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

Related Images:

Replacing my Favorite Photo Editing Plug-in

Google recently announced they would no longer support Nik, a photo editing plug-in for Lightroom and Photoshop.  I, like many others had become dependent on Nik in my editing workflow.  I was even one of those who spent a huge sum for Nik in the early days before google bought them and started distributing it for free.  While I can’t understand google’s decision to scrap such a brilliant piece of software, I’m moving on.  

Recently Scott Kelby published a video course on his KelbyOne site on this very topic…replacing Nik with Macphun’s Luminar.  I went ahead with his suggestion, and don’t regret it at all.  Luminar is easy and intuitive…easy to learn.  I wasn’t looking for a replacement for Lightroom and Photoshop, simply a Nik replacement.  I think I got something in between. It’s more than Nik.  It can do what Nik did, but more, with more flexibility.  I’ll be using Luminar a lot. With the ability to handle layers, Luminar might even replace some Photoshop functionality eventually.  That will take some time though since I’m quite comfortable with Photoshop…but it could happen.

As an aside, I purchased On1’s software some months ago, and have tried it several times, but it never took hold the same way Luminar did.  It almost does too much…is that possible?  I keep telling myself I need to learn more about On1. 

More IR

Playing around with IR again.  Still having some issues trying to get the post processing right.  It certainly does make great black and whites.  I found for these images taken on a vintage Nikon D70 as jpg’s (I somehow didn’t have it set to raw!!!), my post processing was pretty simple.

No processing in Lightroom

Photoshop – Autotone

Photoshop – Image/Black and White

Levels adjustment

One thing I did that I rarely do is add a lighter vignette to one image instead of darkening the edges.  I thought it improved the etherial quality of the IR scene.

Conclusion of this test Vs. my D810 camera yesterday: I actually like the results of the D810 better, even if it took more post processing work.

Related Images:

Story Telling

What is that special quality in an image that makes the viewer look more than once? Why is it that some images demand more attention, while others don’t.  Both may be beautiful, visually.  Both may have an interesting subject, but the image that stands out goes beyond all that; it makes you feel something.  It tells you a story about the subject.  That story may or may not be exactly as intended by the photographer, but it’s there.  

Whether we know it or not, if we work at our craft long enough, and take it seriously, we usually end up developing a certain “style” and set of favorite subjects. Certain subjects capture our  imagination.  We frame them in a certain way, and we process them in certain ways.  What drives us is that inner need to tell the subject’s story, and tell our own story though that capture. We want to convey that feeling that drew us to take the image.  When we get back home and begin processing the image we recrop, lighten and darken, and do our best to bring out that story. 

Excellence in photography comes from being self-aware enough to understand this process of story telling.  Think about your best images.  What do they say? When you stop to capture an image, what is it about that subject that made you look? How can you capture that aspect of the image? When you process the image, what can you do to help the viewer see and feel what you saw and felt? To  do less than that is to take “snapshots”; brainless, thoughtless, images with no feeling…no story.

Try this exercise.  When you post and share your images, give them a name; not a name describing the subject, a name describing the story.  Instead of naming a scene “Yosemite Valley”, name it something like “Where the earth meets the sky”.  I know for myself, I love landscapes and have great awe and respect for nature’s majesty and power.  I strive to have my images convey this quality.  Give it a try…name your images. 

Why we Post Process

From lousy weather, scaffolding, and dissappointment to something worthwhile.  I travel a lot and enjoy taking pictures on the road.  I don’t have the luxury of waiting for the perfect time of day, or weather, and it seems a standard joke that every time I get to some landmark location, there is almost certainly going to be scaffolding around my target.  I take pictures anyways, and try to turn those dogs into something at home.  This is a good example.

I was in Munich, Germany recently, and decided to get up early to beat the crowds.  I made my way out to the Marienplatz on a dull looking morning, hoping for the best….didn’t get it.  Scaffolding in front of the building, and some patches of blue peaking out around the clouds.  The plaza was a little smaller than I remembered, and my wide angle lense (10-24, on a cropped sensor Nikon D7000), couldn’t capture the entire building without tilting the camera up considerably. As I said…take the picture anyways.  I bracketed a number of shots to combate, what was now a bright sky behind the dark towers. The “before” image is one of those brackets, and illustrates well the leaning back building, due tot he camera tilt.

Considerable post processing, corrected the leaning building, worked the dynamic range issue, and got rid of the scaffolding.  In order to fix the front main entry, partially hidden by scaffolding, I had to take a separate picture of it, and blend it into the final image,  the hidden arches were copied from those on the right side, flipped horizontally, and paste/blended.

image image

I’m including a few more heavily edited before-and-afters. I make no excuses for the heavy edits. I’m not a professional, don’t have someone paying me to stay and wait for the perfect moment. I get what I get, while I’m there. I do make an effort to get out early before crowds, or if I can, stay through the golden hour. Even with that, on occasion, such as the picture I took at 6am in a Munich square…the day way drizzly, and it must have been garbage day, since there were garbage containers everywhere!

Garbage day on the platz.. I straightened, removed the cans, and made the street look wet, as it was when I was there. Ok, I also turned on the street light, and made the window lights brighter. Getting rid of the cans here was actually tough. 

People will always stand around…don’t blame them really, so this was all I could do. At times there were entire tour groups standing in front of me. I waited, and waited…and waited, then removed the stragglers in post. I did add a little sun beam coming from the top right…subtle, I didn’t want it to look ridiculous. 


Taking Care of my Pictures

My iMac Desktop is only about 3 years old but is showing signs of stress.  It has become very slow, and semi-unstable at times.  It has a 1TB internal drive which is 80% full, mostly with my 30k images.  I recently installed 32GB of ram memory, hoping that would help.  It did slightly, but I still get a lot of the “spinning beachball of death”, and frequent non-responsive software.  Running the Apple disk utility shows no issues with the internal hard drive.  I spent hours cleaning our garbage from the hard drive (cache, old files, etc), but the problem persists, so I concluded that it may be a bad disk, or more likely an overcrowded disk.  since the disk is over 50% full, recent software updates (OS and Photoshop/Lightroom) have probably been written on the slowest part of the disk, and/or, there is not enough scratch space for Photoshop and Lightroom to work with the large image files.  So my plan, before bailing out and taking the machine into Apple’s computer configtechnicians is to reconfigure how I handle my pictures, and in the process, how I manage the backups.

Here’s my plan.  I wrote it out to test my thinking.  A lot of it has to do with how Lightroom’s catalog works.

First step is to move all my images off my internal hard drive and create an external Pictures workdisk. The move will initially be done using “Export as Catalog” in Lightroom.  This is so LR creates a completely new catalog pointing at the folders and files on the new external drive.  The software and operating system will be the only thing remaining on the internal drive giving PS and LR all the scratch disk they could possibly want. The LR catalog file will go with the images to the external hard drive.

Note, I thought about keeping my current year images on the internal drive, but decided against splitting my images for the time being, because I like to go back frequently and use old images in composites.

Step Two is to ensure that my Time Machine backup includes the external work disk drive. I believe it will automatically.

Step Three, once I’m sure my new work disk and the Time Machine are working properly, I’ll delete all my images on the internal drive.

Step Four, Set up my Dropsync to backup my work disk to a portable external disk, that I can move off site.  I may use two portable drives so I can rotate them offsite.  I already use Dropsync  with my external portable drive, so this isn’t a new process.

Step Five, Before my trips I will run the “Export as Catalog” process from the work disk to create a travel version of my pictures that I can access on the travel laptop (Macbook Air).  When I download new images from my camera when I travel, they will be on the travel drive (as well as the SD cards, so they are  backed up),  When I return home I can do another “export as catalog” back the other direction to the work drive.  The reason I would use this process instead of just copying the new images up to the work drive, is that I frequently edit images on the trip, before I return.

The best part of this plan is that I don’t have to buy a bunch of equipment.  I can do this with only one additional external hard drive (a 4TB WD hard drive).  I have and use the other equipment, but have never really thought through my configuration, so I don’t use it consistently.


Addendum: as of Monday the 27th, I’ve started step one with a 5Tb WD My Book drive, which I reformatted to work on the iMac.

Almost all done.  iMac now only has software on its hard drive.  All documents and photos are on the external 5tb drive, and being backed up right now by Time Machine.  Final step will be to hook Dropsync back into the process to produce copies on the portable drives, and then just let the process roll.  The computer is back to running almost like it was new!  It worked.



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.

Related Images: