Tag: Adobe Lightroom

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Philadelphia Panorama Photos

The title for this blogpost makes use of the letter P three times and that is a lot. It is also appropriate because this blogpost is about taking many photos and creating a panorama. It is also a blogpost that prominently (another P) displays my rather poor skill in shooting panoramas. That is ok because this blog is about my journey to becoming a better photographer and what I learn along the way.

Last week, my wife and I took a day trip to Philadelphia and I brought my camera and tripod along specifically to try a few cityscape panoramas. I had only done one panorama before this attempt; therefore, I thought it was time to explore the technique. I decided to not look at any videos beforehand to prepare myself just to do something different as a challenge. I am guessing that some of you readers also experiment this way but most probably try to learn a new technique prior to putting the camera on a tripod. The later technique certainly makes more sense than my approach, but I like to take risk!

I made quite a few mistakes and these photos show those errors, but I think I did learn a lot in this experiment. Rather than list all of my mistakes, I’ll let you look at the photos and figure out what went wrong for yourself. I read in a photo magazine that analyzing photos done by others is a good practice to help you refine your own skills, so hopefully these photos will help all of you!

The three photos below were all taken from Camden, NJ looking across the Delaware River towards Philadelphia. I used Adobe Lightroom to stitch the photos together into a panorama. The first photo is a monochrome conversion that consists of 7 individual photos.

untitled shoot-5036-Pano

 

The next photo was taken from a similar location and consists of 6 individual photos.

untitled shoot-5042-Pano

 

I tried a different approach on the next photo and used 12 individual photos for it. It should be clear what went wrong with this photo.

untitled shoot-5081-Pano

After going to lunch with my wife at a riverside sports bar we drove across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge into Philadelphia. I wanted to take a photo from the South Street Bridge near the University of Pennsylvania campus. This panorama consists of four photos. This was probably the best photo of the group.

Autumn in Philadelphia

When I returned home it was time to go to my photography school of choice, YouTube.com. There are many great videos here and I found several on creating panoramas. After viewing these videos and then looking at my photos I can certainly see how to do an improved panorama photo shoot on my next opportunity. Hopefully, you managed to dissect these photos, and in the process learned more about taking panoramas.

Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com to check on my progress in becoming a better photographer.

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Blog Posts

Interesting?

Since I started my interest in digital photography in the last 3+ years the number of videos on photography, articles on photography, books on photography and photography podcasts that have passed before my eyes or through my ears has been substantial. Hopefully, all of this has helped me to improve both my photography and post-processing skills. Recently, I found myself gaining more interest in monochrome images. Fortunately, in digital photography all it takes is a simple button click in Adobe Lightroom to convert a color photo to monochrome. Then the magic of Lightroom, DxO Silver eFex, Photoshop or any other software programs can help you further edit your masterpiece.

One of the facets of photography that is also getting my attention is the concept of “Interest” which to me is how to create a photograph that is interesting to view? This is a very subjective exercise because everyone would probably have an opinion on why any given picture is interesting or not to them. How often do you look at a photo and think to yourself, “That is an interesting photo”? I must admit that I have just recently started to do this myself. In the past my comments would have been primarily, “That is a good photo”, or “Wow, that is beautiful” or something like “Good capture”. What are your most common comments when you view a photo? Perhaps you are the technical type and say, “Great Composition” or “This photo is tack sharp throughout” maybe you would say “Good tonality in this photo”. At times it seems that a monochrome photo limits distraction by allowing the eye to just see tonality in the image. There is no wrong answer, I think we all see photos with a different eye (pun intended).

Here are a few examples from my perspective. The first two photos are nice but not particularly interesting to my eye. How about your eye?

Mountain Festival-4890-2

Blacksmith at Work

New York City-002

Which Train?

The next photo is one that I find interesting. You may be asking why I find this one interesting. That is a fair question. I think the photo has an element of mystery, the lighting creates a strong emotion of potential danger yet the bright building and sky in the background points a way out. This photo is interesting to me as a monochrome image but as a color image it is a little boring! What are your thoughts on this photo?

Pittsburg-4777-Edit

Bright Passage

It seems to me that for a photo to be interesting to view it needs to connect with the viewer in some emotional manner. That is what will cause the viewer to spend a few more moments gazing at a photo. It makes the viewer feel some tug at their emotions. In the modern world we have a multitude of distractions all grabbing for our attention. As we look to create an interesting photo, we need to keep in mind that we are competing for the viewer’s attention. As stated earlier in this post everyone has a different eye for what might interest them in a photo. My goal going forward is to try to create interesting photos and that means connecting on some emotional level with the viewer. That should prove to be a great photographic challenge for me.

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

Blog Posts

The Mountain Festival

A few weeks ago, the family decided to take a day trip to West Virginia to attend the 43rd Annual Mountain Heritage Arts & Crafts Festival. I decided to bring my camera and check out any good photo opportunities. The festival itself was a great deal of fun! I managed to eat a lot of food and even bought some canned items to bring home. My wife, daughter and granddaughter bought magnetic bracelets constructed of semi-precious stones that are supposed to block pain. If you are interested check out the website below. I have no connection to this business or any way to know if the magnets work as advertised but the bracelets are attractive!

www.uniquemagneticjewelry.com

 

The festival offered many great photo opportunities and I am posting a few pictures in this post. I decided to focus on a blacksmith theme. I also wanted to be creative in using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom to test my skills. The first photo is an anvil and I tried to bring out the texture in the old metal.

Mountain Festival-4884

The next photo is of the furnace that the blacksmith used to create his metal objects d’ arte. I finished the photo by using the Patch Tool in Photoshop to remove the clutter in the background. It was amazing to see how well it turned out. There are a few errors but with practice my skills should improve.

Mountain Festival-4887  Mountain Festival-4887-Edit

The next photo is of the blacksmith working on a heated metal rod that he was shaping into a plant leaf. I had his full attention because no one else was around, so he answered a lot of my questions. When he finished he gave me the leaf that he had just fashioned. It is now hanging on the bulletin board in my office! Since it was a photo of a blacksmith, I thought it would look better as a monochrome image. This was converted from color to monochrome in Adobe Lightroom. I also used one of the new monochrome profiles, number 6, that was included in a recent update to Lightroom.

Mountain Festival-4890  Mountain Festival BW-4890

This was a fun outing and it even gave me a few good photos to add to my collection. Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com to see more of my photo journey to becoming a better photographer.

Blog Posts

Blue Hour and Sunrise

Last week I wanted to lose some sleep and get up before dawn was even close! I decided that I may as well take my camera for a short trip to Washington, D.C. since I would be awake with nothing to do. The alarm started to buzz at 4:00am and it seemed for a moment that my idea of rising early may have been a bad one. Struggling out of the bed I managed to washup and get dressed by 4:30am. Soon after I was traveling to Washington, D.C. with a few other intrepid early morning folks.

My photographic object was to capture both the U.S. Supreme Court Building and the U.S. Capitol Dome during the blue hour and at sunrise. The sun rose behind and to the left of the Supreme Court building and therefore lit the U.S. Capitol Dome which is directly across the street from the courthouse. I also wanted to capture these buildings from a few different vantage points. The first photo of the U.S. Supreme Court Building was taken at 5:27am during the blue hour. You can see the crescent moon above the building. I could not backup any further because I would have been standing in the street!

Supreme Court-4603

 

After taking this photo, I crossed the street and setup my tripod on the sidewalk facing the U.S. Capitol and took this photo at 5:31am. The blue hour is clearly captured in the sky and the dome was well illuminated by the building lights.

Capitol Dome-4605

Sunrise was at approximately 6:00am, so as I looked back to the Supreme Court the sky was starting to light up in anticipation of sunrise. I setup in front of the courthouse and took a series of photos with differing camera settings. My goal was to bracket as much as possible and use the power of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to process the photos when I returned home. The following three photos were from that series. The first photo is done in a portrait format, the second is a Lightroom HDR image made up of 3 photos. The third photo I tried to process with more purple in the sky.

