Archive | October, 2010

Leaving for Utah Today

27 Oct

I am leaving with a friend of mine for a five day photography trip in Southern Utah later today. We’ll visit my normal stomping grounds of Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. We are hoping the fall colors are peak in some areas and I look forward to bringing you back some spectacular new images.  I will also be doing some scouting for my 2011 workshops in both of these parks.  Have a wonderful rest of the week.

Michael

What Happens When Your Hard Drive Crashes?

20 Oct

When your hard drive goes be prepared to spend some time re-doing just about everything. It’s like losing your cell phone and not having all your numbers backed up.That’s what happened to me last week that’s why I am writing this post.  My hard drive went out about ten days ago – it warned me that it was failing and I started backing up like crazy! Fortunately, I’ve been fairly diligent about backing up all my files to external hard drives so it wasn’t a catastrophe. I have two external hard drives and I try to back up all my data to both sources. One source I keep in a safe deposit box so I still have my images in case my place burns down or floods when I am away.

I think sometimes we take for granted how much information we store on our computers. We are continuously adding things over times whether it be: images, software/updates, websites, word documents or spread sheets, pdf files, games, Photoshop plug-ins and actions  etc.

 That being said, I’ve been very fortunate that I have friends who help in times like these. I honestly couldn’t do it myself. After purchasing another hard drive and re-installing all the drivers we began to slowly resurrect my computer from the dead. I am going to list out the best advice I can give you to prevent a catastrophe from happening. Some of these may not prevent failure, but will certainly help keep your computer running as fast as possible.

1) double back-up everything important – also make sure you are current and well-organized in doing this.

2) make sure you are well-organized when it comes to tracking receipts and key codes. You will need to re-download all the software you’ve paid for if you don’t have hard copies…

3) be very careful of the programs you are running, especially if you are on a PC. Windows 7 can be very intrusive if you let it. Take control of your computer.

4) be careful with registry defrags and other software used to “clean up your computer”.  Emptying your recycle bin and deleting your browsing history is one thing, defragging and registry fixes are something else.

5) partitioning off your hard drive – is it good or bad? Honestly, I’ve read opinions both ways. I tend to believe it’s good,  but I am certainly no expert. Please do your own research and make your own conclusions.

6) disable or turn to manual start-up items that are automatically running when your computer boots that you don’t need. 

Well, that’s about it. I am certainly no techie so don’t read too much into this blog post. I just want you to be aware of the potential amount of work and headaches you can incur if you are not prepared ahead of time for something like this to happen.  Also, some quick tips to speed up your computer and keep it running smoothly. Have a great day!

Understanding the Scene – Colorado Fall Foliage Part 2

9 Oct

Yesterday we ended the first part of this post by talking about the exposure values of the left and right hand side of the scene. For this scene, I simply used a .6 graduated neutral density filter and bracketed my exposures. Because the intensity of the light was changing so fast, my camera was having difficulty accurately metering the scene. The meter was constantly jumping around. 

Eventually, I underexposed the scene resulting in a slightly less than ideal exposure for the darkest values of conifers on the right hand side. Fortunately, this wasn’t a major factor. I still was able to retain very good detail and resolution in the darkest parts of the image although ideally, I would have liked to pull an additional + 1/3 stop out of those values.

Processing

I used two different exposures and processed them the same way in Adobe Camera Raw. I ended up using my lightest exposure because remember, I underexposed the scene, so with the bracketing. this exposure ended up being just about correct anyway.

This is the 100% crop of the darkest shadow values within the scene. You can see I've retained the detail in the conifers fairly well with just a slight drop off in light along the very edge of the frame.

This is the 100% crop of the darkest shadow values within the scene. You can see I've retained the detail in the conifers fairly well with just a slight drop off in light along the very edge of the frame.

When I process multiple raw files, I normally try to keep them as consistent as possible, so I kept the temperature and tone the same for both files here. For this scene, I employed a very cool temperature to help offset the amount of yellow. Following that, I open both images in Photoshop and copy the  dark exposure on top of the correct exposure. I then used a layer mask to blend the exposure, specifically the “hot” aspens on the right side of the frame. Once the blend was completed, I saved the file and started with general contrast adjustments to the entire scene. This was a basic levels adjustment.

For this scene,  I wanted to open up the shadows a bit more to accentuate the reflection of the conifers. I used the shadow/highlights feature to complete that. I normally don’t use this  feature, simply because it can be very destructive and give your images an unwanted “HDR” look where everything gets dimples so to speak. I created a copy of my background layer and then carefully scrutinized the results before moving on.

Once I was satisfied with that, I started working on selectively adjusting the contrast within the scene. The largest area of contrast that needed adjusting was the foreground, which was much too light. Once that was completed, I moved onto the reflection in the lake, specifically in the middle of scene.Following that, I moved onto a few other areas within the scene,  most notably the yellow highlights and dark greens far up on the mountain.

Once I finished the contrast,  I started selectively adjusting the color. The one thing I normally like to do is to pull cyan out of the image. Here, I performed that in the yellows channel. What that did was give the yellows in the aspens just a bit of an orange tinge to them, making them in my opinion,  more appealing. Finally I saved the master image, and reduced and sharpened for the web.

Web Sharpening

This image was fairly tedious to sharpen for the web. The greatest obstacle here was the peak, which almost continually was showing haloing, probably from sharp shadows on its edges. It took several attempts before I was satisfied with my results.  I used several adjustment layers of sharpening, turning them all off for the sky and peak. Generally speaking, foliage doesn’t sharpen well for the web. So be very careful when sharpening items like pine and aspen trees. Less is normally more here. That is pretty much it!  I hope this tutorial is helpful to you and if it is,             please let me know. Also,  feel free to email me if you have any other questions. Have a wonderful weekend.

Michael

Understanding the Scene – Colorado Fall Foliage

8 Oct

We  just returned home from a three-day trip to Telluride to shoot the fall colors of Southwestern Colorado in the San Juan Mountains. What I am going to do today is show a  picture from that trip and talk specifically and technically about the thought process of creating the image and the processing involved. This image was captured on Saturday October 2, 2010 at Woods Lake in the Uncompahgre National Forest.

A profusion of fall colors accented by stillness, blue skies, and warm light on a quiet evening at Woods Lake near Telluride, Colorado.

So this is the shot. At first glance, you might really like this or even think that looks kind of generic depending on your preferences. (Hopefully you are reading this because you like my work) The composition and processing look standard right? Before we go any further with this, I just want to say if it get’s too long I’ll break this up into two parts and finish the second part tomorrow. 

Composition

Let’s start by talking about the composition because it is the first thing I do when setting up to take a picture.  Sometimes I’ll spend 20 minutes climbing up or down and scrambling and setting up only to find myself not happy with the composition.  Luckily, it wasn’t the case for this scene. The composition here was pretty straight forward for me.

 Upon arriving at this scene, I did not know too much about this place.  From what I had read, I knew it was a sunset location. Right off the bat, I chose this specific location at the lake for one primary reason and that is the aspens on the left hand side of image. They were absolutely stunning and I thought critical to creating a balance to the scene. Also, I thought the patterns on the right hand side of the foreground are actually kind of interesting to look at and you can still make out the reflection of the aspens.  For your information, I could not move the composition any further to the left because there is a big white sign there that would have gotten into the scene. 

I chose my focal length based on the desire to capture the entire reflection of the aspens.  The amount of sky I included  was based on the fact there wasn’t many clouds (just one little one) in the sky that evening and I tried to incorporate the appropriate amount based on the conditions. The round hill on the right hand side of the scene adds a lot with its dynamic mix of color and shape. I think the scene is well-balanced even though the peak (Mount Wilson) is pretty much centered in the frame.

Capture

Part of my approach to landscape photography involves capturing as many unique elements into the scene as possible at any particular time. Looking at this scene we have several:  peak fall foliage, clear reflection (minimal wind), and warm, directional light.

Normally when I approach a scene I will intently look at the brightest and darkest parts of it to determine the proper exposure. I basically use Ansel Adam’s zone metering system in my head. I normally can tell what the exposure values should be depending on the colors and brightness of the scene.  I knew I wanted to capture this scene right at the edge of light.  Meaning I wanted some direct light on the aspen and conifers around the lake at the base of the mountain and I wanted to capture it just seconds before it fell into shadow.  Luckily, I was successful there; it didn’t last long within a minute of this shot the lights went out on the aspens. The next image I took there was no brightness or glow in the reflection.

 I knew there were two potentially problematic areas with the lighting of this place. First were the exposed aspen trunks getting the direct sunlight. These are very easy to clip with direct light hitting a whitish color. And second, was the dark grove of conifers across the lake on the other side of the aspens. These were showing up very dark in my viewfinder,  although I could certainly make out the detail with my eye. We will stop here today and we will resume this tomorrow. I hope you are getting some out this post. Have an awesome day!

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