Blog Posts

Great Falls Park

Great Falls Park is one of the U.S. National Park Service’s small parks in and around the Washington D.C metro area (https://www.nps.gov/grfa/index.htm). It also happens to be only about 10 miles from my home. Last week two of my granddaughters had a school holiday, so we decided to picnic at the park. The day turned out to be a beautiful, late autumn afternoon and food always tastes better at a picnic outdoors!

While the girls were playing, I took a short walk to one of the overlooks of the falls on the Potomac River. I had brought my camera, so I proceeded to take numerous photos of the falls. While processing the photos at home, I picked three of them to present in this blog post. Lately, I have become enamored with black and white photography, so I converted these to black and white by utilizing DxO Silver Efex Pro 2 after the initial processing in Adobe Lightroom. I prefer the black and white photos.

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Color Image processed with Adobe Lightroom

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Black and White version processed with DxO Silver Efex Pro 2 Preset #043 More Silver

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Color Image Processed with Adobe Lightroom. In the bottom of the photo you can see a kayaker trying to row upstream. He never made it!

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Black and White version processed with DxO Silver Efex Pro 2 Preset #023 Wet Rocks

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The last image was shot at 1/125 of a second shutter speed to stop the action of the rapids. Again, in the bottom of the photo you can see another kayaker trying to row upstream, he also failed to do that! Color Image processed with Adobe Lightroom

Great Falls-0038-Edit

Black and White version processed with DxO Silver Efex Pro 2 – no presets, just a few adjustments and a red color filter.

Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com to go with me on my photographic journey to become a better photographer.

Blog Posts

10 Adjustments or Less

The other day, I drove to my granddaughter’s high school theatre performance. Usually, when I go to this type of event, I take my camera. This day was no exception. Since I would be taking a few photographs after the performance, I did not bring anything other than the camera and its holster. As it happened, that evening a thunderstorm was forecasted to occur during the play. After parking my car, I looked at the sky and could see some threatening clouds beginning to appear. I got creative and placed my camera on the holster as a support base, set the aperture at f18 and the ISO at 100. This gave me a somewhat long exposure, but not nearly a slow enough one. I took a few photos and proceeded to go to the play.

The next day, I imported the photos into Adobe Lightroom and viewed them. Unfortunately, none were very good, which was not a surprise. I decided to have a little fun with post-processing attempting to process one of the photos with only 10 adjustments or less. The software I used was Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop and DxO’s Silver Efex Pro 2. My goal was not to make all the versions look the same but to see what type of variety I would get with only a few adjustments. Here are the resulting photos processed with 10 or less adjustments to the original RAW file.

The first photo is the original file with only the camera calibration adjusted.

Original Capture-0006

The next photo is a color version done in Adobe Lightroom and with 10 adjustments.

Color Version-0006

I then decided to convert the photo to Black & White versions with Lightroom, Photoshop and Silver Efex Pro 2. The photo below is the Lightroom conversion in less than 10 adjustments.

Lightroom Version-0006

The adjusted color version was exported to Photoshop and in 10 adjustments I obtained the photo shown below.

Photoshop Version-2

The last version is the adjusted color version edited in Silver Efex Pro 2 with less than 10 adjustments.

Silver Efex Pro 2 Version-

None of these versions would win any awards but it was an interesting exercise in post-processing. Please come back and visit www.cestlavie4me.com to see where my photographic journey takes me next time.

Blog Posts

Annapolis, Maryland – Street Views

Several weeks ago, my wife and I took a short drive to Annapolis, Maryland. She had learned of a “Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival being held that day. Kunta Kinte was the main character in Alex Haley’s Best-Selling novel “Roots”. I thought it might also be a good opportunity to try some street photography and it was!

Recently, I had read The Complete Guide to Black & White Digital Photography by Michael Freeman and attempted to use some of the techniques discussed in the book in processing these photos. Here are a few of my favorite photographs from our walk around the streets of Annapolis and the Kunta Kinte Festival. I used both Adobe Lightroom and DxO Silver Efex Pro 2 to process the photos. I enjoyed the opportunity to experiment with street photography and am looking forward to more of the same soon.

