Saturday, May 11, 2019

Photoshop Filter Effects

I attended the opening of the juried show at Northwind Gallery in Saranac Lake last night and a couple of photographer friends asked my opinion of one of the works there, "is it a photograph or some other medium?". Upon examining it I was 99% certain that it was a manipulated photograph. It looked a bit like a painting but the surface didn't appear to have any of the physical texture of the paint. It was perfectly smooth like an inkjet print of a photo. OTOH it seemed to have an applied texture image that looked like a cross between film grain and paint stokes. I decided this afternoon to try to duplicate the effect with one of my photos. This is what I came up with.

After duplicating the base layer I went to my Topaz Texture Effects 2 filters and chose Vintage>Sharp and Gritty. I modified that by pushing up the grain sliders significantly. That gave me the sort of grain effect I was looking for but I was missing the painterly elements. I added a curves layer to increase the contrast then Used Shift/Ctrl/Alt/E to make a new layer that combined the existing layers and used Topaz Simplifier 4 to 'clump' pixels together for the painterly effect. I settled on 15 on the simplifier slider and turned off the Adjustments and Edges tabs that are part of the default effect. 

At that point, I got the above image but had mostly lost the grain effect in the simplifier filter so I reduced the opacity of the top layer to 75% so that more of the grain effect would show and ended up with this
I'm not sure that the differences will be that evident in the blog post but if you click on either photo you can view it a bit larger and flip between the two with your arrow keys. I think I prefer the top photo because I like the smoother effect. I've never been fond of grain but this was an exercise to see if I could reproduce the effect I'd seen at the show. I don't think I matched it entirely but I came close and experiments like this are useful for expanding one's vision. Feel free to comment if you prefer one over the other and why you like it more.

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Friday, April 26, 2019

Canoes & Cameras

Why canoes and cameras? This week I sold one of my canoes, a 14.5' tandem that we haven't used in years. Diane can't get in and out of it because of knee problems and it is too much canoe for just me. I have 3 (yes, three) solo canoes. More on that in a bit.

The camera part comes in because I was reading Kirk Tuck's* posts about his fond memories of a Canon G10 that he used to own and had just gotten another one that he was using yesterday. I owned a G10 for several years and a lot of the early posts to this blog were shot with it. Although it was prone to noise at ISOs above 400 it was a great little camera that would fit in a jacket pocket or a small waist pouch for hiking. That's where mine was when I fell into Indian Pass Brook several years back and the waist pouch wasn't waterproof. I sent the camera off to Canon and they offered to swap for a G11 in lieu of repair which I agreed to but the photo above was shot with the G10 while canoeing some time prior to its watery demise.

When canoeing with cameras I keep the camera(s) in a Pelikan box except when I am actually shooting and use a wrist strap as insurance against dropping the camera. Like Kirk, I have a fondness for the early G series Canons. I was disappointed when they stopped putting the articulating screen on them. The optical viewfinder is next to useless. I often shoot from odd angles and found the articulated screen helpful even in bright sun at eye level because I could turn it slightly downward to cut reflections. The G11 also has that style screen but my G11 needs repair and I have been debating whether it is worth the expense. I have looked at the Olympus Tough series, in particular, the TG-5, since they support RAW which was the main attraction of the G10/G11 for me. The TG-5 doesn't have an articulated screen which is understandable since it is waterproof to 15 meters. I don't think there is any way they could seal the swivels on an articulated screen but waterproof would be nice for canoeing (no further falls in the brook are planned) and it has 4K video which brings me to my latest notion that I 'might' try my hand at vlogging on my hiking/canoeing/photography outings. That is still very much in the formative idea stage. Among other things, I'd need to learn video editing before diving in, figuratively speaking.

About those 3 solo canoes; I have a 12' Native watercraft, an Old Town Pack canoe and a Hornbeck. Each has its good points. The Native Watercraft is stable. The aluminium framed mesh seat (very comfortable) is on the floor. You sit with your legs out in front of you kayak style. Because there is no deck, you can get awesome leg sunburns if you are foolish enough to wear shorts. BTDT. It has a tunnel hull that was designed with fishermen in mind. They advertise that you can stand up and cast from it and I have been assured by a couple of people much younger and more agile than I that it can be done. I have had the canoe for 12 years and have had neither the occasion or the nerve to try standing in it, but the stability makes it great for photography on the water. The hull itself is extremely tough plastic. I have shot over beaver dams in it going downstream. It is the heaviest of the three at around 50#.

The Old Town Pack canoe is one I lusted after for years and I finally bought the last one that Mountain Man in Old Forge had when Old Town discontinued that model because they couldn't get the hull material anymore. It is a traditional style canoe with a seat hung several inches off the floor of the hull and you sit up on the seat with your legs in front of you or tucked (one or both) under the seat or kneel with your butt against the seat. That (for me) is its main attraction, the ability to vary my position. As my doctors occasionally remind me, I'm old and if I sit, stand, whatever in one position too long I stiffen up painfully. I have literally rolled or crawled out of canoes after 2 or more hours on the water because I wasn't able to shift my position in the boat. In spite of that, as I thin out my belongings the Pack canoe will likely be the next to go in the thinning out process.

I won the Hornbeck in a raffle. Its main attraction is weight. It weighs all of 18#. The seat is nothing more than a slab of foam glued to the bottom and a pad for your back on the thwart. I may enlarge that back pad. It's a bit small. I wasn't at all sure I would be able to get in/out of it but Peter Hornbeck has some videos online showing how to get in and out of his boats from either the shore or a dock and his method works. It isn't as stable as the Native Watercraft and is less spacious for my camera box but it is a delight otherwise and beautiful to look at.

In the end, if you want a recommendation of a boat for photography I'd have to say the Native Watercraft is the clear winner. The other two are great in their own ways and the Hornbeck is much prettier, but the stability, durability and space make the Native Watercraft (IMO) the best for photography on the water.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

To Tone Or Not To Tone, That Is The Question.

It has been a month and a half since I posted anything, it is snowing and blowing, I'm bored and playing with old images. This one is from 2006, an early morning shot of mist rising off the Saranac River above Franklin Falls. I have always printed this one in BW because there really wasn't much color and it was shot with a Canon 10D which didn't handle the noise at all well in this situation. Any attempt to augment the color turned to confetti. I was clever enough at that point to be shooting RAW (my earliest images with the 10D were JPG to my later regret) so there was some dynamic range to play with and I needed all I could get.

Since my original editing in Photoshop, I have gone to doing most to my editing in Lightroom and only use PS when I need layers to achieve my aims. I wanted to revisit this image because I wondered if the Dehaze slider would help reveal the tree that is roughly center and was virtually invisible in the mist in my original edit. The above required a combination of darkening highlights (I always do that ahead of Dehase), then a modest amount of Dehase, offsetting the prior two with some overall exposure increase, a slight curves modification and a bit of dodging just left of center in the sky. I also made a toned version (below) because I wanted to see how a bit of warmth would work.

The toning is only in the shadow areas. I used the LR split toning function and left the highlight areas at "0" because I dislike toned highlights. It kills the whites IMO. It is a matter of taste that goes back to my darkroom days when we toned the silver parts of the image but the paper remained white. The shadow areas above were toned Hue 35 and Saturation 10. I sometimes go as high as 15 on the saturation or as low as 9. My aim is for a slight brownish/black cast, not sepia and the saturation varies depending on the image.

I am not entirely sure that the toning adds to this image. I think I like it but I have become accustomed to the BW version, a print of which I have had on my studio wall for many years after entering it in a juried show. Maybe I need time to 'warm up' to the toned version. ;-)
Click on the images for a larger version (1000 pixels wide) and comment which you prefer, B&W or toned. You can use the right/left arrow keys to flip between the enlarged versions.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Ice Palace in Saranac Lake 2019

I go to see the Ice Palace in Saranac Lake most years. They build one every year for the winter carnival. I had planned to go in conjunction with delivering some photos to a B&W show in Lake Placid in the latter half of next week but they are forecasting 40°+ and rain early in the week. That could wreak havoc with the Ice Palace so I decided to go now.

My favorite photo from today is the one above, a detail looking through the ice blocks. I shoot a number of such views every year, often of water weeds trapped in the ice but this year the ice is unusually free of water weeds probably as a result of dredging that happened over the summer in the area where they cut the ice blocks.

 The front entrance of the "Prehistoric Park" themed ice palace. There are some neat beasts inside carved from ice and thrones for the carnival king and queen with huge bones on either side.
 A panorama of the back section which is a small maze.
 The two below are of some broken ice blocks along the lakeshore in back of the Palace. I liked the way the sun shone through then and the patterns they made.

Friday, January 25, 2019

I was not lost, just misplaced.

About a week ago I was going to an appointment and missed a turn with the result that I was on a road that I had never explored before and I found some interesting things to photograph. It is just proof that you don't have to go a long way to find things to make images of. I was late for the appointment but went back later to make the photos. The first is "Harry's Garage" which caught my eye both because of the 'vintage' structure and the sign.

Farther on I found other interesting views that are posted below. The first is a 5 frame stitch and you should click on it to see it bigger. You can do that with any of the images but this one is better bigger. I plan to print it 32" wide (image area).

Old Schoolhouse

Sugar Shanty

Old Garage

Enjoy and if you want to share, share the URL to this page, please. Do not repost any part of this without permission.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 Memories

I thought I would do a 'top 10' or '10 favorite photos' from 2018 but as I scanned my files for the year I realized I couldn't conveniently get the group to equal 10. For starters, I made 2415 photos (that I kept for one reason or another) and that is a lot to pair down to 10 unless I decided to go with a category. That would rule out many that I really liked, not necessarily because they are "art" but because of the connection that I have with the subject through the process of making the photographs. If I went with only one category, there wouldn't be 10 in many of the areas that I have ongoing projects. Others are part of a group for panoramas, HDR or focus stacking. And then there are the 'record shots', simple snapshots to remind me of something or as a reference for drawings. Also, no single category would span the year. So I decided to take a virtual trip of memories through the year with brief explanations of each one. It is an eclectic lot starting with my primary subject matter above, the Adirondack landscape. Note: these are not all in chronological order.

The lead photo is of Whiteface Mt. from a farm field on Norman Ridge. I hope the farmer doesn't mind and I certainly would not have gone into his field if there were Posted signs or if there had been a crop growing but on the 22nd of April it just brown stubble and I wanted to position that copse of trees to frame the mountain. The leave no trace admonition, "Take only photos..." and I didn't even leave footprints.

The next image was made along Rt. 458 between Santa Clara and the junction with Rt. 30. Over the years I have found several good subjects along that stretch. This one is at the point where there is a road cut through the rock diagonally opposite a turnout/rest stop. The date was Feb. 17th. I had gone to Saranac Lake to see the Ice Palace and stopped to make this image on my way home. I liked the overall pattern, the colors in the ice and the twigs sticking through the snow in the foreground.

Jumping ahead in time again (May 25th) is this black and white image of Narcissus in one of my flower beds. The bulbs were a gift from a fellow photographer/potter friend Ron Larsen of Crary Mills. I take a fair number of flower photos every year, to the point that it has occasionally been suggested 'enough already' on FB, but I love flowers as subjects because they are photogenic and (if the wind isn't blowing) they are very cooperative. I was attracted to the sweeping curve this group creates and although it was a tossup between the color original and B&W I decided that the monochrome version accentuated the pattern better.

A day later I was in the Adirondacks and stopped by Mt. Pond which is one of my favorite places. I'm not sure what kind of tree it is with all the orange flowers and dangling seeds but I liked the color contrast against the yellowy greens of the evergreen next to it.

June 6th found me at the VIC at Paul Smiths where I happened on a very nice patch of Bunchberry right next to the parking lot. Like the photo of the Narcissus, this was a tossup whether to post the color or B&W version. I think perhaps my early years in photography being all B&W have biased my taste. Whatever the excuse I went with it again.

The next demands to be in color. It is a Gaillardia plant (AKA Blanket Flower) in my sister's garden. She is a retired florist with a degree in ornamental horticulture and keeps an amazing country garden. I could easily post ten photos of that but...

One of the ongoing photo projects I mentioned above is details of cars, mostly old/antique cars. I made this one at the antique auto show in Ives Park in Potsdam which is held every year alongside the craft fair during the summer festival. It is the hood of an old Ford truck. The owners were planning restoration but I'm not at all sure restoration could make this more visually interesting.

On the 18th of July, two friends and I climbed Whiteface Mt in celebration of the 25th anniversary of my completion of the ADK 46 High Peaks on July 17, 1993. We went a day late because the forecast was for thunderstorms on the 17th and a mountaintop is not a place I want to be when there is lightning. It turned out to be a fortuitous delay because I would not have seen this the day before. In all my years of hiking climbing in the Adirondacks, this was the 1st time I ever encountered Amish. They had been driven up to the parking area in a van by an "English" (non-Amish) friend/neighbor and climbed the last half mile up stone stairs and open rock.

I spent several weeks this summer hiking the Stone Valley Trails (just down the hill from my house) and some other local trails almost daily as part of a fitness challenge. The photo below is of O'Malley Brook as the morning sun was breaking through the trees above it. The trail crosses that bridge at the top.

You might be tempted to think this photo, also from Stone Valley, was an autumn picture but it was made on the 10th of August. The bright early morning sun reflecting off the trees on the opposite shore gave the water the yellow color which contrasts nicely with the bluish cast of the rocks which are in shade.

The following two are from another local trail, the Red Sandstone Trail that runs from Hannawa Falls to a bit above Potsdam. As with the old truck picture, they are part of another continuing project of texture/pattern photos. The concrete is part of the supports for the penstock that channels water to the Sugar Island power station.

Meanwhile back on the Stone Valley trail is the following group. I shot a lot of mushroom/fungus photos during the weeks I was participating in the hiking challenge. I finished in 3rd place for my (over 70) age group I'm pleased to say. The 1st mushroom image is unique in that, like the Amish on the mountaintop, I have never seen the likes of this before. I saw many mushrooms of this variety this summer but this is the only bearded one of any kind that I encountered. Attempts to find something like it on the web proved futile. Perhaps I just didn't use the right search terms but nothing I found looked remotely like this.

This group of three has to be one of my fungus favorites. Their simple perfection of form, sheltered from wayward hiker's boots by a tree root appeals to me.

Back to B&W for the next. This is along the edges of the Raquette River. I liked the reflection of the grass and other plants as well as the clouds in the sky.

These pines are on an island in the river. Made on the 24th of August, you can see some early color on the deciduous trees on the opposite shore between the branches just left of center.

Again, a theme I like, incorporating earth, water, and sky all in a relatively intimate view rather than in a grand sweeping image.

I cropped and converted this river view to order to reduce it to almost abstract forms.

The willow tree below stands alongside the West Parisville Rd. in a low wet area. Although I prefer walking wooded trails I sometimes walk the rectangle of roads in front of our house. This is around the corner about a half mile or a bit more from my home. I was taken by the feathery, almost birdlike foliage and the lines of the dead limbs hanging down.

Barnum Brook Trail, Paul Smiths VIC. This view is looking upstream from the bridge that crosses the Brook on that trail, evergreen needles and leaves on the water's surface with reflections of the trees and sky above.

There is a walking trail in Potsdam, part of which is on Fall Island in the middle of the village. This deck juts out over the river below the dam. On my second visit there I found this lawn chair that someone had left. I moved it to align with the deck in a symmetrical composition.

A hay rake or perhaps a tedder on the fields on the Plains of Abraham along the Loj Rd. I generally avoid including modern things in my Adirondack landscapes but the alien look of this machine contrasted with the wild mountainside in the background appealed to me.

In that same area but nearer to the beginning of the Loj Rd, this very orange tree stood in the midst of a golden island that the farmer had mowed around.

The two above, as well as the following three, were made on October 10th when I went to the waterfall on Cascade Mt. The first photo is of the upper part of the falls as seen from the shore of Lower Cascade Lake.

The next is the bottommost section. There is a rough herd path to the base of the falls made considerably rougher after a landslide several years ago. Once upon a time, there was a hotel on the bit of land between Upper and Lower Cascade Lakes and their water supply was a reservoir at the base of this waterfall. When I first visited there, before the landslide there were remnants of the dam and pipes. A part of them remain, but it is much less evident than it was. I have a few historical photos of the hotel and the concrete pad in the picnic area is where it stood. It was damaged by blasting when Rt. 73 replaced the narrow road along the lakes and was later torn down.

Mushrooms again, these in the brook bed below the base of the falls.

Shortly after Indigenous Peoples Day*/Canadian Thanksgiving I hiked the new trail that had been created up Van Hoevenberg Mt. I had climbed several times before on the old trail from the South Meadow Rd. including once in the dark to photograph the sunrise. When I arrived at the main summit area this was the view that greeted me. The young lady is Heather Uvvani and her dog Luca. The view across the autumn landscape was awesome.

I will close with this photo from my own yard, the crabapple trees in the driveway island after a recent snowfall. These trees are frequent subjects throughout the seasons.

I hope you enjoyed my photo memories from 2018. There are others I could have chosen, and probably would on a different day. May you all have a great year in 2019.

*Officially known as Columbus Day, but he was a genocidal S.O.B. who enslaved, raped and slaughtered the indigenous people he encountered to make himself rich. He totally wiped out one entire group when they resisted him and had to import slaves to run his moneymaking enterprises. I do not recognize the holiday set aside in his name.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

One of our crabapple trees this morning with snow and two remaining leaves.

The title of this post is in no way meant to exclude anyone from my best wishes for whatever holiday you celebrate at this time of year. On the contrary, I wish everyone a happy time through this season and a wonderful 2019. As the days begin growing longer again my mood brightens and I hope yours does too.

2018 was not the best of years for us and for others that I know but I am looking ahead and hope for the future. Most of my hiking plans did not happen in 2018 so that list will just get redated for the coming year. In addition, I am planning on applying for a fellowship in photography and a residency. I am still considering doing a workshop in close-up/macro photography. I hope all my readers have plans as well. Happy holidays. 

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Winter Crabapples

Winter crabapples. The deer are having a feast from our apple trees. We rarely see them because they come around at night but their tracks are all over under the trees.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Texas Trees and a Visit to a Camera Store.

Our son lives in a development area that has 'greenspaces' nearby and as part of the development. The photo above is of a large area around Walnut Creek where I went walking one day. It is mostly covered by scrub cedar like those in the photo above and the trails are popular with mountain bikers (non-motorized). The creek, what I saw of it, was barely existent. I have been to Texas 3-4 times now and my overall impression is that it is a dry place.

The development had some more prosperous trees, some of which looked like they would have predated the housing that now takes up most of the area. The tall tree in the photo below attracted me but I was unable to find an angle that did not include the powerlines. I shot it anyway and included the small flood control dam as well, man's intrusion on nature.
A number of other attractive trees were scattered about the groomed areas of the green space. The "moss balls" on the trees are similar to Spanish Moss in that they are not parasites. They are air plants that only use the trees for support. Nor are they truly moss.

The predominant autumn leaf color is yellow but there is occasionally a tree with red leaves, the result of some non-native planting around homes, this one by a home at the edge of the park.
One rare treat was a visit to Precision Camera where I got to check out the new EOS R camera. Camera stores in NNY are history. If it isn't something Walmart would carry, I need to drive many hours to reach a 'real' camera store. I was curious about the EOS R because I have been watching for an upgrade to the EOS M3 hoping that they would produce one that had a fully articulated LCD. So far the successors to the M3, which was used for all these photos and is now my primary camera, have had only a tilt screen. I prefer a fully articulated screen because it allows portrait format shooting both above my head and low down. I have problems doing that with a screen that tilts only in the landscape format. Unfortunately, while the EOS R has the screen I would like, it is significantly larger/heavier than the M3, nearly the same as my EOS 7D, and priced well above my budget. It would not be a good camera for me to backpack with because of the weight and size. Had I thought about it while at the store, I should have checked out the Panasonic GX-8 if they had any in stock. It had the screen I would like and a tilting viewfinder. Ah well. A new camera isn't in the budget right now anyway. It is nice to be able to handle them though when pondering what you really would like and you can't do that on the internet. ;-)