OnePhoto Focus (March)

It’s the first Friday of the month and that means it’s time for Stacy Fisher’s famous OnePhoto Focus where everyone gets a chance to apply their magic touches to the same image.  But before we get to that, a flash back to last month when I visited the Washington National Cathedral for a morning shoot.

National Cathedral 02

Morning Light, National Cathedral

(Technical Data: Nikon D810 on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, extended to 44mm; two images photomerged, exposure 0.5 sec@ f/16, ISO 400)

The National Cathedral has recently started a series of special sessions for photographers who wish to capture images of the interior before the doors open for the public.  The number of photographers is limited to about 25 and reservations can be made in advance. Tripods are allowed and, depending on the day some areas may not be open. Cost of admission is $30.  Details can be found here.

Now back to our main program, the monthly OnePhoto Focus.  This month’s photograph was contributed by Nancy Merrill.  The original is shown below.

March 2016 1PF Before

Original Image by Nancy Merrill

The building, as the sign indicates, is a theatre dedicated to the works of Shakespeare.  The theatrical theme seemed to be a good one to run with and, as we all know, theatre deals with fantasy.  So I thought I would go with that.

No need to go into the boring details of the “image prep” phase in Adobe Camera Raw, largely because Nancy has kindly provided us with a clean, well-exposed, and sharply focused image that needs no heroic efforts.  Only a few standard tweaks were applied.

The next step was to set the scene and it seemed that a visit to Photoshop’s Filter Gallery would be a good place to start.  The “Glowing Edges” effect under the Stylize tab produced an electric effect and, after a little trial and error, the image shown below emerged. The  sign was “protected” from the effects of the filter tool because I had other plans for it.

Robin Kent 1PF March 2016 Step 2A

“Glowing Edge” Effect Applied

Since this is a Shakespearean Theatre, it seemed appropriate to make that fact very obvious.  A quick online search produced an image of a poster for one of the bard’s most famous plays.  It was superimposed as a separate layer and the opacity was slightly reduced.  A mask was used to paint out the unwanted sections of the poster.

Robin Kent 1PF March 2016 Step 4A

Sign Added

With the stage and scenery ready, some characters are needed.  Back to the Internet.  This search found several willing participants: a fashion model, a photographer, and a couple descending the stairs.

Robin Kent 1PF March 2016 Final

Final Image

On a technical note, the procedure I used for adding these elements was to first create a new layer above the background.  The copied images were scaled down using the Edit–>Transform–>Scale tool on the inserted layer (be sure to hold the shift key down to maintain the original aspect ratio).

Thanks again to Stacy for organizing this monthly event. You can see the other versions by the participants by clicking on this link.  And thanks to Nancy for a fun image to edit.

Moonrise over Washington, DC

When you are trying for the classic moonrise over the city of Washington, DC, everything has to go perfectly.  Several of us made the effort on October 26th, knowing the weather would be bad on the following night, the night of the full moon.

We also knew before we arrived that conditions would not be perfect because the moon was coming up 15 minutes before sunset and it likely would be too high in the sky by the time the twilight blue was at its peak and the illumination of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and US Capitol were in balance with the ambient light still in the sky.  We also knew that the clouds could pose problems.

But, when we arrived, there was an additional problem.  The Marine Corps Marathon had been held on the previous day and our chosen location (near the Marine Corps Memorial) was also the location of the finish line for the race.  A massive disassembly effort was underway.

Moonrise 01

Unexpected Obstructions, 20 Minutes before Moonrise

Moonrise 02Another Surprise

Moonrise 03A

Passing Truck, 4 Minutes after Moonrise (not visible yet)

But, aside from the occasional passing vehicle, there was nothing that was directly obstructing the view.   By 6:15, the official time for the sunset, the moon was already pretty high and it was still too bright to see the illumination on any of the buildings below us.

Moonrise 04

Clouds obscuring the moon at Sunset (6:15 PM)

At 6:30, the twilight was a nice blue color, the clouds had abated, but the moon was too high.

Moonrise 05

Ideal Twilight, 15 Minutes after Sunset (6:30 PM)

So the only solution was to back off the focal length, and take the full scene and then do some post processing cheating.  The image above was taken with the telephoto zoom extended to 200 mm and the moon in its actuual location at the time.  The image below, taken a few seconds later with a 145 mm focal length, shows the moon in a decent location.  But it was just “moved” down during the postproceesing from where it was at the time the image was taken.  Not a bad result, but not something I will post on my website or offer for sale.

Oct 26 Moon

“Manufactured” Moonrise over Washington

Lessons Learned:

  1. If one wants to capture an image of the moon rising over the “Big Three” (Lincoln, Washington, and US Capitol), the specific location is right in front of the Netherlands Carillon a short distance south of the Iwo Jima Memorial.
  2. Using the well-known app “The Photographer’s Ephemeris,” the moon should be rising at an Azimuth reading of about 85 degrees.
  3. For ideal twilight conditions along with the lighting of the “Big Three,” the moonrise time should be about 15 minutes after sunset.

Keep Shooting….

AfterBefore Friday Forum–Week 50

The philosophy of the After-Before Friday Forum is to discuss how to take an image you’ve captured and change it into the image you want it to be.  Usually, the approach is to make the changes during “post-processing” where the original image is optimized using Lightroom, Photoshop, or some other software program(s).  But there are no rules, so this post will have a new wrinkle—how to improve the original image by evaluating your results in the field and making some significant changes on the scene before you get anywhere near a computer.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 50 Before

 “Before” Image

The first image of this scene (Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota) is shown above.  It is what I call a “Parking Lot Shot.”  I saw the scene, liked the leading line of the path up the hill as it curved around the tree on the hill, and stopped the car to take the shot.  But I wasn’t thrilled with the result.  There was something missing.  The empty sky looked….well, empty.  Behind me was a path up another hill that would give a different angle so I walked up that hill and realized that there was a totally different scene waiting to be captured.  I took the shot and liked what I saw much better.  A little more work would be needed in Photoshop, but this one seemed to have more promise.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 50 Before 02

2nd  Image, from the Hillside Above

On returning home, the first step was to give a small boost to the overall contrast, and I used a Curves Adjustment Layer.  I chose the Linear Contrast preset (red arrow), left the Blend mode on the default setting of “Normal” (yellow arrow) and the Opacity at 100%  (green arrow).  The screen capture below shows the settings.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 50 Before 02A

Adding a Curves Adjustment Layer

Next, it seemed that the greens needed a little punch to restore the look of what I saw that afternoon so a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used, with the colors set to “Green” (green arrow), the Saturation to +42 (yellow arrow), the Blend mode on the default setting of “Normal,” and the Opacity at 100%.  The screen capture below shows the Hue/Saturation settings.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week27 Before 03A

 Adding a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer

The mountains and sky in the background were too light, and a gradient filter effect was the logical way to go.  I created a new layer, selected a gradient (foreground to transparent), and dragged the mouse down to the large tree (red arrow). I have promised in the past to do a more detailed discussion on the gradient tool, and I still intend to do so.  But not today.  I chose “Soft Light” as the Blend Mode (yellow arrow) and left the Opacity at 100%.  The settings are shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 50 Before 04A

Using the Gradient Tool

But the sky at the very top edge still was a bit too bright.  So the Gradient Tool was deployed one more time.  But only with a slight touch.  The mouse was dragged down a very short distance, the Blend Mode was “Soft Light” again, but the Opacity was cut back to 80%.  The final result is the “After” image for this week and is shown below.  The differences from the original “2nd shot” are small, but the difference between the first and second locations is pretty substantial.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 50 After

So, it often is a good idea to evaluate initial results in the field and make some adjustments in the point of view rather than passing the buck to Photoshop right away. Or, as I like to say….

Keep Shooting…..

Check out the submissions of the other participants this week.  There is always something interesting over there from some very talented photographers. You can find them by clicking here.

OnePhoto Focus–May 2015

Those of us who participate in the AFterBefore Friday Forum have full control over our destiny every week of the month—except the first week.  On this week, iInstead of choosing anything we want from our own images, we have the “opportunity” to work on a single image selected for us.  As the day approaches when the “Chosen One” is to be unveiled, this participant at least, has flashbacks to those days just before his final exams.  The eternal question: “What will be on the test?” looms ahead.

This week’s image was graciously provided by  Shane Francescut and when I saw it, I was speechless.  Well, not really, but I digress.  Let’s look at the image.

2015 05 01 PhotoFocus Before

Original Image

After some thinking, I thought I would take a different tack from last month when I subjected the provided image to a lengthy sequence of exotic Photoshop devices that caused formal protests from the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, and Green Peace.  This time it would be a quick and merciful coup de grace.  Or, in a nod to the theme of OnePhoto Focus, it would be done with “OnePhotoshop Tool.”

But I cheated.  I had the RAW version of Shane’s image and made the standard exposure adjustments in Adobe Camera that I make with almost every image.  The result and ACR settings are shown just below.

2015 05 01 PhotoFocus Before 02

Results of ACR Process

ACR Settings: Highlights: -100; Shadows: +100; Whites: +47; Blacks: -8; Clarity: +30; Vibrance: +30

Then, I opened an Adjustment Layer–>Curves (Blend Mode=Difference) and chose the Negative Preset. (Blue arrow in screen shot below). This has the effect of completely reversing the tonal distribution of the image.

2015 05 01 PhotoFocus Before 01A

Next, I set an anchor point on the diagonal line through the histogram and dragged the point left and down (red arrow).   The Preset Panel now reads “Custom” indicating I have made a change to the Preset previously chosen. The result is show below.

2015 05 01 PhotoFocus After

Fiunal Result

That’s it.  I kind of like it.  Anyway, it didn’t take long –Less than 2 minutes, counting the ACR steps.

Any thoughts, comments, or suggestions are appreciated.  But be sure to zip over to Visual Venturing to see what everyone else did.

AbFriday Forum Week 44

It’s Friday already!  And that means it’s time for Stacy Fisher’s AfterBefore Friday Forum where photographers from around the globe gather in our Virtual Conference Room to exchange ideas on what we do after the camera’s image has been downloaded into our processing device.  That  device can be a big computer, a tiny phone, or a tray of odiferous chemicals (remember them?).  You can see the other creative efforts at Stacy’s Visual Venturing blog and I highly recommend you check them out.

But before we go any farther, I’m pleased to announce the winner of last week’s quiz: Janice Foreman, of  “Moments in Time“, an excellent blog that I have been following for some time.  She will receive a copy of “Washington, DC,” a small collection of images I have taken of the city as soon as I can gather enough stamps to send it to Canada.  If you want to see the answers to the quiz they have been posted in the updated version (right at the top) of the original post.  Click here for details.

I’ve been spending a lot of time down at the Tidal Basin this week as the annual cherry blossom extravaganza builds toward its climax.  But sometimes the not-quite-ready star of the show (cherry blossoms in this case) gets upstaged by the old pro (the Jefferson Memorial).  Last Sunday morning’s sunrise provided Thomas an opportunity to take center stage as the prime photography subject. And he did not disappoint.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 44 Before

Original RAW Image

The original photo was taken about 20 minutes after sunrise, and the golden light on the Jefferson Memorial looked really nice.  The original, unprocessed RAW image is shown above. (Nikon D800E, handheld with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 42mm. Exposure 1/160th sec @ f/16, ISO 400)

The adjustments in Adobe Camera RAW were straight forward, with the primary need for opening up the shadows and dark areas on the Memorial.  This was done by setting the White point to +60, and then, after setting the Black point, increasing the Shadows to the maximum value of +100.   The Clarity and Vibrance settings to +30, which is the usual amount for me. (See image below)

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 44 Before 01B

Adobe Camera RAW Dialog Panel

The image was then opened in Photoshop CC, and the primary step was to crop the image to bring attention to the sun’s light on the stone surface.  Next, a very slight boost with a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. The only remaining step was to add just a little impact to the sky.  I created a new layer and used the gradient tool, setting the blend mode for soft light.  (See image below)

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 44 After

 

The gradient tool (as I used it here)  essentially mimics the effect of those neutral density graduated filters made famous by Galen Rowell and Singh Ray 15 years or so ago.  There are many, many ways to accomplish this in Photoshop and you will be relieved to know that this post is not going to discuss any of them.  A far more enjoyable use of your time would be to visit Stacy’s Forum and enjoy the submissions of the other participants.  You can do that by clicking here.

OnePhotoFocus (April)

Update (April 10, 2015):   The winner of the quiz is Janice Foreman and here are the details of all the steps shown below:

  1. Starting from the original in Photoshop, the first step used the “Replace Color” tool. This is found by Image–>Adjustments–>Replace Color.  The settings in the dialog box were not recorded.
  2. Next, a sort of spotlight was added in the upper left corner, using the “Lighting Effects” tool. This is found by Filter–>Render—>Lighting Effects. The type of effect was “Spot.”  There are 7 or 8 controls in this dialog box plus a capability to rotate the overall effect.  A fun but dangerous tool in the hands of the inexperienced as you saw from the results of Step 2.
  3. The scene was reversed using the “Flip Canvas” tool. This is found by Image–>Rotate Canvas–>Flip Canvas Horizontal.
  4. To brighten the very dark results of Step 2, the standard technique of Layer–>New Adjustment Layer–>Curves was applied.
  5. To add a psychedelic touch along the roof’s rain gutter and the steps, I went for Filter–>Liquify.  Another dangerous tool that can easily run amuck.
  6. Still unhappy with the overall darkness, I threw a Hail Mary pass and employed Filter–>Stylize–>Trace Contour.
  7. Now I had the opposite problem, it was too light. So I relied on the familiar “Curves” tool, this time to darken the image: Layer–>New Adjustment Layers–>Curves..

This is the first Friday of the month and now that we are safely past April Fool’s Day, it is time for Stacy’s gang of post-production protagonists to focus their talents on the same image.  First, it would be appropriate to thank Cee for providing one of her images for whatever purpose the participants may choose.  It may also be necessary for me to apologize for what happened to that image inside my computer.  I hope she will forgive me, because my intentions were honorable.

My enthusiasm was so great this week that I neglected to take precise notes on what happened.  However, I did manage to remember what tools were used, if not precisely how.  Those with a competitive spirit  are welcome to take the “Pop Quiz” at the end.  The top score wins a prize (some conditions apply).

The first hint for the Photoshop Quiz is that I did not use the Adobe Camera Raw window, the image was opened directly in Photoshop and looked like this.

2015 04 01 PhotoFocus Before

 Original Image

My first thought was this could use a little more color, and so I tried a technique I have never used before.  It worked pretty well.  So well, in fact, that I used it three more times.  The result after the 4th application is shown below.

2015 04 01 PhotoFocus Before 01

After Step 1

Some might say that I had already gone too far, but when you are in unexplored territory, why go back?  So I took a new direction and tried a totally different tool.  The result is shown below.  Those who are studying for the quiz deserve to know that while the tool was applied to the entire image, the key effect can be seen (major hint) in the upper left corner.

2015 04 01 PhotoFocus Before 02

After Step 2

The next step was something I had intended to do all along so I executed that maneuver so I could then proceed to deal with the damage I had done in Step 2.  The result is shown below.

2015 04 01 PhotoFocus Before 03

After Step 3

I think everyone will agree that Step 2 made things too dark, so I fell back on a tool I use in almost every image (hint) and the result is shown below.

2015 04 01 PhotoFocus Before 04

After Step 4

Now that the colors were a little better, it seemed like a little instability would be consistent with the radical color scheme.  Another tool I have used on only one occasion (a fashion shot) was pulled out and deployed in a relatively conservative manner.  Check the steps, the rain gutter, and a few other spots to see what happened.

2015 04 01 PhotoFocus Before 05

After Step 5

Should I stop here?  Of course not.  It’s still too dark.  Plus, there are so many tools I’ve never used in Photoshop, we should go for at least one more.  However, as you will see from the image below, you will usually be surprised when you have no idea of what you are doing.

2015 04 01 PhotoFocus Before 06

Step 6

Yikes!    Stacy, we have a problem!

In a desperate attempt to salvage something without the humiliation of retreating, I used a familiar technique that resulted in the image below.

2015 04 01 PhotoFocus After

 Step 7 (Final Image)

OK, for those few who might still be here, you have the option of going directly to Comments and expressing your outrage, or you can take a stab at the quiz.

Quiz Rules: A total of five major tools were used to arrive at this final image.  One tool was used twice (Steps 4 and 7).  The challenge is to:

  • Identify the tool sequence (e.g., “Image–>Auto Contrast”) as best you can for any given step.  Had this example been a correct one, the two correct steps would count as two points.  Something like “Image–>Mode–>Grayscale” would be awarded one point, because the first part was correct.

Clear as mud?  It gets worse. Anyone scoring a minimum of 3 points will be in the “Zone of Consideration” for the prize.  The top score among those in the Zone will be awarded a copy of my self-published photography book (softcover edition) “Washington, D.C.” Answers are due by 0800 EST on April 7 and can be placed in the Comments section or via email to info@photographybykent.com.

In addition to all of that, please head over to Stacy Fischer’s site and check out what are almost certainly better efforts at this week’s OnePhoto Focus.

AfterBefore Forum–Week 42

It’s Friday morning on the east coast of the US, so grab a cuppa coffee and check out the latest offerings on Stacy Fischer’s post-processing extravaganza, or as the cognoscenti describe it: AfterBefore Friday Forum.  This weekly event is open to anyone wishing to share their creative techniques whether the image comes from a smartphone or NASA’s Hubble Satellite.   Comments, suggestions, critiques are all welcome and encouraged from anyone who drops by.  You can see the other submissions at Stacy Fischer’s ABFriday Control Center.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 42 Before

Original Image Before Post-processing

The annual kite festival on the grounds of the Washington Monument will be held tomorrow, March 28 (weather permitting).  To get myself in the mood, I pulled an image from a previous running several years ago.  The original RAW image is shown above. Although there are no actual kites in this picture, I was attracted by the color and motion of these flags flapping in the wind.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 42 Before 01Partial section of ACR Window

As usual, the first step in the workflow was opening the image in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and making some basic adjustments (see screenshot image above).   First, the white and black points were set (always my first step), followed by toning down the Highlights a bit and opening up the Shadows.  The Clarity and Vibrance were set at my usual choice of +30.  The result is shown below, obviously not terribly different from the original.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 42 Before 02

Image after ACR Adjustments

Next was a journey through the wondrous world of Photoshop’s Filter Gallery (see image below).  Given the infinite variety of possible effects, a reasonable strategy is trial and error.  After a few attempts, it seemed like the “Paint Daubs” choice (red arrow) had some possibilities.  I picked a brush type (blue arrow) and made some adjustments in the Brush Size and Sharpness (yellow arrow).

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 42 Before 04

Partial section of Filter Gallery Window

The results looked OK, so I clicked that button to activate the filter.  But I still wasn’t entirely thrilled, maybe one more step for a  little pizazz. Using the sequence: Image>Adjustments>Posterize, the dialog box shown below appeared (superimposed here over the image being adjusted).  This slider is pretty sensitive and a slight move can bring significant changes. It seems to work best with an image that has lots of different colors.  I made only a tiny move, a 4 on a scale of 0-255 (red arrow).

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 42 Before 05

Posterize Dialog Box.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 42 After

Final Image after Posterize

So that’s it. Let me know what you think.  Meanwhile, if you are in the Washington, DC area and t is before 10:00 EDT on March 28th and the weather is really nice and there is a good breeze, head down to the Washington Monument and check out the kites. Otherwise, check out all the other submissions to the ABFriday Forum by clicking here.