Double D and PSC…interpretations on the Sierra Nevada Range!

In my last post, I talked about the Digital Darkroom (or Double D) and the fun I was having while exploring the application of creative filters. For today’s post, I used an image made with my PowerShot G9X Mk II point and shoot camera (hence the PS Challenge piece of the title).

I don’t remember where I was going last week, but I remember that the light on the Sierra Nevadas was gorgeous. I pulled over and got out of the truck, grabbing my trusty PowerShot, and began clicking. I always bracket exposures for my landscape shots to decide during post processing what I am going to do. I bracket up and down one stop with this camera. I used all 3 exposures to merge them into an HDR in Adobe Camera Raw, then applied filters using Topaz Studio.

Just for fun, I processed this using three different filters.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

 

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The Digital Darkroom – How Much is Too Much?

“Owing to an inherently mechanical nature, a camera (be it film or digital) essentially produces raw images that, on their own, are rarely able to adequately communicate the enigmatic complexities and expressive nuances of a subsequently crafted fine art photograph. Post-camera image manipulation has always been a basic tenant of the photography process.”

That’s how Huntington Witherill started his article ‘Beyond the Camera’ in the November 2018 issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine. It caught my attention immediately! I enjoy reading Outdoor Photographer and have used information from its wonderful articles in previous posts. In the article, Witherill describes the time he got to visually inspect an original 8 x 10 inch negative produced by Edward Weston circa 1930. The negative had “…what appeared to be a considerable amount of pencil scrawling on the emulsion side …” Kim Weston, Edward’s grandson, explained that “…Edward had often used very soft pencils (and a small light-table…) in order to build density in chosen areas of his negatives…” After this experience, Witherill realized that what he refers to as ‘post-camera image management techniques’ “…comprise not only a significant part of the overall photographic process but also, in many respects, the very essence of photography technique.” He continued, “…post-camera image management techniques are a necessary and integral part of the overall photography process.”

Witherill talks about having a strong foundation in “…photography technique and craft…” to take what one sees, combined with knowledge of what a camera can record, and create a finished visual record. His process begins with knowing your equipment so you can start with a strong foundation (what I would call the best exposure) to build on using post-camera tools and techniques. The article talks about artistic expression and making the image say what the photographer wants it to say.

In the several years since I’ve been pursuing photography seriously, I’ve had similar discussions with my friends and mentors. Many of my friends have backgrounds in photojournalism which doesn’t allow for manipulation, save for minor dodging and burning (darkening or lightening) areas of an image. Other friends document events for clients, where the volume of images made does not allow time for post processing.

I consider myself an artist. I am not documenting, rather I am recording for artistic purposes. I have always favored manipulating my images, and have worked to make the subjects closely resemble the moment as I remembered it. After reading this article, however, I decided to pursue more artistic interpretations, depending on the subject.

I think it’s gonna be a lot of fun! And so, how much is too much? Only time – and future images – will tell.

With this new creative process, I have been playing with some images. The images below show a ‘straight’ version compared to  what I call a ‘more radical’ interpretation. As always, feedback is appreciated.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

This is an American Kestrel, processed to highlight the details of the raptor.

Same image, a little softer.

The beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains. I used a Topaz filter to make the composition a little bit abstract. I think this filter minimizes the foreground, accentuates the sky, and maintains the integrity of the beauty of the mountains.

The same image with a Nik filter to maintain the details but give more depth to the colors.

Shoot More….Share More!

A couple weeks ago, one of my photo buddies asked the question, ‘What are your photography goals for 2019?’ It’s a powerful question, asked during the frenzy of Christmas preparations so I had to stop and think about it.  After a couple days, I realized that I only had a couple photography goals for 2019: Shoot More – Share More!

My world had been disrupted so much in 2018 that my shooting had slowed to just a few times a month and I was posting here once every couple months. I wasn’t sharing much on other social media sites, either. What’s a photographer to do then? Shoot More – Share More!

I appreciated the question on several fronts. I’m not much for resolutions, but I like setting goals. As I considered the question, I realized that I hadn’t been out there as much and I definitely wasn’t sharing as much. And I found that I allowed my passion for photography to take a back seat to other things, and it was time to become passionate again.

And so, get ready for the onslaught! Not really. As I have tried to shoot more, I have been more discerning in my image choices. I’m not stopping for shots for which I may have stopped before. Even if I did stop and shoot, I’m looking at my images in the ‘digital darkroom’ with a more critical eye. What that means is that I expect a higher level in my photography which means more enjoyable images for you.

Let’s get to some images. Several years ago, I started noticing interesting trees along the roads, back roads, and trails I traveled. I started a series that I call Special Trees. No captions – I’ll let the images speak for themselves.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

 

Always be a Beginner…

From January to the end of June, I was in Wyoming with my Dad as he transitioned to life without my Mom. I had a birthday while I was there, and my lovely bride sent me a book titled zen camera creative awakening with a daily practice in photography by David Ulrich. The book has been an enjoyable read, providing insight into the creative process instead of technical information. In the last couple days, I read a section titled ‘Beginner’s Mind.’ Two paragraphs in, the author says, “Always be a beginner.” The discussion then focuses on past experiences coloring what one does and thinks, and transitions into a discussion of why photography can change the pattern.

“Photography is an ideal entry to the beginner’s mind. It invites fresh seeing. It enlivens the commonplace, and can radically open your mind to what is. Since the world is always new – no moment ever repeats itself – you must flexibly adapt behind a camera.” (emphasis added)

The format of the book is discussion followed by practical exercises, identified by the title ‘TRY:’ In the ‘TRY: Cultivate Beginner’s Mind’ section, Ulrich writes, “Artists and photographers often engage the unending search for what is new and fresh. They shake things up from time to time, trying to break free of well-worn grooves of thought and expression. They resolve not to solely rely on past accomplishments. Innovation looks toward the future. However, newness for its own sake is a double edged sword. It can lead to gimmicks or forced behavior just to be different. I prefer the word freshness, like ripe fruit before it stales.”

As I read the book, I reflected on my photographic journey – the excitement of learning a new technique, trying new camera settings, seeing a different perspective of a longer lens or shorter lens. I appreciated the information provided by the author as much of my passion for photography and excitement to continue comes from the freshness of these new or different concepts. For some time, I realized that my view of the world has changed. I look at the light and the contrast the light creates. I evaluate all that I see with an eye to composing an image and then consider how I would record it. In some ways,

In some ways, I have gotten complacent. I know what I like (and don’t like) in an image of a raptor. I have my workflow for shooting a landscape and processing the image on the computer. I’ll heed Ulrich’s advice, however, and try to look at the world anew, with a fresh eye.

Recall that during last year’s fall colors, I was on the road working for FEMA and missed it. I’ve made up for it a little this year, catching color in Colorado and Nevada.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

The Colorado Rocky Mountains south of Avon CO.

This was mid-September. They had color much earlier than we did in the Sierras.

But the Colorado Rockies are a little bit higher.

A view along US Highway 24.

Echo Lake, on the way to Mt. Evans.

Along US 24, just downhill from Camp Hale.

I took a drive up CA Highway 4 to Ebbetts Pass.

The colors did not disappoint.

And the skies cooperated as well.

A wonderful shooting day.

I put on my hiking boots and headed up the Pacific Crest Trail from Carson Pass on CA Highway 88. Not much color up there, but some beautiful photo opportunities nonetheless.

Downhill from Carson Pass is Red Lake. I found this scene on a back road nearby.

Toot Toot!

Here it is, Labor Day already. The year is 2/3 gone, but only 114 days (or something like that) until Christmas.

I spent a couple hours at the Nevada State Railroad Museum for their Labor Day Steam Up yesterday with my Canon EOS 6D Mark II equipped with a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens. This lens is tiny compared to my other lenses with similar focal length because it does not have an image stabilization or vibration control system. Because of that, I shot primarily on a tripod but did make a few handheld shots (holding the camera to my eye with the tripod hanging down in front of me, if you can imagine).

Shooting with a prime lens (fixed focal length) instead of a zoom lens was challenging. I’m used to setting up my tripod and zooming the focal length to adjust the composition. With a prime lens, one must compose ‘with your feet.’ To zoom in or out means moving the tripod, not twisting a ring. At one point, I was standing on the median island in the middle of Carson Street to get a shot. Because of passing cars and a cyclist, I missed a couple that I wanted. Oh well!

Here’s a sample of my shots from the day. If you missed the Steam Up, keep an eye on their calendar because they steam up on a regular basis.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

 

It’s Still August – More Backyard Challenge!

The days are getting shorter and the nights cooler, but the wildfires in California are still wreaking havoc on the views and the air quality. My lovely bride’s efforts in the backyard are paying great dividends for me, however – take a look!

This is a Julia Child Rose.

It’s beautiful from all angles. My lovely bride planted this on while I was away this last Spring.

These were the last Blackberries in our yard. We had a decent crop this year – very tasty at breakfast.

I love our Hibiscus and it’s a favorite subject when blooming. I saw this bloom with a portion backlit by the morning sun and the lower portion of the bloom in shadow. I made bracketed exposures, merged them in Adobe Camera Raw, and applied a custom filter in Nik Color Efex Pro. I wanted to emphasize the texture in the leaves, so I combined a little Glamour Glow with the Detail Extractor to make it happen!

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

The Backyard Challenge continues…

The smoke seems to come and go. Our air quality is a little better, but seeing the mountains and sky is hit or miss. The flowers in the backyard, however, are doing just fine and loving the camera.

So far, I’ve chosen to shoot with the Tamron 150-600 lens handheld. To improve the quality of the images, I need to use a shorter lens and tripod. I enjoy experimenting, and using the big telephoto lens for macro and close up images is an experiment for me. I need to refine my processes, but there’s hope.

And so, here’s a sample of the last couple days.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR