Backyard photography

Can You Tell?

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House Finch

Rich cracked me up so hard and I just have to share the joke.  Recently I finished editing this image and I took the laptop to him, asking “Can you tell?” His response was priceless. “I don’t know if there was a branch, and I don’t know if there was a bird!” Such are the joys of Photoshop fun. :)

Digital Art

Merry Christmas!

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  Up on our housetop reindeer pause Out jumps good old Santa Claws Down through the chimney with lots of cat toys All for the kitty cats’ Christmas joys! First comes the stocking of Goldilocks A neat orange clock that really talks! Here is some cat grass and a blue blanket too Sunshine catnaps in store for you. Next comes the stocking of Mr. Squirt A catnip toy for the Twerp Alert Sneak in a lizard all of his own Why won’t Whiskey leave it alone? Last comes the stocking of Whiskey Lou A scratching post as tall as you A bunch of loopies and a squeaky toy Full of joy like our little boy. Oh ho ho, who wouldn’t go? Oh ho ho, who wouldn’t go? Up on the housetop, click click click! Our cats love old Saint Nick!

Beyond the Backyard

Hide and Seek

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Hide and Seek! (Sandhill Crane with Young)

This is a “digital art” version of a photo from last March.  The two Sandhill Crane colts were just a few days old.  The day was windy and cold, and Mom would occasionally sit down and create an “insta-nest” for her two tired colts.  The babies would scurry behind her back and crawl into her warm feathers. That’s the realistic story behind this photo.  After staring at it on our calendar for this month of January, however, Rich had a better interpretation.  Rich says it’s a game of Hide and Seek!  The colt on the right is hiding his eyes and counting down.  The colt on the left…well, we’re not sure if he’s hiding under Mom’s head, or asking for suggestions about where to go.  Better hurry up and decide!  10…9…8… I can’t wait to get out and photograph these beautiful birds again this spring!

Backyard photography

More Lightpad Flowers and Post-Processing Fun

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Reds and Purples

Poor Squirt – it wasn’t enough that I withheld pansies for lightpad photography once, but I had such a good time that I did it again!  I took some pansies and some small petunias and played more with my new ArtOGraph Lightpad.  Then I spent a rainy afternoon having fun with the post-processing.  A few of these got a “hmm! I like that!” from Rich.  Can you guess which ones? This first image is a petunia, face-down.  It reminds me of a dancer doing a waltz.  I added several rounds of the Fractalius filter, one to soften the image, the next to add the extra detail in the petals only.  Then I added a texture from Shadowhouse Creations.  I liked the colored texture background better than the original white of the Lightpad. This next image is a typical flower image taken on the Lightpad.  I put the pansies and the petunia together and played with the composition till I liked it.  I did very little post processing to this one, just a little touch-up from Nik Color Efex Pro.  I’m finding that the Tonal Contrast filter works wonders with the flower colors that are otherwise softened but the bright light of […]

Backyard photography

Fun with my New Lightpad

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Pansy Heart Close-Up

Rich got me an ArtOGraph Lightpad for Christmas, after seeing me drool over some of Denise Ippolito’s flower shots.  I infuriated Squirt by photographing some pansies on the Lightpad out on his porch, where he sat waiting to devour my subjects as soon as I finished photographing them.  Whiskey was right there, too!  At our house, flowers are meant for eating…at least according to my favorite felines. I had a great time with the lightpad.  The lightpad provides a bright even white light to use as a background for high-key images.  It was a cloudy day, so I used my flash on my 5D III to throw some extra light on the flowers.  I had fun in post-processing, trying different effects with the colors and details.  The first image is just the flower lying on the light pad. I really like playing with close-ups of flowers, so after I did a few shots of the whole flower, I put the extension tubes on my macro lens and started focusing on the center of the flower.  I really liked how the high-key background brought out the whites of the flower. I kept focusing closer and closer until finally three extension tubes […]

Digital Art

2013 Filmstrip

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2013 Filmstrip

Oops!  I had a special image planned for my 2013 Year in Review post, and I forgot to use it!  So I’ll share it today.  It’s a filmstrip of some of my favorite images from 2013. I created the filmstrip using this tutorial that I found online.  Little graphics projects like these make me realize just how few features in Photoshop I use.  I learned a lot about duplicating tiny little boxes!  I also had never used the “Paste Into” feature, which lets you fit an image into a shape.  That’ll be a handy trick to remember.  When I finished the filmstrip, I warped it to make it a little more interesting.  I think filmstrip effects like these are fun ways to showcase your favorite images. The gray icky weather has kept me inside for most of my Christmas vacation.  I’ve spent some time adding features to my website.  The one I’m most excited about is enhanced category pages for each of my “Beyond the Backyard” places.  I get a lot of e-mails from strangers thanking me for my site’s organization and information, but I was finding the “Beyond the Backyard” information a little hard to follow.  Each location’s page […]

Backyard photography

Frozen Orchids

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Frozen Orchid

My mom’s neighbors (hi Dick and Connie!) recently gave her a branch from a flowering orchid, and my mom was sweet and froze it for me!  I guess she wanted to see more frozen flowers on my blog. :)  Then she was nice enough to keep it in the freezer for me for a few weeks until I had a chance to take my macro lens over to shoot.  So I finally got my frozen orchid pictures… Orchids are pretty flowers, and fun to photograph.  My mom had positioned the flower on a nice angle, such that the petals all froze at the top of the ice.  That was really good, because the parts of the flower that are buried in ice don’t tend to be as pretty in the photo.  When I first took it out of the freezer, the ice was covered in pretty frost.  It didn’t last long in the 80 degree Florida heat!  (Yes, somebody forgot to tell Florida that it’s wintertime.) I got to experiment with flash and I tried to use the flash light to illuminate the flowers from behind.  I thought that might bring out some really pretty details.  Instead I ended up […]

