Friday, May 14, 2010

Playing with Photoshop CS-5

It's like being back at school. JUST like being back at school. Oh, wait — I AM back at school! Well, sort of. I'm staying in Residence at Humber College and I'm in a typical college dorm room.

Here's the thing. I was looking for a way to stay overnight in Toronto when I was teaching the motorcycle course at Humber College (I'm not just another pretty face! I ARE a motorsickle instruktor, even tho I can't spel it). Humber rents out residence rooms like hotel rooms during the summer, except at half the price! I thought I'd give it a shot. Reasonably comfortable, very convenient to where I teach, obviously and I was going to say it brings back a lot of memories except I'd be lying because I went to McGill University and we lived in Montreal so I never actually lived in residence. Over the years I've stayed in res a number of times on training courses and whatever, though. The difference is, I seem to be the only one around — it's pretty quiet. Cheap, though.

There's 24/7 security here, no way to sneak someone in if I were of a mind to. Oh, well. What do you want for $30/night? Anyway I'm here for a couple of days, then except for a couple of breaks, for the next two weeks. I miss having coffee and my own bathroom but...

So some interesting stuff. I loaded Photoshop CS5 onto the desktop computer (still running CS4 on this laptop, I haven't had a chance to install it yet) and as soon as I had it up and running, I loaded an image into it to test it, and played with one of its new features: Context-Aware Cloning and Fill. Since I'm not an RTFM kind of person, ("Read the F(*^'in Manual), I looked up enough to find out how to find it, then gave it a shot. What I did was to make a loose selection of an area, then hit shift-f5 and Enter.

Amazing. How the program knows what you want to remove, I don't know, but it does! Here's my first test — I removed the climbers and the plants growing on the canyon wall in under a minute.

This image was taken at a waterfall just off the Blue Ridge Parkway down in North Carolina. I can't remember the name of the place, except that it was just South of Grandfather Mountain and was just a short hike off the road. Click on the pictures to blow them up to see what I did.
Fast forward to yesterday, when I shot a couple of photos in my light tent, to update some images on my First Aid website. I needed a cover picture for my "Consumer Products" section so I gathered a variety of kits and threw them haphazardly in the light tent, fired up the strobes and banged off a few shots. Sure I did. Try, "I made what I thought was a pleasing arrangement", then I fiddled with the camera and flashes until it worked — it didn't right away, something to do with the setting of the flash function in the camera, but I finally got it.

So the intent was to create a floating product shot and since all the other shots on the site are on a blue mottled background, I thought I'd create one. I close-cut the kits, used the "render clouds" filter, colourized the background, threw in a drop shadow and voila!

OK, now don't ask me what I was trying to do next. I have no idea. I think I had just installed Topaz Adjust 4 or at least linked to it in CS5 and wanted to play with it, or I wanted to do something with the background, I don't remember. What I did was to select the products in the image, then selected inverse (so everything else was selected) but I think I had the product selection copied to the clipboard, and I hit shift-f5 and Enter. Holy Water, Batman! Look what happened! I added a couple of Topaz-layers (making sure it worked in CS5) and here's the result!

I liked this image so much that I used it as the cover shot for my Promotional Items section on the website, just the way it is. You have to admit it's cool. OK, you don't have to admit it, but *I* like it. So there.

A couple of days ago, I was watching the birds at the feeder and was amazed at the variety of species that were visiting. The Robins were fighting with the squirrels (amazing how mean they are when they're probably defending a nest), there were chickadees, American Goldfinches, white-breasted nuthatches, a couple of downy woodpeckers and a pair of hairy woodpeckers, white-crowned sparrows, a pair of rose-breasted grosbeaks, some blue jays and common grackles, among others. OK, I'm not all that knowledgeable, I bought a picture book of bird species and when in doubt, visited and posted pictures when I couldn't identify something. I still don't know if it was a Wood Thrush or a Brown Thrasher. The grackles are mean. They infested the area in a swarm (everyone knows that it's a "gaggle" of geese but did you know it's a "murder" of crows? Cool, eh?). So I don't know if it's a swarm of grackles but an "infestation" sounds good. They viciously attacked all the other birds and kept them away from the feeder when they wanted to gorge themselves. Fortunately they were easy to scare off, I just had to open the door and they were gone.

So this is what a grackle looks like, although the head and neck colour is more of an irridescent blue and the body is darker than the picture shows. The white flecks in the image are snowflakes. In May. Go figure. 

And this is a female grackle. In the animal kingdom, the males are the vividly coloured, showy ones!
The nuthatches kind of hang upside down to feed. Here's one on the Scotch Pine. OK picture except for the twig across the bird.

CS5-time. Let's try the new context-aware healing tool. I kid you not. This edit took a total of 5 seconds. I'm suitably impressed.

So that's my first exposure to CS5. I wonder what other magic it has to offer?
Have you ever had trouble getting access to an event or a scene to get pictures?

When I got that shot of the perp being arrested for the jewellery store robbery, i shot from far away with the 200mm lens, although the police let me nearer than I would have thought. The professional looking equipment helped. I was at the scene of an accident a while later -- I threw on a green reflective vest and the cops assumed I belonged there. In fact they shooed away some other sightseers and let me right into the scene. So the secret is, look like, and act like you belong there! It works.

Last summer I wanted to shoot the kayakers at the Canadian Whitewater championships and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get in, or get close. So I made up a "press" badge. I made a new one this year. Look official?

You can get a bar code off the internet. This one says "photographer". Oh, and when I'm asked who I work for, I say I'm a "Freelancer" but since I've had some pictures published, I add, "the Toronto Star", the "Toronto Sun", "CTV", "Global TV", etc. I'm not lying! They've all bought pictures from me! OK "A picture". LOL

I'd best get to bed. I have to be up at 5:45am to get to a meeting and it's already 2:00. Bye for now!