Ready for my Close Up, Mr. DeMille…

One of the reasons I love photography is that I never stop learning. Whether it’s a new technique or equipment or subject or even just a different way of seeing things, there’s always something to learn. Now that the Raptors have moved on to other places, my eye has turned to smaller and closer subjects – the pollenators and flowers in the back yard!

Over the years, my cameras and I have spent a lot of time in the yard and have enjoyed some success. Although Spring is still fairly new this year, I’ve had a good time so far. This is a Hyacinth, and it was the first flower to bloom in our yard. I put my Canon 6D Mk II with a 50 mm lens on a low tripod and got as close as the minimum focus distance would allow. I did not use focus stacking, but it may happen this year.

All images processed in Adobe Camera RAW and PhotoShop, with a Nik ColorEfex Pro filter.

I upgraded my mobile phone to an iPhone XS a couple months ago and I’m slowly exploring its photographic capabilities. With Spring so young, the Bees are working very hard and are tough to capture…but it can be done…even with an iPhone.

This flying critter was on our Peach tree – looking forward to those peaches!I also bought a new Super Telezoom lens this year and decided to see what it would do on close up shots. Mounted on my 6D Mk II body – a full frame sensor camera – and with a minimum focus distance of more than 8 feet, the Bees are very small so the following images are heavily cropped. The end result, however, is very nice.

This Bee is on one of our Chanticleer Pear trees.

Our Flowering Plum tree has been very popular with the Bees this year.

And so it begins. Spring has sprung and it’s time for some close up. I’m ready Mr. DeMille…

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

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Silhouettes as Fine Art…

Last month I shared some silhouette images with you – images I made during one of the classes I took at the Winter Wings Festival. I also took a class in wildlife as fine art which is the subject of today’s post.

I was out the other day and I found these two Geese floating in one of the irrigation ditches in the Carson Valley. Geese aren’t my favorite subject and the light wasn’t in my favor, but I decided to try something new using the techniques I learned in Klamath Falls and seeing if I could make some ‘fine art.’ I made several images using various exposures. Fortunately, the Geese were just floating along so they weren’t disappearing into the distance or making great ripples in the water.

When I downloaded the images and began processing, I tried several different ideas – color versus monochrome, variations in contrast and color, and a variety of filters. I ultimately chose this single color image, processing the dark areas into silhouettes to accentuate the position of the Geese on the water and in the frame using Adobe Camera RAW, and then finishing in Photoshop and Topaz Studio.

I hope you like it. Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

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

 

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.

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

A very fun evening!

Action Camera and Tamron lenses sponsored a photo walk in Virginia City yesterday evening. Ken Hubbard, the walk leader, is a national representative for Tamron lenses. I’ve had the privilege of taking night photography workshops with Ken previously, so I was excited to explore Virginia City in the evening light.

The town is quiet at 8 p.m. A few cars on the street but, with most stores closed, the pedestrian traffic was very light. VC’s street lights are beautiful, and cast an orange glow on everything. I chose building exteriors and store windows as my subjects for the evening. The store windows offered challenges with interior lights creating hot spots the images and competing with the ambient light from the street lights. I set the Canon 6D Mk II on Manual, played with ISOs of 100, 200, and 800, and various apertures. Shooting on a tripod, I bracketed exposures. This allowed me to be choosy in my selection of images to combine while processing. I also experimented with black and white for several of the images, as you will see in the images below.

Walking up Main Street and I saw these bottles in the window, backlit by the room lights. Next time, I’ll use a smaller aperture to extend the depth of field and make the bottles a little sharper. Of course, shooting at an angle through vintage glass may not allow full focus on the bottles.

One of the store fronts. I tried to mask the interior light using the item nearest the glass, with limited success (in my mind). I worked this image in both color and black and white, and decided I like the b/w version best.

Another of the store fronts. I had better success using the ambient light in this image. I combined 4 of the bracketed exposures and then applied a filter from the Nik Collection for the final image. I liked the color version of this image. Another challenge was the condition of the glass in the store windows – this glass wasn’t too bad.

My favorite image from the evening! This restaurant on the south end of town was wonderful. When I first saw this scene, there was a pickup on the right encroaching into the building. When I walked by again a couple hours later, the truck was gone and I was able to get this. Again, I compared the color version to the black and white version, and chose the b/w. I cropped in a little to reduce clutter on the sides, and had to decide if the fluttering bunting in the center of the image was worth worrying about. (You can’t take your eyes off it now, can you?)

Low light photography is challenging but fun – I experiment with is occasionally. The smoke around Virginia City wasn’t horrible, but did limit my shooting. The moon came up and was a beautiful reddish orange from the smoke, but I didn’t even try for moon shots mostly because of the smoke. Take a chance and go out in the late evening, and just experiment. You will learn a lot and might surprise yourself. Be careful where you go. Take a friend to watch your back. Yes, I’ve found myself in places where I shouldn’t have been without backup so I speak from experience.

On a positive note, the music from one of the bars made the evening pleasant! Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

The Texas Adventure…Texas State Aquarium!

In my post last week, I showed pictures from the two weeks I spent in Maryland training for my assignment with FEMA. I was assigned to the Corpus Christi Branch Field Office. Corpus Christi suffered wind damage, but nothing like Padre and Mustang Islands and the coastal areas to the north and inland areas to the northwest.

On my first weekend (and day off) in Corpus Christi, I visited the Texas State Aquarium. This is a beautiful facility and well worth the entry fee.

The walk from the parking lot. The former engineer in me loves that bridge on the right!

As is my habit, I started my tour on high ground. This atrium houses the tropical birds and other fun stuff!

Lots of Flamingos. You’d think they would be easy to photograph because they move so slow, but they move enough to screw up any bracketed exposures.

This guy was coy, but enjoyed having his picture taken.

And then there was this guy. I caught him still sleeping, but shooting up and into the light was a bit challenging. I’m told that Sloths have a green tint because they move so slowly that algae can grow in their fur. I haven’t confirmed it, however.

The displays are great, but pictures of fish in tanks have always been a stretch for me.

I tried anyway and made this image.

I enjoyed the Dolphin Show! They were very entertaining, but it was a very hot day and it got a little uncomfortable sitting in the stands.

When I made the decision to take the PowerShot camera, I knew I would be limited in my compositions. With that in mind, I wanted to work on my ‘eye’ to see landscapes. This is a view of the Gulf of Mexico from one of the observation platforms.

The USS Lexington is on display as a floating museum. Here she is, as seen from the Aquarium.

I also enjoyed the 4D Shark Show and picked up a nice t-shirt while I was there. All in all, the Texas State Aquarium gets a big thumbs up as a place to visit!

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR