Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Landscape Three Ways

I tend to see in black and white when I shoot. Even before I take a look at my white balance settings for the scene, I am already looking at it in terms of what I will be able to do once I get home to the digital darkroom (Nik software and OnOne software). That pre-visualization makes such a difference in terms of deciding how to wrestle with contrast and tonal range. In short, I like knowing what I am going to get long before I go "click". 

This was my first attempt to try to capture some of the odd blue-ish green glow that I saw in the sky. After editing, something about it just didn't rock my world. One thing that was critically apparent was that my sensor was dirtier than my teenager's bedroom. Holy COW! There is nothing like a barren sky like that to show off every bloody dust speck on your camera's sensor. Yikes.

And this final image is the original image, complete with lone weed standing in the snow field. Look closely and you will see all those lovely dust specks that drive me mad with frustration. Time to get in there to do some cleaning.

I think my biggest frustration with this scene was that I was already tired of driving around PA and was ready to be heading home. In a perfect world, I would have liked to have driven much closer to this windfarm in hopes of creating more interesting compositions. Ideally, I would love to go back, sneak around closer to the base of one of the towers and then push the rest off into the receding distance. Unfortunately, as anyone who has driven around Pennsylvania knows, there is no straight road anywhere. Every road goes up and around John's barn and past the boulder, where you make a right turn at the gas station that burned down ten years ago... you'll see the turn. And when you get there...or where you think "there" should be... all that is there is a bunch of trees. Worse, this time of year, you just find trees and snow. Sometimes the road is almost negligible... an afterthought of what might have been a road in better times.

So, I have my work cut out for me. An interesting subject awaits. I just need to find the time and map out a route for a return trip down to this wind farm. It would also be fun to test out some of these new mirrorless cameras during this jaunt. I might just have to break down and rent a few through LensRentals.com.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Difference Between a Capture and a Creation

edited in Nik Analog Efex and LR5
Some might argue that a photographer has to get everything right in-camera otherwise they aren't "real" photographers. Others seem to think that every image needs to be massaged and coerced in Photoshop until it looks like a dayglow black velvet Elvis painting.

I tend to look at my original images and try to find things that I want to draw out of the image. In many cases, working in a black and white format helps me to see the tonal ranges and textures with greater ease. In an image like this, that weathered barn wood just craves being touched. I wanted to make that the dominant feeling in the image. As I looked through the other images during this session, the details were more compelling (for the most part) but they said nothing about the emptiness of this old barn. When I came back to this shot, it had such a concise plea of emptiness. Even though this barn is still in use, the neglect is obvious. It is past its prime. I'd like to think that the finished image gives some integrity to the old barn in its last few years.

original jpg of the barn, no editing

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Taking A Look Back

In the past few weeks I have updated some of my editing software. After resisting the change to cloud-based, subscription software via Adobe, I finally succumbed to the "Photographer's Package"... $10/mo for Photoshop CC and Lightroom. Works for me!

One of the programs I started working with five years ago is Nik Software. NIK was sold to Google a few years back. I was worried that the sale of the incredibly innovative program would result in software stagnation and the eventual conversion to simply an online app. While there haven't been any major new releases since the acquisition by Google, it is still getting minor updates. What is fascinating though is that the minor updates are really quite interesting and useful. Not often one can say that about software.

One of the newest features is Analog Efex Pro. From the copy on the Nik site: 
Get the photo you’re looking for, even if you don’t own the equipment. Effects inspired by traditional cameras bring you back to a specific era. Choose from Classic Camera, Vintage, Wet Plate and Toy Camera. Go beyond filtersUse vintage effects designed for the serious photographer. Create professionally stylized images by picking a preset, then diving in to fine-tune your approach. Adjust bokeh, textures, frames and other elements, then pinpoint the location of your effects with precise on-image controls.
In short, you get groovy effects that are way more cool than stuff you find with Instagram, etc. Very fun.

So why am I mentioning this? Because for me, exploring new software is play. It is almost as much fun as opening a box with a new camera in it, or starting a new book or finding a new place to go hiking.

Where I became evangelical about Nik software was when I emailed them for customer support. My problem was that the new Creative Cloud versions of Photoshop and Lightroom don't recognize the authorization numbers that came with my boxed software 2 yrs ago. My fear was that, like most big software companies, once you reach a year or two after purchase, you are shit out of luck. No support, no help... just buy the stuff again and take your licks. Nik wasn't cheap. At the time it retailed for $300 and when I tried to purchase it, it was on sale for $150. Now, the normal street price is just shy of $150 and there are sales for folks who own other software like OnOne.

I emailed Nik and asked what could be done so I could use their software with my newly installed Adobe Creative Cloud software. I expected to get an automated response in a few days. Instead the following morning, I had a very kindly written email, explaining that all I had to do was run the installed that they had attached to the email and everything would install, no codes necessary. In short, since I was already a registered, licensed customer, they wanted me to keep using their software. Holy shit! No one does that. I was mega-impressed. I wrote the tech support person back and thanked him. I let him know that his speedy reply, succinct instructions and awesome attitude made my whole week better. Not an hour later he replied again, letting me know that if I ran into any problems with the Nik software integrating after any CC upgrades, I should email and they would take care of it.

Wow! That's how customer service is SUPPOSED to be.

Now, as I look back at the days where I used to buy the educational version of Adobe Creative Suite, Lightroom, etc... and hope that I could squeeze 2-4 yrs out of the application before needing to upgrade, now I am trying out the Creative Cloud. So far, I am actually impressed. I have a feeling that in the long run, there will be more competitors for Adobe. Not sure when that will happen, but if companies like Nik keep on their game, there is so much promise!