Saturday, December 09, 2006

The "Sky Problem" with bright sun landscapes

I am always amazed at how photos taken in strong light with "auto" settings on the camera present real problems for the photographer. Even with sunlight settings set, the sky always seems washed out (overexposed) and the land itself looks dark and dull (underexposed). Thank goodness for programs like Photoshop which have adjustments to make novice photographers like me look a little better.

I am working with a new setting in Photoshop called Hue/Saturation, found in the Image tab under Adjustments. Previously I had used the Levels settings to manage the overall exposure of the photo, then used the Magic Wand selector to individually tone down the sky and tone up the land. That worked OK, but looked a little artificial. Now with the Hue/Sat tool, it looks much more natural. The Hue/Sat tool can also help with the "pink cloud" look. As you can see the land is more bright with lots of contrast, and the sky has a more natural blue sky/white cloud look to it.

This photo was taken in New Mexico a few miles west of Santa Anna, in bright sun early afternoon. I used the auto setting on my Dimage Z5, with no tripod. Just jumped out of the car and snapped it. There were so many scenes like this along the road, it got a little frustrating.

More next time, we'll chat again soon.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Photo my Daughter-in-Law took

This is a photo my daughter-in-law Leslie took at the Summer Palace in China. I think she captured the beauty and serenity of the place quite nicely. Her camera is top of the line, too. I hope she sends me many more to study and learn from.

I find I am always looking for good composition now that I am taking this photography course. One of the main concepts that is taught in the course is the "rule of thirds." This is not really a rule per se, but is a guide to give the viewer's eye an idea of where the main subject is. The rule is very easy to understand. Simply imagine a tic-tac-toe board superimposed over the picture. That makes nine squares, three accross and three down. You try to place your main subject, not in the center square, as most people who shoot photos do, but near the intersection of two or three squares. So the people walking across the bridge are close to the intersection of squares 1,2, and 4. The red flower in the tree is near the intersection of squares 6,8, and 9. I had not noticed until I wrote this that the bridge, and the reflection of the trees in the water make the 9 "squares" very distinct. I had not consciously thought of that when I cropped the picture.

Technically, all I did was crop this from the original photo, and sharpen the contrast to give the effect of a painting. Not much else was done. Leslie gave me permission to use this photo on the blog, and I thank her for that. I hope she sends me more pictures from China soon.


Friday, November 24, 2006

At Shoshone Falls in Idaho

We arrived at Shoshone falls after almost a day of driving. We had seen the falls on the Atlas as a place to see along our route. The sun was low in the sky, and the leaves were in full color as autumn came on.

I took the shot with the trusty Minolta Dimage D5 on auto setting. The sun had washed out most of the color, so I lowered the brightness and did some dodge-and-burn to get the proper contrast and color in the shot.

Photoshop is such an amazing program! The more I learn about this wonderful software, I would recommend it to anyone. The newest version is Photoshop CS2, which has so many new features that my trusted PS ver7 did not have.

Next I will put up a shot of the Falls themselves. It is so beautiful, it is hard to get the entire scene in just one photo. Till next time.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Another shot from the roadside in Utah

The wind does wonderful things to the rocks in the West

Another shot from our car trip to Washington state. I like it so much I couldn't help adding it to the blog. One of my too few chances to capture nature's sculpture at its best.

I did very little Photoshop work here. Just sharpening and bringing out the sky. I need to figure out how to keep the sky from washing out during very sunny days!

The Lost Maples here in TX are turning. I want so badly to go there before the turning leaves are all done. I will post one of last year's shots later, but last year was too dry to get the best colors. It's truly amazing how colorful it is. If you'd like to see this year's colors, go to:

Hope you like it.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Photo from trip to Washington State

Rock formation by the roadside, Utah

The formations of rock, weathered by the wind and rain, and the mountains to either side of the road were particularly beautiful in Utah south of Salt Lake City. We didn't have a lot of time to stop and take pictures, but this vista was too beautiful to pass without at least a try. The rock itself reminded me of the Sphinx, or a cobra peeking over the rock at the van. After I looked at it a while, it began to look like Jabba the Hut! But it was as striking a formation as I had ever seen. I was to see many more before the day was over.

I took the photo with my trusty Konica Minolta Dimage D5, set on auto. I am learning about manual settings now, but I could have used that knowledge then. The sun was so very bright it washed out the sky and clouds, which presented a dilemma for me when I tried to "clean it up" with Photoshop. Just working with the levels, brightness/contrast was not good. To get the rock formation light enough to see the wind sculptures, the sky was white, masking the wispy clouds. And to get the clouds and sky to show up, the rocks were black.

I tried to dodge and burn the scene, but the results were very artificial looking. So I had to learn the intricacies of the magnetic lasso, mask each section of the shot, and lighten the rocks, darken the sky separately. I don't think it looks bad for my first try.

Let me know what you think. Leave a comment, if you'd like.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

I just love taking pictures of clouds in the sky. There is no end to the variety and beauty of clouds and their various shapes, colors, weight, etc.

I took this photo out of the car window (parked of course) as we drove from Texas to Washington state to bring Amy and the grandkids back home. We had clear sunny skies all the way through 5 states! It was truly an experience I will never forget. There were so many striking "photo ops" that I had to be rationed on how many stops per day I could make to take pictures! We would have taken weeks, not days to get to Washington if I had had my way. It seemed like every 50 feet or so down the road another great mountain or cliff or sky would show itself and beg to be photographed. I did my best to get them all.

As far as composition, what struck me about this scene were the broad diagonal lines of the the clouds, as they drew my eye farther and farther into the scene toward the horizon. The S-shaped cloud was a bonus, because it broke up the straight lines of the clouds, and added some variety to the sky. Also, the windmill (another favorite subject) in the foreground gives an idea of the grand scale of the sky in the Western US.

I shot this with the Konica Minolta Dimage D5 on auto setting. No photoshop for this one, it is right from the camera. It was taken in New Mexico just before getting to Santa Fe. By the way, if you ever get the chance, visit Santa Fe! I had heard so many great things about the town, but none did justice to the city. the only thing I found lacking was parking! We got lucky and found a spot, but it was only two hours, and we had to leave and find another one.

I hope you enjoy this photo. I will be putting more pictures up as I get them ready.

Monday, October 23, 2006

This is a photo I took of Sam having a great time playing with the tetherball at the Pumpkin Patch in Elgin TX, this past weekend. I was trying to capture action in a photo. I remembered the saying "take 20 to get 1" and that's about what it took!

I used a Konica Minolta Dimage Z5 camera to capture the image, using the action setting on the camera. I had forgotten the tripod, so I propped my elbows on a picnic table top to get some stability, and then just clicked and clicked.

One of the things I am having to learn is how to focus a shot where the subject is in motion. I believe what happened on other shots is, that I focused when Sam was out of the frame, then when he was in the frame, took the photo. I could have used the "continuous shot" mode in the camera, but I am not really familiar with that mode. I will practice using it.

Thanks go to Sam's mom for allowing me to post this photo. She was very complimentary, and I appreciate the "kudos" as well. Enjoy the photo, and post any comments you care to, dear reader.