Taking a Short Break

If all goes according to the plan, I’ll be on my way to Buenos Aires this evening, the first leg of a journey to Antarctica.  I expect to be totally disconnected from the Internet for the next 20 days, which means tI won’t be posting anything  or visiting the sites of fellow bloggers during that time.  Also, I won’t be able to reply to any comments until I get back.  Hopefully, I’ll have something interesting to share when I return.  In the meantime, here are few images to put us all in the mood for the cold weather.

Canada 01

Sunrise, Vermilion Lakes, Canada

Canada 02Fresh Snow, Banff, Canada

Mount Rainier

Clearing Storm, Mount Rainier

Crater Lake 01

Morning Light, Crater Lake

After Before Friday Week 33

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 33 Before Dual                            Before                                                           After

The ABFriday Forum, managed by Stacy Fischer is an opportunity for photographers of all levels to exchange ideas of making creative adjustments in a photograph after the shutter has closed.  My submission this week was taken five years ago this week in West Virginia’s Blackwater Falls State Park.  The stream is Shays Run, just below Elakala Falls.  And if you think it looks cold, you are right.  Please visit Stacy’s Visual Venturing site to see the other submissions.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 33 Before

Unprocessed Raw Image

A larger version of the original unprocessed RAW image is shown above. (Technical Data: Nikon D200 with 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens extended to 135mm; exposure 0.3 sec @ f/7.1, ISO 400)

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 33 Before 02

As usual, the first step in my workflow was to open the image in Adobe Camera Raw.  The adjustments made are shown in the image above.  The settings were as follows: Exposure: +0.20; Highlights: -2; Shadows: +58; Whites: +58; Blacks: -33; Clarity: +33; Vibrance: +23.  The goal here was to bring out the white in the snow and to open up the shadows in the dark areas.  But I knew a little more work would be needed in Photoshop.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 33 After

Final Image

I didn’t like the brown color of the water in the image, even though it is a natural condition resulting from tannic acid of fallen hemlock and red spruce needles.  You have to be there to appreciate it. I decided to go with black and white.  But first, I wanted to get a little more detail in the snow in the upper left and lower right corners.  This was accomplished with a  Levels Adjustment Layer (Blend Mode Normal). Then I used Channel Mixer, checking the box for Monochrome and staying with the Default settings.  The image was still a little flat, so I used a Curves Adjustment Layer (Blend Mode Normal) to increase the contrast.

Other than the conversion to Black and White, the adjustments are relatively modest. I felt  radical surgery wasn’t needed and  I’d be interested in your thoughts.  And don’t forget  to check the other submissions at Visual Venturing here.

National Cathedral-Take 2

I found myself not far from the National Cathedral again on Thursday, the day after I had been shooting there on a ticketed early morning Photography Tour (see the post here).  And unlike the previous day, the sun was out and it was mid-afternoon. The nave was still without chairs and I had my camera with me.  So why not?

National Cathedral 09

Afternoon Light, National Cathedral

My main goal was to get an image of the Rose Window with the light passing through, as if “painting” the walls.  While I was setting up, the Cathedral Choir began a rehearsal for an upcoming performance and the music, perfectly selected for the classic acoustics of a great cathedral space, filled the nave as I worked.  Only a few others were there.  It was as close to a perfect situation as any photographer could want.

National Cathedral 08)

Reflections, National Cathedral

National Cathedral 06 copy

South Side Archway

Washington, D.C. — National Cathedral

National Cathedral 01The Washington Cathedral Nave, Looking West

The Washington National Cathedral is one of the great interior spaces in the city.  This week, it will be especially interesting because all of the seating has been removed from the nave.  In a special week-long program, the Cathedral is evoking the experience of Gothic cathedrals centuries ago when there was no seating.  The program (“Seeing Deeper”) included two morning photo sessions, allowing photographers to sign up for an opportunity to take pictures before normal opening hours.  Thanks to the sharp eye of my sister, I was alerted in time to snag one of the limited number of tickets for this morning’s session.

National Cathedral 03

The Photographers at Work

The event was well-organized as the Cathedral staff understood what was desired by everyone in the group: An unobstructed long view of the nave with no other photographers milling about in the scene. We were guided to the east end of the nave where there was sufficient space to set up without obstructing the efforts of others.  After about 20 minutes, we were released to wander about the main level and photograph whatever struck our fancy.

National Cathedral 02

View from Southwest Corner of Nave

The other good news is that much of the construction paraphanalia associated with the repair of earthquake damage is gone, such as the netting that had been hanging from the ceiling to protect against falling debris.  Some of the scaffolding is still there (see first image above), but the photography opportunities are much improved.  Information on the other events associated with the Seeing Deeper program can be found at the Cathedral’s web site.

Last Chance! The Magna Carta

Magna Carta 01

The Great Hall, Library of Congress

The Magna Carta, created in 1215, which became the foundation for the rule of law in England and much of the modern world, is on display at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.  As part of its 800th anniversary celebrations.   But there isn’t much time remaining.  The 10-week exhibit closes on January 19th.

Magna Carta 01A

The Magna Carta on Display

The star of the show is the Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta, one of only four existing manuscript copies of the Magna Carta that date to 1215.  It draws its name from its original home base, the Lincoln Cathedral in Lincoln, England where it was first placed in 1215.

The main principles guiding our democracy today, such as due process of law, the right to a jury trial, freedom from unlawful imprisonment (Habeas Corpus), and the theory of representative government can all be traced to this document, signed on Runnymede meadow alongside the Thames River on June 15, 1215.

Magna Carta 02

Original Documents Tracing American Democracy

The story of that influence, especially on the American Revolution, is described in the exhibit by more than 70 related artifacts such as the confirmation of the Magna Carta by King Edward I in 1297; George Washington’s copy of a draft of the U.S. Constitution; Jefferson’s copy of the Federalist Papers, a journal of the proceedings of the Continental Congress, and Chief Justice Earl Warren’s draft opinion of the Supreme Court’s Miranda Decision.

If you miss this exhibit, mark your calendars for President’s Day. Monday, February 16th,  one of only two days this year when the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress will be open to the public.

Library of Congress Reading Room

Main Reading Room, Library of Congress

ABFriday Week 31- One Photo Focus

Week 31 After-Before (double)

                     After Image                                                    Before Image

The almost-famous ABFriday Forum begins the year 2015 with a special new feature, entitled “One Photo Focus.”  Here’s how it works: one week each month, all participants will impose their skills and if need be, their trickery on the same image.  The images for the next several months have already been submitted by the early adopters who have already signed up for this extravaganza.  The honor of  being the first in 2015 goes to Emilio Pasquale and he has presented us with an interesting challenge.  I  thought at first it was taken on the set for the chicken race scene in the movie “Rebel Without a Cause.”   I can’t wait to see what other interpretations will be unveiled today which can be found here.  Like all ABFriday posts, anyone can participate.  Guidelines can be found at Stacy Fischer’s Visual Venturing site.

Robin Kent Week 31 Before

 Emilio’s Original Challenge Image

Looking at the challenge image I could see (after the movie flashback) that it was quite dark (despite some strong shadows) and it lacked overall sharpness. This is not necessarily bad, but it does affect the directions one can choose in creating something that hopefully will have an impact.  And I suspect that Emilio didn’t want to make it too easy.  Anyway, it seemed that moving away from a photographic look toward a painterly style might be worthwhile.  In doing so, I learned that there is a dark side to Photoshop CC.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  The first step was to follow my normal workflow and run the original image through the RAW (ACR) process, adjusting contrast, tonality, and brightness.  The result is shown in the image below which evokes a sunny day that seemed consistent with the strong shadows in the original. The adjustments (some of

Week 31 Before 01

ACR Adjustments

them rather extreme) were intended to cut back on the bright highlights and open up the dark areas for greater detail.

Step 2 was to open the image in Photoshop and after routine and very minor clean-up, the Unsharp Filter was unleashed just to see what might happen.  The sharpness didn’t improve, but as the setting got more extreme, the image got more interesting (i.e., less photographic). The screen capture below shows the settings and the effect.

Week 31 Before 03

Unsharp Filter Applied

I’ve not done a lot of special effects work on images, but recently have been experimenting with the Filter Gallery in Photoshop.  So that seemed like a good place to start and I was pleasantly surprised to find an “Oil Paint” function in the drop-down menu under Filter (Filter–>Oil Paint).  What I did not know at the time was that I had accidentally opened Photoshop CS6  instead of the latest version of Photoshop CC.  So be aware that the following steps are not possible unless you have a copy of Photoshop CS6 or CS5. More on this later.

Like the Filter Gallery, the Oil Paint function opens the image in a full screen dialog window with the adjustment controls on the right side.  The screen capture shows the settings and a detail section of the effect.

SWeek 31 Before 04

Settings for Oil Paint Filter in Photoshop CS6

Week 31 Before 05

Image After Using the Oil Paint Filter

Just for fun,I took the idea one step farther, and used a black and white adjustment layer choosing the High Contrast Red Filter effect instead of the default option. The final image is shown below.  Immediately below the full image is a detail of a section of the image to show a little more clearly the effects of the Oil Paint Filter.  I would be interested in your thoughts on the color vs. the black and white versions.

Week 31 After FinalFinal Image

Week 31 After 01 Detail

Thanks again to Emilio Pasquale for his contribution to the First Edition of One Photo Focus.  And thanks to Stacy Fischer for organizing this project. To see what the others have done with Emilio’s image, please check out the Visual Venturing post at this location. And if the raging online controversy over Adobe’s removal of the oil paint filter piques your interest, just Google “Where is the Oil Paint Filter in Photoshop CC?”

Great Falls of the Potomac

Great Falls Snow

Late Afternoon, Great Falls of the Potomac

(Technical: Nikon D800E on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 24 mm; Exposure 1/160th sec. @ f/16, ISO 400)

As some readers know, I will be leaving in a few weeks for my first trip to Antarctica and I have been obsessing about my preparations for the journey. I even wrote about it in a guest post on Leanne Cole ‘s blog last month. (it can be found here.)

The Washington area was treated to a nice little snow storm yesterday and some pretty cold temperatures (for us) today so I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to practice with my new gear in real-life conditions.  (The temperature was 20 degrees and the wind chill was about 5 degrees with the nice stiff breeze)

The image above shows the Great Falls of the Potomac River, a truly wild river scene that is only about 15 miles from Washington, DC and only 3 miles from my home.  For those not familiar with this location, it was photographed from Overlook 3 in Great Falls Park which is managed by the National Park Service. The waterfalls in the center have a drop of about 20-25 feet. The left bank is the state of Virginia and the right side is the state of Maryland.

The practice session was worthwhile.  I was able to test the cold weather effectiveness of some clothing, as well as finding some better ways to manipulate the camera gear in these conditions.  The advice I had received from a number of readers of the blog post mentioned above  proved to be very helpful.  As always, I’d be most interested in any comments from readers who have been to Antarctica or have experience in shooting in cold weather.