Monthly Archives: December 2014

Praying for Cold

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I’m not a fan of cold weather and that is putting it mildly. But one thing I look forward to is freezing temperatures that last for several days. Here in Virginia we often flirt with freezing temperatures in the winter, but most of the time it’s not enough for lakes and streams to freeze.

But freezing temperatures can be had if you are willing to travel. I have had great luck in the winter finding frozen water in nearby states of West Virginia, Western Maryland, and Pennsylvania. I prefer to work the edges of streams and lakes. Last year in Maine we did walk on some frozen lakes, but they were covered with about a foot of snow so there was not much to photograph. If you do decide to walk out on a lake or stream please be sure it’s safe. A picture in my opinion is not worth risking your safety. If you stick to the edges I think you will find plenty on interesting patterns and shapes, just remember to dress for the elements.

Shooting with Friends

I have heard people saying that they don’t like to shoot with other people… that everyone ends up with the same images or that folks photo bomb or… whatever.

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Actually, I find that shooting with friends is more often than not a great experience (photo bombing and all). We laugh, we compare, we encourage, we share, we assist, we teach … each other. The featured image is a great example of how we do not get the same image… taken by a great friend Jon J., this image is just one example of what we do naturally… look around, look behind, look for our own perspective.

Not only do these simple strategies ensure different images, but so does:

  • Our height
  • Our lens choice
  • Our camera body
  • Our chosen filters
  • Our chosen mm length and f/stop
  • Our shutter speed
  • Our post process visualization

Each of these things allows us to create our own unique images and art work.

RRPT is all about shooting with friends (old time friends and the new ones we make during each outing). RRPT offers tours and Meetups to meet the varying needs of folks. For more information on Tours, click here. For more information on our Meetups, click here.

Come out and experience the fun and camaraderie of shooting with folks with the same photographic passion! See how it will enhance not only your experience, but your work!

How Did I get Here?

I was asked to share the original images that make up this composite:

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So here are the 9 original files, untouched, raw files. You can see that the images were taken in different times of day and lighting situations, from different perspectives, with different tones. The challenge to composite images is making the final image seem like a single shot, as impossible as it might seem to create.

 

I have by no means perfected this art form, but am definitely working on it. It takes, like all things you want to do well, lots of practice and patience. For those interested in learning the techniques that can be used for compositing and other adjustments, I am leading two workshops: one is on  Layers and Masks in Photoshop and the other is on Textures and Blending techniques. Click the titles to learn more.

 

Masks, Layers, Blending Images…

Do you have thousands of images hidden away on multiple external hard drives? Have you edited and shared the ones you loved the most? What about the others? What are all those little pixels doing, besides taking up space?

Well, here is an idea… use pieces and parts of those images to make an entirely unique image! That’s right… compositing images together to create something uniquely you.

This image was created using images from Iceland, Death Valley, Oregon, and DC. There are 10 unique images in this composites… well some part of 10 unique images. In each and every case, I had a friend standing right near me, shooting the same scene. But this image, this composite is uniquely my vision. Sure I shared images from each of those trips, but this work is a creation of my imagination and there will never be another like it, even if I tried to do it again, it would be different (different settings and adjustment layers, different mood).

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This image is a combination of 9 images; from Seattle, to the Palouse, WV, Iceland, and the Shenandoah. Because each image was its own full size raw file, the level of detail in each component of the composite is clear and can be explored for its detail. For example, the lady driving the car; dive in and check out the schmirk on her face!

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The possibilities are endless. Also, the pixels hidden away on those drives now have a totally new purpose!

Compositing takes practice and patience. In and of itself, it is actually not that difficult to do once you learn the techniques to separate parts and pieces of images and how to blend them together. You have to have Photoshop (Elements or higher) to composite, because you need to be able to use layers and masks.

If you are intrigued by the idea of compositing images or blending textures with your images, then you might want to join me for a couple of workshops. You can register for these workshops, and my Introduction to Lightroom workshop on the Road Runner Photoshop Tours Meetup.

Learn to use Photoshop layers and masks. There are so many ways to select and mask, each one has its upside and downside… learn how to decide which is best for your needs in my Introduction to Photoshop – Layers, Masks, and More. This workshop will be held on Saturday, Feb 28, 2015.

Learn to blend textures, as well as images (compositing). This workshop will focus on blending techniques. Workshop on Textures and Blending Techniques. This workshop will be held on Saturday, March 21, 2015.

The combination of the Photoshop workshop and the Texture/Blending workshop, will give you all the skills you need to take your art to the next level of creativity.

Working a Subject

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I have heard a lot online recently about revisiting old locations. It’s great advice and something I encourage everyone to follow.

