AfterBefore Friday Week 55

Today marks Week 55 in the AfterBefore Friday series managed by Stacy Fischer of Visual Venturing.  It’s open to anyone and participants share their approach of transforming one of their own images into its final form, an expression of their creative vision.  You can find links to all of the other participants here.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to try out one of the new tools that appeared in the most recent Photoshop CC upgrade.  Most writers have been rhapsodizing about the new “Dehaze” tool, but I have been far more pleased by the integration of the Photomerge capability into the Adobe Raw Camera (Version 9.1) process.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 Before

Original Image (one of four)

The above image is one of four used to produce an overall image the front of the Jefferson Memorial at sunrise.  Longtime readers may recall that I used a single image from this set in ABFriday Week 44.  But that was to produce a much tighter crop. This week it will be a wider view to include the tree on the left side of the building and some balance on the other side.  Now, I could have captured all of this in a single image using a wide angle lens, but I wanted to avoid the distortion of an extreme wide angle and I also wanted to be able to make really big prints if the image turned out nicely. (Technical: Four images with a Nikon D800E; 24-70mm f/2.8 lens at 42mm; Exposure: 1/160th sec. @ f/16, ISO 400)

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 Screen 01

The Well-Hidden Photomerge Button

The screen capture above shows the Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) display window with the  four RAW images opened as the first step for a photomerge.  In what must be one of the most obscure placements of a functional command in history, Adobe has seen fit to place this teeny little button in the upper left corner of the window, just to the right of the word “Fimstrip”  (Red Arrow).  If you select 2 or more images and then click on that little spot, you get the flyout menu (Yellow Arrow) that is displayed showing several options including “Merge to Panorama.”

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 Screen 04

Preview of Photomerge Process

If you click on that command, a preview window quickly appears as shown in the screen capture above. The ACR process has chosen which of three “projections”  it believes will produce the best result which, in this case, was “Perspective”  (Red Arrow). If you are not happy with that one, you can click on one of the other two to compare the results. It also provides a preview of an “Auto Crop” (Yellow Arrow) which essentially cleans up the ragged edges of a typical photomerge process.  A very nice touch, I thought. The image below shows the result when this box is unchecked.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 Screen 03

Auto Crop Unchecked.

In some cases, one may decide to handle the cropping on their own, but it obviously did a fine job here.  Once you are happy with the result,  click on the “Merge” command and it quickly goes to the “Save As” function as shown in the screen capture below.  Just give the file the approapriate name and select the folder in which it is to be saved.  So far about 60 seconds have passed.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 Screen 06

Saving the Merged image

As shown the Screen Capture below, a new thumbnail of the photomerge has appeared in the filmstrip (Red Arrow) and is ready to be processed like any other RAW file.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 Screen 05

ACR Window after Save Command is Executed

From here one just uses their standard workflow.  In this case I used the follwing settings: Highlights decreased to -31; Shadows increased to +73; Whites increased to +57; Blacks increased to +16; Clarity increased to +30; and Vibrance increased to +39.  The image was then opened in Photoshop, where I spent some time removing a few of the people on the steps.  The final result is shown below.

Robin Kent ABFriday Week 55 After

Final Image

Comments and Questions are welcome.  Please be sure to check out the other examples of post-processing techniques at Stacy’s post, ABFriday Week 55.

Keep Shooting…….

 

Summer Pursuits

If you are a photographer based near the city of Washington,  July provides many photo ops beyond the well-known fireworks extravaganza that happens on the 4th.

For example, there is the fairly well-known field of sunflowers in Maryland’s McKee-Besher’s Wildlife Management Area (Maryland DNR website).  Since the weather forecast for the fireworks was iffy, I decided to zip over to that field on the 4th to see if they had been planted this year and, if so, how long it would be before they were ready to be photographed.  It was a good thing I did.

Sunflowers 03

Approaching Storm, Sunflowers (July 4, 2014)

The plants were so vigorous this year that one needed a ladder in some spots just to get a clear view of the entire field.  I had neglected to take a ladder on the scouting trip so I returned with one the next day for another go.

