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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Week 12: Daisies and Glowing Leaves

Well I hope everyone has done well this week.  So this weekend we went to the florist, I got her a rainbow rose (she loves those things!) and I got some daisies to photograph.  So set the flower up, and snapped off a few shots.  This one was my favorite:

Gerber Daisy
 Used a two flash system.  I am waiting for my ring light to come in from Amazon which will light my macro shots up more and bonus, give me beautiful ring catch lights in eyes. 

Glowing Leaves

Last week I was walking Ginger out to her car to work in the morning and I noticed the moon.  So I ran up and got my camera and set it up.  But the clouds were not cooperating.  I would wait for a shot and nothing was coming clear.  But right below I noticed a light and my favorite glowing leaves effect.  So naturally, I had to take the shot.  Hey, if I could not get the shot of the moon I could at least get this one!

So be praying for Ginger.  She is having a hard time this weekend, her bipolar is latching on to some things and we just had the time change.  Speaking of which, changes are coming for her, nothing I can reveal right now, but we are trusting God and His timing is perfect!  Thanks to all our family and friends!


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Week 11: New Flashes for New Photos

Well I hope everyone had a wonderful week!  My week was really busy.  I had a wonderful birthday, even though I worked.  Got home and was able to spend quality time with my beautiful wife, read a wonderful card, eat lots of cupcakes, and shop on Amazon!  Yes, if you gave me money for my birthday it was converted into Amazon gift cards to go to the photography fund!  So my newest purchase, for my birthday was a set of high powered flashes with built in receivers and a transmitter that goes on top of my camera that allows me to control those flashes!  Bonus, I got a set of receivers compatible with that transmitter to control my other flashes.  So now, if I want, I can control four flashes all from my camera!  I got manual flashes.  Different from TTL (Through the Lens) flashes, it allows me to control my flash output to minute detail.

So, of course, I had to try out my new flashes.  First, I had to make sure everything flashed.  It was a breeze, worked right out of the box.  Then I had to figure out channels and groups, which I had never had to do before.  Basically, I could put a flash on a different group and then turn on or off each flash at the camera.  Ultimate in coolness.  So I decided to take some self portraits with a one flash setup:



Smiling Paul

Part of the setup:

It was in the 40's last night here so I had my favorite stocking cap on!  You could say it is my portrait wearing cap!  Nothing that will win any awards but considering I was able to get a black background and my flash worked flawlessly I was stoked!

So with Azaleas in full bloom I figured I would take one more opportunity to photograph them.  I only have the chance once a year to do it, so I try to take advantage.  And with the drop in temperature I did not know if they would be affected, so this morning I decided to try a two flash setup.  This time, instead of using my shadow box, I used a black background and a flash stand to hold up the Azaleas.  Here are what I considered my two best shots:

Twin Azaleas

Twin Azaleas 2
And here is one with a detail extractor filter:

We have had a full moon the past couple of days but with the cloudy weather I have not been able to get a clear shot, so I have that in the rotation of shots to take when I get a clear night.  Also, now that I have multiple flashes, the violin project should be able to get underway soon.

Ginger has an appointment in Dallas with her psychiatrist this Tuesday, so we will be off to Dallas this week for an afternoon!  Gotta love the traffic!  Work has been going well, I finished a three day painting project in two days so my generous boss gave me a bonus!  Yep, goes in the camera fund!  Thank you to everyone that has been praying for us, Ginger and I are truly blessed to be surrounded by such loving family and friends!  We thank God for ya'll everyday!


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Week 10: Birthday Boy

So this Saturday I was working out at the ranch.  I got to go out into the woods to retrieve a ladder and got to walk a little down memory lane to see a lot of the areas I had cleared out (and are growing back) what seems a life time ago.  Funny.  I remember walking on that land back in 2006 helping a plumber with some plumbing for Rebecca.  I didn't know it, but God would be calling me back to that land time and again.  I worked for a not so good man who had some of the land at one time.  He does not anymore, just owns a house on it that he rents out and that has more liens on than most.  Haven't talked to him in over 6 years.   I have worked for another man who has land next to the land who I still have a friendship with.  He is a good man who is a little rough under the collar!   And then there is Rebecca, one of my closest friends, who I just happen to help out on "project day!"  Project day can consist of small projects to working on the barn.  Gretchen, her horse, knows me well.  At one time I was scared to be around horses.  Now, you wouldn't believe it.  From cleaning her stall, to feeding her, to working on her stall and her coming up and "kissing me on the cheek", she has delivered me from that fear.  And then there is Missy.  A beautiful Labrador who I have known for years.  And Missy knows me.  I pull up on the land and she comes and greets me.  I have a special place in my heart for her, she has been through a lot (she use to be not so good man's dog).  The land has morphed and grown and become beautiful and I have been able to put my little part in that.  A safe haven that is a source of creative inspiration, I consider it an artistic retreat.  I mean, you just have to look at the project that her brother, Andy just embarked on, to see how this place is an artistic paradise.  And of course there is Rebecca's work, which is nothing short of amazing. 

So after working on Saturday at the ranch I came home to this delicious sight:

My sweet wife had been making cupcakes for my birthday, which is Monday.  I bet you can guess how old I will be.....

It is nice to be thought of while you are out working on a barn!  I forgot about the sore muscles!  And since there was a lone cupcake that didn't make the cut for the 49 (Ginger said it was in time out) I just had to taste it!  I've become a big cupcake fan, especially Ginger's!

Ginger's family took me out to eat today.  I think I surprised everyone when I said I wanted to go to the Greek restaurant!   And I got this unique card:

Yes, for a photographer this was fantastic, and unique.  I couldn't believe Aunt Susy had found it!  So it just had to make the blog.  The camera itself looks like a Leica, which is a very expensive German camera (about $2800 for a point and shoot camera....). 

So cupcakes, a unique card, funds for the camera equipment fund, but more importantly, being around people I love.  And yesterday I was able to get something I have been wanting for a while,
a photography journal:

Been wanting a leather bound journal for a while.  It was hard to find one that had blank pages that I liked, this one fit the bill nicely.

So lastly, one of the things I do for a living is painting and remodelling.  I love painting.  Painting with oil based paint can be tricky however.  And you need to have the proper equipment and protection.  So like something out of a zombie apocalypse movie here I am getting ready to spray Icicle (I ended up loving this color):

Yep, that is me.  The thing about oil based is it doesn't just come off with water, so if you are not covered, clean up can be....messy.   Have a good boss that provides us the right equipment.  Of course, the $2200 paint sprayer I am using helps nicely too!  And even though prep is key and time consuming, if you do it properly, this part is quick.  There are a few tricks to oil based, I am blessed to be taught them.  Did I mention I love learning!

So I hope everyone has a wonderful week!  As the last of year 48 comes to a close I am actually excited to see what year 49 brings!  God is good!


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Week 9 Azalea Season is Upon Us

 So you know your a geek and techie when....

Setting up one laptop to be in the studio so I can tether my camera to it.  It will allow me to remotely take pictures for focus stacking and give me a bigger screen to see the shot before I take it.  Bonus, I have another monitor connected to it for a bigger screen!  And then another laptop that I was working on (In case the zombie apocalypse happens lol).  I decommissioned my old desktop, pulled out the hard drive and made it into an external drive so if I need any of the files off of it I can.  Amazing what a $15.00 kit off of Amazon can help you accomplish!  Now I do not have to run my camera from the studio into the living room.  I can put it on the laptop, then, when I am ready can pull those off remotely to my desktop.  Fun stuff!  I spent all morning and afternoon working on it and could not have been happier!  And then bonus, date night with Ginger that night!  I absolutely love her so....

So with the unseasonably warm weather our azalea's have decided to bloom early.  So this Sunday I decided to get my macro box set up to take some shots of some azalea's.  Here is the setup:

It actually takes about 10 minutes to get everything all set up.  Practice makes perfect!  I had to get creative to get the flower to stand up but a little glass and some tape work wonders!  Funny enough, the last couple of shots of the flower, which were side shots, ended up being both Ginger and I's favorite:

Here is a full front shot:

Ginger liked the above, I had fun making the next one, which from a quirky artist point of view I loved:

And then, just having a little Photoshop fun.  Took some picture of sawdust and decided to have some fun:

 Lastly, this shot was actually from Ginger.  She wanted to take a funny shot.  This shot absolutely cracks me up!  But it shows something else.  Laughter.  Fun.  Ginger and I enjoy being with each other.  We make each other laugh often, which you can say is the secret sauce of our love.  There are too many things that need serious attention so you have to take moments to make funny faces, dance silly dances, and sometimes just hold each other. 

Laugh often my friends and family....


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Week 8: Blue Boots with Black and White and other Photographs

So as promised I did not wait three weeks to blog again!  The picture taking has been fun this week and I have been quite inspired.  Thank you to all who have been praying for Ginger.  The hypomanic bubble she was in last week burst, back to reality, and the typical up and down that gradually lessens and the OCD that comes with it.  We are in the third and final stage of dealing with a traumatic event.  The periods of things being level are getting longer now!

So first off, Valentine's day.  So one of the things that Ginger had told me for a while is that she did not really like flowers.  Well....yes she does....especially when you have them delivered to her work!   Moss did a fantastic job!  I went in about a week in a half ago and said I wanted something unusual, which they said they specialized in.  This arrangement was perfect!  Ginger loved it and I loved how quirky it was, perfect from a quirky guy like me!  Hubby did good she said.  And of course I took her to a favorite restaurant of hers, Breakers!

 So with my present from Valentine's day I was able to order a new gimbal head.  I got it yesterday:

This thing is fantastic!  Briefly, a gimbal head is for a camera with a long lens.  It allows the lens and camera to be balanced so that you have no camera creep.  Camera creep is when the lens starts to creep down or up, usually slowly.  It can affect sharp images.  So I set it up and balanced it and now I can have it at any angle and it stays, I do not even have to tighten it down!  Plus, I can pan shoot with it so I can track flying birds, animals, planes, cars, you name it.  And I am loving my new lens, having already gotten some really good shots with it!

So one of the shots I have been wanting to do I finally got to scratch off my list.  I took this on Monday.  The sun was almost an orange and it was being diffused by clouds.  So I took the shot:

This is a dandelion.  This is a tricky shot.  You cannot focus the shot while staring at the sun, can damage your eyes.  You have to focus about a foot to the right or left with the dandelion, then move it in front of the camera and take the shot.  Live view works wonderful with this shot.  It took about 9 shots to get it right.  This one, the sun was behind a cloud so I got it focused, moved it, waited for the sun to start appearing and took the shot.  My 100mm Macro lens worked perfectly for this though it was being finicky focusing!  

So one of the places that I go to to get inspired is my studio.  This is a panoramic shot of my studio at night, all lights blazing:

Now the string lights I cannot change the color, but the lights on the shelves I can change to any color I wish.  Two of my favorite pictures are hanging up and lit up.  Ginger loves the blue light.  You can tell I have a fascination with the moon and lights....  Love the cage light with vintage light bulb.  And if I want to light up my studio I can by making the strip lights surrounding the shelves up above turn white.  I was going to do a shot in the morning of my studio with the sun beaming in but the last two days we have had cloudy mornings.  That shot will be coming....soon.

And then there was Rebecca's.  Went out there this Saturday, have I mentioned how much of a joy it is to go out there and work on the ranch?  So I saw these boots by a fence post.  Had to take a picture of them.  The last shot, which you are about to see, was my favorite, and Ginger's.  Let me put in a side note here.  Ginger is a very, very important part of my creative process.  I have learned to take several shots, at different angles.  Then I get home and start going through the pictures.  Ginger has this uncanny eye for details I do not see.  It was her idea about the blue and black and white.  I saw black and white, but it was the blue that originally caught her eye.  We make a fantastic creative team, and I am so blessed to have her in more ways than one!  So the shot in black and white and in color.

Black and white and blue


Now I was riding the 4 wheeler back and forth getting sand for a project that Rebecca's brother Andy is working on.  I happen to look over and see this shot in my mind and well, had to take it.  So grabbed my camera with the 100mm and snapped the shot. 

So this is a favorite shot of mine.  I wanted it vertical.  I could focus on the saddle, but I wanted to show more than that.  I wanted to show the lead ropes and the training pen.  It speaks of training, and repetition.   This is one of the places where Gretchen gets trained.  Funny, there was a time, not so long ago, that I was afraid of horses.  But the repetitious exposure to Gretchen has cured that.  I work around her, talk with her, pet her, and she has become use to me too!  She is an amazing animal and has this personality all her own!  One of my favorite filters is the bleach bypass filter, so naturally had to apply that to this picture.

So I saw a documentary on a photographer, Antoniou Platon yesterday.  Born in London, raised in Greece.  He is one of the most famous and saught after portrait photographers in the world.  And I was inspired.  He still uses a film camera.  Granted it is a Hasselblad medium format camera (which are very expensive cameras) and a Leica film camera.  To him, it is not about the equipment so much as it is about the photographer.  And his shots are amazing and his creative process is about telling the story more than getting a technically perfect shot.   It was just fun to watch him work!

My best shots are when I am just being creative.  If I strip away trying to impress anyone or any other distractions, and I just concentrate on what I see in my mind to put into an image I find I am at my happiest.  It doesn't matter how many people like your photo on Facebook or Flickr.  The greatest honor I have been given are when those close to me admire my photographs and even want one.  My Mom and Dad putting a self portrait of me in their living room was one of the greatest honors as an artist I have had the pleasure of having.  I rank it above getting pictures published in magazines.  Because a piece of me is with every creative shot I do.  I am trying to convey a message, or tell a story, or show how I see the world.  I have an old violin now that I am letting my creative mind mull over what shot I want to take with it.  I love the process of going from nothing to "seeing it in my mind".  When I was drawing portraits, the same thing happened.  I would finally "see it" and then the portrait would come.  From mind to image is getting easier as I learn my camera more and I learn to shape light.  I get inspired by other photographers, artists, or those around me.  I love being a storyteller because even though I can write, a picture is worth a 1000 words....

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Week 5 through 7 Photo's and Living with Bipolar update

It is good to be back to the blog.  It has been an interesting 3 weeks.  A little over two weeks ago, Ginger was starting to learn a new task.  For people with bipolar this can be traumatic.  It changes their structure, things that were comfortable become uncomfortable.  It becomes a juggling act of where to fit this new task into the structure and that can be hard.  I have walked with Ginger through learning new tasks before so I knew what to expect, in fact I rate them.  This particular one was the second to third worst.  It would take a lot to top the first one, this one wasn't close.  If you support someone who has a mental disorder it is imperative, no a necessity that you learn their disorder, learn them and how they react to life, and begin a trial and error process of what works and doesn't in helping them.  I am very passionate about that.  You have to take care of yourself as well.  I actually stopped drinking soda's (Do you know how much sugar is in a coke?!?  And the diet substitutes give me major headeaches), though I drink a lot of unsweet tea now!  That and I have been listening to a lot of Shinedown!   So two weeks ago I was spending time with Ginger, trying to keep her calm during this process.  So fast forward to this Tuesday, Ginger was wanting a new job to escape, and at the bottom.  She'd been rapid cycling last weekend, but she made the comment that she wasn't looking for another job unless God put it in her lap.  That got tested.  She saw her therapist on Tuesday, did not get the answers she wanted, and was depressed.  Usually I go to my group on Tuesday but I stayed home and we talked.  As with every other new task there is a moment of breakthrough.  Tuesday night she finally admitted that God was telling her no to a new job right now.  And then the tears.  The good tears.  The light at the end of the tunnel could be seen.  And then the steady improvement for the rest of the week.  Wednesday was good, Thursday harder, but the hope was there.  And a little bit of hypo mania, but after the past couple of weeks, I can take a little bit of talkitiveness (Yes, I made that word up)!   Been a really good weekend and a good Sunday that I can catch up on some photo editing.  Yep, been taking photographs through this process with Ginger.  And the weekends have been productive with honey do projects and a revamped photography studio.  Hanging up some of my artwork and getting lots of good ideas in my head for some photo composites.

So the photographs!

It has been a couple of weeks since I have been to Rebecca's ranch.  The last time I was out I took these pictures.

Week 5:

Another World's Mountain

I saw this picture in black and white in my head and knew I had to take it.  Taken with my new lens!

Week 6:

Now this picture will not win me any awards.  In fact the guys at work were like, why are you taking a picture of that?  It is an artist thing.  We had been working in these apartments that were about 40 years old.  New owners wanting to make the apartments look good.  This picture is a snap shot.  The fogger explains itself.  The build up of dry wall dust shows all the work.  It being on the carpet tells you the carpet is getting replaced.  Even the state of the patio door behind the fogger tells you the state of things.  It reminded me of my last job, it was a good reminder of my beginnings. 

Now this picture is something special to me.  This is in my studio.  The picture that was published is up and finally I have put up one of my favorite moon pictures.  Each of the things on that shelf have a special meaning, including the Warning sign!  I love color changing lights, so I mounted a light above the moon picture and to the side on the shelf that I can change the colors on.  I have LED lights up lining the shelves that I can change the colors.  So I can change them with my mood!  And now I can come in here and get inspired.  More detail comes out of the moon shot depending on the color of light, that is cool to me!   And I got a new edition to put in there, but more on that later....

Week 7:

We are not working in the apartments now.  We are renovating an old house's flooring.  Flooring as old as what is in Ginger and I's apartment!  I love old antiques.  I found this in the house:

Pretty cool seeing a 1902 edition of Sears catalog!  And this bike was in the backyard.

 Now the next picture is out front at a school.  Loved the contrast and thought it would make a good black and white. 

 And then there is what Native Americans would call the full moon in February, the Snow Moon or Hunger Moon.  This is just before the night of the full moon.  Put this one up so I could show the detail on the bottom of the pic.

