Life in a Christmas Card

When I woke up this morning, our neighborhood looked like a Christmas card.  As a California transplant who has never lived in snow until the last couple years, I am enchanted by the transformation that takes places overnight. It snowed here a week ago, and parts of town were still covered- but we only had snow left in patches until this morning.  I put on my boots and went out with my warm jacket over my PJ’s and took some photos with my Nikon- but my favorite shot has to be this iPhone panorama.


I did a quick HDR edit in Snapseed and posted it to Facebook.  As usual, I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so brought it into Lightroom for some brightening and noise reduction. I then took it into Photoshop and applied some Topaz filters. First, I used Simplify to create more of a painterly look- and then Texture Effects, where I did a “from scratch” edit to bring in a texture that made it look like it was snowing.

And now it really does look like we live in a Christmas card!


It is highly unlikely that we will have a white Christmas, but we are certainly enjoying the pre-Christmas snow!

Day 247- You gotta be kidding me!

I am two thirds through the second year of my blog.  I just cannot believe that this is going to be my THIRD post about cars falling apart on vacation.  The first time was June 2011, when we broke down outside of Twin Falls Idaho and had to be towed to the Subaru dealer.  The second time was in February, when we had the mishap with the rental car in Kansas- and Lonnie had to put it back together with duct tape.

Today we left Benicia and began the long drive through Nevada.  There isn’t much scenery in this part of the state, so we passed the time listening to an audiobook (Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom).  Somewhere after Winnemucca and before Battle Mountain, the Subaru started chugging and lurching. We stopped and got gas in Battle Mountain, and then bravely (and in denial) continued our drive- and all seemed better.  But then, as we started up a grade halfway between Battle Mountain and Elko, it started again- but WORSE.  Long story short, we ended up getting a 200 mile tow to the same Subaru dealership we were towed to a year ago in Twin Falls, Idaho.  The car is sitting in their parking lot, and we took a taxi to the Shiloh Inn.

To be continued tomorrow. . .

Day 236- Homework

Inspired by Scott Kelby’s seminar yesterday, I set out today to take some bracketed photos to practice HDR.  Of course, Scott’s photos were shot in Paris- and mine were taken in Benicia- but it was all about the techniques, right? So next time I’m in Paris, I’ll be ready!

I’ve dabbled in HDR before, using Photomatix and Scott’s preset for Photoshop, but this time I did a little finishing work in Photoshop and Lightroom.  My eye isn’t trained yet, so I spent a long time with the sliders trying to decide what looked best.



This one isn’t HDR, but was edited with Color Efex Pro, one of the freebies we got for attending.

Day 352- Starbursts?

This was one of those frustrating photography days. The theme is through the looking glass, referring to using a door, window, or mirror as a frame.  My plan was to take a photo of my Christmas tree reflected in the mirror of my hutch- simple, right? I wanted to use a small aperture, so that the lights would show up as starbursts.  I used my tripod with a long exposure and focused on the tree. No starbursts! I tried all different exposures and focus points and would run upstairs to check my focus after every few photos. Nothing looked right, and I finally realized that the soft focus of the Christmas cards in front were detracting from the photo. I decided at that point to forget about the starbursts and go for an HDR photo.  I focused on the cards and took a series of bracketed shots.  After deciding on the set I liked, I edited them in Photomatix for my HDR processing- and discovered faint starbursts. Go figure!

Day 307- Capital of California

Benicia was the capital of California- really! Just from 1853 to 1854- but the capital building remains. It is a California State Park, and, because of the budget crisis, is slated to be closed.  A local group is fighting its closure, so there is hope that this beautiful building will remain open for school children and the public to view and appreciate this little piece of history.

I took bracketed photos, which I merged in Photomatix for an HDR image.

Day 297- White Pumpkins, Part 2

It’s back to the white pumpkins again!

I used a small aperture with a two second shutter speed- and then edited with my HDR program (Photomatix) to bring out the detail in both the pumpkins and reflections.