Sunflowers 01

Morning Fog, Sunflowers (July 5, 2015)

Sunflowers 02

Soft Light, Sunflowers (July 5, 2015)

The morning light with the fog provided a completely different mood than the previous afternoon.  While a ladder is helpful, to get higher one needs a camera-equipped drone or, in my case, a friend with such a device.

Drone 01

Drone, Awaiting Orders

This was purely an experiment and requires a skill set I do not possess, one completely different from still photography.  The owner was in charge of where it went and what it did.

View from above

The image above is a still photograph taken by the drone’s camera.  One can get an idea of its potential, however, by checking out this link to an unedited clip of one of the flights.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Washington, DC, the lotus blossoms were at peak in Kenilworth Gardens, according to a fellow photographer who was there on July 3rd.  Here is an image from a previous visit.

Lotus 01

Lotus, Kenilworth Gardens, Washington, DC

But Kenilworth will have to wait until next year, a kayak race over Great Falls was scheduled for July 11, and I wanted to check out the practice runs on the two days before the actual event.   The advantage of the practice runs is that the race day crowds are absent.  The downside is that you don’t know exactly when the boats will be coming down.

Kayak 01

Navigating the Fish Ladder, Great Falls National Park, Maryland

The Fish Ladder is a tricky course as can be seen from a 35-second video taken shortly after this run.  Listen for the thuimp when the lead boat collides with the wall.  The race course was on the Maryland side this year because the water level was too high for the classic run through the center line, known as the Fingers, shown below.

Kayak 02

Navigating the Fingers, Great Falls of the Potomac (July 2014)

Whether running the Fish Ladder or the Center Lines, this event is an extremely dangerous undertaking.  A competitor died in 2013 during a practice run over the falls.  The event organizers go to great lengths to ensure the safety of the kayakers, but the power of the river is impossible to tame completely.

 

One Photo Focus–July

One the first Friday of each month, Stacy Fischer’s AfterBefore Friday Forum invites all participants to work their magic on the same image–an image that is selected by one of the participants in advance.  Hence the title of the event is “One Photo Focus.”

For July,  I drew the straw for providing the image and so, in the spirit of the U.S. July 4th Holiday tomorrow, I selected the image below.  The efforts of the other participants can be found at Visual Venturing and I hope everyone will check them out.  I am sure there will be some interesting demonstrations of creative imagination.

2015 06 01 Before

The Before Image

Now I certainly hope that the current occupants of the building do not mistakenly conclude that what transpires next is anything other than a demonstration of certain image processing techniques.

As is my usual practice in One Photo Focus, I wanted to try some new things and a good place to find them is among the many Filter options available in Photoshop.

 

2015 05 01 PhotoFocus Before 03B

 

The image was opened in Photoshop and I used the Filter–>Distort–>Shear option shown above.  The 5 black dots in the grid square can be dragged to the right or left of the centerline to createa variety of effects.  The setting above produced this:

2015 05 01 PhotoFocus Before 02A

Now any attempts to introduce commentary about the dangers of moving too far from the center line will be quickly called out for what they are:  brazen attempts to politicize an innocent and well meaning photography demonstration.

Besides there is more work to be done.  Thus, the Filter–>Stylize–>Solarize option was introduced which produced the rather somber results shown below:

2015 05 01 PhotoFocus Before 03A

This would never do. So a rescue operation was launched using a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer as shown below.  A very heavy application of Saturation (+76) was applied.

2015 05 01 PhotoFocus Before 04B

The result, shown below, is at least more colorful than before.

2015 05 01 PhotoFocus Before 05A

Final Result

I wasn’t really happy with this outcome so I started over and tried something else. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find my notes. But here is the result.

2015 06 01 Globe After 02

I hope everyone who celebrates the 4th of July has an enjoyable day tomorrow.  In the meantime, please check out One Photo Focus hosted by Stacy Fischer at Visual Venturing.

 

 

Catching Up: Hermione Visit Part 2

Not being one to complain, we’ll skip all the details about my Internet’s provider’s spotty service this week and get right to a post that is about six days late.

Regular readers may recall my earlier posting about the midnight arrival of the L’Hermione in Alexandria, Virginia about two weeks ago.  The vessel, is a replica of the French frigate that brought the Marquis de Lafayette to the American colonies during the Revolutionary War.  Details on its background can be found in my post here and in Patti’s “Displaced Beachbums” post here.

Hermione 11

The next morning, the public began to queue up for free tours aboard the ship.

Hermione 12

Channel 7 was on the scene.

Hermione 13

As were others who found the frigate a handy backdrop for themselves

Hermione 14

The gangplank wasn’t ADA compliant, but no one was complaining.

Hermione 15

Once aboard, you notice there are a lot of ropes everywhere.

Hermione 16

                Every rope (actually line) on the rigging has a function and a name,               such as the “mizzen topsail halyard.”

Hermione 17

There are two wheels, in front and in the rear (fore and aft, I believe).

Hermione 18

Everyone wanted to know what was underneath these hatches.

Hermione 19

Some more than others.

Hermione 20

 Some of the crew performed maintenance duty….

Hermione 08

and others charmed their guests by posing for pictures….

Hermione 21

and others kept alert for evil doers…

Hermione 23

with the help of local security forces.

L’hermonie will be in Philadelphia June 25-28, then will sail for New York City.  Details on the itinerary can be found here.

Keep Shooting….

AfterBefore Friday: Bluebird Bonanza

There are no written rules for the ABFriday Forum which is fortunate, because this post surely would be breaking them.

This Friday is the third Friday of the month, the new scheduled appearance of the Forum hosted by Stacy Fischer of Visual Venturing.  Participants from all over the world jointly publish posts to exchange ideas about transforming what their capture sees into what they see.

But the memo didn’t get to the pair of bluebirds nesting in a box about 30 feet from my desktop computer.  They set up housekeeping about six weeks ago, and the eggs hatched on/about 29 May.  When I saw that the parents were arriving at the same spot every 5 minutes, the idea for exploring a new photographic subject became irresistible.  Those with some knowledge of avian biology can see where I’m going with this.  The youngsters would be fledging during the third week of June.

So, in a pathetic attempt to follow at least a semblance of the ABfriday Forum Procedure, the image below will be the Before Image.

Robin Kent ABFriday week 56 Before

Early Attempt (very tight crop)

(Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at 200mm; exposure 1/640th sec @ f/10, ISO 1250)

My goal was to capture the birds in flight, and I thought that knowing their precise destination would make it relatively straightforward.  Such was not the case. My intention was to balance a decent depth of field with an ISO that wasn’t too extreme but still allowed a pretty fast shutter speed.  (See technical data above)  As the result shows, it was necessary to go back to the drawing board.

How about adding an off-camera flash close to the nesting box?  Well, the standard sync speed of the Nikon is 1/250th sec. In other words, that is the fastest shutter speed for normal flash operations.  However, there is a  setting deep in the menu called Auto FP High Speed Sync.  (Details at Nikon.com here)   It enables one to shoot flash up to the camera’s top speed of 1/8000th sec.  There is a certain irony that it took a bluebird to lead me to this piece of knowledge.

Robin Kent ABFriday week 56 Before 02

Male Bluebird Removing Trash from Nest

(Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at 200mm; exposure 1/4000th sec @ f/2.8, ISO 3200; off- camera SB-800 flash for fill light)

But the sync setting is only part of the problem.  With the flash about 25 feet from the camera, I would need a wireless remote trigger and, of course, the capabilities of the old PocketWizards I owned were not up to the Auto FP Sync technology.  I decided to purchase the  PocketWizard Flex TT5 for the flash and Mini TT1 for the camera.

The main difference with the second image is the high shutter speed.  It didn’t take long to figure out that 1/3200th sec. is the minimum speed for a bluebird in flight.  A single flash adds some fill, but not much else.  So that limits the depth of field and forces a high ISO setting.  Compromise may be out of style in politics, but is required in photography.

Robin Kent ABFriday week 56 Before 03

 Female Bluebird Bringing Food

(Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at 200mm; exposure 1/8000th sec @ f/4.0, ISO 3200; off- camera SB-800 flash for fill light)

The above image shows the maximum sutter speed for the Nikon D800E.  Exposures varied widely, depending on the amount of sunlight striking the scene.  The flash was not powerful enough to be the dominant factor. (Note to self, save $$ to buy more flashes and transceivers.)

