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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All RAW — All the Time!

It’s a quiet Saturday morning and I’m not heading out for an hour or so.  My friend, Rich, and I are going to Reno to see the Restomods in Reno Car Show.  Assuming they come out, you’ll see pictures in my next post.  I’m astounded that it’s been almost 3 weeks since my last post.  Time really flies when you’re having so much fun!

I’ve made a couple changes in my shooting and editing process since my last post.  First, I’m shooting in RAW format exclusively (All RAW – All the Time).  I resisted going to RAW for a very long time because I wasn’t comfortable editing in RAW, it consumes massive amounts of memory, and the images can not be used right out of the camera – they must be edited.  In the last few months, I made learning to edit in RAW a priority and have gained enough comfort factor to shoot in that format exclusively.  Of course, my editing time has increased and I fill up SD cards quickly.  The tradeoff is worth it, however, as I was becoming increasingly less happy with the JPEG images coming out of the camera.  The second change is my ‘backup’ process.  Like many photographers, I have triple redundancy for storing my images.  Until recently, I used the SD card from the camera, my computer, and an external hard drive.  Since I’m filling up memory cards so quickly these days (a 32 GB card every 3-4 weeks – yikes!), my lovely bride convinced me that buying more and more SD cards was not the most cost effective method for storage.  Plus, SD cards can fail and they are not recommended for long term storage anyway.  So I purchased another external hard drive and spent some time backing up all my images on it.  Fortunately, memory (data storage, not my feeble mind, darn it) is getting better and cheaper all the time.

I’m refining my workflow for editing in RAW, but it’s getting easier and I’m getting more proficient.  A REALLY BIG THANKS to all my PHOTOSHOP mentors who cheerfully (at least when I call) answer my sometimes silly questions.  We’re usually on the phone, so I don’t see their eyes rolling and their voices don’t betray them.  Occasionally, my questions trigger a learning moment for them, too, so I think it’s beneficial all around.

Enough about that part of my creative journey, though.  Now I have to remember what I’ve been shooting for the last couple weeks.  Because my feeble memory doesn’t feel like it’s getting any better as time goes by, I keep a shooting log to help me remember where I’ve been, when I was there, and what I was shooting – that’s a big help.

A day or so after my last post, a friend texted that a local rancher was moving some cows and it would be a great photo opportunity.  I grabbed the camera and ran out the door – well, I did say bye to my lovely bride.  As usual, the appointed time was ‘flexible,’ so I looked for interesting shots while I was waiting.

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I found this breeding adult American White Pelican in an irrigation ditch.

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This is a great shot of Jobs Peak, the Carson Valley’s most recognizable mountain peak.

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Oh yeah, I was there for the cattle drive. George Strait sang ‘How ’bout them Cowgirls?’ I always thought the song was for the Wyoming Cowgirl basketball team – turns out it wasn’t. This was an all female crew and they did a great job!

A couple days later, I made a trip to the Pine Nut Mountains and found Blue’s band.  The sly devil moved them from open ground and into high brush, but I still managed a few nice images.

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I’m not a big fan of horse butt pictures, although I have quite a few. I liked how this little one was just visible above the brush.

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Several of the mares and babies. Our bands look very healthy.

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Little Jo – my favorite!

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And this is Blue. He’s the stud!

In the last couple weeks, I’ve made several trips to Mottsville Lane here in Douglas County.  With the rivers flowing well (for now anyway), there’s lots of water for the migrating waterfowl.

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My bird book has been getting quite a workout. This is a Wilson’s Phalarope.

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In the same pond, a Cinnamon Teal.

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This Great Egret posed and pranced for me, then ‘floofed’ itself and flew away. As my followers know, I love it when a bird does something a little unusual for the camera.

The mountains called a couple times, so I made trips up Monitor Pass in California and took a hike at Lake Tahoe with my son.

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I took a drive up Monitor Pass for some scenic shots. After driving by it many times in the past, I finally noticed this tree. I have several images to edit, as I photographed the tree from all angles. I liked this shot and edited it first.

 

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This is Lake Tahoe from Castle Rock, just off the Tahoe Rim Trail near Daggett Pass.

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This is a California Snow Flower – some call it a California Snow Plant. They are starting to grow in the Sierras and we saw several on our hike.

Sometimes, one finds interesting shots on the side of the road and in the backyard!

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Driving in from the Pine Nut Mountains the other day, I saw these Hawks in a tree next to the road. A baby was visible, when I pulled up, but dropped out of sight when I started shooting.

 

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Okay, this wasn’t on a public road, but I shot this from a vehicle. A friend took me on a tour of a highway construction project and this well-fed little guy, along with several friends, make the project home. I’ve never made images of a Marmot (aka Rock Chuck) like this before.

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This Robin sat on a rock in my backyard long enough for me to see him, get my camera, sneak out a door on the far side of the house, and make several images.

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Another patient little fella’. This Goldfinch sat in one of my Austrian Pine trees long enough for me to see him, go get my camera, and make several images. Although he sat on the branch for a while, he did not sit still. I have several shots of him in motion.

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Many of you have seen my night shots of my neighbor’s trees and the moon (one of those is my cover photo on Facebook). The moon was in position the other night, so I made a few more of those shots. While I was out there, I also made some images of the pergola in our backyard. My lovely bride designed the trees and lights very well. While I was shooting the pergola, a playful spirit found his way into the shot! Silly playful spirit.

 

I’m finishing this on Sunday night, after a busy day yesterday at the car show and a trip to Reno today for a friend’s retirement ceremony.  My apologies for the further delay.  The car show images are worth the wait until the next post – I promise.

Enjoy – PHOTOROGR