Which One-0007

                                                                   Which One?

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                                                    Girl Talk

Oblivious-

                                                                      Oblivious!

Pit Master-

                                                                       Pit Master

How Big--

                                                    How Big?

Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com to continue following my photographic journey!

Blog Posts

Eastern Market

The Eastern Market area in Washington, DC is located within walking distance of the nation’s capitol. It was one of three public markets in Pierre L’Enfants original plans for the development of the District of Columbia. The market has undergone several reincarnations with the most recent one serving as a public market from 1873 to 2007 when it was closed. The area is now filled with retail shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, apartments, townhouses and condos. It is a wonderful example of gentrification at work!

Today, there are street markets open on weekends in the Spring and Summer. Recently, I spent and afternoon there taking photos and doing a little shopping for vintage vinyl jazz record albums! Here is one of the photos from that day. I converted it to monochrome with Adobe Lightroom and DxO Photolab Silver efex Pro software.

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Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com to see where my photography journey takes me next!

Blog Posts

The Washington Monument

If you view any YouTube Videos about photography, you occasionally hear the term “working a photo” or taking many photos of the same subject. This is something that I have been trying to do recently as a method to hopefully improve as a photographer. A few days ago, I spent an evening in Washington, D.C. photographing the Washington Monument.

First, I decided to do my photography in the evening to employ the lighting from prior to sunset and through the blue hour. I checked the Photographer’s Ephemeris App for the sunset time and location. The plan was to have the monument backlit and hopefully a colorful sky behind it. This worked out well in helping me position where to set up my camera and tripod. Whether or not there would be a colorful sky was up to Mother Nature!

I was shooting from around 7:00pm until 9:15pm. I stayed in the same location the entire time to have nothing change but the lighting in the sky. The photos below were all processed differently, some in Adobe Lightroom, some in Adobe Photoshop and some in both. Only one photo was cropped. The evening was enjoyable both from a photography perspective and from a people watching perspective. The world is full of interesting characters and some tourists are at the top of the list! I hope you enjoy viewing these photos and perhaps you will go out and try something similar yourself.

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Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com to see where I go with my photography in the future.

Blog Posts

Antietam Creek Landscapes

Antietam Creek was the sight of a major battle during the War of the Rebellion (Civil War). It is also called the Battle of Sharpstown (Maryland). This battle occurred when the Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee invaded Maryland which was not part of the Confederacy. The opposing army of Union forces was under the command of General George McClellan. Some experts consider the outcome a stalemate; however, the Union forces claimed it was their victory since it forced General Lee’s army out of northern territory. Please check this link for more details.

https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/battle-of-antietam

 

This post is not about the battle. It so happens that my family held a summer picnic this past Saturday at Devil’s Backbone County Park on Antietam Creek near the site of the battlefield.

 

I chose not to bring my DSLR camera since this was not a photography outing, but I did have my smartphone with me. The photos that I am sharing in this post were taken with my phone and some editing was done with Adobe Lightroom after I returned home. Although the photos are nice, you can easily see that they do not compare to the quality that would be produced with a good DSLR.

Taking photos is an enjoyable hobby with either a smartphone or my DSLR for me. I thought that some of you might enjoy seeing these photos. My smartphone is a Motorola Moto Z3 Play and is certainly not a high-end model, but the camera takes acceptable quality photos for viewing on a blog, Facebook, Instagram etc.

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Antietam Creek and Dam

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Antietam Creek Dam

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Bridge over Antietam Creek

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Mossy Tree

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Meandering Creek

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Ant’s View

Please come back to www.cestlavie4me.com to see where my photography takes me in the future. Keep shooting even if it is with your smartphone! You might enjoy the results.

Blog Posts

Sunflower Fun

The other day I was at a farm with my daughter and we were picking peaches, blackberries, green beans and sunflowers. This is a farm that sells family memberships and they deliver fresh vegetables to your home once a week. Each week you can also visit the farm and pick some items for yourself.