Backyard photography

Colorful Water Droplets, Part 2

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Sparkles in the Sun

In my last post I wrote about photographing pansies under a hose.  After I finished playing with the flowers, I was inspired to try a different take on my Colorful Water Droplet experiment.  With my first colorful water droplets, I focused close on a single water droplet as it dripped from my kitchen faucet.  The setup was surrounded by colorful cloth, which reflected in the water droplets.  Well, I decided to take those same colorful cloths outside and see what I could do with photographing hundreds of tiny water droplets as they sprayed from the hose.  Suffice it to say, I got soaked!  But I had fun. This is an iPhone picture of my setup.  I had my hose set up to spray from a treetop.  Then I draped my colorful fabric over some gardening posts.  (A bunch of clothespins are awesome additions to a camera bag – they can be used to secure flowers for macro shots, tie down cloths for crazy flower experiments, and dozens of other random uses!)   Finally I took my macro lens and focused close on the falling water.  (Rich made sure to tell me I was crazy.  I’m sure he was right.) My […]

Backyard photography

Photographing Pansies in Rain

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Pansy Droplets

I have a secret.  Don’t tell Squirt.  The last time we bought him pansies, I didn’t give them to him right away.  I took them to the backyard and photographed them.  Then he got to devour them. I have another secret.  I wanted to try photographing pansies in rain, but there was no rain in the forecast.  My solution?  A garden hose hanging from my crape myrtle!  That and a slowish shutter speed make for nice rain shots. Usually when I use a hose or spray bottle to make artificial rain drops, it looks really fake.  But this time the hose did a pretty good job.  My favorite shot from the day was a line of water droplets on the pansy’s stem.  The water droplets reflected the grassy area behind me.  I created my own texture by applying the Fractalius filter to an image of falling water droplets.  That texture was a nice finishing touch to the droplet image. After a while, the pansy couldn’t take the force of the water droplets anymore.  The stem broke off and the flower tumbled down to the mulch.  The sun came out and shone on the poor little flower getting battered by water. […]

Backyard photography

Pentas in our Neighborhood

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Pentas Zoom Butterfly

We took a walk around the neighborhood the other night and I had to take my camera.  Our community flower beds are full of colorful pentas right now, and they call my name every time I drive by them!  The mass of colors made me want to experiment with some intentional blurs… First I tried moving the camera in small circles with a long-ish exposure.  I got a lot of strange looks from people driving by!  I added a bit of Oil Filter and Color Efex to the resulting image and I kinda like it. I did some zoom blurs, too, but they were a little boring.  So I started to play with the Flaming Pear Flexify filter.  I kept using random settings until I stumbled upon one that made my zoom look like a butterfly.  Then I added a touch of Fractalius and enhanced the colors a bit.  It looks nothing like the original pentas, but it was a fun little experiment! As we walked home, the sun was setting behind our neighborhood pond.  Our weeping willow trees have always caught my attention, and with my 5D Mark III, I finally have the wide angle to try some of […]

Beyond the Backyard

Bok Tower in Bloom

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Lily Bloom

A few weeks ago I spent a Saturday morning at Bok Tower, a wonderful garden in Lake Wales, Florida.  It was architected by Frederick Law Olmstead and  dedicated by President Coolidge in 1929.  The tower itself is fun to photograph, but what attracted me was the possibility of migrant warblers.  I seem to find a lot of them on good days.  There was also a Rufous Hummingbird that visited there last year, and I was curious to see if one had returned this year.  The great thing is that even on a slow bird day, Bok Tower in bloom is gorgeous and a fun place for flower photography! The hummingbirds typically are easiest to find at the firebush near the Window By the Pond, so I headed there first.  On my way I saw several tiny birds flitting high in the treetops, but they didn’t stay still long enough for me to focus on them.  I suspect I saw my first-of-fall warblers.  The cheerful calls of hummingbirds echoed all over the place as they squabbled in mid-air.  When I got to the Window by the Pond, it took me about five seconds to find a Rufous, who seemed to enjoy […]

Digital Art

Fun with Filters and Razorbills

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I’m still processing images from my trip to Maine.  This was one of my favorites from my expedition to Machias Seal Island.  It shows a pair of Razorbills in the middle of a courtship nuzzle.  They were so sweet as they did little beak-to-beak nuzzles, and then one (who I’m assuming was the male) seemed to raise his wings in a victory pose.  Maybe that’s the birdie way of saying, “I’m cute!  She thinks I’m cute!” I love this image for the bird behavior, but also for the crisp lines of the birds’ beaks and feathers.  It’s the kind of image that yields fun results with the Fractalius filter.  That filter is one of the main reasons that I have a Windows virtual machine on my Mac – it’s so much fun to play with! I loved how the filter brought out the lines on the birds’ beaks.  But I wasn’t happy with it yet.  I continued playing, experimenting with effects from Nik Color Efex and blending modes in Photoshop.  I was just clicking on random effects to see what they did.  I’d never played with the Film Efex filters much, because they tend to add noise and grain.  But […]