What a great time to be a photographer. I am astounded at the range of products we have available to us to help create beautiful images. Software tools like Photoshop CS5, Lightroom 3, and Nikon Capture NX2 allow us to work faster and more efficiently with our images. Camera manufacturers like Nikon, Canon and Sony are pushing the envelope with new technologies that we never thought were possible just a few years ago.
I am thoroughly enjoying learning all these new software tools and camera systems because I know that doing so will help make me a better, more efficient photographer. I have recently purchased a few new software products in the way of Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3. I�ve been using both over the last month and have really grown fond of the new features in each program. In this month�s newsletter, I have listed some of my favorite features in Lightroom 3 and I also review a great book on Photoshop CS5. I hope they serve as good resources for you.
My month of July is going to be packed with photography all around the USA. I�ll be taking photo trips to the east coast as well as the west coast. Along the way, I have numerous events planned with friends and family. I�ll be in Virginia, Maryland, New York, DC as well as my own Washington State. I�ll be racking up the miles and taking thousands of images along the way of people, landscapes, weddings, monuments, camping and just about everything else you can imagine. I can�t wait to get going!
For those of you looking for an excuse to get outdoors and take some of your own travel photos, I have a couple of great workshop options for you during September. September is approaching faster than you can imagine and that kicks off my autumn schedule of workshops, beginning with the ANPAT for Nikonians Academy. We�ll be touring the Olympic National Park as a large group of 32 photographers in four large vans. Each van will have its own itinerary over the seven day photo tour. Expect to photograph snowcapped mountains, rugged Pacific coastlines, wildlife, whales, rain forest and some of the best of what the NW has to offer. There are only three seats remaining for single accommodation and a few seats remaining for double accommodation. Here�s a link: ANPAT
Immediately after returning from the ANPAT, I�ll be running my 4-day Art of Travel Photography workshop in the North Cascades of Washington State. This workshop is a great way to learn better travel photography in one of the USA�s most beautiful regions. All types of photographers are welcome, from advanced amateurs to professionals to rank beginners. Feel free to bring your Pentax, Canon, Nikon or Leica to this workshop. Here�s a link for more information: www.outthereimages.com/travel_workshop.html
June GOAL Assignment: Light Throughout the Day
I really enjoyed last month�s GOAL Assignment because it forced me to take photos in a way that I�ve never done before. If you recall, June�s GOAL (Get Out And Learn) Assignment was to take photos of the same location at different times throughout the day. At a minimum, I wanted you to shoot at sunrise, noon and sunset. For the overachievers in the group, I wanted you to shoot at twilight, dusk, sunrise, morning, noon, afternoon, sunset, dusk and twilight.
On a practical level, I found that going back to the exact same spot a bunch of times throughout the day took a lot of effort and dedication. I suppose that rather than driving back and forth to my photo location, I could have set up a camera to shoot automatically throughout the day. However, that wouldn�t have been as much fun!
The main reason for this GOAL Assignment was to help you understand how dramatically light changes throughout the course of the day. Being there on site at different times really helps you sense and feel how the light shifts in color and intensity. You also get a better understanding of any atmospheric phenomenon and how these impact the light on the landscape.
The location I chose for my GOAL Assignment was an old farm house that was built quite some time ago in the early 1900�s. The house shares an open pasture with three beautiful horses and is only about one mile from my home in Gig Harbor, Washington, USA. I took photos of the old house from the same vantage point in the early morning hours and throughout the rest of the day until well after sunset. Since the house was so close by, I decided to drive back and forth for my photos rather than stay on site from 4:30am to 10:00pm.
Let�s go through the photos taken at different times of day and discuss the characteristics of light during each of those times.
In the early twilight, about an hour before the sun rises, very little light actually falls on the landscape. Rather, the main light you see is the deep bold blue of the morning sky. Since hardly any light is hitting the landscape, you are confronted with massive contrast between earth and sky. As the first photo in the sequence shows, the sky is �bright� blue and the landscape is pitch-black. It is near impossible to get a photo with detail in all the areas of your scene with a single click of the shutter.
One of the ways to get a usable photo at this time of day is to create an HDR image as shown in the next image to the left. For this image, I took three photos at different exposures and then merged them together in Photoshop CS5 using the new Merge to HDR Pro function. I created a subtle HDR effect for this image so that the house was still fairly dark, but showed enough detail to let you see what is in the scene.
The next phase of light occurs a few minutes prior to sunrise. During this timeframe, the landscape starts to brighten up as it is hit with a cool blue light. All the trees, grass and buildings are affected by this light and can sometimes appear washed-out and drab because of the blue cast. I generally don�t like to photograph in this light because of the sickly color.
