Backyard photography can help us as we deal with Covid19 forced social distancing and the need to keep our minds occupied with something other than binge watching some streaming service. Many of you may not have a backyard or any yard at all, but you probably do have a window. Take your camera in hand and gaze into the yard or out of your apartment window and photograph something! If possible, go for a walk in your neighborhood for a little exercise and bring your camera along or just use your smartphone camera. Use your creativity and perhaps you may get lucky and photograph something interesting.
Being stuck at home can provide the opportunity to try photography techniques that are new to you, such as macro photography, using off camera flash, pet photography (if you have a handy animal), perhaps child photography is an option. Those of you living in urban areas might try some nighttime photography. The goal is to try something new and perhaps improve your photography skills. If nothing else remember “When you have lemons, make lemonade”!
Another opportunity that is available to you is that you can use these photos to improve your post-processing skills with Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop or other software programs. You can experiment with different techniques and tools.
I took my own advice a few days ago when my wife called me to see the two woodpeckers in the backyard. I am no wildlife photographer; I don’t even have a lens capable of photographing wildlife from a distance. The woodpeckers did get my attention as they furiously pecked away at a dead tree trunk on the ground, so I grabbed my camera. After firing off over 50 photos, my subjects decided to fly away. The photo below is the best one from this photo shoot.
Now, the next challenge will be finding more backyard or indoor photography opportunities to keep me occupied. Please come back and visit www.cestlavie4me.com to see if I have found anything interesting. Now get off the couch and grab your camera and shoot!
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.
Color Image processed with Adobe Lightroom
Black and White version processed with DxO Silver Efex Pro 2 Preset #043 More Silver
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!
Black and White version processed with DxO Silver Efex Pro 2 Preset #023 Wet Rocks
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
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.
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.
The next photo is a color version done in Adobe Lightroom and with 10 adjustments.
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.
The adjusted color version was exported to Photoshop and in 10 adjustments I obtained the photo shown below.
The last version is the adjusted color version edited in Silver Efex Pro 2 with less than 10 adjustments.
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.
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.
Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com to continue following my photographic journey!
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.
Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com to see where my photography journey takes me next!
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.
Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com to see where I go with my photography in the future.
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.
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.
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.
Ok, that is a well-worn and tired cliché, but I needed a title for this blog post. I live in Northern Virginia and large snow storms are an infrequent occurrence. This past weekend we did have a nice snowfall and it made for a beautiful winter scene in my backyard.
Snow can be difficult to photograph if you only pay attention to the light meter readings in your camera’s viewfinder. I am not a technical expert, but I do know that most built-in light meters are programmed to optimize something called 18% gray. This usually works out well enough except when photographing snow. If you just use the meter to set your camera then you will probably get a photo with gray snow! Usually not a good image! I most often shoot with at least one stop more light than the meter indicates, and the result is white snow. This is also referred to as exposing to the right. You sometimes need to adjust up or down depending on how bright the snow may be.
As I was looking at my backyard it occurred to me that there were a few simple compositions that might yield some attractive photographs. Here are two of my favorites from my backyard. Both photos were post-processed with Adobe Lightroom and I placed vignettes to center the viewers attention on the bird feeders in the frame.
Hopefully these photos highlight the fact that you can usually find photo opportunities almost anywhere if you just take a few moments to look around.
Please come back and visit www.cestlavie4me.com to see where my photographic journey takes me next.
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.
The next photo was taken from a similar location and consists of 6 individual photos.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Blacksmith at Work
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?
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!