I wanted to get my four dollars worth out of the roses I bought Wednesday so I set them up near a sunny window. I used spot metering and a wide aperture but had not planned to convert to black and white.
I did plan on adding an effect in ON1 Effects and for some reason chose one called Ansel In The Valley. Ansel Adams is famous for saying you don’t take a photograph, you make it. So this one’s for you Debra.
Note: Aldi has very good quality flowers for next to nothing, but you have to bring your own bag and shopping carts cost a quarter. The upside is that the one in Lancaster has horses in the back ready to pose for pictures.
I got this software free with a photography magazine a couple of months ago and wanted to do a review of my initial impressions. I needed a new photo to use and since it was raining decided on a wet horse in bad light.
So after getting the newspaper and coffee I drove to the back of my local Aldi parking lot where the horses wait, contemplate the meaning of life and stare into space for a while.
A buggy soon pulled up just as it stopped raining and I said hello to two Amish girls, asked if I could take a few photos which they said was fine, and they told me their horse’s name is Firefly.
She’s hard to see because I shot wide but there is a woman walking towards me between the mirror on the right and the small tree. I said hello but was completely unprepared for a lecture on morality.
After standing there with her arms crossed and shaking her head for a while I looked at her and said: “What?” She mumbled a few things I couldn’t hear and I went back to trying to get a decent composition.
Then she said: “This is very disrespectful.” I told her that I had permission but she continued so I said: “Disrespectful to who, the horse?” This seemed to confuse her but finally she said: “It’s disrespectful to the whole culture.”
Now I was mad, my camera was acting up, it was starting to rain again and I had missed the decisive moment. I thought about fighting her but she was big and I wasn’t sure I could take her. Photo shoot ended.
ON1 Effects is fun to play with but in a way it’s a little like Photoshop. There are so many different effects and filters, each one customizable, that after a while you start to wonder if you should take up golf.
For this photo I used an effect called Automagic and one of the thousands of borders. I felt this would be a good one for Firefly to post on his social media and discuss ethics with his friends.
On my way home I wondered if Miss Manners was right, so I told the story to a girl at a convenience store who said the woman was stupid and arrogant. I would have used different words but okay.
Case closed, morality issue solved. Someone once said do not seek the truth, only cease to cherish opinions. Someone else said that opinions are like a wet horse in a parking lot, shoot first and ask questions later.
I read an article this morning about how Sony’s Clear Image Zoom feature will double the focal length of your lens with almost no loss of quality. Actually the term used was minimal loss of quality.
In theory it sounded great and in practice the focal length was indeed doubled but the images were terrible. And to do a proper test I used a tripod and shot in manual at several different apertures.
Just figuring out how to do it with my A6000 was a challenge. First of all you can shoot only JPEG. Then you change the Zoom setting to ClearImageZoom. Then go back to Zoom and Zoom from 0-2x.
After looking at the images I remembered trying this with my RX100 and the results were equally disappointing. But that camera can focus much closer so I shot this Dahlia with it from about an inch and a half away at 10mm.
It might be art, but in this case it’s a photo of a sunflower that just opened up today. I used the crosshatch filter in Photoshop adjusting the stroke length, sharpness and strength.
There are dozens of filters to choose from, each with several different options and you can add other effects in literally thousands of different ways, maybe even hundreds of thousands.
People say that you can learn Photoshop in 50-100 hours, but it really takes years to get anywhere close to mastering it. It would probably be faster to learn to paint with oil on canvas, but it would definitely not be easier.
I was driving home after getting coffee this morning and saw an Amish farmer plowing his field. I almost always stop for horses so I decided to walk over to where he would end up and wait until he got close enough.
He seemed to be having some trouble and after about ten minutes ran into his barn to get something. After another ten minutes he ran back in again, this time coming back with a tractor. Since he was in the middle of a very large field I found an old milk crate and sat down to watch.
Finally I saw the horses heading towards me and told myself to wait until I could see the whites of their eyes, at the same time trying not to get the farmers face in the shot, some are OK with a photo and some are not.
Still sitting down with a perfect view I framed the shot and took about five. I felt I had at least one good one and got up to leave as the horses stopped to look at me. I didn’t know if they wanted to pose for more or were just confused, then I realized I was in their way.