The shot above is of the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, VA, located just south of the Pentagon. So what could possibly change by revisiting a subject multiple times? Your perspective for starters. I know when I revisit a location I typically see things differently than before. Sure I see some of the same things I have seen before as well, but the clouds and the light could possibly be different. Especially if you go during different times of the day or different times of the year.

Small differences can sometimes make meaningful differences in how you see or interpret a subject. It’s ok to go with preconceived notions of what you want to shoot but don’t let yourself be limited by such thinking. Just be open to what is in front of you and don’t forget to look behind you either.

Of course this is an HDR image.  Photomatix is my favorite tool for creating HDR images.  It is available as a free download and is fully functional for 30 days.  If you decide to purchase use the discount code “RRPT” for a 15% discount.

Creating Custom Borders!

Create Custom Borders

One of my favorite things about processing iPhone images (on my phone) is that I can easily add “frames” to images, through a variety of photo processing apps, such Snapseed or Camera+. I have often thought that it would be cool to be able to something similar with images taken with my big-kid camera… and here is how you do it!

In just a few steps, you can create a custom border for any image, in any color or width you desire.

Here we go…

Step 1

Select your image. Process it to get what you consider a final result. In this case, I have chosen a panoramic image of the Great Smokey Mountains at sunset. I have collapsed my image, so it is “Background.”

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2

Select the Rectangular Marquee tool (M) or choose from the toolbar. Click and drag diagonally, from the top left of the image, to the bottom right corner of the image, to create an inside margin area, sized to your preference.

 

I have chosen about ¾ inch.

Next with your selection active (on your Background layer), chose Refine Edge, in the Options Bar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This pops up the Refine Edge menu table.

Choose On White from the View Mode dropdown. Then in Edge Detection select Smart Radius and bump the slider to approximately 100% or a size that is pleasing. In Adjust Edge, play with the sliders for Smooth, Feather, Contrast, and Shift Edge, until you find a result that works best with the image. In the Output area, select Layer Mask. Hit ok.

 

 

This will create a mask around your image that “erases” the pixels on the outside of the margin you selected, while not harming your underlying image. The layer name changes from Background to Layer 0 automatically.

 

Step 3

 

Create the frame or matte layer. This can be any color you wish. I generally start with white and then reopen the color pallet and experiment. To create this layer, create a New Adjustment Layer (half black/half white circle icon).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Select Solid Color, and chose white or whatever color you prefer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click OK.

Now you have created a Color Fill Layer. Drag the Color Fill Layer, so that it is below Layer 0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At this point, you can still manipulate the layer mask, by selecting the mask on Layer 0 and continuing to manipulate its density and feathering the its Properties Menu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to save your image!

 

 

 

 

The coolest thing about this technique is that it will create a unique frame for each image to which it is applied, as it is creating the edge based on the contrast and color it identifies when refining the edge. So the possibilities are endless.

For a demonstration of this technique, click here for our video tutorial.

 

Grandpa’s Truck

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Do you ever revisit your old images?  I do on occasion and probably should do it more often.  I took this picture almost 10 years ago.   It was a truck in the woods on my grandfather’s farm.  As a kid I thought I had been just about everywhere on that farm, but never saw this truck.  After the farm was sold to a developer I decided to make what I thought was one last visit, but in truth I ended up going back several times.  The developer had cut a road through the woods and this truck was visible from the road.  I think many years ago it was probably left parked at the edge of a field and over time the forest kept growing and eventually encompassed the truck.

When I shot this truck I knew that I needed to take more than one picture, but this was before I had learned much about HDR.  So I took a few brackets and it was enough to keep the sky behind the trees from blowing out.

Skip forward to today.  I loaded the 3 bracketed images into Photomatix and then moved the HDR image into Photoshop where I applied a little contrast and then used Topaz Impression for the painted look.

With today’s technology I can achieve a look that exceeds anything I thought possible at the time of capture.

Photomatix is my favorite tool for creating HDR images.  It is available as a free download and is fully functional for 30 days.  If you decide to purchase use the discount code “RRPT” for a 15% discount.

Topaz Impression is a fantastic tool for creating that “painted” look.  Use the code “roadrunner” and click here for a 15% discount on Topaz products.  Topaz products are fully functional for 30 days, so give it a try.

Fading an Image – Gradient Masks

Below I will describe the few steps needed to create both color fade and fade to solid color effects in Photoshop.

Let’s start with the color fade:

Step 1:

Open your image. In this example, I have an image of wisteria flowers. I have processed this image to my liking, so I consider it “done” and a good starting point for my color fade effect. So, your first step is to process your original image to achieve your overall “color” result.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2:

Create a New Adjustment Layer by clicking the half black/half white icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. From the pop-up menu, select Black and White. Proceed to adjust the sliders to create an image that you like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3:

Select the Gradient tool. You can do this by either clicking the letter “G” on your keyboard, or clicking on the tool button, or choosing Gradient Map in the Adjustments Panel.

 

Once the tool is selected, in the Options bar (top of Photoshop workspace), click the Gradient Picker (dropdown that has shading) and choose the Black/White gradient. Lastly, to the right of the Gradient Picker, click on the Linear Gradient icon.

 

 

 

 

Step 4:

With the Gradient tool selected, hold Shift and click and drag the tool’s crosshair from left to right (or right to left) depending on your preference. You will see a temporary guideline appear (if you are holding shift, then the line will be held horizontal creating a vertical mask). The gradient mask will appear automatically when you unclick. You can re-draw the line as many times as you like to experiment with the depth of fade and the mask will update automatically. You can also fade top to bottom or bottom to top, depending on your preferences and the image in question.

 

Don’t forget to save your final image!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can also use this technique to fade to a solid color, such as white, to create a customized postcard:

Same as Step 1 above

Step 2:

Instead of selecting Black and White, choose Solid Color from the New Adjustment Layer menu. Photoshop will open up a “color picking” dialogue box, select the color of your choice and click OK. A colored layer will appear and you will no longer see your image. No worries.

 

Step 3:

Select the Gradient tool, same as Step 3 above.

Step 4:

Make sure the Color Fill layer is active, then click near the middle of the color layer and drag the crosshair while holding the shift key (left or right) about 1” to start. You can experiment until you get the proper width for your needs.

Step 5:

If you need to move your image around, so that you can see the content you want, just double click the Background Layer in the Layers panel, rename it to Layer 0, click OK (this makes it editable). Then choose the Move tool (V), or click the icon in the toolbar. With the Move tool, you can drag the image around until the content you want to show is seen. Click enter to accept the move change.

 

 

 

 

 

Step 6:

Add text. To do this, click the Text tool from the toolbar. Click within the image on the workspace and add text. You can manipulate the font characteristics to your liking, as well as move the text box around to suit your needs.

 

Don’t forget to save your image!

Happy Creating!!

Get Creative!

In an earlier blog I discussed being creative through the use of alternative lens or through HDR image processing, but there are other ways to be creative as well. Below are some of examples of how using Gradient Masks and Brushes in Photoshop can add character and uniqueness to an otherwise “ordinary” image. I will start with photography is wildly subjective, so not everyone will prefer my creative efforts over the original image, but my goal here is to get your juices flowing!

The first two examples show the use of gradient masks:

Here is an image of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. This is the first time I have captured the memorial from this angle and closeness, and I like the image. But I have hundreds of images of the Lincoln Memorial, so how do I make this one different? In this case, I decided to reflect the image back on itself, as if the memorial stood close to a body of water.

 

To learn this technique, check out our video tutorial on YouTube: Creating Reflections.

In this next image, I decided that a transit from black/white to color might be an interesting effect, giving motion to an otherwise still image.

 

 

 

This technique will be described in our next blog!

This last example shows the use of brushes and texture to create a painterly effect. As you can see, this first image is really dull; albeit a beautiful flower, but taken against a dull green paper (with a fold! in it). No movement, no context. Since I really liked the tulip, I needed a way to improve this image. I decided to create a watercolor out of it, through the use of texture and brushes.

 

 

These are just a few examples of the power of gradient masks, brushes, and textures. In my next few blogs, I will demonstrate the easy steps to create the color fade effect, fade to solid color, and reflection effects. Think of the possibilities; these techniques can be used to manipulate images, create customized announcements or Christmas cards that include images that fade to text, and as well as create composite (collage) images.

The painterly effect demonstrated in the image above is too complicated to describe in a suitable length blog, so if you are interested in this technique, I am happy to teach you how to do it and other Photoshop techniques in a customized workshop. For more information on our image processing workshops, click here.

 

TopazLabs Glow!

Topaz Labs announces a new program – GLOW!

This program is so creative! With over 70 unconventional filters, Glow can electrify your images in so many imaginative ways; from neon effects to added detail with graphic lines. The product has that same user-friendly feel as the other TopazLab products you know and love.

From Dec 9 through Dec 31, TopazLabs is running a promotion on this new innovative editor. To take advantage of the introductory price of just $49.99 (regularly $69.99), use coupon code: INTROGLOW, when checking out.

This program is great for all types of photography as well, from macro to wide angle, nature to urban decay. With so many filter alternatives, each one fully customizable, there is no limit to this program’s application. The program can be used as as a plugin, or as a stand-alone editor. Which means you do need to own a host program such as Lightroom or Photoshop to use this application.

System Requirements: Mac OSX 10.8+ or Windows 7/8 x 64bit + OpenGL 2.1

Here are some images enhanced with Glow!

 

To learn more about Glow, purchase, or start a free trial, click below: