Lens-Artists Challenge #137: Soft

When I hear the word “soft” in photography terms, right away my mind goes to a beautiful bokeh background. This week’s challenge from Ann Christine is on things soft. She gave many examples on how we can interpret this challenge, but I’ll stick with the pleasing muted backgrounds.

Flowers with a bokeh background was the first type of shooting I wanted to learn when I started photography.

But then I started thinking that animals can also have a bokeh background too.

Let’s see what else I can find.

There are some very small daffodils outside my front door. If it wasn’t so windy, I’d go out and shoot them for inclusion in this post. Thank you Ann Christine!

Off to see the animals: Sacramento Zoo

For me, going to the Sacramento Zoo is like seeing old friends. You get to know some animals by name, you learn their behavior and watch their babies grow. My camera group decided since the zoo was open again, we needed to visit. Right now you just can’t go to the zoo on a whim. You need to go online and buy your ticket for a specific time slot. Even though I’m a member, I still have to reserve a time slot. They can only let in a certain number of people at a time for each specified slot.

So, we were at the zoo at 10:30 a.m. Fortunately, the large cats were still awake, having eaten their bones. It was a Thursday–bone day!

The lions and snow leopard.

This is the second time I’ve caught the Red Pandas awake. They were busy finding and eating food.

All the Orangutans were out and having a lot of fun and eating.

The River Otters were putting on a show too. I processed this one in black and white.

One of the alligators came out from the water so we could get a good look at him. Does he look hungry?

Baby giraffe, Glory, has grown since my last visit. She’s eating food put at her height.

The Masai Giraffe was playing with a large plastic bucket. Do you think he’d be good at soccer?

One of the Okapi decided to show me his best side! They do have a beautifully marked rear.

Some of my favorites weren’t out. I guess another visit should be put on the calendar.

Lens-Artists Challenge 136: Subjects starting with the letter “S”

I enjoy our weekly challenges because they help bring back memories of fun photo outings. And, as I dig way back into prior years, I see how my photography has improved. This week Patti has given us the letter “S” and suggested many ways we could post on it.

I just dove into my archives and here are some memories that I enjoyed re-visiting.

In 2018, Marlene and I went with a Meetup group for a photo walk along the Embarcadero in San Francisco. It was a wonderful day topped off with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (There aren’t any in Sacramento!). On the left is a probable homeless man sleeping on a bench. On the right is a sightseeing bus with lots of tourists. What a dichotomy of life.

Also taken in 2018 is a sunset with sunflowers taken in Yolo County.

Jumping to that infamous year 2020, we have a delectable sweet treat taken at the Isleton Asian Festival, a shed taken on a road trip and shadows on a gazebo at the UC Davis Arboretum.

Now for some recent pictures in 2021, I’ll close this post with a sidewalk at Coyote Pond in Lincoln and snow at Donner Lake. Both taken this year.

Thank you Patti for this fun challenge!

Winter white: Donner Lake

The snow beckons, but not in the middle of a storm or when it’s 6-feet deep. I’m a fair-weather-snow type of gal. I like the ambient temperature not freezing and to have ample snow on the ground. Had we made it up to Donner Lake a few days earlier it would have been perfect, but life did not permit. But it was still good when we did get there.

Donner Lake Village is a small town wrapping around the lake. It’s quaint and attracts tourists and residents year round. It is close to all major sky areas for winter sports, and in the summer is just stunning. When we went up, I didn’t even need to put my snow boots on. The weather was perfect.

The lake is about 1 1/2 hours from my home. Richard drove and Ray and Sally came along. Here are some of my images captured that day.

We were able to enter the Donner Memorial State Park Visitors’ Center, but the museum was closed. I had a different kind of fun in the gift shop.

Outside the gift shop was a photographer’s snowy opportunity.

After lunch, we went back into town for a last look.

We are expecting another storm soon. Maybe then I can go up again and need to wear my snow boots!

Lens-Artists Challenge #135: A Glimpse Into Your World

Wow! Guest host, Sheetal, has asked us to share what “makes your world spin or things about your world that make you delirious with joy.” If I have to narrow it down, other than close friends and family, my photographic journey brings me joy. Before I retired, products I produced for clients, helping someone become a better speaker and writing articles brought me joy. I was totally immersed in their world and bringing their story out.

Photography allows me to do that for myself. Writing about it through our Lens-Artists challenges allows me to recognize it and savor it. How many chances do we get to talk about ourselves or show ourselves through our pictures?

So, what do I love to shoot? When asked that question I always reply, “Everything but portraits!” Let’s begin with the Sacramento Zoo. I do enjoy going there and must while they are open again. If you go on bone day, you can see the big cats gnawing their bones or maybe ready for a nap after a well-enjoyed treat.

I also enjoy visiting the nearby Effie Yeaw Nature Center where can see deer, coyotes, and other animals in their wild world along the American River.

Of course, there is the American and Sacramento Rivers that are also close.

We also have our countryside that host farms and foothills that hug the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Last we have downtown Sacramento where we can practice shooting buildings. Need a wide angle for this!

I’m so lucky to have so much nearby. And thank you to Sheetal for helping me recognize it!

All’s well that ends well! Miners Ravine Trail

Sometimes when a planned outing goes awry, it can work out well anyway. That’s what happened when my photo group decided to walk along the American River starting at Folsom Dam.

Our organizer gave us an address to meet at. Easy? Not when you don’t follow GPS directions. My bad! But when we got there we (Donna and I) arrived at the Miners Ravine Trail parking lot. This was not the shopping center meet point. We had the wrong address. Even with the right address, we got lost. Finally we met our group who was past the patience point. Marlene had brought her dog (almost a year old) who was doing okay with the loud traffic, but would he do well walking across a busy street and along the dam? One member (Jean) was still lost and hadn’t arrived yet.

I told the others to go ahead; I would wait for Jean and maybe follow them. I told Marlene about the Miners Ravine Trail head we found, and she agreed it would be more suitable for her dog. I ran to take a picture of the dam. Jean gave up and went home!

Are you frustrated yet? I was! Marlene and I did one end of the trail before she headed home. I was soon joined by the rest of the group who had walked the American River Trail. We walked the other side of the trail.

In the end, I had a good time and don’t think I missed anything along the river trail. Here are some images from that walk.

It’s good that I love trees. Without leaves to disguise their structure, they are so expressive. So, all’s well that ends well!

Lens-Artists Challenge #134: From Forgettable to Favorite

I admit it, I’m lazy. I totally enjoy spending time taking the photo, but not processing it. This week Tina has challenged us to show how we’ve turned our “forgettable” photos into “favorite” images.

Well, here’s another problem. Once I get an outing’s photos into my desktop, I delete the ones I don’t like and just process the ones I do like. So, for this challenge, I’ll show a before and after with how I edit.

Going back to my being lazy, I mostly rely on Lightroom (LR) and presets in NIK and De-noise in Topaz. Photoshop allows me to take out unwanted stuff with the spot healing brush and also replace skies. It might be more that I don’t prioritize learning more.

My examples were taken last month. This tree was taken on a very foggy morning at Boulder Ridge Park. I did basic editing in LR, working with the highlights, shadows, whites and black sliders. I then put into NIK Color Efex and used the detail extractor preset to accent the tree. I wanted the tree to stand out more. Before is on the left as you look at your monitor. After is on the right.

This next one is the entrance to Stock Ranch Preserve. Although they are not exactly the same image you can see the difference the my edits in LR and Color Efex accomplished. Here I used LR sliders to enhance the orange on the fence and Color Efex to bring out the details and enhance the sky. Of course, all my images get the crop treatment.

This is on the way to Folsom Dam. Again not exactly the same image, but a good example of what I began with. I worked with the shadow and black sliders in LR and the tone curve. I brought it into Color Efex to bring out the sky and clouds. When in Color Efex, I use the sliders also. However, I haven’t mastered the control points.

This last image is of trees along a portion the Miner’s Ravine Trail. I love trees, especially when they have lost their leaves. They are so expressive. Again, the same treatment in LR and Color Efex. I also cropped the tree that seemed to be in the middle. For this I wanted to lighten up the tree trunk, keep the tree shadows and highlight the sun. Color Efex brought out more detail.

I know I can do more with the editing programs I have. Will I prioritize the time to learn. I hope so.

Out of the area: Port Costa, Contra Costa County

Bulletin: most places won’t let customers use their restrooms because of COVID! That’s what Jean and I found out when we left recently to drive out of the Sacramento Valley with our cameras. We were driving to Port Costa, an old little port city in Contra Costa County. I had been there twice before, but that was several years ago. Nothing changed! I decided to take pictures in a way I didn’t before.

On our way down to the port, we stopped at this viewpoint to take a picture of the Carquinez Bridge while it was being enveloped by approaching fog. A couple of seconds after I took this image, the bridge was totally fogged in.

We then made the usual stop at the C&H Sugar refinery. Photographers are not allowed in, but they do let you take pictures at the entrance. You may have seen this view before if you’ve been following this blog for some time.

Now for Port Costa itself. The railroad still runs by it.

The town is old and the hotel shows it. Homes are overrun with overgrowth.

