Thursday, January 30, 2014

Another Round of Weather

I've gotten tired of trying to figure out what exactly the different weather people are doing here.  One weather service names the snowstorms, NOAA doesn't.

That doesn't change the fact that our winter this January has been fairly unusual even for Wisconsin.

We've had sleet/ice/rain/snow storms, bitter 'Artic Vortexes' [I keep waiting to get swept away in one of these Vortex's], snow, cold, bitter cold, and then nice winter days such as yesterday.

It isn't easy on our stock or on anyone else who has livestock.  While at the grocery store a friend told me that a friend of hers lost her elderly mare in this last cold spell.

So far all of our animals seem to be doing just fine.

Our Dexter Cattle seem very unperturbed at all by the weather.  They eat.  They lay down together out of the wind and chew their cud as if they have no worries in the world.

Fred, Dinah, and Siera, run and play or stand in the sun.  They are experts at getting shelter from the winds.

Although this last Sunday night the winds howled so hard that it blew whatever snow was left loose into a frenzy.
I couldn't see out my south window.  When I did I could see the snow moving across the ground in waves.

Yesterday I took a walk.  Well, a hike with my snow shoes on.  In places the snow is over knee deep.  I can vouch for snow shoes.  They really do help although you must learn to walk a bit differently in them.
At least I wasn't hip deep in some of the drifts.

I found animal trails in the woods.  Coyote, Deer, and all sorts of other animals are using the same trail to get around.


 Of course I had to break my own trail.  After that is done with a pair of snow shoes it gets easier as long as you follow the same path.

I guess I have a lot of walking to do then!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Morning Walk ~ Sunday

I thought I'd get a walk in early Sunday morning before the winds came.

I hadn't been able to get out to take a good walk for a while.

I decided to walk out towards the far neighbor's place.  I got only so far before Morris and I decided to turn back.

His driveway was drifted shut.
The patterns in the snow were beautiful.
Morris preferred to stick to the road when I wandered off into the deep snow.

He obviously needed to burn off a lot of Jack Russell energy.

The winds started to pick up when we turned and headed back towards our place.
I heard a shout behind me and saw the 'outlaw' neighbor [he's not really an outlaw] walking towards me.  He'd come along the edge of the woods to stay out of the wind.

He said he had to walk out to meet a ride.  There was no way he could get out and hadn't been able to get out with a vehicle for 5 days.  He needed to do some work -- as a mechanic -- then grab some bread and other things and walk back to the cabin.

He was angry that neither township would plow his road out.  See his driveway is in 2 townships and they argue about who should plow it.  Zeke said he even talked to the Sheriff's department.  And I agree, his driveway is long and he should get help from the townships he is in.  Not be put in the middle of a quibble.

Zeke is quite the character every neighborhood needs one.

So Morris and I walked with him to the corner where his mailbox is.
Folks, that is a mile from his house.

We talked and walked.  He was kind enough to let me take his picture.  He has an interesting face.

After he was picked up, Morris and I headed towards home.
Unless I wear snow shoes, I won't be able to walk in the woods at all right now.

The weather did turn absolutely horrid.  We had snow, and the winds were blowing.
At times I couldn't see out to the pasture because of whiteouts and whirls of snow.
Our driveway plugged up with blown snow in about an hour.

Now the weather is -10 F and still windy, but not as bad as yesterday.
They are still recommending no travel until this afternoon so that the road crews have a chance to get to clean up the roads.
Many of the rural roads are drifted in.
It has been a bit of a wild ride this winter.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Modeling~~ again! by Morris

SHE said she had to do some 'black and white' shadows and lights study sort of thing for her Black and White Photography group thingy she is doing.

SHE said the weather outside was pretty crappy, the winds were howling something awful and the sun was shining through the living room window.
While SHE was wandering about trying to figure out all something to shoot with her camera...I decided to do the only honorable thing.

Take advantage of the nice sunlight.

Then I started hearing the faint noise of her camera shutter.
After a few minutes it got pretty annoying.  

The sun kept moving so I had to also.
Here you can see I am keeping an EYE on HER.

Can't you just let an old dog rest?

So I got up and moved to the couch.
Did that stop her?  No.

Here is my charming look.  Don't I look charming?
I was too tired to even demand a dog cookie.

Finally she gave up on me, the sunlight went away.

So SHE picked another victim!


I'm pretty sure that he is not as handsome as I am.  

However he was more co-operative.

He didn't get any dog cookies either.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Some things I've learned about Adobe Photoshop ~ channels.

Heck, I never knew what a channel was before.  
Never used that aspect of PS or CS as it is now called.

I figured I was doing great using Topaz plugin filters to get what I needed.

Along with Photomatix, Dynamic Photo HDR, and anything else I could get my hands on for processing...well,
Post processing.

I read a tutorial by Christopher O'Donnell on the use of luminosity layers.  It is a hard concept to initially grasp but I decided to look up as many tuts as I could.

Obviously it has been around for quite some time.  Tony Kuper has a good tutorial also.

I'm not one that will follow a tutorial to the letter.  I usually open the program and start experimenting on my own.

Here is the original shot.  Shot with a .9 ND filter.  f22 at 8 seconds.  I shot it at 400 ISO because it was so overcast.

The water appears as I wanted it to, but what could I do to make this 'better'?

I decided to try Topaz.  This is what I always go to.  Great plugins.  

Well, more detail, more contrast, more color.  I thought it was pretty darned good.

Then I decided to try some 'luminosity work'.

The Layers look like a mess right?  But I started seeing a more true to life version of what I did shoot that day.

The whites are a bit blown in this shot and it was an overcast day.  Perhaps if I'd shot in RAW format and converted it, could be better.

Lastly I tried to convert it to Black and White using Topaz BW Effects.

I decided to have a bit of fun and go with a preset I had made on my own.

So there you go.  Luminosity.  Channels.
Things I had not studied before I joined the Google+ Community called 256SOG or Shades of Grey.

Just goes to show you.
You can always learn more things to try if you want to.

JWildfire has a new release!

These two images were created with JWildfire new release.  I used Layerz to combine 2 fractals and then put them together and render them.
The other choice is to do separate flames and then layer them in photoshop.  But I did enjoy this newer feature.

One of the things I like to do when it is frigid...frigid outside is mess around with colors and fractal programs.

JWildfire is continously changing and improving, thanks to Andreas Maschke's hard work.
I don't pretend to understand how it works at all.  But I know I can get lost just messing around in the program.  You can download it at his site and it doesn't cost a thing.
I suggest looking at the tutorials on his site also.
The best information can be found at the Facebook site called JWildfire Open Group.
On that site a person has access to all sorts of tutorials and wonderful flames to work with that can be downloaded in the files section.

Unlike Mandelbulb 3D which also has a site on FB called Mandelbulb Maniacs, it is a 'flame' based fractal imaging program.

I sometimes create an image in JWildfire and use it for a color map for a Mandelbulb or a backround for an image created in Incendia.

The flames in the backround of the above image was created in another interesting program called
Flame Painter by Escape Motions.

So when it is -12 out with a 15mph wind...[this means really really cold], and I cannot get out to do any nature photography, this is what I like to do to offset the winter doldrums.

Monday, January 20, 2014

When dogs Fly by Morris

I have no idea what was going on in HER pea-brained head on Sunday.  SHE said, 'Morris, want to go for a walk?'

Are you kidding me?  Walk?  Run? Eat rabbit pellets and 'water' everything I can find to make yellow snow?
I'm like count me in!

I did not however count on HER allowing Dixie to come along.

I mean she is HUGE!  She has to weigh at least 4 times as much as me.  I weigh like 12 pounds.
She is somewhere around that 40lb weight.

She is a big lug.  She has no idea how big she is.

Come on.  Would you want THIS to be charging at you in the snow?

Well I had no idea that the snow was so deep.
I had to snow swim if I went off HER and Dixie's trail.  The snow was up to HER knees which is above my head.

At least SHE waited for me and then gave me a lift when I asked for it.

I mean...look at this face, could YOU refuse me?  
I don't think so!

We had a wonderful walk.  SHE even took some video of us playing.  Well, me trying to avoid Dixie and Dixie trying her best to annoy me.

But I have to say.
Dixie was very polite.
She never chewed on me, she didn't knock me down, and she always asked permission to get close and in my face.

I am so glad I trained her last year!

You never know when it is helpful to have a huge hound dog break trail for you.
Besides, isn't she magnificent?  
I really think some dogs can fly!

If only those ears were bigger!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Winter coats.

This is an old photo of my now gone, Cheyanne in a snowstorm.  

This is Peaches a few years ago. 

This is a shot of Siera from the other day.

Our herd has a huge area of valleys and woods to get into during the winter and during bad weather.
We do have an area inside to keep an animal if they are sick or need special attention.

In 20 yrs I've never had an animal die from the cold, the wind, the snow, or bad weather.
Cheyanne lived until she was 28.  I tried keeping her in one winter and she went mad, stomping, whinnying and exhausting her old self.

Yesterday I posted the Siera photo on Flickr.  
I had some interesting comments.

'Oh dear, she looks so COLD!'
'Poor thing,'
'She needs a scarf and hat'
Horses and most mules have an extremely thick undercoat.  This insulates them and will even keep them dry after a snow or sleet storm.

This mule was not cold.  I just awakened her from a standing nap when I walked down to check the heated stock tank.

I often walk amongst the herd running my bare hands through their undercoat.  It is warm under the snow and dusty.  Yes, dusty.
I guess I am frustrated by folks who don't own any equine thinking that if they are cold, the animals with fur coats are cold.

However, donkeys have long coats, but poor undercoats.  They can get chilled with a sleet and do need a place to get out of the weather.  
I think my friend at The Dancing Donkey can answer that question or comment on that much better than I can.

Anyway.  I believe in many ways that being outdoors is so much better than being stalled inside for 18hrs a day.   That is, if you have that option of course.
Run ins are even better.

But hey I'm no expert in the matter.
I just felt compelled to discuss the matter.
Here people thought this poor mule would be so cold.  
Did I forget to mention that it was 32 degrees?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Our Wonderful Wicked WI Weather

Should have gone with ALL W's there, but couldn't figure out how to do it.

Most of the animals stood around during the last storm and just took it all in stride, pointing their butts at the wind or going into the woods to hide.

According to NOAA, locally we received about 6" of snow.  Now that is hard to measure because the winds were whipping up on the ridge at about 35 mph.  Our road was drifted in ~ in several spots.

Down in our 'hole' it wasn't so bad.

But get out into the areas where the wind could reach and...we had whirlwind snow or Snow Tornadoes.

When I walked back towards the house I was lucky enough to catch the wind whipping snow off from the shed roof.

Very impressive winds.  The trees behind me were moaning and creaking.
So I decided to pocket my old P&S camera and head inside.

What was even more impressive is that our Town Patrolmen [they do all the maintenance on our town roads], were out in force using front end loaders and the road grader to clear the plugged roads.

Kudos to those snow plow drivers, both our county and townships.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Original vs Edited

Since I've been participating in a photography group that is stressing BW photography more as a Fine Art photography, I've been doing a bit more 'heavy' thinking on the topic.

I've also been experimenting a bit more.
As I said before Winter in the Midwest really allows for dramatic black and white photography. 

Here is a sample of the original shot.
When I first saw it, I decided that I should just delete it because it really wasn't what 'I thought' I was seeing through the lens.
Then I didn't want to just delete it.
I wanted to see if I could save it in any way.


I did get some motion on the water, but overall it looked pretty darned bland.  To me it was a toss away shot, overexposed and not useable.
But dang I liked the rocks and I put a LOT of effort snow shoeing to this spot, climbing down a steep bank and squatting in water for this.

So I dropped it simply into Topaz Adjust to see what might happen.

Well now, this was much better!  The colors are more lifelike, the water has a bright spot in the center which wouldn't be liked by some, but doesn't bother me at all.  There is a sense of movement and it isn't quite so BLAH.

So what would happen if I turned this into a Black and White shot?  Would it look better?  Worse?
I used this layer and put it in Topaz BW Effects.

I used a Platinum Toned preset:

Okay so I liked that a lot too.  But it doesn't give the viewer a feeling of being cold, which...darn it all, it was squatting there in the creek doing all sorts of contortions to focus on this shot.

So I took the color version and put it back into Topaz BW Effects and chose Selenium I which gave it a colder look.  I tried Cold Blue, but that just made it tinted too blue for my tastes.

I like this version quite a bit also.  It does feel colder, but I like how I am more mesmerized by the water than by the colors of the rocks.

In any way, for my personal tastes, I think I saved a pretty blah photo due to editing.
By the way, I am not saying you need to buy Topaz products, I've got them, so I use them.

There are other ways of doing the very same thing in different Photo Editing programs.

Conclusion.  I didn't produce Fine Art BW work here.  Just saved a photo that I'd put in a lot of effort and hard work to get.  
Think ~~ long hard walk through the woods, climbing hills, and trudging through heavy nasty underbrush ~~ just to get to one spot to take a few photos.

As a wonderful surprise I looked up from where I was and found this Bittersweet growing right above me!

PS~ untouched in editing!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

She can't do it without me. By Morris

Should the Grumpy ol' Guy really trust HER out in the woods by herself?  I think not.  I'm sure he is secretly glad that I go along and keep an eye on her.

And keep an eye out for Coyotes, Bears, Grizzlies, Pterodactyls, Mountain Lions, Wild 'possum, and the such like.

You think I am kidding?

I am always investigating tracks.

I mean look at the tracks here on the ice.  Made by a 2 toed prehistoric creature.  SHE says it was a deer.  Little does SHE know.
I did find deer and rabbit pellets and secretly took magic smart pills to enhance my awareness of all the dangers one kind find in the forest.

SHE on the other hand, took pictures.

I waited by patiently as possible, guarding her against all nasty forces and creepy things that can be found in this forest.

See my tracks from pacing back and forth watching for monsters and such?  Once the wind blew [that's what SHE said] and made trees moan.  Uh huh.  I saw bushes move and got the hair up on my back .... I growled and backed up right into HER and her tripod camera thing.

When the crisis was over I ate some nasty stuff and enjoyed her hollers of 'Icky Icky!'  I like doing that to her.

We traveled quite a ways down the valley.  SHE found some water falls to take pictures of.  I don't get the big deal over that, but SHE seems to like it a lot.

So I watched carefully.  I was suspicious of what might be happening on the hillside above us.

After much 'shooting' with HER camera, she packed everything up and we started back towards home.  Now I was not concerned in the least with anything but finding the trail home to make sure SHE got there safely and that I got a nice warm cozy place to lay on.

At one point I had to stop and turn around.  SHE looked like she could be lost.  The underbrush is quite thick and sometime the deer trail is hard to find.
I follow the deer pellets.  

IF SHE were my size she wouldn't always have to struggle when things got thick now would SHE?

Come on, this way!  

When we got to the open field I was able to run on top of the ice crust again.  There was a clear path to home from her snow shoes so I decided to take off and run.

When I got home I was pretty tired.  You know my age in dog years is something like 58 yrs old.  Almost the same age as SHE is.  Whoops, probably shouldn't have made that public.

Anyway, I got a nice clean blanket to lay on while SHE went out to do some farm work.
I got sick all over her blanket.
I guess some of that icky stuff wasn't so great after all.

SHE came in and just shook her head at me.
I gave her the innocent look.

Sure would be nice to have another dog, or maybe a house cat to blame THAT on!

Oh yeah.
SHE did get a 'nice' picture of the water falling.  I am fairly sure that she could NOT have done it without my help.
Pterodactyls, Bears, Coyotes, Grizzlies, Cougars and other such wildlife knew to stay away while I was on patrol.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Mother Nature's Artwork

People often ask me why I like winter so much and I think it dawned on me while browsing through my photos of this past week.

It is the amazing things that happen during the winter that make me love it so much.

Like the ice storm of the night of the 10th.  The photo above is from that storm.  Such beautiful shapes and stark contrasts!  I could have spent the whole day just photographing a 80 foot stretch of the woods on the ridgetop.
Daylight and time didn't allow for that though.

Last week it was the creek that offered fantastic ice abstracts above the flowing water.  How can you not just love that?

Of course you have to wear the proper clothing to stay warm.  I have a new favorite hat.  It is a 'mad bomber' hat with rabbit fur lining.
Plus, I should probably mention that today's modern cameras don't like changing from cold to warm.  Condensation will form on the camera and ruin the electronics if you don't handle it properly.
I carry gallon ziplock bags in my padded insulated case.  Before I come in, I put the cameras in each their own ziplock bag and zip it.  I put the cameras in the bag and then set the back in a cooler part of the house for an hour or so.
I have to use utter patience to not rip open the bag and grab out the memory cards to see what and how my shots turned out.

The above shot is from the morning of the 10th.  We'd had a rapid warm up from the below zero temps to something like 25.  This created a dense fog which deposited a beautiful hoar frost on grasses, twigs, trees and the like.

The frost is very hard to photograph properly, the auto focus...yes this ladies old eyes depend on it, seems to have a hard time detecting the frost.  Or maybe it is the camera operator!

This is for you Grand daughter Ariel.
See what fun you can have with your camera?

I think you'd even find taking different types of shots of your pine trees fun and interesting!

Here are a few more shots from my short outing on the 11th.

Same branch as the first but different view.

This morning on our Frosty Walk, my neighbor and I enjoyed the daylight gradually coming over the landscape.  

I found it amazing that there was still a lot of ice on the trees.  But a wind is blowing now and the forecaster said we'd get to 38* today.

I plan and dusting off the snow shoes and heading down the valley with Dixie and Morris.
You all have a great Sunday too.