Sunday, April 24, 2011

Celebrate Easter!

This last week I had the privilege of spending a day with my wife and a second day with my wife and my camera club buddies hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and taking in the abundant Spring wildflowers God created for us to enjoy.

Field of White Trillium
Showy Orchis

Spring is a special time in the Smokies where there are places with dozens of varieties of wildflowers growing right along hiking trails. Some varieties, like the White Trillium, are abundant with thousands of blooms every where you look. Others, like the Yellow Lady Slipper, Painted Trillium, and Jack in the Pulpit, seems to be more special because they are uncommon. All are beautiful creations.

Yellow Lady Slipper

Jack In The Pulpit

For years June and I walked past the flowers without paying much attention to them. It wasn't until I got into photography that we began to appreciate the beauty in each and every bloom. Look inside the Lady Slippers or up close at the Showy Orchis and you can see God's handy work. We missed so much when we passed these by without stopping to look and appreciate the gifts. Now we take 7 hours to go 4 miles where we used to do it in 2 or 3. It's more important to slow down and appreciate what's around us than to get in those extra miles.

Spring is also a time of Joy. Because God sent His Son to die for us and be resurrected we have the gift of new life. The wildflowers can remind us our new life but unlike the wildflowers our new life lasts forever.

I shared one of my photos of a Painted Trillium on a Smoky Mountain Wildflower website and was blessed with the following comment.

Painted Trillium

" Red for the blood and White for His garment. The beauty of Salvation in a 'flower'. Thanks Lord for dying on the Cross for me"

What a time to Celebrate Resurrection!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I Am a New Creation!

Springtime is beautiful where I live in East Tennessee.   The trees are budding out in brilliant new green, the Dogwoods and Redbuds are in bloom, dozens of varieties of wildflowers are in bloom, and the birds have their brilliant breeding colors.   After Winter, Spring is a welcome change but it doesn't last near long enough.  We've planned out just about every weekend to go somewhere to get out and enjoy God's new creation.  

The last two weekends I spent Saturday morning in Laurel Run Park in Church Hill Tennessee.  It's a fantastic place for wildflowers.   Although only one week apart, the flowers changed from one Saturday to the next.   Here are a few of the flowers from those two Saturdays.  More are available in the Laurel Run Park gallery.

Rue Anenone


Virginia Bluebells

Everything about Spring reminds me of the good news given by Paul to the Corinthians - "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" - 2 Corinthians 5:17

Monday, April 11, 2011

Wasn't That A Mighty Storm?

100mm Macro, f/3.2, 1/80 sec

That's the title to a  song by Nancy Griffith that I enjoy.   It's an old classic sung by many great artists over the years.  The song started as a spiritual and was first recorded in a prison near Sandy Point, Texas, sung by "Sin-Killer" Griffin who claimed authorship.  It's reported to describe the very famous 1900 Galveston hurricane, which remains the deadliest natural disaster in United States history, responsible for an estimated 6,000 to 12,000 fatalities.

This past Saturday we had a series of thunderstorms roll through our area with confirmed tornadoes, golf ball sized hail, and lots of damage.   We didn't have any damage at our house, but it did leave everything very wet, including the kitchen window.   This is a shot taken in the kitchen looking out with Red-Tip Photinia at the bottom and Dogwoods at the top.   Just goes to show you can find something interesting to shoot no matter where you are and the conditions.  Just look around!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Color Efex Pro 3.0 from Nik Software

I got the complete collection of Nik software as a Christmas present last year.  

Software included in the collection:
  • Define 2.0 for noise reduction
  • Vivenza for selective light and color control
  • HDR Efex Pro for, you guessed it HDR
  • Silver Efex Pro for converting to B&W
  • Sharpener Pro for image sharpening
  • Color Efex Pro with over 250 filters for special effects.
This is great digital imaging software.   I had Define 2.0 before and had used it extensively.   Since I got this collection I've been playing with each package.  I've started to come around to creating HDR now that I can create HDR images that look realistic and not like cartoons.   I haven't spent much time in Sharpener Pro or Silver Efex and am still using Adobe Lightroom for B&W conversion and sharpening.   Nothing against the Nik software, I just haven't had time to learn how to use these packages.

Lately I've been using one filter in Color Efex Pro - Glamour Glow.   Based on the name, I suspect this was designed to be used on portraits to smooth skin and give a person's face a soft glowing effect.   Here's an example from the Nik website.    I've used it a couple times on portraits and it can make even one of my portraits look good.   After seeing images from professionals like Tony Sweet using this filter on landscapes I gave it a try.  I really like the the effect you can get.  

Here's a few examples of photos before and after the Glamour Glow effect was applied.  To really see the effect you need to click on each pair of images to zoom in and then click again to zoom in even more.  

This last one is a little extreme.  I was going for a dreamy look.   You can adjust how much glow you apply, plus the warmth of the image.   

This filter blurs the sharp edges without losing a lot of detail.  It also puts a glow on the edges.    The end result almost never looks like reality, but it's a cool effect.  I'm trying to branch out and get out of the rut of "it must look like it did when I took the picture".   That still applies to most of my photos, but sometimes I want a different look.