During these hopefully late stages of pandemic life I’ve been doing a regular morning walk around Sharon Park and the pond.
Last week the City of Menlo Park drained and cleaned the pond. It’s looking fresh again after a summer with some algae growth.
The last couple of early mornings have been foggy which adds a moodiness to the scene. And it’s usually pretty quiet early in the morning!
I’ve recently shared on Instagram a couple of photos taken on these recent morning walks. These photos have been post-processed using the iPhone Photos app along with DistressedFX+ and Snapseed. These apps have become my usual workflow for processing on my iPhone. These tools are quick and easy to use plus they help add some drama and a painterly effect to the images.
During this time of much more limited opportunities to make new photographs, I’ve enjoyed going back through my back catalog of images (over 70,000!) and doing creative edits on them.
Most of these edits are done quickly – literally in the spur of a moment – when I get an inspiration. And the edits are almost always done on my iPhone – it’s become the workhorse of my photographic creativity!
A typical session involves me coming across an old image of mine (the Photos widget on the iPhone does an amazing job surfacing old yet interesting images). I’ll then make a duplicate of the image and open the duplicate in one of the editing programs I use (usually either Photos itself, Snapseed, or DistressedFX Pro). I’ll make whatever edits, crops, texturing, etc. that I’m inspired to make by the image itself.
A few minutes later, I’ll save the edited image back to Photos – and, if inspired, make one final edit pass – typically using Snapseed. Sometimes I’ll want to add a black border – I do that in Snapseed. Then I’ll post the image to my Instagram account. End-to-end this process usually takes 5-10 minutes. Once in a while I’ll stumble across another image in the process and go on another editing jag.
There’s a wide range of creativity that I’m applying during this process – depending on the image. Often I’ll be using DistressedFX Pro as I’ve come to love the addition of textures to many of my images. Other times I’ll take a color image to black and white, perhaps severely cropping it as well to reduce what I call “image noise” (distracting elements) and provide increased focus on what I find most interesting.
You can see some of the range of creativity in some of my images below. More can be found on my Instagram account.
For the first time since January 2020 (15 months ago) I met my good friend Doug Kaye on the streets of San Francisco. It was a glorious day around the Bay and lovely to be back out if only for an hour or two. We have both been vaccinated a while back and it finally seemed like a good time to do this.
We had a delicious pizza lunch at A16 on Chestnut Street and then headed over to The Palace of Fine Arts for a quick walk around. We both reminisced that the last time either of us had visited this wonderful old place was a few years ago when we also did it together.
Doug had a new gadget (a digital back for his Hasselblad) and I had my trusty iPhone 12 Pro Max. While Doug explored with his big camera I played tourist and snapped a few snapshots to remember the day.
After so long avoiding public places like the streets of San Francisco during the pandemic it was great to get out in the fresh air and bright sun in the City!
Back in 2018 I took a week-long photography workshop (“The Soul of a Photograph“) at Santa Fe Workshops led by Christopher Michel. Along with a dozen other photographers, we explored many aspects of creating images with impact while out and about in some of the beautiful venues in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. It was a wonderful week with a great teacher who is famous for his beautiful and prolific work.
For most of the week I was teamed up with Cira Crowell, another great photographer who lives in Santa Fe. We had a great time together working on our images – including a particularly great day working with a few models at Eaves Movie Ranch outside of Santa Fe.
The following year Cira taught a new course in Santa Fe titled The Language of Black and White which I was also able to attend. Cira is passionate about the power of black and white imagery and she built her course on some of the earlier work and teachings of George DeWolfe who had also taught at Santa Fe Workshops. Coincidentally, I had met George on a visit to Havana in 2013 and had several wonderful chats with him over buffet breakfast at our hotel that week in Havana. Note: Cira is planning to teach another section of this course in July 2021 in Santa Fe.
Taking Cira’s course in Santa Fe opened my eyes to exploring new techniques to apply black and white processing to my images – in particular how to add depth to my images so that they take on more of a three dimensional look even though they’re just two dimensional by nature. I shared some of my thoughts about the course on our local InMenlo blog. One of the exercises involved taking one of the color paintings of a great master and converting it to black and white – while adding depth.
This month I started an online version of Cira’s course as a follow-up to the in-person workshop I took two years ago. While being together in a classroom seems ideal, an online workshop comes pretty close in terms of providing the vehicle for teaching and understanding. And it’s a necessary approach in this pandemic era where our travel opportunities are so severely restricted. What falls away with the online approach are the social dynamics of being together – an important aspect to the workshops held in Santa Fe.
In the workshop, we’ve been exploring post-processing in Lightroom – converting a color image to black and white – and using some of the tools available to move beyond just the default conversion from color to black and white. Below is an example – a simple color photograph of an orange on a countertop being converted to several different versions of black and white.
One of the important lessons in this process is understanding the difference between the values in an image versus the tones in an image. Different tones can result in the same values – creating some unusual situations such as red converting to the same tone as green, for example. If you have a red subject on a green foliage background, for example, the subject will almost disappear into the background.
This can be visualized by looking at these two images that depict the luminance values vs the color tones. You’ll notice that the reds and the greens have very similar grey tones while the yellows are much brighter grey and the blues are much darker greys.
Learning the language of black and white is all about learning how to translate these hues into greys so that the image of an image is enhanced.
When converting a color photo to black and white in Lightroom Classic, the color sliders can be used to change the tonal values of the different colors. You can actually adjust the colors first in color before converting to black and white and then take the image through a quick round trip through Photoshop to preserve your color edits before then converting to black and white and editing further. This technique provides the most control over the translation from hue to tone in the greyscale image.
A final round trip through Photoshop can also be used to add depth to the grayscale image. In Photoshop duplicate the background layer and change the blend mode to Soft Light. Adjust the opacity to a low value – say 15% as a starting point. If need be you can add a layer mask and control more precisely where the effect is applied. If you want even more you can duplicate the layer again and see how that works. Then save the image back to Lightroom Classic for any final edits.
And remember, black and white isn’t “plan b” – it’s an intentional approach to creating classic, more timeless looking images.
Yesterday I shared an image from Boronda Lake in Palo Alto’s Foothills Park that I had post-processed using techniques I learned in a recent workshop with Dan Burkholder.
I took a few more images while I was there – on a grey, overcast morning – and wanted to share them here. It’s a lovely place and worth a visit now that it’s open to all. I’ll likely come back and do some creative post-processing on a few of these images as well.
Recently the city of Palo Alto has opened up access to Foothills Park which for many years has limited access only to residents of Palo Alto. I’ve never been there so this morning – a grey one here on the San Francisco peninsula, I decided to take a quick drive to visit Foothills Park and see what it’s like. In particular, I was interested in seeing the small lake – Boronda Lake.
Last week I finished up a workshop led by Dan Burkholder on iPhone Artistry. Dan reawakened my interest in capturing and editing photos just on my iPhone. I made the following image using the Camera app on my iPhone 12 Pro Max:
I then used the free Snapseed app that Google provides to edit and stylize this image. Dan had walked us through the capabilities of Snapseed during his workshop so I put many of the tools he taught us to edit this image – here’s the list of tools that I applied:
I was particularly intrigued by the Grunge tool – one of my fellow workshop participants was a fan of the tool and shared some of his techniques with us. Using the Grunge tool, I was able to colorize and texturize the image resulting in the final version:
Earlier today, Om Malik shared a post comparing the iPhone camera with the old Kodak Brownie Camera – see Why the iPhone is Today’s Kodak Brownie Camera. It is amazing what these small “supercomputers in our pocket” are capable of in terms of image making and processing. This morning’s image of Boronda Lake is just my latest example.
The bright sun this Sunday morning motivated me to head over to Moss Beach and one of my favorite locations at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. A few of us were out walking when I turned around and saw this morning glow behind me.
Here’s the original image shot on my iPhone 12 Pro Max in ProRAW format and post processed in Lightroom on my iPhone.
I’m currently taking an iPhone Artistry course from Dan Burkholder and he has taught me some new techniques for image post processing. One of the approaches he taught involves using the app Formulas to create a distressed version of the image:
Next, I used the app InkWork to create a line drawing version of the image:
Using the app Image Blender, I combined the distressed version with the ink version to create the final version. This was over 90% blended to the original image with just a slide amount of the inking being added:
I like how the inking layer added some darker shadows to the tree trunks. And I was finished!
One of my favorite trees in Filoli is the Camperdown elm that sits between the Pool Pavilion and the base of the tennis court. It’s at the end of a long grass lawn across from the west side of the Garden House.
Here are a couple of earlierposts I’ve shared about this tree including one from 2013 when I first began noticing this tree. I had mistakenly called it an oak tree originally but was quickly educated to learn that it’s really a Camperdown elm.
During a recent visit, I was patiently waiting for some folks to get out of the image I was trying to make when two kids walked into a sunny spot on the edge of the image – and one of them was wearing red. Talk about the decisive moment!
I’ve had fun post-processing the image in different styles all on my iPhone. Here’s the original image shot with the Camera app on my iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Here’s the first processed version – with a lot of white balance tweaking and cropping done using both the Photos app and Snapseed.
Finally, here’s a painterly version – created using Adobe’s Paint Can app on my iPhone and then processed in Snapseed to brighten up a bit and add a border.
I’ve had my iPhone 12 Pro Max for a couple of months now – and have gotten familiar with the enhancements that Apple made to the camera system and software on this new phone – (it does seem a bit odd to call it a phone when I’m talking about here is really mostly using it as a camera!).
One of the features I’m using that’s new in iOS 14 is the ability to quickly open one of the camera apps on my iPhone. I tend to use one of three different camera apps when I’m shooting: 1) the built-in Camera app, 2) the Lightroom app, or 3) the Halide app. Each of these camera apps has features that I like to use – and I’ll choose which one based upon the setting when I’m taking the photo.
In iOS 14, it’s possible to quickly open any of those apps so that you can avoid missing a good shot. The Camera app can be opened quickly using the button on the lower right of iPhone’s Lock Screen. in iOS 14, there is a new accessibility feature that you can use to quickly open either Lightroom or Halide by tapping on the back of the phone. Here’s how to set this up.
In the Accessibility settings, you can enable a Touch setting called Back Tap. This setting allows you to setup two separate actions that will be invoked when you tap on the back of the phone – one for a double tap and another for a triple tap.
On my iPhone, I’ve setup Double Tap to use the shortcut Open Lightroom. This opens the Lightroom application – and if you’ve last used the camera in the Lightroom app, then it will reopen directly into the Lightroom camera. I setup this shortcut using the Open App shortcut with it set to open the Lightroom app.
I’ve setup Triple Tap to use the shortcut Backtap Halide. I setup this shortcut using the Shortcuts app. As with the Lightroom shortcut, I’ve setup another shortcut names Backtap Halide which simply opens the Halide app. When opened, it opens in camera mode.
Here are the two very simple shortcuts I created:
Give this setup a try and see if you like using these shortcuts to make your photography faster and easier to access on your iPhone.
Recently I wrote about a workshop I took from Julieanne Kost and one of the techniques she demonstrated that created a resulting image reminiscent of one of the styles used by artist Pep Ventosa. I included a couple of initial examples in that post.
I’ve continued experimenting with the technique, scouring my Lightroom catalog for multiple images of the same scene that might be good candidates for blending.
Here are a few more examples – from Kyoto and Mumbai – along with my initial examples from Rome and Hong Kong.