Monthly Archives: January 2013

An 80-Degree Winter at Brazos Bend State Park

You wouldn’t think it’s winter down here in southeast Texas.   It’s been in the upper 70’s (Fahrenheit) for the past few days.  Foggy in the morning, sunny and bright by mid-morning lasting into the evening.  Yesterday, it was 80 degrees.

I get every other Friday off.  During those Fridays, I generally don’t like to go anywhere (except on vacation, that is).  However, I’d scheduled a bone density test for this particular Friday off, so I decided I’d take along my cameras and spend time after the appointment at a state park to which I’d never been.

Well, I’ve still never been to that state park, and probably won’t ever get there.  You see, Google Map’s directions are not always spot-on.  I managed to get lost and spent the remainder of the morning never finding the park. But, I did see a lot of new area around the outskirts of Houston which I’d never seen before.  I’ve read that seeing new places helps your brain’s neurons (or whatever) create new pathways, which in turn keeps you from getting age-related dementia too soon.  So I guess the morning wasn’t a total waste.

By the time I finally found a highway that would take me home, I decided I might as well drive out to familiar ground instead of going back to my apartment.  So I found myself showing the park ranger my annual Texas State Park pass and I spent a few hours at 40-Acre Lake in Brazos Bend State Park.

H5T1290_Ibis

H5T1377_Turtles Reflection

H5T1418_Great Egret - Vertical

H5T1467_Leading Lines

H5T1549_Friday Afternoon Fishing

The weather was unbelievable.  For  a winter’s day, people were out in shorts and t-shirts.  There still wasn’t much bird life, but the American alligators were sunning themselves in numbers.

H5T1385_Sunning

H5T1403_Alligator Face

Becky was out sunning herself too.  Oh, and I was also testing my new Giga Pro T II wireless remote by Hahnel.

U9A7631_Becky at Brazos Bend

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Filed under Brazos Bend State Park, nature, Parks, Photography, Texas, wildlife

Of Red-Tailed Hawks and Taking Advice

H5T1140-3_Juvenile Red Tail Hawk

A recent incident regarding one of my photographs made me think about how I act toward others concerning advice.  This, in turn, brought to mind the idea that it might serve as a good blog post, tied to some recent red-tailed hawk photographs I captured during an evening visit to the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge (since the hawk photos are the main reason for all of this in the first place).  My blog posts are like photo ops: I’m always trying to find another great reason to put one out there for public consumption.

I’m horrible at taking advice.  Doesn’t matter from whom:  my mother, my sister, my best friend.  I’m  an Aries woman with a strong Type A personality ; all the women in my family are a  bossy lot with strong opinions, so I don’t know if it’s a gender thing or a familial thing.  I readily admit to having  doled out advice without being asked for it.  I’ve been on the receiving end too; I was once married to a man who used to attend a weekly evening group session where people just listened to each other’s stories/rants/issues with the objective of being better listeners and not advice givers.  This same man – my then-husband –  would afterwards come home and start giving me unasked-for advice – apparently those group sessions didn’t help him much….or else this was his way of getting it all out of his system because he couldn’t impart his ” learned “ advice to the others in these group sessions.

I recently was once again on the receiving end of some unasked-for advice from a well-meaning (and very good) photographer who I met once through a mutual acquaintance and who owns a very expensive Nikon camera and a lens as big as I am.  I did not take his advice very gracefully, I’m afraid.  As a matter of fact, I did a slow burn over it for the remainder of the afternoon.

That being said, after I got home, I went through the hawk photos (the object of the advice) and actually did re-work several of them, following that unasked-for advice.  I do like the reworks, as a matter of fact.

This whole episode was a good learning experience for me and the gist of it all is knowing when to keep my own mouth shut, no matter how much I might want to say something. Oh, I’ve screwed up plenty in that department, believe me. I’ve had the temerity to ask probing questions then dole out unasked-for advice to people whose photography blogs I follow. What the hell was I thinking??!  If I don’t like unasked-for advice, then why would anybody else like it coming from me? Sigh. Lesson learned.

So, while it’s one thing to ask for advice, it’s another thing to get unasked-for advice. I now make every attempt to keep my mouth shut.  I am learning what a friend of mine calls “The Power of Shutting Up”. This doesn’t mean I won’t probably slip up at times to say something I perceive in my own little mind as being well-meaning. But I’m trying to not do that.

