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.
When multiple storms blow through the Sierra, winds plays a big part of the whole process. We typically know a storm is coming because winds proceed it. When we have multiple storms, the wind still comes but as it goes over the Sierra crest, it tends to create windows in the clouds. And these are just great subjects for B&W photography. I’m incredibly fortunate that I can, just like I did here, watch out the windows and when I see the light happening, step out and shoot. How do I know when to step out and shoot?
I look first for some blue sky and then a pattern between that blue and the clouds. I do this because I know this pattern when I do to B&W is what brings the eye into the frame. The Structure slider in Silver Efex Pro pulls out amazing texture and I’ve come to rely on that in these types of images. I first use the blue slider under the Luminance Tab in ACR to darken the blue sky which sets up the contrast with the white. This brings the drama to the B&W. It’s pretty much that simple.
I’m so wishing for the white stuff because right now, our front yard meadow is just brown. Argh! So I went skiing through the files to find some of the white stuff from days past. I didn’t have to go far, Feb in Yosemite. I found these two images which I hadn’t processed yet. I know why they weren’t processed, they are a reminder that I still haven’t got this one shot I’ve always wanted from Yosemite.
When you walk into the Mountain Room on the far wall is this sweet photo of cedars in the fog. I’ve always admired and wanted that photo but have never been presented with the opportunity to create my own version. But I’m always looking and when I see the fog mixing with the trees, my lens points in that direction. Now there are three elements in that photo in the Mountain Room I like. First is obviously the fog. Next are the trees and lastly is the color contrast of the trunks of the trees in the fog. Now the top photo is a total looser in my book. While it has the three elements, they just aren’t working. I like the bottom image better but it’s missing that color contrast which I’m looking for. So, if it ever starts to snow again, I’ll be out looking.
Now when it comes to the camera capture end of this process, exposure is the first thing. This is one instance where I overexpose in the camera and then yank back the blacks in post. This is the first time I finished images using the improved Graduated Fog in CEP4. It did a really nice job enhancing the fog that was present without increasing the noise or blur. So while I don’t have the image, I a camera and finishing battle plan. But dang, where’s the snow?!
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.
That sky is real, it’s not a B&W version attached to a color foreground! That’s just amazingly powerful and I love it! These four blog postings came in about 20min of great photography because as you might expect, it started to rain. Wow, really sweet!
Sharon & I had a marvelous couple of days the beginning of the week as we played host and tour guide to our good friends Adam & Brandon. They are part of the incredible Kelby Training video crew and they were out with us in the Sierra filming my latest class on fall color. We were filming exactly one year to the day from last year when the fall color on the eastside was spectacular, just hitting its peak. As you can see, the peak has come and sadly, gone. It’s one of our favorite times of year here with the color, light, nip in the morning air and the excitement of the snow to come. This is a favorite grove of Aspens of mine where I have spent a lot of time over the last couple of decades shooting. I feel like I know these trees personally.You look close enough, you’ll recognize some of them from my book Captured.
I know, I know, it’s a waterfall. Like the grove of Aspens, I know this waterfall really well. Family legend has me falling in when I was a little Moose making quite a scene. Adam & Brandon being from FL haven’t seen the Sierra before and in fact, this was Brandon’s first visit to CA! Waterfalls are pretty darn rare in FL so since I had the opportunity to share a favorite with them, I did. Filming was complete so they grabbed their cameras and I took along one as well. We got there and the sun was out making for spotty light, not to appealing. Then the sun went behind the clouds and I liked what I saw. So I closed the lens down to f/22, ISO to L1 and made this hand held 1/2sec shot to blur the water. The trunks are what make it for me along with the spots of color. And the best part are the memories of taking this while creating the class with our dear friends from FL. Perfect!
