Tag: Photography

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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!

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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?

untitled shoot-5493-Edit-Edit-Edit

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!

untitled shoot-5489-Edit-Edit

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.

Blog Posts

Its Snow Wonderful!

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.

snow play-20

  Lonely House

snow play-25

   Frozen Food

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.

Blog Posts

A Composite Attempt

Thanks for coming back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com to see where my photographic journey has brought me. The last few days have been damp, rainy and cold and I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. I decided to do a little photography experiment. My wife had a floral bouquet that she was about to throw out and I decided to use that as a photographic subject before the trash can received the flowers!

After taking a few photos, I thought it would help if I added some fresh flowers to the base. I took a few more photos and then decided that maybe it was time to try using a flash to see what type of effect that would create. The result was that all the flowers were equally illuminated, and this was not the effect I was interested in achieving. After trying a few more shots and not getting what I was looking for I decided the best way to approach this would be to use Photoshop to make some edits.

In Photoshop I made selections of the base and tabletop of both a photo with and without flash. And using a mask on both photos I edited out some of the oppositely illuminated flowers. And then merge the resulting two photos and the result was a photo with the dead flowers being somewhat dark in the fresh flowers being somewhat bright. This was close to the photo I was trying to achieve. My next step was to change the background of the photo to eliminate my kitchen wall! I found a photo that I’ve taken of some plywood and so I use that as the background by first lightning the photo by using a blend mode and then adding a very light orange adjustment layer; the net result is background that looks something like wallpaper.

Since the right side of the photo look like that was the direction of light I decided to try and use a drop shadow to create a shadow. This attempt did not turn out as well as I would like but it is a first attempt and this blog is about documenting my attempts at learning photography and using post-processing software. Here’s a somewhat finished photograph. I say somewhat because I save the file as layers and hopefully in the future as I gain more skill I can go back and re-edit this photo in a manner that is more artistic.

Fluers mortes-Edit

Please come back to visit www.dansepourdeux.com to see if I’ve made any progress in becoming a better photographer!

 

Blog Posts

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.

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

Post-Processing Explored

My first camera was a small Kodak Instamatic. I’m sure most of the readers of this blog have no idea what that is or for that matter even care! To tell you the truth, it was so long ago I had forgotten what it looked like myself. So, a quick visit to Wikipedia restored my lost memory! Kodak Instamatic

But, just as way of clarification, it was a small plastic film camera. You just snapped the picture; therefore, we called the resulting photos snapshots. When you had finished your roll of film, typically about 12 pictures as I remember, you would send the roll to your local lab or drugstore to be developed and have prints made. It was a lot of fun opening the envelope and looking at your photos for the first time. There was no such thing as an LED screen on the back of your camera back in those ancient times! Sometimes the surprises were not too pleasant. It was not unusual to have several severely underexposed photos. Also, if you hadn’t advanced the film properly, you might have partial images on your prints. We don’t have time to talk about how you had to insert or remove the film in the camera in this blog!

 Today most of us are taking a photographs by using a digital device. Either a DSLR or a mobile phone. In any case we can quickly see the photos and with the available software manipulate the image almost instantly. In the last couple of years, I have rekindled my interest in photography and as the readers of this blog know I have been trying to document my progress as an amateur photographer in this blog. Today I want to share some of my photos with you; but I also want to share what the photos looked like before any adjustments were made with Adobe Lightroom and or NIK software.

 Recently, I was in Pittsburgh for a very short visit and had the opportunity to photograph several scenes around the city. One of the first areas that appeared in my viewfinder was the Strip District. This is an older part of the city near downtown the filled with shops, restaurants, grocery stores and even furniture stores. It has become a busy area for both locals and tourists. The photo below is a street scene from the Strip District. This photo was taken in the early afternoon and the sky was extremely bright. The photo right out of the camera was rather dark as you can see from the screenshot below.

 Unadjusted Street Scene

After processing this photo in Adobe Lightroom I was able to recover a lot of the detail in the shadows and darker areas and the resulting photo is pretty decent. Below is the screenshot from Lightroom when I had finished processing the photo.

 Adjusted Street Scene

Here’s a better view of that photo.

Adjustments made in Lightroom

 

The next shot was a view of the city skyline from the 16th Street bridge near the Strip District. Again, the sky was very bright, so the resulting photo was dark as you can see from the screenshot below.

 Unadjusted Cityscape

Again, after working through Photoshop I managed to recover a lot of detail and I’m very satisfied with the resulting photo. Below is the screenshot showing some of the Lightroom adjustments that were made.

 Adjusted Cityscape

Here’s a better view of that photo.

 Adjustments made in Lightroom (2)

As we were walking around the downtown area we passed an alley and I thought it would make an interesting photo. When I uploaded this photo to my computer I decided it would be a much better picture if I processed it is a monochrome image. Below is the screenshot of the image before I started to process it.

 Before any adjustments

After I had worked the photo in Lightroom I decided to move it to NIK’s Silver eFex software. Below is a screenshot showing the photo after adjustments in both Lightroom and NIK.

 After adjustments in Lightroom and NIK

Here is a better view of this photo. I think the resulting image is very moody and somewhat mysterious. This is probably my favorite photo of the ones I took on the trip to Pittsburg.

 Adjustments made in Lightroom and NIK

As I have mentioned before in previous posts this blog is not about how to instruct you in doing anything because I’m just learning myself. What I do want to do is continue to share my progress as an amateur photographer. To this point I feel that I am making reasonable progress with my new hobby. I can also see that I have a long way to go in the areas of correctly using the exposure triangle, composition and post-processing, but progress is being made. Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com  in the future.

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!