Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

Lewis Ginter Conservatory Watercolor


Robin siggy-handwritten

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I was playing around with a photographic technique of creating a black background even in the daytime. What you’ll need for this is a camera that will do full manual and a flash or speed light and a tripod (although this isn’t mandatory). If you have the equipment to take your flash off camera, you’ll have more flexibility. I have a light stand that I bought specifically for my flash, a gizmo with a cold shoe (I think that’s what it’s called) to mount the flash unit on the stand, and inexpensive remote flash triggers (Yongnuo brand).

Here’s the gist of how you do it:

Set your camera on manual. Set your shutter speed at the sync speed of your flash (check your user guide), I set mine at 250. Set your aperture for the highest number, at least 22. Set your ISO as low as it will go, 100 or lower. If using a tripod, turn off stabilization if your lens has that. Set your focus to manual and adjust that. Easiest way is to focus on your subject with auto and then turn it off.

Without the flash, take a test shot. You should get a solid black rectangle. This is your ambient light and in this experiment, you don’t want any.

Now, enable your flash. Fire away. Commence experimenting with different settings and positions for your flash. I have a Canon 580EX II and it offers ETTL (through the lens, rather automatic) and manual settings that let you dial down the strength by 1/3 stops, down to 1/32. I found that full strength was too harsh, anything lower than 1/4 was too low.  I set the light stand to camera left of my flower. I moved it all around, even took the flash off the stand and used it hand-held so I could get some overhead lighting.


This is the best of my shots and it’s not great. I tried every position I could think of to get the shadows out of the flower and I must have missed the one position that would have accomplished this. And I do admit to cheating a little by adding some highlighting to the flower in Lightroom.


I have a lot of work to do to perfect this. But it was fun playing around with it and using the gear. I recommend the Yongnuo flash triggers. I don’t know what the pricey Pocket Wizards do that the Yongnuo doesn’t, but these worked for me just fine. My only gripe is that when you attach the flash to the trigger, you have to remember to turn the trigger on first because the flash covers up the power switch. Same for turning it off.

By the way, this plant is a Streptocarpus, sounds like a disease or virus. I bought it last year when the Richmond African Violet Society held a plant sale at Lewis Ginter. I wasn’t familiar with this one and for the longest time, I was just trying to keep it alive. They were selling 2-piece plastic pots where you fill the bottom with water up to the line and then insert the part with the plant in it. I was so tickled when it bloomed, because it sure didn’t do much for the whole time since I bought it. They come in pink, blue and purple. Maybe I’ll get some more at the next plant sale.

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Light Painting




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Last Saturday marked the 6th annual Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk.

I have participated in 5 of them, I don’t think I knew about the first one back in 2008. I was just getting started with my interest in photography back then.

I have done 3 in Richmond, one in Charlottesville and this year’s in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia under the guidance of host Jeff Revell, a photographer and book author whose blog I follow.

I am an explorer at heart, I love to pore over maps and imagine what the various places are like. My husband is not always willing to be drug around to unknown places (like Culpeper, Virginia which is getting to be a joke between us) and I admit that in the past, some of the towns we visited were disappointing with little to do (for us, anyway). But with a camera in your hand, any place can be a goldmine of photo opportunities. And Harpers Ferry, West Virginia is one of those towns seen on the map that I wanted to explore. When I saw that Jeff was hosting a walk there, I signed up on the spot. Never mind that it’s a 3 hour drive from my house. Never mind that I got up at 4:30am, hit the road at 5:30 and got there a little before 8:30. I’d call that dedication LOL.


We met at the Amtrak station, which would not come up on my Garmin GPS to save my life. It doesn’t have a regular street address that I could find anywhere, so I ended up plugging in just the street name, figuring at least I’d get close.  And I did fine. It helped to look at the satellite map the night before so that I could gauge my surroundings.


Harpers Ferry is on the Potomac River and it is not flat. Far from it. Jeff said our walk would be strenuous in places, and he was right. We started walking on the street out from the station and the street next to that one was up on a hill or a bluff or whatever it might be called. There are a lot of granite outcroppings in the area. These steps were grueling:


I love to photograph signs. They are self-explanatory.


How timely is this one? I don’t know how long it’s been in the window. Considering that the government shutdown affected the Historical Park in town, it could be a very recent addition.


Of course, the bathrooms at the Historical Park were closed.


It was too early for dramatic fall color, but there was this one tree that was spectacular.

IMG_2856 IMG_2887

We walked through a cemetery:



And past a “haunted” house:


Surprised to see such colorful flowers in October:


and this is St. Peter’s Catholic Church (at the top of those steps) which rang its bells and was so picturesque:


I so enjoyed this walk with the exception of the biting gnats that swarmed constantly. I’m still itching. It was unseasonably warm at 90 degrees, but at least we didn’t have the humidity of one walk back when they were held in July. It was 100 degrees that time and one of our walkers had to leave due to heat stroke or near to it.

My thanks to Jeff Revell for mapping out a great photographic route for us and getting the town to set up porta-potties. If you are in the Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia area and get an opportunity to take one of Jeff’s walks, I highly recommend it.

robin siggy-dumb3

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Wordless Wednesday



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Wordless Wednesday


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Wordless Wednesday



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Nik Software Score!

I don’t get on Google+ very often, just don’t get much out of it, although I follow a number of professional photographers and a couple of guys from Scott Kelby’s NAPP group.

But I just happened to fire it up tonight and saw something I had to jump on.

I’ve been lusting after Nik Software’s plugins for Photoshop and Lightroom for a few years now. But they’ve been very expensive, not in my budget. Last year, Google bought Nik and I figured the plugins’ days were numbered, Google would probably just quietly kill them as happens so often with corporate acquisitions. I don’t know why Google bought them, sometimes they do that just to get the employees. But the Nik plugins are very popular so let’s keep our fingers crossed that Google recognizes their value and keeps on developing.

Anyway, I saw a post by Martin Bailey that Google is offering the.whole.Nik.plugin.collection for just $149. And if you use Martin’s coupon code MBP15, you get another 15% off. I don’t know how long this offer will last, but I got mine!


You can try the collection for free for 15 days and anyone who’s bought any of the plugins is getting upgraded to the whole collection for free!

After I downloaded and installed, I quickly went through my Lightroom library and grabbed a shot to play with.


This is a pretty forgettable shot of the conservatory at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, a building I’ve shot a bazillion times.

I applied a SilverEfexPro preset:


And now it has a dark and stormy night look .

Then I applied a ColorEfexPro preset:


I didn’t expect to find a border effect, so I added that too. I like borders.

Mainly, I’ve wanted SilverEfexPro because I’ve seen some awesome b/w conversions. My little example doesn’t do it justice, but when applied to a set of bracketed shots for HDR, it should be sweet! Note to self: get some bracketed shots to play with.

I’ve wanted ColorEfexPro because I’ve seen some HDR shots that have the Glamour Glow effect and it really looks nice. Note to self: get some more bracketed shots to play with.

If you’ve been wanting Nik plugins too, don’t let this opportunity get away from you.

robin candy siggy


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