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PIXelations 12

my LAB notes…

by fotofinish , 03-13-2006 at 08:44 PM (311 Views)

A friend of mine gave me a very interesting book about using the power of the LAB colorspace in Photoshop. I really never knew that much about it before. I had only used it for sharpening on the Lightness channel, as this article by Michael Reichmann describes it.

Now, having read most of this book and experimented with a few of my photos, I have decided to incorporate at least the Curves portion of what I learned. I will only use this when I need major changes to compensate for color or contrast deficiencies, until I can further experiment and understand the power that LAB has if properly used.

Essentially, these are the steps:
*** Edit, Convert To Profile; Profile = Lab Color, Engine=Adobe (ACE), Intent=Perceptual, Use Black Point Compensation. This conversion method does not introduce as much noise as going from Image, Mode, Lab Color.

*** Add a Curves adjustment layer. Notice in the Channel dropdown that there is Lightness, A, B. The A and B channels contain all the color. Lightness is used for contrast adjustment. In channel A, the upper left is the green side of this channel and the lower right is the magenta side. In channel B, the upper left is the blue side and the lower right is the yellow side. Assuming you have configured your grids (by ALT-clicking in the Curves grid) to show more squares of the grid, by moving the diagonal line in channel A at the origin point in the upper right over to the left by, say, one grid box along the top, you have increased the amount of magenta in this channel. By moving the other origin point of the diagonal to the right an equal (or, as needed any amount or not), you increase the amount of green in the channel. Dan says that if you have a log of green trees or grass in your image, changing the diagonal in the A channel will make the green color pop out more. Similarly changing the diagonal in the B channel will also increase or decrease this channel’s colors.

*** The Lightness channel works the same way as the other two channels. This can greatly or subtly impact the contrast of the image. In addition to moving the end points of the diagonal, by using the eyedroppers you can also make the curve more of an S shape as needed, as you may have already done with Curves in the RGB colorspace.

*** Convert back to RGB when you are ready to finish your usual workflow.

Dan’s philosophy is that typical human taste has the desire to make colors in a photo more pronounced than may have actually been the case in reality. By strengthening the color in each of the channels, the end result is that the photo will have more “pop” in its colors overall.

This method is most effective for portrait work, or for flat-looking photos, or photos with a color cast.

General reasons to go into the LAB colorspace:
*** Increase variations in colors.
*** Make certain colors purer.
*** Use the Shadow/Highlight command to open up shadow detail.
*** Increase contrast in a small tonal range.
*** Simplify difficult retouching.

My meager attempt to paraphrase some of Dan’s ideas should only serve to entice you to purchase this book. Understand, however, this is by no means a beginner’s book. But given time and patience and practice, this book will change the way you have manipulated color till now!

Visiting the Lightroom

by fotofinish , 03-23-2006 at 07:39 AM (333 Views)

I just saw an hour-long demo of Adobe’s new product, Lightroom, Beta 1 ,courtesy of Michael Reichmann. This DVD came as an extra DVD with his latest Video Journal issue. These are my impressions and opinions.

First of all, this beta product is right now only available for the MAC pc. It seems to be geared toward the photographer who has to deal with large quantities of photos shot in RAW mode primarily, although once the product is officially released, it will also handle jpg’s as well. The claim was made that Lightroom can be used to apply similar settings across a multitude of photos. Now, this is not different than what PS (Photoshop) already has. The power comes in its ability to adjust color, or convert to black and white. It seems to also be able to quickly print one or many photos without having to navigate through so many setup screens and options. In short, the emphasis in Lightroom seems to be on streamlining the photographer’s workflow. There are four main menu items: Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print.

The Library item seems to me to be the biggest drawback. The product wants you to store your photos in its database. I think you may actually not be required to do this, but most of its navigability is centered around this database. I need to understand this more before I can pass final judgment, however, but I am concerned about having to commit to this. Photo storage and Browser-like navigation in Library has taken on a similarity with Adobe Bridge in CS2. Although it may be similar in purpose and functionality, it still seems quite different.

The Develop item is its coolest. All work is done in RAW, at least in Beta 1, without harming a single pixel! All changes are in the form of tagged information about the image. This information only becomes used when output needs to be generated, ie, prints, web jpg’s, or import by PS.

The RAW converter which is already a part of PS is only one facet of the Develop item. It is still used for coarse adjustments to the image. But the fun really begins with several of its specialty palettes. Color adjustments can be made to highlights and shadows. The operation is similar to working with Curves in PS, but the interface is achieved through the use of sliders which seem to be more intuitive, very much like some currently available third-party PS plugins.

