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

Raptor portraits continued more…

When I look at these images, I marvel at the ways these Raptors pose like people…or maybe people pose like Raptors! What an interesting discussion topic.

Every now and then, a Raptor will sit in one place and just look around, providing an opportunity for a series of images.

And then you get the single shot of that Raptor…looking very regal.  They are beautiful creatures!

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR

Silhouettes!

A couple weeks ago, I participated in the Winter Wings Festival in Klamath Falls OR. I took several classes to improve my photography skills and got to see a presentation by George Lepp. George has been taking pictures for over 50 years, and was recently presented with  Lifetime Achievement Award by the North American Nature Photograhy Association. He is a regular contributor to Outdoor Photographer magazine. I was able to visit with him for a few minutes before his presentation – a true gentleman, wonderful photographer, and a great presenter.

One of my classes was silhouette photography. The timing wasn’t great for the field portion of the class, but we did the best we could and I learned a lot about the technique. The key to a successful silhouette image is the background. For those fine art shots that people like to hang in their homes and offices, black outlines with a brightly colored background works great. Think sunsets and sunrises. Another key element is to be as low as possible to ensure that there’s a clear connection with the ground. Get low to ensure that feet aren’t lost in the foreground, for example.

For the images from class, I relied on pretty skies and the details in the trees to make the composition work.

Here’s a few images from the class.

I made this image with my trusty Canon PowerShot G9X Mk II. The instructor, Lisa Langell, told me I passed the class when I showed her this image in camera.

Not a perfect silhouette but still a fun image. Everyone was making images of the Eagle in the tree.

There were several Eagles in the area while we were there, and this one was circling before landing in the nest.

The sun was still in the sky, so I took advantage and made it a part of the composition.

This wasn’t my first attempt at silhouettes. In 2015, I made this image of my neighbor’s house and yard.

I was intrigued by the moonlight and the warm colors in the yard lights, but the tree silhouette on the right became a critical element of the composition.

And this from the Siskiyou River in Florence, OR.

I chose to not make the pilings and birds totally black, but it still counts as a silhouette.

My best silhouette to date was shot in 2016 in the Pinenut Range just east of my home.

A moonrise always makes a good picture – even better with a creative foreground.

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.

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

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