The drive home from Photoshop World was great! We were fortunate to have our sons Brent & Jake join us at Photoshop World and than follow us home to head out together in a day to the Reno Air Races. The skies were simply killer so once we turned off Hwy 95 and started to head west, I grabbed the D800 & 24-70 and drove with them in my lap. When I saw a photo, I would stop in the middle of the road, shoot and than keep on going. This really slowed down our progress but gave me time to think about things.
About thirty minutes later I noticed the boys weren’t behind us anymore so I pulled over. After a while, we started to wonder so we turned around and drove back about five miles to find them pulled over shooting. These shots came from that stop. The top is a simple click with Silver Efex Pro doing the heavy work. The bottom photo is a pretty common site here on the eastside. I popped out the flash on the D800 to give it a little glow. I’m posting this now because they are forecasting snow for us this coming weekend. Fall is here…ya baby!
You know when you have a friend in Joe McNally when on his blog he bestows you with such a title. While I don’t think I’m that light on my feet, I do love clouds! During our Napp Photo Safari during Photoshop World, the heavens gave us a heck of a show and I was more than happy to watch, shoot and hopefully inspire others with the experience. Both of these shots are in my book simple clicks, taken with the D4 and 24-70AFS
The scene above is the one Joe describes in his blog. For me, such a scene is a simple click but for many, clouds and B&W is a mystery so I explained what I was seeing with my eyes and how I would translate that to a photograph. We start with the light and how we want to use it to pull the eye through the frame. With that known, we than look at those elements that prevent that movement of our eye and do what is needed to exclude them from the frame. Than we make sure we still include those elements we do want, set the exposure comp to -2/3 and go click. Than head into Silver Efex Pro 2 and do a simple 80 structure move, a little levels for the blacks and we’re done. Some from the safari have emailed asking for the video I mentioned. You will find those along with all my videos in, yeap, the Moose’s Video Library. Thanks to all the folks who joined us…great day!
We are incredible fortunate to live in paradise! As I’ve mentioned probably too many times, summer in the Eastern Sierra is great with our monsoon storms. The clouds just play in the heavens as they float by. For this reason, I’m constantly heading out to the front deck to look up and see what is floating by. My favorite rig is the D4 with 24-70AFS, the format fits perfectly for shooting among the pines in the front. Here’s a series from last evening.
What you have here is the out of the D4 Jpeg and the finished PSD file. In this first image, first step in finishing is ACR using my Landscape preset. In Photoshop, the Apsens in the dead center of the frame were replaced with the Clone Tool with fir as in the rest of the frame. Then the image was run through Silver Efex Pro 2 and finished with Pro Contrast in Nik’s Color Efex 4. The entire finishing process took less than two minutes.
This next image in the series is the one I like the best. Camera gear and finishing all the same except this time, Pro Contrast was replaced with a Levels layer just to pull the blacks down a tad. Oh ya, I removed a couple of tree tops in the lower left corner with Content Aware Healing Brush. Why do I like this one the best? I have that “burning bush” feel to it, really strong graphics. I like that.
I like this last image more as a color than B&W, I think. I like the shape of the cloud but the tree is a little too bulky for me. The camera was all the same. In finishing, the first thing you’ll notice is the limb in the top left missing. That was done with Content Aware Fill. Then the rest of the finishing was done exactly the same as the first image. I hope this series will encourage you to just step out your door, no matter where you live, look up and make a click. Exploring the backyard and simple processing can open up all sorts of creative doors!
If you do, then run! Run to find a great foreground and subject to put with them. Clouds have the magic to transform the common into uncommon just by their very being. The key is to place your subject in the clouds but not letting the clouds overcome the subject. You want to use the clouds to give the imagination to roam and then bring the mind’s eye back down to the subject. This requires not only a great shape but also highlights and shadows that move the eye through the frame. In this process, you might have to use a split grad and the point of capture and Curves in post to manipulate those highlights and shadows. But if you have clouds, you have photographic gold!
A bigger file with greater “depth” should by defacto produce a richer B&W image. I thought I would push that just to see if the math works. This is a hangar shot where 30% of the light is from sodium vapor. Processing is simple Silver Efex Pro 2 and the results, well I am quite thrilled with this impromptu test!
We had driven past it a couple of hours earlier, but it was in full sun with bald skies. Yuck. When we came back by, the thunderstorm was building and the aperture in the clouds let enough light in to bring drama while providing a great background. So was required was an illegal U turn as we were shooting.
The only real question was, what lens to use? There was actually no right or wrong answer because everyone could make up and tell their own story. I went with the 18AF for a couple of reasons. One was its angle of view, the other is because it’s rectilinear (that’s not a PC). With that, it was simply a question of getting in the right place to relate the three buildings the way I like in concert with the clouds. So, I danced a little as the clouds and the aperture in them moved about.
The bottom image is the one I like the best, then the color version and finally the top image. When I stopped, I saw this at a B&W image but the clouds were changing and that made me move changing how I wanted to actually arrange the three buildings. Then a burst of sunlight came out when made me think color. All of these images are a handheld, 7 image HDR finished with Photomatix Pro and Photoshop.
Ad you know, I love to chase clouds. What you might not know is I can get really frustrated when I see great clouds and can’t do anything about it. This is just such the case. The storm cranked through Mammoth and the last clouds were really cool, this fishbone pattern. No matter where I drove, where I walked in the few moments I had, I couldn’t make a photo of this cool pattern. Time is the biggest issue because with the high winds, the clouds change shape and move much faster then I can do. In these cases, I still make a shot and stick them in a file as a visual reminder of possibilities. Argh…such a cool formation, what a suckie photograph!
Purty simple, the after & befores. My B&W recipe is all over the site. The location though is what sells it!
“Why did you frame it that way?” This question comes up often when I post landscape images. I appreciate the compliments that come from these images but with them often comes frustration from folks. Why can’t they take the same images? Everybody can, it just take a little time and, a little thought and, a little gear and, a ton of passion. These are the two images from our Mono Lake outing that I like the most. Why, and this is the really important, are these my favorites? It has as much to do with capturing the moment as well as the capture!
The vertical is an image I had previsualized and hiked to the location on the slope where I thought I would be able to make the image. From where we parked, the clouds on the left merged too much with the crest. At the same time, Mono Lake was too much of a sliver in bottom of the frame. So by moving up the slope and to the east, I was able to get the frame you see. Yes, I knew when I went click that the final image would be B&W. Quite often when I have clouds like this with that type of blue sky behind them, I know the contrast between the two sings in B&W. I use that knowledge in the framing of the entire image. Using Informal Balance, I use the two banks of clouds to pull the eye down to the saddle (Conway Summit) and then to Mono Lake.
The bottom frame I have to admit, looses something in this smaller thumbnail. The visual depth set up by all the clouds heading all the way down to the eastern horizon is something I waited for the wind to create. Then in the foreground is the sage that has a great pattern in its detail but is lost in the thumbnail. It’s the visual depth in this combination along with the slipping on my ass down the slope to make the click which is why I like it.
And here’s the deal, you might not like them and that’s OK! If I didn’t have a blog, you most likely would never see these two images. They are just a special moment in time when in chasing a storm, I made clicks that bring home that adventure. In this day and age when so many post images on the web looking for reassurance their images don’t suck (and many do but no one has the nerve to say so), look for that reassurance from the inside. And realize that next week that photo you liked today you might not like then. That’s how your photography grows!
Sometimes, just sometimes I like both ways so I take both because, they both work!
Ya Hooooo! While it might be just a one day wonder, right now I’ll take ANY storm that brings moisture and mood to the Sierra. Sharon, the dogs & I loaded up the truck and headed north in search of some atmosphere.
We didn’t have to go far, just over the ridge to find the clouds coming down into Mono Basin. I pulled over and made the click just in case the wind kicked up and took what clouds we had and either stacked them up so there was no light or, they scattered to the east falling apart. Thankfully, the evening just got better and the chasing more productive. Oh, the star burst, that’s just shooting with the lens closed down all the way. What you see here is what I saw from the highway and what I saw in my mind as the finished image. This is a 5 image, HDR hand held finished in Photomatix Pro, ACR & then Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2.
Our storms so far this winter have been short, sweet and scant. All the snow we’ve had so far as melted off at the house. So chasing storm fronts has been challenging to say the least. I typically set out with just one lens on the D3x, the 24-70. I do this because the sky, the clouds are where the drama resides. I minimize the foreground, pointing the lens up. If there are some wild linticular clouds taking over the horizon, I might go wider but I tend to find going tighter and focusing on specific cloud formations is much more successful. One thing you should notice is there is a foreground, a middle ground and background. Foreground is the sage and grasses. Middle ground are the mountains and the background are the clouds.
When it comes to finishing, that’s pretty much right out of my basic B&W play book. I go into ACR where it all starts. I then go to Silver Efex Pro which does the heavy lifting and then I use Color Efex Pro. There, I use the graduated neutral density and to me, the Blend is the most important slider. You move the Blend slider back and forth and you will see how it does just that, blend the split and it makes a world of difference. Finishing time per image, less then 30sec, down easy stuff. That is of course because the photograph was taken to be B&W.
The bottom one is by far my favorite because of the micro burst, it just brings the storm to life in a still image. And in B&W, it just looks cool.
What follows below are the same images but Silver Efex Pro has not been applied. This is the image right out of ACR. In ACR the blacks are dropped down a tad, Highlights are moved up a tad and the blue is drawn down. And that’s it, it’s real simple finishing. As full color images, there is only one that kind of intrigues me enough to finish as a full color image. Which one is it? I’ll let you guess.
So the outside temp is up to 25, the sun is shinning and my Nik B&W Webinar starts in an hour. Thought I would warm up with a quick shoot. Step outside, looked for the light, detail and texture and went click. What you see above is the results. But it started with this….
How did I know this would work, run it through Photomatic Pro and create a 1 image HDR and then through Silver Efex Pro & CEP4? Drop on by and I hope to share all that and more with YOU so you too can have fun and success in the B&W realm!