One Moment in Time

 

 

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Photography is all about capturing moments in time and preserving them. When your presented with that moment be prepared or loose it. Most photographers will admit, if they are honest, that they’ve missed far to many and will try to be better prepared at any time. Today that is made a lot easier with the advent of cell phones that have reasonably good cameras but these certainly don’t replace a DSLR for quality files but they’re easily accessible to make that capture.

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This is one of those moments that came up very quickly and was over with in a couple of minutes.

Recently, on a student outing, we were at a lake location for a sunrise shoot. All the cameras were set up on tripods facing east and everyone was anxiously waiting for their moments to capture the aura of a new day. A steady wind was coming out of the west and as the wind picked up I turned and there was this amazing boiling cloud formation know as mammantus clouds coming over our heads. Alone these are an interesting cloud structure and poised on a broad scene they are very dramatic. Then I noticed all the birds scurrying about sensing an impending storm and higher up the gulls were souring in the air turbulence. I collected my camera in hand and I began to shoot the larger birds with the back drop of the clouds.

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The birds were moving very quickly partly due to the winds but also gulls are generally quick fliers. I immediately thought of capturing them as a silhouette, at the altitude they were flying the details were not necessary so I made a setting selection. I always shoot manual so with the ambient light low and by increasing my shutter speed to keep the birds sharp I ended up with a setting of 1/180 to 1/500 sec, f 2.8 and the ISO was already set at 200 for the sunrise. I always check my in camera metering to make sure I don’t blow out any highlights, if there is any danger I shoot on the dark side and bring it back in Lightroom.

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In post production the decisions were almost immediate. There was very little colour so a conversion to B&W was obvious and it was the first step. I took the first image and tweaked it till the clouds were well defined yet the bird remained the darkest point which became the focal point. I saved this as an action and applied it to the 56 images as a base line. The clouds were really quite uniform in brightness so I could make a decision individually as to where a stronger highlight could be placed. The obvious choice would be around the gull but I chose not to be that obvious because in mother nature its more random. In stead I let each images cloud structure decide where the brightest point would be and the bird was secondary even though it was the focal point, bit unusual, but I believe it worked out well.

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The last bit of artistic license was to convert them to a deep sepia tone which gives the images a more menacing and intense essence. To finish all the images were taken into FX pro and given a simple frame and a light glow with no blacks, to make sure there was no halo around the birds.  The glow gives the clouds a very nice soft look and deepens the background from the foreground, with a sharp bird detail, almost appearing 3D.

Fall is Upon Us.

Plan for a Fall Harvest.

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We are very lucky to be living in the heart of Canada and specifically Manitoba. The diversity of photo opportunities here is amazing if you just look around you. I’ll bet if you talk to some of your photographic friends there are spots you’ve never heard of, share them and enjoy the bounty we have here.

Ian Tamblyn Concert Wpg., Feb 24 2012

The prairie harvest is one event that takes place all around us. I’ve seen some amazing images in fact there are photographers that dedicate their entire portfolios to farming. Fall is prime time so don’t miss out and maybe even take in a fall supper while your out and about.auto remote camera

I’ve enjoyed shooting the harvest for a number of years now and they’re not difficult to do. There are some things that you want to be aware of. When you see an opportunity don’t just jump in and start shooting, survey the area. Which direction is the wind coming from. Watch the patterns they are using to work the field and pick your spots, whats the back drop etc. Make sure you only bring out the gear your using the rest stays in the car away from the dust, trust me sometimes its a cloud. There’s a good side to this because the dust creates great sunsets or sunrises. Hey and wave to the farmers, they’re out there 12 or more hours mostly by themselves, so be neighborly, cautionary note sometimes they’re not so receptive.

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Enjoy the harvest and maybe have a great meal to boot.

 

I tried some thing new and reprocessed these images to show a soft silky sky. When shooting a very dusty field you’ll notice a haze and that’s what I wanted to replicate, most people will try to get rid of it with clarity or contrast adjustments but I say keep the dreamy hazy look.

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B&W September Challange

Cemetery Highlights

I’m a solitary kind of guy so I do most of my photographic work solo. Especially when I’m looking for some very moody images I don’t want to be thinking of other people or a time frame to finish by. I like to stop and spend time when visiting those chosen locations, I want to relax and really get a feel for them.

Back lit or rim light.

Back lit or rim light.

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Cemeteries are one of these locations I like to quietly meander through. I have to be in the right mood and that will usually strike me early evening or near sunset. I lean toward grounds that have an abundance of trees, they offer very interesting highlights and shadows, backgrounds or great silhouettes and vistas to look beyond. I also look for older cemeteries with the grand head stones topped with amazing sculptures or if your lucky you can find architectural limestone or marble crypt.

Looking to the sunset a distant vista of light through the trees.

Looking to the sunset creates a distant vista of light through the trees.

Its also important to note that stepping into a cemetery I have already converted my eye to thinking that I’m shooting with B&W film. Its a different mindset for me. I’m looking for more contrast and texture, more depth in shadows and highlights in a scene or subject.

Think outside the box and this may still sound a bit creepy, some will call this getting into the zone, but, as I wander about I listen to the sounds of the birds, trees rustling in the breeze, I watch the dancing dappled light filter through, I’ll become comfortable and a sense of calm will come over me, if the stars align my instincts will begin to guid me.

This is when the magic either happens or not, if not, I may not even take a shot and just walk. I may see the most amazing sculpture and try my best techniques to capture it but if it doesn’t want to pose for me then it won’t work. On the other hand you may find your drawn to a detail, for no apparent reason, one you’ve never had an interest in but suddenly its the most fascinating feature on the grounds, they speak to you and your excitement grows and you say why haven’t I shot this before. Is this divine intervention, I like to think so because I’m not in control I was brought here.

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I saw her from afar and  stay here for some time, "together forever".

I saw her from afar and stayed here for some time, “together forever”.

Have you had a moment when you felt someone watching you or out of the corner of your eye you see movement but don’t see anything. I treasure these sensations here and I’ll let them guide me and most often I’ll see something that is truly moving and capture an image that is compelling.

I may have walked by this marker many times and never seen.

I may have walked by this marker many times and never seen it till this day.

When I return to my studio I’m usually excited to down load the days shoot. In opening these image files I usually have a different sense of first impressions. One of my first processes is to do a general B&W conversion, I don’t know why but I feel that cemetery shots are best suited to a B&W conversion and I need to see all the files that way. I have my own B&W conversion formula that produces all my shots dark, its where I like to start. Out of the abyss I will select the highlights that I want to bring forward therefore the mood is instantaneous and more in tune to what I experienced.

Dappled light through trees.

Dappled light through the trees at Fraser’s Monument.

Alright so now you know that I’m totally crazy. I hope you find this set of images inspirational and when you next visit a cemetery say “hi” to the folks there for me.
Word of caution if your visiting a gated cemetery make sure you park outside and walk in, nothing like having your car on the wrong side of the gates when they close at sunset.

September B&W Photography Month

B&W September Challenge

Being that Sept. was designated as B&W photography month, and now with all my surgeries are behind me I’m starting to feel myself again. So, I thought I would have some fun and begin a post that would challenge everyone that wanted to build on their B&W portfolios.

I’m challenging myself to find as many different image genres in my archives to show you in B&W. I hope it inspires you to build on your own creative ideas and to help you develop your style and techniques in image capturing and processing. If your wanting to share an idea or related image here feel free.

B&W Movement

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One of my personal favourites in B&W is the movement of water in particular water falls. Most water movement expressed in B&W has a magical feel that is simply calming but liberating. When you see a well captured image it takes your breath away then it lulls your senses and feeling of calms prevail. Contrast is of major importance in these images, the back drop of rocks must be deep and dynamic showing strength and structure. The waters movement is the opposite it must be light demonstrating fleeting cascades of movement but should never be over exposed, details must be in the highlights. I like to find in these captures faint details of a rock or a splash or droplet juxtaposed to the main movement of the body of water. You will often find hidden rocks below thin vials of water along the edges, these are seen and appreciated in B&W renditions so pay attention to these fine details.

In processing B&W images never think that a simple third party filter set or global adjustment programs with sliders will suffice, they only create a starting point and you need to spend some time here with a brush, radial tool or point adjustment tool and begin to dodge & burn the details in. Having been a trained painter and pencil sketch artists I find the brush tools have given me the best results but recently I’m working more with a radial tool and creating some amazing results.  auto remote cameraauto remote camera

Remember don’t be in a hurry, spend time with your images and the results will be well worth the effort.

 

Its All About The Light

Its All About The Light…

I’m recovering from heart surgery so I was doing some file surfing tonight passing time and came across this old image taken in Minnesota some five years ago. I’ve always enjoyed this sequence of this Great Blue Heron fishing this small stream. Tonight the creative light went on when I saw this specific image file so I grasped the moment and came up with this predawn interpretation.

I love early morning light and the mood that it creates, still waters with dark shadows with highlighted reflections. I can still hear the sounds of woodland creatures start to awaken, a deer is just upstream grazing in the tall grasses, song birds calling in the distance. The heron moves ever so slowly not making a ripple, stalking its prey beneath the mirrored waters surface. I sat ever so quiet on this walking bridge and watched him for some time, it was so peaceful and tranquil. Now that’s an incredible way to start a day.

This image was processed in Lightroom 5.6 with just a slight contrast adjustment, a vignette added by using the radial tool, contrast in the grasses using an inverted radial tool, and details added to the Heron by brush. A slight global sharpening was added at the end. The dark glow and frame was added in Perfect Effects 8.   

A comprehensive detailed overview of the precessing techniques used to produce this image is available at my new blog “The Academy Of Fine Art Photography

Heron Fishing

Heron Fishing

 

I told you there were deer in the deep grass.

Serendipitously I caught both the deer and heron in the same shot.

Serendipitously I caught both the deer and heron in the same shot.

The Art Of Lightroom 5 – A Walk in the Woods with Liam.

Liam and his Papa Joe were explored this enchanted forest of apple blossoms and wild ferns when they came upon a magical cottage by a creek. Its conical roof and gingerbread shingles and the scent of freshly baked cookies captured their interest. Papa Joe felt compelled to explore inside but Liam was leery and would not enter the open large red door. It was Liam’s instincts that allowed them to escape the diabolical wizardry of the inhabitant. They learned later that two young children named Hansel & Gretal had gone missing and that a woodsman saved them from certain perils of that hauntingly beautiful cottage.

Creating a mood that enhances the story of your image.

Creating a mood that enhances the story of your image.

Creating focus in an obscured setting.

Creating focus in an obscured setting.

 

OK, so what is this all about. Well its about using your imagination and creating a processing formula that transforms your images into what you may have imagined. In this case a enchanted forest and a mystical cottage became the theme and the motivation for this processing technique.

The Capture

Armed with only a cell phone at the time I gathered some images and loaded them into Lightroom 5.  A small capturing detail when you have a small subject, in this case a toddler, get down to their level it helps bring the viewer into their world, these were shot from my knees. Shot in full sunlight was an asset, the contrast helped create the mood in post production.

Starting The Processing

Here is the process I used to transform these into the finished images you see here using Lightroom 5. I started with some basic global contrast adjustments but from that point on its all brush and radial adjustment. The apple blossoms were a key and they needed to have a certain brightness knowing that a glow would be added later. The graphic wall paintings tone was deepened and the ground around Liam brightened. The detail in the path in the forest to his right was brightened but not too much.

Technique

These intermediate processes were created by using a radial tool adjustment with a final touch up using a brush. The radial tool settings were different for each of the four zones selected.

Zone #1 – The apple blossoms had a slight contrast and clarity adjustment which required a negative highlight to bring back the whites a touch.

Zone #2 – The painted wall has a slight positive exposure setting, a dropping of the highlight then a touch of clarity to bring up detail and 28% saturation to deepen the colours.

Zone #3 – Liam had small vertical ellipse with similar setting to zone 2 but I dropped the highlights to a negative 31.

Zone #4 – The distant path on the right needed to be brought forward so a small horizontal elliptical was selected. The settings used were a decent amount of exposure 1 1/2 stops, highlights 18, shadows 29 and clarity 10.

A Touch Beyond

At this stage I moved the image to Perfect FX8 and added a dark glow, erasing around Liam with a 60% brush and added a boarder.  Minor details but its all about the details isn’t it. This is where the high contrast of midday plays its part.

Final Touches

The file was returned to LR5 and final touches were done with a brush tool. When using the brush tool look at the bottom box of the brush adjustments. There is an A, B and erase brush selection. This comes in handy when your doing some transitions of sharpness, glow or anything that warrants a smoothing of the effect that a simple feather won’t perform.  Select “A” brush and create the brush adjustments your looking for then set it up the flow and density at 100% with 50% feather so it will effect your selection quickly. Keeping the same brush settings set the “B” and reduce density and flow to 50% with 50% feather. Now you can blend the effect by switching quickly between the two. If you need to correct, select erase and correct the area. This is how I performed the final selective sharpening of Liam in the woods walking toward the witches hut. Only he and the hut are sharp the area nearest is at 50% the rest of the image has a soft glow. The shot with Liam under the apple tree Liam is sharp and the path leading to the right is sharp, the balance is a glowing image. There are approximately 50-60 brush adjustments to each image. I’ve been asked if these images were HDR, no, these are single image files taken on my iPhone’s regular camera, no special effects used.

Learn how these techniques and more can help you create a more stunning image.

If you are interested in learning more about Lightroom 5 and how this program combined with these and other techniques can effect your images read on.  I’m looking for 3-4 students to teach so I can fine tune my program that will be offered at RRCC this fall. You will receive personal one on one instruction on your images from start to finish and a completed print at the end. This program will also be the base of a new book which will become part of the package. If your interested contact me at Kerrmarketing@mac.com and I will give you more details.

 

Lightroom 5

LR5 was just released and for those that didn’t participate in the beta version this will bring you up to date with whats new. Those of you that have used the beta I will talk about what I’ve learned and done with the new features over the past couple of months.

Let me begin by stating the not so obvious. I work in LR every day and it didn’t take me long to realize that it was just faster. Start up, file uploads & openings and brush strokes are tell tail signs of an engine re-freshening. Cross platform file sharing is much faster and much more compatible with more third party applications. If you send a file over to PS for adjustment they are updated in LR immediately.

Lets get into the meat and potatoes of whats new. The are five key areas that have been identified as improvements for LR5 and these are:

Advanced Healing Brush
Upright
Radial Gradient
Smart Previews
Video Slide Show

There is a great number of other improvements that I will briefly talk about at the end.

Advanced Healing Brush

To those of you that took the LR 4 workshop series this past winter the much talked about healing brush is here. I told you it was coming. 🙂

The brush is fairly intuitive in fact it operates much like the spot healing tool of the past. LR5 has also made improvements to the quality of the engine that performs the corrections. You have the same two modes of selection, cloning and healing. Cloning will copy the source area as its selected and healing will create a patch that blends similar colour and contrast from the source. They both do a very good job but there are a couple of details I’d like to share. Edges of an image can be tricky. What I’ve learned is to clone in this area, healing can cause a blurring effect. Once you select that area to be replaced move your target away from the immediate location to avoid any obvious pattern repeat.

There is additional new tool  at the bottom of the image box and that is the Visualization Spots. Click this box and it will change the image to a hybrid B&W image that will reveal all the hidden dust spots. By fine tuning the slider they will pop these blemishes making it easy to correct. This new brush and tool set is worth the upgrade price alone. There are some very cool short cuts but I’ll go into those in another tutorial.

Upright

This is one of the most advanced horizontal and vertical correction tools out there. Under lens correction select the basic tab, here you will find all the settings for this new feature. Simple horizons like a water scene or a prairie horizon are flawless but it will even correct very complex architectural images.

Horizontal Correction: First select “Enable Profile Correction” to activate it, at the same time click remove “Chromatic Aberration” I’ve discussed this before just do it, then click level and it works wonders.

Vertical Correction: Vertical is the same procedure except hit “Vertical” and it does a good job at creating a perfect vertical rendering, but, if the perspective is not quite right you can still work the image under the manual tab as you see fit. Hit manual and at the bottom of the list you will find a new slider called Aspect. Move the slider left or right to fine-tune the image to your requirements. Do it in that order if you manually correct first it doesn’t work well.

3D Correction: Go back to basic and the last setting to try is “Full” this is a complete 3D correction on the image. Architectural images are the prime candidates for this procedure.  Again from here you can always go to the manual tab after and fine tune it to your liking.

If you have a set of images like a sequence for an HDR you can synchronize and process a set exactly the same so they match up. A very nice feature. One last tip when possible use a RAW file, LR5 uses the metadata like lens type and focal length to correct the image and it will do a better job with a RAW.

This is the untouched RAW file upload
This is the untouched RAW file upload. Shot with a 10-20mm lens there are lots of corrections need here.
Upright adjustment completed, small inverted radial adjustments with tint, brushed tinted highlights, a final global sharpening
Upright adjustment completed, small inverted radial adjustments with tint, brushed tinted highlights, a final global sharpening, a large dark & softening vignette with the radial filter.

Radial Filter

At first I wasn’t that keen on this one but it has really grown on me. The immediate thought is to create a vignette or focal point by highlighting or darkening, sharpening or blurring its great even colour highlights, contrast spot light, the list is endless. Remember that you have all the other adjustments sliders that can be applied with it, so get creative. Don’t forget there is a invert mask button that flips the settings. Now start working some combinations and the results are quite amazing and fun. Remember you are not restrict to be within the image boundary, also stacking does not degrade the image. There are a few short cut keys and special feature keys to this tool as well. I will be posting a specific tutorial on this feature with image samples soon.

Smart Preview

How many times have you wanted to work on an image with out your external hard drive with you, all you get is the dreaded cannot locate so you can’t work on the image. Create a smart preview and you can work off line on any image in your file. In Library mode just under the histogram is a small box, select the images you want to create a copy of and click,  LR5 will create a smart preview for you. LR saves these new files as as a lossy DNG file which is a compressed file of 70% – 50% so it won’t take much drive space. Remember because its a compressed file when you do certain adjustments like sharpening (off line) they may not render correctly on screen, but as soon as you reconnect to the hard drive with the original file, LR5 will update the full file correctly. This is a fabulous convenience addition.

Video Slide Show

If you create slide shows LR5 now allows you to create sides show presentations that incorporate movie clips. You just inserts like a image and it plays automatically. This is a nice feature to enrich you audience in your presentation.

There are a number of other improvements that are incorporated into version 5 that are worth mentioning. Some of the filter algorithms have been improved so be amazed as you explore. The noise reduction filters are now excellent. I shoot with a vintage Nikon D200 which is notorious for low light noise, its scary to consider going over ISO 400. I just competed a stage production shoot at ISO 1100 and my images are very usable. Highlight and shadow recovery sliders will amaze you. B&W conversion can be precisely mixed with 8 colour channels that can make or break a conversion. The enhanced 64-bit cross-platform pipeline speeds up image tasking whether your a Mac or PC user especially moving from one software package to another. LR5 print capabilities are superior and it has now replaced a costly rip program for my professional printing needs.

Conclusion

In conclusion I will suggest if you are using LR3 and enjoy it, come out of the dark ages to see what LR5 can do for you now, its magical. If you are a RL4 user and have found its become your go to image processing software then the advanced healing brush is worth the upgrade alone. If your a photographer and a PhotoShop devotee and don’t want to subscribe to Adobe cloud, check out this powerful processing package and all the online articles and tutorials on LR. That support alone should convince you to get on board. Its 1/10 the price and you’ll use more than 10% of the software program because its designed for photography. Adobe has now made it clear that PS (which has become a cloud suit subscription) is clearly become a graphic designers product. Lightroom was created for photographers and will likely remain a stand alone package.

Lightroom is priced at $ 79 for an upgrade, well worth the investment in your images and even the $ 149  for the full version is a tremendous buy for the photographer. I highly recommend it.