Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Driftwood Altar

Last week when I was strolling on the beach I came across this altar that someone had built out of driftwood. It had a couple of bible verses written on it, that's how I know it was supposed to be an altar. It was quite creative and lovely in a rustic sort of way.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Post Processing

Mastering sunrise and sunset lighting can be challenging. Personally, I love it. I'd go so far as to say I'm addicted to it. When I'm on the west side of the state I just can't resist photographing a Lake Michigan sunset... summer, winter, spring or fall. But sometimes I just can't get the camera to see things the way I do. I'll play with different settings, change my position, heck, I've even been known to use my manual setting and a grey card the way real photographers do. ;-) It can be especially challenging at this time of year when the sun is low on the horizon all day... once it starts to set it seems to go down so fast. That means you don't have a lot of time to capture that beautiful soft evening light. Add to that the very cold brisk wind off the lake and the finger digits freeze up right quick. Trying to capture the light just right often gets sacrificed to get a nice composition and get back to the warm car! I'm sure you know what I mean.

Thank heavens for post processing options, because that's where I can compensate for my haste to get a picture on the frozen lakeshore... while in my comfy desk chair in my 70F house. When it comes to post processing, there are a lot of options. You can do a little, or a lot. You can even buy filters to do most of the work for you. I'm not going to do an in depth analysis of photo editing software here. My aim is just to show you how I can get a pretty darn good pic out of a sow's ear.

The photo above was taken last weekend at sunset. This photo is what the JPG version looked like right out of the camera. I liked all the textures in the sand, snow, waves, dune grass, and trees but they are all too dark and too hot. That's not the way I saw the sunset at the time. Fortunately, I shoot RAW and JPG images at the same time. Here's what the RAW image looked like.

This image has much better color. It's less red and closer to the way I remember the sunset. But it's still dark and flat and the warm evening light just isn't coming across with the vibrancy I remember.

I opened the photo in Picasa and hit auto contrast, increased the fill light, decreased the saturation, and sharpened it. It's definitely looking better, much closer to the natural lighting. But that's about as far as I can take it in Picasa. I really like Picasa and use it often for pictures that just need a bit of cropping or straightening, or maybe just need to be made a tad brighter. But when you have serious color issues, you really need something with a bit more horsepower.

When I need software with more editing features my go-to program is Photoshop Elements, current version, PSE10. I know, I know, you're wondering why I don't use the full version of Photoshop. I actually have the current version of Photoshop (CS5) and I know how use it well (3 college semesters of it will do that for you ;-) . However, it's a time suck to do everything manually. PSE has all the tools I need and is much more user-friendly. And, you can add filters, brushes, fonts, etc. to it just like you can for the full version of Photoshop. (This is not a sales pitch. I'm not getting paid to promote products from Adobe, Picasa, or anyone else.)

Anyway, so I opened this photo in PSE, played with a bunch of settings and filters which I didn't write down because I was just playing at the time... and this is what I came up with.
I wish I'd paid attention to how much time it took me to play with this pic to get it to this stage but unfortunately I didn't. It took a while though. But I can honestly say that this is much closer to my perception of the sunset at that point in the evening. The camera didn't come close to capturing it, no fault of the camera's though. I just couldn't stand the cold temps long enough to get the settings right. But thanks to post processing, I was able to come close to recreating the soft natural light of that early evening sunset. (Click the image to view it larger and see the soft colors and details.)

How much post processing do you do to your photos? What software do you use? Got any great photos you were able to "save" with post processing?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Paczki Day in Motown

We haven't seen much winter weather this season but Mother Nature decided to give us a good dose of it this morning. It moved in quickly and came down hard laying a quick blanket of snow on the ground and causing lots of accidents on area roadways. It sure is pretty though.

And of course we have to have a photo of those wonderful, tasty, calorie-laden goodies... pączki! I enjoyed these over the weekend and discovered a new flavor that has become my new favorite... cream cheese filled. Mmmm... so good! (It's the whole pączek behind the Bavarian Cream and Chocolate Cream ones in the foreground).

Happy Pączki Day!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Duck, Duck, Goose!

It was a feeding frenzy at the duck pond this morning. The quacks and honks were almost deafening. You can tell everyone was having a good time though!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Swan Lake

I usually refer to this body of water near my house as "the duck pond" but it actually attracts a wide variety of water fowl. This morning there were three very lovely, very friendly swans on the river along with hundreds of geese and other fine feathered friends. The sunlight was casting diamonds on the water making for a magical image.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Winter in the Village

Quaint historic buildings, a church, school, and home. They've seen many winters and are surviving well thanks to the many owners and volunteers who have seen to their upkeep over the years. Mill Race Village, Northville, Michigan.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A View from the Gazebo

A gazebo view in the summer is lovely but a winter view is charming. The almost frozen-over Rouge River would provide a nice skating pond if the cold temps were to continue a while longer. Can't you just picture a Valentine's Day skating party in this picturesque Victorian setting?

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Victorian Winter Morning

This old house is a real beauty. Whatever the season, it calls to me to photograph it. No matter the weather or the time of day the photos always come out good. Don't ya just love subjects like that?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Winter Morning on the River

I have heard this winter characterized as one long month of March, and I'd say that is a pretty apt description. March isn't the prettiest month here in Michigan and this hasn't been the prettiest winter either. Having said that, we recently had an honest to goodness snowfall. Not a mere dusting, mind you, but a true blanket of snow (3+ inches). I had an opportunity to get out in the very, very cold temps that accompanied this recent snowfall and take some nice wintery pics. I'll be featuring them all week here on my blog.

This first pic was taken along the banks of the Rouge River. These Mallards were totally oblivious to the painfully cold wind and the icy cold water. They were having a delightful time paddling to and fro and bobbing in river.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Week 6, Ain't Misbehavin'... least not at the moment.

Here's little Josie giving me that oh-so-cute look of hers. Her adaptation here continues to be a rocky road. We have to keep her crated most of the time because she continues to leaves messes outside her litter box. After 2 visits to the vet and numerous tests we have determined that the problem is behavioral not medical. I've run out of things to try to deter the behavior.

This photo was taken with my cell phone's camera and color corrected and cropped in PSE.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Is It Spring Yet?

I've noticed the squirrels have been chasing each other around a lot in the past couple days. Kinda frisky if you ask me. I'm thinking it's a sure sign that spring is just around the corner. OK, so I'm an optimist. ;-)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Baseball on My Mind

Comerica Park looks cold and lonely right now but it won't be long before the boys of summer report for spring training on February 17th down in Florida (14 days!). Go Tigers! This will be the year!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sorta Winter, Sorta Not

Not quite enough cold weather this season to freeze the lake over. But there's just enough snow and ice on it to make for a pretty picture.

I've added a countdown-to-spring clock on my blog. :-)