Monday, August 30, 2010

The Balloons Were Only One Part

What a beautiful day Saturday was. Solid blue skies (until I got home), a free balloon lift and some friends. That’s hard to beat. We found out about a balloon lift that’s been going on for the past twenty five years up toward the middle of the state. Connecticut isn’t exactly a big state, being only two hours wide and an hour top to bottom. Being mid-state and us being on the western edge and spilling slightly into New York meant it was a little less than an hour’s drive away, rather than a day’s drive like you’d have in some of the western states. There were four chances for seeing the balloons go off. Friday evening, Saturday morning, Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Being a social group and probably a surly group before we get our coffee, we opted for the Saturday evening launch. Being a local, not very well publicized (at least not in western Connecticut) event, we didn’t know if there’d be one balloon or twenty. It was closer to twenty. Today’s image was one of the easy shots. Two balloons with a boring, solid blue, sky. The position was fine, but the sky made a very colorful scene look unnecessarily dull. There’s not a whole lot of interest in a solid color, even with a polarizer. I don’t do a lot of “chimping”. I was shooting a five shot bracket, so I had a choice of starting point. Normally, lately, I shoot a three shot bracket. One over, one under and one “normal”. The reason for putting “normal” in quotes is to explain that normal is a -.3 EV (Exposure Value). Nikon does a great job setting the “normal” exposure in their cameras, but I like something that’s just a little bit denser. When I’m teaching a class, the first thing I tell people is that they can improve the quality of their shots by changing the EV by -.3. Does it work all the time? No! Nothing does, but about 90% of normal shooting can benefit from a slight reduction in exposure. There is one thing that wound up being a lifesaver with today’s image. To find out what that was, hit the “read more”.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Adobe Photoshop CS5 Enhancement Or A Photographer's Gimmick?

There’s a saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Turning that a little could get us to one photographer’s “enhancement” might be another shooter’s gimmick. Today’s image is one of several taken on the western slope of the Kelly-Stand Road in Vermont. We found out about Kelly-Stand Road from David Middleton’s very informative book “The Photographer’s Guide to Vermont”. A great photographer’s travel guide that’s one of the first things studied and packed every time we head for the Granite State. You can put the emphasis on the last sentence any way you wish. It can be an endorsement of David’s ability to write a guide book or a testament to his photography. Take whichever way you like. The book has been invaluable to us. Today’s image now resides in a chrome frame. The image is 16 x 20, with the “canvas” size of 20 x 24. Going into a chrome frame I wanted to have something other than a plain black matte. The “double matting” is actually just an extension of the original image, using Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Canvas Size (Image/Canvas Size) with “Relative” turned on. Creating the metallic look of the outer matte is the subject of today’s post. To learn how it was done, hit the “read more”.
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Some People's Free Advice Actually Is Worth More Than You Paid

I don’t know of any photographer who doesn’t think he/she’s done the absolute best treatment of an image that can be done. Every image is a ten. Last night I got a little comeuppance. I showed a photographer a print of one of my images (click this link to see the original). He said he loved the image, but the sky was kind of dull. He did say he’d rate it a nine, but nine ain’t ten. Since the key to the image was a mask of the trees and the fine detail of the branches I told him he could pick a sky that would be better and I’d have a go at it. He said he’d like to see bigger, fluffier clouds and not have the image look so sullen. The original intent was the sullen, slightly dark look of a cove with a storm approaching. Bigger, fluffier clouds would change the tenor of the image from foreboding to inviting. Not a bad change. The shot could go either way. Today’s image is the result of about fifteen minutes of tweaking. The hardest part of the transformation was the sharpening. I was attacking it from the wrong position. I figured I’d be quick and clever about the sharpening and it wound up that I was neither. It had me stumped for several minutes. Since I had the mask saved as an Alpha Channel I could call on it whenever I needed to mask the trees against anything that came up. Because Smart Objects come with their own Layer Mask I figured I’d take advantage of that to skip one step and sharpen the Smart Object after applying a couple of Filters (filters on Smart Objects become Smart Filters). Before converting the Layer to a Smart Object I selected the Alpha Channel Mask (CTRL click on the Alpha Channel icon). I put a slight blur on the upside down copy of the sky and added an Ocean Ripple filter. That’s where the problems started. To find out what the solution to the problems was, hit the “read more”.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Dog Sitting Mr. Personality