There are two palettes specifically for black and white conversions: a Channel Mixer on steroids, and a toning palette, similar to Duo/Tri tones in PS. It works like some currently available third-party PS plugins.

For bulk operation, a Preset can easily be created for any of your favorite palette operations. With presets, you do not have to first open a set of images, but rather can be applied to a group of pre-selected images in the Browser. These presets are similar in concept to Actions in PS, but they are not macros.

This product does not replace Photoshop, however. The point was made that if an image requires a lot of manipulation in the form of adjustment layers and masking, PS is the only place you can perform this. Remember, Lightroom is not meant to replace PS. It is a workflow enhancer.

My overall feeling is that the new RAW enhancements are almost worth the price of purchase. But there remains too many questions yet regarding image storage. The thoughts of having to buy two major products, Lightroom and PS, don’t excite me. The thoughts of having to work in two different products also doesn’t excite me, although in CS2 you still have to first convert your image in Adobe Bridge and then work in CS2 for the rest. I may download the Windows beta of Lightroom, once it becomes available.

Michael Reichmann has a link here which describes some of which I discussed above.

Do ya feel lucky? Well, do ya?

by fotofinish , 04-03-2006 at 06:55 PM (298 Views)

Sorry, Clint, but, yes, I guess I do. Whether this is wishful thinking or not remains to be seen. B&W magazine is hosting a photo contest, so I thought I would give it a try. Here is my entry:

My actual submission is in black and white, per contest rules…

My Objective
The day Jayne and I visited Charleston, SC, was unseasonably warm, even for Charleston. When we came across this scene, I knew immediately that I wanted to capture the joy of the children at play in the fountain. Further, I wanted to shoot with the sun streaming through the water. This created the daydream-like effect I wanted. It is out of focus because I handheld the camera at a very low shutter speed, but I wanted this to add to the aura of joy. This was a late afternoon shot also in keeping with my theme and the symbolism of the last moments of summer carefree fun. I hope the editors don’t view the out of focus effect as a flaw. What do you think? If nothing else, I have my pipe-dreams…

New Work
I am in the process of adding to my Hartford Reflections website gallery. This gallery’s objective is to show off some sites in Hartford, CT from a reflection point of view.

Here’s the latest image:

I have a few more to add over the next few weeks, so stop back for a look!

My Epson R2400 and Crane Museo Fine Art Paper

by fotofinish , 04-10-2006 at 08:10 PM (329 Views)

My Epson R2400 printer started displaying its low ink message. Three K-3 ink containers were impacted: light black, light magenta, light cyan. The rest of the inks are at 50 percent. I bought these at my local photographic supplier Simonds Photographic. The inks cost me $13.99 a piece. I have gauged my usage to be 35 8×10’s, all printed on Epson Premium Luster matt paper, and 8-10 4×6’s, printed on Kodak Ultima Photo paper in matt finish. Approximately 10 of the 35 prints were black and white. This is my first benchmark with my new printer.

While at Simonds, I looked for the new Crane Museo Silver Rag, which, according to this review, is supposed to be one of the best papers to use for fine art black and white prints. The dealer did not have any left. I decided to try this paper’s predecessor, Museo, still considered a good choice for black and white prints. I wasn’t prepared for the fine quality of the print and the superb texture and feel of real paper. I was impressed. 25 sheets cost me $49.95. I downloaded the paper profile from Crane’s website and it worked perfectly. This paper is well worth a try.

Foxy Lady

by fotofinish , 04-19-2006 at 06:37 PM (332 Views)

To continue for a moment regarding the Crane Museo Fine Art Paper, I did some reprints of my favorite color images onto this paper. It has a warm appearance, so I think it may not suit all images. But I printed a Fall scene like this one

and the color and clarity was wonderful. Since it is heavier, it absorbs the inks more, so for intricate detail it also may not be appropriate. I am getting spoiled by the feel of real paper. When the right image is printed with this, the result truly is special, a work of fine art, rather than just a fine photo. I would like to find a paper that might be a cross between this type of paper and the Epson Premium Luster paper for the added image detail.

This past weekend, Jayne and I went over to my neighbor’s house before sunrise to see if we could catch a glimpse of a mother fox and her pups. Apparently they had set up temporary residence under my neighbor’s utility shed. We were in for a treat since we were lucky to cath the pups playing.

