Before and After – That Glance

Just around the corner from Bryant Park is the main branch of the New York Public Library – the one with the lions out front! Inside is a nice small cafe – it was a lovely place for a couple of tired street photographers to rest their legs for a few minutes and enjoy a bit of liquid refreshment.

While we were waiting there, this lovely young woman came in and sat down across the room from us. The final image above – in black and white – was edited in Lightroom on my iPad, exported to the Camera Roll, imported into Snapseed, tweaked a bit further using Snapseed’s vignette and framing tools and then exported for posting on Instagram. This workflow took about 5 minutes start to finish.

Below is the original image in color straight out of my camera. It’s lovely on its own – and the slight tilt actually adds a bit of drama to the image. But I prefer the more portrait look of the black and white image.

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Before and After – Ping Pong in Bryant Park

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One of my favorite places to photograph people in New York City is in Bryant Park. Over in one corner of the park there are a couple of ping pong tables which are usually occupied by enthusiastic players. Just watching them play can be mesmerizing! Trying to capture a good image from the scene can be challenging.

In this before and after sequence, the final black and white image above was created from the original below by editing in Lightroom on my iPad. I converted the image to black and white, adjusted the color sliders to get the tonality satisfactory to my eye, and then cropped and straighten the image to eliminate the distracting elements and focus in on just the player and his intensity – about to hit the ball back across the net.

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The Before and After Series

One of the things I’d like to do better is to remember (!) what kind of editing I’ve done to take a photograph from the original in-camera capture to the “final” posted image that I’ve shared or published. I’ll often finish editing and image – publish it – and come back across it months later only to wonder how exactly did I edit this photo!

In the spirit of trying to do a better job remembering, I will share some examples of the process I’ve used for photos that I’ve recently edited. The first two posts use photos taken in New York City – over five years ago – during a workshop I was fortunate to take with the great photographer Jay Maisel.

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Plaza Blanca – White Place

During my recent Santa Fe workshop on black and white photography, we made a field trip to Plaza Blanca – also known as the White Place. The location is near Georgia O’Keeffe’s New Mexico home and was one of her favorite places to visit and paint.

I was handicapped a bit – hobbling around with a cane resulting from breaking one of my legs a couple of months earlier. The sandy soil was challenging but also provided a good workout – and, hooray!, I didn’t fall down!

I had brought along a brand new camera – a Sony RX100M6 – which turned out to be the perfect camera (along with my iPhone Xs Max) for my photography that day. I couldn’t have handled a heavier bag of gear nor a heavier camera around my neck. I mostly did one-handed shooting – and the zoom lens of the RX100M6 turned out to be perfect for my needs – as “zooming with my feet” was not much of an option that day!

As we were finishing up late in the afternoon, the sky darkened in the distance with these striking clouds – and the sky seem highlighted most dramatically in this image shot in portrait mode. The image was post-processed in Lightroom, Photos (iOS 13 Beta) and Snapseed.

Choices

Here’s another photo from a recent walk along the Embarcadero in San Francisco. I came across this fellow obviously looking to rent one of the two scooters behind him. He seemed a bit frustrated – going back and forth while poking at his mobile phone – undoubtedly trying to activate one or the other.

I enjoyed the juxtaposition of him in front of the two scooters and the layers including the railing behind, the pier and then the bridge in the distance. Shot using my Sony RX100M6. Post-processed from the original RAW file using Lightroom Mobile and Snapseed.

Image Processing: The Overton Technique

My photographer friend Roxanne Overton has pioneered using an easy technique in Photoshop for creatively merging multiple images of the same subject. Doug Kaye wrote about the technique – and how to do it – on his blog a while back.

While multiple images taken from slightly different positions often generates the most interesting results, you can sometimes be surprised by the simplest approach.

Here, for example, is an image taken with my iPhone along the San Francisco Embarcadero yesterday that I processed using the Overton Technique. It was generated from one image. After opening the image in Photoshop, I duplicated the layer and then horizontally flipped it – creating a mirror image. Auto-blend then combined the two layers to generate this results – which I tweaked a bit further back in Lightroom to black and white, etc.

If you’re an Adobe Creative Cloud member and have both Lightroom and Photoshop, give this technique a try. After playing with a few image sequences, you might find one that feels downright brilliantly creative!

Playing with Day to Night

I’ve recently come across a couple of techniques (in both Lightroom and Photoshop) that help turn a photo taken during daytime hours into a moodier, darker image. These techniques involves both overall image adjustments to darken and change color balance along with selective edits to add lights, increase highlights, etc.

I recently tried a quick version of this technique on an image taken down San Francisco’s Ocean Beach on a moody morning. It’s been adjusted overall to add the moodiness along with tweaking a few of the highlights to enhance points of interest in the image. This took about 5 minutes in Lightroom CC to adjust.

