Moonrise

I know, I know.  I promised scenes from the Galapagos would be in my next post, but……

A week ago (March 12), there was a full moon, an event that happens every 29.5 days.  But for photographers in Washington, DC, it was a special night because the moon would rise in a location on the horizon that was pretty close to perfect for the so-called “Holy Grail” shot.  It happens, on average, every one or two years.

Full Moon March 2017

Moonrise over Washington, D.C., March 12, 2017

(Technical: Nikon D810 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens extended to 200mm on tripod;                Exposure: 1.6 sec @ f/11, ISO 400; taken )

There is a spot in Arlington, Virginia where one has an excellent view of the city of Washington with a compositionally sweet alignment of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol.  The location is the base of the Netherlands Carillon, just to the south of the Iwo Jima Memorial.

Before the advent of the smart phone/tablet, anticipating this event was not easy, requiring a compass and access to some publicly available software on the website of the U.S. Naval Observatory.  But now, with the availability of numerous apps, such as The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) or Photo Pils, anyone can figure it out. For example, on this night, even with temperatures hovering around freezing, there were over 60 photographers there, each with at least one tripod and a big lens.

Other than the cold weather, conditions looked pretty good on this evening.  The sky was clear and the moon would rise at 86.0 degrees azimuth on the horizon and 13 minutes after sunset.  That was a bit further south than ideal, and a bit later than desired relative to the sunset. Nevertheless, it would be the best opportunity in 2017 with only one other chance (October 5) that will be in the ballpark.  However, in October, the blue twilight period (Civil Twilight) will end before the moon gets sufficiently elevated.

Moonrise D-17-03-12-9670

(Technical: Nikon D810 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens extended to 200mm on tripod;                Exposure: 1.0 sec @ f/11, ISO 400; taken at 7:32 PM)

Although the official time of the moonrise was 7:27 PM, it would be a bit later before it would appear above the skyline.  It was first sighted by the group at about  7:29 and the image immediately above was taken about 90 seconds later.  By this time, the end of civil twilight is approaching and we would soon lose the classic blue color that is essential to this kind of image.

 

Moonrise D-17-03-12-9696

(Technical: Nikon D810 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens extended to 200mm on tripod;                Exposure: 2.0 sec @ f/11, ISO 400; taken at 6:36 PM)

Furthermore, the combination of a very clear sky with the rapidly fading twilight would cause the moon to become extremely bright as it rose above the dimming effects of the ground haze.  The above image was taken at 6:36 PM, about 3 minutes before the end of civil twilight.    Already the moon is becoming increasingly bright and the excellent details on its surface have almost vanished.  Any images taken after this point would require increasingly heroic post-processing efforts.

So when you prepare for a moon shot, make sure you check more than the location.  The relationship in time between the sunset and moonrise and civil twilight can have a significant impact on your results.  If you are in a classic landscape situation where no artificial lighting typical of an urban scene is expected, you may want to evaluate the prospects on the night just before the actual full moon.  This is especially true where a mountain may be blocking the moon at the time of the “official” moonrise.

 

Next (and I promise): Scenes from the Galapagos Islands.

 

ABFriday Forum–Week 45

It’s Friday, and time for all post-processing aficionados to gather around the campfire at Stacy Fischer’s Visual Venturing Emporium to swap stories about their creative wizardry. My submission to the ritual is a simple tale, an homage to Mother Nature’s renewal of life cycle, also known as spring, here in Virginia.  All of the other stories are centrally located for your convenience at Stacy’s site, and the link to them is located at the end of this post.

The cherry blossoms are fading here, but the dogwood, redbud, and Virginia bluebells are emerging. And soon we will see the English bluebells, at least where they have been planted.  Looking back to last year, the English bluebells were at their peak on May 8th as I found when looking for a timely example for this week’s ABFriday Forum.  As I recall, a bit of stealth was required to sneak into the backyard of a nearby house, and there was time for only a few exposures.   The image chosen was opened in Adobe Camera RAW and the original version is shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Backyard Week 45 Before

Original Unprocessed Image

(Technical data: Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f2.8 lens extended to 200mm; Exposure: 1/4 sec. @f/16, ISO 100)

After setting the White and Black points, some additional tweaking was necessary. Highlights were reduced (-70), Shadows opened up (+23), and I pushed harder than the usual +30 on both Clarity and Vibrance (+43 on both).  The result is shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 45 Backyard Before 02

After RAW Processing

From here, it seemed only two changes were needed.  First, a slight increase in overall contrast,which was accomplished with the Adjustment Layer Curves option, selecting the preset “Linear Contrast” and the blend mode stayed at “Normal”.  The result, shown below,slightly darkens the green foliage at the top and the rocks near the waterfall.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 45 Backyard Before 03

After Overall Curves Adjustment

But the foreground is still way too bright.  So, using the polygon lasso tool, the lower half of the image was selected and a second  Adjustment Layer Curves was used.  The image below shows the area in red that was was masked from the effect of the adjustment.  The setting on the adjustment layer is indicated with the blue (teal) arrow.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 45 Backyard Before 04Curves Adjustment on Foreground

This seemed to be sufficient and the final result is shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 45 BAckyard After

Final Result

Please take a look at the submissions by other participants at Stacy’s Visual Venturing Blog by clicking here.

Keep shooting….

AfterBefore Friday Week 41

Welcome to AfterBefore Friday, the Forum hosted by Stacy Fischer which allows participants to illustrate that the work isn’t done when the shutter clicks.  My submission is described below, but be sure to check out ABFriday Headquarters because in addition to this week’s submissions, you will see the unveiling of next Month’s candidate image for the OnePhoto Focus Event.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 41 Dual

                   After                                                              Before

I’ve been told that using the histogram on your digital camera simplifies the work in post-processing, it’s just a matter of trusting the graph instead of your eyes.  It seems this is true.  For example, I found a scene this week that is not particularly noteworthy but it provided an opportunity to work on a combination of some troublesome exposure issues—a bright blue sky, a white sculpture partially illuminated by a bright sun, and a dark brick building in shadow.  The subject is the Smithsonian’s  recently renovated (but empty) Arts and Industries Building.

I don’t have an easy way to display the camera’s information screen here, but those who want to know more can easily do a quick search on the terms “using the camera’s histogram.”  In brief, I wanted to ensure there was detail in the shadows while not blowing out the sky or the white sculpture.   After some trial and error I settled on an exposure 1.3 stops darker than what the camera’s meter was telling me.  The image preview on the LCD looked really dark but the histogram was saying “don’t worry, the detail is all there.” The Before image below is what came out of the camera.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 41 Before

Before Image

Following normal workflow sequences, I made a few changes in Adobe Camera Raw, setting the white and black points, setting the Shadows to +100 (to open up the darker areas), and setting the clarity and vibrance to the usual values of +30.  The result is shown below

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 41 Before 02

After Adobe Camera RAW Adjustments

Moving into Photoshop CC, only three more small adjustments were needed.  The two bits of roof on the left and right edges were removed with the clone tool.  Second, I selected the brick building and used a Curves Adjustment Layer (Blend Mode=Normal) to make it brighter (see white arrow).  The red area in the image below illustrates the mask blocking the effects of the adjustment to the sign.

 Robin Kent ABFriday Week 41 Before 05Curves Adjustment

Third, I selected the decorative tiles including the sign and used a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to enhance their colors  (see arrows).  The red area in the image below illustrates the mask blocking the effects of the adjustment.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 41 Before 04Hue/Saturation adjustment

And that was it.  The brick front of the building could have easily been lightened even more but the tones were an accurate representation of the late afternoon shadows. The final image is shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 41 After ver2Final Image

Be sure to see all of the other submissions at Stacy’s Visual Venturing Blog here.

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.

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.

 

After-Before Friday Forum Week 22

Robin Kent Before Week 22 Giverny

Original Raw Image

Stacy Fischer’s blog VisualVenturing hosts the weekly After-Before Friday Forum that provides a unique opportunity for photographers to exchange ideas about post-processing their images.  There is always something new to learn from this exchange. This week’s Forum will be up later this morning and can be found here.

My submission for this week’s Forum was taken a few years ago in Claude Monet’s gardens in Giverny, France.  It was a cloudy day which can be really helpful for photographing flowers. But, as usual, the gardens were crowded with visitors so the best strategy was to search for individual blooms.  This little fellow was seemingly calling out for a portrait so I gave it a try.  The “Before” image above is the original RAW file with no adjustments.

A quick inspection indicates that, unless some special effects are being considered, the image does not seem to require any heroic measures.  The standard workflow began with the Adobe Camera Raw dialog window.     It seemed that the image needed to be a little darker overall to capture the mood of the cloudy day and also could use some added contrast.  The contrast slider by itself was too harsh, so after experimenting with a combination of the Whites, Blacks, Shadows, Highlights, and Contrast controls the most appealing combination resulted in the settings shown in the screen capture below.

Robin Kent Before 02A Week 22 Giverny

Adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw

 The changes were as follows:  Exposure decreased to – 0.40;  Contrast increased to +35;  Highlights decreased to -28;  Shadows decreased to -3;  Whites decreased to -15;          Blacks increased to +11;  Clarity increased to +24;  Vibrance increased to +27.  The resulting image is shown below.

 Robin Kent Before 02 Week 22 GivernyImage After Adobe Raw Adjustments

The image was then opened in Photoshop.  The only step remaining was to create a vignette to help bring the viewer’s attention to the central subject and give the image a little more depth (3-D effect?) to separate the subject from the background.  There are many ways to create a vignette and these were the steps I followed (see image below).

Robin Kent Before 03 Week 22 Giverny

I used the Elliptical Marquee tool to select an oval shape around the central flower, making sure the “Feather” was set for a high number (usually above 50 pixels).  But since the area to be darkened is everything outside the oval selection, the next step was to click on SelectàInverse.  (See yellow arrow) I next opened a Curves Adjustment Layer, set the Blend Mode to Multiply and the Opacity to 50%, and changed the layer name to “Vignette.”  (See red arrows).  The curves histogram was not changed from the default setting.  Depending on the effect you are looking for, there is a lot of flexibility by using the controls for feather in the selection and the amount of opacity in the layer.

The final result is shown in the image below.  As you can see, the difference with the vignette is quite subtle.  Thoughts from readers would be welcome.

Robin Kent After Week 22 Giverny

Final Image with Vignette Added

Once again thanks to Stacy Fisher for keeping the Forum on track.  The other submissions can be found at her Visual Venturing post here.  Please check them out.  And don’t miss this Forum next week; there will be a “twist” to the proceedings.   Stacy has sworn us all to secrecy, but it should be fun.

After-Before Friday Forum

ABFriday Forum Week 09

This is my submission for this week’s After-Before Friday Forum.  The Forum is managed by Stacy Fischer of Visual Venturing and is enables participants and readers to exchange ideas about bringing their vision of an image into reality.    The submissions for this week can be seen at this link to her site later today.

Normally, taking this photograph from this location is not permitted.  It shows the Reading Room in the Library of Congress and was taken from a balcony overlooking the room.  The Reading Room is probably the most spectacular space in the Library and the balcony provides the best overall view of it.  And the only view for most people because access is restricted to researchers with a Library-issued ID card. Photography is prohibited here (so as not to disturb the readers below) many other parts can be toured and photographed during open hours.  Details can be found at the Library’s website.

The reason that I was not hauled off in handcuffs for taking this photograph is that twice each year, the Library has an “Open House” and visitors are allowed into the Reading Room and pictures can be taken there and from the balcony.  These two days are usually on the weekend of the President’s Day and Columbus Day holidays.

So with only two chances per year, one doesn’t want to mess up.  The “After” image here was processed first in Adobe Camera Raw and then final changes were made in Photoshop CS6.  The original RAW image, before any changes were made, is shown below.  In this case, the main challenges were the lack of a tripod and the strong contrast in lighting: the overall room was relatively dim while the mid-morning light coming through the stained glass windows above was extremely bright.  Consequently, I chose a relatively high ISO and underexposed the scene by 1 stop.   (Nikon D800E with 14-24 mm f/2.8 lens; exposure: 1/60th sec. @ f/4, ISO 800, EV= -1.0)

Kent Before Image Final 5240Original RAW Image

The first set of changes were made in Adobe Camera RAW, where the dark shadows were opened up and the very strong highlights were dialed back.  The results at this stage are shown below.  As you can see, the difference is not enormous, but more detail is apparent.

Kent Before Image 02 Final 5240Image after changes in Adobe Camera Raw

The specific changes in ACR for the above image were:

Highlights: decreased to -43 (to reduce the brightness in the skylights, allowing more detail to show)

Shadows: increased to +28 (to show more detail in the dark areas of the lower section of the room

Clarity: increased to +26 (in my usual range of +20-30)

Vibrance: increased to +23 (to add some warmth)

The next step was to transfer the image to Photoshop.  At the time, I was using the CS6 version and the first step was to correct the tilt with the crop tool.  Next, some adjustments were still needed in the brightness levels of certain sections of the image.  The area below the skylights was selected and a Curves adjustment layer was applied (Blend Mode = luminosity).  The screen shot below shows that a moderate increase was applied.  (The left side of the library image is cropped out in the screen shots to make the Photoshop details a little easier to see.)

Kent Before Image 03 Final 5240First Curves Layer Adjustment Applied

 Next, the blown out window in the upper right corner still needed improvement and after selecting this section, another Curves adjustment layer was applied (Blend Mode = luminosity).  The image below shows the amount which was a fairly strong pullback.  It brought some improvement but it’s not perfect; I think more work may be needed here.

Kent Before Image 04 Final 5240Second Curves Layer Adjustment Applied

Finally, the ceiling dome is still a little flat, even after the dash of Vibrance applied during the ACR processing.  This was remedied with a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer Blend Mode = saturation) as shown in the image below.  The overall saturation was increased a moderate amount to +25, giving a more accurate rendition to the color of the dome and surrounding walls.

Kent Before Image 05 Final 5240

 Hue/Saturation Layer Adjustment Applied

 The final version of the complete image is shown below.   Comments and questions are welcome and I will do my best to reply.  Thanks again to Stacy Fischer for managing this forum and also to the other photographers who participate.  I have learned a lot from all of their examples.

 

Kent After Image Final 5240

Final Image