The COVID19 Pandemic is keeping most of us from going out to continue our photography hobby. This means we need to find some other activities or get creative with photography outside of our tried and true routines. As I was watching a television show, and there are very few worth watching, a clip was run showing how deserted New York and other major cities looked. It was a very surreal scene, but it did give me an idea.
I proceeded to open my Adobe Lightroom catalog to find some cityscape photos I had done in the past along with some photos with trees and a few with clouds. These photos were then composited with Adobe Photoshop to create my version of a Fading City. Hopefully, our urban areas will come back to their former vibrancy but there is guarantee of that! We may all get used to an unexpected difference in urban life after COVID19.
Hopefully, you are finding some creative outlets for practicing your photographic hobby. Please come back to visit www.cestlavie4me.com to see what shelter-in-place photography project I attempt next time. Stay healthy and keep shooting!
In prior blogs I have talked about my attempt to learn Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop Elements. Continuing to develop my technical skill with these great products has been a challenge but there has been progress. Unfortunately, I have a long way to go. Maybe some of you have experienced similar issues in your journey through these photo editing programs.
First let’s talk about Lightroom. This is the digital darkroom for your images. I have invested a great deal of time viewing training videos on YouTube.com. It is amazing how much free training is available to you and how good the training actually is. My frustrations; however, is that beyond describing what the controls do and how that particular photographer uses them to make fantastic photos, there is not a lot of depth in explaining what setting to use! The frequent response is “depends on what you like”. I guess in the world of art this is something I will have to get used to it, but from my more precise business background I tend to like absolutes and answers that are clear-cut. Another area of confusion for me is “sharpness”. I have tried many different levels of sharpening of photographs and sometimes it’s hard to see any real improvement. It seems that I degrade the photos more than improve them. So lately I have started not to bother with sharpening at all and just use the preset level of 25 that Lightroom provides.
I must admit that when I look at some of my photos from a year ago and compare them to newly edited photos, I like what I’m seeing. Two of the tools that I’m beginning to have a greater appreciation for are the Tone Curve and the HSL sliders. These tools have helped improve quite a few photos that otherwise were a little dull and lacking. I suspect many of you have had similar awakenings with using these tools. One of the newer features of Lightroom 6 is the ability to create panoramas. I recently visited New York City on a rather chilly, hazy winter day. I went across the Hudson River to Liberty Island State Park and took a series of photos of Manhattan Island and then used this new feature to create the panorama that you see below.
Photoshop Elements version 14 is Adobe’s latest enhancement to their popular hobbyist version of Photoshop. A trial version is available and I took advantage of that because I wasn’t sure there were enough new features to make a purchase worthwhile. One of the new additions is Dehaze. This feature turned out to be quite helpful in several photos that I recently edited. It is not perfect, but it did make an improvement in photos by removing what appears to be haze and leaving a much clearer photograph.
Continuing with the theme of struggling has been my utilizing some of the tools in Photoshop Elements such as the Selection and Clone Stamp tools. I looked at many videos and then tried to duplicate what I just learned and in some instances it was difficult to get the same results. As it turned out the problems I was experiencing had nothing to do with my learning ability or the software itself. One of the issues is I have developed an irritating twitch in my right hand. Since I am right-handed this creates problems in editing photos. Research for solutions led me to larger input devices such as trackballs and a larger mouse. I should also mention that I have been using a Wacom pen & tablet along with a mouse. I seem to have compensated for the twitch by purchasing a beanbag type wrist support along with a better surface for my mouse. I also changed the sensitivity of both the mouse and the pen. These steps have helped significantly; however, there is still a problem with the tablet; it sometimes acts rather erratically. I could not find out why until I did some Internet searching and found out a lot of other people are having the same problem and it seems to be related to Microsoft Windows 10! So until Microsoft communicates fixes to these pen & tablet developers I suspect many people including myself will continue to experience problems with their pens and tablets when using this operating system. How many of you are having similar problems?
Okay, back to photo editing. I have been enjoying the use of Photoshop Elements 14. I want to share some of my photos with you. One is a photo taken on the U.S. National Mall in Washington, DC of the Korean War Memorial. I edited this photo with both Lightroom and Nic Silver Efex software. This created a somewhat dated look in the photo but it was still missing something. While I was out on a windy day I noticed an American flag blowing in the wind and I decided to use a photograph of that flag in the picture. Through the magic of layers, selections and patience I managed to create the photo below.
While on that recent trip to New York a visit to Wall Street provided another great photo opportunity. The famous statue of the Wall Street bull is around the corner from the New York Stock Exchange. In the last several weeks I have watch my stock portfolio drop so I decided to create a rather silly photograph of the bull market crash. I hope you enjoy looking at this composite as much as I had making it. The market will come back one day and my portfolio will improve or I may have to try to sell these photographs to buy food! It probably means I’ll starve to death.
Well that’s enough ranting for this blog post. Hopefully you found something interesting in it or found it to be a good way to waste a few minutes of your valuable time. I hope it was the former! Now stop wasting time with this blog and go out and take some photographs.
What to photograph is a question I ask myself quite often. Usually, I think about what themes I would like to photograph such as landscapes, nature, etc. or maybe this is the day that I really focus on street photography. In the last year or so I have been trying to determine what type of photographer I am. Not whether I am a good photographer or poor photographer, but what style of photography should I be pursuing. I’m sure many of you have asked yourself the same questions. And I’m equally sure that some of you have made a clear determination of what photographic path is most interesting to you. I’m just as sure that some of you are still trying to figure out what photographic journey are you actually on and why.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a presentation at our photo club where we heard professional photographer John Barclay ( http://johnbarclayphotography.com/ ) talk about “Discovery and the Creative Choice” or fear, uncertainty and doubt in photography. His discussion centered around his own concerns about photography and how he had come to some very specific conclusions. Most importantly, is the idea that you should photograph what you enjoy, what you like to look at or what interests you. Being concerned about any particular theme or philosophy of photography is not all that important! Neither are some of the well-worn rules of photography, however, it is important to understand the rules at the beginning, so that you have a solid set of fundamental skills that will help you take great pictures.
As I thought about the idea of just photographing things I enjoy or things that catch my eye, it was a freeing idea. It occurred to me that I had been taking pictures like this anyway. I was not focused, no pun intended, on any particular theme I just took pictures of things that caught my attention for whatever reason. As a consequence, in the last week I’ve had the opportunity to take some photographs that perhaps no one else would be interested in but I enjoyed taking them and looking at them. Interestingly, while I was preparing this blog post I read a similar one on 500px by Viktoria Haack entitled “Why you should Not specialize in one type of photography” https://iso.500px.com/why-you-should-not-specialize-in-one-type-of-photography/ . This has further convinced me to not be fixated on what type of photography to pursue but to photograph what I like!
As an example, I recently had the opportunity to travel to New York City. There are not too many locations that offer more photographic opportunities than the business capital of America. When I arrived in New York it was raining and the forecast was not encouraging for any letup. As it turned out about 10 PM the rain subsided and merely became a slight drizzle. I got up and left my hotel with my camera and tripod and started walking. Because of the rain, the streets of Manhattan were unusually quiet, and somewhat deserted. As I was walking I happened upon a store being remodeled at the corner of 5th Avenue and 49th Street. As I looked in the store windows I saw some rather eerie window displays. These caught my attention and so I decided to take some photos. The challenge was to avoid the reflections in the glass from the lights nearby and passing cars. Fortunately, because of the rain there was not much traffic and due to the magic of Adobe Lightroom I was able to remove the few reflections that did appear.
These photos also gave me the opportunity to work a little more on my post-processing skills. I tried to maintain the dark, eerie mood; yet brighten up some of the faces, along with the glasses and other items that appeared in each scene. These pictures are eerie, as a matter of fact they’re downright weird; however, I enjoyed taking them and I enjoy looking at them. I hope you will also enjoy them. I’d like to know what you think, not only about the photos, but your own experiences in determining “what type of photographer are you?”
Earlier this year I purchased a copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom by Scott Kelby. This proved to be an easy read and I learned a great deal about using Lightroom. That is, until I tried to figure out the Print Module. I just seemed to be one of the people who didn’t get it. I had problems getting different sized prints to come out correctly and I could not figure out how I was making mistakes when Scott Kelby’s book told me I could easily get it! Since I was not printing anything other than 4×6 inch prints and that was working out ok when I just exported a file, I decided to stop reading the book. In hindsight, this was another of my poor decisions in photography along with bad compositions, soft images and blown out highlights! I suspect some of you reading this blog have had similar or maybe worse experiences.
In the last couple of weeks I decided to make a definite commitment to learning how to use the print module in Adobe Lightroom version 6. I made a monumental decision to start where I usually start which is to begin looking at Adobe TV and the training material on Adobe’s website to learn more about the products. This was helpful but unfortunately it did not give me the detailed background I really wanted. I decided to try a different approach and began looking through YouTube.com to find some free training videos. I discovered a gold mine of great resources! One of the ones that I enjoyed watching featured professional photographer Robert Rodriguez Jr. and it was sponsored by B&H Photo. You can click on the link below to watch the video.
B&H Photo with Robert Rodriquez, Jr. and Master the Lightroom 5 Print Module
Another great resource was my local photo club. At the last meeting I brought up the fact that I was having difficulty with the print module and asked one of the club experts for some help. Denise was kind enough to spend the majority of the meeting explaining to me not only how to make the Lightroom Print Module work, but also gave me more detailed insight into the whole area of digital printing. In the way of a brief commercial, let me say that if you have not yet joined a local photo club, what are you waiting for? I have learned a great deal being a member of the club and have even competed in some of the photo contests. I have not won anything yet, but hope springs eternal even for the worst of photographers!
Denise gave me the idea of also using Photoshop for printing. I do not have Photoshop but I do have Photoshop Elements version 13. I have done some small editing with Photoshop Elements but nothing significant. So this gave me another opportunity to expand my knowledge. This time I decided to go right to YouTube.com and seek out some resources. I looked at several different videos and found one series from Anthony Morganti to be very helpful. He has a whole series of training videos on Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Lightroom. You can click on the link below to look at one of his videos.
Anthony Morganti’s Learn Adobe Photoshop Elements – Episode 7: Layers and Layer Masks
I now felt that I was ready for the challenge of creating not only a composite photo using layers from Photoshop Elements but also printing the results using my newfound skills and acumen! Now I just needed a photo to edit that would be interesting and challenging. I looked no further than my last post of A Horse of Another Color. I decided to use a picture of a brick wall that I had taken recently just for this type of project. Adobe Lightroom’s Print Module also allowed me to create a gray mat and include a graphic with my initials as a watermark on the photo! This blog is not meant to be how to do it blog, so I won’t bore you with the details. It is sufficient to say that I had fun creating the composite photo in this post and also printing it successfully. When I showed the picture to my wife she said she didn’t like it because it was not natural or real! Critics are everywhere! I guess that is the great thing about photography at the hobby level, you just have to please yourself! What are your thoughts?
Fun with Photoshop Elements or just horsing around!
When I started this blog I was using a Canon Rebel T3i. This camera has been performing well for me and meeting all of my needs. Since I purchased the camera with the kit lens I have upgraded the lenses to the EF series. My primary lens is the Canon EF 24 – 70mm L-series lens. This is an incredible lens designed for a full frame camera body. For the last several months I have been debating whether or not I should upgrade the camera body to the new Canon 70d Mark VII, older full frame 6D or wait for the replacement to the 6D.
The thought of moving to a full frame camera body has been very intriguing to me. It seems that most of my photographs are of people or objects that are stationary. I’m not a nature or a sports photographer, so the features of the 70D were not my priority. I tend to enjoy urban scenes and anything that strikes me as interesting. As it happens, I was at my local camera store talking to the owner and he asked me if I would consider buying a slightly used Canon 5D Mark III that had only 17,000 shutter operations. I told him that was slightly above my price range and skill level. He asked me about both and then he made me an offer I could not refuse. I’m now the proud owner of the Canon 5D Mark III!
Fortunately, the Canon operating environment for both cameras is fairly similar. In the last several weeks that I have owned my 5D, I have been able to make the transition from the Rebel fairly easily. There are many, many features that I cannot take advantage of as of today, but I hope to incorporate the new features as I continue to employ this camera in my photographic journey. The quality of the images from my Canon 5D Mark III are certainly a horse of a different color from those taken with my Rebel T3i!
Recently, my wife and I were driving through the countryside on the way to a farm market to buy some fresh produce. As I turned into the parking lot I noticed a multicolored, whimsical statue of a horse in the field a few yards away. Fortunately, I had my camera in the car, so I decided to take advantage of an unexpected photographic opportunity. The image of this horse is probably only the 20th or 30th picture that I had taken with the 5D at that time. The picture style was set to neutral and I have done some minor editing with Adobe Lightroom version 6. The colors are bright and the image is sharp. I now understand why more the more advanced photographers in my photo club have advised me to always keep some extra money set aside for camera and accessories purchases!