 1951 by Jack Clover. According to a 2014 article in the Southern Illinoisan, the stand has been owned by Mark Waicukauski for over 25 years and was owned by his father before him. In the article, Waicukauski says, “That old sign’s been there since the beginning!”

While traveling across the country, take the time to look around you! The gems you uncover may be diamonds in the rough!


Williamsburg Winery: A Worthwhile Stop

Williamsburg Winery Vineyard

Williamsburg Winery Vineyard

When traveling to the Williamsburg, Virginia or even to the Virginia Beach area, you should add on a stop to the Williamsburg Winery.  Located on about 300 acres in the Williamsburg area, the driveway into the winery is surrounded by vineyards.  On the day of my visit it was a very cloudy and rainy day…a great day for an indoor activity such as wine tasting!

Walking around the gift shop it is difficult not to notice the assortment of awards their wines have received over the years.  There were ribbons, metals, and plaques adorning the rooms.  This was my first visit to the winery. Our tour guide poked fun at the group I was in because we all had “real” cameras with us!  No cell phone photographers in this group! We watched a video on the history of the winery and the wine making process. Our guide led the way into the very large banquet room just off the meeting area.

Wine on display in the gift shop

Wine on display in the gift shop

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Banquet hall at Williamsburg Winery

I was impressed with the size of the banquet hall and the winery itself.  Sometimes “local” wineries are much smaller and produce a product on a smaller scale.  Williamsburg definitely has a world class facility to produce a large volume of their product.

After leaving the banquet hall we made our way into the wine cellar where the wine is stored in oak, stainless steel, or concrete tanks/barrels.  Yes, concrete!  Our guide showed us an egg shaped fermentation tank that they have been using.  I can’t remember all of the details but I believe he said it gave the wine a more milder flavor. The oak barrels are used for about 3 batches before they lose their flavor and then those barrels are recycled for flower pots or decorative use.  Stainless steel is primarily used for the sweet wines.

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Wine aging area

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Barrels in the wine cellar

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The egg-shaped fermentation vat

We also went past the private tasting area.  I thought it looked very “secretive” like out of a spy movie.

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Private tasting area

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Spiral staircase leading to the private tasting area

We made our way to the tasting room.  The James River White was very good.  I do like their spiced wine, Settlers’ Spiced Wine for the holidays; heavy on cloves and cinnamon, it will great warmed up with apple cider for a mulled wine.  I also liked their sweet dessert wine, Petit Fleur.  They give us a taste of the private reserve red wine, Virginia Trianon Cabernet Franc; it was very smooth and a mild wine. I also came home with a bottle of the Virginia Claret; close to a merlot in flavor. I am looking forward to making my spiced wine this winter! It will make the house smell so good!

During the tasting, Matthew Meyer, the vice president and winemaker made a visit to the tasting room.  Our guide said Matthew travels a great deal and they call him the “traveling winemaker” because he travels around the country to different wineries.  He, too, has won many awards for his winemaking skills.

Our guide on the left; Winemaker Matthew Meyer on the right

Our guide on the left; Winemaker Matthew Meyer on the right

If you enjoy a great glass of wine, the Williamsburg Winery is a perfect stop…especially on a rainy day!

Vineyard at Williamsburg Winery

Vineyard at Williamsburg Winery


Veterans Day 2015

Veterans Day stirs many emotions for me.  My father’s funeral was on November 11, 2011…yes, 11/11/11 (dad would have enjoyed the numbers).  This fall I took a trip to our Nation’s Capital and have written a previous blog about visiting Arlington National Cemetery.  Arlington is the ultimate homage to our veterans.  Many towns have veteran memorials to honor their fallen soldiers.

My family has had strong representation in the military; US Army, US Navy, and US Air Force.  I have had friends in all branches of the military.  I have a great admiration for those who chose to serve in the armed forces.  I seriously considered joining the Air Force in 1982; I had graduated college and was having difficulty finding employment as a photographer and had decided to pursue nursing as a career.  My friend Cathy had enlisted in the US Army and asked me to join with her.  I told her if I was going to go into the armed forces it would be the Air Force.  I ended up going back to nursing school and made the choice to stay in Cincinnati.  Over the years, I thought about the Reserves, but my biggest hesitation was basic training.  I hate running!  I never could run; I would try and that reported runner’s “high” never happened for me.  Basic training scared me, I dislike confrontation, I dislike yelling…so I decided I had better stick with the things I was good at.

My father always attended the High School Veterans Day assembly. The final year I attended with him (2010) was very memorable for me and it was always emotional for him.  The playing of taps always brought tears to his eyes, that day was no different, I was glad I was with him.

While en route to Washington DC, there was structure in the distance at the Quantico exit. On the sign it said National Marine Corps Museum.  I was in the center lane and made my way to the exit.

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National Marine Corps Museum

The roof of the building is a striking image against the landscape. I was excited to walk through the doors to see what was inside.

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National Marine Corps Museum

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Marine Corps Emblem

Many times I found myself in tears while reading the information in the displays.  There were 2 instances I took serious pause.  The first was when I was reading about a dog who had been trained to detect IED’s and how he died while riding in a vehicle that struck an IED in the road.  His handler donated all of the dog’s belongings to the museum. It was very touching.  The dog had saved many lives during his service detecting the same device that took his life in an accident.

The second time I took pause was when I was reading about Afghanistan.  In 2011, there was heavy combat, I had to read it more closely. My cousin Andy was stationed to a unit in Afghanistan during that time.  It was a very emotional moment for me. I realized, then, how people are changed in combat. I have great respect for individuals who choose this life.

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View looking up

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Upwards!

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Soldiers observing the entry way

I marveled at the exhibits. What fascinated me was listening to people tell their “stories”.  One young man talked about a fellow soldier who had been injured in Afghanistan and how he was “somehow different” than what he was before the experience. One exhibit was a boat with the drop down at the end.  I heard older gentlemen talking about his experience in WWII.  He stood on the boat and recounted how an entire squadron was lost when the boat they were on landed on a sandbar and when when they stepped off in full gear they drowned.

My impression of the museum was if you are a soldier suffering from PTSD it would be a difficult journey though the museum.  The sound effects were realistic; the exhibits were graphic. The voices, the shells exploding, the visual stimulation of the exhibits put the visitor in the middle of the action.

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I enjoyed walking through the museum.  It transports you through time.  My favorite part was the firing range simulator.  For $5 you can fire a stripped down AK-47, that fires a laser simulated bullet at 300 yards.  I had to give it a try!  The high score that day was 95%; the big difference was no recoil; no kick. I held steady, I had one shot go outside of the center of the target…my score…85%.  I was thrilled!  I need to spend a little time on the firing range!

The museum was a stop worth taking.  In the almost 2 hours of time spent at the museum, I did not leave the first floor.  There was so much to see; all of the exhibits were a transport back in time. Over the years our country has been protected by young men and women who have barely adulthood.  They are given weapons and are trained to kill.  We do not always understand the physical battles.  The emotional battles these young men and women face and carry with them for the rest of their lives are at times terrifying. When I see someone in uniform, I take a moment to thank them for their service. Thank someone you know who has served our country.


Arlington National Cemetery: October 30, 2015

Whenever I am in the Washington DC area I always pay a visit to Arlington National Cemetery.  For me, Arlington is a humbling experience.  Each marker represents an individual…son, daughter, father, brother, sister…who has fought for our country.  On the day I was there they were cleaning the headstones, no wonder it always looks pristine!  I watch people look and observe, it is a place of reverence.  There is a sense of respect and honor.  If you ever visit Washington DC put Arlington into your plans.

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Arlington National Cemetery


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Evenly spaced markers at Arlington National Cemetery

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Such a humbling feeling to see the numbers of individuals who have fought for our country

My friend Julie went on this trip with me and she had never been to Washington DC.  I promised to show her the highlights which included a stop at Arlington National Cemetery.  We arrived at approximately noon and we walked through the visitors center then out into the cemetery.  Our first stop was JFK’s place of rest.  I do remember when he was shot and watching the coverage on our old black and white television.  It was a sad feeling, although I was very young at the time it is a memory that has stayed with me for my entire life.  Then shortly after was Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

My first impression when I visited Arlington several years ago has not changed.  It is overwhelming to take it all in at once.  The only sounds heard at JFK’s grave were the clicks of cameras and the mechanical sound from the cell phones that imitate the sound of a shutter opening and closing.  We walked to Robert Kennedy’s grave.  When looking at JFK’s grave then going to Robert’s there is a stark contrast.  JFK’s resting place is more elaborate whereas Robert’s is very modest.  They both have walls with engravings of their famous speeches.  Robert’s site has a fountain, but it was not functioning while we were there.

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John F. Kennedy

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Robert Kennedy

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View of Washington DC from JFK’s grave

As we continued our walk to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I noticed 3 canons at the foot of the staircase. I told Julie they must have something special going on because the canons are not a normal site at the cemetery.

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Canons at Arlington

I always go to see the changing of the guard.  It is a solemn event.  The young men who guard the tomb have dedicated their lives to this charge.  It takes much discipline to be a guard.  The honor that is bestowed and entrusted on those who serve their country in this capacity is more than what words can ever describe.

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The insignia for the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers

The precision in which the guard walks his 21 steps and the “click” you hear, often sends chills through my body.  When the new guard comes into the hallowed ground he is inspected, head to toe, his rifle is checked, they walk in cadence with the guard who is watching the tomb.

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Standing guard

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The new guard undergoes his inspection for duty

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Preparation to take over the post

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The walk out to take his position

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Honoring our fallen

Just as the changing of the guard ceremony ended I heard fighter jets in the distance. I raised my camera and started clicking away. I saw the 3 jets flying overhead and I told Julie, “This is not a normal occurrence, I wonder what is going on?”  In just a few moments after the new guard took his post a canon was fired.  I knew then there was something else going on at the cemetery that was of high importance.  Moments later it was announced they were going to do a changing of the wreath ceremony.  Only one other time have I witnessed this.  I told Julie she was very fortunate that she was here to see this.

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Missing man fly-by to honor a fallen aviator; note the lead plane flying off top right

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Standing guard and preparing for the wreath ceremony

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Wreath ceremony; preparing to place the new wreath

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Playing of taps after the wreath ceremony

The canons continued to fire during the wreath ceremony.  We started down the hill and we chose to go the less traveled path to make our way back to the visitors center.  As we came around a turn I saw a hearse (we had seen one earlier in the day so we figured there was a funeral).  I also noticed two Marines standing at the entrance to the road.  There was a funeral.  We made our approach, and I saw numerous troops, an honor guard, and a band gathered in the distance.  My jaw dropped.  As many times as I have been to Arlington I had never witnessed a funeral. However, this was not an ordinary funeral because of the shear numbers of military present.  This explained the fly-over and the canons.  I stood quietly while they gave the 21 gun salute and the playing of taps.  The photojournalist in me was itching to take pictures and all the while kicking myself for not bringing my big lens that day.  I started taking a few photographs here and there to commemorate this moment.  The one thing that stood out for me was the red flag with 3 white stars.  My guess was a 3 Star General.  This was a big deal!

On the way out of Arlington I looked up the funeral schedule for the cemetery.  Unbeknownst to me I had witnessed the funeral of a historical figure in our military.  Frank E. Petersen, Jr. was the first African American Marine Aviator and the first African American Marine General to serve our country.  General Petersen died on August 28, 2015 in his home.  Petersen joined the military in 1952 and flew in over 350 combat missions in Korea and Vietnam.  He received the Purple Heart after his plane was shot down over the DMZ in Vietnam. In 1979 he was promoted to brigadier general; he earned his 2nd star in 1983 and his 3rd in 1986. He fought many barriers in his life and he was quoted as saying, “When someone says you can’t or shouldn’t do something, I go ahead and try it to see why the person didn’t want me to do it.”  The Marine Corps was the last branch to get a black general; Petersen said, “Just to be able to say you kicked down another door was a great sense of satisfaction.”

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To the left in the red is the Marine Corps Band; center are Marines paying homage at the funeral of General Frank E. Petersen, Jr

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3 stars on the flag signify a 3 star general

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The troops file out after the funeral

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Conclusion of the funeral

October 30, 2015 will always remain a special memory for me.  My dad had great respect for those who served and fought for our country.  He always was insistent that when I went to Washington DC I should go to Arlington and watch the changing of the guard. He would have enjoyed this visit so much if he could have been there.  I thought of him often that day. He always became emotional during taps.  I am so proud of our service men and women who dedicate their lives to serving our country.  They give of themselves to fight in battles that many of us do not understand.  God bless our troops and our country.  Protect and watch over all of our soldiers.

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Missing man fly-over


A few extra photographs from Arlington National Cemetery.

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Standing guard

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A salute as they exit the wreath ceremony

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The commander of the Honor Guard; note the symbol of his command on the lower left. He also has a Purple Heart Medal.



Senior Photographs: Nelson

I had the pleasure of photographing a friend of mine’s grandson.  I have known Nelson for almost 10 years; it is difficult to imagine him as a senior in high school.  To me he will always be the freckled face little boy who liked to ride bikes at the campground.  Nelson has always been a polite young man and I wish the best for him in the future!

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Nelson posing next to his truck.

Nelson is a sportsman. He enjoys archery, hunting, fishing, boating…you name it!  They chose the location for his senior photographs; a cabin in the woods!  It was about an hour drive from Chillicothe into Hocking County.  It was an ideal location for Nelson’s photographs.  It was on the cool side and the sun was out.  With the dense forest we had a little shadow play from time to time.  Occasionally I called upon my daughter to help with a reflector to help fill in the areas if the shadows were too strong.

Without the reflector.

Without the reflector.

With the reflector

With the reflector

My assistant using the reflector to brighten the scenes

My assistant using the reflector to brighten the scenes

You can see how the reflector fills in the shadows to help produce more even lighting on the subject.

As mentioned above, Nelson is an excellent marksman particularly in archery.  He has won many awards and is ranked high in his age group. He has enjoyed deer hunting since he was a young boy.

Nelson pictured with his first shotgun

Nelson pictured with his first shotgun

Nelson and his deer scull

Nelson and his deer scull

Taking aim!

Taking aim!

Nelson’s brother Logan and step brother Brandon joined Nelson for a few informal photographs too.

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Logan and Nelson

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Logan, Nelson, and Brandon

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Logan, Nelson, and Brandon

The road to the future is waiting!

The road to the future is waiting!


Portsmouth Murals: A Different Perspective

PDC_9623 PDC_9624A few evenings ago I took a walk along the Portsmouth Murals. I just purchased a fisheye lens and thought I would experiment with the lens distortion. I like the 3D quality of the lens; it also makes for a cool “snow globe” effect.  The shoe factory buildings stood out and appeared to be coming out of the wall! I stood against the mural with the motorcycle and moved the camera around to create just the right curve; the motorcycle looks like it is coming right off the wall!  I had always enjoyed looking at images taken with a fisheye lens, but never really thought about purchasing one myself.  I have played around with other images using the fisheye; it is definitely something to get used to and will work well on some subjects, but not necessarily on others.

I like the look of the mural images.  Cropping a fisheye image is best done unconstrained; meaning adjust the crop manually vs a fixed dimension.  Thank you for looking and I look forward to sharing more creative images in the near future!

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MidWest BunFest: It’s All About The Bunny! 2015

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MidWest BunFest vendor area

One year ago my daughter adopted two bunnies, Smokey and Shadow.  They are both girl bunnies and had been purchased together.  The family who had them was having difficulty caring for them and were looking for a good home.  Libby had always wanted a bunny, so I thought, why not?  They go well with the rest of our menagerie!

A few months ago heard a squeal come out of the living room; “Mom, mom, I want to go to BunFest!”  Ok, what is BunFest?  The more we read about BunFest the more excited she became.  You can bring your bunnies; they have a spa; they can have a check-up; they can even get glamor shots!  Further research showed that BunFest was in its 5th year!  We must investigate this!

My idea of a “festival” or trade show is usually photography based.  When I enter the vendor area of a photography trade show, I get an adrenaline rush!  I assume rabbit people feel the same way about BunFest!  It was bustling with excitement and stories about how their bunnies were rescued and there was plenty of toys and bunny related trinkets to fill a shopping bag!

There were many rescue organizations represented at BunFest. They had catchy names; DARN (Dayton Area Rabbit Network) and EARS (Erie Area Rabbit Society).

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Erie Area Rabbit Society display

I did not realize there was such a need for rabbit shelters, but I guess rabbits are much like other pets; people purchase them (likely seasonally) and then realize they don’t just take care of themselves and decide to get rid of them.  Rabbits require a lot of care and attention. Our rabbits live in a hutch outside. The hutch requires regular cleaning, the rabbits need toys to keep from being bored, and they need plenty of food, water, and hay.  Indoor bunnies need supervision to keep from chewing on electrical cords (because rabbits love to chew) and other objects that could cause injury to them.  They need cared for, brushing and they require regular exercise.  They can succumb to stress and have a heart attack.  During cold weather we move our rabbits into the heated garage to keep them from freezing.

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I particularly liked her bunny shoes!

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I can’t remember this rabbit’s name, but they had Lucy, Desi, Ethel, and a cat named Fred! They had 4 bunnies with them.

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This is a therapy bunny from F5RS (Frisky Ferrets, Fuzzies & Feathered Friends Rescue and Sanctuary); if she has her hat on, she’s working! http://www.facebook.com/F5RS1

Rabbit people come from all walks of life.  They are passionate about their furry companions.

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Kaycee Jane of Clover Patch Sanctuary in Franklin, Tennesee

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I noticed people gathering a round one of the booths.  There was a vendor who made clothing for rabbits.  She said she made a pattern and picks out different materials for the clothing.  Her website is AnnieElleBunnies.etsy.com. I think they looked adorable!

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Fashionable rabbit attire!

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Dressing the bunny to show off her style!



I stood at one of the tables and watched Andrea Biggs of Breath of Life Illustrations (www.facebook.com/breathoflifeillustrations) sketch bunnies for the crowd.  She worked from photographs that were sent to her phone.  It took her only about 30 minutes to go from  the sketch to a full color rendition of the photograph of an individual’s beloved pet.

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Andrea begins her sketch.

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The rabbit’s features begin to take shape.

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Andrea fills in the colors and the details.

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She shows the finished print to the young customer.


The rabbits could go to the Chillaxazone to stretch their legs and relax and refresh.  There was plenty for a bunny to see and do while at BunFest!

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Curious as to what might be going on!

Bunnies, Bunnies, Everywhere!

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Our bunnies, Smokey and Shadow experience BunFest for the first time.  We borrowed a pet stroller from a friend of ours.  Having the stroller was very beneficial to transporting two bunnies around the event.  People would stop to pet them and talk about their bunnies.

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Shadow

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Smokey


BunFest 2015 is an exciting event for rabbit owners.  You can purchase products such as toys, hay, habitats, and treats!  You can go to sessions on how to care for your bunnies and there was even one on how your bunny communicates!  The event is very worth while if you are in the market for a rabbit. For more information, website for BunFest is http://www.midwestbunfest.org