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

I'm still around

It’s been awhile.

I’m still working with my photography, with a big of ceramics here and there. I’ve spend a lot of time going through on-line Photoshop courses and building that skill set. It’s coming.

I’ve finished some prints that I really like. I’ll drop them in here over the coming days/weeks.

Actually I stopped writing because I lost the vision. I started getting caught up in how to make money with it – going commercial. The same thing that killed it off when I was doing it before.  There’s something in my head that tells me if I can’t make money at something it isn’t worth doing. That kills the creative drive – drives me in a direction I don’t really like. So I had to let that die. I would like to make enough cash doing it to help pay for it. But on my terms.

I’m actually struggling with the whole blogging thing. Is it worth the time? I write it and no body reads it – what is the value?


  • It helps me organize my thoughts, helps me internalize the process
  • It gives me a record of what I did and how I got there. Good to review
  • There’s the possibility that I could get some constructive input from like minded creatives, if I could make it interesting enough to give them a reason to share their time with me.

That’s good for a start.

I have to keep telling myself that this is a long term project – years, not months.

One exciting development – simple but exciting to me.

I was sitting in church a couple of weeks ago and had a vision of a portrait format I wanted to try out. But I’d need some strobes and a studio.

So I called the friend I’d sold my old stobes to a couple of years ago. I suspected at the time that she didn’t really want them that bad, but I sold them so cheap that she couldn’t pass them up. So I called her and asked if she would like to sell them back to me – and she did.  So I have my stobes back. They are old and probably needs a bit of service work, but they make light.

I learned a little bit more about my cool new Nikon D90. I was going to go buy a cable release. Luckily I actually looked at the camera first and noticed there isn’t anywhere to plug in the release cable. So I had to buy a remote release for it. Actually the price wasn’t bad, probably less than a good cable release would cost. Only thing I don’t like about it is you have to be in FRONT of the camera to use it. I can work around that.

Then I tried to sync my strobe to the camera – looked for the sync on the camera – there isn’t one. Back in my day there were just coming out with remote strobe triggers. I actually tried to make one – it kind of worked. It was light triggered. You plugged the sensor into the remote strobe and the light from the strobe on the camera set it off. It worked, but was never really usable. Now, I had to buy a radio trigger. Cool except more money. I checked out the PocketWizard and the Elinchrom Skyport. The PocketWizard sounded like the best long term choice, more powerful, more flexible and twice as much money. The Skyport is solid too. So I went with the Skyport. Going for the good product, easier entry point. If I need get more serious and need more umph I can move up to the PocketWizard. So far I really like it. Easy to use and flawless in during my first (and so far only) shoot this week end.

I pulled some neat shots. Need to put them together and I’ll share the result.