Friday, February 24, 2012


After having almost no snow all winter we were dusted by about ¾" Wednesday night. The Adirondacks (South of us) got 3-4 inches and I decided it was time to go wandering and photographing again. It's a strange addiction that I have, this need to go rambling about in the woods and mountains photographing the moods of nature. An addiction it is though and perhaps my camera, like the fisherman's pole, is really just an excuse to be there, taking it all in. Excuse or not, I hope that my images will be pleasant reminder of my wanderings if and when age renders me no longer able to go such places. In the meantime I hope that they are a revealing window for those currently not able (for whatever reason) to experience these places.

Although the snow stopped in the morning on Thursday at home, it continued off and on all day down South in the mountains. The view above was made during a brief break in passing snow squalls. A thin spot in the clouds allowed a faint bit of sunlight to strike the snow that had accumulated on the evergreens of this island group making them the brightest spots in a relatively dark landscape. If it were a clear day you would see Whiteface Mt. in the background. Yesterday however, it was totally obscured by the low hanging clouds.

As a bit of balance against my asocial nature I'll add an urban photo taken on the main street in Saranac Lake, as urban as the Adirondacks get anyway and as urban as I like it. I don't often photograph people but lately I'd been seeing scenes that are representative of "the human condition", the moods of our particular subset of nature (see also the photo in the prior post). I spotted that tree against the red and green building as I pulled out of a parking lot. I had to drive quite a way up the street before finding a parking place to walk back to shoot it. Snow was coming down fat, wet, and hard. I arrived back at the vantage point for the photo just in time to catch this lady between the tree and lamppost. After she passed I shot another frame with no one in it, the way I envisioned the photo when I first decided to park the truck and go back, but that one doesn't work as well. It's nice but without the lady it seems empty. It was purely a stroke of luck that she was wearing a red coat and carrying a green bag, echoing the building she is passing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Phone Photo

Shot and applied an 'oil paint' effect with my Android phone and further modified in Photoshop. This couple was having a very earnest conversation, mostly the guy talking with a lot of hand gesturing. It wasn't a dispute of any kind but he was explaining something that he was clearly enthused about and she was very attentive to whatever he was saying. They lingered well past finishing their lunch.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Reverse Grisaille Revisited

I noticed on my blog stats that the Reverse Grisaille post is getting a fair amount of attention so I decided to revisit the subject.The above is an example of what it does, albeit an exaggerated one. In practice I probably would tone the 'after' down somewhat, at least in selected areas.

To recap the process covered in the previous post; make a copy of your image that you then convert to B&W using the conversion process to obtain the best tonal values without regard to hue (best being your intent and definition). Then drag that B&W "grisaille" image onto the original while holding down the shift key so that they auto-align and change the blending mode to "Luminosity". At that point it will almost always be too harsh and you will want to reduce the opacity to the B&W layer. The "after" in the example above  is set at 80% opacity. While the grisaille layer heightens local contrast it also has the effect of slightly dulling the color so you may need to add a hue/saturation adjustment layer around +10 to 15% saturation to compensate.

So why do it? Can't you get the same increase in local contrast using other Photoshop tools? Yes, but... I find it easier to judge tone if hue is not present. Aside from that this technique gives you a lot of control to play with. For example if you save the layered file you can easily increase or reduce the effect by playing with the opacity slider on the B&W layer. Also you can alter the effect locally by adding a layer mask on which you can selectively paint out the effect wholly or partially by varying the opacity of your brush.

An interesting thing I have noted about this technique is that the grisaille both darkens the dark areas and lightens the light areas. Note the changes in local contrast in the sky and white water where it tumbles down the falls. Also the increased detail in the fallen tree and dark rock at the lower left. It acts like a form of HDR in that sense and seems to do so without creating noise. Another possibility is to use the "Lighten" or "Darken" modes on the grisaille layer for different effects. Those effect only the highlights (lighten) or shadows (darken) and subdue the color more but produce some potentially interesting effects.

If you try this and post results to the web, I'd like to see them. Leave a comment with the URL for your images.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A 'Mountain Afternoon'

When I go on a photo excursion to the Adirondacks it is usually a day trip starting in the morning and coming home after dark but yesterday I went for the afternoon and evening. There was an opening at BluSeed Studios that I wanted to attend because my brother's daughter has some work in the show.

Like here (North of the Park) there was little snow, more than we have but a fraction of what one would expect in the ADKs in February. The sky was totally clear making for very strong light that was good for photographing Whiteface and I spent some time photographing on Norman's Ridge. The farm fields up there were mostly bare but the snow on Whiteface's summit made it stand out nicely and the low winter sun made for good shadows that reveal the shape of the mountain slopes.

The show was very good. A cell phone photo of Rachel Bullard's portion of the show is below, a series of paper works incorporating drawn images and thread suspended in thin wood frames by threads. There was a watercolor of a buck with camouflage coloring and improbably large antlers. Presumably his antlers are so big because his coloring kept hunters from seeing him so he has outlived his cohorts. I missed getting that artist's name. I was also quite taken by the work of Krystal Stowe who uses stain (and paint?) to make drawings on Luan plywood that incorporate the grain of the wood into the drawing. There is lots more to see. If you will be in the Saranac Lake area in the next 3 weeks I recommend going to see the show.
Works on paper by Rachel Bullard
at BluSeed Studios, 24 Cedar St., Saranac Lake, NY

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Postwork Shop Pro 2 Review

Back in December I wrote a post about PostworkShop basic in which I said that I would probably buy the Pro version. I finally did. The differences are in the amount of presets available and the size of the image you can process. The basic version would only work with images up to 800 pixels per side. They have an "Artist" version that will work on images up to 2000 pixels/side and the Pro version that is unlimited. They are about to upgrade the program to Ver. 3 however and when they do that the Basic and Artist versions will go away. If you are interested in either of them you'd best buy it now.

For my earlier post I had only done web sized images. Since buying the Pro version I've been playing with that and have made some new observations. The first is that when you are working on larger images it gets slower. A lot slower. When I tried working on full sized files from my Canon 7D (18MP) it came to a screeching halt, totally locked up when I attempted to use some presets. Now I should point out that I am working on an older computer (5-6 years old) and I will be moving the program to my new computer eventually, a fairly simple process of de-registering it from this one and registering it on the new one. OTOH I note that one of the improvements they list for Ver. 3 is that it will be faster, so apparently others had experienced slow processing too.

Now for the pluses. There are lots of presets in the Pro version. You can play with the settings on many (but not all) of the presets. It works in layers which gives you the option of several blending modes. There is a style editor, a bitmap editor and a batch processor which I presume can be used to process a series of images to an identical style. There is a lot to the program and I confess that I've only begun to scratch the surface. If they cure the speed problem with version 3 and my newer computer handles it better I can see this becoming a tool I use fairly frequently for "Fine Art" and illustrative images.

The photo at the top was made on a tall ship cruise on the St. Lawrence last September. It has two added layers, Antique Drawing 2 and Pencil Drawing 13. Both presets were modified from their defaults and the layers are set to different blending modes and levels of opacity. There are much more extreme possibilities including this Warholesque preset (which has very limited options).
Some of the presets give results that are barely or wholly unrecognizable as having been based on the image you started with as in the case of the following two using canned presets, both of which are variations of the same image as the one at the top.
The first of those two (Impressionism 1) had no user adjustable options the second (Cubism) did but I ran both presets straight to see the effect and both are at 100% opacity. Personally I don't see the second as "Cubist" but that's a semantic quibble. Where some of these more extreme presets may be useful is with different blending modes. I can't see myself finding a use for "Cubist" though nor any of the abstract presets.

I haven't even gotten into the style editor or bitmap editor. There are way too many possibilities in this software for me to go into them all and many are not the sort of thing that will appeal to those who only want to enhance the photographic qualities of their images but if you are inclined to walk a bit on the wild side there is plenty here to keep you occupied.

As with all my reviews this was not undertaken by a request or even with the knowledge of the publisher of PostworkShop, nor did I receive any consideration for it.

Friday, February 03, 2012


Just a quick note to let everyone know that Blurb has a promotion going until the 27th of February. If you use the code SAVE10 you will get $10 off the price of their books (including my book of course). They didn't mention ebooks but since my ebook version is already less than $10 I'm sure that it wouldn't apply.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

My Fascination with Trees

As the previous two posts show, and others in the past, I spend a lot of my photography time on trees. Like humans, most trees get overlooked, lost in the crowd. Some stand out because they are unusually attractive or they are battered survivors. This one literally stands out, taller by more than twice than any tree around it, on a steep slope above a 25-30 foot cliff over Chapel Pond on Rt. 73 in the Adirondacks. You need to be in a boat to see it silhouetted against the sky like this. From the road side of the pond it gets lost among the trees on the slope which continues up behind it.

Back when this country consisted of British Colonies trees like this would have been considered property of the king. At that time the British navy ruled the seas and the ships of that era depended on tall straight trees like this for their masts. They'd have had a tough time getting this one though. I can't help but wonder if this tree was there back then, smaller of course. Few humans ventured into this part of the Adirondacks back then, a few natives perhaps. It was only a hunting ground for them and there were no tourists at all.