A few days ago, I was driving back home from Washington, DC when I saw a scene on the Potomac that looked interesting. We have been having some extremely cold weather the last several weeks and there was ice on the Potomac in a quantity not usually seen. On this day, the temperature had risen enough to cause fog to form over the ice, which created the scene that interested me.
I did not have my dslr with me, but I did have my smartphone and its camera. I must admit that my phone is several generations from being a current technological marvel, but it does work! I parked and proceeded to walk around the area across from Roosevelt Island and the bridge to the island. I took a few photos of what looked like some good prospects. My biggest concern was the lack of sharpness of the photos due to the age of my phone.
When I arrived at home I downloaded the photos to Adobe Lightroom and started to look through the group for the best photos. As I suspected, none of these shots was particularly sharp. I selected a couple and started to edit them as usual when the idea of taking advantage of the lack of sharpness occurred. Perhaps some interesting photos could be created via post-processing. I utilized both Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. As it turned out, some fairly good photos were the result, at least in my opinion. I’ll let you be the judge.
Although I am still far from being proficient with either Lightroom or Photoshop, I am beginning to see some progress in my ability to use these programs. It also seems to me that the sharpness of my dslr and lens may not always be the best option for a photo. Sometimes an old smartphone camera may be ideal! Here are two photos with several versions of each. I hope you enjoy viewing them.
Oil Painting Filter
Here is the view from directly behind the previous photo.
Oil Painting Filter
This is only the beginning of my exploration into using different filters and processing techniques to create images from my smartphone. I will hopefully be able to transition these techniques to photos taken with my dslr. Please come back to view the updates to this blog in the future.
In a previous post, I mentioned that living in Northern Virginia gave me a great opportunity to review and photograph places, monuments, buildings etc. that had a connection to the American War of the Rebellion or as it is commonly known the Civil War. It should be clear to anyone who studies American history that this war was a result of the evil of slavery perpetrated on African people. This blog will not retrace the history of slavery in America; however, I do hope to use photography to share historical sites related to slavery that I find photogenic. In this blog post, I am displaying photographs of two buildings that were the homes of former slaves. These properties are in various stages of preservation. I have some other sites planned for future posts.
These photos were shot with the intention to take advantage of the HDR effect available in Adobe Lightroom. The subsequent photos were edited further in Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop utilizing the Patch Tool to remove some unwanted distractions. As I am working to become a better photographer and I think these photos are an improvement in my attempts at HDR. Hopefully as time goes on I will continue to improve my skills as a photographer with both the camera and the digital editing tools that are available.
The first photo is that of the Settle-Dean Cabin. This home has been moved approximately 100 meters from its original location due to the building of a large subdivision in Loudoun County. An agreement was made with the developer to move and restore the cabin rather that demolish it to make room for a suburban home. This would not have been done without the herculean efforts of a couple of passionate African Americans with strong ties to this area. You can read more about the cabin by clicking the link below.
This is an image from the front of the cabin. It was shot at sunset and is the result of merging 4 images in Adobe Lightroom.
The next view is taken from a side perspective also shot at sunset and it was based on 7 images HDR merged in Adobe Lightroom.
I also had the opportunity to visit the former site of the Lewis Farm in Loudoun County and see a presentation on the Slave Dwelling that is located there. This property is now owned by Loudoun County and is managed by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services. There is an effort under way to raise the necessary funds to restore and preserve this building. We were told during the presentation that up to 32 slaves lived in this dwelling place at a time! As you can see it is not a large building. You can read about this property by clicking on the link below.
The first photo is a view from the side of the dwelling. These photos were taken around noon on a very bright day. This one is the HDR result of 2 images merged in Adobe Photoshop and then edited in Adobe Photoshop with the Patch Tool to remove some unwanted distractions.
The next photo was taken from the rear of the building and you can clearly see the supports that have been installed to protect the building from collapsing. This photo is also a 2 image HDR merge in Adobe Photoshop.
