Author Archives: Denise Silva

Brrrrr!

Are you ready to get out of this freezing cold windy winter and to celebrate spring?? Well we sure are! Join us for an amazing trip to Charleston, SC. To learn more and to register, click here.

 

Golden Hour

Some warm thoughts and images on a cold winter’s night.

_DSC0969_HDR

The golden hour refers to the time just after sunrise and just before sunset when sun light is at it’s warmest and softest. It is such a spectacular time of day, it is also known as the magic hour. Depending on where you are, this “hour” can last for many hours or be as brief as a few minutes.

Our challenge as photographers is to take advantage of these moments to create magical images, in which we can feel the warm glow of the waning light on our skin.

_DSC1064_HDR

The first and second images were shot in Iceland in December. At this time of year, the sun in Iceland only reaches approximately 12º above the horizon… so the golden “hour” lasts most of the day (or rather a few hours.

The third image was taken at Conowingo Dam, MD, also in winter. Although in the U.S. winter days last much longer than in Iceland, the golden hour only last for about an hour in the best of circumstances.

_DSC5074-Edit _DSC5892-Edit

The fourth image, was taken at the Tidal Basin in DC in April. On a spring day, without cloud cover, the golden hour lasted about 15 minutes or so. Once the sun is up, the light is hot creating heavy contrast in the scene. This was a very brief, albeit beautiful moment on the Tidal Basin.  _DSF4273-Edit

The fifth image was taken in Acadia, ME. Also taken in winter, this sunset golden hour gave the rocks and the sea spray a lovely pink hue. Creating a dream-like feel on a very chilly evening.

The final image was taken in Assateague National Park, MD in May. This sunrise lasted for longer than normal due to the heavy cloud cover in the foreground. The clear sky on the horizon created a beautiful glow that reflected on the beach as the waves pulled back from the shore.

_XT12695-Edit

These fleeting moments are the very ones that draw me to photography. Addicting. They don’t happen often, but when they do, their effect keeps you trying for more.

Get out and chase the light….

 

 

 

 

 

Dust Spots!

Dust spots and artifacts are my pet peeve… cannot stand them because they are so easy to fix. However, they can be hard to find! They are definitely the bane of any landscape photographer’s existence, but they can show up in any image and they never show up until you have published or printed an image! It is like magic. As soon as your friends, family, and world can see the image, the dust spots/artifacts miraculously appears and of course, you are at best, the second person to see it. :-/

Even those folks with great eyesight miss them. But here is where we can look to technology for a solution. Lightroom Develop and Photoshop Camera Raw both have dust spot removal tools. But for real success, you have to “visualize spots” to get the most of these tools. Let’s take a look at how this one little checkbox can make a world of difference.

Take this image… unprocessed, right out of the camera. We can see some spots (red arrows) right off the bat. So those can be easily fixed. But the real question will be…. have we missed any? So at a glance, we would like to say we haven’t, but how can we be sure?

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 1.41.20 PM

 

As I mentioned, the best tools for the identification of dust spots/artifacts that I have found are the spot removal tools in Lightroom Develop (the icon shown to the right) ,Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 2.20.38 PMand in Photoshop Camera Raw (icon shown to the right).  Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 11.48.12 AMAs these programs are the same, these spot removal tools are also the same. The only difference is the icon used to access them.

Now the tools themselves are great and do an amazing job (most of the time) of identifying the pixels from which to clone the dust spot. But the true beauty of these tools is their ability to identify spots and artifacts in images that we simply cannot see with the naked eye.

Here is how this works. Take the image noted above, we identified 5 dust spots/artifacts that need correction. Let’s see what the spot removal tool finds. To make this a bit easier, I have drawn arrows to re-identify the spots we found in the above image and then circled the additional dust spots/artifacts identified by the software. Take a minute to look back at the color image. Those spots in the sky do not stand out and could easily be missed if it wasn’t for the spot removal tool. So how do we get this masked image, show below? In both Lightroom Develop and Photoshop Camera Raw spot removal tools, there is a checkbox that says “visualize spots”.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 1.41.46 PM

 

 

In Lightroom, the Visualize Spots can be found to the bottom left of the center panel: Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 12.03.43 PM.

In Photoshop, the Visualize Spots can be found at the bottom of the right hand panel: Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 12.03.26 PM

To emphasize the spots, check the box and then drag the slider bar to the right. This tool will even identify spots in the middle of clouds! In fact, it will identify spots anywhere in an image. Dust spots stand right out, as they have distinct round edges. Notice the dust spots in the sky above, they are hollow round spots and very noticeable. Now you can use the cloning feature (in both programs) to clone out the dust spots.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 1.42.05 PM

 

In a few minutes, hundreds (which can happen) of dust spots/artifacts can be removed!

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 1.43.02 PM

 

Now, you can finish processing the image! I suggest removing dust spots first, so that whatever processing you do to the image doesn’t exaggerate or further emphasize spots that need to be removed. It is simply easier to fix the spots before their edges are more pronounced with contrast or clarity.

For this image, here is the final result:

_DSF1820-Edit

 

Happy Holidays and Creative New Year!!

West Virginia in the Fall

We are so fortunate to live so close to such amazing beauty as West Virginia. Wild and Wonderful is there slogan and it is spot on!

Every year, Road Runner has been leading fall tours in this area and this fall will be no exception. Each season provides new wonders, so don’t miss this opportunity to get out and enjoy the changing seasons!

For more information and to register, click here.

_DSF7773-Edit _XT10775-Edit _XT10831-Edit-Edit _XT11100-Edit _XT11124-Edit _XT11165-Edit _XT11261-Edit _XT11383-Edit

Third Party Printing

_DSC2194-Edit

If you are like me, you don’t have a photo quality printer at home, so you use a third party printer, such as Costco. Our particular Costco does a great job, but tends to print a full stop darker than what I want in my print result. So this tip is how to deal with this, without having to alter your base image.

The features discussed here can also be used to brighten up or add contrast to your images when printing at home as well. But the likeliness is, if you are printing from Lightroom, you already knew this.

For folks like me, who print outside of their home, we normally Export a .jpg to a file, then upload the .jpg via an online portal to our printer, then pick up the images when they are ready. This method works just fine, but there is no way (that I have found) to imbed a development rule in the Export presets.

So how do we get around this… use the Print module in Lightroom!

The Print module can be used to print to your home printer or to a .jpg. So for those of us who use a third party printer, we just need to modify the settings in the Print module to print to file and create a preset for the settings that work best with our third party printer and each time we want to print and image, we will be set.

Click here for a video that will take you through the set up instructions.

While you are there, remember to subscribe to RRPT videos and check out the over 2 dozen videos already available in our library!

Creating a Sense of Motion with Long Exposures

Long exposure images can create an almost surreal effect, evoking emotional responses, such as calm, peacefulness, and even angst, depending on the image. Creating these images can be a challenge and generally requires certain gear, such as a sturdy tripod, a camera body that has a bulb setting, various types of filters to reduce the amount of light hitting the camera’s sensor in order to lengthen the shutter speed and show motion in the image, and the right setting (environment).

The best long exposure images are created when capturing moving water or clouds, as these subjects convey movement in an otherwise still environment.

So, let’s chat about the gear and look at some examples of long exposure images.

The images that follow were taken on different trips, literally from coast-to-coast and were taken with either a variable stop filter or a 15-stop filter, as noted. I use Singh-Ray filters, but there are many options on the market. So you can find the one(s) that work best for you. If you are interested in Singh-Ray filters, you can get a 10% discount by using ROADRUNNER10 for a discount code.

For this image, I used variable stop filter to extend the shutter time to just over 66 seconds. This allowed me to capture the movement of the clouds, while creating a plane of glass on the ocean’s surface. I chose a variable stop filter, because the variability allowed me get just the right amount of exposure reduction to meet the needs of the environment. In this case, the heavy overcast would not have been conducive to using my 15 stop filter, which is actually best used on bright sunny days with big puffy cumulous clouds.

_DSC2341-Edit

This image was captured in the taken during the day, well before sunset. The sky was too bright for the variable stop filter to achieve the look I was going for, so for this image I used the 15 stop. The 15 stop allowed me to achieve a 3 minute exposure, which resulted in smooth water and a nice layer of fog on the horizon.

_DSC4575-Edit

This next image was captured in at sunrise. As before, the setting was not bright enough for a full 15 stops but it was too bright to shoot without a filter, so I used the variable filter to slow the rushing waves down.

_DSC2390-Edit

There are times when you don’t even need a filter to capture a long exposure, as in this next image, which was captured after the sunset. The clouds enabled me to get a 6 second exposure, without the aid of any filters.

_DSC1965-Edit

In this last image, I used a 10-stop filter to achieve the flowing motion of the river.

_DSC7322 2013-04-22 (2)

In each of these images, I used a sturdy tripod to help ensure that the still subject matter (e.g., buildings, piers, bridge) would be sharp. The environment and my overall vision for each image helped me decide which filter to use. Long exposure images take experimentation, how long is long enough, how long is too long.

I would say that if you are new to long exposure photography, you might find that a variable filter will provide you the most bang for your bucks, as it allows you to experiment in almost all conditions. You may struggle to achieve 10 minute exposures with a variable filter, but you will easily achieve 1-3 min exposures with a filter that varies from 1-8 or 10 stops, which is adequate to slow cloud and water movement in most situations. Whereas a 15 stop is best used in the middle of the day, bright sunshine, where a variable will not darken the image enough to achieve a slow shutter speed. You can also get filters at other stops, such as 5 stop and 10 stop, each has its own use.

So the question becomes, do you want to invest in a number of different filters to achieve a range of stops, or do you want to invest in one filter (a variable) that provides you a range with which to experiment. As noted, if you are just learning or experimenting with your interest in long exposure you might find that a variable filter gives you the most options early on. Once you are hooked, you may find that investing on set stops, such as 5, 10 or 15, broadens your creative horizons. In either case, long exposure images can open up a whole new avenue to create artistic images. 

The Palouse

Located between Washington and Idaho, this region encompasses thousands of square miles of rich farm land and is the heart of grain growing in the United States. After hundreds of hours touring this area, I have yet to tire of its beauty. The barns, grain silos, mills, abandoned trucks, and epic landscapes are extraordinary and remind me of the enormity and wonder of this country.

This most recent tour was a bit challenging. The Palouse, known for its puffy white clouds and lack of rain, presented two days of unaccustomed storms. Blank skies, chilly weather, and lots of rain can be daunting and depressing. But patience pays… because weather also present some of the most amazing skies and therefore, photographic opportunities.

Here are a few images from our tour last week:

_XT14525-Edit _DSF0790-Edit_DSF1564-HDR-Edit

Road Runner’s next tour of the Palouse will be the harvest of 2017. We are looking forward to seeing the farmers harvest and process their crops. Known for its colorful and stunning sunsets, harvest time will nothing short of amazing. If you are interested in registering for our 2017 Harvest Tour, click here to contact us

_DSF1090-Edit_DSF1585-Edit _XT14469-HDR-Edit_DSF1269-HDR-Edit

Mt. Storm Time Lapse

The other day, I was asked to describe how I created this image:

_XT11160-Edit-Edit

I decided it would be easier to write a blog and create a video demonstrating the techniques, than to layout out an answer in a Facebook reply. So let’s get started.

The Set Up

This image was created from 37 different images, created using the time lapse feature in my Fuji XT1. If you do not have time lapse built into your camera, you can purchase a wired or wireless remote with time lapse capability for most camera bodies. The time lapse was set to continue indefinitely, with a 1 second interval between images.  The camera was set to Aperture mode, with the Shutter speed determined by the camera. A sturdy tripod is a must. I also shot RAW and JPG files.

As you can tell by reviewing the image, that the image was created midday and yet, cloud movement is clearly visible. I was able to achieve this effect by using a Singh Ray 15-stop Mor Slo filter. (To receive a 10% discount, please use our discount code: ROADRUNNER10). The 15-stop Mor Slo is a great filter that will allow the photographer to create long exposures in the middle of day. The Singh Ray filters are so well made that they do not add color cast or distortion to the images. (Tip: buy 77mm filters and then a set of step-up rings, this way, one filter can be used on all your lenses).

Once the camera was in place, I triggered the shutter and waited. One thing to consider, when shooting time lapse images, consider bringing a second camera body along, as the wait can be quite dull with nothing to do. This may explain why I shot 37 images and not 100.

Post-Processing

As noted above, I shot both RAW and JPG files. I did this so that should I chose to process a single image, I would have the RAW file and for the time lapse image I could use the JPG files, which are smaller and easier to manage when blending so many layers. I organize my files using Lightroom and process my images in Photoshop. So after my trip, I imported my images into my Lightroom catalog (for a video on how to do this, click here). I selected the images that I intended to combine (a total of 37 images) and then opened the images, as Layers in Photoshop. From Lightroom, this is a simple Right click on the selected image thumbnails, Edit in, scroll to the bottom of the list and choose As Layers in Photoshop.

It takes Photoshop a few minutes to open and add each layer to a single tab, once it is complete, you can start changing the Blending Modes for each layer. At this point, take a moment to check the file size. In this case, my file size was just under 3GB. This is a huge file and I only used the JPGs! Now, I can start changing the Blending Mode for each individual layer (except the bottom layer) to Lighten. This allows the lighter pixels to come through from the layer below. As each of the 36 layers are changed, you will see staccato effect in the clouds start to appear.

Once all of the Blending Modes are adjusted, you have to decide if you are ready to flatten the image and start processing. I suggest that first you create a “stamp” of the image. Essentially, a “stamp” is a flattened version, that can be created as a separate layer (while maintaining all of the original layers below it) or by having all of the original layers merged together. I suggest that you use the “separate layer” method, so that you can check the result. You can always decide after to remove the original individual layers to reduce the overall file size. To create the separate layer, select all of the individual layers (all 37 in this case), and then right click, and while holding the ALT/Option key, choose Merge Visible. Photoshop will do some work and create a Layer 1, that sits at the top of the Layer Panel. If the result is what you were expecting, then you can select all of the original layers again and delete. This will bring the overall file size down to something manageable and pick up the operating speed of Photoshop, as you start to process the image.

At this point, how you process your image is up to you. I darkened the sky, enhanced the power plant, and darkened the foreground with Camera Raw. I then desaturated and slightly toned the image. I did some selective dodging and burning to further enhance the clouds and smoke. Lastly, I added a vignette.

To see a video on how I blended and processed my 37 images, click here.

For additional tutorials on how to post-process images, click here.

The Road Not Taken

_DSC5641_HDR

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. ~ Robert Frost

 

And I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference… This one line sums up how I have always looked at life. Explore where others may not have wandered. When I set out to travel, I don’t think to myself… where does everyone else go or how does everyone else do it. Instead I try to forge my own path and head in a direction that might not seem as likely.

This doesn’t mean I don’t travel to well-known destinations, because I do. But it does mean that I try to see that destination differently. Maybe I stay in a small pensione or albergo and not the well-worn hotel chain. Maybe I eat where I see locals and not the restaurant recommended by the concierge. It also doesn’t mean I travel alone. In fact, I rarely travel alone. I prefer traveling with friends, creating shared memories and experiences. Simply, I like to go to places and then experience aspects of that place that are not as well-worn by others.

This past weekend, two friends and myself headed off in search of something to photograph. We could have stayed local, gone to DC or Arlington or…. But instead we headed west. We had a general idea of where we would end up, but we took a circuitous route through the countryside of West Virginia. The rule in our car… just say stop and the driver needs to do his or her best to accommodate. This is likely to include driving until it is safe to turn around and heading back to the location. Also, we never question the stop request. Just because we may not have seen what the requestor sees does not mean the requestor did not see it. However, if you say, “that is cool” or “wow what great light” or similar, the car keeps moving. You must say stop.

Here are a few “Stop” images from that trip. Random lonely barns, abandoned cars, bored bovine… scenes of life in the country. As much as I love the big cities with their monuments to progress, I have often taken the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.

_DSC5410_HDR

 _DSC5602_HDR_DSC5461_HDR-Edit_DSC5422_HDR_DSC5431_HDR_DSC5514-Edit

Along the Way

Often when heading out on a photo expedition, it is so easy to be only focused on the destination. The desire to get there and get started is so compelling we often forget to enjoy the journey.

Today I am sharing an image that was captured on the journey. I was headed to Weston, WV… taking a round about way there through Davis, WV to get a burrito… for all you Hellbenders fans. This route takes me by one of my favorite industry locations… the Mt. Storm power plant.

I have hundreds, maybe thousands of images of Mt. Storm, but I never hesitate to stop, because each day brings a new opportunity for creativity. Some stops are more fruitful than others; this was one of those times. The sky was modeled with thunderheads, with just enough wind to create motion. This time, however, I did not want to capture long streaming clouds. This time I wanted to create stop-action motion.

_XT11160-Edit-Edit

 

This image was created by setting up the intervalometer on my camera (Fuji XT-1 has this built in) to shoot images consecutively, with a one second pause in between. I was using a Samyang 12mm lens, at f5.6, with a Singh Ray 10-stop Mor-Slo filter. The shutter speeds varied between 3 and 10 secs. The images is composed of 35 individual images and some post-processing in Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw.

When on the move, try to allow enough time to explore. Here is another example of what can be found along the way to somewhere else.

_XT11734-HDR-Edit

 

If you are always rushing to get somewhere, you just may be missing the fun stuff. Allow some extra time for opportunity to present itself.

Happy Shooting!