Friday, April 30, 2010

A Riff On Rockwell's "Main Street" in Adobe Photoshop CS5

In the post of March 22th I told about visiting the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge Massachusetts with some friends. One of the things I mentioned in the post was that I wanted to try doing some “recreations” of Rockwell’s paintings in photography. I thought (still think) it would be interesting to come full circle, since Rockwell used photography to help with his visualization process, to attempt to “update” his paintings as digital images. Rockwell was not a photographer and employed the services of various professionals for his needs. He oversaw the staging , angles, posture, costuming, and any other aspect or what went on during a shoot. He just didn’t click the shutter. Once he had the reference photos he’d take liberties (artistic license I guess you’d say) and make adjustments or enhancements where needed. On one hand he was more than willing to alter “reality” and on the other he’d do things like giving a female townsperson money to go out and buy a yellow dress to pose in. The irony was that his reference photos were in Black & White. With his painting “Main Street” he took the liberty of putting in some of the nearby Berkshire Hills into the background behind the stores on Main Street. The Berkshires are lovely, but cannot be seen from the center of Stockbridge. I took the same “artistic license” in today’s image. The big difference is the hills in the background are from a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a pretty “fer piece” south of anywhere in New England. To find out about the machinations I had to jump through to make today’s image, hit the “read more”.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Great Blue Skies Without A Polarizer

What the easy way to get highly saturated blue skies? Add a polarizer to the lens and fire away. What happens if your polarizing filter is back in the car/bag/hotel/case sitting at home? Today’s image didn’t have an extra filter on the lens, for whatever reason. I have to admit, the sky was pretty blue to start with on the day we were there, but not as blue as it appears in the shot. If you’re shooting in RAW, it’s not a problem. Just pick whatever White Balance you like. White Balance, like several other parameters, isn’t set in the camera when shooting RAW. The RAW image is just that, raw. It has no sharpening, color correction, white balance applied before being committed to memory. All adjustments are left up to the photographer (or finisher) once the shot is brought into your image editing application. That’s all well and good, for RAW shooters, but what happens if you’re shooting images as a JPG Fine? That’s the crux of the issue with today’s image. It was shot before I switched over to shooting RAW about 95% of the time. (An example of where I’d still shoot JPG happened over the weekend. I was asked to serve as photographer for the local March of Dimes Walk. It was strictly shoot and deliver, so, rather than needing to work and convert each image it was just easier t shoot JPGs and hand in the gratis assignment.) But, back to today’s image. The camera was on a tripod and I had a handful of Cokin filters to hold in front of the lens and, for a second set of experiments, cycled through the White Balance options on the camera. Since the camera was recording JPGs, each image showed the results of the filters and WB settings. To find out what set of conditions resulted in today’s image, hit the “read more”.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

After Adobe Photoshop CS5 Does It's Magic

What happens after you use Adobe Photoshop CS5 to do it’s magic with HDR Pro. Today’s image has a very illustrative quality to it. It could have been the architects rendering of what the pub might look like during his/her presentation to the owners. Instead, it started out after the fact as a photograph that was fine for a vacation shot, but not much as far as excitement goes. The Burl Wood of the bar and the column didn’t pop at all in the original shot and the lights at the far end of the bar had no sparkle. HDR Pro was the genesis of the transformation, but the larger amount of work was in saturating each of the colors. I use Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers for each of the colors available. (Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue, and Magenta.) One of the reasons is the control derived from treating each color on its own. The other, more important factor is to get the accompanying Layer Mask that comes along with an Adjustment Layer. In some images the Layer Masks lay there collecting dust. In others the same Mask is used for several colors. In today’s image it went to the far extreme of being used. Each Mask had its own area that had to be tamed. A screen capture of the Layer Panel is available in the “read more” for this post. Check it out. Other features of Adobe Photoshop CS5 were used on this image. There needed to be a little straightening done to fix a little problem I had with holding the camera. The vertical wall corner on the right side of the image was used to straighten things up. (Hit the Eye Dropper Tool (I) a couple times to get to the Ruler and use the new Straighten Button to rotate the wall corner to vertical. Hold down the ALT key so CS5 won’t automatically crop to the straightened size.) Select the resulting blank areas using the Magic Wand (W) and Expand the selection (Select/Modify/Expand) by a few pixels to create an overlap and use the Content Aware Fill (Shift F5 for the Fill dialog box and Content Aware for the Contents) to fill in the blank sections. This type of “busy” image is just about ideal for using the new Content Aware Fill feature. To find out about the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers and Masks, hit the “read more”.
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Friday, April 23, 2010

More Drama Using Adobe Photoshop CS5

I don’t know, maybe I’m becoming fascinated by the possibilities of combining a piece of an image done in Adobe Photoshop CS5’s HDR Pro and the rest as a straight image. The sky in today’s image is as it was when we were there and is an accurate recording of that part of the scene. The lighthouse, grounds and any foreground elements have been hit with HDR Pro. Just to make one thing very clear, I do have HDRSoft’s Photomatix software and have used it in the past. I’ve used it as a plugin and had a good time working a few images. It’s just that Photoshop CS5’s HDR Pro is just so much more convenient and simpler to use. I find I don’t fuss around with the sliders as much, with HDR Pro, as I did with Photomatix. In the “read more” I’ll go through which sliders I use and in what order. Literarily, what used to be fifteen minutes of playing in Photomatic is now two minutes in HDR Pro. Let’s not let this be the start of a fight. Photomatix is a good program and served the purpose of popularizing HDR for legends of fans. I sort of liken it to what goes on in the hardware side of computing. We can turn the wayback machine to the year 1993, when I first started with Intel. The big deal then was the introduction of CD ROM drives on computers. The earlier computers had a separate card that was used to provide a hardware assist to be able to read the CD. That didn’t last long. With the introduction of the Intel Pentium Processor, computers finally had enough power to read the CDs using software only. The same goes for several other steps in the evolution of computers on the hardware side. The same thing goes on with software. Before MicroSoft integrated Internet Explorer into the OS you had to get a web browser application. All the fuss the ensued, in my opinion, was dumb. New things are integrated into all sorts of technology all the time. Put anyone under about thirty five into a typical 1950’s era car and they wouldn’t be able to open the windows. They’d be confused by the crank and not having a push button to open windows. Think of today’s cars. Not only do we have keyless entry, but keyless ignitions. Keep your keys in your pocket and the car “knows” it’s you and lets you start and drive the car. Technology marches on. Adding a useable HDR feature is just another step in the line of march. To find out what sliders I use in HDR Pro, hit the “read more”.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Using Adobe Photoshop CS5 HDR Pro To Add Drama

Today is the first anniversary of The Kayview Gallery Blog. I’d like to thank all those who have been faithful readers and have helped make readership grow. It’s very humbling to see the steady increase in popularity and to hear from readers around the world. I hope you all continue to enjoy the stories and techniques found here on the blog. Thank you.

I’m not positive, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s thought of it, but using Adobe Photoshop CS5’s HDR Pro to add another “dimension” to an image looks like it might be one of CS5’s hidden “golden nuggets”. The “star” of today’s image is the parachute. Giving it a greater place of importance in the shot has a double meaning. A couple CS5 features were used to “make” this image. The angle of the sky diver was pretty flat. He/she was coming in on a final approach and was lined up with the canopy directly overhead. A fairly boring composition if you ask me. First thing to do was to put her/him into a turn by spinning the image slightly. That made the shot a little more dramatic and left me with a corner that was chopped off. CS5’s Content Aware Fill was used to complete the rectangle. That was a little overkill because the sky was a flat blue at that point. If you think about it just a smidge you can probably figure out that sky diving with the clouds depicted in the image probably isn’t the best of ideas. Heck, even small planes avoid flying through clouds formations any time the pilot can help it. The buffeting is just too strong. So, chances are the jumpers would have been sitting around on the ground waiting for the weather to pass, rather than jumping through clouds. Therefore, another “dramatic element” was the addition of the cloudy sky. To find out more about what makes the parachute pop (bad pun), hit the “read more”.
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Monday, April 19, 2010

