Washington DC: Holiday Season

The Holiday season in Washington, DC was marked this week by the lighting ceremony for the National Menorah on Tuesday, December 16th.  The ceremony for the National Christmas Tree was held earlier this month and I took the opportunity of the good weather last night to check out the scene.

xmas white house tree 2014

National Christmas Tree, Washington, DC

XMAS National Menorah 2014

National Menorah

Both are on the Ellipse, just south of the White House.  There isn’t a lot of parking in the immediate vicinity, but it’s a short walk from the Farragut West Metro Station.

ABFriday Forum Week 29

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 29A Before 03

After                                                                Before

Each Friday, Stacy Fischer of Visual Venturing hosts a special forum on post-processing where photographers may submit images and describe their post-processing actions to achieve the final result.  This week marks the 29th consecutive episode and I fully expect there will once again be an interesting set of examples by the participants.  Here is the link for the ABForum Week 29 Central Command.  Please check it out.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 29A Before 01

Original Raw Image

The above image is a “Reject” taken about four years ago and this week the idea was to see if a heroic rescue could be achieved.   After all, I had learned a few tricks since the image was taken and Photoshop has added a ton of new capabilities during that time.   But alas, a transformation from forlorn reject into a splendid representational masterpiece was not to be.

The original image is a long view of the Smithsonian American Art Museum looking north up 8th Street NW in Washington, DC and was taken about 45 minutes before sunrise. (Technical Data: Nikon D700 on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 70mm; exposure 3 secs. @ f/13, ISO 200)

The first step, as always, was in Adobe Camera Raw.  The adjustments made were as follows: White Balance changed to tungsten; Exposure increased +0.35; Highlights decreased to -68 to reduce the bright glare of the street lights; Shadows increased to +100 to open up the dark areas; Clarity upped to +38; Vibrance moved up to +37; and Saturation nudged to +8.  The results are shown in the image below.Robin Kent ABFriday Week 29A Before 02

Adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw

Next, a variety of Photoshop actions were taken but there is no need to list them since they did not help much.  This left two choices: another image could be chosen and the process could start all over. Or, I could fall back on the techniques used  in last week’s Forum and abandon realism altogether. In other words, return to the hallucinatory environment known as Photoshop’s Filter Gallery.  So that’s what happened and the image below is the result (Technical details at the end of the post).

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 29A After

Final Image

I’m not sure this is a great result; it might be better if some of the upper portion was cropped out to eliminate the untextured part of the sky. Any thoughts from viewers would be welcome.

Techie stuff about the method:

The image was cropped to eliminate the unattractive foreground.  When using the filter gallery one needs an 8-bit image, a 16-bit file won’t work.  To verify this, just click on Image->Mode and make sure 8 bits/channel is checked in the drop-down menu.  The second rule, at least for those (like me) who don’t have extensive experience with the Photoshop filter gallery, is to just try each option until you find something that works well.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 29 Before 04

Detail from Filter Gallery Dialog Window

When ready begin, click on Filter–>Filter Gallery and a large display panel will open. A partial screen capture is shown above. The choices are listed on the right side and a preview of the image is displayed in a large panel on the left (mostly not shown).  I started with the variations listed under Artistic (blue arrow) and merely worked my way down looking for one that had some possibilities.  After 8 strikes, I landed on “Plastic Wrap” (red arrow) and, as I did with the others, started adjusting the three controls.  The settings I chose are shown in the screen capture (yellow arrow).

Again, thanks to Stacy for keeping this Forum running smoothly and thanks to the other participants who make this such an interesting weekly event.  Please check out their submissions at Visual Venturing’s  ABFriday Forum Week 29.

Two Days in Connecticut

Last week I made a short trip to Hartford and even though it was a business trip with very little downtime, I took my camera along.  I chose a hotel about two blocks from the Great River Park on the eastern side of the Connecticut River with the hopes that I might get a decent skyline shot of Hartford at twilight.  The image below shows the outcome.

Connectcut 01

Hartford at Twilight

(Technical Data: Nikon D800E on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 50 mm; 7 exposures, each 3 secs. @ f/16, ISO 400; Photomerged in Photoshop CC)

The meeting the next day was at a private secondary school in Windsor, Connecticut (Disclosure: I am an alumnus of the school)  One of the sessions included a campus tour so I grabbed my camera and snapped away as we went along.

Connecticut 02

Founders Hall, Loomis Chaffee School

(Technical Data: Nikon D800E handheld with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 45 mm; Exposure: 1/2000th sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 500)

Connecticut 05

View from inside the Reading Room, Katherine Brush Library

(Technical Data: Nikon D800E handheld with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 38 mm; 3 exposures, each 1/1000th sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 400; Photomerged in Photoshop CC)

Connecticut 04

Black and White Version of the Same Image

The rest of the day and a good part of the evening were spent indoors and I had a morning train to catch in New Haven.  I arrived at the station  in time to whip out the camera one last time before the Acela showed up.

Connecticut 07

Union Station, New Haven Connecticut

(Technical Data: Nikon D800E handheld with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 24 mm; 12 exposures, each 1/60th sec. @ f/4.0, ISO 1600; Photomerged in Photoshop CC)

After Before Friday Forum Week 28

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 29 Before DualBREAKING NEWS:  In addition to this post today, I also have been given an opportunity to do a “guest post” on Leanne Cole’s blog entitled “Up for Discussion-Travel Photography.  Leanne is a fabulous photographer in Australia and if you haven’t checked her site before, please take a look.  The link is placed–for your convenience–at the end of this post.  And now back to our regularly scheduled Friday morning program.

By popular request, my submission to this week’s ABFriday Forum reveals the identity of one of the losing “Before”  images in the Reader’s Poll for the ABFriday Anniversary Challenge for Week 26.    The request came about when a colleague attempted to guess which one of the 8 submissions was actually mine.  She finally guessed correctly after choosing all of the others, leaving only this one.  She then wanted to know what in the world I was going to do with this image if it turned out the unimaginable happened and it was chosen. Several other friends wanted to know the story of what the object was and where it had been photographed.  So I promised I would post the whole story (a sad one, unfortunately) in a future Forum and so here we are today. Be sure to visit the other submissions to this week’s Forum at Stacy Fischer’s ABFriday Forum Week 28.

The best way to start this off is to give some background on the object.  It all started in 2009, when an eager young entrepreneur opened a small independent coffee store in Great Falls, Virginia.  The owner contacted a local arts group, Great Falls Studios (full disclosure: I am a member of this group),and asked for assistance in arranging art exhibits in the space by local artists.  After several exhibits, the idea of doing a themed exhibit on “Coffee” was raised and scheduled.  I had no qualifying images so dropped by and made a few images of coffee paraphernalia in the store.  One of the subjects was the coffee roaster itself as shown in the image below.Robin Kent ABFriday Week 29 Before 03

 Deidrich Coffee Roaster, the Only Roaster Manufactured in the U.S.

But this image was too cluttered, and I moved in closer for a detail shot which became the “Before” image shown at the beginning of today’s post.  (Technical Data: Nikon D200 with 18-200mm lens, extended to 75mm, on tripod; exposure 3 secs. @ f/16, ISO 320, available light)

The result was opened in Adobe Camera Raw and I followed my usual procedure in making corrections.  The adjustments are shown in the Screen Capture below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 29 Before 02

Screen Capture of Adjustments in Adobe Camera RAW

At this point, I had a technically decent image, but it wasn’t particularly interesting and if it had to be hung in an exhibit, something more was need.  Fortunately, Photoshop has about two zillion ways to go wild with an image .  Not that I knew what one to use, but what better way to learn than by experimenting?

After some trial and error, I opened up the Filter Gallery and found something called “Glowing Edges.”  Now that sounded cool, so I played around with that for a bit and ended up with the image below.  As you can see, I cropped out the red band at the bottom of the

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 29 After

image.  The procedure used to make this transformation is as follows:  In Photoshop, click on Filter->Filter Gallery; this opens up a large display window with a list of various options in the upper right section (Artistic, Brush Strokes, etc.).  Look for the “Stylize” option and click on the down arrow.  There should be just one choice, “Glowing Edges.”  Select that and then take a look at the sliders immediately to the right (See Image below).  In this

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 27 Before Screenshot. 02jpg

case, I set the edge width to the minimum value of 1, the Edge Brightness to 8 and the Smoothness to 2.  The display window includes a preview of the image as you make changes, so it is easy to see the effects of each slider.

Further experimentation resulted in a few more images and the final image was what would probably be called a tetraptych (group of 4 images) as shown in the image below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week27 Before 05

The print was a modest 12″ X 16″  but I have no idea what I did in Photoshop to make those borders look like they were ripped.

At any rate, the exhibit was a success, but sadly, the coffee store was not.  Serving great coffee and providing great customer service do not always result in sufficient  profits  and the business was closed within a year after these pictures were taken.

Once again, many thanks to Stacy Fischer for managing the After Before Friday Forum. Take a look at the other submissions at her blog, Visual Venturing.

And for those wishing to check out Leanne Cole’s blog and our Travel Photography discussion, please go to her site at this location.

No Need to Plan; Just Roll the Dice

The calendar said December 1st, the thermometer said almost 70 degrees, the sun was shining and some interesting clouds were moving across the sky.  Time for a quick run into the city for an unplanned photo shoot.   My weather app showed a storm was coming in from the west so it would be a quick trip.  With nothing specific in mind, I put my fate in the hands of the parking gods.  They apparently were in a generous mood and provided a vacant spot on Constitution Avenue directly across the street from the National Archives.  Not bad.  Here are a few images from the next 45 minutes.  When I saw the  storm clouds moving in from the West (last Image), it was time to go.

Archives 01

Main Entrance Pediment, National Archives

Archives 02A

Cropped, Black and White Version

Ice Skating 01

View from the National Gallery of Art Skating Rink

Archives 03

Looking Up, Plaza Level of Main Entrance

Archives 04

Main Entrance Plaza. Looking Southeast

Archives 05

Approaching Storm, Looking Southwest

After Before Friday Forum Week 27

Well, last week on the ABFriday Forum was great with everyone presenting a Before and After version of the same image.  I think we participants all enjoyed the experience of comparing our diverse interpretations of the same image.  Now we return to our normal practice of each person submitting Before and After versions of our own images. All of the other contributions can be found at Stacy Fischer’s Visual Venturing post starting around 8:00 EST so be sure to check them out. .

ABFriday Week 27 After-Before                                            After Image                 Before Image

As I started to consider what image to submit this week, i was struggling with the fact that the morning temperatures were in the 20s and heading down.  Although this might be a trifle for folks in the northern latitudes, it is really hard on those of us  who live in Virginia.  Then, my memory took me back to a January day when I had the good sense to be in Hawaii and the selection was an easy one. The differences between the two images above may seem small, but a fair amount of work was required to get from B to A.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week27 Before

 Unprocessed RAW Image

A larger size version of the Before image is shown above.  As usual, the first step was to engage the Adobe Camera RAW process (See image of the screen capture below).   All work was done in the basic window (yellow arrow) and the specific changes are identified with the red arrows.  My first goal was to minimize the bright spots in the sky and so the Highlights were reduced to -70.  Second, I wasn’t thrilled with the silhouette effect and did my best to open up the shadows by going to the maximum increase of +100.  The remaining changes were less aggressive: Whites reduced to -8; Clarity increased to +22; and Vibrance increased to +27.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 27 Before Screenshot

Adobe Camera RAW Changes

The result of the adjustments are shown in the image below.  It seemed like there had been some improvement in the sky, and opening up the shadows had brought out some detail in the palm tree and some life in the water in the middle distance.  But two new problems had arisen.  The open shadow maneuver had revealed an unattractive road in the foreground and a portion of some kind of boat on the right side.  Curses!  Had I been foiled again?

Robin Kent ABFriday Week27 Before 02

Result of the Adobe Camera RAW Adjustments

But not to worry, Photoshop was waiting to show its capabilities and the image was transferred there. The next step was to  de-emphasize the road  in the foregroundRobin Kent ABFriday Week27 Before 03

Levels Adjustment for the Foreground

by selecting it (see red arrow pointing down to the selected area) and using a Levels Adjustment layer and moving the slider from 0 to 32 (Other red arrow).

But the problems of the boat and the still too bright segments of the sky remained.  The boat easily defeated the first attempt (Content-Aware Edit Fill) and so the clone tool was pulled out for action.  Removing the boat was easy enough and the sky was corrected by copying small sections of sky on the left side that had a light blue tone .

Robin Kent ABFriday Week27 Before 04

Using the Clone Tool

The final result is shown below.  Although a fair amount of work was done, the differences are small.  But I think they make it a better image.  The foreground remains unobtrusive, the small but annoying boat is gone, the water is a little brighter, there is just a bit of detail in the palm leaves to add some dimensionality, and there are no hot spots in the sky.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 27 After

Final Image

I’d be interested in any comments and please check out the submissions from the other participants at Stacy Fischer’s ABFridayWeek 27.

Keep Photographing…..

Keep Photographing…

I admire photographers who undertake a mission to take at least one image every day for a specified period of time, often an entire year.  I don’t think I could pull that off, but they have a point.  One needs to keep practicing their craft so it’s a good idea to get out  fairly often even if you don’t have a specific subject in mind. So one afternoon last week I went out for a “practice session.”  The following images were all taken within about 90 minutes.

Bartholdi Park 01

US Botanical Garden and US Capitol Building

I just happened to catch a glimpse of this view as I was walking toward the Disabled Veterans Memorial.  I stopped and tried a few variations even though though the plants were in shadow.

Disabled Veterans 01

Late Afternoon, Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial

The late afternoon sun was doing a nice job illuminating the west end of the Rayburn House Office Building and the lack of wind made it possible to capture a nice reflection in the Memorial’s pool.  I’m not thrilled with this angle, however, and another session might be a good idea.

US Capitol Scaffolding 01

Heading back toward the Capitol Building, I was confronted with this composition and set down the tripod, hoping that I could get a picture before I was discovered by the ever vigilant Tripod Police.  There is nothing that motivates one to photograph quickly and efficiently like the knowledge that people with weapons are looking for you.

Grant Statue 02

U.S. Capitol Building and the “Artillery” Sculpture

This image of the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial shows a portion of one of the large sculptures flanking the Grant stature about 100 feet to the left. This has always been a highly dramatic sculpture but now, with the bizarre appearance of the Capitol Building, their pose of wild panic might be viewed with a different interpretation than originally intended by the sculptor.

Grant Statue 01

Evening, Ulysses S. Grant Statue and U.S. Capitol Building

This was the last image of the evening.  I decided not to press my luck any longer with the the Tripod Police. Plus, I had added a number of images to my inventory documenting this stage of the Capitol Dome Restoration Project.