Tag Archives: color

Darkness Creeps In

Darkness Creeps In

Brian Auer | 06/29/2008 | Huntington Beach, CA | 135mm * f/2.8 * 1/?s * ISO50
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This photo was taken while I was hanging out with a few friends one afternoon at Huntington Beach. It was kind of a last minute “whatcha doin this weekend” sort of thing. Bryan Villarin (F/B/T), Arnold (F/T), Jason Stone (F/B/T), John Watson (F/B/T), my son Rex (F), and I (F/B/T) were all there to grab some shots of the beach and pier while we waited for the sunset to see if anything exciting would happen (you can see them all in this Polaroid I took).

The Guys at Huntington Beach

Just as we were finishing up dinner, the sunset was approaching so we zoomed back over to the beach to grab some shots. I only had film cameras with me that day (4 of them), and I had been shooting black and white with my SLR and TLR. I still had about 10 shots on the roll in the SLR, so I finished that one off and quickly loaded a roll of Velvia 50 with the intent of cross processing. I got about half way through the roll before the sun was gone. If I had decided to swap out the roll in my TLR, I probably would have missed it altogether.

I took the Velvia with me solely for the purpose of shooting the sunset and cross processing it. I assumed that the Velvia 50 would turn out the same as the Velvia 100 when cross processed, so I was expecting to get some serious red/magenta shifts on the already red/orange sunset. Instead, I got a blue/green shift similar to what I’ve seen with Ektachrome. I’m not at all disappointed with the results… it’s just not what I had expected.

And on top of all that, I got this really neat photo that ended up with a heavy vignette/underexposure on the right side of the frame. Very cool results all around. This is one of the reasons I’m attracted to film — sometimes the results are completely unpredictable, but better than you had expected.

POST-PROCESSING

  1. Take exposed film out of camera
  2. Give film to camera store and say “Cross process, please. No prints and no cuts.”
  3. Go outside and take photos for 15 minutes
  4. Go back to the store and pick up film
  5. Take film home and scan
  6. Post photo on the Internet

Yup, seriously… no digital post processing other than maybe some dust removal. Sometimes I also adjust the white balance on my cross processed stuff to remove most of the color cast, but I left this one alone.

My Attraction to A World Without Color

A few weeks back, I posted a poll asking what I should write about. One of the more popular questions was “What’s the attraction of B/W and how do you pick which photos to process that way?” asked by Neil Creek.

Capital of the World

That’s a really great question, but its one that I hadn’t thought about prior to being asked. I suppose I am a little heavy on the black & white stuff on my Flickr Stream, and it’s not unusual for me to post long stretches of grayscales. In fact, my “Black & White” set is one of my largest sets with over 225 photos. Its not that I’m trying to force all those black and white photos… they just happen. So Neil’s question got me thinking about why I hold such a preference.

MY ATTRACTION TO BLACK & WHITE

Ice Cold

Describing my own attraction to black & white photos is probably somewhat pointless. Many of the things that attract me to the medium I haven’t found the words to describe. Even so, I’ll do my best to tell you what I know.

Black and white photos are timeless and classic. So many “Masters of Photography” before us have laid down such a huge array of great work in black & white. These grayscale classics have been burned into our minds as representations of great work. And without a doubt, many of these works will live on for quite some time.

Black and white photos are simple and elegant. The lack of color forces the eye to concentrate on the core of the photo – composition, textures, patterns, and subjects. The utter simplicity of black on white or white on black has no match. Not only that, but a black and white photo can be placed on almost any wall in any home and not look completely out of place.

Zig Zag

Black and white photos allow for greater artistic flexibility. Those of you who follow my photography will know that I’ve been toying with high contrast black & white photos, both film and digital. The great thing about a grayscale image versus a color image is that the reality of the photo can be stretched much further. Take one of my high contrast b/w photos and bring the color back – it looks like crap. Most color photos have to adhere to a higher level of realness or they just come off as being over-processed by an under-skilled photographer.

DECIDING WHEN TO GET RID OF COLOR

For me, this decision is usually pretty easy. If you flip through my photostream on Flickr, you’ll mainly notice three type of photos: black and white, bright colors, and cross processed (which I won’t get into right now).

Hostile Takeover

The color photos you see rolling out of my Flickr account are typically focused on the color as the main subject. The colors are bright, bold, brilliant, and a major part of the photo. If I’m deciding how to process a photo and I don’t see some amazing colors popping out of the screen, it’s off to black and white. So basically, if the color isn’t providing a strong benefit to the image, it’s probably just distracting from the other elements. The Online Photographer had a good article on b/w versus color too.

Of course, there are exceptions to my “rules” of deciding these things. Some photos just don’t work as black and white because they actually become less simplistic. And some photos won’t look good no matter what you do to them.

Simply Religious

Simply Religious

Brian Auer | 02/09/2008 | La Jolla, CA | 75mm * f/2.0 * 1/8000s * ISO100
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This church in La Jolla, California caught my eye for its stunning white simplicity. The clear blue sky also helped to compliment the building and its elegance. I was on a photowalk, and we had just started down the road toward the beach and everybody was excited to get shooting. And so, I framed the building to include mostly sky while leaving a good portion of the church (and its surroundings) left to the imagination. I took two shots with different compositions of this church top, and this one turned out best.

Simply Religious Post-Processing

  1. Unprocessed RAW
    This one turned out a little overexposed. I shot it at f/2 with my 50mm lens and it pushed my shutter speed up to 1/8000, maxing it out. I probably should have set the f-number to at least f/2.8.
  2. Processed RAW
    Mainly I just recovered the highlights and darkened the overall image, getting it ready for Photoshop.
  3. LAB Saturation
    I saw that the blues were a little muddy, so I ran it through my LAB Saturation Photoshop Action and brought out the color while adding a bit of contrast.
  4. Clone & Sharpen
    Somehow I sort of forgot to deal with the little bit of brickwork on the bottom edge, so I took that out with the patch tool. Then I sharpened it up a bit.
  5. Curves Adjustment
    I wasn’t totally happy with the tones and colors, so I added a curves adjustment to bring up the highlights and push the shadows down. I left the blending mode to “Normal” so the blues would get a little punch too.

Enjoy!

Field of Yellow

Field of Yellow

Brian Auer | 04/13/2008 | La Jolla, CA | 15mm * f/8.0 * 1/160s * ISO100
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This one was taken along the shores of La Jolla, California. I was out with my wife this weekend and we decided to take a short trip down the Pacific Coast Highway from Carlsbad to La Jolla. The shores of La Jolla are some of the most scenic in the area — lots of small cliffs and sandstone formations, caves, vegetation, tide pools, etc. I shot this scene with my Sigma 10-20mm lens at the widest focal length of 10mm. I’ve been ignoring that lens for a while, so I put it on the camera and left it there all day… well, I had my film camera with me too so I wasn’t completely limited on focal length.

Field of Yellow Post-Processing

  1. Unprocessed RAW
    Here’s what the unprocessed RAW image looked like — pretty dull and a little washed out.
  2. Processed RAW
    I cooled the white balance slightly, increased the contrast, increased the vibrance and saturation, and added a few other minor tweaks to the exposure settings.
  3. LAB Saturation
    I used my LAB Saturation Photoshop Action to bring the colors out a little better. This helped to remove some of the muddy haze in the sky.
  4. Dodge
    Selective dodging around the green of the waves and on the left side of the flowers at the bottom of the frame.
  5. Burn
    Selective burning in the sky and on the right side of the flowers to add more balance.

Enjoy!

Radially

Radially

Brian Auer | 03/08/2008 | Venice Beach, CA | 75mm * f/4.0 * 1/60s * ISO100
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This was shot using all natural light (it was in the shade on a very sunny day) and the camera was handheld with a 50mm lens. This plant caught my attention as I walked the canals of Venice, California — it was along the sidewalk behind the houses. The pattern was so very strong, and the colors so deep that I couldn’t pass it up. The water droplets on the plant were just icing on the cake.

Radially Post-Processing

  1. Unprocessed RAW
    Straight out of the camera — untouched.
  2. Processed RAW
    I did a few basic adjustments to get the white balance correct and to bring up the contrast and saturation. Nothing very extreme though.
  3. Dodge & Burn
    Here, I used non-destructive dodging and burning techniques to really make the contrast stand out where I wanted it.
  4. LAB Saturation
    Using the technique I outlined previously for boosting saturation via LAB color mode, I strengthened the greens that are so inherently present.
  5. High Pass Sharpen
    I used a very subtle sharpening by running the high pass filter and setting the blend to overlay at 50% opacity.

As you can see, lots of little changes really add up from start to finish.

Wide Open

Wide Open

Brian Auer | 02/23/2008 | San Diego, CA | 15mm * f/6.3 * 1/1000s * ISO100
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When the wind is just right, the skies above Black’s Beach team with para gliders and hang gliders. This particular shot was taken at a 10mm focal length (15mm full-frame equivalent) as I stood very near the edge of a 300 foot sand cliff above the Pacific Ocean. The gliders ride the updrafts as the wind comes off the ocean and shoots straight up along the face of the cliff. These thrill seekers can ride these winds for extended periods of time and never lose altitude. The Gliderport is located on the Torrey Pines State Reserve, nestled between the beach towns of La Jolla and Del Mar. La Jolla can be seen in the background of this photo as it extends out into the ocean to form a point. And those little dots on the sand below… those are people.

Wide Open Post-Processing

All of the following post-processing steps were done with Adobe Camera Raw — no Photoshop was used on this photo.

  1. Untouched RAW Image
    This is what the image looked like straight out of the camera. Not too shabby, but it needed some work on a few areas. I decided to keep the color on this one because of the sky in the upper portion of the image.
  2. Basic Adjustments
    I set the white balance to a temperature of 5500 and a tint of +8. Then I brought the exposure to -.5, set the recovery to 100, no fill light, blacks at 13, brightness at +14, contrast at +35, clarity at 35, vibrance at +17, and saturation at +7. Do note that a lot of these settings weren’t made in this order — there’s a lot of back-and-forth between these settings and the settings on the other two panels I used.
  3. Tone Curve Adjustment
    I set a “strong contrast” on the point curve, and added some extra contrast on the parametric curve with highlights set to -28, lights at +26, darks at -13, and shadows at -4.
  4. Vignette and Sharpen
    In the detail panel, I set the sharpening to an amount of 50 and a radius of 1.5. In the lens corrections panel, I added some positive vignette. So instead of darkening the corners, I lightened them to even out the image and brighten the foreground. At 10mm, my lens tends to produce a slight amount of vignette, so I punched up the value in ACR to +50 with a midpoint of 0. I lost some contrast in the clouds (which I over-contrasted just for this reason), but I gained a whole lot of brightness in the lower left corner.

Enjoy!

February Challenge Recap

February Challenge

The February “Colors” Challenge is officially done and over. This was a really neat project because it made me focus on a specific color as the main subject rather than just some object, person, or scene. Each color has its different quirks, both in capturing and post-processing, so it was good to explore those things and learn about them.

My biggest benefit from participating in the February Challenge is that it’s given me a new appreciation for black & white. After a week or two of shooting and processing nothing but color, I started getting really frustrated that I couldn’t turn some of the photos black & white. Luckily we had a photowalk in the middle of the month, so I really cranked out the black & white photos from that. I think I’d probably feel the same about color if I were forced to shoot nothing but black & white — I need both to be satisfied.

Here are my photos from the entire challenge:

CLEAR

Glass Flower

Liquid IceShot Glass Mirror

Clear was kind of fun and challenging. I guess most people wouldn’t consider it a color, but we tend to speak of it as if it were. In my first shot, I was going for the wild color display since clear takes on whatever color happens to be behind it. In the next two shots, I wanted to capture more of a traditional clear “color” by removing anything colorful from the surroundings. After finishing the whole project, I’ve got to say that clear was the most difficult color to capture — so I’m glad the first week was a short one!

YELLOW

Yellow Tail

Piña RefrescoTonkaMAG 30Peppers and PeanutsPedestrian CrossingChinese Art

Yellow was also a fussy color to deal with. There aren’t a lot of things out there that are yellow, and the things that are yellow tend to be somewhere between green and orange. I get the feeling that nobody can agree on what yellow looks like. The Legos I shot for the Tonka Truck picture were from several different sets. Not only was yellow the least available color of all the blocks, but each brand had a different yellow.

RED

Red Glass

Silver on Red22 LanesHappy Little Men

After picking two slightly difficult colors, I decided to go with something a little more friendly. Red was kind of fun to shoot, and it seemed to be more readily available than yellow. One lesson I did learn about red is that the tail lights in traffic are far less bright than the headlights. My long exposure traffic shot barely registers the red lights, and there was about the same amount of traffic on either side of the road. If somebody knows the secret to getting the tail lights to stand out more in these types of shots, I’m all ears.

GREEN

Cabbage

StickersGuacGlide

I was initially going to avoid green because it’s the most abundant color out there. I gave in though — I couldn’t keep passing up all that green just for the sake of being stubborn. One good place I found to shoot green: the produce section at the grocery store. I think the employees at the local grocery store are over me by now. I’ve been in there about a dozen times with my camera.

BLUE

Powering Down

I would have like to shoot more blue photos, but I just started winding down at the end of the green week. My goal was to shoot a photo every day, but I ended up missing one day during green. Then blue came along and I just kind of stopped picking up the camera. Oh well, too late now.

February Challenge: Day 12 – 22 Lanes

22 Lanes

WEEK 3 = RED

Long exposure of traffic on Interstate 5 where it splits into the 5 and 805. Can you believe that there are 22 lanes at this point and it’s backed up during rush hour every day?

I’ve never done one of these long-exposure traffic shots before. It turns out that the white lights are much brighter than the red ones. Plus there wasn’t much traffic, so it probably could’ve turned out better. Here are a few others from that night as I was messing around with different amounts of focus and shutter speed:

14 Point Star 8 Point Star Octogons Short Exposure Moderate Exposure Long Exposure

To see the rest of my February Challenge photos, check the “Challenge” category here on the blog or visit my Flickr Set.

February Challenge: Day 11 – Silver on Red

Silver on Red

WEEK 3 = RED

Silver cup, bowl, and chopsticks on red clock mounted to a wood display. This was a gift from my Grandfather… not sure where he got it from.

Seeing as how it’s Valentines Day this week, I thought Red would be a suiting color.

To see the rest of my February Challenge photos, check the “Challenge” category here on the blog or visit my Flickr Set.

February Challenge: Day 10 – Chinese Art

Chinese Art

WEEK 2 = YELLOW

And that concludes week 2 of the February Challenge for me. Still have no idea what color I’m doing for week 3, and I only have about an hour or two left before the clock strikes midnight.

To see the rest of my February Challenge photos, check the “Challenge” category here on the blog or visit my Flickr Set.