Black and White Photography Workshop

I’ve written before about how much I enjoy conducting photography workshops.  Its also a great way for the Photo Club to fulfill what I believe its mission to be.  Now granted, I wrote that mission statement, so it might be somewhat biased.  I’ve been President of the club for the past 3 1/2 years.  This being my last year.  That mission statement might be re-written by the next person in this position, but for now it works.  Onwards to workshops.

ive come to believe that if you want to anything better, teach it to someone else.  Since becoming president of this club I have conducted more than a dozen workshops and loved every one.  Some of the topics I scheduled myself to teach I knew next to nothing about.  A little pressure to jump into hyper-learning mode.  They worked out fine.  While I try to convince others in the club to try this approach I secretly worry that if too many get into the workshop teaching mode, I’ll lose my chance to conduct as many as I like…it’s a weird quandary.  On the other hand I’d like to continue honoring our commitment to our fine public library, but can’t conduct workshops every month myself.  I know one thing for certain, even when I’m no longer club president I intend to keep teaching workshops as often as I can  

I just complete a  workshop on Black and White Photography, which I absolutely have come to love this past year.  I really fell in love with Black and White when I had several printed.  Seeing the actual prints, and hanging them up, made all the difference.

my Flickr gallery of black and whites.

Workshop Materials

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Trying something new

     There is always something different to try in photography.  I purchased a Hoya Infrared filter and got busy trying to figure out how to take interesting IR images.  I’ve got an old Nikon D70, that works (sort of, except when its not working), and I had read that the D70 was suitable for IR photography.  My two newer cameras, the D7000, and D810, were not supposed to be as good.

I’ve taken quite a few pictures over the past week with all three cameras, and can confirm that the D70 is a lot better using the Filter than either the D810 or D7000.  The two newer cameras aren’t complete busts with the filter, and I still feel that if I can figure out the Post Processing with those two cameras, they may be good.  The D70, on the other hand, works great.  Here are some images with the D70.

My post processing with the D70 is not too complicated;

1) Import into Lightroom

2) Lens correction, and then White balance using the dropper, clicking on what should be green, like grass or tree leaves.  Auto white balance is usually ok also.

3) Into Photoshop, and then

4) Auto tone (Image/Auto Tone)

5) Then reverse the Red and Blue channels by using the Image/Adjustments/Channel Mixer

6) Back to Adobe Camera Raw, and Auto White balance again, then desaturate the reds.oranges, and magentas in ACR, HSL.  I’ll frequently also go way down on the highlights slider, to bring back some detail in the white areas.

7) Done…except for maybe some dodging and burning.

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The looks on their faces…

shipchannelbridge I loved it.  The other night when I announced our next monthly assignment at the Photoclub, the look on everyone’s faces was “Whaaaa???  Our next assignment is to go on a Scavenger Hunt.  Seems quite simple no?  Everyone is to go out and take a picture of (one each), a Bridge, at Tree, Railroad tracks, and an animal.  Most photographers might just take normal pictures of these things…may even do it during the golden hour for great lighting.  What we are asking everyone to do is to get creative with normal, things we see all the time; take a different “point of view”.  I’m looking forward to our sharing session next month.  We’ve got an amazing group of photogs in the club, and I’m sure there will be some real creative efforts.  I posted more of an explanation with links to some web resources on the club website.

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2014 Retrospective

I’ve been through too many years to do this. Set goals, forget goals, reload and try again. 2015 is here. Time to look back at 2014 and what was accomplished, and think about the future.

I follow quite a number of photographers, and at this time of year many will do a retrospective on the past year…some will include their best shots.  I thought the exercise might be good for me.  I taught quality, and Deming for a number of years before retiring.  Improvement over time is important, and improvement is impossible without constant re-assessment, planning and action.  I won’t get into re-assessing everything about my life, but I will talk about several things that are important to me.

Before going any further I will dispense with my golf.  Golf is my other passion, and it ain’t getting any better.  I continue to love the game, and my wife and I continue to play, as golf was meant to be played, on our feet, carrying our bags.  This is no mean feat in Houston’s summer heat, but we do it.  For that I am grateful.  My game is another matter.  As I grow older golf balls don’t go as far, so eventually long par 4’s turn into short par 5’s.  From a game standpoint though, I’ll count 2014 a success.  I play reasonably well, and I’m still playing and loving it.   I shot my personal best in 2014, a 76, and had a number of games under 80…of course I also had games over 90, but who’s counting?  For a game like golf, thats about all you can hope for.  Great game.  One where I can feel my father’s presence when I’m out there.  He also loved the game.  For 2015 I hope to stay healthy and still be walking 18 holes a day whenever I’m home and the weather permits.

Travel is a passion, partly because it allows me to get to places where photography is great.  2014 was great for that also with trips to such strange places as Monte Negro, and Serbia, and wonderful times walking in England, and Utah’s Zion Park. New England in the Fall was beautiful.  2014 also included a wonderful Disney Cruise to Alaska with my grand-daughter.  All had great photo ops, in addition to wonderful experiences.  2015 is planned out nicely.  I’ll be posting when those trips are complete.

What were my best shots in 2014?  The term “portfolio shot”  is a great one because it defines the shots I would include in my portfolio, if I were a professional photographer?  It enforces a certain discipline in selecting shots.  I went through my many shots from this past year (starting last December, actually), and pulled out all my “portfolio” images.  One thing I started doing in 2014 as a final step in my post processing is to keyword any special photos in that batch as “portfolio” in my attempt to be more selective in what I show other people.  Unfortunately even using this keywording step I still end up with way too many “portfolio” shots, when I go back over the entire year. Trying then to winnow that number down becomes somewhat futile because I love different images for different reasons, many have nothing to do with the technical or esthetic aspect.  So here goes.  These are the shots I chose out of thousands, both because I like them as photos, but also because they represent, in some sense, 2014.

Re-assessing how I progressed as a photographer in 2014 is somewhat easy.  I’m not sure if my images have improved, although I would like to think they have, but my understanding and appreciation for the craft has moved forward by giant strides.  I was lucky enough at the beginning of 2014 to be elected as President of our local Photography club.  Its not a small club (close to 100 members), so some aspects of this “job” have been trying.  Being involved in this way with Photography all year long has really focused my attention on reading and learning everything I can about it.  In past years I tended to back away from photography when I wasn’t traveling.  Houston is no garden spot for a landscape photographer, and in the summer its daunting for anything outdoors.  Being involved in this club has been a godsend for me.  My hope is that in 2015 I can do even more for the club, and in turn learn more from that activity.  We have many good photographers in the club, and I have a lot to learn.

My main goal for 2015?  Chill.  I need to not be as intense as I’ve been.  I know I drive some people nuts.  I thank God I’m surrounded by the people I am surrounded by, otherwise I’d find myself on a desert island somewhere.  How can I achieve that goal, other than to just keep trying?  Here goes….

 

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Sometimes Nature Just Does Not Cooperate

I got itchy to take some pictures last night.  We’ve got a trip coming up to New England to take Fall pictures (Leaf Peepers we are).  In dreaming about that trip I just couldn’t wait, so off I went to our local river walk.  I sometimes can get good sunsets there, but its no Fall paradise.  We seem to get some Fall color here in Houston around mid to late November.  I’ll have to go back to this spot.  Driving over well before sunset I could tell it wasn’t going to be great.  There were no real clouds, but I wanted to try my 10-stop ND filter again so I went anyways.

River Grove Park(click on picture to enlarge) Anticipating mosquitos, I had long pants and a jacket on, in spite of it being 85 degrees and muggy.  I’m glad I did.  There were mosquitos.  Great Fall scene; standing there alongside a mosquito infested swamp, sweating in long pants and a jacket, taking pictures of dark green trees, a brown river, and barely any sunset…oh well., isn’t photography fun?

I ended up taking 50 or so shots, most of which I deleted as soon as I saw them on the big screen, because I had failed to clean off the filters I was using before starting.  I began shooting with two three-stop ND filters stacked.  That wasn’t working, especially with the dirty filters.  When will I ever learn to slow down?

I switched to the 10 stop filter and began experimenting.  Using an app on my iphone I was able to calculate shutter speed.  Shooting at f16, I was getting about 1/20 of a second without the filter, so the app was good at getting me about 1minute with the filter.  I decided to try for a long exposure “bracket” series so I could blend them back home in Photoshop.  I never was very successful.  I’ll need to play around some more.  What I did do, however was grab a bracket without the filter to blend in the trees and walkway, while using the long exposure for the water.  It seems to have worked out pretty well.

While taking the pictures there were two muscovy ducks swimming back and forth in the frame about 15-20 yards out from the pier I was on.  They showed up as blurs in most of the shots, except for the real long exposures, where they completely disappeared.

This picture is actually a blend of three shots.

one – No Filter, exposed for the walkway and trees

two – No FIlter, exposed for the clouds and sky

three – A long exposure for the water

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