Posts Tagged ‘Adobe Lightroom’

eBook Review: Creative Processing Techniques In Nature Photography By Guy Tal

August 7th, 2013

Review Of Guy Tal’s Creative Processing Techniques In Nature Photography

“In art, the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can imagine.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The goal is to produce images that uniquely represent the photographer’s vision and possess meanings beyond the literal visual elements they portray.” – Guy Tal

Cover, Creative Processing Techniques In Nature Photography By Guy Tal.

Cover, Creative Processing Techniques In Nature Photography By Guy Tal. Click On The Image To Read More…

In Guy Tal’s ebook, Creative Processing Techniques In Nature Photography, he assures the reader that digital image processing can be a much richer introspective and creative experience than can possibly be provided by formulas or rote routines to “achieve such trivial goals as more vibrant colors or gimmicky visual effects.”

In the introduction to Creative Processing Techniques, Guy Tal wrote, “The digital studio at your fingertips is every bit the fertile bed for creative expression as any field technique…” He refers to the process of visualization discussed in his ebook, Creative Landscape Photography, and explains how decisions in the “studio” give the photographer a wide spectrum of possibilities and control for attaining the “visualized end result.”

Guy clearly favors creative post-processing over using presets or leaving image files the way the camera captured them. He also makes a good case that the answer to the question, ‘How much is too much?’ is best left up to each photographer’s own discretion and intended use of the image. He argues that the creative photographer’s purpose is to go beyond a mere documentary recording of subjects. However, he urges us to remember, “We chose the medium of nature photography because we were moved by the beauty of natural phenomena, and we may not want to venture too far from our source of inspiration.”

From Basics To Advanced Techniques

From the basics of monitor calibration, definitions of bits, 8-bit versus 16-bit, RGB, CMYK, color channels, RAW files, JPEGs, TIFFs, GIFs, conversions, Bayer patterns, Digital Negative or DNG files, clipping of highlight or shadow detail, file storage, compression, Tiff versus PSD and other image file formats, pixels, PPI, DPI, the International Color Consortium or ICC Profiles, color space or gamut, monitor and printer profiling or calibration using a colorimeter, target images, hue, saturation, “dodging” and “burning,” .icc, .icm, Perceptual and Relative Colorimetric rendering intents, sRGB, Adobe RGB, Kodak’s ProPhoto RGB,  pixilation, and why images do not look the same online as they do when made into archival fine art digital prints, all the way through the process of creating and working on digital master files, Guy Tal guides us with smooth, clear and thoughtful precision. Not only are you rarely confused by Guy’s explanations, but at the end of each chapter to assure even better understanding of the ideas presented, we find short, fun exercises and self-quizes about various points in the text.

Guy Tal suggests that as you process an image, you may change your mind as to how you will finish it. Your pre-visualized goal when you made the photograph can be refined and reconsidered along the way in a process Guy calls Dynamic Visualization. The way Guy Tal presents global and local adjustments had me anticipating the development of my next photograph in the digital darkroom. I became inspired by the possibilities as I began to see the process through new eyes from what I did previously. I realized that by employing Guy Tal’s workflow, I caught his vision and enthusiasm for image refinement, while at the same time I came into a deeper understanding of my own approach to creative landscape photography.

Unconventional Self-Awareness In Photography

Guy Tal is photographically self-aware and by example he teaches the reader to be more self-aware of his or her own creative process. Guy’s wisdom is often unconventional. For example, one of his image captions reads:

Do not assume that just because something is technically deficient, it should always be corrected. For example, the image on the right contains areas of both over-exposed highlights and under-exposed shadows. Still, I found these perfectly acceptable and decided not to correct them. In fact, it is likely that if I had corrected them (e.g., by blending multiple exposures), the result would have looked decidedly unnatural.

In the film era, under and over exposed areas in photographs were common, even with the use of the zone system. It was only with the advent of digital and especially High Dynamic Range or HDR that striving for detail in all areas of photographs became the norm. In this sense, Guy Tal’s experience in large format film photography serves him well as to what is worth spending time adjusting. Along the same lines, Guy provides good guidance as to what to adjust and what not to adjust in RAW conversion, as well as what to adjust minimally to avoid detail loss and fringe artifacts.

Guy Tal also bucks another trend in the digital darkroom. He points out that high contrast, more color saturated images often make a stronger first impression but may have less “’staying power’ if bold color is all they have to offer.” He writes, “…nuanced and subtle images often invite closer inspection and result in a more extended, contemplative viewing experience.” In this spirit Guy tells us how to use the various controls in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. Not only does he provide a clear description of each tool and how it works, but he also explains various situations where one tool works better than another and shows us how the results differ.

Photoshop Setup And Tool Optimization

From giving recommendations for how to arrange your tools for easy access in Adobe Photoshop, to how best to apply each tool and adjustment, Guy shows you the best practices and set up to make Photoshop easier to use. My impression is that with Guy’s technical background, he has a better understanding how and why each tool in Photoshop works the way it does, than many of the most prominent photographers in the field. Reading Guy’s ebook clarified some ambiguities and showed me better technique than what I have learned by observing or talking to many other photographers working in Photoshop. For example, I had learned that in using “Levels” to find the white and black point in an image that it is necessary to bring the corresponding sliders into the histogram slightly. However, Guy recommends bringing the sliders to where they are either just touching the histogram or even just outside the histogram, not touching it at all. Guy explains succinctly why this is a better approach.

In this extensive ebook Guy also discusses layer blending and how to combine the highlight detail from one image with the shadow detail of another, a process many refer to as High Dynamic Range or HDR. With Guy’s specific and complete directions, I performed my first blending of two versions of an image. How exciting: I have hard drives filled with bracketed images waiting for this moment. As can be expected, much more can be learned and realized by applying each exercise to your own images. I had a sense of anticipation and accomplishment in the learning by running my own images through each process and exercise that Guy outlines.

Global And Local Adjustments And A Different Way To Dodge And Burn

Besides philosophy and global adjustments, Guy also touches briefly on a number of local adjustments including Cloning and Spot Removal. This helps to round out the reading experience, but other books or tutorials may be necessary for more detail. I like the way Guy moves on to expand on more advanced methods such as Layer Masking and various uses for these layer masks. Most of Guy’s explanations are clear and thorough, but in some instances, he summarized a bit too much in my opinion, shortening the explanation of certain steps when he might have included more specifics without taking too much more space and reader time. Nonetheless, no one book could ever cover all features and tools in Photoshop. Anyone can Google the step-by-step functions of whatever basic tools Guy leaves out. Guy warns us against attachment to any particular tools or methods, but shares the importance of developing a strong working approach to visualizing and finding gaps between what we envision and what we have so far attained. Meanwhile, Guy’s explanation of non-destructive Dodging and Burning is comprehensive and extremely helpful for improved image editing, as are most of his other process explanations.

Before reading Creative Processing Techniques, I had a fair understanding of many of the controls in Photoshop, but some of the time I was just guessing as to how to obtain what I wanted in my images. Afterwards, I now have much more control and am more able to directly obtain what I intend in my photographs. Guy wrote by e-mail that it is better to learn good workflow and processing methods from the beginning rather than trying to unlearn bad habits later. With the reading of Guy’s ebook, I feel I have caught the best wave to take me all the way into the shore of happy image making.

To order click this link: Creative Processing Techniques. Also, a two volume bundle discount is available when you purchase Guy Tal’s Creative Processing Techniques with Creative B&W Processing Techniques.

San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 15

July 9th, 2013

Technical Aspects of Visualization

Lecture By Minor White

Philip Hyde’s 1947 Class Notes

California School Of Fine Arts, Now The San Francisco Art Institute

Photography Program Founded By Ansel Adams, Minor White Lead Instructor

(Continued from the blog post, “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 14.”)

Landscape Photography Blogger Note:

Bristlecone Pine Snag Against Sky, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, copyright 1949 by Philip Hyde. 8X10 Deardorff Large Format View Camera.

Bleached Juniper Trunk On Ridge Above Parson’s Lodge, Cumulus Clouds, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, copyright 1949 by Philip Hyde. 8X10 Deardorff Large Format View Camera.

(View the photograph large: “Bleached Juniper Trunk, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite.”)

Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Minor White were all proponents of visualization or pre-visualization as it is sometimes called. Ansel Adams wrote about visualization, as did Minor White to some extent. However, few, if any, of their students ever published any lecture notes sharing the contents of lectures on the subject. Here for what is likely the first time ever published, are the notes from star photography student Philip Hyde on a lecture by Minor White during the summer session, on August 19, 1947. Today is Minor White’s birthday. He was born on July 9, 1908.

Half way through the class lecture in 1947, Minor White shifted into a technical discussion regarding film density, exposure, the Zone System, film testing, tonal reproduction, tonal separation, contrast control by underdevelopment, various aspects of darkroom processing, waterbath formulas, and other details of film darkroom photography. The purpose of the lecture was to applying darkroom post-processing tools to carry out and complete the process of visualization as begun at the point of exposure in the field with the camera. This technical discussion consisted mainly of graphs and charts that do not apply to today’s digital photography and in some cases not even to today’s film photography. This complex portion of Minor White’s lecture is omitted here, for the most part, with some portions summarized, leaving us with the non-technical core of the subject.

These lecture notes are presented here mainly as a historical record, more than for teaching or learning purposes, though they may serve the latter two purposes as well, with certain readers. More on the theory and philosophy of visualization will follow in future articles and blog posts. Yet this lecture, may put into perspective how relatively easy making good photographs has become, due to technology replacing many of the processes mentioned below. Photoshop is certainly not simple, nor do we now merely press one button that eliminates all visual distractions and turns our images into artistic masterpieces, as many uninformed people seem to believe. Nonetheless, the lecture below puts into perspective the level of diligence involved in darkroom black and white photography. Which of these two post-processing methods do you feel took more skill? Or if the skills are different, how do they compare?

Technical Aspects of Visualization Lecture By Minor White

Philip Hyde’s Notes August 19, 1947
Visualization

Visualization is the basis of creative photography as taught at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) photography school. Visualization is simply visualizing, imagining in the mind, the final print while looking at the scene you are photographing. The approach to applying visualization is to place tones on a scale, in the 10 gradations of tone in the Zone System and internalizing the relationship of exposure to development taking into consideration the relationship between exposure and density of the film being used.

Any tone in nature can be reproduced with exposure control exactly as is with normal development. This is considered a normal exposure to development relationship. The relationship of tones remains the same with normal development. Less than normal development will compact the relationship, that is, it will compact the scale of tones. More than normal development will stretch the scale.

A full-scale print is one in which all the values of the 10 Zone scale are present including white and black, Zones 0-9. When exposure is graphed against density, there is a portion of the curve at the beginning, or toe, where the curve gradually increases steepness. This toe portion of the curve is preferred for enlargement, but can cause loss of accuracy of tonal relationships in darker areas. The curve then straightens out. This part of the curve is where tonal reproduction is accurate. The top, or shoulder, of the curve, where it gradually decreases steepness, is the least desirable for photographic enlargement and printing.

The lightest Zones, Zones I, II and III are on the toe portion of the graph and will be less dense than expected. Contrast can be controlled by underdevelopment. This must be determined by testing of the film to see whether upper or lower values will contrast more and in what relation to development. When lower values are in the toe, they can suffer serious loss of tonal quality. A good waterbath helps to increase separation in the lower tones, or the toe of the curve(s) and decreases or diminishes this effect in the upper Zones. Testing is done with a gradated step wedge.

Lens testing is also related to the success or failure of visualization efforts. Testing lenses determines the differences between theoretical and actual light transmission, due to flare, aberrations in the lens and technique of the photographer.

(Continued in the blog post, “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 16.”)

For those of you who did both post-processing in a film darkroom and now use Photoshop, Lightroom or some equivalent, do you feel traditional film black and white photography or digital photography post-processing is more difficult? In what ways are the challenges of each different?

Monday Blog Blog: Derrick Birdsall

September 26th, 2011

Monday Blog Blog: Derrick Birdsall of My Sight Picture Lands A Book Deal To Photograph North Texas Frontier Forts And Lives For A Week In A Historical Log Cabin

Sunset, Log Cabin, Farmer's Branch Historical Park, Farmer's Branch, Texas, copyright 2009 Derrick Birdsall.

(See the photograph large here.)

What in the world is Monday Blog Blog? See the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog Celebration.”

Some photographers have no problem with singing their own praises or even over-blowing the merit of their own work. In contrast, many photographers and other creative people hesitate to promote themselves because either they doubt their own work, feel self-aggrandizement is tacky or any number of other reasons. My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, fit into the second category and architectural, historical, street and landscape photographer Derrick Birdsall does as well.

When I proposed doing a Monday Blog Blog on Derrick Birdsall and his popular blog My Sight Picture, he said something about the caliber of photographers I feature, how short a time he had been “serious” about photography and that he felt highly honored to be the subject of such a blog post. My reply was that my father liked to support and encourage those who were the most dedicated to the craft and the most accelerated in their development. Besides, Dad was always egalitarian in his association with all levels of photographers. I added that even though Landscape Photography Blogger exists to honor my father, it is my blog, doggon it, and I will feature who I want, which essentially in time will be a wide variety of landscape photographers from all over the world that I haven’t even met yet, but to start with I will feature those who I like and who support this blog the most.

Derrick Birdsall began his participation on this blog by asking in a comment if I thought that the current period was another Golden Era for photography. See comments on the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 2.” Ever since, he has shown a knack for asking pithy, discussion sparking and often difficult questions. I have always been amazed at his prolific volume of photography. This month, for example, he made over 20,000 exposures. Also, he puts up blog posts more frequently than any other blog I follow.

Just five years ago, Derrick Birdsall began photographing with a small Hewlett Packard “point-and-shoot” that came with a printer he bought. Because it was convenient to keep in his pocket, he took it everywhere he went. At first he had mainly an “I was here” style, but once he was out exploring around the Gila River in New Mexico and a storm blew across the canyon. Derrick “snapped” a few pictures and found that one of them had an “Ansel Adams style to it and something just clicked in my head, that I could do this.” He now photographs mainly with his Canon 7D, with his earlier Canon 50D as a backup. For post processing, he uses only Adobe Lightroom and Idealab/Google Picasa, no Photoshop.

Right away Derrick made an impression on me with his polite, Southern manner sprinkled with “please” and “thank you, Sir.” He was born in Virginia and has lived in Texas since the 4th Grade. His distinct photography in some ways is best exemplified by his photographs from his visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Rather than going for the landmarks: the adobe, Native Americans on the Plaza, or other typical Santa Fe clichés, his images on Smug Mug are of the land and not even of the most prominent features. He explained that this was partially circumstantial as he had attended a museum conference, took a walk and photographed what looked good to him. “A lot of times we miss something right under our noses because we’re too busy trying to put tripods where someone else already has. Part of my uniqueness is that growing up, I never spent much time looking at, or learning about art or photography. Even now, I don’t look to others’ photographs to guide what I do.”

He photographs landscapes, motorcycles, shooting competitions, airplanes, animals, architecture and many other subjects. Here’s his explanation for wide variety over specialization:

If I had my druthers, I’d be out working the Texas deserts and canyons every day with a camera. Unfortunately for me, I can’t get out there all the time, so I take images of what I have access to. There’s beauty to be found everywhere—whether that’s in a majestic desert landscape, a nice macro that you walk by every day, your dog laying out in the sun, or whatever you might pass by.  My rule number one is that to take a good picture, you’ve got to have your camera with you everywhere you go.  That way if you see something that catches your eye, you can take the time to stop and capture that moment. That being said, I think that to really capture the essence of something, you have to know it, and the images I share with folks are of things I know and love.  Basically, it’s all about ‘seeing.’  Once you start hunting for the light, you see it everywhere you go. I also use every photo opportunity as a way to become more skilled with the camera across the board. For example, I can learn something from taking an image of a hot rod and apply it to capturing reflections of a pool of water in the desert. In the short time I’ve been working at this, I’ve learned that photography is often about trial and error. Every time you hit the shutter button it’s a learning experience. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and the more images you take, the better you get at being able to bend the camera to your will so that you can capture the image you visualized.

The big news recently was a book deal with TSTC Publishing for a coffee table book featuring Derrick Birdsall’s photographs of the Texas Frontier Forts. Derrick Birdsall has a background in history and has been photographing the Texas Frontier Forts seriously since 2009. He earned an MA in History from Sam Houston State University and since then has been working in museums for over 20 years. He learned from a competitive shooting mentor that if you want to succeed, “you have to let other people know what your goals are and they will help you reach your goals.” Derrick Birdsall has had the goal to produce a coffee table book on the Texas Frontier Forts for some time. At one point, he collaborated with Margaret Hoogstra, who manages a cultural tourism trail centered on the Texas Frontier Forts called Texas Forts Trail. She was at a meeting with a representative from TSTC Publishing and they started talking about potential book projects. Margaret Hoogstra mentioned Derrick Birdsall’s photography of the forts. Subsequently the publisher set up a meeting in which they agreed to do the book. Derrick called it a “networking success.”

The forts project hits so many buttons for me. For starters, I am a historian by trade… I love history, always have. Secondly, the bulk of the forts are well off the beaten path and in some truly beautiful country. Thirdly, they are some of the only places you can get to anymore where you can not only see things the way they were, but you can feel it too. Standing inside some of the old buildings and hearing the wind whistling through the cracks in the walls without the interruption of modern noises is just magical to me… I can get my history fix and my landscape fix in the same breath.

The city of Farmer’s Branch, Texas has a historical city park with 28 acres of grounds and 12 structures dating from the 1840s to the 1930s. Derrick Birdsall, park Superintendent for 12 years, slept in one of the log cabins for a week this last March in commemoration of Farmer’s Branch Historical Park’s 25th Anniversary. The Dallas Morning News article shared how Superintendent Birdsall wore period clothing and cooked over an open fire to help bring frontier days to life. See the YouTube video here. The Farmer’s Branch Historical Park, with over 80,000 visitor’s a year, is an outdoor museum, special event venue and educational facility sharing the heritage of North Texas and Dallas County.

I enjoy being able to teach people… and there are definitely perks associated with the museum world. From time to time I can flash my “museum card” and get access to places that I otherwise would not have…. My museum is… not your usual gallery type setting. One of the things that just flat drives me nuts is that quite a few of the folks who work in a gallery setting are elitist snobs. It’s my belief that the objects in our care are to be shared with as many folks as possible and that visitors should have reasonable access to the artifacts. A lot of the gallery types keep everything behind glass if it’s accessible at all and more often than not you can’t even see the items because they are hiding back in the stacks. How can you educate and teach your visitors if all of your tools are locked up behind closed doors? The other thing that I notice about some folks in more traditional types of museums is that while they are often times highly educated, they only know what they’ve read, and not because they have any experience in their subject matter.  Those are the folks that talk about the rules in art and photography but if you put a paintbrush or camera in their hands they wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to use it.

When Derrick Birdsall studied museums, he attended graduate school. When he learned competition shooting, he took classes from the best marksmen in the world (See a YouTube video of the “Three Gun” type of shooting he does here). However, with photography he has been largely self-taught. He took one class online with master landscape photographer William Neill, but the rest of his training has been through trial and error in the field. He chooses photographs and guides his photography with the help of pre-visualization. In shooting competition, he made a sight picture, aligning the front and rear sight of his gun with the target. He also learned to fire between breaths, during what is called the respiratory pause. He sometimes uses this technique while photographing. As a result of his training, he can often defy the rules about when a tripod is necessary. He wrote about the parallels between both types of “shooting” in an excellent blog post appropriately called, “Sight Picture,” similar to the name of his highly visited blog My Sight Picture. Take a sight along his photo blog for yourself. You will see the work of a new voice in photography, traveling at a high velocity toward his target.