The farmer smiled and said good morning then continued with what looked like a long day of work. The photos were all sharp but I couldn’t get the color right in Lightroom and black and white seemed like a cop out.
I have Photomatix Essentials that I got free from a photo magazine a while ago and uploaded just the one RAW file, then chose the default preset, saved it as a TIFF and imported it back into Lightroom. Usually you’ll want to upload several bracketed images but this was just an experiment.
It turned out surprisingly well and brought the blue back to what was a very gray sky. I don’t use this software much because the results are usually a little overdone but it was better than deleting a photo I spent almost 45 minutes to take.
Lightroom presets may not save you but they might be able to save you some time in post processing. Even if you don’t like the effect you can learn how it was created by looking at the applied settings, then just reset and start over.
The above photo is a RAW file converted using B&W Sombre Street, which is one in a set of twelve free presets called Street-Photography by Contrastly. Another set of presets I’ve found useful are offered by ON1.
Between the two there are ten free sets contain well over 150 different presets as well as free brushes for making local adjustments. Installing and removing them is as easy as shooting a bald eagle at the Conowingo Dam with a $12,000 600mm lens, maybe even easier.
All presets work with Adobe Lightroom 4, 5, 6, and CC. I downloaded mine a long time ago for Lightroom 3, so if you need that just do a quick search for older versions. Don’t forget to apply sharpening and noise reduction to your photos, they leave that up to you.
This photo is far from perfect but it took me ten seconds using the preset versus at least ten minutes to convert to black and white manually. Other than recovering some blown highlights you would never notice the difference at this size anyway.
Remember, you can’t save a bad photo; you can only convince yourself that it’s not a bad photo.
Note: Thomas is not in this facility to get clean and sober, he’s just having a bath. I feel it’s important to point this out for those who think that all trains come from the wrong side of the tracks.
You can learn a lot photographing trains on a cloudy day by experimenting with composition, exposure and aperture. This morning I went down to the Strasburg Rail Road to see if I could learn anything new, but I found the same things that were true the last time I was there were true today.
Just like Freud’s cigar, sometimes a train is just a train, but adding a person to the photo can make it much more interesting.
Composition is probably the most important thing besides the subject, and you can only do so much with a boring gray sky.
Taking a hundred or more shots is easy to do, even though I know that I only need one good one, or at least one decent one.
Finally, post processing RAW files with Lightroom, Photoshop and HDR software will not make a bad photo great, and the time comes when a decision has to be made when to call it done and read the Sunday newspapers.
As Ansel Adams one said: “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” I stood behind another photographer and watched the smoke and mirror show from a distance, and it was good enough to make the trip worthwhile. Next time I’ll shoot the conductor (not literally).
In photography, a lot of things are black, white, and fifty shades of grayscale. People, animals and landscapes sometimes do look better in monochrome, but it’s also a way to compensate for the fact that the light was bad.
I took this at the Strasburg Rail Road station at 10:30am, too late in the morning for the best light. The left side, which I kept in color for scientific purposes, is pretty good but the rest is washed out, and the patch of sky on the top right was almost pure white. I liked the composition so I tried to make it work as a color photo but couldn’t. That left me with a couple of options.
I could tell myself that steam engines are awesome, and that color and sharpness don’t matter because it’s only a photo. Or convert to monochrome and call it done. I live close enough to go back and try to do better, so I converted the RAW file to black and white using Lightroom, in what could have been a ten second process using a Photoshop action.
The Strasburg Rail Road takes you on a 45-minute, round-trip ride through the tranquil Amish countryside to Paradise (Pennsylvania) and back. If tranquility is not your style but you like trains, photo opportunities are yours for the taking.
Starting in April they have trains that leave at 6pm on Saturday, and the best place to watch or photograph them is in the parking lot of the nearby Red Caboose Motel. Somewhere around 6:45-7:00 on those nights, they will be slowly chugging back to the station toward you, with amazing light low in the sky in just the right direction for a perfect trainspotting photo.
Note: it’s very easy to get excited and blow the shot completely, but remember, steam engines are awesome, and color and sharpness don’t matter because it’s only a photo.