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Monthly Challenge

April 2015 Challenge

May 05, 2015

This will be our final Challenge post.  I want to thank everyone for their participation and encouragement.  We can always post photos on our Facebook pages if we don't use Flickr, Shutterfly, SmugMug, 500 Pixels, Google+, Photobucket, or Zenfolio, to name a few.  After 2 1/2 years of a huge variety of pictures, it's time to move off the stage.

The theme for the month of April was "Your Favorite Photos."




Don traveled all the way to downtown Paso Robles for an event shoot and captured the heart and soul of some classic vintage cars, as well as sidecars. He says, "I managed to sneak off to the sidecar rally in the park and got a few pics, but not much.  The weather was wet early morning, and I was surprised that so many people showed.  They also had a few vintage cars."

Without the sun's glare, the overcast skies provided just the right lighting to catch all the detail and color in these vehicles.  Have you driven a Jaguar lately?  Nice angle, Don.  The low and wide angle makes this car look a lot heftier than it really is and emphasizes the front end detail of British pride.





Some of us have owned Grease Slappers if it refers to dirty, greasy cars and trucks we've had the pleasure of cleaning.  Or if we used Dixie Peach Pomade back in the 50's and 60's to keep our hair slicked down.   I assume this is a sidecar or gas tank logo.  The American mind: it's a creative thing.





Wet and wild green thing is next up.  The proverbial and ever-popular MG.  Another British icon.  Looks like a 1952 model to me.  But what do I know?





Just what are we looking at here, Don?  Is this like a surfboard that you stand on while scooting down the freeway?  Isn't there supposed to be a seat attached?  Must be detached due to the rain.  Looks like a smooth ride.





I think Don is musing the possibility of adding a sidecar to his Harley.  That was the shortest muse he ever mused.  Janet is happy.





Don's last photo is accompanied by a story:  "The lady in the last pic rode in from Prescott, AZ. she mentioned camping out at the Paso RV park north of town. I asked her if she was tenting it.  She said no, she's 5' 3" tall and her side car is 5' 7" long.  She takes all her gear out and sleeps in it. I'd guess she was in her mid 50's.  The lady has some grit!"

True grit: it's a rare commodity these days.  Thanks for sharing, Don.







Dave's photos are the usual stuff - nature - local university - more nature.  He can't get away from the same ol' thing.  This first shot of the moon was taken during the last part of the most recent full eclipse we had.  As the moon 'descended' toward the horizon, earth's shadow descended also.  Taken at Cosumnes River Preserve before sunrise - geese in formation in the distance. 



(c) Dave Skinner Photography



I stuck around after the moonset and found a pair of American avocets, foraging in the water.  This bird has very striking colors, easy to spot and very active. 



(c) Dave Skinner Photography



The rose garden at the local museum had its premier showing a few weeks ago.  Sometimes the abstract is worth capturing, even if it does have an ugly fly in the frame.  As I look at it now, I probably should have cut back on the cyan from the sky reflection on the lower petal, limiting it to three main colors (including white - sorry, all you artists out there).  Putting an insect in your photo sets up a tension between the soft, serene and beautiful and the rough, alien and threatening.  This ruins the whole picture for most people, but I like a little shock and awe here and there.



(c) Dave Skinner Photography



And so for you purists who love perfection, here you go: no distractions!



(c) Dave Skinner Photography



I competed in a Black and White photo challenge for the Stockton Record and sent this photo, along with others taken at UOP, a local cemetery and local marina.  A fun project, trying to pre-visualize what your color shot will look like after converted to B&W.  I so wished there had been a bit more cirrus clouds overhead, but am happy with what God gave me, anyway. 



(c) Dave Skinner Photography



I returned to the Preserve mid-month, the day after it rained, hoping to get some nice sunrise shots, but no clouds were to be seen.  But the rain had drenched everything, especially the tall grasses in the fields.  Its weight bowed the grass so it looked like waves being blown about. 



(c) Dave Skinner Photography



Watching nature's wonders is one of the reasons I like visiting the Preserve.  I spotted three freshly emerged Green darners sunning themselves on the cattails right after sunrise.  The were good little posers, so it was pretty easy to get as close as I could (about 5'-6').  I like the detail in this picture, the left over water drops on the reeds and the shadows.  These guys won't bite and if you've got the knack, will perch on your finger. Ha!   





My very last picture is taken under one of my favorite oaks at the Preserve, complete with viewing bench which overlooks a backwater filled with floating plants, reeds and critters.  You can usually see an egret or heron here.  This tree is massive and gnarled.  It's missing some branches after all these years, but it still maintains a majestic shape.  I opened up the shadows in Photoshop for more bark detail. 



(c) Dave Skinner Photography





And so ends this journey and adventure.  I hope you learned some stuff, were encouraged, and smiled at the shenanigans.  Over and out, fellow fotogs.  May your best photos be right around that next bend in the road. 




March 2015 Challenge - The Six S's

March 31, 2015

The March hare has scrambled back into his hole while the robin ventures farther north and Russian thistle drinks what groundwater is left here in California.  Time to review the month's pictures and enjoy the changing season, where green is the color of the day.  Don and I were both able to 'adventure' into the known and unknown, looking for scenes that matched the Challenge themes:  SILHOUETTE, SUNSET, SHADOWS, SPRINGTIME, SHAPES AND SIMPLE.  An alliterated amalgam of choices for the brave of heart and sentient of soul. 




Hey, it's spring again and time to relish the greens, the flowers and the warmth of a special sunset.  Or sunrise.  Dave starts out with a SPRINGTIME theme - a sunrise capture of grasses in the foreground and a nice set of clouds overhead.  Hoping for more color in the sky, I was disappointed since the morning before was a blazing red here in the valley.  You never know what's going to happen at sunrise or sunset - that's half the fun of shooting them.  I purposely placed the sun behind the tree trunk to eliminate any glare or blown highlights.  Shooting manually, I chose a couple of exposures - one for the sky and one for the foreground - then married them in Photoshop Elements to bring out the rich green of the grass and trees starting to leaf out.  There's also a bit of a silhouette here, but not a 100% black subject.  Nikon D90; 12-24mm lens @ 12mm; 200 ISO; f8; 1/160.







We're going to mix these pictures up this month for a little variety.  Don is going to liven things up with this nicely balanced sunrise photo of three blooming daisies for another SPRINGTIME submission. It also fits the SHAPES category.  Nikon D300; ISO 400; 1/2500 sec.; f10; 95mm.







Dave's annual jaunt to Knight's Ferry wouldn't be complete without a few covered bridge pictures. This one is inside right after sunrise and features the plank board shadows framing a band of sunlight, fitting the SHADOWS theme.  Note how shadows rob the color of the wood and cool the overall feel of the photo.  D90; 12mm; f8; 1/4 sec.; ISO 200. 







Here is Don's interpretation of SHADOWS - a Morro Strand selfie of him and Janet.  Pretty cool composition and color.  D300; f8; 1/250; ISO 200; 18mm.







Dave's SILHOUETTE is purposely underexposed so the oak tree loses it's brightness, color and detail.  When shooting a silhouette, try to render it as dark as possible while retaining the background color and brightness.  I really don't like this shot, except for the shape of the tree.  The contrail is really distracting, the sky isn't blue enough and there's no interesting detail in the foreground to see.  D90; f8; 1/320; ISO 200; 18mm. 







Don's SILHOUETTE on the other hand is beautifully composed and exposed.  He definitely gets the top prize for this shot!  I hope to see it on his wall the next time I visit.  That's Morro Rock to the left.  Wow, Don! You must have grabbed some incredible shots that night.  D300; f11; 1/500; ISO 200; 31mm.







Adding to the SPRINGTIME and SHAPES themes, Dave was intrigued by this solo light colored bush lupine surrounded by the darker blue species.  It may be what they call chick lupine, but I'm not sure.  Taken on the old Stanislaus River bed, just west of the covered bridge at Knight's Ferry.  I was struck by it's light magenta color and shading.  D7000; f11; 1/500; ISO 400; 220mm.




