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Archive for January, 2010

Finally – a bit of sunshine and 15 minutes of free time.  Enough to get me out into the yard to see what I could find to fulfill a few themes.  It never ceases to amaze me when I come to realize the wealth of images waiting just 100 feet from the door to my home.  I’ll be posting a few more January theme photos during the coming week.  You might recognize this subject from the header on my blog – these red berries are a subject I’ve photographed more than a few times.

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One of my goals this year is to learn to do more with Photoshop than just some minor color and exposure adjustments.  I’m working with Elements 7 and I put this together with a few of my recent pictures.   It’s simple, but I’m pleased with the results and it’s a technique I want to pursue further.  This worked perfectly for it’s intended purpose – accenting a customized thank you card I wanted to send following my recent trip.

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It was far too cold to enjoy the pool or lounge by the shore, but I could still enjoy a stroll along the beach as long as I was bundled up to fend off the chill winds.  Strolling and gathering seashells was the order of the day.  At first I was just scanning the beach for larger shells, but I soon discovered the real treasures were to be found when I slowed down and looked more closely at the ground around my feet.  Another lesson learned – slow down and look for beauty in the smallest details. 

This shot was taken during some fairly harsh mid-day light and I found myself wishing I had a collapible diffuser in my pocket!

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On the beach in Florida I ran across this sand sculpture of a sea turtle.  They say the best light to shoot in is early dawn, or late afternoon and early evening.  This sea turtle was capturing the soft pink glow of the setting sun – a reminder to photograph the light as much as the subject.

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Balance in a photo can be described as having a minor element fill an empty space to offset the weight of the main subject.  This first shot shows a large expanse of empty sky over the beach and sunset scene.

 

The second photo has a palm frond in the open space.  It helps balance the silhouettes of the umbrellas on the beach and also helps to direct the eye downward towards the horizon, keeping it focused on the main subject in the picture. As shown in the previous examples, having a close-up element in the foreground helps bring the viewer into the scene rather than giving the impression of viewing from afar.

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Both of these images are from the same capture with just a bit of cropping employed.  The first image had just a touch of the sky cropped away from the top to bring the upper edge closer to the palm frond on the left.

The rich blue in the upper photo was appealing to me, but I think I prefer the photo below, where I cropped away the excess open sky to bring the attention to sunset and the beach.  I particularly like how it brings you into the picture as if you’re right there with your Pina Colada relaxing as you watch the sun go down instead of viewing from a distance.

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On my recent visit to Florida we had a specatular sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.  It was taken a few days before the mini-assignment was posted, but it did fulfill the criteria of being taken this year and the second two photos were taken with the intent of framing the shot with the images in the foreground to give the sunset a sense of location and a bit more interest.  So I must have been a bit psychic (Ron will accuse me of using witchcraft) since I fulfilled the assignment before it was assigned.

This first shot shows a nice wide expanse of sky with the water in the foreground, but the edges of the scene just drop off the side of the shot and your eyes sort of wander aimlessly around the photo searching for a focal point.

In this second shot I tried to capture some of the palm-frond umbrellas on the beach.  The dark silhouettes lend a strong graphic image without detracting from the sunset and they focus your eye on the brilliant colors of the setting sun in the middle of the scene.

 

This shot was taken from behind a palm-frond gazebo, capturing one vertical pole and the fringe along the top.  While the sunset doesn’t have as stong a focal point as the previous shot, the framing created by the gazebo gives you a sense of standing under it as you gaze out on the expanse of the ocean and sky.

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In my quest to capture the arc of the palm frond I was aiming to focus in on the graphic nature of the palm frond.  I decided to try converting to black and white to play up the contrast more.  What do you think?  Do you prefer the color shot from the previous post or the black and white version?

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 My recent hiatus was due to some travel to (marginally) warmer climates but it gave me a chance to head out in search of images to fit the theme list.  The arching palm fronds were eye-catching and I shot several frames trying to capture the arc of the spine that supported the leaves.  My goal in shooting these was to emphasize the graphic qualities of the image, taking them beyond just a shot of a palm frond.

I really liked the shape of the arc in this shot, but found the wispy tips coming into the upper left to be a bit distracting.   When trying to crop them out however, I lost the beauty of the curve.  I did try a very close crop into a narrow panoramic look and I think it was fairly successful in isolating the graphic nature of the image.

This shot had a nice balance with the leaves reaching out on both sides but the color leaves a bit to be desired, even with some processing.  I’m wondering now how it would look in black and white. 

This shot below didn’t include the arc of the spine but instead focused on the arc created by the tips of the leaves, and the multitude of wispy small arcs at the ends.

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When I first posted the pumpkin in the snow Tammy suggested selective coloring, dropping out the background into Black and White, leaving the small orange pumpkin to pop out.  Learning how to do that in Photoshop Elements was my next quest.  I have the program and know very little about it so this year I’ll be exploring and teaching myself to make the most of my processing programs too.  Who knew it was so easy!  Just a few simple steps I picked up from reading the book I’d picked up (this reading is getting to be very educational!).  Of course I also learned that when your background is mostly white with very little color, converting to black and white really doesn’t have the impact it might in another photo.  So, below, for your viewing pleasure, are the after and the before shots of two different photos I used to test out the technique.  Add this new skill to the aresenal of techniques I’ll be drawing on in the future.

 

 

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Julie’s comment on yesterday’s post was enough to make me get my camera manual to read up on settings (something I highly recommend if you haven’t done it!) so I could better understand exposure compensation.  So I read the manual, and grabbed the camera, and that’s when I had my “duh” moment and wanted to slap myself for a stupid mistake.  Somehow, I had the exposure compensation at -2/3 off neutral zero which would explain why so many of my recent pictures were a bit dark. 

With that in mind I decided to return to my subject to take a series of pictures at various settings.  I’ve found that’s one of the best ways for me to understand my camera and learn from the results I get from different settings.  Below you’ll find my “control” shot taken with the same -2/3  EV (exposure value) followed by a series of additional shots changing the exposure compensation up to +2.  The settings are listed below each shot.  If you want to get a bit more education on exposure compensation check out this link.

photo above is -2/3 EV

photo above is Neutral EV

 photo above is +2/3 EV

 photo above is +1.0 EV

 photo above is +1-2/3 EV

 photo above is +2EV

I debated between this shot and +2.0EV, but ultimately decided to go with the +1-2/3 EV.  The snow was a little brighter in the +2.0EV version but the pumpkin seemed a little washed out on the computer I was using to process the shots.  This shot has some minimal post processing. I increased the exposure a tad in Adobe Lightroom (+0.10 exposure) which brightened the snow abit without going as far as the +2.0EV shot.  I also increased the clarity a bit and cropped in just a little tighter.

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Two days into 2010 and I hadn’t picked up the camera yet.  With the light quickly fading I decided to dash outside and see if anything in the yard made a worthy subject since the recent snowfall might offer up something that worked for the “Cold” theme.  I popped on the 50mm f/1.8 lens since it was my fastest lens.   There are a lot of reasons I’m not happy with this shot, and only a few things going in it’s favor.   In the “pro” column, I like the subject matter (the unexpected sight of a small orange pumpkin in the snow) and the composition (offset to the right with the stem curving into the scene) but  in the “con” column the execution leaves a lot to be desired.  Too much grey/blue tone, too much noise, the distracting black blob at the top (which I could have cloned out, but it didn’t seem worth the effort).  I lightened it some using Lightroom and Elements but the more I pushed it the more unnatural it looked.  Tomorrow perhaps another attempt when the light is better, and using a tripod so I can get a longer exposure.  Constructive feedback is welcome – I’d be happy to have your input on what I should have done differently to improve the results.

Raw ~ ISO 640 ~ 50mm ~  f/1.8 ~ 1/250

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