The shoreline, beyond the railroad tracks is interesting and we saw some kayakers paddle by.

It was just before we left Port Costa that we realized there was not a public restroom to be found. We did find a portable toilet at a small park near a fishing pier. The flush bathroom was closed. It was a good stop in more ways than one!

Before heading home, we stopped at Mare Island. I knew that the only public restroom was in the museum which was closed. There was a Navy ship in for repairs. No, we couldn’t go on board! So, after taking our pictures as best we could because it was all fenced off, we headed to a Starbucks in Vallejo.

When we found the Starbucks, we were allowed to buy coffee but not use their restroom! CostCo to the rescue. Fortunately there was one on the way home. All in all, it was a fun day. We did learn, though, not to go too far from home!

Lens Artists Challenge #133: My Photography Journey

Life’s journey seems to take twists and turns, but it’s been my experience that important happenings come at a right and perfect time. Amy has given us the challenge of describing our photo journey. I started this blog at the very beginning of mine.

For me, photography came as I closed down my part-time speaking and writing business. At age 70, I didn’t know what to do with all the extra time I would have. Friends suggested sewing, quilting and crocheting. No! I’ve sewed and crocheted before, and it wasn’t fulfilling.

After several weeks, I remembered how much I enjoyed the photography class I took at Pierce College when I was a returning student (My youngest was in first grade). All the journalism majors had to take the photo class and the photography students had to take a journalism class. We had to use an all manual camera. Fortunately, Richard brought back a Minolta from his time in Vietnam, and I used that camera. What fun I had developing the film and making prints.

During that time, I was also writing for a newspaper and started taking the pictures for my column. I always wrote tight so the editor wouldn’t cut my articles. The only time he cut one was to run one of my photographs a half page. After graduating and moving, I stopped taking photos except of family with a point and shoot.

Fast forward to my retirement decision to purchase a DSLR. Not sure about the decision to make photography my new passion, I bought an entry level Nikon, the D3100. I didn’t know anything about crop sensor vs full frame or even how to use the camera. And, what was ISO?

From the archives, a picture taken with my D3100 shot on auto because all I could see in the dark was the green “A!” This was taken at one of my first outings with my new camera.

I found that photographers were more than willing to share their expertise, and I wasn’t afraid to ask questions. I found out that ISO was like the film camera’s film speed and much more. I didn’t take a class because I didn’t want assignments and homework. Come on, wasn’t I too old for that?

The more I learned, the more I understood the limitations of my 3100. So, within a year, I bought a Nikon D7100. I could bracket automatically and it had two card slots. I liked that camera and used it until 2020.

Here’s a shot taken with my 7100 in 2014. Now I know how to reduce the white at the bottom.

I was still learning, experimenting and asking questions. In 2015 I did the 365 Challenge, and I’m so glad I did. My photographic ability jumped after that year. That in itself was a journey.

Here’s a picture I took during week 10 with my new/used macro lens.

My passion for photography never waned through the years. The more adept I became, the more I realised my need for a camera that would be better in low-light situations. If I was to get another camera, it would be a mirrorless for the size and weight. Marlene bought a Fujifilm X-T2, and when I saw her pictures, I knew that was the camera I wanted. The color was outstanding and the clarity amazing.

In 2020 I bought a Fuji X-T3. I’ve always bought new cameras, but used lenses. This time I came home with a new camera and three new lenses. I have not regretted that decision. I still use the Nikon for ultra wide and telephoto shots. I’ve sold my wonderful Sigma macro lens since I have one for the Fuji.

Here’s an image taken in 2020 with the Fuji.

So, here we are in the present. I’m still learning and growing in ability. I do need to conquer Photoshop and other plugins. When an outing is sort of blah, I still come home with an image or two that are worthwhile. I now see things differently, and I’m more aware of my surroundings. Most of all I’m having fun. What an amazing journey that’s still twisting and turning while moving forward.

A macro lens: Thompson Building Materials and Nursery & Green Acres Nursery

A good photographic practice is to go out on an outing with only one lens. That’s what I did recently with a couple of photo buddies. Since I recently did a post for Lens-Artists on Macro, I thought I should take some macro photos.

That’s how we ended up at Thompson Building Materials and Nursery in Sacramento. This is mainly a commercial business. They had a large amount of outdoor statues and other ornamental items. With my 80 mm prime lens was slightly restricted, I had to move back (get a wider angle with my feet) or get a partial of the item. A macro lens can be used for other types of photography!

Now for the flowers. Some of these may be from Green Acres Nursery also in Sacramento. Being more of a residential nursery they had more flowers. So the following is a mixture from both businesses.

I do love macro/close up photography. Take care everyone!