Zenfolio | Dave Skinner Photography | March Challenge 2013

March Challenge 2013

April 01, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

March didn't roar in like a lion, but definitely roared out like one. Our spectacular thunderstorms on Saturday night reminded us that the rain hasn't ended yet, thankfully. "Green, green - it's green they say - on the far side of the hill." So goes the old New Christy Minstrels tune, and I'm happy to report it's green on the near side of the hill as well in March. The bees are buzzing, the flowers blooming and new life is covering the old, dead winter grasses. Chlorophyll lovers everywhere - rejoice!!!

Our two themes for the month were Green and My Other Hobby. Thanks to everyone who ventured took the time to shoot one or both of them.


Ginnie was a bit late, so we'll squeeze her pictures in, starting with what looks like spring in her backyard. The neighbors help themselves to a free salad bar down the hill. "Sorry to be late.  I really did consciously take a 'green' photo for the March challenge.  Like Angel, Don and Meg, out in the backyard."



Ginnie's main hobby is painting, with weekly jaunts with the other aspiring Van Goghs and Monets. Looks like fun.




Here are Angel's entries. She scouted the front and back yards for these, so she said it wasn't too difficult. Her intentions were mainly to find anything interesting, without thinking so much about the Green theme, but didn't come up short in that department. She told me it takes a good imagination to know how to compose a good photo. When quizzed about her exposure methods, she told me she didn't change the aperture or shutter speed, which is the reason a number of her shots were overexposed. She found if she shot in the shade, the exposure was just right (more training needed here, for sure). One disadvantage is that she was using the old macro lens that has to be used manually, both for focusing and aperture.

I walked her through the process of cropping, adjusting contrast/brightness, color, and sharpening in Photoshop Elements 9.0. Her reaction: "Kinda hard." Her first photo is her favorite.



Her second picture is a stylized version of Grandma Skinner's miniature ivy (yes it's still growing around the backyard). It wasn't in perfect focus, so I had her render it with a brush stroke filter.



Her third entry isn't within the theme parameters, but is still fun to enjoy. It is a close up of a miniature rose bloom.



Angel also likes to draw, so she took this picture of one of her latest creations:



Megen also had fun in the yard taking pictures in her garden, with fruit, veggies and flowers on the menu. Here's her favorite flower:



This girl is ambitious with watermelon, zucchini and lemon cucumber ready to plant! Oh, wait - she's only got 5 zucchini plants. Better make it 10, Meg - just to show how good a neighbor you are!



Her all-green entry (or is it entrée?) is Salad Bennett - yummy!




Bruce is back with us. Welcome back, Bruce! Missed you. Your first photo features a nice classic truck - that happens to be green. What a coincidence! 1957 Chevy stepside with nice whitewalls and sun visor. Bruce, this would look great parked in your driveway! Camera: iPhone



Bruce is a hobby guy also and has manufactured a number of Shaker style furniture pieces. He says, "Some of the projects I built over the years.  All Shaker projects (all wood joinery except for the hinges and knobs).  Glad to be back to work with the D5100.  I’ve really enjoyed the photos over the months.  Your team has really shown improvement.  A lot of the photos submitted look like they could go in a Photo magazine.  Great work everyone!" The first photo is his blanket chest.





And don't forget the hall tree:



He also constructed his fireplace mantle. And the picture on top of it (an original watercolor of Mission SLO) was given to him by an artist friend. Wow!



Okay, Bruce, I've overextended your entries - your reward for re-entering the fray. Our next challenge submissions were sent in by Don, who also uses a MicroNikkor lens on his D300. 60mm - the expensive AF one. More yard photos to add to the mix. He blurbs, "The first one is deep in the jungle of my recently fertilized lawn. The second one is thanks to Janet's green thumb. Both were taken with the 60mm macro. I don't use it much so I thought I'd try it on this month's assignment."

Note: the closer you get, the shallower the depth-of-field. Only a small slice of the photo can be in focus. You can stop down the aperture and use a slower shutter speed, but at this distance it won't matter much. There is a technique where you can take a series of shots, re-focusing through the frame so you'll have a bunch of pictures with each area in focus separately. Then you use a certain plug-in software that let's you marry all of them so everything is in focus. Way too much trouble for me, too.




Ginnie sent a nice shot of Morro Rock with nice framing.



March's last challenge photos are from yours truly. I think the human eye can detect more shades of green than any other color (read that in a photo mag, of course). It is so taken for granted that we can easily overlook the beauty in its variety. I look for the unusual when I shoot, starting with using a different angle, a dose of contrast and color between the subject and background, deciding whether to use a telephoto, wide-angle or macro lens, and more. I usually just take one or two pictures, maybe a few more if it's a macro to get the sharpest image. If it's blurred, but meets all of my criteria for a good shot, I'll stylize it, bump up the color and contrast and use it as an art shot. Or if the color isn't doing anything for me, I'll convert it to black and white to see how it looks.



Stylizing will save a slightly blurred photo:



This young oak leaf close up isn't perfectly focused, but is close enough to make a statement. Adjustments made to contrast, brightness and color, with sharpening. Nikon D5100 and my 55mm lens for these.



These plum blossoms were purposely lightened (along with the background) to accentuate the details in the flowers. The yellows were enhanced a bit, also. Sorry, off theme here, but these kind of pictures make me smile a bit. Close up lenses open a world of beauty we don't usually see.





Thanks again to all who expressed themselves this month. I was expecting a few Irish-St. Patrick's Day photos, but only received one - taken by Meg (or Ginnie?). Pretty cute, and plenty of green!



April's Challenge will also offer a choice of themes, to make it a little easier on everyone. They are: Vivid, Motion Blur, and Negative Space. Vivid has to do with bright color or colors; Motion Blur will demand a very slow shutter speed or purposely moving your camera (or zooming) while taking the picture; and Negative Space is all about domination - like a small object on a big, monotone background. Google "negative space photography" and see what you come up with.

Life is short. "Glorify God and enjoy Him forever" should be our lifework. We can glorify Him when we capture the beauty He has created around us and share it with others.

Happy shooting to one and all.


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