Friday, August 20, 2010

Playing With New CSI Toys And Cutting On A Diagonal

Last night was a dazzling summer evening in Western Connecticut. Too good to spend watching Jeopardy and being a couch potato, so we went out with a few friends for a short Photowalk. The target was Newtown Connecticut’s Main Street. Newtown’s uniqueness comes from the fact that they have a flagpole right in the middle of Main Street. I mean in the middle of the road on Main Street. You may be thinking that many towns have a flag on The Green in the middle of Main Street. No. No. No. Newtown doesn’t have a Green with the flagpole on it. The flagpole sticks directly out of the roadway in the middle of a state highway. It’s very iconic and you may have seen images of it in any manner of publication. I thought it would be the focus (bad pun) of our attention. Instead, it was the little things that people seemed to gravitate to. Flowers, stumps, buildings, street signs, a garden, the churches on Main Street and many other small, intimate subjects were the call of the day. I was playing with a new toy that I refer to as my CSI kit. If you’re familiar with the TV series and its spinoffs, you may have noticed some of the Nikon’s the investigators use have a flash setup attached to the front of the lens. That would be Nikon’s R1 or C1R1 Wireless Close-up Speedlight Flash System. In my case it’s the R1 system. That means it doesn’t have an SU-800 Commander Unit. Since I shoot with a D300, the lights can be triggered by the on camera flash. With today’s image the setup was having the camera in Manual mode, with the shutter speed at 1/60 second and the F-Stop set to F11. The SB-R200 Speedlites were setup to function in iTTL mode, meaning the camera and flashes did the math. The on camera, pop up flash was set to add nothing to the lighting. People seem to have a hard time grasping that because they see the pop up flash. It takes a little convincing to get them to believe the flash they see from the pop up goes off before the primary flashes and is just there to set up the data for the calculations the camera does before it sends the signal to the Speedlites. It happens so fast that its almost a “leap of faith” to accept it. Today’s image isn’t quite what it seems. To find out what changes were made, hit the “read more”.

The “original” image had the edge of a granite block cutting diagonally across the lower left corner of the space. It was far enough out of focus, but it was still too hot and created a distraction. The upper right, on the other hand, had some nicely mottled, softly focused leaves.

First thing was to make a Mask of the flower. A quick swipe of the Quick Selection Tool (W) gave a very acceptable selection. Right clicking on the selection, the Save Selection option was chosen and named “flower” (how clever, right?).

Second was making a Copy (CTRL J) of the Background Layer. Selecting the entire copy (CTRL A) and putting it into Free Transform (CTRL T) mode. Right clicking within the selected area (in this case the entire image) brings up a dialog box with several choices. The two lowest choices are Flip Horizontal and Flip Vertical. Using both resulted in the lower left now having the mottled, soft leaves. The Alpha Channel Mask was used (CRTL click on the Alpha Channel thumbnail) and the New Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel clicked. The result is a Layer Mask with the “flower” mask already applied. ALT clicking on the Layer Mask thumbnail brings up a full size image of the Layer mask. Using the Polygonal Lasso Tool (L) and creating a triangular selection from any corner to an adjacent corner to the next adjacent corner and double clicking to close the lasso makes a selection. With Black as the foreground color, hitting the ALT Backspace combination will fill the selection with black. ALT Clicking again on the Layer Mask thumbnail will return you to the “normal” view. You’ll either have the image the way you want it of have the edge of the granite block showing in both corners. If the later is the case, just hit the CTRL Shift I (eye) combination to invert the Mask.

Normal Cropping (C), Sharpening (High Pass Filter) and Vignetting (Rectangular Marquee (M), feather about 200 pixels [depending on resolution) and change the Bland Mode to Multipluy) finishes today’s image.