Using Lightroom CC for a new mobile workflow while traveling

I was recently in Hong Kong for a week of street photography. While there, I used a different mobile-centric workflow for my images – and, while it wasn’t perfect, it definitely simplified things. Here’s the basic idea:

Gear: I traveled with my MacBook Pro (with LR CC), my iPhone, and my iPad Pro (both with LR Mobile). At home there’s an iMac with my master photo library managed by Lightroom CC Classic. For this to work well, your hotel (or AirBnb, etc) also needs to be “well connected” – especially in terms of upstream bandwidth.

Workflow: After a day of shooting, I used Adobe Bridge on my MacBook Pro to import images from my camera’s SD cards into a date-based folder hierarchy on the MacBook’s SSD. Separately, I used Image Capture to import photos from my iPhone – and copied those images into the same date-based folder hierarchy. (Alternatively, I could have simply opened LR Mobile on my iPhone and imported the iPhone images I wanted into LR from my Camera Roll). Each day I had a new folder with all of the images from my cameras and my iPhone.

Next I opened Lightroom CC (LRCC) on my MacBook Pro and import the new images from the folder hierarchy (e.g. the images imported using Bridge and Image Capture in step 1). LRCC will import these images and immediately begin uploading them with the cloud. For this uploading to be efficient, you’ll want to be sure you’re using hotel WiFi with decent upstream bandwidth – something that worked very well for us in our Hong Kong hotel – but which could be problematic at less well connected hotels.

As LRCC uploads the images to the cloud, several good things happen:

The images are also sync’d to LR Mobile on my iPad and iPhone. They just start showing up as the syncing completes. The images are also sync’d to Lightroom CC Classic running on my iMac back home. If Lightroom Classic isn’t open on my Mac (or if my Mac is powered off), the syncing begins when Lightroom Classic is next opened on my Mac. LR Classic will download the images from the cloud and save them to a special folder – which I’ve pointed to a folder just for this purpose in my images folder hierarchy. In LR Classic preferences, I’ve also clicked the “use date hierarchy” box so that the downloaded images will be stored in a date hierarchy folder structure within that specified download folder.

When I get back home, I can open LR Classic and move the images from the download folder into the normal date-based folders in my image library. LR will remember that these images – although they’ve been moved – are still synced to the cloud. Thus, any changes I make to an image will be sync’d everywhere – including any ratings updates, any photo edits, cropping, etc. Even deletions will be sync’d everywhere.

The net effect of this workflow is that I avoided having to do the old catalog import workflow from LR Classic on my MacBook Pro into LR Classic on my iMac when I got home.

But the BIG benefit of this LR CC-based workflow was having my images quickly available for reviewing, editing, rating, etc. on my iPhone and iPad while I was traveling in the field. In addition, any images I shot on my iPhone could be imported into LR Mobile on my iPhone and they’d automatically be sync’d into the Lightroom cloud and down to my LR Mobile on my iPad and to LR Classic my iMac back home.

I should also mention that once the images have been imported to LR CC on my MacBook Pro, they can be deleted from the folder hierarchy on the MacBook. Once the originals are sync’d to the cloud by LR CC they are no longer needed locally on the MacBook Pro. Of course, I didn’t do any deleting while traveling – as I wanted the redundancy (in addition to keeping the SD cards) – but I could have – and will at some point back home!

I just found a YouTube (10 min long) video by Ted Forbes that also describes this workflow.

More Multiples in San Francisco Street Photography

Clay Street Shooter - San Francisco - 2015

Last week I did a post about multiples in San Francisco street photography. It’s a fun – and, frankly, a pretty lazy technique. Why do I say lazy? Because you simply plant yourself at an interesting location (a carefully chosen interesting location!) and shoot away. The goal is to capture a series of images of the same area over a period of several seconds. Depending on your gear, you can fire away in single shot mode – or you can set your camera on burst mode – and just hold down the shutter button.

On my Fujifilm X100T, I typically set the Drive setting to Low burst and it works great. But you can just do this with your iPhone – simply hold down the shutter button and the iPhone will fire off a burst of images. The iPhone 6 fires at about 10 frames per second – so you’ll get quite a few images in just a few seconds of holding down the shutter button.

Doug recommends putting your camera in manual for these kinds of shots – so that the camera isn’t choosing different settings in between the shots. He’s more of a perfectionist in this regard than I am. I mostly just don’t worry about it.

The fun comes after importing the images into Lightroom and then editing them as layers in Photoshop. Photoshop’s auto-align will correct for any hand-held movement between the images. You’ll end up with a layer stack of images – all aligned. Now you need to look through the layers and decide how to blend them – to bring in details from various images/layers. That’s the fun part – and it can take a while to get it right.

The image above was shot by me standing behind Doug Kaye as he was using this technique on Clay Street in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

The image below is one that I constructed using these techniques while just standing along Stockton Street and capturing individual shots as people moved through my frame. One of the characteristics of these images that you’ll notice in this one is that people look just too close together. That’s because they weren’t – actually!

Busy Morning - San Francisco - 2015