ABFriday Forum–Week 45

It’s Friday, and time for all post-processing aficionados to gather around the campfire at Stacy Fischer’s Visual Venturing Emporium to swap stories about their creative wizardry. My submission to the ritual is a simple tale, an homage to Mother Nature’s renewal of life cycle, also known as spring, here in Virginia.  All of the other stories are centrally located for your convenience at Stacy’s site, and the link to them is located at the end of this post.

The cherry blossoms are fading here, but the dogwood, redbud, and Virginia bluebells are emerging. And soon we will see the English bluebells, at least where they have been planted.  Looking back to last year, the English bluebells were at their peak on May 8th as I found when looking for a timely example for this week’s ABFriday Forum.  As I recall, a bit of stealth was required to sneak into the backyard of a nearby house, and there was time for only a few exposures.   The image chosen was opened in Adobe Camera RAW and the original version is shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Backyard Week 45 Before

Original Unprocessed Image

(Technical data: Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f2.8 lens extended to 200mm; Exposure: 1/4 sec. @f/16, ISO 100)

After setting the White and Black points, some additional tweaking was necessary. Highlights were reduced (-70), Shadows opened up (+23), and I pushed harder than the usual +30 on both Clarity and Vibrance (+43 on both).  The result is shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 45 Backyard Before 02

After RAW Processing

From here, it seemed only two changes were needed.  First, a slight increase in overall contrast,which was accomplished with the Adjustment Layer Curves option, selecting the preset “Linear Contrast” and the blend mode stayed at “Normal”.  The result, shown below,slightly darkens the green foliage at the top and the rocks near the waterfall.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 45 Backyard Before 03

After Overall Curves Adjustment

But the foreground is still way too bright.  So, using the polygon lasso tool, the lower half of the image was selected and a second  Adjustment Layer Curves was used.  The image below shows the area in red that was was masked from the effect of the adjustment.  The setting on the adjustment layer is indicated with the blue (teal) arrow.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 45 Backyard Before 04Curves Adjustment on Foreground

This seemed to be sufficient and the final result is shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 45 BAckyard After

Final Result

Please take a look at the submissions by other participants at Stacy’s Visual Venturing Blog by clicking here.

Keep shooting….

Cherry Blossom Mania

It had been a quiet week, thanks to the cloudy weather and intermittent rain.  The cherry blossoms had not been officially declared “at peak.”  Few photographers bothered to show up in the wee hours before the sun made its appearance.  But on Saturday, everything changed.

Cherry Blossom Chaos 18

A little after 6:00 AM and there were only a few spots with some room.

Cherry Blossom Chaos 01A

And it was possible to get a pretty decent image at 6:25 AM

Cherry Blossom Chaos 03

But soon it seemed that anyone who had a camera was here.

Cherry Blossom Chaos 02

Even an IMAX film crew working a documentary for the National Park Service.

Cherry Blossom Chaos 06

A few photographers were fashionably color coordinated (Note the teal accents).

Cherry Blossom Chaos 05

Even the Tripod Police dressed up with nice blue accessories.

Cherry Blossom Chaos 04

Everyone was in a good mood, some especially so.

Cherry Blossom Chaos 07

Those who got up late paid the price (But pink and blue was still the rule).

Cherry Blossom Chaos 13

Still, photo ops are where you find them

Cherry Blossom Chaos 10

Others used the blossoms as a prop instead of the subject.

Cherry Blossom Chaos 11

This magnolia tree is a favorite for wedding photographers

Cherry Blossom Chaos 08

A wedding announcement?  Not a bad idea.

Cherry Blossom Chaos 14

This pose started to draw a crowd.

Cherry Blossom Chaos 12

As did this one

Cherry Blossom Chaos 01

But the men practicing for the Kumu’ohu Challenge race on April 18 could care less.

Cherry Blossom Chaos 15

No need to hire a photographer, get a remote and Voila!

Cherry Blossom Chaos 16

A classic áo dài, and a perfect occasion for it.

Recipe for a perfect cherry blossom shoot?

The day before official peak must be a weekday, with a forecast that calls for clouds, rain, and wind. And the forecast turns out to be wrong on all three counts.

Keep shooting

AbFriday Forum Week 44

It’s Friday already!  And that means it’s time for Stacy Fisher’s AfterBefore Friday Forum where photographers from around the globe gather in our Virtual Conference Room to exchange ideas on what we do after the camera’s image has been downloaded into our processing device.  That  device can be a big computer, a tiny phone, or a tray of odiferous chemicals (remember them?).  You can see the other creative efforts at Stacy’s Visual Venturing blog and I highly recommend you check them out.

But before we go any farther, I’m pleased to announce the winner of last week’s quiz: Janice Foreman, of  “Moments in Time“, an excellent blog that I have been following for some time.  She will receive a copy of “Washington, DC,” a small collection of images I have taken of the city as soon as I can gather enough stamps to send it to Canada.  If you want to see the answers to the quiz they have been posted in the updated version (right at the top) of the original post.  Click here for details.

I’ve been spending a lot of time down at the Tidal Basin this week as the annual cherry blossom extravaganza builds toward its climax.  But sometimes the not-quite-ready star of the show (cherry blossoms in this case) gets upstaged by the old pro (the Jefferson Memorial).  Last Sunday morning’s sunrise provided Thomas an opportunity to take center stage as the prime photography subject. And he did not disappoint.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 44 Before

Original RAW Image

The original photo was taken about 20 minutes after sunrise, and the golden light on the Jefferson Memorial looked really nice.  The original, unprocessed RAW image is shown above. (Nikon D800E, handheld with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens extended to 42mm. Exposure 1/160th sec @ f/16, ISO 400)

The adjustments in Adobe Camera RAW were straight forward, with the primary need for opening up the shadows and dark areas on the Memorial.  This was done by setting the White point to +60, and then, after setting the Black point, increasing the Shadows to the maximum value of +100.   The Clarity and Vibrance settings to +30, which is the usual amount for me. (See image below)

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 44 Before 01B

Adobe Camera RAW Dialog Panel

The image was then opened in Photoshop CC, and the primary step was to crop the image to bring attention to the sun’s light on the stone surface.  Next, a very slight boost with a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. The only remaining step was to add just a little impact to the sky.  I created a new layer and used the gradient tool, setting the blend mode for soft light.  (See image below)

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 44 After

 

The gradient tool (as I used it here)  essentially mimics the effect of those neutral density graduated filters made famous by Galen Rowell and Singh Ray 15 years or so ago.  There are many, many ways to accomplish this in Photoshop and you will be relieved to know that this post is not going to discuss any of them.  A far more enjoyable use of your time would be to visit Stacy’s Forum and enjoy the submissions of the other participants.  You can do that by clicking here.

Cherry Blossoms-Now!

MMMaDespite the threat of rain, it was time for another dawn patrol to check on things in DC. After all, the entire city (or so the news played it) had experienced a power loss yesterday, who knows what conditions would be like around the monuments.  First stop, the Lincoln Memorial about 30 minutes before sunrise.  I figured with the dismal weather, there would be no one else about.  But what had been a deserted plaza two days ago was now filled with about 50 twenty-somethings engaged in an energetic calisthenics workout .  I managed to resist their enthusiasm and climbed the steps in search of a puddle that might provide an interesting reflection.

Lincoln Memorial 01

Reflections, Lincoln Memorial

Shortly afterwards, the entire gang of exercise enthusiasts came up the steps apparently having completed their routine and intent on giving themselves a standing ovation for their efforts.  This was my cue to head over to the Tidal Basin.

The lights were still ablaze at the Martin Luther King Memorial and it was clear that the cherry trees  were making excellent progress.  In fact, they are ready to be photographed. So I obliged them, trying out a few new compositions of the Memorial with some of the trees as a backdrop.  The image below is a sample.

MLK 01

Early Morning, Martin Luther King Memorial

The conditions in the Tidal Basin itself were less positive.  The heavy cloud cover prevented any color from the rising sun and a medium breeze eliminated any chances for an interesting reflection in the water.  But as the image below shows, the trees are doing their part.

Tidal Basin 03

Morning clouds, Tidal Basin

Finally, to provide a better idea of the status of the blossoms this morning, the image below shows a close-up.

Cherry Blossoms 01

If today’s forecast of temperatures in the low 50s holds true, the blossoms’ emergence will be a little less rapid.  My advice: get down there as soon as you think the weather is favorable for your visit.  The crowds will be there soon.

Cherry Blossoms–Now?

Things are moving fast down at the Tidal Basin.  The partial eclipse at dawn on Saturday was a bust because of clouds, but there was a full moon rise that evening, and the Cherry Blossom Festival decided to launch a bunch of fireworks at about the same time.  .So of course I went down to practice my Fireworks-Moonrise-Jefferson Memorial-Night Scene technique.  The image below is the result.

Jefferson Fireworks

Moonrise and Fireworks, Jefferson Memorial

I’m not sure when I’ll get another chance at this combination, so I’ll have to be satisfied with this one unless I want to cheat.

On Sunday morning I returned for another moon image, this time the setting moon with the Jefferson which would also give me a chance to check on the status of the cherry blossoms. Even in the pre-dawn twilight it was obvious that they had been busy that night because there was a pink cast to the trees that had been absent the day before.  It’s hard to see in the small image below, but the so-called “indicator tree” that is typically a few days ahead of all the others was indicating good things were coming soon.  There were 9,000 people attending a sunrise church service on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial but there was hardly anyone around the Jefferson Memorial.

Jefferson Moonset 01

Setting Moon at Dawn, April 5

I returned again this morning and found the walkways were still virtually deserted.   However, there was an incredibly long line waiting for admission to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing which was fine with me. The pink tone in the trees was much stronger and the lack of wind before sunrise enabled some nice reflections.

Tidal Basin 02

Tidal Basin, 10 Minutes before Sunrise, April 6

Tidal Basin 01

Tidal Basin, 30 Minutes after Sunrise, April 6

Today was quite warm so there should be further progress on Tuesday.  The forecast for Tuesday calls for some rain and cloudy weather but a while back I stupidly made a morning dental appointment for this day.  But I’ll definitely be back there on Wednesday, rain or shine.

Cherry Blossoms–Not Yet!

Although the cherry blossoms have yet to  fully awaken, there are plenty of other photographic opportunities right now in Washington, DC.

At sunrise two days ago, the tidal basin was almost completely deserted.   The sky was clear which means you can get the shot below as the sun clears the horizon.

Jefferson Sunrise 02

Sunrise, April 2, 2015

At sunrise the  next day, rain clouds were coming in from the west but there were some openings in the eastern sky.  Again, the tidal basin was deserted.

Jefferson Sunrise

Sunrise, April 3, 2015

The rain started within an hour after the image above was taken but it was a light rain so I checked out the status of the pink magnolia trees in Rawlins Park (E Street, Foggy Bottom) that usually are open before the cherry blossoms.

Tulip Trees 01

Afternoon Rain Shower, Rawlins Park

Tulip Trees 02

Magnolia, Rawlins Square

Tulip Trees 03

Magnolia, Rawlins Square

While photographing the square, I noticed some white magnolias across the street at the Red Cross National Headquarters (20th and E Streets NW).  A quick check showed that an evening shot might be worthwhile.

Red Cross 01

Evening, Red Cross Headquarters

This morning, I checked out the Enid Haupt Garden at the Smithsonian Castle on Independence Avenue.

Tulip Trees 05

Morning, April 4, 2015

If you want to photograph these trees, don’t delay.  They go quickly and inclement weather is forecast for mid-week.You can also find them in the Sculpture Garden (National Gallery of Art) and at the George Mason Memorial near the Jefferson Memorial.

OnePhotoFocus (April)

Update (April 10, 2015):   The winner of the quiz is Janice Foreman and here are the details of all the steps shown below:

  1. Starting from the original in Photoshop, the first step used the “Replace Color” tool. This is found by Image–>Adjustments–>Replace Color.  The settings in the dialog box were not recorded.
  2. Next, a sort of spotlight was added in the upper left corner, using the “Lighting Effects” tool. This is found by Filter–>Render—>Lighting Effects. The type of effect was “Spot.”  There are 7 or 8 controls in this dialog box plus a capability to rotate the overall effect.  A fun but dangerous tool in the hands of the inexperienced as you saw from the results of Step 2.
  3. The scene was reversed using the “Flip Canvas” tool. This is found by Image–>Rotate Canvas–>Flip Canvas Horizontal.
  4. To brighten the very dark results of Step 2, the standard technique of Layer–>New Adjustment Layer–>Curves was applied.
  5. To add a psychedelic touch along the roof’s rain gutter and the steps, I went for Filter–>Liquify.  Another dangerous tool that can easily run amuck.
  6. Still unhappy with the overall darkness, I threw a Hail Mary pass and employed Filter–>Stylize–>Trace Contour.
  7. Now I had the opposite problem, it was too light. So I relied on the familiar “Curves” tool, this time to darken the image: Layer–>New Adjustment Layers–>Curves..

This is the first Friday of the month and now that we are safely past April Fool’s Day, it is time for Stacy’s gang of post-production protagonists to focus their talents on the same image.  First, it would be appropriate to thank Cee for providing one of her images for whatever purpose the participants may choose.  It may also be necessary for me to apologize for what happened to that image inside my computer.  I hope she will forgive me, because my intentions were honorable.

My enthusiasm was so great this week that I neglected to take precise notes on what happened.  However, I did manage to remember what tools were used, if not precisely how.  Those with a competitive spirit  are welcome to take the “Pop Quiz” at the end.  The top score wins a prize (some conditions apply).

The first hint for the Photoshop Quiz is that I did not use the Adobe Camera Raw window, the image was opened directly in Photoshop and looked like this.

2015 04 01 PhotoFocus Before

 Original Image

My first thought was this could use a little more color, and so I tried a technique I have never used before.  It worked pretty well.  So well, in fact, that I used it three more times.  The result after the 4th application is shown below.

2015 04 01 PhotoFocus Before 01

After Step 1

Some might say that I had already gone too far, but when you are in unexplored territory, why go back?  So I took a new direction and tried a totally different tool.  The result is shown below.  Those who are studying for the quiz deserve to know that while the tool was applied to the entire image, the key effect can be seen (major hint) in the upper left corner.

2015 04 01 PhotoFocus Before 02

After Step 2

The next step was something I had intended to do all along so I executed that maneuver so I could then proceed to deal with the damage I had done in Step 2.  The result is shown below.

2015 04 01 PhotoFocus Before 03

After Step 3

I think everyone will agree that Step 2 made things too dark, so I fell back on a tool I use in almost every image (hint) and the result is shown below.

2015 04 01 PhotoFocus Before 04

After Step 4

Now that the colors were a little better, it seemed like a little instability would be consistent with the radical color scheme.  Another tool I have used on only one occasion (a fashion shot) was pulled out and deployed in a relatively conservative manner.  Check the steps, the rain gutter, and a few other spots to see what happened.

2015 04 01 PhotoFocus Before 05

After Step 5

Should I stop here?  Of course not.  It’s still too dark.  Plus, there are so many tools I’ve never used in Photoshop, we should go for at least one more.  However, as you will see from the image below, you will usually be surprised when you have no idea of what you are doing.

2015 04 01 PhotoFocus Before 06

Step 6

Yikes!    Stacy, we have a problem!

In a desperate attempt to salvage something without the humiliation of retreating, I used a familiar technique that resulted in the image below.

2015 04 01 PhotoFocus After

 Step 7 (Final Image)

OK, for those few who might still be here, you have the option of going directly to Comments and expressing your outrage, or you can take a stab at the quiz.

Quiz Rules: A total of five major tools were used to arrive at this final image.  One tool was used twice (Steps 4 and 7).  The challenge is to:

  • Identify the tool sequence (e.g., “Image–>Auto Contrast”) as best you can for any given step.  Had this example been a correct one, the two correct steps would count as two points.  Something like “Image–>Mode–>Grayscale” would be awarded one point, because the first part was correct.

Clear as mud?  It gets worse. Anyone scoring a minimum of 3 points will be in the “Zone of Consideration” for the prize.  The top score among those in the Zone will be awarded a copy of my self-published photography book (softcover edition) “Washington, D.C.” Answers are due by 0800 EST on April 7 and can be placed in the Comments section or via email to info@photographybykent.com.

In addition to all of that, please head over to Stacy Fischer’s site and check out what are almost certainly better efforts at this week’s OnePhoto Focus.