Category Archives: Photomatix Pro

A Special Weekend in Bend with Sean Bagshaw and Zack Schnepf

Sunset - Smith Rock Oregon - 2013

Last weekend, I headed north from Menlo Park to Bend, Oregon – and a photo workshop led by Sean Bagshaw and Zack Schnepf. This image is from our visit to Smith Rock on Saturday evening. A special spot – with some very special clouds that evening.

Sean and Zack are masters at both the outdoors and post-processing images. They’re both very familiar with the luminosity masking approach pioneered by Tony Kuyper. If you have an opportunity, do a workshop with them! Just be prepared – at this time of year – for a couple of long days – up early to leave around 4:15 AM for the morning sunrise and staying up late to catch the evening sunset!

Here are a couple of other images – taken at sunrise Saturday morning (same day) at Dillon Falls along the Deschutes River south of Bend.

Morning - Dillion Falls - 2013

Rapids - Deschutes River - 2013

Untitled - Dillon Falls - 2013

Back to Hawaii in Monochrome with my Canon 5D Mark II

Tree in a Field on Mahukona-Niuli Road - Hawaii - 2009 by Scott Loftesness

One of my favorite things about Flickr is how I get to see some of my older images – just because someone else found them by searching on Flickr or Google! Each day, I enjoy looking at a report that Flickr provides of activity on all of my photos.

A couple of days ago, an earlier color HDR image of this photo turned up. It brought back memories of that place – on the Big Island of Hawaii on the road heading east of of Hawi. I shot this as a 3-image handheld bracketed shot with my Canon 5D Mark II. The original image I posted on Flickr was processed in Photomatix Pro.

Tonight, I opted to process the HDR using Photoshop’s Merge to HDR Pro. I then brought it into Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2, added some control points for tweaking before finishing it back in Photoshop with some dodging and burning using some new techniques we’ve been learning.

I find this composition very pleasing to the eye – with that gradual slope on the hillside, the beautiful angle of the tree and the foggy skies above. Ah, Hawaii indeed!

A Special Light – Pigeon Point Lighthouse

A Special Light - Pigeon Point - 2012

My photo adventure yesterday over to the coast was one of those rare ones – I captured so many great images very quickly in the beautiful light and cloudy skies. It truly was a photographer’s winter delight!

I enjoy exploring a wide range of post-processing techniques with my images. Realism is fine – and many (most?) of my images are exactly that – realistic as shot in the field.

But, sometimes, you find a special image that you just want to “push” – off into a different, more artistic direction. Yesterday’s lighthouse shots at Pigeon Point are just the latest example.

I processed this image as a single image HDR from the original RAW file shot handheld with my Canon D600. I used Photomatix Pro for that initial HDR conversion and then imported the image into Photoshop CS6. After a few tweaks in Adobe Camera Raw, I used Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4′s Brilliance/Warmth filter in two passes to shift the color of the sun. There’s something about the warmth of this kind of processing that adds to our appreciation of an image – and it seemed to work in this case.

Finally, I used a few Content Aware fills in Photoshop on various chunks of the sky to smooth things out a bit and remove some potentially distracting artifacts. And I was done.

A “special light” indeed – hope you like it!

Lessons from 2012: What I Learned about Photography

Opera House - Sydney - 2012

Last year on New Year’s Eve I posted my thoughts on what I’d learned about photography in 2011.

Looking back on it, I think 2011 was perhaps the steepest slope in my photography learning curve – it was a remarkable year.

This year, my photography has continued to progress – but perhaps not quite as dramatically as that year of 2011. Looking back on it, I think I’ll remember 2011 as “my year” – when I seriously began moving beyond “snapshots” into serious photography. Here are my highlights of 2012 for my photography.

Capture

Last year I mentioned paying more attention to getting the image right in capture. What’s proven to be most important about that is slowing down – and “working the subject” in the moment. For me, it’s a struggle between my right/left brains. I need to force myself to flip between the more critical, analytical left brain and to get into the more creative right brain. I’m finding this easier to do – the more I shoot in the field, the more aware I’ve become of the flip.

I still worry a lot about getting the right capture – applying all of my left brain analytical skills to that task – but try to flip modes over to my right brain where I worry less about those details and just be creative. In my experience, I’ve begun to de-emphasize the gear and technique and emphasize the “in the moment” aspects – which are almost always surprising – and which I find delightful. Those shots add a lot to my enjoyment of photography.

