Monday, September 15, 2014

Emphasizing The Details

Today's image is obviously of a white flower (and a bee).  White can get blown out fairly easily and losing detail can happen in a heartbeat.  Today we have wonderful tools to recover a little, some or most of what an original scene has going for it.  In today's image the detail is there.  It's a question of finding and exploiting it.  My first attempt wound up with an image that showed every vein, and shade in each petal.  Unfortunately it was just too dark overall.  This second attempt version strikes a better balance.  The detail is still there, just not as blatant.  Rather than starting over, I switched to another "trick" to make things a little more right.  The difference between the first and second methods can be found by hitting the "Read More".

The first method is one I've written about on a semi-regular basis.  From Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (LR) the image was sent over to Adobe Photoshop (PS).  There a couple of Curves Adjustment Layers were applied.  One for the highlights and the other for the shadows.  The highlights were jacked up and the shadows pushed down.  The included Layer Masks were Inverted (CTRL I [eye]) to black to hide the overall effect.  A small (10 pixel) relatively hard (95%) Brush (B) was then used to define each light and dark area.  The Masks were then given a Gaussian Blur (Filter/Blur/Gaussian Blur) strong enough to make the individual lines disappear.  Flipping the Visibility Icon (the eyeball) on and off showed what had been done.

The second round was after seeing the image on an iPad.  It was just too dark.  I use the iPad as a reference tool to check what others might see looking at an image.  When I saw what it looked like I checked it on an HP Slate and two smart phones.  Yep, too dark.

I didn't think another trip from LR to PS was necessary, so the whole "correction" was done in LR.  The overall brightness was brought up about a half a stop.  Then the image was enlarged to 1:1 and the visible area brought over the rear petals.  The Adjustment Brush was made very small with a very large feather.  The preset for Burning was set and each shaded (ya can't even call it a shadow) area darkened.  This added some apparent "depth" to the petals.  Anything darker seems to be deeper and anything lighter tends to look closer.  By placing a "shadow" next to a highlight a flow of light and dark can be made.  This gives contour to an object.

Not that it was done on today's image, but adding light and dark can add contour even when there is none.  Try it.  Take a solid colored screen and do the PS technique.  You'll see that you can put ripples onto a flat sheet of paper.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

A Little Joel Grimes - A little Glyn Dewis In My Soup Ala Mambo #5

As it says in the Billy Joel song "John at the bar is a friend of mine".  In this case the bar might be a bar of steel or aluminum.  We sort of went for an environmental portrait in the shot.  The head of a combined wood working and metal working shop asked me to take a few shots of some of the fellows.  For most it was a case of lighting the person against a green screen and shooting the shop totally separate from the person.  John was the exception.  The shot is pretty straight forward.  I'd set up three speedlights around his playground.  The metal working portion of the shop.  The plan was the same as other places, but this just popped into the viewfinder.  John is what's known as a raconteur, a storyteller, a conversationalist, a wit.  He was just there, holding court, with me sitting across his bench.   I'd just set up three lights, gave them a quick glance and thought "we might have something here". I (and others) think it's a pretty good likeness of a fine character.  The "trick" to today's image is what happened after the shutter clicked (oh good, now I sound like I'm channeling Joe McNally).  To find out about the finishing of today's image, hit the "Read More".
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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Just A Little Silliness

It's sunflower season around here and the farms are having "sunflower weekends".  We've been to a couple lately.  One over at Buttonwood Farms in Griswold, CT and the other at Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, CT.  One of the really nice things about both events is that the proceeds from the weekends go to charity.  Buttonwood's goes to Sunflowers For Wishes and Lyman's to the Connecticut Children's Medical Center Pediatric Cancer Unit.  Today's image is from the Lyman Orchard event.  It was sort of an overcast day with little pockets of blue dotting the mottled sky.  I came across the subject of today's image and it just reminded me of a spikey haired body builder in mid pose.  It's just a fun image, but I couldn't leave well enough alone.  It's not HDR, but to find out what it is, hit the "Read More"

Most of the work on today's image was done in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (LR).  It was over Sharpened and given way too much Clarity using the Adjustment Brush to bump up the grittiness.

It then took a trip over to Adobe Photoshop CC (PS) it get even more definition using two Curves Adjustment Layers.  One with the curve brought to a hyper brightness range.  (About one quarter in from the right brought up about 90% up to the top of the curve.)  and the other brought to a very low shadow depth.  (About one quarter in from the left brought down about 90% to the bottom of the curve.)  Both masks were inverted (CTRL I [eye]) to hide the effects.

Every highlight and every shadow was then traced using a white Brush (B) set to about 10 pixels width and ninety five percent hardness.  Once drawn, both Masks were Blurred until the only thing left was the enhanced brightness or darkness.  (about twenty to thirty percent)  Flipping on and off the Layer (clicking on and off the eyeball to the left of the Layer Thumbnail) shows the changes.  Too much, reduce the Blur.  Too little, increase the Blur.

It was just an exercise in being a little silly with an image. Read more!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Not Using Layers. Is That Even An Option?

A buddy of mine is an artist.  A real artist, with paints and brushes and canvas and an easel and everything.  He's not exactly a dabbler.  Between his "collection" and his personal work he just sold one painting and went out and bought himself a new car.  The guy's pretty serious. He's been represented by some big name galleries and his personal paintings fetch four and five figure prices.  The reason I bring him up is that he once asked a fellow giving an Adobe Photoshop (PS) class if he always used Layers.  The guy looked at him like he was from another planet and simply said "yes".  My friend is a physical artist.  He has only one "Layer" to use.  The canvas before him.  The paint goes on in "layers", but "the Background Layer" never changes.  Here's something from YouTube showing someone producing an entire image digitally using only one Layer.  Obviously, it can be done.  I can't, but others can.  If I didn't have dozens of Layers, hidden behind multiple (and nested) Smart Objects, I doubt I'd be doing much more than making stick figures.  I've included a screen shot of the Layers Pallet for today's image.  Check it out by hitting the "Read More".
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Selling The Fake

Today's image comes from an Indian powwow held at Foxwoods Casino over the weekend.  It is definately not what it looks like.  The "fake" in the title of the post doesn't have anything to do with the young woman dancing.  She was great.  Very energetic, getting her fringe going every which way.  I'm certainly no expert (not even close), but there appeared to be a similarity to the Hawaiian Hula.  The dancing seemed to be very "story telling".  Looking to the ground.  Looking to the sky.  Looking out at the distance.  I didn't know the stories the dancers were telling, but each dancer was "acting" out a piece of tribal history.  I saw it again and again, from dance to dance.  There was a smoke dance, a shawl dance, a harvest dance and the men were "telling a story" in the war dance.  If you paid some attention you could pair up which people belonged together.  The head dress, the style of clothing, the tools and utensils were different enough from tribe to tribe to be able (for the outsider) to pick out sets of people.  The dancers were very gracious with their time, explaining where their tribe was from, what era their dress represented, and a little history or fun fact about their ancestors.  To find out what "the fake" is in today's image, hit the "Read More"

Today's image is actually two separate images.  The dance was part of a crowd out in the dance circle and the "background" was a couple hundred people sitting around under their shade, watching the dancing.  Extraction of the dancer was made "easier" with Topaz Labs ReMask 3.  It still didn't come easy, just easier.  ReMask had a hard time with the internal spacing of the fringe

The corn was behind a rail fence that "needed" to be removed.  Easy enough with the Healing Brush (J) found in Adobe Photoshop CC (PS) (and earlier versions).  The big gotcha there was making sure all the Blurring was done before removing the fence.

One thing that had to be addressed was the big olde number on her shawl, facing me like a big olde beacon.  It was right in the corner and covered a quarter of design.  That had to be rebuilt by taking pieces and doing quite a bit of Free Transform (CTRL T) work.  The general shade of the pieces were formed using the Lasso Tool (L), then moved, spun around and warped.  The Free Transform Tool does it all.  Make a Selection using the Lasso Tool (L), Copy to a New Layer (CTRL J), bring up Free Transform, drag to the area needing to be patched, put the cursor just outside the bounding box and spin the Selection to somewhat match the area needing the patch, right click inside the box to bring up options, choose Warp and pull the handles to made the patch fit exactly.  Easy-peasy.  The big trick is taking your time to fit all the straight edges.  It takes a little time.

