The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little stardust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched. . .
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Every time I see these plants in my photo inventory, they make me smile. They’re nothing special – easy to grow, prolific, and common. But they’re pretty. They wave in the breeze, follow the sun with their big faces, and brighten up the garden.
Even if common, we all need some beauty and color. Life is hard in so many ways. We’re all busy, tired and stressed. Having something that is pretty for the sake of pretty is refreshing.
After my usual adjustments in Lightroom (cropping, color adjustment, etc), I post processed this in Topaz Studios, using BuzSim and Chalk Smudge Light CS. I added three textures to it from 2 Lil Owls. The textures helped bring up the colors and darken the edges. I then finished off in onOne for a vignette and border.
My post processing steps are below. Remember that Photoshop layers start from the bottom and work up. As a result, my watermark at the top is the last step in the process.
What small thing has made you smile lately? Leave me a comment and let me know!
Welcome to another month of After-Before Friday, where participants take a photo and each renders their own interpretation of it. The other photos are hosted at Visual Venturing by Stacy Fischer. This month, Ben Rowe, of Aperture64, volunteered a photo of the Pendennis Castle in Cornwall, England. I encourage you to visit both blogs – Stacy’s to see what other people did (and it’s always a wide variety) and Ben, because he does such a superb job of explaining how he edited his version.
So here’s the original photo. The red marks are some things I cloned out to slightly declutter the picture. This included two benches, a sign, a small amount of roof, and a blip in the sky. I also did some pipes up the side of the building (just to the left of the center), but missed one in the middle of the tower, where the arrow is.
I lightly edited the photo in Lightroom and cropped it down to reduce the sky and grass. I felt the castle was better seen when it filled the frame and the Lightroom adjustments brought out the colors and perked up the picture.
Thanks to Stacy Fisher, sponsor for another month of After-Before Friday (ABFriday) and Robin Kent (Photography by Kent), who provided the picture! While other months had tough technical challenges to the photos, this month was hard because the photo was so nearly perfect already.
So here’s the original photo. The people are minor, the building is straight (I checked) and the sky has a nice color. I really choked. I mean, what do you do with that?
Welcome to the May Edition of After-Before Friday, hosted as usual by Stacy Fisher at Visual Venturing. It was again fun trying new things with my photo skills! Each month brings a new challenge and it’s great to see what others do with it for their interpretation.
This month’s photo was provided by Shane Francescut and looked like this:
Isn’t that a stinker? Yes, it’s a technical term. Highly, highly technical.
I wanted so badly to highlight that red teeter-totter. I positively fixated on it. It’s so red! It’s so there! Blah, blah – the point is that’s what I wanted. And I couldn’t get it to work. The red was just too jarring against the rest of the photo. At the same time, I didn’t want to crop it out.
It’s time once again for ABFriday – After & Before Friday, sponsored by Stacy Fisher at Visual Venturing. This month’s photo was submitted by a fellow blogger, Cee Neuner. To see her interpretation, click here. Click here to see all the other interpretations over at Visual Venturing.
Here’s the original photo:
As you see, the house is a bit ugly and a lot cluttered. I found it pretty uninspiring except for that tree. I’m sure is why Cee took that picture – that tree is fantastic. It reminded me of the Wizard of Oz, where the movie starts in black and white, and when Dorothy hits her head and starts her adventure, it all goes to beautiful technicolor. I needed to know WHAT was behind that door. Curious minds wanted to know or better yet, invent a new world.
In my defense, this is all Stacy Fisher and Laura Macky’s fault. Laura added a moon into the February challenge (here), which made Stacy reposition March’s cherub into Seattle (here). That made me decide to try compositing on this photograph! My skill set for masking, layers, and composites was minimal, so I found a great course on lynda.com by Julieanne Kost called, “Introduction to Photo Compositing”. It helped me tremendously and I played it a number of times as I worked with this.
To that end, I experimented repeatedly and my bloopers are below.
My first try was to mask the background so that only the tree remained, then drop the tree into a different picture so that you looked through the the outline of the tree to see a doorway beyond it. Good idea, but nothing worked. My technique is poor; had I liked any of the pictures, I would have cleaned that up more.
I liked this red door, but the idea didn’t work.
I thought maybe a gate would work better, but it didn’t.
Another thought that also didn’t work.
I decided instead to leave the house in, but change the doorway. The clouds only wasn’t quite enough, so I made the whole doorway into a fantasy portal that was lined with flowers. The desaturated result was a close second to the winner. I liked the petunias around the doorway, but the shape of the flowers just wasn’t quite right for what I was trying to do. Had I liked these, I would have gone back to the masks on the tree and restored more of the foliage above the door so the line wasn’t quite so straight (which I changed in the final photo).
Good, but a little too bright.
I loved the look of the white petunias, but the shapes of the flowers just wasn’t quite right.
This one was second best as it also conveyed the fantasy world that I wanted to show.
I finally hit on a good look, but it still took a while to get my technique down. I created masks for the doorway and windows, then using free transform, worked in an image from Colonial Williamsburg that showed a house with the long path leading up to it. I only had that one photo with the blue sky from that shoot, so I used it for the door and both windows, adjusting with free transform to change the appearance of the trees and clouds. This kept the coloring the same for the sky and trees, which were brilliantly colored that day.
I did some minor cloning on the front steps, adjusted brightness, and added a frame from onOne. It sounds easy, but it took me a good amount of time to get something that I liked. To create the mask, I used a brush with a straight edge on it. Later, my favorite boy toy showed me several other tools that would have made the masking go much faster, as well as how to copy over the mask layers from one picture to another.
But I got it done and completed a goal I’d had of learning how to use masks and layers better. I certainly got that accomplished (thanks Cee!).
I loved that red door, but the picture was too busy for this doorway and didn’t show up enough.
I liked the doorway, but not those cluttered up windows.
After Before Friday – The finalist in all the experimenting.
Orange is warmth and sunlight, whether on my face or basking in a smile from my daughter.
Orange is the glory of flowers, showing off their brilliance for all to see and enjoy.
It is delicate sunrises and spectacular sunsets.
It is fruits and vegetables, lined up gaily, whether for eating or decorations.
Orange is the first beauty of fall, the beginning of the long slide into winter (of which I’ve had enough, thank you).
It’s the color of a beagle’s head, waiting to be petted.
To see how others interpreted this week’s photo challenge for orange, click here.
Inspiration and A Funny Story
I’d like to thank Robin at Reflections For My Soul. The flowers she posted reminded me of warmth and sunlight. The day I viewed them, we had just had sleet and snow and then the temperatures went below freezing and stayed there.
Funny story there – I have two Robin’s who follow my blog and regularly leave comments. Yep, two of them. So when Robin at Reflections For My Soul started following me, I was initially confused, thinking that Robin at Breezes at Dawn had changed her avatar from the pictures of her crossed feet to that of a western style hat. It took me a few days to realize that no, I actually had two blogging friends named Robin and they were not the same person.
Before and After
Interested in the before and after of these photos? The sunset was truly that spectacular, being caused by a fire in the Great Dismal Swamp (yes, that’s really it’s name), causing a high level of air pollution due to the particulates it was throwing up. The best camera is the one you have with and that night it was my old Canon point and shoot, the Pro1. It didn’t have a lot of megapixels, but I got the shot! I posted another version of this several years ago, here.
In the last few weeks, I’ve had some discussions with Stacy Fisher at Visual Venturing and Dee & Gee at Dee Gee’s Photograph Australia about camera gear and post processing our pictures. The reason I bring it up is to encourage you to look closer at these pictures. It is wonderful to have good gear, which is why I upgraded last year from the Canon Rebel 3Ti to a Canon 6D. It’s also wonderful to use camera raw to get some extra help when post processing your photos.
But we can take the pictures from the old point and shoots, the pictures we took in jpg instead of camera raw, and the pictures that are just marginal, and make them better. They’re still usable! Yes, they might be better with a better camera, but at least for me, it was an evolution. My husband about sat on me to get to me upgrade my old point and shoot to a DSLR, the Rebel (I wouldn’t spend more than that). Even then, I wouldn’t shoot raw nor was I using Lightroom yet. Finally – FINALLY – I started using Lightroom. Cee Neuner and Steve Schwartzman in the blogging community encouraged me to shoot raw when I asked how they were shooting reds without the colors looking muddy. My husband was happy for someone else to convince me to do it since he was unable to do so.
So here are the before and after shots, with the camera and type of shot used. Remember that with a jpg, the camera is making post processing decisions for you. That is why, straight out of the camera, a jpg looks pretty good. With camera raw, the camera makes no or minimal decisions, depending on your settings. You have to tell it everything, which is why the raw pictures below look so poor. The upside is there is a great more data available, so a picture can be really pushed with processing before it develops problems.
Taken with the Canon EOS 6D, using camera raw:
Original photo of my daughter in downtown Bar Harbor, Maine.
My daughter in downtown Bar Harbor, Maine. Post processed with Topaz Effects “Exposure Correction” and on1 border “Platinum Brush”.
Taken with the Canon Rebel 3Ti, using camera raw:
Original photo of marigolds taken in the gardens at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.
Marigolds taken in the gardens at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Processed with Topaz Impressions “Abstract 2” and on1 border “Dano”.
Taken with the Canon Powershot Pro1, using jpg:
Original photo of sunset taken in Richmond, Virginia.
Sunset in Richmond, Virginia. Post processed with Topaz Effects “Warm Tone 2” and on1 border “Sloppy Border 8”.
Taken with the Canon Rebel 3Ti, using jpg:
Original photo of pumpkins taken in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.
Pumpkins taken in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Post processed using Topaz Impressions, “Rembrandt 2” and on1 border, “Black Key”.
Taken with the Canon Rebel 3Ti, using jpg:
Original photo of gazebo at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia.
Gazebo at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia. Processed in Lightroom with on1 border “Ghost Effect Black”.
Taken with the Canon EOS 6D, using camera raw:
Orginial photo of the beagle in the backyard.
Beagle in the backyard. Post processed with Topaz Impressions “Oil Painting by Jim LaSala” and on1 border “Russell”.
So stay encouraged. Keep taking pictures. Keep improving. And keep using the old pictures as well as the new. You’ve worked hard for your inventory and even if you can’t use them now, who knows what future software will make them usable?
For those who read this all the way to the bottom (thank you!), here is a final thought:
Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness; touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.
– Frederick Buechner, American writer and theologian
Last week, I started a technical series of how to post process photos of stained glass windows. In Part 1, I went over taking and selecting which photo to use, making adjustments in Adobe Lightroom, and moving the picture to Adobe Photoshop for more complex work.
Part 2 showed how to correct for distortion (i.e., keystone effect) and adding in a hue / saturation layer.
Now that a hue / saturation layer is in place, it’s time to create a mask. The mask blocks out what part of the picture I don’t want adjusted with the next step. In this case, I will block out the background, then invert the mask (i.e., turn it inside out) so that any changes I make will adjust the background only and leave the stained glass alone.
On the hue / saturation layer, click the white box (see where the down arrow is pointing). Another box will open up to the left, which I’ve put a big circle around.
To the far left are two boxes that should be black and white. When I hover the mouse over them, they are called the foreground and background color. Make sure the black is on top as shown here. If it isn’t, click the tiny double arrow (shown with the tiny circle around it) to reverse the boxes. If the black box isn’t on top, this won’t work right. If my boxes have different colors in them, I click the itty bitty boxes next to the tiny double arrow. That will restore the default colors of black and white. I will have to click the double arrow to put the black box back on top.
Yes, itty bitty is a technical term, although I don’t think Adobe has it copyrighted :)
Now it’s time to brush in a mask and cover up the background.
In my last post, I began a technical series of how I processed some photos that I took of stained glass. Click here for Part 1, which explains how I selected the photo and began processing in Adobe Lightroom. Click here to see the original post with all the photos.
At the end of the last post, I finished my initial edits in Lightroom and loaded the picture into Adobe Photoshop for further editing. This begins with what I did next in Photoshop to improve the picture.
The first thing I do is create a duplicate layer. This way, if something goes wrong, the layer can be deleted, a new one created, and I can start all over again. In other words, I haven’t altered the original photo. If I make a mistake and forget to add the layer, I save it right away with a new name so that I don’t accidentally overlay my original photo. If something goes wrong, I have to delete the entire photo, but it’s better than having ruined the original photo.
To duplicate the layer, right click on the layer, which is shown in the down arrow and mostly hidden under the pop-up box. On the pop-up box, click duplicate layer. When the next box comes up, you can name the new layer or not. You can always change the name later by double clicking on the name of the layer and then editing it.
A few weeks ago, I posted stained glass photos that I took at St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church in downtown Bar Harbor, Maine. Everyone ooh’d and aah’d appropriately, then one of you stuck your hand up and said, “How did you do that?” It turns out she has a number of stained glass pictures taken during a trip to Europe and hadn’t figured out how to process them up.
So this is going to get a bit technical and take several posts to explain, but here’s how I did it!
Select A Photo With Detail
The first thing is to select a photo that has sufficient detail in it. I shot these with a high ISO because of how dim the church was and I was hand holding my camera. Had I been tripod mounted, I could have used a lower ISO and had less noise (i.e., graininess). But I didn’t have my tripod with me and I don’t know that the church would have let me set it up anyhow.
I routinely bracket my shots. Bracketing is where my camera takes a picture at the normal settings, then another one that’s darker and another that’s lighter. So I take 3 pictures of every shot that I want. This helps improve the odds of getting a keeper.
Here’s the difference when I reviewed my pictures later:
Taken with normal settings, but you can barely see the texture in the robe and flowers.
Although technically too dark, you can see all the texture in the stained glass.
The picture on the left is with normal settings. Although it seems to be a better brightness, the details are lacking in the robe, flowers and even the hair. The one on the right is technically too dark, but you can see a great deal more of the detail in the robe, flowers, and hair.