Photos captured by D3x, 24f1.4AFS on Lexar UDMA digital film
Coming up with just one click that expresses all you are seeing and feeling can be a real challenge! I can’t say I push myself to tell it all in one photograph, but I try to edit while shooting so I’m not approaching a scene shotgun style. The question comes to my mind then, “What has grabbed my attention?” In the top shot I like the three waterfalls for sure but I also like the feel of the water in the foreground. But it’s not a strong enough like to stay with that so I zoomed in closer. I would have loved to be physically closer and shoot across the top of the water to the falls but since we were on a bridge, getting closer wasn’t an option. I zoomed in but it wasn’t strong enough. A piece of the pump house and a bridge were in the frame (been removed here) was part of the problem. But more was the fact that I wasn’t smacking you, the viewer of my image with the subject. The bottom frame, that’s the one I like the best. It’s tight on the subject with much of the unneeded elements removed. And the subject, that Milky Way Caramel in the water comes out.
Finishing was pretty straight forward. In ACR I worked the Highlights, the whites to make them as clean as I could. That makes the “caramel” visually pop more. After that, I used CEP4 Detail Enhancer to pull out the detail in just the rock. If your wondering about shutter speed, it’s real fast, 1.5sec. That water is ripping! mtc…
Photos captured by D3x, 70-200VRII w/1.7x on Lexar UDMA digital film
I am TOTALLY loving Lake Placid, the area and the people! The folks the Mirror Lake who is hosting DLWS are just taking it over the top for us so you almost don’t wanna go shooting (fires, cookies, hot chocolate for example) but you know me, a clicking I must go. We were scouting and found this little pearl, Giant Mtn Roaring Brook, just a delightful place. In fact, as you read this I’ll be there exploring it some more. This is afternoon light, I want to shoot it in morning light. These are all 5 image hand held HDR images. It’s the only way I know how to capture the large range of light my eye sees that the camera can’t capture in one click. That warmth from the sun shinning through the fall color is special and I wanted every drop coming through in the image. Way hand held HDR? I can do it and hate tripods. Assembly using Photomatic Pro and finishing in PS. The bottom frame is a favorite so far of this fall season.
Photos captured by D3x, 14-24AFS on Lexar UDMA digital film
We were driving down the road to Westport, NY looking at the really cool horse race coarse when I yell, “STOP, BACK UP!” we just snuck up and pasted the Westport Train Station. More then that, some great light. We backed up, pulled in and I hoped out and took a quick HDR iPhone photo. I really liked it so I ran back, got the “real” camera and proceeded to shoot. I knew I was going to black and white but wanted you to see both here. This is a hand held, 5 image HDR finished with Photomatic Pro and Silver Efex Pro 2.
Once the opening in the cloud moved, I moved and knew this image would be more what I call, “Elvis on Velvet” HDR that I like as well. Not the greatest click or HDR in the world but it was a ton of fun to capture, share with my friends and reminds me of good times!
Photos captured by D3x, 14-24AFS on Lexar UDMA digital film
The light started to break for just a heartbeat. Sharon had walked ahead and came back and said there was a clear view further down stream I might like better. So the three of us walked on down. Sure enough, a better spot that one shooter could work and since Kevin got there first, I worked over his shoulder. The light popped out and I grabbed the horizontal shot. I like the right side, hate the left side but it had promise. Then the sun came out. I instantly turned the camera vertical and framed up the shot you see here. I was still using the same rig and settings, I just had the blessing of the light that back lit the rising mist to make the photo. 30min spent, one clean click. Happy camper!
Photos captured by D3x, 70-200VRII on Lexar UDMA digital film
The Close Ceremony of PSW was the best ever! It’s hard to wrap up in that short time all the amazing going ons of Photoshop World but we sure do give it our best effort. After my closing piece, my good bud Dave Black during his closing remarks called me Mr Clouds. It is true, I love clouds as I’ve mentioned more then once here. Well on Saturday morning we woke up to some great clouds! So with lens pressed against the glass and towel killing reflections, I made a click.