Photowalks

Once again in 2012, Doug Kaye and I did several 1:1 photo walks around the Bay Area in 2012. These are always special – we pick a venue but let the experience take us where ever it does – at least once a month.

There’s nothing better that doing this kind of shooting – it’s great fun with a great friend and always a delight. As I mentioned last year, these photo walks are a “learning accelerator” for me.

One of my personal favorite photo walks was one we did early in 2012 at Pigeon Point Lighthouse. The light was very special that day – and one of my images ended up being the cover shot for my Portfolio 2012 photo book.

Photo Workshops

I benefited greatly from several photo workshops this year.

Perhaps the most valuable was the Eastern Sierra Fall Colors workshop that Doug and I attended led by Michael Frye. I’d never been to the other side of the Sierras – and seeing the colors in the fall in the company of Michael was amazing. A wonderful experience. I’m a big fan of Michael’s – having taken a private one-day workshop from him in Yosemite with my son David back in the fall of 2010. He’s a great teacher!

Earlier Doug and I enjoyed the Sonoma Coast Workshop led by Derrick Story. We’ve both taken several weekend workshops from Derrick – and learned a lot from each one. This time we headed up to Fort Ross – and had a great time shooting in wonderful light – plus doing a model shoot on the beach at Bodega Bay.

Post-Processing

If I were to label my 2012 photography learning, it’d be labeled Post-Processing. I’ve learned so much this year about how to take an image and make it into something I really enjoy. Lots of new tools have been part of that process for me – including the suite of Nik’s tools, Photoshop, Lightroom, etc. I’ve come to respect the Topaz tools for their ability to simplify and amplify images. And a huge set of learning came from the Lab color techniques of Dan Margulis and, simplified, Lee Varis. A workshop with local expert Mark Lindsay also had a big impact on my awareness of these techniques. 2012 was a great year for my post-processing skills – and I look forward to learning and applying them in 2013.

Portfolio

In 2011, I began creating my portfolio – for the first time. This year, I continued to add to it – such that there are now several hundred images in that portfolio.

This year, I wanted to focus on pairing that huge collection down to what I might consider “my best” – but I failed to do so. A goal of mine in 2013 is to try to do that – to distill my work down to 40 or so images that I consider my best work – out of the 400+ currently in my portfolio culled from the ~30,000 images in my Lightroom library. I’m always amazed at how the great photographers in history are judged on the basis of such a small set of their life’s work in photography. We went to see a Walker Evans exhibition at Stanford’s Cantor Art Museum this year – about 70 photographs represented his lifetime of work in Photography.

In November, I began working on a photo book with my most interesting work from 2012. I used iPhoto again this year to build the book – and the results came out looking great. I gave several copies to family members as Christmas gifts. Here are the photos I used for the 2012 photo book.

Online, I continue to enjoy Google+ where the community of photographers is very strong and engaged. After each of our photo walks, Doug and I typically share a few of our favorite shots on Google+. Flickr continues to be another valuable resource – and the iPhone app update that Flickr made late in the year brought a lot of fun back to using Flickr on the go.

Printing

I’ve been living a digital life with my photography – meaning that I’ve only been sharing bits of images online and doing very little printing of my images. What printing I’ve done this year has been using either Apple’s iPhoto books service or, for individual prints, Costco’s in-store printing.

I realize this is the next and, perhaps, final step for my work – completing the capture to print workflow. I’m looking forward to adding printing to my photography skills in 2013!

Summary

2012 was a different year for my photography – a more serious year and one more focused on both the details of capture but, perhaps more importantly, on the world of post-processing.

I’m looking forward to the new photography experiences and learning coming up in 2013 – including some radically new venues like Havana and Death Valley. Should be fun and rewarding!

My 2012 Photography Resources

See my Cool Tools page for my current list of recommendations. One major change this year was the purchase of a Nikon D600 2 – my first new DSLR in several years.

The Barn at Pierce Point Ranch – Point Reyes

The Barn - Pierce Point Ranch - 2012

Wrapping up this week’s tour of black and white images from Point Reyes and Inverness is this shot of a favorite of mine – the barn at Pierce Point Ranch on Point Reyes. This particular version incorporates great detail in the barn siding – from initial processing as a single-shot HDR (High Dynamic Range) image using Photomatix Pro. I then used Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 Detail Extractor filter to further enhance the detail before doing the final processing in Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2. A red filter helped darken the sky to keep your attention on the planks of the barn.

When I shot the image, I wished that picnic table wasn’t there – but after seeing it for a while I’ve grown to like it being there! Not much layering in this image – just the shadows from the overhang up top and the bit of fencing on the left side. Still, this is one of my favorites from last Saturday’s Point Reyes adventure!

Here are a couple of earlier versions of images of this same barn shot on an earlier trip about 18 months ago.

The Tunnel View at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Tunnel View - Fitzgerald Marine Reserve - 2012

Yesterday, Doug Kaye and I headed out on a glorious January morning for some photography shooting over on the coast. We headed first to one of my favorite spots – Fitzgerald Marine Reserve north of Half Moon Bay. This county park has an iconic row of trees that offer a beautiful setting for us photographers. On some mornings, you’ll get fog – on others, a mix of fog and sun. Yesterday we had a glorious bright sun – but with that low sun angle this time of year.

I call this image “Tunnel View” – mimicking the Yosemite shots of that same name. I just love how these trees frame the path – and provide their own tunnel. The sun and shadows add layers to the image.

I shot this with my Canon 5D Mark II with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS L lens – and post-processed it from a single RAW file using Lightroom to export 0/+/-2 exposure JPEGS for processing in Photomatix Pro. I imported that result into Photoshop CS5 and further tweaked the image using Nik’s Viveza 2, Color Efex Pro 4 and the amazing Silver Efex Pro 2. I did a final blend in Photoshop before importing back into Lightroom for some final tweaks, noise reduction, a touch of vignette and a bit of love (!).

Hope you enjoy it!

Coasting in 2012 – Pigeon Point Lighthouse

The Lighthouse - Pigeon Point - 2012

This morning I met up with Doug Kaye over on the coast – for a morning of shooting – of the photography kind. We started at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and then headed south to Pigeon Point Lighthouse before heading to Pescadero and Duarte’s Tavern (DOO-arts they say!) for a great cracked Dungeness crab lunch.

I’ve really come to appreciate these photo shoots with a friend – especially one who, like Doug, is pushing new frontiers and trying new techniques. As we explore a venue, we see through each other’s eyes – and see things we otherwise wouldn’t see. Try it sometime. It’s great fun!

This image is of the Pigeon Point Lighthouse on the San Mateo County coastline south of Pescadero. The light this morning was beautiful – and this black and white treatment features it!

This image was shot as a 3 image handheld HDR with my Canon 5D Mark II. I post-processed it first with Photomatix Pro (using undeveloped JPEGs exported from Lightroom 3 and Photomatix alignment by features), and then opened in Photoshop CS5. In Photoshop, I first adjusted with Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 – specifically, tonal contrast and detail extractor. Then I brought the image into Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 before finally bringing back into Lightroom for final tweaking, noise reduction, and uploading.

I’ll always remember this day and our time coasting the San Mateo coast! Beautiful!

A Better Approach to HDR Processing Workflow with Adobe Lightroom

Last year, I wrote a bit about my mid-2011 photography processing workflow. I talked about how, for single-image HDR processing using RAW images, I would open them in Photomatix Pro rather than using Lightroom’s export image capability. I also wrote how, for HDR bracketed images, I did use Lightroom’s export image capability to convert them to JPEGs for processing in PhotoMatix pro.

My friend Doug Kaye has shared his new insights about a better workflow for HDR processing – one that maximizes the dynamic range available for post-processing rather than limits it as the Lightroom export flow automatically does. Be sure to read his insights – along with those of Klaus Herrmann who introduced the notion creating extended EV value images as TIFF files from the original bracketed RAW images in his article “Creating HDR Images the Right Way.” If you have comments for Doug, please share them on his Google+ post.

What I’ve Learned about Photography in 2011

I Got You Babe - Battery Mendell - 2011

2011 turned out to be a big year for me in my pursuit of photography skills. As I reflect back on my learnings, I thought I’d try to write down the highlights of the year for me in this New Year’s Eve post.

Beginning with my purchase of my first digital SLR about five years ago (a Canon 30D which I purchased immediately after reading Doc Searls post about his evaluation of this camera!), I’ve been making steady progress learning more about both the most important shooting skills for capturing images as well as the post-processing techniques that can really help enhance an image.

For me, it’s all about trying to get it right at capture time in the camera – but then also maximizing the image’s beauty in post-processing. Among other things, I’ve learned that even if the capture isn’t perfect, the end result can still be stunning with the right post-processing. But, it all begins with trying to get the right image at capture.

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