I hope you enjoyed viewing these photos and hopefully you gave some thought to the former slaves and their children who lived in them. Please come back to visit www.Cestlavie4me.wordpress.com in the future for more photos on my journey to become a better photographer.
As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, my journey into photography has necessitated me learning the art and skills of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. I’m starting to feel very comfortable in using Lightroom as my digital darkroom. There are still frustrating times when making some type of adjustment I don’t notice a significant change. This most often happens when I am using the sharpening tool. Another area that frequently causes me some consternation is the Split Toning panel. I have a hard time finding a photo that benefits from this feature. There are a few other minor points that bother me but overall, as I mentioned previously I am getting much more comfortable with Lightroom.
Photoshop is a much more difficult learning exercise. I have purchased a book and looked at numerous videos just to get a basic understanding of how some of the tools work for photography. Most of the photos I have edited with Photoshop have just been attempts to learn how the software works. I can tell that this is going to be a long-term educational saga for me.
Fortunately for me, I recently had an opportunity to use both programs for editing photos to display at my local photography club’s monthly competition. The theme for that competition was abstract photography which by its nature allows for a great deal of freedom in defining what is an abstract photograph. Since this blog post is about my journey to become a better photographer and not a blog for technical instruction; I will just post the photographs that I used, without a lot of detail outlining the editing process that was incorporated into producing them.
The first photograph that I edited was a snippet of mosaic tile from the St. Louis Cathedral in St. Louis, Missouri. The artwork throughout this Cathedral is made up almost entirely of mosaic panels that are stunning. While I was at the Cathedral I took quite a few pictures including a close-up of a small portion of a scene. That photo was edited only using Lightroom. Next, I sent the photo over to Photoshop where several extensive edits were made using layers and filters along with the bloat tool to create the composite image that you see below the original photograph. Much to my surprise, this composite earned a ribbon at the club competition.
Next photo was taken in the woods behind my home. I deliberately moved the camera as I released the shutter to create a blurred photo of the trees. Again, this photo was only edited in Lightroom. A composite of this photograph was then made using Photoshop. I had previously taken a photo of some plywood with my smart phone. This was used as a texture overlay for the original photo in Photoshop. Both photos can be seen below.
The next photos are that of a chicken egg. To create an abstract photo, a small flashlight was placed directly behind the egg to illuminate the inside of it. This created a very interesting lighting effect because the egg was much more translucent I had expected. The flashlight also created a band of white light beneath the egg that added to the effect. I prefer the black and white version of this photograph for that reason. I was surprised a second time when the black and white photo received a ribbon at the club competition. It was a lot of fun creating this photograph and using the flashlight in different positions. Some of the other photos also turned out quite nice, especially when converted to black and white, but I decided to only use these two in this blog post.
I will continue my attempts to learn photography, Lightroom and Photoshop and hopefully the next photos I post in this blog will show significant improvement in my skill. Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com for future posts.
Usually my blog posts are about photography and related topics. This blog post will also feature photography but just as importantly it will introduce you to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. This past Saturday my wife and I had the opportunity to attend the charter members only opening of the museum. This was an extremely exciting event for the two of us. My wife, in particular, has been looking forward to this and has been planning to be one of the first people to visit the museum once it opened.
This museum has been long overdue and it was a privilege to finally walk through the doors. This museum is part of the Smithsonian family of museums. It is the 19th one in the system and the newest. The site is a stunning building designed by David Adjaga, Philip Freelon and J. Max Bond. It is located on a 5-acre site on the national Mall here in Washington DC. The authorization to build a museum was done by an Act of Congress in 2003. The groundbreaking itself took place in February 2012 and the grand opening for the public is scheduled for September 24, 2016. The museum itself contains over 36,000 objects of historical importance that documents the African-American experience from pre-colonial times to the present.
The best way to describe the museum is that it is an exploration through time. Your journey begins on the third level below ground with an introduction to Africa in the 1400s. You continue your journey through the beginning of the slave trade between Africans and Europeans and then move on to slavery in the United States. As you continue going up the different levels you experience not only slavery in the antebellum South but its relationship to the rest of America and America’s history. Your journey takes you through the Civil War, reconstruction, the era of Jim Crow segregation, the civil rights movement right on up to present-day America. The upper levels continue the story of African-Americans with a view towards culture, sports, music, the arts, community and even family research. For more details on this fabulous museum click on the link below.
Now I would like to share a few photographs that I was able to take at the museum. The photographic conditions were not great due not only to lighting, but the restriction on bringing in tripods and flash. I decided to try out a fast wide angle lens for the photos. The best option was to rent a lens, so that’s what I did. As long as it was a rental I decided to rent the best. I shot these photos with a Canon EF 15-35mm f2.8 L series. This is not a lens I can afford to buy! At times I was shooting wide open and as high an ISO as 3200. There was some noise but Lightroom cleaned it up pretty well. Needless to say the crowds of people, in many instances, prevented me from being in an ideal position to take a photograph. That having been said, I hope you enjoy the pictures below.
It seems that I have a penchant for photographing city scenes such as cityscapes, street scenes and architecture. Recently, I had an opportunity to attend the Prince William County Fair here in Virginia. The premier event at the fair that evening was the demolition derby. This struck me as a great opportunity to photograph some new subject material.
First of all, to those of you who are unfamiliar with a demolition derby, let me explain it. This is basically a very unusual automobile race. The race cars themselves have had everything that could fall off, taken off. This includes the interior seats, windows, mirrors, headlights, etc. These cars are wrecks that are used to crash into one another! There is no racetrack, just an open area with concrete barricades around the perimeter. The surface is dirt that has been watered down to make traction very difficult. From watching the drivers, it seemed their primary tactic was to back into another car at as high speed as possible in order to render the rammed car inoperable. The winner of the event was the driver of the last car that was still in operation.
From my photography standpoint, it was interesting trying to catch some action shots that would clearly portray this unusual car race. One of the first issues was related to where I was standing. I needed to use a telephoto lens. I also had to shoot between spectators, since I did not have a pass to get inside the perimeter. The lighting became more difficult as the races went later into the evening. The combination of the car’s motion and low light made taking a proper exposure difficult. Needless to say, all these photos were done with the tripod.
I must have taken approximately 100 photos that evening. After uploading the photos to Adobe Lightroom and reviewing them, I came to the conclusion that most of the photos were not really very interesting. Many of them were technically acceptable, but they had no real visual appeal. I’m sure that this is something that many of you reading this blog have also experienced after a day of photography. So I culled through these photographs and came up with several that I’m sharing with you in this blogpost. My personal favorite is the one of the driver sitting on his car waiting for his group to race. The casual and unpretentious nature of this race is evident by his pose.
The other photos of the demolition derby are an attempt to capture some interesting action. In one of them you can see flames coming out of the engine compartment. Shortly after this, the race was stopped so firemen could douse the flames. I do have a photo of that and it is not very interesting since it only shows the firemen’s back and his hose with no flames bellowing from the car.
Since this was a county fair, there was a carnival in progress. I took several photographs of the Ferris Wheel in the distance and I’m sharing the nicest one in this post. This particular photo gave me an opportunity to use Adobe Photoshop. I managed to lighten the shadows of the trees and this brought out significant detail. There were also several distracting objects in the background that I was able to remove with the healing tool. A few adjustments to the white and black points and the result was a decent photograph. This photo certainly won’t win any awards but it did give me an opportunity for late evening photography and a chance to start using Adobe Photoshop for editing. My first impressions of Photoshop are it is very powerful but also very complicated. I will be spending a lot of time in the immediate future attempting to learn this tool.
I hope reading this blogpost encouraged some of you to go out and photograph something that you’re not used to doing. It is only by tackling unfamiliar projects that we as photographers can learn new skills and techniques and improve our overall ability to capture a good photograph. I know I certainly enjoyed this opportunity at the county fair.
In prior blogs I have talked about my attempt to learn Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop Elements. Continuing to develop my technical skill with these great products has been a challenge but there has been progress. Unfortunately, I have a long way to go. Maybe some of you have experienced similar issues in your journey through these photo editing programs.
First let’s talk about Lightroom. This is the digital darkroom for your images. I have invested a great deal of time viewing training videos on YouTube.com. It is amazing how much free training is available to you and how good the training actually is. My frustrations; however, is that beyond describing what the controls do and how that particular photographer uses them to make fantastic photos, there is not a lot of depth in explaining what setting to use! The frequent response is “depends on what you like”. I guess in the world of art this is something I will have to get used to it, but from my more precise business background I tend to like absolutes and answers that are clear-cut. Another area of confusion for me is “sharpness”. I have tried many different levels of sharpening of photographs and sometimes it’s hard to see any real improvement. It seems that I degrade the photos more than improve them. So lately I have started not to bother with sharpening at all and just use the preset level of 25 that Lightroom provides.
I must admit that when I look at some of my photos from a year ago and compare them to newly edited photos, I like what I’m seeing. Two of the tools that I’m beginning to have a greater appreciation for are the Tone Curve and the HSL sliders. These tools have helped improve quite a few photos that otherwise were a little dull and lacking. I suspect many of you have had similar awakenings with using these tools. One of the newer features of Lightroom 6 is the ability to create panoramas. I recently visited New York City on a rather chilly, hazy winter day. I went across the Hudson River to Liberty Island State Park and took a series of photos of Manhattan Island and then used this new feature to create the panorama that you see below.
Photoshop Elements version 14 is Adobe’s latest enhancement to their popular hobbyist version of Photoshop. A trial version is available and I took advantage of that because I wasn’t sure there were enough new features to make a purchase worthwhile. One of the new additions is Dehaze. This feature turned out to be quite helpful in several photos that I recently edited. It is not perfect, but it did make an improvement in photos by removing what appears to be haze and leaving a much clearer photograph.
Continuing with the theme of struggling has been my utilizing some of the tools in Photoshop Elements such as the Selection and Clone Stamp tools. I looked at many videos and then tried to duplicate what I just learned and in some instances it was difficult to get the same results. As it turned out the problems I was experiencing had nothing to do with my learning ability or the software itself. One of the issues is I have developed an irritating twitch in my right hand. Since I am right-handed this creates problems in editing photos. Research for solutions led me to larger input devices such as trackballs and a larger mouse. I should also mention that I have been using a Wacom pen & tablet along with a mouse. I seem to have compensated for the twitch by purchasing a beanbag type wrist support along with a better surface for my mouse. I also changed the sensitivity of both the mouse and the pen. These steps have helped significantly; however, there is still a problem with the tablet; it sometimes acts rather erratically. I could not find out why until I did some Internet searching and found out a lot of other people are having the same problem and it seems to be related to Microsoft Windows 10! So until Microsoft communicates fixes to these pen & tablet developers I suspect many people including myself will continue to experience problems with their pens and tablets when using this operating system. How many of you are having similar problems?
Okay, back to photo editing. I have been enjoying the use of Photoshop Elements 14. I want to share some of my photos with you. One is a photo taken on the U.S. National Mall in Washington, DC of the Korean War Memorial. I edited this photo with both Lightroom and Nic Silver Efex software. This created a somewhat dated look in the photo but it was still missing something. While I was out on a windy day I noticed an American flag blowing in the wind and I decided to use a photograph of that flag in the picture. Through the magic of layers, selections and patience I managed to create the photo below.
While on that recent trip to New York a visit to Wall Street provided another great photo opportunity. The famous statue of the Wall Street bull is around the corner from the New York Stock Exchange. In the last several weeks I have watch my stock portfolio drop so I decided to create a rather silly photograph of the bull market crash. I hope you enjoy looking at this composite as much as I had making it. The market will come back one day and my portfolio will improve or I may have to try to sell these photographs to buy food! It probably means I’ll starve to death.
Well that’s enough ranting for this blog post. Hopefully you found something interesting in it or found it to be a good way to waste a few minutes of your valuable time. I hope it was the former! Now stop wasting time with this blog and go out and take some photographs.
Earlier this year I purchased a copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom by Scott Kelby. This proved to be an easy read and I learned a great deal about using Lightroom. That is, until I tried to figure out the Print Module. I just seemed to be one of the people who didn’t get it. I had problems getting different sized prints to come out correctly and I could not figure out how I was making mistakes when Scott Kelby’s book told me I could easily get it! Since I was not printing anything other than 4×6 inch prints and that was working out ok when I just exported a file, I decided to stop reading the book. In hindsight, this was another of my poor decisions in photography along with bad compositions, soft images and blown out highlights! I suspect some of you reading this blog have had similar or maybe worse experiences.
In the last couple of weeks I decided to make a definite commitment to learning how to use the print module in Adobe Lightroom version 6. I made a monumental decision to start where I usually start which is to begin looking at Adobe TV and the training material on Adobe’s website to learn more about the products. This was helpful but unfortunately it did not give me the detailed background I really wanted. I decided to try a different approach and began looking through YouTube.com to find some free training videos. I discovered a gold mine of great resources! One of the ones that I enjoyed watching featured professional photographer Robert Rodriguez Jr. and it was sponsored by B&H Photo. You can click on the link below to watch the video.
B&H Photo with Robert Rodriquez, Jr. and Master the Lightroom 5 Print Module
Another great resource was my local photo club. At the last meeting I brought up the fact that I was having difficulty with the print module and asked one of the club experts for some help. Denise was kind enough to spend the majority of the meeting explaining to me not only how to make the Lightroom Print Module work, but also gave me more detailed insight into the whole area of digital printing. In the way of a brief commercial, let me say that if you have not yet joined a local photo club, what are you waiting for? I have learned a great deal being a member of the club and have even competed in some of the photo contests. I have not won anything yet, but hope springs eternal even for the worst of photographers!
Denise gave me the idea of also using Photoshop for printing. I do not have Photoshop but I do have Photoshop Elements version 13. I have done some small editing with Photoshop Elements but nothing significant. So this gave me another opportunity to expand my knowledge. This time I decided to go right to YouTube.com and seek out some resources. I looked at several different videos and found one series from Anthony Morganti to be very helpful. He has a whole series of training videos on Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Lightroom. You can click on the link below to look at one of his videos.
Anthony Morganti’s Learn Adobe Photoshop Elements – Episode 7: Layers and Layer Masks
I now felt that I was ready for the challenge of creating not only a composite photo using layers from Photoshop Elements but also printing the results using my newfound skills and acumen! Now I just needed a photo to edit that would be interesting and challenging. I looked no further than my last post of A Horse of Another Color. I decided to use a picture of a brick wall that I had taken recently just for this type of project. Adobe Lightroom’s Print Module also allowed me to create a gray mat and include a graphic with my initials as a watermark on the photo! This blog is not meant to be how to do it blog, so I won’t bore you with the details. It is sufficient to say that I had fun creating the composite photo in this post and also printing it successfully. When I showed the picture to my wife she said she didn’t like it because it was not natural or real! Critics are everywhere! I guess that is the great thing about photography at the hobby level, you just have to please yourself! What are your thoughts?
Fun with Photoshop Elements or just horsing around!
It has been a while since I have posted an update to this blog. It’s not that I haven’t been taking any pictures it’s more like I’ve been trying to learn how to take better pictures and also to process them in Adobe Lightroom Version 5. I have also been taking some pictures but nothing that I thought was interesting and certainly not worth posting for you to view. I do have some photos that I think are somewhat interesting and I have decided to publish them in this post. The pictures are all of a single subject, a rusting, old abandoned farm tractor.
But before talking about the photos, I’d like to talk about my photographic journey. As I mentioned, I’ve been trying to learn how to take better pictures and also how to process them using Adobe Lightroom. In the last several weeks I’ve spent a lot of time viewing videos on YouTube. I have found a large number of videos that do a great job of discussing various technical aspects of photography. I have found these videos to be a great help and they are all free to view. That makes the price excellent!
I also decided to take a class on taking pictures at night. The class was conducted by a professional photographer over 3 sessions. On the first evening, after a short lecture that included viewing some great examples of night photography we took our cameras and tripods out into the surrounding neighborhood and starting taking photographs. I learned a great deal and much to my surprise I found that you could take pictures at night at ISO 200 and f/8 along with a few different shutter speeds and the pictures came out great. The second night we met at a nearby park and attempted to take some photographs of the stars, moon and silhouetted buildings. As it turned out, a light fog floated in that evening that somewhat obscured the sky photos but it created some interesting photos of nearby buildings and also the automobile traffic that lit the fog. The last night of the class we went to a retail development that featured reflecting pools, water fountains, a movie theater and a few restaurants, and other establishments, all of which had beautiful colored lights glowing. Some of these pictures came out very nice and a few with colored water fountains came out quite clear and colorful. I posted some of these pictures in October. Needless to say this class was a lot of fun and hopefully I learned enough to become a better nighttime photographer. Time will tell.
I have been working with Adobe Lightroom for a couple of months and more or less training myself on its various features. I have learned a great deal but decided there was a lot more that I could learn so I met with a professional photographer for a one-on-one training session on using Lightroom. Denise was a wonderful instructor who shared a great deal of information with me. She even spent additional time talking to me about various ways to fully utilize Lightroom and also how I might want to begin using Adobe Photoshop. I think I learned some additional tips and techniques from Denise that I have incorporated in the photos included in this post.
This past summer I was at a park that had an old farmhouse, barn and some farm equipment still in place. I thought it might be interesting to take some photographs; however, I forgot to come back until just a few weeks ago. You can tell by all the fall leaves on the ground that it is not summer. I decided to try and take these photographs from several different perspectives around the tractor. I also wanted to try to fill as much of the frame as I possibly could with the tractor while at the same time allowing for enough of the farm to show through to be recognized. I did some minor editing with Lightroom; however, my sense of style is to use a light touch and not overcook these pictures. Hopefully, I was successful in creating some images that are interesting and worth your time to view. Until the next time, let’s all keep on shooting and improving our photographic skills.
Philadelphia is an amazing city, it has history, sports, food, culture and great street art. On a recent trip I took the opportunity to walk the streets of the central city and enjoyed the sights and Philly Cheese Steak Hoagies! I also saw some great street art and took some photos and I am sharing seven of the best with you in this post. The day started bright and sunny and then the thunderstorms rolled in and I got soaked. This did change the lighting for some photos and I think a few benefited from the soft lighting right after the rain.
Several of these images were in rather tight spaces, so I had to use the wide angle lens a few times. I am getting used to using Adobe Lightroom 5 and it is improving my photos. There are several photos that exhibited keystoning and Lightroom made great adjustments to eliminate this effect in those photos. I was also able to use the Graduated Adjustment Tool in a few pictures to decrease some brightness in the sky. There is a temptation to overuse Lightroom, so I am trying to limit the adjustments to basically the minimum needed to improve the photo. The tool that is still giving me trouble is the cloning or healing tool when I try to remove something distracting in the photo. One picture in particular did not turn out as well as I wanted, so I guess more practice is needed.
Overall, I am pleased with these photos and it looks like my photographic and post-processing skills are improving. I hope you enjoy these photos and I am looking forward to my next post and hopefully, those pictures will be even better. I am planning on posting pictures from my trip to Blackwater Falls in West Virginia. Nature photography is a departure for me, so lets see how I do on that.