Thursday, March 31, 2016

Inspiration Thursday

Tomorrow marks the third anniversary of my retirement. Having worked in a creative profession and a volatile industry (Architecture & Construction) my challenge was to find something interesting and inspiring to do to fill my time. I knew that I was going to miss the creative people and process of design as well as the daily challenges of adjusting the design to real world conditions. I found my inspiration in photography. I have always been interested in the pursuit of this art form but never really devoted any serious time to the effort. I bought my first really good 35mm camera when I was in the military, serving in Vietnam. Since then, I have always owned a good camera and the camera was always capable of doing more than I could push it.
The real inspiration breakthrough came with the digital age and PhotoShop Elements. Not only could I capture the image, but now I had control over the final outcome that the world would see. Over the past decade the program has gotten more sophisticated and now Google has made their NIK filters available free of charge. More inspiration. One thing that hasn't changed is that my camera and now my editing program are still much more capable than myself. That's okay. I'm enjoying this learning curve.
Here is an image that I captured a few weeks ago at a local railroad track.

After cropping the image a little and adding a couple of NIK filters to give some age and texture, a whole new mood is created.
 Here I went back to the original image and added the Tonal Contrast filter.
Taking the previous image, I converted it to "vintage", added a little copper and some grain for a truer vintage look.

Finally I took the original image, added the Tonal Contrast filter and a slight Vignette Filter. It's pretty easy to overdo the vignette so I kept it very subtle here. Then...
I converted it to black & white and added a Tonal Enhancer filter. I think this gives the image a gritty look like no other. Thank you Google for providing us "Picture Takers" with so many inspiring options. The Nik filter collection is an add-on program that runs inside of PhotoShop, PhotoShop elements and possibly other editing software. Check out Google and see if the Nik collection is compatible with your editing software. Be inspired.
And now, our inspirational song of the week. Have a blessed day.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Wordless Wednesday on Tuesday

Stairway to Heaven

 Higher Ground

 Unclouded Day

 A Strong Tower

Monday, March 28, 2016

Ruby Tuesday Too

Caffeine Classics
Long before there were K-cups and Starbucks, people brewed their favorite blend of coffee at home and the product came in tin cans. Well, almost everything came in a tin can at one time. I do remember Shurfine coffee. I believe that was a grocery store brand, like IGA or Safeway.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Skywatch Friday

All Prayed Up

I have a personal, unwritten rule. When the sky is crystal clear, put something interesting in the foreground. I like photographing old barns, but I love photographing old churches and I don't do it nearly often enough. Small rural churches are a testimony to the faith of the surrounding community. Some of these structures have been surrounded by growth and progress. Others stand tall in the midst of family farms, and like those families, have stood the test of time. Family history has been written in these churches. Children and adults have been baptized here. Fathers have given away brides here and mothers have watched their sons bring a new woman into his life. Children have mourned the loss of their parents here and wives have said their last good-bye to their life long partner here. Communities have gathered in this building to pray for an end to drought and war. They have prayed for strength, perseverance, courage, mercy, grace and love. Generations have celebrated Christmas and Easter services with family and friends. I love old churches because they remind me of a simpler time and just how simple the message of our Savior really is. Have a blessed day.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Inspiration Thursday

While many people will tell you that the colors and weather of fall make autumn their favorite season of the year, most people will admit that they look forward to spring. Each year the temperatures begin to warm, the rains come, and the earth begins to turn green with new life. Flowers explode with vibrant colors and announce that winter is over and a new season of life has begun.
When a person accepts Christ as their Savior a new season of life begins. In fact a new life starts. The Bible tells us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;..." (2 Corinthians 5:17). The new life that is available through Christ is available to anyone. Again, the Bible teaches, "For God so loved the world and that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16). 
This Sunday is Easter Sunday and there is no better way to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior than worshiping with other believers. He is risen and a new life is ours through Christ.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Wordless Wednesday on Tuesday

Last week found me at our youngest grand daughters 8th grade track meet. A track meet is a little like a three ring circus. There are multiple events going on at the same time. There will be high jump and long jump at one end of the field, pole vault at the other end and one of the races will be taking place on the track. It's a little hard to know what to photograph. One thing for sure, I will get a couple of images of the grand daughter. This season she is running on the 4x800m relay team, the 200m sprint, and high jump. She has NEVER participated in high jump, so this should be interesting.
 One of the first events of the meet was the 4x800m relay. Each member of the team runs 800m or two laps. Our grand daughter (in red) ran the first leg. She stays connected to the leaders but doesn't try to force her way to the front. There are three more members of her team that will determine the final placement.
Running in a pack can be dangerous. One slip and you will get a major road rash from the asphalt running surface.

One of the most difficult events is the hurdles. It takes speed, strength, and stamina to compete in this event. Long legs are helpful too. I was never any good at this event.

