Archive for the ‘Photoshop’ Tag

The Asticou Azalea Gardens, Seal Harbor, Maine   5 comments


The Asticou Azalea Gardens, Seal Harbor, Maine

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Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate when we’d like to go hiking. When that happens, we take a road trip around the area, looking for new and interesting spots. On our way to Seal Harbor on the south side of Mt. Desert Island, we passed by the Asticou Azalea Gardens.

The day seemed perfect for a soft, moody rendering of this colorful scene. The overcast skies created a soft and diffused light that really helped to pop the autumn colors in an otherwise gray day.

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As before, I decided to approach this image as an HDR without tonemapping, preferring to edit in both Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop CS6. I’m really enjoying the result as being more ‘realistic’ than most tonemapping programs would allow. There are times to get creative, and times to let nature stand on its own merits.

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Back Whence It Came   6 comments


Back Whence It Came

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Tree. Wood. Ore. Metal. A wagon forged by the hand of a man. All will decay. Nothing lasts forever.

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We descended to the bottom of the trail shortly before 5PM, knowing our target. Placed near the equipment shed for the old Stone House, these wagons have been in place and deteriorating beautifully for years.

Unfortunately, since it was 5 o’clock, a few maintenance people were converging on the shed, parking their trucks in all the good spots. Problem. I didn’t think twice before walking up to one of them and jocularly saying, “You know, I traveled over 1,000 miles just to shoot these wagons.” Oh… you’ll move your truck? Why, thanks!

The guys were talking together, but surely also sizing up these people from ‘Away.’ One of them, an older gentleman in bright red suspenders who looked like a cross between Albert Einstein and Kris Kringle, was Frank. I know this because he had a huge sign made of welded pipe running across the back window of his pickup truck – his “Office”.

The sign said, “F – R – A – N – K

I asked him, “Are you Frank?”

“Nope. I’m Ernest,” he replied in a deep New England accent.

“Somehow I doubt that,” I said as we shared a knowing laugh.

And with that, we were introduced to Frank Eastman, a colorful local who has tended the grounds of the Stone House for several decades. After the other guys went home, we chatted with Frank for quite a while. He had worked with the Maine DOT for many years. We talked about how someone had once offered to restore the wagons for display, but Frank had declined, preferring to see them decay in their natural form. After a time, he felt comfortable enough to let us in on a local trail secret — a waterfall that most people don’t know about — and he asked if I could shoot it for him someday.

That’s for next year, when I’ll likely meet up with Frank again. Some people you just want to keep in touch with.

Circus Life   7 comments


Circus Life

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I’m sorry that it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything of my own. Life has been a circus around here.

We’ve been keeping close to home most days, working on the expanded gardens. No matter how many hours we’re out there, at the end of the day we always have something more to do. (Totally worth it for the organic veggies.)

I hope to get back into the swing of things photographic, and to catch up with everyone as soon as possible. In the meantime, please enjoy this scene taken at a local ‘museum’, of sorts.

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Grandfather’s Legacy   14 comments


Grandfather's Legacy

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We recently had the pleasure of spending a day with Jeff, a new friend who builds the most amazing birdhouses out of timber and tin recovered from old barns, sheds, and smoke houses. Wandering about his rural property while chatting and taking photos, we got a better sense of his artistic inclinations. We already knew that he loved each of his birdhouse creations. What we discovered was that he seemed to be on a mission to repurpose old buildings, giving them a second life by saving them from inexorably melting into the landscape.

At his property, a quiet place dotted with sheds, cabins, and workshops, I noticed an irresistible old tractor peeking out from an open shed. As we had other places to visit, we had almost passed this by. It turned out that the tractor was more important than we knew…

The tractor is a ’55 Allis Chalmers B. Jeff’s wife’s grandfather owned it and used it to work his garden. He was a farmer for much of his life and he loved his tractor. Grandfather is now gone, but the tractor is being maintained almost as a monument to his memory, perhaps one of the last tangible reminders of the man who used it to till the land.

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The Good Life   9 comments


The Good Life

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This past autumn while in Maine, we had a nice visit at Eliot Coleman’s Four Season farm (lettuce in Maine, in January!) One of the assistants there suggested that for a nice lunch, we should drive just down the road to Orr Cove. Best tip we had on the entire trip!

We pulled off to the side of the one-lane road, making sandwiches and firing off some sun flare brackets, after which, we drove about 50′ to The Good Life Center, the place where we found the Alien Landing.

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This image was particularly tough to process, which is why I didn’t offer it up for the recent HDR Collaboration, choosing Inland Sailor instead. The sun flare caused a great deal of spotting and CA, and the dust on the sensor didn’t help much, either. Eleven exposures, f/22, 17mm.

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Warp This!   Leave a comment


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I have seen the following technique from a couple of sources. The first was in one of Rick Sammon’s books, and then I saw it in a very recent blog. I was reminded to cover this technique with my own image as I uploaded it for printing on aluminum at SizzlPix! It’s a fun post-processing technique that you can try on some of your own images.  It won’t be a hit on every one of them, but when it does work, the results are pretty wild.

First, look for an image with a strong graphic element.  Flowers and trees tend to work very well, and if you can avoid a cluttered background, so much the better.

Here is my original image. Notice the strong graphic element of the trees, and a minimally disrupted background.

image of a sycamore tree on a bright blue day

On this image, after bringing it into Photoshop (CS4, in this case), I did a little modification by adding a NIK Color Efex Pro Polarization filter in order to even out the brilliant blue sky.  Then, using my LAHR/HALR sharpening technique, I brought things to the clarity that I wanted.

Make sure the image is flattened. Also ensure that it’s in 8-bit mode by using the Image -> Mode -> 8-bits/Channel command, as the upcoming Distort filter doesn’t work in 16-bit mode.

Go to Filter -> Distort -> Polar Coordinates.  In the preview window, select Polar To Rectangular and let it fly. Funky, eh? Maybe you’d like to stop there…

Go to Image -> Image Rotation -> Flip Canvas Vertical.  And then…

Go to Filter -> Distort -> Polar Coordinate, but select Rectangular to Polar.

For this image, the result is:

warped sycamore

Well, there was just a bit of extra work. The immediate output from the final Distort command yielded, in this case, a tan or buff background. Using a simple Paint Bucket tool set to a very low Tolerance of only a few pixels, I dumped black into the outer areas to really set off the contrast to the image.

I’ve printed this out large on metallic paper.  Killer!

This is one of those techniques that can really yield some interesting surprises.  Feel free to play around with various combinations and different images. Since there’s so little effort involved, you really can’t go wrong.

Have fun!

Rob

“32 Float” from Unified Color   Leave a comment


Just a short post for the morning:

Unified Color, the company behind HDR Expose, just announced a new plug-in for Photoshop called ’32 Float’

I’m pretty excited about this, because it means that we can now take almost any file into Photoshop in full 32-bit mode, but now with more options for manipulating color and tonal adjustments to that file. It’s not just for .HDR or .EXR files, either. It can ingest 8-bit or 16-bit files as well, and is supported by Photoshop CS3, CS4, and CS5.

For more information, please visit the announcement page at Unified Color.  As soon as it’s released, I’m sure you’ll hear more about 32 Float here.

Also, if at any time you’d like to purchase a product from Unified Color, I can offer a 20% discount off your purchase.  Please see my “Discounts” page in the menu above if you’d like to take advantage of the offer.

Strong Morning Coffee   Leave a comment


Sunrise over Flagstaff Lake, Eustis, Maine

[A larger version of this image can be seen on my gallery at SmugMug,  here (Opens in a new tab/window)]

This image represents to me, 1) a continuation of a series of shots taken on one spectacularly cold Maine morning, and 2) a chance for further experimentation with blending output from two different HDR programs.

As for the first point, I had to drag myself out of a very warm, very comfortable, downy sleeping bag to shoot the sunrise.  Strong coffee is my friend.

To the second point…

This was taken from a set of three brackets (ISO 200, f/2.8, +/- 2 EV.)  I ran the set through Photomatix Pro 3 and created several different tonemap files.  One of the tonemaps was a Shadowmap for later use, one a Vivid (saturated) version and one a “nice” version (“nice” because I just thought it looked nice.) After producing those tonemaps, I also fed the brackets into HDR Expose, adjusting settings until it looked just right.

The output from HDR Expose was quite good on its own, but I thought it could use an extra touch, so I went to the Photomatix output to take a look. As it sometimes turns out, while the output from HDR Expose was solid, clear, and ‘true-to-life’, Photomatix output often has more punch and detail due to the available microcontrast settings.  There’s just something about the tonemapping process that jazzes up certain features.

Using the Shadowmapping technique, I layered the Shadowmap on the Vivid layer, toned down the saturation, and then blended it with the ‘nice’ tonemap. The result brought some subtle but necessary detail to the distant woods and some of the clouds.

When all of that looked good, I flattened the layers and copied the result on top of the HDR Expose version. Setting the opacity of the Shadowmap down to about 25-30% in Normal mode gave me a good result… other blending modes were too dark. The result was a highly realistic image — thanks to HDR Expose — with subtle but important details, color, and microcontrast from the Photomatix layer.

From there, the image took a trip into Topaz Adjust 4 for further punch-up. Using the NIK Color Efex Pro Darken/Lighten Center filter, I added a subtle dark vignette around the edges. Toward the end, I wasn’t delighted with the darkness of the distant shoreline, so I added an Exposure layer and masked it in to bring up the trees just a bit.

Surely, there are other ways to do this sort of processing, and some of them are bound to be easier paths to the same end. But each element seems to bring something to the final version, and playing around with different combinations can be both rewarding and frustrating.  Sometimes I do wonder if I should have just popped a single 0EV file into Topaz to see what would have happened.  Maybe tomorrow morning… over a cup of coffee.

Combining HDR Programs   1 comment


North Carolina Heating and Air Conditioning

“North Carolina Heating and Air Conditioning”

As I like to say: “The great part about not knowing all the rules is that it allows one to break them without compunction.”  Who’s to say that we can’t take the output from one HDR program and use it as input to another? Or, vice-versa? What happens if we combine this, with that? While sometimes the result looks like we’ve just combined matter with anti-matter, interesting surprises can result from such experimentation.

And, since we’re HDR photogs, don’t we inherently enjoy experimenting like the early alchemists?

I’ve been working quite a bit with Unified Color’s new HDR Expose program, and I’ve been using Photomatix Pro for quite a while now .  Each has its strengths, as we might expect, and I could pick over their respective weaknesses as well.  Rather than dwelling on what’s missing, I tried my best to use the strengths of each program in this image.  (Note: Discount codes for both programs are available from the Discounts menu above.)

When I ran the brackets through HDR Expose and applied edits there, the result was an ‘as-I-saw-it’ image with great shadow and highlight detail.  But, at the end of the process, it looked like an old building sitting in a field — which is exactly what it was.  While the result was an accurate representation, in this case it seemed to lack something artistic or interesting. There wasn’t enough there to really hold one’s attention.

Enter the stalwart Photomatix Pro 3(.2.9)  The output from that pass had elements that I loved about the building, but there was significant ghosting in the tree branches and the monochromatic sky had that dingy quality despite my having upped the micro-smoothing and highlights-smoothing substantially.  Those things could have been handled in Photoshop pretty easily by layering in a single RAW, but why not try something different?

Using standard Photoshop layering techniques, we’re able to quickly and easily combine the best elements of each program’s output. The shack was rendered by Photomatix Pro, while the remainder of the scene is from HDR Expose. Along the trees in certain spots, there is a mixture of the two, with HDR Expose handling most of the pixels.  Following up with some Curves adjustments and a little selective saturation boost in select spots, we have what I think is an interesting image: A funky old shack with some outrageous surface color — just as I had remembered it in the  harsh morning light (I drink strong coffee…) —  with sunlight pouring in through the roof.

It’s not a radical idea, of course, using various layers to achieve an effect.  I have some other experiments going on that I believe could be ever more interesting.

HDR Shadowmapping   6 comments


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This blog has recently been converted from another site.  The original HDR Shadowmapping blog entry has been made into a tutorial, but I didn’t want to break any referring links by moving this post (again)…

Please click here to see the HDR Shadowmapping Tutorial

Thanks,

Rob

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