Friday, October 30, 2009

Shoot Raw But Make A Copy? Why?

I look at more and more demos and tutorials where the person says the first thing to do once you've opened an image is hit CRTL J and make a copy of your background layer. Some will tell you to save the file under a new name. That's fine if you shoot in JPEG format, but is a waste of time if you shoot in RAW. One of the first things you learn about RAW files is that you can't make permanent changes to them. If you look in an application like Adobe Lightroom you can see that you have a "history list" of everything you've done to the image. You can get back to square one during this session, tomorrow, next week, or next year. Any changes are still there. Press CRTL "E" and bring the modified image into Adobe Photoshop. It's still a RAW file. You still cannot permanently change the base file. Do whatever you want to it. Crop, swap heads, change colors, add text or clipart, warp, skew or scale using Free Transform, screw it up until it's unrecognizable. It's okay. Once you're finished doing what you're going to do, just "Save" it. Don't worry about "Save As", just a plan vanilla "Save". Before your head explodes, remember one thing. Say it with me " You cannot change the base RAW file". That's RAW files 101. No changes allowed. So, what happens when you hit the "Save" button? If you use Lightroom, switch over to it and watch your original RAW file. Poof, right next to it another file is magically created and populated with your changes. Hover your cursor over the new image and whichever setting you've selected (PSD or layered TIFF) shows up as the name of the new file. Something like "Tom 267 PSD Edit". Just remember, a RAW file is a RAW file IS a RAW file. It never changes. Enough of a rant, if you'd like to learn a little about today's image, hit the "read more".

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

No Jedi Zen Here

There's nothing like falling back into what's comfortable. The other day (Monday in fact) I said I wanted to lean toward the subtle colorations found in the images over at Landscapes 2.0. Today I'm feeling a little bit like an addict who's fallen off the wagon, slightly. While the overall effect of today's image is a little more restrained than a typical, full out, in your face, image that the gallery is known for, it certainly can't be called delicate. It does have several elements that "should" please the eye. There's the tree taking up the entire right side of the image, holding the viewer into the shot. There's the strong leading line that brings the eye down to the lower right hand corner with the rocks bright enough to arrest the eye. The "white spot" in the top center of the image isn't white at all in the original, but gives that impression in the less than 200 kB thumbnail used here. The Red Channel pushes up pretty close at about 250. but the Green and Blue Channels run down at the 215 plus or minus level. The net effect is a, sort of, beige tone. To find out about some of the "extras" that made this the image that it is, hit the "read more".

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Just A Quick Update

Longer posts come out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Today is just a little note about some news we received at the gallery yesterday.  We've been a member of the NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals) for a couple of years now.  Last month we started putting some of the gallery's work up on their portfolio page.  Each week NAPP chooses an "Image of the Week" along with five "Editor's Choice" selections.  This week the image shown here (and discussed in a September 18th post) received an "Editor's Choice".  Not bad for only contributing for a month.  We've gotten many favorable comments since the week's picks were announced yesterday.  It does encourage our continually striving to produce the best possible images. Read more!

Monday, October 26, 2009

I Feel Like Luke Skywalker

Yes, I'm starting a quest, just the same as the Star Wars hero. Mine isn't quite as noble as Luke's, and I don't have Yoda or Obi-Wan Kenobi to guide me, but a quest never the less. Today's image is the initial salvo in trying to step away from being a blatant, in your face, highly saturated color type of image developer. The goal is to try to find some "kinder, gentler" colors in images, but produce images with just as much feeling as I have in the past. At least once a week I go over to the Landscapes 2.0 site and take a look at some of the marvelous work displayed there. One thing I've noticed is that my "normal" style of developing an image just wouldn't fly over there. Flip through a couple of pages or try their "Top 10" or "Random 5" buttons and see the beautiful work shown there. Something you will probably notice is the gentle touch on "most" of the images. I just hit the "Top 10" button to see what's high on the site's list lately and every one of the images have these soft, muted tones. I compare them to my "in your face" images and think there must be some kind of a Jedi force working. Sort of makes me feel like Jaba the Hutt. Some big "ham handed" slug who does things way to heavily. To find out more about this "trial balloon" image, hit the "read more".
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Friday, October 23, 2009

It's A Big Day At The Gallery

It's not that today's image is the big deal. Last night we installed Windows 7 on the primary computer. So far it's just to test it out, and so far, it looks good. The one gotcha I've seen is in the area of networking. As I tried to get online the computer said there wasn't a network cable connected. (Duh, ya, dar is.) It's been connected since last November when we installed the Intel Core i7 based machine. I've been fussing with the settings for about an hour this morning and couldn't figure out what was going on. Finally I disconnected the computer from the router and plugged it directly into the cable modem. It's pretty obvious that it worked, 'cause you're reading this. It went online with no problem once the router was bypassed. That's not any sort of permanent solution, but it works for now. From the looks of the license plate on today's image you can probably tell it's from our weekend in Maine. If you want to know anything about the image, hit the "read more".
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

You'd Never Guess Where We Were Over The Weekend

Okay, maybe you would, if you've ever seen a picture of Bass Harbor Head Light in Maine. We take a few days each October to do a little shooting someplace where the leaves should be good and we know there are shots to be made. The unfortunate thing about doing a whirlwind tour is that you get to a place when you get there. We'd put a (metaphorical) thumbtack on the place we wanted to end up for sunsets, but the places between where we woke up and where we wound up each day was sort of catch as catch can. We had a couple days of great weather for shooting (such as today's image), sort of over cast with layered cloud cover and a couple of days of very harsh light. We tended to point the cameras up on the cloudy days and down (into the shadows) on the sunny days. There's not a whole lot of interest in a blue, cloudless sky. Luckily, one of those days we were in Bar Harbor and had a chance to wonder around the downtown area. There's always good shot to be had down some alley or with the sun bouncing around providing some fill light. Today's image isn't as easy as it seems. To find out more about why, hit the "read more".
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Cast Of A New Buddy Movie? Why Not.

Couldn't these guys be the new cast for something like Wild Hogs III? You've got the four pals hanging out, each with his own attitude. You can see the one on the left just isn't quite a part of the group. He's the loner who could just as easily go off on his own. That is unless you understand that he probably needs to group more than the other three. Without his buddies he'd end up in a corner in a fetal position babbling to himself. You've got the curmudgeon, the fellow second from the left. No matter what's going on he'll give a downer of a commentary about the state of the world in general. The only problem is that he secretly wants to push the boundaries. He'd hold it in with great reserve but be tickled with each step toward the more outrageous. He wants to have fun, he just doesn't want people to see him enjoying himself. The haughty one is the third chap in. The one with the chin up. He could be walking around not knowing his zipper is undone, but having an air of confidence that neither man nor beast can shake. His deal is the fact that he would shrink, for about two seconds, when he learned about that zipper but bounce back to the peacock role just as fast. The last of the teammates is the planner. He looks for signals that the group is headed in the direction he's set. He probably won't have as much fun as the other three because he too busy coordinating things. He needs to lighten up. To find out what this motley crew has in common, hit the "read more".

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Monday, October 12, 2009

On The Road Again

Today's image is one of the "gallery prints" available at The Kayview Gallery. It depicts a working harbor at daybreak. It's overcast and the sun is peeking through some breaks in the clouds. We're heading out to do some shooting at the end of the week to an area we frequent a lot. So much so that I just made a book at My Publisher for the better half and about half of the images came from sojourns to this general (by general I mean state) area. One of the things to note about this image is that the bright area where the sun is isn't blown out. There not a lot of detail there, in fact if Ansel Adams were to look at it he'd say the area is totally in "zone" nine plus. When I ran the cursor over the spot it registered about 245, 245, 246. That's close enough so you and I can't see the information there, but if I were to split the picture for an HDR (High Dynamic Range) version there would be detail available to work with. I'd think it would wind up with some sort of hybrid combination of exposures. With HDR, most of the representations I've seen have been even splits of exposure. Typical might be -2, 0, +2 for a three exposure run or a -3, -1, 0, +1, +3 track. With today's image I'd think we'd end up with something closer to -1, 0, +3 in order not to block up the shadows and to give some life to that sun area. If you're interested in finding out where we're going this weekend, hit the "read more".
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Friday, October 9, 2009

Just A Hint

How many times do we see a shot where you've got the subject and way too much of the surrounding environment? Why is it that some photographers are too shy or unsure of their ability to get in close on a subject. This is especially true of people shots. People who don't have a good grasp of what their camera can do often stand back and don't get the intimate shot. Today's image shows how a powerful image can be taken by getting in on a subject. Before I started shooting I asked the cowboys who were giving the presentation about ranch life if I could shoot them. Both were agreeable and went along their way, doing what they do each day a tour comes through the range. They knew, and had probably gone through, the exercise of people taking their pictures on a daily basis. The day we were there was no different than a hundred other days. I have pictures of them riding, roping, cutting cattle out of a herd and just plain talking to the group. The only "crop" on today's image was to put the image into a 4 x 5, 8 x 10, or 16 x 20 aspect ratio. (It's all the same ratio.) Other than that it's pretty much full frame. To understand what sets this image apart from a hundred other shoots that day, hit the "read more".
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Don't Play With Mud

Back in the days of film and B&W printing the way to control contrast was by paper grade. You'd be in your wet darkroom and have box after box of exactly the same paper (except for grade). Kodak did develop a variable grade paper at one point, but I never saw it used by the top quality photographers. It was the $49.00 photo editing package of its day. If the furthest you wanted to go was to develop your own B&W prints and give copies to family members, the variable grade papers were fine. If you wanted to do "fine art" work you'd invest in graded paper. Papers were available in six contrast grades, numbered from zero to five. Zero had the least contrast and you'd better have an extremely contrasty negative if you wanted to use that. Five was the other end of the scale and you'd have, what was called, a "soft" negative to use it. I don't know of any quality photographer who had all six grades stocked in the darkroom. Most would have grades two through four and that would serve about 99% of the need. Photographers knew how to expose a negative to fall somewhere in the mid-range of contrast. To listen (read) to a tirade about people printing muddy images today, hit the "read more".
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Monday, October 5, 2009

General Grievous And The Wrong Light Saber

The fellow in today's image sort of reminds me of one of the villains in the Star Wars films. From what I understand, General Grievous was a prototype of what became Darth Vader. A part "being" (not sure if he started out human), part robot that didn't quite work out right. The Turkey Vulture in today's post hasn't suffered the same fate as Grievous, but the shape of his head and the way his feathers make his head look sunken makes him look kind of like the Star Wars baddie. We had a chance to go out and shoot some raptors over the weekend and this guy was one of the stars of the show. The opportunity was set up specifically for a group of friends by one of the people in our photographic troupe. We try to get together as often as possible to go out, have a few laughs, take a few pictures and generally enjoy each others company. It's a pretty good group. One of the local Audubon Society Centers was contacted and one of their raptor handlers brought out a variety of birds being rehabilitated. They have a Bald Eagle, with about a six foot wingspan, but the naturalist we had said the bird was too big and too powerful for her to handle (not to mention too heavy). An owl, a falcon and a red tailed hawk rounded out the cast of characters on a Sunday morning outing. To find out about the reference to the "wrong light saber, hit the "read more".

What's a camera, but a reverse acting light saber. The Star Wars version emits light and a camera takes in light. So why did I have the wrong equipment during this opportunity? Just wanted to try something different. A couple of years ago I bought a cheap lens for a one shot deal. I couldn't see blowing big bucks for a one off. Got the shot and the lens paid for itself in spades. The lens has been sitting on a shelf for the past four or five years and I thought this might be a chance to give it another go. Nope! The lens is a 500mm mirror lens. It's a fixed F8, with no capability of feeding exposure information into the camera and manual focus. One more "gotcha" is that the DOF at the minimum focusing distance of eleven feet is a quarter inch. How many things can you have going backwards for you in one shooting situation.
The morning was looking great at the meeting spot (except for ten million noseeum bugs). Up on the top of the hill it was another story. The fog hadn't lifted at that elevation yet and it was pretty dark for shooting, so the F8 didn't help at all. The shutter speed wound up being kind of low even with having the camera steadied on a monopod. A 500mm film lens on a DSLR (750mm equivalent) and a 60th of a second shutter just doesn't make it. Add to that the fact that the birds were real troupers and turned toward each photographer and you end up with camera movement plus bird movement plus a slow shutter speed and that adds up to a mess. Well, luckily, it's "free film" these days and all that was wasted was time.
In the aftermath of this outing some lessons have been gleaned. First one would be that my eyes are getting bad and not to trust visual focus. Stay with the autofocus lenses. If you're going to pay for technology you might as well take advantage of it. When the light's too low, don't think you can out smart the laws of physics. Light acts in a specific way and you can't change it. And finally, make sure you understand the phrase "oh well". Part of the purpose of going out with a group is to get great images. A bigger part is going out with a group to have some fun. . Read more!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Don't Forget The Detail Shots

Often, when we go out shooting, we "see" the big picture and forget to look at the details. Today's image is a detail. It's a big detail in the scheme of things, probably fifty square feet or so, but a detail none the less. A detail is a piece of something. It can be as big as one side of the top of a lighthouse, or as small as the hinge on an antique music box. The reason for taking a detail shot can be as simple as recording something. It can also be a reasonably strong image on it's own. With today's image, I'm pretty sure anyone looking at it (who might be familiar with lighthouses) can identify what the subject is. I suppose someone could be baffled if they were from the midwest or a country that is landlocked and had never been exposed to any images of the famous lighthouses of America. Lighthouses have been around for thousands of years. The Lighthouse at Alexandria is one of the "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World". Every state that has a seacoast probably has postcards of the lighthouses that dot the coastline. One of the "wonders" of detail shots is the "story" they tell. In today's image you can see a crack in the mortar between the blocks. Do the authorities know about this flaw? Will it cause damage to the structure that leads to it's destruction at some point? The gutter appears to be made of copper, as witnessed by the patina starting to show on it's surface. The windows are discolored with sea salt just because of where the lighthouse sits. Does it affect the light? There have been several lighthouses features as images on the blog. To find out where this one is, hit the "read more".

The lighthouse used for today's image is in the aptly named "Lighthouse Park" in New Haven Connecticut. It's visible in the distance as people cruise Route 95 along the Connecticut coast. From the highway it looks to be a toy out on the end of a spit of land. It's only there for a moment or two, and you have to know when to look to see it, but it draws visitors just as any lighthouse attracts the curious. Lighthouse Park, once you get there, is a busy place on a summer's afternoon. There's a beach area, a carousel, pavilions and a rocky piece of coast favored by fishermen. We've been there a couple of times on Saturday afternoons and typically a wedding was going on. One appeared to be quite formal, taking place under one of the pavilions and another seemed to be more ad hoc. The one under the pavilion had the bride in a white gown and the groom an a tux. The "ad hoc" version featured brightly colored parasols.
On the opposite side of the lighthouse from the parasol wedding was another party, of people fishing. One in particular caught my eye. An older man and his wife, standing on the rocks, casting into the oncoming surf. He, in a white shirt and fedora. She with a scarf and wide brimmed hat. She, sitting and relaxing, her pole lightly held, waiting patiently. He, casting and reeling at a full tilt. It was obvious the couple had been together for quite some time. He, the fading go getter. She, the calming influence that has kept the "boat" of their lives on an even keel.
Was the last paragraph accurate? Who knows, but every time I flip through the images of a day at Lighthouse Point it makes me smile. It's a story. Told in the details of the time spent there. Without the detail shots there's just be another lighthouse and no cause to linger over the shots. .
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