After-Before Friday Forum Week #23

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This week Stacy Fischer’s ABFriday Forum is announcing a “Reader’s Pick” for the Forum.  Here is how it works:  Previous participants during Week 1 through last week (Week 22) have been asked to submit a “Before” image on their own and those submissions are now on display at VisualVenturing here.

Visitors to that site are invited to look over the images and vote for one.  Mine is there, but it will be–like all the others–anonymous.  The image receiving the most votes will then be post-processed by all of the participants and the different interpretations of that image will be displayed as a group on November 14th, which marks the half-year point (week 26) of the Forum.

All of the participants except for the one who made the image selected by the readers will be working on an image that is not their own.  What will they do?  Does the fact that it is not your own image change one’s entire editorial philosophy?  Will the participants attempt to create something unexpected or  something bizarre?  will this be an occasion in which the more traditional editing route is the most dangerous?

Don’t miss your chance to be part of the fun.  Vote early, vote often.

The Ballot Box can be found at visualventuring.ordpress.com

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.

2014 Studio Tour

Studio Tour 03

Every year in the fall, the artists of Great Falls, Virginia hold an Open Studio weekend, inviting the public into their studios to learn about their art, their techniques, and why they are so dedicated to the creation of visual art.  This year, more than 50 members of Great Falls Studios are participating in this event which will be held this year on 17-19 October from 10 AM to 5 PM each day.  My studio (see images below) will be one of those open and I hope followers of my blog who live in the Washington, DC area will be able to drop by.

But there are 49 other artists as well and information about the tour and each of the participants can be found at the 2014 Great Falls Studio Tour website.  Information is provided about each of the participants so you can design your own itinerary and see works of painters, potters, photographers, jewelers, sculptors, fiber artists, and other media depending on your interests.  The site has a page with links to maps that can be downloaded.  Or you can start at the Studio Tour Headquarters in the Great Falls Library and see actual samples of work from each of our participants, ask questions from our representative who will be there, and pick up a map that will guide you through the roads and byways of Great Falls to the studio locations.  The library, normally closed on Sundays, has graciously agreed to be open on October 19th for this event.

Studio Tour 01

Printing and Matting Area, Lower Studio

Studio Tour 02

Gallery, Upper Studio

I hope to see you here.

After-Before Friday Forum — Week 21

The After-Before Friday Forum, sponsored by Stacy Fischer of VisualVenturing is an opportunity for photographers to exchange ideas on various post-processing techniques they use to achieve their creative vision. After all, when the shutter closes, there is still work to be done.  All of the submissions can be found at  the Forum Week 21 posting here.  Anyone can participate and the guidelines can be found in Stacy’s Forum post each week.

My submission this week was taken a few years ago at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, DC.  The cherry blossoms had peaked a day or so before and a night rain had knocked a lot of petals off the blossoms giving the appearance of a pink snow flurry.  I was fortunate in that no one had yet walked through the petals.  When photographing cherry blossoms in low light, I always use an on-camera flash to provide some fill light.  Just a touch is all that’s needed so I typically dial the flash back 2 or 3 stops.  In addition, I use a magenta gel filter on the flash so the white light doesn’t blow out the color of the petals.  (Technical data: Nikon D700 on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 24mm; exposure: 3 sec. @ f/16, ISO 800) This produced the RAW file shown below.

Robin Kent Before  Week 21 FDR 01

Original RAW Image

The exposure was OK with the cherry blossoms, the twilight blue of the sky, and the display wall.  The chief problem areas are: the overly hot flood light (upper center) and the uplights along the base of the wall; the underexposed pillars; and the foreground with the pink petals.  The image was opened in Adobe Camera RAW as the first step.

 Robin Kent Before  Week 21 FDR 02Adobe Camera RAW Adjustments

Only four changes were needed here (red arrows). The “Highlights adjustment was moved to -53 to tone down the hotspots in the lights. The “Shadows” adjustment was maxed out to +100 to open up the dark areas which helped improve the pillars. Some “Clarity” was added (+26) and just a smidgen (+13)  with the “Vibrance” slider.  The image is well saturated already and doesn’t need much more.

This was followed by moving the image into Photoshop (see image below). The first step  involved the pillars.  The underexposed sections were selected (red lines) and a Curves

Robin Kent Before  Week 21 FDR 03

First Curves Adjustment for Pillars

Adjustment Layer (blue arrow) was opened.  It required a fairly push  up with the curve to get the desired detail.  The blend mode was left in the default position of Normal.The final step was to brighten up the foreground a bit.  The pink are was selected (red line in the image below) and a second Curves Adjustment was made (blue arrow).  The blend mode

Robin Kent Before  Week 21 FDR 04

Second Curves Adjustment for Foreground

was left at Normal again and only a modest push was made to the Curve.   This produced the final image which is shown below.

Robin Kent After Week 21 FDR 01

Final Image

Once again, many thanks to Stacy Fischer for keeping this Forum up and running.  Please check out the submissions by the other participants at her post for Week 21 here.  And stay tuned for a special edition coming soon that is based on a suggestion from one of the participants.

Lunar Eclipse and Lincoln Memorial

Lunar Eclipse 02

Well, I’m sure everyone is putting up their take on the lunar eclipse that occurred a few hours ago. This is my first attempt at a  multiple image composite showing the process of the eclipse.  This sequence began at 5:35 AM EDT and ended at 6:45 AM after the moon became obscured by clouds or haze near the horizon.  I used an intervalometer to control the camera sequence, taking one image every 60 seconds.  The combination here is a selection of every fourth image.  A few taken after the moon disappeared were also included in order to get a little more detail on the Lincoln Memorial and a better blue in the sky.   The brightness of the illuminated crescent during the early exposures unfortunately blew out the portions of the moon in shadow.  Nevertheless, the entire moon was visible to the naked eye.  But if the weather cooperates on September 28, 2015 I’ll have another chance.  In the meantime, I have 11 months to play around with this set to see if I can tease out more detail.

Washington, DC: October Scouting Report

Breaking News: There is a new Memorial in town–the “American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial.”  It was dedicated in a special ceremony on Sunday, October 5th and was opened to the public yesterday.  An excellent article by Phillip Kennecott, the Washington Post Architecture Critic, gives all the details which can be found here.

American Veterans Disabled Blog 01 D-14-10-06-3965

The Monument is located on a small plot of land bounded by three main streets a block or so away from the US Botanical Garden.  I visited it on Monday afternoon to check on the photographic opportunities.  As Kennecott notes, with one exception, the location is not surrounded by a majestic background.  That exception is the southwest corner where there is a fabulous view looking toward the US Capitol Building (northeast of the Memorial) as shown in the image below. Hard to see in this size, so click on the image for a better view.  Mid-afternoon is not the best time for a photograph, but I imagine that this could be pretty nice at twilight.

American Veterans Disabled Blog 03 D-14-10-06-3990-98

The main features include two infinity pools. The larger pool, shaped as a triangle, is only ankle-high and on calm days could provide some impressive reflections as suggested by the image above. The second,  is star-shaped and is about knee-high and punctuated by a burning flame emerging from a bubbling fountain (see image below).

American Veterans Disabled Blog 02 D-14-10-06 PAN

At the south end, there is a series of glass panels, with etchings of quotes and images.  It is this section which is the most compelling and reminds us of the costs of going to war.

While I was there I wandered over to the US Capitol to check on the progress of the scaffolding.  It has grown considerably since my last visit but they have more to add.  The entire West Front is becoming increasingly absorbed by the renovation work.  There now is a shiny aluminum catwalk traversing the north (left) side of the building emanating from an enormous construction support compound that houses the nerve center of the renovation project.

American Veterans Disabled Blog 04 D-14-10-06-4021

But the positive news today is the appearance of this new memorial and the purpose for which it was created.  When you get a chance, check it out.  The Federal Center SW Metro stop is only two blocks away.

 

After-Before Friday Forum Week 20

Robin Kent After 02 Week 20

The Kennedy Center “After” Image

I am happy to once again submit an image to the After-Before Friday Forum sponsored by Stacy Fischer of Visual Ventures.  The Forum allows photographers an opportunity to compare examples of how they process their images to accomplish their creative vision .  Sometimes the changes are substantial; other times they can be minimal.   My submission for this week’s Forum is somewhere in between.  The fountain is in the Georgetown section of Washington DC but the Kennedy Center in the distance is the subject of the photograph.   The image below, the “Before” image is the original RAW file before any adjustments have been made. (Technical data: Nikon D700 on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 70mm; exposure: 2.0 secs @ f/13, ISO 200)

Robin Kent Before 20

Original RAW Image Before Adjustments

 A number of issues are apparent when comparing the RAW image to the scene as I originally saw it.  Most importantly, the sky is too bright and does not have the actual twilight blue of that evening.  The screen capture below shows the adjustments that were made in the ACR window (red arrows).

Robin Kent Before 02 Week 20

Adjustments in Adobe Camera RAW

The most important change was in the white balance.  As always, I had used Auto White Balance which usually does an excellent job.  In this case, the color temperature was moved from 4850 down to 4150 to obtain a “cooler” look, and the tint increase from -23 to -7.  The other adjustments were:  decreasing the Highlights to -57; increasing the Shadows to +12; setting the white by increasing the Whites to +13; adjusting the black point by decreasing the Blacks to -23; increasing the Clarity a substantial amount to +53; and increasing the Vibrance to +37.  These brought the image close to what the scene looked like on that evening.  It was then opened in Photoshop CC.

Robin Kent Before 03 Week 20

Curves Adjustment Layer

Not much more was needed.  First, as shown in the screen capture above, was an overall curves adjustment layer (red arrows) for a slight increase in contrast.  One of the optional presets, “Linear Contrast” seemed to work best.  The next step was to add a little more punch to the colors with a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer (red arrows) shown in the screen capture below.

Robin Kent Before 04 Week 20Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer

The final step was to decide whether to remove some or all of the figures standing or sitting along the water’s edge.  Some had moved during the 2-second exposure and the lack of sharpness was distracting.  A combination of the Edit>Fill> Content-Aware tool and the Clone tool removed the blurred figures while leaving those that had kindly remained still during the exposure.    The “After” image is shown again below.

 Robin Kent After 02 Week 20The Kennedy Center at Twilight

Once again, thanks to Stacy Fischer for sponsoring the Forum.  Please check out the other submissions at her Visual Venturing.  And if you aren’t following Visual Venturing already, you might want to click that “Follow” button now, because I understand she is planning to announce a special feature for the Forum in the next week or so.