Revised ambition

Any successful plan requires periodic review and adjustment. This includes my plan to post an image a day.

I’m going to continue to shoot daily, as I did before, but I’m only going to post the best image – or images – weekly.

What I realized last week is how visually limited my life is. I get up, leave the house, drive to work, wander around the building, drive home and hang around the house. There are images available there, and I’m going to find them, but at some point I will exhaust that environment.

Now, the obvious solution is to broaden the environment. And I will, as I am able. I do still have to make a living and I’m afraid it isn’t currently a terribly visual living.

The other is is quality. I’m planning on posting these images to the world and want to make sure that I have images worth posting. I was pushing it on the garbage can – though I have to admit I like elements of it. I’m not completely unhappy with it. But at this rate, I’d be posting some questionable stuff.

Enough of that stuff.

I do have an image to share. As an exercise in blending and to give my son something fun, I generated this image of Ariusz Pudzianowski with my son’s facial features. He thought it was pretty cool. I hope Ariusz doesn’t mind.

Just a few years and a lot of sweat…

Day 1

I’ve spent the last months planning, learning, ignoring.  All those things I do so well to keep me from actually doing.
I’ve stuffed a lot of stuff in my head. Now I need to do something with it.

Chase Jarvis – not sure why but that name has been intriging me recently. I’ve seen it pop up in blogs here and there. I finally decided to check him out.
I went to his site at ChaseJarvis.com.  Excellent work. I was impressed. I checked out his blog at  ChaseJarvis.com/Blog. I liked his attitude. I watched a couple of videos of him speaking and liked him more. It didn’t seem to  be just a marketing effort – he felt like a guy who loved the craft and loved sharing it.  And works HARD at it. I can respect this guy.

Create – Share – Sustain

Read this, watch the talk – I needed it and appreciate the message.

Do it – Share it – do what ever it takes to support it, then do it again.

Do it – Share it… the two things I need to do. Break out of my avoidance and my shyness.

I made some choices

  • Create a forum where I can publish and share. I don’t have enough wall space or enough money to print and hang everything I need to shoot. And the exposure is poor. But I do have the internet. This Blog – Flickr – Facebook. Publishing opportunities that cost little more than time and and provide ultimate exposure. I’ve set it up so I can quickly drop images onto all three sites.  Share it – ready to go
  • Shoot more. I need to shoot every day, need to be looking all the time. So I’m going to carry a camera everywhere. I’m going to shoot and publish every day. I expect to put out some poor stuff on occasion, but quantity is the important thing here, not quality. Hopefully I’ll get a little quality too. Mostly I just need to shoot. And shoot.  Today’s post is the first of my dailies.
  • Shoot projects. I’m going to set projects to explore and expand certain techniques or subjects.  My first one – to take a daily picture out my office window – a passage of time kind of thing.  Nothing amazing, but something I always thought would be fun to do.

The first of my Dailies:

20100119_IMGP1389

I originally threw this in without any comment. The more I look at it the more I like it. The lines are intriquing and the textures is full of detail – just the way I like it.

It’s also my first flickr image to get a comment. Kind of cool.

20100119_IMGP1395

This one, I like it, but not near as strong as the b&w. The lighting gives it some interest.

First Steps – Photoshop

I spent the last couple of months watching hours of Photoshop training vids at Kelby Training. Dumping as much in my head as fast as I could. Jumped around to different subjects, lighting, B&W, HDR, portrait retouching, and on and on. I learned a lot, but when I pulled up one of my own pictures I was still at a loss as to what to do with it – how to get it where I wanted it. Too much running around in my head, nothing sticking.

Last week I pulled up a course on ‘Beauty and Portait Retouching’ by David Cuerdon. Great course. I watched slowly, took notes, backed up as I needed and watched it again. When I was all the way through I sat down last Saturday and worked through the whole course – twice.  I applied each principal he taught on his sample image. My original plan was to do it 3 times, but it took me so long the first time I ran out of day. Still, it was a great exercise. Things finally started sticking. All the stuff I’ve been cramming in my head started coming together and making sense.

In the past few days I’ve sat down and played a bit with my own pictures.

This was the first one. My kids have been watching me messing around with Photoshop and Lightroom and they wanted to do it too. K, my 8 year old, wanted to make a colorful sunset. So we started with an HDR TC I took last summer.

K wanted more ‘creative’ coloring. So, I popped up a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and under her direction we changed a few things:

I’m a literalist. I have to push myself to see outside of the box. In theory I don’t have an issue with manipulating a photograph. Photographers have been manipulating images since day one. But when it comes right down to it, 99% of the adjustments I make don’t change the base nature of the image. I even struggle with cropping. It was drilled into my head that most of the work should be done in the camera. Plus, since I shot mostly in color chromes and it was expensive and a hassel to have much post processing modifications made (and I was poor and impatient), I stayed pretty close to what I shot. Now so much more is possible it isn’t an issue of the tools – its an issue with my vision.

K’s little exercise started me thinking about pushing beyond normal bounds. So I pulled up an image I shot my first time out with my D90.

 

I’ve always liked this image – felt there was potential here. But I wasn’t sure what to do with it. So I dropped a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and played with the color. Some Layer Mask blending and a heavy crop and this was the result:

Still not sure I’ve found the essense of the image, but it is definiately more interesting, more compelling. I see more what grabs me about this image – two of my favorites elements: Texture and Direction.

One more. I was sending images of our cabin to a family member. I have one image I like showing the outside view from the great room. An image of a beautiful snowy day. The exposure is for outside, and the inside is dark. I decided to try and even that out.

I dropped in a Curves Adjustment Layer and adjusted the image for the shadow area. Then I filled the Adjustment Layer Layer Mask with black to hide the affect and painted in the areas I wanted to apply the adjustment with white on the Layer Mask.

It was like turning a light on in the room.

It’s starting to get fun.

An HDR Set

I am still playing around with HDR. Need to keep working with it to see where it fits best in my set of tools.

Here’s a set I did where it made a difference. The scene was a high contrast shot, late morning so the sun was a bit high. But still had some good shape and flow. The HDR added the extra bit of detail and contrast that pushed a slightly washed out image into a interesting image.

I’m still playing with the Detail Enhancer vs. the Tone Compressor. I like the Tone Compressor in my mountain shots – it plumps up the pine trees – a richer green with nicer luminance. Here’s a comparison.

This first shot is the middle image of my 3 shot, 1ev set. I applied base Exposure and Black Lightroom adjustments. I applied a Gradated filter to the sky.

 Base Image

The second shot is the HDR Detail Enhancer version:

 Detail Enhancer

The third shot is the HDR Tone Compressor version:

 Tone Compressor

Repeat Attempt

I signed up on the Kelby Training on-line training site. So far its been a good investment in time and money. It is also why I haven’t posted for a while – I’ve been spending a lot of time absorbing.

But to make absorbing effective, it needs to be followed by some doing. I’ve started trying out some of the techniques and ideas I’ve learned.  I’m liking the results.

One of the first things I tried was a second wack at the tramp composite. The same day I shot the pictures of my daughter, I shot some of my son and his friend. While my 7 year old art critic rejected my effort, my son was more impressed. He asked if I would do one for him and being the good father that I am I obliged. It also gave me a chance to improve on my previous efforts.

Here’s the end result:

2009_0620_Adam_Tramp Composite

For the most part it was a repeat of the first try. My selections went a bit faster and cleaner. My shading went better. Overall it was a smoother effort. The primary difference was in the base image. On the first one I pulled up an image of the girls on the tramp and added other images around them. About halfway in I wanted to move them and couldn’t, because I hadn’t generated an image of just the tramp.

So on try #2 the first thing I did was generate an image of the tramp without participants.  I found two images where the jumpers were not overlapping. I stripped the jumpers from the base image. Then I did a Photomerge of the two images to align them. Then I dropped a layer mask on the second image and simply erased the hole away. It worked very nicely. I had a clean picture of the tramp and I was able to position the jumpers more easily.

Photomatix Registration Redo

On my first posting about Photomatix HDR I mentioned that I was disappointed that the registration of the images wasn’t very good. The same images were very tight in the PS CS3 HDR conversion, but didn’t work well when I did it in Photomatix.

In Photomatix, there are two registration options:

  • By correcting horizontal and vertical shifts
  • By matching features

I processed that first image using the first option. I didn’t like the results. I decided to run it again and see how it did.

Here’s the first image I did:

20090328-DSC_0048_49_50_Photomatix_HDR_sm

Here’s the new one, I generated using the second option:

20090328-DSC_0048_49_50

The registration is much better. I also played around with the image a bit now that I’m more familiar with the tool and the process. The final look is different, not necessarily better. But the registration was tighter and that’s what I was looking for.

I finally bought a copy of Photomatix, so now I’m committed. I believe I understand the basics enough to really start exploring what I can do with it, to use it. I also signed up for the Kelby Training. The first course I ran was Matt Kloskowski’s Real World of HDR course.  It did two things. It filled some holes in what I’ve learned piecemeal of the last few weeks and it confirmed the rest of what I have learned and my conculsions. Matt’s approach is very simple – how to spread the exposure latitiude – not necessarily how to come up with the hard-core HDR affect. But he does show how to do that, he just doesn’t dwell on it. All in all a good course.

FYI – if you’re considering purchasing Photomatix and signing up for the Kelby Training, hook up with Kelby Training first and check out the HDR course. They have a promo code that will save almost enough money on Photomatix to cover your first month of Kelby. I did it in the wrong order, but I stumbled across another promo code so I was good.

On a totally un-related subject – I’ve  been watching the BBC (I think) produced show ‘MI5′. What an amazing show. Gritty, real, touching. The production techniques remind me of 24 – I think they did it first. Either way – I’ve really enjoyed it to this point. Look for it on your local PBS station.