As every landscape photographer knows, the light we are really after occurs immediately after sunrise. At this time when the sunrays strike the earth, the light is warm and very soft. Light passes through the atmosphere at a low angle and gives your scene a gentle ambience. At this time of day, the atmosphere is frequently filled with water vapor, which can further soften the light. The morning sunrise is my favorite time of day to shoot. The wind is calm, light is warm and everything is quiet. Dew glistens on the plants, and everything just seems more vibrant.
One thing to watch out for during the sunrise time period is the contrast difference between the landscape and the clouds in the sky. The clouds are receiving very bright, direct sunlight since they are much higher in the sky. Therefore, they can be two to four stops brighter than light landing on the earth. In the example photo to the left, you can see the clouds are very close to blowing out.
As the morning progresses, the light begins to cool down again and becomes much harsher. In fact, the time between about 10am to 2pm is often considered to be the �worst� light of the day by landscape, travel and portrait photographers. We label the light bad because of the very high contrast between the areas of your photo that are in the shadows and the areas that are illuminated by the sun. Shadow regions are often found under the eaves of buildings, under the branches of a tree or under the eyes of a person.
This light is so �bad� that many photographers have a hard and fast rule that they won�t shoot any outdoor photographs between 10am � 2pm. My opinion is that this �rule� should be broken frequently and often. Look at the example photo taken at high noon. Yes, there is high contrast between the shadows and the house/sky, but the photo still looks great. I don�t have any problems with it at all. The point is to understand that high contrast exists, and then work with it to create your image.
One final item to note about the light between 10am � 2pm is that it is neutral in color. In other words, we as humans perceive the light to have no color cast. That means that this light is great for when you want to capture colors in your scene accurately.
Later in the day, as the sun sets, the color of light becomes very warm again. You can really see the color shift in the sunset image I have shown. The light on the white house makes it look almost yellow/amber in color. The grass and the trees also take on an incredibly warm color cast. Truly, this is golden light and that is why this time of day is called the golden hour. I like the light at sunset almost as much as I like the light at sunrise. I really enjoy the warmth and the dynamic pop it gives the landscape.
One caution about the light at sunset is that in populated areas with a lot of smog, the atmosphere can really diffuse the intensity of the sunset. I�ve found frequently in places like New York and Los Angeles that the colors at sunset rarely �pop� during the warmer summer months because of all the haze.
After the sun has set, light on the landscape returns to the baby-blue color cast, just like in the morning, right before sunrise. Also, the overall contrast is low between the landscape and the sky but is building up to the point of extreme contrast. This period of time lasts only about 15 minutes near the equator, but can last up to an hour at higher/lower latitudes. You�ll need to adjust your white balance to something like Cloudy or Shady if you don�t want the colors to appear too cool.
As we head into late evening, the light replicates exactly what happened in the morning twilight. The sky turns deep blue and the landscape receives very little light, so we have the big contrast issues as well. Basically, the landscape goes into silhouette and the sky turns deep blue.
So, as you have seen in the photos to the left, light changes its nature dramatically throughout the day. It shifts from cool to warm to neutral to warm and back to cool. There isn�t a right or wrong time of day to take photos in natural light. Rather, you as the photographer need to fully understand how the light is going to impact your scene at a specific time of day.
For example, let�s say that you were going to do a portrait session outdoors. You now know that the light at sunset will produce very warm colors and soft light. If you photograph at noon, you should expect to see high contrast, but neutral colors. At dusk, you would expect to have very cool/blue light. Each of these lighting conditions can be used to your benefit depending on the mood of the photo that you want to create. Use the light to your benefit. Work with it to create your photographic vision.
Here is a summary of light as it changes throughout the day:
– Pre-dawn: Deep blue sky. Dark landscape.
– Twilight: Baby blue sky and soft light on landscape.
– Sunrise and morning: Warm colors on the landscape. Soft light.
– 10am � 2pm: Harsher light. Neutral color.
– Evening and sunset: Warm colors. Softer light again.
– Twilight: Baby blue sky and soft light on landscape.
– Post-evening: Deep blue sky. Dark landscape.
Whether you are a landscape photographer, portraitist or macro photographer, ambient light plays a massive role in your photography. Learn to �see� the light and you will learn to become a master photographer.
July GOAL Assignment: 50 Photos Within 10 Feet
I was talking with another professional photographer last week and he mentioned to me that he has a great way to teach people how to �see.� He asks them to take 50 photographs in a radius of 10 feet. He then tells them to make every photo completely different. What a great idea!
I liked it so much that I decided to make it our GOAL (Get Out And Learn) assignment for the month of July. I�ll do the same thing and then post my results in the August newsletter. Now, get out there and take some pics!
Digital Tidbits: Lightroom 3 Great Features
As many of you know, Adobe has just released Lightroom 3. It is a much more refined program than the previous versions of Lightroom and is a great tool for all types of photographers. Whether you are just starting or if you are a seasoned professional, Lightroom 3 is an excellent tool for your digital workflow.
At its core, Lightroom 3 is a software tool that allows you to organize, catalog, develop and output your image files. It is literally a �one-stop shop� for photographers who want to limit the number of software products they own and use. Many photographers consider it to be the hub of their entire operation.
Since Lightroom does so many things so well, I often suggest that new photographers should consider just buying Lightroom as their primary image editing tool. Then, as they grow in their photography skills, they�ll want to add other software to their kit such as Nikon Capture NX2, Photoshop CS5, Photo Mechanic, etc.
Rather than do a formal review of the program, I thought I�d take a few minutes to talk about my favorite features in Lightroom 3. Here they are, in no particular order:
Feature 1 – Watermarks
The new, easier watermarking utility is built directly into the program and doesn�t require any extra plug-ins or exporting. Now, we have the ability to add a watermark directly onto our images. Most commonly, photographers place our copyright information as a watermark on the image so viewers will know who took the photo.
In addition to a text watermark, Lightroom 3 allows you to use a graphic or logo that you�ve created in another program like Photoshop. Many working photographers have a logo for their business, so giving them an option to overlay a graphic is incredibly useful tool for branding. (By the way, a quick tip for you is to use PNG files as your watermark logo, since PNGs support transparency).
Feature 2 – Simpler and better noise reduction
I love using noise reduction in Lightroom 3 because it is simple and effective. In fact, the Develop pane of the program has two easy-to-use sliders for noise reduction: Luminance and Color. Luminance noise is visually identifiable as the �grain� in an image. This grain tends to look like old-school black and white film that had a grainy texture. Usually, luminance noise isn�t necessarily bad for your photo. Color noise, on the other hand, shows up as brown/orange blotchy areas in the shadow regions of your photo. This type of noise is considered �bad� and should almost always be removed from your image.
To remove the noise, you simply move the Luminance and Color sliders until you are happy with the shot. Then, you can instantly bring back detail (sharpness) by moving the Detail sliders. I love it!
Feature 3 – New Slideshow Capabilities
Previous versions of Lightroom had slideshow capabilities, but the new available options really improve its functionality. One of the most useful changes is the Fit to Music button. This incredibly useful tool automatically sets the duration of your slides so they end at the same time your music ends. You all know how embarrassing it is when your slideshow of tropical fish ends half-way through the We All Live in a Yellow Submarine sound track.
The second significant feature in the Slideshow module is the ability to export your show as a video. In fact, you can send it out at resolutions from 320×640 all the way to 1080p. This is useful for photographers who want to give their clients a slideshow that they can export to their iPhone, MP3 player or iPad. Way to go Adobe.
Feature 4 – Custom Picture Packages in the Print Module
Lightroom 3 has a simple and easy method for printing out custom picture packages. For example, if you need to make a few 4x6s, 5x7s and an 8×10, then you simply go into the Print Module and choose Custom Package from the upper right corner of the screen. Now you can add any size photos to your �paper� in any combination you choose.
You can add pages, and each page can have a completely different layout from the previous. Finally, you can output the layouts as a JPG image for printing at your local laboratory, or someone else�s ink jet printer. The new Custom Package feature is a great new boon for photographers who need to print files for clients.
Feature 5 – Tethered Shooting
Lightroom 3 now enables you to tether your camera directly to your computer with a USB cable. Tethered shooting allows you to bypass your camera�s memory card and send the images directly to the computer.
Tethering is most often used in the studio so you can show your clients the photographs immediately after taking them. I�ve personally used tethered shooting for projects where I needed to take a bunch of photographs of products and then quickly turn them around for a client.
Tethered shooting with Lightroom 3 is as simple as plugging in your camera to the computer with a USB cable and then choosing File –> Tethered Capture –> Start Tethered Capture �
Immediately, the tethered capture window will pop up, allowing you to enter any presets or metadata for your photographs. Once you click OK, the tethered capture control bar will show up. This allows you to take photos from the computer screen and then download them immediately into your computer.