Robin Kent ABFriday week 56 Before 04

Female and Male Bringing More Food

(Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at 200mm; exposure 1/6400th sec @ f/4.5, ISO 3200; off- camera SB-800 flash for fill light)

Having drawn the line on spending additional cash for gear, the results depended largely on luck.  Three factors would have to be favorable: Would the sun be unblocked by clouds or the shade from trees?  Would the birds stay within the narrow channel defined by the depth of field?  Would I react quickly enough when they arrived? Short answer: “Usually, No.”   I now have even more respect for fulltime wildlife photographers who have far less control over shooting situations than I did in this case.

Robin Kent ABFriday week 56 Before 05

Third Fledging Leaves the Nest

(Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at 200mm; exposure 1/4000th sec @ f/6.3, ISO 1600; off- camera SB-800 flash for fill light)

As proof of that, I was quick enough to obtain only a single image of one of the fledglings as it left the nest and began its life in the wider world.  But if you are curious, you can take a peek at a video clip that was recorded at the time on a separte camera.  It shows the departure of two of the fledgings.  Click Here to see the Video.  Who would have thought that the 2nd body I bought for Antarctica would come in handy for photographing bluebirds in Virginia?

Not much post-processing discussed here but there are a lot of examples of exceptional work by the other participants at Stacy’s Visual Venturing site.  Please check them out.  In the meantime,

Keep Shooting….

USAF Memorial at Night

The U.S. Air Force Memorial, sited on a promontory overlooking the Pentagon with a commanding view of the Washington skyline, is becoming an increasingly popular stop for busloads of students visiting the nation’s capital.

USAF 02

 

Following its dedication in 2006, it seemed few people knew of its existence, but it seems to have been discovered in recent years and the hours around sunset seem to be especially popular.

USAF 04

The memorial is the last major work designed by James Ingo Freed, who also designed the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.  It features three stainless steel spires that soar skyward, evoking the “bomb burst” maneuver perform by the Air Force Thunderbirds.

USAF 03

View to East with Honor Guard Sculpture on Right

The small vertical spire in image above—between the left and middle spires of the Memorial–is the Washington Monument.  The lower two-thirds of the Memorial’s spires are filled with concrete and the upper portions are hollow.  Each spire has a transition section between the concrete-filled and hollow segments containing a one ton lead ball that is allowed to roll in a steel damper box.  This feature is intended to stabilize the spires in high winds.

USAF 01

I visited the memorial earlier this week, and the high humidity combined with the floodlights on the South Inscription Wall made for a rather dramatic effect.

Tonight, and every Friday night during the summer, the USAF Band will perform a free concert for the public.  Click here for details

 

Keep Shooting….

The Hermione Arrives in Alexandria, Virginia

The French-built replica of the 18th Century tall ship L’Hermione, whose namesake brought the Marquis de Lafayette to America in 1778, tied up at the waterfront in Alexandria this morning, shortly after midnight, to the cheers of a small but enthusiastic crowd of well wishers.

Hermione 01

The Hermione Docks in Alexandria, 12:48 AM June 10, 2015

The replica, built with exacting detail to match the original frigate which played such a significant role in the American Revolutionary War, is on a  goodwill tour of  US cities on the east coast.  Details about the ship and its journey can be found at the excellent post by Patti on her “Displaced Beachbums” blog.

These photos were made under some rather difficult lighting situations.  The frigate, following a short stay at Mount Vernon, had to pass under the Wilson Bridge to reach Alexandria.  The draw bridge opens its spans for ship traffic only at midnight for about 15 minutes and only, from what I understand, about once a week or on special occasions. Sailing vessels must proceed through the gap under motor power so the sails had to be furled.  (By the way, I apologize to nautical experts for any mis-use of technical terminology–this is not a topic with which I can claim more than rudimentary knowledge).

 

Hermione 04Wilson Bridge opens for the Hermione  (12:04 AM)

There isn’t much ambient light at midnight, so the frigate is barely visible. (Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, extended to 200mm; exposure: 1/4th sec. @ f/2.8, ISO 3200).

Hermione 03

The Hermione Draws Closer (12:12 AM)

Hermione 02

Turning for the Final Approach (12:23 AM)

The Hermione will be in Alexandria through June 12 and then departs for Annapolis.  I suspect it will be a midnight departure.

Keep Shooting…..