In the late 60's Fred Fosberry revolutionized the high jump with what became known as the "Fosberry Flop". Today it is the standard technique used in this event. This 8th grader cleared 6'-0" to win the event. At his age I couldn't clear 6' with a trampoline.
Talk about throwback! This young man is using the ancient "scissor jump" technique to clear the bar at 5'-2". Later, he switched to the "Flop" and finished second at 5'-7". This 8th grader is 6'-3"!
The grand daughter uses the "Flop" to clear the bar and move to the next round. She didn't place, but she showed some potential.

 One of my personal favorite events is the long jump, because I participated and excelled in this event as a youngster.  I think the boys winner jumped a little over 15'. Like many field events, speed and technique must be combined to compete well in the long jump.

The all time classic track event...the 100m dash. It's the human equivalent of a drag race, except there are eight lanes instead of two. Well, that's it from track side. See ya next week.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Awww Monday

I was out driving around the area the other day and I came across this barn. It occurred to me that these structures are disappearing from the landscape and when they are gone, a piece of America will disappear. The traditional barn is being replaced by the metal building and the hay loft is being replaced by huge rolls of hay left in the field or stacked under an open shed of some sort. So, when these buildings give way to the elements and collapse, there will be no more. Every time I drive by a weathered old barn I wonder what stories are concealed within it's walls.
I decided to play "Fun With Filters", so here are a few options that I used from PhotoShop Elements 14.

This is the pallet knife filter. I think it does add a little charm to the scene.

No, I did not take another photo. PhotoShop Elements allows me to add a "lens flare" to the image and place it anywhere I want. It even gives me three lens options. After the flare was added, I used the watercolor filter. It has a similar feel to the pallet knife. Have a blessed day.

Friday, March 18, 2016


Thursday evening my wife and I headed to the boys and girls club to watch our grand son's team play for the tournament championship. They were undefeated during the regular season at 11-0. I did not take my camera because I wanted to watch the game and not be worried about getting good photos.
Well, they're still undefeated and now they are the tournament champions. Final Score 24-21. The grandson is in the middle of the front row, no. 3.
Meanwhile, his oldest sister was busy 150 miles away Her sorority team was winning the intramural championship at Quchita Baptist University. Big sis is the second from the left on the back row. Good job kids. Sports keeps you healthy, teaches you teamwork, and sportsmanship. Have a blessed day.

Skywatch Friday

I have to admit that when you visit the Grand Canyon the sky is usually not the most important element in your photos.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Inspiration Thursday

I enjoy going to the local jr. high and high school track meets. At the junior high level the kids are just discovering where their potential lies and that, with a little training, they will exceed their own expectations. There are two types of races, sprints and distance, but they have one thing in common. The athlete must finish well in order to win. As they grow older they discover that, in a sprint, the start is almost as important as the finish. If the runner doesn't get out of the blocks correctly the race may be over before it has truly started. On the other hand the start of a distance race isn't nearly as important as how you finish. In fact, it is possible for a distance runner to get a slow start, stumble, get trapped in the pack, and still finish well.
Life is much like a distance race. Our start in life is not nearly so important as our finish. The world is filled with stories of men and women who rose out of the depth of poverty, illness, disabilities, etc. to become great leaders and inspirational figures. They may not have had the perceived advantages of wealth, health and advanced education, but they had a heart for success. Every person has a life to live and a race to run. The apostle Paul advises us to "...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2) Life is filled with challenges. The choices that we make have a direct impact on the race that we will run and how we will finish. Paul tells us to look to Jesus for the correct answers of how to run this race of life and be successful and you will only find Jesus in God's word and the lives of those He has changed. Several years ago it was popular for young people to wear a bracelet with W.W.J.D. (What Would Jesus Do) and that is still a question that we need to ask ourselves every day. Whenever life becomes difficult, instead of asking "What am I going to do", ask "What Would Jesus Do" and then do that. One day you will be able to look back on your life and say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day,..." (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
Have a blessed day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Wordless Wednesday

I grew up around the railroad. My dad worked for the railroad for 42 years. I was in the cab of an engine when I was six. I helped dad around the station in Henryetta, OK when I was that age. I loved trains. I have ridden passenger trains from Tulsa to St. Louis and even got my own sleeper. The other day I set out to photograph something railroad related and I remember just how powerful trains seemed to be when I was a kid. Well, looking at the mechanics of a freight car, everything about them says strength, power, durability, etc.
There is nothing fragile about a railroad car. It will be asked to travel millions of miles in all kinds of weather and remain outside for it's entire life cycle.
There is no such thing as a weak link in the coupling device that connect the individual cars and form the train.

 Now this is a heavy duty suspension system and there is one between each pair of wheels.

