Monday, February 12, 2018

It Needed Something

Recently I was searching my Lightroom Catalog for some images from Palouse.   While the image featured in this blog was not the one I was looking for, it is the one that I decided to work on.

When I'm in the field sometimes I will take  an image that I know exactly how I want to process, but not always.  Sometimes it's just about the composition.  That was the case with this image.

I think the composition is fine for the most part.  Although I wish there was a little more detail inside the barn on the right side,  I don't think this is a deal breaker either.  At the bottom of this post is the original unprocessed image for reference. 

Here is my layers palette from the finished image.  I use layers in photoshop so I'm always working in a non destructive workflow.  What this mean is I can always step back or start over without adversely affecting the original image.  Since I'm starting from Lightroom you could argue that I always have the original raw file so no harm would come from working in a more destructive manner.  While this is true, it would also mean that I need to go all the way back to the beginning.  Another option is to use the history palette in photoshop for stepping backward.  Then there is also smart objects, but I'm getting off topic.  The wonderful thing about powerful programs like Photoshop is there are often multiple ways to reach the same destination.

Back to the original image (See bottom of page).  I found the ladder and the tiny triangle of sky to be distracting.  I first tried to remove the ladder with content aware fill in Photoshop.  I was not happy with the result so I then tried Snap Heal from MacPhun and it did a perfect job of removing the ladder.  The triangle was easily removed at the same time.  Some might think the tree overhanging the roof on the left side of the frame is a problem.  I don't in this case because the tree leaves are contained within the roof so the roof line is unbroken, also the direction of the truck moves your eye to the left and toward the car in the background.

Next up I used Nik Color Effects Pro Contrast Filter and the Foliage filter to enhance the green grass behind the truck.  The top of the image was brighter due to the reflective nature of the roof so I used a graduated neutral density filter to tone down the roof so your eye would not be drawn up away from the truck.

At this point I still found the image to be a little uninteresting  so I decided to try a painterly effect using Topaz Impression.  Upon opening in Impression, I liked the initial look and hit ok and moved the image back to PS.  I applied a black mask and at first intended to paint in the background at 100% opacity and the truck at 50% or something less.  After doing this and not liking the result I finished painting the truck and the result was 100% painterly effect from Topaz Impression.

I'm not a big fan of applying a Vignette to my images.  The reason is most of the work I see online, this technique is heavy handed and obvious.  I want to direct your eye without being obvious.  I used Viveza to apply control points to darken the foreground and background without being obvious about my intentions.

If you want to try adding a painterly look to your images I recommend either Topaz Impression or Alien Skin Snap Art.  Links and discount codes are available on our website.

Original Image

Monday, December 11, 2017

Why We Fly

As artists and photographers we tend to be an opinionated lot.   Some folks are pro this brand of camera and have what appears to be contempt for other brands.  I think this is typical of human nature,  I have noticed this type of rivalry around favorite sports teams.  I think when we become passionate about something, we can not help but be opinionated as well.  I'm not seeking to change any of that with a short blog post, but perhaps some perspective on why we fly drones and the occasional push back we hear from photographers and others that find flying drones somehow offensive. 

First why we fly.  I must admit I enjoy flying and at this point I'm over 100 flights and it's been a long time since I had an accident.  There was the time where I crashed into a tree.  I was suffering from a bit of overconfidence in my flying abilities and that was a good lesson.  As such I fly a bit more carefully these days.  Also I recommend that people get a cheap quadcopter to learn on before spending the big bucks on a real drone.   Yes I crashed a couple of times while learning. 

DJI is the market leader in the drone market and their products are very easy to fly.   The crafts are GPS stabilized and this makes flying much easier.  The craft goes just where you send it and you don't have to worry about the craft drifting or being pushed from moderate winds.  Without the GPS, flying under these conditions would be challenging without experience.  So yes there is a learning curve and like anything else the more you do the better you get as a pilot. 

Back to the reason we fly (both Denise and I fly).  Flying a drone gives us a vantage point that would not be available otherwise.  For instance, the roof of the Waterside Woolen Mill feature above.  When we were in Palouse this past summer Denise took a shot of the Miller House that is otherwise not available.  The reason it is not available is because the family that farms the field the house sits on is adamant that photographers shoot from the road and not step on to the field.  Her shot of the Miller house was one of the best taken during that trip in my opinion. 

When I started flying I liked to shoot down on the subject, what is commonly called top down from altitudes of a 100 feet or so.  Denise has a different approach,  she prefers to shoot at heights that are much closer to earth, perhaps 10 of 20 feet off the ground, This can give much different perspective than you would get just shooting from a standing height.  I find today that I do a combination of top down and much closer to earth.  But please don't tell her that she was a positive influence on my shooting style... 

 Back to people who do not share our love of drone photography.   Most of the time when I'm flying, assuming there is anyone around, people are curious and generally positive.  However, I also hear negative comments from time to time.  I think the best way is for people who fly to do so responsibly.  There are a number of rules and regulations regarding the flying of recreational drones and it makes sense to be aware of these rules and fly responsibly. 

If you would like to start flying, DJI is currently having a sale on their products. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Return to the Familiar

A few weeks ago we hosted a meetup at a place we call the Truck Farm.   It's a wonderful collection of a couple hundred old trucks.  Since I have made several trips to this location it would be easy to say I have all the shots I need and then move on to photographing something else, but I like returning to old favorite locations for a number of reasons.  I think first and foremost the thing I like most is sharing really cool places with fellow photographers.  Also I usually find some new angles and compositions to shoot. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Crash Test

When you are a photographer you like to take pictures.  There are different ways to say this, I prefer to make images rather than take images.  To me this implies I try to put effort into my craft and not just stand there and click a button.   I mean no criticism of others when I say this, it is just how I view the process.  

Several months ago I had an opportunity to watch a crash test at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.   It was not my first crash test, over the last 20 years I have seen several.  But this time I decided to take my camera after first making sure it was okay to do so.   I was told pictures are fine, just don’t post online before the Institute releases the crash data for this particular vehicle.

Having witnessed crash tests before I knew the layout of the crash hall and how the hall will be lit and more importantly the vantage point that is available to spectators.   The car is accelerated toward an offset barrier using a catapult.  Just a few feet short of the barrier the vehicle is released so it impacts the barrier under its own inertia.  The engineers make the vehicle hit the barrier at precisely 40 mph.   With the car located down an enclosed ramp from the crash hall, it makes the several hundred feet or so trip to impact.  It is worth noting the crash hall and ramps are climate controlled and the crash test dummies are put in the cars only moments prior to the test.  The dummies have specific requirements for temperature.   This is just a small part the highly scientific work these researchers and engineers conduct.    Crash testing is a lot more than just running a car into a barrier.

Getting back to the crash test and how I planned to shoot it.   Remember I’m trying to craft an image and not take myself too seriously when I say this.  The car starts accelerating toward the barrier and you only have a few seconds before impact.   From my vantage point I figured I would shoot high speed multiple shots and blend them in Photoshop.   I could have used the 10 shop multiple exposure setting in my camera, but since I only had one shot at this, I decided I would just let the camera run at 9 frames per second and I would blend them later.  My other option would be to use a slower shutter speed and hope for some motion blur,  perhaps next time.   Hopefully there will be a next time…

In case you are wondering  the photographers at the IIHS use a medium format camera with a digital back that is triggered by a switch placed on the floor just in front of the barrier.   They only get one shot, but it is at the decisive moment.  The bright lights overhead also allow for incredibly high speed video cameras that  shoot the crash from multiple angles.  

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Palouse in Color

In my last Blog I focused on the use of an Infrared Converted Camera and how the Palouse is perfect for Infrared photography.   In this blog I want to share a few of my color images from this trip.  As I mentioned in the last blog we love the Palouse!  The diversity of the landscape and almost every day has beautiful clouds.  This trip we were treated to some incredible storm clouds as well.

P.S.   If would like to see a few more color images from the Palouse, head on over to the Road Runner Blog.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Ever Changing, The Ever Constant Palouse

We just finished up what has become our bi-annual tour of the Palouse.  For those who don’t know the Palouse it is the largest wheat growing region in the country.  But we love the Palouse for its large rolling hills that resemble the shape of sand dunes. The farmers in the Palouse also grow a variety of legumes and canola but wheat is the primary crop.  The fields are often partially planted which presents a ribbon of color and textures.  Throw in some iconic barns and we think you end up with a photographers paradise.

The ever constant part of the Palouse is its iconic small towns, dirt roads and farms.  With each visit so much remains the same.  The people are very friendly and welcoming, very little seems to change.
The ever changing part of the Palouse can partially be attributed to its current popularity.   During the pre-tour scouting tour we happened upon a favorite old farm site to find the smoldering remains of a beautiful red barn.  We asked a nearby farmer if he knew what happened, but he did not.  In talking with some of our friends who also lead workshops we heard of a second barn that burned to the ground and we heard rumors of another photographer who was doing woolies in the area.  We have no way to know for sure that this beautiful old barn succumbed to a such a fate,  but it would not be the first time in recent memory that an iconic location was damaged from this technique.   (Full disclosure, we occasionally shoot woolies, but we always do it in a safe and responsible manner.)

We rolled up on another favorite location during our pre-workshop scouting that had signs posted “No Photos”.  This owner has a restored Texaco station on his property with a nice collection of old trucks.   We have visited this location several times over the last few years.  But it seems a large workshop group invaded the property at 6:00 AM recently, not considering this this is also this gentleman’s home.    As I mentioned above, the people of the Palouse are very friendly and will welcome strangers onto their land, but the key is to seek permission.   This past trip I had several people thank me for asking.  I assume that is because there are others who don’t ask for permission.

I think most landscape photographers subscribe to the “Leave No Trace” Philosophy that is asked of us when we visit a national park.   We need to remember to keep that same philosophy in mind whenever we shoot.   If you sign up for a trip with us, please know in advance that we do not trespass on private property and we treat and expect our clients to treat the landscape like the treasure that it is!

In spite of the bad behavior of just a few,  the Palouse is still a wonderful place to visit.   The area is so vast and the photographic opportunities so numerous we look forward to returning in 2019.

P.S.  The image above was shot with my Nikon D200 converted to standard Infrared by Lifepixel.  We highly recommend Lifepixel for IR Conversions!   Click here for info;

Friday, January 27, 2017

Iceland Part II

We just returned from our second tour to Iceland this winter.  Our first tour was in December and our second was about a month later in January.   In this case what a difference a month makes. During our first trip temperatures were almost summer like and we had a lot more rain than we would have liked.  A month later the temperatures were in the teens for the early part of our tour and instead of rain we had snow.

The good news was we were finally able to get into the ice caves.  Denise has posted images from the Ice Caves on our Facebook Page.

The shot above was from our first afternoon with the group.  It was very windy and as a result the seas were quite stormy.

We will return to Iceland this August and we still have one spot available!