Supreme Court-4607

Supreme Court-4608-HDR

Supreme Court-4614

 

The two photos below were taken 15 minutes apart, the first a little before sunrise at 5:56am and the second very near sunrise at 6:11am. I captured the security guard in both frames (no pun intended). The first photo was edited in both Lightroom and Photoshop and the second photo was only edited in Lightroom.

Supreme Court-4627-Edit

Supreme Court-4636

By now the sun was rising so I turned back to the Capitol and took the following photos. The first one is a single image. The second photo is a 2-image combination using the prior photo and another taken immediately following that capture. Both photos were then processed in Photoshop. I used the Select and Mask tool to place the bright dome and trees against the darker sky of the other image. I don’t think this one turned out very good, but I enjoyed the experiment!

Capitol Dome-4632

Capitol Dome-4632-Edit

 

So far it had been a good morning for photography, good subjects, great light and quiet streets! I looked around and saw that life was returning to the streets, joggers were heading towards me, traffic was beginning to flow and tourists were out early. It seemed like a good time to pack up and head home for breakfast and coffee!

 This photo shoot provided me with the opportunity to work with different lighting situations and also use both Lightroom and Photoshop on similar photos. I learned a few things that will hopefully help me on my next cityscape photo shoot. By the way, I hope to be in Pittsburg in a few days to photograph some city scenes there.

Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com to join me in my next photo adventure and learn if my photos have improved!

Blog Posts

Family Vacation Photography

I suspect that many of us tend to photograph in a somewhat solitary manner. We go out on a photo shoot usually with just our camera, bag, tripod and our thoughts. If we do go out with someone else, it is usually better if they are also a photographer. Taking time out during a family vacation or group activity to photograph something other than your family members or the group will not make you the most popular person that day.

There are many times during something like a family vacation or group outing where you can plan ahead and carve out some time to take photographs without interfering with everyone else’s activity. I had this opportunity during the past week when my wife and I went on holiday with our grandchildren, daughter and son-in-law. My daughter found a beautiful house that was available for short-term rentals in the Pocono Mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The Mehoopany Creek which is a tributary of the Susquehanna River was just a short walk down the mountain from the house. A small stream flowed from near the house down to the creek and provided some nice photo opportunities. I found an area that had a small waterfall. Early one day before everyone was up I went to the waterfall and took some photographs. In this post I decided to show the before and after version of one of my photographs. I used Adobe Lightroom Classic for the edits. So even when you are on a family vacation or with a group, if you plan ahead you can find some time to enjoy your photographic hobby. Just remember not to abuse the opportunity or you’ll become that person constantly getting the evil eye while you are taking your photos!

Singing Waters Creek

Before Editing in Adobe Lightroom Classic

Singing Waters Creek

After Editing in Adobe Lightroom Classic

Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com to track my progress as a hobbyist photographer.

Blog Posts

Old Smartphone Camera

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. 

Original Portrait

Original Process

 

 

Soft Portrait

Soft Image

Oil Painting Filter

Oil Painting Filter

Monochrome Portrait

Monochrome

Here is the view from directly behind the previous photo.

Original

Original Process

Soft Version

Soft Image

 

Oil Painting Filter Landscape

Oil Painting Filter

Monochrome

Monochrome

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.

Blog Posts

Slave Dwelling Places

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.

https://www.loudoun.gov/index.aspx?NID=3237

 

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.

 Settle-Dean Cabin at sunset

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.

 Settle-Dean Cabin at sunset

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.

http://www.loudounhistory.org/history/loudoun-slave-quarters.htm

 

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.

 Slave Dwelling on Lewis Farm

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.

Slave Dwelling on Lewis Farm 

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.

 

 

Blog Posts

Abstract Photos

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.

Mosaic Original

Mosaic Composite

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.

Springtime

Trees with Overlay

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.

Egg Color

Egg B&W

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.

 

Blog Posts

National Museum of African American History & Culture

 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.

https://nmaahc.si.edu/about/museum

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.

Blog Posts

County Fair

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.

 Calm before RacePolice ChaseLineupThe Devil Flames Out!County Fair Ferris Wheel

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.