For you photographers out there, I promise I will keep my mouth shut tight and only give advice to you if you ask. For those of you who have been following my posts for a while, you know the photographic advice I impart here is more on the instructional level and not geared toward any one person or entity.

That being said, let’s take a look at some recent images I captured during a late afternoon visit to the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge (the whole reason in the first place for this longer-than-usual diatribe from me).

U9A7613-2_Sunrise Landscape

(ok, this is a morning shot, but it was so pretty I just had to post it here)

During this time of year, as I am zipping home from work in the evenings, I see all sorts of birds of prey looming over the highway, either perched high atop trees or else on signposts right next to the road. They are such beautiful creatures, but to try and photograph one while driving home is impossible.   I am driving fast, there are other commuters tailing me at a fast(er) rate, and if I pulled over and stopped rapidly, said raptor would fly away…..This is also not to mention that the only camera I have with me on a daily basis is one with a 40mm lens attached .  Yes, I always carry a camera with me – my “purse” is actually a Lowepro messenger-style case into which I store a camera with attached lens, hairbrush, extra pair of glasses, wallet, USB flash drive, pens, etc.

So this past weekend, I took a late afternoon drive out to the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge to see what was going on. The day had dawned chilly and warmed up to the mid-60’s. The sky was blue and the atmosphere was clear. The first sight that greeted me upon reaching Olney Pond within the refuge was a red-tailed hawk riding the currents against the backdrop of the deep blue sky.

H5T0768-2_Against The Clear Blue Sky

H5T0796_The Skys The Limit

From there, I found another red-tailed hawk perched atop a covered picnic area opposite of Cross Trails Pond.  After allowing me to get within a certain distance of it, this hawk flew away too (always use your Servo focus mode when photographing birds that may take flight, so you can keep them in focus as you pan your camera to follow their flight path).

H5T0983_Nice Vantage Point

H5T0988_On The Fly

After spending a little more time in that area, I returned to the car to head back toward the visitor center and out of the refuge toward home. I was driving reeeeaaaalllllyyy slowly and had glanced down at my camera on the passenger seat. Looking back up, I suddenly saw to my right this beautiful juvenile hawk perched on the metal post. I slowed the car to a stop. Lucky for me, the windows were already down. Hefting my camera/lens combo (without one of those window bean bags – I’ve used one before and personally find that it gets in my way), I rapidly and happily snapped away  for as long as this raptor was willing to pose for me.

H5T1136_Hello Becky CROP_Orig

This is the original photo.

H5T1136_Hello Becky

This is the photo after I applied the advice over which I had such a knee-jerk reaction.   In truth, I like the change….although I’m fine with the original, too.

H5T1173-2_The Look CROP

After the hawk flew away, I continued my slow trek along the auto-tour road, and spied another red-tailed hawk (could have been the same one since its leg was also banded) sitting high atop a pole specifically erected for perching purposes. This time, my 6-lb camera/lens combo was aimed through the open window of the passenger side to capture this awesome creature (thank goodness for image stabilization).

H5T1221_Hawk On A Perch

H5T1214-2_Hawk On A Perch

After this bird flew away, I knew it was time to go. I drove all the way home with a smile on my face.  Open-mouthed smile

H5T1234_Evening On The Refuge

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Filed under Attitude, birds, Brazoria NWR, Life, Photography, Texas, Wildlife Refuge

Introducing Andrew and Juliana

H5T0025_Julie and Andrew Special Effects

If you read my previous post, then you know I spent my Christmas holiday  in eastern Washington.  This post photographically details the wedding I photographed in Tacoma, on December 28, while still in Washington.

I took the photographic equivalent of the kitchen sink with me:

Let’s see….did I forget anything here? Probably.

My brother-in-law was the officiator for the wedding, so on December 27, my sister, bro-in-law, and I piled ourselves and our stuff into their SUV and headed west over Snoqualmie Pass in fog, snow, slush, and rain to Tacoma.

H5T8971_Over The Pass

Our hotel was the Silver Cloud Inn, Tacoma Waterfront, with great views of Commencement Bay.  I was mightily impressed with the hotel and would stay there again in a heartbeat (this reminds me that I need to write a review of the hotel in Trip Advisor, to add to the other reviews I have written over the past couple of years).

U9A6532_Full Moon on Commencement Bay

U9A6543_Commencement Bay

The view of Commencement Bay and the full moon from my hotel window.

