Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Workshops, workshops, upgrades

Did you miss me? Believe it or not, I’ve been too busy with other photo stuff to blog. OK, and with work and life in general... anyway, I’m back.

So first, let me tell you about the Kelby workshop I attended last Friday.

Photoshop CS5 for Photographers, presented by Ben Willmore from NAPP (Kelby Training)


• it was at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre where parking is at a premium, it took almost 2 hours to drive there (and the same amount of time homeward bound).

• They ran out of coffee. THEY RAN OUT OF COFFEE. When we got there, all they had was de-caf. They brought in more coffee for the morning break and promptly ran out again, never to replenish it.

• No food facilities there. I knew that and brought my own lunch, but a lot of people didn’t.

• I think Ben was wearing the same hat he wore 2 years ago.

• The seminar was really directed toward photographers as billed. Unlike the Corey Barker session last year which had limited application for anyone but graphic artists. That said, that’s what they said it was going to be.

• There’s lots of neat stuff in CS5 and Ben knows how to pass that info along.

• By the end of the session, I could already see how to improve my workflow

• There weren’t really any vendors there selling stuff, so I made it out with my wallet intact.

You need to be practiced in Photoshop to get something out of the seminar. There was an evaluation form we filled out, with a check box asking if you thought you were a novice, intermediate or expert at Photoshop. I selected "intermediate" but in hindsight, I've sold myself short. I've actually used and are familiar with pretty well all of the techniques Ben showed us, with the possible exception of "Puppet Warping". I left the seminar wondering how much I had really gotten out of it, but I realized that I did get two things: validation that I was on the right track, and some insights into ways to improve my workflow.

Ben did not spend any time on Photoshop basics. That's what I meant above: it's not a grass roots course, so if you're not comfortable in Photoshop, you'll be frustrated because you won't know how to achieve the results that Ben did. He did spend a lot of time on Adobe Camera Raw, which he uses from within Bridge but it's the same as the engine in Lightroom.

The focus was on the new stuff in CS5 — the HDR engine, content-aware fill, fine selection, lens correction and yes, puppet warping.

If you really want to get up to speed in Photoshop CS5, buy Scott Kelby's book. It's well worth it and as I said a hundred times already, so is a NAPP membership. Click the link at right.

Upgrading to Lightroom 3

That was time consuming. Why? Because I didn't listen to Jim in the first place. My images were scattered all over the place — on 4 different hard drives, in various places. Before I did the upgrade, I reorganized my images and this time I listened to Jim and did the shuffling all from within Lightroom. I now have my master photo archive on a 2Tb external drive (the drive letter is "M". I think I'll call it "Mother"). The LR catalog itself is on the internal drive in the desktop and there's a backup on Mother. Most of the photos themselves are backed up on my other external drive but I still need to reorganize that.

I'm not going to talk much about LR3 here and now: let me get used to it first. Import and Export are different and I had to rebuild things, there are a few neat and sneaky new things like lens corrections and one really really neat thing called tethered shooting which I'll save for another day.

Suffice it to say that the upgrade was lengthy and had to be thought out well, and it ain't over. I still have to figure out how to replicate the settings I've created on the laptop.

I’m off to another workshop

I decided that since I hadn't had a vacation this summer (there are those who may argue that my whole life up here in the Highlands is one big vacation...), I deserved one. So when Rob Stimpson sent a reminder out about the Gales of November workshop up in Wawa, I jumped at it. I’m going, next week. So is Dr. Ron – I convinced him to come too! Go to the website to check it out, and don’t be jealous...

I haven't taken a lot of pictures. So without further ado... these are 3 images from a rainy Sunday afternoon walk. One of these days I'm going to try to publish images just the way they came out of the camera. Well, maybe not today...

Pine Sentries
In some places, pine trees grow in straight lines. I had added some (white) post-crop vignetting to this image, but on second thought, didn't like it and removed it.
The rain produces saturated colours. So does pixel processing in CS5, Topaz and LR3! I did an HDR of the same image and it's not as crisp as this one is.

Late Autumn field.
Across the road behind my house. Some painting effects.

I bought a new toy. It should be waiting for me at my mailbox when I get there tomorrow. I'm not going to tell you what it is, I'll save that for next time... stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Fall Colours 2010 has come and gone!

And a great success it was! First thanks go to the creator of the fine weather we had: it was a little cool, but we had awesome sunrises and pretty good sunsets as well. I have to admit, though, that the sunset on Monday after everyone except me had left, was the best.

We were a "Group of 6". A good number because I was able to seat everyone at the table easily, we could look at our photos on my monitors without trouble, and everyone had a place to plug in their computers. Thanks for the great zucchini dish, Shannon (and the recipe), Kathy for the pies (which weren't baked, we didn't know that but caught it in time!), Bernie and Josie for their insights and Liz for a breath of fresh air!

I have some images from everyone to post on the site, as soon as we get the formalities out of the way. In the meantime, I see that Shannon put up a blog posting with a few of her images, here: I LOVE the first image she posted. I wrote that I wished that when I grow up, I could be like her!

A few of the venues I selected. I showed this map and some others like it on Friday night in a PowerPoint I created outlining what I was hoping to accomplish during the weekend. Although there was a teaching element to it, all of the participants were experienced and excellent photographers so I didn't want to create a rigid atmosphere. My intention was just to plant some seeds, and let the individuals make them grow in whatever direction they wanted.

My intent was to go out on Saturday and shoot images by following the "rules". Everyone did. Then on Sunday, I told people to go ahead and BREAK the rules. I don't know yet if anyone did and if they were successful. We'll see when they send me some images! I did, though:

Notice how your eye goes to the 'window' which is the brightest spot in the image, and which is centred left-to-right? But if you stay with the picture for a while, you look at the texture of the ceiling, which is really the focus of the picture. I broke the rules, just to see if it would work. Did it?

By the way, I'm enamoured with HDR and Topaz-enhanced images. This was also a hand-held multiple exposure (breaking another rule, about using a tripod!) and I set the edge glow quite high. The tree is centred in the window. How many other rules did I break?

In the same location (my neighbour's old barn), where Liz and I went to shoot for a bit on Sunday afternoon, I got what I consider my best "art" shot of the weekend:

This is cropped from a larger image. I call it "Chain, Chain, Chain". The motion blur is due to the slow shutter speed, and no tripod again. Breaking the rules!

I said we got some good sunrises ( see Shannon's blog for the best shots of the group, in my opinion). I did my crazy HDR thing...

...but I also got a few more conventional images which you can see on my Smugmug Gallery here. I took a couple of good 'people' pictures, especially of Liz, one of which is here:

I enhanced the eyes in Photoshop, and softened the image by reducing the clarity in Lightroom, that's about it. I deliberately didn't crop this one too tight because I wanted to show her as a photographer.
I mentioned the Monday night sunset. I was chainsawing down some rose bushes (hope they come back next year!) and turned around to see the most AWESOME sky I've seen in a while. I dropped the chainsaw (which cost me at least 45 minutes reinstalling the chain that came off the track!), grabbed the camera with whatever lens happened to be on it (the 12-24mm wide angle) and ran behind the Red Umbrella Inn to try to get a few shots before it went away.

I took this picture of the Inn as I was running out there. Not an HDR or anything, this is what it really looked like! "The Sky is on Fire!" .
Then I took a series of shots, all hand-held (no tripod: I told you, I RAN out to get there before the sky changed!). It's hard to choose my favourite, but this ranks up there:

All of the participants said they'd like to come back again. I'm still waiting for more feedback which will guide me in future workshops, and I'm planning to do more of them. Email me if you want me to send you details when I design the next one.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Fall Foliage 2010 is here!

People will start arriving in about an hour! Here's hoping for some decent weather.

I got up early this morning and made these images:

Both of these images are 5-shot HDR's but the first one was created in Photoshop CS5 and the second one with Photomatix Pro. Both were tweaked with Topaz Adjust. I was disappointed with the dawn light and drove away: then came back when I saw the sun on the hills in the distance!