Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Just Like the Movies

I confess that I don’t spend that much time in Lightroom and I hear about how good it is, but I’m from the old school and having been an active user of Photoshop for over 20 years you tend to stick with what you know
Recently I mocked up- a tongue in “cheek” movie style poster for a couple of friends of mine. They are gamers and love the dark and dingy worlds of Sci-Fi and Fantasy.
With my theme of choice already picked I then looked through my photo library for a suitable image.
It’s important to note that colour toning does suit particular composed photos. Ideally landscapes or interior buildings are perfect; however you can still do this on Portraits depending on what you want.

I found a photo I took recently of the two candidates preparing for a stroll around a nature park the day was slightly overcast but lacking real texture in the sky.   
Original Image
First thing was to undertake a bit of digital wizardry to extend the image left and right
Firstly I duplicated the main image and created a mask to separate the current skyline from the foreground. Then using a variety of cloning brush sizes and varied opacity and hardness, I cloned the additional grass areas and extend the paths out to the horizon.
So as not to create too much of pattern I imported some elements from another photo taken in the same area. This gave me the Water trough (right) and allowed a bit more randomness across the field.
To ensure the paths looked natural I used the menu Edit-Transform on an isolated layer and used the perspective and Distort tools to adjust the flow.
Next I duplicated the completed extended layer and created a mask around the two subjects.
Next I picked a photo of some clouds from my ever growing texture library and after some further cloning and duplication, I used this to represent the fog bank.
Cloud Source Photo

Using a layer mask I blended the clouds on top of the main image and again used the Transform tool to apply a little bit of perspective to it.
Next I added the adjustment layers.

Gradient Maps.
These are great to use when colour toning your image as they are none destructive and they can easily be edited and adjusted. You can also use Layer blending modes and control opacity and finally add custom masks.
Photoshop comes with a series of Photo toning pre-sets.
Gradient Map Menu - Photoshop
I used the Photographic set which give me access to Sepia style effects for the foreground grass, but  I opted to create a custom black and white gradient tone for the sky.
For the ground the layer blend was set to Hue. The sky I set to Darken but pulled back on the opacity. The good thing about the gradient maps is that you can adjust the brightness sliders so that you have full control over light, middle and dark.
All the text elements where created in Illustrator and imported across for the final composition.

After a few extra tweaks and reviews I settled for the result you see here. I saved the master file as a layered PSD, then flattened and exported to JPEG for web
Gradient Maps to create Movie Poster effects
 Lots of fun and easy to do. Pop over to Adobe’s learning centre and review some of their tutorials.



Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Street Photography RAW

A very short blog entry this week as I'm heading away for brief break , but I’m sure more will follow on a new photographic subject I have decided to pursue.

During some downtime this week I read an interesting article in D-Photo by PJ Heller whereby he interviewed a couple of well-known New Zealand street photographers.
Street photography is a subject I hadn’t given much thought to in the past but after reading the article I became intrigued.

So what did I do?,
Firstly set my camera to a fixed setting, bit of guess work required as you have no idea on where or what your camera will focus on.

ISO250 for starters, mainly because my street walk downtown was at 7:30am and the light is only just starting to come through.
Exposure Speed I set to 1/200 as I’ll be walking along and not stopping to compose my shots.

F2.8 as this is the optimum setting for my Sigma lens and ranged fixed at 17mm.
I carried the camera by my side as I walked down the road. I made a few judgements calls to allow for (hopefully) some interesting shots.
One such call was to wait a few seconds to allow the crowd at the crossing lights to move ahead before I travelled on.
Another was to tilt the camera to obtain some interesting angles, and the final one was to keep an eye out in shop windows and look to grab reflected scenes.
Once I got home I downloaded the images and was pleasantly surprised.
I decided to convert most to Black and white as the article I had read tended to focus on street photography from the late 70’s to the early 80’s.
So here are a few of the results with no post processing except for converting to Black and White.
I think this guy knew I had my camera

Kids running across road

Scooter man (slightly composed shot)

Morning mail, or Txt

Skater via Shop window

Watch this space

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Shooting from the Hip

It's those little surprise photo ops that really seem to deliver the goods, and last night was no exception.
I attended my daughters pre-ball function at her friends house and she was very excited as it was her first school ball.
It was a nice low key affair with only a few people but it did provide me with a few good opportunities to work on my portraiture skills.
The house had some wonderful interior designs which really added to the scene However I will save the portraits for later as I would like to obtain permission first from the parents.

The highlight of the evening was perhaps the following few shots.
All these shots where just point and clicks, I didn't even bother fine tuning my camera settings just kept the camera on Manual, with AWB and my wide angle Sigma lens.
The first shot was taken on route in the car with my daughter in the front seat. I was in the back which was intentional, as I was hoping for my daughter to drop the passenger mirror for last minute makeup check.
And bingo she did not let me down.

f3.5  1/3  ISO400 28mm (Cropped)

As you can see by the camera settings, the exposure time was very low and being in a moving car I had to be steady. However this adds to the theme and my intentions where to capture something raw and natural.

My next shot is definitely RAW and not staged. In fact this photo was snap reaction to what has turned out to be a wonderful scene.
I had just come out of the house and walked down the driveway around the back of a beautiful 1956 Chevy which had been hired as the ball transport. 
Two of the students had decided to "engage", with no time to bring my camera up to eye level I just swung it to hip level and clicked.
I couldn't get multiple shots as the camera response was slow so I knew the exposure time would be low.

f4.5 1/4 ISO1200 17mm (Converted to BW)

Needless to say I'm actually happy with how this opportunistic shot actually came out.
f4 1/6 ISO800 24mm BW (Digital Tweak)

The last one is perhaps my favourite, This young boy was in and around most photos with his cheeky grin. I had placed myself in front of the Chevy for a nice grill shot, when he popped into the frame. I just clicked away and this is the result. Brilliant!!.
...and I'm happy to say nothing was missing from the car when he departed :).

A great night well hosted, and a nice opportunity to continue to improve my portraiture skills.

Tip: Always carry your camera and practice quick draw shooting :)

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Devils in the Detail

Over the weekend my friend Will popped along to our local airfield to watch a series of displays in honour of those that fought and lost their lives at D-Day in 1944. I was unable to attend the event as I was across town photographing a Chatham Cup football game between two Northern premier teams, Central United vs Glenfield Rovers.

The weather conditions certainly were not favorable for outdoor photography so rain coats and rain covers for our gear was well in order.
Later that evening I received an email from Will showing my one of his photos. This was certainly a rare shot as it’s showing 3 Strike masters in flight, perhaps not seen over the skies of Auckland for probably 30 years, so a very special moment. Will informed me that the photography conditions shooting skyward was hard going due to overcast skies and glare.
 f6.2 ISO100 1/1250 100mm    (Photo By Will Mays)
I was asked to provide some input on how we could improve the shot and lucky for us we had a good CR2 RAW file to work with.

Using Adobe Bridge with ACR plugin and Photoshop I performed the following.

First clicked on Auto to see what ACR wanted to do, and very little it did. A slight adjustment to pull out the darks but apart from that nothing too assist. So I reset the sliders and resorted to manual.

The first thing to correct was the colour shift around the edges. The image had a strong Magenta and Yellow cast. By reducing this effect I would limit any unforgiving “Halo’s” during colour correcting. To do this I used the ACR lens correction pane.
Fixing Chromatic Aberration

Next back to the basic adjustment pane, first I pulled the out the shadows to 100% then reduced the highlights. So as not to lose too much in the highlights I balanced this adjustment using the whites and the darks. The cloud background actually has a lot of detail so I increased the clarity slightly and the contrast to lift the cloud edges, with a slight reduction in the contrast.
Basic Adjustment pane

To gain more control over the lights and darks I used the Tone curve to pull back a few mid/high tones.

Then finally back into Detail pane to add a little bit of sharpness so that the plane details was more evident.
From here I then opened the image into Photoshop for further adjustments.
I duplicated the layer so I could isolate the Planes using masks. Then with a few additional tweaks around the colours, I grabbed the dodge and burn brush using the midtones adjustment option and set the brush opacity to 10%. Just a few light strokes here and there added a bit of flavour to the clouds and provided good contrast.
Digital Tweak done in Photoshop

Being mindful not to overcook the image in Photoshop I decided to do nothing further to the image.
Just goes to show that a RAW image offers a lot of information to work with, get in and have a good look around your image before you flag it as rubbish and commit it to the digital Dustbin forever.