Nikon Photography Photography - Nikon D600 Photoshop San Francisco/California

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!

Black and White Compositing Monochrome Photography Photography Photography - Black & White Photoshop

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.

Hawaii Lab Color Photography Photography - Nikon D600 Photoshop

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.

Black and White Hawaii Monochrome Photography Photography Photography - Black & White Photography - Canon PowerShot S95 Photoshop

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.

Cars Lightroom Photography Photography - Nikon D600 Photoshop San Francisco/California Street Photography

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!

Black and White Filoli Monochrome Photography Nik Software Photography Photography - Black & White Photography - Nikon D600 Photoshop

Monochrome Bones at Filoli

Camperdown Elm #2 - Filoli - 2013

Here’s an initial monochrome version of the Camperdown Elm photo from my walk at Filoli a couple of weeks ago. Handheld shot with my Nikon D600.

For this version, I used Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 do to a black and white conversion, darkening the lawn area up front and adding a bit of color to the highlights.

The “bones” of this tree are so beautiful – and the morning light that morning at Filoli was just right to light it up.

Photography Photography - Canon PowerShot S100 Photoshop San Francisco/California

In the Morning Light in San Francisco


Tonight I was looking back at some of my images from last year – and I came across this one from March 2012.

Doug Kaye and I had agreed to meet up at the Powell Street BART station – thinking that, because of the weather, we’d spend most of our time underground in the BART system. As it turned out, there was a patch of blue outside the station and some sunlight was streaming in. So, we went up rather than down – and headed from Powell Street Station toward Yerba Buena Center.

Along the way, we had some beautiful light and I was opportunistic. On most of our photo walks, I carry a big DSLR (Canon 5D Mark II or, more recently, Nikon D600) and a Canon PowerShot S100 point and shoot in a case on my belt. I’ve also got an iPhone in my pocket – so, actually, I’m walking around with three cameras!

As we headed into Yerba Buena Center, I noticed this fellow enjoying the morning sun on this concrete bench and captured the moment with the Canon PowerShot S100. I processed this image in Photoshop using a modified technique I’ve been learning from Chris Hilgert – using a low contrast black and white layer onto which we add an overlay layer, a color layer, and refine them together.

I enjoy the beautiful light and color in this image – along with the beautiful relaxation he’s enjoying in the morning light!

Photography Photography - Canon 5D Mark II Photoshop Travel

Adding Depth to an Image using Photoshop and Luminosity Painting

Sunrise - Lee Vining - 2012

As part of my desire to learn more about some advanced techniques in Photoshop, I’ve been concentrating on learning how best to take a flat image out of the camera and add depth to it using various image adjustment techniques – especially, dodging and burning. At one level, I’ve understood the basics of those techniques for a while – but I’ve not attempted to apply them in any serious way before now. Any student of Ansel Adams understands the use he made of those techniques!

So, I set out to explore and learn some more – and I learned a lot. What did we do before the Internet? Seriously, it’s amazing what a resource it’s become!

The basic idea involves being able to select carefully certain parts of an image for adjustment. Typically, luminosity – brightness – is most important but saturation, sharpness and other features follow. Most of the tools in Photoshop are blunt instruments that apply to the whole image – but you can constrain those adjustments to only portions of an image using selections and/or layer masks. In so doing, you can make much more selective adjustments – and create depth in an image that might have originally looked flat.

One of the first to describe a technique for this was Tony Kuyper – who in 2006 wrote about the idea of luminosity masks. A couple of years later, he described luminosity painting – and most recently, cooperated with Sean Bagshaw who has created a comprehensive video tutorial describing how to apply Tony’s techniques and Photoshop Actions/Panels in detail. If you want to understand the details, Tony and Sean’s work seems very comprehensive.

At the other extreme is a short video by Aaron Nace titled “Dodge and Burn Like a Boss: Using Apply Image” I stumbled across on In this video, he describes how to do selective dodging and burning using the notion of luminosity masks. His technique is different, in many ways simpler – but also less precise. For many images, that might be fine – it all depends on the level of precision adjustment you might want. And, when you watch the video, fasten your seat belt. Aaron moves along quickly – so be ready to stop and review as he explains his technique!

Tonight I created an example of applying Aaron’s technique to an image I shot last fall in the Eastern Sierras on an amazing photo workshop with Michael Frye. Up top you can see the image after walking through the adjustments – and below is the original, out of the camera image. It’s pretty flat, frankly. The edited image has more color – but, more importantly, more depth and, I think, overall richness.


But, I’m still learning! Let me know what you think by sharing a comment below!

Filoli Photography Photography - Nikon D600 Photoshop

That Camperdown Elm at Filoli

Camperdown Elm - Filoli - 2013

I headed out this morning to Filoli – the beautiful estate and gardens in Woodside. This time of year, Filoli is known for its daffodils – and other bulb plantings.

I had my Nikon D600 in hand – which was just back from Nikon USA service having had its sensor replaced. This was a costly repair – for what I thought was a defect in the new camera that should have been fixed under warranty. But that’s another story. I wanted to get back out into the field with it – and see how it performed.

As I was walking Filoli, the light down this lawn area toward the distant tree – a Camperdown Elm – was especially beautiful. As I had done in Havana, I had the D600 in auto-everything – shooting in P mode with auto-ISO, auto-focus, etc. The camera opted to capture this image that I composed at 85mm at 1/800 at f/7.1 and ISO 1600.

Out of the camera, the image looked good – but it was a bit “flat” – with not much contrast between the light and dark areas. That’s what good cameras do – but the images often look a bit boring as a result.

Over the last couple of days, I became acquainted with some of the post-processing techniques of Aaron Nace. Not sure why I hadn’t come across him before – as he’s a master of Photoshop technique. But I hadn’t. One of his free tutorial videos was especially interesting to me – and I used some of his technique in post-processing this image – with the goal of making its tonal range much more interesting to the eye. I really like the result.

iPhone 5 Menlo Park Photography Photoshop Topaz

Sunday in the Park – Menlo Park

Sunday in the Park - Menlo Park - 2013

Once in a while, I’ll snap a quick shot on my iPhone and, sometime later, come back and look at it more closely. This is one of those images – shot yesterday at Sharon Park in Menlo Park while out for a walk with Lily. I had just come back from the Menlo Park Library where I’d spent an hour or two looking through some of their great books – including a huge book on the French Impressionists and a large 1974 collection of Ansel Adams’ images.

Perhaps some sort of combination of those two is what I saw when I snapped this shot while on the go with my iPhone 5. I opted to post process it using Topaz Simplify 4 – with the Black and White I preset brought back into Photoshop in Luminosity blend mode. I then added an Oil Paint layer – that impressionist effect working a bit of its magic on me!