Combining Single Image HDR With A Straight Shot in Adobe Photoshop CS5

As the title says, today’s image is a combination of a single image HDR shot using Adobe Photoshop CS5’s HDR Pro and a straight shot. The “trick” is that they started out as the same image. Through the “magic” of Layer Masks the two were recombined to make one final image. The “original” image does fairly well on its own. The reds, yellows and green can be fully saturated and make an interesting image. This same farm has been featured in a couple of posting here at the gallery. This one combines a truck from a little town in Maine with the farm, located in Connecticut. Another use of the farm can be found in our tribute to the USA celebrating the 4th of July last year. This farm gets around. It’s been used three times and none of them are a straight shot of the barns as they sit on the ground. It goes to show that some scenes are iconic and can be the basis for many “story telling” images. It also shows the benefit of “working” a scene. This is the first of the three images where you can see the fences. Seeing as the farm is private property and we were just driving by searching for something to shoot, all shots (so far) have been from the road. It’s not unusual to get images that can be used in a variety of ways if you know where the good scenes are. Yesterday we went out shooting. We didn’t have a defined place to shoot, but had an idea of what we wanted to look for. Barns! People for other parts of the country or world don’t typically think of Connecticut as being rural, but we natives know the pastoral areas of the state. We took a ride to Bridgewater, Roxbury, Woodbury, Southbury and Newtown. (You can plot it out and pretty much figure out our route.) We didn’t even take the cameras out of the bags. One place I aimed for was a beautiful, big horse farm with snowy white fences flowing up the side of a hill. I remember being really impressed by it as a possible scene. But, that was then and this is now. The horse farm looks like a construction site now and soon there’ll be shiny new McMansions dotting the hill. Another spot, already a hodgepodge of million dollar homes is on an aptly named road called Poverty Hollow. Talk about irony. To find out about today’s image and how it was “combined”, hit the “read more”.
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Friday, April 16, 2010

To Sharpen Or To Blur

The subject for today’s image is a young friend. Actually, my son’s nephew. Nice kid, I’ve known him since he was a very young lad. Today’s shot comes from one of his sports activities. He was, in high school (and now in college), the coxswain for the school’s crew team. They had just won their race and he was running over to celebrate with his folks. I thought the shot came out pretty good and, after finishing it, figured his folks might like a copy. I used a High Pass sharpening technique on the image and it was tack sharp. The big day came to “present” a framed enlargement to his mom and dad at the boy’s high school graduation party. After unwrapping the image his mother took one look at it and said, “oh, I didn’t know he had freckles”. He doesn’t. The ultra sharpening done by the High Pass Filter technique had brought out every tiny piece of anything on his face and, basically created a false impression. Today’s image is a more realistic version of the over sharpened portrait. Gone are the “freckles” and his face looks much more like him than did the one presented to his folks. Sharpening is great and it “should be” done on every Raw image that comes out of a camera, almost. There are exceptions to every “rule” and “most” face would fall into the “exception” category. We were out shooting a set of images for a senior center a while back. By “we” I mean it was a group shoot. I did the lighting, someone did the coordination, someone did the senior wrangling, and a very talented portrait shooter did the main photography. A final piece of the puzzle was “the finisher”. The person in charge of doing any correcting and outputting the final print. When the first image she pulled up to “finish” came up she said “this doesn’t need anything”. Another in the group said “but, you have to sharpen it”. I offered the opinion that any women over a certain age doesn’t need to have any sharpening done to a portrait. There a time and place for everything as they say. Old men or ancient women, with years of wear and tear on their faces can probably be sharpened, but slightly younger and the very young shouldn’t be. To see how I breathed new life into today’s image, hit the “read more”.
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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Adobe Photoshop CS5 Refine Mask Rocks

I’m still playing with the new features of Adobe Photoshop CS5. Every time I turn around I find something else to mess with. Today it was the updated “Refine Mask” dialog box. Today’s image was “interesting” but we were there on a day with a slightly overcast sky that was nothing to write home about. There was enough there that I couldn’t do a quick and dirty Darker Color Blend Mode and get away with it. I went with the old standby of using the Image/Calculations dialog box and had a decent mask in less than a minute. When I looked a wee bit closer I noticed it could use just a little help on some fine edges. I’d seen NAPP’s newest Photoshop TV episode and heard the guys extolling the virtues of the Refine Mask feature improvements. Right clicked on the Layer Mask and opened that sucker up. Really, really nice set of controls there. Slide all the sliders from max to min to see what the effect of each one was before I settled in to using a lighter hand at the controls. Pushed and pulled until the mask was pretty sweet. To get an idea of some of my observations about CS5 so far, hit the “read more”. Read more!

Monday, April 12, 2010

I'm No Artist, But Adobe Photoshop CS5 Helps

If you were to flip back a couple of month’s worth of posts you’d see an image that looks remarkably similar to today’s image. The big difference is the fact that I’ve tried another of Adobe Photoshop CS5’s new features. The Mixer brush. It took a couple minutes of playing to get an idea of how it works. I’ll freely admit that I’m a photographer, not a paint and brushes type of artist. Therefore, I was starting from ground zero as far as how to produce some sort of “painting” from a photograph. I’m sure several people I know could start from scratch and come up with a better representation of a sunflower than what I’ve done. I certainly wouldn’t go entering today’s image in any sort of “art fair” as a digital painting, but I do see the potential of one of Photoshop CS5’s new features. In the past, if you grabbed a brush tool you did have several options, but they all involved either single colors or previous states of your image. With the Mixer Brush (B) it’s possible to select multiple colors and have them interact with each other. Again, if I were an “artist” in the traditional sense, I’m sure I could “build” an image. Being feeble of mind when it comes to size and proportion, that ain’t happening. On the other hand, John Nack, of Adobe, has an example and video of painting in CS5 as a function of modifying a photo of an apple versus painting an apple from start to finish. In the example, both come out looking like an apple. (Here’s the link) According to the video it takes approximately the same time either way. I really don’t care how much time you give me, I wouldn’t come up with something, from scratch, that would look like an apple. It’s not in my DNA. To find out how today’s image “evolved” using the Photoshop CS5’s new Mixer Brush, hit the “read more”.
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Friday, April 9, 2010

Just Goofing

Some days you just feel like goofing around. Today was one of those days. It’s raining and sort of dull outside, so I dragged out a tripod, speedlite and an idea I stole for a buddy of mine. Ernie did a masterful job of shooting a multiple shot sequence in his painting studio. It’s a wide shot, covering about thirty feet or so. He had the luxury of a wide area, so his shot has space between each of his personas. I don’t have the same luxury in the offices, so I’m overlapping myself all over the place in today’s image. The shoot itself only took a half hour, maybe a little more. I wasn’t going for commercial grade, just a goof. The most interesting shot was the one where I’m up checking something out in the lights. I almost took a header over the back of the rolling chair I was standing on. Standing on a rolling, “tippy” chair is probably not the brightest thing in the world to do. The ladder was at the far end of the studio, about 75’ away and adding a ladder to the space in the room would have been a wee bit rough. I figured, no problem, I’ve done this a hundred times. This time was the closest I’ve come to taking a tumble. I’m reminded of my aunt. She was a teacher of first or second graders and before school began one year she was on a chair, putting up decorations and wound up breaking both wrists. Think about it. Think of all the personal things you wouldn’t be able to do with two broken wrists. It’s not pretty. Ask my uncle. If you’d like to see how the “mechanics” of the image was done, hit the “read more”.
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Using Groups To Simplify Life.

Today’s image could be called “fun with bevels”. Just about every element in the image has been given a Layer Style (Double Click on the Layer in the Layers Panel) of Bevel and Emboss. The net effect is to have turned each piece of the derailleur into a graphic component. Each piece is on its own Layer and is capable of being altered. This made for quite a number of Layers and lead to using the Group Layers (CTRL G) function to make things a little more manageable. The spokes are a good example of putting things into groups. The spokes that pass in front of other spokes are in one Group. The spokes going behind others are in a second Group. One of the biggest advantages or putting closely related objects in Groups is that Groups support just about all the modifiers that can be applied to individual Layers. Rather than using a Mask on each spoke Layer, a single Mask was applied to the “Full Spoke” Group. Groups can also be used to control runaway Layers. On each image worked on here at the gallery the colors are saturated individually using Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers. (Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue, and Magenta) Once they are brought up to the point where each color is at its peak saturation and any masking applied to the individual Adjustment Layers they are put into a Group to minimize clutter. Groups do not disable alteration/correct of those layers within the group, but also make it possible to do universal changes to everything in the Group. It’s a very flexible piece of Photoshop that often overlooked. One only has to look at some of Bert Monroy’s work to see extensive use of Groups. His work, “Damien” is made up of more than 15,000 layers. Without Groups and Groups within Groups he would have had a terrible mess on his hands. To view any of Bert’s tutorials is to get a lesson in image management. He’ll make elements in multiple Layers and then Group them for ease of handling. The elements become objects and the objects are put into Groups. The objects become pieces and the pieces are put into Groups. And so on and so on, building reusable Groups to set in pattern after pattern to make the complete image. To see how many groups were used in today’s image, hit the “read more”.
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Monday, April 5, 2010

Image Within An Image -- PhotoShop CS5 Not Required

Anyone who’s been reading the blog for the past couple weeks has read about images that could only be made using Adobe Photoshop CS5. Other than a tiny sliver of door jam on the left hand side of today’s image, this is, pretty much, a straight image that can be done with any recent version of Photoshop. Any recent version meaning CS3 or CS4. Sure it “could be” done using older versions, but the heartburn would have been too much for me and I just wouldn’t have bothered. In one respect today’s image looks like a classic composite. One layer over another. It could be done that way. I’m sure someone like Corey Baker or Bert Monroy could make individual elements from scratch and have the result look just like this shot. But, it is a digital image, out of a camera and brought to life in Photoshop. We can count the “layers” of the image (not the layers used in Photoshop) from front to back. We have the doorframe, the gate, the featured horse, the band around the center of the carousel and the sunset reflected in the glass. Each element was treated as a separate area. A word has to be given as to how the shot was taken in the first place. You can just barely see my elbow above the horse’s rump reflected in the glass. My wife was to the right, holding a Nikon Speedlite, triggered wirelessly using Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS), aimed at the white horse. I saw the reflection and had a Polarizing Filter in my pocket (just in case). The reflection was what caught my eye, so using a polarizer to cut the reflection wouldn’t be what I was looking for. To find out about how this image was “finished”, hit the “read more”.
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Friday, April 2, 2010

A Mask As Its Own Image

Today’s image might look a little familiar to some. If you flip back to the March 24th write up you’ll see it in that post also. I had just finished an image for today’s post and was going through the folder looking for it. It’s there, you’ll probably read about it next week sometime, but as I pasted the image of the mask I pulled up short and did a double take. I liked what I saw. The mask makes a pretty darn good image on its own. It’s very graphic in the presentation of the scene, but it works. Back in the “good old days” of film and the smell of fixer I used to do a fair number of images like this one. It was thought to be something a little special, even by the “good printers”. The reason was that you had to have the right subject (we do), you had to have the material to create the negative (Kodak Kodalith cut film), and you had to have a little knowledge of how to work with the stuff. Today, it’s easy. You still need the right subject, but with Photoshop, and a little knowledge, we can make the same type of images that were thought to be slightly special “back then”. One of the things I like about today’s image is the slight hint of grey to the right of the right hand tree, indicating some clouds. Just as making this type of image in a wet darkroom required some degree of knowledge, getting a mask with as much detail as today’s image also requires “knowing the trick”. If you’d like to learn a little more about “the trick”, hit the “read more”.
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