Friday, July 30, 2010

Walking "With" Scott Kelby

Last weekend Scott Kelby, the head honcho at NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals), had his 3rd annual Worldwide PhotoWalk. In Connecticut there were four walks, one in Danbury, one town away from the gallery. I had to go, just for the social aspect of the walk. There was a mix of young, old, professional, amateur, DSLR shooters and Point and Shoot photography enthusiasts in attendance and the weather wound up on our side. The day was forecast as close to 100 degrees, with high humidity. It turned out to be slightly breezy and the walk basically went from shaded area to shaded area, so it was an easily bearable morning. Today’s image comes from near the end of the circuit and is one of the more interesting shots I got during the walk. One of the interesting aspects of the clock was that the bottom box, just under the words “Union Savings Bank” was askew, tilting a little to the right. A couple of small dings in the brass just above the same words showed the clock had been the target of vandals at some point in the recent past. I suspect the angle of the bottom component is due to the same fate. Today’s image is a single shot treated with Adobe Photoshop CS5’s HDR Toning found in Images/Adjustments/ HDR toning. Several masks were used to isolate parts of the image. To find out more about where the masks were used, hit the “read more”.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Some Images Just Need HDR

Today’s image is from Antigua, taken in 2009. In the port city of St John, Antigua one of the first things you see as your ship pulls into port is a large church on the hillside. It’s only a few blocks from the dock and a sweat producing walk up the hill. It isn’t that the hill is that high or the walk that long. It’s just that you’re in Antigua and the temperature and humidity are typically Caribbean. One of the flaws with living in a Caribbean paradise is that you live in the way of hurricanes. St John’s Cathedral has been battered by its share of storms and seems to be in a constant state of renovation. The outside of the church appears to be pretty well complete, but the inside looks to be the focus of the work being done these days. It’s fairly dark inside the church and I didn’t lug a tripod up the hill to get the shot. We’d been there several times before and I knew what to expect. I shot the sequence specifically with the idea of doing some HDR work on the interior. Prior to Adobe Photoshop CS5 I attempted to use other HDR software, but wound up with ghosts all over the place. The result wasn’t what I was looking for. I couple things in CS5’s HDR Pro and in CS5 in general did the trick. After creating the HDR image, the first step was to check the box that said Remove Ghosts. Things immediately became crisper and the guy who had been sliding through the pew became a single person, rather than the ghosts of three of him. Several steps were needed to come up with today’s image. To learn what they are, hit the “read more”.
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Everyone Sees Something Different

A bunch of people took part in Scott Kelby’s Third Annual Worldwide Photowalk on Saturday. It was a mixed group of young and not so young, amateur and professional, old friends and new friends. Everyone sees something different. Two people, with the same camera, same lens, standing in the same spot come up with two entirely different images. It’s amazing what one person sees versus another. I’d guess 90% of the people on the walk would stroll right past a shot and one or two might see something and still come up with two distinct images. One of the unique images I saw was a trashcan lid, under some metal grate stairs, hanging from a chain. No trashcan, just the lid. Guess something needed the can more than the rightful owner (or so they thought). It wasn’t a Grand Canyon vista, but it was a great, story telling shot. Today’s image isn’t going to win any prizes but, again, it’s a “story telling” shot. The photographer has seen something others hadn’t. She spent several minutes working the scene. I haven’t seen what she got, but, hopefully it’s something intriguing. The “morale” of the story is that your “artistic vision” is unique. Some people have a better “eye” than others for texture, color or composition. Some have better imaginations and can “see” the potential of a shot or a piece of a shot. Could it be that the photographer is looking at a texture to be used as a component of another, more complex composite image? To find out if today’s image is what it seems, or if it’s more complex, hit the “read more”.
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Friday, July 23, 2010

In The Good Old Summer Time

This weekend is the Scott Kelby Worldwide PhotoWalk. It’s “the good old summertime” in this part of the world and it’s going be hot, dangerously hot on Saturday. Water is being stashed at the local YMCA at the far end of the route and safety is more important than photography. Today’s image is reminiscent of summertime, in that it’s the time for traveling carnivals in the northeast. On any given weekend you can find a town with a 4H or Firemen’s carnival. Some are pretty cheesy, but just about all of them have a ferris wheel. It’s a ride that takes you high in the air, where you can over look the excitement of the goings on. Today’s image tries to bring back some of the nostalgia of the time when the carnival being in town was “thee” source of entertainment on any given weekend. Rather than the saturated, bright colors normally associated with my “style” of imagery I was going for the more subdued colors of a faded photograph. The only color of any significance that remains is the red. In an old, faded photograph from the shoe box in the attic that’s exactly the color that would be most prominent in such shots. The blues would be pretty much gone, as would the green/yellow components. To find out how the color was removed, hit the “read more”.
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sometimes The Insects Just Ignore You

You almost couldn’t not shoot some of the swarming insects on the flowers this past weekend. They did have their favorites and walking on the Bridge of Flowers does put you past every group of flowers, bugs, inserts and tourists. There were half again as many tourists as there were insects, or so it seemed. The flowers must have been full of very tasty pollen. They, basically, had no interest in the hundreds of people walking past, literarily sticking their noses in the blooms to take in the aromas. Today’s image was taken within minutes of Monday’s image. Today we have two insects clamoring over one blossom and none on the Monday image. That was the way it was. Some flowers must have been at their peak and others either before or after the pinnacle of their attraction. The insects in today’s image were as busy as their cousins the bees. Even with the bright sunlight of the early afternoon it would have been nearly impossible to freeze the motion of these quick movers. This image employs some hand held high speed flash work. According to the EXIF data that goes along with this image the lens was racked out to 200mm (300mm 35mm equivalent) at 600mm (~23”) distance. It also includes a fairly minor crop. Something to consider is that the camera was in one hand and the flashes (two) were in the other hand. Shooting one handed is a sure fire way to get some camera movement in a shot, unless you’re using something other than the shutter to freeze the action. 1/800 of a second at f 14 (F 14??? I hate in between F-stop numbers) using Auto FP High Speed Sync allowed the flash duration to absolutely stop the little critters in the tracks. But, this is a Photoshop oriented blog. To find out what was done in Adobe Photoshop CS5, hit the “read more”.
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Monday, July 19, 2010

More Powerful Than The Sun

We were out shooting a few shots yesterday at the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls Massachusetts. The flowers were great, as usual at this time of year, but the sky was cloudless and the sun relentless. Talk about harsh light, wow. Looking into the shade at certain spots on the bridge you could only make out the fact that there was a person there. It could have been your brother and you wouldn’t be able positively identify him in a court of law. The contrast ratio was extreme and the problems with getting a shot that was in the range of a typical DSLR’s sensor were immense. Yet, if you look at today’s image you can see a properly exposed flower and a very dark background. I’ll tell you exactly what was done in Adobe Photoshop CS5 and was as shot. The image is a crop to isolate the flower. There was a bright stick of some sort in the upper left corner. Another flower (one curl) was in the upper right corner, but it was dark enough not to be a hot spot. The color was the distraction in that case. The leaves were a touch sharper in the lower right, but that’s about it. The darkness is real. At least it is “in the camera” and not artificially darkened in Photoshop. There’s no black board or drape set behind the flower, it’s a bright sunny day, so how is it that the background went dark. Ahha! There’s actually a fairly easy way to do it. Just outshine the sun. No problem. To find out how, hit the “read more”.
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Friday, July 16, 2010

Walking Around Town with Content Aware Fill

Okay, I didn’t actually walk around town with Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Content Aware Fill in my hand, but it was in my mind. The church in today’s image is on Main Street in our little town. If you were to tell the casual visitor to go and find it, they probably couldn’t. You see, Main Street is not the main street in town. That would be Greenwood Avenue. The route through town was changed at some time in history. The original road (now a state highway) came into town as it does today. For some reason, the route just plain stopped, took a right turn for one block, went left for one block, took another left for one block and, after a right turn one block down, went along its merry way. That jog of one block had the road go down Main Street. Our Main Street may be in the running as the shortest Main Street in America, one block long. At some point I guess people got fed up with the one block “detour” and cut a new section of road through in a straight line. Main Street became a quiet street with a church, the Second Meeting House and several hat factories. The hat factories are gone, replaced with modest, late 19th century, Victorian  homes and lately, a few units of medium income housing. People have “wanted” to shoot the church in today’s image for years. One thing stopped many a photographer from getting an iconic shot of a classic New England church. Power and phone lines right in front of the building. I’m not talking one line. There are a dozen or so lines visible from any reasonable shooting location. Even with Content Aware Fill it was a tedious grind to get all the offending objects out. To learn how the image was finished, hit the “read more”
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Finally Figured Out Refine Edge

I have to admit that Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Refine Edge (or Refine Mask) has been vexing me. On straight line images, like June 30th’s panorama of the Inner Harbor in Baltimore Maryland, it worked like a charm. On wispy or feathery edges I was falling down fairly miserably. I was trying the Smart Radius Brush and setting the Radius at about one pixel. I just wasn’t having any luck. I took a look at a tutorial by Dave Cross over on the NAPP member’s site and finally show the error of my ways. Dave was much more generous with the radius value. His examples ranged from 5.5 to about 7.5. Aha! Today’s image didn’t have much of an interesting sky, so I thought it would make a good candidate for a test. I took the Quick Selection Tool (W) and swept across the sky. It did its usual good job of getting the desired object (the sky) pretty well isolated, but it didn’t give the fine detail of the trees. One of the biggest tests would be the bare branch sticking out of the top of the pine on the right border. It’s just a couple of sticks rising out of the top of the tree, just the type of thing I’d give up hope on in the past. I figured, if Dave Cross uses 7.5 for a Radius, so will I. I’ve got to say, I think it worked pretty darn good. There are a couple other tricks that were applied to today’s image. To find out what tricks were employed, hit the “read more”.
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Monday, July 12, 2010

Opposites As Backgrounds

The background is almost as important as the subject is most images. Everyone’s heard of (or taken) shots with some unfortunate object coming out of the subject ruining what would otherwise be a great shot. The classic one is a tree/ telephone pole/ sign coming out of a person’s head. Today, with things like Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Content Aware Fill it’s not anywhere near the tragedy it was in the film days. It’s not that removing some offending object couldn’t be removed it the capture was done with film. It’s just that some serious skills were needed to do the job realistically. That and, if you were having it done professionally, it was prohibitively expensive for us common folk. Magazines and the Russian government were the only two who did it routinely. I have a couple older brothers and we all spent most summers in our youth outside. The only time we saw the inside of the house was at breakfast, lunch, dinner and bed time. As a consequence of our Irish heritage and the sun we all had freckles galore. Mom got a call about my oldest brother’s high school senior portrait. The person on the other end asked her if she wanted to have his freckles retouched out. I’d guess it was a fairly standard offer, with the typical response being “oh, no, no, that’s the way he(she) looks and we wouldn’t think of altering it”. Mom’s response was “yes please”. There was a moment of silence and the person on the other end mustered up the courage to say “all of them”. Removing freckles, blemishes and phone poles is not a problem these days, but getting backgrounds properly out of focus (bokeh), in the camera, is a bigger issue today than in the past. In the days of prime lenses there was typically a fairly low maximum F Stop. You’d grab the lens you needed and shoot. Crank it open and you had all the bokeh you needed. Today, with everybody using zoom lenses and the vast majority being low end or kit lenses, it is harder to get a good, out of focus background. Why? When you rack the lens out you have a “high enough” maximum aperture (low F Stop) to create a reasonably sharp image further into the shot. Today’s image suffers from just such a problem (and others). To see what was done to work with what we had, hit the “read more”.
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Friday, July 9, 2010

A Little Slice Of Heaven

You can see the change of weather coming in toward this house on the shore in Maine. The crystal clear blue sky does have possibilities, but, without some clouds the sky isn’t going to add a lot to the shot. There are aspects of this shot that are a little hard to figure out. Just off the steps there appears to be almost an arrow pointing toward the steps. What it actually is is a cove with the outlet to the sea off to the left. The other side of the cove is a gently sloping, forested, hill. Seagulls whirl endlessly at the edge of the water. It’s here that they have the best chance to find food at low tide. A high shutter speed and high F-stop number (F 11 in this case) is fairly easy to obtain on a day like the one portrayed here. The Maine coast in rife with photographic opportunities. One of the biggest caveats is that some of the prettiest shot are on private estates along the coast. Today’s image is the Keeper’s House at Marshall Point Lighthouse. The grounds are open and the lighthouse is one you’ve seen in many images of the Maine coast. It’s not Portland Head Light, Nubble (Cape Natick) Light or Pemiquid Point Lighthouse, but once you get past those you’d probably find Marshall Point on the top ten list of New England lights. It is definitely on the “rock bound” coast, without a grain of sand visible around the point. The rocks are probably part of the construction of the lighthouse put there to keep the fierce winter waves at bay. They are “walkable” (perhaps “scrambleable” would be a better word) during the summer months and give the photographer many angles to shoot from. Overall Marshall Point is a picturesque spot with several photographic opportunities. To find out what’s different about today’s image, hit the “read more”.
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lightning In The Palm Of Your Hand

Today’s image breaks the cycle of manipulated images that has been going on around here for, it seems like, a month. Today we have a very straight shot with just a Crop (C) and a little Sharpening (High Pass sharpening) and that’s it. No boosting the individual colors, no HDR Toning, no double or triple copies of the image using a piece of this and a part of that, not even a vignette, just a straight, out of the camera image. Does that mean there’s no trickery to the image? Absolutely not. There is some trickery, but it’s in camera trickery. Almost all the blog writers I read on a daily basis, from Scott Kelby, to all the “Photoshop Guys”, to David(s) Hobby and Ziser say the first rule is to get it right in the camera and “finish” it in Adobe® Lightroom® or Adobe® Photoshop®. Playing with the photography and either making a good shot a great shot or making “art” from a photograph is a very legitimate thing to do. It’s fun! It’s a business opportunity! It’s creative! But, every once in awhile, you do have to rein it in a little and make sure you can still shoot a good frame. Today’s shot was taken outside, in a garden, in broad daylight. If I had only seen the image I would have guessed it was a “still life”, taken in a studio with a black scrim behind. To find out what magic happened in that garden and what today’s headline has to do with it, hit the “read more”.
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Monday, July 5, 2010

Anybody With A Point N Shoot Could Take This Shoot - Not

I guess I’m still smarting from a comment made by another professional, who I’ve known for thirty plus years. He was a judge at a juried show I enter a couple of pieces in a couple of months back. One of the shots was of a barn I discussed on the gallery back in April. The foreground colors were popped with a subtle HDR effect and the sky replaced with a good looking sky. I grabbed the judge after the juried portion of the show finished and asked why he had killed my print. His response was that it was a shot anyone could take, on a good day, with a point n shoot camera. Now, this guy is a retired professional, commercial photographer. He travels pretty extensively now, carrying his little Nikon point n shoot and does get some incredible images. So, I’ll give him the fact that anyone with his training and eye could get some pretty darn good images, but not any that are half HDR and half straight, combined to make a homogenous image. Cameras are getting pretty slick, with added features such as Extended Dynamic Range and a host of other “effects” built in, but… They just can’t make the creative decisions a person can. Oh well. Today’s image isn’t about sore grapes or anything like that, it’s about shoots that look like they could be made “with a point n shoot on a good day”. Anyone who’s been reading posts here at the gallery probably knows there’s “something” about today’s image that separates it from a straight shot. The flag, displayed on the porch, is actually across the street from the restaurant with the decorative window. The problem is that fact that there is a tree on the green in the middle of the street between the two images. It’s also about fifty yards between the buildings. That makes for a very tricky reflection. To find out more about today’s image, hit the “read more”.
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Friday, July 2, 2010

Another Holiday, Another Reflection

There’s another holiday coming up here in the United States. It’s a time to honor, not the sunshine patriot (even though the marchers in today’s image were definitely in sunshine), but the “real” patriots. Not those who keep their mouths shut and just drift along, but those willing to put deeds behind their words. I said those words during the Vietnam era and they are the same words said by today’s young men and women going to the defense of our nation. The first oath used in what would become the United States of America predates the actual country and would have been taken by the men depicted in today’s image. It was a part of the act creating the Continental Army and voted into law by the Continental Congress in 1775. There is a line, misattributed to the Frenchman Voltaire, that says: “I disapprove if what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. That’s what it’s all about. Not that we kowtow to “the man” and not that we take up arms against out government but to do what is known as “disagree and commit”. That’s what it was called at Intel during my tenure there. You could bring up your objections in a spirited fashion, but you’d better be prepared with an alternate suggestion. Once the final decision was made it is up to the individual to act in a manner to advance the greater good. This is a great, but flawed country. The trick is that it has fewer flaws than other countries. You can say things here that you’d end up in jail for in other parts of the world. But, this is a photography blog, not a political blog. To find out what was done to today’s image, hit the “read more”.
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