One more little trick.  The sun was casting a big time shadow.  Rather than recreating her shadow I made it part of the Selection and matched the grass in front of the corn to the grass in the shadow. 

Destination shooting is the way to go.  The Powwow was on the other side of the state, but the shots were there.  Much better than driving around aimlessly, burning the same amount of gas and maybe finding something to shoot. Read more!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Shooting At The Right Time Of Day

They say there's only a couple "right" times of the day to do landscape/wildlife/magical photography.  Ya got your blue hour, ya got the golden hour, ya got what ya get when you go out.  That last one is an issue when the gating factor is a wife who likes to sleep late and eat as the sun goes down.  Every once in a while I can convince her that God made sunrises and sunsets for photographers.  The first evening we got out to Elk country (Benezett, PA which is literally in Elk County, Pennsylvania) we went up to "the" prime area for catching sight of elk.  The sun was about a half hour from setting and as soon as we got there we saw three elk on the edge of the ridge.  They were about a football field or more away, so they looking pretty small in the viewfinder.  Twenty minutes before sunset the field started filling in.  A couple yearlings trotted in from the right.  Some cows came up over the rise.  Calves began springing up as though they had been planted there.  About fifteen minutes before the sun went over the crest of the far off hills the field was overrun with about sixty or seventy cows, yearlings and calves,  Not one bull was in the mix.  Seems bull elk are a tad chauvinistic in the early days of August and tend to hang out in some sort of elk testosterone driven boy's club.  They, basically, don't have anything to do with raising they kids.  But, to hear about what we actually did see, hit the "Read More".

Adult elk run about 700 pounds.  They are apparently aware of this fact and they look at adult humans with distain.  They knew we were in their backyard and also knew cameras were no threat.  Now, elk aren't deer and they don't bounce around at high speed as a deer might.  They just sort of amble along, giving you a look as if to say "if you don't move I'm just going to walk right over you.  I weight 700 pounds and you don't."

A cow was walking through the field with her calf in tow.  Seems mother elks are not that much different than mother/father humans.  It looked like she had had enough of her frolicking youngster and just needed some alone time.  She obviously knew of the apple tree across the road (she probably did not know what a road was) and as calmly as could be walked right past the gawkers (within fifteen feet of Doris) and lay down under the tree.  In the mean time her calf was a little more leery of humans.  The calf wouldn't cross some mystical line between her/him and the humans.  Instead, the calf stood, toes on the line, and yelled out "mommmm, mommmm".  I swear, that's what it sounded like the calf was saying.  Mom, on the other hand, just sat there munching on the apples, facing away from her charge.  I guess mother elk can get just as frustrated with uncontrollably exuberant kids as any of us.

The elk do tend to move from place to place.  The next night the team meeting was held in someone's front yard about a half mile down the road.  The third day it was by a cabin on the ridgeline across a small valley.  If you get the chance, visit Benezette Pennsylvania to get an "elk experience".

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Monday, August 11, 2014

The Piece Of A Photographer's Kit That No One Talks About

Click to enlarge
We were on the road again last week.  This time it was "The Wilds" (literarily, that's what they call it) of Pennsylvania.  That area northeast of Pittsburgh and northwest of everything else.  We went there to shoot (photographically of course) Elk.  The area around the little (really little) town of Benezett (that's the way it's spelled in town.  On the maps it's Benezette.) has the largest herd of elk east of the Mississippi River.  About 700 - 800 head.  I'll get to the elk in the next post.  Today must serve as a warning to all photographers.  Anywhere you look (books, magazines, podcasts etc.) you'll find discussions, suggestions and recommendations about what the well turned out photog "should" have in his/her "kit".  (That's the Englishmen's term for gear.  I sort of like the term.  Sounds more fun than gear.)  There's one piece I never hear discussed.  I'd put it up there with a tripod or additional lenses and ahead of a second body.  It's so needed that I've determined I can't live without it anymore.  Before venturing out on another sojourn I have to equip myself with this gear or I might end up in a hospital near you.  It's that important.  To find out what this piece of "kit" is, hit the "Read More".

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