Photo Editing Software…and Rocky Mountain National Park!

In previous blogs, I’ve talked about the ways photography has changed due to the transition from film to digital photography.  The basic principles of controlling and recording light have not changed, but editing processes have changed dramatically.  Like many photographers, I work to get the best possible image in camera but further processing on the computer is essential to my success as a photographer.  Thankfully, there are really smart people who have developed great software to make this part of photography easier.  I use Adobe’s Photoshop (PS) CC (Creative Cloud – yes, I pay my access fee every month!) and Camera RAW (ACR) as my primary software.  I also purchased Corel’s Paint Shop Pro X7 when it was cheap (PSP X8 had just come out) and work it every now and then, but PS and ACR remain my go to software.

As those smart guys at Adobe make their products better and easier to use, and I learn how to use the features I have along with the new stuff, I try to produce better images.  Recently, the Adobe CC guys announced a new feature in Lightroom (LR), a sister software to PS.  As background, I prefer PS to LR because I can use layers in PS.  ACR and LR use similar menus and controls for processing, so I’m not missing out on those features.  LR manages files which PS does not do, however, I use Adobe Bridge for my file management.

Back to the cool new tool in LR – Boundary Warp.  If I create a panorama in LR, Boundary Warp allows me to adjust the image without having to crop and lose content.  Regardless of how well I shoot a series of images to merge into a panorama, there is always inconsistency in the edges requiring cropping and/or filling.  Boundary Warp minimizes data loss and is very cool, from my perspective.  I processed several panoramas using both PS and LR to determine if one is preferable to the other, but I’ll let you be the judge in the images below.

Oh yeah, LR now has a High Dynamic Range (HDR) feature in PhotoMerge, but I prefer PhotoMatix Pro for my HDR images.

Today’s images come from the day I spent in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), located in north central Colorado, last month.  I entered RMNP from the east side (US Highway 36 from Estes Park CO).  After a quick stop in the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center for some shopping and a stamp in my national parks passport book, I proceeded into RMNP and that portion of US 34 known as Trail Ridge Road.  Trail Ridge Road is only open in the summer months, as its 12,000 foot (+/-) elevation makes for a very snowy road in the winter months.

I came across a flock of turkeys, but failed to get a decent image of them.  I drove by this beautiful vista.

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I believe the peaks to be (left to right) Mt. Wuh, Stones Peak, and Terra Tomah Mtn, with Tombstone Ridge in the middle ground.  This panorama was created and edited in Lightroom, using the Boundary Warp feature.

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Here’s the same view processed in Photoshop.

The differences in brightness, contrast, and color are my adjustments and experimentation.  I manually cropped the LR version to a standard 5:1 ratio panorama, the same as the PS version.  What’s important to note is that there doesn’t appear to be geometric distortion from the Boundary Warp, however, there is more foreground in the PS version (check the tree line) which indicates a larger availability of data in the LR image.  Based on my totally non-scientific experiment, I opine that the use of PS versus LR for panoramas is a matter of personal preference at the moment.

Back to pictures.

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I believe these peaks to be Mt. Chiquita (l) and Mt. Chapin. This is a panorama merged in PS.

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For comparison, I shot this image using a wide angle lens. For this view, either shooting method works fine.

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This is a panorama of Sundance Mtn. While I was at this location, I visited with a very nice young lady who was shooting with her Canon T2i and a Canon 100-400 zoom lens. We had a nice discussion about lenses and photography.

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One of my favorite shots on the day. This is an HDR. When I shot this, the flowers in the foreground were in deep shadow and HDR allowed me to bring them into the light, so to speak. The wind was blowing at 12,000 feet, as you might imagine, so there is a touch of movement in the flowers. A few minutes later, the clouds moved off but the wind came up. The flowers in the full light images were blurry due to the wind.

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If you’re an Elk in the mountains on a hot summer day, how do you keep cool? They’re on a snow bank enjoying the cool. They were probably 1/2-3/4 mile away.

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And these Elk were using the trees to keep cool, again, 1/2-3/4 mile away.

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I believe these peaks to be (l-r) Stones Peak (the sharp pointed one), Sprague Mtn, Nakai Peak, Mt Julian, and Terra Tomah Mtn. This is a panorama merged in PS.

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I came around a corner with lots of people looking up a hill, watching this Bear. He was a couple hundred feet away and cared less about the crowd at the bottom of the hill. I parked and came back for this shot, the best of what he gave us before disappearing behind the trees.

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When he disappeared, the crowd dissipated. I hung around to see if he would make another appearance, and made a few images of the flowers and landscape.

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Beautiful mountain flowers.

