Where I have been, what I have done, and why I did it

Before and After

1/11/13 Doomsday Shot Compilation

Last year, I was invited by my neighbors to go trap shooting.  It had been a good 20 years since my last call to arms (dove hunting in ’92) so off I went.

I decided to bring my camera gear and for fun take a few pictures to process as a “Doomsday” theme.  Once we arrived and the shooting began, I surveyed the best spots to place my off camera flashes.  Below is the setup I used-


Some side notes about the setup:  I typically like to use some type of modifier to lessen the harshness of the flash.  However with the wind and more importantly the gun fire, I really did not want a large target getting in the way.  I wanted the highest flash to be my main and the safest location for it was behind / to the side.  This meant the camera view would be from an angle that would be hard to see a face.  I watched them shoot a few times and I noticed as they followed the skeet, there was an opportunity to get to the side and capture a face.

After a few trial and error runs, this is the one I decided to work with…below is the picture out of camera and ready for post process in photoshop –


My first steps – I added some contrast using Nik pro contrast around 25%, then I added a bit of vignette and the barrel smoke.


My next steps – I added some tone mapping to the subjects (dodge and burn), increased the smoke effect from the barrel and I added some subtle smoke to the shell extraction.


Next it was time to work on the texturing to give if that grungy feel.  I layered a texture (set it to multiply) and then added a mask to it so I could control how much of it I wanted to appear in sections of the photo.


At this point it was time to start getting the colors more uniform.  For this I used channel mixer, hue/saturation, warming photo filter and a curves adjustment.


On my last step, I added a bit more punch to it by adding another curves adjustment layer and a vignette layer that I overlayed at %50.


Click here to see the larger version.


11/11/10 Before And After – Shine On

With the time change and some travels, I have not had any new shots to process.  I did however have some shots put on the back burner to revisit.  This week, I went back to my collection of shots I made while visiting my parents this summer at their lake cabin in East TN.

Before I begin I want to mention that I was late getting to my spot to take this picture.  In my hurry, I left my 50mm 1.8 lens on my camera and I did not have a filter for it.  Ideally I should have had my wide angle on with a polarizer.  Regardless, I remembered what one photographer said “your best camera is the one you have with you at that time.”   So we will go with that.

When I took this shot, I was trying to capture the tranquility of the morning.  The things that stood out to me before I took the shot consisted of the splendor of the sun glow, the calming waters of the lake and the mountain range back drop.

When I started processing this shot, I wanted to really emphasize the tranquility I spoke of previously.  However as you can see below the original shot is pretty harsh.

The direction I decided to take was to reduce some of the glare, haze, and have the colors bumped but still flow well.  For this project I used only Nik Color Effects Pro filters in Photoshop CS3.

My first step, I reduced the haze and corrected the color somewhat by using Pro Contrast.

Next, I duplicated the layer and applied a radial zoom blur with the focal point just under the sun.  I then placed a mask on this layer so that only the water area had the effect applied to it and merged it down.

Next up was to add more of a smoothing feel to the water area, so I used the graduated fog filter and I reduced it way down.

At this point the shot is ready for the color bump, in which case I applied a subtle glamour glow.  Now it was time to fine tune some of the highs and lows in the color so I applied another pro contrast and skylight filter.

Below is the finished version-

10/22/10 Before And After- Paducah Search And Rescue

I dedicated the past several nights into expanding my processing techniques and learning more about some of the tools I have but do not use.  While researching, I came across a filter that was receiving a lot of praise and was a part of many photographers post process- The filter I’m talking about is Nik Color Effects Pro “Bleach Bypass”.

I went through some of my older shots and I decided to try it out on this one.  Below are the 3 bracket shots I made. (They were taken at neutral setting in AV mode.)

Next I did something a little different in my normal hdr process.  Usually I open these shots in Photmatix to generate the hdr file and then tone map.  This time however I went with another process and opened them up in Adobe Camera Raw and made a few adjustments to the shots.  I then selected Merge to HDR Pro in the tools option.  This created my HDR file that I then opened in Photomatix and tone mapped.

The only real difference I noticed in this process  compared to my usual process is the HDR file seems to be more subdued and requires more push in the tone map side of things.  Typically when I use Photomatix to handle hdr creation, I need to be conservative on my tone map or the image gets overcooked fast.  This time though, I had to really bump my settings up.   Anyway below is the result of my tone map from Photomatix.

Now…time to have fun in photoshop using Nik Color Effects Pro and Topaz Adjust 4.  The first filter I applied was Nik Pro Contrast.  I duplicated this layer and then used a custom setting in Topaz Adjust 4.  I lowered the opacity of this layer down to 67% and then merged it with the Pro Contrast layer.  Next I went back to Nik and selected Bleach Bypass.  Once the new layer was created I lowered the opacity to 15% and then merged it down.  At this point I was really happy with the effect and I see why many HDR photographers use it.  I then used Nik Glamour Glow.  Next I used Nik Brilliance and Warmth but only selected the barrels to apply this effect.  Below is what came out of the oven-

10/06/10 Deco Coca Cola Entrance – Examining Mood And HDR

Before I start this installment on examining one of my compositions, I want to briefly cover the topic of High Dynamic Range or HDR processing.   In basic terms, HDR in photography is a process of taking multiple exposures of a shot and combining them into one shot that is then tone mapped to bring out the lights and darks of the shot.  This process opens up many options for the final outcome and gives the photographer an added artistic direction.  I enjoy this process…well… because I like to process my shots.

As an example, I want to examine a picture I took back in the spring of 2010.  I was granted access to the vacant Coca Cola Bottling Plant in Paducah Ky built in 1939.  This building was constructed with the Deco theme of the 30’s.

To begin, I took 3 pictures with the front door open.  One at regular exposure, f/8 aperture, 18mm –

One under exposed -2

One over exposed +2

Once back to my PC, I loaded these 3 shots into photomatix and did a conservative tone map. ( I prefer to be fairly conservative in this tone map process and tone map more with topaz adjust later.)  Below is the tone mapped shot after photomatix-

Next I opened up the shot in Photoshop CS3 and applied Nik Pro Contrast effect to clean up the color and add more contrast-

Next I used topaz adjust to apply my custom hdr tone map to bring out the textures-

Next I used Nik Tonal Contrast to emphasize the lines in the wood of the door and texture on the walls-

Now that I have a blend of texture that I like, I noticed I had some areas on the shot that glamour glow would accentuate even more…specifically chrome reflections of the natural light.-

Next, I wanted to bring more focus to the door so I used Nik Darken/Lighten center.-

And my final step, I wanted to add more of the sun reflection at the top so I used Nik Reflector Effects.  I brushed in the areas I wanted to highlight.  Then I sharpened up the shot with a duplicate layer overlay on high pass and here is the outcome-

To really see the detail of this shot, a larger version of this is on my website here.

My goal for the final print of this shot was to capture the textures of this aged deco entrance and that in itself would permeate the mood for which I was aiming.

9/30/10 Nik Color Effects Pro – Reflector Effects

Another photographer introduced me to Nik Color Effects Pro several months back.  Recently I discovered the power of the Reflector Effects filter with Control Points.  I have been doing some research on portrait shooting with natural lighting and the use of reflectors/diffusers.  One video in particular went thru using a gold reflector for warmer tones in the shade.

After taking pictures of my daughter one afternoon in the park, I was going through the shots and one stood out that would have been a good candidate for using a reflector.  I wanted to see if I could process it to get close to the same effect.  I was happy with the outcome.

Below is the original converted from raw.-

Once in photoshop, I began with the contrast using the Pro Contrast filter in Nik.  After that I used the reflector Effect filter in Nik and picked a central point on her cheek just below her eye.  I brought the spread down just to her face and gave the angle of the reflector 45 degree.  For the type of reflector, I selected Soft Gold and I reduced its opacity to around 40 so not to be harsh.  Next I repeated the same process but I selected Silver this time to brighten it a bit more but not add any more wamth.  I was surprised at how well this lightened the subject area I was focusing on.

Now that I had the light I wanted I went thru my usual treatments of some slight glamour glow, lighten darken center, and curves adjustment.  Below is what I finished with-

9/21/10 Before and After – Corvette Dinner Examined

While taking some bracket shots at night this week, I ran into a problem.  I noticed that my exposure difference was lacking to create a HDR image from my 3 shots of -2,0,+2 of the Corvette scene.  I decided to take my raw original shot at 0 and create 5 exposures.

I opened up Digital Photo Professional and selected the shot I wanted to use to create my exposures. Below is the one I selected-

I adjusted the exposure to -2 and converted/saved as tiff 16bit.  Then I did the same at -1, 0, +1, +2.  Once I was done, I had 5 shots ready to load into Photomatix.  If you try this for the first time, note that Photomatix will prompt you saying one or more shots contains the same exposure.  A screen should appear that allows you to make adjust the exposures so you will have -2,-1,0,1,2.

I went pretty conservative in my settings for this HDR in Photomatix but I still had quite a bit of noise.  Below you can see what the shot looked like after the tone map from Photomatix.

Next I opened the image up in Photoshop CS3.  One of the things I like to do first is to clean up the noise levels by using Topaz Adjust 4.  I selected “reset all” then I went to the noise section and adjusted suppression to around 1.5 and amount to .75 and checked the Use Topaz DeNoise.

Next I used Nik filters to bring out the highs and lows and make the colors pop a bit more.  I used Pro Contrast, Brilliance/Warmth , and a very slight Glamour Glow.

I was pretty happy at this point but I still had some noise that I wanted to clean up a bit more.  For this final clean up, I used Topaz Clean 2 and selected Crisp Style.  And the final result-