Its All About The Light

Its All About The Light…

I’m recovering from heart surgery so I was doing some file surfing tonight passing time and came across this old image taken in Minnesota some five years ago. I’ve always enjoyed this sequence of this Great Blue Heron fishing this small stream. Tonight the creative light went on when I saw this specific image file so I grasped the moment and came up with this predawn interpretation.

I love early morning light and the mood that it creates, still waters with dark shadows with highlighted reflections. I can still hear the sounds of woodland creatures start to awaken, a deer is just upstream grazing in the tall grasses, song birds calling in the distance. The heron moves ever so slowly not making a ripple, stalking its prey beneath the mirrored waters surface. I sat ever so quiet on this walking bridge and watched him for some time, it was so peaceful and tranquil. Now that’s an incredible way to start a day.

This image was processed in Lightroom 5.6 with just a slight contrast adjustment, a vignette added by using the radial tool, contrast in the grasses using an inverted radial tool, and details added to the Heron by brush. A slight global sharpening was added at the end. The dark glow and frame was added in Perfect Effects 8.   

A comprehensive detailed overview of the precessing techniques used to produce this image is available at my new blog “The Academy Of Fine Art Photography

Heron Fishing

Heron Fishing

 

I told you there were deer in the deep grass.

Serendipitously I caught both the deer and heron in the same shot.

Serendipitously I caught both the deer and heron in the same shot.

Lightroom 5

LR5 was just released and for those that didn’t participate in the beta version this will bring you up to date with whats new. Those of you that have used the beta I will talk about what I’ve learned and done with the new features over the past couple of months.

Let me begin by stating the not so obvious. I work in LR every day and it didn’t take me long to realize that it was just faster. Start up, file uploads & openings and brush strokes are tell tail signs of an engine re-freshening. Cross platform file sharing is much faster and much more compatible with more third party applications. If you send a file over to PS for adjustment they are updated in LR immediately.

Lets get into the meat and potatoes of whats new. The are five key areas that have been identified as improvements for LR5 and these are:

Advanced Healing Brush
Upright
Radial Gradient
Smart Previews
Video Slide Show

There is a great number of other improvements that I will briefly talk about at the end.

Advanced Healing Brush

To those of you that took the LR 4 workshop series this past winter the much talked about healing brush is here. I told you it was coming. 🙂

The brush is fairly intuitive in fact it operates much like the spot healing tool of the past. LR5 has also made improvements to the quality of the engine that performs the corrections. You have the same two modes of selection, cloning and healing. Cloning will copy the source area as its selected and healing will create a patch that blends similar colour and contrast from the source. They both do a very good job but there are a couple of details I’d like to share. Edges of an image can be tricky. What I’ve learned is to clone in this area, healing can cause a blurring effect. Once you select that area to be replaced move your target away from the immediate location to avoid any obvious pattern repeat.

There is additional new tool  at the bottom of the image box and that is the Visualization Spots. Click this box and it will change the image to a hybrid B&W image that will reveal all the hidden dust spots. By fine tuning the slider they will pop these blemishes making it easy to correct. This new brush and tool set is worth the upgrade price alone. There are some very cool short cuts but I’ll go into those in another tutorial.

Upright

This is one of the most advanced horizontal and vertical correction tools out there. Under lens correction select the basic tab, here you will find all the settings for this new feature. Simple horizons like a water scene or a prairie horizon are flawless but it will even correct very complex architectural images.

Horizontal Correction: First select “Enable Profile Correction” to activate it, at the same time click remove “Chromatic Aberration” I’ve discussed this before just do it, then click level and it works wonders.

Vertical Correction: Vertical is the same procedure except hit “Vertical” and it does a good job at creating a perfect vertical rendering, but, if the perspective is not quite right you can still work the image under the manual tab as you see fit. Hit manual and at the bottom of the list you will find a new slider called Aspect. Move the slider left or right to fine-tune the image to your requirements. Do it in that order if you manually correct first it doesn’t work well.

3D Correction: Go back to basic and the last setting to try is “Full” this is a complete 3D correction on the image. Architectural images are the prime candidates for this procedure.  Again from here you can always go to the manual tab after and fine tune it to your liking.

If you have a set of images like a sequence for an HDR you can synchronize and process a set exactly the same so they match up. A very nice feature. One last tip when possible use a RAW file, LR5 uses the metadata like lens type and focal length to correct the image and it will do a better job with a RAW.

This is the untouched RAW file upload
This is the untouched RAW file upload. Shot with a 10-20mm lens there are lots of corrections need here.
Upright adjustment completed, small inverted radial adjustments with tint, brushed tinted highlights, a final global sharpening
Upright adjustment completed, small inverted radial adjustments with tint, brushed tinted highlights, a final global sharpening, a large dark & softening vignette with the radial filter.

Radial Filter

At first I wasn’t that keen on this one but it has really grown on me. The immediate thought is to create a vignette or focal point by highlighting or darkening, sharpening or blurring its great even colour highlights, contrast spot light, the list is endless. Remember that you have all the other adjustments sliders that can be applied with it, so get creative. Don’t forget there is a invert mask button that flips the settings. Now start working some combinations and the results are quite amazing and fun. Remember you are not restrict to be within the image boundary, also stacking does not degrade the image. There are a few short cut keys and special feature keys to this tool as well. I will be posting a specific tutorial on this feature with image samples soon.

Smart Preview

How many times have you wanted to work on an image with out your external hard drive with you, all you get is the dreaded cannot locate so you can’t work on the image. Create a smart preview and you can work off line on any image in your file. In Library mode just under the histogram is a small box, select the images you want to create a copy of and click,  LR5 will create a smart preview for you. LR saves these new files as as a lossy DNG file which is a compressed file of 70% – 50% so it won’t take much drive space. Remember because its a compressed file when you do certain adjustments like sharpening (off line) they may not render correctly on screen, but as soon as you reconnect to the hard drive with the original file, LR5 will update the full file correctly. This is a fabulous convenience addition.

Video Slide Show

If you create slide shows LR5 now allows you to create sides show presentations that incorporate movie clips. You just inserts like a image and it plays automatically. This is a nice feature to enrich you audience in your presentation.

There are a number of other improvements that are incorporated into version 5 that are worth mentioning. Some of the filter algorithms have been improved so be amazed as you explore. The noise reduction filters are now excellent. I shoot with a vintage Nikon D200 which is notorious for low light noise, its scary to consider going over ISO 400. I just competed a stage production shoot at ISO 1100 and my images are very usable. Highlight and shadow recovery sliders will amaze you. B&W conversion can be precisely mixed with 8 colour channels that can make or break a conversion. The enhanced 64-bit cross-platform pipeline speeds up image tasking whether your a Mac or PC user especially moving from one software package to another. LR5 print capabilities are superior and it has now replaced a costly rip program for my professional printing needs.

Conclusion

In conclusion I will suggest if you are using LR3 and enjoy it, come out of the dark ages to see what LR5 can do for you now, its magical. If you are a RL4 user and have found its become your go to image processing software then the advanced healing brush is worth the upgrade alone. If your a photographer and a PhotoShop devotee and don’t want to subscribe to Adobe cloud, check out this powerful processing package and all the online articles and tutorials on LR. That support alone should convince you to get on board. Its 1/10 the price and you’ll use more than 10% of the software program because its designed for photography. Adobe has now made it clear that PS (which has become a cloud suit subscription) is clearly become a graphic designers product. Lightroom was created for photographers and will likely remain a stand alone package.

Lightroom is priced at $ 79 for an upgrade, well worth the investment in your images and even the $ 149  for the full version is a tremendous buy for the photographer. I highly recommend it.

Night Time Variation

Last night I was working late in the studio and just before midnight I could hear the wind pick up and the distant boom of lightning strikes. I thought about going out but I had a 5:15 call in the morning. When the rain started I opened the door by my desk, I love listening to summer rains and storms, before long there was a torrent of water coming down and the sky was alive with a mother natures light show.

I grabbed my camera and started to shoot down the brick walkway which includes a canopy of trees and a park bench. I’m not one to use a flash but I had a interesting shoot at the Vaughan Street Jail a while back where I used a remote flash behind walls and other objects which created interesting shadow and back lighting results. Well I had an inspiration to take an umbrella and place a remote flash under it and place it in the scene.

The wind was quite strong so I had to anchor the umbrella on the cast iron bench limiting my possibilities. I chose an umbrella that was a complimentary colour to the setting, a blue Matisse pattern and began the process of trying different power settings for the on board and remote flash units. I started using a 28 -70mm at first but change to a wide angle 10- 20mm due to the close proximity and narrowness of the location. I tried different positions and angles for about 30 min then put the card on the computer.

I did some simple corrections in lightroom 5 and began to think this could be interesting. I took a couple of files into OnOne and applied some simple FX filters giving them a darkened whimsical feel which I began to like even more. Check out the spirit orbs that are floating in the darkness.

Rainy Daydreams-46 Rainy Daydreams-47 Rainy Daydreams-48 Rainy Daydreams-49

I think this concept has some interesting applications to followup with using different locations (abandoned builds, fields, trees, bridges, rivers or lakes, grassy knolls).

I’ll continue to post images as I expand my locations this summer.

A photographers Focus

I recently had the opportunity to have an off hours visit at The St. Boniface Museum. Museums are not the easiest places to take fine art photographs but some times you just get lucky. This was a lucky day.

Among its artifacts I was drawn to one which was is paper mashè sculpture of “God” created by the nuns in around 1870. I’ve never seen a sculpture of God before so at the end of the morning shoot I spent some time with him. Here is a difficult lesson for photographers to learn and that’s patients. You can force yourself to stop and spend time, but you have to void your mind of everything around you and get into your subject. So, humm a statue of God you say. Well here was my thought process as I studied the sculpture. Just sit down and look at it, without a camera, block out everything around you and study its details and you’ll begin to formulate a plan of different ideas on how to capture your subject. If you can walk all around the subject do it, view it from different locations in the room, look low or high but think about the subject and is there a story here.

In this case a couple of details jumped out at me. The colour palette was extraordinary, all pastels. The story of the bible was rolling through my head but the most unusual characteristic was in the eyes. They had given them a heavy coating of clear varnish that made them look like he had tears welling up. So my plan was to shoot three sides and to make sure the eyes were always the focal point by using a shallow depth of field in most cases. I liked the colours but with this unusual palette I was really curious to see what a B&W conversion would look like, I sensed it would be very angelic almost an infrared.

Here is the set. I started with a straight up shot. The monochrome conversion is a layered hybrid that I’ll explain in a minute. He was on an alter and the mistake I made here is the halo of stars should have been aligned above his head. This unfortunately is a big no no as it looks like goes through his head. Ouch! Look into his eyes though…. maybe that mistake introduces the eyes, a divine intervention, certainly not planned.

Image

The next couple of images were from the perspective of looking up to god. I tilted the camera to give them a different feel and they do feel different, in fact there is a definite line drawn by the viewer and most will like one or the other. I believe this is associated to the left and right brain perspectives. Look into those eyes…. a highlight sparkle is present that really adds life.

ImageImage

The next shot was to deliberately offset him in the frame. You want to have your subject looking into the open space so I needed to have a slight angle to position him on the right side of the frame. I added an additional slight tilt to give it a more unusual look as if he’s looking down to the viewer. Better halo positioning and look at the sparkle in those eyes…

Image

Now I moved to the right side and here I tried something different. I think people can associate with the possibility of touching god so I made the focus his hand. This image is as if you were beside him as he’s talking to someone, your mind is focussed on his hand that is just in front of you. His face, out of focus and distant. A poignant moment indeed and a hand you can almost touch.

Image

Lastly was a look from the side where he presumably addresses his followers. Again give the subject space to look into to the image. Here is another bit of detail in the planning of the shoot. In the bible where did God tell Jesus to sit? He sat to his right side from this perspective. Again look into those eyes. His hand is cut off by the bottom frame but that becomes acceptable with the focus on the eyes and the hand is now soft, out of focus, with a shallow depth of field.

Image

When taking pictures of wildlife or people make sure the eyes are in focus and capture a highlight, they breath life into the subject. The eyes of this sculpture are very extraordinary indeed.

Lastly I tried a few different types of processing ideas but it all becomes a bit of experimenting with a goal in mind. I did want a vintage look and feel so the water stained backdrop was a must. I then added a scratched layer to add more depth as if these shots were taken many years ago. The colour is a hybrid blue grey that will change from monitor to monitor and it does appear to be slightly faded with age. I felt the final look was strong but divine at the same time. Make sure when you have a formula you save it as an action so you can duplicate it for the set.

This is truly an extraordinary sculpture.