 
I recently purchased a new smartphone, not one of the expensive ones, that is against my budget religion! The camera has taken some good photos of people, but I had not used it for anything else. This was my opportunity to see how well it would perform in taking a closeup photo, not a macro, just arm’s length type photos. I decided to use one of the sunflowers I had picked and to shoot it with the sun lighting it from several positions. After returning home I did some fun edits with Photoshop to practice some techniques. These are not fine art photos, just some fun photos that I decided to share with you. All these photos were edited to push some Photoshop features farther than I would normally go as you can plainly see.

 
The first photo is one taken with the sun directly behind it. You can just see the sun at the top of the photo.IMG_20190721_100505576

The next photo is almost the same shot with the sun clearly visible at the top of the frame.IMG_20190721_100836564

The following shot is front lit with the sun slightly to the photos right side.

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This photo was taken with the sun facing the flower but it was held closer to the camera.

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Now it was time to take a photo with the sun directly facing the flower or at least a close approximation of that position.IMG_20190721_100732012

The last shot is just a selection of the sunflower that was directly facing the sun.IMG_20190721_100800715

This was a fun exercise and I got to practice with Photoshop. This is probably the only way I will ever learn how to use this powerful tool. By the way, the smartphone does seem to have a pretty good camera considering it is not a high-end device.

Blog Posts

Springtime Play with Photoshop

It seems that we had a very long winter this past year. Perhaps because I am not a winter fan it just seemed long. In any case, as I walked around my neighborhood, I see the trees budding out, flowers beginning to bloom, and the birds and squirrels are all over the trees in my yard. It must be springtime!

 

The other day I happened to notice a beautiful tree in my neighborhood, and I decided to come back and photograph it. The location itself is not very picturesque, because, as I mentioned it is in a residential neighborhood with houses, cars and kids toys all over the place. This gave me the idea to take advantage of the opportunity and try to learn something about using Channels in Photoshop to create masks. This technique has proven to be very difficult for me to master. After looking at multiple YouTube videos I thought that was a chance to use channels when editing the photograph of this tree. As you can see in the photograph below the sky is devoid of color and there are many distractions behind and in front of the tree.

Original Lone Tree-5671

 

Upon completing making the selection for a mask in Photoshop, I could see that I had not done a very good job! So, I decided rather than to delete it what I would use the Paint feature in Photoshop to somewhat attempt to hide the poor editing. I also used the Picture Frame feature to see if that helped the image.

 

Another issue was the substitute sky photo that I was using to composite into this photo was not very good for this image. The perspective does not fit the image as you can clearly see. So now I have another project which is to make a folder full of different sky shots to use in similar situations in the future. I’m sure some of the readers of this blog have had to do this also.

 

This blog was started to allow me to track the progress of my journey as a photographer and not as a how-to blog by any stretch of imagination. First, I don’t have the skill to teach anybody anything about photography and second, I don’t think that it would be much fun for me to do so. In keeping with tracking my photographic skills progress below you’ll find the fully edited photo. You can judge for yourself what grade you might give it. Again, it was an opportunity for me to play with Photoshop and learn about using channels. I fully expect that I will be back viewing videos on YouTube to continue my education using this technique.

Lone Tree-

 

Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com to see where my photographic journey takes me next. I will give you a hint my wife and I are traveling overseas in the next couple of weeks, so I expect there will be several photos that I will share with you when we return. Now go out and shoot something and please use your camera!

Blog Posts

Black Photographers of Note

February is Black History Month here in the United States. So, for this post I wanted to highlight two of them for you. These men currently have exhibits at the Smithsonian National Gallery of Art here in Washington, D.C. There are other black men and women who have made a mark in photography; however, I have decided to focus on these two for my own personal reasons.

The first and most well known is Gordon Parks. His exhibit is titled “Gordon Parks: The New Tide, Early work 1940-1950.” This exhibit features 120 photographs from his early years and covers many topics such as Black Life in Urban America, photos from his experiences working for the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information among other areas of interest.

Gordon Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas in 1912 and was a self-taught artist. He not only photographed black subjects; but he was a pioneer in that as a black photographer he photographed white people in many different settings from coal mines to refineries and he was a featured fashion photographer. His work included being a photographer for Life magazine when it was arguably the most widely read magazine in America. Mr. Parks also played a prominent role in film with movies such as: Rounder, Shaft, The Learning Tree and other projects. You can read more about Mr. Parks at this Wikipedia site, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Parks.

