After Before Friday Forum Week 27

Well, last week on the ABFriday Forum was great with everyone presenting a Before and After version of the same image.  I think we participants all enjoyed the experience of comparing our diverse interpretations of the same image.  Now we return to our normal practice of each person submitting Before and After versions of our own images. All of the other contributions can be found at Stacy Fischer’s Visual Venturing post starting around 8:00 EST so be sure to check them out. .

ABFriday Week 27 After-Before                                            After Image                 Before Image

As I started to consider what image to submit this week, i was struggling with the fact that the morning temperatures were in the 20s and heading down.  Although this might be a trifle for folks in the northern latitudes, it is really hard on those of us  who live in Virginia.  Then, my memory took me back to a January day when I had the good sense to be in Hawaii and the selection was an easy one. The differences between the two images above may seem small, but a fair amount of work was required to get from B to A.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week27 Before

 Unprocessed RAW Image

A larger size version of the Before image is shown above.  As usual, the first step was to engage the Adobe Camera RAW process (See image of the screen capture below).   All work was done in the basic window (yellow arrow) and the specific changes are identified with the red arrows.  My first goal was to minimize the bright spots in the sky and so the Highlights were reduced to -70.  Second, I wasn’t thrilled with the silhouette effect and did my best to open up the shadows by going to the maximum increase of +100.  The remaining changes were less aggressive: Whites reduced to -8; Clarity increased to +22; and Vibrance increased to +27.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 27 Before Screenshot

Adobe Camera RAW Changes

The result of the adjustments are shown in the image below.  It seemed like there had been some improvement in the sky, and opening up the shadows had brought out some detail in the palm tree and some life in the water in the middle distance.  But two new problems had arisen.  The open shadow maneuver had revealed an unattractive road in the foreground and a portion of some kind of boat on the right side.  Curses!  Had I been foiled again?

Robin Kent ABFriday Week27 Before 02

Result of the Adobe Camera RAW Adjustments

But not to worry, Photoshop was waiting to show its capabilities and the image was transferred there. The next step was to  de-emphasize the road  in the foregroundRobin Kent ABFriday Week27 Before 03

Levels Adjustment for the Foreground

by selecting it (see red arrow pointing down to the selected area) and using a Levels Adjustment layer and moving the slider from 0 to 32 (Other red arrow).

But the problems of the boat and the still too bright segments of the sky remained.  The boat easily defeated the first attempt (Content-Aware Edit Fill) and so the clone tool was pulled out for action.  Removing the boat was easy enough and the sky was corrected by copying small sections of sky on the left side that had a light blue tone .

Robin Kent ABFriday Week27 Before 04

Using the Clone Tool

The final result is shown below.  Although a fair amount of work was done, the differences are small.  But I think they make it a better image.  The foreground remains unobtrusive, the small but annoying boat is gone, the water is a little brighter, there is just a bit of detail in the palm leaves to add some dimensionality, and there are no hot spots in the sky.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 27 After

Final Image

I’d be interested in any comments and please check out the submissions from the other participants at Stacy Fischer’s ABFridayWeek 27.

Keep Photographing…..

Keep Photographing…

I admire photographers who undertake a mission to take at least one image every day for a specified period of time, often an entire year.  I don’t think I could pull that off, but they have a point.  One needs to keep practicing their craft so it’s a good idea to get out  fairly often even if you don’t have a specific subject in mind. So one afternoon last week I went out for a “practice session.”  The following images were all taken within about 90 minutes.

Bartholdi Park 01

US Botanical Garden and US Capitol Building

I just happened to catch a glimpse of this view as I was walking toward the Disabled Veterans Memorial.  I stopped and tried a few variations even though though the plants were in shadow.

Disabled Veterans 01

Late Afternoon, Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial

The late afternoon sun was doing a nice job illuminating the west end of the Rayburn House Office Building and the lack of wind made it possible to capture a nice reflection in the Memorial’s pool.  I’m not thrilled with this angle, however, and another session might be a good idea.

US Capitol Scaffolding 01

Heading back toward the Capitol Building, I was confronted with this composition and set down the tripod, hoping that I could get a picture before I was discovered by the ever vigilant Tripod Police.  There is nothing that motivates one to photograph quickly and efficiently like the knowledge that people with weapons are looking for you.

Grant Statue 02

U.S. Capitol Building and the “Artillery” Sculpture

This image of the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial shows a portion of one of the large sculptures flanking the Grant stature about 100 feet to the left. This has always been a highly dramatic sculpture but now, with the bizarre appearance of the Capitol Building, their pose of wild panic might be viewed with a different interpretation than originally intended by the sculptor.

Grant Statue 01

Evening, Ulysses S. Grant Statue and U.S. Capitol Building

This was the last image of the evening.  I decided not to press my luck any longer with the the Tripod Police. Plus, I had added a number of images to my inventory documenting this stage of the Capitol Dome Restoration Project.

Washington DC — November Scouting Report

Breaking News:  The scaffolding for the US Capitol Dome project is now completely up, but the unique illumination that makes it an interesting subject at night (see image below) may be about to disappear.  A check on the east front of the building showed an enormous white plastic sheet enveloping about 60% of the dome and scaffolding on that side and a small portion of the north side.

Capitol Dome Scaffolding

                                  US Capitol Under Repair  (View of West Front)                                   (Nikon D800E with 20-70mm f/2.8 lens on tripod; exposure 3 sec. @ f/16, ISO 400)

This week, I made two scouting runs into the city to determine the feasibility of an evening shoot in the coming weeks.   Along the way, I checked the status of other sites that may be of interest to local photographers.

The Bad News

Fountains: A number of the major and minor fountains are no longer running, having been shut down for the winter.  These include the Bartholdi Fountain, the Court of Neptune at the Library of Congress, the two small fountains on the plaza of the Supreme Court, the Joseph Darlington Memorial Fountain at the intersection of Indiana Avenue and 5th Street NW, and the Mellon Fountain at the Federal Triangle.  And, of course, the long neglected but potentially impressive Columbus Fountain at Union Station continues to languish along with the two smaller basins on its flanks.

The Tulip Library:  The colorful annuals that were blooming in profusion not many weeks ago are now gone.  But in the spring there will be a new display of tulips providing a great foreground for images of the Washington Monument.

National Gallery, East Wing: There is still one crane remaining alongside the building on the Constitution Avenue side.  Close crop shots from a number of angles are possible, however.

Renwick Gallery:  The renovation, begun earlier this year, is still underway and will probably last through next year. The Gallery is closed and well hidden behind the construction scaffolding.

Old Post Office: Also closed, also lots of scaffolding plus an enormous sign with the new owner’s last name prominently displayed.

The Good News

Fountains:  Some are still running, but time is growing short.  The World War II Memorial seems to be in full operation and likely will be one of the last to shut down.  Others that still have running water include the new Disabled for Life Veterans Memorial (plus the flame was going strong this afternoon), the cascades on the northwest side of the American Indian Museum, the Senate Garage Fountain (although the illumination was turned off a few nights ago), the reflecting pool at the Japanese Internment Memorial (Louisiana Avenue and D Street, NW), and the twin fountains/cascades on the plaza of the US Navy Memorial (Pennsylvania Avenue and 7th Street, NW).

Kennedy Center:  The large temporary tent that had been erected on the south side of the building is now gone.  Those wishing to take photographs from the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge pedestrian sidewalk or from vantage points on that side of the Center will no longer have to contend with this.

Upcoming Events

The 2014 Capitol Christmas Tree is making its way from Minnesota and is scheduled to arrive at 10 AM on November 21st.  The lighting ceremony will be on December 2nd.  Traditionally, the Capitol Police have suspended the requirement for permits to use a tripod on the Capitol grounds for the entire month of December.  Hopefully, that will be repeated this year.  Stay tuned….

Preparations for the National Christmas Tree and Pathway to Peace are well underway now on the ellipse, but much remains to be done.  The lighting ceremony will be on December 6th.

The National Hanukkah Menorah to celebrate the 8-day Jewish holiday will also be on the ellipse.  The lighting ceremony will be at 4 PM on December 16th.

So, get out and get shooting…

After-Before Friday Forum Week 26

After 4 weeks of suspense, the participants of the ABFriday Anniversary Challenge  are simultaneously unveiling their individual interpretations of a single image selected by our readers.  The original image selected by the readers–an excellent choice I might add–is shown below.  You can see the other ten at Stacy’s ABFriday Forum Week 26.


Reader’s Choice: Original Image

Knowing that nearly a dozen other talented post-processors will be working on exactly the same image as you are has an interesting effect on one’s approach to the post-processing.  In my case, the two choices were: 1) Should I use the approach I normally use with my own images and bring out what the eye (probably) saw when taking the picture? or 2) Try something different?  It was a pretty easy choice: It would be Door Number 2!

Actually, as it turns out, I went through both doors because the only way to Door Number 2 was to first pass through Door Number 1.

The changes seen here were all made using various options in Photoshop’s Filter tool kit.  First, I made a number of adjustments in the Basic tab of the Camera Raw Filter as shown in the screen capture below (red arrows).

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 26 Before 02Adjustments in Camera Raw Filter, Basic Tab

These changes brought out the strong colors and enhanced the contrast of the scene. But more was needed to add some drama to the sky and the water in the foreground.  Switching to the Gradient tab of the Camera Raw Filter, I moved the exposure slider to -1.7  (red arrow) and applied two gradients, one for the sky and one for the water (yellow arrows).

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 26 Before 03

Note that the angle of the gradient for the water is parallel to the river’s edge.  I clicked the OK button and the results of the steps so far are shown below. It is a nice image and I suspect pretty close to what Karen was seeing when she took the picture (but she will be the judge of that).

 Robin Kent ABFriday Riverfront Before 04Results of Camera Raw Filter Adjustments

 At this point the image was ready to go through Door 2.  I will admit up front that the process from here was one of enthusiastic experimentation because I intentionally chose an area of Photoshop that I had never visited before and a lot of rejects are lying on the virtual cutting room floor.  To save you from a detailed description of the many dead ends I encountered let’s go straight to the series of steps that produced the final result.

So after a fair amount of time, I clicked Filter >Stylize>Extrude.  The dialog box that appeared is shown in the screen capture below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Riverfront Before 05The “Extrude” Process

 The settings shown (red arrows) are those that I chose, not the default settings.  This is a really cool tool, and different choices on these settings can produce radically different results.  The final result is shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Riverfront After

Final Result

I liked what I saw here because it reminded me just a little of Cubism which set in motion the modern art movement of the early 20th century.  I’ll be interested in what you think.

Don’t forget to see the other interpretations by the other participants.  You can get to them by clicking here.  I can’t wait to see them myself.

Armistice Day 2014

The Great War, described at the time as the “War to End all Wars,” ended at 11:00 AM on November 11, 1918.  The day first became known as Armistice Day and then Veterans Day and is now an occasion to honor those who died or were wounded in all wars.

Disabled Veterans Memorial 01

And so last evening, it seemed fitting to revisit the recently unveiled American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial near Bartholdi Park in Washington, DC.  As I was framing an image across the main pool, I noticed a man and his companion moving into my frame and I waited a few seconds until they were centered and then pressed the shutter.

I felt I needed to know a little more about his story and I went over to see him.  His name is Dennis and we spoke for a few minutes.  In January, 1967 Dennis was a young draftee sent to Vietnam. He arrived at the main replacement center in Long Binh and was assigned to the 2nd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division based in Cu Chi.  His unit was the “Wolfhounds” battalion.  In June, he was wounded in combat and his tour was over.  As we spoke, several strangers came over, shook his hand, and thanked him.

Dennis told me he would be over at “The Wall” today with a bunch of his friends, also wounded veterans, where they will be smoking cigars and “telling Lies.”   As I walked away, thinking about our conversation, I marveled at his quiet strength and positive outlook.

After-Before Friday Anniversary Challenge: The Before

The Voters Have Spoken!

ABFriday Riverfront Before (1000 pixels)

The  Chosen Before Image, photographed by Karen Chengelis

In a very tight contest, the readers of the ABFriday Forum have selected  the above image as the one they would most like to see undergo eleven different interpretations.  You can see the whole story at the ABFriday’s Central HQ by clicking on this link here. 

The creator of this “Before” image is Karen Chengelis.  You can see more of her work here. There were many good candidates contending for the honor and I think Karen’s submission will provide an interesting challenge for all of us. I have already started working on it, and the first question to resolve is whether I should treat it as if it were my own image or if I should use this opportunity to try something totally different.  This is going to be really interesting.

You will be able to see all eleven results next Friday, so be sure to check back on that day.

Full Moon?

Moonrise D-09-02-09-0133

Moonrise, Lincoln Memorial

Every so often, the full moon will rise perfectly aligned with an architectural icon, rewarding photographers who happen to be in the right place at the right time.  Such an opportunity may occur on November 6th here in Washington, DC but only if the weather forecast is wrong.  The prediction calls for an 80% chance of rain, which means that an opportunity for an image like the one above is slim.

The above image was taken on February 9, 2009 and while conditions were not perfect, we still had a chance for a nice image. (Technical data: Nikon D200 on tripod with 18-300 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens extended to 112 mm; exposure: 2.5 sec. @ f/7.1, ISO 200)  On that night, the time of the moonrise was 42 minutes after sunset, which is usually a little later than perfect. Tomorrow night, the moonrise is scheduled for only 6 minutes after sunset, which is a little earlier than perfect.  In addition, the location of the moon will be slightly to the left (north) so one would need to be a little farther south to get the same proximity with the Lincoln Memorial.

About five years ago, it was difficult to calculate the right time and place to catch the moon as it broke the horizon line.  You needed to know how to use a compass, something that was invented 800 years ago. But the appearance of “apps” such as The Photographer’s Ephemeris have made this quite easy. So check your weather forecast, and if the prospects are favorable in your area, get out there with your tripod and get the shot.

Dupont Circle Fountain, Washington, DC


You wouldn’t know it to look at this picture, but this fountain stands in the center of the most congested traffic circle in Washington, DC.     But if you are a pedestrian, this is a wonderful place to settle on a nearby bench and enjoy a brief respite.

I was on my way to a meeting last Friday and, thanks to a smooth ride on the Metro, had some extra time when I emerged from the station less than a block away.   I stopped to take a few shots, and then continued on to my appointment. (Technical: (Nikon D800E with Nikon 20mm f/2.8 fixed lens, handheld. Exposure: 1/1250th sec. @ f/4, ISO 400)

This B&W version has been submitted to this week’s running of the Monochrome Madness series managed by Leanne Cole.  This is a great place to find some excellent monochrome images and it will appear on her blog  on Tuesday morning, November 4th.

The fountain at Dupont Circle is a memorial to Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont who became the first naval hero for the Union in the Civil War when his fleet captured Port Royal, South Carolina in a daring attack. There is a lot more to this story as well as Dupont Circle, but that will have to wait for a future post.  If you can’t wait, check out page 343 of James M. Goode’s encyclopedic volume, “Washington Sculpture: A Cultural History of Outdoor Sculpture in the Nation’s Capital.”

In the meantime, only a short time remains for you to vote in the After-Before Friday Forum to select the lucky image that will be turned over to eleven photographers each of whom will perform their post-processing magic on it.  Votes may be cast at Stacy Fischer’s VisualVenturing blog.