Archive for Autumn

Below My Feet

Posted in Photography Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2011 by chamimage

Frosted Grasses

“Don’t just take photographs. Be taken by your photographs.”

Ansel Adams (I think)

 Before I picked up a camera I don’t think I ever would have noticed grasses. The inordinate number of photographs I now have of them would suggest I might notice them more than most people.

Back-lit Foxtail Barley

This foxtail barley was growing in the middle of a gravel parking lot in Cranbrook, British Columbia. I went down on my belly in the gravel for the photograph. The brownish color at the top of the photo is actually somebodies hand trying to keep the sun out of the lens. I can’t remember now if it was my hand or my friend’s hand. A happy accident.


So, we are at the world famous Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island in May. Flowers everywhere. And I’m shooting clover? The rain drops were what really attracted me. This is a great background, screen saver, you name it. I find more uses for it than any of the flower photographs I took that day.

Derwent Water Lake Area, Lake District, England

I went all the way to the Lake District in northern England for these grasses.

Some of the best photographic advice I have heard was to not get so fixated on what you are photographing that you forget to look behind you. Or all around you. And don’t forget to also look down.

Back-lit Foxtail Barley B&W

And just because it’s green doesn’t mean it won’t look good in black and white.


Topsy Turvy World

Posted in Photo Stories with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2011 by chamimage

Cloud Reflection

I had forgotten about this photograph until this week. I was reading “Simply Photographs”, a National Geographic book that is supposed to be simply photographs by National Geo photographers, but is actually fairly verbose. I don’t mind the writing since it is by Annie Griffiths, who turns out to be a failry good writer. As always happens, a photo of a reflection in water reminded me of this photograph and I had to go find it and look at it and re-work it in Photoshop to see if it was as good as I remembered it.

This was taken in September, 1999 at Kepple Lake in Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge near Spokane, Washington. I would have been using a Nikon N90s then. I shot it on Velvia slide film. That camera fell off of a tripod with a 500 mm lens on it in Glacier National Park one summer day and ended up with a bent frame.  I got excited about the moose across the road and tightened the wrong knob on the ball head. Funny that the camera worked fine until I took it out in the frigid cold of Wyoming in March to photograph a sage grouse lek. I guess the cold contracted the metal and the camera wouldn’t advance the film reliably any longer. It would suddenly rewind in mid roll due to the tension on the film. Young photographers that have never shot anything but digital haven’t a clue what all of that means.

I have always liked this image because it is so disorienting. The sky is actually a reflection in the still waters of a pond, giving the effect of looking down on the sky.

This image cried out for a bit of embellishment. I saved a half dozen different versions of it and liked this one the best. It is a bit over the top for me, and I thought I would probably look at it the next day with fresh eyes and decide it was too overly saturated, but have kept it this way for several days now.

I used a filter called Contrast Color Range from Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 on it. Can’t remember ever using that filter before. Nik Color Efex Pro 4.0 has been announced and I have mine pre-ordered. There is a 15% discount code for it at the bottom of the page on Moose Peterson’s web page at if anybody is interested. I’m sure Moose won’t mind you stopping by his blog for a while.

Sentimental Journey

Posted in Photography Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2011 by chamimage

Japanese Garden

The recurring theme of the past week has turned out to be what I call sentimentality. It came up twice this week. Basically sentimentality (David Duchemin calls it being seduced) is a photographer’s attachment to his photographs and the mischief that attachment can cause.

On The Grid it was discussed in terms of making a portfolio. It is a good idea to get the input of others in choosing which of your family jewels is really your best work. It turns out we photographers can be poor judges of that because we are biased. We took the photograph. To us the photograph represents a journey that we undertook. We are all caught up in memories and emotions that are evoked by the photograph. A stranger is interested only in the aesthetic or emotion that the photograph presents on viewing.

I struggle with sentimentality most when editing. These are my babies and it is hard to chuck most of them overboard. Time helps. That is where my inherent tendency to procrastinate helps me. Given enough time between the initial image capture and the final edit and they lose that emotional bond. It’s a lot like sobering up. Everything isn’t really all that beautiful in the cold harsh light of the next day.

The photograph above carries a lot of baggage. I waited until autumn when the leaves would be in the pond. I noticed the slight eddy movement, barely perceptible to the naked eye. I put my neutral density and polarizing filters on to slow the shutter speed as much as possible to create the blur. To me this photo is all about the process. To the viewer, it is only valuable as far as how much it moves them. I may want to include it in my portfolio because of how clever it makes me feel. A reviewer might toss it as yet another waterfall photograph.

American Bittern

This is another photograph I love. But when I really admit why I like it so much, it is more because I had been trying for a good bittern photograph for a couple of years and failed to get anything decent. At Malheur National Wildlife Refuge I had been networking with other photographers and one told me he had just passed this fellow in the direction I was heading. I got ready. He turned out to be on the passenger side of my vehicle. No problem, I had already rolled the window down. I put the bean bag in the window. It fell with a loud thud. The bittern flinched enough that I knew he was going to fly in five seconds. They always give it five seconds. Don’t know why. I threw my 600 mm lens onto the window frame unsupported and fired away. He flew.  In the aftermath I noted that the shutter speed was 1/80th in gathering gloom. I had forgotten to take my teleconverter off so was barely able to fit him in the frame. So this is my Hail Mary shot with 1000 mm worth of lens at 1/80th second and no bean bag. I was very happy, to say the least, when I saw it on my computer and it was tack sharp. Sentimentality. To everyone else this is just yet another bird picture.

The Next Level

Posted in Photography Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2010 by chamimage

African Fish Eagle

The rains have settled in here in Oregon, so it is time to catch up on editing and optimizing images. Every so once in a while it seems that I reach a new level with Photoshop, and then I want to go back and re-work all of my images because I think I can make them better. I’ve done that already this fall.

This improvement was relatively painless, except in the pocketbook. I broke down and bought Nik Color Efex Pro. I had been dragging my feet because it is expensive and because it did not work in 64 bit Photoshop CS5. They have fixed the 64 bit problem. They offer Color Efex Pro in three different configurations, unfortunately all but one of the filters I use the most reside only in the most expensive Complete Edition.

I recently heard one of the top Photoshop gurus state in an interview that he has quite a conundrum now. Does he teach the long version of Photoshop that does not require the purchase of plug-ins, or does he teach the way he really optimizes all of his images, with Color Efex Pro?

I used the Pro Contrast filter on the image above and was pretty much finished with it. It color corrected, added contrast and some saturation. I almost feel guilty that I’m finished already.

Rosemary at White Sands

The thing you need to watch for with Pro Contrast is that it tends to blow out highlights. I usually need to add a mask and paint in the highlight areas with black at about 50% to add detail back in the whites, as in the photo above. I also used the Brilliance/Warmth filter on this image to make the yellows pop. It is the only filter in the Basic Edition that I use routinely. I like the Tonal Contrast filter also, but it has three sliders for contrast that need to be adjusted and doesn’t color correct as well as Pro Contrast. I usually quickly click on both and then decide which to use. I heard a portrait photographer say he likes Tonal Contrast for portraits because of the warmth it adds.

Notre Dame de Chartres

The Brilliance/Warmth filter does a very nice job in an image where you want to balance blues and yellows, as in the above two photographs. I also used the Bleach Bypass filter on the above image. It works well in photographs with fine detail or texture.

Gargoyle at Notre Dame de Paris

I am having an inner battle with myself about the use of the Midnight and Glamor Glow filters. This is the Midnight filter above. Is it art, or is it a cheap gimmick?

Zebra Stripes

I think this photograph is an example of the Midnight filter creating a look that I would have no idea how to go about creating without it. This image would be oh so much less interesting without it. More tools to create more interesting photographs can only be a good thing.

Portland Japanese Garden

The Glamor Glow filter gives a painterly, Thomas Kincaid look. I worry that it might be perceived as velvet Elvis art.

Photoshop has gone from being a bit tedious and time-consuming to being fun again with these Color Efex Pro filters. I am still at a stage where I enjoy opening a photograph in the plug-in and clicking through the various filters to see what happens. What happens varies widely between photographs and I am just now starting to get a handle on which filter I might want to use on any particular image. It is a learning process and an art all in itself. What can be better than clicking on a filter and going “Whoa!” at the result. For me, “Whoa!” is a very, very good thing.

Winter’s Grasp

Posted in Photography Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2010 by chamimage

Wintry Morning

I found time yesterday to visit the local wildlife refuge. I wasn’t expecting much, just happy to have a break in the rains and go for a drive. It was a bit nippy and I captured some landscapes that make me glad for a warm fire this time of year.

Cold Dawn

I am starting to appreciate moody photographs more. Something that elicits a visceral response, a response you don’t need to think about.

Frozen Mushrooms

Or sometimes I just want to convey what I saw. What did I see in these mushrooms that caused me to stop and bother to photograph them? If I can make others see what I saw, then they will want to stop and look at my photograph. Georgia O’Keefe painted on huge canvasses to make people stop and notice her paintings, assured that they would appreciate the artistry once they just stopped for a second or two. I don’t think that is the answer for photographers. There is a lot of visual stimulation out there to compete with. It had better be something good.

Oaken Entropy

This little oak tree makes me stop and look at it every time. I don’t think I have still quite gotten to its essence, the thing that makes me look, yet. My mind’s eye can filter out that background, but I think I might need that 85 mm f/1.4 lens I’ve had my eye on to make it ignorable in a photograph.

Things to think about, Photoshop skills to polish, and books to read as it plummets to 22 degrees and we get our first snow tonight.

Helicon Focus in Photoshop

Posted in Photography Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2010 by chamimage

The Moon Bridge

A Japanese Garden in autumn offers up a million photographic possibilities all at once, so I was surprised that after a whole day of shooting on Saturday I had only 128 images on my card. For one thing, I was being very selective and after setting up for an landscape, would take one or two images and move on, not really working the scene like I might otherwise do when not feeling overwhelmed with other possibilities. The other factor was that after setting up for a shot like this bridge, it would take a good twenty minutes of waiting to get the people off of it. People tend to linger on a bridge, it turns out. Note to self, next year go on a Monday, not a Saturday.

Japanese Lantern

In editing my images from the day I found four identical images of this scene. They were all the same exposure so I knew I didn’t do an HDR. In looking closer, I discovered that I was fudging the focal point on my exposures just a bit each time, trying to find the hyperfocal point where there was maximum sharpness throughout the depth of field. Faced with the four images, a light went on over head head. There is a program, called Helicon Focus, that blends a series of images with the focus adjusted a bit further back in each image. For a flower macro on a breezy day, you can shoot it at F4 and still have full depth of field. I don’t own that program, yet, but I learned from George Lepp last spring that you can do the same thing, with mixed results, in Photoshop. So I did.

First you need to have taken the images on a tirpod so they are all exactly the same, except for the focus point. Select all of the images in Adobe Bridge by selecting the first one and then holding down the Shift key while clicking on the last image. Then under the  Tools drop down menu, select Photoshop>Load files into Photoshop Layers. This will open Photoshop and each of the images will be on its own layer.

Then, in Photoshop, again highlight all of the layers as you did in Bridge and click on the Edit drop down menu and select AutoAlign Layers. This will line up the images in case you bumped the tripod leg, etc. Then, under the Edit drop down menu, select Auto Blend Layers and click on Stack Images in the dialog box. Photoshop will then keep the sharpest areas of each image to produce a new image with better sharpness throughout. Very cool.

If you look at the masks of the layers you will see the areas of sharpness that were selected from each image. I don’t know how Photoshop does that, but I’m glad it does. George Lepp says the Helicon Focus software is more likely to get it right for any given set of images. The trick to a good result is not to move the focus too far between images. Any areas of unsharpness in there will stick out like a sore thumb.

By the way, George Lepp has a new book out. I don’t have it yet, but it is on my Wish List at Amazon and I’ll get to it as soon as I finish Moose Peterson’s new book and the Freeman Patterson book I started.

Lion Cubs Playing

Have a great week, and don’t forget to play. And wag your tail a lot.

What a Difference a Day Makes

Posted in Photography Technique with tags , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2010 by chamimage

Autumn Colors

These photographs were taken exactly 24 hours apart at Minto Brown Park in Salem, Oregon during my daily dog walk. I have a new pocket camera, a Nikon P7000, so have been trying to get in the habit of taking it with me and shooting more photographs on a daily basis to try to develop the old creative eye. I took the above photograph with the P7000. I liked it so much that I brought my D300 with me tonight to try to further explore the possibilities of this tree with a 28-70 lens.

Brewing Storm

I knew as soon as I saw the haze on the horizon early on that the same shot was not going to be available, which is too bad because it is going to rain for several days and the leaves on that tree will be long gone by the time it finishes.  I tried a few shots at the tree tonight, thinking maybe I would take a sunny sunset,  flat light,  rainy day tryptich or something, but the flat light was just not working. These bare trees fit the mood of the light much better. I used a bit of Glamor Glow to soften the trees a bit ( I warned you in the last post I was going to use that filter until we all got good and sick of it).

Autumn Sunset

I made this photograph from the same spot in November, 2007 with my little Lumix pocket camera. I used a Nik film effect filter, selecting Kodak Ektachrome 100G as the film, in processing it.