Feature 6 – Support for Video Files
Lightroom 3 now allows me to catalog video files inside the program�s library. This is a great new feature since I have an ever-expanding quantity of video clips. Lightroom allows me to preview the clips, keyword them and organize them.
Feature 7 – Lens Perspective Correction
The last neat new feature that I want to cover in Lightroom 3 is the Lens Correction pane in the Develop Module. Lightroom allows you to now correct lens distortion for the specific lenses you use in your photography. The program comes with a number of built-in presets for existing cameras and lenses. For the example I show here, you can see that I am using the lens profile for the Nikon 14-24mm f2.8. It works like a charm to immediately fix any lens distortion, vignetting or color aberrations.
So, there you have it. A bunch of really neat new tools in Lightroom 3 that I think make the program a winner. I�m currently using it in my workflow and highly recommend the program. Any current owners of Lightroom 2 can upgrade to Lightroom 3 for only $99. You can download the new version at http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshoplightroom/
Book Review: Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Photographers by Martin Evening
When Photoshop CS was first released in 2003, I wanted a book to help me get the most out of the new program. A friend of mine recommended Martin Evening�s Photoshop CS for Photographers, so I bought it and was immensely satisfied with my purchase. His book was one of the best I�d ever read on Photoshop.
Now, seven years later with the release of Photoshop CS5, I�m still using Photoshop just about every day in my photography. I�ve learned a lot about Photoshop since I started out with Photoshop 5.5; I�ve worked as a technical editor on Photoshop books and have run Photoshop workshops for years. However, like you, I�m still trying to learn more about the program, so I decided to buy Martin�s book again for CS5. A few weeks ago, I went down to my local Barnes and Noble book and purchased Martin Evening�s brand new Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Photographers.
True to his form as one of the best authors on Photoshop, Martin continues to impress me with his grasp of the program as well as his uncanny ability to explain its complexities in plain English. Photoshop is not an �easy� program to wrap your head around and Martin does a great job of simplifying difficult concepts.
One of the great things about Martin Evening is that he is a working photographer and uses Photoshop in his work every day. He understands it inside and out while also understanding how it impacts the final image. He�s uniquely positioned to describe the most important aspects of the program since he�s a great artist and firmly understands the techie side of things.
His book covers layers, masking, retouching, filters, color management, output for the web, configuring the preferences, camera RAW and much, much more. Honestly, it is one the most thorough books I�ve read on the subject of Photoshop. For example, his chapter on Camera RAW processing could almost be its own book, since it alone weighs in at 125 pages! This chapter is thorough and detailed. It goes through everything you need to know about processing RAW files in Photoshop CS5.
One of the things I appreciate about Martin�s style is how he shows before/after images on almost every page. For example, on page 327 where he is showing how levels adjustments work, he includes two examples of levels, complete with photo examples of the resulting images. All the illustrations are clear and make perfect sense. Along these same lines, he�s taken care to have written the book so that both Mac and PC users will have an easy time with all the commands and functions.
Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Photographers is published by Focal Press and is 746 pages with full color illustrations throughout. It also includes a companion DVD with image files and video tutorials. The book retails for $54.95 and is worth every penny. You can find more information on the book here: www.photoshopforphotographers.com
Art of Travel Photography Mazama
As mentioned in the introduction, our Art of Travel Photography workshop is scheduled for September 23-26. Join our intrepid group of explorers as we photograph the towering Early Winters Spires near the North Cascades National Park. Each day will bring new photographic inspiration as we explore alpine lakes, old country western towns and waterfalls. These trips provide small class size and lots of time for field instruction in the art of travel photography. Sign up today by following this link:
www.outthereimages.com/travel_workshop.html Here are the remaining Nikonians Academy Workshops and travel adventures I�ll be running this year.
ANPAT in Olympic NP 9/11 � 9/18
New York 10/14 � 10/17
Washington DC 10/21 � 10/24
Tanzania Wildlife Safari 11/4 � 11/16 (SOLD OUT)
I continue to run quite a few private workshops for people who want to learn in a one-on-one environment. These are great for folks who want to focus on specific topics related directly to their interests. Topics have included product photography, learning your camera, Lightroom, Capture NX2, wedding photography, Photoshop, color management, nature photography, digital workflow, macro photography, location portraiture and many others. I also regularly consult with businesses, schools, organizations and museums to assist with their photographic and digital workflow needs.
Call (253) 851-9054 or email ([email protected]) if you have questions about private tutoring or consulting.
Thanks for reading this month’s newsletter. If you need more encouragement during the month, be sure to check out www.outthereimages.com/blog for regular updates, tips and commentary.
Out There Images, Inc. – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335
email [email protected]