Happy New Year!

Reflecting Pool SunriseIn acknowledgement of this day, the last day of 2014, I would like to thank everyone who helped me with this blog, those who contributed to its content, those who gave me helpful guidance on the many aspects of making it work, and especially to those who have visited and commented on what they found here.

It is also appropriate to look forward to the coming year in anticipation of what it may bring. In that spirit, I selected an image of a sunrise over the Reflecting Pool in Washington DC.  I hope everyone has a healthy, happy, and successful 2015.

Holiday Season in Washington, DC-Part 3

Holiday Decorations abound throughout the city of Washington and it is impossible to photograph them all.  But one local blogger, the DC Bike Blogger, who gets around amazingly well, has cataloged a number of those that can be seen this year.  You can find his list here.

I have a few examples of Christmas decorations in this post, but all were taken in the past because I still have a few gifts to purchase today.

XMAS Washington National Airport 2007

Christmas Tree, Reagan National Airport, 2007

XMAS Canadian Embassy Xmas Tree 2010

Christmas Tree, Canadian Embassy, 2010

Union Station D-13-12-26-4981_83

Christmas Wreaths, Union Station, 2013

Holiday Season in Washington, DC- Part 2

The tradition of decorating a Christmas tree on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol became a regular tradition in 1964.  After some difficulties with keeping a live tree alive, the US National Forest in 1970 became responsible for finding a suitable tree and installing it on the west lawn.  Each year, a different National Forest is selected to contribute the tree. This year, it comes from the Chippewa National Forest in Minnesota.  Compared to the National Christmas Tree on the ellipse, the U.S. tree Capitol grounds is less elaborately decorated in a style essentially unchanged at least since I first photographed it in 2002.

XMAS Capitol Xmas Tree 01 2002

 Capitol Christmas Tree, 2002

XMAS Capitol Xmas Tree 01 2010

Capitol Christmas Tree, 2010

XMAS Capitol Xmas Tree 02 2010

Capitol Christmas Tree with Snow, 2010

XMAS Capitol Xmas Tree 02 2014

Capitol Christmas Tree, 2014

After Before Friday Forum Week 30

Each week, Stacy Fischer of Visual Venturing sponsors the After-Before Friday Forum which provides anyone wishing to participate to exchange ideas about the creative power of post-processing.  There is always something new going on and I encourage you to check out the submissions by the other participants here.

My submission this week is dedicated to several readers who offered some helpful suggestions to the ABFriday post last week and also in Week 28. I have incorporated those suggestions into the image from last week and that image now has a new look.  All work was done with Photoshop CC.  I’ll be interested in hearing reactions to the changes.

First, as a reminder, here is the starting point for the revisions.  The image below was the “Final Image” in last week’s post.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 30 BeforeStarting Image, Uncropped

Last week I asked readers about the cropping decisions on this image and I received a number of ideas, all involving removing a portion of the sky with some of those also suggesting taking a bit off the sides.  One person suggested a 1X1 format, similar to the typical Instagram default size.  That seemed like the most radical change and that variation is shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 30 Before 01

 Cropped to 1 X 1 Format

Those with excellent memory will recall that two weeks ago (ABFriday Week 28) a reader asked how the “ripped border” effect on the Week 27 image was accomplished. (That post can be found here.)  I didn’t recall (5 years is a long time) but said I would attempt to find out..  After 2 weeks of fruitless searching, Janice Foreman came to my rescue with a “how-to” guide that she had found.  The technique was similar enough that I was able to add a few tweaks and produce something that was pretty close to the original ripped border effect.  For those who are interested, the guide Janice found can be located here.

I should note that using this tool will require some experimentation because the effect varies according to the size of the starting image.  The image size used for this demonstration was 2800 X 2800 pixels at 300 ppi.

To begin, one needs to add a white border around the image.  One way to do this is the following:

> Use Image->Canvas Size which opens a small dialog window (see below);

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 30 Before 02

Canvas Enlargement Steps

>Choose Percent (red arrow) for both Width and Height and enter a number greater than 100 in the boxes for Width and Height (blue arrows). Make sure the Canvas extension color is white (yellow arrow);

>Click OK and a white border should appear.

> Using the Rectangular Marquee tool (feather set at 0 px), select an area just inside the image border;

> Click Select->Inverse.  The result should look something like the screen capture below

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 30 Before 03

Detail of Selection Area

>Click on Filter->Filter Gallery and a full screen dialog window will open.  The controls are found in the upper right corner (see detail image below) and the image will appear in a large Preview section on the left (not shown).

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 30 Before 04

Filter Gallery Adjustment Panel

>Select Distort->Glass from the list of effects (red arrows)

>Select Frosted as the Texture (blue arrow)

>Adjust the other controls to your taste and the effect will be shown in the Preview Window.  In this case, Distortion is set at 11, Smoothness at 3, and Scaling at 131%.

>Click OK and it’s done.  The Final Image is shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 30 After

Ripped Border Effect

The result is close, but not identical,  to the effect achieved in the Week 28 image.  However, the Photoshop Filter Gallery offers a wealth of options and is a great place to play during a rainy afternoon.

Once again, thanks to Stacy and all of the participants in this week’s Forum.  I hope you will check out the others at Visual Venturing ABFriday Week 30.


Washington DC: Holiday Season

The Holiday season in Washington, DC was marked this week by the lighting ceremony for the National Menorah on Tuesday, December 16th.  The ceremony for the National Christmas Tree was held earlier this month and I took the opportunity of the good weather last night to check out the scene.

xmas white house tree 2014

National Christmas Tree, Washington, DC

XMAS National Menorah 2014

National Menorah

Both are on the Ellipse, just south of the White House.  There isn’t a lot of parking in the immediate vicinity, but it’s a short walk from the Farragut West Metro Station.

ABFriday Forum Week 29

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 29A Before 03

After                                                                Before

Each Friday, Stacy Fischer of Visual Venturing hosts a special forum on post-processing where photographers may submit images and describe their post-processing actions to achieve the final result.  This week marks the 29th consecutive episode and I fully expect there will once again be an interesting set of examples by the participants.  Here is the link for the ABForum Week 29 Central Command.  Please check it out.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 29A Before 01

Original Raw Image

The above image is a “Reject” taken about four years ago and this week the idea was to see if a heroic rescue could be achieved.   After all, I had learned a few tricks since the image was taken and Photoshop has added a ton of new capabilities during that time.   But alas, a transformation from forlorn reject into a splendid representational masterpiece was not to be.

The original image is a long view of the Smithsonian American Art Museum looking north up 8th Street NW in Washington, DC and was taken about 45 minutes before sunrise. (Technical Data: Nikon D700 on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 70mm; exposure 3 secs. @ f/13, ISO 200)

The first step, as always, was in Adobe Camera Raw.  The adjustments made were as follows: White Balance changed to tungsten; Exposure increased +0.35; Highlights decreased to -68 to reduce the bright glare of the street lights; Shadows increased to +100 to open up the dark areas; Clarity upped to +38; Vibrance moved up to +37; and Saturation nudged to +8.  The results are shown in the image below.Robin Kent ABFriday Week 29A Before 02

Adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw

Next, a variety of Photoshop actions were taken but there is no need to list them since they did not help much.  This left two choices: another image could be chosen and the process could start all over. Or, I could fall back on the techniques used  in last week’s Forum and abandon realism altogether. In other words, return to the hallucinatory environment known as Photoshop’s Filter Gallery.  So that’s what happened and the image below is the result (Technical details at the end of the post).

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 29A After

Final Image

I’m not sure this is a great result; it might be better if some of the upper portion was cropped out to eliminate the untextured part of the sky. Any thoughts from viewers would be welcome.

Techie stuff about the method:

The image was cropped to eliminate the unattractive foreground.  When using the filter gallery one needs an 8-bit image, a 16-bit file won’t work.  To verify this, just click on Image->Mode and make sure 8 bits/channel is checked in the drop-down menu.  The second rule, at least for those (like me) who don’t have extensive experience with the Photoshop filter gallery, is to just try each option until you find something that works well.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 29 Before 04

Detail from Filter Gallery Dialog Window

When ready begin, click on Filter–>Filter Gallery and a large display panel will open. A partial screen capture is shown above. The choices are listed on the right side and a preview of the image is displayed in a large panel on the left (mostly not shown).  I started with the variations listed under Artistic (blue arrow) and merely worked my way down looking for one that had some possibilities.  After 8 strikes, I landed on “Plastic Wrap” (red arrow) and, as I did with the others, started adjusting the three controls.  The settings I chose are shown in the screen capture (yellow arrow).

Again, thanks to Stacy for keeping this Forum running smoothly and thanks to the other participants who make this such an interesting weekly event.  Please check out their submissions at Visual Venturing’s  ABFriday Forum Week 29.

Two Days in Connecticut

Last week I made a short trip to Hartford and even though it was a business trip with very little downtime, I took my camera along.  I chose a hotel about two blocks from the Great River Park on the eastern side of the Connecticut River with the hopes that I might get a decent skyline shot of Hartford at twilight.  The image below shows the outcome.

Connectcut 01

Hartford at Twilight

(Technical Data: Nikon D800E on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 50 mm; 7 exposures, each 3 secs. @ f/16, ISO 400; Photomerged in Photoshop CC)

The meeting the next day was at a private secondary school in Windsor, Connecticut (Disclosure: I am an alumnus of the school)  One of the sessions included a campus tour so I grabbed my camera and snapped away as we went along.

Connecticut 02

Founders Hall, Loomis Chaffee School

(Technical Data: Nikon D800E handheld with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 45 mm; Exposure: 1/2000th sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 500)

Connecticut 05

View from inside the Reading Room, Katherine Brush Library

(Technical Data: Nikon D800E handheld with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 38 mm; 3 exposures, each 1/1000th sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 400; Photomerged in Photoshop CC)

Connecticut 04

Black and White Version of the Same Image

The rest of the day and a good part of the evening were spent indoors and I had a morning train to catch in New Haven.  I arrived at the station  in time to whip out the camera one last time before the Acela showed up.

