Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Old Port Harbour of Dragør in Copenhagen, Denmark

With the winter weather now settling well within Canada and now I hear also across most of Europe with a blanket of white, I thought I would post a few sunnier and warmer images from a day excursion to Dragør. An Old sea-side district of Copenhagen.

This is the one of the main streets along the bus route as you first arrive in Dragør.  To the right is were the harbour and the older historic buildings are located and on the left is the more traditional style of houses. We shall go right and venture back in time.

For many centuries Dragør was a small fishing village dating back to the 12th century about 15km from centre of Copenhagen. But over time Copenhagen has grown to include this area. The fishing port is still active today, but from the boats in the harbour most I would guess are not for commercial fishing.

The first part of the name, Drag-, refers to drawing (dragging) boats ashore. The ending -ør is common in Scandinavian place names and means a beach covered in sand or gravel.

As we leave the main route and venture down the side streets, the roads are all cobblestone and narrow. Never designed for cars and only locals are allowed to drive here, if you can call it that.  As far as I could tell there were no parked cars in these areas or even garages for cars. So the residents must park elsewhere.

Immediately you have a feeling of slowing down to a more leisurely pace. Maybe not as slow as the gentleman in this image but slower.  With street photography, you take what you get. I wished he had been a little more to the left by a few feet.

While most of the building are the traditional danish yellow there is interesting texture in the walls and stonework. There is also interesting discoveries behind high fenced yards.

Many of the buildings have quaint and secluded yards interwoven with trees, shrubs and flowers. Without the sound of cars and other street noise, this just has to be a perfect place for reflection. Still lots of thatched roofs to be found here and easy to imagine that you are 200 years in the past. This has become a very trendy area for the wealthy from Copenhagen as they are very expensive to purchase

From the letters on the building wall you can see the date of 1742 and therefore it must be one of the more modern buildings in town.

On the harbour front side the building attend to the more commercial needs of tourist and sailors.

You can see how the building has had additions added and I guess at that time not many building codes in effect.

To all  a very Merry Christmas and the best seasons greetings to those of other faiths and a great New Year filled with exciting photography opportunities.

Niels Henriksen

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Free Book Winner

The winner of the free book 'Fast Track Photographer' is B. Vagner-Andersen.

The book will be mailed out tomorrow and I hope you will enjoy it.

Thanks to all those who entered and good luck next time.

It should be noted that this blog also shows up on my own Facebook page and the 'My Camera World Facebook page and people do also leave comments on these pages. The first is only for those that I speak to on a regular basis and the 'My Camera World' Facebook is for others to join. 

I guess my blog should have at least one photograph and I am including this image of a winter scene  where some firends and I hike in with snow shoes and then enjoy a warm fire.

Note on Future Articles

I am working on a series of articles where I will identify compositional elements such as diagonal lines, S-curve Triangles, and many more with the intent to show how to use these to maximize the viewer interest in your images.

Each article will deal with one unique element and will highlight the human perceptions around each of these. I am hoping that I have enough of my own images for each element, but I may have to find other photographers images and seek their permission to use when it clearly demonstrates the point.

Niels Henriksen

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Giant Flying Saucer Cloud

The sky and especially cloud, stormy being the best, have always held a special interest for me.
There is something about their majesty and untold patterns that can form and re-form as the wind passes before you.
Sometimes they are downright scary and deadly and at others more cerebral and safe which works well for a photographer.

On a late summer evening with several rain squall line moving through, there came with the last a giant thundercloud. It wasn't until it was passing and with evening side-lighting that the grandeur of the cloud became apparent.

2 images combined. Each image at 18mm (27mm @ 35mm equ)

From the backyard and out over the fields, it looked like a giant flying saucer with the pillars at the edges of the spacecraft.
The cloud was about 10km (6mi) across, which I also confirmed later from the radar.
It was hard to get a full unrestricted view, as smaller clouds would drift underneath. The cloud's scale was only revealed as different parts became visible over time.

I also took many overlapping images of this cloud at 65mm (100 @ 35mm equ) so that one day I might print a large version of this. Somewhere about 17 ft at 240 dpi, at least in theory.

The above image is made from 2 of the zoomed sections and show the pillar-like cloud texture from the top right of the saucer cloud.

Below is another closeup of an area that is just right of the middle tree top (1st image) and below. This cloud had so many areas with different types of textures and patterns that it would be lost in a web image. It would need to be printed very large for a viewer to appreciate all facets.

I warmed (yellow) the lighter portions and cooled (blue) darker sections of the cloud to increase the visual contrast.

And just to the right of the above image, there was another area that appeared to be like streamers raising from the ground.

I enjoy clouds and I have quite a collection of clouds in all shapes, sizes and intensity.  When I look and subsequently photograph clouds, I enjoy the freedom of not being bound by preconceived items and therefore, I can explore their forms more.

Niels Henriksen

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Book Review: Fast Track Photographer

Book Review: Fast Track Photographer
Leverage your unique strengths for a more successful photography business
by Dane Sanders

One Free copy of book available. See end for details.

This book is a little different than most photography type books in that it doesn't focus on either how to take or process photographs, or even about being creative in your artistic approach. What it does is focus on you. How your personality and style could or might fit within the photography industry.
The book also does not focus on the transitional brick and motor type of business in setting up a studio or acquiring all the correct equipment for your specific genre of photography. 

The book is about you as a photographer and understanding your basic, for the most part, social skills and then deciding whether to pursue the 'brand name' approach, like Chase Jarvis and Joe McNally and many others, or a more transitional mode, including location based studio or contracting out to larger businesses.
One of the keys to success is understanding that a photographer must be adaptable and be able to fit the market and clients.
The strength of the book may be in the online questionnaire and analysis report that you can take for free (once). There is a code at the back of the book to enter to take self-help analysis and it will give you a report in many categories that are related to photography such as experience, self-starter, creativity, artistic identity, need for collaboration, self-promotion and more. These pDNA, as the author calls them, help to define where your strengths are and other areas which should be your primary focus of growth.
Strengths true but my own view is you must have a solid minimum core of quality in other areas.

You can always improve but it is very hard to change completely how you are and anyway why bother, play to your strengths.

Some Book Advice Tips.
'Focus on the parts of the business that has more of your creative processes involved and outsource the generic or other parts that are not your best strengths. It is about business, and you as the photographer must know where your strengths lie.'

'As a photographer you need to know consumers (people) will consume your product.'
My own advice is, this is the social networking era, social skills are paramount no matter what you are doing.

'No one steals work, they take work away because they service the client better and sometimes it is about cost.

'Do not fix everything but only those limiting factors. Find the sweet spot around “you”.'
Know what to outsource.

You only need to find 1,000 true fans.
That's amazingly true to almost work you do.
There is a difference between a professional and DIY photographer. 
it's not about the money

The author does not ascribe his method as the only way to find yourself but encourages you to seek other sources. Self analysis is not everything. You need to trust yourself that you will see ideas emerge.
As with all self-help books, it is important to do the exercises and work and the book does offer advice on how to overcome times when you feel stuck and not sure how to proceed.

While many self-help type books deal with broad applications to guiding principles, many wonder how this guidance can apply to my case. In this book's case, it does deal with how this applies to you.

Who is this book for?

First off, if you are not comfortable with analyzing yourself as with many of the self-help then this book is not for you.

The biggest problem with self-help books is that the readers tend to trust the source as being an expert on whats ailing them. When in fact, most of us barely know ourselves and this is compounded by the fact that our views will change and develop as we age.
This is why I find that with any analysis, it is good to get more source of input. Seek sound people and ask for their opinion of you.

The book by itself does provide good guidance with working in more traditional commercial fields but does not venture far into other areas such as photojournalism, fine-art, stock, book and travel etc.

While I did not take the online analysis test, I left this for the winning reader, I do believe that with this report the price around $12.00 (list $16.99) makes it a very reasonable investment for a photographer who wants to pursue or improve in the wedding, studio and action genres.

Amazon Link

ISBN 978-0-8174-0001-9

To get a Free copy of Fast Track Photographer book (gently read once) mailed to you
Please leave a comment that has the word “Free' included somewhere and a method to contact you.
I will use a random number generator to select the person.
Offer end Wednesday, 1 December 2010, midnight EST.

Thank you,

Niels Henriksen

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Spotlight Effect

I just came across an interesting painting video that talked about the spotlight effect that is sometimes used. I liked the ring effect in the Monet painting in video.

I thought it would be fun to play around with this in some of my photographs as, in the video, that author does make an attempt with one of his images but not very subtle. I suppose it was to demonstrate the effect clearly.

 Can you spot the effect in the above image. I have made it just a little stronger so that it might show better, There is a light ring around the runner and it is just a little lighter in centre.

The first part was to make a layer that I could use in a lightened type of blending mode. I knew the lightened modes tended to work above 128 so I set the background to 130 grey. I used the elliptical marquee tool to create a circle and then stroked it with a grey setting of 230 with a 100 pixel width. With the magic wand, I selected the grey in the centre of the circle, and with paint bucket set to a grey of 165, filled it in to add a little more brightness than the background. A Gaussian blur of 28 to soften edges was used.

I can use the transform function to change size and shape.

I can always use the curve tool to move the 3 tones up and down to suit effect as in image above here. The 2 big spikes are the background and middle tone in the centre. The outer ring is the smaller spike on the right. The above image shows the curves before and after, that moves the centre tone lighter and corresponding spike to the right. This way I can control 3 parts separately.

When you can see both original and altered, the effect seems to show up more. But when you turn the final effect off and on then it becomes less noticeable and even the original now appears a little dark at focal point.

Here, the effect is more noticeable but when not viewing the original, it looks better.

This was just an hour playing around and I do like the effect for some images.

There lighting effects in Photoshop but this is an easy way to add a little focal interest to the image. While I used more of a ring  a circular spotlight would also work.  The Overlay added a little more drama as it could also darken background (move left spike more left with a curve)

Here the link to the painting video I mentioned.

Niels Henriksen

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Eye, the Brain and the Camera

The eye and the brain and the magical interconnections between them creates wonderful light recording system, or its the one we have become accustomed to. The eye only sees detail at about the size of the thumbnail on a fully extended arm. The rest of the field of vision is ever decreasing resolution (less cones) as it moves out from the centre of vision whereas the camera for the most part has perfect resolution across field of view. 

Where the eye really has it though, is when unmeasurably small refocusing speeds our eyes over the full field of view which makes it appear as one image. It's the brain that processes the eye's information, in a manner that appears to us, as infinite DOF and resolution through field of view. The brain is very complex in its processing of visual information. We really don't see all the detail that we think we do.
There is a great book 'Vision of Seeing' the biology of seeing.

It's no wonder, at times, that the image captured by a camera does not quite fit in with what we remember we saw, which is different from what we actually saw. This is the great part about enhancing photos. It allows us to bring to life those parts that captured our imagination.

The soft blue/purple of the stones compliment well with the yellows/oranges in the highlights.

On one Friday evening I was heading out to the Byward Market in Ottawa to hopefully get some interesting B&W shots of dark alleys with lots of mood and mystery. At least that was my goal.
I arrived at 7:30pm in order to find a parking spot and even then it took a while, as by 9:00pm the market, which by then are the bars and bistros, start to hum with people.

At sunset, about 8:30, I started to scout out suitable alleys or courtyards for my image theme when I came across this man sleeping on a bench in a courtyard under a canopy of trees.

It wasn’t completely twilight dark at this time but even with a fast 2.8 VR lens set at ISO 640 @ f4.0, at 100mm I would still needed a tripod, as the shutter speed was 1/9 s.

The above photo is a camera RAW image and as you can see, it is a bit brighter due to large amount of dark areas going to mid-grey value with exposure readings. This turns out to be a benefit as when the image is darkened, those areas will have its noise reduced proportionally.

In my mind I had a different picture; darker surrounding areas with a light streaming on the gentleman. Darker foreground and removal of the cigarette butts.
The problem was, it was not quite dark enough when the photo was taken. When I returned in about 20 minutes later, the man was getting up so there was no opportunity to retake this shot and you have to go with what you captured.

Below is the Layers I used to achieve the effect.

I tend to use a separate layer for each effect or localized area that needs to be adjusted. This is why it is easier to fine-tune the image as a whole.

As I am examining image possibilities with design ideas I save a version (cntrl-alt-sft-E) I like. See top of stack.

This is a B&W version blended with a more contrasty colour I also enjoy.

Niels Henriksen

Monday, October 18, 2010

ZD Soft Video Recorder for screen capture

The reason I want to mention this piece of software is because of the great support I received from the firm. It's too often that service doesn’t measure up when we are dealing with a supplier and when they do, we should let others know.

I had a 2.x version of this software on my XP computer and it was not migratable to the 64-bit Windows 7 PC. When I originally bought it in the beginning of 2007, the website stated that the cost was only $29 and upgrades were free but a new license was required for each machine. I downloaded version 4.1 and thought the old key might work. Nope.

I wasn't sure that since this was a new computer, I would qualify for the upgrade, but I forwarded the old confirmation email with Key to them and explained my situation. Within a day I received a reply with the key for 4.1. Now how great is that!

There are times, when viewing materiel on the web, I find it easier to capture and watch again at a later date than re-visiting the site and sometimes finding the material gone.  The software is used for capturing any video on a screen and outputting to various video and audio different formats. It has worked perfectly on the old XP and now is doing the same on this machine.

The software is now $39.


Feature List (from their website)
Useful capture wizard.
Adaptive screen sharing component. (to other pc)
Easy to start/stop recording with a single mouse-click/hotkey-hit.
Easy to view recordings in the built-in media player.
Easy to manage recordings in the built-in file explorer.
Wide range support of PC games based on DirectX and OpenGL.
High performance screen capture driver for legacy PC.
Fast real-time audio/video compression.  (22 video codecs)
Good audio/video synchronization.
Customizable audio/video quality.
Option to output uncompressed audio/video.
Options to capture selected view, entire desktop or game screen.
Option to capture from external device such as webcam.
Options to capture from speakers, microphone or external lines.
Option to mute capture.
AVI/WMV recording files. (15 codecs)
BMP/PNG/JPG screenshot files.
Customizable hotkeys.
Sticky view selection box.
Tracking mouse cursor view.
Option to capture mouse cursor or not.
Option to keep original mouse cursor size or not.
Option to add mouse click effect or not.
Option to show recording indicator or frame rate in game.

I have not received nor will so in the future any funds, discounts, gifts or special favours from this company. I post here only to highlight the good performance of a company.

Niels Henriksen

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Artist or Photographer?

 I was thinking, obviously too much, about how we see or label ourselves and how this might influence our choices or approaches to subjects, compositions, etc. Am I a photographer, artist or just some crazy guy behind the camera. The last probably being more to the truth.

One thing I know I'm not is a 'commercial' or 'professional' photographer. Even these labels have many interpretations. By these terms I mean a person who can consistently deliver quality materiel under stressful and changing environments. Its not too hard to achieve success under great conditions. The good photographers deliver no matter what happens, every time  and I know I would run into trouble pretty quickly.

For me photography is first and foremost about pure enjoyment. Like exploring with a microscope or telescope but with less magnification. Being able to capture a fleeting moment in time which was 3D and render into 2D flat image.  By use of selective focus, DOF, time and digital enhancements I can try to reveal a unique charm, even though they are not always pleasant, or character to that moment in space. I am creating an interpretation of a real event, like  portrait painting of a person.

I therefore tend to think of myself as an artist who uses the camera-tool, as opposed to the brush-tool, to create images maybe even art work. I tend to shun the label photographer because for many people this has certain connotations, like above, which could lead to think that I have more abilities than I really have. Like delivering a wedding shoot or family portrait.

I tend to photograph subjects I like and the way I want, but then again I'm not making a living from that approach. But there are people who do enjoy my art work.

I'm in the process of printing 3 images in sets of 5 for future prints. I will test a bunch of fine-art or rag papers to see which one works best. Since these images are shown here, in this blog, are somewhat the same it will make it easier to fine-tune the ink adjustments for them all.

Note to Regular Readers:

As I mentioned in the previous article, this summer has provided me with a great opportunity with time to explore and to just look and think and to not spend so much time at the computer. Unfortunately this has also led to a dearth of articles recently and I want to thank all for still dropping by to check up.

In my articles I many times discuss how to stimulate and increase your creativity and now I find myself  with some self-doubt about where I am going with my photographic art. But this is common for most of us from time to time, but I still don't like it.

I have been thinking that I need to change my approach to selecting scenes and subjects. Up until now, I have been photographing any image when it made a good composition but when I look over my portfolio, I now realize that there is not much tying the images together. Maybe the odd few but most are stand-alone photographs and most are not focused on people. If there are some they are more ancillary to the image.

I therefore need to find some new and story-telling types of images where they could form a theme base portfolio.

I will keep you informed about my progress to stimulate myself with some new ideas.

Photo Tip

If it's bright sunny day and scene to be photographed is sunlit then automatically shift to bracketing.
Even with today's modern cameras and post editing tools the dynamic range captured has never been greater but I have on times been lazy and only realized later the information was either missing in the highlights or too dark to really bring out the tones.

Learn how to change to this mode in a few seconds. Once it becomes instinct in programming your DSLR you will turn it on when needed. If you have to think about how then it just doesn't happen.

Niels Henriksen

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mini Home Photography Studio

This morning is starting off as those perfect summer days. Sitting on the porch reading the paper and listening to the rain fall.  It also gives me a few moments to catch up on a few indoor activities like writing this article as this afternoon is forecast to be sunny and 28c (85F).

If you live in a climate that gets -40c (-42F) in the winter and snow, then the summer is not a time to be indoors too much, which includes computer time. Also the fact that I got a 150cc Vespa scooter a couple of months ago is keeping me constantly on the road. I did throw the camera in the back a few times and drove to sections of the city looking for interesting shots. Great view and easy parking.

Home Photography Studio
For the SoFoBoMo 2010 project this year, I decided to use a few items I already had (light box & light tent) and built a fabric holding frame out of PVC tubing for seamless backgrounds.

The PVC tubing is the regular beige-ish 1/4” plumbing tubing cut to lengths and pressed together into a frame.  I haven't glued the frame together as it makes it easier for storage when taken apart. It's reasonably strong but may come apart if handled roughly.
Image of cut tubing & joints and assembled frame

Image of individual pieces

Light Tent

The light tent is made of Corplast sheets for frames and mylar sheets. Corplast are coloured or translucent plastic sheets made with square tubing format. This makes them somewhat rigid and ideal as a light box frame because it still lets some light through.

One frame with cutout for mylar paper and laying on a cutting mat.

The assembled frame and light box is shown below. Each of the frames, four (4) for a three-sided box, is held together with the green masking tap (easy removal) for quick setup. This makes it easy to remove panels or place at strange angles.

On the right side of the light tent you will notice there is an extra whole corplast sheet used to block a little more light. Extra panels between tent and light box.

Light Box

The light box was actually made of a light table for my 4x5 or 120  film negatives but I quickly found other uses. The box consists of a;
square ceiling light box with dual U-tube florescent blub (broad spectrum),
wooden frame to encase metal box,
foil lined inside to bounce more light back and diffuse source intensity,
white (5700c) 1/2” plastic translucent sheet to cover light box surface and provide for diffusion of light direction. (This is at the bottom of light tent, as I liked the slightly reflective surface)

Light box opened showing fluorescent tubing and aluminum foil lining

In the above image, I am using the fabric PVC frame as a stand to hold the Mylar light tent panels with small clamps.

With just a few materials, which can be configured in many ways, creative lighting sources and light modifiers can be setup easily.
2005- 150 ET4 Vespa scooter (box is aftermarket purchase)


Niels Henriksen

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

SoFoBoMo 2010 Finished

Last week I managed to finish the SoFoBoMo 2010 Photo book project. This is the 3rd year I have completed the joint photography projects with many photographers from around the world.

While it is still a fair bit of work to complete this from start to finish within the 31 days, it is getting easier. The easier part is now not being stressing out over the various steps that are needed to finish the book as I better understand the effort and various steps.

The hard part is still deciding what to include in the book theme as, if you are like me, you might tend to grab too much at one time and then worrying if your photos are good enough.
The image link below allows you to download the 2.7 MB pdf file.

I had planned another elaborate theme but events this year once again caused me to change course. Its a good thing I learned early on to always have a plan 'B' and even plan 'C' in place for when events change not as planned.

One photography genre I haven't spent a lot of time with is studio settings with controlled lighting, diffusers and other light modifiers. I do a lot of cooking and one of my thoughts is to one day create a food blog where I write recipes and use my photography to highlight components of the prepared food.

With that in mind I decided to setup a table-top home studio lightning setup and to photograph food that I regularly eat. As a sub set I also decided to limit the food to those with a hard edge, which would exclude foods that are mainly leafy. Those will be left for another day or is it salad.