Well, the clouds followed us all the way home (or we followed them). It took a long time to get home, I kept stopping to shoot the clouds. I would stop when I saw patterns in the landscape and clouds (especially shadows on the ground) that would so the size and grandeur of the clouds. Now quite often when it comes to clouds I find less is more and these are some examples of that.
Now I really love this photo and for a detail you can’t see in this thumbnail. But if you click on the link below, you will see why. In the lower right corner is a 18 wheeler, a nice, all white one that I waited to get right where you see it in the shadow of the cloud and at the bottom of the frame. It says size better then anything else. And it is a little detail! And how was it finished? Well, just come to the Nik Webinar and find out!
A very popular image in our landscape gallery is this image of a storm hitting Battery Point in Nor Cal. One question I seem to get a lot is, “How hard is it to get the timing down to capture the light beam?” When I say it’s impossible, I get the strangest looks and after a moment the statement comes back, “But you did!” Actually, no I didn’t! The light on a lighthouse comes on when? Just before dark and stays on during the NIGHT, it’s not on during the day. Some do come on during a dark day when there is fog, but on this day there was neither. So then how did I get the light beam? I made it in Photoshop. Along with my dear friend Joe Sliger, we invented the technique in Photoshop to create a light beam. That’s because with out it, it’s just a house on a rock. You wanna lighthouse, you gotta have a light! There is no romance in a house on the rocks. Like all great images, romance comes from the light!
What always gets me is, and I’ve been told I should take it as a compliment, but no one ever notices the waves. Waves don’t break around a rock all the same time, they break on sections as the wave moves towards the shore. And, on an overcast day, waves are gray, not white. But that’s the beauty of our minds, when there are pieces that it can latch onto as being “real” then it just fills in the rest of the pieces as being real. The beam of light and the extra waves I added to make this photograph complete, all just go with the scene. I wish I were that good or that lucky to capture all of this in one click, but that’s not the case. But I do know the limitations of the click to know what pieces I need to add to finish a photograph. And that’s just some of what you’ll learn at…
Here it is plain and simple, I want to help folks with their photography and the vehicle we’re going to use in this class is Photoshop to help improve your captures! And we’re going to do that by using Photoshop to learn how to be better at the camera and the computer. We’ll talk camera settings and lenses, curves and exposure, Silver Efex Pro and lenses, HDR and composition. They go hand in hand and knowledge of both is so important I feel to get what you see and feel reaching the heartstrings you’re sharing your photography with. And that’s the end game to all of this, grabbing heartstrings.
One of the unique things we provide you is a 14pg Location Shot list. We want you to shoot while you’re here but shooting is not part of the class. So to encourage this, we provide ideas of places to shoot, when to shoot there and how to find it for shoots around the Mammoth area. One of the locations we provide info to for you to shoot at is Bodie. This class offers this and so much more!
Wanna learn more….click here…or simply call WRP @760.924.8632 or 661.204.1506. Next workshop is 8-9 Oct, 2011 (couple of seats open).
You have any idea how many disappointed viewers are coming to this site today because of that title? heheee. In landscape photography, rocks or boulders are often an essential element in our photographs. Now there are ugly rocks, purty rock, round rocks and boring rocks and each one can make a great photo. How do you do that though? There are actually a number of things you can do make the photograph better. Let’s start out with of course light.
In these top to images, you see rocks in real soft light. Everything looks great is soft light. Can you see the difference in the two images though when it comes to the shape of the rock? The top image, the rock looks round because of the overall shape of the rock captured by the fisheye lens. The next image, shadows give the rocks shape. Shape gives the rock character and character makes the viewer look at your rocks (does that ever sound bad). But that’s the game, getting the viewer to look at your….(you were thinking I was going to say rocks there, huh) your image.
Now we change the quality of our light and the shape of our rocks change as well. Here, with light just a couple of hours old, the edge of the shadow is very hard. Now we’re more dependent on the actual shape of the rock to communicate its shape rather then using the suggestive quality of soft shadows or lens selection. And that’s OK, we can make those work for us as well. Do you see how?
Putting the “subject” rock against a background and then using the hard edge of the shadow helps to make the shape and rock stand out. Now in all of these examples, the rock is the subject and the landscape is just the stage filling in the blanks telling the story of where the rock lives. The next problems many have photographing rocks is thinking they are dead and while technically that’s the case, that’s not how we should think about them in our photograph. It’s up to us to give them life and when we do that, we give life to our entire photograph.
We headed down to Crowley for out 4th of July picnic dinner prior to the fireworks like I’ve been doing for 51yrs. There simply is no betta! As we left the house, the skies were dark o’dark and on the drive rain started to hit the windshield. I love out summer afternoon thunderstorms. The smell of the wet sage and rabbitbrush, the moody skies and the great light, it’s simply paradise. But not tonight, it’s fireworks time, a pyros favorite night of the year! Well we got down to like the the skies and let loose enough energy that they started to clear a little. Of course I had the camera so I had to make a couple of clicks.
What you have here are back to back, handheld 5image HDR images. I shot them at f/22 to get the starburst around the run. With the could moving, I knew the odds of getting it were slim but I tried anyways. You can see in the top image, no cigar. In the bottom image, I not only got the starburst but look at the funny “ray” of light in the right lower corner. I have no idea what the light is striking, rain, rain & dust, no idea what but it’s cool. The finishing just took seconds using Silver Efex Pro 2. Great start to the picnic!
Photos captured by D3x, 24-120VR on Lexar UDMA digital film
John Muir has been a hero of mine since I was 7 and first read his work. Later, I was deeply honored with the John Muir Conservation Award. And it brings us great happiness to live right in the heart of his Sierra, what he correctly called The Range of Light. It’s days like today when the thunderstorms roll in that the drama in the light underscores John’s love for these mountains. If you’re a photographer, the inspiration of his words and the scenery before you are a monumental challenge. Without that passion then you can’t feel the passion and if you don’t feel the passion, those looking at your photographs won’t feel it either. There is a reason Ansel traveled up and down the Eastside (where Mammoth Lakes is located) shooting black and white. He felt the passion and he shared it with us, the viewers of his photographs. And that’s what Photoshop for Shooters is all about!
I received 14 emails today seeking help with B&W photography. “Seeing” a color image in B&W doesn’t come overnight. There is as much feeling and seeing to make a good B&W. When it comes to a classroom to explore this, there is none better then John Muir’s Range of Light, right where Photoshop for Shooters is being held. Currently, the location list participants are being provided is 7pgs long. It includes everything from locations, lenses, time of days, directions, everything you need to be in the right place at the right time. From your explorations we then explore in class your findings, talk about the click and then go to finishing those clicks. We will spend a heck of a lot of time with B&W, what makes a great B&W and how to finish that great B&W. What you see here is just a small sample of what you’ll see in your viewfinder and on your computer monitor by the end of the weekend. And best yet, you’ll have it in your heart to take home with you. We have an opening for July and a couple openings in October (760.924.8632). We hope we can share this magical place with you!
I was watching the news coverage of the tornadic activity in the Midwest. The iPhone chimed, a text from my dear friend in OK. All I see on the iPhone sitting next to me is a photo of a flattened home! Dread instantly grabs me as I lunge for the phone and quickly touch the photo to see the text message. No words, just another photo of a house, half gone! I text back quickly, I knew it wasn’t his home but wanted to know what was up. The Falcon Lake tornado that took a couple of lives is just a hop and skip from his house and he was there as a first responder. Our heart goes out to all those folks who have had their lives devastated by this amazing act of nature! While none live there now, Sharon’s family come from Joplin and tornadoes have come up in conversation more then once in the last three decades. It is a scary part of life in Tornado Alley.
In 2007, my dear friend Kalebra Kelby said, “I’m going storm chasing.” Without hesitation I said, “I’ll go with you!” There was no hesitation and by the next day I was all set for a May, 2008 storm chase out of OK. I wanted to see a tornado first hand and man, did we seeing 11 the first day! I will never forget standing on that ridge watching as CNN reported live, “A hog farm was just vaporized” as we watched hogs fly. That was my first tornado to ever see and its power though barely a EF1 was jaw dropping! Even so, it didn’t prepare me for what I was about to see a few days later in NE.
Kearney, NE, 29 May, 2008. Rail cars were picked up and dropped like match sticks as the tornado touched down in the middle of town and did what tornadoes do. No one was killed but it was the scariest beauty I’ve even seen in my life! It was very surreal, we’re racing towards the wall cloud hovering over Kearney (strangely, a town I now frequent while working with Sandhill Cranes) like some alien craft from Independence Day while residence are racing in the opposite direction. I was looking and shooting out the van window as we drove northeast along the dry line (the top photo is from that moment) and I could see the terror, fright and absolute fear in the faces passing us. I thought as we drove past this home, “Will it be here next time I drive by?” You can’t witness such an event without it leaving its mark. There isn’t a tornado I hear about to this day when those faces don’t come rushing to the front of my consciousness. And at the same time, being a photographer, I was so pulled into the magical world of light the tornado produces. That’s why I wanted to storm chase in the first place, the light and the photography but it soon became very obvious that it was the human element that brings the importance of storm chasing to the forefront. That’s because those chasers while out for the video coverage are the eyes on the ground letting the world know where that tornado has touched down. That’s still a critical element not detected by our technology. That knowledge does save lives.
I’m in KS now, I’m not storm chasing but I will be watching the skies. I’m am completely sucked in to the power and beauty of nature in all of its forms which includes weather. I dedicated a whole issue of the BT Journal to storm chasing and if you’re looking for even more info and to see some incredible storm photography, I highly recommend you chech out Jim Reed, an amazing person and photographer! All of those who have had their lives changed by this beast, our prayers go out to you. Having seen this first hand, I realize there is little if nothing I can do and while it seems so trivial I can only relay the one thought I always have. The sun will rise tomorrow.
Don’t get too excited, this top image is the before image. Now that you can breath again, continue on reading. There was a time when I use to go after cactus like I do birds and mammals. For the life of me I can’t remember what got me so excited about them originally, but I do have all of California Cacti in my files. The funny thing, I had only one in digital until my last trip to the Alabama Hills. While once I had all of these species committed to memory, sadly that knowledge has slipped away. But when I saw this gorgeous example in the morning light, I just had to take its pic. And it’s a perfect example of one of my favorite techniques for shooting a smallish subject while showing where it lives all in one click.
I’m shooting with the 14-24AFS at 14mm at f2.8. The top image is what I see many photographers do when trying to photograph a smallish subject while recording its surroundings. Now there is nothing wrong with that top photo, but I feel it can be improved. Let’s start with lens selection. I went wide so I could bring in more elements into the frame. With the goal being to eliminate elements you don’t want while including those you want, with a wide lens getting closer to the subject is a great technique. In this case, the unwanted element was our dog Benson who wanted to water my subject. Now if you just bent over, the top photo is what you would end up with. By eliminating the horizon in the photo, the expanse of the landscape, the loneliness of the cactus in the landscape is lost. How do you get that horizon line back in? You go down to almost bug level and then get close again to emphasize its size, shape and more importantly, its world. But just getting low isn’t enough, we can do better.
What I like to do is go down low but then come up a little bit and tilt the lens to shoot OVER the top of the subject. You could almost say the film plane is at a 45 degree to the subject. This angle permits you to get a little bit closer, minimize how much you see above the horizon and my favorite, minimize your DOF while still capturing a lot even at f/2.8. How can that be? The subject is kinda round, not square. By moving in very small increments, an inch or two, one way or the other, even at 14mm you can make big changes in what you include or exclude. You can see this technique in lots of my images because while I might have forgotten the names of cactus, I’ve not forgotten this favorite technique of mine.
Photos captured by D3x, 14-24AFS on Lexar UDMA digital film