Connecticut 07

Union Station, New Haven Connecticut

(Technical Data: Nikon D800E handheld with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 24 mm; 12 exposures, each 1/60th sec. @ f/4.0, ISO 1600; Photomerged in Photoshop CC)

After Before Friday Forum Week 28

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 29 Before DualBREAKING NEWS:  In addition to this post today, I also have been given an opportunity to do a “guest post” on Leanne Cole’s blog entitled “Up for Discussion-Travel Photography.  Leanne is a fabulous photographer in Australia and if you haven’t checked her site before, please take a look.  The link is placed–for your convenience–at the end of this post.  And now back to our regularly scheduled Friday morning program.

By popular request, my submission to this week’s ABFriday Forum reveals the identity of one of the losing “Before”  images in the Reader’s Poll for the ABFriday Anniversary Challenge for Week 26.    The request came about when a colleague attempted to guess which one of the 8 submissions was actually mine.  She finally guessed correctly after choosing all of the others, leaving only this one.  She then wanted to know what in the world I was going to do with this image if it turned out the unimaginable happened and it was chosen. Several other friends wanted to know the story of what the object was and where it had been photographed.  So I promised I would post the whole story (a sad one, unfortunately) in a future Forum and so here we are today. Be sure to visit the other submissions to this week’s Forum at Stacy Fischer’s ABFriday Forum Week 28.

The best way to start this off is to give some background on the object.  It all started in 2009, when an eager young entrepreneur opened a small independent coffee store in Great Falls, Virginia.  The owner contacted a local arts group, Great Falls Studios (full disclosure: I am a member of this group),and asked for assistance in arranging art exhibits in the space by local artists.  After several exhibits, the idea of doing a themed exhibit on “Coffee” was raised and scheduled.  I had no qualifying images so dropped by and made a few images of coffee paraphernalia in the store.  One of the subjects was the coffee roaster itself as shown in the image below.Robin Kent ABFriday Week 29 Before 03

 Deidrich Coffee Roaster, the Only Roaster Manufactured in the U.S.

But this image was too cluttered, and I moved in closer for a detail shot which became the “Before” image shown at the beginning of today’s post.  (Technical Data: Nikon D200 with 18-200mm lens, extended to 75mm, on tripod; exposure 3 secs. @ f/16, ISO 320, available light)

The result was opened in Adobe Camera Raw and I followed my usual procedure in making corrections.  The adjustments are shown in the Screen Capture below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 29 Before 02

Screen Capture of Adjustments in Adobe Camera RAW

At this point, I had a technically decent image, but it wasn’t particularly interesting and if it had to be hung in an exhibit, something more was need.  Fortunately, Photoshop has about two zillion ways to go wild with an image .  Not that I knew what one to use, but what better way to learn than by experimenting?

After some trial and error, I opened up the Filter Gallery and found something called “Glowing Edges.”  Now that sounded cool, so I played around with that for a bit and ended up with the image below.  As you can see, I cropped out the red band at the bottom of the

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 29 After

image.  The procedure used to make this transformation is as follows:  In Photoshop, click on Filter->Filter Gallery; this opens up a large display window with a list of various options in the upper right section (Artistic, Brush Strokes, etc.).  Look for the “Stylize” option and click on the down arrow.  There should be just one choice, “Glowing Edges.”  Select that and then take a look at the sliders immediately to the right (See Image below).  In this

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 27 Before Screenshot. 02jpg

case, I set the edge width to the minimum value of 1, the Edge Brightness to 8 and the Smoothness to 2.  The display window includes a preview of the image as you make changes, so it is easy to see the effects of each slider.

Further experimentation resulted in a few more images and the final image was what would probably be called a tetraptych (group of 4 images) as shown in the image below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week27 Before 05

The print was a modest 12″ X 16″  but I have no idea what I did in Photoshop to make those borders look like they were ripped.

At any rate, the exhibit was a success, but sadly, the coffee store was not.  Serving great coffee and providing great customer service do not always result in sufficient  profits  and the business was closed within a year after these pictures were taken.

Once again, many thanks to Stacy Fischer for managing the After Before Friday Forum. Take a look at the other submissions at her blog, Visual Venturing.

And for those wishing to check out Leanne Cole’s blog and our Travel Photography discussion, please go to her site at this location.

No Need to Plan; Just Roll the Dice

The calendar said December 1st, the thermometer said almost 70 degrees, the sun was shining and some interesting clouds were moving across the sky.  Time for a quick run into the city for an unplanned photo shoot.   My weather app showed a storm was coming in from the west so it would be a quick trip.  With nothing specific in mind, I put my fate in the hands of the parking gods.  They apparently were in a generous mood and provided a vacant spot on Constitution Avenue directly across the street from the National Archives.  Not bad.  Here are a few images from the next 45 minutes.  When I saw the  storm clouds moving in from the West (last Image), it was time to go.

Archives 01

Main Entrance Pediment, National Archives

Archives 02A

Cropped, Black and White Version

Ice Skating 01

View from the National Gallery of Art Skating Rink

Archives 03

Looking Up, Plaza Level of Main Entrance

Archives 04

Main Entrance Plaza. Looking Southeast

Archives 05

Approaching Storm, Looking Southwest