End of the Line

Friday, March 11, 2016

Skywatch Friday

I've been very negligent with my Skywatch Friday posts recently. In fact I haven't taken that many photos of the sky the past few weeks. We have had some marvelous sunsets, but I just haven't been in a good place to capture the best images. I finally decided that I was going to take a couple of photos, regardless of any clutter or unattractive stuff in the field of view. The other evening I was working in the kitchen and I noticed a strange glow coming through the living room windows. I knew a special sunset was in progress and I decided I was going to capture it. I have to admit, the colors and the clouds were AWSOME!!!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Inspiration Thursday

Some of the most inspirational moments in my life have come from singing and listening to inspirational music. All too often, I believe, we overlook the power of worshiping God through music. There is no substitute for opening the Bible and spending time in reading, studying, and praying over the Word of God, but there are times when music gives a new life to the words and moves our souls to a new appreciation of how much God loves us and what Christ has done for us.
Have a blessed day.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Wordless Wednesday

 Hoopin' & Hollerin'

This past week-end found me back at the local Boys & Girls club watching the grand son play basketball. His team finished the regular season undefeated. This coming week-end is the championship tournament, so you know where I'll be.

This is one of the grandson's team mates and he is very good. I could have captured an image similar to this several times during the game.

Here, the grandson is letting a shot fly from just inside the three point arc. The young man on the ground is supposed to be defending "The Big Guy". I'm not sure how he ended up on the floor.
In this image, the grandson is dribbling to the baseline in hopes of putting up a shot. When he got there...
he was outnumbered. When there are four opponents surrounding you, a team mate has to be open.

Sometimes you just gotta get down and dirty, and fight for control of a loose ball. Well, since we're undefeated, you know that this ended well. Final score 24-12.
If you like photographing sports or you have kids involved in sports, so you are obligated to photograph them, here are a couple of things I have learned. First of all, get low! They're kids, and if you're standing up, you will get a lot of photos of the tops of their heads. Besides, the game looks more interesting and powerful from a low angle. If you watch any sport on television, you will notice that all of the photographers are sitting or kneeling.
For basketball, I find one of the corners of the court and get five or ten feet away from the playing surface. That way no one complains about my presence. Again, for basketball, locate yourself at the end of the court where your team is shooting the ball. This will require that you change ends of the court at half-time.
Here are a couple of technical notes. If you are shooting a DSLR camera you will want to raise the ISO to 2500-4000 because the indoor lighting is always poor...always. You will be shooting between 1/400th & 1/500th of a second for your shutter speed. Set the White Balance on Auto, it's just easier that way. A zoom lens works best and for basketball you will probably be at 80mm or below. I use a 24-70mm f.2.8 and I set the fstop at 4.5-5. Learn how to shoot in continuous mode. My camera will shoot 7 frames per second and it is critical to catching the right image. Also use continuous focus for most sports applications. If your camera has the option to shoot in JPEG or RAW, shoot in JPEG for sports. If you shoot in RAW, your camera my slow down when trying to shoot in continuous mode because the buffer gets full. Remember, there is a small computer in that camera and it takes time to process the information and it takes more time to process the RAW info that the JPEG info. Well, spring is here so I will be photographing high school baseball, softball, track, and soccer. See you at the games. Now, get out there and shoot it like you mean it! Have a blessed day.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Inspiration Thursday

Calm Down & Soldier On
 It has been said that there is a movement to remove the teaching of cursive handwriting from the public school system. Since children seem to learn to text with their IPhones when they are six or seven years old, there is no real value in teaching cursive writing as long as they learn the alphabet and how to print the letters. Besides cursive handwriting is just too hard to master. Take a close look at the envelope below.

 This is an example of my father's handwriting from 1945. Do you know what is unique about it other than it is stunningly beautiful and closer to calligraphy than handwriting? My father was naturally left handed! However, in the 1920's & 30's cursive writing was taught only one way. Put the pencil in your RIGHT hand and do the exercises. It's pretty obvious that my father did not rebel against the educational system, rather he took on the challenge, put the pencil in his right hand and carried on. The result was handwriting that was the envy of everyone who sees it.
Our relationship with God is much the same way. God has a plan for our lives and if we will just place our focus on doing His will, His way, the results will stun us. It is when we attempt to please the Father by doing what we believe He likes and doing it our own way that failure is the end result. While the task my be accomplished, we find that we lost the joy and have no real desire to continue. Eternal life begins with trusting Jesus. He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." We may try to gain access to the throne by our own means, but we will always be unsuccessful. We just need to place our faith in Christ and carry on. Have a blessed week.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Wordless Wednesday

State Diving Championships
 Last Friday afternoon found me back at the local community center watching and photographing the state high school diving championships. It was great fun. I had every intention of returning Saturday for the swim meet but the crowd was too large for my comfort zone. Well spring is almost here so that means track, soccer and baseball will be available for me to shoot. Have a blessed day.

 No, there is not a doubles competition. The guys were just warming up prior to the start of the competition.