With so many pictures to chose from I decided to post the photo below. Personally, the contrast of the white couple viewing a photograph of a black couple was intriguing! What are your reactions?

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The other black photographer is less well known. He is Dawoud Bey and his exhibit at the National Gallery of Art is entitled: “Dawoud Bey: The Birmingham Project.” This photographic exhibit was particularly poignant for me and all Black Americans of my age along with many Americans of other races. On Sunday, September 16, 1963, the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed by four members of the Klu Klux Klan, a white supremacy group that dates to the period of Reconstruction after the War of the Rebellion (Civil War) here in America. 4 young Black girls were murdered, and 22 other people were injured by this racist attack! You can read more about the Birmingham Bombing here https://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/10-key-facts-16th-street-baptist-church-bombings-article-1.2361565.

Not widely known is the fact that after the bombing a large crowd of white people in Birmingham began to celebrate the bombing and some took to rioting. Several young white men came upon two young black boys who were delivering newspapers. One of the men took out a gun and shot and killed the younger boy! It happened to be they were brothers. Mr. Bey decided to include a young black boy and an older black man in this exhibit to honor this young victim of a senseless and racist attack.

Mr. Bey decided to portray these young people as they may have looked had they not died in the bombing. He selected several young people about the age of the youths who had died and then found several people about 70 years old to portray how they may have looked as adults. He then posted them in similar positions and photographed his subjects in black & white. I decided to post this photograph for its haunting aspect. It almost appears that the people in the photograph are looking at the viewers and this made me shiver. I was the same age in 1963 as these children when they died, and I remember the bombing as if it just happened!

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Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com to see where my photographic journey takes me.

Blog Posts

ISO Practice

A couple of days ago my local library hosted an event from a nearby Chinese Arts Group. The program was to feature a Lion Dance in preparation for the upcoming Chinese New Year Celebration. I decided to go and take some photographs to see how high ISO shots would look. The primary reason for this was to help in my planning for an upcoming trip where there will be some photos that will be taken in low light and no flash or tripod is allowed. I also wanted to just use the 50mm length on my 24-70mm zoom. Interestingly, as I have looked back on several photos, it seems that many are taken between 24 and 40mm. I just wanted to see how 50mm looked by comparison.

When I arrived at the library, the group was beginning to set up, so I took a front row seat. Just before the show started, the group decided to parade through the library to gather more people for the performance. They were very successful in getting all the children and their parents who were in the library into the room for the Lion Dance. The only problem was they had all the children sit on the floor in front of me. That ended my obstruction free viewing area. As usual Adobe Photoshop came to the rescue in post-processing as you will see.

I took many photos but decided to only use one in this blogpost. It was taken at 1/50 shutter speed, f4.0 aperture and 53mm focal length. I set the ISO at 1600 and when I checked a test shot’s histogram, I was getting a good exposure “to the right”. The motion blur was intentional because the subjects were dancing, and I wanted to show movement. The drummer and cymbal player are acceptably sharp. Here is the photo that has been edited in Adobe Lightroom.

lion dance-10

There are several distractions in the above photo, heads of children, a clock and the flipchart cabinet behind one of the dancers. I edited the photo in Adobe Photoshop and used the patch tool on the heads and clock. No problem with those edits. The big job was removing the flipchart cabinet. I decided to use Layers and Selections along with the patch tool and managed to do a reasonable removal of the unwanted object. This blog is not a how-to do it blog, you can check some videos on YouTube as I did to see how this technique works. Here is the edited photo.

lion dance-10-edit

The conclusion I have made is ISO 1600 worked well enough: however, there is some noise in the photo, and I learned a new technique in Photoshop. The 53mm focal length does narrow the field of view, yet it still retains a pleasing amount of image. I will consciously try to use that focal length more in the future, it may help prevent some of the cropping I have done in the past and eliminate the loss of any photographic data. Please come back and visit www.Cestlavie4me.com to see how my progress in photography is doing.