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I made this image with my trusty mobile phone. Every now and then, it makes a nice image. Note the wildlife.

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I believe the center mountain to be Terra Tomah Mtn, with Jackstraw Mtn on the immediate right. This is another panorama merged in LR using Boundary Warp.

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Same view from a PS merge.  I see a subtle difference in the foreground, especially on the right side, but not enough to conclusively say one is better than the other.  Both images are stunning!  oh yeah, the LR image is cropped to 5:1 ratio and the PS is at 3:1.

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I was making a series of images for a panorama when I caught movement out of the bottom corner of my eye. This Marmot, also called a Rock Chuck, was very busy and unfazed by all the people just 30 feet away.

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The rocks were alive with these North American Pika. About the size of a Guinea Pig, these little fuzzballs were busy working on nests for the coming winter.

I have established a page dedicated to Rocky Mountain National Park.  Visit the page to see more images from this part of my trip.

Since I got home, I’ve spent some time in the yard with my flowers, so I’ll close with them.  Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

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One of the Rose blooms in the backyard.

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My favorite Candy Tuft. The sun was going down and lighting up the side of the bloom.

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Order and Chaos!

As an old crusty engineer and military officer, I enjoy order in my life.  I like having ‘a place for everything and everything in its place.’  Those of you who know me well also know that I also have a somewhat chaotic side, and my ‘everything in its place’ side isn’t always dominant.  When it comes to certain aspects of photography, I am very ‘orderly.’  For example, I have developed a filing system for my images that works well for me.  I have file folders for certain subjects and geographic areas with subfolders for subjects, all arranged by date (year – month – day).  I maintain shooting logs that show when and where I’ve been, and sometimes contain notes for future shoots.

My workflow for downloading images to the computer (within the proper subject/geographical area folder and date subfolder) is well established.  Recently, I watched a great tutorial about Adobe Bridge, a photo management software linked to Photoshop and Lightroom, and learned how to use Bridge more effectively to download my images and identify those worthy of additional processing.  Let’s face it, that little bitty screen on the back of your camera body can only tell you so much (good exposure and maybe if you’re in focus).  You have to get the image on the big screen to see if it’s really good.  After the tutorial, I made changes to my workflow that I hope will make my filing system better for subsequent retrieval.  Time will tell.

Another of my very orderly processes is backing up my images.  I used to use a triple redundancy system using the SD card from the camera, the computer’s internal hard drive, and an external hard drive.  When I changed my shooting routine to RAW format (see my post ‘All RAW – All the Time’ on June 8, 2015), I began to fill up SD cards like mad, with the resulting problem of devising a means of labeling and storing them.  Have you ever tried to put a label on an SD card?  They are less than an inch wide, just over an inch long, and usually have a dark label!  More importantly, even though they are coming down in price, they are still expensive!  I changed my storage system to the computer’s internal hard drive and two separate external hard drives.  I still have triple redundancy, and a more effective means of storing my larger images, such as panoramas stitched together from multiple images – they are downright huge!  I will admit that eventually the long term storage goes to double redundancy as I haven’t installed additional hard drive capacity on my computer and I’ve almost filled the hard drive with this year’s images.  I am removing older images from my computer to conserve space.  I back up everything on a monthly basis.

So, we move on to the chaotic side.  My computer desk is a mess, with magazines and notes and – well – accumulated crap.  I will clean my desk on a cold day this winter – or not!  Probably not (ha ha).  But there’s also the chaos that results from exploring my creative side.  As you’ve seen in previous posts, I’ve been exploring panoramas and monochrome images.  I think I’m getting better – the phone calls to my wonderful Photoshop mentors are fewer and I’m not repeating my questions to them as often.  I think they’re thankful for that.  And I’m becoming more daring in my editing.  I try new things more and more frequently, and am becoming more comfortable with the ‘undo’ button when I do something badly or that I don’t like.

Maybe chaos isn’t the right word after all, but to a regimented and very process-oriented engineer type, this new creative side is very chaotic.  I just hope the results are worth it!  Let’s look at this week’s images.

I have been very lucky to find Kestrels, and the ones I’ve found are very cooperative.

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I was in the Pine Nuts looking for the wild horses and caught this little fella’ sitting on this tree. I like it!

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I was cruising Foothill Road last week and saw this Kestrel having a bite of lunch.

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When he noticed me, he took off to eat in peace somewhere else.

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I took this image last January, but used my newly developed Photoshop skills to make this image.

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Another from January. Must have been a cold day!

A few weeks ago, I got my first Bald Eagle of the season.  Just yesterday, I got my first Golden Eagle.  Actually, I drove by a pair of them sitting on a utility pole, but one flew off as I parked and got out of the car.

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Goldens are majestic, too.

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This one gave me a couple images and then took off. I’m still working on getting focus on birds in flight.

I was checking out Carson River Road last week, and this doe casually walked by.

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Check her belly – still wet from crossing the adjacent river.

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This image is not cropped. She was so close I couldn’t make my lens short enough and get more background.

The Hawks are returning to the Carson Valley.  I was getting out of the car to shoot a fence with several Hawks in line.  As I got ready to shoot, a Hawk flew in and forced the one sitting to take off.  I was lucky to get this shot!

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What a scene. No fighting over roosting spots kids!

This week, you get several panoramas.

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The Sierras across the Carson Valley. That’s Jobs Peak on the left and Genoa Peak about a quarter in from the right edge. I shot this in monochrome and then made my adjustments.

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The Sierras on a different day. I love the cloud formation in the upper left corner of the image.

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The Pine Nut Range. The wild horses roam an area to the left of these mountains. This is part of my monochrome exploration.

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The Pine Nuts in color. Yes, it’s hard to live here with all this natural beauty. (I can’t believe I typed that with a straight face!)

Well, that’s all for this post.  As always, enjoy!  And stay warm!!

PHOTOROGR

…in control for now…or am I???

For most of my life, no one has successfully accused me of being in control.  The whole concept of ‘in control’ is akin to other concepts, like growing up or being nice.  Yes, avoiding these labels is a source of great pride for me.  Thanks to all those out there who are vigorously nodding in the affirmative, and who would testify in support if needed.  Now that I’ve taken my bow, it’s time to get serious.

I brought the fire hose under control, but it’s still flowing fast.  I’m still in overdrive, but I’m learning to apply the brakes and control the skids more effectively.  I’m watching more tutorials for Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Bridge.  These are great software packages for managing and editing pictures.  My fear of the Camera Raw format is decreasing, and my memory cards will likely take a big hit as a result.  (I’ve already gone from filling up an 8GB SD card in 4-5 months to consuming a 16GB SD card in 2 months and, in January, I filled one-third of a 32GB SD card.  Now, before you get all impressed, please understand that it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality.  At this point in my development as a photographer, however, I need to experiment and learn the things that work and those that don’t.  As my knowledge improves, so will my memory management efficiency.  Note – my memory will not improve, but I will use the memory cards in my cameras more efficiently.  I had to say that to preclude the rude comments from many of my friends.)

Back to being serious.  As I explore these software packages, I’m trying new and fun editing techniques.  I have to be careful, though.  The teacher/moderator of my 52 Week Photography Challenge keeps reminding us that “just because you can do something doesn’t mean you have to.”  Having the ability to make an adjustment is vastly different that making that adjustment well.  Like photography techniques, editing requires a measure of experimentation as well.  And control.  As uncomfortable as I am being in control, I have to do it.  A little.

So, here’s a couple fun things I did this week.  The eagles have been hiding from everyone.  I found a few hawks and some wild horses.  New images, however, are not numerous, so I’ve had lots of time at the computer.  In addition to trying new editing techniques, I’ve also continued my experimentation with replacing backgrounds, specifically skies.

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I made this image on a cloudy day last September. His belly is horribly underexposed and the sky can’t get any more blah.

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So, I turned it into this. I improved the color and detail in the bird and put him into a pretty sky. Yes, it’s a Nevada sky. I also used a ‘healing’ tool to clean up a spot in the bird’s wing. Photoshop is so cool!

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I found this eagle a year ago, on a really cold and snowy day. He posed for me for quite a while. In fact, I was taking Susan to work and we blocked traffic for a short time.

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I did a little editing and inserted a pretty Nevada sky. In my mind, this image asks if I went too far with my editing? I’d love to hear your opinion.

And one last set of before and after pictures.  I tried some new camera settings when I was out in the Pinenut Mountains with the horses.  As you can see, the new settings did not work (insert Thomas Edison wisdom here).  Using new editing techniques, I was able to rescue the image.  I’ll be really happy when I can remember what I did and rescue the image again.

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This is the original image. When I rolled up, I saw these two. The rest of the band was screened from view by the tree on the left.

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I edited and cropped. I was happy with everything but the color of the horses. Hmmmm…what to do???

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Those tutorials paid off. I tried a new color editing technique and voila, a really nice image from a very bad original. I was very happy with myself.

Well, that’s what I’ve been doing with my week.  You decide if I’m in control or not.  Let’s leave the growing up and being nice questions alone.  Thanks for reading and following my blog!

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR