Changing Perspectives

One thing I admire is craftsmanship – the ability to create something beautiful and / or useful – and that mastery of tools to create that item.  By making the decision to understand the photographic software I am using in greater depth, the computer and programs are shifting from just things to play with to make a photograph look better to creative tools in the creative process.  Granted, the physical task is not the same as working in a darkroom – and not as fun. But by plumbing the depths of different software, I am finding a creative outlet I haven’t had before.  Really strange this new mindset . . .

To learn anything, to master anything, to go beyond mastery into artistry, takes time, talent, inspiration, patience, accidents, tangents.  I can honestly say that this change in perspectives occurred when I took the picture below further than I ever conceived possible . . .

Fern Leaf  - Original

I chose this photo because I like the shadows cast by the fern. I thought initially it would be good in black and white, which I think is something I will eventually do, but I just grabbed it at random to use as a photo in a follow-along of an OnOne Perfect Photo Suite video lesson.

I have never used textures to process an image, but a post by Brian Matiash featuring a picture I really liked, tweaked my interest to the point I looked up this video.  Step by step, I followed Liz, choosing the ferns, importing some textures, working with her as she moved along.  I really didn’t think too much about making a picture I liked, I thought about learning more about Perfect Photo Suite.  Well . . . I did learn more about the program, but I also learned that I really could get something I liked that was not horrifically ugly.

Fern Leaf

I had fun, and better, discovered that I could find a sense of creative satisfaction sitting at a computer working on a photo.

Oh, here it is in black and white . . .

Fern Leaf  - B&W

Two Roses, Two Masks

Yellow Rose Remask 4 Impasto Gaussian Blur

The above was done using Topaz Remask 4 and CS6. The one below with a “quick and dirty” program and less refinement on my end. In the one above, I inserted a background and blurred it in the Gaussian blur. The one below was simply an opaque, white background.

Drying Roses

Like I said, I’ve made the decision to work at mastering the software I use in post. There are lots around, with lots of tools. Some are expensive, some ubiquitous, others less well known.

Some progress is being made. Click on them to compare if you wish to see the quality of the masking.

Topaz Remask 4 is quite remarkable.

I See the Moon

The other night I went out toward sunset – checked the electronic almanac called my phone – taking a beautiful old lens, the Vivitar Series 1 24-48mm, and the Df.  I set everything up manually and shot a number of pictures to make a panorama of the crescent moon and oak tree silhouetted against the remaining daylight.  I was in the golden hour, moving into the blue hour.  The first image below is the pano, uncropped but reduced in size, and the following are variations in cropping and post processing. Click on the pictures to see them full size. This lens is beautifully sharp.

I See the Moon - Uncropped (1 of 1)

I See the Moon (1 of 4)

I See the Moon (2 of 4)

I See the Moon (3 of 4)

New Tricks

A View from Second Beach Before

Sometimes a moment – or several moments – of frustration and dissatisfaction lead to new ground, hopefully for the better. On a personal basis, I always find when I have finally had enough, I take action to make change. Choosing what to change, though, requires some thought. I decided to work toward better mastery of the software I use.

There are times when I will spend a fair amount of time working on a photo in post production, and a lot of time when I am trying to do something new. My previous post of that rather disastrous background removal around the rose was one of those times. Some software is better than others, but the good stuff is usually more complex and has a higher learning curve.

I don’t like reading ebooks, and unless a book folds really flat and is pretty much the same edition of the software I am using, it gets pretty frustrating. Videos are great, and if a company provides good videos, they are definitely ones I want to continue to use, and recommend.

Like many photographers, I use Lightroom for my core, branching in and out of it to use different programs. I have all sorts, some registered, some trial ware. The ones I go to most are Photoshop CS6 and, now, Perfect Photo Suite 8 (and probably 9 in the future) by OnOne Software. In terms of complexity, I am not at all good in Photoshop, despite the myriad videos available: there are so many, I am overwhelmed.

OnOne Software provides a lot of videos and webinars, ones which are quite informative, and range in time from short tips to considerably longer. Videos are nice because, with two monitors, I can switch back and forth from video and my own work, pausing or retracking to view a point. OnOne does not have a bazillion, so I am much happier, and their webpage with all their videos is quite easy to find, like right here!

So what does this all mean?  It means I am putting effort into mastery of software rather than bitching about it and guessing.  And spending only a given amount of time in front of the computer – I hate spending hours sitting when I could be considerably more active (and I have become more cranky in the last month since I tore a calf muscle about six weeks ago and am still healing – wah!) – has helped me to focus.

Well, then:  the picture at the top of this diatribe / monologue / harangue / discussion is the SOOC image, and the one below is done using a few simple steps.  I used LR5 to make some adjustments, then moved it into Perfect Effects, using different filters, such as contrast adjustment, adjustable gradient, and vignetting.  The video above goes through the same steps I did, but I also chose some different filters because of what I wanted to do.

What I liked about Kloskowski’s presentation was he showed lots of ways to do things . . . one piece of advice, though, if you are newbie to Perfect Suite, take the time to try some of the elementary videos which focus on only one element of the software before moving on to this video – here, you are assumed to know a bit about the software and how to do things.  Even so, you can learn a few new tricks, and not just in Perfect Effects, but also in LR!  Below is my final result.

A View from Second Beach - After

One Bright, Sunny Morning at Mugu Rock

Although I have lived along the California coast most of my life, I don’t really get out to see it often.  I am not sure why.  However, my friend, The Nikon Hit Man, knows the coast well – he has been fishing it for many years.  We decided to do a photoshoot, but the fact is, it really was more of a time to just hang out together and chat about photography.

Below Mugu Rock 4 - Prelim (1 of 1)

Overall, the day was a bust for pictures as the sun was not with us – getting to the beach in the later morning is not conducive to the best photographic light.  This is when the miracle – or curse – of post-processing comes in.  These were taken around Mugu Rock, which sits on the coastline along the Pacific Coast Highway, north of Malibu, south of Oxnard.  If you have been in the area, you cannot miss it.  The best part of all were the big waves, remnants of a hurricane somewhere in the Pacific.

Below Mugu Rock 3 (1 of 1)

Drab pictures can be made more interesting, naturally, or pushed to extremes for drama and (artistic?) impact.

Below Mugu Rock 4 - Final HDR

I’ll leave you to choose . . .