Icy Wonderland!

Unless you are hiding under a rock, you have probably heard that the midwest experienced some radical weather this week!  Prior to our power going out, massive damage to trees, power lines, and homes, (basically the end of the world), and subsequently moving ourselves and our pup to a friend's house who actually had heat, Dane and I found some time to go out and take a walk with the pup and take some pictures.  This California, beach-lovin' girl had never seen anything like an ice storm before so I was in awe of how beautiful plants covered in ice could be!  Especially since the sharp contrast of the vibrant leaves of Ohio's fall and the stark twigs of Ohio's winter was a bit of a depressing shock to me.  So, seeing some beauty in winter was very welcomed!

I'd also like to take this opportunity to discuss the fact that I am an amateur photographer and would like to share of bit of my journey of becoming somewhat less of an amateur and somewhat more of a professional.  I read recently that it is okay to use auto focus!  Shocking, I know.  Some people seem to think that you aren't a real photographer unless you are moving the focus around yourself, but I have found that I have been able to get some pretty awesome shots with a good camera (my beloved Nikon D90) and good ol' auto focus!
I started in my backyard where this bush (which is actually our neighbor's that hangs over our fence) was the very last tree in the yard to lose its leaves in the fall.  I loved the color of the small berries and with the help of my favorite (and rather affordable, I might add) editing software, Lightroom 3, I was able to really pull out the beauty of the colors.

Then after a slip on our ice rink of a driveway (luckily I didn't actually fall), we began our walk around the neighborhood.  The salted roads weren't anywhere near as slippery as our driveway as long as you walked towards the middle and that wasn't a problem seeing as most people didn't have to go into work or school and weren't driving on the roads.

This next photo was taken just around the block from our house while Dane and Roman walked ahead of me.  Once again, on auto focus.  This shot would have been impossible to get on manual save me laying on my stomach on the icy roads (not gonna happen) which shows how useful auto focus can be.  Now for a word on editing.  Since I bought Lightroom, I have only really used it for editing photos of people which is waaaaay different than editing these nature shots.  I have found that there is no real science to editing; you just keep experimenting and changing levels until you get the look you want.  In Lightroom there are two settings named clarity and sharpness and when editing photos of people, I like these to be a little on the low side, but with these shots, I turned the clarity and sharpness all the way up to really bring out every detail.

This photo is another tree in our backyard.  I love the simplicity of the crazy mess of branches and ice.

I took this photo because I loved the fact that it was such an everyday thing which has now become a work of art because of ice.  With the help of Lightroom, I was really able to make the red color of the mail flags pop.  Once again, I upped the clarity and sharpness levels to make the grain of the wood and the icicles really stand out.

This photo required almost no touch ups because I just liked the way it was in all of its natural glory.

These frozen blue berries were a neat sight to see and turned out to be Dane's favorite of the shoot.

This tree's branches were hanging super low under the weight of all the ice and reminded me of little fireworks.

Another example of how auto focus can help you take a cool shot at a strange angle.

I will finish this post with one of my favorite shots of the day.  Can you believe this pretty little stream is right around the corner from my house?  There are some things about Ohio that I might be able to get used to.  Now, if only we could get our power turned back on!

~What are your thoughts on using auto focus?  Have some favorite photo editing software?