In the next article I will show the studio setup and light modifiers I used.

Having already finished 2 books The pressure was off this year. I was doing photography I liked and if I didn't finish in time I would be disappointed but not devastated. The journey and learning were more important than actually completing the book within the set time frame.

This year I was just as excited with producing the book as I was the first year but my grandiose dreams of where it may go in the future are toned down with some reality from the other 2 books. But I do have some ideas for some future books that will be produced in hard cover and that I hope to sell a few copies of and one of those is to work more with food.

The great benefit of working with edible food well.., is that its edible. You get to eat it after you are finished. Not a bad way to work.

For those of you who have not as yet undertaken the SoFoBoMo project I can't overstate the learning opportunities both in photography, telling a story, and then producing a real book even its an ebook, its still real. Also for many photographers the taking of pictures is normally a reaction to a scene/event unfolding and therefore a somewhat unplanned happening even if is one that you made a decision to visit. Producing the photo book is about planning ahead of time for a story in pictures and then finding the images that convey that story. A different way of thinking for me.

Do visit the SoFoBoMo 2010 site and browse the many goods books being produced. I am certain that seeing some of these books will give new ideas about where to take your photography.

Niels Henriksen

Monday, June 21, 2010

Volunteering Your Photographic Services

Occasionally I am asked to volunteer my services to charitable or nearly charitable organizations. My decision to participate is made on a case by case basis and several factors come into play in  the decision-making process. In the article, I will identify the key questions and thought processes that I go through every time a request is made.

Interspersed will be the photographs I worked on for the Mill displays and some photographs I took at the 200 year celebration of the Delta Stone Mill. I was asked to edit 12 old scanned photographs for display that was going into 2 window frames that would each hold 6 of the 5”x7” photographs. I was invited to the ceremony on  5 June and took a few photographs for my own pleasure.  I may donate some of these to the Mill later if they wish to use them.
 Set 1 of old photos

Note: As a photo restorer, it is always better if I can scan the old photographs with my equipment. There are 2 reasons for this. My equipment can produce better quality and has more technical features to retrieve all the details and tones in photograph. My experience assures that I will be able to retrieve that maximum amount of information from photograph or negative in such a manner that it will permit me to produce a better product. It will also save me time with the photo-editing and restoring parts later on in the process.
Set 2 of old photos

First and foremost, do I have the skills and equipment to produce excellent images for this work?
I know some might say “well they are asking for this for free so what can they expect?”  Most people do want excellent results but even when 'for free' the work reflects my abilities and my quality standards. There is just no way that I would ever produce a photograph or work-of-art that didn't reflect the best in me. No one is going to remember or even know when viewing the final product that you did this for free.  Even if they did, they will think that this is the best he can do, not knowing its not your preferred venue and apply that judgement to other venues that you do charge for.

My quality standards are a major part of my brand and that represents me and how I want to be remembered.
Members of the Fort Henry Guard – Firing the old muskets

How will my services and products be used and what copyrights will I be assigning to organization?
Does the organization reflect my values in life? As a business for hire you do not, in some countries, have the right to refuse work but when free, that changes things.  When I donate funds to charities I give to the  organizations that I like. These same with my services. 

If producing photographs or works of art, how will my products be used and what copyrights am I assigning to the organization?
Do they want all rights in perpetuity? There is nothing wrong with giving away everything as long as you are aware of this ahead of time. I always ensure that I have a  licencing agreement that specifies exactly the rights for their use by the organization.
Members of the Fort Henry Guard – Fife and Drum group

What liabilities, if any, am I undertaking?
For many, this will not be easy to answer because this is where experience comes into play as to what  can go wrong.  If photographing people or expensive objects, who is responsible if someone gets hurt or an object gets broken or if a person trips or I bump someone and damage gets done because of my activities. What if one of my lamps overheat and a fire starts, who pays for repairs? What if someone expected privacy at the event (didn't know someone was going to photograph them) and they take exception to the images posted publicly and used commercially and they decide to sue you. There are so many what ifs that only experience can tell which ones may apply in this situation.
The dignitaries lined up for their speeches at presentation ceremonies
The people in the photo, from left to right, are:
Steve Clark, MPP Leeds-Grenville; Bob Lavoie, Ontario Trillium Foundation; Dr. Larry Ostola, Director of National Historic Sites; Elizabeth Robinson (original trustee DMS); Gord Brown, MP Leeds-Grenville; Ron Holman, Mayor Rideau Lakes Township; David Boyd, Rideau Lakes Town Crier
Paul George, Director/curator, Old Stone Mill N.H.S.

Check the insurance coverage of the organization and find out if it covers you for certain activities. Does the ticket to event grant use of their image at event. Always have your own liability insurance coverage. I cannot stress how important this is, as one day something will go wrong. There is a  difference if you are a business providing a free service as opposed to a volunteer donating your time. But negligence is negligence and the rules are different for almost every state and country. Seek legal advice, as it will be money well spent.  Just like paying for a course at college.

Who pays when a patron breaks one of my pieces of equipment?
Does their insurance cover your cost or will they reimburse you to repair or replace items. This is one area you definitely need to ask about as this happens more often than you think. Large events are crowded and if drinking is involved, it becomes too easy for someone to stumble around and knock over and break one of your photographic items.
A Mill worker photographing the ceremonies outside

Are others volunteering and What are they paying for other services?

Am I the only one providing a free service or are others also participating for free. I am not a big fan when I am the only person donating a free service and everyone else is getting paid well. But again it really depends on the event.
Are they paying top dollar for other services or are they getting a discount for some? If everyone else is getting the going rate, why am I at least not being compensated a little? Is it because they expect to get it free from me?
One of the booth vendors wearing historic garb

What is their funding envelope?
This is somewhat tied to the question above but if it appears that the organization has sufficient funds, but they have a policy of always trying to get work for free first then that may not sit well with me.

Don't be Afraid to Ask for some funds.
If you need an assistant or to rent some piece of equipment. If you are a business earning revenue then you could ask for a tax receipt if they are a charitable organization.

Even when free there are opportunities
There may be opportunities at the event to display your promotional materiel. Don't be afraid to setup a display area if you have the materiel.  This could range from sample images, brochures and business cards.  I don't recommend that you aggressively promote yourself to everyone you meet as I believe this is just in bad taste. But if someone asks, then sell your services.
This is  IR image created in Photoshop from colour photo

Always dress appropriately. If its a wedding then and suit tie might be in order and the same for a fundraiser. If its sporting event  then a vest or nice T-shirts with your  logo or websites or services printed on  is OK.

Donate your services wisely and eventually good karma will come which will lead to new work.

Niels Henriksen

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tutorial - Extracting Image with Blurred Edges and Replacing Background

This article describes how to extract objects that have some movement on the edges and then replace background and not have the image appear as a cutout and placed on a new background.

The main feature is selecting the outline of the ducks with magic wand and then applying a white colour stroke to create a 10 pixel outline. This will be used later to re-introduce some blur around the duck wings to make this more realistic and not quite the cut-out effect.

The black winter pool cover was still on in the backyard pool and with some recent rain, two Mallard ducks thought this was an interesting place to visit and feed on some of the algae growing in the warm stagnant water.

There is a cedar hedge all around the yard so with this privacy, they have landed many times over the years. This always gives me a great opportunity to step out and photograph at close range.  They are not too afraid and normally I can get to within 15 feet of them. The problem is actually getting them to fly away for those interesting winged shots without scarring them so much that they won't come back.

I noticed that the male duck would bob its head up and down as I would approach.  I mimicked this bobbing motion and within a few moments this caused them to fly away.

A soft sky background would make the Mallards stand out nicely. Just having installed Photoshop CS5, I thought this would be a good opportunity to try the new refined edge when creating masks.
I will explain my approach by using the layers' palette, as the discussion's focal point, going from the bottom to top.

In the panel below (number 1-6 going left-right and top – bottom ) the image top right (#1) is the original capture as they flew away from the pool. The ducks are reasonably crisp but there is way too much clutter around and the female duck is almost hidden in the tree branches.

Original Duck Image – the original image captured by camera is in panel #1

Sky background
– suitable sky selected from files panel #4. It was flipped horizontally so that the diagonal of cloud sky edge matched the linear motion of ducks going from bottom right to top left.

DSC6177 Smart RAW copy for color extraction
– Copy of RAW file inserted as a smart layer. This version allowed me to darken the sky (more blue – panel #2) to help with refine edge to better detect change between white feathers and sky. Once mask refined, it was saved as a channel for each of the ducks

Mask for larger Duck -  The channel mask for large duck loaded and applied to copy of original duck image.

Mask for small Duck – The channel mask for small duck loaded and applied to copy of original duck image.

Mid Gre
y – A mid tone grey fill layer created to assist with viewing and refining edges against background. Some of the bird edges are white and with an almost white sky it is harder to detect edge.
Whenever using automated tools, I find it's always better to assist with the task by either changing contrast or colours to make the extract easier. Here I used colour changes in RAW files. Sometimes I may even go to over-saturation when dealing with earth tones.

Merge Ducks Master
  -  both masked images for ducks loaded as a new layer. See panel #3 but with no grey background.

Stroke Mask for edge of Ducks -  The Merge Ducks Master Copy and Mid grey selected and magic wand used on grey background. This gives me a marching ants selection around ducks. This section was then stroked (Edit-Stroke with a 10 pixel, white, center) setting creating panel #5.

B&W Luminosity – a Copy of Merge Ducks Master copied and set to luminosity mode.
B&W Adjustment color effect - A  B&W adjustment layer was applied to this B&W Luminosity layer and adjusted for desired colour effects. The Blue, cyan and yellow  increased to lighten colour. See panel #8.

High Pass
- Copy of Merge Ducks Master and a high pass filter applied and layer set to overlay mode. See panel #7.

Blurred Winged Edges – Original layer copied and Gaussian blur applied (3.5px). The Stroke Mask for edge of Ducks was applied as a mask and the main body duck edges were painted black with 50% opacity to reduce blur effect on these parts but have the most blur on the moving wings. Panel /6 is mask.

This stroke mask could also be used to reduce colour fringing around the edges by applying a Hue/Sat adjustment layer and reducing saturation of problem colour. The mask keeps the effect to just the edges and a smaller stroke pixel setting can be used to limit the width of colour changes.  Normally for photographers, the desired change is to replace skies. With desaturation, the greying will match tones of non blue skies. If blue sky is desired then use the Hue/Sat layer but instead shift the hue of the problem fringe colour.

This is a closeup of the male Mallard duck sitting in the swimming pool with some water on the black winter pool cover.

Niels Henriksen

Monday, May 10, 2010

Black and White Iris – A Comparison Between Silver Efex Pro and Photoshop B&W Adjustment

This is a review of only 2 approaches to achieve a desired effect with a purple Iris flower. I had placed purple iris flowers in a vase, which I set in front of a white mat board. I wanted to do a study of this flower because of the great purple tones, the strong complimentary yellow colour and great curves and folds. The purple in these flowers are normally so saturated that I needed a very soft light (cloudy day, large window and not in direct light) to not overly darken the shadow areas.

It wasn't until some time later while reviewing the images again that I thought about trying to produce a B&W version.

I didn't want a high contrast image but wanted to focus on the great tones and textures as the form was already established by the image taken.

My approach is to open in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) and then to tweak the hue saturation and luminescence for what I think will convert well with a photoshop B&W adjustment layer. I know I can do this directly with the setting in ACR but I find that I have more flexibly creating masks with colour and using ACR to separate colours further apart before bringing into photoshop.

In the image below, you can see by using the blue and magenta sliders I made the bluer tones bluer and the darker purple more magenta. This would give more control over the tones when using the blue and purple slider with the B&W adjustment layer.

I have just finally installed Photoshop on my new computer as the CS3 (windows XP) version was not migratable to the new windows 7 (64-bit) machine. With 7 processors, 12 GB of RAM and 1.8GB Nividia video card, it sure does fly. I did get the upgrade Veveza II and I thought I would play around with Silver Efex Pro that many photographers seem to enjoy.

I enjoy the B&W adjustment layer version better, mainly because I could bring out more tones, less muddy in the darker portions and I could also turn the yellow stamens white. There was considerable time spent achieving this effect whereas with Silver Efex Pro it was just a click of the button after I selected the processing type and film section.

I do like the Silver Pro version because while still soft, the contrast in texture of the vein like patterns is better. I suspect that if I were to make a final print I would combine the best parts of each through masking and blending modes.

I did add a blue/purple duo-tone and in this case more of a tint to further soften the final image.

Niels Henriksen


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