One of the neat aspects of my job is that I get to travel around the world meeting lots of interesting people. Earlier this week I was down in Tampa, Florida doing a two-day private workshop with a gentleman named Ray. His goals were to learn a number of specific Photoshop techniques that he could use for his digital photography. Ray is 80 years old and has been shooting photos for the bulk of his life. During my time with him, he showed me images he created in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s that blew my socks off. His creativity, his ability to pose subjects and create mood really impressed me.
Ray’s working career ran the gamut from owning a family business, to owning a flight charter service in Puerto Rico, to flying Boeing 727s as a commercial airline pilot for over 20 years. He’s ridden his Harley Davidson around North America multiple times, has traveled the world, builds his own computers, started a commercial testing laboratory, and the list goes on and on and on. The man is a living, breathing, walking fireball of constant energy.
More than all of his accomplishments though, I was most impressed with his tenacity towards learning. He never stops learning or pushing himself. Using his Nikon D800, Ray photographs his grandchildren’s basketball games, his neighbor’s birthday parties, his community center and anything else that strikes his fancy.
Ray stuck with me each day as we went through incredible detail in Photoshop. When we finished our first day of Photoshop work, I told Ray that it was time to quit, but he looked at me and said, “I’d keep working with you until midnight if you’d like.” On our second day, Ray actually said that we had to stop, but only because he was going on a date in a few hours to see Gershwin’s play, Porgy and Bess.
Ray never stops and I draw immense inspiration from his example. My hope for you is that you’ll never stop learning either.
Always take your camera with you. Always.
Such has been my mantra for years now and I’m happy I had one with me yesterday for a 30-minute ferry boat ride between Port Townsend, WA and Whidbey Island, WA. My wife, kids and I had just finished up a couple days visiting friends and family on Whidbey and were returning home in the late afternoon. The sky was a bit hazy, but the light was perfect for beautiful shots of maritime traffic in the Puget Sound.
The Whidbey Island ferry (the Kennewick) crosses the main channel of water leading to the shipping ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia. Each day, you’ll see traffic ranging from cruise ships to container ships to tugs to everything else in between. Our ferry boat captain was on an intersection course with the cargo ship Mariner (above), so he slowed down and crossed behind to let the Mariner pass by. I was standing on the fourth deck of the ferry, which helped produce a great photo of the cargo ship from a higher perspective. I processed the image in Photoshop, then brought it into Nik Color Efex Pro 4 to bring out the micro details in the clouds. Finally, I converted the image to black and white in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.
For this image of the Port Townsend Paper Corporation paper mill (below), I photographed it with a Nikon D800, 70-200mm f2.8, and a Nikon 1.4x TC. Behind the paper mill, you’ll see the lower snow-capped peaks of the Olympic Mountain Range. I was drawn to the texture of the steam and the detail in the clouds. The image looked much better in black and white, so I processed the shot using the same method as the Mariner cargo ship (above).
For the final image below, I wanted to convey a simple NW scene involving a fishing vessel and a sail boat. Behind the two is the subtle outline of Whidbey Island, giving a sense of scale and perspective to the photograph. For this image, I used a Nikon D800, 70-200mm f2.8, and a 1.4x TC. Again, processing was the same as before.
Keep shooting my friends.
More Nikon D800 fun. Just to see how far I could take a Nikon D800 image, I processed this black and white from a single dramatically underexposed shot. The processed photo is above and the unprocessed, underexposed shot below.
Nikon D800, 14-24mm f2.8. Processed in Adobe Camera Raw, then Nik Color Efex Pro 4 using Detail Extractor. Then, converted to Black and White in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.
Location: Purdy Bridge, Purdy, Washington, USA.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been involved with three different conversations with photographers about when to crop a photo in post processing. One person suggested cropping at the beginning of the process, one suggested cropping at the end and the other just wasn’t sure.
I tend to crop differently depending on what software I’m using. The cropping process in Lightroom is different than in Photoshop because of the way they handle your image files. Let me explain:
When using Lightroom or Aperture, I can crop at any point in the process without really worrying about the workflow. The reason why is that all of the edits in LR/Aperture are applied globally and the crop doesn’t affect these settings. If you crop the image at the beginning of the process and then continue editing the image with saturation, contrast and noise reduction, then LR/Aperture allow you to change the crop later on while still applying all your settings to the entire photo.
In other words, crop instructions in LR and Aperture are only a virtual crops. They don’t really remove pixels or image data from the file. For this reason, I often crop at the beginning of the process in LR/Aperture because I know it can be easily changed or reversed.
The workflow in Photoshop is different though. When you crop an image in Photoshop, you are actually eliminating pixels from the picture. Let’s say that you decide to initially crop your photo in a square format, then convert it to black and white. Then, you do some more work on the photo such as cloning out dust or adding contrast. Finally, at the end of the editing process, you decide that you also want to create a 5×7 image with the same settings as the square crop. With Photoshop, you can’t easily to this because you cropped at the beginning. You’ll have to undo all your editing steps, crop it as a 5×7, then re-do all the editing steps. Therefore, in Photoshop, I recommend cropping at the end of the process. That way, all of your edits are in place and you can crop for output as your final step.
Take the image below as a workflow example. Notice the blown-out area of the sky in the upper right corner? I know that this isn’t going to reproduce well when printed, so I’ll need to crop it out. The question isn’t if, but when I should crop. In the Lightroom/Aperture workflow, it doesn’t matter when I crop. I can crop at the beginning or at the end of the process since all the edits I make are just instructions.
On the other hand, if I was working on the image in Photoshop, I tend to wait to the end of the process to crop. That way, my edits are applied to all the pixels, and my final step can be to crop the image for my desired output. This gives me the most flexibility with my files, since I might want to make one image as a panorama and another as a 4″x4″ square with the same settings.
Nik Software has just announced Color Efex Pro 4 and it is a fantastic upgrade to an already excellent program. The software works as a plug-in for Photoshop, Lightroom, and Aperture while also working as a standalone program for JPGs and TIFFs. I’ve been testing the software for the last month or so and have truly enjoyed using it in my digital darkroom.
The list of upgrades in this new version is significant. here are a few of my favorites:
- Ability to add more than one filter at a time. This allows you to stay in the plug in to make all your changes rather than having to save the change, go back to Photoshop and then open Color Efex Pro again to perform the next change.
- Nik included a border tool that is the same as Silver Efex Pro 2. Now, you can create excellent borders without having to use a separate plugin.
- History browser that allows you to compare previous edits and different looks.
- Visual presets that allow you to quickly explore creative options very quickly.
- New filters such as Detail Extractor, Dark Contrast and Vintage Film.
- GPU processing and multi-core optimization to speed up image rendering.
- Recipes that allow you to save your own combination of filters or download other photographer’s recipes.
You’ll be able to buy Nik Color Efex Pro 4 very soon at this link:
Nik just announced the new version of Color Efex Pro 4.0. It is a wonderful upgrade to their current software and allows using multiple filters at one time.
Here’s the link: http://www.niksoftware.com/colorefexpro/usa/index.php?
Creating a compelling photo with every-day subjects can be extremely difficult. Take for example, the venerable tulip. It has been photographed in every conceivable way you can imagine. I’ve seen photos of tulips splashing in water, upside down, against black backgrounds, against the blue sky, and repeating in patterns of giant fields as far as the eye can see. How do you create something visually compelling that has been photographed literally millions of times? The answer isn’t always in taking the photo, but rather in what you do after you take the photo.
I took these two images (above and below) yesterday while practicing my “Program Mode” photography from May’s GOAL Assignment. I knew that the images weren’t going to be anything special in the camera, but I had an idea about making the flowers appear metallic. Perhaps with just the right amount of post-processing I could create something fascinating.
Capturing the Image
As you know, the great end result always depends on a great initial photo. Therefore, make sure that your photo is well exposed and in sharp focus. In this case, I used a Nikon D7000 and an ISO of 400. Since I’m spending this month shooting in Program Mode, I set my camera to “P” and began different compositions. As I took the shots, I verified that my shutter speed was high enough so I wouldn’t get any blurriness from camera shake. Oh, I also turned on Vibration Reduction just to make sure my images were sharp.
Here are the two original images as captured in the camera.
Turning Tulips to Metal
The next step was to bring the photos into post processing software. I regularly use Lightroom, Photoshop and Nikon Capture NX2 about equally in my workflow and they all do a great job. I knew that I wanted to use the solarization filter in Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 to create the metallic effect. I also knew that I wanted to darken down the green leaves in the background. For me, the fastest and easiest way to perform these two actions was in Nikon Capture NX2 since it works with Nik’s Color Efex Pro 3.0 plug-in and it has the amazing Color Control Point technology.
Here’s my step-by-step process in Capture NX2:
1. Choose multiple Color Control Points and place them on the green leaves and background (shown below). Reduce the brightness, or”B,” slider which changes the brightness of the selected areas.
2. Click the New Step button to add a new Adjustment Step. From the pull-down menu, choose Color Efex Pro 3.0: Stylizing –> Solarization. See example below.
3. Now, you’ll need to adjust both the Saturation slider and the Elapsed Time slider (below) until you’re happy with the result. There isn’t a magic formula here so keep playing until you like what you see.
4. Done! That’s it. Now, save the photo or print it out and you have your metallic tulips! If you don’t have Nikon Capture NX2, that’s ok. You can do these exact same things in Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture. In fact, Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 is a plug-in that works in all four of these host programs.
Never forget that the process you apply after you take the photo is just as important as the process of taking the photo. I think it is important for us to “see with post processing eyes” so we can always be thinking about where to take our images and how to create something new.
I love Nik Software products and Nik Silver Efex Pro has always been one of my favorite ways to create black and white images. Now, Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.0 has been released with a bunch of new tools such as color point technology, new algorithms and new visual presets. Their new software allows you to add regional adjustments as well as local adjustements. One of the neatest elements of the software is the border module that allows you to create very professional looking vignettes and burned edges.
The new software works as a plugin for Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture. It can also be operated in stand-alone mode using TIFFs and JPGs.
I love it.
Last week’s trip to Denali NP presented some high contrast lighting to deal with. One of the “downsides” of having good weather in a place like Denali is that your camera isn’t able to capture all the detail from the shadows while also capturing detail from the clouds and sky.
To overcome this issue with the camera, I took a series of exposures at different brightnesses and then ran them through software called Photomatix Pro. After compressing the tones, I brought them into Photoshop for a little more burning/dodging.