He looks like a tough guy, doesn’t he? We were dog sitting our granddaughter’s English Bulldog over the weekend, so I had to get a couple of shots of him. Let me tell you a little about him. He was taken to obedience class as a pup. He flunked the obedience portion, but he did get the congeniality award. He thought he was there to entertain and play with all the other dogs. He was the runt of the litter and is still pretty small for a bulldog. (About half the weight of some of his siblings.) If you look at his forehead you’ll see, what looks like a poorly done swipe with the Brush Tool (B). It’s not. That’s his natural marking. This shot doesn’t show it, but most of the time he has this “snaggle tooth” sticking up over his upper lip on the right side. Every time we go over to our son’s house, as soon as he sees me, he races around to find his newest favorite toy and brings it over to show me. He’s done that since he was a pup. Right now he’s over on the couch, fast asleep, snoring softly. Trying to get a shot of him was more of a challenge than I thought it was going to be. Turns out the camera scared him. All of a sudden something was blocking my face and was being aimed right at him. If that wasn’t enough, there were flashes of light happening and freaking him out a bit. So the shoot when something like this: Position the light, get the dog into the lit area, snap a shot, reposition the lights, wrangle him back into the lit area, snap a shot and so on. To find out more about this particular shot, hit the “read more”.

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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”.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

200 Images And Counting

Today we are at image number 200. This blog was started on April 21, 2009. So far it’s been fun, challenging, productive, growing and read around the world. Lately, Montreal, Canada has been a hotbed of readers, with more people spending more time each day. Drop a note and say hello wherever you are. It would be an understatement to say that most visitors are from the United States. It may surprise you to learn that the foreign country where the blog is most highly read is Pakistan. The country that flips through the most pages is Sweden. I’m not sure if it’s because I have a good Swedish name, but they also spend the greatest amount of time per visit reading the posts. When I was at Intel we used to use a hockey stick as a metaphor for growth of processor sales. The time to reach the curve got shorter with each generation of processor, but it always looked the same. In fact, there’s a T-shirt showing the graph that Intel put out a couple years ago. Well, it appears this blog is at the curve of the stick. In the past month the number of visitors has grown considerably and, on a daily basis, the increase is accelerating. I would encourage new visitors to flip back through older posts. Like most endeavors, we started out with the “best stuff” we had. We have continued to grow, so some of the newer post exceed anything posted early on, so don’t skip back too quickly. Most of what’s been on the blog has been an anecdote, followed by a technique used on the day’s image. If you only read the splash page and don’t got to the full post, you’re missing out on the “instructional” part of the blog. I’d like to thank those readers who are “the regulars” and encourage everyone who gets a kick out of the posting here to tell ten friends about “The Kayview Gallery”. There are the seeds of plans to offer step by step instructional posts, with screen shots of each step. In the works are videos showing the progression of an image from RAW file to a frameable print. We’re talking with possible “sponsors” to promote services and tools we use on a day to day basis and believe in. The second 200 images will be, hopefully, as exciting and interesting as the first 200 have been. To find out what’s up with today’s image, hit the “read more”.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

The Guy In Charge

It’s not my job to run the train, the whistle I can’t blow.

It’s not my job to tell how far the train is allowed to go.

It’s not my job to let off steam, nor even clang the bell,

But let the damned thing jump the tracks, and see who catches hell!

Such is the life of the Conductor of a train. We took a ride over to the Essex Steam Train over the weekend. We thought, having a fixed destination, we’d have a better chance of getting some shots. Too many times we toss the cameras in the car and start driving with the idea that we’ll come across “something”. More often than not we arrive back home empty handed. There are images to be had everywhere you go. Chances are you won’t spot them at 60 MPH, or 45, or 30. All you have to do is stop the car, get out and look around. Images are there. Anywhere there is. We’ve gone “Photowalking” with friends in town, within a 300’ stretch of sidewalk. We’ve gone on a two mile jaunt around the “big city” next door. On Thursday evening a few of us will be getting together near a movie theater/town hall. There’s nothing special about the area. It is one of the quintessential New England towns, so the possibilities area there. Some friends are getting together this week to run up to an Air Show in Massachusetts. I’m sure there will be many opportunities there. The trick is, opportunities are somewhere, anywhere and everywhere. One thing I’ve noticed by walking with friends is that interesting images come from every possible line of sight. It’s up to the photographer to “see” the possibility presented to him/her. There’s no magic formula to making a great image out of an ordinary scene, but if there was one I think it would involve getting small. A wide expanse of a street scene would probably have trash in the gutter, maybe some graffiti on the side of a building, clothes on a line in a backyard, all manner of distractions to ruin the shot. But, if you look at each of those “distractions” as individual images, every one of them could be a “work of art”. That’s “the eye” of the photographer as an artist. What’s all that got to do with today’s image? Hit the “read more” and find out.
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Friday, August 13, 2010

Some Cool For A Hot August Day

Every once in while we need to be reminded that today isn’t the only day to shoot. The camera isn’t a summer time thing, or a vacation thing, it’s an everyday thing. A couple friends are doing what’s known, on Flickr, as 365 projects. 365 refers to shooting “something” every day for a year. It’s not an easy task. Some day’s you’re tired, at times you just don’t have the motivation or maybe the inspiration or inclination to pick up the camera. Here’s one of the projects I’ve been following: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30217647@N08/sets/72157623116936034/ . What you might notice, if you look at the first image of the project and look at the most recent images, is that they’ve become more interesting and more creative rather than getting duller and sloppier. That’s one of the beauties of trying to shoot something, without having an assignment, for an entire year. The other friend with a similar project has this as a photo stream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vincentjamespia/sets/72157623212737205 . One photographer is male and the other female. Without paying any attention to the URLs, take a look at the photo streams and try to figure out which is by the female and which is by the male. You’ll see similarities and you’ll see differences. Looking at the thumbnails it’s hard to think of one set being a feminine viewpoint and the other being a male perspective on life. Both are photographer’s views of their worlds passing by. One thing I hope for both is that neither project slip into obscurity once they’re finished. I hope their children will be able to show their children a year in the life as seen by their respective grandparents. Counting on Flickr to be around for the next twenty years is probably not the best way to preserve these memories. Putting the year on a CD or DVD won’t guarantee they’ll be seen by the next generation. Things change. Home movies on VHS tapes were the way to go when these photographers were kids. I think they’d be hard pressed to show their kids the memories their parents created because there aren’t many VCRs kicking around today. I’d probably recommend a book from My Publisher as a method of having something tangible to pass along. One book for themselves and one for each child. Having something physical is still saver than trusting memories to the vagaries of electronic media. What’s all this got to do with today’s image? Today’s a great day to take a picture. Every day is a great day to shoot something. It matters not, what you’re shooting with. It only matters that you’re active. By being active you hone your craft and your mind. To find out more about today’s image, hit the “read more”.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Just Being Silly With Hue/Saturation

Here ya go. You walk up to a building housing several attorneys. Each has a separate door leading to their offices. First impressions are important, so who gives a better initial reaction? If we start from the right and work our way left we first have a green door. Green! Go! This attorney wants clients to believe he/she’s a “go-getter”, Type A, nothing’s going to stop ‘em from doing what’s best for you. Next we have a red door. Red! Stop! This attorney’s going to stop what’s happening to you. She/he’ll stop the baddies who have done you wrong. The last door is blue. Blue! Soothing! Calm! This one wants to put you at ease. To let you know everything’s going to be alright. To settle you down into a “good place” where things can get done. Obviously today’s image is a play on images in several categories. If you notice, the doors are RGB (Red, Green and Blue). The colors we use all the time as photographers working in Photoshop. (At least most of the time.) It’s probably also obvious that it’s the same door duplicated twice and slid over a little and a little more. Today’s image is a simple picture. It doesn’t even have any sharpening applied, color cast correction, vignette or any of the other things typically done to an image to be included in a posting. Why? Because it’s not here for the great artistic contribution it makes to the world, but to demonstrate how many tweaks it takes to make a point. There are four steps to making today’s image. To learn more about the steps, hit the “read more”.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Another Monday Morning Flower

I must be in another rut. This is something like the third Monday in a row that “today’s image” has been a flower. Stared out with the Tiger Lily, went to a Cone Flower and now a Rose. It just so happens that flowers are in bloom (duh!!! It’s summer) and we’ve been out walking around different town centers. Each town has some sort of Town Green and typically the local Garden Club will make it a mission to make their town stand out. Today’s image comes from Thomaston Connecticut. It’s basically a drive by town rather than a destination, but it’s always looked promising from the highway on the hill right at the edge of the downtown area. An hour ramble showed that it is a quintessential New England town. Is does have a couple of flourishes that can set it apart. Part of Town Hall has an Opera House currently showing a live performance of Peter Pan. There’s a Train Museum down by the river. It’s obvious that the folks who laid out the train route followed the river, giving the gentlest slope and the easiest cut for the tracks. A small Town Green appears to have been cut out of what was a pretty awkward (~169 degree) turn to the north in the middle of town. At some point, planned must have decided to “fix” the turn and wound up with a triangle that became the Green. There’s a Gazebo in the center and flanks the lawn of a church that might be great for a summer concert series. This was the setting of today’s image. Looking back on the past couple of Monday images gives an interesting progression of how the shoots were taken. All were shot in bright sunlight, with very different looks. First we have the Tiger Lily that was shot using two Speedlites ganged together to overpower the sun. The Cone Flower was shot, again, in bright sunlight, but positioned to have a dark, mottled background. Then there’s today’s Rose, shot with a great leading line against a bright background that had to be tamed. To find out about the surprising way the background was tamed in today’s image, hit the “read more”.

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Friday, August 6, 2010

Raw Images Suck, Until They're Developed

If you routinely shoot in Raw, no matter what camera you use, the file, straight out of the camera looks terrible. Flat, soft, kind of lifeless would be good terms to describe a typical RAW image. If you’re new to shooting Raw, or just exploring the Raw versus JPG debate you might go running for the hills the first time you download a camera full of RAW images. If they’re so bad, what’s all the fuss about. Well, the fuss is due to the fact that they have more information in the file, they have a wider tonal range and they don’t have the camera manufacturer’s bias put on them. This can be directly related back to the film days. With film you got a basic image. Hopefully each lab you used to have your film developed did it using standard practices. Those set up by the film manufacturer. So, you “should have” gotten back a baseline negative (or positive) image. It was up to you to put you “signature” on the finished print. That’s what’s needed with a RAW image. It needs your “signature”. I could have given a copy of today’s RAW image to a half dozen photographers (or finishers) and I would have ended up with a half dozen interpretations of the same scene. Today’s image was shot almost a year ago (October 2009). I took a couple of the better shots from the trip to Maine and they’ve been featured here at the gallery. This one was pasted over several times since the initial selection process, but I couldn’t bring myself to chuck it altogether. There was “something” there. I just had to let it marinate for a while until the inspiration struck me. Well, today was the day. A couple of features of Adobe Photoshop CS4 and CS5 made it possible to “develop” the image. To find out what features were used in today’s image, hit the “read more”.
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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Optical Illusion and Adobe Photoshop CS5 "Content Aware Fill"

There’s a term in art called “Trompe-l’oeil” , meaning to fool the eye. You see it in paintings where the artist has painted am image of a tackle box or shelves with books and curios looking very realistic. Today’s image looks pretty simple at first glance, but upon further inspection you might start to question what you’re seeing. The two pots of red flowers are the dominate feature of this image. Look at them and you’ll see they’re not quite the mirror image of one another. Some flowers found on one are missing from the other. The same goes for the purple flowers above and below the hanging baskets. The window on the right appears to have a light on inside and the window on the left has a reflection of the plants. There’s enough different from one side to the other to make you question if it is an image that was folded back on itself or not. It actually is an image cut in half and reassembled, but using Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Content Aware Fill allows for the seamless removal of pieces of both sides. It could be an alcove in the fa├žade of a florist shop and putting an eye on certain small pieces adds to the illusion that it might be what it looks to be. There is more to today’s image than “Content Aware Fill”. To find out more about what else was done, hit the “read more”.
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Monday, August 2, 2010

Going The Other Way With Adobe Photoshop CS5

Last week’s image of a flower was taken using Nikon’s Auto FP High Speed Flash. The result was a properly exposed flower with a deep rich background, even though the shot was made in bright sunlight. Today’s image of a flower is just about as opposite as you can get. The image was made out in the field, as was last week’s, but this time without using the flash and having a considerably lighter background. The exposures are basically equal, one using a flash and the other using natural light. The result in both cases is a well exposed flower. I’m not “really” a flower photographer, although there have been a small number of them featured here on the gallery’s blog. It’s summer in New England, the flowers are in bloom and the colors are pretty spectacular this year. So, what’s not to shoot? As we walked around, looking for subject matter, I kept one eye on the scenery and the other on the readout panel on the camera. Depending on the scene before me I’d spin the Aperture adjustment wheel lower (about F5.6) for any moving subjects and higher (F16) for objects that were reasonable static. With the sun out so bright, the low F-Stop number gave speeds of 1/4000 second and the higher F-Stops at about 1/500 second. It’s the same expose, just adjusting the depth of field to maximize bokeh. To check to see that it actually is the same, net exposure we’ll do a little counting. Going up in F-Stop numbers to reduce the size of the aperture would be 5.6, 8, 11, and 16. Going slower to arrive at equivalent exposures would match up as 1/4000, 1/2000, 1/1000, and 1/500 second. Why we wound up with somewhat similar backgrounds is a function of how the light was manipulated. Last week’s image was shot with a bright background and the flashes overpowering the sunlight to achieve a dark background. This week’s image was shot in broad daylight, but into a strongly shaded background. To learn more about how this week’s image was “finished” in Adobe Photoshop CS5, hit the “read more”.
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