Afterexposure Photography

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Posts Tagged ‘Lightroom’

51 seconds to a visual vocabulary

The last week was interesting, productive, and frustrating, all at the same time.

I was in Toronto for SecTor, a conference that’s somewhere between Blackhat, DefCon, and something more mainstream like RSA, after which I was in Vancouver for a few days of R&R, shopping, and of course, some shooting.

Actually, I had planned on doing a lot more shooting than I did. My preparations were a bit rushed, and I wasn’t really able to put together a shot list for the trip. It seems that writing, at least beyond the style of this blog, and my more to-the-point stuff I do at work (usually email) isn’t my strong suit.  Ah well; both are beautiful cities and offer a lot photographically, so I wasn’t too worried.

I sat down today to go through some of the digital images and found this single image jumping out of the stack at me:


Vancouver at sunset, from the hotel. Pentax K20D, 50mm f/1.2 @ f/2.8, ISO 1600, 1/20 sec

The shot took a bit to develop; I’ve boosted the Vibrance in Lightroom to bring out the blue in the sky, as well as some light noise reduction with Wavelet Denoise … and to get the buildings to look straight(er) I did a keystone distortion adjustment in the GIMP as well.

After I was done editing the image a few things struck me.

First, I’ve always wanted to do this shot of Calgary, because I often see the city at dawn/dusk; although given the local topography it’s never quite this dramatic (downtown Calgary sits quite low compared to its surroundings).

Second, this is similar to a dawn shot I wanted of Toronto, but couldn’t get an early enough ferry.

And it reminded me of another of the shots I was planning on doing in Toronto, but didn’t due to poor weather;  one of those night cityscapes of the flow of traffic, like this one. The CN Tower would make the perfect vantage point!

My original plan was to add shot list notes into my iphone calendar so I could be at the right place at the right time for the shots I wanted. But I couldn’t describe the scenes. I had no way to say what I saw in my mind. I couldn’t say “high vantage point, city view, long exposure, with light trails”. I don’t know why. I can say those things when I see an image, but I couldn’t seem to turn an imagined image into words in the pre-trip rush.

So as the sun set I saw these images that were familiar to me; the fading sky reflected in skyscrapers that are often used in travel magazines, and I clicked away; here is a three image panorama that took a bit of work to stitch together… for some reason autostitch thought it should be a pyramid…


Tower. Pentax K20D, 50mm f/1.2 @ f/2.8, ISO 1600, 1/15 sec, 3 images

I had pictured images like this in my mind before the trip, but for some reason couldn’t write them down. What the heck is so hard about “skyscraper reflecting sunset” ?

The last image wasn’t one I had ever planned, and the color treatment, using the Split Toning tool to amp up the blue in the shadows, well it’s quite heavy-handed… but what the heck. One thing that shooting with the iPhone app “The Best Camera” has taught me is that vivid color and simple composition are often the best to communicate an image.


Sunset. Pentax K20D, 50mm f/1.2 @ f/2.8, ISO 1600, 1/180 sec

But what is that? I’ve taken shots like this before; but never described them simply. Is this “Silhouette against twighlight” ? Or “Geometric man against fluid nature” ? Bah!

Either works, but I guess I need to start reading something other than technical standards and linux howto’s if I’m going to be able to better put what I imagine into words. Without words to help me I’m not going to communicate or remember to get all the shots I want!

Incidentally, all 5 of the images here (the first one, the 3 that make up the tall pano of the skyscraper, and this last one) were shot within 51 seconds of each other.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

No productivity post today… unless you are a photographer who uses Lightroom, or can think far enough outside the box to apply this to your own situation, or just happen to want to take better pictures for friends and family.
On Twitter I recently followed @Michael_Zelbel – and one item on his site was ‘10 things I learned about photography‘. It’s a quick read and worthwhile to see what others consider interesting, if only for the fresh perspective.
One item caught my attention; #8, the Golden Ratio. I’ve seen different takes on how to shoot with the golden ratio before, but not really applied it. Instead I’ve been stuck on the ‘Rule of Thirds’, probably for two reasons. First, it’s drilled into everyone, everwhere. A few years ago I found the headshots of Kevyn Major Howard and really liked them. So much that I analyzed them and found they are often EXACTLY rules-of-thirds shots, down to the pixel. But nice work nonetheless.
The other reason I think I’m stuck on thirds is the default Adobe Lightroom cropping grid. Yikes! My work has been inadvertently controlled by software! Let’s fix that!
Step 1: Absorb the Golden Ratio. Here a Google search is going to be your best friend, but a reasonable set of examples can be found here. Not earth shaking, but illustrative.
Step 2: Change your Lightroom crop grid!!! In the Develop module select the crop tool. Now press the letter ‘o’. To rotate the grid, press ‘Shift+o’ (that’s a captial ‘O’ for those of you quick on your feet… :)
Now, you can run right out and try to start shooting in the Golden Ratio, and see if you can work with those images in Lightroom with the adjusted grid…
…or you can look in your Lightroom library for shots you already have that maybe you didn’t consider winners before, but with this new set of grids show some promise. I know I’m guilty of choosing shots more easily cropped for thirds, so I wonder how many gems I’ve turfed over the years… more on that in a second…
As an instructional tool the value of doing this in real-time in Lightroom is fantastic. The very first shot of Heidi I chose to try with the new grid ALMOST fit! No wonder I liked it! Sure, there are possible tweaks to her pose are easy to see; a different hip-leg arrangement; more dramatic arm / head angles, more camera tilt… and the shot could be ‘better’:

Or could it? Maybe ‘better’ isn’t the right word. The title of this post is ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly‘, for a reason. Is this shot ugly because it doesn’t follow one of these rules exactly? I don’t think so!
Rules like the Golden Ratio, or Thirds, or whatever, should really be called ‘Guidelines’. Captain Jack was right, and rules are made to be ignored or broken. Guildlines… those can be followed if it suits you.
To be fair Lightroom doesn’t have ‘Rules‘ but does have ‘Guidelines‘… literally guidelines overlaid on the image by the crop tool. To call them guidelines is Good. To call them rules… that’s Bad.
Lastly, I wonder how many shots get dumped by everyone, every day, just because they don’t fit some preconceived notion of proportional guidelines or compositional rules, and get called ‘Ugly‘. That’s a shame, in fact I think that’s what is truly ugly!
So go ahead and compose for the Golden Ratio or Rule of Thirds to develop that ‘fresh perspective’, spend some time to apply them to past shots and learn to see alternate compostional rules, but don’t get too hung up… I think we still have more ‘guidelines’ out there to discover!

Lightroom, Copyrights, Watermarks, iPhones, Tigers

Lightroom has always had the ability to watermark images with the contents of the ‘copyright’ field. To see the field, switch to Library mode look at the Metadata panel and make sure ‘IPTC’ or ‘All’ is selected; then scroll down to the copyright field.

But the control of the font from within Lightroom is absent!
You could try Jeffrey’s Lightroom Configuration Manager , but it will only alter the font…. as a bonus you do get a lot of tweaks besides the watermark font, so you may still want to check it out.
I’m not one for reading the manual first, mostly because Google makes it too easy to just search for an exact answer… and I found one at the Lightroom Forums, in this post, which points to a really neat tool that I’ve just started exploring, LR2/Mogrify. The guy (Timothy Armes) must be a Calvin and Hobbes fan, because to me this conjures up memories of the Transmogrifier.
Of course if you actually do a search in the LR help, the user comments will point you to LR2/Mogrify also. It’s more complicated to install than just ‘click and run’, but the install instructions work if you follow them exactly, and I was up and running inside 10 minutes, including download time.
What does it do? Instead of a generic, corporate font for your watermark, now you have this:
How about that snazzy Polariod look? Is that Lightroom color manipulation? Is that an LR2/Mogrify border?
Nah… it’s even simpler:
Polarize for the iPhone
Maybe the best app I’ve downloaded yet.
BTW, that’s a laundromat in San Francisco not too far from the hotel. My vacations? Luxxe, man, Luxxe.

Lightroom Presets

I took the K20D out for a spin yesterday, despite the rather overcast light. This morning I was wondering if my copy of Lightroom had been updated to handle the K20D profile, and stumbled upon a pair of presets in this thread:

The result is a little over the top in terms of vibrance and clarity settings, but it is an interesting effect when the natural light is so washed out.

Here is a sample image: