Category Archives: Photoshop

Just Back from Dan Margulis’ Applied Color Theory Workshop

Double Vision - San Diego - 2013

I’m just back from four intensive days with Dan Margulis and four other students (including my friend Doug Kaye) attending his four-day Applied Color Theory in Photoshop workshop. Over the last twenty years, Dan has developed and refined his techniques for color correction and image enhancement of images using Photoshop.

Dan’s written three major books on the subject of Photoshop – which I have and have tried to read and apply – but there’s nothing that can replace the opportunity to actually “do it” in a classroom. For me, this workshop might best be described as a Photoshop “retreat” – spending four long days with a true master of his craft and trying to learn and apply his teachings. The experience was very rewarding – providing me with new insights into what’s possible with images.

The image up top is one example of me attempting to apply some of these techniques. The evening before the workshop, Doug and I headed to Old Town – San Diego with our rangefinder cameras in hand (my Fujifilm X100S and his – a Sony RX1R from that he’s reviewing). The original of this image has a yellow cast – and the first step in Dan’s workflow is to try to correct for color cast before doing anything else. The color cast in this image included a lot of yellow from the wall paint and a lot of blue from the outside light flooding into the room through a doorway. This final result is reasonably balanced and captures the lively colors in the scene. The left facing surfaces still include a blue cast – but the humans look reasonably normal! Not perfect, but better than the original – thanks to new learnings from Dan’s teachings!

This image also uses a technique that Lee Varis taught me – about how to desaturate the color in the shadow areas to provide a greater sense of depth to the image.

Back to Yosemite’s Three Brothers

Three Brothers - Yosemite - 2010

Earlier today, I was looking the Ansel Adams Gallery’s special sale of platinum-palladium prints by Kerik Kouklis – which got me exploring some new techniques using a Curves adjustment layer for toning in Photoshop.

I decided to try the technique on an image shot in October 2010 along the Merced River in Yosemite. My son David and I were doing a private workshop that day with Michael Frye – and this location was one of the special spots Michael shared with us. A color HDR version of some other photos of Three Brothers is one of my favorites from that day.

This image is a single shot RAW image taken on a tripod with my Canon 5D Mark II using the Canon 24-105mm f/4 L lens. I processed it in Photoshop CC using a few of Tony Kuyper’s basic luminosity masking techniques, converted it to black and white using a gradient map, sharpened it using the Sharpen 2013 action of Don Margulis’ Picture Postcard Workflow – and then toned it using a curves adjustment layer using a curve from Paul Butzi.

Using Photoshop’s Motion Blur in a Landscape Image

Up Ahead - Fitzgerald Marine Reserve - 2013

Last Sunday, on a very foggy overcast morning, I headed to one of my favorite local photography spots – Fitzgerald Marine Reserve on the Pacific Coast at Moss Beach, just north of Half Moon Bay.

This image looking up the hill was tweaked a bit in Photoshop CC to add more visual interest. Specifically, I used a Motion Blur filter to create the vertical motion in the trees on the left side of the image – while using other tools to enhance the details and contrast in the grass in the foreground, the path, and the trees on the right side of the image.

For me, the motion blur makes the image more “ethereal” – with the foggy low overcast skies just hitting the tree tops.

The Wonders of Luminosity Masking in Photoshop


I’m increasingly using the techniques originally pioneered by Tony Kuyper known as “luminosity masking” when editing images in Photoshop. The basic idea behind luminosity masking is to take advantage of the luminosity levels in an image and to use that information to enable much more selective editing of the image.

Imagine, for example, dividing the range of luminosity levels into 10 ranges – from pure which to pure black. Tony’s techniques allow you to easily isolate each of those luminosity ranges so that you can make adjustments to just that portion of an image. Tony’s got some free tutorials on his website and also sells a set of Photoshop actions and a panel that make using his techniques much faster and easier. Along with his stuff, Sean Bagshaw has worked with Tony to create an excellent set of video tutorials that shows how to apply these techniques. Sean’s a great teacher – and the videos are crisp and to the point – also highly recommended!

Here’s an example. Earlier today I visited the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach just north of Half Moon Bay along the great Pacific Coast south of San Francisco. It was a drizzly wet day on the coast today – and that’s what I was hoping for.

The image above is straight out of the camera (a Nikon D600). Using just a few simple steps applying Tony’s actions, I edited the image into the version below. The tonal contrast is so much better – and it’s also a bit sharper thanks to Don Margulis’ excellent Sharpen 2013 actions (part of his Picture Postcard Workflow). I’ve titled the image “Fallen” – if you look closely you’ll see why – and that’s what caught my eye while walking by this morning.

Fallen - Fitzgerald Marine Reserve - 2013

My Thoughts on Adobe’s Creative Cloud Business Model

Update: Adobe has just announced a new deal for photographers which bundles Photoshop and Lightroom together for $9.99 per month – a much better deal! Thanks for listening Adobe!

A couple of days ago (in a weak moment) I signed up for Adobe’s new Creative Cloud…

I bit my tongue doing so – knowing that I was pledging an on-going revenue stream flowing out of my pocket to Adobe each month into the future. And also knowing that images I create using the Creative Cloud tools (such as Photoshop CC) in this Creative Cloud would simply stop being available for me to process my images when/if I ever decided to terminate Adobe’s monthly draw from my bank account.

This feels a bit like extortion – and, frankly, it sucks. It’s not actually extortion, of course, because I had a “choice” – but it sure feels like it. I hate it.

And, I’m not alone – as many others have expressed their frustrations at being treated this way by Adobe. Any sense of loyalty we might have had to this company has completely gone out the window – for many thousands of formerly faithful customers.

In my experience, what goes around eventually comes around. Adobe opted to exchange its customer goodwill for a recurring revenue stream in the short term – but it will pay a price for treating its users this way in the future. If you work for Adobe, I’m sure you know the resentment this move has engendered.

Creative Cloud indeed – we should have been delighted, instead we’re actually quite disappointed because of this new subscription-based business model – and, indeed, a bit angry about the whole thing.

My Favorite Warrior of the Terracotta Clan

Terracotta Warrior - San Francisco - 2013

Back in early April, Doug Kaye and I met for one of our photo walks at San Francisco’s Civic Center. We met in the plaza outside City Hall, shot for a while inside City Hall, and then headed across the plaza to the Asian Art Museum – my first time there.

The museum’s Terracotta Warriors exhibition was underway (it closed May 27, 2013) – and, amidst a busy crowd in a room in near darkness, we wandered this exhibition. These terracotta warriors are something to behold – and the museum’s display with its great positioning and lighting made it quite an experience.

I wasn’t sure what kind of shots I’d be able to get in such low light. I kicked my Nikon D600 into auto everything mode – with no flash – and shot what I could. As it turns out, the D600 is a superb low light camera – and I got some incredible images while expecting almost nothing to be worthwhile.

I experimented a bit post-processing this warrior in Photoshop. First of all, isolating him from other stuff in the image and then moving him to a solid, dark purple background. I adjusted the composition a bit – moving him to the left half and leaving the expanse of dark space on the right. Then I tried some really unusual moves – adding a subtle oil paint layer to add the texture and shading on his face. If you look closely (click on the image for larger version), you can see his cheeks are more fluid than carved out of stone – that’s the oil paint layer at work. A couple of selective sharpening steps further defined the edges of his profile.

I just love how this warrior image turned out – one of my recent favorites! Hope you do too!

Washed Up – an Experiment in Compositing

Washed Up - Fitzgerald Marine Reserve - 2012

This image is a composite of two of my images shot over in Half Moon Bay. For some reason, these two images popped into my mind as I was watching the CreativeLive session today with Brooke Shaden. I decided to try merging the two into something more creative.

The trees are one of the classic views of the cypress tree “tunnel” in the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.

The fishing boat is from Princeton Harbor – where the boat has run aground a couple of years ago.

I combined the two images in Photoshop – adjusting the angle of the boat’s list to roughly line up with the trees. I converted it to monochrome using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 and added a bit of sepia toning to finish the image.

A Special Sunrise on Hawaii’s Kona Coast

Sunrise Surf - Kona - 2013

With several photographer friends, I recently attended a lecture by photographer John Paul Caponigro sponsored by the Palo Alto Camera Club. He spoke on the subjects of “Illuminating Creativity” and “Landscapes Within”. A 20 minute version of his creativity talk from 2010 is available as a TEDx video.

Caponigro’s purpose in his talk was to push us to explore our own creativity – to realize that we’ve got a lot more that we might not even realize. I’m not sure about that in my case (!) – but I tried to take some of what he taught to bear on this particular image.

It’s a morning sunrise shot from the Kona coast in Hawaii. Sunrise, of course, occurs in the east – and this image looks to the west – off the coastline of the Kona coast on the big island of Hawaii. There was a lovely bank of low clouds (not visible in the image) which were reflecting lovely sunrise colors down into the ocean waters – and that’s what I tried to capture as I processed this image.

Processing involved several steps – including an excursion into Lab color, selective use of Topaz Simplify, some luminosity painting – and other steps I’ve already forgotten!

This is one of those special images that brings me back – back to a very special early morning, walking along the coast in Hawaii and watching the light slowly shift and sparkle. Beautiful. A beautiful memory. For me, that’s what creativity is all about.

More Monochrome from the Beach in Hawaii


Here’s another monochrome from the beach on the Big Island of Hawaii.

This image was shot using my tiny Canon PowerShot S100 and tweaked initially in Lightroom for straightening and then into Photoshop for conversion to monochrome using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2.

It was finished with some dodging and burning – along with a couple of Curves adjustment layers to augment the tonality of the image. A final pass of “hiraloam” sharpening completed the processing.

Classic 1947 Chevrolet in San Francisco’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade

Chevrolet - San Francisco - 2013 by Scott Loftesness

I felt a bit like I was back in Havana watching some of the classic cars that turned out yesterday to carry dignitaries in the annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade in San Francisco. This 1947 Chevrolet was one of the beauties!

I had fun processing this image in Photoshop – tweaking the background a bit to bring the car out more and adjusting the luminosity a bit. I love the angle of the car – the beauty of the chrome on the front grill – and that tail flying off of the radio antenna!