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Monochrome Photography Photography Photography - Black & White Photography Workflow santa fe

More re: Language of Black and White

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.

Original color image
Default conversion to Black and White using Lightroom’s Auto tool
A manual conversion to Black and White by adjusting the color sliders independently
A “high key” conversion to Black and White
A “low key” conversion to 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.

Source of color image: https://www.widewalls.ch/magazine/color-theory-basics-elements-color-wheel – greyscale conversion done in iPhone Photos app.

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.

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iPhone 12 Pro Max Photography

More Views of Boronda Lake

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.

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iPhone 12 Pro Max Photography Photography Workflow

Sunday Morning at Boronda Lake

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.

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iPhone 12 Pro Max Photography

Morning Light

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!

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Filoli iPhone 12 Pro Max Photography

That Camperdown Elm

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 earlier posts 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.

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iPhone 12 Pro Max Photography

Photography and the iPhone 12 Pro Max

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.

Back Tap

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.

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Hong Kong Japan Kyoto Photography Photoshop CC Rome

More Creative Blending in Photoshop

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.

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Cuba Lightroom CC Photography Photoshop CC

Colors of Place – Cuba

Last week I took an online seminar taught by Julieanne Kost and hosted by Santa Fe Workshops. She walked us through many of her creative techniques for image processing including one significant project she did last year called Color of Place.

In this project she wanted to explore the differences in color between various locales around the world that she’s visited during her travels. She put together a portfolio of 25 cities and the colors that she found from her photography in those locales. The results are a series of wonderfully colorful abstract images that display 50 narrow strips of color for each location.

In an online article and video she shared more about her technique using Lightroom Classic and Photoshop. Following her approach I put together my version of the colors of Cuba derived from the images I made during my visit there in 2013.

Colors of Place – Cuba – 2013

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Photography Photoshop Photoshop CC

Creative Blending in Photoshop

One of my favorite photographers/artists is Pep Ventosa. He’s known for some very creative Photoshop techniques that blend images in unique and unusual ways. I fell in love with a couple of his styles when I discovered him years ago – and later met him at an Open Studios event he held in San Francisco. We now own several of his prints and have given a couple away as gifts.

Another great photographer who utilizes some very creative techniques for her images is Roxanne Overton – here’s her Instagram feed – she provides me with regular creative inspiration! From time to time she uses techniques similar to what I’m describing here.

Earlier this week, I took an online seminar from Santa Fe Workshops taught by Julieanne Kost, the long-time evangelist for Adobe. Titled “Beyond the Single Image” this workshop focused on Julieanne’s creative process – primarily her approach to compositing multiple images together in Photoshop. She showed a number of techniques – it was a great learning experience. She has an excellent blog where she frequently covers her techniques as well as having been featured in several YouTube videos that cover many of them as well. In addition, she’s an excellent teacher and has several online courses available on LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com.

One of the most interesting to me was a technique to blend multiple images together in a unique way that, as it turns out, results in an image with some of the same look as one of Pep Ventosa’s styles. When she showed the technique, she used it initially with video – using Photoshop’s video editing capabilities to blend together multiple images from a video to simulate a long exposure image with smooth water. This technique opened my eyes to how Photoshop could be used to perform frame captures from a video file and how she used a technique to blend them together.

The technique can also be used with still images – instead of a video file – to create a blended image that is somewhat analogous to one of Pep Ventosa’s styles. Here’s a step-by-step walkthrough of this technique that I used to create the blend above that I made from four photos taken during a recent visit to Hong Kong. All of my originals are kept in Lightroom Classic – so the process starts there.

  1. Select 3+ (your choice how many) images in grid view in Lightroom Classic. With the images selected, right-click and choose Open as Layers in Photoshop.
  2. In Photoshop, after the layers are all open (may take a minute), select all the layers. Then choose Layer/Smart Objects/Convert to Smart Object.
  3. After the layers have been converted to a Smart Object, choose Layer/Smart Objects/Stack Mode/Mean. This will create a blend of all of the images with a look similar to one of Pep Ventosa’s styles.
  4. Now, you’ll typically want to feature just one element in one of the images – in other words, you will want to bring out some specific details from the blend. To do that, you’ll want to select the appropriate layer with the details that you want to use and then paste it as a new layer on top of the Mean version and begin to do some blending. To do that, double click on the smart object icon in the layers panel. This will open a new Photoshop document with all of the layers shown individually. Select the specific layer that you want and do copy all. Then switch back to the Mean version image and paste – this will create a new layer on top with your selected image. After that you can add a layer mask and you can begin blending as you normally would. Typically I start with a black layer mask and use a brush with white and reduced flow to paint in where I want the details to show.
  5. Once you’re done with blending, flatten the layers and save the image – which will bring the final version back into Lightroom. Or, if you think you may want to re-edit again, you could just save without flattening which will bring it back into LR – but it will be a very large file with all of the layers embedded, etc.

That’s it. It’s a fun technique to experiment with. I’m sure there’s some skill involved in selected the right few images to blend with this technique. You will need to play a bit to learn what strikes your fancy in applying this technique.

Thanks very much to Julieanne for sharing her techniques and helping me learn! Below are some other images I’ve created using this technique. Enjoy!

Reader – Rome
Pals – Rome
Mirage – Hong Kong
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Filoli iPhone 11 Pro Max Living Photography

Back to Filoli

After weeks of staying very close to home during this pandemic, we were looking forward to taking a break and getting out for an afternoon stroll through one of our favorite gardens at Filoli.

On a beautiful Friday afternoon, we booked our tickets online (a requirement during this period), stood in a socially distanced waiting line to enter, and then walked the prescribed loop through the gardens – all while wearing a face mask as prescribed by San Mateo County’s health director.

All in all, a very therapeutic afternoon!