Monthly Archives: August 2007

Link Roundup 08-18-07

Before I get to the regular links, I keep meaning to mention a Photography Link Exchange started up by the author of NYCgraphix. It’s a good place to dig around for some handy resources on various topics. The list is very much in it’s early stages, but it’s worth having a look at — I’ve seen quite a few familiar sites listed in there.

And now for this week’s most interesting articles from across the web.

Red Tree Blooms

I’ve shown this photo before in an earlier post titled “Indoor Macro Photography Project For Rainy Days.” In that post, I walk through the method I used to capture this particular photo. The reason I took this photo was because it was small, I liked the color, and I thought the little curly-bobs would make for a neat photo.

Photoshop process for the Red Tree Blooms photo

The JPEG (1) was pretty off in white balance (too cool), so I warmed it up and brought up the saturation by processing the RAW file (2). There was some extra subject matter in the frame, so I cleaned it up with some cloning (3). I applied a curves adjustment layer (4) to bring the highlights up and the shadows down ever so slightly. Now for the fun part. I used the “Stamp Visible” command (Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E) to make a copy of the visible output into it’s own new layer. Then I took that layer and copied it again. The one on the bottom got a Gaussian blur (5) applied to it at maybe 10 to 15 pixels — I forgot exactly what I did. Then I changed the blend mode (6) of the one on top to “Overlay” at 100% opacity and 67% fill.

The last two steps did two things: increased contrast/color, and added a soft glow while maintaining sharpness of the bigger features. You can get some pretty interesting results when you start playing around with blurs and blends.

Red Tree Blooms

** You can also see this photo on Zooomr and Flickr **

Photo by Brian Auer
04/01/07 Flemington, NJ
Red Tree Blooms
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Sigma MACRO 105mm f/2.8 EX DG
Kenko 25mm Extension Tube
158mm equiv * f/32 * 30s * ISO100

Quick Tip: Go Read Your Camera Manual

When we get a new camera, most of us will at least skim through the manual and play with the buttons. Some of us will read the entire thing in one night, but that’s besides the point. After owning a camera for about a week or two, the manual gets filed away somewhere out of sight. This is all fine, and we generally don’t need the manual to take photos and learn new tricks.

But if you’ve owned your camera for a while, you might consider digging out that old book and giving it a quick read. When your camera is brand new, you probably scanned over or skipped over some things that didn’t seem important to you at the time. Things like advanced menu functions, external control settings, and camera specific quirks all seemed like unnecessary “extra fluff” — to a new camera owner anyways. You told yourself you’d go back to it after you got the basics down. But you didn’t, did you?

So my advice is this: crack open the manual and look for things you might have skipped over when you first opened the box. You might just find something in there worth reading.

What Movie Should Every Photographer See?

Some movies are so well filmed that you wish you were actually there with your camera. You spend the whole time looking for the shots that you would consider to be great photos. I watched one such movie tonight (300), and it made be beg the question: how many other photographically inclined movies are out there? I’ve seeded the poll with just three movies that I think photographers can pick up some experience on, and I want the rest of you to either add movies to the list or vote for one already on the list. I’m sure we can all discover one or two new films worth watching in the name of photography.

What Movie Should Every Photographer See?

And based on the results of last week’s poll on “Who’s The Best Aftermarket Lens Maker“, it looks like Sigma lenses are more popular than Tamron and Tokina. A LOT more popular.

Get the Most Out of Cropping in Photoshop

Cropping is one of those tools that doesn’t have a lot of sex appeal. IT’S BORING!!! …or is it?

There might be more to this square little tool than you think. We’ve got keyboard options, shielding controls, perspective control, straightening and resampling combos, and more. You can reduce your processing time (and frustration) by knowing a few little tricks. You can also reduce several operations down to one.

Here are some of the most useful cropping functions in Photoshop. It may not be all of them, but these are the ones I’ve used at least a couple of times to save some work.

  • KEYBOARD SHORTCUT
    Just hit C to bring up the crop tool.
  • SHIELDING OPTIONS
    The crop shield is the area outside of the crop marquee. Once a crop selection is made, there are a few options on the top toolbar. The shield can be turned on or off with a checkbox, the color can be changed with a color selection box, and the opacity can be changed with a slider. I typically have it turned on, black in color, and 100% opacity — it helps me visualize what the photo will look like.
  • SELECTION SNAPPING
    When resizing or moving the crop selection, it automatically snaps to the edges of the canvas. Sometimes you want to crop right near the edge, but not directly to it. To avoid snapping to the edge, hold down the Ctrl key while dragging — no more snaps!
  • SQUARE CROP
    If you want a perfect square crop without having to edit the canvas size, just hold down the Shift key before you make your selection. You can also constrain the current aspect ratio by holding down the Shift key while resizing.
  • CENTER CROP
    The standard crop anchors at a corner, but what if you know where you want the center to be rather than the corner? To anchor your crop at center, hold down the Alt key before you make your selection. Like the center crop, you can also convert to center crop by holding down the Alt key while resizing.
  • SQUARE CENTER CROP
    To do this trick, just combine the last two tips and hold down the Shift+Alt keys before cropping. Do it during resize, and you’ll get constrained proportions anchored at center.
  • CROP AND RESAMPLE
    Prior to making a crop selection, there are a few options on the top toolbar for resampling: width, height, and resolution. At least two of these fields must have values for this to work. The width and height alone lock in the aspect ratio of the crop selection. The resolution and width (OR height) will allow you to crop freely, and resample the image based on your selection. If all three fields have values, you get the locked aspect ration plus resampling.
  • CROP AND STRAIGHTEN
    When you straighten a photo, you end up having to crop anyways, so why not do it all at once? After you make a crop selection, hover the mouse outside of the selection box and you’ll see that the mouse icon is a couple of curvy arrows. If you click and drag, the selection box will rotate about it’s center. When you crop, the image will crop and rotate all at once. And if you hold down the Shift key while rotating, the angle will snap to increments of 15 degrees.
  • PERSPECTIVE CROP
    Perspective cropping is another method of killing two birds with one stone. When you apply a “perspective” lens correction (good for squaring up the edges of tall buildings), you have to crop the excess background material left behind. After making a crop selection, a checkbox appears in the top toolbar for “Perspective” cropping. When selected, you can drag the corners of the crop box and create non-rectangular crop sections. When you crop, the selection is stretched back out rectangular. You can also combine this with the rotation trick and kill all three birds.
  • CROP VIA SELECTION
    Cropping can be done with more than just the crop tool. Any selection is a viable crop selection, including the marquee and lasso selections. Just make the selection and go to “Image > Crop” on the main menu bar. The selection will be cropped at the rectangle that bounds the selection.

The best way to learn some of these functions is to TRY THEM OUT YOURSELF! Maybe you won’t use all of them all the time, but there are a few things worth hanging on to.

Did I miss anything important that relates to cropping in Photoshop?

Link Roundup 08-11-2007

Sunset Flames

Here’s a shot from my recent trip across the country, on my move from New Jersey to California. This sunset photo was taken at the Grand Canyon in Arizona, right after the sun went down. We showed up at the Canyon just before sunset, so I only had a few minutes to get ready for the big color show. The clouds were amazing, and it was a great show. This one spot just above the sun was lit up like flames, and lucky for me I was using my super-wide, so I was able to capture the whole thing. I exposed this shot for the sky and allowed the foreground to go almost black (though there was some color information in there). I also shot at ISO100 in order to minimize any noise, which in turn caused a low shutter speed, which in turn caused me to use a large aperture. If it were any darker, I would have had to bump the ISO up a notch.

Sunset Flames Post-Processing

The JPEG (1)
was pretty dull and washed out, but the RAW conversion (2) started looking a little better due to a white balance adjustment and an increase in vibrancy. I started off the editing a little dodging (3) using a curves adjustment layer and mask to brighten the highlights. Then I did some burning (4) with a curves adjustment layer and mask to darken the shadows and help bring out the depth in the clouds. After the photo started looking a little better, I applied a curves adjustment layer (5) to increase the contrast a bit further. The last step was a hard mix layer blend (6) at 32% opacity and 20% fill, which really helped bring out the colors and contrast. Due to the inherent softness of the photo, I left out the sharpening step.

Sunset Flames

** You can also see this photo on Zooomr and Flickr **

Photo by Brian Auer
07/13/07 Grand Canyon
Sunset Flames
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM
15mm equiv * f/4 * 1/60s * ISO100

Quick Tip: Remember That Your Sensor Is Upside-Down

No, your image sensor isn’t really upside down, but the image projected onto it is. This isn’t really important for the act of taking a photo, because the camera flips the image for you. It IS important, however, when you clean your sensor. Keeping this fact in mind can save you a few swabs (and a few bucks).

After swabbing a sensor, it’s a good idea to take a test shot and check for dirt left behind. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I rarely get it all on the first try. I usually end up with a few spots on the top or the bottom of the image. When I go back for round two, I have to decide which end to pay more attention to, because the swabs don’t have a perfect reach across the entire height of the sensor. Knowing that the image is projected upside-down onto the sensor , I know that if I have spots on the top of the image I need to swab toward the bottom of the sensor.

It works, and it’ll save a few swabs.

Who’s The Best Aftermarket Lens Maker?

I’m not talking about lenses from the camera manufacturers: Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Pentax, etc. I’m talking about the other lens manufacturers like Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina… aftermarket lenses. Who’s the best?

I’ve come to find that these off-brands offer up some great quality at a very nice price. I have three lenses, and two of them are Sigma. I love them, and I won’t hesitate to buy another. Obviously I’m biased toward Sigma, but who do you think makes the best lenses from the big three?

Who's The Best Aftermarket Lens Maker?

Based on the results of this poll, it seems as though Sigma has a significant lead in the aftermarket lens business. It’s no surprise, they make great products at a very high quality.

Be sure to check the results from last week’s poll on “When’s Your Favorite Time of Day to Shoot?” It turns out that evening is the favorite, followed by sunset. So if you’re planning a photowalk in the near future, be sure to plan it for the end of the day.

In Response To My First Photowalk…

Saturday, August 4th marked the day of my first official photowalk. The mini-event was hosted by Trevor Carpenter at the Santa Monica Pier in Southern California. Approximately 20 photographers showed up for the walk, and most of us had never met each other in person. It was great to meet some online acquaintances in addition to meeting new people altogether. In light of the experience, I’ve put together a few thoughts on photowalking… for participants and hosts alike.

WHAT IS PHOTOWALKING?

I don’t want to steal Trevor’s thunder, but it’s basically the act of walking with a camera for the purpose of taking photos… just because. It’s kind of like a group shoot, but very laid back and informal — no major agendas, just a basic plan of attack. The event is intended to get people together with a common interest and have some fun. For more information about photowalking, check out Trevor Carpenter’s website photowalking.org.

TIPS FOR PARTICIPANTS

If you’ll be attending a photowalk hosted by somebody else, here are a few ideas to keep in mind that may help improve your experience. Remember, there are no hard rules, so feel free to discard these tips as you see fit.

  • It’s Not the Camera, It’s the Photographer
    Don’t be shy if you don’t have a professional level SLR camera and the most expensive lenses — nobody cares! If you have a camera, any camera, show up and use it. If you’re interested in the bigger cameras, make friends with some of the other photowalkers and see if they’ll let you snap a few shots with their equipment. Chances are, they will. Most experienced photographers aren’t terribly greedy with their equipment.
  • Dress for the Occasion
    Know where the photowalk will be held, and dress accordingly. If you’re going to the beach, wear flip-flops and shorts. If you’re going for a hike in the mountains, wear hiking boots and jeans. If you’re hitting the streets of a big city, wear comfortable walking shoes. The last thing you want is to be miserable during the photowalk and have to turn back early.
  • Be Prepared
    Bring enough equipment to get you through twice as long as you think you’ll need. You don’t want to get caught right before sunset with a dead battery or a full memory card. If you think you’ll need a tripod, you can either park somewhere nearby in case you need to grab it or find a more compact model that can be carried more easily. Bring your flash along, even if it’s a sunny afternoon — you never know when you’ll encounter those random stakeboarders and you need the extra light for some stop-action.
  • When Everyone Looks Left, Look Right
    Most of the group will generally take pictures of the same subjects and same scenes — for the most part. There’s nothing wrong with joining in, but take some time to look around and explore areas that are going unexplored. Look for different angles and perspectives (as Thomas Hawk did by climbing on top of everything to get a top-down perspective). And don’t forget to take pictures of the group you’re with, they make great subjects!
  • Be ready to Network
    If you’re working on building up a portfolio, starting your own blog, or just wanting to make some online friends through Flickr, a photowalk is a great opportunity to expand your personal network. You’ll be hanging out and making friends with people who you’ve never met. Let them know who you are and what you do, and give them something to remember you by. Business cards and moo cards are a great way to make lasting relationships. Note to my readers: I failed at this one — I totally forgot to get some cards made and I’m kicking myself now.

TIPS FOR HOSTS

I don’t have any experience hosting a photowalk, and I’m not going to pretend that I do. Trevor (and any other seasoned photowalking host) can certainly offer up great advice for planning something like this. What I can do, though, is talk about the things I think went very well and the things that could use some refinement. Let’s start with the good.

  • Get the Word Out
    Trevor did a bang-up job at getting the word out on this photowalk. I was notified about it through 4 different avenues: photowalking.org, FaceBook, Twitter, and Thomas Hawk’s Digital Connection. He also had a few other methods of spreading the word (and maybe he’ll drop a comment on that). The moral of this tip: use your networks.
  • Choose a Central Location
    Pick a spot where many people can get to easily. Our photowalk was in Santa Monica, so Trevor had many participants from the LA area as well as a few from San Diego and San Francisco. Big cities always have lots to see and do (not to mention lots of people living in them), so they make a great location for a photowalk.
  • Lay Out a General Plan
    Let your participants know where to meet and where you’ll be going, ahead of time. Sometimes people show up late and miss the initial meet-up, so let them know through the invite where you’ll generally be going. They may want to catch up anyways, so give them that opportunity.
  • Keep the Group Focused
    It’s great to be able to stop at various unplanned locations and take pictures or strike up a conversation with another photographer. But as the photowalk host, it’s your job to keep the momentum and excitement going. If the group is losing too much focus, suggest that everybody move to a different spot. If it’s close to mealtime, suggest that everybody take a food break. Trevor was great at this sort of thing. He’s very outgoing and has enough spare energy to keep the group energy up… and he’s not afraid to raise up his voice and make some group suggestions.
  • Be Friendly and Inviting
    Not everybody is outgoing and open, so make it a point to introduce yourself to everyone and learn a little something about them — one on one. Give them some time to get comfortable in their new social situation, and introduce them to other members of the group as if you’re long time friends. Trevor didn’t forget about people immediately after the walk started, and that was quite a gesture. Touch base with everyone once in a while to see how they’re doing and if they’ve got any really good shots.
  • Sharing the Results
    Have a method of allowing everybody to share their photos after the photowalk is over. Trevor let everybody know that they can tag their photos on Flickr and Zooomr with “photowalking080407″ if they’d like to share them with the rest of the group. This allows folks to show off their stuff while making online connections with the people they’ve met in real life.

And now for a few points of constructive criticism…

  • Survey the Participants
    In addition to learning more about your fellow photowalkers through conversation, provide a method of allowing them to network with each other. Maybe print out a blank spreadsheet with a column for their name, email, screen names for the various social networks, etc. That way, if people want to connect through a certain network they belong to, they can just write it down on the sheet. You can also take the opportunity to find out where they heard about the event — then you’ll be better prepared for promoting the next one. When the photowalk is over, send out a message to everybody that participated with the networking links (and probably keep the emails private). It will take a little extra time, but everybody is sure to appreciate it.
  • Hand Out an Info Card
    Aside from handing out a business card or moo card, maybe put together a little card with the event information and any instructions for the post-event. Put a note down that gives instructions to tag your photos a certain way, or that they can be added to a specific photo set on a photo sharing site. Also give them the web address of the place to look for updated on the walk or information on any future walks.
  • Plan a Few Group Shots
    Try to get everybody together for at least one or two group shots at some key points in the photowalk. If somebody has a tripod, use it so that everybody can get in the shot. And get creative with the shots — we had one of the photowalkers take a group photo jump, and that was pretty fun. After the walk, post the group shots all over the place, including the sites specified on the information card.

So in the end, the photowalk in Santa Monica was a great success and a good time was had by all. I’ll certainly be looking forward to the next one, whenever that may be. TWO THUMBS UP FOR TREVOR FOR ORGANIZING THE EVENT! The post-walk excitement is still going strong by the looks of all the photos being uploaded to Flickr and Zooomr, so here are a few photo links:

And here are a few other articles written in response to the photowalk:

ENJOY!!!