I did find my new lens creeping down when fully extended just because it becomes unbalanced.  You cannot tell unless you are in Live View and Magnified x10.  So next piece of equipment, a Gimbal Head.  Good thing my birthday is coming up!

So I got a surprise this week.  In one of my recent posts I posted a picture of a violin and how I loved violins.  I got a text from my Dad a couple of weeks later asking if I wanted my Mom's great grandfather's violin.  It was in rough shape, not worth much but I could have it.  Of course I did!  Well, this week I received it and to me, it was beautiful, and priceless.  I have some plans on photographs with it so no photographs yet, I have learned patience in letting ideas cultivate.  It is not rough to me, it is weathered and I could not be prouder to have it!  So now I have to build a shadow box for it and place it in my studio! 

Thank you everyone for your prayers and support.  I will try not to wait 3 weeks to the next post!


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Happy New Year! New Photos and a Picture of an Older and Younger Me

Happy New Year!  First shot of the new year!

My Christmas present came in from getting framed!  It is now hanging in my studio:

Well it has been quite a while since I have blogged.  I have been building shelves in the studio and built a some closet space since we lost a closet do to a new water heater!  We love our landlords!

 I took a little break, though not from photography!  I have been quite active on that front.  I finally got my new lens.  A Sigma 150-600mm lens.  The furthest I could get was 100mm so it extended my reach quite a bit.  And a full moon was on the horizon.  One of my first shots:

It was quite windy outside, but I was able to stabilize everything.  Of course a 6 pound lens can shake pretty easy!  And then the next day I was able to take one of my favorite kind of creative shots.  I love these shots.  I changed the temperature balance to make it more green (red looks great too!)

And this shot was out our living room window.  The great thing, it is through a screen, which the lens takes right out of focus.  Ginger liked the blue!

So one of the big projects that I have been wanting to work on is below.  It began with an idea.  Of course I had to ask some help from my Mom and Dad.  I needed some old photos of me.  The original idea was to have them send them to me digitally.  But even better, I got the pictures!  So with my high powered camera I was able to take some shots of the pictures, which I could then import into Photoshop.  Of course then I had to take a shot of me now.  I was actually just practicing when I got this shot of me.  Ginger loved it.  So then I had to start adding me into the picture, decide on a background, and then "age" me.  I originally had a Georgetown picture as the background but the original background just worked.  Along with the look on my face, which again, Ginger just loved. 

So you would think that the idea came from a song like Mercy Me's Dear Younger Me.   Nah, not that simple.  It actually started with hearing about a young man who was struggling with fitting in.  He listened to Christian Metal, though more of the thrash kind.  So I listened to some of that music to get a feel for what he was listening to.  He actually took one of the songs and converted it to piano music, it was beautiful.  So listening to some of it, I came across a song called I Am Stone by Demonhunter, a Christian metal band.  The thing is, the song is not metal, it is almost acoustic.  And all these circumstances came together to give me the idea of a picture of a younger and older me.  The wheel's began to turn.  I am not saying this picture is perfect, but that wasn't the point.   It was this:

I see myself at that age and know I had such a wonderful childhood.  I was a cute kid, but small.  If I could tell myself something from the future to that little boy well, I would say it is going to turn out alright.  You have wonderful parents who love you with all their heart.  You have a brother who you would do anything for. Yeah, I know you have your fights like brothers do, but one day your going to cherish the fact that you have him as your brother.   Your gonna have some hard times.  But God is going to see you through.  You are stone.  Molding stone can be painful but your gonna turn out like this.  Your gonna get that beard like Dad.  Your gonna get a beautiful wife who loves you with all her heart and is going to be the girl of your dreams, and she is gonna be like Mom, and Mom and Dad will love her. Remember that first bird house you made, and you cried because it looked horrible and Dad fixed it?  Well, your gonna become really good fixing things and make a living doing it.  And those art classes your parents took you too, well, they are gonna help you one day become a photographer.  And you know how we use to sit around the table after dinner and read lessons from the Bible out of that book?  Your gonna remember those.  And that is gonna help you come back from a walk in the wilderness.  And I know your small now, and people will make fun of you, but your gonna fill out my little one and your gonna get muscles. I am not gonna tell you everything your going to go through but it will help you become who you are today and help others.   You will have friends, a wonderful church, a Bible study group you adore, and a special group that will touch your heart.  So keep your head up.  And that jacket, it is your favorite, I remember.  Always remember, you are loved because even now, at 48, you are just as loved.