U9A6594_Commencement Bay Sunrise-Wide Angle

Sunrise on Commencement Bay the day of the wedding.

6226_Weyerhaeuser Mansion

The wedding was held at Weyerhaeuser Mansion, in the Old Town portion of Tacoma, atop a hill overlooking Commencement Bay.

6254_Venue with a View

Had the bride and groom not been so entranced looking at each other, this is the view they would have seen from where they stood during the ceremony.

U9A6819_Movie Starlet

H5T9257_Portrait of Juliana CROP

U9A6840_Juliana CROP

Prior to the wedding, Juliana dressed up in this adorable little movie-starlet outfit and with Andrew, welcomed guests to the mansion.

H5T9511_Fixing His Tie

Andrew getting ready.  I’m not sure how it happened, but his suit had been left back at their home, some 30 minutes and one ferry ride away.  Luckily, the suit arrived and the wedding started on time.

H5T9754_Pinning the Hat

Getting ready.

H5T9465_Wedding M&Ms

Wedding M&M’s with the date and their names printed on them.

H5T9678_Appetizers

Appetizers

H5T9803_Red Suede Shoes

Red suede shoes worn under the wedding gown.

Whenever you are photographing an event such as a wedding, you need to remember to capture images of the little things – the accessories, the decorations, the food/drink served.  These help flesh out the event and add atmosphere.

H5T9787_Portrait of the Bride

After Juliana was all dressed in her bridal ensemble, I asked her to stand next to the window so I could capture a portrait of her with the side light, which is one of my favorite  lighting techniques.

H5T9787_Portrait of the Bride - Enhanced

I took some of the photos and duplicated them, then used different special effects either  directly from Photoshop CS6, or as one of the presets in OnOne’s Perfect Effects 4 plug in.

H5T9825_Julie Head of Stairs-VIGNETTE

Juliana took my breath away as she stood at the top of the staircase, waiting for me to get my photos of her before she headed down to where her father awaited to escort her out to the groom and officiator.  Her gown and hat matched the character of the mansion and she truly looked like the Lady of The Manor.  In this photo, as well as a number of others, I made use of the vignette effect to focus the eye more on the subject.

H5T9825_Julie Head of Stairs-Anime

Another preset from OnOne’s Perfect Effects 4.

H5T9838_Juliana On Stairs Smiling

H5T9858_Father and Bride

H5T9874_Viewing His Bride

Andrew’s look as he first beheld his bride walking toward him.

H5T9884_From Father to SonInLaw

H5T9894_The Ceremony

U9A7175_The Ceremony

6275_Ceremony Overhead

U9A7188-2_Ceremony From Above

H5T9900_Putting On Her Wedding Ring - Ceremony

As I was earlier scoping out the mansion for possible photo ops for the bride & groom, I noticed this little room down the hallway from the changing room on the third floor of the building.  The room’s balcony looked directly over the wedding ceremony site.  So, after getting some ground-level images, I RAN up the three steep flights of stairs to get to the balcony so I could capture some overhead photos.  Then, I RAN back down the three flights and managed to arrive just as the bride and groom were kissing.

H5T9926-3_You May Kiss The Bride-Closeup

U9A7199_A Moment of Laughter

After the kiss, there was a moment of laughter as the groom came away with lovely red lips of his own; the bride’s lipstick color was very bright indeed.  I noticed later on a couple of male relatives with red lip marks on their cheeks.

H5T9962_Team HOCO

Introducing Team HOCO (made up of the first two letters each of Juliana’s and Andrew’s last names).

U9A7211_Mr & Mrs - VIGNETTE

And then it was on to the bride & groom photos, the reception, the toasts, and the cake cutting.

H5T9973_Juliana and Andrew

H5T9973_Juliana and Andrew-Blue Dawn effect

H5T0053_Swept Off Her Feet

At the gazebo, Andrew turned to Juliana and told her he wanted to sweep her off her feet.  I told him to go right ahead so I could get a photo of it.

H5T0060_Gazing From The Gazebo-Vignette

H5T0069_Julie Looking Back

H5T0108_Looking At Each Other

U9A7348-2_A&J Behind Tree

U9A7350_A&J at Mansion

H5T0128_A&J-WideAngle Mansion Door - Without Cape

Julian wanted a photo taken without the long black cape she was wearing.  It was a bit “nippy” outside and you can tell in this image.  Good thing she had Andrew’s warm arms around her.

