Sunday, September 27, 2015

Picture Process Before and After: State Park Pokagon

In July the I made a visit to Pokagon state park. My first time to this park. This is one thing governments have done correctly throughout our nation. So many great state parks to visit and hike. Located in Northeast Indiana, Pokagon is well know for its winter toboggan run. Being in the area for other family matters I had time to hike some of the trails. This was done after just visiting the Smoky Mountains. So after climbing mountain trails, walking flat Indiana was no issue other than.....the flying insects. They were bad, even with bug spray they ate me like a cheap buffet. So onward I went walking, fighting for every ounce of blood with every step. The geography of the park is very dynamic ranging from wooded paths to marsh and on to a very nice lake trial. For this trip I found the marsh area to have more of the interesting plants and wildlife. The park has made a wonderful elevated walkway through the marsh. Even has areas to stop, sit and observe the wetlands. Very nice, when not being attacked by bugs. The one thing you have to watch out for is the snakes that crawl up and sun themselves on the deck.

The elevated walkway through the marsh. Watch for snakes!

Lighting was very flat that day but still bright enough to wear sunglasses. I had my ND filters with me and actually used  them in this image to tint the color a bit. Between the filter and the white balance I was looking to pull the clouds out a bit from the overcast nature of the sky. I think it worked. From the above picture of the walkway you can see that there is a lot of tall growth right up to the walkway. I came upon this more open area that gave me some depth to the view. I seem to be attracted to water in my landscape art work. So naturally the opening in the Lilly pads attracted my eye into framing this.

Using my Olympus OMD EM-1 on a tripod I worked with the settings trying to bring out the clouds and focused on the water. Recomposing several times brought me to this view with the water centered in the middle. The whole day the lighting was doing nothing for the image. I did think I could work the light in post process

Pokagon Marsh, shot with Olympus OMD EM-1 Original Shot

I liked the composition and the clouds in this image. However I needed to bring out the light in the water. My goal was to have the eye wonder between the clouds and the water. Using Capture One for post processing for all the work, I first started by bring down the exposure. Once this is done I then begin to brush in the light using the local adjustments brush in Capture One. The brush layers function is very powerful in this application. Plus Capture One handles RAW files much better than Lightroom.

The other goal was to create a unique sky. So again using the adjustment brush and layers I worked with the hues of the sky to bring in a more "other world" look. This coming from a sky that had absolutely no detail. It was just a very gray and dull day. So I feel good what I ended up with in the sky.

Final image after brushing in the light using Capture One
In the end I came away with something I was pleased enough to print in large. I used an InkPress Watercolor Rag 200. This is a great paper for fine art. And very affordable. More on this paper in another entry. So what do you think of the final picture? Take Care and safe travels.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Picture Process Before and After: One Cool Creek

Up first is a picture just recently taken.  I hope to create a process template in writing these entries consistently from post-to-post. Its all a work in progress. This template will follow along the following.

First, Location. Where am I what I am looking for in that location. Time of day and season.

Second, Gear I am using to capture the picture. Camera, lens, tripod, filters, etc. All in very general terms not doing an analysis of the image quality of the sensor down to the single pixel.

Third, Why take this shot? What did I first see to want me to get this capture? Are there variations of this capture? Did I recompose from slightly different positions?

Fourth, Post process. What software did I use and what changes did I make in each software or plugin.

Fifth, The final product. Love it or hate it!

So here we go for the first image.
First Image from Walkway. Shot with Sony RX100III
We have this wonderful nature trail park in our community. Great place to do a quick little walk around nature. We have had a heat wave come through that was the hottest of the summer, until this evening when I took this picture. Our family Westie was full of energy so it was time to visit the park and see the squirrels.
On trips like this I almost always have my Sony RX100III with me ready to shoot. As in this review by Camera Labs. Its a great general carry around camera. So it was a nice evening, just hitting that golden hour. We come over the walkway above Cool Creek and I see this reflection playing on the water. The creek was very slow since we had very little rain for weeks at the time of this picture. The reflection was very vibrant. So I set the camera in manual, freehand, no tripod and took several exposures concentrating on the reflection. Did not recompose. My goal was capturing the light in the trees and vibrancy of the reflection, without blowing anything out.

For this series of images, I processed the picture solely in Capture One. This software is slowly replacing my Lightroom workflow. It's a different mindset versus Adobe products. However, I am liking the brush layers much more.

Processed in Capture One, intermediate image.
So what am I thinking here? Well its about the reflection in the creek. So the first adjustment I made, was to drop the exposure to the point were I was just getting the highlights in the trees. This was about two and a half stops. That's a lot, things got very dark outside the highlights. Next, what I did was slowly brush in the light (increasing exposure, saturation and brightness). Capture One has great control when selectively brushing in local adjustments.

As I was brushing light onto the rocks I had a "moment". These come to me, every so often. The rocks in the creek, once highlighted looked "off" in the reflection. So I flipped the image and the reflection becomes the primary image, not the secondary. The now floating, along with the rippling water, rocks helps to keep the viewers attention just awhile longer.

Final Image of One Cool Creek

Once lighting was brushed in and the image flipped, one last adjustment was made. That was a final crop. As you see in the intermediate image, there was still natural light along the side of the image. Initially I was going to use this until I flipped the image and made the reflection the primary. To eliminate this noise I simply cropped it away.

And there you have it. What began as a walk with the wife and dog in our local park, became something entirely different. I find it completely relaxing and peaceful how I can take an image first seen in my head and work it into something so unique. We are all so very capable with these creative gifts. And that's what I want to do with this blog. Get the creative juices flowing. You may like the image or you may hate it. Not your style. That's OK. It's all art. There is no middle ground. However I hope you enjoyed the article and have learned something. Take care and safe travels.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Journey to the Center of the World

From time to time I find something on the web I wish to share. This is one of those times. National Geographic sent a photographer into the largest cave in the world. Located in Vietman. He came back with some incredible images. Watch the 25 minute video towards the end of the article. Enjoy.

The Gear We Choose

What gear we use and why? What a great time to be a photographer with so much great equipment being available. I started my photographic journey in the digital age. First playing with Canon equipment, as discussed in the previous blog. Then moving on to Nikon for 5 years, to Fuji, to currently Olympus and Sony.

The Canons were used for an employer. I just never cared for how Canon felt in my hands. The gear always feels cheap to me. Can't say why,just does. So I never went to Canon for my own work. However, love their printers.

Then owned two Nikon D300 bodies. Finally traded those in after five years of heavy use. Each body had over 500k of shutter actuations. Great gear, great imaging. Used them for all my pro work. At this time mirrorless was just coming into its own. So I started looking to replace the Nikon gear with something smaller and lighter.

Fuji walked into my life as an X-Pro1 with several Fuji lenses. It was a love/hate relationship for about a year and a half. Loved the image results, hated some of the quirks of the camera. The JPEGS were stunning the RAW not so good out of Lightroom. There were to many compromises for me to use the gear with a high degree of confidence on a regular schedule. So out it went to be replaced by an Olympus OMD EM-1.

The Olympus OMD EM-1 is now my go to camera. I also have the 14-40mm 2.8, 40-150mm 2.8 and 17mm 1.7 glass. There are many good reviews out there on the web about this camera and these lenses. Agree with them all. I photograph a lot of sport with this gear and also shoot a lot of work with studio lights. It all looks good both in JPEG and RAW. The gear has not failed me and just works. I do not have to think about it. But even this small mirrorless wonder is to big for some of my work so into my toolbox comes the Sony RX100III.

I wanted something even smaller to be a general carry around type camera. So I was able to get a good deal through Amazon on a Sony RX100III. This I use for family events. Out and about town. And even some of my landscape stuff. It is just a really good little camera. Image quality is right up there with my EM-1. The video is great and its not even the 4K stuff everyone now desires. Its still new in my arsenal so I am still learning what it can do. It normally takes me about 6 to 9 months before I am fully comfortable with a new camera system.

In all of this journey through camera gear, never once was image quality an issue. Everyone of these cameras produced great pictures for me, my clients and for competition. It was never about the gear. But which system provided to me the best tools to accomplished what was needed at the time. None of it failed. All the equipment was made very well and reliable from each manufacturer. It is my belief that there is no longer crappy gear made. Everything out there in your local camera store is good, reliable and produces great pictures. The competition is to tough out there to make anything but the best. The buying public would weed these companies out quickly.

So how do you choose your gear? I would like to know. For me, it begins with what works between my fingers, eyes and brain. It has to click when I hold the camera up to my eye. How the dials, menu and view finder work when I need to access something or make an adjustment. Beyond that, what can I afford?

Once I settle into new camera gear. I tend to use it for a long time. The yearly upgrade path is not part of my program. So the equipment gets a good workout.. You will not see a lot of new gears reviews here. After all in the end its not about the gear. "Its About the Picture"! Take care and safe travels.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Pixels Explained a Good Read

In my own wondering of the internet I may fine an article with information I wish to pass on. This is one of those moments. Helen Bradley over at Digital Photography School has a very good and short article on the subject of pixels and photo size for printing. Take a quick read. It's always good to refresh on these types of subjects. Especially if you do not do a lot of printing.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Wee Bit of History

I begin my photography journey around 2000, when I started working as a safety crew member for Indy Car Series. My responsibility was to photograph any mishap with an Indy Car during practice, qualifying and during the race. All crashed cars were impounded by our group. We would then photograph and report all damage back to Indy Car. This data they would use making the cars safer. It was all fun. I would tell people my job was to "Look important, but stay out of the way!"

So guess what happens when no one is crashing on the race track. We watch and play with the cameras taking pictures of the action. Back then, these were Canon cameras, since they were a sponsor. About the same time my two sons were young and I wanted to take more photographs of them in their activities. So my photography interested started to quickly expand with these activities.

Since then I have continued to learn and grow my skills in the craft. I started getting really serious when I enrolled in the New York Institute of Photography online course for professional photography. A very good program that taught me the fundamentals. And still try to enroll in other classes when time and funds allow.

Like most photographers in this digital age, I have owned or borrowed a variety of gear to use. For me it's never been about the brand. Only about which camera can function best between my hands, brain and eyes. Camera selection is for another post. Safe travels and take care.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Beginning of the Blog

The first entry in what I hope will be a blog helpful to all as I explore my journey through photography. This blog has been in thought for a long time, with ideas floating through my head as which direction to go.
There are many photography blogs covering a vast subject matter. Some incredible blogs well established for what they offer. So the question is how can this blog be different? What would make you want to keep coming back?
For starters this will not be a gearhead review of every new camera/lens out there. I am not that interested in all the new stuff the moment it ships. I will review and discuss equipment I have owned/used in the past along with my current gear in how I make my art. It, end the end, is About The Picture.
So onward I go on this journey. I am sure the look and feel of this blog will evolve over time. My hope is to give back to those who read this, what I in turn have learned through photography. Safe travels and take care.