Last evening, I went out on the deck hoping to get some fresh air. As soon as I stepped outside, a beautiful sunset was lighting up the sky. Quickly, I retrieved my camera and took a few photos. The light was changing very quickly and this was my best capture.
Continuing the theme of finding photo opportunities during the current shelter-in-place caused by COVID19, below is a photo I recently captured. There is a county park directly behind our neighborhood. Yesterday was a very bright and sunny day, so I decided to walk in the woods of the park. I hoped to find something to photograph and decided to take advantage of the harsh mid-day sun and the shadows it cast. The stump in the upper middle of the photo caught my eye along with the shadows from the nearby trees. I have titled this photo Broken Heart.
Hopefully, I will find something else to photograph this week as we continue our shelter-in-place isolation. Try to find something interesting in your immediate surroundings to photograph. Use your creativity and please stay healthy!
Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com to see what I photograph and share next time.
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.
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.
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!
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.
At the conclusion of my last blog post, I mentioned that I would be taking a trip to West Virginia to view the fall foliage. My wife and I decided to travel on the Highland Scenic Highway in West Virginia. This is an approximately 91-mile highway that goes through the Monongahela National Forest. This was planned to be a simple daytrip so we packed a picnic lunch and planned stops to take photographs along the way and return home around 8 PM.
My wife and I lived in Colorado for approximately 20 years and had the opportunity to see the fall foliage change in the great Rocky Mountains. The colors there were bright and spectacular due to the leaves of the Aspen Trees that dominate the mountains. The foliage in West Virginia is very different primarily because there is a greater variety of trees in this area. This led to a tremendous variation in the color and vibrancy of the fall foliage in West Virginia. Our trip took place probably a few days in advance of the peaking of the fall foliage, but nonetheless we saw some very picturesque scenes. Overall, the colors were much more muted than what we were used to in Colorado.
Shortly after entering West Virginia I decided to turn off the main road to see if there were any interesting sites to photograph. Very quickly I came upon the scene of a silo in a field along with a small shed and I decided to stop and capture that shot. I had to walk through the farm field to get in position to take this picture and fortunately the field was dry that day otherwise I would’ve been a muddy mess.
Many of you who have been to Washington, D.C. have seen the Potomac River. It separates the District of Columbia from Virginia and Virginia from Maryland. During the summer months you see many boats, sailboards and kayaks on the river. As we were driving thru West Virginia we saw the North Fork of the Potomac River. It is significantly narrower and much shallower than the Potomac River in D.C.
As we approached the Monongahela Forest, I stopped at the Ranger station to get some suggestions on good locations to photograph. The Ranger was very helpful; however, he did tell me that there was a small forest fire in one of the areas that he would usually recommend, as it happened that area was called Smoke Hole Canyon! Unfortunately, we would not be able to view the area but he did give me some other suggestions. As we continued our drive I happened to notice a road named Smoke Hole Road and decided to turn and go up that road to see what was there. The first photograph is from a small bridge on this road overlooking a pond with some beautiful reflections of the mountains above.
We continued to drive up the road and noticed the smoke that was very slightly obscuring the view of the mountains in the distance along with the distinct smell of wood burning. But we could tell the fire was nowhere near us at that point. We came upon a small clearing and pulled the car over, parked and enjoyed a great picnic lunch! This is the photograph that I took directly in front of where we stopped to have our lunch.
By now it was around 1 o’clock in the afternoon so we decided to go back the way we came and photograph some of the sights that we saw as we were driving up the mountain. Here are a few of those photographs.
We left the forest and returned to the main highway and proceeded to drive home. I noticed a scenic overlook sign and pulled over into the parking lot. We looked around and thought it was not much of a scenic overlook until I noticed a trail leading up the hill behind us. My wife decided to stay in the car and wait. I grabbed my gear and hiked up the hill. After a short climb a very nice view did come into focus. Cutting right through the scene below me was the highway that we had just left. I slightly raised the angle of my camera to crop out the highway and this is the photo that I captured.
I hope you enjoyed traveling with us on our short drive through West Virginia to enjoy the fall foliage. Please come back to visit http://www.cestlavie4me.com to view some photographs from my recent visit to the U.S. Library of Congress here in Washington DC. It is not only the largest library in the world but the Jefferson building is a beautiful architectural delight! I think you’ll enjoy the photos. Au revoir!
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.