I brought my tripod and 100-400mm L IS with cable release. I knew my chances of catching a shot or two with this light-loving equipment were slim. I wanted to try anyway. And of course, most of the activity took place before the official sunrise. The action was roughly 40-50 feet away. At first my lens would not even get a lock, but as the light began to increase, I was able to capture a couple of frames. Because of the ½ second shutter speed and the activity level of the pups, all of the snapshots were at best a touch blurry. As we sat in the dark kitchen watching through the windows, we still felt very privileged to share this family moment with the mother fox.

And here’s the proud but watchful parent:

Unexpected Shoots

by fotofinish , 04-27-2006 at 09:01 PM (342 Views)

Jayne and I went to visit her family in Pennsylvania this past weekend for Russian Easter. Her mother asked if I would take a few family photos. I also thought I would bring my full equipment in the odd chance I would get to capture a few images of the wind farm in the area.

At first, the skies were white as the afternoon began. I was not going to try for a shoot. But as it got closer to sunset, the skies became a little bluer, just enough to at least scout out the area for next visit, maybe even take a few test shots.

My ultimate goal is to get as close as possible to the windmills. However, this time I found a lake over which I could shoot the ridge and the wind farm. As I set up my tripod, camera with 18-55mm, and cable release, the setting sun on the bare trees surrounding the lake and the ridge caught my eye. I started working the scene.

Here’s a ridge shot:

I even switched to my 100-400mm L IS for a few tight shots. But it wasn’t until I had captured all the test shots that I noticed this image just waiting to be captured:
This one made the shoot worthwhile. I’d like to see how this will look on my Crane Museo Fine Art paper.

The rest of this wind farm gallery can be found here. I will return periodically with each visit with my in-laws, if the light is right. I think some Fall shots might also be right.

When I got back to my mother-in-law’s house, she surprised my by asking that I capture some night Church shots. An elaborate grave site is traditionally decorated in the church, so I brought my tripod, and camera equipment over and began to set up. I walked the scene first from various angles to see what would work best. I had already decided that I would also move up to the choir loft later for some more pictures. I took a few with my 580 flash with Lightsphere II diffuser, but I wasn’t as happy with those. They looked like snapshots. I also took existing light shots which I felt came out the best. Here’s my favorite image:

The rest of this Church gallery can be found here.

The Sheepskin

by fotofinish , 05-11-2006 at 06:02 PM (265 Views)

My son Josh graduated from Keene State College in New Hampshire this past Sunday. Jayne, and I and Sarah joined Jayne’s folks and her sister Janet and her husband Jerry at the ceremony. There were over a 1000 graduates listed. We were seated about half-way back from the stage, of course on the wrong side for a face shot of the handshake on stage. But I did bring my 100-400mm L IS USM, so after a little cropping, I was able to capture some decent shots like the one below:

After the ceremony, I took a few family portraits using my 580 flash with Lightsphere II diffuser. These were just snapshots, nothing special. I put a few in this gallery here. My two boys are done; just Sarah left, then no more college payments!

To Coach Mike…

by fotofinish , 05-29-2006 at 07:21 AM (264 Views)

This entry is dedicated to a friend and former colleague of mine, Coach Mike. Back in the mid 70’s and early 80’s, Mike and I worked at Simsbury High School. Thirty five years later, Mike is still there, when I left after seven years, and is going to retire. I wanted to take a few pictures for him in honor of not only his incredible coaching talent and dynasty, but also his many years of total dedication to the kids and faculty at Simsbury High. As a biology teacher, his infectious enthusiasm and disciplined approach enabled many of his former students attain their collegiate goals. As a ranking member of the local teacher’s education association for several years, he looked after the professional needs of his colleagues. As a sedentary person for so many years, he took on the lofty task of running and completing his first roadrace, a marathon, no less. This inspired him to turn his methodical, concentrative powers toward sports, as he head-coached men’s track, girl’s cross country, and the cross country ski team. And the best part of all of this, he and I are friends.

This past week, the school held the CCC track and field league championships for both boys and girls. Six schools were represented and competed on the school’s newly-completed 8-lane all-weather track. Incidentally, Mike helped to design it!

Here is Coach Mike:

…and two more:

These pictures came out OK, not great, but not bad for my first attempt at track and field photography. I used the wrong lens, 100-400mm L IS, but that is all I really had. It is not an action lens. I used AI Servo, multi-shot, and all 9 focus points, ISO 800, cloudy white balance, shutter priority at 1/400th. It was a perfect day for a race and for photography. I took more than 300 pictures, of which I only bothered to process 30 plus. A few more can be seen here.

In addition to the above, Coach Mike also has his own website where he offers coaching to any athelete trying to attain some personal running goal. He currently is helping one athlete to try out for the Olympic trials. His website is here.

I’m proud of you, Mike…

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