After pushing the shutter button

do you think “post-processing” is a dirty word?

When a scene moves us to want to push the shutter and capture that moment are we trying to capture simply what our eyes are seeing or what the moment causes us to feel?  The camera sensor can’t express what we are feeling nor can it truly record what we are seeing.  What we see is the interpretation of the visual signals sent to our brain by our eyes, basically our brains are doing the post-processing for us.  We have to do it for the camera.

Whether you plan to share your work by printing it or share it digitally you still want that photograph to express what it was you felt and why you were moved to take the image in the first place.  What comes directly out of the camera just can’t do that.

I posted this image a couple of weeks ago from our road trip to Idaho and Wyoming.

Jackson Lake with a snow storm approaching over the Tetons
Jackson Lake with a snow storm approaching over the Tetons

What I didn’t show was how this image began.  When I took the image I knew I wanted it black and white.  Black and white images allow the textures and shapes to take center stage without being overwhelmed by color and there just wasn’t much color in the scene to begin with.

RAW Jackson Lake
RAW Jackson Lake

My focus was the Tetons and the approaching storm clouds creeping over them so the detail needed to be increased on the mountains and in the sky.  I also created a layer to selectively draw more attention to the mountains.  I chose to add a blue tone to the image to make it feel cooler since it was cold at the time.  Ultimately there were 4 or 5 layers created to fine tune different parts and obviously I did crop the image.  I probably should have paid more attention in the field to the intersecting lines as well as the placement of the horizon and shifted my view upwards.  Diagonals play an important role in compositions, by cropping the bottom I was able to place the diagonal line of the shore in the corner of the image and use it to point to the mountains although they are still too uncomfortably centered.

After doing most of the adjusting I then shared the image with my peers through a live video hangout.  They provided honest positive and negative comments which sent me back to work to bring in more detail into the trees as well as adjusting the ice on the right side to break the horizontal line.  Some people might say that is changing reality but in reality it wasn’t in black and white either.  Be honest, had you noticed before I pointed it out?  Some people suggested I remove the holes in the ice but I don’t find them greatly distracting so I didn’t.

If you have any comments about what I did or how I did it please leave a comment below.  I’m thinking about doing more before/after posts so let me know if that is something any of you are interested in.

Postcards from the Tetons

I posted these on my other social media channels but I wanted to also post them here before the trip became a distant memory.

Jackson Lake with a snow storm approaching over the Tetons
Jackson Lake with a snow storm approaching over the Tetons
A moose trying to take a nap by the roadside near the Gros Ventre
A moose trying to take a nap by the roadside near the Gros Ventre
Mountain Bluebird
Mountain Bluebird
Morning fog starting to clear from a farm in Teton Valley
Morning fog starting to clear from a farm in Teton Valley

Easter Hop

First Annual Easter hopper hop

hoppers, hot air, balloons, cloud hopper

On Sunday morning Temecula became the site of one of the largest gathering of hoppers or basket-less balloons on the west coast.  It all started with a casual inquiry on Facebook one month ago and grew to 8 hoppers and 1 chariot.

Fly-able weather is never a guarantee for any balloon event but no one could complain about it for either Saturday or Sunday.

The volume of all the hoppers is equal to the volume of the large ride balloon behind them.

The most consistent thing about Temecula in the morning is that it isn’t consistent but that played in favor of the balloons on Sunday by switching around and allowing 4 of the 7 balloons which flew to land back at their launch site.

Calendars have already been marked for next year when the event will expand to be 2 days long.

After Aperture

I have to admit, I was a latecomer to Adobe Lightroom (LR) because I jumped on the Apple Aperture boat only to have it sink on me years later.  In the beginning I actually signed up to be a Lightroom beta tester but was busy with my marine biology career and didn’t really dig down into it.  When the time came for me to pick a program for my digital asset management (DAM) I went with Aperture for various reasons.  The 2 programs seemed to follow similar development advances and Aperture played nice with all my other applications till Apple basically turned their backs on the professional users to cater more to the consumer market.  So like many people I was in the market for a new solution and so LR was the obvious choice.  I do like LR’s adjustment capabilities and it mostly plays well with Photoshop, although I’ve never understood why I can’t use a PSD for a watermark the way I could with Aperture.  But as far as a DAM I am totally frustrated with it for many reasons that I’m not going to bore you with.  So I’ve been in the market for something new and was going to look into making the move to Capture One Pro but then Luminar was announced.  I already have many of the Macphun products and the price was a lot easier to swallow.  I realize that it doesn’t have a DAM yet but they say it is in coming.  So hopefully I haven’t bored any readers with all of that back story but my background in Aperture is one of the reasons I like the set up of Luminar I can even still use my preferred import workflow using Aperture, which is more flexible and faster than LR, and then move into Luminar.

One of the first Aperture-esque features is the customizable workspace.  You can customize what adjustment panels or filters as they call them, are available to you and create multiple workspaces for different types of images.  Of course they have already created some for you to start with for landscape, portrait, street, B&W and a general default.

workspace

I also think the flexibility of Luminar to be able to appeal to many levels of users and to allow users to grow with it is going to be a great strength moving forward.  You can quickly apply a preset and share it out to Facebook, Twitter or even Apple Mail, something I sorely missed with LR, or take full control with many features similarly found in Photoshop including layers, luminosity masks and blending modes.  Additionally it can be used as a plugin or stand-alone program.

If you want to speed up your workflow learn the keyboard shortcuts.  You can find them by mousing over the icon or in the manual but admittedly I’m probably one of the few that has read it and I found the format was not helping me so I made my own list which you can download here as a PDF.  It is a work in progress so let me know if I messed up something.

User hint: If you want to use the RAW capability of Luminar then open images directly from the open command in Luminar or if you are in LR you can go to File/Plug-in Extras/transfer to Luminar.

My biggest wish for the next Luminar update:  To get the library module available and to have it more flexible than what LR offers for those of us that don’t always want things alphabetical.

Baja California

Lowtide during a rare rainstorm
Lowtide during a rare rainstorm

As a junior in college I had the opportunity to travel to what became an inspirational and transformative place for me, Baja California, specifically Coloradito.  Approximately 50km south of San Felipe, Coloradito is a fishing ejido which had a small covered cement slab and shed which served as the university laboratory but really the entire ecosystem was our laboratory, a full immersion ecology class for 2 weeks.  The main focus was the intertidal life, our class schedule revolved around the flow of the tides.  When the tide was low we were on the reef exploring and collecting organisms for later identification and when the tide was high it was time to escape the heat by going swimming, class lectures found a place between the two.  At night there were scorpion/gecko/snake hunts around camp or if wood was running short there would be a wood-run out to the fossil beds which would turn into a spotlighting trip to catch a glimpse of any of the night life.  A night or two would be become an astronomy lesson under the darkest of night skies, something a girl from LA had never seen before.

During that first week I could be heard commenting that “if I come back”, by the second week I was saying “when I come back”.  I did go back.  The following year I was hired to be the teaching assistant (TA) and for the next dozen or so years I returned as a pseudo-TA or unpaid assistant of which there were many of us.  In fact some of us became regular fixture for the class and have become a family over the years and still return occasionally.  Many ex-students have even purchased houses at the camp.

 

The class was removed from the University curriculum after the professor, Dr. Roy Houston retired to spend most of his time at his Baja home.  He hasn’t stopped teaching though and provides classes through the local community center for anyone interested in learning about the life that abounds around them as well as working with Sea Shepard Conservation Society and others to protect the critically endangered Vaquita marina, a small porpoise which only lives in the Gulf whose numbers have dropped to ~30 individuals.  You can get a glimpse of what Baja is like from the embedded Sea Shepard video featuring Roy. This video along with my recent return trip is what got me reminiscing about all my time in this magical place.