(c) Dave Skinner Photography




Don's next picture reminds us that the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is on parade everywhere, especially on vintage fences that have a modicum of moisture during the year.  He didn't specify a category on this one, so we'll use SHAPES as a good guess.  D300; f11; 1/50; ISO 100; 18mm. 







These Yanks have been routed from their attempt to capture an artillery cache at the Civil War re-enactment at Knight's Ferry on the 21st.  They're retreating into the SHADOWS of the covered bridge.  This young soldier is looking back at the battlefield, wondering what happened.  D7000; f7.1; 1/640; ISO 800; 210mm. 




(c) Dave Skinner Photography




Ah! The proverbial doorknob in all of its worn and wizened glory.  Don has captured its SIMPLE SHAPE perfectly and framed it with a reddened weathered door.  It's always good to tell a story if you can or offer a mystery to be solved.  Did someone remove the screws and try to pry the plate off, too?  Or did they fall out from old age?  And who and how many times did they enter here and when?  God only knows.  D300; f13; 1/160; ISO 100; 48mm.








Dave's final photo is another SPRINGTIME/SHAPES rendering.  Ithuriel's spear is a striking floral setting.  I saw these about 25' from the large Confederate cannon at Knight's Ferry.  I wish I could have been there earlier, before the sun was directly overhead.  There was a dark clump of shrub in the background which I positioned for the best contrast.  This shot is a little overexposed, with the highlight on some of the petals somewhat too bright, but I'm not complaining.  It was a fun find and a fun shoot.  D7000; f7.1; 1/500; ISO 400; 195mm.




(c) Dave Skinner Photography




Don's almost final picture portrays the warmth of another SUNSET, a fitting way to say 'thanks for looking' and 'until we meet again.'  D300; f7.1; 1/200; 90mm.







Don's final final picture is another SILHOUETTE/SUNSET entry.  This oak portrays a wonderful character of age and grace in a world full of chaos and confusion.  Let it remind us of the strength and faithfulness of a God who hears our prayers, forgives our sins, and puts a song of praise on our lips.  "O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens!" Psalm 8:1.  D300; f16; 1/1000; ISO 500; 42mm. 







The monthly Challenge for April will be an easy-peasy, care-free FREE FOR ALL.  Just go out there and have fun shooting your favorite subjects.  If you want to give your pictures themes, that will work, too. 

April theme:

             - FREE FOR ALL (whatever you want)





February 2015 Challenge

March 01, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

February has come and gone --- a short month that flew by for most of us.  And with the warmer weather, there were a lot of distractions that kept us from zeroing in on the challenge.  Add to that the limited challenge themes:  ROMANCE, RED, WORDS, EYES, and UPSIDE DOWN, and we were really in a pickle.  The March challenge will prove a little more user friendly, hopefully.





Don graces us with a number of EYE theme photos, courtesy of the local Atascadero Zoo.  He writes, "We went to the Atascadero Zoo for these. I wanted to get a photo of the tiger, but he was off in a corner of his cage snoozing. Wouldn't even open his eyes for me!"  Don, you needed to offer him "Steak on a Stick" during your next visit.   We'll let everyone guess who these eyes belong to:































Yours truly, Dave, found it difficult to target the ROMANCE theme, especially when mainly shooting nature.  But even nature has its romance, so there is one photo that may apply.  This happy couple was inseparable as they foraged in the February grass at the Preserve.  There weren't any other quail around as they scratched and kept watch about 15' from me on the trail.  I kept expecting them to fly off, but they just went about their business.  Ah, true love!





You don't need much explanation for this Cosumnes Preserve portrait of a little tree, other than to say, "UPSIDE DOWN."   Sorta looks like a fast shutter speed with the wind blowing leaves around in the air, but we know better.





A bit of red for February's RED theme is next.   This guy was feeding on last season's cattails, flying from one to another, calling/singing when perched and enjoying the morning sunlight.   I used a fast shutter speed to freeze the action and retain some detail in the feathers.  






I didn't plan for the WORDS theme, but had taken this sign photo after driving by it a number of times but never stopping.  Walnut Grove Road, just west of Thornton, CA on I-5.  





The last February category was EYES.  Now this shot was planned (although planned on the last day of February).  I had Angel and Elizabeth stand side by side in front of the sliding glass door to get enough light.  I boosted the ISO to 800 and used my new (new to me) 60mm AF MicroNikkor.  This was the best of about 6 shots.  I took out the face color, because Liz is a lot darker than Angel and was partly shaded.  I used the dodge tool on to lighten the dark areas under Liz's eye.  I accentuated and isolated the color in Angel's eye to add some interest.  The depth-of-field is very shallow, so only a few areas are in sharpest focus.  That's okay.  P.S.  The girls thought I was nuts posing them, but there was a method to my madness.



(c) Dave Skinner Photography





Okay, that was fun, and the March Challenge will be even funner.  Themes will be:


        *  SILHOUETTE  (thanks to Bruce for this suggestion)

        *  SHADOWS

        *  SPRINGTIME

        *  SUNSET

        *  SHAPES

        *  SIMPLE


Hope your month is filled with God's blessings.  Take time to thank Him for them.  Happy shooting, folks!

January 2015 Photo Challenge

February 02, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

We've started the New Year with a bang (make that literal gunfire in my neighborhood https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxo0F8k3jA0).  We've survived another year in the New Millennium, thanks to God's providential mercies.  We've endured the pain, enjoyed the blessings, and now hope for a wonderful 2015.  Time to trust God and step out in faith, no matter what our circumstance.

January's challenge themes were Yummy, Abandoned, White, Trio and Low Tech -- a wide array of choices for our shooting pleasure (aren't clichés wonderful?!).  We were given five Saturdays to venture into the known and unknown haunts of our little worlds to grapple with the dilemma of 'what shall I shoot today?' 

Looks like it will be another Don and Dave show again for January.  That's okay -- not everyone is bitten by the shutterbug.  We'll just have to put up with their panoply (monopoly?) of pictures one more time.  If this bothers any of us, we know what we can do to protest. 




Don's first submission fits the Abandoned theme.  He says, "For abandoned, we have an old house that is slowly falling."  This was taken on Klau Mine Road, west of Paso Robles.  We can certainly see the power of entropy here as years of destruction tear down this place that was once a happy home.  It's strange to think that left unattended, our homes will end up like this as well.





Low Tech is captured in Don't second photo.  Once a common fixture across America, the windmill is now a relic of the past.  Frozen with rusty gears, a few still stand here and there, reminding us of the ever-moving wheel of progress.  Hey, this would look cool in my backyard, though.





Can we guess Don's reason for shooting these mailboxes?  If you're thinking Yummy or White, you're wrong.  Note there are exactly three boxes.  Hey, it must be the Trio theme!  Nice cedar tree and fence to compliment them.





Well, what do you think about these cupcakes?  Should they be in the Trio or Yummy category?  Don says, Yummy, and so be it.  Are your taste buds aroused, trying to think of what these would taste like?  I can taste each one in my mind - and not intake one calorie! Pretty cool, but not much fun.  Wonder if he and Janet actually paid good money for any of these.  Don says, "I'll start out with Janet's Yummy pics. We went down to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory with the Nikon Coolpix for that category."





More yummies coming up.





"We also ran across this abandoned TV. As you can see, it works perfectly including the picture, in picture, in picture. I believe that qualifies it for the trio category, also. This was done by layering in Elements11."  Now we know what Don does in his spare time.  Very creative, Don.  Note the touch of the sunglasses placed on the TV.  Not sure about the significance there, but am sure there was a method behind his madness.  Hey, that looks like my old 32" Toshiba!





Don's White themed photo features a white fence and bare tree canopies.  Nice composition.  Note the Round Up swath protecting this fence from melting if the field catches fire this summer or someone tosses a cigarette butt that catches the field on fire.  Either way, that's a lot of Round Up getting into the water table! Ha!







Yours truly did a lot of shooting in January, so you'll have to grant him a few extra photo submissions. Thanks. 


Low Tech can be seen in these first two pictures, both taken in Sutter Creek.  The first at an antique store and the old gauge at Knight's Foundry on Eureka Street.  Please help me identify the heart and circle shaped items and the 'Asbestos' piece.  I didn't ask the three old ladies who were minding the store.  They were too busy admiring my aussie hat, anyway.





Knight's Foundry is one of my favorite places to shoot in Sutter Creek.  I've taken pictures of this gauge before.  This time I removed all the color, then added the light yellow back in on the gauge for another Low Tech photo.





Northeast of Pine Grove, on Shake Ridge Road, we found this abandoned Ford pickup, so I had to stop and take a few shots with my telephoto lens, since it was 'parked' away from the road.  The color version just didn't look too eye-catching, so I used Photoshop 9 to give this rendering for the Abandoned theme.





 An Abandoned oak leaf and telephone pole are the next subjects in this macro shot taken at Cosumnes River Wildlife Preserve.  I was drawn to the angles, weathered wood and the red blush of the leaf.  Plus, the blue on the metal is striking.   



(c) Dave Skinner Photography



My last Abandoned theme photo is of homeless Mark from Oklahoma sitting on a Sacramento River promenade bench watching the world go by.  We didn't ask for his story, but he was more than willing to talk about incidentals - like he has two blankets to keep him warm at night.  Nikon D7000 and 12-24mm wide angle lens, cropped.  



(c) Dave Skinner Photography



Sometime we're surprised by ordinary things, like this apple core on the side of the road at the Preserve.  Not worth a second glance, except when I saw all the ants on it.  This is first thing in the morning and the ants weren't moving, it was so cold.  Fitting the Yummy theme, we could also toss it into the Abandoned category as well.





More in the Yummy domain (also fits the Trio theme) with these three custom soda bottles.   These were in a candy store in Old Sacramento. 



(c) Dave Skinner Photography



The following photos fit the White category. The first two were taken in Old Sacramento, which is a great place to find a wide variety of memories to take home with you. People are friendly, fun things to do, big selection of eateries, and history all around you.





 White Delight with a little red accent:



(c) Dave Skinner Photography



My last White picture was taken at the Preserve when it was very foggy in the morning.  Used a little creative license here to fool the eye and add some interest.  Title: Three Faces of Eve 





The final two photos fit the Trio theme for January.  We can name them Down Below and Up Above.   



(c) Dave Skinner Photography



I heard these sandhill cranes flying overhead and quickly aimed my telephoto at them, but they were barely visible in the fog.  This should have been a throwaway picture, but with a little Photoshop work, it was worth keeping.





Here's the original I had to work with.  Don't bee too quick to toss a picture that's poorly exposed or out of focus.  You can use Elements or other programs to find something worth showing.







And now, another month is ahead of us, although it only has 28 days in it.  We're off to a good start and with the weather turning warmer, we'll have little excuse for not taking our cameras with us here and there.


February's Challenge Themes will be:


2. RED





If you'd like to see all of the Challenge photos at their original (sent) sizes, you can go here:  http://wordydave.zenfolio.com/p960307740


Happy shooting, everyone.



December 2014 Challenge: My Favorite Shots

January 02, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Our normally busy December was normally busy again this year for most of us.  I think Yours Truly was the only one able to get out and corral some scenery.  The weather didn't cooperate with all the rain, but who's complaining?  Taking pictures in wet, foggy conditions will test your mettle, but that's why you have mettle - so it can be tested.  I'm anxious to get some frost close-ups this week, but don't think I'll be able to.




It looks like Don didn't get out much, the poor boy.  I can say this because he's told me as much when he sent his pictures for your viewing pleasure.  "Just a couple of pics this month. We spent pretty low key Christmas. I thinks me needs to get out more."  You're forgiven, my boy. But you need to make amends by submitting more in the January Challenge.

Here's Don's favorite kitty, Callie, enjoying some couch time while waiting for that special Christmas present: sardines in a can!  She will certainly be jolly after feasting on some scrumptious, stinky fish tails!

Don used his flash for this shot, but didn't get things overexposed.  Note that Callie isn't looking at the camera.  Can you guess why? 






Don's second photo is pretty creative and proves you can actually have fun with your camera.   I'm going to let everyone guess how he captured this bird's nest, keeping it in perfect focus while the tree lights are streaked.  Put on your logic caps and figure it out.  He'll let us know exactly how he did it, I'm sure.  Don, you're a real magician.  Isn't that real snow I see?








Dave took his days off as an opportunity to head into the wilderness (careful to be back around 9:30 each morning) and discover the blessings of being cold and miserable. With gloved fingers stinging, nose running, and cataract-plagued eyes blinded by the sunrise, he was still able to get a few favorites.


This first one was taken while visiting Tom and Barb Birks in Sonora.  Their house is at the top of the hill above this tree line.  We were at this place in the valley below them, visiting an Xmas boutique in the farm/ranch house.  Pretty cool.  I was intrigued by the pastoral scene, fall colors, pond and the two 'cowboys' riding their horses on this small spread.  Nikon D5100, 55-300mm zoom.





This second photo was taken at sunrise on Staten Island Road, west of Thornton, CA.  The cornfields are flooded after harvest for the winter waterfowl to call home, so thousands of geese, sandhill cranes, swans, ducks and other assorted birds feast and frolic, waiting for spring so they can fly north again.  When I shoot birds, I try to get the best compositions possible. This means setting up for the landscape and waiting for the right amount of birds to be in the right place before snapping the shutter.  Predicting flight patterns helps here.  I don't use the continuous shutter feature - guess I should, though.  The larger challenge is focus.  If using auto focus with a telephoto lens, there will be a lot of 'lens seeking' if you're focusing on just a few birds.  Better to pre-focus, then switch to manual focus.  Just remember to switch back to auto-focus afterwards. 






This heron hangs out at a backwater pond between the main road and parking lot at Cosumnes River Wildlife Preserve.  Easily spooked by the slightest threat, it takes some stealth to get close enough for a good shot.  After spotting him when driving by on the main road, I turned back and pulled into the parking lot.  Walking out of the lot and across the main road, keeping as far away from him as possible, I used a 3' diameter tree at the water's edge to sneak up on him, carefully keeping the tree between us as I crossed the road and went down the bank to the tree.  There was a fork in the tree at head height, so I slowly raised the camera into it for the picture.  A few branches were in the way, but I was able to get this capture from that position.  Then, wanting to have a clearer view, I crept toward the side of the tree. Before he was in the viewfinder, the big boy jumped up and flew away. Camera shy and a large part chicken.  But I was happy with the pose he let me have before saying sayonara.





Fog is a challenge.  Very little color.  Very little contrast.  Very little warmth as you're bundled and gloved.  This particular photo was taken right when the sun was starting to peek through.  It bathed everything with a pinkish brown cast.  I could see the sandhill cranes coming into the composition and waited until they were right where I wanted them.  Tripod.  Zoom lens.





My last favorite shot was taken on Staten Island Road just as the sun was rose.  These willets were flying in unison, partly in the shadow of the levee road, with the sunlight bathing half of them with a reddish glow.  These birds are gray when the sun is high.  I like the contrast of the pink and blue water reflections.  This is the only capture (out of dozens) where they are in a turn.  I'll have to go back and try to get more of them in this position where you can see their white wing banding. 







Unfortunately, this blog site limits the width of our posted pictures.  They would be more impressive if we could view them at their original sizes.  Such is life.  We who beg cannot be choosers as well. 


The old year has now vanished, leaving behind its memories.  That's all we have now.  Tempus volat, nunquam repetiit.  Time flies, never to be repeated, but we hold those treasured thoughts in our hearts, the good, the bad and the in between.  May God give us His grace as we look to this new year and trust in His wisdom, mercy, blessing and hope.


Heads up and write these down:  the January Challenge themes will be . . .


1.  Yummy

2.  Abandoned

3.  White

4.  Trio

5.  Low Tech


Happy New Year, everyone! And Happy Shooting!


Monthly Challenge
January (1) February (1) March (2) April May (1) June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December