H5T0133-2_A&J-Mansion Door-Closer

U9A6907_Tablesetting

6300_HOCO Tablesetting & Guests

U9A7531_Gifts and Guest Register

H5T0240_Wedding Roses

H5T9666_Wedding Cake

H5T9586_Cake Topper

A cake topper made by one of Juliana’s friends.  I’m told she and Andrew first met at Petco.

U9A7398_Welcoming The Newlyweds

U9A7507_A Toast To The Newlyweds

U9A7516_Cutting The Cake

U9A7524_Feeding Each Other Cake

U9A7319_A&J At Gazebo POSTERIZED

I’m thinking about doing this same “posterized” special effect to copies of a number of other photos, and then creating a little comic book/graphic novel for Andrew and Juliana.  I think any bride that wears red suede shoes with her wedding gown would appreciate something like that – don’t you?

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Photographer’s Note:  I used every single one of those lenses at one point in time during the trip, but the three lenses I used most at the wedding were the 16-35mm for the wide-angle shots, and the 50mm prime and the 24-70mm zoom.  I can’t say enough wonderful things about these lenses.  Canon makes awesome glass in the form of their L-lenses.

While I used the flash occasionally, both with and without the Lastolite softbox,  the majority of my images were taken without the flash (I don’t really like using flash much, to be honest, although I know flash has its place and is quite necessary in some instances).  Instead, for my interior low-light images, I increased the ISO, and then used a noiseware reduction plug-in with CS6.

If you would like to see more photos from the wedding, please take a moment and go over to my Facebook Photography Page. And if you like what you see there, then please, feel free to Like me and follow me on my continuing photographic journeys.

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Filed under Equipment, Life, Photography, Washington State, wedding

What I Did During My Christmas Vacation

U9A0620_Christmas Tree Magic

I had planned on a relatively quiet Christmas, with 9 days left of vacation time to use up.  I figured I might venture out to the nearby national wildlife refuge and maybe a nearby state park to check out the birdlife, but other than that, I had no big plans.

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Back track to December 2010.  I was visiting my sister, brother-in-law, and assorted family members for Christmas in eastern Washington. We were standing around their kitchen island conducting a whiskey taste testing (Redbreast Single Malt won hands down).  Andrew and Julie (the sister to my niece-in-law) turned to me and said how much they would like to have me photograph their wedding…..whenever they set the date. I told them that would be awesome.  We resumed our whiskey tasting.

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Fast forward to late September 2012. While talking to my sister, she mentioned that Julie and Andrew had set the wedding date for sometime in early December. This was the first I had heard of their pending wedding, and I knew I would not be able to make it because my remaining vacation days were already committed to those last two weeks of December. Sigh.

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Fast forward to early October 2012.  I received an email from Julie telling me they’d set the date for December 28 in Tacoma, Washington and would I be able to photograph their wedding if  all expenses – including the plane flight – were paid?  December 28 was during my vacation, so I was beyond thrilled to be able to say “YES” after all! (It heartened me mightily that Andrew and Julie felt so strongly about having me as their wedding photographer).

We made the plane reservation with enough time for me to first spend several days before and after Christmas with my sister, brother-in-law, and assorted relatives in eastern WA.  I had a white Christmas Eve and and a White Christmas Day and a wonderful time while there.

H5T8422_Snow Line

H5T8437_Chimanea

H5T8433_Joe

H5T7671_Santas

H5T7748_Crystal and Bokeh

U9A0191-2_Crystal Ornaments

H5T7792_Looking In The Window

H5T8190_Casey and Logan

H5T8230_Grammy and Savanna

U9A0235_Stockings

H5T8881_Christmas Dinner Setup

H5T8911_Christmas Dinner Tablesetting

H5T8942_Second Christmas Dinner

H5T8808_Night Lights

Lights and ornaments and tinsel and pretty presents.   No arguments, lots of laughter, non-stop eating and a little bit of egg nog.  I soaked in the love and closeness and humor of family and the joyful screams of my great-niece and great-nephew  as they opened their gifts.  “This is the best gift ev-oh!   You actually listened!” (this coming from a 4-year old who received a pair of  Stompeez slippers).

It was a great Christmas!

H5T0451_Sisters

H5T8732-3_Becky and Friend

What did you do for the holidays?

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Filed under Christsmas, family, Holidays, Life, Photography